Sunday, September 25, 2011

They Get It

Watching America was filled with interesting and timely articles from the world press. I had some difficulty trying to decide just which article to concentrate on this week. I finally settled on this one from Egypt's Al-Ahram Weekly because it is a prime example of just how closely the US is watched by people from other countries and cultures with respect to our ideals and how well we live up to them.

Amin Shalabi, who is identified as managing director of the Egyptian Council of Foreign Affairs, wrote of the deep significance of 9/11 to the world at large and to the US in particular. The event is as important as the fall of the Soviet Union to foreign affairs matters as well as to how the US does business as the lone superpower in the world. It also, however, is a sharp demarcation in American domestic matters.

...The immediate response of the US president to the post-11 September world was unequivocal. Other countries had to chose: either they sided with the US or they sided with terrorism. There could be no in-between. Under Bush, "either you're with us or you're against us" became the foremost American criterion for friendship and enmity.

In tandem with this major shift in the US foreign policy outlook was a no less significant shift in attitude towards what had been seen as the very essence of the American system and way of life. In a country that once prided itself for a broad range of constitutional guarantees for individual, political and civic freedoms, a rush of emergency laws and security measures began to chip away at these liberties. Not only did government authorities acquire increasing powers to search, eavesdrop, detain and arrest without warrant, military tribunals were created to try civilians suspected of terrorist activities and intelligence agencies were authorised to carry out secret assassinations. ...
[Emphasis added]

Most of the article details the foreign policy issues as they relate to Europe, Russian, China, and the Middle East. Mr. Shalabi's prose is a bit dense as if he were writing for an official foreign affairs journal rather than a weekly newspaper, but his conclusions are well thought out and easy to follow.

It is his comments on US domestic policy, which are essentially limited to the part quoted above, which most struck me. Mr. Shalabi is an Egyptian, an official of sorts, a citizen of a nation which went through a revolution this Spring and Summer as the Egyptians finally threw off the oppressive government of Hosni Mubarak. It would be strange, perhaps even impossible, for that recent history not to have had some impact in the formulation of this article.

And so I can't help thinking that while we stood idly by, our hands in our pockets, and allowed our government to shred our constitutional rights, others, like the Egyptians, put their lives on the line to try to get some of those rights for themselves.

And I'm ashamed.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. Spot on.
Thank you Diane, this was an excellent post.

Lil Red

3:00 PM  

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