FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

US is a Classic Empire and Is Becoming a Repressive Police State at Home

As I set out to fly home from the UK on Monday following a short film project in Cambridge, I found my boarding pass, which I had been blocked from obtaining online the night before, carrying a bold-faced SSSS stamp in the lower right corner. Asking about it I was told by the British employee at the United check-in counter, “That is because you are on a US Department of Homeland Security list, sir.”

Later, after my son and I got the boarding gate, my name was called and I was ushered through a door in the wall behind the gate desk where two British security agents pawed through my bag and ran a cloth over computer, phone and all the zippers on my suitcase and computer bag looking for traces of explosives. After that I was politely told that I and my son (whose luggage was left uninspected) could board the plane. When I asked why I, a journalist with no criminal record, was being treated like a suspected terrorist, they laughed and said I would have to inquire of the DHS.

It’s not the first time this has happened to me. The same thing happened when my wife and I flew to Vienna in March where she was playing a concert on Vienna State Radio. That time at a checkpoint between Heathrow’s Terminal 5 and Terminal 2, my boarding pass was rejected, and when I got it reprinted a red stamp saying “ICE Security” was added. As on Monday, I was subjected to a special search in a separate location near the gate by an apologetic British security officer.

Today is July 4, and many American citizens will be bringing blankets and lawn chairs to local fireworks displays to celebrate American independence. Of course, those fireworks really hark back to the “rockets’ red glare” referred to in Francis Scott Key’s racist national anthem, which was largely a condemnation of the freed black slaves that the British employed in their effort to conquer Baltimore harbor during the War of 1812.

What, really, have we got to celebrate?

The US today is a global empire. Our country’s military, ballooning to some 2.1 million in uniform at a time that there is really no significant war underway. US military spending, greater in constant dollars than at any time since WWII, represents 34% of all global military spending, and the US military budget, depending on how one counts it, is larger than the next largest eight-to-ten countries’ military budgets combined. To show how ridiculously huge the US military is, consider that at $220 billion for fiscal year 2020, the US budget for Veterans Affairs alone (that’s the agency that provides assistance of all kinds, including medical, to those who served in the military, not counting career soldiers who receive a pension that is counted separately) this one military budget line item is larger than the entire military budget of China, and is more than three times as large as the entire military budget of Russia, considered by many to be our primary “adversary”!

And remember — US empire and militarism is and has always been supported by both political parties.

Here at home, our police are increasingly militarized to the point that most people now view the police as a potential threat, cowering politely in any interaction with cops, and fearing to assert their rights when they disagree with a stop for fear they will be cuffed, brutalized and arrested for speaking up. Our militarized, power-tripping law-enforcement officers insist on “respect,” are quick to make up reasons to take us down and take us in (like “resisting arrest” or “causing a disturbance”) if we don’t show it, and are quick to fire a taser or a gun if they “feel threatened,” knowing that prosecutors and the courts will almost always give them the benefit of the doubt even if video evidence shows them to have been in the wrong.

I’m 70, and the decline in freedom in this country has been a long but quite visible process back at least to when I was a young adult resisting the draft and the Vietnam War. Being on a “watch list” is nothing new for me. I learned from the FBI file I obtained back in the late ‘70s when the Freedom of Information Act was still actually working as originally intended, that I was on a list back during the war years and in fact was scheduled to be arrested by the US Attorney in Hartford, CT for draft resistance until the order, all unknown to me, was rescinded at the last minute. The FBI visited a colleague of my father’s at the UConn Engineering School in 1971 looking into an effort I and my wife made at the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa, Canada to obtain permission to visit China.

Is the US a police state? Yes, certainly it is for some people. It is certainly a police state for immigrants, legal and undocumented alike, for black people wherever they reside, for hispanics and Native Americans, and for those like myself who oppose the political policies and foreign policy of this country. And I guess that answers the question. One doesn’t define a police state as a place that represses everyone, since by definition those who keep their heads down, support the political status quo and those in power, are doing what the state wants them to do. There is no need to show the iron fist or the jackboot to them. A police state is a place that applies force and the tools of repression to those who challenge it. So even before we consider the concentration camps for immigrants along the border, the outrageous separation and imprisonment of babies, toddlers and children by Border Patrol thugs, and our latest president’s desire for military parades to honor himself on this day, the real answer is: Yes! the US must be considered, today, to be a police state.

So what’s to celebrate?

I read that a recent Gallup Organization poll shows a significant drop in the percentage of US Americans who are “extremely proud” of their country. True, 45% still say they are “proud” of America, but normally that is how many say they are “extremely proud” to be Americans. That’s a significant fall-off. Even among normally super-patriotic Republicans the percentage of those saying they are “extremely proud” this July 4 of this country was down to 76%, a 10% drop from 2003, and close to the 68% low point reached at one point during the Obama administration.

