"Political language. . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind" - George Orwell
A simple Google search elicits more than a few articles drawing disturbing parallels between the years in Nazi Germany before World War II and the modern United States. Many of these articles are dramatically penned by writers who are already convinced that the worst horrors of the Holocaust occurring in the US homeland is only a matter of time.
While such articles must be treated with extreme skepticism, there are nonetheless notable similarities between 1930s Germany and the contemporary US. The post-9/11 period in particular has seen a remarkable drawing back of civil liberties while the state has claimed almost unprecedented power over, quite literally, the very lives of its citizens.
On 27th February 1933, the Reichstag building was set on fire in an arson attack that was blamed on the communists. Adolf Hitler, who had been sworn into power only a month earlier, used the attack to suspend civil liberties just one day later with the Reichstag Fire Decree, allowing him to carry out mass arrests of communists and even Communist Party delegates. With the delegates imprisoned, this further allowed the Nazi Party to obtain a majority in the German parliament.
The 2001 September 11th attacks were the catalyst for the Patriot Act, passed opportunistically a month later when the nation was still reeling with panic and fear, and barely even read by members of Congress and the Senate. It has massively curtailed civil liberties in the United States under the pretext of fighting the War on Terror. Restrictions on law enforcement have been drastically cut and police or government agencies are authorized to indefinitely detain immigrants. Searches of a person's home or office are permitted even without the owner's knowledge and law enforcement agents are further enabled to search email, telephone and financial records without a court order. This savage attack on individual freedoms has led to widespread abuse and disruption of society and the lives of ordinary civilians.
In March 1933, shortly after the Reichstag fire and with the communists safely locked up, the Enabling Act was passed, allowing Hitler and his cabinet to change laws without debate with any other parties in the parliament.
President Barack Obama has demonstrated that he also does not feel the need to seek congressional approval for his actions. Not one day of bombing in Libya last year was authorized by Congress under the War Powers Resolution, but Obama felt no restrictions in going ahead anyway, following in the footsteps of many of his predecessors.
President Obama also presides over his now infamous 'kill list' at a White House meeting on 'Terror Tuesdays'. Obama and his aides act as judge, jury and executioner by authorizing the killings via drone attacks of 'terror suspects' and 'militants' on a list of names. Even US citizens can be targeted: Anwar al-Awlaqi was killed in Yemen last year, and two weeks later, so was his 16-year-old son, Abdul Rahman al-Awlaki.
Why was a 16-year-old boy, whose only 'crime' was to be related to a suspect on the kill list, killed in a country with which the United States is not even at war? A US administration official claimed that the boy was not the target and was merely a bystander "in the wrong place at the wrong time". The official went on to say that "the US government did not know that Mr. Awlaki’s son was there" before the order to strike was given.
The kill list targets people who may or may not be guilty of any crime. Hundreds of bystanders have been killed for 'being in the wrong place at the wrong time'. There is no accountability or transparency whatsoever, and no congressional oversight. It is one man in an office, seemingly suffused and overwhelmed by his own power and importance, deciding whether a person on the other side of the world lives or dies. The lack of oversight leads to all kinds of tragedies, like those described in this article by Clive Stafford Smith, the founder of Reprieve.
From the article:
During the day I shook the hand of a 16-year-old kid from Waziristan named Tariq Aziz. One of his cousins had died in a missile strike, and he wanted to know what he could do to bring the truth to the west. At the Reprieve charity, we have a transparency project: importing cameras to the region to try to export the truth back out. Tariq wanted to take part, but I thought him too young.
Then, three days later, the CIA announced that it had eliminated "four militants". In truth there were only two victims: Tariq had been driving his 12-year-old cousin to their aunt's house when the Hellfire missile killed them both. This came just 24 hours after the CIA boasted of eliminating six other "militants" – actually, four chromite workers driving home from work. In both cases a local informant apparently tagged the car with a GPS monitor and lied to earn his fee.
Obama, in recklessly claiming the power of life and death with no due process, murdered these people. They were not terrorists; they were ordinary people like you and me. If factory workers and teenagers can be killed by Obama, who can't be? Where does it end? What greater power can you imagine a leader taking for himself. The very worst dictators in history claimed such powers and were rightly condemned and despised for it.
Where is the outrage?
