It is a question that has sparked much debate, at least in certain rare quadrants where the unvarnished reality of the American imperium is recognized. But surely now the debate is over. Question it no more; the supposition, the fear, the heartbreaking intimation is a fact. It is real. It is here.
Fascism has come to America.
And no, it didn't come in jackboots. It didn't come in massed, marching ranks. It didn't come in greasy-haired frothers ranting on a stage.
It came with cool. It came with savvy. It came wearing the mask of past evils redeemed by the image of a persecuted minority elevated to power. It came spouting scripture, hugging bright children, quoting pop music, sporting pricey leisure threads.
It came on Facebook, it came with 269 cable channels blazing, with I-Pad apps offering Catholic confession and YouTube porn. It came with the Super Bowl, with de la Renta gowns on the Oscar carpet, with 36 brands of dips and chips on the bulging shelves of your local Wal-Mart.
It came right in the midst of your ordinary life, as you went to work -- or looked for work -- as you partied, as you courted, as you watched TV, as you worshipped, as you studied, as you played, as you went about the business of being human.
As you went about the business of being human, this inhuman thing has come. It has come in your name, wrapped in your flag, claiming your security as its raison d'etre.
And in the guise of a young, hip, educated progressive, it has just now declared that anyone who reveals any hidden evil committed by the fascist state is subject to prosecution for a capital crime. That's right. It has revealed that you -- you American citizen, you patriot, you believer in goodness and justice and genuine democracy -- you can be killed by the government if you tell the truth.
This is what the administration of President Barack Obama has demonstrated -- indeed, has proudly proclaimed -- in its treatment of the young man it is avowedly, openly torturing for telling the truth about American war crimes, Bradley Manning. There can be no mistaking the meaning, implications and import of Barack Obama's actions.
Corporal Bradley Manning has been charged with leaking "classified material," including a video posted on WikiLeaks that showed American forces gleefully shooting up Iraqi civilians with helicopter gunships. Manning is also alleged to have obtained thousands of other files detailing crimes, corruption, cover-ups, lies and deceit by American forces and American diplomats around the world.
Although American officials have repeatedly said that none of leaks attributed to Manning and to WikiLeaks have caused any bodily harm to any agent of American imperial power around the world, Manning is being accused of "threatening national security" and "aiding the enemy."
And who, pray tell, is the "enemy" being aided by the expression of truth? On Thursday, the Pentagon very helpfully spelled it out to the New York Times:
The charge sheet did not explain who “the enemy” was, leading some to speculate that it was a reference to WikiLeaks. On Thursday, however, the military said that it instead referred to any hostile forces that could benefit from learning about classified military tactics and procedures.
It could not be clearer. The release of any information that the American government declares might be of any use whatsoever to any possible "hostile" force -- real, imagined, or possibly run by American provocateurs -- somewhere in the world at some point in time is a crime that can be punishable by death. Thus any person or any entity that reveals embarrassing or criminal facts that the government wishes to keep hidden now stands in the shadow of death.
If that is not fascism, there has never been such a thing on the face of the earth.
To be sure, American officials say that they will seek only life imprisonment for Manning -- who they are now subjecting to hours of forced nakedness in front of video cameras. But the military judge who will oversee Manning's court martial is entirely free to disregard the prosecutor's stated intention and impose the full penalty for aiding the "enemy."
But again, who is the "enemy"? You are the enemy -- if you speak a truth that the government does not want you to reveal. (Of course, if you are an approved and coddled courtier, an eager, scurrying scribe like Bob Woodward, for example, you can reveal all the most secret "classified material" that you like, as long as it comes from savvy insiders "authorized" to praise their bosses and make their rivals look bad.) If you speak this unwanted truth, the government, the president -- the cool, savvy, modern, hip, educated progressive president -- can throw you in jail, subject you to torture, deprive you of sleep, and finally strip you naked in front of cameras to break you down and humiliate you in their efforts to dehumanize you, to grind you down into a piece of meat.
Here is the New York Times report on Manning's treatment -- a small, brief story which did not make the front page of the print edition and within a few hours disappeared from the dozens of stories on the front page of the on-line edition:
A lawyer for Pfc. Bradley Manning, [David E. Coombs], the Army intelligence analyst accused of leaking secret government files to WikiLeaks, has complained that his client was stripped and left naked in his cell for seven hours on Wednesday. ... The soldier’s clothing was returned to him Thursday morning, after he was required to stand naked outside his cell during an inspection, Mr. Coombs said in a posting on his Web site.
