Friday, March 9, 2007

Aggression Abroad and Repression At Home

This is the text of a talk that I gave in 2003. In it I sketched out the rationale underlying the Iraqi invasion and the USA Patriot Act and related moves (e.g., the recent John Warner Defense Authorization Act) by our government to clampdown on dissent and put into place legal and extra-legal devices in anticipation of much more dissent at home to their plans. Understanding the link between these two - their international plans for empire expansion and the consequent crackdown on the domestic front - is crucial for us. Recognizing this link underscores both the treacherous terrain that we are currently enmeshed in and also the openings for us that are inherent in such a situation. Times of great danger are also times of great opportunity - if we recognize and act on that knowledge.

The other critical point here is that making any concessions to the terms laid down by our government in the name of being "realistic" (e.g., those who counsel us to back a Democrat for President as the only realistic path) is a fatal strategy. Our government - GOP and Democrats both - has embarked on a risky, dramatic and exeedingly brutal program to restructure the entire world. They are hellbent on this agenda and fully committed to it. (While the Democrats have a slightly different approach, in general favoring more multilateral approaches than unilateral, notice that they have not stood up and opposed the domestic programs such as the Patriot Act and the Warner Act, and that they put up no real fight against the Military Commissions Act - which they could have and should have filibustered. Having inserted us into Iraq, the Bush regime has dared the Democrats to pull us out. It's a dare that the Democrats are reluctant to take because they, just like the GOP, do not want the US imperialist empire imperiled and a humiliating loss would do just that). We are being pressganged down this road and our only hope lies in explicitly rejecting and exposing their plunderous and barbaric moves and providing a contrasting and lofty vision of an entirely different world and future for ourselves and for the rest of the planet.

"Full Spectrum Dominance and the Bush Doctrine: Over There and Over Here"
April 08, 2003 by Dennis Loo

Full Spectrum Dominance = a military term meaning the ability of the US military, with or without allies, to dominate and control any situation across all military operations. “FSD” comes from the US military’s “Joint Vision 2020,” released May 30, 2000. “Joint Vision 2020” is their blueprint for the DOD in the future.

While this is a military term, I use the term for this paper to refer to the larger strategy of the US government that was first articulated in 1992 in a document entitled "Defense Planning Guidance Report" that was co-authored by Lewis Libby and Paul Wolfowitz with the support of then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney in George H.W. Bush's presidency. This was later further elaborated upon in 1997 by the Project for the New American Century. PNAC is a neocon think tank whose principals include Bill Kristol, Dick Cheney, George W. and Jeb Bush, Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz (Deputy Defense Secretary), Lewis Libby (Cheney’s chief of staff), Richard Perle, Steve Forbes and others. The so-called Bush Doctrine is really drawn whole cloth from PNAC’s vision for the US.

My paper title refers to the connection between over there and over here, the international arena and the domestic. Let me talk about the "over there" part first because it creates the need for the "over here" part:

Briefly put, PNAC, and the Bush Doctrine that comes from it, see an historic opportunity to expand US imperialist dominance in the world now, a window of opportunity, to clean up in the face of the relative weakness of the other imperialist powers and the fact that there is no socialist rival of any great significance at this time. Iraq is part of this grand scheme.

PNAC’s 1997 document, entitled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategies, Forces and Resources for a New Century,” called for a war on Iraq, notably, long before 9/11:

“The U.S. has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in the Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.”

In other words, stripped of its Aesopian language, the “tyranny” of Saddam isn’t the point. Getting in and controlling Iraq is.

The fact that Hussein and regime change is a pretext for war was further underscored when Colin Powell stated after Bush gave Hussein that 48 hour ultimatum that the US would enter Iraq even if Hussein did get out of town.

You can go look up PNAC’s document yourself. You will find in it, among other things, the following, which makes interesting reading in light of the attacks on Iraq for supposed stockpiling of chemical and biological agents:

“New methods of attack – electronic, ’non-lethal,’ biological – will be more widely available….combat likely will take place in new dimensions, in space, cyberspace and perhaps the world of microbes…advanced forms of biological warfare that can ‘target’ specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool.”

What FSD (or the Bush Doctrine) calls for is arming the US and expanding the US military to unprecedented levels. The arms buildup under Bush is the biggest since the Reagan years. This is being done under the rubric of combating terrorism. But the plans that we are seeing being implemented date nine years before 9/11.

