Freedom means knowing how big your cage is
On January 20, 1969, during the inaugural parade for Richard Nixon, I stood in a crowd of onlookers on Pennsylvania Avenue and when Nixon's limousine passed by I threw an apple at the car. It bounced off the car behind the one carrying Tricky Dick (who now seems like a liberal compared to the likes of George W., Bill Clinton and John Kerry; seriously). No law enforcement authority rushed into the crowd looking for the perpetrator. Imagine if I had repeated my act at today's inauguration. Everyone within a ten-foot radius of me would be thrown to the ground, handcuffed, if not hogtied, and hauled away to some local version of Guantanamo as a helicopter hovered just above.
I trust that the Statute of Limitations applies to such confessions. I trust also that the Justice Department accords more respect to the Statute of Limitations than it does to the Geneva Conventions.
I tell this story not to defend my action -- which was not exactly politically sophisticated -- but to try to illustrate how times have changed, and why I believe that the United States has now become a police state. Not the worst police state in history to be sure; not even the worst police state in the world today; but a police state nonetheless. The War on Drugs made America a virtual police state; the War on Terror has removed the virtual. From expelling a 10-year-old girl for bringing a pair of scissors to school to the death of habeas corpus as a cherished, inviolable principle, with a thousand false and fateful steps in between, American society is fast becoming a giant airport. We live surrounded by a hundred levels of authority -- military and civilian, federal, state, city, and corporate, uniformed and plainclothesed.
Men don't become enforcers of authority because they have a burning passion to advance the cause of justice. And what the enforcers desire in the areas of “security” or “crime”, they get: PATRIOT Acts, Homeland Security, preemptive mass arrests, who they want to arrest, how they want to arrest them, where they want to take them, how long they want to keep them, their phone conversations, their computer, their tax return, their census information, their body cavities ... the enforcers get what they want, just like in a police state. Is there anything the Bush administration or its ideological comrades at lower levels might do to infringe upon human rights or civil liberties which would truly surprise and shock those of you who follow the news carefully? What's that? They might appoint the legal architect of torture policy as Attorney General?
“War on drugs” ... “war on terror” -- such terms tell the enforcers that they're warriors fighting a war, and in a war, you use the tactics of war, anything goes. “This, of course, is not really a war at all,” says Washington journalist Sam Smith, "but a new status quo that has been declared, one in which violence and paranoia and strip searches are not just part of a sacrifice one must make for a better future. They ARE the future.”
The Washington Post (January 10) reports that, “Washington police officers are using new behavioral profiling techniques as they patrol subway stations, identifying suspicious riders and pulling them aside for questioning. The officers are targeting people who avoid eye contact, loiter or appear to be looking around transit stations more than other passengers, officials said. Anyone identified as suspicious will be stopped and questioned about what they are doing and where they are going.” This is not just for the inauguration; it's now regular police policy in DC and elsewhere.
Problem: I routinely do not make eye contact with police officers because I am turned off by the visage of the human being turned policeman.
The Dragon Lady gets hers, a bit
We dissenters, we fringe people in America, we beggars, we do not get many occasions for public vindication and satisfaction in the mainstream political arena. The “bad guys” always seem to come out ahead, and unscathed. Thus did I take some pleasure on January 18 to hear Condoleezza Rice verbally slapped around by Senator Barbara Boxer at the Senate hearings on Rice's nomination to be Secretary of State. Boxer documented in detail several of the very serious lies and contradictions that Rice had engaged in, in her attempts to justify the Iraq war; nothing that we dissenters had not reported in countless places some time ago, but confronting the Dragon Lady to her face was something else.
And now her voice was clearly strained as she asked that she be questioned, “without impugning my credibility or my integrity.” She proceeded to defend her past remarks and in the process rewrote yet more history -- saying that the no-fly zones, used by the US and Britain to bomb Iraq repeatedly over the years, had been authorized by the UN. Not so, it was a joint private creation of Washington and London. And then she said that the US had good reason to fear Saddam Hussein because we knew that he had a biological weapons capability, failing to mention that we knew about that because we had given him that capability in the 1980s.
