Saturday, February 19, 2011

Meanwhile, in the land of the free


CNN reported this clip from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's Feb. 15 speech at George Washington University on internet freedom as "Clinton interrupted by protester", stating that she was "interrupted by a heckler".

In fact, Ray McGovern had simply stood up and turned his back on her. And it is clear that Clinton did not consider the police-state response to be an interruption. She just keeps blathering away in her robotic lip service to freedom.

Kevin Zeese writes more about it at Counterpunch:
When Secretary of Clinton kept speaking about the importance of freedom of speech, as if nothing was occurring before her eyes, Ray McGovern's voice became even louder. The hypocrisy of the United States became thunderous. Free speech was being snuffed out right before her eyes but she kept talking about freedom of speech, doing nothing to protect it while criticizing other countries, U.S. client states like Egypt and those enemies like Iran, for their failure to allow their people to speak freely.

On the same day that McGovern was roughed up and left bleeding by the police, independent journalist Brandon Jourdan returned from Haiti after being on assignment documenting the rebuilding of schools. When he returned to the United States, he was immediately detained, questioned about his travels, and had all of his documents, computer, phone, and camera flash drives searched and copied. This is the seventh time Jourdan says he has been subjected to lengthy searches in five years, and he has been told by officials that he is "on a list." Freedom of speech? Freedom of the press? Did Secretary of State Clinton say anything? No. She remained silent.

And, on that same day, as he has for the last 8 months, Pfc Bradley Manning sits in solitary confinement, pre-trial torture, for the alleged crime of sharing with the media evidence of war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as crimes committed by agents of U.S. foreign policy. Included in the documents he is accused of leaking are diplomatic cables that show Secretary of State Clinton issuing a memorandum directing U.S. diplomats to spy, including illegally spying on U.N. diplomats. During his long pre-trial punishment, has Secretary of State Clinton said anything about Pfc Manning's illegal punishment before trial? No, she has remained silent.

Finally, a last example of many that I will not describe here, while Secretary of State Clinton was speaking, agents of the U.S. Department of Justice were trying to find a way to prosecute Julian Assange, the editor in chief of WikiLeaks. They claim this super-journalist, whose publication has released more classified documents than the Washington Post has in decades, is not a journalist. Some of the most recent publications of WikiLeaks helped to spark the revolution in Tunisia. And during the revolt in Egypt, WikiLeaks documents showing that Mubarak's newly appointed Vice President, Omar Suleiman was the choice of Israel to be Mubarak's successor. This U.S.-trained military and intelligence officer tortured people at the request of the United States. While Secretary of State Clinton has remained silent about the trumped-up investigation of Assange, she did not remain silent about Suleiman. She made it clear, he was America's choice as Mubarak's successor.
Also at Counterpunch, Ron Jacobs describes State Power and Democracy: Before and During the Presidency of George W. Bush, a new book by Andrew Kolin:
Kolin begins his book with a brief look at the debates over the writing of the US Constitution and its eventual incarnation as a blueprint for a centralized authority whose intention was to keep government away from the hoi polloi. Adjunct to this endeavor was a desire to expand the nation. This was done by killing the indigenous peoples living on the land to be expanded into. In order to justify this genocide, it was necessary to delineate the natives as something other than human. According to Kolin, the need for such an "other" is essential to the development of an authoritarian state. The Native Americans and the African slaves filled the need quite nicely given their obvious physical and cultural differences.

Another aspect of Kolin's proposition that differentiates it from so many other commentaries that have been written on the police state tactics of the Bush administration is his contention that the US police state is not a future possibility. It already exists. We are living in it. He backs up this contention with an argument that dissects the elements generally considered essential to the definition of a police state and applies them to the present day United States. From torture to propaganda techniques; from the government's ability to eavesdrop on anyone to its ability to wage war at will — these are but a few of the indices Kolin examines in his study. According to Kolin, however, the ultimate indicator of a police state is defined by whether or not the leader of a particular government (in this case, that of the United States) exists above the laws of the nation and the world. In other words, if the leader does something, is it ever illegal? Kolin provides multiple examples of every administration since Abraham Lincoln's operating in a vein suggesting that they all operated in this way at times. However, it was not until the inauguration of George W. Bush and the events of September 11, 2001, that the word of the president became a law onto its own. When George Bush said he was "the decider" he wasn't joking. He and every president to follow him truly have that power. They can decide who to kill, who to spy on, who to lock up, and who to attack without any restriction other than their own morality. Furthermore, they can also determine how such actions are to be done. As far as the presidency is concerned, no laws — not the Bill of Rights nor the Geneva Conventions — apply.

The march towards this police state that Kolin describes is best characterized by the phrase "two steps forward, one step back". Historically, for every presidential administration where excesses occurred, there followed another that saw a relaxation of some of those excesses. The repression of the Palmer Raids was followed by a decade where the Communist Party became legal; the McCarthy Era was followed by a relaxation of the anti-communist hysteria in the 1960s; Nixon's attempts to subvert the democratic process were answered with convictions and a series of laws that were supposed to prevent similar excesses. Yet, the march towards authoritarianism continued its quiet goosestep. Nowhere was this more obvious than in U.S. foreign policy. After the U.S. turmoil around its war against the Vietnamese, Congress passed a War Powers Act that supposedly limited the president’s ability to send US troops to other nations. In answer, every single president afterward pushed the limits of that law so that by the 1980s it was meaningless. Other attempts to limit the White House's ability to make war, such as the Boland amendment which made arming the Nicaraguan Contras illegal, were just ignored. By the time Bill Clinton took power in 1991, the ability of the president to attack whenever and wherever was no longer seriously challenged by Congress, leaving the White House in sole control of the nations' military might.

The nation described in Kolin's book is a fearful one. It is a nation whose agents torture at will and whose military wages war for no apparent reason other than profit and power. It is a nation whose political police forces operate as both judge and jury and often fail to leave their personal prejudices at home. It is a nation whose judicial system rarely interprets a law differently from the chief executive, and when it does that executive ignores the ruling. It is a nation where so many of its citizens live their lives under the illusion that the authoritarian rule they increasingly live with is somehow protecting them. It is a nation that refuses to prosecute officials including the former president that were involved in torture that violated domestic and international laws. Finally, according to Kolin, it is a nation without redemption that will see the powers of the police state continue to grow unless its people wake up and dismantle it.