“This type of degrading treatment is inexcusable and without justification,” Mr. Coombs wrote. “It is an embarrassment to our military justice system and should not be tolerated. Pfc. Manning has been told that the same thing will happen to him again tonight. No other detainee at the brig is forced to endure this type of isolation and humiliation.”
First Lt. Brian Villiard, a Marine spokesman, said a brig duty supervisor had ordered Private Manning’s clothing taken from him. He said that the step was “not punitive” and that it was in accordance with brig rules, but he said that he was not allowed to say more. “It would be inappropriate for me to explain it,” Lieutenant Villiard said. “I can confirm that it did happen, but I can’t explain it to you without violating the detainee’s privacy.”
This is rich; this shows a devilish irony at work in the PR boiler rooms of our fascist state. Yes, we tortured Manning, but we can't tell you why -- because we want to protect his privacy! We are very concerned about his sacred right to privacy! "I'm sorry," said Sgt. Heinrich Schultz, spokesman for the Auschwitz-Birkenau detention facility. "I can confirm that Mr Shlomo Stern, formerly of Krakow, was indeed stripped naked by guards here, but it would be inappropriate for me to explain why, because it would violate the detainee's privacy."
And as Glenn Greenwald reports, Manning was indeed stripped naked again the following night. Coombs himself notes:
PFC Manning was forced to strip naked in his cell again last night. As with the previous evening, Quantico Brig guards required him to surrender all of his clothing. PFC Manning then walked back to his bed, and spent the next seven hours in humiliation.
The decision to require him to be stripped of all clothing was made by the Brig commander, Chief Warrant Officer-2 Denise Barnes. According to First Lieutenant Brian Villard, a Marine spokesman, the decision was "not punitive" and done in accordance with Brig rules. There can be no conceivable justification for requiring a soldier to surrender all his clothing, remain naked in his cell for seven hours, and then stand at attention the subsequent morning. This treatment is even more degrading considering that PFC Manning is being monitored -- both by direct observation and by video -- at all times. The defense was informed by Brig officials that the decision to strip PFC Manning of all his clothing was made without consulting any of the Brig's mental health providers.
What is happening here -- as Arthur Silber foretold long ago -- is that Barack Obama is codifying the worst abuses of the Bush Administration (and its predecessors) -- which had usually been committed on the side, in the dark, in secret, behind many layers of "plausible deniability" -- into the open, declared law of the land. This too is facism in action. Indeed, rarely has there been a regime more legalistic than Nazi Germany, where jurists, legislators and civil servants adhered strenuously to the "law" as determined by the will of the ruling clique. And for all those who make a fetish of the "rule of law," here is the end result: law being used by brutal Power to "justify" inhuman treatment of truth-tellers. As we noted here some months ago:
A conversation during Civil War. (From work-in-progress Bright, Terrible Spirit):
"But in days past, I was a lawyer. Yes, a lawyer, can you believe it? It seems….ridiculous now, doesn't it? An orderly system meant to govern human society, to establish justice, to advance the progress and enlightenment of the human race. Yet that system, that civil cosmos – to which I was so passionately committed – embraced and protected the most wretched evils, entrenched the powerful in their unjust privilege, oppressed the poor and weak most relentlessly and wickedly, yet at every step – at every step – sang hosannas to itself as some kind of divinity. The "Law" – oh, what a hush of reverence surrounded that word, how deeply that reverence and respect penetrated the heart. Well, my heart, anyway. But in these last few years we have seen – in intense, concentrated, microscopic view – the truth about the law, a truth which too often escaped us in the slow unrolling of peacetime. The truth that there is no law, no Platonic Form out there to which we give paltry representation. There is only power: power in conflict with power, power seeking to drive out power, to establish its dominance, maintain its privilege. Power…acquiesces to law – sometimes – but it never, never bows to it. Power goes along with the law when it is convenient to do so, when it is not too restrictive, when it demands little more than the occasional sacrifice – for the powerful are certainly not above throwing one of their own to the mob when circumstances require. But when it comes to the crisis, power shreds the law like a filthy rag and has its own way. And then you see that the law is nothing but a rag, to be torn and patched and fitted to power's aims. The worst atrocities I have seen or heard of in this war have been committed wholly and completely under the law. This thing I held in such reverence was, is, nothing but a scrap soaked with blood and shit."
This is what the administration of President Barack Obama has brought to open fruition in the United States of America. The debate is over. The question is answered. Facism has come.
A brief reprise of a recent tribute to Manning and other truth-tellers:
"Good corporal, good corporal, don't you know the fate
Of all those who speak the hard truth to the State
And all who trouble the people's sweet dreams?
They're mocked into scorn and torn apart at the seams...."