(First published August, 2010)
“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”
— Hannah Arendt
Hannah Arendt wrote about the “banality of evil” and this banality is enveloping the assumed bastion of freedom and democracy, the United States of America. Seeing Hannah Arendt’s comments made me think about something I read recently.
The piece is titled ” Tales from Stasiland: The letter that makes you disappear” By Scott Horton, in which the author briefly discusses “One of the creepier weapons in the arsenal of the national-security state is the “national-security letter” or NSL…”The idea is simple: the device is something like a subpoena, though it doesn’t require approval of a judge to issue. Instead, the FBI requires the recipient to help it in an investigation targeting a third-party. It might be dropped on a librarian, with a demand that she tell the FBI every book that a certain subscriber checked out, every magazine he perused, and every time he accessed the Internet using a computer at the library. Or it might go to an Internet service provider, requiring information about every website viewed by a certain customer…But the NSL also imposes a gag order on its recipient: you may not tell anyone you got this letter.”
(NOTE: Federal Judge Finds National Security Letters Unconstitutional, Bans Them-Mar 15, 2013) “Ultra-secret national security letters that come with a gag order on the recipient are an unconstitutional impingement on free speech, a federal judge in California ruled in a decision released Friday…U.S. District Judge Susan Illston ordered the government to stop issuing so-called NSLs across the board, in a stunning defeat for the Obama (the Bomber) administration’s surveillance practices.”
Let’s hope this is the start of a trend and that the US Supreme Court does not nullify or overturn this ruling.
Peter Dale Scott spoke at the New England Antiwar Conference at MIT on January 30, 2010. His talk was titled: 9/11, Deep Events, and the Curtailment of U.S. Freedoms . He states, in part, “A war on terror is as inappropriate a cure as a U.S. war on drugs, which as we have seen in Colombia makes the drug problem worse, not better. The war on terror and the war on drugs have this in common: both are ideological attempts to justify the needless killings of thousands — including both American troops and foreign civilians — in another needless war.”
Walt Kelly, the creator of Pogo once did a poster and later a cartoon which said “We have met the enemy and he is us.” That was in 1971, it is now 40 years later and we STILL have not come to terms with who is our real enemy.
Fred Reed recently wrote a piece called The Eye of Sauron in which he says “In short, the technology exists for a detailed, unblinking, unforgetting watchfulness of the entire population beyond anything imagined, or perhaps imaginable, a few decades ago. This is not Fred-drank-too-much-coffee. It is happening.”
Welcome to Stasi-Land…
The Stasi were the secret police of East Germany who carried on where the Nazis left off in the systematic suppression of its citizens through banal and seemingly benign means of coercion; of course the threat of prison and worse was always behind the “requests” for spying on one’s friends or neighbors.
The United States has become a nation of Stasi, you call them the FBI or the CIA or the NSA; and some have no names, they are just called “black ops.” If you do not believe the FBI are much like the Stasi just make a careful read of A Stasi for America By James Bovard.
Mr Bovard writes “The FBI was born in deceit. Congress had prohibited Theodore Roosevelt’s administration from creating a separate agency of federal investigators for fear that the new hirees would trample the Constitution.” In 1920, J. Edgar Hoover was ordered by Attorney General Palmer to organise and execute the Palmer Raids where up to “10,000 suspected Reds and radicals were seized” and detained similar to what the Patriot Act allows them to do today.
In June of 2013, NSA documents were disclosed by Edward Snowden a “US former technical contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee who leaked details of top-secret US and British government mass surveillance programs to the press.”
The information revealed classified information about a variety of intelligence programs, “including the interception of US and European telephone metadata and the PRISM and Tempora Internet surveillance programs.”
PRISM “is a clandestine national security electronic surveillance program operated by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) since 2007. PRISM is a government code name for a data-collection effort.” PRISM allows the NSA to collect data “directly from the servers” of several major Internet services providers. If these companies receive an order to give the government your confidential data, they are forbidden by law from telling their customers or anyone else they received an order in any way.