I had the thought that if these further statements of Rice were challenged by the Senators, as well as the many other questionable statements she made in discussing Cuba, Haiti and Venezuela (she said that she could not think of anything positive to say about the Chavez government), the Dragon Lady might just crack a bit. I pictured Humphrey Bogart in The Caine Mutiny, when, under intense questioning by a Navy board of inquiry, he suddenly takes out a pair of metal balls from his pocket and begins to nervously and obsessively play with them. And that was the end of Captain Queeg.
Well, a poor, ungratified dissenter can dream, can he not?
Standing up to the schoolyard bullies
Seymour Hersh's recent article in The New Yorker about US plans to invade Iran, reminds me of something that happened exactly 51 years ago.
In January 1954, the United States was busily preparing to invade Guatemala with a proxy army to overthrow the democratically elected, progressive government. (Because the government wasn't doing exactly what Washington wanted, that's why. Is that not a good enough reason for you? Are you some kind of peacenik terrorist troublemaker?) Suddenly, the operation appeared to have suffered a serious setback when key documents found their way into the hands of the Guatemalan government, and then the Guatemalan press published some of them, revealing the existence of the staging, training and invasion plans and American involvement in them.
The State Department labeled the accusations “ridiculous and untrue” and said it would not comment further because it did not wish to give them a dignity they did not deserve. Said a Department spokesperson: “It is the policy of the United States not to interfere in the internal affairs of other nations. This policy has repeatedly been reaffirmed under the present [Eisenhower] administration.”
Time magazine concluded that the whole exposé had been “masterminded in Moscow.” The New York Times concurred. 
And the CIA continued with its preparations as if nothing had happened. In June, the invasion took place, overthrowing the government and sentencing the people of Guatemala to abject poverty, death squads and torture forever.
In his article, Hersh says that at least since last summer the United States has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran to help identify potential targets for attack. Said one of Hersh's sources: “The civilians in the Pentagon want to go into Iran and destroy as much of the military infrastructure as possible.”
This is not the first disclosure of Washington's plans to invade Iran, nor will it be the last. And, sad to say, it will not slow down the war preparations any more than did the disclosures in Guatemala in 1954 or the numerous disclosures of preparations leading up to the invasion of Iraq, while we were being told repeatedly that no decision to invade had yet been made.
The arrogance of American leaders is such that they cannot be embarrassed. They do not particularly mind being exposed as liars, if it's not face-to-face, or as violators of US and international law.
Yet there have been a number of occasions in recent years when the Bush administration has backed off certain positions or plans, or conceded to modifications. This has happened when the European Union, China or other nations have stood up to the schoolyard bullies. Such foreign action would be even more effective if the Democrats at home also stood up to them.
The Dems, however, continue to be more concerned with copying the Republicans than challenging them. Thus it was that in recent weeks, Sen. Edward Kennedy declared that it was useful that a Democratic candidate “talked about God”; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi cited a pair of biblical passages on the House floor, saying the Scriptures “tell us that to minister to the needs of God's creation is an act of worship”; and a meeting of Senate Democrats invited as their main speaker a minister who has been urging Democrats to speak more openly about religion. “They gave more time to this [religion] than any other issue,” said the minister afterward. 
Due to reduced federal government contributions, the state of Tennessee is making steep cutbacks in its highly innovative and much praised expanded health care program for the working poor -- 323,000 adults are being cut off, including 67,000 people with serious medical conditions and 97,000 with extremely high medical bills. When I read this my first thought was that I'd love to meet some of those people being cut off and ask them if they voted for Bush. And if they said "yes" I'd want to shake them and vent my best sarcasm at them. Then came my second thought -- that the Democrats did not offer anything approaching guaranteed health coverage either.
As I've mentioned in this space before, Harry Truman had it right when he said: “If you give the voters a choice between a Republican and a Republican, they'll always choose a Republican.” Who knows how many liberals and radicals stayed home on Election Day because Kerry failed to offer them anything like a decent alternative to Bush?
