Thursday, April 05, 2007

MAYBE WE SHOULD ALL BE AFRAID?

I'm generally not a person who is afraid, particularly about things that could seem, well, weirdly paranoid, like fear of my own government. But we recently listened to an interview that scared me and kept me awake for a long time after going to bed.

Every citizen of the USA should listen to the interview broadcast on March 19, 2007 on the National Public Radio program Fresh Air. Jeremy Scahill is the author of the book Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army. "Blackwater USA is a secretive private army based in North Carolina with a sole owner: Erik Prince, a right-wing Christian multimillionaire." Their web site proclaims that Blackwater USA is the most comprehensive professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping, and stability operations company in the world. Numerous media stories refer to the company as training and contracting out mercenaries. Blackwater has thousands of armed personnel for hire, aircraft, armored vehicles of their own design, and at least two very large training bases. Blackwater has played a large role in the Iraq war under contract to the United States, and has had numerous casualties.

The interview presents a picture that I found to be very chilling. Blackwater's presence is becoming more widespread both abroad and in the United States, and the politics of the company, based on those of it's owner, are very right of center.

What scared me is the realization that the right-wing politics of the Bush administration are matched by a large and growing private military with close ties to the White House. We citizens of the US have seen our civil liberties increasingly narrowed by the Bush-led government, and have witnessed large increases in the number of government services and jobs that have been out-sourced to private firms. The abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, Guantanamo prison camp, secret CIA-run prisons around the world, "extraordinary renditions" (disappearings) of people and their subsequent torture, abolishment of habeas corpus, etc., etc. are very disturbing, and not in line with what most Americans think America stands for.

Is there a scenario in which the President announces that, because of the imminent risk of terrorist attacks, our country is under martial law and elections are suspended, and this is enforced by military units and the Blackwater forces loyal to President Bush? This is just paranoia, right? These things don't and can't happen - not here - can they?

Maybe we should all be afraid just enough to speak up now - loudly and clearly and together.

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