Age of Enlightenment, America, Bill of Rights, Dennis Kucinich, Dick Chaney, Enhanced interrogation techniques, George Bush, Imperialism, John Locke, Judge Napolitano, Martial Law, National Defense Authorization Act, NDAA, Obama, Patriot Act, Police State, Ralph Nader, Ron Paul, Thomas Hobbes, UN, United Nations, United States, United States Constitution, US Constitution
The environment which contemporary America finds itself in today is a very different one which was born from the spirit of 1776. What was once a free and open society had now had the features of a Police State. This essay will explore the philosophical metamorphosis from Liberty to Collectivism which has seemed to have occurred in the last decade.
United States Founding
To truly understand how much the United States had changed, it is important to know what philosophy it was founded on. Thinkers such as John Locke influenced the philosophical fundamental ideology. An example which would indicate what ideas which was adopted can be found with Locke, who believed that human nature was made up of reason and tolerance. That the person is equal to all others and is independent and that ‘Life, Health Liberty, or Possessions’ are of a universal right (Dunn, 1969).What had taken place in the form of the American Revolution was the ideals which came from the relative short period of time know as the Age of Enlightenment, which were the rights of the sovereign individual was self-evident and that the divine-right-of kings was a myth. These libertarian-like concepts were made official by the creation of the US Constitution and later improved upon with the Bill of Rights.
The Constitution was the supreme law of the land. It establishes the separation of powers into three branches, a legislature, congress and executive branch which empowers the President. Also a federal judiciary was headed by the Supreme Court. The Bill of Rights was later founded to prevent misconstruction or any abuses of the Constitution and therefore restrictive elements were created (Webking, 1988)
Post 9/11 Era
It was in the wake of the September 11th Terrorist Attacks which prompted a rapid radical shift of philosophical outlook. The relative historically-young Lockeian theory of individual liberty was disregarded, and the throwback of the age-old Thomas Hobbes theory of positivism was embraced. This meant a zero separation of powers and the individual had to give up certain civil liberties via a Social Contract in order to be ‘kept safe’ and submit to an absolute authority, such as the State (Shestack, 1998). It seems that the America of today is that of a hypocrite, as it has turned its back on it founding principals while it simultaneously lectures the world of the evils of those who violate both domestic and international Human Rights, as it acts in the same manner.
These ideals were advanced under the Bush Administration, which saw the creation of the Patriot Act. Many critics from all sides of the political spectrum have condemned this Act. For example, Presidential Candidate Ron Paul has said that if the Act was honestly called what it truly represents, the ‘Repel the First Amendment’ nobody would have voted for it (Paul, 2012). Independent Ralph Nader had called it an ‘Abomination’ (Nader, 2012); Judge Napolitano has deemed it ‘unconstitutional’ as it violates a number of rights, such as granting law enforcement the power to write and execute their very own search warrants, which is prohibited by the Fourth Amendment, which requires warrants to be sanctioned only if probable cause can be proven by the judiciary (Napolitano, 2007). In response to this Act, Democrat Dennis Kucinich has co-authored a Bill called the ‘Benjamin Franklin True Patriot Act’, which is upholds Franklins quote that “those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”(Kucinich, 2003)
Also under the Bush Regime saw the use of torture, renamed ‘Enhanced Interrogation Technique’. After the attacks when some al Qaeda was in custody, according to Chaney, America had to ‘step over into the dark side’. In order to protect the ‘homeland’, techniques such as ‘waterboarding’ and ‘sleep depravation’ were now embraced (Robbins, 2012). The newfound practices completely went against the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. For instance Article 2, no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political in stability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture. Article 4, each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture (Danelius,1984).
When Candidate Obama had announced his vision for America, which was met with unprecedented levels of support from both the National and International Community, it would be unimaginable that he would have proven to be even worse than the Bush/Chaney tandem. He not only reauthorized the Patriot Act and the use of torture, but also added many other pieces of legislation which has shown nothing more than a continuation of the Bush legacy.
The Obama Presidency has implemented Bill 347 which now considers protesting a felony, when done in the presence of government and secret service officials, as under the claim that it can potentially create a dangerous situation. The First Amendment which protected the freedom of speech as ‘Congress shall make no law prohibiting the freedom of speech’, has now been suppressed. The violations which have occurred are free speech, freedom of association and freedom to petition the government (Napolitano, 2012). The security of the President does not go so far to protect him against criticism.
The most recent article that Obama has created was the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Section 1031 states that America in the fight against Terrorism is now considered to be a battlefield. Sub-section 1021 and 1022 allows U.S military to arrest suspected terrorists on US soil and transported to Guantanamo Bay. The government has the power of ‘indefinite detention’ and even assassination of suspects, no due process, no charges, no trail, no right to legal representation, no jury. It also allows the use of torture by de facto rule/‘executive fiat’. Ron Paul went so far to declare the NDAA potentially allows the establishment of martial law (Anonymous, 2011). The Act completely goes against the Bill of Rights and moves the President closer to a dictator as it blurs the line between the branches of government (Napolitano, 2012). The NDAA has been universally opposed by Amnesty International, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch as well as many others.
It is most tragic that the question of what should Americans do to reverse such a trend is even asked, considering that they were the very pioneers of Individual Freedom. The solution to this dark trend is to actually adhere to the documents which are already created, the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The very fact that these documents have not only been ignored, but undermined, has created the very situation US along with the rest of the world finds itself in. This can only come from the people on an individual basis, by being more informed about what is occurring in their government, and demand a higher standard of their elected representation.
In conclusion, the current uni-polar world, the United States is both, the sole Superpower, and a major contributor to international organizations such as NATO and the UN. Therefore it’s near-impossible for the international laws of human rights to ‘prevent, investigate and punish systematic and egregious human rights violations’ equally across the world, including the US. It works as least a toothless tiger or at worst an attack-dog for Western Imperialism, as the only enemies being targeted are the likes of Gaddafi or Saddam. If they truly want creditability and respect that would have apprehend Bush, Chaney and Obama for their violations of human rights.
Aldridge, O, A (1984) Thomas Paine’s American Ideology, Associated University Presses Inc, Canada
Anonymous Author (2011) Ron Paul: Defense Bill Establishes Martial Law In America, Real Clear Politics, United States
Danelius, H (1984) United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, United States
Dunn, J (1969) The Political Thought of John Locke, Cambridge University Press, United Kingdom
Elliott, P (2011) GOP debate: all but Ron Paul want Patriot Act extended, Associated Press, United States
Kucinich, D (2003) Bill Text 108th Congress (2003-2004) H.R. 3171. IH, United States
Machan, R, T (1982) The Libertarian Reader, Rowman and Littlefield, United States
Paul, R (2012) We don’t need the Patriot Act, CSPAN, United States
Shestack, J (1998) The Philosophic Foundations of Human Rights’ Human Rights Quarterly 20, no.2 201-34
Robbins, C (2012) Torture Is Like “Jet Lag,” And Other Gems from the CIA’s Torture Boss, Gothamist, United State
Webking, H, R (1988) The American Revolution and the Politics of Liberty, Louisiana State University Press, United States
YouTube – Ralph Nader “The Patriot Act is an Abomination!” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMldO8a-iO8
YouTube – Judge Napolitano: Why the Patriot Act is Unconstitutional.
YouTube – Judge Napolitano – Obama Makes Free Speech A Felony!!! BILL H.R. 347 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9d80FsWuEQ
YouTube – Judge Napolitano: I Think the President Is Dangerously Close to Totalitarianism