Recently by Douglas Valentine: Homeland Security for Whom?
The following commentary is drawn from a speech delivered by Douglas Valentine at a peace conference:
The politics of terror are the greatest covert operation ever.
In explaining why, I’ll begin by defining some terms, because, when discussing the covert op called “the politics of terror,” words and their management are all important.
How are politics and terror actually defined: how are these meanings manipulated; for what purposes, and by whom?
Terrorism is defined as "violence against civilians intended to obtain a political purpose."
This is an ambiguous phrase, which begs the questions: what are politics and violence?
Politics is defined as “the process by which groups of people make collective decisions.” And violence in this context is the use of force to compel a person or group to do or think something against their will. That includes the violence of words – of threatening to hurt – and of social structures, as well as the violence of deeds.
So, by definition, terrorism is political violence – hurting people, or threatening to hurt them, in order to make them govern themselves (or acquiesce to an external force) against their will.
In America, terrorism is always condemned by the government, and, accordingly, America is never a perpetrator of terrorism, but always the victims of it.
The U.S. war on terror is the ultimate expression of this principle: it is a military response to terrorism; violence in self-defense, not (ostensibly) violence for a political purpose.
That’s the official story – the assumption. But I’m going to show that America does engage in terrorism – violence against civilians for political purposes. This “state” terrorism, however, is covert, in so far as it is equated with national security, and thanks to that built-in ambiguity, it has both stated and unstated purpose.
The State and Unstated Policy in America
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. But who really makes the overarching political decisions in America? Who governs us?
The two political parties represent the people and they compete for control of the government. Historically, Republicans have generally favored business and Democrats have favored labor. The political division is, generally, class based.
Now, the government can be controlled by either political party; but the state endures – “the state” being the nation’s indispensable industries and infrastructure (banking, auto industry, insurance, Microsoft), and the institutions which defend the nation’s enduring interests: the military, law enforcement, the intelligence and security services.
In Europe they often, cynically, refer to the state as “industry” or Big Business. In America we tend to call “the state” the Establishment – an ambiguous word that needs to be defined.
The dictionary defines Establishment as, “An exclusive group of powerful people who rule a government or society by means of private agreements and decisions.”
I would venture to say that the interests of the state and the Establishment are the same, and that the definition of Establishment with a capital E is the pivotal phrase in discussing “state” terrorism. . Consider this: there is the politics of the two parties vying for control of the government, and there is the Establishment, the state, making the covert (ostensibly non-political) decisions that effectively govern America.
Many of those covert decisions concern national security: they are unstated policy.
Moreover, these covert policy decisions about national security are made by people who control the military, law enforcement, and intelligence and security services. These guardians of “the state” are collectively called the National Security Establishment.
Like the Establishment that secretly rules the “state,” the National Security Establishment is an exclusive group that is not accountable to the political whims of the people.
These professional guardians of the state – the Establishment – are assumed to be above partisan politics. Their loyalty is assumed to be to the law or national security. And that assumption is the Big Lie upon which state terrorism is based.
Yes, it is true that the National Security Establishment is not accountable to the people: and, in fact, it has built a series of ever-larger, concentric moats around itself called the National Security State, precisely to keep the people out of its business.
The National Security Establishment rules the National Security State, with an iron fist, but it is pure propaganda that the National Security Establishment and State are not political.
In order to get inside the National Security Establishment, and rise to a position of authority within it, one must be born there (like Bush or make billions like Bill Gates), or submit to years of right-wing political indoctrination calibrated to a series of increasingly restrictive security clearances.
Political indoctrination – adopting the correct right-wing ideology – and security clearances represent the drawbridge across the moats.
The National Security State is the covert social structure of the Establishment, and it has as its job not just defending the Establishment from foreign enemies, but also expanding the Establishment’s economic and military influence abroad, while preserving its class prerogatives at home.
By “class prerogatives,” I mean the National Security State is designed to keep the lower class from exerting any political control over the state; especially, redistributing the Establishment’s private wealth.
To these unstated ends – imperialism abroad and repression at home – the National Security State engages in terrorism – i.e. political violence – on behalf of the Establishment.
Indeed, the National Security State is political violence, terrorism, in its purest form.
The Establishment and its National Security State as Terrorism
The lower classes in America have little voice in making government or state policy. Some members of the lower classes have given up hope, others are content: but in either case, voter turnout is a mere 54 percent.
Whether hopeless or content, they know they cannot fight conventional thinking. For example, when the Establishment exerts its influence, it is not considered politics; it is simply the status quo. The rich create jobs and must be accommodated with trillion-dollar bailouts, paid for by workers taking furloughs.
That’s just the way it is. Politicians in the service of the Establishment, for over-arching reasons of national security, have to keep the capitalist financial system afloat.
It is the same thing with the National Security Establishment: America invaded Iraq, and there was nothing the people could do about it. The decision was made for them. Peace activists, least of all, had no voice in the decision, because they are assumed to have no stake in national security.
You will not find peace activists in the National Security Establishment; and that political repression is part of covert state terrorism.
Likewise, if labor seeks to exercise influence, its efforts are described as exploiting the state for more than it deserves, because it does not have an enduring stake in the state.
It is a fact: only Establishment wealth – ownership – is equated with national security.
Consider the immortal words of Leona Helmsley: “Only the little people pay taxes.”
That injustice in the tax code is political repression and, in so far as it makes the people fearful, it is state terrorism. The Establishment fears losing its loopholes, while workers and the poor fear losing their homes: two types of fear, one for each class, one stated, one unstated.
The Establishment engages imperialism and political repression through propaganda (word management violence) and social structures. This state terrorism also is unstated, covert.
Only when the people rebel and challenge the Establishment is the word terrorism applied.
Likewise, the military, police or intelligence actions that provoke rebellion, or the responses to rebellion, are never called terrorism: they are national security.
And that’s how the management of words helps to repress the lower classes.
Douglas Valentine [send him mail] is the author of four previously published books: The Hotel Tacloban (Lawrence Hill, 1984), The Phoenix Program, (William Morrow, 1990), TDY (iUniverse.com, 2000), and The Strength of the Wolf: The Secret History of America's War on Drugs (Verso, 2004). His latest book is The Strength of the Pack (TrineDay, 2009). For more information about the author and his works, please visit his websites at www.douglasvalentine.com and http://members.authorsguild.net/valentine.