During Reagan’s presidency from 1981-1988 the other superpower, the Soviet Union, collapsed. The Cold War was over. The US had won. The Berlin Wall came down. The good guys had won. Everything was going to be great. Military strategy that focused on the race between the Soviet bloc and the Western bloc of confrontation and competition for global dominance (colonial empires to be brief) was now for the first time in decades obsolete. Many people thought this meant that we could now enjoy a “peace dividend.” Money that had gone to arming ourselves and our allies and client states such as Israel could now be used for education, social programs, etc., even international humanitarian aid.

The Peace Dividend never materialized because the essential nature of capitalist economies did not change with the Soviet Union’s collapse. The official rationale for the Cold War had been the communist threat to the American way of life, democracy, freedom, liberty, and so on. Now that the Soviet threat has disappeared, and both Russia and China have really restored capitalism, what can the rationale be for the arms race?

Terrorism and “terrorist” states such as Iraq, Iran, Syria, North Korea… are now the dire threats we’re told.

FSD/Bush Doctrine is an extreme and very risky new imperialist strategy to create a world in which the US is undisputed hyperpower. The nature of imperialism and of capitalism haven’t changed. It is still about superprofits derived through superexploitation of the Third world, about rivalry between imperialist powers over colonies (their resources and peoples), and efforts to politically, economically and militarily maintain dominance and control over colonies. What is new about it:

1) it calls for a permanent arms race;

2) openly pre-emptive wars (as opposed to bothering to provide a pretext that the other side shot first);

3) moves to prevent any “peer” imperialist rival from emerging (controlling Iraq is partly about that since even though the US doesn’t use that much Iraqi oil, France, Germany and Japan do, so if the US can control Iraq’s oil, it can strong arm these other countries. Further, the neocons want to eventually go after the Saudis, and if they’ve got Iraq in their pocket, then they can afford to push Saudi Arabia around);

4) the dismantling of long-standing international bodies and agreements (e.g., the UN, the 1972 ABM Treaty, the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, the Geneva convention re: treatment of POWs, the Biological Weapons Convention’s verification procedures), to be replaced by unilateral US actions, and where possible, the piecing together of a coalition of the willing (UK, Britain, and the English!);

5) new forms of colonial dominance over Third world countries. Iraq can be used as a base area for the US military to control the Middle-Eastern region which is rife with contradictions and extremely volatile;

6) and as a result of the preceding, more far-reaching, and more intensive ideological, political and coercive forms of control over the domestic population. In short, more fascistic laws. The USA Patriot Act is a key expression of this. 9/11 was the justification for the Patriot Act, but 9/11 really is a pretext since the plans for this clampdown (including the Homeland Security measures) were in the works before 9/11. Cheney has described these new laws as “the new normalcy” - i.e., permanent features of American life.

The justification for this kind of permanent warmaking is no longer that someone else has attacked us. This creates credibility problems for the government since harnessing sufficient public opinion on the home front is utterly crucial. Sheer military force isn’t enough by itself. Moreover, since the US has announced that it will go it alone when necessary, domestic support is all the more crucial since international support will, by definition, not be forthcoming.

Consider what they are trying to do here with Iraq, which by the way is only an early target in their list that includes Syria, Iran, Lebanon, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, China. The rationale for attacking Iraq – alleged WMD, a rogue state ignoring UN resolutions, mistreatment of POWs, being a threat to neighbors and other countries, being a sponsor of terrorism – all apply more fully to the US than any other in the world.

For example, in Gulf War I, and now in the current war, the US is using depleted uranium weapons the radioactivity of which persists over billions of years. Professor Doug Rokke, ex-Director of the Pentagon’s Depleted Uranium Project calls their use “a war crime.” It is in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Charter of the UN, and the Genocide Convention, among others. The Gulf War syndrome (chronic muscle and joint pain, fatigue and memory loss) has affected 200,00 American soldiers since the first Gulf War. The UN found that cancer in Iraq has increased by seven to ten times and birth defects four to six times. 67% of Gulf War veterans have had children with birth defects. Why does the US use it? Rokke: because they are extremely effective weapons. War is, after all, despite all the talk about precision weapons, precisely about destruction and killing.

As time goes on, these inconvenient facts become clearer to more and more people. To paraphrase Lenin, even though wars create enormous suffering, they do have the one distinct virtue of revealing very clearly the true nature of power relations and the fundamental characteristics and priorities of political and economic systems.

When a government goes to war it creates the potential for its own downfall. It’s not by accident that nearly every revolution has occurred in the midst or in the wake of a war. Going to war creates potential credibility problems because you have to come up with some rationale for carrying out open and massive destruction and killing –which is why governments usually cite or invent a provocation. In addition, you must also inevitably take casualties, kill civilians, cause major strains on the economy, provoke anger among other nation’s peoples who will surely find ways to rise up and retaliate, and finally, you stir people into political life against you (demonstrations, rallies, and other quieter forms of opposition and contention). Repression and aggression abroad create the necessity to carry out greater repression at home because you are creating conditions that drive people into fiercer opposition to the moves you’re making internationally.

