Monday, April 7, 2008

Foundations of a Police State

A couple weeks ago, a fellow blogger praised “the only democracy in the Middle East”, and suggested those critical of the action live in, e.g., Syria or Iran. I included in yesterday’s blog an article from an Israeli newspaper, today I’d like to consider what is necessary for a police state to function. We might consider Burma, but the state I’m looking at is closer to home.

What is needed is 1) A compliant judiciary, 2) a compliant legislature (if the state has such), 3) an agency of enforcement (and place of confinement for the disobedient), 4) a person or group willing to dictate, 5) a power base either of wealth or military power (often both), and 6) a compliant public.

The last is crucial, and it is on this point that Burma is now foundering—its brave population is deciding whether to obey or resist. The American public allowed itself to be led into an illegal war by a compliant media and war-obsessed neo-conservative administration. It is now being led toward an insane confrontation with Iran by much the same cabal, incited by AIPAC et alia.

The American Supreme Court anointed GWB president, and the judiciary has been accumulating for thirty years judges willing to strengthen a presidency weakened by laws passed after the criminal activity of Nixon and company. Bush has already declared by presidential order that in an emergency (whether natural or man-made) he has the power to suspend constitutional government. Google “emergency presidential power” if you doubt me. Like the Reichstag fire.

The legislature, now led by Republicans-lite (aka Democrats) like Nancy Pelosi and presidential contenders Clinton, Obama and Edwards, refuse to impeach Bush and Cheney, or to stop the war, or to release themselves from subservience to the Israel lobby. This in spite of the fact that the Republicans-lite were elected to stop the war and (unless administration direction changed) to forcibly change direction. Moreover, it has approved funding for the building of detention centers for four hundred thousand American citizens who will not go along with a new government policy. They would be called “dissidents”. Unfortunately the legislative branch of government is indeed compliant.

The agency of enforcement has already been created, and is now militarized. The incidents of excessive brutality against non-violent citizens are legion ( resulting in incarceration and in a few cases, death ( And remember, “our” government now can legally spy on you!

But the dear reader will rightly object, that’s only “the bad guys!” Well, review who has been arrested, brutalized, and punished ( and you may find out differently. And, remember Pastor Niemoller’s lament: “First they came for the communists, but I didn’t speak out, for I wasn’t a communist…” Unjust loss of freedom for anyone is a threat to freedom for everyone.

As for the power base, some people and groups are delighted with America’s imperialist foreign policy. Some groups are making a LOT of money from war (now approaching a trillion [12 zeros] dollars!). And some groups don’t want the Decider restrained from a military adventure with Iran.

No, the United States is not yet a police state. But the groundwork is there. The parallels with the 1930s are impressive ( And dissent will not be tolerated.

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me--
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

The Evils of Occupation

The article I include below appeared in a foreign language newspaper, which normally prints an English version. The article was not included in the English language version for somewhat obvious reasons. It’s worth reading, remembering that occupying soldiers learn de-humanizing ways under the best of circumstances—and perfect them under the worst. This principle applies in Iraq or in Occupied Palestine.

JB] A NEW ISRAELI STUDY CONFIRMS OUR WORST FEARS: On the academic research of Psychologist Nofer Ishai-Karen and Psychology Prof. Joel Elitzur Dalia Karpel shortened translation of article in Haaretz „Hamedovevet 21.09.07

