American Samizdat

Thursday, November 08, 2007. *
Paul Street

It is commonplace for left writers and activists to note stark contradictions between the declared objectives of United States foreign policy and the harsh imperial realities of that policy. It is difficult, we note, with good reason, for thinking persons to take seriously the US government's statements for freedom, justice, democracy and security and against terrorism, authoritarianism, violence, and insecurity when Uncle Sam's policy makers:

· Fuel the global arms race and engage in reckless saber-rattling military actions and pronouncements (most notably the "Axis of Evil" address) that mock international law and threaten to produce a new global war;

· Undercut nuclear arms control agreements to advance a dangerously destabilizing Star Wars scheme as part of the agenda for the US-dominated militarization of space;

· Transfer nearly unimaginable and unprecedented sums of wealth - hundreds of billions of dollars - to world's history's most fearsome military establishment and an evil axis of "defense" corporations in a planet where at least two billion people live in desperate poverty, on less than two dollars a day;

· Advance a toxic agenda of corporate-and finance-capitalist globalization that polarizes wealth inequality and thereby increases political, military, and ecological instability in a planet that is already harshly unequal, fragile, and violence-torn;

· Inflict violence and terror, both directly and indirectly, on masses of people the world over, even in some of the most desperate lands on earth, like Afghanistan;

· Support (fund, equip, train, etc.) authoritarian regimes that terrorize and repress significant portions of their subject and/or adjacent/colonized populations, as in (to name just a few examples among many) Columbia, Turkey, Pakistan, Russia, Uzbekastan, Israel, and Indonesia;

· Restrict the flow of information about the consequences of US overseas policies and plan the creation of an openly Orwellian disinformation agency to shape foreign perceptions of the US and US policy through lies and propaganda;

· Maintain many hundreds of military bases and installations in more than 50 "sovereign" nations across the world, each serving as a powerful symbol of America's status as the world's unrivalled imperial master and many providing the source for considerable resentment of that status;

· Strategize to overturn the official repudiation of the use of nuclear weapons in a first strike capacity.

It is important, however, to also keep our eyes on the US domestic scene, where the chasm between declared goals and harsh social realities is also great. That scene, after all, is where the true social and political taproot of dangerous imperial projects and the authoritarian values, paradigms, policies, and practices that inform such projects are always found.

Consider, for example, the startling expansion of a racist mass incarceration state before and then through the period that has witnessed the United States' emergence of as the world¼s unchallenged superpower. In a contradiction that Orwell could certainly appreciate, the nation that proudly proclaims itself homeland and headquarters of world freedom now imprisons 730,000 people per year.

Between 1972 and 2000, the number of people behind bars in the United States rose from 330,000 to nearly 2 million. In the latter year, the number of adults under "correctional supervision" - behind bars, on parole or on probation - reached a new historical high point of 6.47 million, equaling one in every 32 adults.

The rate of incarceration in the US is 699 per 100,000. The next highest rate in the world is Russia at 644 and the American rate is six times higher than those of Britain, Canada, or France. "No other Western democratic country has ever imprisoned this proportion of its population," says Norval Morris, a professor emeritus at University of Chicago Law School. He calls the number of people held behind bars in the United States America "appalling."

The numbers deserve serious reflection in a time when official US propaganda for the masses - constructed by elite policymakers and political intellectuals who show that they know much better when talking to each other - claims that the September 11th attackers were motivated by fear and hatred of American unparalleled "freedom."

The majority of those entering the inherently violent space of America's prison nation, where as many as 7 percent of inmates are raped, do so for nonviolent crimes. Between 1980 and 1997, the Justice Policy Institute reports, "the number of violent offenders committed to state prison nearly doubled (up 82 percent)," but "the number of nonviolent offenders tripled (up 207 percent)." People who committed nonviolent crimes account for more than three fourths of the nation's massive increase in prisoners between 1978 and 1996.

US correctional statistics and expenditures become even more "appalling" when broken down by race. Non-Hispanic whites accounted for 42% of state prison inmates in 1979 but less than a third by the end of the 20th century. Nearly 10 percent of black non-Hispanic men 25 to 29 years old were in prison in 2000 compared to 1.1 percent of whites in the same age group. The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that a young black man age 16 in 1996 faces 29% of serving time in prison during his life.
posted by Uncle $cam at 6:56 PM
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