| 16 Sep 2008 @ 10:25, by Alana Tobin|
GIVE ME LIBERTY IS A SEQUEL TO PREVIOUS BOOK BELOW.
Interview with Naomi Wolf author of "Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries" given October 4, 2008 on Mind Over Matters, KEXP 90.3 FM Seattle.
Interview - Naomi Wolf - Give Me Liberty
Video 29:52 Minutes
THE END OF AMERICA - A MUST SEE AND A MUST READ!!!
It is critical for citizens in America to do something NOW!!!!
This University Series is a MUST SEE: Includes additional essential viewing clips.
Interview with Naomi Wolf author of "The End of America:
Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot.
SEE UPDATE FROM NAOMI ABOUT ARMY DEPLOYMENT
Naomi Wolf; The End of America: Tipping Point, Now! Pt1 1-12 videos
American Freedom Campaign
When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent; I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out; I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews, I remained silent; I wasn't a Jew.
When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.
UPDATE TO THIS BLOG:
The following is the introduction to Naomi Wolf's new book, GIVE ME LIBERTY: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries.
The summer before last, I traveled across the country talking about threats to our liberty. I spoke and listened to groups of Americans from all walks of life. They told me new and always harsher stories of state coercion.
What I had called a "fascist shift" in the United States, projections I had warned about as worst-case scenarios, was now surpassing my imagination: in 2008, thousands of terrified, shackled illegal immigrants were rounded up in the mass arrests which always characterize a closing society; news emerged that the 9/11 report had been based on evidence derived from the testimonies of prisoners who had been tortured -- and the tapes that documented their torture were missing -- leading the commissioners of the report publicly to disavow their own findings; the Associated Press reported that the torture of prisoners in U.S.-held facilities had not been the work of "a few bad apples" but had been directed out of the White House; the TSA "watch list," which had contained 45,000 names when I wrote my last book, ballooned to 755,000 names and 20,000 were being added every month; Scott McClellan confirmed that the drive to war in Iraq had been based on administration lies; HR 1955, legislation that would criminalize certain kinds of political thought and speech, passed the House and made it to the Senate; Blackwater, a violent paramilitary force not answerable to the people, established presences in Illinois and North Carolina and sought to get into border patrol activity in San Diego.
The White House has established, no matter who leads the nation in the future, U.S. government spying on the emails and phone calls of Americans -- a permanent violation of the Constitution's Fourth Amendment. The last step of the ten steps to a closed society is the subversion of the rule of law. That is happening now. What critics have called a "paper coup" has already taken place.
Yes, the situation is dire. But history shows that when an army of citizens, supported by even a vestige of civil society, believes in liberty -- in the psychological space that is "America" -- no power on earth can ultimately suppress them.
Dissident Natan Sharansky writes that there are two kinds of states -- "fear societies" and "free societies." Understood in this light, "America" -- the state of freedom that is under attack -- is first of all a place in the mind. That is what we must regain now to fight back.
The two societies make up two kinds of consciousness. The consciousness derived of oppression is despairing, fatalistic, and fearful of inquiry. It is mistrustful of the self and forced to trust external authority. It is premised on a dearth of self-respect. It is cramped. People around the world understand that this kind of inner experience is as toxic an environment as is a polluted waterway they are forced to drink from; it is as insufficient a space as being compelled to sleep in a one-room hut with seven other bodies on the floor.
In contrast, the consciousness of freedom -- the psychology of freedom that is "America" -- is one of expansiveness, trust of the self, and hope. It is a consciousness of limitless inquiry. "Everything," wrote Denis Diderot, who influenced, via Thomas Jefferson, the Revolutionary generation, "must be examined, everything must be shaken up, without exception and without circumspection." Jefferson wrote that American universities are "based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it." Since this state of mind is self-trusting, it builds up in a citizen a wealth of self-respect. "Your own reason," wrote Jefferson to his nephew, "is the only oracle given you by heaven, and you are answerable not for the rightness but the uprightness of the decision."
After my cross-country journey, I realized that I needed to go back and read about the original Revolutionaries of our nation. I realized in a new way from them that liberty is not a set of laws or a system of government; it is not a nation or a species of patriotism. Liberty is a state of mind before it is anything else. You can have a nation of wealth and power, but without this state of mind -- this psychological "America" -- you are living in a deadening consciousness; with this state of mind, you can be in a darkened cell waiting for your torturer to arrive and yet inhabit a chainless space as wide as the sky.
"America," too, is a state of mind. "Being an American" is a set of attitudes and actions, not a nationality or a posture of reflexive loyalty. This tribe of true "Americans" consists of people who have crossed a personal Rubicon of a specific kind and can no longer be satisfied with anything less than absolute liberty.
This state of mind, I learned, has no national boundaries. The Tibetans, who, as I write this, are marching in the face of Chinese soldiers, are acting like members of this tribe; so did the Pakistani lawyers who recently faced down house arrest and tear gas in their suits and judicial robes. Nathan Hale, Patrick Henry, and Ida B. Wells, who risked their lives for liberty, acted like "Americans." When the crusading journalist Anna Politkovskaya insisted on reporting on war crimes in Chechnya, even though her informing her fellow citizens led -- as she knew it well could -- to her being gunned down on her doorstep as she went home to her fourteen-year-old daughter, she was acting like an American. When three JAG lawyers refused to sell out their detainee clients, they were being "Americans." When Vietnam vet David Antoon risked his career to speak out in favor of the Constitution's separation of church and state, he was being an "American." When journalist Josh Wolf went to jail rather than reveal a source, he was being an "American" too. Always, everywhere, the members of this tribe are fundamentally the same, in spite of the great deal that may divide them in terms of clothing and religion, language and culture. But when we quietly go about our business as our rights are plundered, when we yield to passivity and switch on the Wii and hand over our power to a leadership class that has no interest in our voice, we are not acting like true Americans. Indeed, at those moments we are essentially giving up our citizenship.
