I can have a great many books that I have picked up over the years and not truly begun to read them until now. “After,” a book written by Steve Brill, a quite definitive work in which Mr. Brill interviews victims of the 9/11/2001 (those who survived the destruction of the World Trade Center, damage to the Pentagon, and the plane crash in Pennsylvania); those who participated in the passages of laws, bailout packages and the U.S.A. Patriot Act; those who sought to take advantage of this national tragedy for their own purposes; and yes, those who acted out of good will toward their fellows. Given the time frame that this book was written in: From September of 2001 to 2003, you could immediately call this book as a near history book.
I originally picked up this book on clearance from the local Hastings some years ago. Once I saw what the subject matter pertained to. I set about reading it and then laid it aside when I saw that Brill had shown some sympathy toward Ashcroft. Recently, I had again picked up the book and began reading it. Before reading “After,” I read the late Randy Shilts “Conduct Unbecoming Gays and Lesbians in the U.S. Military.” And there were certain sections found in “After” that to say the least sounded as though it had been borrowed from how the U.S. Military through its CID (Criminal Investigative Services) or NIS (Naval Investigative Services) conducted their pogroms against suspected gays and lesbians. To whit, harsh interrogation methods, denial of legal representation, fabrications of “charges,” fabrications of statements,” using the attempt to recant prior NIS fabrications (according to those discussing this matter with Shilts) bringing about further charges, such as: perjury and obstruction of justice. That even merely associating with gays could have you tossed out on your ear if not getting imprisoned for same. Wiretapping, searches, etc. anything that could be used against a suspected gay to include his reading material.
All of that, became the tools that Ashcroft sought and achieved through the newly passed U.S.A. Patriot Act. Only, the people to be “singled out” would be Muslims. The people singled out for whom equality before the law would not apply, would be Muslims. Just think, as Brill was to note in his book, you could be a person of interest to be imprisoned, questioned, held secretly, wiretapped, etc. if your name was Mohammad and you called a pizza parlor that a 9/11 hijacker had also called. Guilt by association that was ultimately written in to UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) was also written into the U.S.A. Patriot Act.
It is safe to say that bigotry was at the base of selective applications of anti-sodomy regulations in the UCMJ. After all, heterosexuals were just as capable of engaging in such an act. But not as likely to get a dishonorable discharge for engaging in the act. Brill did happen to be quite fair in his over all assessment of what the U.S.A. Patriot Act would do for Ashcroft. All Christians would not be held to account for the likes of Timothy McVeigh. There was no “guilt by association” because of the actions of one criminal. But, all Muslims could face this “guilt by association” no matter how loosely defined. And to be deemed an immediate national threat just for being Muslim, in much the same way that the U.S. Military would treat gays.
Violent extremists are a fact regardless of religion, politics or creed. And the need to denounce them should not be the obligation of “that other guy;” but in fact, all of us. Which reminds me of letters to the editors in such illustrious newspapers as the Spokesman-Review or the Coeur d’Alene Press, where the writers would whine away about how “those Muslims” did not denounce the cruelty and violence of their fellows. The kind of people who would not of course denounce the cruelty and violence that checkered the past of all of Christian history. Who would not denounce the cruelty and violence that checkers much of the bible. Who were more than happy to praise the likes of Randy Weaver or Timothy McVeigh or even David Koresh. If they could fall silent before maniacs or even find cause to praise them, then how should Muslims behave any differently? Yes, bigotry.
Of course 9/11 was a truly horrific tragedy. Many thousands died that day who should not have to have died at all. Holding to account the criminals who so threatened this country and the citizens of this nation should be without doubt a necessary thing to do. However, as the “9/11 Commission Report” was to detail, 9/11/2001 came about as a consequence of many failures, that of intelligence, that of communication, that of initiative. Therefore, the U.S.A. Patriot Act became an over-reaction subsequent to the awful events of that day, after the failure to react appropriately prior to the events of that day.
One interesting detail that came out in “After” involved a couple of Border Patrol agents who had complained about the too porous northern border with Canada (and its, at the time looser immigration laws) and the Catch and Release Program that assured any illegal alien crossing the border from Canada might get caught, signs a paper “promising” to show up for his deportation hearing, and fails to do so. When these Border Patrol agents had complained about that in the months or years prior to 9/11, little was made of it. Post 9/11, the truth could only get them fired. Which said what, exactly? Post 9/11 hysteria had certainly taken the place of rational thinking. Ashcroft as well as the top brass of the Border Patrol let hysteria guide their actions (or even exploited it to an advantage). Holding to account the criminal elements who truly are dangerous enemies is one thing, setting about to create more of them is quite another. Ultimately, treating potentially innocent people as “unlawful combatants” with no right to rights provided for by the U.S. Constitution, and you create a fertile breeding ground for active terrorism.
There is also a word of warning to be had as a possible final indictment of the preceding administration in this book. If in fact the terrorists “hate us” for being a democracy (as GW was fond of saying); they only threatened it with the 9/11/2001 attacks on the Pentagon, the World Trade Center and the plane crash in Pennsylvania. With the U.S.A. Patriot Act and all other activities that ensued since that tragic day by the Bush administration in general and Ashcroft in particular, the “threatened democracy” was truly undermined by the people supposed to be on our side. Rational thinkers would not set about to undo the principle founding of this nation no matter what this nation faced in actual dangers. A resilient people are not afraid to learn from history, rebuild and move forward. To face challenges with a rare sort of courage that is in fact the basis of the American spirit. But ultimately, that was not what was desired by the GW administration. What the U.S.A. Patriot Act was supposed to be, as a tool against the threat of terrorism, created instead a police state where those most effected weren’t violent extremists, but you; American citizen, a generally law abiding citizen who just happened to make an over-seas phone call. And you weren’t to know that, either. Nor have a lawyer representing you when literally, the GW administration implicitly accused you of terrorism. Excuse me, but what the terrorists only started, the GW administration completed.
“After,” is now history. And with time, we are finally starting to dig our way out of this deep pit of Despond. There will no doubt be continued tragedies such as the latest, the BP caused Gulf of Mexico environmental disaster. Set backs, that it may take years before we are economically sound again. Ironies, that what “traditionalist” TEA Party fringe elements want today with a gvt that isn’t “too big,” isn’t what they asked for some years before, when that too big gvt, spying on their every move, gave them instead a sense of “security.” Shall we say that despite all this, we shall with time prevail?