It is just not there, quite simply because the average American sees drone warfare through the malign prism of the establishment media, which sanitizes the realities of this brutal campaign by using vague words like 'militant' to describe victims.
And nowadays, innocent bystanders are apparently not so innocent...
From reporters Jo Becker and Scott Shane:
"Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent."
When this sanitized, Orwellian version of reality is mixed with aggressive US exceptionalism, we get the toxic result of hordes of woefully uninformed people who believe that their nation is killing bad guys and 'keeping them safe' with no inkling that innocent lives are being snuffed out on their tax dollar.
The Nazis had their own form of this travesty. Joseph Goebbels was a master of propaganda, and he had a lot to say on the subject:
"The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly - it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over."
"Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play."
"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State."
Hitler sought to undermine the Treaty of Versailles, which severely limited Germany's military capabilities. He did so with a series of aggressive actions designed to test the resolve of European rivals, beginning in 1933 when he pulled out of the League of Nations. His shrewd and daring strategies coupled with the desire of the other European powers at that time to appease Germany crucially tarnished the power of the treaty. When Britain agreed that Germany could build a naval fleet, the Treaty of Versailles became a worthless piece of paper.
When the US and its 'Coalition of the Willing' invaded Iraq in 2003, they did so without a UN mandate, making it an illegal act under international law. Robin Cook, a former UK foreign secretary and the then leader of the House of Commons, resigned in protest, saying: "In principle I believe it is wrong to embark on military action without broad international support. In practice I believe it is against Britain's interests to create a precedent for unilateral military action."
Cook understood that such a precedent would crucially undermine the United Nations as a global peacekeeping force and he had no wish to be associated with something that could set the tone for future actions by any other nation in defiance of international law.
The United States along with the UK and other NATO countries routinely carry out drone bombing raids in nations they are not at war with under the all-encompassing justification of the War on Terror. Modern warfare is testing the limits and blurring the lines of international law and all the while the United Nations stands on the sidelines, weak and increasingly irrelevant.
Like the Treaty of Versailles.
But how to keep the dissenters in line? The Nazis had the Gestapo, who relied quite heavily on ordinary Germans informing on each other. One of the Gestapo powers most open to abuse was schutzhaft, or 'protective custody', a euphemism for the power to imprison anyone without any due process for an unlimited period.
On New Year's Eve 2011, when most Americans were drinking in the new year, Barack Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), making history as the first American president to officially make the US an authoritarian state. This law contains a provision which gives the US military the power to pick up any US citizen anywhere in the world and detain them indefinitely without trial.
The provision is currently blocked thanks to a US district judge as Naomi Wolf writes here. From the article (see original link for sources):
The back-and-forth between Judge Forrest and Obama administration's lawyers that goes to the heart of the judge's ruling was stunning to behold. Forrest asked frepeatedly, in a variety of different ways, for the government attorneys to give her some, any assurance that the wording of section 1021 could not be used to arrest and detain people like the plaintiffs. Finally she asked for assurance that it could not be used to sweep up a hypothetical peaceful best-selling nonfiction writer who had written a hypothetical book criticizing US foreign policy, along lines theater the Taliban might agree with. Again and again (the transcript from my notes is here), the two lawyers said directly that they could not, or would not, give her those assurances. In other words, this back-and-forth confirmed what people such as Glenn Greenwald, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the ACLU and others have been shouting about since January: the section was knowingly written in order to give the president these powers; and his lawyers were sent into that courtroom precisely to defeat the effort to challenge them. Forrest concluded:
"At the hearing on this motion, the government was unwilling or unable to state that these plaintiffs would not be subject to indefinite detention under [section] 1021. Plaintiffs are therefore at risk of detention, of losing their liberty, potentially for many years."
The government's assertions become even more hellishly farcical. Forrest further observed:
"An individual could run the risk of substantially supporting or directly supporting an associated force without even being aware that he or she was doing so. In the face of what could be indeterminate military detention, due process requires more."
If the US government wishes to pass such a law, they will not allow this setback to hinder them, and will eventually succeed. That such a deep desire to pass such a law exists bespeaks the pure authoritarianism of Obama and his administration, something that is quite incredible when one recalls the wave of hope that spread around the US and the rest of the world when he was elected. It is not so incredible, however, when one understands that the overriding purpose of US politicians, including the president, is to serve the interests of their donors and financial backers.
