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Arrest Me

     By William Rivers Pitt

     Tuesday 4 March 2003

     George W. Bush is out of control.

     I'll say it again.

     George W. Bush is out of control.

     I'm waiting for the black government cars to come squealing up in front of my house, for the thump of leather on my stairs, for the sound of knuckles on my door, for the feel of steel braceleting my wrists, for the smell of urine in some dank Federal holding cell as I listen to questions from men who no longer feel the constricting boundaries of constitutional law abutting their duties.

     Sounds paranoid, doesn't it?  Straight out of the Turner Diaries, maybe.  Sounds like I'm waiting for the ominous whop-whop-whop of the blades on a black helicopter churning the air over my home.  Sounds like I'm waiting to find a laser dot on my chest above my heart before the glass breaks and the bullet pushes my guts out past my spine.

     Crazy, right?

     Ask Andrew J. O'Conner of Santa Fe, New Mexico if it sounds crazy.  Mr. O'Conner, a former public defender from Santa Fe, was arrested in a public library and interrogated by Secret Service agents for five hours on February 13th.  

     His crime?

     He said "Bush is out of control" on an internet chat room, and was arrested for threatening the President.  

     Ask Bernadette Devlin McAliskey of Ireland if it sounds crazy.  She was recently passing through Chicago from Dublin, where she passed security, when she heard her name called over a loudspeaker.  When she went up to the ticket counter, three men and one woman surrounded her and grabbed her passport.  McAliskey was informed that she had been reported to be a "potential or real threat to the United States."

     Bernadette Devlin McAliskey has spent the better part of her life struggling for the Irish nationalist cause.  She did not lob Molotov cocktails at police.  Instead, she became a member of British Parliament at age 21, the youngest person ever elected to that post.  In 1981 she and her husband were shot by a loyalist death squad in their home.  She has traveled to America on a regular basis for the last thirty years, and has been given the keys to the cities of San Francisco and New York.

     Upon her detention in Chicago last month, McAliskey was fingerprinted and photographed.  One of the men holding her told her that he was going to throw her in prison.  When she snapped back that she had rights, she was told not to make the boss angry, because he shoots people.  "After 9/11," said one officer, "nobody has any rights."  

     "You've evaded us before," said the officer before McAliskey was deported back to Ireland, "but you're not going to do it now."  She never found out for sure how she was a threat to the United States, and is currently filing a formal complaint with the U.S. consulate in Dublin.

     There are those who will brush these incidents off.  Andrew O'Conner has been an activist for years, and has not hidden his disdain for this looming war in Iraq.  Bernadette McAliskey is a world-famous fighter for her people.  Some will say the opinions and freedoms of people like this do not matter in the grand scheme.  Others will wave these incidents away as random examples of thoughtless action by petty dictators who were foolishly given badges and authority.

     I don't.

     It is ironic, in a grisly sort of way.  Hard-right conservatives spent the entirety of the Clinton administration baying to anyone fearful enough to listen that the President was coming for their freedoms, that it was only a matter of time before the Bill of Rights was destroyed. The myth of the black helicopters, the apocalyptic views of the Turner Diaries, and a smoking crater in Oklahoma City all testified to the brittle paranoia these people promulgated in those years.

     Now, those same people have representatives with parallel views on virtually every domestic and foreign policy idea in control of the House, the Senate, the White House, the Supreme Court, the intelligence services and the United States military.  These are the people who brought us the Patriot Act, versions 1.0 and 2.0, the people who are responsible for the most incredible constitutional redactions in our history.

     Ask Mr. O'Conner and Ms. McAliskey about it.  They can tell you what happens to undesirables these days.  

     When you murder peaceful dissent in America, you murder America itself.  When you harass innocent people for their past and present views, you spread fear within an already terrified nation.  This is not about some fool of a Secret Service agent jumping the gun on an innocuous online comment, or an airline security officer with a penchant for bullyragging 55 year old women.  This is a failure from the top down, an empowerment - by the man charged with defending our constitution - of lesser jackasses with large badges who do not understand nor care for the importance of their positions.  This is about failed leadership, and the despoiling of everything that makes this place precious and unique and sacred.

     In other words, Bush is out of control.

     Bush is out of control.

     Bush is out of control.

     Come and get me.


William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times bestselling author of two books - "War On Iraq" (with Scott Ritter) available now from Context Books, and "The Greatest Sedition is Silence," available in May 2003 from Pluto Press. He teaches high school in Boston, MA.
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