I'm surprised that I haven't yet read of a survivor who thanked god (or God, if you prefer) for saving his life and calling it a “miracle”. If any reader has read of such a person, please try to contact him and let him know that the Bush administration has a fairly well paid position awaiting him in Iraq in the Department of Faith-based Destruction.
“I've been in war and I've been through a number of hurricanes, tornadoes and other relief operations, but I have never seen anything like this,” said Colin Powell after a helicopter tour of tsunami-battered Indonesia. “I cannot begin to imagine the horror that went through the families and all of the people who heard this noise coming and then had their lives snuffed out by this wave.” 
And the horror of Fallujah? Can he begin to imagine that? Or the horror of Panama 1989 and Iraq 1991, both of which he played major roles in?
The preceding is directed to those many people on the left who think that Powell is somehow a more decent imperialist than Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld, and gang. Oh, did I mention his cover-up of war crimes in Vietnam?
George in Wonderland
“The Jewish community of Germany has rejected recent overtures from the Nazi government to improve their strained relationship, prompting Berlin to respond with a tougher policy toward the Jews, Hitler administration officials said yesterday.”
That was announced in Germany in 1934. Not.
However, the following was announced in the United States in 2005. Yes.
“Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has rejected recent overtures from the United States to improve the nations' strained relationship, prompting Washington to respond with a tougher policy toward the country, Bush administration officials said yesterday.”
“It is very clear to us that Chavez's unrelenting hostility toward the United States prevents him from pursuing a normal relationship,” a senior administration official said. The official also expressed concern about the “militarization of Venezuelan society,” noting that Caracas is seeking to purchase more than 100,000 AK-47s “for a military of fewer than 40,000.” 
These statements come after the United States was intimately involved in a coup to overthrow Chavez in 2002, expressed public satisfaction about the coup's initial success, and was a major financier of the movement to unseat Chavez in a recall referendum two years later.
As to the United States criticizing another country for excess militarization ... the absurdity and hypocrisy of such an idea can produce a pounding headache in any thinking person.
A tale of two kinds of doctors
The New England Journal of Medicine (January 6) declared that US Army doctors had violated the Geneva Conventions by helping intelligence officers carry out abusive interrogations at military detention centers, with "probable cause for suspecting" that the doctors had participated in torture.
Doctors in the United States have lost their medical license for a lot less than that. If the names of the particular doctors involved in abuse/torture of prisoners could be ascertained, perhaps some of my readers with connection to the medical profession might want to look into reporting them. Physicians for Social Responsibility and Physicians for Human Rights might be two organizations also interested in the matter.
In 1990-91, a doctor named Yolanda Huet-Vaughn, as a conscientious objector, refused to submit to mobilization of her National Guard unit in Kansas for the American military action in what became the Gulf War. She spoke out publicly against it on national TV and at an anti-war rally before returning to Kansas City to submit voluntarily to military authorities to face court martial for desertion. “Everything I did in 1990-91 was based upon my deepest moral convictions and commitment to the highest principles of medical ethics,” she said in a later statement. “At that time I desperately sought to prevent what I saw as the unnecessary public health disaster of the Persian Gulf War.”
There was an attempt by conservatives to get Huet-Vaughn's medical license revoked, but it did not succeed. However, she served eight months in a military prison and was reprimanded and fined $5,000 by the Kansas state body that oversees medical practices. 
The things that are not barriers to success in America
Harvard president Lawrence Summers has created a minor uproar for his remark that the shortage of elite female scientists may stem in part from women not having the same "innate ability" or "natural ability" as men do in some fields. The news accounts of this that I’ve seen fail to remind us of another Summers remark of even greater insensitivity.
In December 1991, while chief economist for the World Bank, he wrote an internal memo saying that the Bank should encourage migration of “the dirty industries” to the less-developed countries because, amongst other reasons, health-impairing and death-causing pollution costs would be lower. Inasmuch as these costs are based on the lost earnings of the affected workers, in a country of very low wages the computed costs would be much lower. “I think,” he wrote, “the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest-wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.” 
