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Empire of Madness

by RITT GOLDSTEIN

It was 1998 when I read Zbigniew Brzezinski’s ‘The Grand Chessboard’, and while much of what I read troubled me, I seem to recall both the effective acknowledgement of American Empire and what I interpreted as an observation suggesting that democracy made it difficult to govern.  Well, in the years since, in my opinion it seems the powers that be have been trying to make The Empire easier to run.

Since 1980, the population of America’s Federal Prisons has risen about 880%, according to a new report by the Congressional Research Service, and the US does seem the unchallenged leader among nations in the imprisoning of its citizens.  Of course, debate is currently ongoing regarding the ‘extrajudicial killing’ of American citizens, and it is unfortunate that a 2010 Bill to prohibit such acts did fail in Congress.  But, we do know the Government is doing its best to ’keep an eye on things’, especially as drones will soon be patrolling US skies, Congress working on the “Integration of Drones into Domestic Airspace” as you read this.

Gosh, it’s good that America is ‘the land of the free’, think of what might be going on if it wasn’t!

Now, while there are those that might recall Orwell’s ‘1984’, the ubiquitous posters announcing that ‘Big Brother is Watching You’, Congressional leadership has assured us that they’re acting in our ‘best interests’, doing all that can be done to protect American citizens.  After all, if one has nothing to hide, is there anything to fear?  Though, Naomi Wolf did write a Guardian article upon “how the FBI coordinated the crackdown on Occupy”, observing “documents, in short, show the cops and DHS working for and with banks to target, arrest, and politically disable peaceful American citizens.”

Extrajudicial killings, the targeting of peaceful demonstrators by security forces working with business interests, massive levels of incarceration – weren’t these the kind of things that, when they allegedly occurred abroad, US rights groups were once often joined by the Government in protesting against?  And now, questions have arisen as to whether the death of Christopher Dorner provides an example of ‘extrajudicial killing’ in itself.

I do recall that in ‘1984’ it seemed Big Brother did considerably more than just watch, and it could possibly be argued that something similar might be in progress here.  But, in a way, ‘all this’ might be good – President Bush had earlier said some folks hate us for our freedoms, and there are some today that perhaps would suggest those that govern are doing all they can to eliminate the source of such jealousy.  However, perhaps contrary to what elected officials seem to think, most citizens just may not appreciate such efforts — one can but wonder why — a Gallup poll showing only about 10% of those surveyed approving of the job America’s Congress is doing. Go figure.

Once I wrote laws, not articles, the laws being on ‘Police Accountability’, a hearing I chaired being held in Connecticut’s legislature on the measures introduced. Notably, as America’s attention is captured by what I’ll term the ‘Dorner Phenomenon’, to me it seems that many of the same kinds of questions we saw Dorner raising were similarly raised by those testifying at my legislative hearing, North America’s leading police accountability people among them.

While I did not applaud Dorner’s alleged conduct, I will say that the issues he raised — of officers accused of misconduct being promoted vs reprimanded, ‘troubled’ police accountability systems, etc — were addressed by Human Rights Watch (HRW) in their 1998 report ‘Shielded from Justice’.  In 1998, in my opinion HRW did seem to confirm the type of accusations Dorner made, doing so fifteen years ago.

In 2006, I received ‘humanitarian asylum’ in Sweden, and write this from there, becoming one of very, very, very few Americans to receive sanctuary abroad since the Vietnam era.  What does it say when an American is compelled to become a refugee?
Following sustained attacks, being shot at, having the steering unscrewed on my car, I fled The States about seven months after the legislative hearing I chaired occurred, that being a year before the HRW report appeared. Here is a link to 60 minutes of Hearing highlights, with the truths revealed then perhaps being even more relevant now.  In example, a former mayor relates how his home was attacked by police, vandalized, while he was mayor, his interpretation of events being that it was to show that the police ran that town, not him, the chief elected official.  But, police vandalism is the least of such issues.

There is another video segment, one dealing with an alleged plot by police to murder a police accountability activist (someone other than myself), an alleged plot that was reported upon in the Hartford Courant – Connecticut’s largest paper.  The Courant’s headline reads ‘Colchester Officers Accused Of Death Plot’, its first line being: “A state police informant says he was offered $10,000 by two town police officers to make ‘disappear’ a man who had lodged a brutality complaint against the officers.”

In HRW’s ’98 report, there is a quote by Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham: “When the police are indistinguishable from the bad guys, then society has a serious problem.”  But, this report was fifteen years ago, and when societal problems are left unaddressed, like all problems, they don’t tend to get better…only worse.

Ritt Goldstein is an American investigative political journalist living in Sweden. His exposé on NATO in the Arctic appears in the January issue of CounterPunch magazine.

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Ritt Goldstein is an American investigative political journalist living in Sweden.

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