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You Have No Rights
Posted on Aug 14, 2007
Scheer: Another guest we had on this show was Robert Higgs. I don’t know if you’ve heard of him, with The Independent Institute. And he takes a radical view about government and he thinks that with crisis times, people run to government—in terms of 9/11, or the New Deal with the Depression. His point is trying to get rid of government altogether. Do you think that would be a good way to go? Do you think the government right now is just so power-hungry that they’ll grab at anything, they’ll cause fear, they’ll spend money wherever they like to spend money and the Senate and the House won’t do anything? Do you think it’s time we changed the government a little bit?
Rothschild: I believe in government as having a necessary role, both to protect people and also to buffer people from the forces, the cruel forces of the market—in this day and age, the cruel forces of huge corporations. Now, what Republicans and even some libertarians think is that government is there only to protect us, and what the Bush administration thinks it’s there for is to give the Pentagon a $700-billion annual allowance and to hand out $200-billion checks in corporate welfare every year. Now, that’s not my idea of a positive role for government.
Harris: It’s almost—at this point, in this war and at this stage in our history—cliché to say we have to stand up, because when I step back and look, I see fewer and fewer people standing up. So what are we left with?
Rothschild: We absolutely have got to stand up for our rights, right now, before it’s too late. Several of the people I profiled in this book, “You Have No Rights,” stood up for their rights after their rights were violated. They sued the government or they sued the city police or the Secret Service or the FBI. And they won. They won lawsuits and settlements. And so, that’s the way to go. Otherwise Bush is going to keep taking and taking and taking until we’ve got nothing left. We can’t be afraid that they’re going to spy on us or that they’re going to arrest us and therefore not exercise our rights out of fear, because if we do that, we’ve already surrendered our rights to them. They’ve already taken the rights away. The Bill of Rights [is] already shredded. We’ve got to make sure that they don’t continue to shred our rights. We’ve got to tell congresspeople, “Look, get these irresponsible, runaway president and vice president—get them to regard the law as something that they need to follow, and impeach them for not following it.
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Rothschild: And it’s not about payback against Bush and Cheney or anything. This is about whether we’re a democracy or not. We can’t have on the books all these oppressive and repressive bits of executive orders or precedents that these people have established already.
Scheer: The people you talked to, the people you interviewed—are they still happy to be American citizens? How angry are they? Did they leave the country?
Rothschild: I talked to a guy named Zakariya Muhammad Reed, whose given name was Edward Eugene Jr., Edward Eugene Reed Jr. He lived in Toledo, Ohio, for 20 years. He was in the National Guard. For 11 years he’s been a firefighter there in Toledo. He converted to Islam. He married a woman from Lebanon whose family went to Toronto. Five times in the last eight months he’s been stopped coming back from Canada by Immigration. He said it would’ve been OK to stop him once and see who he was. He understands the risks we face in this country. But to stop him and harass him five times—and this was harassment. One of the guards told him, “We should do with these guys what we do with them in Iraq. We should put hoods over their heads and zip-tie their hands.” And then another person who was asking him questions, interrogating him, said, “What about this letter to the editor you wrote to the Toledo Blade.” And the letter he had written to the Toledo Blade that the guy had in front of him was criticizing the Bush administration, saying, “If you want to know why the United States has a bad reputation overseas, why don’t you look at the Bush administration’s war against Iraq and the Bush Administration’s support for Israel’s war against Lebanon and its oppression of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza?” And so the guy, the interrogator, says, “So, you like to write letters to the editor?” Well, you can’t write a letter to the editor in this country? What’s that about?
And the fifth time he was stopped—I wrote about him after he was stopped four times. And then the fifth time he was stopped he was asked about that article on Progressive.org that Rothschild wrote. The guys are watching every word the guy is saying.
Scheer: Is this guy still happy?
Rothschild: No, he is not happy.
Rothschild: He is outraged about what’s happened to his country. He said this is not the country he believed in. This is not the country he served in the National Guard for. “What has become of our country?” he asks. And that’s a tough question to answer.
Scheer: It seems like we are creating even more enemies. You know, we talk about stupid things like little threats, sleeper cells, or whatever. We’re creating terrorism in this country by making these people feel like fifth-class citizens.
Rothschild: We’re really infuriating people in this country who are Muslim-American or Arab-American and are harassed repeatedly when they are crossing the borders. The ACLU has filed a lawsuit, a class-action suit, with many of these people who just can’t believe the way they’re being treated.
Harris: What has been the most consequential change, either in loss of freedom or just change in American citizenry in general?
Rothschild: Two of the most flagrant things that George W. Bush has done, impeachable offenses, are the NSA spying, the spying by the National Security Agency, and then these signing statements.
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