Viewpoint: Are we the next Zimbabwe?

Viewpoint: Are we the next Zimbabwe?

By Joe Baker

Are we the next


By Joe Baker

Senior Editor

Chances are you haven’t read or heard much lately about events in Zimbabwe. National media are too busy putting out the party line on Afghanistan.

It might be instructive to learn what is going on in that tortured African nation because, from what is known of developments here, it could be a blueprint for upcoming changes in this country.

The regime of President Robert Mugabe has either seized or announced intentions to seize most of the small, private farms in the country. In addition, the government has pending what is labeled the “Public Order and Security Bill.”

This bill will prohibit public gatherings and make it a crime, punishable by life imprisonment or death, to publish or communicate “statements prejudicial to the state…that incite violence, affect the defense and economic interests…undermine the authority of the president by making public statements or publishing statements that provoke hostility.”

It also was announced that a 1997 ruling by that country’s supreme court, allowing freedom of movement to the citizens, would be overturned. The government claimed that was being done to “combat criminal and terrorist activities.” The government said national identity cards may be required.

The Mugabe regime also named several foreign newspapers it said were “distorting the facts and assisting terrorists.” The government has since decided to ban all foreign journalists from the country. It will permit only native Zimbabweans to act as correspondents for foreign papers. They will be government-licensed and government-controlled, through a commission which will have punitive powers over them.

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From page 14

Sound familiar? We already have the USA Patriot Act which allows the federal government to arrest anyone they decide is a terrorist or aiding terrorists. The definition of “terrorist” under the act is vague and very broad. Along with this assault on civil liberties are companion pieces allowing seizure of firearms and ammunition and forcible medical treatment and detention.

Next will come new laws such as the Seditious Publication and Utterances Act. Guess what this will do. Dissidents will be subject to arrest and imprisonment. Dissent will not be allowed.

And just like Zimbabwe, travel soon may be restricted and national identity cards required even to leave the state. These draconian steps will eliminate nearly all our freedoms and reduce Americans to the level of vassals.

The doctrines of “Bushism” are rapidly revealing their true character. The administration is becoming more and more secretive and more and more arrogant.

Witness the growing friction between the Congress and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft. He has repeatedly ignored the Senate Judiciary Committee’s requests that he appear to answer questions about his expanded powers for law enforcement under the Patriot Act.

The legislators, most of them lawyers, are disturbed about the more than 1,100 persons being held incommunicado in connection with investigation of the attacks of 9/11 and the new practice of eavesdropping on attorney-client communications.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, has sent six letters to Ashcroft, and none have been answered. Ashcroft did recently issue a list of 600 persons being detained, but the Justice Department has released only 93 names.

Ashcroft’s excuse for this high-handed behavior in holding individuals without granting them any rights or defense? He offered the absurd argument that he was “protecting their privacy.”

David Carle, spokesman for Sen. Leahy, commented: “There’s a feeling on both sides of the aisle that the lack of consultation is becoming a problem.”

Leahy himself has written that he thinks congressional cooperation on these measures (anti-terrorism laws) has been a one-way street.

Ashcroft is not the only “obersturmbanfuhrer” in the administration. Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld, according to some reports, is busily offering some of the Iraqi oil to Turkey in return for its support of an attack on Saddam Hussein’s bomb-battered nation. And don’t forget the Office of Homeland Security and its 100,000 troops. Yes, that’s the number assigned to the office.

Still, for all its belated anger and frustration, Congress is hypocritical in this situation. Where were they when the Patriot Act came before them? Why was there hardly any discussion or debate, and why did they stampede like a herd of lemmings to push this law through?

Congress has become largely irrelevant; little more than a puppet show that means nothing. The power and the punishment have been ursurped by the White House while the House and Senate pretend they didn’t see or hear anything.

In the interim the American public, or most of it, marches blindly along, waving their flags, in the belief that unquestioning support for an immoral and corrupt government is patriotism.

Time is running short. If we want to preserve and maintain a constitutional government, we have until March 25. That’s when the Patriot Act (a misnomer if there ever was one) takes effect.

They are counting on you to remain afraid, to give up your liberties in return for security. They want you to forget that people in prison are secure, but they are not free.

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