Despite this memo receiving wide distribution and condemnation, Summers, in 1999, was appointed Secretary of the Treasury by President Clinton. This was a promotion from being Undersecretary of the Treasury -- for international affairs. Soon thereafter, Harvard chose him for its presidency.
In case you're not cynical or conspiracy-minded enough
An article in The Washington Post on December 19 about large contributors to the Bush inauguration mentioned that the Post itself had given $100,000 for the first Bush inaugural in 2001. No explanation as to why this contribution to the needy was made.
Frank McKenna is the newly appointed Canadian ambassador to the United States. He is also chairman of the Canadian advisory board to The Carlyle Group. Carlyle bills itself as the world's largest private equity-investment firm and has specialized in weapons investments greased by the political connections of its executives and board members such as George Bush, Sr.; former US secretary of state, James A. Baker III; former British prime minister, John Major; former secretary of defense and former deputy director of the CIA, Frank Carlucci. McKenna has stated that he wants to see more Canadian investment in Carlyle, while pitching military production as an economic stimulator for his home province. He is on record defending the Canada Pension Plan's investment of US$60 million of Canadians' accumulated pension contributions into a Carlyle venture fund.
In 2002, McKenna hosted a Carlyle meeting in Canada attended by George Bush Sr. and many of the largest corporate players. During a press conference, McKenna dismissed concerns about Carlyle's connections to military investments and high-ranking political individuals. "We're not here to try and talk about some military-governmental-industrial conspiracy or globalization," he told reporters. "We're just here to try to help contribute to the Atlantic economy. No more. No less." Indeed. 
The Agency's family jewels
Of the numerous skeletons in the CIA's closet, few are more closely guarded than information about the many books the Agency covertly helped to publish during the first three decades of the cold war. The Church Committee of the Senate, among its many other revelations, disclosed in 1976 that "well over a thousand books" had been produced, subsidized or sponsored by the CIA by 1967, with about 250 more from then to 1976. Many of the books were sold in the United States as well as abroad. Like many other researchers, I have filed Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain the names of these books, but to no avail. At one point the Agency sent me 84 pages of material, which did not contain the name of a single book. I appealed this and just last month, after more than two years, I received a reply, which stated in part:
“The Agency is unable to conduct a search for the records requested because we are unable to identify an Agency record system where records responsive to your request could reasonably be expected to be located.”
If I understand the English, they're saying that they couldn't find the records I asked for because they didn't know where to look. Hmmm. Well, they might begin with the name of one of their frequently used publishers, Praeger (formerly F. A. Praeger), which put out half of the books in the following list of CIA-backed titles which have been revealed in one place or another over the years: The Dynamics of Soviet Society by Walt Rostow; The New Class by Milovan Djilas; Concise History of the Communist Party by Robert A. Burton; The Foreign Aid Programs of the Soviet Bloc and Communist China by Kurt Muller; In Pursuit of World Order by Richard N. Gardner; Peking and People's Wars by Major General Sam Griffith; The Yenan Way by Eudocio Ravines; Life and Death in Soviet Russia by Valentin Gonzalez; The Anthill by Suzanne Labin; The Politics of Struggle: The Communist Front and Political Warfare by James D. Atkinson; From Colonialism to Communism by Hoang Van Chi; Why Viet Nam? by Frank Trager; and Terror in Vietnam by Jay Mallin.
Another family jewel is Operation Gladio, the astounding terrorist campaign in Western Europe run by the CIA, NATO, and several European intelligence agencies for decades following World War II, which I've written about in my books.  What promises to be the bible on the subject has just appeared: Operation Gladio: NATO's Top Secret Stay-Behind Armies and Terrorism in Western Europe, in English from Frank Cass Publishers (London) and Amazon, and upcoming in Italian from Fazi Editore (Rome). The Swiss author, Daniele Ganser, is uniquely suited for the task, being a fluent reader of Italian, German, French and English, all the key languages of the Gladio documentation.
William Blum is the author of:
Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2,
Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower,
Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire, and
West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir. Visit his website:
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
 William Blum, "Killing
Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II", chapter 10