Crumbling US Exceptionalism – and the Antidote
By Staff News & Analysis - December 08, 2010

A judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit seeking to halt the Obama administration's program to capture or kill American citizens who join militant groups abroad, a case involving a Muslim cleric in Yemen. The ruling was a defeat for civil liberties groups that brought the lawsuit on behalf of the father of Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen who joined al Qaeda in Yemen and has been tied to plots against the United States. U.S. District Judge John Bates threw out the lawsuit on jurisdictional grounds. – Reuters

Dominant Social Theme: Let's look the other way.

Free-Market Analysis: It is not so much the wars that have done America in as the length of them. And it is not 9/11 that has ruined America so much as the US's inability – institutionally – to reexamine that terrible day to find out what really happened. The problem with where America is now is that the country has been built on one lie after another for the past decade and the lies show no signs of slowing down.

The lies are corrosive. They begin with observations of 9/11 Commission lead-litigator John J. Farmer, Jr. that the Commission was lied to serially by Pentagon and administration intelligence operatives. The narrative itself, therefore, was never properly presented. And yet 9/11 has led to torture, rendition and the institutionalized maltreatment of thousands.

Many if not most of the combatants imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay proved to have little or nothing to do with Al Qaeda. But what, in fact, is Al Qaeda but a CIA "list" of young men who were willing to fight against the Russians when the USSR was trying to invade Afghanistan? It is this sort of treatment of individuals, not just foreigners but anyone that serial US administrations deem a threat, which is helping change the fabric of America.

The idea, originally, was that America stood for something beyond what the corrupt European principalities offered the world. Europe was an old land and when people left it to go to America, they did so with the idea one could get ahead without being kept down by unseen and undeserved forces. Even in the 20th century, when America had begun to change, the country was still seen to offer hope that working-class people of the world could arrive and build prosperous lives.

Of course almost since inception, the US has seemingly been on a gradual downhill course; its freedoms eroding little by little. In fact, one could go back to the Constitution itself to begin an enumeration of the lies – or at least the problems – inherent with American exceptionalism. Certainly the Civil War introduced even more problematic elements. And World Wars One and Two along with the Federal Reserve, the graduated income tax and the "progressive" movement added to the problems.

But still, all in all, there is something special about 9/11. Despite the iies, it was a trigger for a whole kind of amorphous new world war – the so-called war on terror. And it resulted in the invasion of two countries, the demonization of a religion (Islam), the rise of torture, rendition and state secrecy, and a host of increasingly Draconian security arrangements that now blanket both Europe and America. And still the damage keeps mounting. There is this now, from the Drudge Report, regarding yet another Homeland Security initiative:

If You See Something, Say Something … Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano today announced the expansion of the Department's national "If You See Something, Say Something" campaign to hundreds of Walmart stores across the country—launching a new partnership between DHS and Walmart to help the American public play an active role in ensuring the safety and security of our nation. "Homeland security starts with hometown security, and each of us plays a critical role in keeping our country and communities safe," said Secretary Napolitano. "I applaud Walmart for joining the 'If You See Something, Say Something' campaign. This partnership will help millions of shoppers across the nation identify and report indicators of terrorism, crime and other threats to law enforcement authorities." In the coming months, the Department will continue to expand the campaign.

Where does it end? Americans must undergo virtual strip-searches when they try to take a plane. And DHS is expanding both X-ray devices and "pat-downs" to other venues. These will include subways, ferries and even sporting events. But we can see from the Drudge press release above that what is really at risk is the country as a viable alternative to authoritarianism. As war-on-terror paranoia seeps into the body-politic like a poison, people increasingly distrust each other. Perhaps one day America will resemble Cuba with its block leaders designated to report anything suspicious.

Ordinarily we would be gloomy about America's prospects, and the West's in general. But despite what the Anglo-American power elite seems to have in mind – a gradual removal of every kind of human and civil right – there is much in our view that was NOT planned for. The Internet itself is working powerfully against the kind of rights abuses taking place throughout the West and notably in America. It is organizing opposition in ways that the elite doubtless never expected (given that it did not expect the Internet's efflorescence to begin with). The release of 9/11 tapes regarding Building 7 has again reignited further controversy – and the questions play out in a loop on the Internet minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour and day-by-day. Something else is needed, perhaps a further commission, an impartial one, to answer the questions that linger; questions such as Shea himself raises.

After Thoughts

The Internet loses nothing and forgets nothing. In an era when the powers-that-be seem determined to shed any semblance of 2,000 years of Western civil liberties, the Internet itself is acting as a powerful brake on these ambitions. Judges may pass lawless decisions and America's DHS may seek to impose further authoritarian measures. But gradually in America and the West, the fight is being joined as more and more people decide something has gone wrong. Even without a thorough explanation of 9/11, people can sense how their culture has been perverted – and turn to modern communication technology to find out how to make it right again. The Internet is a process, not an episode.

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