Saturday, June 22, 2013

Dirty Wars and Extrajudicial Execution (So 1984!)

[Part of the series: 2013 = 1984?]

Yesterday was a busy day.

In the morning, I was writing about how 1984 doesn't seem like fiction anymore. In the evening, I was watching Jeremy Scahill's chilling new film about U.S. special operations worldwide, Dirty Wars.

"The thing that he was about to do was to open a diary. This was not illegal (nothing was illegal, since there were no longer any laws), but if detected it was reasonably certain that it would be punished by death, or at least by twenty-five years in a forced-labor camp." (1984, p. 6)

In 1984, nothing is "illegal" -- there are no laws -- but violations are punishable by death.

Welcome to the U.S.A., 2013.

Dirty Wars focuses on thousands of night raids and other "kill list" operations conducted by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), and in particular the assassination of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son.

I've written repeatedly about the U.S. practice of extrajudicial execution:

VAU Afgh 101: Extrajudicial Executions
Eric Through the Looking Glass
Drones and Zero Accountability Government
Obama Nobel Peace Prize - REVOKED!

It's chilling to see how clearly the practices of 2013 America were foretold by George Orwell, writing in 1949. Here are a few excerpts from 1984 . . . .

"It was always at night -- the arrests invariably happened at night. The sudden jerk out of sleep, the rough hand shaking your shoulder, the lights glaring in your eyes, the ring of hard faces round the bed. In the vast majority of cases there was no trial, no report of arrest. People simply disappeared . . . . your one-time existence was denied and then forgotten. You were abolished, annihilated: 'vaporized' was the word." (p. 17)

"More commonly, people who had incurred the displeasure of the Party simply disappeared and were never heard of again." (p. 39)

" . . . what was likeliest of all -- the thing had simply happened because purges and vaporizations were a necessary part of the mechanics of government. The only real clue lay in the words 'refs unpersons,' which indicated that Withers was already dead." (p. 40)

"One of these days, thought Winston with sudden deep conviction, Syme will be vaporized. He is too intelligent. He sees too clearly and speaks too plainly. The Party does not like such people. One day he will disappear. It is written in his face." (p. 47)

"And in the general hardening of outlook that set in ... practices which had been long abandoned, in some cases for hundreds of years -- imprisonment without trial, the use of war prisoners as slaves, public executions, torture to extract confessions, the use of hostages and the deportation of whole populations -- not only became common again, but were tolerated and even defended by people who considered themselves enlightened and progressive." (p. 182)

The impossibly upside-down world described by George Orwell actually turns out to be -- point by point -- the world we now live in.

But don't take it from me. Read 1984. See Dirty Wars. Decide for yourself.

(Page references are to the 2009 Plume paperback edition.)

Related posts

 A September 5, 2013, U.S. drone strike in Pakistan killed six people - including Sangeen Zadran -- a "senior militant commander" who was "implicated in a long-running kidnapping drama involving an American soldier."

(See September 5 in Pakistan: Another Day, Another Drone Killing)

A new U.N. report makes it clear that the U.S. has to report fully on all its drone attacks.

(See 2014: The Year of Transparency (for U.S. Drone Use)?)

The U.S. government and its military talk constantly about the new world of "asymmetric warfare" -- which basically boils down to how "unfair" it seems to them that individuals can wield any meaningful amount of power, given how minuscule their numbers or the firepower available to them. But what what we should spend much more time focusing on is "asymmetric policing" -- i.e. the overwhelming power that the U.S. state wields in every encounter with individuals.

(See Too Much State Power? (Asymmetric Warfare and Asymmetric Policing))