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How the U.S. Radicalized Conservatism

February 27, 2011: By Professor Lawrence Davidson

How the U.S. Radicalized Conservatism

If you have the stomach to listen to the likes of Glenn Beck or track the antics of people like Sarah Palin you might get the idea that today’s American political conservatives are a bunch of radicals and extremists. And, as we will see, you would be correct. But this is not how it always was. There was a time when conservatism was a more low key affair with a certain sense of pragmatism and even fair play. There is not much of this traditional conservatism left here in the U.S. except in certain intellectual circles. And, even there, one has the sense that it is hanging on by its fingernails.

If you want to learn more about this remnant you might take a look at the writings of Jim Kalb. Kalb is a leading thinker in the traditional conservative movement, a believing Catholic and, in his roll as a wordsmith, an afficionado of palindromes (a word or phrase that reads the same forwards and backwards) to which we will refer at the end of this piece. Here is how Kalb spells out the meaning of his brand of conservatism,

A network of commonly accepted attitudes, beliefs and practices that evolves through strengthening of things that work and rejection of things that lead to conflict and failure. It therefore comprises a collection of habits that have proved useful in a huge variety of practical affairs, and a comprehensive and generally coherent point of view that reflects very extensive experience and thought.

In other words, this sort of vintage conservatism emphasizes what it regards as useful traditions over rapid innovations, and workable stability over precipitous change. There will always be change, of course, but in the world of traditional conservatives it should be slow and incremental, not “radical” or “revolutionary.” Whatever one might think of this traditional conservatism, it is pretty clear that modern American political conservatism has abandoned it for a multitude of extremist positions that play themselves out as publically expressed obsessions. Let us take a look at some examples of this “fall from grace.”

Part II – American Political Conservative Obsessions

1) The alleged right to possess unlimited numbers of deadly weapons. For modern political conservatives obsessed with the issue of gun laws, this “right” to be over armed supercedes the public’s need for a safe environment. Thus, compared to the age old tradition of public safety, the gun mania of today’s conservatives is absolutely revolutionary. It certainly has nothing to do with the Constitution’s “well ordered militia” and does not reflect “habits that have proved useful in a huge variety of practical affairs.” In fact, the only “habits” this obsession references are those displayed in fantasies that romanticize cowboys and military combat.

2) The battle against legal abortion. This modern political/social conservative cause also references fantasy rather than “a comprehensive and generally coherent point of view that reflects very extensive experience and thought.” This is because the outlawing of abortion does not eliminate abortion. It simply drives it into the back alleys creating an ever greater risk to desperate and mostly poor pregnant women. Thus, obsessed as they are with the rights of the unborn, these so-called conservatives care little for the much more traditional right of well-being for those who are “post womb.” In addition, unwanted births put stress on the traditional family structure, increase rates of delinquency and deepen poverty. Many of today’s political/social conservatives who seek to outlaw abortion with such religious zeal also sadly stand out as hypocrites. Anti-abortionists, supporting an allegedly “pro-life” cause, often act or support or turn a blind eye to their own violence that can and has reached the level of murder. Perhaps most frustrating of all, these same “right to lifers” often stand in opposition to a pragmatic answer to the abortion problem– that is the age-old and honored tradition of contraception.

3) An obsessive fixation with taxes. Those modern day political conservatives who have this particular mania seem to be incapable of understanding that it is a radical act to advocate the reduction of taxation to the point of social ruination. In order to spare their wallets and allegedly promote “individual freedom” they advocate, among other things, privatizing the public school systems, denial of services to indigent people, and elimination of state involvement in such issues as public health and environmental safety. Yet these state activities are real “commonly accepted attitudes, beliefs and practices.” To stand against them is not to be truly conservative, but rather to play the role of the stereotypical wild-eyed revolutionary. That is because, refusing to be taxed for these purposes means the recreation of conditions experienced in a place like Manchester England, circa 1830. That was a time when, as a matter of policy, no money was made available for government regulation of the “private sector.” Things got so bad in Manchester (and other industrial towns in England) at this time that there was mass illiteracy, pervasive malnutrition among the poor and, due to workplace pollution, the average laborer was dying at about the age of 16.

