Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, George Orwell and our “Greatest National Security Threat”

Asked what the greatest national security threat facing the United States is, Hillary Clinton gestured to nuclear weapons, implicating Iran, perhaps Pakistan (though the U.S. is quite cozy with Pakistan, with Obama set to sell eight F-16s to them shortly, despite their enabling and funding the Taliban), Martin O’Malley named nuclear Iran and climate change, and Bernie Sanders answered with just “the global crisis of climate change”. The democratic nominees thus exhibit a spectrum of militarism, with even the least militaristic candidate per this scale, Sanders, still quite militaristic, supporting as he does, Obama’s drone war, which is shown to be even more problematic than previously thought through recently leaked documents published and analyzed by the Intercept. (In an internal review that was leaked, it was found that over the review period a full 90% of persons killed through the “targeted strike” drone program were not the intended target, and that while Obama claimed in public remarks that there had to be “near certainty” of no collateral damage, internal documents setting policy dictated no such requirement). Still, Sander’s emphasis of the threat of climate change is to be commended, as he is correct that it poses a more certain threat than Iran, which frankly poses no real threat to us. The coextension of militarism and fossil fuel fundamentalism in the protection of oil fields and supermajor interests and consumption of oil for militarist adventurism reveals why Clinton would not name climate change as a threat. The principal “accomplishments” of the Clinton state department were Mexico’s privatization of oil fields in the Gulf for the entry of US supermajors and the selling of the idea of fracking to the Canadians and Eastern Europeans, in both moves effectively spreading the grasp and influence of the supermajors, increasing their profits, and quickening the destruction of the planet. Little surprise then that Clinton’s top state department advisors went on to be consultants for the fossil fuel industry.

Little surprise that Clinton is not (and Sanders is) calling for an investigation of ExxonMobil after allegations published in the LA Times and Pulitzer Prize winning InsideClimateNews.org show that Exxon funded climate scientists have known since at least the 1970s, and shared reports with executives, that the burning of fossil fuels contributes to climate change, while advising how to profit from climate change (by drilling in the Arctic, which Obama first allowed and then recently disallowed after Shell withdrew saying the reserves were not profitable enough to warrant the operation), and while Exxon publicly denied the reality of climate change. In knowing the truth that their profits conflicted with the public good of decreasing consumption of fossil fuels, and yet actively working to discredit the findings of other climate scientists that found a connection between burning fossil fuels and global climate change, Exxon may have doomed us all. This is an outrage. Instead of coming up with profitable alternatives and pioneering the conversation since the 70s, Exxon has contributed to the climate change denial momentum that has still hardly let up, at a time when climate scientists have warned that we have reached the point of no return and that climate change is accelerating, exacerbating violent weather patterns and causing draughts that are leading to mass migrations.

With a Clinton presidency we will not see a legitimate investigation of Exxon, her fossil fuel brethren, just as under Obama we did not see prosecutions of those responsible for the 2007 crisis, and we will not see legitimate and independent investigations of the atrocious attack on the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz. For an “independent” investigation General Campbell has appointed another American general to conduct the investigation, as if the U.S. military investigating itself from another chain of command is an independent investigation – we already know what conclusions they will draw given that early “reports” released this week suggest that the errors might have arisen from the Afghani forces, the US forces on the ground, and the air command not having worked together in the past, as if these forces are not trained precisely to be able to jump into situations with forces with whom they haven’t operated previously.