The notion that "American-ness" is a state of mind -- a rigorous psychodynamic process or a continued personal challenge, rather than a static point on a map or an impressive display in a Fourth of July parade -- is not new. But we are so used to being raised on a rhetoric of cheap patriotism -- the kind that you get to tune in to in a feel-good way just because you were lucky enough to have been born here and can then pretty much forget about -- that this definition seems positively exotic. The founders understood "American-ness" in this way, though, not at all in our way.
And today, I learned as I traveled, we are very far from experiencing this connection to our source. Many of us feel ourselves clouded within, cramped, baffled obscurely from without, not in alignment with the electric source that is liberty. So it is easy for us to rationalize always further and more aggressive cramping and clouding; is the government spying on us? Well...Okay...So now the telecommunications companies are asking for retroactive immunity for their spying on us? Well...Okay...Once a certain threshold of passivity has been crossed, it becomes easier and easier, as Benjamin Franklin warned, to trade liberty for a false security -- and deserve neither.
What struck me on my journey was how powerless so many Americans felt to make change. Many citizens I heard from felt more hopeless than did citizens of some of the poorest and youngest democracies on the planet. Others were angrier than ever and were speaking up and acting up with fervor. I felt that all of us -- the hopeless and the hopeful -- needed to reconnect to our mentors, the founders, and to remind ourselves of the blueprint for freedom they meant us to inherit. I wrote this handbook with the faith that if Americans take personal ownership of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, they can push back any darkness. The first two sections of this refresher guide to our liberties recall what America is supposed to be; the last third is a practical how-to for citizen leadership for a new American Revolution.
There are concrete laws we must pass to restore liberty and actions we must take to safeguard it. You will find them in the last third of this handbook. But more crucial than any list of laws or actions is our own need to rediscover our role as American revolutionaries and to reclaim the "America" in ourselves -- in our consciousness as free men and women.
Do we have the right to see ourselves this way? Absolutely. Many histories of our nation's founding focus on a small group, "a band of brothers" or "the Founding Fathers" -- the handful of illustrious men whose names we all know. This tight focus tends to reinforce the idea that we are the lucky recipients of the American gift of liberty and of the republic, not ourselves its stewards, crafters, and defenders. It prepares us to think of ourselves as the led, not as the leaders.
But historians are also now documenting the stories of how in the pre-Revolutionary years, ordinary people -- farmers, free and enslaved Africans, washer-women, butchers, printers, apprentices, carpenters, penniless soldiers, artisans, wheelwrights, teachers, indentured servants -- were rising up against the king's representatives, debating the nature of liberty, fighting the war and following the warriors to support them, insisting on expanding the franchise, demanding the right to vote, compelling the more aristocratic leaders of the community to include them in deliberations about the nature of the state constitutions, and requiring transparency and accountability in the legislative process. Even enslaved Africans, those Americans most silenced by history, were not only debating in their own communities the implications or the ideas of God-given liberty that the white colonists were debating; they were also taking up arms against George III's men in hopes that the new republic would emancipate them. Some were petitioning state legislatures for their freedom; and others were even successfully bringing lawsuits against their owners, arguing in court for their inalienable rights as human beings. This is the revolutionary spirit that we must claim again for ourselves -- fast -- if we are to save the country.
When Abraham Lincoln said that our nation was "conceived in Liberty" he was not simply phrasemaking; our nation was literally "conceived" by Enlightenment ideas that were becoming more and more current, waking up greater and greater numbers of ordinary people, and finally bearing on our own founders, known and unknown, with ever-stronger pressure.
Key Enlightenment beliefs of the colonial era are these: human beings are perfectible; the right structures of society, at the heart of which is a representational government whose power derives from the consent of the governed, facilitate this continual evolution; reason is the means by which ordinary people can successfully rule themselves and attain liberty; the right to liberty is universal, God given, and part of a natural cosmic order, or "natural law"; as more and more people around the world claim their God-given right to liberty, tyranny and oppression will be pushed aside. It is worth reminding ourselves of these founding ideas at a time when they are under sustained attack.
The core ideals, the essence, of what the founders imperfectly glimpsed, are perfect. I am often asked how I can so champion the writing and accomplishments of the better-known founders. Most of them were, of course, propertied, white, and male. Critics on the left often point out their flaws in relation to the very ideals they put forward. John Adams was never comfortable with true citizen democracy. "Jefferson's writings about race reveal that he saw Africans as innately deficient in humanity and culture." When a male slave escaped from Benjamin Franklin in England, Franklin sold him back into slavery.
But the essence of the idea of liberty and equality that they codified -- an idea that was being debated and developed by men and women, black and white, of all classes in the pre-Revolutionary generation -- went further than such an idea had ever gone before. It is humanity's most radical blueprint for transformation.
More important, the idea itself carries within it the moral power to correct the contradictions in its execution that were obvious from the very birth of the new nation. An enslaved woman, Mum Bett, who became a housekeeper for the Sedgwick family of Massachussetts, successfully sued for her own emancipation using the language of the Declaration of Independence; decades later a slave, Dred Scott, argued that he was "entitled to his freedom" as a citizen and a resident of a free state. The first suffragists at the Seneca Falls Convention, intent on securing equal rights for women, used the framework of the Declaration of Independence to advance their cause. New democracies in developing nations around the world draw on our founding documents and government structure to ground their own hopes for freedom. The human beings at the helm of the new nation, whatever their limitations, were truly revolutionary. The theory of liberty born in that era, the seed of the idea, was, as I say, perfect. We should not look to other revolutions to inspire us; nothing is more transformative than our own revolution. We must neither oversentimentalize it, as the right tends to do, nor disdain it, as the left tends to do; rather we must reclaim it.
