For those readers who are part of the 40% of human beings who think Ignorance is Bliss, stop reading now. This article is about a truth so hard that it was actually depressing to write it. You might think that working on SOTT for many years, most of us are pretty tough and can deal with the hard stuff. But sometimes, you see something that rings a bell, and you know that you’ve had a glimpse behind the curtain, because somebody went before and left a map to show you the way. In this case, that person was Hannah Arendt.
The modern world can’t be an easy place to live in for those who are born genetically predisposed to crave absolute power over others. I mean, these days, any would-be totalitarian has only a very small chance of being born into one of the world’s few remaining overt dictatorships, and a much greater chance of being born into a large Western nation that is nominally democratic. While fulfillment of the megalomaniac’s innate drive is a walk in the park in a dictatorship, it requires all sorts of protracted subterfuge in a democracy. Bummer.
The main problem with giving free reign to one’s dictatorial leanings in a democracy is the whole ‘citizen’s rights’ and ‘Rights of Man’ thing. How is any self-aggrandizing despot to lord it over the masses, and watch them squirm and suffer and beg, when everyone seems convinced that there are not only democratic and legal rights but also natural ‘inalienable’ rights that come with just being a human being? Ideas that everyone is ‘created equal’ and has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness etc. can cause a lot of problems for the average authoritarian. Naturally then, in any democracy, all those rights would have to be removed before any oligarchy could transform citizens into subjects, and they’d have to be removed under the cloak of ‘protecting’ the very rights that were slated for extinction. A tall order indeed, but there are ways to do it.
One tried and tested way is to create a foreign or external threat from which the people of a democracy must be protected. All sorts of draconian laws that subvert civil rights can be passed to combat this ‘threat’, and if the ‘threat’ can then be made internal or domestic, and suspicion of ‘siding with enemy’ cast over the citizens, you’re well on your way to banishing those pesky legal and natural rights.
The 9-11 attacks were obviously the self-inflicted wound that created America’s external enemy, and very quickly thereafter, the threat of home-grown ‘domestic terrorism’ reared its ugly head when large numbers of people didn’t buy the Bush Administration’s conspiracy theory about 19 Arab terrorists. The USA PATRIOT Act, rushed into law on Oct. 26th 2001, began the rights-stripping process with the removal of the right to privacy, and gave the FBI, CIA and police forces free access to search telephone and e-mail communications, medical, financial, and any and all other personal records. Any US citizen could also be placed under surveillance as a possible ‘terrorist’ and, if necessary, indefinitely detained without charge. That the ‘USA PATRIOT Act’ was passed on a wave of obnoxious patriotism rather than sober deliberation becomes clear when we realise that the act’s authors went to ridiculous lengths to make sure that the name of the act spelled out ‘USA Patriot’. The name is a ten-letter acronym that stands for ‘Uniting (and) Strengthening America (by) Providing Appropriate Tools Required (to) Intercept (and) Obstruct Terrorism‘. ‘Appropriate tools required’? Surely tools that are required are by definition appropriate? And how do you ‘intercept terrorism’? And is merely ‘obstructing terrorism’ really enough? Aren’t we meant to be defeating it, or at least smoking it out of its cave and rat and spider holes, disheveled beard and all?
In 2003, the US Dept. of Justice drew up the ‘Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003′ aka ‘Patriot Act 2’. While it is assumed by many that the ‘Patriot Act 2’ was never introduced to Congress because the measures it proposed (such as requiring detainees to prove they were innocent rather than the US government providing any evidence that they were guilty) were unashamedly dictatorial, it seems the real reason was that it was just a little premature. Consider, for example, that one of the most offensive aspects of the proposed ‘Patriot Act 2’ was that, if the US government decided that a US citizen was either a member of, or providing material support to, ‘terrorist groups’, it could then revoke their citizenship and deport them to a foreign country without due process. Civil liberties and human rights groups were understandably outraged at that particular provision, understood it as the work of a few over-zealous ‘right-wing’ nut jobs in the Dept. of Justice, and were relieved when the ‘Patriot Act 2’ was scrapped.
Civil libertarian relief appears to have been somewhat naive however, because Congress is currently considering HR 3166 and S. 1698, also known as the ‘Enemy Expatriation Act‘, a bill sponsored by ‘Mr. Kill Switch’ and ‘Defender of Israel’, Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Charles Dent (R-PA), which, if passed, will give the US government the power to strip Americans of their citizenship for “engaging in, or purposefully and materially supporting, hostilities against the United States.” Take note, you don’t have to be convicted of ‘terrorism’; you simply have to be accused of ‘hostilities against the United States’, like camping out or protesting with the OWS gang, for one example, or possibly even writing articles such as this one. This bill seems to be an effort to side-step the clamored-for change to the language of the ‘Indefinite Detention bill’ within the NDAA that seems to have, more or less, excluded American citizens from indefinite detention without trial. Liberman – or whoever is pulling his puppet strings – probably thought long and hard about this problem and decided that the best way to re-include American citizens in the ‘Indefinite Detention bill’ was to provide for the removal of their citizenship! Genius!But the really interesting thing about all of this (let’s face it, that the USA is well on the road to being a police state is, by now, more banal than interesting) is that this policy of disenfranchising citizens as a way to better control and persecute them isn’t new in Western democracies.
