Notes on National Security

Street battles and drone attacks are all-of-a-piece

Winston Churchill’s definition of history was simple but true: “One damn thing after another.” That’s the way the summer has unfolded, particularly the sticky and steamy month of August, historically a month when nerves are frayed and conflict simmers underneath an oppressive sun. So many events. So many angry voices. So little time spent on self-reflection. American fascism is back in the public eye, flaunting its wares and waking up the domestic population, which tends to snooze through the application of its imperial variant to all variety of freethinkers abroad. But the two are joined at the hip, fascism being the enforcement of exploitation by subjecting the many to the control of the few backed the rationales of racism.

Charlottesville chaos

If free speech is the lynch pin of American freedoms, then without it, hopes for democracy are eclipsed. A couple of weeks ago, the ACLU defended the right of the “Unite the Right” rally to organize in Charlottesville. Then, after intense pressure to prejudice their universal defense of free speech, including an intellectually porous article in the New York Times, they appear to have caved. Seeing signs from supposedly left protesters in Boston calling for no free speech for racists is, to employ the hackneyed idiom of the pulseless press, a ‘troubling development.’

There also appears to be a concerted effort in the mainstream to yoke the so-called ‘alt-left’ with the ‘alt-right’. The liberal class blames the invention and popularization of the term on the right, an attempt to bring the left under the same cultural animus as the white supremacist movement, which is broadly applied to the right. It was invented on the right, but its popularization can be credited to both political poles. Yet to equate the terms would have the effect of minimizing the fact that the preponderance of political violence is produced by the right, not the left. It would also disguise the contrast between a side infected by violent ethno-nationalism and a side opposing it, even if the minority antifa movement appears to be violently intolerant of the alt-right, a kind of anti-fascist fascism. Trump’s unwillingness to draw this contrast as it expressed itself in Charlottesville has only deepened the liberal community’s hatred for the president, even as the Mueller investigation chugs along silently under cover of night. Those on the right might argue that the president’s subsequent denunciation of Nazis and the KKK clarified his position. Indeed, he has on numberless occasions rejected white supremacist organizations. But liberals regard Trump’s public statements with the same contempt that conservatives regarded Barack Obama’s rhetoric. They disbelieve it. People are wont to read between the lines, ascribe intent to gesture. For the opposition, the apercu is often gleaned from the facial tic and the pregnant pause, less than the scripted apologia or cursory condemnation. Reading Trump by his demeanor and timing rather than words is nothing new. When Burgundy writes a letter of his defection to France to Henry in Henry VI, the court immediately reads into the style of the letter:

What means his grace that he hath changed his style?
No more but plain and bluntly “To the king”?
Hath he forgot he is his sovereign?
Or doth this churlish superscription
Pretend some alteration in good will?  
(Henry VI 4.1.50-54)

More often than not the style betrays the substance. That’s why so many believed President Obama when he assured the public that we had dealt with our surveillance problem. And we see it on both sides now, the simmering contempt leeching into the wordplay of the proles. He is always “Trump” in the bi-coastal enclave, just as he was “Obama” or worse in the heartland. The dropping of the presidential honorific denotes a loss of respect. A War of the Roses is developing with each side hardening into its intransigent certainties. If I were a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a member of the Bilderberg Group or the Trilateral Commission, a rich globalist with stakes in four continents, say, I would be pleased by this development. Let the plebes duke it out amongst themselves. The pitting of brainwashed identitarians whose sole concern is racism against feral white ethno-nationalists who believe whites are threatened with eradication, is a convenient pretext by which to divert attention from the ruling class and divide the working class against itself, or perhaps pit the professional class against workers. Each side believes the other is the cause of all of our problems, while neither side points at the imperial state as the fulcrum of global unrest.

And a side note on the statues: the president asked, “Where does it stop?” If we’re out to eradicate racism, then it’s not just the crass Confederates that have got to go, but most of the founding fathers, too. They owned slaves. They sexually exploited slaves. They built the empire on the backs of slaves. All this after a genocidal ethnic cleansing of the continent. If Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report is right, that American fascism always includes the “Oppression of an internal “Other” as an organizing principle,” then we have always been and must still be a fascistic state. After all, according to the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), white households in 2011 had 111k in wealth, while blacks had just 7k and Latinos 8k. And it doesn’t take long to enumerate a long list of racial disparities that carve the specter of institutional racism into the plinth of American history.

