CORPORATE PIMPS and/or AMERICAN PSYCHOS. Top row, from left: mass murderer Jared Loughner; gun fetishists Gayle Trotter and Wayne LaPierre; kindergarten killer Adam Lanza, who shot his mother in the face. Middle row: Dick Cheney, who shot his hunting companion in the face; war jingoist Donald Rumsfeld; Senator Lindsey Graham, companion to an AR-15 semi-automatic assault carbine. Bottom row: John Yoo, law professor and torture advocate; General Philip H. Sheridan, genocide advocate; George W. Bush, war criminal.
American Blood Money, Inc.
By Thomas Adcock (Copyright © 2013)
Militarization & Torture
On Thursday the 7th of February, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence opened confirmation hearings on President Obama’s choice to head the Central Intelligence Agency—John Brennan, a White House counterterrorism adviser and keeper of an enemy kill list in connection with the military utilization of unmanned stealth aircraft, commonly known as drones.
Drones are the weapons of choice for oxymoronic secret war, Obama-style. Many of the president’s supporters are chagrined covert sorties carried out during his term in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Afghanistan—under cover of classified authorization briefs from the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, a practice eerily reminiscent of lawyerly permission granted to George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld in conducting secret war tactics of “enhanced interrogation” (torture) and “extraordinary rendition” (kidnapping for the purpose of torture).
Questions put to Mr. Brennan were preceded (by hours) with presentation to the senators of what they have demanded for two years: a look at the legal briefs described by the New York Times as “sweeping claims of executive power” in the face of “imminent” terrorist threats—claims similar to those damned by Mr. Obama in his initial quest for the presidency in 2008 as obviously subject to abuse, per the Bush administration.
(Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, said it remained “unclear” whether all legal briefs requested by his colleagues were actually released by the president—per Mr. Obama’s promise.)
The Times, having obtained a secret summary of the briefs grudgingly released for Senate eyes only, editorialized on the day Mr. Brennan was called for questioning, “For a threat to be deemed ‘imminent,’ it is not necessary for a specific attack to be under way. The [summary] denies Congress and the federal courts a role in authorizing the killings—or even reviewing them afterward. In doing so, it cites the authorization of force that Congress granted to President George W. Bush after 9/11.”
What the Times neglected to say is that government lawyers—of attorney John Yoo’s ilk during the Bush regime—have Orwellianized the word “imminent.” If it is “not necessary for a specific attack to be underway,” then imminent, according to Mr. Obama’s counselors, now means the opposite. Or, as one of Mr. Brennan’s deputies put it, a “broader definition of imminent.”
Lawyers who greenlight presidential violence are experts in amoralism. Take Mr. Yoo, a professor at the University of California School of Law at Berkeley, and author of the so-called “torture memos” used as legal justification for enjoining the “dark side” of C.I.A. practice—that which former Vice President Cheney and former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld saw as crucial for American victory in the so-called War on Terrorism.
In the fall of 2006, Mr. Yoo made a speaking tour of U.S. law schools, which included a stop at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana. There, according to multiple sources I have consulted, the professor was quizzed by a law student wanting to know whether Mr. Yoo felt badly about a particular form of torture methodology he cleared through the Office of Legal Counsel. The method in question: the twelve-year-old son of an Afghani civilian suspected of terrorist connections was ordered by C.I.A. interrogators to drop his trousers, as his shackled father looked on, whereupon one of the interrogators smashed the boy’s testicles with a hammer.
Mr. Yoo’s response: “Well, he didn’t die.”
(Note: when I filed the foregoing for an article for the New York Law Journal in the fall of 2007, the testicle hammering matter was censored by the newspaper’s editors. Other than your knowing of the incident from viewing the documentary film “Taxi to the Dark Side,” produced by Alex Gibney, you are probably reading it here for the first time.)
Innocents do indeed die as the result of drones. At the moment, it is impossible to know how many. The president and his subordinates may know, but they are not forthcoming; in fact, their public acknowledgment of a “handful” of “casualties” has been proven to be a gross underestimation.
More reasonable numbers from neutral sources are derived from surveys conducted in Pakistan. From June 2004 through mid-September 2012, data from a joint study by New York University School of Law and Stanford Law School show that drone strikes killed as many as 3,325 there—of which as many as 881 were civilians, including 176 children. The strikes also sent as many as 1,362 civilians to Pakistan hospitals, according to the study.
The drone model in widest use by the U.S. Air Force and the C.I.A. is the MQ-1 Predator, manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems of Poway, California. Originally built in the early 1990s as reconnaissance aircraft, the MQ-1 was retrofitted to accommodate the firing of AGM-114 air-to-surface, Hellfire missiles, each weighing one hundred pounds (45kg). Hellfire missiles—“tank busters” in military parlance—vaporize human beings.