The stories I read and reread of the "spirit of 1776" led me with new faith to these conclusions: We are not to wait for others to lead. You and I are meant to take back the founders' mandate, and you and I are meant to lead. You and I must protest, you and I must confront our representatives, you and I must run for office, you and I must write the opeds, you and I must take over the battle. The founders -- the unknown as well as the well-known Americans who "conceived" the nation in liberty -- did not intend for us to delegate worrying about the Constitution to a cadre of constitutional scholars, or to leave debate to a class of professional pundits, or to leave the job of fighting for liberty to a caste of politicians. They meant for us to defend the Constitution, for us to debate the issues of the day, and for us to rise up against tyranny: the American who delivers the mail; the American who teaches our children; ordinary people.
In my reading, I went back as if to contact our mentors. I looked for practical advice and moral support from those who had stood up for the ideal.We need a strategy for a new American uprising against those who would suppress our rights; we need what Lincoln would have called "a new birth of freedom." As readers of Tom Paine's Common Sense had to realize, we are not declaring war on an oppressor -- rather, we have to realize that the war has already, quietly, systemically, been declared against us.
Today we have most of our rights still codified on paper -- but these documents are indeed "only paper" if we no longer experience them viscerally, if their violation no longer infuriates us. We can be citizens of a republic; we can have a Constitution and a Congress; but if we, the people, have fallen asleep to the meaning of the Constitution and to the radical implications of representative and direct democracy, then we aren't really Americans anymore.
So we must listen to the original revolutionaries and to current ones as well, and explain their ideas clearly to new generations. To hear the voices of the original vision and the voices of those modern heroes, here in the U.S. and around the world, who are true heirs to the American Revolution is to feel your wishes change. "[Freedom] liberated us the day we stopped living in a world where 'truth' and 'falsehood' were, like everything else, the property of the State. And for the most part, this liberation did not stop when we were sentenced to prison," wrote Sharansky. "I was not born to be forced," wrote Henry David Thoreau. "I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest...they only can force me to obey a higher law than I." You want to stay in that room where these revolutionaries are conversing in this electrifying way among themselves. It feels painful but ultimately cleansing and energizing. You want to be more like them; then you realize that maybe you can be -- then finally you realize that you already are.
Our "America," our Constitution, our dream, when properly felt within us, does more than "defend freedom." It clears space to build the society that allows for the highest possible development of who we ourselves personally were meant to be.
We have to rise up in self-defense and legitimate rebellion. We need more drastic action than e-mails to Congress.
We need the next revolution.
"Naomi Wolf's End of America is a vivid, urgent, mandatory wake up call that addresses momentous issues of tyranny, democracy, survival: Who are we now? How did it come to this? Government by decree, torture by decree, secret prisons, disappeared prisoners. Others before us have lived in a rule-by-one, no checks and balances, security-imprisonment state that ended habeas corpus, due process of law, the right to know and access to information. But this is America! What about voting rights? Will there ever again be a paper trail? Can democracy be restored? For enlightenment and hope, we would all do well to carry about and give to all our allies Naomi Wolfs profound and urgent essay. It is the book we need to carry with us as we regroup and rally for the return of justice and political sanity."
—Blanche Wiesen Cook, author of the three-volume Eleanor Roosevelt and distinguished professor at John Jay College
New York Times Bestseller!
In a stunning indictment of the Bush administration and Congress, best-selling author Naomi Wolf lays out her case for saving American democracy. In authoritative research and documentation Wolf explains how events of the last six years parallel steps taken in the early years of the 20th century’s worst dictatorships such as Germany, Russia, China, and Chile.
The book cuts across political parties and ideologies and speaks directly to those among us who are concerned about the ever-tightening noose being placed around our liberties.
In this timely call to arms, Naomi Wolf compels us to face the way our free America is under assault. She warns us–with the straight-to-fellow-citizens urgency of one of Thomas Paine’s revolutionary pamphlets–that we have little time to lose if our children are to live in real freedom.
“Recent history has profound lessons for us in the U.S. today about how fascist, totalitarian, and other repressive leaders seize and maintain power, especially in what were once democracies. The secret is that these leaders all tend to take very similar, parallel steps. The Founders of this nation were so deeply familiar with tyranny and the habits and practices of tyrants that they set up our checks and balances precisely out of fear of what is unfolding today. We are seeing these same kinds of tactics now closing down freedoms in America, turning our nation into something that in the near future could be quite other than the open society in which we grew up and learned to love liberty,” states Wolf.
Wolf is taking her message directly to the American people in the most accessible form and as part of a large national campaign to reach out to ordinary Americans about the dangers we face today. This includes a lecture and speaking tour, and being part of the nascent American Freedom Campaign, a grassroots effort to ensure that presidential candidates pledge to uphold the constitution and protect our liberties from further erosion.
The End of America will shock, enrage, and motivate–spurring us to act, as the Founders would have counted on us to do in a time such as this, as rebels and patriots–to save our liberty and defend our nation.
[b]Ten Steps To Close Down an Open Society[/b]
Posted April 24, 2007 | 12:07 PM (EST)
Breaking Home News
Last autumn, there was a military coup in Thailand. The leaders of the coup took a number of steps, rather systematically, as if they had a shopping list. In a sense, they did. Within a matter of days, democracy had been closed down: the coup leaders declared martial law, sent armed soldiers into residential areas, took over radio and TV stations, issued restrictions on the press, tightened some limits on travel, and took certain activists into custody.
They were not figuring these things out as they went along. If you look at history, you can see that there is essentially a blueprint for turning an open society into a dictatorship. That blueprint has been used again and again in more and less bloody, more and less terrifying ways. But it is always effective. It is very difficult and arduous to create and sustain a democracy - but history shows that closing one down is much simpler. You simply have to be willing to take the 10 steps.
