October 13, 2003

Coleen Rowley: The wrong side of 'us vs. them'

Colleen Rawley was one of the first names scrawled on
the John O'Neill Wall of Heroes. She has kept up her
brave challenge to the Bush cabal's Just Us Dept. Of
course, she wholly ignored by the "US mainstream news
media." LNS, once again, suggests that the Democratic
Party give Colleen Rawley, as well the the legendeary
9/11 widows and the activist parents of Iraq GIs prime
time speeches at the convention in August '04, they
should be introduced by Max Cleland (D-GA) with the
Dixie Chicks providing musical interludes. Business as
usual is unacceptable and inappropriate. We are in a
state of national emergency and extraordinary
political gambles must be taken...


Coleen Rowley: The wrong side of 'us vs. them'
Coleen Rowley

Published October 12, 2003 ROWLEY1012

I didn't attend Attorney General John Ashcroft's
speech last month in Minneapolis, but newspapers have
quoted him as saying that Americans are "freer today
than at any time in the history of human freedom."

Well, this American disagrees! And I would venture to
say that many others feel the same way -- those who
have been put on the "them" side of the "us vs. them"
equation in the context of the administration's
"you're either with us or against us" mentality.

It didn't matter whether you were a career FBI agent,
a decorated war veteran, a duly elected congressman or
senator, a military general or even a former
president, you were labeled a traitor for voicing any
criticism of administration policies. You were accused
of giving aid and comfort to the enemy, called a
friend of Osama bin Laden and thrown to the wolves (or
more accurately, the FOXes).

The intimidation in this country that's been whipped
up by this official fear and warmongering has been far
more effective than any Patriot Act in whittling away
our civil liberties.

Interestingly enough, Ashcroft himself is not above
using this technique to lump those who disagree with
him in with the terrorists to thereby discourage
debate. Recall his statement, three months after Sept.
11: "To those who scare peace-loving people with
phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your
tactics only aid terrorists -- for they erode our
national unity and diminish our resolve. They give
ammunition to America's enemies."

It's also no secret that this administration has used
its considerable power to fight giving any real legal
protection to government whistle-blowers and even
attempted to water down the Sarbanes-Oxley Act's
protections recently enacted for corporate

Of course, no "whistle-blower protection" exists for
public disclosures or articles such as this one. But
even without it, the First Amendment should suffice
and is what I rely on. However, the official warnings
along these lines that I've repeatedly received in the
course of my attempts to speak on issues of public
importance seem little more than veiled threats; or
are they perhaps a warning that the First Amendment is
not as robust as it used to be?

There's another large segment of our citizenry who
have found themselves cast as "thems" by this "war"
mentality. Complaints of discrimination against Muslim
workers and reports of hate crimes against people
believed to be of Middle Eastern descent have at least

Social psychologists say that the attacks of Sept. 11
and their aftermath have created a real-world
experiment which unfortunately indicates that the more
positively one feels about the United States, the more
likely one is to be anti-Arab.

Although it must be recognized that the origin of this
problem was in the horror of the violent attacks
themselves and that certain government leaders, such
as FBI Director Robert Mueller, have undertaken
efforts to reach out to affected Arab groups, the
social scientists point to other government actions
following 9/11 (including the government's roundup and
detention of illegal immigrants, the special
registration requirements that single out students and
visitors from Muslim nations, and the wars in
Afghanistan and Iraq) as sending "social signals" that
are worsening these biases.

A specialist in the issues of prejudice and
stereotyping has noted that people who perceive
themselves under threat naturally tend to think of
"who's with me" and "who's against me." In any event,
I doubt that many in the Arab-American segment of the
populace feel "freer today," as Ashcroft's generality

I could go on in a more general, abstract way about
how "free" any of us truly is living with the ongoing
terrorist threat to our safety that will be with us
for a long time. For, distilled to their essences,
security and liberty are very intertwined, if not the
same thing. In that sense, how many people in
yellow/orange-alert America feel "freer" today than
they did prior to 9/11?

Ashcroft may be correct on other matters, including
that the letter of the law contained in the Patriot
Act is, for the most part, not the problem, but he is
certainly either in denial, out of touch or painting
far too rosy a picture by saying that Americans are
"freer today than at any time in the history of human
freedom." For our civil liberties can be and are in
jeopardy in other ways.

For starters, we must do more to break down the "us
vs. them" mind-set and the accompanying intimidation
that ultimately threaten us all. We must recognize
that we are all in this together.

Coleen Rowley works for the Federal Bureau of
Investigation as a special agent with the Minneapolis
office. (The views expressed are her own and are not
to be construed as the official views of the FBI.)

Posted by richard at October 13, 2003 04:23 PM