4) Paranoid concern with illegal immigration. Immigration, legal or illegal, constitutes a process that is one of the defining pillars of the American national character. Unless you are an American Indian you are an immigrant or the descendent of immigrants, a healthy percentage of whom were not “legal.” Therefore, to overreact to immigration is to undermine a traditional practice as old as the nation itself. In addition today’s political conservative approach to immigration is obviously not a “strengthening of things that work and rejection of things that lead to conflict and failure.” Immigration of whatever nature has always worked to strengthen the nation’s economy. Hysterical reactions to it reflect an attitude that only “leads to conflict and failure.”

Part III – The Problem of Radical Conservative Islamophobia

There is yet one more obsession of today’s political conservatives that stalks the American public landscape in a radically malignant way. It is the phenomenon of Islamophobia. For instance, consider the recent 38th annual meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), attended by a number of Republican presidential hopefuls. Journalists’ reports on the conference show that it was successfully used as a venue by such extremists as David Horowitz (“political Islam is a totalitarian movement that seeks to impose Islamic law on the entire world”), Pam Geller (the CPAC has been”corrupted and compromised by the Muslim Brotherhood”), and Robert Spencer (“Muslims are not able to be moderate–or they would be speaking against what is written in the Koran”). Through their foothold in the conference these radicals were able to influence the already paranoia prone modern American conservative mind. These Islamophobes are joined by some more recognizable, but no less radical, names such as Lt. General William G. Boykin (ret.) who at one time served as Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence. Boykin is a Christian fundamentalist obsessed with the fantasy of Muslim infiltration of the United States, particularly through the spread of Sharia Law. He has co-authored a book with former CIA Director R. James Woolsey Jr. entitled Shariah: The Threat to America. He has also urged withdrawing the protection of the First Amendment for Muslim Americans. Boykin enjoys much influence among the religious elements of today’s American conservative movement.

The growing number of conservative elected officials who preach Islamohobia is a clear indicator that this is a fantasy has entered the minds of Republican voters. A good example of the consequences is the present activities of Republican Representative Peter King. King is not from the deep south or somewhere in west Texas. He is from Long Island, N.Y. And, he is now Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, a position from which he spreads the same problematic message as Horowitz, Geller, Spencer and Boykin. King is planning hearings on the “radicalization of the American Muslim community.” As presently planned, the hearings promise to be low on accurate knowledgeable and objective witnesses and high on those who have a clear record of Islamophobia.

Part IV – Conclusion

This then has been the fate of conservatism in America. What started out as a worldview valuing the wisdom supposedly to be had from tradition, has become a clearly paranoid mentality constantly imagining outside conspiracies and inside saboteurs aiming to destroy national values and the citizen’s personal rights. In addition, the range of remedies that today’s conservatives offer to fight against these “threats” are almost entirely extremist in nature. They range from the financial destruction of the U.S. federal government through severe reduction of taxes, to carte blanche accessibility to deadly force for gun fanatics, to the passing of draconian laws on abortion and immigration, to the McCarthyite persecutions of entire minority groups such as American Muslims. These proposed policies do not reflect any definition of traditional conservatism. They are certainly not examples of a “comprehensive and generally coherent point of view that reflects very extensive experience and thought.” Instead they are destructive of the nation’s traditions and values and can only lead to disaster. Thus, out of respect for Jim Kalb’s comparatively sane definition of conservatism, I end with a palindromic warning to all those American pseudo conservatives out there, “Live Not On Evil.”

ldavidson@wcupa.edu www.tothepointanalyses.com

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The Reign of the Psychopaths

February 11, 2011 2 comments

By Steven LaTulippe

The Reign of the Psychopaths

One of the key traits of psychopathic personality disorder is a near-total absence of empathy. To the psychopath, other people exist as mere objects, to be used and discarded at the psychopath’s whim.

“I had to beat my mother with that baseball bat,” claims the typical psychopath. “She wouldn’t give me her pension check, and I needed it to buy more beer.”

Such statements are made without irony or sarcasm, since the psychopath literally cannot imagine that other human beings might have needs distinct from his own.

While watching events unfold these past weeks in Egypt, it became apparent to me that the United States is suffering from a foreign policy malady frighteningly analogous to psychopathic personality disorder.