As difficult as this is to contemplate, it is clear, if you are willing to look, that each of these 10 steps has already been initiated today in the United States by the Bush administration.
Because Americans like me were born in freedom, we have a hard time even considering that it is possible for us to become as unfree - domestically - as many other nations. Because we no longer learn much about our rights or our system of government - the task of being aware of the constitution has been outsourced from citizens' ownership to being the domain of professionals such as lawyers and professors - we scarcely recognise the checks and balances that the founders put in place, even as they are being systematically dismantled. Because we don't learn much about European history, the setting up of a department of "homeland" security - remember who else was keen on the word "homeland" - didn't raise the alarm bells it might have.
It is my argument that, beneath our very noses, George Bush and his administration are using time-tested tactics to close down an open society. It is time for us to be willing to think the unthinkable - as the author and political journalist Joe Conason, has put it, that it can happen here. And that we are further along than we realise.
Conason eloquently warned of the danger of American authoritarianism. I am arguing that we need also to look at the lessons of European and other kinds of fascism to understand the potential seriousness of the events we see unfolding in the US.
1 Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
After we were hit on September 11 2001, we were in a state of national shock. Less than six weeks later, on October 26 2001, the USA Patriot Act was passed by a Congress that had little chance to debate it; many said that they scarcely had time to read it. We were told we were now on a "war footing"; we were in a "global war" against a "global caliphate" intending to "wipe out civilisation". There have been other times of crisis in which the US accepted limits on civil liberties, such as during the civil war, when Lincoln declared martial law, and the second world war, when thousands of Japanese-American citizens were interned. But this situation, as Bruce Fein of the American Freedom Agenda has noted, is unprecedented: all our other wars had an endpoint, so the pendulum was able to swing back toward freedom; this war is defined as open-ended in time and without national boundaries in space - the globe itself is the battlefield. "This time," Fein says, "there will be no defined end."
Creating a terrifying threat - hydra-like, secretive, evil - is an old trick. It can, like Hitler's invocation of a communist threat to the nation's security, be based on actual events (one Wisconsin academic has faced calls for his dismissal because he noted, among other things, that the alleged communist arson, the Reichstag fire of February 1933, was swiftly followed in Nazi Germany by passage of the Enabling Act, which replaced constitutional law with an open-ended state of emergency). Or the terrifying threat can be based, like the National Socialist evocation of the "global conspiracy of world Jewry", on myth.
It is not that global Islamist terrorism is not a severe danger; of course it is. I am arguing rather that the language used to convey the nature of the threat is different in a country such as Spain - which has also suffered violent terrorist attacks - than it is in America. Spanish citizens know that they face a grave security threat; what we as American citizens believe is that we are potentially threatened with the end of civilisation as we know it. Of course, this makes us more willing to accept restrictions on our freedoms.
2 Create a gulag
Once you have got everyone scared, the next step is to create a prison system outside the rule of law (as Bush put it, he wanted the American detention centre at Guantánamo Bay to be situated in legal "outer space") - where torture takes place.
At first, the people who are sent there are seen by citizens as outsiders: troublemakers, spies, "enemies of the people" or "criminals". Initially, citizens tend to support the secret prison system; it makes them feel safer and they do not identify with the prisoners. But soon enough, civil society leaders - opposition members, labour activists, clergy and journalists - are arrested and sent there as well.
This process took place in fascist shifts or anti-democracy crackdowns ranging from Italy and Germany in the 1920s and 1930s to the Latin American coups of the 1970s and beyond. It is standard practice for closing down an open society or crushing a pro-democracy uprising.
With its jails in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, of course, Guantánamo in Cuba, where detainees are abused, and kept indefinitely without trial and without access to the due process of the law, America certainly has its gulag now. Bush and his allies in Congress recently announced they would issue no information about the secret CIA "black site" prisons throughout the world, which are used to incarcerate people who have been seized off the street.
Gulags in history tend to metastasise, becoming ever larger and more secretive, ever more deadly and formalised. We know from first-hand accounts, photographs, videos and government documents that people, innocent and guilty, have been tortured in the US-run prisons we are aware of and those we can't investigate adequately.
But Americans still assume this system and detainee abuses involve only scary brown people with whom they don't generally identify. It was brave of the conservative pundit William Safire to quote the anti-Nazi pastor Martin Niemöller, who had been seized as a political prisoner: "First they came for the Jews." Most Americans don't understand yet that the destruction of the rule of law at Guantánamo set a dangerous precedent for them, too.
By the way, the establishment of military tribunals that deny prisoners due process tends to come early on in a fascist shift. Mussolini and Stalin set up such tribunals. On April 24 1934, the Nazis, too, set up the People's Court, which also bypassed the judicial system: prisoners were held indefinitely, often in isolation, and tortured, without being charged with offences, and were subjected to show trials. Eventually, the Special Courts became a parallel system that put pressure on the regular courts to abandon the rule of law in favour of Nazi ideology when making decisions.
3 Develop a thug caste
When leaders who seek what I call a "fascist shift" want to close down an open society, they send paramilitary groups of scary young men out to terrorise citizens. The Blackshirts roamed the Italian countryside beating up communists; the Brownshirts staged violent rallies throughout Germany. This paramilitary force is especially important in a democracy: you need citizens to fear thug violence and so you need thugs who are free from prosecution.
The years following 9/11 have proved a bonanza for America's security contractors, with the Bush administration outsourcing areas of work that traditionally fell to the US military. In the process, contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars have been issued for security work by mercenaries at home and abroad. In Iraq, some of these contract operatives have been accused of involvement in torturing prisoners, harassing journalists and firing on Iraqi civilians. Under Order 17, issued to regulate contractors in Iraq by the one-time US administrator in Baghdad, Paul Bremer, these contractors are immune from prosecution
Yes, but that is in Iraq, you could argue; however, after Hurricane Katrina, the Department of Homeland Security hired and deployed hundreds of armed private security guards in New Orleans. The investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill interviewed one unnamed guard who reported having fired on unarmed civilians in the city. It was a natural disaster that underlay that episode - but the administration's endless war on terror means ongoing scope for what are in effect privately contracted armies to take on crisis and emergency management at home in US cities.
