The NSA is spying on everyone and there is no privacy. The government lies about who it spies on, the things they look at and who has access to all that information. Although the NSA is minimally limited by law in what its spooks can do without a warrant from a FISA court, even then they routinely ignore the requirements of the law and instead spy with impunity on anyone and anything they like. When the NSA does go to court for a warrant, only the government’s case is presented – there is no challenge to its claims – so the FISA court approves NSA requests more than 99% of the time. And there is next to no congressional oversight exercised over the FISA court, much less over the NSA. Nobody is watching the watchers.
We enacted laws to protect whistle blowers, because we want to encourage citizens to call out wrong-doing and wrong-doers. Then we routinely shame and humiliate the whistle blowers, calling them traitors, spies and quite a few other names that would be expected if they came from a 12-year-old brat on a playground. We also end the careers and prosecute those same whistle blowers, this in order to discourage others from blowing whistles, lest actual wrongdoing be cast in sunlight and we expose the nefarious behavior of legislators and bureaucrats.
It may be comforting to say, “I obey the laws so I don’t care about the ubiquitous snooping,” but that myopic and self-focused attitude is, well, myopic and self-focused, even to the point of self-destruction. Today they may be coming for the neighbor whom you don’t care about, but they will be at your door tomorrow and you will be presumed guilty. Not officially, of course. It’s just the way things will happen. Who will stand up for you?
Shift for a moment to something that may seem to be a separate topic. I promise that it is not.
I’ve been saying for years that we still haven’t learned all the lessons of our war in Vietnam. We intruded there on someone else’s civil war, arguably on the wrong side, and stayed involved for almost ten years, leaving the imprint on US history of this being the first war we lost. The stated reason for our intrusion was a lie – fighting the Communists there instead of in Kansas – and we further excused our invasion by claiming an attack on a US Navy ship, but that attack never happened. The war took over 58,000 American lives and well over a million Vietnamese lives.
The one lesson of the war in Vietnam that politicians did learn is that they could not wage dishonest wars by means of a military draft. That was made clear by mass demonstrations during that vastly unpopular war. So, the draft is gone, replaced now by a volunteer military supplemented by civilian “contractors.” That word does not mean plumbers and carpenters. It means mercenary armies and ours are accountable to no one and they kill with impunity.
Fast forward to 2003 when we inserted ourselves into Iraq for two lies – non-existent WMD’s and Saddam’s non-existent ties to al Qaeda – and we stayed there nearly nine years. That took over 4,500 American lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives. It also teed up an Iraq civil war that continues today with no end in sight. The killing goes on.
There was just a handful of al Qaeda terrorists who attacked America. In order to bring them to justice “dead or alive” we sent battalions of our troops to Afghanistan to wage war on that entire country in 2001. As of this writing, we’re still making war there, with tens of thousands of people dead – nobody has a clue exactly how many – and over 4,000 “on our side” dead. It is not clear if the US will win this war, since the goals have shifted repeatedly. The original goal was the elimination of al Qaeda. Then it shifted to the removal of the Taliban from power in Afghanistan. Neither of those goals will be fully met. In fact, it is not clear what will be achieved. However, it is clear that we will have a very long term involvement there, well past the oft-declared 2014 “end of combat operations” date.
- What these three wars have in common are:
- Each was started under false pretenses – i.e., lies. Not mistakes. Lies.
- The goal posts were in constant motion.
- A lot of troops were wounded or killed without ever knowing what they had served.
- A lot of civilian contractors became extremely wealthy.
- A lot of politicians won office and stayed there thanks to contributions from wealthy war materiel contractors.
- The real question is why all of that happens and that “why” is the connector between unbridled spying and endless war. It is about pills.
We as a people have accepted that the solution to our problems can be found in a pill. The biggest selling pharmaceuticals in America are psychotropics – Zoloft, Ambien and the rest. We are, to some degree, a continent of zombies. We cope by means of decreased sensitivity to what goes on around us. That’s good for Big Pharma. Not so good for the rest of us.
“Pill,” of course, is a placeholder for all the ways we disengage, tune out. It includes the vague assumption that someone else will step up and handle the situation or that our little contribution won’t make a difference, a key rationalization for why only 37% of eligible voters will show up to vote on November 4, 2014.
We as a people have been fed such a torrential river of lies, false innuendo, public stupidity and hollow promises for so long that we no longer believe in our government and we have dropped out. Indeed, public trust in government is at 19% and falling. We don’t engage with the things that fail to poke through the tough barrier of our own narrow vision. That lets those in power get away with making laws that promote terrible things, breaking laws on a whim and without consequences and with waging dishonest wars for decades. We are treated with sleight of hand so that we do not focus on the official unpatriotic actions and instead are exhorted with disingenuous pleas to “support our troops,” as though that is the only worthy test of patriotism.
If you and I don’t all drop back in soon, all of that will continue until you have no privacy, no freedom and no safety at all.
George Orwell was an optimist.
Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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