On one hand, the history of the Mubarak regime is well-documented. For decades, the Egyptian people have lived in grinding poverty – on less than $2 per day, by some estimates – while Mubarak and his family have amassed vast fortunes. The Egyptian government routinely uses torture against its political opponents and denies the people even basic freedoms. Election fraud, censorship, and police brutality are realities of everyday Egyptian life.

That the Egyptian people have rebelled against such a regime should come as no surprise. And one would expect that the American government – itself the creation of a revolution against an authoritarian monarchy – would support their cause, at least morally if not materially.

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Recognizing the Language of Tyranny

February 7, 2011 1 comment

AP

February 6, 2011: By Chris Hedges
 
Recognizing the Language of Tyranny

Empires communicate in two languages. One language is expressed in imperatives. It is the language of command and force. This militarized language disdains human life and celebrates hypermasculinity. It demands. It makes no attempt to justify the flagrant theft of natural resources and wealth or the use of indiscriminate violence. When families are gunned down at a checkpoint in Iraq they are referred to as having been “lit up.” So it goes. The other language of empire is softer. It employs the vocabulary of ideals and lofty goals and insists that the power of empire is noble and benevolent. The language of beneficence is used to speak to those outside the centers of death and pillage, those who have not yet been totally broken, those who still must be seduced to hand over power to predators. The road traveled to total disempowerment, however, ends at the same place. It is the language used to get there that is different.

This language of blind obedience and retribution is used by authority in our inner cities, from Detroit to Oakland, as well as our prison systems. It is a language Iraqis and Afghans know intimately. But to the members of our dwindling middle class—as well as those in the working class who have yet to confront our new political and economic configuration—the powerful use phrases like the consent of the governed and democracy that help lull us into complacency. The longer we believe in the fiction that we are included in the corporate power structure, the more easily corporations pillage the country without the threat of rebellion. Those who know the truth are crushed. Those who do not are lied to. Those who consume and perpetuate the lies—including the liberal institutions of the press, the church, education, culture, labor and the Democratic Party—abet our disempowerment. No system of total control, including corporate control, exhibits its extreme forms at the beginning. These forms expand as they fail to encounter resistance.

The tactic of speaking in two languages is as old as empire itself. The ancient Greeks and the Romans did it. So did the Spanish conquistadors, the Ottomans, the French and later the British. Those who inhabit exploited zones on the peripheries of empire see and hear the truth. But the cries of those who are exploited are ignored or demonized. The rage they express does not resonate with those trapped in self-delusion, those who continue to trust in the ultimate goodness of empire. This is the truth articulated in Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” and E.M. Forster’s “A Passage to India.” These writers understood that empire is about violence and theft. And the longer the theft continues, the more brutal empire becomes. The tyranny empire imposes on others it finally imposes on itself. The predatory forces unleashed by empire consume the host. Look around you.

The narratives we hear are those fabricated for us by the state, Hollywood and the press. These narratives are taught in our schools, preached in our pulpits and celebrated in war documentaries such as “Restrepo.” These narratives humanize and ennoble the enforcers of empire. The government, the military, the police and our intelligence agents are lionized. These control groups, we are assured, are the guardians of our virtues and our protectors. They produce our heroes. And those who challenge this narrative—who denounce the lies—become the enemy.

Those who administer empire—elected officials, corporate managers, generals and the celebrity courtiers who disseminate the propaganda—become very wealthy. They make immense fortunes whether they deliver the nightly news, sit on the boards of corporations, or rise, lavished with corporate endorsements, within the vast industry of spectacle and entertainment. They all pay homage, even in moments defined as criticism, to the essential goodness of corporate power. They shut out all real debate. They ignore flagrant injustices and abuse. They peddle the illusions that keep us passive and amused. But as our society is reconfigured into an oligarchic system, with a permanent and vast underclass, along with a shrinking and unstable middle class, these illusions lose their power. The language of pleasant deception must be replaced with the overt language of force. It is hard to continue to live in a state of self-delusion once unemployment benefits run out, once the only job available comes without benefits or a living wage, once the future no longer conforms to the happy talk that saturates our airwaves. At this point rage becomes the engine of response, and whoever can channel that rage inherits power. The manipulation of that rage has become the newest task of the corporate propagandists, and the failure of the liberal class to defend core liberal values has left its members with nothing to contribute to the debate.

