Love of Country or Love of the Corporate State?

by Paul Donahue

People often talk about loving their country, but what does that really mean? If one is talking about the geography, then I love my country - except for the bits that humans have trashed, which is actually a rather large percentage of the countryside. If one is talking about the people, well, there are a lot of nice people in this country, as in every other country, but the US is also populated with a significant number of stupid, ignorant, nasty, violent racists. Besides that, I'm basically a misanthrope, so we'll call that one a wash. If one is talking about the government, I HATE it.

I didn't always hate my government. I joined Cub Scouts, moved on to Boy Scouts, and continued all the way to Eagle Scout, the good little patriot all the way. But then Vietnam happened, followed by Watergate. My faith in my government began to slip and I gave up my daydreams of joining the Green Berets and going off to fight for democracy. The US proxy wars on El Salvador and Nicaragua in the 1980's were the final blow to my patriotism. At last I came to understand that the US government was not a force for good in the world, but a force for evil.

The US government is not just a force for evil, it's the greatest force for evil on the planet. Acting as the agent of large corporations, not only does it play a major role in exploiting, repressing, and killing people all over the globe, but it is also responsible for a large percentage of the rampant destruction of the planet's living systems. From oceans to rainforests to Arctic tundra, the US government has an important function in the ecocide.

I teach a lot of ecology classes, and the most important lesson I try to impart to my students is that everything is connected. That rule applies not only to everything in the natural world, but to everything in the human world, and to the intersection of the two. And that's why I have become so interested in politics, and governance, and issues of war and peace. To explore just one thread, the US-led war on Afghanistan is fundamentally about fossil fuels, which means more fossil fuels will be burned, which means more greenhouse gases will be released, which means more global warming, which means more loss of forests, and species, and more droughts, and more environmental refugees. And if you're spending $2 billion a week on the war, that's $2 billion a week you don't have to spend on alternative energy development, or to spend on alleviating the suffering of environmental refugees in Africa, or to spend on education to produce more smart people capable of tackling the immense problems the planet is facing - or people well-educated enough to vote out of office the short-sighted idiots who are perpetuating this spiral of destruction, which means still more wars for energy.

With the possible exception of the US National Park Service, I hate pretty much everything about the US government. This is the 1983 American Heritage Dictionary's definition of fascism: "A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism." Sound familiar? Most Americans still think they live in a democracy. They don't. The US government doesn't exist for the benefit of US citizens, it exists to further the economic gain of large US-based corporations, and "our" elected officials behave much more like paid employees of these corporations than like representatives of the people. Given that it is corporations that are financing the election of these politicians, I suppose "employees" is just what they are.

The US is also an empire - not a classical 18th or 19th century empire with a fleet of tall sailing ships plying the high seas, but an empire nonetheless. Despite any dissimilarities, just as with the empires of the 18th and 19th centuries, the US empire exists to further the economic gain of transnational corporations. Back then it was the Dutch East India Company, now it's Chevron. These corporations require access to natural resources and markets and cheap labor. Since other countries often are not willing to turn their resources over to foreign corporations, or to completely open their markets and sell out their citizens, the US military is always ready to step in, like Mafia enforcers, to impose the will of the corporations. As Martin Luther King, Jr. was, I am ashamed that my country is, by far, the "greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."

Wars, all wars everywhere, are ultimately about resources. They're not about spreading democracy and freedom, not about weapons of mass destruction, not about fighting terrorism, and most definitely not about securing the rights of women (that last justification is my favorite - fighting to secure the rights of women in Afghanistan by a US military in which 40% of female troops report being sexually assaulted.) At the beginning of the 21st century, with the age of cheap fossil fuels coming to an end, US-led wars are almost exclusively about the struggle to control the world's remaining and rapidly dwindling hydrocarbon resources. Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Philippines, Colombia, etc., etc. - and next on the list, Iran - it's ALWAYS the same story, and always with the same flimsy justifications for the killing. No one is making new fossil fuels to replace the ones we're burning - at least not on any time scale that matters to humans - so this state of perpetual war in which we find ourselves is not going to be coming to an end anytime soon.

A perpetual state of war, however, is hard to sustain, so you have to keep your citizens in a constant state of fear and hatred. The conditions described by George Orwell in "1984" bear more resemblance to present day United States than most Americans would like to admit, and they should read that book once a month until they get it. If you discount 9/11 as a Muslim terrorist plot, which I do, the number of Americans killed on US soil by Muslim terrorists since the 1993 World Trade Center bombing is exactly zero. Despite that, a national level politician can hardly get before a microphone without uttering the word terrorism, and "Muslims with bombs" plots are now right up there with adultery as one of the most common themes in US television dramas. WIthout this fear and hatred, why else would people so willingly offer up their children for sacrifice on the fields of battle and allow the looting of their national treasury? Lies and subterfuge are needed to draw a nation into war. The purported sinking of the USS Maine drew Americans into the Spanish-American war....allowing the Japanese to bomb Pearl Harbor drew Americans into World War II.... the Gulf of Tonkin incident drew Americans into Vietnam....and 9/ll and other weapons of mass distraction drew us into Afghanistan and Iraq and the endless "War on Terror". 