Tempora is “a clandestine security electronic surveillance program trialled in 2008, established in 2011 and operated by the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)…data collected by the Tempora programme is shared with the National Security Agency of the United States.”
It was later disclosed that both the US and the UK are spying on their erstwhile allies in Europe. European Officials Infuriated by Alleged NSA Spying on Friendly Diplomats: “A report in Germany’s “Der Spiegel” magazine that the U.S. bugged E.U. offices set off a political firestorm”
I see no distinction between the spying by the Stasi on its citizens and the spying by the USA and the UK on their citizens as well as their allies. How far down this “slippery slope” are citizens of these countries willing to go with their governments?
The US Empire has reached its nadir and has already started into its decline. This Empire has bankrupted its citizens, fought two aggressive, unnecessary and worst of all, preventive wars in the guise of bringing freedom and democracy to the very people its armies are torching. Preventive war undertaken without the approval of the United Nations is illegal under the modern framework of international law. Vietnam was just the first post-WWII example, it taught the military and the ruling class (or Power Elite) some lessons they are trying, unsuccessfully, to correct this time around. This means they still think they can “win” the “war on terror.”
The battle for courage in the face of a machine so invisible and yet so totalitarian, was lost long ago, else such agencies as your Homeland Security or such despicable laws as the Patriot Act should never have been allowed to happen in what was once the promise of a great country. That is now lost and will not be regained. Its greatness now lies in how many cars its citizens have in their driveways and how much oil can be consumed on an hourly basis. How banal…
I became aware at an early stage in my political awareness that the left has consistently been correct in its analyses of US involvement in wars and coups and human rights violations, and over the years everything I have read has come to reinforce that belief. After 9/11 the emotional firestorms, hysteria and panic was unbelievable, especially as viewed from abroad.
The view of a hurricane while in the middle of it or while flying over it in a satellite is decidedly different and lends itself to different ways of thinking about the situation. For example, in Europe and where I live in Turkey, it is believed, and I agree, that Bush, Rice and Cheney were the “Axis of Evil” and not Iran, Iraq and North Korea.
Mainstream (normal?) Americans have been in the “hurricane” ever since, rocked back and forth by the political winds of those who are in power. “Bin Laden is responsible for our problems, kill Bin Laden”, the military missed him in Afghanistan but while we are there we might as well go there in force and topple the regime. “Saddam has WMD, he could lob a nuke missile at us any day now…” kill Saddam, and the streets will be filled with grateful Iraqis just begging us to take their oil and their culture and their lives and, (did I mention their oil?) from them. “Terror is our enemy, the War on Terror must be fought around the globe. We must bring freedom and democracy to ‘those people.'” Remember “those people” from civil rights days? Meaning black and brown folks of course…
I was no fan of Saddam, and I certainly do not love the Ayatollahs who are both dangerous and a shameful embarrassment to most of the Muslims I know. North Korea is run by a demonic dwarf with a mind the size of a peanut. But they all pale to insignificance compared to the Bush-Cheney (and now Obama the Bomber) regimes.
Bush-Cheney took the United States into moral and financial bankruptcy and the world into depression spending many billions on keeping oil running smoothly and the cash registers of arms merchants full. Obama the Bomber intends to keep it that way. Who profits from the obscene costs of war? Why don’t ordinary people ask that instead of limply complying with the bankruptcy of the US treasury, the bailout of large corporations and the forgiving of the sins of bankers who rip off retirement funds?
I wrote a lot of letters to people I know and posted blog warnings against all of this shit before Bush sent troops to kill and to die in Afghanistan and again ditto for Iraq. People think I am crazy, a fanatic, or even a traitor. Hundreds of billions of dollars spent and countless lives wasted for what? Eventually the US troops must leave and when they do, what then?
The “War on Terror” is just a way of keeping the minds of Americans on the “enemy” abroad and not on the erosion of the freedoms which made the United States great.