The post 9/11 changes begun by Bush and continued by Obama have taken the US further down the road toward a dystopian nightmare, in which anyone can be detained indefinitely without any hope of a trial if they somehow run afoul of the NSA (which has access to all emails and phone calls) or the militarized police, and any US citizen can be assassinated without due process or transparency at the whim of the US president. This is not a conspiracy theory. Indefinite detention, torture, extraordinary rendition, extra-judicial killing - These things have already happened and they continue to happen daily.
As yet, there are no known concentration camps or ethnic cleansing policies, although one could argue that CIA black sites in client states are a form of concentration camp, as are the camps used for immigrants, and one could also state that the drone bombing campaigns in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen target one particular group, namely Muslims, and have already killed at least hundreds of Muslim civilians who were manifestly not involved in any terrorist activity whatsoever.
However, the difference lies in perception. When one thinks of fascist dictatorships, one immediately envisages Hitler making passionate speeches that hypnotized multitudes, or hundreds of thousands of uniformed men marching in perfect time, or an evil secret police agency detaining, abusing and killing at will. One imagines all power in the hands of a single entity or political party with all dissent stifled, all opposition silenced.
So when people are told that they can vote in free elections and choose their leaders, they scoff at the very idea that they actually live in societies that are not free, and that their 'freedom' only lasts as long as they don't step too far out of line. The US in particular will stamp anyone out violently if they pose a serious threat to the status quo; one need look no further than the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has been brutalized by the police and ridiculed by the establishment media so viciously that it is now almost impossible to hear it mentioned anywhere outside of its Twitter network. Look also at how zealously the US is pursuing Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, who had the temerity to publish diplomatic cables proving the secret criminality of the US government and many of its Western allies.
The comparisons to Nazi Germany are not made here in order to predict an inevitable march to some kind of new holocaust. The Nazis failed to achieve their ludicrous and repugnant aims because they were overcome militarily but the Western powers, namely the trans-national corporations, the banks, the ultra-rich and the powerful lobby groups (NOT the state governments, which merely act as fronts), have already won. They have met their aims, namely to make of the masses of humanity an army of consumers and workers who toil endlessly to produce the green blood that circulates in their veins and sustains them. They understand that it is far easier to provide the illusion of freedom than to overtly crush it.
Their single remaining aim is to ensure that the status quo is maintained indefinitely and forever; in order to achieve this, in order to ensure that popular protest is no longer a viable means to overthrow a corrupt system, they finance political campaigns and are repaid in kind by grateful presidents, senators and congressmen, who do anything asked of them, specifically, writing and voting for laws that further entrench the elites and protect them ever more securely from harm.
The NDAA, the militarized police, the mass surveillance of every single American's emails and telephone calls, the buying up of almost every media outlet, the dumbing down of the education system, the PR campaigns so powerful they can defeat a serious climate scientist consensus of 97% and make a huge proportion of the public believe global warming is a hoax. All these things make up parts of the efforts to remove freedom and civil liberties, while at the same time maintaining the illusion of choice when election season comes around.
Every single person who votes for the establishment parties that support this rotten, corrupt and murderous system is culpable. Don't fall for the line that not voting is a betrayal of your democracy. In fact, not voting is currently the only meaningful way of fighting the system. By not voting, you say that you have no confidence in the system, a far more meaningful act than voting for a party that has almost precisely the same policies as its 'opponent'.
At this time there is little that can be done. A grassroots movement toward direct democracy is the only viable method of bringing down this spreading, global cancer. As this movement is still in its early stages, only one option remains to US citizens: do not vote, and if you do, vote only for a third-party candidate whose views most closely represent your own. The two main parties are in reality only one party: the Endless War Party, as they now enjoy bipartisan consensus on almost every key issue, particularly with regard to foreign policy, and their only purpose is to serve the interests of their financial backers.
The interests of their financial backers are diametrically opposed to yours.
'The 99.99998271% - Why the Time is Right for Direct Democracy’ by Simon Wood is available for free download. In this 70-page book, the current state of human rights and democracy is discussed, and a simple method of implementing direct democracy is suggested.
Simon Wood on twitter (@simonwood11) and Facebook or at his blog. The Direct Democracy Alliance, a group dedicated to creating national/global direct democracy, is now also on twitter: (@DDA4586)