The other day I took note of the fact that I still have a paper shredder( a Michael Graves design). And for the first time I questioned my need for this appliance. I assume that any paper I might consider shred worthy is in a file somewhere accessible to at least the thousands of employees and contractors of United States security agencies and major technological and financial corporations.So why bother?
I doubt anyone will be writing songs about secrets as the disappearance of privacy seems to be coextensive with the loss of personal secrecy—what music will be played while the Global Security State’s lust for secrecy runs rampant and roughshod—I’m thinking the second movement of Shostakovich’s “Leningrad” 7th Symphony would be fitting? Need I expand on the idea that current notions of secrecy dwell in the far simpler past, when one’s privacy was not being actively shredded by the government and technologically savvy enterprises whose methods ranged from aggressive data mining to poaching. Of course there is also rendition and drone bombing but the US government wouldn’t do such to its own citizens. How would we know?
We know because under relentless persecution and ceaseless duress, a number of people have stepped forward to wake the USA’s slumbering citizens to what should alarm many sentient rational beings. You may have heard of US Army intel analyst PFCChelsea Manning* (known as Bradley Manning)or National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden**. Were it not for this pair of loyal Americans, among others, we would still be staring at the cave wall(note my clever reference to Socrates Allegory of the Cave).
Tom Englehardt who publishes Tomdispatch(“A Regular Antidote to the Mainstream Media”), one of a handful of web journals that view US culture and governance with righteously critical eye (with contributions from Rebecca Solnit, Bill McKibben, Mike Davis, Chalmers Johnson, Michael Klare, Adam Hochschild, Robert Lipsyte, Glenn Greenwald Elizabeth de la Vega and Nick Turse), has just published Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World (Haymarket Books) which scrutinizes what he terms a burgeoning “Global Security State”:
… You put about $68 billion annually into a maze of 17 major intelligence outfits. You build them glorious headquarters. You create a global surveillance state for the ages. You listen in on your citizenry and gather their communications in staggering quantities. Your employees even morph into avatars and enter video-game landscapes, lest any Americans betray a penchant for evil deeds while in entertainment mode. You collect information on visits to porn sites just in case, one day, blackmail might be useful. You pass around naked photos of them just for… well, the salacious hell of it. Your employees even use aspects of the system you’ve created to stalk former lovers and, within your arcane world, that act of “spycraft” gains its own name: LOVEINT.
…no one considered it a problem that the country lacked 17 overlapping outfits bent on preventing approximately 400,000 deaths by firearms in the same years; nor 17 interlocked agencies dedicated to safety on our roads, where more than 450,000 Americans have died since 9/11. (An American, it has been calculated, is 1,904 times more likely to die in a car accident than in a terrorist attack.) Almost all the money and effort have instead been focused on the microscopic number of terrorist plots — some spurred on by FBI plants.
Unknown knowns or Known unknowns?
Ninety one year old Herr Professor Kissinger is still at it. The former Nixon henchman, who at the least has shown an indifference to the human carnage wrought by his diplomatic endeavors and at the most may by international law standards be a war criminal, has a new tome, World Order (Penguin Press). Hilary Clinton observes:
When Americans look around the world today, we see one crisis after another….the liberal international order that the United States has worked for generations to build and defend seems to be under pressure from every quarter.
…Henry Kissinger explains the historic scope of this challenge. His analysis, despite some differences over specific policies, largely fits with the broad strategy behind the Obama administration’s effort over the past six years to build a global architecture of security and cooperation for the 21st century.
…We need to have an honest conversation together — all of us — about the costs and imperatives of global leadership, and what it really takes to keep our country safe and strong.
We have a lot to talk about. Sometimes we’ll disagree. But that’s what democracy is all about. A real national dialogue is the only way we’re going to rebuild a political consensus to take on the perils and the promise of the 21st century. Henry Kissinger’s book makes a compelling case for why we have to do it and how we can succeed.
Setting aside the question of whether one buys into Kissinger’s realpolitik view of the “liberal international order”, one gasps at the fantasy of “rebuilding a political consensus” through “a real national dialogue.”If somebody could point out to me what political consensus is being rebuilt and when the last “real national dialogue” occurred I can begin to breathe again.
Now though it ought not go unsaid that Henry Kissinger is a competent student of history who echoes centuries (think Count Metternich)of realpolitikspeak the uber-ubiquitous mandarin Walter Issakson bloviates:
…Because he and Nixon failed to weave in the idealism that is ingrained in the American DNA, popular support for their realist edifice was precarious, as if built of bricks without straw. Kissinger was attacked by moral idealists of the left and, more notably, by the nascent neoconservatives and ardent anticommunists on the right.
Kissinger ends his latest book on a different note, one of humility—a trait that for most of his career he was better at humorously feigning than at actually possessing. “Long ago, in youth, I was brash enough to think myself able to pronounce on ‘The Meaning of History,’” he writes. “I now know that history’s meaning is a matter to be discovered, not declared.”
The key to Kissinger’s foreign policy realism, and the theme at the heart of his magisterial new book, is that such humility is important not just for people but also for nations, even the U.S. Making progress toward a world order based on “individual dignity and participatory governance” is a lofty ideal, he notes. “But progress toward it will need to be sustained through a series of intermediate stages.”
“Magisterial” new book? Oh my. Isaakson would be more creditable if he thought to acknowledge that Nobel Peace Prize Winner Kissinger’s*** approaches to Vietnam, Iran & Iraq, Chile, East Timor etc. assured the “failure of weaving in the idealism that is ingrained in the American DNA.” One can’t help but wonder what the late, lamented Christopher Hitchens would have made of Kissinger’s latest humble foreign policy decrees.
* The Passion of Bradley Manning: The Story of the Suspect Behind the Largest Security Breach in U.S. History by Chase Madar (OR Books)
** No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald (Metropolitan Books)
*** The Trial of Henry Kissinger by Christopher Hitchens (Verso)
Currently reading Scribe by Bob Ryan (Bloomsbury)