Americans were and are so filled with fear and hatred from 9/11 that they fail to ask the most basic questions about the government's absurd official conspiracy theory - like how did two jetliners manage to completely disappear in the same morning and why did WTC Building 7 collapse? But without the fear and hatred inspired by 9/11, how would you ever get Americans to go along with spending $2 billion a week to rain Hell down on unsuspecting goat herders in a desperately poor country like Afghanistan? They are certainly not going to do it  just to gain control of the TAPI natural gas pipeline, the "new Silk Road" of Hillary Clinton. Osama bin Laden has been killed, the CIA tells us that al Quaeda no longer exists in Afghanistan, yet US troops are still there, killing innocent Afghan women and children on a daily basis. WAIT, I think I saw a damn raghead terrorist hiding behind that lamp post - did you see him?

Here at home, the government needs some way to control the rabble -  those Americans, like me, who, despite the never-ending threat of terrorism, still find the slaughter of innocent civilians to be repugnant....or those who would rather see their hard-earned tax dollars go to paying the salary of Miss Jones, the second grade teacher, rather than to the purchase of yet another Cruise missile....or those who have lost their home and job thanks to the government-sanctioned pillaging by Wall Street financial institutions. 9/11 provided not only the excuse to invade Afghanistan, but also the justification for severely ramping up "security" in the "homeland", making for easy passage of the draconian Patriot Act and other similar legislation.

The US has been traveling down the road to repression at a steady clip since 9/11, but now with Obama's presidency, the US has met the two most important defining characteristics of a police state, even enshrining them in law - indefinite detention of US citizens without access to judge or jury, and summary execution of US citizens without so much as them being charged with a crime. Add to that the ever-increasing surveillance of American citizens, the increasing militarization and increasing brutality of police forces around the country (the city of Oakland actually owns a tank now!), the effective repeal of the Posse Comitatus Act  which kept the US military off our streets, the relentless rollback of the First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, the increasing governmental intolerance of lawful protest, newer, bigger, and better high-tech crowd control weapons, and an unspoken acceptance of torture, and you have a VERY, VERY scary situation.

9/11 was obviously a defining moment in US history. As a "false flag" operation, it was immensely successful, providing the cover for endless military operations abroad and the establishment of repressive measures at home. 9/11 happened more than ten years ago, and it's still has a strong grip on Americans, with no end in sight. When its effectiveness does start to fade, I have no doubt that that another horrible incident will come along to remind Americans what a dangerous world they live in. 

I'm sick and tired of living in a rogue state in which adherence to international laws and conventions is considered optional; I'm sick and tired of living under a government that considers the US Constitution irrelevant; and I'm sick and tired of living in a country run by war criminals. For waging illegal wars, Obama is a war criminal, as was the Republican before him, and the Democrat before that. All members of the US Senate and House of Representatives who have voted to fund these illegal wars have also met the legal definition of a war criminal. In my next life I want to try living in a democracy, where the government is responsive to the wishes of the people, not the multinational corporations, where people come before profits, and where the rule of law actually has some meaning - and not just for crack users and people who rob liquor stores, but for people who torture and conduct illegal wars and commit mass murder of innocent civilians.

Before 9/11 one could argue that the US still functioned as a democracy, but now we're in the early stages of a fascist police state. Luckily, I guess, most Americans, as long as they stay in line, still don't feel the change, except at the airport security checkpoints. The propaganda system is so successful that most Americans are not even aware of the fundamental changes that have occurred to their system of justice. As long as they continue to limit their concerns to the NFL and Paris Hilton, they may never notice. However, if one steps out of line or bucks the system in any way, they soon feel the jack boot on their neck. The Occupy movements around the country can readily attest to that. I find this road we're on to be very frightening, and can't see how we go backwards. It took a world war to bring down the Nazis, and they didn't have nearly the military might and surveillance technology at their disposal that the US government now wields.

The world is facing several important crises that are gradually merging into the perfect storm - global warming, with its ever-worsening droughts and floods, and food shortages, fossil fuel depletion, and financial collapse. Theoretically, we could change course and all work together to solve these problems, OR we could continue hurtling down the same road to disaster, using ever more repressive measures to contain the angry hordes. The people in control of the US government seem to have made their choice.

Pacifica, California

26 March 2012