Today, August 6th marks 70 years since the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and 50 years since the signing of the Voting Rights Act. Using the news of the past week, where are we in relation to these two historical events?
Japan was already defeated by the time of the bombing, such that historians critical of the common narrative argue that the bombing was a constitutive act of the U.S.’s being a Superpower. The cold war that followed has taken form in the Middle East, (though the US and Russia maintain massive stockpiles of doomsday weaponry) where power tensions were so taught that the U.S. came to the negotiating table with Iran because Israel had informed them they were about to strike due to the appearance of Iran finally taken steps to develop a bomb. However, U.S. intelligence reports indicate that those steps were taken to frighten the US to come to the table; there was no real interest in the building of nuclear weapons, only the lifting of economic sanctions that were crippling the Iranian economy. In the sense that the Iranians get what they want without having to give up anything of value to them, it’s a bad deal for the U.S., but the only damage to us is a bruise to our ego, as our loss of exerting influence through leveling of sanctions pales in comparison to the harm innocent persons in the lower classes suffered from sanctions on the Iranian economy.
Yet the U.S. is exerting its power in the region without nuclear weapons, using drone strikes to keep innocent persons living in a state of terror, with the independent journalism group Airwars reporting this week that at least 450 civilians have been killed in the drone strikes occurring over the last year against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria, despite official claims that only two innocents have been murdered. The official report is that two children have been mistakenly murdered; the truth is far more grotesque, with Airwars finding that at least 100 children have been murdered by U.S. drone strikes this past year. This disparity in reporting of the deaths of women and children is due to the U.S. having a policy of assuming that persons are combatants by default, and are only found to be innocents if so determined by an investigation after the bombing, such that, in not investigating the casualties of their bombings, and they don’t, everyone remains a combatant and the campaign is deemed a success.
The murder of innocents is in part due to the overreliance on faulty methods of surveillance, according to a report by Truth-Out published this week. The U.S. tracks persons using their cell phones, such that they monitor the movements of a sim card holder, and in a expanding web of assumed guilt, continue monitoring the sim card holders that were in close proximity to their initial sim card holder target. But those being tracked are aware that they are being monitored this way, and so give away their phones with regularity in order to throw trackers of the trail. The U.S. follows wrong trails and makes faulty conclusions about who is a combatant, resulting in bombings based in mistaken identities.
Back in the U.S. the government is past tracking citizens by cell phone, which they do, to moving to pass the Cybersecurity Information Security Act (CISA), which would provide them access to intimate details of people’s lives. The idea of the bill is that after a security breach of a company’s amassed collection of client consumer data, all of that data will be sent to the government to aid them in their investigation. That the bill does not invest in or force investment in cybersecurity but rather forces data collectors, ranging from Google and Facebook to Experian and Hitrust (profitable data brokers who collect loyalty card data and health care information, respectively) to give a copy of stolen data to an entity that cannot be trusted with personal data (see OMB’s breach, or consider that a private contractor, Snowden, made off with countless confidential documents on a flash-drive – warranted though that action was), reveals that CISA is not about protecting our private data but enacting an even broader surveillance state, and the effective unconstitutional search without warrant through our personal affairs, collected and catalogued, for unknown later purpose.
The Princeton philosopher Sheldon Wolin warns that foreign war apparatuses are always eventually turned inwards. Wide-scale surveillance was a clear and determinate first step, but we see the second act in Homan Square in Chicago, the equivalent of a CIA blacksite in our own land. The Guardian first reported of the existence of Homan Square in February, but published articles about the blacksite again this past week because nothing has changed about how the blacksite operates, despite condemnations by local activists, community members and lawyers. Rather than take a person to a precinct for booking and charging, Chicago police take men (an astounding 85% of persons taking to Homan square are black, when blacks only make up 33% of the population of Chicago) from all over the city to Homan Square before they are taken to precinct for booking later. During this time they are left handcuffed for hours without food or care and are frequently brutally interrogated – and this without being given access to legal counsel, a violation of the sixth amendment. Because they are not booked into the system at Homan Square they can be missing for many, many hours, and family and legal counsel will not be informed of their real location when they are being searched for – causing stress to families and again, denying persons legal counsel to create the conditions for self-incrimination, a potential violation of the fifth amendment.
Homan square is a mechanism of state terror wielded against the black community, but disproportionate harm to blacks just is American policy. The voter restrictions enacted across the country in recent years, before and since the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act with its decision in Shelby County vs. Holder, have been an attempt by the Republican party to stifle the voting power of a demographic that consistently votes democrat, but also a cruel attempt to take autonomy away from black communities in an effort to do them genuinely intended harm. We cannot allow ourselves to see this merely as politics and as an attempt to control the vote to maintain power – it is so much more than that, it is racist disregard and hatred of black people, and any person who voted in favor of passage of these disgusting voter restriction bills should be removed from office.
But democrats who do nothing more for the black community must also be removed from office. Fighting against voter disenfranchisement is not enough. Voting rights are but one part of black life that the forces of white supremacy are attacking relentlessly through corporate and state power. For too long democrats have thought they have earned the black vote merely by taking modest steps to defend the act of voting – but this is to only represent those black interests that benefit them, and going no farther than this amounts to an equal disregard of black life. On this 50th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act we must acknowledge that voting is a right owed us as autonomous beings, and it is not an end good in itself, but a means to autonomy in our lives, by effecting our environment and social conditions. However, if we have the means to vote, but our representatives ignore us due to their being bought by trans-national corporations, and they are, then we have diminished autonomy over our lives. This is where we find ourselves today.