Powered by a Rotax engine and driven by a propeller, the MQ-1 can fly up to four hundred nautical miles (seven hundred and forty km) to a target, loiter overhead for fourteen hours, fire its missile load, then return to base. This is what a strike looks like:
Were he alive, the American historian and social activist Howard Zinn (1922-2010) would call what you can seen in the YouTube video as an act of terror, and U.S. warfare a sinful procession of folly. Writing in 2006, he said:
“[W]ar in our time inevitably results in the indiscriminate killing of large numbers of people. To put it bluntly, war is terrorism. That is why a ‘war on terror’ is a contradiction in terms. Wars waged by nations…are a hundred times more deadly for innocent people than the attacks by terrorists, vicious as they are.
“If a bomb is deliberately dropped on a house or a vehicle on the grounds that a ‘suspected terrorist’ is inside,” Mr. Zinn continued, “the resulting deaths of women and children may not be intentional. But neither are they accidental. The proper description is ‘inevitable.’
“So, if an action will inevitably kill innocent people, it is as immoral as a deliberate attack on civilians.”
No one knows—more properly, no one is saying—how much the modern face of secret war will cost the U.S. treasury. According to the website for General Atomics, the unit cost of an MQ-1 drone is $36.8 million (€27.5 million). Last year, according to the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics, General Atomics employed eleven lobbying firms in Washington, D.C.—for a total expenditure of $2.5 million (€1.88 million)—to purchase votes in the Congress in the cause of business growth.
Permanent belligerence would seem to be the basis of America’s relationship with the rest of the world—and much to the financial advantage of companies like General Atomics.
In July of last year, Texas blogger and social activist Judy Miller wrote, “Ever since I can remember, America has been at war with somebody … It’s as if a vile cult of death lords over America. While the disease of military worship is most overly conspicuous among establishment Republicans and ‘warvangelicals’ who kill in the name of a deity, the Democrats who opposed Bush/Cheney wars were suddenly quiet when Obama was doing the killing.”
Ironic support for Ms. Miller’s antiwar sentiment comes from beyond the grave. General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964), the corncob pipe-smoking, decidedly right-wing supreme commander of United Nations allies during the Korean War (1950-53), said as much in an address to the Michigan Legislature in May of 1952.
“It is part of the general pattern of misguided policy that our country is now geared to an arms economy which was bred in an artificially induced psychosis of war hysteria, and nurtured upon an incessant propaganda of fear,” said the general. “While such an economy may produce a sense of seeming prosperity for the moment, it rests on an illusionary foundation of complete unreliability and renders among our political leaders almost a greater fear of peace than is their fear of war.”
America accounts for five percent of the world’s population and twenty-five percent of the world’s prison population, according to a 2010 survey by the International Center for Prison Studies at King’s College, London. Year after year, the United States averages two million citizens behind bars—approximately a hundred thousand in federal custody, a million more in state lock-ups, and another half million or so in municipal jails.
According to a 1998 article in The Atlantic magazine—“The Prison-Industrial Complex,” by Eric Schlosser—“the United States imprisons more people than any other country in the world, perhaps a half million more than communist China.” Mr. Schlosser wrote further:
“[T]he United States has developed [since 1973] a…set of bureaucratic, political, and economic interests that encourage increased spending on imprisonment, regardless of the actual need. The prison-industrial complex is not a conspiracy…It is a confluence of special interests that has given prison construction in the United States a seemingly unstoppable momentum. It is composed of politicians, both liberal and conservative, who have used the fear of crime to gain votes; impoverished rural areas where prisons have become a cornerstone of economic development; private companies that regard the roughly $35 billion [€26 billion] spent each year on corrections not as a burden on American taxpayers but as a lucrative market; and government officials whose fiefdoms have expanded along with the inmate population.”
Each long distance call via BellSouth, one of the nation’s principal landline phone service, is handled by a caged man somewhere in America. Prisoners themselves make lots of calls—about a billion dollars worth every year, which is why MCI as installed pay phones at virtually every penal institution in the U.S. The prisoners call collect from those phones, with MCI kicking back some thirty-two percent of fees from a billion calls to the prisons (amounting to $320 million or €239 million).
