Friday, November 12, 2010

Nothing Takes Away Our Freedom Quite Like War

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada

I have a confession to make. I visibly cringe every time someone in the media uses the term 'freedom' when justifying war.

Because history has proven time and again that there is nothing that destroys freedom more than the act of war.

We lose our freedom to choose our enemies. Our freedom to think rationally. Our freedom to care about those we are told we should not care about.

The Loss of Freedom as a Political Reality:

What is astounding to me is how easily people are willing to relinquish their freedoms for the sake of war. When the Bush administration first decided to invade Iraq and established the Patriot Act, the majority of Americans when polled agreed that it was “both necessary and appropriate”.

And when that same administration authorized the National Security Agency to engage in electronic spying, without warrants, on Americans suspected of supporting "terrorism", there was little public outcry. They were told that their nation's sons and daughters were killing and dying for their freedoms. The same freedoms they were in the process of willingly surrendering.

Besides only criminals and terrorists would object to having their phones tapped, so if you've got nothing to hide, why object, right? Yet the very safeguards that were put in place to protect citizens from their government, were now being used to to give the government more control over it's citizens.

And I'd be willing to bet that the majority of the people involved in the Tea Party movement with their signs demanding 'liberty', are the same ones who supported their government's removal of their most basic liberties in the name of war.

This could be attributed to propaganda and brainwashing. That's certainly true to a certain extent. However, Hannah Arendt, an authority on totalitarianism, disputes much of that claim.

She was the first after WWII, a time when the Nazis were called "monsters" by most in the press, to remark on how normal they were. "Unimaginative, ordinary and unthinking". And that was what she found frightening. When covering the trial of Adolf Eichmann at Nuremberg:
Others may have hoped to see Bluebeard in the dock, she wrote, but for her, the horror lay in the fact that "there were so many like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic ... [but] terribly and terrifyingly normal." She was one of the first to refute the "monster theory" of less-than-human Nazis. (1)
And while many suggested that the German people were not aware of what was happening, or were simply brainwashed into complacency, Arendt writes:
No doubt, the fact that totalitarian government, its open criminality notwithstanding, rests on mass support is very disquieting. It is therefore hardly surprising that scholars as well as statesmen often refuse to recognize it, the former by believing in the magic of propaganda and brainwashing, the latter by simply denying it ... A recent publication of secret reports on German public opinion during the war (from 1939 to 1944), issued by the Security Service of the SS (Meldungen aus dem Reich. Auswahl aus den Geheimen Lege-berichten des Sicherheitsdienstes der SS 1939-1944, edited by Heinz Boberach, Neuwied & Berlin, 1965), is very revealing in this respect. It shows, first, that the population was remarkably well informed about all so-called secrets—massacres of Jews in Poland, preparation of the attack on Russia, etc.—and, second, the "extent to which the victims of propaganda had remained able to form independent opinions". However, the point of the matter is that this did not in the least weaken the general support of the Hitler regime. It is quite obvious that mass support for totalitarianism comes neither from ignorance nor from brainwashing. (2)
We watched with horror the scenes from Abu Ghraib, and listened for weeks, to the accounts of the torture of Afghan detainees. But what has changed? Did we rise up? Did we demand an end to the war that resulted in such inhumanity? Do we even know if the torture has stopped?

Are we brainwashed? I don't think so. We go about our daily lives, having relinquished all authority for this war to the government.

Who Needs Totalitarianism When the Populace Restricts our Freedoms?

The other phenomenon that is disturbing to me, and perhaps the best argument for the propaganda theory, is the attitude of the populace. Our government doesn't have to restrict our freedoms, because they are being restricted by those around us.

"If you don't stand up for our troops you should stand in front of them". "Taliban dupe". "Lefties". All apparently valid arguments in challenging anyone opposing the war.

In 2006, there was a rally on Parliament Hill, sponsored of course by lobbyists for military contracts. There was a lone NDPer carrying a sign "Support our troops. Bring them home". He was knocked to the ground and his sign broken in two.

His freedom of opinion was removed by his fellow citizens.

And we see the same attitude in the House of Commons. When Michael Ignatieff asked what was being done about the detainee issue, Stephen Harper said he wished that he had as much concern for our troops as the Taliban. When Jack Layton stated that he was appalled by Rick Hillier's statement that our military were not public servants but their job was to kill people, he was dubbed "Taliban Jack".

