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Ear to the Ground

Obama’s Terror Campaign

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Posted on Apr 22, 2013
twm1340 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The president maintains a “global system of kidnapping, torture, rape and murder” to demoralize and coerce those who would oppose the American-led neoliberal empire, political economist Rob Urie writes in CounterPunch.

Barack Obama “claimed the right to ‘look forward, not back’ ” when he entered office in 2009. It wasn’t his to claim. U.S. law required the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed by the Bush administration, namely the systematic torture carried out throughout the last decade’s war on terror confirmed in a report released this month by the bipartisan, government-independent Constitution Project. By denying even an attempt at justice—for the supposed sake of preserving national unity—the president confirmed America’s official policy of torture and terror in the 21st century.

Instead of reviving the international sanction against aggressive war, torture and the imprisonment of innocents, Obama employed “opaque public relations techniques, quasi-sophisticated language and his casual demeanor” to throw fuel on the fire of all of those practices. He chose “continuity and enhancement over clear, straightforward and unambiguous break with Mr. Bush’s catastrophic policies,” codifying “them into the set of ‘acceptable’ [and bipartisan] practices of American empire.”

All this in spite of the fact that these methods do not make the world safer for Americans. Torture doesn’t produce reliable information and offers of cash to inform on innocent people said to have committed crimes—such as the Bush administration offered to poor Afghans—created incentives for the betrayal of neighbor by neighbor. Far more people are killed by drones, or left to languish in jail awaiting a prosecution that will never come, or mutilated for information they can’t provide, than are guilty or possess knowledge of actual crimes.

So why stick to such methods? Because, writes Urie: “The unstated purpose of imperial torture and murder is to provide evidence of imperial power—to produce subservience and acquiescence through random terror,” and thus to shape a planet full of people, at home and abroad, who dare neither to question nor oppose official practices and policies.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

Rob Urie at CounterPpunch:

The practical problem with using imperial / state terror as a strategy of political repression is that random torture and murder don’t force compliance with imperial and / or state interests—their random nature precludes association between their infliction and specific acts. This general principle was understood by the time of the Nuremberg trials—Nazi law couldn’t be followed because it was incoherent. But the point of Nazi law was to force the will of the Nazi leadership onto the German citizenry, not to maintain civil order. What change in behavior can be obtained through Mr. Obama’s drone murders other than to prevent people from being males between the ages of 16 and 50 or from sitting down with their families to share a meal? What interest is served other than to terrorize people? The Bush administration had little interest in determining the guilt or innocence of those imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay because the point of their incarceration wasn’t (isn’t) to punish guilt; it is to demonstrate imperial power.

… The purpose of the surveillance state isn’t to solve some ‘crime’ wave because there is none. Persons of the ‘wrong’ skin color and / or economic class aren’t harassed, beaten, fraudulently incarcerated or murdered to reduce ‘crime’ because an entire ruling class of economic and war criminals is hiding in plain sight and available for arrest were it in ‘the state’s’ interest to reduce crime. The rise of solitary confinement (torture) and the revival of debtor’s and for-profit prisons in the U.S. illuminate the political economic interests behind the incarceration state. And as New York City’s police Commissioner Ray Kelly recently articulated, the purpose of harassment of, violence against and incarceration of black and brown youth is to create a level of state terror that precludes ‘crime.’ In other words, terror is the state tactic of repression, not the crime.

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