The House on July 24 defeated a motion to restrict, but not abandon, National Security Agency massive-surveillance activities, the Obama administration and Democratic leadership in the House in solid support of continuance, this despite the obvious totalitarian implications and consequences of the program. Think of it, POTUS identified closely with the most alarming violation of American civil liberties in recent history, placing him in the same crowd with Joe McCarthy, A. Mitchell Palmer, the Alien-and-Sedition forces going back to the late 18th century, a dishonorable pantheon of those contemptuous of freedom of thought, privacy of the individual, safeguards inherent in the Constitution for protection against unlawful searches and seizures. By this vote, is there any doubt that the Democratic Party is aligned with the Republicans in decisive areas of public policy, beginning, for these purposes, with the support of counterterrorism as the pretext for shaping internal consensus on the military foundations of global superiority with respect to conjoined armed power and capitalist penetration of world markets? Neither party qua party dissociates itself from the flagrant abuses and atrocities, epitomized in the program of armed drones for targeted assassination, that are integral to the unilateral position—still in effect, but rapidly deteriorating as the complexion of the international system changes to a multipolar context, especially with China’s rise and broad-based Third World industrial growth—of superpower in extremis (i.e., the US view of top-dog, on pain of death otherwise, an internal domino theory justifying barbarism at any cost).
The House vote nails down the truth: Obama’s legacy, contrary to his economic shadow-boxing these days purportedly aimed at “middle class” improvement, is one of consistent support of militarization of capitalist expansion, including, via banking and corporate deregulation, the monopolistic consolidation of the business system, but also the wider correlative setting, a quiescent populace, ready for thought control (as in surveillance), nonchalance, to such threats as climate change, environmental degradation, pollution from multiple sources, associated with nuclear wastes, mining, fracking, etc., and a readiness to intervention, support for the military of “friends and allies,” espionage on behalf of regime change, and presently at center stage, ambitious plans for the conduct, greater than before, of cyberwarfare. This bill of goods, shoddy, soiled, infested with lice, from a moral standpoint, requires for success the Big Sell, the Obama full-court press, borne out by the expansion of Executive Power and the coordination of previously (under his predecessors) lax efforts at integration, notably, the military shift in emphasis to paramilitary operations, as the type-form for reorganizing and improving the efficiency of the aggressive posture of the United States—all without sacrifice to the bulkier manifestations of power, as in moving significant units, air and naval, to the Pacific in incipient yet more pointed confrontation with China, as the new perceived antagonist in a reviviscence of the Cold War.
NSA surveillance, now giving the Agency growing pride of place as the administration darling, partially replacing the CIA—and its joint activities with JSOC—as the instrument of choice in furthering America’s national interest, is intended to be more than a temporary measure to preserve government secrecy like never before, except maybe, for more justifiable reasons, in World War II, and then, not going beyond military operations (loose lips sink ships) to the blanket coverage of Americans’ private lives, and instead becomes—in Obama’s eyes, and that of his national-security advisers—a permanent state of affairs, on the theory that America will always face enemies to “Homeland Security” and, not publicly expressed, the perhaps equal danger of insistence upon transparent government at home. From the Oval Office it is hard to distinguish between al Qaeda and domestic whistleblowers, Snowden and Manning openly conceived as dangerous traitors. What a mess, we’ve allowed ourselves to get into: robbed from above by an irresponsible capitalist system bent solely on profit-taking, terrorized by a “liberal” government decked out in glittering generalities whose test of proper citizenship is silence in the face of its illegal ways abroad and business favoritism at home, castrated in mounting social protest (never mind the flowers, where did all the demonstrations go?)—a mess of our own making, as when we see Democratic leaders in the House, Pelosi, Hoyer, etc., working to keep the party in line to defeat curbs on NSA spying, while Obama’s team mans the phones to ensure the happy results. Legacy? Eichmann on the Potomac, consciously, willingly, part of the vast effort to keep American capitalism, encased in military splendor, on track as the global powerhouse across the political-economic-ideological-military spectrum of what we quaintly refer to as, guardianship of a peaceful world order, except, unlike Eichmann, Obama cannot plead cog-in-the-wheel irrelevance. The power is his, to use wisely or malignantly. I think, the latter.
My New York Times Comment (July 25) on the article discussing the vote to defeat the motion on NSA surveillance restrictions follows:
If any liberals and progressives need further convincing that Obama is on the side of authoritarianism and shows absolute contempt for civil liberties, Obama, and much of the Democratic party, this should be convincing. But of course they will not listen. They’ve loved him through targeted assassination, they’ve loved him through national-security advisers bent on traditional hegemony, they’ve loved him through every conceivable betrayal of principle stated or implied in his 2008 campaign, etc.
N.S.A. is the spearhead for an American version of fascism, running neck-and-neck with the CIA-JSOC paramilitary-operation synthesis for that honor. How they support POTUS is beyond me, except as confirmation of bipartisan reaction on fundamental issues.
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. His new book, Eichmann on the Potomac, will be published by CounterPunch/AK Press in the fall of 2013.