The Belgian King Leopold, promising to abolish slavery and usher the Congolese into the “modern” era, was permitted by his European allies to form the Congo Free State in 1885. It was touted as a humanitarian gesture, as was the Spanish conquest of the Americas, as was our own occupation of Iraq. Leopold organized a ruthless force of native and foreign overseers—not unlike our own mercenary armies—to loot the Congo of ivory and rubber. By the time the Belgian monarch was done, some 5 million to 8 million Congolese had been slaughtered. It was the largest act of genocide in the modern era until the Nazi Holocaust. Leopold, even in the midst of his rampage, was lionized in Europe for his virtue. He was loathed in the periphery—as we are in Iraq and Afghanistan—where the Congolese and others understood what he was about. But these voices, like the voices of those we oppress, were almost never heard.

The Nazis, for whom the Holocaust was as much a campaign of plunder as it was a campaign to rid Europe of Jews, had two methods for greeting arrivals at their four extermination camps. If the transports came from Western Europe, the savage Ukrainian and Lithuanian guards, with their whips, dogs and clubs, were kept out of sight. The wealthier European Jews were politely ushered into an elaborate ruse, including fake railway stations complete with flower beds, until once stripped naked they became incapable of resistance and could be herded in rows of five under whips into the gas chambers. The Nazis knew that those who had not been broken, those who possessed a belief in their own personal empowerment, would fight back. When the transports came from the east, where Jews had long lived in fear, tremendous poverty and terror, there was no need for such theatrics. Mothers, fathers, the elderly and children, accustomed to overt repression and the language of command and retribution, were brutally driven from the transports by sadistic guards. The object was to create mass hysteria. The fate of the two groups was the same. It was the tactic that differed.

All centralized power, once restraints and regulations are abolished, once it is no longer accountable to citizens, knows no limit to internal and external plunder. The corporate state, which has emasculated our government, is creating a new form of feudalism, a world of masters and serfs. It speaks to those who remain in a state of self-delusion in the comforting and familiar language of liberty, freedom, prosperity and electoral democracy. It speaks to the poor and the oppressed in the language of naked coercion. But, here too, all will end up in the same place.

Those trapped in the blighted inner cities that are our internal colonies or brutalized in our prison system, especially African-Americans, see what awaits us all. So do the inhabitants in southern West Virginia, where coal companies have turned hundreds of thousands of acres into uninhabitable and poisoned wastelands. Poverty, repression and despair in these peripheral parts of empire are as common as drug addiction and cancer. Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis and Palestinians can also tell us who we are. They know that once self-delusion no longer works it is the iron fist that speaks. The solitary and courageous voices that rise up from these internal and external colonies of devastation are silenced or discredited by the courtiers who serve corporate power. And even those who do hear these voices of dissent often cannot handle the truth. They prefer the Potemkin facade. They recoil at the “negativity.” Reality, especially when you grasp what corporations are doing in the name of profit to the planet’s ecosystem, is terrifying.

All tyrannies come endowed with their own peculiarities. This makes it hard to say one form of totalitarianism is like another. There are always enough differences to make us unsure that history is repeating itself. The corporate state does not have a Politburo. It does not dress its Homeland Security agents in jackboots. There is no raving dictator. American democracy—like the garishly painted train station at the Nazi extermination camp Treblinka—looks real even as the levers of power are in the hands of corporations. But there is one aspect the corporate state shares with despotic regimes and the collapsed empires that have plagued human history. It too communicates in two distinct languages, that is until it does not have to, at which point it will be too late.

Chris Hedges is a senior fellow at The Nation Institute and a weekly columnist for Truthdig. His latest book is “Death of the Liberal Class.”.

Copyright © 2011 Truthdig, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

The Positivity of Objectivity and the Time of Transition

By Bernhard Guenther

The Positivity of Objectivity and the Time of Transition

“Some people seem to mistake objectivity for negativity and wishful thinking for positivity. Most of what people see as negative or positive are their subjective projections and opinions that don’t really reflect the world as it is. Without Truth and Objectivity there won’t be a change for the “better”, nor a raise in consciousness, within and without.”

