These true stories are told in declassified files in the Public Record Office, yet represent an entire dimension of politics and the exercise of power excluded from public consideration. This has been achieved by a regime of un-coercive information control, from the evangelical mantra of consumer advertising to sound-bites on BBC news and now the ephemera of social media.
It is as if writers as watchdogs are extinct, or in thrall to a sociopathic zeitgeist, convinced they are too clever to be duped. Witness the stampede of sycophants eager to deify Christopher Hitchens, a war lover who longed to be allowed to justify the crimes of rapacious power. "For almost the first time in two centuries", wrote Terry Eagleton, "there is no eminent British poet, playwright or novelist prepared to question the foundations of the western way of life." No Orwell warns that we do not need to live in a totalitarian society to be corrupted by totalitarianism. No Shelley speaks for the poor, no Blake proffers a vision, no Wilde reminds us that "disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man's original virtue". And grievously no Pinter rages at the war machine, as in American Football:
Praise the Lord for all good things ...
We blew their balls into shards of dust,
Into shards of f*cking dust."
Into shards of f*cking dust go all the lives blown there by Barack Obama, the Hopey Changey of western violence. Whenever one of Obama's drones wipes out an entire family in a faraway tribal region of Pakistan, or Somalia, or Yemen, the American controllers in front of their computer-game screens type in "Bugsplat." Obama likes drones and has joked about them with journalists. One of his first actions as president was to order a wave of Predator drone attacks on Pakistan that killed 74 people. He has since killed thousands, mostly civilians; drones fire Hellfire missiles that suck the air out of the lungs of children and leave body parts festooned across scrubland.
Remember the tear-stained headlines when Brand Obama was elected: "momentous, spine-tingling": the Guardian. "The American future," wrote Simon Schama, "is all vision, numinous, unformed, light-headed ..." The San Francisco Chronicle's columnist saw a spiritual "lightworker [who can] usher in a new way of being on the planet." Beyond the drivel, as the great whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg had predicted, a military coup was taking place in Washington, and Obama was their man. Having seduced the anti-war movement into virtual silence, he has given America's corrupt military officer class unprecedented powers of state and engagement. These include the prospect of wars in Africa and opportunities for provocations against China, America's largest creditor and new "enemy" in Asia. Under Obama, the old source of official paranoia Russia, has been encircled with ballistic missiles and the Russian opposition infiltrated. Military and CIA assassination teams have been assigned to 120 countries; long planned attacks on Syria and Iran beckon a world war. Israel, the exemplar of US violence and lawlessness by proxy, has just received its annual pocket money of $3bn together with Obama's permission to steal more Palestinian land.
Obama's most "historic" achievement is to bring the war on democracy home to America. On New Year's Eve, he signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a law that grants the Pentagon the legal right to kidnap both foreigners and US citizens and indefinitely detain, interrogate and torture, or even kill them. They need only "associate" with those "belligerent" to the United States. There will be no protection of law, no trial, no legal representation. This is the first explicit legislation to abolish habeus corpus (the right to due process of law) and effectively repeal the Bill of Rights of 1789.
On 5 January, in an extraordinary speech at the Pentagon, Obama said the military would not only be ready to "secure territory and populations" overseas but to fight in the "homeland" and provide "support to the civil authorities." In other words, US troops will be deployed on the streets of American cities when the inevitable civil unrest takes hold.
America is now a land of epidemic poverty and barbaric prisons: the consequence of a "market" extremism which, under Obama, has prompted the transfer of $14 trillion in public money to criminal enterprises in Wall Street. The victims are mostly young jobless, homeless, incarcerated African-Americans, betrayed by the first black president. The historic corollary of a perpetual war state, this is not fascism, not yet, but neither is it democracy in any recognisable form, regardless of the placebo politics that will consume the news until November. The presidential campaign, says the Washington Post, will "feature a clash of philosophies rooted in distinctly different views of the economy". This is patently false. The circumscribed task of journalism on both sides of the Atlantic is to create the pretence of political choice where there is none.
The same shadow is across Britain and much of Europe where social democracy, an article of faith two generations ago, has fallen to the central bank dictators. In David Cameron's "big society," the theft of 84bn pounds in jobs and services even exceeds the amount of tax "legally" avoid by piratical corporations. Blame rests not with the far right, but a cowardly liberal political culture that has allowed this to happen, which, wrote Hywel Williams in the wake of the attacks on 9/11, "can itself be a form of self righteous fanaticism." Tony Blair is one such fanatic. In its managerial indifference to the freedoms that it claims to hold dear, bourgeois Blairite Britain has created a surveillance state with 3,000 new criminal offences and laws: more than for the whole of the previous century. The police clearly believe they have an impunity to kill. At the demand of the CIA, cases like that of Binyam Mohamed, an innocent British resident tortured and then held for five years in Guantanamo Bay, will be dealt with in secret courts in Britain "in order to protect the intelligence agencies" -- the torturers.
This invisible state allowed the Blair government to fight the Chagos islanders as they rose from their despair in exile and demanded justice in the streets of Port Louis and London. "Only when you take direct action, face to face, even break laws, are you ever noticed," said Lisette. "And the smaller you are, the greater your example to others." Such an eloquent answer to those who still ask, "What can I do?"
I last saw Lisette's tiny figure standing in driving rain alongside her comrades outside the Houses of Parliament. What struck me was the enduring courage of their resistance. It is this refusal to give up that rotten power fears, above all, knowing it is the seed beneath the snow.
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