Mr. Schlosser reports further:
“[The prison-industrial complex is] a multibillion-dollar industry with its own trade shows and conventions, its own websites, mail-order catalogues, and direct-marketing campaigns…[It] now includes some of the nation’s largest architecture and construction firms, Wall Street investment banks that handle prison bond issues and invest in private prisons, plumbing-supply companies, food-service companies, health-care companies, companies that sell everything from bullet-resistant security cameras to padded cells available in a ‘vast color selection.’ A directory called the ‘Corrections Yellow Pages’ lists more than a thousand vendors. Among the items advertised for sale: a ‘violent prisoner chair,’ a sadomasochist’s fantasy of belts and shackles attached to a metal frame, with special accessories for juveniles; a „body-orifice security scanner,“ or B.O.S.S., essentially a metal detector that an inmate must sit on; and a diverse line of razor wire, with trade names such as Maze, Supermaze, Detainer Hook Barb, and Silent Swordsman Barbed Tape.”
Since 1991, according to a compilation of U.S. crime statistics kept by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the rate of violent crime in America has fallen by about twenty percent. Meanwhile, the number of people in prison or jail has risen by fifty percent.
When we think of poverty in America, we tend not to think of Wall Street. That is a mistake, and I will you why:
Forty-six million of us live in poverty—nearly sixteen percent of the population, according to analysis conducted in 2011 by the U.S. Census. Poor people are well advised to check overhead for vultures.
Most of the impoverished are hungry, and receive federal benefits to help them buy groceries—under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as S.N.A.P.; more commonly known as food stamps, the scrip that was, until recently, issued directly by the government. Today, food stamp recipients are issued a plastic debit card, but not by the government.
Instead, Washington privatized the distribution and administration of food stamps. Nowadays, the global “financial services” empire JP Morgan, headquartered in Manhattan and led by Jamie Dimon, is in the business of American hunger. (Mr. Dimon himself does not qualify for food stamps, having hauled in $23 million (€17.5) in salary and bonuses last year.)
The little cards that Mr. Dimon and his colleagues peddle yield a certain kickback on every dollar poor people spend on bread and milk and oatmeal and so forth for themselves and their children. Little bits add up to a lot. According to the most recent filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, JP Morgan made $5.5 billion (€4.1 billion) in 2010—a revenue figure rising at an estimated two percent per annum.
In an interview with Bloomberg TV News, “This business is a very important business to JP Morgan in terms of its size and scale,” said Christopher Paton, managing director of the bank’s public benefits section. “Volumes have gone through the roof in the last couple of years.”
Should JP Morgan manage to get more Americans enrolled in S.N.A.P.—and keep them enrolled for as long as possible—business will increase exponentially. The Obama administration is helping: Thomas Vilsack, head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, recently announced grants of $75,000 (€56,000) to nonprofit organizations that can devise “effective strategies” to “increase program participation” among hungry poor people, as a means of “stimulating the economy.”
Clerks in the JP Morgan food stamp operation do not actually work in America. The bank outsourced most of those jobs to low-wage employees in India, according to the U.S. broadcast news network ABC, which also reports that JP Morgan has just picked up a promising new bit of upward trending poverty business: the issuance of child support debit cards in fifteen states, and unemployment insurance debit cards in seven others.
By the way, JP Morgan is not the only banking conglomerate making big money off the backs of America’s down and out. An article in the online Huffington Post tells the story of Shawana Busby of Cordova, South Carolina, and the high fees she is forced to pay for using a debit card issued by Bank of America as weekly unemployment compensation of $264 (€197).
Out of work since the 2008 onset of worldwide recession, there are three reasons why Ms. Busby is obliged to use venues other than Bank of America for cash withdrawals she needs:
• The nearest branch would involve a round-trip drive of one hundred miles (1.6K)
• She cannot afford the fuel needed for such a journey
While a Bank of America branch would assess Ms. Busby nothing, all other banks and automatic teller machines cost her. Fees range from $3 to $5 (€2.2 to €3.8) per transaction. To date, Ms. Busby’s estimates she has spent almost $500 (€299) in cash withdrawal fees—or about two weeks’ worth of debit cards.
Jamil Abdullah al-Amin, born Hubert Gerold Brown but far more familiar to the American public as H. Rapp Brown, was chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coördinating Committee in the 1960s and, during a brief alliance with the Black Panther Party the latter group’s minister of justice.
Mr. Amin has an impressive rap sheet of criminal charges and convictions: inciting to riot, illegal transport of a gun across state lines, and a shootout with New York police during the attempted robbery of a bar. Currently, he is serving a life sentence in a Georgia penitentiary for murdering a Fulton County police officer thirteen years ago.
As H. Rapp Brown, Mr Amin is internationally known for his autobiography “Die Nigger, Die!” and for proclaiming, prophetically, “Violence is as American as cherry pie.”