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Organizing The Military
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Bigger & More Repressive Government
T he right wing speaks regularly about the menace of “big government” and the importance of shrinking “the beast,” but they include in government only its civil functions, not the military establishment or police, which are put in a separate category. This is based on their view that “government” must be considered bad, whereas the military and police are good. Thus government in its usual meaning didn’t shrink under Reagan and isn’t being down-sized under Bush-2 because the increase in military and police outlays more than offsets any cutbacks in civilian state expenditures. Furthermore, to the dismay of the right wing, important parts of civil society outlays are mandatory and may even expand under prior law. While right-wing regimes have been able to diminish entitlements for the weakest members of society, they have not yet mustered the political power to destroy Social Security and have only begun to undermine Medicare. But their intentions here are clear and, with a reelection of Bush-2, enough diversion by war and repression in the name of fighting terrorism, and a satisfactory obfuscation of the issues with the help of the corporate media, the Bush cabal and right-wing might actually pull off shrinking “the beast” (i.e., spending on the civil society).
Meanwhile, military and police expenditures will grow by leaps and bounds to serve five ends. First, military outlays facilitate the projection of power abroad to the advantage of transnational companies. The U.S. corporate elite is pleased to have the overwhelming military power of their country in the post-Soviet world used for their benefit. Some of the elite might prefer a less aggressive and unilateralist imperialism, but many are happy and supportive and the great majority of the business community approves the Bush-2 administration.
Second, the military outlays directly benefit numerous arms contractors, the Pentagon, and a great many workers, all of whom lobby for a growing military budget and are pleased with Bush-2’s wars, which generate new business. The military-industrial complex (MIC) is very powerful and has spread its largesse over many states for strategic political reasons. MIC power is reflected in the fact that the huge and sharply rising military budget is regularly passed without serious debate in the Congress or the mainstream press and Bush and Gore competed only in protestations of devotion to a growing military budget. When the federal government, under budget pressure, forces cutbacks in government expenditures, demanding efficiency improvements to offset revenue shortfalls, such cuts and demands are never imposed on the MIC.
Third, the pro-Israel lobby supports aggressive policies abroad, as this results in strengthened ties with the Israeli military, greater support for hardline Israeli leaders and policies, and a willingness to overlook small matters like the illegal large-scale dispossession and ethnic cleansing of people in an occupied territory. This lobby power is closely linked to the integration of the military establishment of the United States and Israel. Israeli activist and analyst Jeff Halper points out, “Israel’s sophisticated military hardware and military software are very important in weapons development in the United States. Israel has become the main subcontractor of American arms.” Given that in Israel “there are no ethical or moral constraints [in selling arms]…you have a high tech, military expert rogue state…. For the most part, Israel is the subcontractor for American arms to the ‘Third World.’ There is no terrible regime—Colombia, Guatemala, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile during the time of the colonels, Burma, Taiwan, Zaire, Liberia, Congo, Sierra Leone—there is not one that does not have a major military connection to Israel…. So this is the missing piece… Israel is a key member of the empire” (interview with Halper by Jon Elmer, “Israel and the Empire,” www.fromOccupiedPalestine.org, September 20, 2003).
Fifth, since a counterrevolutionary right-wing program is going to elicit serious and growing internal protest, large and properly trained cadres of police and ample prison space are necessary complements to control that other “beast”—the people—in the word usage of Alexander Hamilton. Just as the United States trained Latin American military and police in methods of fighting against “populism” in their countries, by this means helping to produce a “favorable climate of investment” by bringing into power National Security States, so a large, well-trained, and ruthless police is needed in the home country as it pushes a right-wing agenda that is contrary to the interests of a vast majority. Hence the right-wing approval of a hefty budget for the police as well as military establishment. These are both needed to help protect “freedom”—that is, the unconstrained ability of the strong to dominate, with business free to operate without government restraint, and the masses induced to serve their masters quietly and without protest.
