TAMPA, June 25, 2013 – Twelve years ago, the U.S. government demanded that the Taliban extradite Osama Bin Laden to stand trial for the 9/11 attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. The Taliban responded similarly to the way they had in the past to the same demand. They asked the U.S. government to obey the principles enshrined in its own Fourth Amendment and produce evidence of Bin Laden’s guilt.
The Bush Administration responded with carpet bombing, followed by an invasion.
Most Americans didn’t lose much sleep over Bin Laden’s rights being violated. He was the world’s most infamous terrorist. Had the U.S. been able to pinpoint his location and take him out with a missile or drone attack, there would have been no pundit debate about the constitutionality of the execution (and no, the Constitution doesn’t apply only to U.S. citizens).
First, they came for the terrorists…
Flash forward twelve years and quite a few people are losing sleep. Not only has the government’s disregard for the Fourth Amendment “come home” to apply to every American, but all due process protections have been completely abolished. The government claims the right to search, spy on, arrest and detain you without probable cause or warrant. It even claims the right to kill you without charging you with a crime.
For war hawks, the year is perpetually 1939 and every tin pot dictator is Adolf Hitler, even if originally installed and supported by the U.S. government. We have been forced to pay for two completely useless wars over the past twelve years, with the specter of Nazi Germany and another Holocaust thrown in the faces of anyone who objected. Anything other than full commitment constitutes “appeasing a dictator,” the fatal mistake that led to WWII.
Yet, the abridged world history textbook that every neoconservative seems to have read apparently contains nothing else about Nazi Germany. It doesn’t seem to tell them anything about why Hitler was a dictator in the first place, long before the Holocaust got under way.
The truth regarding that question is stranger than fiction.
Five years earlier, Germany had suffered a spectacular terrorist attack. Someone set fire to the German parliament building, the Reichstag. Joseph Goebbels regarded the first report of the attack as “a tall tale” and hung up on the caller. Only upon receiving a second call did he believe the report and inform Hitler. Tragically, the eerie similarity to Bush’s reaction to 9/11 didn’t end there.
The Nazi’s blamed the communists for the fire, calling it “the most monstrous act of terrorism carried out by Bolshevism in Germany.” The next day, President Hindenburg signed the Reichstag Fire Decree (without a vote by the Reichstag), which suspended most civil liberties in Germany. This was followed later by the “Enabling Act,” which granted dictatorial powers to Hitler.
All of this was done to “fight the terrorists.” We have heard plenty about how not invading the next Middle East backwater would be tantamount to appeasing Hitler, but we haven’t heard a single pundit comparing what America has done to itself over the past twelve years to what Germany did to itself following the Reichstag Fire.
Sadly, neither country’s people resisted or even expressed reluctance at the surrender of their freedom. On the contrary, liberty died in both places “with thunderous applause.”
The Nazis started by setting up communists and Jews as enemies of the state. Civil liberties had to be set aside until this terrible “new threat” was defeated. But victory never came. Instead, the list of enemies got wider and wider and the police state became permanent. The Gestapo was empowered to spy on German citizens. “Papers, please” became the new normal. Kangaroo courts convicted “traitors and insurgents” without due process.
So far, the U.S. government has only executed a Muslim American citizen without a trial. It has only rounded up and indefinitely detained Muslims without a warrant or formal charges. But the definition of “terrorist” and “traitor” is slowly starting to expand. During the Bush Administration, anti-war protestors were viewed as unpatriotic. During Obama’s Administration, “right wing extremists” have been identified as potential threats.
First they came for the Muslims…
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Who will speak up for you?
Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.