`We - Israeli Soldiers - were put there to punish the Palestinians`, says Ilan Vilenda, an Israeli soldier who served in Rafah during the first Intifada. Ilan is the only soldier of 21 who agreed to have his name published, after he was interviewed by psychologist Nofer Ishai-Karen. The soldiers spoke freely to Nofer, who served with them in the same ASHBAL platoon 20 years ago; They disclosing their innermost emotions about the horrendous crimes, in which they took part: Murder, breaking bones of Palestinian children, actions of humiliation, destruction of property, robbery and theft. Soldier `A` testimony: `We decided to turn an old shower in our base to a make-shift detention cell. A Palestinian was brought there, handcuffed and mouth banded so he couldn`t talk, or move. We `forgot him there for three days`... Soldier `B` testimony: `I was on my first patrol. Others simply shot like mad. I started to shoot as they did. They `set my on`. I took my weapon and shot. Nobody was there to tell me otherwise` -- Psychologist Ishai-Karen was shocked to find that the soldiers enjoyed the `intoxication of power`, and had pleasure from using violence. She said: `Most of my interviewees enjoyed their own instigated violence during their Occupation service``. Soldier `C` testimony: `The truth is that I love this mess - I enjoy it. It is like being on drugs. If I didn`t enter Rafah, to put down some rebellion -at least once a week- I‚d go berserk. Soldier `D` testimony: What is great is that you don‚t have to follow any law or rule. You feel that YOU ARE THE LAW; you decide. Once you go into the Occupied Territories YOU ARE GOD`. Emotional dumbness Soldier `E` testimony: We drove an APC through Rafah. A man of 25 walked nearby. He didn`t hurl a stone at us or anything. Then without any reason `X` shot him in the stomach. We left him lying on the sidewalk`. Soldier `F` testimony: Some `tough guys` developed it into `an ideology`, according to which we have to react brutally even for minor events. A woman threw a sandal at me. I kicked her with my foot at her crotch. I broke her. She can‚t have children any longer. Next time she won‚t throw sandals at me... and when another woman spat at me she got the butt of my gun in her face. She can`t spit now. Soldier `G` described his first forced entry to a home to detain a Palestinian: `He was real big, some 30 years old. He refused detention. We hit him but couldn‚t force him down. Some people came hurling stones at us. We beat him and told him to lie down. Till he finally did. We drove to the base with him. By that time he had lost consciousness. He died some days later`. Nofer Ishai-Karen: `Some NCOs encouraged the soldiers to behave brutally, and provided their own example. Soldier `H` testimony: After two months in Rafah a new NCO commander arrived. The first patrol, which he commanded, was at 06 hours. Rafah was under curfew. Not a soul was on the street. Then he saw a young boy, of about 4, playing in the sand in the courtyard of his home. The kid was building a castle in the sand. Suddenly the NCO, a guy from the Engineers Corps, ran to chase the kid. We followed. He captured the kid and broke his elbow. Broke the kid`s elbow! Damn me if I‚m not telling the truth! Then the NCO treaded on the kid`s stomach three times, before he moved on. We couldn‚t believe our eyes... But the next day we went on patrol with that guy and the soldiers started to imitate him... What happened then? Some guys couldn‚t stomach it. The case of severe abuse of three young adolescents, who were bounded hand and foot by a staff sergeant, got them to alert a senior officer. `When the medic arrived the boys were bleeding all over, their clothes were soaked with blood, and they were shivering from fear. They were made to kneel like dogs and were afraid to move`. The NCO was punished by 3 months detention. But the platoon commander backed the NCO and reprimanded the conscientious soldiers for `defaming the platoon`. Nofer Ishai-Karen: The sacred value in the [Israeli] Army is `fighters` solidarity`, i.e., loyalty towards your fellow combatants. The platoons protected their secrets, as a family defends its `black sheep`. The fellows regard as `traitors` the conscientious soldiers, says Nofer Ishai-Karen. The cover-up was complete when our `good guy` was excommunicated and ostracized by the entire platoon. And the NCO? He left the country, and now lives in the U.S.A. The majority of the soldiers of these platoons had left Israel. Only five or six remain in Israel. Nofer studied two platoons ESHBAL and ESHKHAR, the last was more extremely violent, she says. Finally back to Ilan Vilenda, the only soldier who allowed Nofer to use his full name and even be photographed. Vilenda was a staff sergeant in charge of `operations`. ILAN` VILENDA`S testimony: `Our job was to beat them... I personally hit a boy and another. I used my hands or the truncheon. We beat more severely [Palestinian] adults. We acted like policemen but we acted outside the law. There was this Palestinian who had a TV at home. The World Cup in Soccer was on, and we used to invade his privacy to watch the games. After a while he had enough, and asked us take the TV set and move. `I was born on a Kibbutz, to a family whose values were humane `Zionist left wing`. The Palestinians threw tons of stones at us. Whereas at the beginning my ideological commitment restrained my actions, my anger accumulated, and I released it violently. It was meant to be. We were there `to make them [Palestinians] pay. My political views changed too. I now support the [extreme-right-religious] National-Religious Party. After his release from the army, Vilenda and 5 other Israelis were arrested in Goa, India for possession of LSD. ŒI wanted to serve my country. This was my task... but the entire IDF is executing illegal-orders.‚ Who is responsible? General Matan Vilna‚i [now serving under Ehud Barak as vice Minister of Defense] was at the time [during the FIRST INTIFADA] Chief of the IDF Southern Command. He often visited our platoon and discussed with soldiers, says Nofer But... there you go... the `Instruments of DENIAL and CONCEALMENT` went to work...` Besides: The Israeli Army didn‚t provide the unit with regular training, not were the soldiers given regular leaves, or provided with free time to recuperate and recover. The interviewed soldiers maintained that the longer they operated [against the Palestinians in Rafah] without leave, the more violent they became in imposing their kind of `Law and Order`. They claimed `Army [commanders] were aware of the erosion towards violence, and encouraged it in order to save manpower`.

