1. “Guantanamo Bay: The model for an American police state?
“The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.”—James Madison
Guantanamo Bay is a lesson in injustice, American-style. It is everything that those who founded America vigorously opposed: kidnapping, torture, dehumanizing treatment, indefinite detention, being “disappeared” with no access to family or friends, and little hope of help from the courts.
For Adnan Latif—a 30-something-year-old Yemeni native detained at Guantanamo for ten years without a trial, despite a court ruling ordering his release and repeated military clearances ordering his transfer—his cell became his tomb. Latif, who had repeatedly engaged in hunger strikes and suicide attempts while proclaiming his innocence, was found dead in his cell in Guantanamo Bay mere days before the 11th anniversary of 9/11.
If Guantanamo is the symbol of American injustice, Latif’s death is the realization of that injustice, the proclamation of how far we have strayed from the original vision of America as a shining city on a hill, a beacon of freedom and hope for the world. Ten years after opening for business, Guantanamo Bay stands as a manifestation of America’s failure to abide by the rule of law and its founding principles in the post-9/11 era. As Baher Azmy notes in the New York Times, its defining features have been the denial of judicial oversight and its exclusion of lawyers. Making matters worse, “far from closing the prison camp as he promised, President Obama is steadily returning Guantanamo to the secretive and hopeless internment camp that he vilified as a candidate.”
What is the legacy of Guantanamo Bay? 171 men continue to languish there. The Bush torture program has been legitimized by the Obama administration, and indefinite detention has been codified as law. Guantanamo bleeds our coffers, costing $800,000 a year per detainee. And with a government that possesses the awesome power to indefinitely detain whomever it pleases, we are much, much less safe than we were 11 years ago.
Despite these obvious warning signs of a coming authoritarian state, a CNN poll from 2010 indicates that 60 percent of Americans would like Guantanamo to remain open. Yet what most Americans fail to realize, however, is that Guantanamo Bay is no different from every other aspect of America’s military empire, whether it be weaponry or military strategy, which has been tested against so-called “insurgents” abroad only to be brought home and used against American citizens. In this way, we are being conditioned to not only tolerate the government’s constant undermining of our freedoms but to actually condone the increasing assaults of our rights in the name of national security.
To put it more bluntly, we are being conditioned to live as prisoners in an Orwellian police state. Worse, we are being taught to enjoy our prison walls.
Encouraged by politicians and pundits to wade through life in a constant state of fear and apathy while being fed the bread and circuses of the corporate-entertainment complex, Americans have become accustomed to the illusion of security. In the process, we are finding ourselves subjected to a veritable arsenal of military firepower, government surveillance and battlefield tactics.
Such was the case with so-called “non-lethal” weapons of compliance—tear gas, tasers, sound cannons and barf beamers—all of which were first used on the battlefield before being deployed against civilians at home. Similarly, drones—unmanned aerial vehicles—were used exclusively by the military to carry out aerial surveillance and attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan only now to be authorized by Congress and President Obama for widespread use in American airspace.
To anyone connecting the dots, it all makes sense—the military drills carried out in major American cities, the VIPR inspections at train depots and bus stations, the SWAT team raids on unsuspecting homeowners, the Black Hawk helicopters patrolling American skies. All of these so-called training exercises habituate Americans to an environment in which the buzz of Black Hawk helicopters and the sight of armed forces rappelling onto buildings or crashing through doors is commonplace.
The enactment of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in January 2012, which allows the military to arrest and indefinitely detain anyone, including American citizens, only codifies this unraveling of our constitutional framework. Viewed in conjunction with the government’s increasing use of involuntary commitment laws to declare individuals—especially American military veterans—mentally ill and lock them up in psychiatric wards for extended periods of time, the NDAA appears even more menacing.
Throw in the profit-driven corporate incentive to jail Americans in private prisons, as well as the criminalizing of such relatively innocent activities as holding Bible studies in one’s home or sharing unpasteurized goat cheese with members of one’s community, and you have a 10-step blueprint for how to transform a republic into a police state without the populace cluing in until it’s too late.”
2. “Seven Deadly American Sins
The list doesn’t include our most grievous offenses, those of military and economic warfare against the rest of the world. Sinful enough is our behavior at home.
