We can’t let the coronavirus lead to a 9/11-style erosion of civil liberties
Samuel Miller McDonald
We must reject such authoritarian measures wholly, no matter who says they’re ‘necessary’
As a millennial, much of my adulthood has been punctuated by severe national emergencies. The first my generation experienced was the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. We all watched in horror as the months-long media spectacle replayed footage of the towers swallowing airplanes and crumbling into fire and dust. The moment of national solidarity and everyday heroism was brief.
The government quickly responded by attempting to achieve two things: one, expanding executive power, and two, transferring public wealth into private corporations. The Bush administration achieved the first by passing the Patriot Act, which built the foundation for what is probably the world’s most expansive surveillance state, but also by setting legal precedents that violated basic constitutional rights and by creating the Department for Homeland Security, with its aggressive constituent agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The second goal was achieved with the “war on terror”, which involved unilateral occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, and subsequent military forays into many African countries. In Iraq, private security, logistics and reconstruction contractors swallowed up $138bn alone. Since 2001, $5.9tn in taxpayer dollars have gone toward wars (not to mention resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and a foreign policy blackhole that still haunts the Middle East). Neither of these goals addressed the root cause of the crisis, and arguably exacerbated the conditions that led to 9/11.
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