At this writing the nightmare that was the year 2001 is just a few weeks from completion.
It won't be long missed. It began with the first judicial coup d'etat in our nation's history. The US Supreme Court halted Florida's recounts in a pair of rulings that many legal scholars consider the worst decisions in our nation's history. Then, to counteract a looming recession, George Bush gave away the fiscal surplus to enact a tax that predominantly benefits the top 1%. He did this despite the arguments from many economists that with an economic downturn a much wiser remedy would have been a middle-class tax cut that benefits all those that made at least middle-class income, including the rich.
Meanwhile, the corporate media is serving Bush far better than they were his predecessor.
When the issue of how Bush assumed the role of President was most discussed the media keenly focused on Clinton's exit-pardons. (The media didn't care that Clinton's pardons were generally much less sordid and morally reprehensible than George Bush the Elder's.) When Bush pushed for his tax cut for the rich the media marginalized voices that best represented the poor and middle class from the public discussion. Afterwards, when Bush (exhausted after six months of rewarding campaign contributors) decided he needed a month's vacation, the media never offered a platform for those who advocate more time off for all workers. Then came 9/11/01.
As I watched the second plane repeatedly strike the second WTC tower, and as
the towers kept falling on TV, my thoughts were that the people responsible were going to have an effect on our society similar to that of a lethal virus on a host cell. (Quick biology lesson: A virus invades a cell, forces it to make copies of itself, and then the copies destroy the cell and move on to other cells.) The hatred and hysteria that has accompanied "probably the most devastating instant human toll of any crime in history, outside of war" (Chomsky) is very similar to these acts of terrorism. So, too, is the new authoritarianism that has arisen from the attacks. It seems like the Bush administration's domestic responses to the attacks replicate the thinking behind the actual attacks themselves.
This is seen with the enactment of the USA PATRIOT act. It eviscerates the Bill of Rights. We don't have one anymore. As Counterpunch sums it up, the USA PATRIOT act has gutted the Constitution's guarantee of habeas corpus, the presumption that citizens are innocent, allows for the government to detain non-citizens on secret evidence, conduct wiretaps and surveillance without evidence of wrongdoing, conduct searches and seizures without warrant or probable cause, to eavesdrop on private conversations between attorneys and their client defendants, and allows the government to wield the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 as a weapon to harass dissident organizations under the guise of anti-terrorism (CounterPunch, 1116-30, 2001).
Another response to the terrorism that resembles terrorism is Bush's executive order allowing for the government to try non-citizens in secret, using secret evidence, and to execute them even after a non-unanimous jury verdict is obtained with no major standard of proof needed. Bush's edict is so broadly worded that it says that anyone whom the President declares is affiliated with whatever he terms to be a terrorist organization will face the tribunals before their likely execution.
If there's any doubt about how the government plans to use these tribunals, which Joseph Stalin might have conceived of, observe the Attorney General, John Ashcroft. As head of the "Justice" Department, Ashcroft refuses to allow the FBI to use its gun records to investigate terrorist suspects. He's upholding an extremist law that was essentially written by the NRA. Never mind that by treating guns as a right for all citizens (rather than "well regulated Militias") Ashcroft is single-handedly reversing Justice Department policy that has been enforced for decades. And, don't worry that Ashcroft's views on the Second Amendment conflict sharply with the decisions of eight Federal Courts and the US Supreme Court. Finally, don't sweat over how Ashcroft's terrorist-friendly policies on guns also conflicts with the assurances he gave during his confirmation proceedings that as head of Justice he would protect the public even in ways that the NRA disagreed with.
Ashcroft has effectively rewritten the Second Amendment, bypassing fifty years of the Gun Lobby's losses in the Federal courts. Meanwhile, Bush and the rest of our governmental leaders have terminated the Bill of Rights. That's the legacy of 2001.
Hysteria, witch-hunts, the destruction of the Bill of Rights and newly empowered secret military tribunals that are not authorized by the Constitution are precisely the reactions that the terrorists hoped to achieve. They did not want to see our system of governance to continue. They wanted us to replicate their thinking and they have succeeded beyond most imaginations. And, if more people don't start getting involved and fighting for the liberties we've recently lost--our civilization is certainly going to collapse into barbarism.