When governments go to war, they need a higher level of solidarity and public support for what they are doing because they aren’t just going about business as usual. Hence, when governments go to war, they are actually more vulnerable to dissent in the domestic arena because of the above, not more powerful. This makes it more critical for governments that they attempt to suppress dissenting voices more vigorously.

Our government is planning to carry out many further invasions in the future. This is apparent when you read their documents. Cheney has said that we are engaged in a war that will last generations. The flowering of opposition to their moves will surely be wider and more extensive if they don’t clamp down. So FSD Over Here = far-reaching incursions on civil rights and civil liberties in ways we’ve not seen before – i.e., moves towards a police state.

To be more specific: Ashcroft is currently proposing detention centers to hold US citizens indefinitely without charges. Thousands of Arabs, Muslims and South Asians have been interrogated, rounded up, and many deported. Reportedly they questioned 5,000 Arab-Americans in the opening days of the war. Jose Padilla, the US citizen who supposedly was planning to use a “dirty bomb” and arrested on May 8, 2002, is still being held in an isolation cell with no right to bail, or to an attorney. He’s not even facing trial even though Paul Wolfowitz admitted the day after his arrest that there was no actual plan to bomb anything.

The USA Patriot Act, passed in the immediate wake of 9/11, is key here. It concentrates an extreme amount of power in the executive branch.

The Patriot Act created a new crime: “domestic terrorism” = acts that “appear to be intended to influence the policy of a government.” By this definition, anything – demonstrations, civil disobedience, even lobbying - could be treated as terrorism. (In Utah they actually sought to prosecute demonstrators on the grounds that they were carrying out terrorism by interfering with businesses on the street).

It allows the Attorney General to deport or incarcerate any non-citizen based on suspicion.

Sneak and Peek: searches in which you don’t need to notify the individuals being searched.

It relaxes the requirements of law enforcement to obtain search warrants/taps and other surveillance to allow them to simply certify that they consider someone a threat.

It puts the CIA back in the business of domestic spying.

The justification for all this: a) terrorism, and b) “yes, these are incursions, but you’ve got to trust us.” History tells us that they can’t be trusted.

The US government has conducted mass roundups before: the Palmer Raids after WWI when communists, socialists and anarchists were rounded up by the thousands, and hundreds deported. More than 100,000 Japanese-Americans were interned during World War II. Habeas Corpus, the so-called Great Writ of Liberty because it is supposed to ensure against unlawful detention, has been abridged progressively by the current Supreme Court. Indeed, when you look at history, in every single war and/or crisis, the government has violated habeas corpus, with the courts going along with it at the time, and only after the crisis was over did the courts rule that habeas corpus had been violated. What’s different this time compared to prior attacks on civil liberties/rights: they’re codifying this into laws that can be used against anyone. They also have high tech snooping devices and databanks at their command now.

Patriot Act II (“Domestic Security Enforcement Act of 2003 - now in draft form, being circulated among congressional leaders, drafted by Ashcroft’s Justice Department) goes even further:

1) the government could arrest and detain someone as a “terrorist” suspect entirely secretly without having to notify anyone, inc. family and lawyers. They could strip them of their citizenship.

2) Block FOIA requests, thus permitting the government to deny any requests for releasing names of detainees.

3) Strip people of citizenship because they’re accused of belonging to or supporting a group dubbed a “terrorist” organization by the government.

4) Create a federal DNA database, including people who’ve committed no crimes, but are suspects.

5) Void all consent decrees – these came into being as a result of harassment by “red squads” of protest groups.

6) Allow wiretapping for fifteen days without judicial notification. Evesdropping for 48 hours on Internet activities without judicial order.

More important than the incursion of civil liberties and rights is why they are doing this. They are preparing the groundwork for waging terror internationally in Iraq and beyond. They need to silence dissent at home to succeed.

Of Nazi Germany Pastor Martin Niemöller famously said:

“First they came for the Communists and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me, but by that time, no one was left to speak up.”

The central lesson from this: you don’t wait till it gets worse. You take on these attacks from the very start because they will get worse.

Arabs, Muslims and South Asians are today’s equivalent of Nazi Germany’s Communists – the ones the government is going after first. The government is after them because these people have powerful things to say and speak out against, because of their experiences against US moves on Iraq and the rest of the Muslim world. They are the canaries of the citizenry. We must not allow the canaries to succumb.

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