Thugs in America? Groups of angry young Republican men, dressed in identical shirts and trousers, menaced poll workers counting the votes in Florida in 2000. If you are reading history, you can imagine that there can be a need for "public order" on the next election day. Say there are protests, or a threat, on the day of an election; history would not rule out the presence of a private security firm at a polling station "to restore public order".
4 Set up an internal surveillance system
In Mussolini's Italy, in Nazi Germany, in communist East Germany, in communist China - in every closed society - secret police spy on ordinary people and encourage neighbours to spy on neighbours. The Stasi needed to keep only a minority of East Germans under surveillance to convince a majority that they themselves were being watched.
In 2005 and 2006, when James Risen and Eric Lichtblau wrote in the New York Times about a secret state programme to wiretap citizens' phones, read their emails and follow international financial transactions, it became clear to ordinary Americans that they, too, could be under state scrutiny.
In closed societies, this surveillance is cast as being about "national security"; the true function is to keep citizens docile and inhibit their activism and dissent.
5 Harass citizens' groups
The fifth thing you do is related to step four - you infiltrate and harass citizens' groups. It can be trivial: a church in Pasadena, whose minister preached that Jesus was in favour of peace, found itself being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, while churches that got Republicans out to vote, which is equally illegal under US tax law, have been left alone.
Other harassment is more serious: the American Civil Liberties Union reports that thousands of ordinary American anti-war, environmental and other groups have been infiltrated by agents: a secret Pentagon database includes more than four dozen peaceful anti-war meetings, rallies or marches by American citizens in its category of 1,500 "suspicious incidents". The equally secret Counterintelligence Field Activity (Cifa) agency of the Department of Defense has been gathering information about domestic organisations engaged in peaceful political activities: Cifa is supposed to track "potential terrorist threats" as it watches ordinary US citizen activists. A little-noticed new law has redefined activism such as animal rights protests as "terrorism". So the definition of "terrorist" slowly expands to include the opposition.
6 Engage in arbitrary detention and release
This scares people. It is a kind of cat-and-mouse game. Nicholas D Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, the investigative reporters who wrote China Wakes: the Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power, describe pro-democracy activists in China, such as Wei Jingsheng, being arrested and released many times. In a closing or closed society there is a "list" of dissidents and opposition leaders: you are targeted in this way once you are on the list, and it is hard to get off the list.
In 2004, America's Transportation Security Administration confirmed that it had a list of passengers who were targeted for security searches or worse if they tried to fly. People who have found themselves on the list? Two middle-aged women peace activists in San Francisco; liberal Senator Edward Kennedy; a member of Venezuela's government - after Venezuela's president had criticised Bush; and thousands of ordinary US citizens.
Professor Walter F Murphy is emeritus of Princeton University; he is one of the foremost constitutional scholars in the nation and author of the classic Constitutional Democracy. Murphy is also a decorated former marine, and he is not even especially politically liberal. But on March 1 this year, he was denied a boarding pass at Newark, "because I was on the Terrorist Watch list".
"Have you been in any peace marches? We ban a lot of people from flying because of that," asked the airline employee.
"I explained," said Murphy, "that I had not so marched but had, in September 2006, given a lecture at Princeton, televised and put on the web, highly critical of George Bush for his many violations of the constitution."
"That'll do it," the man said.
Anti-war marcher? Potential terrorist. Support the constitution? Potential terrorist. History shows that the categories of "enemy of the people" tend to expand ever deeper into civil life.
James Yee, a US citizen, was the Muslim chaplain at Guantánamo who was accused of mishandling classified documents. He was harassed by the US military before the charges against him were dropped. Yee has been detained and released several times. He is still of interest.
Brandon Mayfield, a US citizen and lawyer in Oregon, was mistakenly identified as a possible terrorist. His house was secretly broken into and his computer seized. Though he is innocent of the accusation against him, he is still on the list.
It is a standard practice of fascist societies that once you are on the list, you can't get off.
7 Target key individuals
Threaten civil servants, artists and academics with job loss if they don't toe the line. Mussolini went after the rectors of state universities who did not conform to the fascist line; so did Joseph Goebbels, who purged academics who were not pro-Nazi; so did Chile's Augusto Pinochet; so does the Chinese communist Politburo in punishing pro-democracy students and professors.
Academe is a tinderbox of activism, so those seeking a fascist shift punish academics and students with professional loss if they do not "coordinate", in Goebbels' term, ideologically. Since civil servants are the sector of society most vulnerable to being fired by a given regime, they are also a group that fascists typically "coordinate" early on: the Reich Law for the Re-establishment of a Professional Civil Service was passed on April 7 1933.
Bush supporters in state legislatures in several states put pressure on regents at state universities to penalise or fire academics who have been critical of the administration. As for civil servants, the Bush administration has derailed the career of one military lawyer who spoke up for fair trials for detainees, while an administration official publicly intimidated the law firms that represent detainees pro bono by threatening to call for their major corporate clients to boycott them.
Elsewhere, a CIA contract worker who said in a closed blog that "waterboarding is torture" was stripped of the security clearance she needed in order to do her job.
Most recently, the administration purged eight US attorneys for what looks like insufficient political loyalty. When Goebbels purged the civil service in April 1933, attorneys were "coordinated" too, a step that eased the way of the increasingly brutal laws to follow.
