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November 2003 • Vol 3, No. 10 •

Have We Seen This Before?

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

“I have never met anyone who wasn’t against war. Even Hitler and Mussolini were, according to themselves.”

—Sir David Low (1891-1963)

Sometimes, we are so in the thick of something, that we cannot see what we are really into. That is especially so in times of war, or other national, or communal, emergencies.

We, in times of fear or crisis, often react, rather than act with wisdom and hindsight.

If we look at how Americans acted after Pearl Harbor, against their fellow Americans who happened to have Japanese ancestry, by isolating them into cruel concentration camps, we get some idea of how fear contracts the mind.

Consider America after 9-11; the hundreds of people in concentration camps, who are incommunicado from lawyers, families, anybody; the several dozen who have attempted suicide; hundreds of others, citizens and non-citizens alike, who are held in prisons around the country, for months—on immigration charges!—while judges sigh softly that there is little they can do, and while the Chief Justice quotes nostrums like ‘in times of war, the law is silent’; while the Constitution is shredded before our eyes; the Fourth Amendment a distant memory; with cops and their cohorts bugging phones, ripping into mails, snooping into computers, and setting up snitch networks, all in the name of “Patriot Acts!” Americans are still gripped by fear, and the government is squeezing.

Recently, this writer read an article, which detailed
similar historical occurrences, so similar, in fact, that it was breathtaking.

The article’s author cites the case of a leader (un-elected!) who stood before the ruins of a destroyed building, who called it “a sign from God” and a marker of “a great epoch in history.” The building’s destruction was blamed on “radicals” and “terrorists” who had roots in the Middle East, who could only be stopped by “all-out war.” Within weeks of the attack, detention centers sprang up to hold suspected allies of the terrorists. Shortly thereafter, a new law was passed called the “Decree on the Protection of People and the State,” which, although opposed by civil libertarians and some concerned legislators, was seen as a very patriotic bill by the majority of the people. To please the civil libertarians, it had a 4-year sunset provision in it, in case the “national emergency” was over by then, and then the suspended rights of the people would be returned, and the nation’s cops would be re-restrained. It was such an emergency, in fact, that legislators would later say they hadn’t had time to actually read the anti-terrorism bill before they signed it into law.

As for the press, it was very patriotic. When the government began arresting its undesirables, and its critics, they either ignored it, or reported that these people were supporters of terrorism, or unpatriotic. Hundreds of people began to be arrested; and then thousands; and then tens
of thousands.

In his public addresses, the great, popular leader spoke of “The Homeland,” and his deep religious faith. His soldiers, who came from the poor and working classes, shared his beliefs, and they wore their faith on their new, crisp uniforms, with belt buckles that read, “God Is With Us.” The leader urged his unified people to invade other countries, and installed new leaders that were friendly. Time magazine hailed this popular new leader as “Man of The Year.”

As some of you have guessed, this is an account of the rise of German Chancellor, Adolph Hitler, whose career rose after the firebombing of the Reichstag (the German Parliament building), on February 27, 1933. This, and the crony capitalism that marked the period, or the backing of big business, ushered in the era of fascism that drenched the earth in blood.

Think of the U.S. after 9-11, and the similarities; the historical correspondences, must give you pause.

This is a lesson from history.

Will we learn from it, or repeat it?

—Copyright 2003, Mumia Abu-Jamal





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