1. Sin against children
Perhaps “sanctity of life” ends at birth. According to Census Bureau figures, one out of every five American children lives in poverty. For blacks and Hispanics, it’s one out of every three.
UNICEF has reported that the U.S. has a higher child poverty rate than every industrialized country except Romania. We are near the bottom in all measures of inequality that affect our children, including material well-being, health, and education.
2. Sin against the poor
The U.S. poverty rate grew from 11.3% to 15.0%, a 33% jump, in just 11 years. The impact was felt primarily by minorities and women. The median wealth for single black and Hispanic women is shockingly low, at just over $100 (compared to $41,500 for single white women).
Another shock. For every dollar of NON-HOME wealth owned by white families, people of color have only one cent.
Despite the continued economic assault on already-poor Americans, the number of TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) cases has dropped by 60 percent over the last 16 years.
3. Sin against students
Students at all levels have been losing their nation’s support. States reduced their education budgets by $12.7 billion in 2012, and in 2013 the majority of states will be spending even less.
At higher educational levels, Americans are paying much more than students in other countries. Only 38% of college expenses come from public funding, compared to 70% across other OECD countries. While other nations continue to offer free tuition, with the recognition that education leads to long-term prosperity, the U.S. system has become more corporatized, to the point that expensive programs like nursing, engineering, and computer science have been eliminated to cut costs. The profit motive has blocked the path to academic excellence.
4. Sin against the middle class
The middle class is shrinking. In 2011, according to a Pew Research analysis, 51% of the nation’s households earned from two-thirds to double the national median income. In the 1970s it was 61%.
One-quarter of America’s workers are now making less than $22,000 a year, the poverty line for a family of four.
Thirty million Americans are making between $7.25 (minimum wage) and $10.00 per hour.
With the transition of middle-class workers to low-income status, entrepreneurship is disappearing. Innovation doesn’t come from the upper class. A recent study found that less than 1 percent of all entrepreneurs came from very rich or very poor backgrounds. Small business creators come from the hard-working, risk-taking, nothing-to-lose middle of America, but their entrepreneurial numbers are down — over 50% since 1977.
5. Sin against the common good
A recent Tax Justice Network report placed total hidden offshore assets at somewhere between $21 trillion and $32 trillion. With about 40% of the world’s Ultra High Net Worth Individuals in the U.S., up to $12.8 trillion of untaxed revenue sits overseas. Based on a historical 6% rate of return, this is a tax loss of up to $300 billion per year, money that should be paying for the public needs of education and infrastructure.
Tax avoidance is so appealing that 1,700 Americans renounced their citizenships last year. Like Eduardo Saverin, who benefited from America’s research and technology and security to take billions from his 4% share in Facebook, and then skipped out on his tax bill.
Inexplicably, some have defended Saverin’s actions, apparently failing to recognize one’s obligation to pay for societal benefits. A Forbes writer said, “When individuals resist governmental hubris, we should exalt their actions.” The American Thinker blog argued that “the U.S. tax code is so oppressive that smart and successful people like Saverin are compelled to renounce citizenship in order to keep more of their own hard-earned wages.” Hard-earned, in truth, by the thousands of contributers to his social networking success.
6. Sin against nature
A number of studies show that investment in renewable energy will create many more jobs than the fossil fuel industry. And the investment will likely pay off. A National Renewable Energy Laboratory analysis determined that “renewable electricity generation from technologies that are commercially available today…is more than adequate to supply 80% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050.”
But now the prospect of cheap natural gas is leading us back to a dirty form of energy independence, with a continuing reliance on fossil fuels, and on the fracking technology that despoils our land and pollutes our water. The national commitment and political will needed for the long-term health of our nation is more elusive than ever.
7. Sin against common sense
The deception began, at least in the modern age, with Milton Friedman, who said “The free market system distributes the fruits of economic progress among all people…He moves fastest who moves alone.”
This unflagging adherence to free-enterprise individualism is consistent with Social Darwinism, the belief that survival of the fittest (richest) will somehow benefit society, and that the millions of people suffering from financial malfeasance are simply lacking the motivation to help themselves. Social Darwinism is a feel-good delusion for those at the top. Or, as described by John Kenneth Galbraith, a continuing “search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”
A tenet of progressivism is that a strong society will create opportunities for a greater number of people, thereby leading to more instances of individual success. This is the common sense attitude suppressed by conservatives for over 30 years.”