Why Do We Need Torture?
The State does not torture alleged terrorists in order to extract information to avert terrorist attacks. Saddam Hussein did not torture alleged terrorists in order to avert terrorist attacks. (If he could make the barest case for having done so, could we possibly excuse his actions?) The State, under Saddam Hussein, George W. Bush, Josef Stalin, et al, tortures its victims in order to assert the authority of the State. It is not true that the State wishes to cover-up its activities as Torturer-in-Chief. The State wants its citizens to know how far it is willing to go to assert its authority. It wants its citizens to live in fear and to cower in darkness. It wants a complaisant media and those in the “knowledge professions” -- including artists, academicians and preachers -- to understand how far it will go to suppress dissent about its policies. The State embraces the dictum of Machiavelli -- it is better that the Prince be feared than loved. The State does not oppose terror; it opposes the franchising of terror by any instrumentality other than the State. The State’s use of torture is inextricable from State terrorism -- and it is inevitably directed against its own citizens as much as “aliens”.
Why Must We Have Executions?
It is a fiction that our “criminal -- justice” system has anything to do with “reformation” or “deterrence.” Obviously, imprisonment as deterrence doesn’t work because, on a per capita basis, we imprison more of our citizens than any other nation, and the rate of detention is still rising. Following a lull after the shocks of 9/11, our crime rates -- already the worst among the “advanced countries” -- are accelerating again. The social fabric is frayed, ripped apart. The nuclear family has been collapsing for generations. Duplicitous and myopic preachers like to blame a lack of faith, a turning from God. Rightwing “think tanks” have promoted the theme to seize the votes of the fearful and “faithful.” Meanwhile, our middle classes have been “hollowed out” in the name of aggregating profits for transnational corporations. And so the sheeple are told there is no money for education, for pensions, for health care, environmental protection. No money for anything except “protection.” The government operates a “protection racket” much like the Mafia. Charge the citizens for more and more weapons for the military, for police, Homeland Security, border patrols, walls along the Mexican border.
Are we at risk? Of course! There are “irredeemable” prisoners like Stanley Tookie Williams. It doesn’t matter if the evidence against such people is not “air-tight.” The important thing is that the process go forward. Trial, conviction, execution. The citizens must witness the infallibility of the State, its determination, its “processing” of dissenters, losers, criminals.
Why Must We Have Domestic Spying?
As a Republic, we have had domestic spying since Adams inaugurated the “Alien and Sedition Acts.” Long before that, as a colonial outpost of the omnivorous British Empire, we spied on each other in Salem, hanged and crushed to death our fellow citizens -- men and women -- as “witches” and “warlocks.” J. Edgar Hoover perfected domestic spying in his day and was lauded for it -- wielding extraordinary power over presidents and ordinary citizens alike.
Under the mad suasion of Joseph McCarthy our House Un-American Activities Committee accused great artists, including Bertolt Brecht, Arthur Miller, John Garfield and Dalton Trumbo, of being Communist dupes, ruining lives and careers -- “book-burning,” if not in fact, than in effect.
And where did this lead? Decades of domestic spying by NSA (the top secret National Security Agency), under the very liberally interpreted safeguards of FISA (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) did not prevent 9/11. Should we suppose that an unleashed NSA, with no FISA oversight provisions, as Bush and Cheney have proposed, will prevent another attack? Wasn’t the War Against Iraq supposed to prevent another attack? Is the Administration admitting failure then? If their most important policies have failed, how can we give credence now?
But, they have not failed. We must have Domestic Spying for the same reason we must have Torture and Public Executions. It is to assert the authority of the State, the indomitable will of the State. It is to aggregate supreme powers to the State -- power over the life and death of the planet itself; power over the consciousness, conscience and collective unconscious of the human species. It is Godlike power that the State arrogates to itself through its cultural symbols, its rituals, its droning propaganda, its legalistic machinations, its hype, hypocrisy, unholy alliances -- its tyranny.
Gary Steven Corseri’s articles, poetry, fiction and dramas have appeared at DissidentVoice, CounterPunch, CommonDreams, The New York Times, PBS -- Atlanta, Villlage Voice and elsewhere. His books include: A Fine Excess; Holy Grail, Holy Grail; and Manifestations (edited). He can be reached at: email@example.com
Other Articles and Poems by Gary Corseri
Constitution Ain't Worth a Damn