Every once in a while I get a message or comment on facebook from someone asking me why I have such a “negative” view of the world, referring to some of the posts and articles I put up on my wall. He or she then goes on telling me that I should “lighten” up, be more “positive”, focus on “love” and the good things life has to offer, because we create what we “see”. I usually respond back by asking, what is so negative about posting information that exposes the lies we’re being fed and told, be it about 9/11, Zionism, the genocide in Gaza, or the fact that many people in places of high power (political, corporate, religious or even in science and media) are psychopaths with no conscience who couldn’t care less about your or the earth’s well-being?

This is not being negative, but simply showing the situation as it is. Anyone who is willing to do a bit of reading and research without being attached to a conditioned world view can see this. Moreover, these topics and how they affect us and the world at large won’t go away by ignoring them or by focusing on more “pleasant” aspects of our reality. Actually by ignoring them, one is doing more harm to the world and feeding entropy as one is putting oneself in a subjective tunnel vision of wishful thinking instead of becoming more objectively aware and seeing the world as it IS, not as we like it or assume it to be. As I wrote in another article: a “shift in consciousness” and “awakening” implies a higher state of awareness, which means to become more aware of it all, which implies again to see the world and oneself more objectively, without blinders on. This doesn’t happen by itself, but requires sincere effort and work to separate truth from lies, within and without.

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Are We Witnessing the Start of a Global Revolution?

© GlobalResearch.ca

By Gavin Marshall

Are We Witnessing the Start of a Global Revolution

In 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr., said in his famous speech “Beyond Vietnam”:

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

An uprising in Tunisia led to the overthrow of the country’s 23-year long dictatorship of President Ben Ali. A new ‘transitional’ government was formed, but the protests continued demanding a totally new government without the relics of the previous tyranny. Protests in Algeria have continued for weeks, as rage mounts against rising food prices, corruption and state oppression. Protests in Jordan forced the King to call on the military to surround cities with tanks and set up checkpoints. Tens of thousands of protesters marched on Cairo demanding an end to the 30-year dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak. Thousands of activists, opposition leaders and students rallied in the capitol of Yemen against the corrupt dictatorship of President Saleh, in power since 1978. Saleh has been, with U.S. military assistance, attempting to crush a rebel movement in the north and a massive secessionist movement growing in the south, called the “Southern Movement.” Protests in Bolivia against rising food prices forced the populist government of Evo Morales to backtrack on plans to cut subsidies. Chile erupted in protests as demonstrators railed against rising fuel prices. Anti-government demonstrations broke out in Albania, resulting in the deaths of several protesters.

It seems as if the world is entering the beginnings of a new revolutionary era: the era of the ‘Global Political Awakening.’ While this ‘awakening’ is materializing in different regions, different nations and under different circumstances, it is being largely influenced by global conditions. The global domination by the major Western powers, principally the United States, over the past 65 years, and more broadly, centuries, is reaching a turning point. The people of the world are restless, resentful, and enraged. Change, it seems, is in the air. As the above quotes from Brzezinski indicate, this development on the world scene is the most radical and potentially dangerous threat to global power structures and empire. It is not a threat simply to the nations in which the protests arise or seek change, but perhaps to a greater degree, it is a threat to the imperial Western powers, international institutions, multinational corporations and banks that prop up, arm, support and profit from these oppressive regimes around the world. Thus, America and the West are faced with a monumental strategic challenge: what can be done to stem the Global Political Awakening? Zbigniew Brzezinski is one of the chief architects of American foreign policy, and arguably one of the intellectual pioneers of the system of globalization. Thus, his warnings about the ‘Global Political Awakening’ are directly in reference to its nature as a threat to the prevailing global hierarchy. As such, we must view the ‘Awakening’ as the greatest hope for humanity. Certainly, there will be mainy failures, problems, and regressions; but the ‘Awakening’ has begun, it is underway, and it cannot be so easily co-opted or controlled as many might assume.

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Here’s Why FBI Is Orchestrating Fake Terror Plots

By Paul Craig Roberts

Here’s Why FBI Is Orchestrating Fake Terror Plots

Why does the FBI orchestrate fake “terror plots”? The latest one snared Osman Mohamud, a Somali-American teenager in Portland, Ore. The Associated Press report is headlined: “Somali-born teen plotted car-bombing in Oregon.”

This is a misleading headline as the report makes it clear that it was a plot orchestrated by federal agents. Two sentences into the news report we have this: “The bomb was an elaborate fake supplied by the [FBI] agents and the public was never in danger, authorities said.” The teenager was supplied with a fake bomb and a fake detonator.