The crucial connection to make is this: that same demonization of the internal ‘other’ was also aimed at the external ‘other’ in Latin America via the Monroe Doctrine, in Eurasia via the Truman Doctrine, and worldwide via the doctrine of Full Spectrum Dominance (built on the Brzezinksi and Wolfowitz concept of no rivals). These resulted in a never-ending program of imperial conquest, all under the auspices of democracy promotion and helping those that, due to their inferiority, couldn’t help themselves. Emancipation Park? For who?

Nattering nabobs and North Korea  

As if there wasn’t enough to rattle the average observer, President Trump’s ongoing saga of hysterical threats toward North Korea are being amplified by another apish exercise in teeth-baring hostility, otherwise known as “war games.” This alpha male spectacle, a needlessly large event featuring 80,000 soldiers between the U.S. and South Korea, will evidently include nuclear-capable aircraft flyovers. It has drawn protest in Seoul. South Korea, like dozens of other countries, is occupied territory, and South Koreans know it. Sleepwalking scribes at stateside corporate media ask questions everyone already know the answer to (will mock violence raise tensions?).

North Korean state is rightly paranoid about U.S. intervention. It does not want to go the way of Libya when it ceased to seek nukes, an act of peacemaking that was rewarded with a wanton NATO/al-Qaeda invasion in which Libya was destroyed and transformed into a terrorist backwater, an event celebrated in western media, even as Madame Secretary cackled in the background. The U.S. armed forces killed some 20 percent of the North Korean population in the Korean War. Societies don’t just recover from that kind of trauma. Russia is still alarmed about NATO moves eastward thanks in large part to their history of being invaded three times from the west in the 20th century. We lost just under 3,000 citizens on 9/11, and look how it traumatized and transformed the United States. Russia lost 26 million in the Second World War. Imagine the psychic impact on that country.

These war games punctuate what we already know: that the U.S. is hostile toward making peace with Pyongyang. North Korea is an independent state, therefore they must be brought to heel, sadistically punished, and subjected to the yoke of imperial serfdom. Of course, North Korea, in conjunction with China, have offered to freeze their missile and nuclear weapons in exchange for a cessation of “threatening military maneuvers on North Korea’s borders.” No can do, says the imperial kingpin. In makes no difference whether that kingpin is Trump or Obama. They both rejected the offer. You see, Washington’s idea of negotiation is to give nothing in return for the fulfilment of its demands. It believes that, as the supreme military power on earth, it should have its demands met as a form of tribute. Empire brooks no concession. Perhaps this is not quite accurate, though. It does give something in return: an unreliable promise not to attack. Small consolation for those within range of Washington’s nuclear-equipped bombers. Of course, we know what happens to presidents that are not sufficiently tigerish or untamed in their comments. They are reviled like Obama and the legendarily despised Michael Dukakis for their perceived pacifism. The press portrays them as latter day Chamberlains willing to pacify and appease and abet until North Korean warships are sailing unopposed into San Diego Harbor. As a rule of thumb, the more farcical the threat, the more column inches it receives. Sometimes only hysteria can suppress rational thought.

Afghani amnesia

After 16 years of fighting, the Taliban now controls 50 percent of Afghanistan. The fragile state we’ve propped up doesn’t want us to leave; they depend on our largesse. The military-industrial complex (MIC) doesn’t want to leave, since the craggy no-man’s land evidently serves the same purpose as South Pacific atolls used to–nice places to test megaton bombs and fancy drones. The mercenary industry doesn’t want us to leave, since for every soldier there are three mercs. It’s a straight occupation. Some 50k soldiers/mercs on our payroll. President Trump has decided not to fight this fight, even though he knows we hemorrhage men and women and money to a lost cause. So the president says our goals are to kill terrorists, obliterate ISIS, stop terrorist attacks before they hatch, and so on. As Gareth Porter noted, Trump employed same frayed logic of recent administrations, “If we don’t defeat the Taliban, the terrorists will attack us.” National Security Analyst Juliette Kayyem, briefing the American public on CNN, said that our primary interests are “of course, al-Qaeda and counter-terrorism efforts.” This is all nonsense. Terrorist attacks in Europe and here are usually homegrown efforts, ‘inspired’ by ISIS or often the sight of NATO raining bombs of somebody’s ancestral land. Then there’s the core cause of the occupation: there are huge revenue streams tied to this war. The interests of the mercs, the Afghani state, the CIA and Pentagon and defense industry, and potentially mineral concerns, are all enabled by continuing the war. It says something about the state of American resistance that the plutocracy need only reiterate the same policies of the last two administrations to pacify the somniferous populace. Afghanistan is on autopilot, and will be so long as the revenues flow.