The media ate it up.

What makes ordinary, intelligent, compassionate people accept this?

Fear, I suppose.

Fear of a Jewish Conspiracy helped to fuel Nazism. Fear of Communism allowed Americans to give up basic rights under McCarthyism. Fear of terrorism, turns citizens against each other, and allows them to accept inhumane acts.

And that fear is eating up the space necessary for compromise. You're with us or against us. All those who "support terrorism" on that side of the room.

This doesn't mean that I don't support our soldiers. They are doing a job. You can support the troops and not support the war.

And it doesn't mean that I don't respect our veterans. I very much do.

But as Ceasefire asks: Is Remembrance Day too much about war, and not enough about peace?
... this militarized focus on Remembrance Day is not shared by all. One of the most prominent examples of this is the white poppy campaign, which dates back to 1933. This poppy is meant to symbolize the need for peace and to commemorate the war-related deaths of both civilians and service men and women.
And Sharon Fraser sees Remembrance Day as a tool of propaganda:
Those of us who speak against wars are shushed, especially on November 11, or we're told that it is these wars (even the one in Afghanistan!) that have guaranteed our freedom to speak openly. As many others are, I am moved by the faces of the elderly veterans on November 11 and that's a little sentimental. I really dislike the false equivalency that tosses all the wars in the same basket and I am not at all impressed by antics such as the recent one at an Ontario Legion, which puts a bit of tarnish on the veterans' organization.

Let's just say that, to me, the observance of Remembrance Day has been appropriated and turned into a tool of propaganda and I have come to resent its tone and what it has come to represent.
How can we pay homage to those who died to protect our freedom, and then dishonour them by allowing those freedoms to be taken away?


1. Long Shadows: Truth, Lies and History, By Erna Paris, Alfred A. Knopf, 2000, ISBN: 0-676-97251-9, Pg. 318

2. The Origins of Totalitarianism, By Hannah Arendt, Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1968, Introduction v


  1. Here's an OLDIE for you Emily:

    The interviews with presidential candidate Ron Paul, ("Meet The Press" December 23, 2007) and Frank Zappa (CNN "Crossfire" March 28 1986) on the subject of American Fascism.

    REP. PAUL: No. But I think this country, a movement in the last 100 years, is moving toward fascism. Fascism today, the softer term, because people have different definition of fascism, is corporatism when the military industrial complex... runs the show, when the--in the name of security pay--pass the Patriot Act. You don't vote for it, you know, you're not patriotic America.

    If you don't support the troops and you don't support--if you don't support the war you don't support the troops. It's that kind of antagonism. But we have more corporatism and more abuse of our civil liberties, more loss of our privacy, national ID cards, all this stuff coming has a fascist tone to it. And the country's moving in that direction.

    MR. RUSSERT: So you think we're close to fascism?

    REP. PAUL: I think we're approaching it very close. One--there's one, there's one documentary that's been put out recently that has generated a lot of interest called "Freedom to Fascism." And we're moving in that direction. Were not moving toward Hitler-type fascism, but we're moving toward a softer fascism. Loss of civil liberties, corporations running the show, big government in bed with big business. So you have the military industrial complex, you have the medical industrial complex, you have the financial industry, you have the communications industry. They go to Washington and spend hundreds of millions of dollars. That's where the control is. I call that a soft form of fascism, something that is very dangerous.

  2. "But the proles, if only they could somehow become conscious of their own strength, would have no need to conspire. They needed only to rise up and shake themselves like a horse shaking off flies. If they chose they could blow the Party to pieces tomorrow morning. Surely sooner or later it must occur to them to do it? And yet -----!"

    Quotes from George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four

  3. Love 1984. My copy is so worn but I refuse to replace it. That wear was earned.

  4. Eisenhower began by describing the changing nature of the American defense establishment since World War II. No longer could the U.S. afford the "emergency improvisation" that characterized its preparations for war against Germany and Japan. Instead, the United States was "compelled to create a permanent armaments industry" and a huge military force. He admitted that the Cold War made clear the "imperative need for this development," but he was gravely concerned about "the acquisition of unwarranted the military-industrial complex." In particular, he asked the American people to guard against the "danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite."

    As usual we didn't listen, we failed to learn the lessons!