Leaving aside the internment (and effective revocation of citizenship) of Japanese Americans during the Second World War, the first case in modern history of the creation of masses of stateless and rightless people occurred in the aftermath of the first World War and in the run up to the second World War when the borders of European countries were redrawn and entire new ‘states’ came into existence. This resulted in large numbers of ethnic minority refugees that were no longer citizens of any country because their country had ceased to exist. As a result, the laws and rights of whichever country they ended up in did not apply to them. In her book, The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt states that these individuals were seen as the “scum of the earth” by European governments and citizens alike.
“Every attempt by international conferences to establish some legal status for stateless people failed because no agreement could possibly replace territory to which an alien must be deportable. All discussions about the refugee problem revolved around this one question: How can the refugee be made deportable again? The second World War and the ‘Displaced Persons’ camps were not necessary to show that the only practical substitute for a nonexistent homeland was an internment camp.”
The important point here is that history shows that by revoking a citizen’s legal rights, including his or her citizenship, a government can simultaneously destroy any practical recourse a disenfranchised citizen might have to those ‘natural’ and ‘inalienable’ human rights that we all hear so much about. Because once a person is rendered stateless in this way, there is no state on earth that can provide those rights, and no utopian country where inalienable human rights are the law of the land. That may, of course, be a logical consequence of allowing individuals who may not technically be human to rule over us. No one born in the era of the strictly organised and controlled nation-state was really ‘born free’ it seems, and the fundamental ‘right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ only exists as letters on a ‘goddamned piece of paper’. Got that?
The Nazis learned this lesson well and realised that the most important step in ‘justifying’ mass murder was to first deprive those targeted for liquidation of all legal status. As Arendt notes: “a condition of complete rightlessness was created before the right to life was challenged.”. One of Hitler’s most appealing statements (to the German people at least) was that “Right is what is good for the German people”. The Nazis’ insistence that protecting the interests of German lifestyle, values, families and people was the ‘greatest good’, allowed them to change laws in order to disenfranchise, expel, and ultimately murder large numbers of people who were as German as any Nazi party member. (It is interesting that Lieberman, a Jew, would sponsor a bill that seeks to replicate conditions that made the extermination of his forebears possible.)
“If a human being loses his political or legal status, he should, according to the inalienable rights of man, be protected by the declaration of those general rights. Actually, the opposite is the case. It seems that a man who is nothing but a man has lost the very qualities which make it possible for other people to treat him as a fellow-man. This is one of the reasons why it is far more difficult to destroy the legal personality of a criminal than of a man who has been disallowed all common human rights.”
The USA, being relatively isolated (geographically speaking) compared to France, hasn’t had much experience with the results of such policies towards immigrants. The same can’t be said for France however, and as Arendt points out, history shows that the extent to which a government curtails the ‘fundamental’ rights provided by citizenship, is an indicator of a country’s progress towards becoming a police state:
The nation-state, incapable of providing a law for those who had lost the protection of a national government, transferred the whole matter to the police. This was the first time the police in Western Europe had received authority to act on its own, to rule directly over people; in one sphere of public life it was no longer an instrument to carry out and enforce the law, but had become a ruling authority independent of government and ministries.
In France, for instance, it was a matter of record that an order of expulsion emanating from the police was much more serious than one which was issued “only” by the Ministry of Interior and that the Minister of Interior could only in rare cases cancel a police expulsion, while the opposite procedure was often merely a question of bribery. Constitutionally, the police is under the authority of the Ministry of Interior.
The strength [of the police] and its emancipation from law and government grew in direct proportion to the influx of refugees. The greater the ratio of stateless and potentially stateless to the population at large – in prewar France it had reached 10 per cent of the total – the greater the danger of a gradual transformation into a police state.
Perhaps now we can make more sense of why, against all true logic and reason, the US political elite are passing laws that will allow them to not only detain any US citizen indefinitely without trial, but to remove their status as citizens altogether. The ultimate goal of our political elite may well be mass murder of those citizens who continue to miss the point that the 9/11 attacks and the ‘war on terrorism’ were all a ruse to usher in an overt dictatorship in the USA, and we’re not meant to talk about it, much less take to the streets to protest the corrupt political and corporate elite. What we’re meant to be doing is precisely what most of the German people under Nazi rule did – be spellbound by the rhetoric and talk of ‘freedom and democracy’ and get with the USA PATRIOTISM program. On the upside, most people are doing just that. For those of you who aren’t, now might be a good time to look up your family history to see if citizenship of a second country is an option.
Hannah Arendt lived through the last great purge of humanity by the psychopathic elite. She came face to face with what she called the “banality of evil” and tried to warn future generations against complacency in the face of it. It seems appropriate, therefore, to leave the last words to her:
“Deadly danger to any civilization is no longer likely to come from without. Nature has been mastered and no barbarians threaten to destroy what they cannot understand. Even the emergence of totalitarian governments is a phenomenon within, not outside our Western civilization. The danger is that a global, universally interrelated civilization may produce barbarians from its own midst by forcing millions of people into conditions which, despite all appearances, are the conditions of savages.”