Three sentences later the reporters contradict the quoted authorities with a quote from Arthur Balizan, special agent in charge of the FBI in Oregon: “The threat was very real.”

The reporters then contradict Balizan: “White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said Saturday that President Barack Obama was aware of the FBI operation before Friday’s arrest. Shapiro said Obama was assured that the FBI was in full control of the operation and that the public was not in danger.”

Then Shapiro contradicts himself by declaring: “The events of the past 24 hours underscore the necessity of remaining vigilant against terrorism here and abroad.” The story arrives at its Kafkaesque high point when Obama thanks the FBI for its diligence in saving us from the fake plot the FBI had fabricated. After vacillating between whether they are reporting a real plot or an orchestrated one, the reporters finally come down on the side of orchestration. Documents released by U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton “show the sting operation began in June.”

Obviously, the targeted Portland teenager was not “hot to trot,” so the FBI had to work on him for six months. The reporters compare “the Portland sting” to the recent arrest in Virginia of Faroque Ahmed, who was ensnared in a “bombing plot that was a ruse conducted over the past six months by federal officials.”

Think about this carefully. The FBI did a year’s work in order to convince two people to participate in fake plots.

If you are not too bright and some tough-looking guys accost you and tell you that they are al Qaeda and expect your help in a terrorist operation, you might be afraid to say no, or you might be thrilled to be part of a blowback against an American population that is indifferent to their government’s slaughter of people of your ethnicity or religion in your country of origin. Whichever way it falls, it is unlikely the ensnared person would ever have done anything beyond talk had the FBI not organized them into action.

In other cases the FBI entices people with money to participate in its fake plots. Since 9-11, the only domestic “terrorist plot” that I recall that was not obviously organized by the FBI is the “Times Square plot” to which Faisal Shahzad pleaded guilty to trying to set off a car bomb in Manhattan. This “plot,” too, is suspicious. One would think that a real terrorist would have a real bomb, not a smoke bomb. In his May 19, 2009 article, Joe Quinn of online site, Sott.net, collects some of the fake plots, some of which were validated by tortured confessions and others by ignorant and fearful juries.

The U.S. government comes up with a plot and an accused, and then tortures him until he confesses, or the government fabricates a case and takes it to jurors who know that they cannot face their neighbors if they let off a media-declared “terrorist.”

Perhaps the most obvious of these cases is “the Miami seven,” a pathetic group of Christian-Zionist-Muslims that called themselves the “Seas of David” and were quietly living in a Florida warehouse awaiting what they regarded as biblical end-times. Along came the FBI posing as al Qaeda and offered them $50,000 and an al Qaeda swearing-in ceremony.

The FBI told them that they needed to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago and various government buildings. An honest Knight Ridder news service reporter revealed: “The Justice [sic] Department unveiled the arrests with an orchestrated series of news conferences in two cities, but the severity of the charges compared with the seemingly amateurish nature of the group raised concerns among civil libertarians,” who noted that the group had “no weapons, no explosives.”

The Justice (sic) Department and tamed media made a big show out of the “militaristic boots” worn by the hapless “plotters,” but the FBI had bought the boots for them.

The biggest piece of evidence against the hapless group was that they had taken photos of “targets” in Florida, but the U.S. government had equipped them with cameras. The U.S. government even rented cars for its dupes to drive to take the pictures.

It turns out that the group only wanted the $50,000, but an American jury convicted them anyhow. When the U.S. government has to go to such lengths to create “terrorists” out of hapless people, an undeclared agenda is being served. What could this agenda be?

The answer is many agendas. One agenda is to justify wars of aggression that are war crimes under the Nuremberg standard created by the U.S. government itself. One way to avoid war crime charges is to create acts of terrorism that justify the naked aggressions against “terrorist countries.”

Another agenda is to create a police state. A police state can control people who object to their impoverishment for the benefit of the super-rich much more easily than can a democracy endowed with constitutional civil liberties.

Another agenda is to get rich. Terror plots, whether real or orchestrated, have created a market for security. Dual Israeli citizen Michael Chertoff, former head of U.S. Homeland Security, is the lobbyist who represents Rapiscan, the company that manufactures the full body “porno-scanners” that, following the “underwear bomber” event, are now filling up U.S. airports.

