A former acting general counsel of the CIA, John Rizzo, has been hitting the news circuit hustling a book where he defends CIA dirty tricks and America's use of torture. He has disclosed that although he was in a position to stop the CIA from torturing prisoners during interrogations, he declined to do so. Americans are unified and vociferous in declaiming torture as a heinous practice that is beneath our national dignity. We are under treaty obligations preventing torture. Article VI of the U.S. Constitution declares that treaties concluded by the President and ratified by the Senate are the "supreme Law of the Land," but Rizzo couldn't bring himself to honor the very principles that he is supposedly protecting. He said that he couldn't countenance the thought of another terrorist attack and its resultant casualties. So, just like that, by endorsing torture, the same country that could stand up to a threat like Hitler without compromising its core values instead shucks all principles and runs to the national security apparatus to keep us safe. Whether it be illegal wiretapping, torture, kidnapping or "extrajudicial killing," no price is too high to keep Americans "safe" at home.
A year after the Newtown school shootings, over 30,000 Americans are still killed by gunfire every year. More than 7,500 children and teenagers are hospitalized with gunshot wounds. Over 100 children die from gun deaths in their own homes. But no remedial legislation, however respectful and supportive of gun rights it might be, will be forthcoming from the U.S. Congress. Cowed into submission by the dollars and the threats of the National Rifle Association, our legislators cry that their hands are tied by the Second Amendment, and these gun deaths are just the price we have to pay to live in a free (to pack heat) society.
If you visit the National Institute of Health website you will find study after study that details how air and water pollution, chemical dumps and leaks, or poisonous mine tailings have measurably increased death rates in the U.S. You can figure out just how many hundreds or thousands of us die each year, because of corporate abuse of our neighborhoods and the planet. Since it's difficult to pinpoint exactly which death came from which bit of malfeasance, it is rare that anyone is held directly accountable. These deaths could all be virtually eliminated, but it would cost the corporations more than they feel prepared to pay. We pay a price indeed: clusters of cancers, liver diseases, contaminated neighborhoods and devalued real estate, graveside memorials with the mementos from young lives not even begun to have been lived, to be allowed to work for those who are poisoning us.
Cell phones are causing damage to our brains and any other parts of our body where we pocket them. We are also seeing increasing morbidity on the roads due to cell phone use. Honey bees could be at risk from cell tower signals, as well as humans who dwell nearby. But there will be no national dialogue on the pros and cons of cell phone addiction and its related health risks. This is a price we're willing to pay in order to satisfy our newly discovered need to be connected to everything at all times.
But when it comes to protecting the "homeland" our leaders claim that it is unacceptable for a single innocent American to fall victim to terrorism. Yet they willingly sent tens of thousands of innocents to die in the jungles of Vietnam or the sands of Iraq merely to defend false national narratives.
It is a farce and a fallacy for the national security state to now claim that fourth amendment rights must be abrogated for the sake of absolute security. A farce because these are the same analysts who couldn't even make use of a report that warned them on the cover that bin-Laden was about to attack the U.S. How are they going to make intelligent use of data about billions of phone calls? A fallacy because our right to not be violated without probable cause by the state is a pillar of our society. Without our rights to privacy, we have no protection from the state and this state has lost our trust. The President and his spokesmen lie about spying on world leaders until the truth emerges to the contrary. The head of the NSA lies to Congress about the extent of phone tapping until the truth emerges. We are told about the dozens of terrorist attacks that were foiled by illegal surveillance until the truth emerges that they cannot verify virtually any of them. They tell us that Edward Snowden has compromised national security and important programs that keep us safe. But we know that they lie. We also have seen how time and time again the operations of the national security state have led us into ill-advised, deadly, expensive adventures that have only depleted our stature in the world, made us less safe at home and abroad, and, now, are eroding our civil liberties and changing the very nature of what it means to be an American.
No, what we must protect ourselves from are the fools who would abandon our founding principles and have us instead follow their confident but ill-advised lead. Their leadership, untethered as it is from our American values, has lost its legitimacy and to follow will only worsen our fate.
Dan DeWalt writes from Newfane. He is also a contributor to www.thiscantbehappening.net.