Welcome to the United States of Orwell, Part 3: We had to Destroy Democracy in Order to Save It (March 28, 2012)
The National Security State has an Orwellian imperative: destroy democracy in order to "save" it.
Here is what I consider to be the dominant narrative of what I call the National Security State. The National Security State is comprised of the Pentagon, the Armed Forces, the CIA, NSA, Homeland Security, the corporate military-industrial complex that profits from it and the "black" budgets, agencies and operations that are hidden from the citizenry in the name of "national security."
Here's the narrative: we were surprised by a treacherous, shadowy, sinister enemy and we have to set aside the niceties of democracy and civil liberties to combat this new and terrible foe. This was the narrative after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, and it set in motion a total-global-war mobilization of the entire American society and economy.
Civil liberties? Gone, baby: Executive Order 9066 sent 120,000 Americans to concentration camps hastily erected in various wastelands. It was for their own good, and for the good of the war effort, of course; but no questions or legal niceties were allowed. Executive Orders from the Commander in Chief (the President) are like that.
The entire economy and populace were commandeered for the war effort. Since the nation was still in the grip of a decade-long Depression, then borrowing a couple trillion dollars into existance and mobilizing the populace for global war was actually a welcome development to most people.
Since this was a war for national survival and democracy, anything that hindered the war effort (except making a profit, of course) was deemed unpatriotic. The propaganda machine duly cranked out films demonizing our enemies, burying defeats and glorifying victories.
The narrative was repeated in the 1950s once the Soviet Union obtained the nuclear bomb. Once again we were surprised by a treacherous, shadowy, dangerous enemy and we had to set aside the niceties of democracy and civil liberties to combat this new and terrible foe. Communist infiltrators were everywhere, and had to be rooted out. Niceties like civil liberties were tools used by the Commies to mask their heinous efforts to undermine our way of life.
The net result of this narrative was that any self-aggrandizing moron in Congress could slander a decorated and revered general in the U.S. Army (Sen. Joe McCarthy and General George Marshall) and get away with it. Since Commie sympathizers could be anywhere at any time, then domestic spying was necessary, and on a vast scale.
Fortunately, the National Security State had developed the necessary infrastructure for handling espionage and spying on a global scale, so it was a straightforward task to set up a domestic spying operation. If civil liberties had to be trampled to do so, it was necessary to protect the nation and "our way of life."
You see the key point in the narrative: "our way of life" is more important than civil liberties. This is of course an orwellian reversal of what the Founding Fathers had in mind, which was that civil liberties are our way of life.
The narrative that domestic spying was necessary to root out sinister underground bad guys led directly to the COINTELPRO subversion and suppression of Vietnam War-era domestic dissent in the 1960s.
The danger of political activities being lumped in with criminal activity is higher than most complacent Americans believe. It's easy to be naive about the essentially unlimited powers of the National Security State. Most people believe that only "bad people" get caught by the government trawler, but it isn't quite that simple. Anyone perceived as threatening or impeding the State's Imperial ambitions may be targeted. Please don't say that it "can't happen here" because it already happened here.
I was with a friend when the FBI swooped in to arrest him for political crimes against the State, i.e. refusing to support an illegal (undeclared) war. At the time, the FBI had some 10,000 agents tasked with suppressing or disrupting the antiwar movement by whatever means were deemed necessary. Meanwhile, the agency's anti-Mob (organized crime) unit was reduced to minimal staffing. When the State feels its Imperial agenda threatened, then run-of-the-mill criminality gets ignored and the full resources of the State are turned on political resistance to the National Security State.
Having been called into the FBI office myself for grilling (after being threatened along the "we know where you live" line), I can say from experience that the boundaries which are supposed to protect our rights only exist if you can afford high-powered legal representation and if you are able to raise a stink in the "right circles," i.e. within the Power Elites.
The default narrative is to become a repressive Police State with an active secret intelligence program against domestic dissent, i.e. COINTELPRO, the secret campaign to infiltrate, undermine, marginalize and/or subvert the antiwar movement.
This program employed illegal entry ("black bag jobs") and surveillance, extralegal force and violence (creating and funding extremist front groups to commit the violence at arms distance from the Federal government), and psychological warfare ("dirty tricks," harassment, misinformation, setting up pseudo-movements run by government agents, threaten activists' parents landlords, employers, etc.)
The 1976 Church Committee formed to investigate the domestic intelligence campaigns concluded:
"Many of the techniques used would be intolerable in a democratic society even if all of the targets had been involved in violent activity, but COINTELPRO went far beyond that...the Bureau conducted a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of First Amendment rights of speech and association."
Anyone who doesn't believe their government is capable of Police State repression and subversion of First Amendment rights should research COINTELPRO more fully. Nothing will be more threatening to the State than former insiders (those whose belief in the system has faded) turning into whistleblowers on the web. Nothing damages the National Security State more than a truthful accounting of its excesses.
Here is one source text: War at Home: Covert action against U.S. activists and what we can do about it.
Put simply: the State holds all the hammers, and you know what happens to raised nails.
It is self-evident that the Federal government must retain the means to track and arrest foreign agents of unfriendly governments or groups who are operating on U.S. soil. This is understood. The critical point being made here is that these counter-espionage efforts must comply with the Constitutional limits on government powers and not subvert our civil liberties.
It is an effortless slide for those in power to define domestic dissent as a "threat" that must be subverted, disrupted and suppressed--and limiting the Power Elites from pursuing such over-reach is the entire purpose of the Constitution.
Under the Obama administration, the National Security State has once again staked out the "legal" grounds for total mobilization of the American populace and economy. I invite all supporters of President Obama to carefully read his recent Executive Order entitled (with a truly Orwellian flourish) National Defense Resources Preparedness.
This Executive Order is chockful of extralegal directives and vaguely defined over-reach, of the sort that will be delineated more clearly when the Commander in Chief executes the broad powers laid out in this order.
The president will also be executing democracy and our civil liberties when he invokes this Executive Order. Even the most starry-eyed naive supporter of President Obama cannot read this document as anything but a blueprint for total mobilization and the destruction of the Constitution, democracy and our remaining civil rights.
If this Executive Order doesn't frighten you, then you're in denial.
It's actually very simple: whatever the National Security State does anywhere on Earth is legal. Whatever action you take to protect your civil liberties is illegal.
In case you have any doubts about where our "leadership" is taking us, please review these
Assorted quotes by Fascists or about Fascism.
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