Paul Craig Roberts, a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury and former associate editor of The Wall Street Journal, has been reporting shocking cases of prosecutorial abuse for two decades. His book, The Tyranny of Good Intentions, co-authored with Lawrence Stratton, is a documented account of how Americans lost the protection of law. It was released in 2008 by Random House.

Happy as a Hangman

By Chris Hedges

Happy as a Hangman

Innocence, as defined by law, makes us complicit with the crimes of the state. To do nothing, to be judged by the state as an innocent, is to be guilty. It is to sanction, through passivity and obedience, the array of crimes carried out by the state.

To be innocent in America means we passively permit offshore penal colonies where we torture human beings, some of whom are children. To be innocent in America is to acquiesce to the relentless corporate destruction of the ecosystem that sustains the human species. To be innocent in America is to permit the continued theft of hundreds of billions of dollars from the state by Wall Street swindlers and speculators. To be innocent in America is to stand by as insurance and pharmaceutical companies, in the name of profit, condemn ill people, including children, to die. To be innocent in America is refusing to resist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that are not only illegal under international law but responsible for the murder of hundreds of thousands of people. This is the odd age we live in. Innocence is complicity.

The steady impoverishment and misery inflicted by the corporate state on the working class and increasingly the middle class has a terrible logic. It consolidates corporate centers of power. It weakens us morally and politically. The fraud and violence committed by the corporate state become secondary as we scramble to feed our families, find a job and pay our bills and mortgages. Those who cling to insecure, poorly paid jobs and who struggle with crippling credit card debt, those who are mired in long-term unemployment and who know that huge medical bills would bankrupt them, those who owe more on their houses than they are worth and who fear the future, become frightened and timid. They seek only to survive. They accept the pathetic scraps tossed to them by the corporate elite. The internal and external corporate abuse accelerates as we become every day more pliant.

Our corrupt legal system, perverting the concept that “all men are created equal,” has radically redefined civic society. Citizens, regardless of their status or misfortune, are now treated with the same studied indifference by the state. They have been transformed from citizens to commodities whose worth is determined solely by the market and whose value is measured by their social and economic functions. The rich, therefore, are rewarded by the state with tax cuts because they are rich. It is their function to monopolize wealth and invest. The poor are supposed to be poor. The poor should not be a drain on the resources of the state or the oligarchic elite. Equality, in this new legal paradigm, means we are all treated alike, no matter what our circumstances. This new interpretation of equality, under which the poor are abandoned and the powerful are unchecked, has demolished the system of regulations, legal restraints and services that once protected the underclass from wealthy and corporate predators.

The creation of a permanent, insecure and frightened underclass is the most effective weapon to thwart rebellion and resistance as our economy worsens. Huge pools of unemployed and underemployed blunt labor organizing, since any job, no matter how menial, is zealously coveted. As state and federal social welfare programs, especially in education, are gutted, we create a wider and wider gulf between the resources available to the tiny elite and the deprivation and suffering visited on our permanent underclass. Access to education, for example, is now largely defined by class. The middle class, taking on huge debt, desperately flees to private institutions to make sure their children have a chance to enter the managerial ranks of the corporate elite. And this is the idea. Public education, which, when it functions, gives opportunities to all citizens, hinders a system of corporate neofeudalism. Corporations are advancing, with Barack Obama’s assistance, charter schools and educational services that are stripped down and designed to train classes for their appropriate vocations, which, if you’re poor means a future in the service sector. The eradication of teachers’ unions, under way in states such as New Jersey, is a vital component in the dismantling of public education. Corporations know that good systems of public education are a hindrance to a rigid caste system. In corporate America everyone will be kept in his or her place.

The beating down of workers, exacerbated by the prospect that unemployment benefits will not be renewed for millions of Americans and that public sector unions will soon be broken, has transformed those in the working class from full members of society, able to participate in its debates, the economy and governance, into terrified people in fragmented pools preoccupied with the struggle of private existence. Those who are economically broken usually cease to be concerned with civic virtues. They will, history has demonstrated, serve any system, no matter how evil, and do anything for a salary, job security and the protection of their families.

There will be sectors of the society that, as the situation worsens, attempt to rebel. But the state can rely on a huge number of people who, for work and meager benefits, will transform themselves into willing executioners. The reconfiguration of American society into a corporate oligarchy is conditioning tens of millions not only to passively accept state and corporate crimes, but to actively participate in the mechanisms that ensure their own enslavement.

