Posted 9 months ago on June 26, 2013, 3:24 p.m. EST by LeoYo
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Confronting the Growing National (In)Security State
Wednesday, 26 June 2013 09:24 By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers , Truthout | News Analysis
The national security state dominates US foreign policy and now increasingly domestic policy. It has become a behemoth, a monster with an insatiable appetite that both looks for opportunities to expand and creates reasons to justify its expansion. Driven largely by profit and geopolitical positioning to control the world's resources, the national security state may finally be overreaching to the point that people are seeing through the myth of "they hate us for our freedom" and realizing that we are all being duped.
The United States is stuck in a cycle that it created by decades of military intervention, war and economic hegemony. This has created a self-fulfilling prophecy of growing insecurity that fuels the demand for more security. As real and perceived threats against US security result in a national security response of more military, more spying and more intervention, the consistent response abroad is more threats to the security of Americans and attacks on the US military and transnational US corporations. Reaction by the United States is inevitably more security state violence. And the cycle continues to spiral.
Real feelings of insecurity have been used to scare people in the United States into accepting the growing erosion of our civil liberties. We are taught to treat each other as potential terrorists and to be on the lookout for threats. We are accustomed to being complicit with gross invasions of our privacy as a trade-off for greater "security." But this is an illusion, as is the idea that if someone is not doing anything wrong, then this state of hypervigilance doesn't affect them.
Now these illusions are being exposed. Four years ago, Pfc. Bradley Manning was arrested for leaking documents on the wars and US foreign policy that showed crimes, unethical behavior and abuses of power. The government reacted harshly, held him in solitary for one year and sought to make an example of him to frighten others from coming forward. These actions showed how the government will abuse its power to cover up its own misbehavior. But rather than deter, this abuse has led to more leaks.
As Glenn Greenwald writes, "The more they overreact to measures of accountability and transparency - the more they so flagrantly abuse their power of secrecy and investigations and prosecutions - the more quickly that backlash will arrive." In the more than three years since Manning's arrest, there have been multiple leaks, including perhaps the most important, the recent leaks by Edward Snowden. Intimidation is not working.
And the national dialogue is changing. Just as these whistleblowers had hoped, people are questioning whether the national security state is justified and just whose interests it represents. Coalitions of organizations are forming to demand greater transparency and accountability, and serious questions are being asked about the effects of a privatized security state on democracy and the broader interests of the public.
The Dangerous National Security Spiral
Wars and military interventions occur out of the Office of the President, which has become an imperial presidency that does not wait for Congressional or UN approval. Fred Branfman, who exposed the illegal bombing of Laos and the targeting of civilians by the United States during the Vietnam War, says that since 1962, the United States has killed 20 million human beings, the vast majority of them civilians, more than any other country in the world during that time period.
This mass slaughter of people, and the displacement of an equal number who were forced to flee their homes and often their countries, continues no matter who is president. No doubt part of the problem is the mirage democracy and managed elections in the United States which limit our choices, but the bigger problem is the institution of the executive branch, the vast military and intelligence apparatus, and ongoing foreign policy that emphasizes intervention and domination rather than diplomacy. These institutional forces need to be changed if we are to have any hope of redirecting US relations with the world.
Branfman describes part of the dangerous cycle of the national security state: "And today's U.S. executive branch policies pose an even greater long-term threat to U.S. strategic interests, not only abroad but at home. The evidence is overwhelming, including the statements by several dozen U.S. national security experts cited at the end of my recent piece, that U.S. leaders are not protecting national security but rather weakening it as never before."
They are weakening security by creating more enemies every day. Branfman points out that the Joint Strategic Operations Command (JSOC), essentially a team of assassins operating on a global scale, is active in 60 countries. Obama has used drones in many countries, most with which the United States is not at war. This remote-control policing of the globe is increasing hatred against the United States. A 2011 Pew poll shows 74 percent of Pakistanis, 130 million people, regard us as their enemy. Branfman points out, "It makes no national security sense to be at war with 1.8 billion Muslims."
Numerous officials have made similar points; retired General Stanley McChrystal says every civilian the US kills creates ten enemies. Who are these security-state-created enemies? The tens of thousands families, friends and neighbors of people killed in drone strikes or held without trial in Guantanamo Bay or other secret prisons. They include the vast numbers of people under drone surveillance and threat of attack in numerous countries in Africa, the Middle East and East Asia. Also, this includes the people threatened with full-blown war as the United States moves from the destruction of Iraq to Afghanistan to Libya and now to Syria, with Iran and North Korea in its sight and under threat, and even China being encircled militarily in Obama's Asian pivot. The undermining of democracies throughout the world adds to the problem, especially in Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia, countries that have broken from US empire. The United States does not become more secure by turning the people of the world against us.
As a result of this ongoing policy of intervention and domination, the US security state apparatus has grown dramatically. This security state includes not only government agencies but thousands of corporations that are hard to distinguish from the government. The merger of corporations and state is evident in the intelligence gathering apparatus, each entity sharing information with the other. For example, a recent leak from Edward Snowden on British intelligence's seizure of virtually every worldwide phone call and Internet activity, reveals that it shares the information with 850,000 outside contractors, as well as the NSA.
There are important legal and moral issues that challenge all of these policies, but Branfman points out, the security state apparatus is "also endangering us, undermining security and creating enemies." Further, "It is our government that is endangering our national security, not the whistleblowers."
The security state is becoming more insecure itself as people in the United States learn about the extent of domestic and global spying. This creates a potentially volatile situation. Branfman says that "No president has done more to create the infrastructure for a possible future police-state" than President Obama. Branfman sees three ways that this infrastructure could be used to escalate to a full police state that would destroy our democratic ideals: (1) another 9/11 type attack, (2) domestic unrest due to the economic collapse and growing inequality; and (3) global disruption due to climate change. These are all very real possibilities and one interesting thing about each – current government policy not only fails to solve or minimize these problems, it actually makes each worse.