The main cause of the loss of patriotic ardor appears to be dismay or disgust with the US political system. According to the poll, only 32% of Americans say they are “proud” (forget “extremely proud”!) of America’s vaunted political system. In a close second for popular disgust, only 37% said they are “proud” of the US health care system.

So I guess I’m in pretty good company. I won’t be oohing and aaahing at the local fireworks display this year. It’s basically a glorification of US war-making anyhow, and there’s nothing at all to be proud of in that regard, particularly with the US in the midst of a $1.5-trillion upgrade of its nuclear arsenal, threatening war with Iran, pulling out of a Reagan-era treaty banning intermediate-range nuclear missiles, and embarking in a new arms race both in space and in virtually unstoppable hypersonic cruise missiles.

In my view, my country has become the world’s leading “rogue” nation, dismissive of all international laws and codes of conduct, actively attacking many countries on its own authority, without the support of UN Security Council resolutions, exonerating war crimes committed by its soldiers, and committed to the first use of nuclear weapons, both as a first strike against major power rivals like Russia and China, and against non-nuclear nations like Iran, and equally dismissive of all efforts, large and small, to respond to the crisis of catastrophic global heating. At home, the US legal system has become a supine supporter of virtually unlimited executive power, of unchecked police power, and of repressive actions against the supposedly constitutionally protected free press.

It’s tempting to hope that the decline noted by Gallup in the percent of Americans expressing “extreme pride” and even of “pride” in the US, but support for the US among the country’s citizens still remains shamefully high in the face of all these negatives.

Anyhow, count me among those who won’t be celebrating today’s July 4 national holiday.

More articles by:

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
November 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Meet Ukraine: America’s Newest “Strategic Ally”
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Frankenstein Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Ukraine in the Membrane
Jonathan Steele
The OPCW and Douma: Chemical Weapons Watchdog Accused of Evidence-Tampering by Its Own Inspectors
Kathleen Wallace
A Gangster for Capitalism: Next Up, Bolivia
Andrew Levine
Get Trump First, But Then…
Thomas Knapp
Trump’s Democratic Critics Want it Both Ways on Biden, Clinton
Ipek S. Burnett
The United States Needs Citizens Like You, Dreamer
Michael Welton
Fundamentalism as Speechlessness
David Rosen
A Century of Prohibition
Nino Pagliccia
Morales: Bolivia Suffers an Assault on the Power of the People
Dave Lindorff
When an Elected Government Falls in South America, as in Bolivia, Look For a US Role
John Grant
Drones, Guns and Abject Heroes in America
Clark T. Scott
Bolivia and the Loud Silence
Manuel García, Jr.
The Truthiest Reality of Global Warming
Ramzy Baroud
A Lesson for the Palestinian Leadership: Real Reasons behind Israel’s Arrest and Release of Labadi, Mi’ri
Charles McKelvey
The USA “Defends” Its Blockade, and Cuba Responds
Louis Proyect
Noel Ignatiev: Remembering a Comrade and a Friend
John W. Whitehead
Casualties of War: Military Veterans Have Become America’s Walking Wounded
Patrick Bond
As Brazil’s ex-President Lula is Set Free and BRICS Leaders Summit, What Lessons From the Workers Party for Fighting Global Neoliberalism?
Alexandra Early
Labor Opponents of Single Payer Don’t  Speak For Low Wage Union Members
Pete Dolack
Resisting Misleading Narratives About Pacifica Radio
Edward Hunt
It’s Still Not Too Late for Rojava
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
Why Aren’t Americans Rising up Like the People of Chile and Lebanon?
Nicolas Lalaguna
Voting on the Future of Life on Earth
Jill Richardson
The EPA’s War on Science Continues
Lawrence Davidson
The Problem of Localized Ethics
Richard Hardigan
Europe’s Shameful Treatment of Refugees: Fire in Greek Camp Highlights Appalling Conditions
Judith Deutsch
Permanent War: the Drive to Emasculate
David Swanson
Why War Deaths Increase After Wars
Raouf Halaby
94 Well-Lived Years and the $27 Traffic Fine
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Coups-for-Green-Energy Added to Wars-For-Oil
Andrea Flynn
What Breast Cancer Taught Me About Health Care
Negin Owliaei
Time for a Billionaire Ban
Binoy Kampmark
Business as Usual: Evo Morales and the Coup Condition
Bernard Marszalek
Toward a Counterculture of Rebellion
Brian Horejsi
The Benefits of Environmental Citizenship
Brian Cloughley
All That Gunsmoke
Graham Peebles
Why is there so Much Wrong in Our Society?
Jonah Raskin
Black, Blue, Jazzy and Beat Down to His Bones: Being Bob Kaufman
John Kendall Hawkins
Treason as a Lifestyle: I’ll Drink to That
Manuel García, Jr.
Heartrending Antiwar Songs
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
Poetry and Political Struggle: The Dialectics of Rhyme
Ben Terrall
The Rise of Silicon Valley
David Yearsley
Performance Anxiety
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail