The War on Liberty

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We dipped our toes over the weekend, Fellow Reckoner. Re-tested the waters. We wanted to know whether, over the past ten years, the public discourse regarding 9/11 and the subsequent “War on Terror” – waged both on foreign soil and, increasingly, against the liberties of American citizens at home – had shifted. A few questions…

Are people still waving flags and crying “traitor!” toward anyone with the inclination to question directives from the state’s military machine? Or has the mood become more reflective, more contemplative…more conducive to free and open discussion? After a decade at war, fighting on multiple fronts at a cost of trillions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives, has “war fatigue” finally set in?

“I originally was supportive of George Bush’s call for a war against Saddam Hussein,” responded one reader. “Since then I have come to be a huge believer in Ron Paul and have become disillusioned with our ‘war’ mentality. Thank you for your open dialogue.”

Wrote another, “…[I]t appears that I would be in agreement with the DR writers at this point, even though that would not have been the case 7-10 years ago. I was hoping for ‘getting the job done, and get it over with,’ but that hasn’t happened. Enough is enough now. But what should I have expected from a government that still has in place wool subsidies from WWII and a telephone tax from the Spanish-American war? We have now progressed far beyond ongoing taxes and ongoing subsidies to just plain ongoing wars.”

Setting aside the financial costs of “ongoing wars” abroad, there is also the cost in terms of personal liberty to be considered. Our mates over at The 5-Minute Forecast provided the following, disturbing observation last week…

The Patriot Act authorized “sneak and peek” search warrants – where you, the suspect, don’t have to be notified of the search until after the fact. If you’re a patriot and thought those powers would be used to fight terrorism, well you would be wrong.

Meanwhile, the National Security Agency (NSA) has opened a massive $2 billion, 1 million-square-foot complex in the Utah desert…devoted to storing and sorting through emails, web searches and business transactions. Perhaps yours.

A similar complex is being built near San Antonio. By 2015, according to journalist James Bamford, the NSA will store data equivalent to 1 septillion printed pages. That’s a 1 followed by 24 zeroes.

“Somewhere between Sept. 11 and today,” wrote Bamford last week, “the enemy morphed from a handful of terrorists to the American population at large, leaving us nowhere to run and no place to hide…”

At the NSA, thousands of analysts who once eavesdropped on troop movements of enemy soldiers in distant countries were now listening in on the bedroom conversations of innocent Americans in nearby states…

A surveillance system capable of monitoring 10 million people simultaneously this year will be able to monitor 100 million the next year – at probably half the cost. And every time new communications technology appears on the market, rest assured that someone at the NSA has already found a way to monitor it. It’s what the NSA does.

Is this how the victims of 9/11 are to be “honored”? Are the dead to be used as tools to incite fear and paranoia forever? Will the tragedy of their deaths be always used as an excuse to usher in an Orwellian age of snitching, snooping and ’round-the-clock surveillance? When, we wonder, will they finally be allowed to Rest In Peace?

Here’s Bill Bonner, reckoning on the subject…

So much 9/11 remembering! On the TV. In the newspapers. Even our good pastor, saying a few words of welcome at our mother’s 90th birthday party brought it up.

We pray for Mrs. Bonner. We give thanks for her 90 years…We hope for many more. And we pray for the victims of 9/11…and for the first responders…let us remember them…

But, frankly, we’d rather forget…

9/11 did no serious damage to the nation. As a whole, Americans were not made significantly poorer or significantly less safe. Yes, good people died on 9/11. But there have been a lot of good people murdered over the last 10 years. Every victim had his virtues. And every murderer had his reasons.

What did lasting damage to the nation was not 9/11, it was remembering 9/11. Not only did overreaction to 9/11 play a substantial role in bankrupting the country…it also made Americans fearful and sheepish. They’re convinced the towel-heads are trying to kill them. They believe they can protect themselves by spending trillions of dollars they don’t have on military campaigns that don’t work.

Ten years ago, only a few fanatics wanted to do Americans harm. Now, after throwing so much military weight around, half the world would happily pull the trigger on an American tourist if he had the chance.

Reprinted with permission from The Daily Reckoning.

Joel Bowman is managing editor of The Daily Reckoning. After completing his degree in media communications and journalism in his home country of Australia, Joel moved to Baltimore to join the Agora Financial team. His keen interest in travel and macroeconomics first took him to New York where he regularly reported from Wall Street, and he now writes from and lives all over the world. Bill Bonner is the author, with Addison Wiggin, of Financial Reckoning Day: Surviving the Soft Depression of The 21st Century and The New Empire of Debt: The Rise Of An Epic Financial Crisis and the co-author with Lila Rajiva of Mobs, Messiahs and Markets (Wiley, 2007). His latest book is Dice Have No Memory. Since 1999, Bill has been a daily contributor and the driving force behind The Daily Reckoning.

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