FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

America at the Precipice

by NORMAN POLLACK

CP  writers Sperber and Kampmark, among others, superbly discuss legal-moral-political implications, respectively, of the revelations of Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden in their exposure of US government war crimes (Manning) and domestic spying on a comprehensive scale (Snowden) and, especially, where this leaves us a nation presumably under the rule of law.  Let me add: No other country in the world presently stands out so nakedly—the Manning-Snowden symbolism—in clamping down hard on internal dissent, on erecting secrecy into a principle of the state (now capitalized in practice as the State, the National Security State), on developing the legal arguments and provisions which legitimate the suspension of the Constitution in the name of the law.  Supplementary baggage doesn’t help: the Patriot Act, Guantanamo, targeted assassinations, illegal, unwarranted intervention, all of these, now under Obama, as the continuance and intensification of the work of his predecessors, for which he must therefore take full responsibility (even more so, since the previous contours of policy were well-known, and he willingly followed suit), places the US in the unenviable position of representing a society almost alone, by its action, in combining domestic repression and foreign aggression, becoming the more integrated the further each is pursued, in order to cover up the other.

Manning-Snowden should be viewed as a unitary political-structural phenomenon, inseparable from the direction America is taking (a) as an historical process of the militarization and financialization of American capitalism, (b) necessitating that in this mature stage (of impending decline) drastic steps be taken to maintain what before had been unilateral dominance in economic and political affairs, and (c) among these is suffocating internal dissent for a course of permanent war and the violation of international law.

Manning and Snowden obviously speak truth to power, and less obviously, rip away the façade of liberal democracy to reveal the hard core of punitive authoritarianism in the service of a concentrated system of economic power, a corporatist ethos of respect for hierarchical arrangements of class and wealth, and deference to a political authority itself beholden to exactly the structure of wealth (capitalism) and its military sources of support.

Correctly, US authority perceives the dangers raised by Manning and Snowden, that of awakening the people to a real understanding of the privileged total sham, which passes for public policy, under which we all live.  Hence, secrecy, surveillance, intimidation, at home, atrocities abroad, whatever it takes to keep the show on the road, except that with Manning and Snowden the world can see America’s gnawing fear about being found out, the lengths to which it will go to remain on top, rather than live among others peacefully and modestly, two words absent from the national vocabulary.

Obama plots hegemony, hegemony by every available means, starting from the modernization of the nuclear arsenal through the pursuit of paramilitary operations on a grand scale and global in scope.  Manning and Snowden, each obstructs the path of the juggernaut, each identifies humanity as a transcendent ideal, each has a conception of patriotism in which the president’s much-vaunted trade-offs between national security and privacy are seen as phony and odious in the extreme, for there are no trade-offs where freedom is concerned, and the best national security lies in not doing harm to others.

Aggression meets retaliation.  And privacy is the last thing wanted, when it is the burden of government (here Obama-Holder-Brennan-NSA-DOJ-FBI-CIA-JSOC, etc. etc.) to instill a false sense of pride, the official brand of patriotism, into the consciousness of its people (subjects?) of military glory and the triumph of American business in the markets of the world.  The assault on privacy, precisely like the wanton killing of civilians through drone strikes, a one-two punch of domination that is intended to put the world on notice of America’s capacity for acting unrestrained and with impunity, puts the raw component of power on display for others to see, appreciate, and submit to.  Surveillance at home, under the spurious cover of counterterrorism, naturally a good idea, indeed brilliant in that using the hostility built up over decades (anticommunism) to tap into the latest manufactured scare, is an idea any self-respecting despot and his national-security advisers would approve.

For in this way, the populace internalizes its own false consciousness and thereby affords the leadership free grace to pursue its military adventures.  Surveillance and the commission of war crimes, these become the Patriotic Duo of US culture, ideology, and politics.  With that becoming set in stone, can fascism be far behind?

Norman Pollack is the author of “The Populist Response to Industrial America” (Harvard) and “The Just Polity” (Illinois), Guggenheim Fellow, and professor of history emeritus, Michigan State University.

Norman Pollack Ph.D. Harvard, Guggenheim Fellow, early writings on American Populism as a radical movement, prof., activist.. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.

More articles by:
May 23, 2016
Conn Hallinan
European Union: a House Divided
Paul Buhle
Labor’s Sell-Out and the Sanders Campaign
Uri Avnery
Israeli Weimar: It Can Happen Here
John Stauber
Why Bernie was Busted From the Beginning
James Bovard
Obama’s Biggest Corruption Charade
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
Indian Point Nuclear Plant: It Doesn’t Take a Meltdown to Harm Local Residents
Desiree Hellegers
“Energy Without Injury”: From Redwood Summer to Break Free via Occupy Wall Street
Lawrence Davidson
The Unraveling of Zionism?
Patrick Cockburn
Why Visa Waivers are Dangerous for Turks
Robert Koehler
Rethinking Criminal Justice
Lawrence Wittner
The Return of Democratic Socialism
Ha-Joon Chang
What Britain Forgot: Making Things Matters
John V. Walsh
Only Donald Trump Raises Five “Fundamental and Urgent” Foreign Policy Questions: Stephen F. Cohen Bemoans MSM’s Dismissal of Trump’s Queries
Andrew Stewart
The Occupation of the American Mind: a Film That Palestinians Deserve
Nyla Ali Khan
The Vulnerable Repositories of Honor in Kashmir
Weekend Edition
May 20, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Hillary Clinton and Political Violence
Andrew Levine
Why Not Hillary?
Paul Street
Hillary Clinton’s Neocon Resumé
Chris Floyd
Twilight of the Grifter: Bill Clinton’s Fading Powers
Eric Mann
How We Got the Tanks and M-16s Out of LA Schools
Jason Hirthler
The West’s Needless Aggression
Dan Arel
Why Hillary Clinton’s Camp Should Be Scared
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima Flunks Decontamination
David Rosen
The Privatization of the Public Sphere
Margaret Kimberley
Obama’s Civil Rights Hypocrisy
Pete Dolack
We Can Dream, or We Can Organize
Chris Gilbert
Corruption in Latin American Governments
Dan Kovalik
Colombia: the Displaced & Invisible Nation
Jeffrey St. Clair
Fat Man Earrings: a Nuclear Parable
Medea Benjamin
Israel and Saudi Arabia: Strange Bedfellows in the New Middle East
Ted Rall
Trump Isn’t Bluffing, He’ll Deport 11 Million People
Kent Paterson
Death in a Shopping Aisle: Jonathan Sorensen’s Fatal Encounter with Kmart
Clancy Sigal
Trump’s Rasputin: What the Donald Learned From Roy Cohn
Lisa Sullivan
Venezuela’s Crisis From Up Close
Manuel E. Yepe
Think Tanks and the US Power Elite
Kathleen Wallace
$25 vs $30, Hats Off to the Two-Party System!
Terry Simons
Mob Politics: the Democrats Have a Problem and It’s Not the Sandernistas
Franklin Lamb
U.S. Financial Regulations Increase Starvation Among Syria’s Children
James Cronin
The Pope and Mercy: the Catholic Church has not Abandoned Its 400 Year War on Science
Linn Washington Jr.
Islamophobia on the Rise in England
Thomas Mountain
25 Years of Struggle Building Socialism in Eritrea; Fighting the Cancer of Corruption
David Wilson
Who Speaks for the Refugee Children of Calais?
Michael Welton
Terry Eagleton: the Cheeky Marxist
David Mattson
Disserving the Public Trust: the Despotic Future of Grizzly Bear Management
Rick Sterling
Bernie Comes to Vallejo
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail