Panic Attack

I hope you have seen the 25 minute interview with Ed Snowden, the man who blew the whistle on the NSA. The interview was conducted in Hong Kong where Snowden now resides until he has determined what the future will bring. He comes across as a bright, articulate, well-informed, and conscientious young man who knows whereof he speaks and also knows exactly what he did. I will not  spoil the interview for you because it is well worth your time, no matter how busy you are. I will simply attach the link here and hope you will check it out.

Toward the end of his interview Mr. Snowden expresses his main concern: that after the dust settles, things will go back to the way they were — except that the intelligence gathering community will become even more efficient and they will continue to gather information about all of us and we have no idea whatever how that information will be used by a government that increasingly borders on paranoia. Actually, I paraphrase and added the bit about paranoia myself. But if you listen to the interview you will see what Mr. Snowden actually does say. He certainly hopes that American citizens will become riled up enough about the situation that they will put pressure on their representatives so that present policies in Washington can be changed and this surveillance nonsense can be thwarted. And he is realistic enough to worry that this will not happen.

So am I. I am put in mind of some comments made by Andrew J. Bacevich, a West Point graduate who fought in Viet Nam in 1970 and 1971, served as a career Army officer, rising to the rank of Colonel. Bacevich recently testified to a Senate committee that Americans have “fallen prey to militarism, manifesting itself in a romanticized view of soldiers, a tendency to see military power as the truest measure of national greatness, and outsized expectations regarding the efficacy of force. To a degree without precedent in U.S. history.” As Bacevich went on to say, “The mystical war on Communism finds its counterpart in the mystical war on terrorism. It prevents us from seeing things as they are.”

Bacevich, like Snowden, also knows whereof he speaks. And given this present aura of “mysticism” in Washington, one can conclude that the Congress in the grips of the military and the intelligence community to a degree that even a full-fledged effort by the American people will not penetrate that fog and result in alterations of national policy. This is the case because it is not only the American citizens who have “fallen prey to militarism,” it is our leaders as well. And with this fog thickening every day, it will become even more difficult to penetrate and messages to Congressional leaders from their constituents will simply not get through. The truly unsettling thing about this situation is that it is largely built on a fiction. Ours is one of the safest countries on earth.

We are separated from much of the world by two oceans and bordered by allies, as we are reminded by Jill Lepore in a recent New Yorker article (1/28/13). The country is, “by dint of geography among the best-protected countries on earth. Nevertheless, six decades after V-J Day nearly three thousand American troops are stationed overseas, including fifty-five thousand in Germany, thirty-five thousand in Japan, and ten thousand in Italy.” Further, our intelligence community, despite its excesses, is considerably better informed about the goings on of suspected terrorists than it was before the attacks on the Twin Towers.  And yet, despite these protections the nation shakes in fear of what we seem convinced is an inevitable terrorist attack that will bring this nation to its knees and wreak havoc among our citizens. We have become increasingly apathetic and are losing our collective sense of perspective. Despite the fact that the odds of any single American being killed by terrorists is approximately the same as that same American winning the lottery, we seem perfectly content to hand over our freedoms and even our consciences to the government in the name of “national security.”

Thus, it would seem, Mr. Snowden’s fears are well founded.  After the dust settles — and it will settle sooner rather than later — things will almost certainly go back to the way they were. The mystique of militarism has us all in its grips, and we seem perfectly content to leave it that way.


12 thoughts on “Panic Attack

  1. A $638 Billion military appropriation is going through the Congress right now for just this coming year! I have heard little discussion that this so immoral when there are endless human needs crying out for attention – but it seems the response to those needs is cuts and less help. But whatever the military wants it gets and nobody really knows how it’s spent, as it is so huge it can’t be audited adequately.
    It’s strange that the fear of terrorist attack (fear of death) is used to take away our privacy and freedom. Yet, death for someone is thier answer for fear of death in us. We are a death economy, and yes, lots of our economy is involved in the business of weaponry and keeping our huge military. Lots of wealth by big corps to be made by keeping us afraid of them out there killing us.

  2. I am continuously amazed at the complacency of Americans over this spying issue. Other than a few bloggers, such as yourself, and a very good friend who is really up on current events, its as if no one even is aware of this situation, or if they are, they are consumed with blind faith in the government, and a belief they “wouldn’t do anything wrong.” Are our citizens really becoming that stupid?

    As you note, we are being led down the path based on a fear-mongering military industrial complex, and a congress led like sheep in their pursuit of contributions from corporate america.

    The attached link is a great piece on the disconnect in DC.

  3. My son recently reminded me that our ‘snail’ mail is protected, but email is not. If you follow that email is replacing traditional mail, wouldn’t you want to give it the same protection?

  4. “We are getting what we deserve, some would say…”

    Perhaps when all the “somes” finally figure out what they freely gave away, might ask
    “How did this happen?”

    Given the apathy to this issue, however, I doubt that question will ever be raised…

  5. being online so rarely this past week, i’m counting on your posts to keep me informed! yes, i did watch this interview, but i am glad to see this post as a refresher.

    thanks, hugh, for being a constant – the anchor while i sail from one latin american adventure to another!


  6. I like your last comment on this piece best, while everything else I find completely kosher to my tastes nonetheless, in that it’s so rare to read a man’s words as one who speaks for himself, not presuming to speak for others. Contentment has never been my strong suite.

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