Senate OKs War with Iran!

You didn’t see the headlines? Well, admittedly, it was in small type, and one has to fill in the gaps. But it’s there, more certain than the outcome of the attack in the Tonkin Gulf.

On September 2 the Senate approved 76-22, a resolution sponsored by that defender of Israel, Joe Lieberman, asking the State Department to declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. And the State Department does whatever the Senate asks, right? Especially if the Decider wants it done! Hillary Clinton, Barak Obama and John Edwards voted for the resolution, although polls indicate the American public does not want to go to war with Iran.

Why, you may ask? Well, Seymour Hersh gives the answer—money, and lots of it (, see also And this means illegal war (by international standards), because (leading up to the attack on Afghanistan) the president was given to authority to attack terrorist organization regardless of their location. And Obama, Clinton, and Edwards knew it.

The background is that the complex-controlled media has “failed” to rally the American people into an outright war with Iran (despite remarkably heavy propaganda to that effect). So, the decision has been made to use a “back door”.

Up until now, “terrorist organizations” have not been state institutions. Put state terrorism to the side—Israeli or American--that’s another issue. But the Revolutionary Guard is an official agency of the Iranian military. So now, Bush will soon have the authority to attack part of Iran’s military. Does anyone doubt that the State Department (read Condoleezza Rice) will make that designation?

Many analysts have identified the essential issue—key Zionists and neo-conservatives perceive Iran to be an “existential threat”. This kind of threat, and the fear it generates, cannot be assuaged with logic or human discourse. It must be destroyed! Much like we destroy the Enemy Without who reminds us of the evil Within, which we project on the Other.

The sensible thing to do with a person possessed by such an obsession would be to protect them from themselves, calm them down, open the closet door—but neither the Decider, nor his democratic challengers, are sensible in this sense.

Can you spell, “Tonkin Gulf”?

The beauty of propaganda

Especially in a “free society”. Huxley knew its value, and in “Brave New World” described how the appropriate attitudes were instilled before the infant starts to function. And such is the advantage of these attitudes, that the pawn really believes that these attitudes are their own conclusions! Likewise, Huxley portrayed the manner in which a totalitarian regime controls thinking (somewhat less scientifically) through continuous indoctrination. The methods are different, the results the same: a population convinced of a lie by means of brain-washing. And they believe their thoughts are their own!

In her praise of Israel’s attack on Syrian, my fellow blogger manifests most of these characteristics. The fact that “enemy regimes” have been a staple of media indoctrination for almost two hundred years (but much more so since 1916) seems to be missed. The fact that the media is now part of the problem, rather than part of the solution is missed. Eisenhower should have referred, even in 1960, to the military-industrial-media-Zionist complex.

Noam Chomsky writes of the “manufacture of consent”, and this phenomenon was recently demonstrated in the press’ handling of the visit by Iranian president Ahmadinejad ( It was also observed in the build-up to war with Iraq, and currently, the media (having failed to rally the public to war with Iran) is laying the groundwork so that the United States can create another “Tonkin Gulf” incident to justify attacking a sovereign country which has not attacked anyone. Remember, it is American troops which are half-way around the world occupying a hostile country!

I’ll have more to say in another article about why those who love the promise of political equality in America criticize its performance. Love it or leave it is not an answer, neither for Bonhoeffer nor for us!

The demise of PBS

A decade ago (can it really be that long ago?) some members of Congress were displeased that PBS was not fostering a “party line”, a sound ideological tone. They sought to “starve” PBS into submission or elimination by progressive budget cuts, some of which caused public outcry and reversal.

Now, what could not be done by starvation has been accomplished by infiltration. Wherever the “country” (read government) has an “enemy”, the programming assumes a posture that “our” position is correct, and the “other” is—bad, malignant, intransigent, obstreperous—take your pick. This applies primarily to external foes, although when the subject comes to labor organizations, that generality may not be correct.

Whether the “foe” is Iraq, Hamas, Iran, Venezuela’s Chavez, or some other group or leader who disagrees with American policy, the editorial assumption is that “our” position is fair, rational and right. Why can’t the rest of the world see that?

No, it is not Fox News, nor even CNN. And, in interviews and panels, some effort is made at “balance”. Therein is the lie.