8 Control the press
Italy in the 1920s, Germany in the 30s, East Germany in the 50s, Czechoslovakia in the 60s, the Latin American dictatorships in the 70s, China in the 80s and 90s - all dictatorships and would-be dictators target newspapers and journalists. They threaten and harass them in more open societies that they are seeking to close, and they arrest them and worse in societies that have been closed already.
The Committee to Protect Journalists says arrests of US journalists are at an all-time high: Josh Wolf (no relation), a blogger in San Francisco, has been put in jail for a year for refusing to turn over video of an anti-war demonstration; Homeland Security brought a criminal complaint against reporter Greg Palast, claiming he threatened "critical infrastructure" when he and a TV producer were filming victims of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. Palast had written a bestseller critical of the Bush administration.
Other reporters and writers have been punished in other ways. Joseph C Wilson accused Bush, in a New York Times op-ed, of leading the country to war on the basis of a false charge that Saddam Hussein had acquired yellowcake uranium in Niger. His wife, Valerie Plame, was outed as a CIA spy - a form of retaliation that ended her career.
Prosecution and job loss are nothing, though, compared with how the US is treating journalists seeking to cover the conflict in Iraq in an unbiased way. The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented multiple accounts of the US military in Iraq firing upon or threatening to fire upon unembedded (meaning independent) reporters and camera operators from organisations ranging from al-Jazeera to the BBC. While westerners may question the accounts by al-Jazeera, they should pay attention to the accounts of reporters such as the BBC's Kate Adie. In some cases reporters have been wounded or killed, including ITN's Terry Lloyd in 2003. Both CBS and the Associated Press in Iraq had staff members seized by the US military and taken to violent prisons; the news organisations were unable to see the evidence against their staffers.
Over time in closing societies, real news is supplanted by fake news and false documents. Pinochet showed Chilean citizens falsified documents to back up his claim that terrorists had been about to attack the nation. The yellowcake charge, too, was based on forged papers.
You won't have a shutdown of news in modern America - it is not possible. But you can have, as Frank Rich and Sidney Blumenthal have pointed out, a steady stream of lies polluting the news well. What you already have is a White House directing a stream of false information that is so relentless that it is increasingly hard to sort out truth from untruth. In a fascist system, it's not the lies that count but the muddying. When citizens can't tell real news from fake, they give up their demands for accountability bit by bit.
9 Dissent equals treason
Cast dissent as "treason" and criticism as "espionage'. Every closing society does this, just as it elaborates laws that increasingly criminalise certain kinds of speech and expand the definition of "spy" and "traitor". When Bill Keller, the publisher of the New York Times, ran the Lichtblau/Risen stories, Bush called the Times' leaking of classified information "disgraceful", while Republicans in Congress called for Keller to be charged with treason, and rightwing commentators and news outlets kept up the "treason" drumbeat. Some commentators, as Conason noted, reminded readers smugly that one penalty for violating the Espionage Act is execution.
Conason is right to note how serious a threat that attack represented. It is also important to recall that the 1938 Moscow show trial accused the editor of Izvestia, Nikolai Bukharin, of treason; Bukharin was, in fact, executed. And it is important to remind Americans that when the 1917 Espionage Act was last widely invoked, during the infamous 1919 Palmer Raids, leftist activists were arrested without warrants in sweeping roundups, kept in jail for up to five months, and "beaten, starved, suffocated, tortured and threatened with death", according to the historian Myra MacPherson. After that, dissent was muted in America for a decade.
In Stalin's Soviet Union, dissidents were "enemies of the people". National Socialists called those who supported Weimar democracy "November traitors".
And here is where the circle closes: most Americans do not realise that since September of last year - when Congress wrongly, foolishly, passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 - the president has the power to call any US citizen an "enemy combatant". He has the power to define what "enemy combatant" means. The president can also delegate to anyone he chooses in the executive branch the right to define "enemy combatant" any way he or she wants and then seize Americans accordingly.
Even if you or I are American citizens, even if we turn out to be completely innocent of what he has accused us of doing, he has the power to have us seized as we are changing planes at Newark tomorrow, or have us taken with a knock on the door; ship you or me to a navy brig; and keep you or me in isolation, possibly for months, while awaiting trial. (Prolonged isolation, as psychiatrists know, triggers psychosis in otherwise mentally healthy prisoners. That is why Stalin's gulag had an isolation cell, like Guantánamo's, in every satellite prison. Camp 6, the newest, most brutal facility at Guantánamo, is all isolation cells.)
We US citizens will get a trial eventually - for now. But legal rights activists at the Center for Constitutional Rights say that the Bush administration is trying increasingly aggressively to find ways to get around giving even US citizens fair trials. "Enemy combatant" is a status offence - it is not even something you have to have done. "We have absolutely moved over into a preventive detention model - you look like you could do something bad, you might do something bad, so we're going to hold you," says a spokeswoman of the CCR.
Most Americans surely do not get this yet. No wonder: it is hard to believe, even though it is true. In every closing society, at a certain point there are some high-profile arrests - usually of opposition leaders, clergy and journalists. Then everything goes quiet. After those arrests, there are still newspapers, courts, TV and radio, and the facades of a civil society. There just isn't real dissent. There just isn't freedom. If you look at history, just before those arrests is where we are now.
10 Suspend the rule of law
The John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007 gave the president new powers over the national guard. This means that in a national emergency - which the president now has enhanced powers to declare - he can send Michigan's militia to enforce a state of emergency that he has declared in Oregon, over the objections of the state's governor and its citizens.
Even as Americans were focused on Britney Spears's meltdown and the question of who fathered Anna Nicole's baby, the New York Times editorialised about this shift: "A disturbing recent phenomenon in Washington is that laws that strike to the heart of American democracy have been passed in the dead of night ... Beyond actual insurrection, the president may now use military troops as a domestic police force in response to a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, terrorist attack or any 'other condition'."
