Emergency Powers Will Always Be Abused
In the wake of the Paris attacks, the French government enacted a state of emergency to facilitate capturing those responsible and preventing additional acts of terror. It was a sensible and inevitable decision, and it was doomed to be abused. Now 24 climate change activists are under house arrest and all protests are banned for the entirety of the upcoming climate summit in Paris. It has only been two weeks, and already the emergency powers have been extended beyond their intended scope.
For Americans, this is hauntingly, horribly familiar.
The Patriot Act was our emergency reaction to an unthinkable act of terror within our borders. New York, while not our political capital, is a cornerstone of American culture, and the blow there hit us as hard as the violence in Paris hit all of Europe.
The perpetrators of the violence are related, too, albeit in a distant cousins sense. ISIS (or Daesh, if you think puns are an appropriate weapon in this culture war) can trace its heritage to Al Qaida in Iraq, and from there to the late mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. The radical ideology is similar if not the same: a distressingly regressive interpretation of Islam muddled with justifiable post-colonialism anger and unjustifiable tactics.
Westerners are terrified of this enemy. We don’t know what to do with them. When we kill them, their families turn against us. When we occupy them, they turn against us. When we abandon them, they turn against us. Our every move results in more deaths, more hate, more recruits for warlords and terrorists. And our addiction to the oil under their feet keeps bringing us back, no matter the human cost or our political will. We show up, we fuck up, they hate us more.
In the face of terrible violence and human tragedy, perhaps it is only human that we respond by circling the wagons, by giving up too much power to those who will protect us from the enemy we can’t seem to get a handle on.
But when we give in to that impulse, it never works out well. Americans are still trying to get away from the crazy abuses of power that happened under the Patriot Act. We’re still trying to close Gitmo. We’re still trying to end bulk surveillance of our own citizens. Once this genie gets out, it’s hard to stuff back into the bottle.
The emergency powers in France are set to expire in three months. Many provisions of the Patriot Act were set to expire in 2005.
Average Americans, we never wanted what happened in the years following the 2001 attacks. We didn’t want to be a country that tortures people. We didn’t want to bomb weddings. We didn’t want to start a war that would decimate a nation that had nothing to do with the attacks on our homeland. We didn’t want the government in all of our phone calls and emails. We didn’t want to sacrifice our liberty for our security. But we did.
France, I say this with nothing but love. Watch your government like hawks for the coming months. Watch like the soul of your nation depends upon it.
Because it does.
Source: The Guardian