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The Price of maintaining US security


Published in the Daily Illini April 16th, 2012


We are in the midst of a comprehensive budgetary debate where nothing is off the table, including cuts to programs President Obama claims to “care deeply about.” The military sector, however, has traditionally been immune to the same drastic cuts.

Here in the U.S., the fear of future terrorist acts like the events of 9/11 has actually re-fueled spending on a range of militaristic, surveillance and civil liberty attacks on the domestic population. So large is this societal apparatus that a lot of people you may know are working within it.

In a 1996 interview, rapper Tupac Shakur said, “What I’ve learned is that fear is stronger than love.” Nothin could be more relevant when analyzing American political discourse, beginning with the Cold War.

The “threat” of the Red Commies immortalized by the McCarthy hearings in 1954 has become known as one of the most poignant political sideshows ever. It now represents a clear view into how the military-industrial-CONGRESSIONAL-complex found an ideological basis for unending war and preparation.

With the citizenry afraid of a nuclear attack, similar to President Harry S. Truman’s nuclear bombing of Japan that killed around 200,000 people, support for the Department of War (renamed the Department of Defense in 1949) was hard to argue against out of a fear of appearing weak in the face of our ‘enemies’.

The gears of war have been churning in America ever since and have indeed grown stronger. But the 9/11 attacks created an entirely new department, or gear, if you will: Homeland Security. Currently their annual budget is $75 billion, and business is booming, despite a major global recession.

According to National Defense magazine, major contractors such as Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Boeing and Northrop Grumman “have been winning more contracts” and are “venturing into new areas to take advantage of business opportunities.”

The vice president of Boeing, Tim Peters, points out, “there are a lot of ports and waterways around the United States, so we think it’s a significant win to showcase some of our security capabilities.”

That mindset must have translated into the $42,000 contract awarded to Keith County, Nebraska (pop 8,370), for new state-of-the-art dive gear and a Zodiac sonar boat because officials feared, seriously, “an-Al-Qaeda sleeper cell hitching explosives onto a ski boat and blowing into the dam at the head of Lake McConaughy.”

Beyond this growing market for domestic weapons contracts, the tightening of domestic surveillance is weakening our civil liberties with the justification to search for domestic terrorists. The newest edition to the FBI manual, The Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, was released this year and has amended rules that previously forced agents to open an inquiry of suspicious for being gable to search law enforcement databases for criminal or terrorist activity. The new rules allow agents to “proactively” pursue people and organizations, including searching through somebody’s trash, without any previous evidence to support wrongdoing or filing a report prior stating the intent to do so.

This will encourage even further abuses as the potential of being a “terrorist” will be used as a tool by agents to freely accuse and investigate any person (a la “communist”, circa 1950s), and without having any bearing to actual evidence.

One year ago this month, the FBI raided the homes of at least 23 people in Minneapolis and Chicago with subpoenas looking for evidence of “providing material support or resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations.” All those subpoenaed have worked in either antiwar foreign policy or Palestinian solidarity activism, and none of the government’s claims have since been substantiated.

To argue that Washington is “broken” and that abuses such as these are simply wasteful, is to misunderstand the objectives: Fighting terrorism is not the goal of these domestic security programs; security and surveillance spending is the goal itself, with terrorism being the pretext.

Seen in this light, the United States is actually “fixed”, with taxpayer money being given to private contractors, who then spy on and defend against the taxpayers themselves. The profit motive behind these military initiatives is what is driving our war-obsessed culture, from real-life drone strikes (in Pakistan and Mexico), to video games (Call of Duty) and films (Captain America).

I recently discovered my high school friend works for a steel company that provides parts for fighter jets, well within the military-industrial-congressional-complex.

I found it very difficult to morally object to my friend’s occupation, especially since jobs are hard to come by these days. But the fact of the matter is that he is directly involved with the aforementioned abuses.

In our society, the roots of this system run deep. Who do you know that is working for it?





Jean Michel
Hoffman



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Jean Michel is a film and theatre director, writer and artist based in New York City.
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Mark