Critics see this as a clear violation of the Posse Comitatus Act - which was meant to restrain the federal government from using the military for domestic law enforcement. The Democratic senator Patrick Leahy says the bill encourages a president to declare federal martial law. It also violates the very reason the founders set up our system of government as they did: having seen citizens bullied by a monarch's soldiers, the founders were terrified of exactly this kind of concentration of militias' power over American people in the hands of an oppressive executive or faction.
Of course, the United States is not vulnerable to the violent, total closing-down of the system that followed Mussolini's march on Rome or Hitler's roundup of political prisoners. Our democratic habits are too resilient, and our military and judiciary too independent, for any kind of scenario like that.
Rather, as other critics are noting, our experiment in democracy could be closed down by a process of erosion.
It is a mistake to think that early in a fascist shift you see the profile of barbed wire against the sky. In the early days, things look normal on the surface; peasants were celebrating harvest festivals in Calabria in 1922; people were shopping and going to the movies in Berlin in 1931. Early on, as WH Auden put it, the horror is always elsewhere - while someone is being tortured, children are skating, ships are sailing: "dogs go on with their doggy life ... How everything turns away/ Quite leisurely from the disaster."
As Americans turn away quite leisurely, keeping tuned to internet shopping and American Idol, the foundations of democracy are being fatally corroded. Something has changed profoundly that weakens us unprecedentedly: our democratic traditions, independent judiciary and free press do their work today in a context in which we are "at war" in a "long war" - a war without end, on a battlefield described as the globe, in a context that gives the president - without US citizens realising it yet - the power over US citizens of freedom or long solitary incarceration, on his say-so alone.
That means a hollowness has been expanding under the foundation of all these still- free-looking institutions - and this foundation can give way under certain kinds of pressure. To prevent such an outcome, we have to think about the "what ifs".
What if, in a year and a half, there is another attack - say, God forbid, a dirty bomb? The executive can declare a state of emergency. History shows that any leader, of any party, will be tempted to maintain emergency powers after the crisis has passed. With the gutting of traditional checks and balances, we are no less endangered by a President Hillary than by a President Giuliani - because any executive will be tempted to enforce his or her will through edict rather than the arduous, uncertain process of democratic negotiation and compromise.
What if the publisher of a major US newspaper were charged with treason or espionage, as a rightwing effort seemed to threaten Keller with last year? What if he or she got 10 years in jail? What would the newspapers look like the next day? Judging from history, they would not cease publishing; but they would suddenly be very polite.
Right now, only a handful of patriots are trying to hold back the tide of tyranny for the rest of us - staff at the Center for Constitutional Rights, who faced death threats for representing the detainees yet persisted all the way to the Supreme Court; activists at the American Civil Liberties Union; and prominent conservatives trying to roll back the corrosive new laws, under the banner of a new group called the American Freedom Agenda. This small, disparate collection of people needs everybody's help, including that of Europeans and others internationally who are willing to put pressure on the administration because they can see what a US unrestrained by real democracy at home can mean for the rest of the world.
We need to look at history and face the "what ifs". For if we keep going down this road, the "end of America" could come for each of us in a different way, at a different moment; each of us might have a different moment when we feel forced to look back and think: that is how it was before - and this is the way it is now.
"The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands ... is the definition of tyranny," wrote James Madison. We still have the choice to stop going down this road; we can stand our ground and fight for our nation, and take up the banner the founders asked us to carry.
From "The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot," Chelsea Green Publishing, Sept 2007
UPDATE FROM NAOMI ABOUT ARMY DEPLOYMENT
Concerns about deployment of military on U.S. soil growing mainstream media silent
Tue, 21 Oct 2008 21:52 UTC
The following is the spin of military spokespeople in response to questions about the deployment of the First Brigade on US soil for the first time in over 200 years.
The Army Times initially reported that the First Brigade would handle domestic crowd control and subduing 'unruly individuals' and that they had 'lethal and nonlethal technologies' to do so. Then it issued a correction declaring that the 'nonlethal' package was not for domestic crowd control. Then after a hue and cry was raised by many citizens, Northern Command (NorthCom) offered a wholesale revision of their mission - and the mainstream media is eating it up. Here is an excerpt from the articled linked to in the previous sentence:
Despite conspiracy theories that this could be a first step toward martial law in the U.S., there won't be tanks on Main Street or active-duty troops putting down demonstrations. That is barred by federal law banning the military from being used on U.S. soil for domestic law enforcement.
Instead, the soldiers of the 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Georgia, have been training to back up civilian authorities in providing medical care and dealing with chemical, biological, high explosive or nuclear attack.
Not only does this entirely contradict the first Army Times reports, it also egregiously misrepresents to readers the status of US law in regards to this deployment. Yes, there are laws against military policing on US streets -- they are part of both the 1807 Insurrection Act and 1879's Posse Comitatus Act -- but the Defense Authorization Act of 2007 gutted them.
Congress restored some limitations on the President's ability to deploy troops to engage in military policing in 2008 -- but President Bush issued a signing statement declaring he did not feel bound by those limitations. He also can direct these troops -- and the National Guard, and Blackwater -- to engage in military policing of civilian populations simply by verbally and unilaterally declaring a national emergency of whatever kind he wishes.
Unfortunately, the US Army spokespeople are parsing their words and misleading us. And, whatever the stated mission is today, the fact remains that military up the chain of command report to the Commander in Chief -- not to Congress or to you and me, and not to the Governors as most of the National Guard do.
Why do I insist on raising an alarm about this deployment in spite of a great deal of opposition and criticism? (Though I am grateful, too, for a great deal of support.) I insist on raising an alarm because I am aware of world events and not just blinded by American recent history.
In Zimbabwe, a nominal democracy, President Mugabe sent troops to harass, arrest and even kill voters during a closely contested election. Mugabe's challenger called off his own supporters, telling them they should not risk being killed just in order to vote.