We will not see an investigation into Homan Square, the Chicago police department’s equivalent of a CIA blacksite, where thousands of black men are ‘disappeared’ and brutally interrogated without access to a lawyer in violation of their constitutional rights, and which has seen increased use under Mayor Rahn Emanuel, Obama’s former Chief of Staff, who thus, seems above the law. Richard Boykin, who represents the district in which Homan Square is located, pointedly wondered in comments with the Guardian, saying, “I don’t know if they [Department of Justice] are protecting the mayor, who used to be the chief of staff to the president, or they don’t want to be embarrassed by Homan Square, which happens to be [in] the president’s hometown.” It becomes clear that Obama is not opposed to the brutal tactics employed at Guantanamo Bay and other US torture facilities, he is merely opposed to them not being in the continental United States. The reports of sodomy at Homan Square suggest that Guantanamo detainees might be transferred to Homan and receive similar sorts of torture, in line with the forced rectal and nasal feedings at Guantanamo. Of course, while Shaker Aamer, (who was approved for release in 2007 but is hopefully to be finally released tomorrow) has noted that he had to have his genitals groped in order to be allowed to make a phone call, a humiliation that obviously serves no purpose, detainees at Homan Square aren’t allowed any phone calls, so one can feel positive about the lack of rape occurring in this capacity in Homan Square, though at the cost of not being able to tell family or inform legal counsel that one is being housed in a secret police torture dungeon. As such, it is deeply deceiving for Garry McCarthy, Chicago’s police chief, to trumpet himself as a progressive reformer of the legal system in joining up with and leading the 130 police chiefs, prosecutors and sheriffs calling for sentencing reform, when he’s overseeing an interrogation site used to terrorize the majority black community in which it resides. Sentencing reform is an absolute must, the use of what Loic Wacquant calls prisonfare contra welfare as a solution to the problems of decaying inner cities that have been gutted of manufacturing jobs sent to trade partners with deplorable wages and working conditions for the benefit of increased corporate profits is an outrage and shocks the conscience. But the proposals from law enforcement officials and politicians amount to just giving more money to police departments in emphasizing increased community policing and the broken windows approach that NYPD’s Bratton so fully committed to, and Martin O’Malley as Mayor of Baltimore so deeply embraced. The discontent in Baltimore after the murder of Freddie Gray reveals the failure of this policy and yet this is what these law enforcement officials are pushing for. They want less prison time but more money for them to run unconstitutional detention centers like Homan Square. Considering also that “police departments and district attorneys have a great deal of discretion when it comes to making arrests and filing charges for minor crimes”, such that individual departments could act to decrease rates of arrest and incarceration on their own, and they have not, these actions come more as a public relations move when police departments are facing necessary scrutiny for the rate at which they murder young black men, while hiding their role in the process of hyper incarceration. While the federal government does not track the number of persons killed each year by the police, the Guardian is counting, and finds that at least 928 people have been killed so far this calendar year. That is nine hundred and twenty eight people killed in roughly three hundred days.

While the U.S. government does not adequately investigate ExxonMobil, the MSF/Kunduz massacre, Homan Square, or how many people police murder, they do seem to be investigating us quite unceasingly. With Washington abuzz of who is running for what (Biden or McCarthy or Ryan) Congress is trying to jam through a new mass surveillance bill, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA). Seeing the opportunity presented by anxious consumers constantly having their credit cards compromised at stores and their data collected by retailers and other businesses hacked, Congress proposed a law that would do nothing to solve those problems but would allow businesses to not be held legally responsible for not adequately protecting all the data they amass on us if they share it with the Department of Homeland Security, who is obligated to share it with other law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and the NSA. When DHS comes out against the bill because they do not trust themselves with that data and think it would not be useful to collect it, and the law stipulates that Freedom of Information Act requests cannot be used to discover how data is shared in the government once provided, and whom with, it becomes clear that this is another surveillance bill for the NSA to know everything it can about everyone it can know something about. The “I’ve got nothing to hide” rationalization for having zero privacy just by having a cell phone is not rational. A principal argument in Orwell’s 1984 is that mass surveillance in itself is a method of thought control. Of course, another principal argument of 1984 is that a militaristic obsession with the national security threat posed by foreign nations and their mega-weapons is a method of thought control that creates a psychological reliance on the idea of the use of force by the state as protection against foreign and domestic threats, and draws attention away from the oligarchic cabal that mercilessly rules society as a power elite that disappears people to interrogation chambers to be released as forever changed obedient subjects.

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