Tomgram: Alfred McCoy, Surveillance State, U.S.A. | TomDispatch.com
Wars come home in strange, unnerving ways -- as Americans have just discovered at Fort Hood. Even before Major Nidal Malik Hasan went on his killing spree, that base, a major military embarkation point for our war zones, was already experiencing the after-effects of eight years of war and repeated tours of duty. The suicide rate at Fort Hood was soaring (with 10 on the base in 2009 alone). Divorce rates were on the rise, as were mental health problems, drug and alcohol use, domestic abuse (up 75% since 2001), and murders among war-zone returnees. Even violent crime in Killeen, the town that houses the base, was up 22% (though it was down, according to the New York Times, "in towns of similar size in other parts of the country"). In an era in which our last president urged Americans to support his Global War on Terror by shopping and visiting Disney World, it often seemed that, except for soldiers and their families, our wars abroad affected little in this country.
And yet for an imperial power past its prime, foreign wars, even ones fought thousands of miles from home, have a way of coming back to haunt. Alfred W. McCoy tends to be ahead of the curve in his writing. In the Vietnam era, he had to fight the CIA to get his book, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, published; in the Bush years, he was perhaps the first person to recognize that the photos from Abu Ghraib represented no anomaly but the product of a long history of CIA torture research -- and published a powerful book, A Question of Torture, on the subject.
His latest book, Policing America's Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State, meets counterinsurgency, another topic direct from today's headlines, head on. It ends on these lines: "...a state, like the United States, that rules a foreign territory through political repression and pervasive policing soon finds many of those same coercive methods moving homeward to degrade its own democracy. Such are the costs of empire." In his latest TomDispatch post, McCoy lays out just how that impulse for repression and policing, so vividly and violently expressed abroad in these last years, is now quietly taking aim at us. Tom
Welcome Home, War!
How America's Wars Are Systematically Destroying Our Liberties
By Alfred W. McCoy
In his approach to National Security Agency surveillance, as well as CIA renditions, drone assassinations, and military detention, President Obama has to a surprising extent embraced the expanded executive powers championed by his conservative predecessor, George W. Bush. This bipartisan affirmation of the imperial executive could "reverberate for generations," warns Jack Balkin, a specialist on First Amendment freedoms at Yale Law School. And consider these but some of the early fruits from the hybrid seeds that the Global War on Terror has planted on American soil. Yet surprisingly few Americans seem aware of the toll that this already endless war has taken on our civil liberties.
Don't be too surprised, then, when, in the midst of some future crisis, advanced surveillance methods and other techniques developed in our recent counterinsurgency wars migrate from Baghdad, Falluja, and Kandahar to your hometown or urban neighborhood. And don't ever claim that nobody told you this could happen -- at least not if you care to read on. Read more.