Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Glenn Greenwald and the "climate of fear"

Much of the political world has been talking about the Arizona shooting the past few days, but there remains a larger and more troubling development, namely, the U.S. government's manufacturing of a "climate of fear" that allows it to advance its interests both at home and abroad.

I highly recommend this essential post from Glenn Greenwald. Key passage:

So much of what the U.S. Government has done over the last decade has been devoted to creating and strengthening this climate of fear. Attacking Iraq under the terrorizing banner of "shock and awe"; disappearing people to secret prisons; abducting them and shipping them to what Newsweek's Jonathan Alter (when advocating this) euphemistically called "our less squeamish allies"; throwing them in cages for years without charges, dressed in orange jumpsuits and shackles; creating a worldwide torture regime; spying on Americans without warrants and asserting the power to arrest them on U.S. soil without charges: all of this had one overarching objective. It was designed to create a climate of repression and intimidation by signaling to the world -- and its own citizens -- that the U.S. was unconstrained by law, by conventions, by morality, or by anything else:  the government would do whatever it wanted to anyone it wanted, and those thinking about opposing the U.S. in any way, through means legitimate or illegitimate, should (and would) thus think twice, at least.

That a large percentage of those brutalized by this system turned out to be innocent -- knowingly innocent --  is a feature, not a bug:  that one can end up being subjected to these lawless horrors despite doing nothing wrong only intensifies the fear and makes it more effective. The power being asserted is not merely unlimited and tyrannical, but arbitrary. And now, the Obama administration's citizen-aimed, due-process-free assassination program, its orgies of drone attacks, its defense of radically broad interpretations of "material support" criminal statutes, and its disturbing targeting of American anti-war activists with subpoenas and armed police raids are all part of the same tactic. Those contemplating meaningful opposition to American action are meant to be frightened. The anguished, helpless cries of 18-year-old American Gulet Mohamed, after a week of being disappeared and brutalized by America's close ally, serves an important purpose.

Make sure to read the whole thing. You'll notice that Greenwald is not engaging in demagoguery and is not using violent rhetoric to whip his readers up into a mouth-frothing frenzy. He is simply doing what the media are not, which is reporting on what is actually going on in the world, including what the government is doing, and encouraging people to educate themselves and to demand that their democratically-elected government not engage in undemocratic and illiberal practices that violate America's purported principles and ideals:

There has been much talk over the last several days, in the wake of the Arizona shooting, about attempts by some citizens to instill physical fear in elected officials. That's a worthwhile and necessary topic, but the fear that government officials are attempting to instill in law-abiding, dissenting citizens is far more substantial and sustained, and deserves much more attention than it has received.


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