Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Obama's 'terror' state under challenge

Journalist Chris Hedges is a passionate and principled man, and these attributes have brought him into a direct conflict with the Obama administration and the US state over the dubious “legality” of anti-terror laws. 

Hedges’ 15-year career as foreign correspondent for the New York Times ended in 2003 when he was reprimanded for opposing the unlawful invasion of Iraq.  In 2011 he took part in Occupy Wall Street, and was among those arrested.

In September last year, with others, he defeated the Obama government in court, challenging the administration’s new anti-terrorism legislation. Hedges argues that it restricts news reporting, protest and political organising in defence of controversial causes and could be used to indefinitely imprison journalists, activists and human rights workers. 

The appeal, which opens in court today coincides,  with the publication of a hitherto 16-page secret memo prepared by Obama’s Department of Justice that sets out to justify the president’s power to target even Americans for assassination by drone without due process.

Glenn Greenwald, noted writer on civil liberties and constitutional issues, commented: “The core distortion of the War on Terror under both Bush and Obama is the Orwellian practice of equating government accusations of terrorism with proof of guilt. One constantly hears US government defenders referring to ‘terrorists’ when what they actually mean is: those accused by the government of terrorism. This entire memo is grounded in this deceit.”

Hedges’ co-plaintiffs in the case include Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, linguistic philosopher and campaigner Noam Chomsky, Icelandic parliamentarian Birgitta Jónsdóttir, Jennifer Bolen, founder of the activist media group RevolutionTruth and Occupy London activist Kai Wargalla.

Hedges took his campaign to the People’s Recovery Summit in Brooklyn, on Saturday. The opening words of his extraordinarily stirring speech are about as direct and uncompromising as you can get: 
The corporate state has made it clear there will be no more Occupy encampments. The corporate state is seeking through the persistent harassment of activists and the passage of draconian laws such as Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defence Authorization Act…to shut down all legitimate dissent. The corporate state is counting, most importantly, on its system of debt peonage to keep citizens — especially the 30 million people who make up the working poor —from joining our revolt. 
Hedges has teamed up with political activist and former consumer champion Ralph Nader, launching a campaign to raise the minimum hourly wage in the US from its current $7.25 – the lowest amongst the rich Western countries. Nader is pushing for $10.50 – to bring the value back up to what it would buy in 1968.  Hedges is going further. He wants it to be $11.

He argues that the dominance of the economy by credit and debt has changed the character of class warfare. He believes that a mass movement to raise the minimum wage by 50% will be a challenge to the corporate state, discrediting it, even paralysing it. He says: 
This debt peonage must be broken if we are going to build a mass movement to paralyze systems of corporate power. And the most effective weapon we have to liberate ourselves as well as the 30 million Americans who make up the working poor is a sustained movement to raise the minimum wage nationally to at least $11 an hour. 
Hedges believes that the moment workers rise up and demand justice is the “moment the staggering inequality of wealth begins to be reversed”. Hedges is clear that the campaign for a minimum, let alone a living wage is inseparable from the conflict with the state.

But the bankrupt capitalist economy cannot and will not concede to even such minimal demands. Inequality is not going to be “reversed” by mass pressure, athough the Hedges-Nader campaign deserves everyone's support. Inequality is actually built into global capitalism in whichever country it operates. And if the state decides to use anti-terror laws to suppress dissent and protest it won’t hesitate to do so because it exists to defend the status quo. Never forget that.

Gerry Gold
Economics editor

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