The impression that PBS has become a mouthpiece for a “party line” was confirmed for me by an article by Alison Wehr of “If Americans Knew” ( She describes a screening of a new PBS series, “America At the Crossroads”. In one segment of the series a panel of “experts” is interviewed by Robert MacNeil. The spectrum of opinions ran from those who thought all Muslims were terrorists, to some (on the “other end”) thinking that “some” Muslims were “good”, usually those willing to condemn the “bad” ones.

Worse than that unrepresentative sample, an entire segment is devoted to Richard Perle, a leading “neo-con” whose cabal pushed for war with Iraq and is now pushing feverishly for war with Iran. The title of the segment is "The Case for War: In Defense of Freedom," which Ms. Wehr rightly observes “seems to indicate a perspective that few facts would support.” She also writes that the film was produced by his (Mr. Perle’s) associate Brian Lapping.

It turns out that the current head of CPB is Cheryl Halpern, former chairwoman for the Republican Jewish Coalition who “currently sits on the board of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (a spin-off of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee),” [a major advocate for “pro-Israeli” policies in Washington] and her husband is a member of AIPAC.

To suggest dual or divided loyalties on the part of such persons, or Richard Perle, Elliot Abrams, Norman Podhoretz, William Kristol or other neo-conservatives seeking to make or shape policy will undoubtedly bring howls of objection. The real tragedy is that such people advocating for Israel within the United States don’t see any conflict of interest! And that is the greatest of tragedies, for where war with Iraq, and now Iran, are concerned, there is a great deal of difference between what Israel sees is good for itself, and what non-“neo-con” analysts see is good for the United States.

Fortunately this is not about “anti-Semitism”. To their credit and applauding their courage, many (perhaps more that half of) American Jews deplore Israeli policies and the neo-conservative influence on American policy. The persons and organizations are literally legion. But their voice is not heard by AIPAC, JINSA (Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs), or the ADL.

And, truth be told, not all neo-conservatives are Jewish (—but they are all Zionists, advocating policies promoting Israeli domination over her neighbors and native Palestinians.

No, this is about the neoconservative hijacking of a useful institution, an institution entrusted with informing the American public. The body is still there, the “mouth moves and talks”, but—like a person possessed by an alien spirit in a sci-fi thriller—the message is no longer that of a detached analyst. It speaks the message shaped by the powers moving its mouth.

What could not be accomplished by “starving” PBS, has been accomplished by an infiltrative cancer.

Requiescat in Pace

Why it doesn't matter whom you vote for...

How can that be possible? The most “sacred” act in a “democracy”, meaningless? Well, let us remember that votes do not decide policy, elected officials do—possibly. And the political discourse in the United States embraces perhaps ten per cent of the questions which should be on the table for discussion.

For example, “free trade” and “globalization” are not under discussion; they are “assumed” to be inevitable and ultimately healthy for everyone. They aren’t.

Even before looking at what is happening to the buying power and the quality of jobs available for Americans (McDonalds or Wendy’s)), consider a very simple example. Capital (money) is mobile, and laborers are not. “Capitalists” will hire labor wherever labor is cheapest, as long as they can sell where they choose (i.e., without trade restraints like tariffs). Laborers do not have the luxury of being mobile, and work for what they can get. “Globalization” benefits the consumer with lower prices (great!), and punishes the laborer by moving the jobs to the least-expensive labor market (ugh!). But—the laborer and the consumer are the same person, and the true buying power of the American wage-earner has gone down substantially in the last three decades. The only one who really profits from this situation is the person with mobile capital, of whom there are fewer and fewer but they are wealthier and wealthier.

This situation is becoming an embarrassment even to (capitalist-minded) physicians, for certain kinds of surgeries can be performed economically (in a high volume setting) by flying several patients to the hospital, performing the surgery, and (after a decent recovery), flying them home. Of course, the surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, respiratory therapists, etc. in the patient’s home country (or town) are “out of the loop”, and their incomes go down. Capitalism bites the hand of the capitalist!

But of course, labor-protecting measures are not a serious part of our political discourse. Not serious measures, And haven’t been since Reagan’s presidency, who “defeated” the Air Traffic Controllers’ Union.

Neither is the American Empire part of the political discourse. We have roughly 700 military bases in over a hundred countries (including Japan and Germany, though WW II is now sixty-plus years past).

Harry Truman in 1947 chose to keep the United States on a war-footing, and was told to do so he would have to convince the American people they would have to spend even more to combat a new enemy—the Red Menace. Viola! The Cold War. This is not to say there was not real competition between the two great powers, but our own propaganda greatly exaggerated the threat and prevented our intelligence agencies from foreseeing the demise of the U.S.S.R.

