Sunday, August 8, 2010

Creating a Fearful and Anxious America

Since September 11, 2001, print and electronic media, radio and television news, as well as government propagandist have disseminated catastrophic worst-case scenarios of what terrorist could accomplish if given the opportunity. They have provided all of the details: how the terrorist devises, or would-be devices such as a nuclear device concealed in a briefcase, are made, to the manner of death in all of its descriptive gore, and the number of lives that potentially could be lost.

In 2003, a new Department of Homeland Security introduced a color-coded Advisory System. It was designed to put into place actions to be taken by federal, state, and local governments in response to a terrorist threat. The system associated a certain risk with a certain color code: Severe (red): severe risk, High (orange): high risk, Elevated (yellow): significant risk, Guarded (blue): general risk, Low (green): low risk.

The media tagged it with “terror alert level." The media kept track of the threat level broadcasting the high risks code of the day. The media was doing what it does best: selling fear in order to boost ratings.

These actions, and other actions and statements such as Bush’s National Security adviser Condoleezza Rice’s statement, “We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud,” have made Americans fearful and anxious.

Andrew Bacevich, in his article, Giving Up On Victory, Not War, writes, “All this has, in turn, been driven by Fear Inc. To fuel its profitable if cancerous growth, it has vastly exaggerated the relatively minor and largely manageable danger of Islamic terrorism -- since 9/11, above shark attacks but way below drunken-driving accidents -- among the many far more serious dangers this country faces.”

Bacevich criticizes that at great expense we are tracking and hunting down “a rag-tag terrorist outfit with a couple of thousand members, including modest-sized groups in countries like Yemen and small numbers of individual wannabe errorists like the ‘underwear bomber,’” which “has been remarkably unsuccessful.”

“Fear Inc” has been successful at convincing Americans that government must do what ever is necessary to make America secure, even if it means violating our Constitution to accomplish that end. Even if it means abandoning what America has said it stands for: human rights. They will argue, after all, just think of the nightmarish holocaust a suicide bomber with a dirty bomb charged with a nuclear device or with chemical and biological weapons could cause.

At the end of the day, the American government propagandist and media have done nothing more than to create a fearful and anxious citizenry, and they have done it purposefully. The outgrowth of fear is the inculcation that there is an urgent need to circumvent International Law, the dictates of the Geneva Convention, and to abandon certain American liberties, all in the name of security at an unacceptable cost to the taxpayer. Overall it has created an amorphous behemoth, which has been under accelerated expansion since 9/11. It has initiated a growth industry for private intelligence and security industries under contract with the federal government. The creation of fear also has, at least up to recently, given endorsement to a foreign policy of belligerence and the government permission to conduct, with very little opposition, two wars, one being the longest in United States history.

According to a Washington Post article, “Top Secret America,” by Dana Priest and William Arkin, a two-year investigation report of “a hidden world, growing beyond control … and lacking in thorough oversight,” states that “After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.

“The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows [precisely] how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.”

The investigation reports that there are some 1,271-government organizations and 1,931 private companies working on counterterrorism, homeland security, and intelligence programs, which are located in about 10,000 locations and employ 854,000. The report reveals, in D.C., 33 building complexes are under construction or have been built since September 2001; It’s the equivalent of 3 Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings. It states further, “The U.S. intelligence budget is vast, publicly announced last year as $75 billion, 2 1/2 times the size it was on Sept. 10, 2001. But the figure doesn't include many military activities or domestic counterterrorism programs.”

The American Conservative writes, “The Post series begins to fill in the canvas, and it’s staggering how big the pile of spaghetti actually is. But what’s even more disappointing (but perhaps unsurprising) is the anecdotal evidence pointing to the negative effects of close collaboration between senior government officials and private contractors. It not only causes the massive waste of public funds, but encourages elites in large sectors of the government and the corporate world to overstate threats to national security. At one party (I mean “conference”) for defense and intelligence officials hosted by the corporate world, ‘Kevin P. Meiners, a deputy undersecretary for intelligence, gave the audience what he called ‘the secret sauce,’ the key to thriving even when the Defense Department budget eventually stabilizes and stops rising so rapidly. ‘Overhead,’ Meiners told them -- that’s what’s going to get cut first. Overhead used to mean paper clips and toner. Now it’s information technology, IT, the very products and services sold by the businesspeople in the audience. ‘You should describe what you do as a weapons system, not overhead,’ Meiners instructed. ‘Overhead to them -- I’m giving you the secret sauce here -- is IT and people. . . . You have to foot-stomp hard that this is a war-fighting system that’s helping save people’s lives every day.’”

The latter is certainly indicative that Americans should not be taken in by such statements because it is only meant to generate fear and to obfuscate the private contractors authentic mission: profiteering; and that this is abetted by media generated government propaganda to make Americans fearful and anxious in order to coerce them to do and accept things they would not do normally.