“Each time society, through unemployment, frustrates the small man in his normal functioning and normal self-respect,” Hannah Arendt wrote in her 1945 essay “Organized Guilt and Universal Responsibility,” “it trains him for that last stage in which he will willingly undertake any function, even that of hangman.”

Organs of state repression do not rely so much on fanatics and sadists as ordinary citizens who are desperate, who need a job, who are willing to obey. Arendt relates a story of a Jew who is released from Buchenwald. The freed Jew encountered, among the SS men who gave him certificates of release, a former schoolmate, whom he did not address but stared at. The SS guard spontaneously explained to his former friend: “You must understand, I have five years of unemployment behind me. They can do anything they want with me.”

Arendt also quotes an interview with a camp official at Majdanek. The camp official concedes that he has assisted in the gassing and burying of people alive. But when he is asked, “Do you know the Russians will hang you?” he bursts into tears. “Why should they? What have I done?” he says.

I can imagine, should the rule of law ever one day be applied to the insurance companies responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans denied medical care, that there will be the same confused response from insurance executives. What is frightening in collapsing societies is not only the killers, sadists, murderers and psychopaths who rise up out of the moral swamp to take power, but the huge numbers of ordinary people who become complicit in state crimes. I saw this during the war in El Salvador and the war in Bosnia. It is easy to understand a demented enemy. It is puzzling to understand a rational and normal one. True evil, as Goethe understood, is not always palpable. It is “to render invisible another human consciousness.”

Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his book “The Gulag Archipelago” writes about a close friend who served with him in World War II. Solzhenitsyn’s defiance of the Communist regime after the war saw him sent to the Soviet gulags. His friend, loyal to the state, was sent there as an interrogator. Solzhenitsyn was forced to articulate a painful truth. The mass of those who serve systems of terrible oppression and state crime are not evil. They are weak.

“If only there were vile people … committing evil deeds, and if it were only necessary to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them,” Solzhenitsyn wrote. “But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

The expansions of public and private organs of state security, from Homeland Security to the mercenary forces we are building in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the burgeoning internal intelligence organizations, exist because these “ordinary” citizens, many of whom are caring fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, have confused conformity to the state with innocence. Family values are used, especially by the Christian right, as the exclusive definition of public morality. Politicians, including President Obama, who betray the working class, wage doomed imperial wars, abandon families to home foreclosures and bank repossessions, and refuse to restore habeas corpus, are morally “good” because they are loyal husbands and fathers. Infidelity, instead of corporate murder, becomes in this absurd moral reasoning the highest and most unforgivable offense.

The bureaucrats who maintain these repressive state organs, who prosecute the illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or who maintain corporate structures that perpetuate human suffering, can define themselves as good—as innocent—as long as they are seen as traditional family men and women who are compliant to the laws of the state. And this redefinition of civic engagement permits us to suspend moral judgment and finally common sense. Do your job. Do not ask questions. Do not think. If these bureaucrats were challenged for the crimes they are complicit in committing, including the steady dismantling of the democratic state, they would react with the same disbelief as the camp guard at Majdanek.

Those who serve as functionaries within corporations such as Goldman Sachs or ExxonMobil and carry out crimes ask of their masters that they be exempted from personal responsibility for the acts they commit. They serve corporate structures that kill, but, as Arendt notes, the corporate employee “does not regard himself as a murderer because he has not done it out of inclination but in his professional capacity.” At home the corporate man or woman is meek. He or she has no proclivity to violence, although the corporate systems they serve by day pollute, impoverish, maim and kill.

Those who do not carry out acts of rebellion, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, are guilty of solidifying and perpetuating these crimes. Those who do not act delude themselves into believing they are innocent. They are not.

Chris Hedges is a senior fellow at The Nation Institute and a weekly columnist for Truthdig. His newest book is “Death of the Liberal Class.” On Dec. 16 he, Daniel Ellsberg, Medea Benjamin, Ray McGovern, Dr. Margaret Flowers and several others will hold a rally across from the White House to protest the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and attempt to chain themselves to the White House fence.  More information on the Dec. 16 protest can be found at www.stopthesewars.org.

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