The Land of the Not So Free
dare Senator Daschle criticise President Bush while we are
fighting our war on terrorism," was the fiery volley
of a Republican minority leader, Senator Trent Lott, all bucked
up to counter criticism. It was right after the adoption of
new legislations and policies following the September 11 calamity,
when few men like Daschle had the courage to speak out in
protest, and risk being branded the enemy within.
certainly is a bad time for free speech. As political and
social pressures mount, the leaders find it convenient to
readily dismiss any flack that their polices gather, and sweep
their own home truths under the thick rug of patriotism.
for the US government, after 9/11, it was, and still is, bent
over and determined to go on its on chosen course by resisting
opposition, combating criticism with a vengeance. But what
about the free media that upholds the great democratic principle:
the right to free expression? Unfortunately, this often gets
the axe in the land of the free -- America.
any government have the leverage in monitoring a vast network
of media, which is privately owned and continuously professes
to enjoy 'total freedom'? The word freedom is something of
a euphemism for democracy. It is a phrase that lends the countries
around the world an essential mashalla (spice) --
an ingredient they incessantly crow about and which at present
is being considerably tampered with.
Vidal, the writer who often rubbed shoulders with the high-ups,
wrote a piece after the twin tower catastrophy and it had
to cross the Atlantic and travel to Italy to see the light
article was originally commissioned by The Daily Mail.
The paper declared the piece unsuitable for publication. Then
Vanity Fair rushed to the rescue, or it seemed so.
Vanity Fair asked Vidal to update and elaborate.
After a three-month delay, that magazine also dropped it.
An irked Vidal then offered it to several UK newspapers, who
turned it down. Finally, it appeared in Italy in a collection
of Vidal's essays entitled "La fine della liberta: Verso
un nouvo tolalitarism?"
End of Liberty", the Vidal piece, shatters many myths
that America makes effort to keep alive. After jump-starting
with the creation story depicted in the holy Quran, where
he discovers that Allah created darkness on the same day (he
calls it Black Tuesday) Manhattan towers were struck. Then
it goes on to explore a lot of facts that brings out the true
colours of the Oval-Office Kings.
traces Osama bin Laden's past involvement with the CIA. A
nation that Edward Syed referred to as "pragmatic"
in their everyday affairs is known for their disdain for history.
Vidal takes a different route, he retraces the past courses
and sheds light on the underhanded acts initiated by the people
occupying the highest office. Vidal writes, "Let us deal
first with the six-foot seven-inch Osama who enters history
in 1979 as a guerilla warrior working alongside the CIA to
defend Afghanistan against the invading Soviets." Vidal
also digs out the Saudi connection of the White House and
traces the donation of large sums to Harvard by Osama's several
siblings (he has 54 in total) living in Boston.
tones this essay has nothing to do with "anti-Americanism"
-- that giant of a phrase, which seals the fate of any kind
of reasoning both in America and around the world. Vidal is
a red-blooded American and he scathingly brackets Osama as
"Allah's soldier fighting the infidels". He recounts
the efforts of Osama in persuading a huge group of people
to prepare for fighting in Afghanistan. Osama comes off as
something of an Allah-obsessed sociopath in Vidal's view.
Even the history of Saladin's conquest (during the 12th century)
is seen from a Western perspective. Yet, the piece gives us
accounts of history that the Bushites remain doggedly silent
remains unuttered in the land of the free, is common knowledge
in the rest of the world. Vidal brings it up and risks not
getting a publisher. He brought into sharp focus the lobbing
of a missile at a Sudanese aspirin factory by Clinton which
was quickly followed by Osama's embassy-blowing spree in Africa,
he knocked out two in all. Alongside Osama's antics, FBI's
shenanigans too are revealed. The 1993 "murderous attack"
is recalled, where, in the name of fighting terrorism, FBI
mounted an offensive killing of 82 evangelical Christians
"who were living peaceably in their own compound at Waco,
Texas". Among the dead were 25 children.
"acts" that made the great wheel of freedom take
a reverse turn, flouting the norms of democracy, were consecutively
introduced both by Clinton and Bush. Clinton's 1996 "conference
bill" gave the attorney general the power to use the
armed services against the civilian population. This act empowered
the SWAT teams to an inhuman degree. "Special Weapons
and Tactics", aka SWAT came into being, as Vidal observes,
when in the 70s the "white-shirt-and-tie FBI reinvented
itself from a corps of 'generalists' trained in law and accounting."
In the early 80s, an FBI super-SWAT team was formed. The Waco
catastrophe was the handy work of one such team.
the Twin Tower Tragedy, the SWAT teams' actions were enhanced
to the limit, the army's adventures in Iraq is the burning
testimony. At the verbal horizon Bushites seemed to have mustered
the same amount of ‘horsepower’. A sample of Bush's
knowledge of Islam's wiles and ways: "They hate what
they see right here in this chamber. Their leaders are self-appointed.
They hate our freedom, our freedom of religion, our freedom
of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with
each other." But the same man decried: "You are
either with us or against us."
the terror attack, Bush seems to have lodged himself in a
position where he is flanked by a group that is with him,
and another that opposes him. It is certainly a self-appointed
role. And by waging a war against one man, the self-appointed-messiah
has defined 'good' and ‘evil’ in the slimmest
terms possible. With the middle tones effaced, all things
are seen in black and white.
bringing in the legislation and policies that define the crime
of terrorism in the broadest terms, the Bush administration
has shown the acumen in "chilling any genuine criticism
of, or even debate about, the government's security and military
measures," believes Ronald Dworkin, a professor of jurisprudence
at the University of London.
thinks that the word "terrorism" is a hard nut to
crack, especially in legal terms. But not every other man
belonging to the Western stream of knowledge finds it difficult
to define. The British ambassador to the UN unflinchingly
says, "You know it when you see it."
the war against terrorism the civilians in Afghanistan or
Iraq, or even the American soldier’s democracy and its
ways are also in a tailspin. And it is clearly discernible
in its true colour and with the overall weight of the ideological
baggage, through words of the pontiffs who support the 'war-time'
emergency measures. Micheal Ignatieff writes in Index,
where Vidal's piece also appears, at last, in English for
the first time, "Community -- especially moral community
-- is not easy on free thought. The risks of censorship, as
usual, are probably less serious than those of self-censorship."
oppressive moralism that thickens the air on the American
home-front after September 11, is well registered in the opinion
polls. According to a November 1995 CNN-Time poll, 55 percent
of the people believed: "The federal government has become
so powerful that it poses a threat to the rights of ordinary
citizens." Three days after the Twin Tower Tragedy, 74
percent said they thought: "It would be necessary for
Americans to give up some of their personal freedom."
end justifies the means" -- a dictum that dictators keep
cozily tucked under their sleeves, seems to be creeping into
other domains. Terrorists justify their acts by resorting
to it, now even democracies are following suit.
world, it seems, is never flanked by a clearly defined line
that puts good and evil in two opposite sides. To be able
to side with what is good is an ongoing struggle for humans,
as it is for any nation state.