Our government, representing us, has fomented revolutions and/or effected assassinations in Venezuela, Guatemala, Iran, Nicaragua, Panama, Haiti and untold other countries, to support our brand of “democracy”—although if truth be told, most were conducted to support our brand of capitalism. . Iraq is but the most recent (and catastrophic) example, although Iran may be next.

The madness of imposing the will of American policy makers (only the American people if they have been adequately propagandized) on the other peoples of the world is not seriously under discussion, by Democrats or Republicans (the Green Party and Libertarians might be an exception).

Neither is the unquestioned, unchallenged American support—nay, devotion to—Israel part of the American discourse. Every candidate save Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich (a nice spectrum, there!) have sworn obeisance to Israel, even endorsing the need to “contain” Iran, which is inspected by the IAEA and has no nuclear weapons, to protect Israel (which is not inspected by the IAEA and has more than 300 nukes). Moreover, $30 billion in additional armaments will be given to her over the next ten years, paid for with American tax-payer dollars, and enriching American arms dealers.

In our devotion to “democracy”, American presidents have installed and/or supported dictators or “moderate Arabs” (read malleable puppets) in Egypt, Iraq (Sadam was “our man” until he became Israel’s “Hitler”), Jordan, Pakistan, Palestine and Afghanistan. We thought “we” had Lebanon, but are now encouraging seditious elements to destabilize the country and provide a more malleable government which American and Israeli interests can control.

None of these leaders would win an election in their respective countries, with the possible exception of Jordan. They are supported because they acquiesce to American-Israeli hegemony. George Bush is wrong when he said they “hate us because of our liberties”. “They hate us” because of our policies and actions, and in my experience Muslims and Arabs still admire the America people—but deplore our national policies.

These are only three of the many policy issues which will remain untouched by the current political discourse. They are merely part of the spectrum of issues which are outside the “parameters of thinkable thought”, because the military-industrial-media-governmental complex has decreed they will not be discussed.

Until these issues become thinkable and discussable, Giuliani and Obama, Edwards and Clinton will be re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. They may advance their political careers, spend our tax money and offer our sons on the altar of Empire. They will not bring substantive change, nor will they bring safety or prosperity to the United States of America.

Walt Kelly’s “Pogo” was right—“we have met the enemy and they is us”…

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


The word usually applies to a seat in a theatre, or a WC, such as on an airplane. It can be far more sinister, however, such as occupied France, occupied Tibet, or occupied Palestine.

Arthur Neslen has written an illuminating book called “Occupied Minds”. Mr. Neslen interviewed fifty Israelis, with determination to achieve a wide variety of perspectives. I think I know why he entitled his work as he did, since virtually none of those interviewed (with the possible exceptions of the anarchist and the Mossad agent), actually understood the root of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Some were able to criticize and even condemn what the Israeli Defense Force had become, acting as an occupation force, with the task of subjugating a population bent on freeing itself from occupation. Even the man whose family had moved to Safed (in the northern Galilee area of Israel) in the fifteenth century, and complained about Arab violence, used an occasion of violence (in 1929) which occurred twelve years after European Jews declared their intention not merely to move to Palestine but to take it over. The Balfour declaration in 1917 made that clear to Palestinians, and Ahad Haam criticized the colonial behavior of Jewish settlers fifteen years before Balfour. The Israeli couldn’t understand that an indigenous people didn’t want to be occupied or dispossessed.

An equally intriguing collection of essays is entitled “Wrestling with Zion”. Written by liberal American Jews they deal with their conflicts over Israel’s actions and policies. The essays make clear how conflicted American Jews can be over the actions and policies of the nation-state which claims to act on behalf of Jews the world over (rather than on behalf of all its citizens).

An observation made by one of the interviewed Jews in Seth Farber’s “Rabbis, Radicals and Peacemakers” is particularly illuminating. These are opponents of Israel, and one of them observed that a substantial portion of the American Jewish opposition to Israel is homosexual; Farber asked why that was so. The respondent answered that once one disenthralls oneself from one set of tribal lies (regarding homosexuality), it is much easier to disenthrall oneself regarding tribal myths about Israel.

Therein is the “key”, to disenthrall oneself from the myriad of tribal and cultural myths which dictate which truth and truths we can embrace. These constructs, “myths” (and the mass media which modifies them for other purposes) determine the parameters of thinkable thought, and what lies “outside the mainstream” is not even considered. This constitutes the truly “occupied mind” --in Israel or America.