Barca and the sleepwalkers

The Barcelona attacks revived the terror news cycle, with its disturbing footage of weaponized cars and trucks plowing into crowds of protestors or tourists. Bodies fly, strollers race, sirens light the urban field, officers and gawkers stand in stony silence. Then the televisions screech, the news hour comes alive with its dazzling graphics and fulminating pundits. Onsite reporters enumerate the latest numbers, turning carnage into data. Former officers of state sit gravely on set awaiting their cue, globe-trotting terror analysts hustle to makeshift mikes in distant lands, and finally the totality devolves into partisan carping and vilification.

Yet where are the pundits drawing the barefaced connection between wars of aggression and terror in the “homeland”? Where are the analysts unpacking the conspicuous fact that we are not fighting humanitarian wars but wars of conquest? Where are the journalists disclaiming on the infinite extensibility of ‘national security’? The corporate media will forever maintain their fraudulent faith in the good intentions of Washington politicians, perhaps the most counterintuitive attitude of all these biddable scribes, since the evidence of history says otherwise (as it piles like a coastal shelf before their shuttered stare).

This is also why there will never be long mainstream essays questioning whether the various terrorist attacks in the West were false-flag attacks staged by western intelligence agencies. Even the majority of readers decry such speculation, themselves still subject to the hypnotic pull of patriotism which precludes self-criticism. That cheaply adorned tribalism that declares one’s own people intrinsically superior to another. It is beyond the pale of patriotism to ask about disturbing coincidences, like the fact that many of the attackers had been linked to domestic intelligence agencies prior to their attacks. Or that in at least six western terrorist attacks by migrants, passports or identification cards had been found at the scene of the crime, a strange pattern of self-incrimination. In light of what we know about Operation Gladio in post-war Europe, not to mention the Gulf of Tonkin incident and the Syrian chemical attacks, false flags are a real tactic employed by numerous governments and militaries to provoke conflict. Why are false flags out of the question in Nice, Paris, Berlin, London, Madrid, Manchester, and Barcelona–or even New York? Why can’t we even raise the question without being tarred as conspiracy theorists, a term invented by the CIA? Whether there is government complicity through outright planning, collusion, provocation, or looking the other way, these are valid questions that even the progressive community can’t seem to stomach. But to reject the notion of western complicity out of hand is naïve at best, and otherwise craven.

Whether inside the country or abroad, we’re witnessing class war. Racism can certainly factor as a major feature. White supremacists have been tricked into believing they are on the same team as white elites in their tall towers. They are not. They are actually fighting the people of their own class, the very people who suffer from the same oppression that white manufacturing workers have faced in recent decades. But minorities always have it worse, which makes fears of white genocide all the more obtuse. Abroad the general principle is the same: the lower classes must be kept low. Wherever an alternative to capitalism arises, that place instantly enters the crosshairs of American violence. Wherever the underclass raises its head from a posture of subjection, that place, people, nation, continent, must be branded as a menace to American security. Moral and existential panic is whipped up. The nation falls into a frenzy. And of all this permits aggression in the name of self-defense, which is the goal. It enables western governments to impose stricter, more authoritarian rule and allot even more taxpayer dollars to the fake fight against terrorism in the name of national security. War on non-capitalists at home and abroad, all in the name of securing our freedoms. Scare the population and watch them acquiesce. Create a defeatable enemy and a cauldron of chaos right atop the resources and territorial touch-points that you need to control. Then attack the enemy in the name of national security and democracy promotion. Let the battle drift in the fog of war. Let the haze of crossfire disguise scope creep. Let the metastasizing mayhem rationalize the next special appropriations bill. Blast the pacifists and escalate the annual military budget. Ratchet up domestic repression. Keep talking peace. Keep talking values. Keep talking valor. And keep funding war. Here, there, and everywhere. As Rhys Ifans’ villainous mentor in Snowden hisses to his pupil, “Where’s the modern battlefield, soldier?” Snowden replies, “Everywhere.” It was ever thus.

Jason Hirthler is a writer, political commentator, and veteran of the communications industry. He has written for many political communities. He is the recent author of Imperial Fictions, a collection of essays from between 2015-2017. He lives in New York City and can be reached at Read other articles by Jason.