In Sierra Leone, a nation I visited shortly after elections, during a fragile democratic voting process troops and militias were both deployed by the contesting political parties to intimidate, beat and arrest voters. In Azerbaijan, troops were sent to intimidate the opposition during the elections -- and now there is no meaningful opposition. Don't trust me -- ask Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International. Troops are sent by leaders in power, even in weakening democracies, to intimidate voters, arrest and harass opposition leaders in tightly fought elections, all over the damn world.
And nothing, nothing, nothing prevents the First Brigade from being positioned around poll locations, intimidating or silencing or threatening or worse those who challenge their voting outcome or their having been purged from the rolls. This at a time when Prof. Mark Crispin Miller of NYU and Robert Kennedy and many others are documenting MILLIONS of voters being systematically purged from rolls -- overwhelmingly by Republican actions -- and early voting is already showing machines flipping selections from Democrat to Republican, and voters becoming upset.
I am having a surreal experience with the mainstream media, as well, as I try to raise questions. A source at The Philadelphia Inquirer says that nothing has appeared on the wires about the First Brigade -- so they can't cover it. A source at The New York Times says they are 'looking into it' -- but no coverage yet. "The Today Show" asked if I was a 'fear-monger' and 'paranoid' for raising alarms and reproduced NorthCom's soundbite intact about the First Brigade being here to help with communities affected by weapons of mass destruction -- but did no independent reporting of their own. I know from hearing from citizens across party lines that I am not the only American concerned about what information the Army may have about such threats to lead to this deployment now -- the first time since the Indian Wars that troops have been sent onto US soil.
If you would like to see how average Americans are responding to the news about the deployment of the First Brigade, check out some of the posts from readers on a military-oriented Web site that posted the recent Colorado Springs Gazette article on the subject:
'Since 9/11 the Department of Homeland Security has spent billions to prepare civilian law enforcement, local fire departments and civilian agencies to deal with such [crises]. This smells of despicable mission creep for the Armed Forces. In the late 1980's, I participated in several exercises focused on "counter insurgency" operations that specifically dealt with demonstrators and civil unrest. Backing up law enforcement officials is a end run around Posse Comitatus and this should be exposed for what it is, unconstitutional.'
'Just why is a combat brigade being tasked for these scenarios and not Chemical, Biological and Nuclear Warfare commands? Medical Commands? Construction Battalions?
'This seems much too similar to the use of troops to put down the Bonus March of WW I veterans in which Army Troops fired on and killed veterans in DC protesting the government's failure to pay their promised [bonuses].'
'This job can AND SHOULD be handled by National Guard troops (domestic issues).'
'This smells...no, it stinks. Posse Comitatus is in place for very valid reasons. This looks like pre-positioning equipment in preparation for a fight.
'The Defense Authorization Act of 2006 empowers the president to impose martial law in the event of a terrorist "incident," if he or other federal officials perceive a shortfall of "public order," or even in response to antiwar protests that get unruly as a result of government provocations.
'The terms "incident" and "public order" are left wide open to interpretation under the Military Commissions Act...'
'Just why is a combat brigade being tasked for these scenarios and not Chemical, Biological and Nuclear Warfare commands? Medical Commands?
'Back in the late seventies I was apart of a force that had a similar responsibility, except we were trained to handle "civil disturbance", thank god we were never needed. This is not the first time something like this has happened, the only difference, we were Arty. Every Batt. had to train so many troops, from Inf. to Medical. I enjoyed it, we all did because for the time we were apart of it, we were exempt from all duty. To have the troops on stand-by is not a problem, to deploy the troops to take over civil responsibilities is...'
'This is quite disturbing. 4000 troops may not be enough to impose martial law on an entire country, but they could do it to a moderately sized city.'
'There is already a group to do this its called the National Guard Civil Support team. They are all over the country and are more trained than these rotating people will ever be.'
'As a former member of the 10th Civil Service Detachment/Weapons of Mass Destruction, I do feel a bit insulted. The unit is a full time National Guard unit that was in place for two years before the 9/11 attacks. We were trained to do exactly what this article says this combat brigade is being trained to do. Is this another example of the services not talking to each other, or are these commanders really that ignorant of the world around them?'
'Reorganize FEMA and keep the Combat Military out of the picture. Our Combat troops are for Combat. SeaBees are Construction Battalions that have the expertise for disaster related occurrences. They understand support missions and are the best in the world when it comes to Can-Do.
'If the Combat Military has to become involved, it means Martial Law is a scribble away with the pen.
'If we actually need this Brigade, take it away from the Combat Army and assign it to the SeaBees.'
'Did anyone catch the articles in the Army Times in September about this. The first article on 8 Sept. mentioned the Oct 1 deployment was to be prepared for any civil unrest during the election. The Next article I read on line around 26 Sept Changed 3 times in one day. From explaining about the extensive training they have received in IRAQ, the new non lethal weapons for use against (American Citizens) for civil unrest to a final article of they just here to help for emergencies.'
'Despite conspiracy theories that this could be a first step toward martial law in the U.S., there won't be tanks on Main Street or active-duty troops putting down demonstrations. That is barred by federal law banning the military from being used on U.S. soil for domestic law enforcement.'
'Did you read the Army Times article?
'Have you read the Military Commissions Act 2006?
'Have you read the Military Budget Act of 2007?
'Have you read the Patriot act?...
'What they are saying is that the local, state and federal police departments can't handle a crisis?'
'If you're reading these posts, you've already read the words "mission creep," "end-run around Posse Comitatus" and "unconstitutional"'.
'I joined the Navy to make sure NO GOVERNMENT WOULD NEVER DEPLOY TROOPS ON OUR SOIL. Why did you join? I believe every Governor should recall all National Guard troops to defend your states.... This detachment must stand down. This is an illegal order.'
So don't take the warning from me. Take it from many these patriots in military circles.