U.S. activists, civil libertarians, and minority communities are well aware of the fact that the Bush administration has been putting in place a repressive apparatus, complete with a legal and judicial underpinning to give it sanction. They are also aware of the increasing use of repressive tactics as the government confronts growing protest. One of the many ironies of the New World Order is the way in which the leaders of the Free World increasingly meet in remote places out of the reach of their citizenry, like Doha/Qatar, and how within each country larger and larger areas are blocked off to prevent protesters from getting within leadership or TV audience sight. (In a famous Ron Cobb cartoon of 1967 that could by updated for widespread application today, we see President Lyndon Johnson on a podium addressing “Mah Fellow Americans,” with only a sea of police in sight around and before him.) In the same undemocratic mold, agreements like NAFTA are prepared in secret and without public participation, just as WTO decisions are made in non-public meetings by unelected bureaucrats, all in the pursuit of “freedom” as defined above, which is actually reducing freedom in its common-sense and traditional meaning. The New York Times rarely if ever mentions this ironical divergence between claimed interest in freedom and complementary tactics of undemocratic decision-making and repressive and freedom-threatening treatment of protests from below.
The future of repression looks frighteningly bright. The Patriot Act was a major step in removing constitutional protections of privacy, trial by jury, habeas corpus, and indirectly the rights of free speech and assembly. (It should be noted, however, that as in so many areas, Bill Clinton’s Anti-Terrorism and Effective Penalty Act of 1996 led the march now being advanced by Ashcroft and Bush, permitting the use of federal troops against the civilian population, thereby nullifying the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 and allowing the selective suspension of habeas corpus protections.) The judiciary has been restructured by Republican aggressiveness and Democratic weakness into an increasingly repression-supportive collective and the prospect of years more of Bush-2 court appointments is scary. Both Scalia and Rehnquist have indicated that legal protections of citizens rights are in abeyance in wartime. The evidence from Miami and other protest sites is that “preventive” police actions in violation of the law at many levels (illegal use of force, illegal arrests, mistreatment, plus, of course, denial of the constitutional rights to free speech and assembly) are becoming better organized, better armed, and more ruthless; designed to discourage as well as disrupt protests.
The Bush party is advancing the repression agenda as fast as is feasible—witness the temporarily aborted Patriot Act II, with its enlarged and vague definition of terrorism and support for terrorism and its proposal for executive authority to deprive those guilty of terrorism, or supporting it, of their citizenship. There are no apparent limits to what Bush-Ashcroft will do in moving this country toward a fascist state if they can get away with it. Sadly, there is a strong possibility that in the not-too-distant future this country will suffer another serious terrorist event, which would provide a ready basis for a new SuperPatriot Act that would effectively nullify the Constitution. General Tommy Franks has recently suggested this nullification as a likely outcome of such a terrorist act and, as noted, the Bush war against terrorism has been well designed to elicit a terrorist response. The election of a Democrat in 2004 might slow the momentum toward a more repressive state, although in the face of major terrorist acts this would not be certain under a Lieberman or Clark administration.
The mainstream media have done their bit for the Bush program. First, they allowed him to come away unscathed from his horrendous 9/11 security failure and to position himself as a protector of U.S. security. Second they have allowed him to undermine U.S. security by a series of illegal wars and essentially unconditional support for Sharon and accelerated ethnic cleansing in Palestine without serious criticism. Third, they allowed him to brazenly lie his way into the invasion-occupation of Iraq, failing to challenge his lies, and in fact functioning as agents of war propaganda. Their service here, and failure as public servants, may be read from the pre-invasion majority belief that Saddam Hussein was an “immediate threat” to the United States and that he was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks. Fourth, their criticism of the Ashcroft- Bush campaign to weaken constitutional protec- tions has been extremely low- key, where it exists at all, and has been easily offset in its effects on the public by their conduiting Bush fear propa ganda.
Finally, the media have effectively become part of the Bush reelection campaign by giving his pronouncements excessive and uncritical attention and by failing to focus on his overall macro-economic performance—service to his donors by his tax, environmental, and Iraq contracting policies, and his assault on the Constitution at home and international law abroad. In a dramatic case, the New York Times (and many other papers, and TV) gave huge front-page coverage on November 28 to Bush’s quickie visit to Iraq to have his picture taken eating turkey with “our warriors.” This photo-op stunt was designed to counter the image of Bush as the man who said “bring ’em on” from Washington, DC and who had failed to give enough attention to the returning body bags. The media made this propaganda stunt work, just as they had done for warrior Bush’s landing on the USS A braham Lincoln to announce “mission accomplished.”
Edward S. Herman is an economist and media critic.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.