The United States of Fear: Ten Examples

Since September 11, 2001, fear has been the main engine of change in the United States.  Who would have thought that across the US, where people boast that it is the home of the free and the land of the brave, people would gladly surrender their freedom and liberty because they so fear terrorism?

Who would have thought that the US would allow, much less pay for, the National Security Agency to intercept and store 1.7 billion emails, phone calls and other communications – every single day – and pay for 30,000 people to listen in on phone conversations in the name of fighting the fear of terrorism?

Who would have thought that people across New York City, where people are proud of their diversity, would fear construction of a mosque and community center downtown?

Who would have thought that people across the US, where people argue that they helped bring down the wall that separated East and West Germany, would so fear their neighbors to the South that they support construction of a wall of separation with Mexico?

Who would have thought that some of the highest lawyers in the land would write memos illegally authorizing the torture of people in the name of making the US safe?

Who would have thought that Democrats would compete with Republicans to try to keep the globally shameful Guantanamo prison open so that people inside the US would not have to fear having living near prisons with alleged terrorists in them?

Who would have thought that people in New York City, a place where people admire their own toughness, would fear having criminal trials of alleged terrorists in their city? 

Who would have thought that in the US, where people take pride in the constitutional independence of the judiciary, those judges would turn down the case of Maher Arar, who was captured in the US and flown out to a Syrian prison to be tortured because they fear that even looking at the case would interfere with national security?

Who would have thought that the people of the US would fear to have Uighurs, members of persecuted ethnic minority who struggled for their freedoms against China, allowed to live even temporarily in the US?

Who would have thought that the people of the US would so fear the possibility of the Taliban ruling Afghanistan and the false possibility of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that we would send our sons and daughters to die by the thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Who would have thought that there once was a US president who said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance…”?

You tell me what happened to the land of the free and the home of the brave since September 11, 2001.

Bill teaches law at Loyola University New Orleans. He can be reached at Read other articles by Bill.

6 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on September 8th, 2010 at 9:54am #

    Who would expect all that? Well, i did! And many others. I expect even worsenings! All one needs to do is to remember slavery, eradication of indigenes, and a-bombings and that US had been and is now ruled by greatest crimina minds.

    American people [possibly as many as 99% of them] never had a say and never ever will. Unless….. I am tired of naming it!

    Note the writer couldn’t or wouldn’t miss the opportunity to take a swipe at evil chinese empire, but immeasurably less so than US’! tnx
    Ah, those fascists never change! tnx

  2. Gary S. Corseri said on September 8th, 2010 at 9:58am #

    Nice work, Bill.

    I think, though, that the question of a “wall of separation” with our neighbors to the South (i.e., Mexicans, Guatemalans, Salvadorans, etc.) is much too big and complicated to be lumped in with more obviously overt instances of racism and fear-mongering.

    There are, in fact, horrible drug wars in northern Mexico and people living in border states like Arizona and New Mexico, Texas and California have good reasons to fear the influx of crimal elements along with decent migrants looking for jobs. We need to probe deeper to examine how US drug policies–sustaining the illegalization of marijuana, for example–and support of NAFTA and agri-biz have contributed to the drug lord wars and massacres in Mexico and the destruction of agricultural jobs there and elsewhere.

    Americans are legitimately fearful of the loss of their own livelihoods. Fear is not something to be pooh-poohed–as lack of machismo, for example. It’s a primal emotion that needs to be understood in its deep-seated, multi-faceted dimensions; then, the fearmongers who manipulate the archetypes of fear can be properly dealt with.

  3. John Andrews said on September 8th, 2010 at 11:47pm #

    “Who would have thought that the US would …. pay for 30,000 people to listen in on phone conversations in the name of fighting the fear of terrorism?”

    Tim Weiner is something of an expert on this subject, and his ‘Legacy of Ashes’ opens with a very interesting point. He writes that prior to WW2 the US didn’t have an intelligence service at all (apart from the fairly recently formed FBI). And yet it had still somehow managed to form itself into an empire-in-waiting, whose influence in that war proved decisive.

    So the obvious question presents itself: if the US could become so successful without any ‘intelligence’ service at all, what the hell does anyone need one for?

    Weiner shows that the entire history of the CIA, for example, has produced virtually no significant benefit to the people of the USA – but has cost them hundreds of billions of dollars.

    It isn’t very difficult to see the reason for this. All that’s required is to understand that ‘intelligence’ services, together with the armed forces, are exactly the same as any other government bureaucracy (but usually not as useful): their first and foremost role in life is to make themselves bigger. Providing good value for money to the taxpayer who pays their salaries is completely irrelevant. All that matters is their own growth, and in the case of ‘intelligence’ services and armies, that means Permanent War.

  4. mary said on September 9th, 2010 at 12:53am #

    If a mid air collision had occurred in this instance, the fear of terrorism is so heightened in the UK by the print and visual media, terrorists would have been blamed, especially as one of the planes belonged to Turkish Airlines.

    Jet and Turkish Airlines 777 in ‘near-miss’ over London

    Both aircraft were at about 4,000ft when they came within half a mile of each other

    A business jet came close to a mid-air collision with a Turkish Airlines passenger plane after taking off from London City Airport, a report has said.

  5. bozh said on September 9th, 2010 at 5:53am #

    John Andrews,
    An useful observation by you! To expand, occupy, wage easy wars one needs mainly soldiers.
    Of course, soft wars; softly touching americans, appear to be failing. As per plan?
    For then it is easier to rule a people who is constantly at war??
    Ok, may be not.
    The grip on military-governmental powers by onepercenters appears strong enough to rule the people with an iron grip in peace also.

    It wld be nice if an investigator wld delve into differences in the rule in peace times ad war times.
    True, US had no day of peace yet. But war against panama, granada, nicaragua could be discounted as war time!? tnx

  6. John Andrews said on September 9th, 2010 at 6:55am #

    Hi bozh

    One of my favourite quotes by Churchill goes:

    “‘In wartime truth is so precious she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.”

    Initially it seems reasonable enough, but when you consider that at the time he said it Britain had been almost constantly at war somewhere or another for a few hundred years, it takes on a slightly different meaning. It means if you are permanently at war you can permanently lie to people… ‘in the national interest’.

    And as Churchill’s buddy Göring said:

    “The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. All you have to do is tell them they’re being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism. It works the same way in any country.”