Friday, September 09, 2011

'A blank cheque for America's war state'

Ceremonies that will mark Sunday’s 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks cannot disguise the fact that the dead have been cruelly misused to justify building a militarised, surveillance state that is a greater threat to Americans than Al-Qaeda will ever be.

The so-called war on terror long ago turned into a war on the American people in terms of their rights and liberties subsumed by a secret state apparatus that registers every cough and sneeze right across the nation.

As the writer Tom Engelhard, whose forthcoming book is aptly named the United States of Fear puts it, September 11 “turned out to be a blank check for the American war state, funding an endless trip to hell”.

In the decade since the attacks, America’s economy may have gone into steep decline – there are now 10 million out of work and a “national crisis” according to President Obama – but one area of spending has boomed and remains immune from any cuts.

Defence spending has doubled since 2001 to over $700 billion a year while “homeland security” employs over 300,000 people and accounts for up to another $300 billion, making it a cool trillion altogether.

Earlier this year, construction started on the National Security Agency’s first data centre, in the desert 25 miles from Salt Lake City. Another one is being built in San Antonio, Texas. The massive facility is designed to capture trillions of emails, web searches and commercial transactions intercepted by the agency.

The state was given extensive powers under the Patriot Act that was introduced by the Bush administration. Interpretation of the clauses allowing the FBI to compel banks, doctors and business to hand over information is remains classified information.

Ron Wyden, a Democrat member of the Senate intelligence committee, admitted that the public would be “shocked” if they knew what the government was able to gain access to. Obama recently extended the legislation until 2015, also continuing the policies of “rendition”, assassination by drones and keeping Guantanamo prison camp open.

A secret intelligence network is now reckoned to constitute a fourth arm of government, with over 1,200 government agencies and almost 2,000 private companies in more than 10,000 locations across the country. Its annual budget is an estimated $80 billion. There are an astonishing 845,000 people with top secret clearance.

Bush and his ultra supporters in the Project for a New American Century took their war state into Afghanistan and Iraq in the arrogant belief that they could remake these countries in their own image. A decade and hundreds of thousands of dead later, Afghanistan remains unconquered and Iraq leans towards Tehran rather than Washington. Project for a new American Nightmare more like it.

Add in the global financial and economic crisis that has left America reeling, and the Financial Times, in its assessment of 9/11 can write about the end of US hegemony, noting:

“Thanks to cheap labour costs, China exported deflation to the rest of the world. China financed the US current account deficit by recycling its own surplus into US Treasury bonds. Now, three years into the financial crisis, the world economy has been turned upside down. The US is diminished, Europe sidelined, and Asia, for now, in the ascendant.”

The revolutionary Arab Spring that has topped stooge regimes – without the help of Al Qaeda – has also helped to diminish the power of the American ruling elites. The only reachable target seems to be the American people themselves, being made to suffer the consequences of the capitalist economic and financial catastrophe.

With the government’s ability to revive growth equally diminished by political deadlock, the monster that is the US surveillance state will more and more be turned against those who resist in defence of their jobs, benefits and communities. Endless ceremonies to mark September 11 won’t cut the mustard. As Abraham Lincoln famously remarked: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."

Paul Feldman

Communications editor

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