by Chris Hedges
We have a remarkable ability to create our own monsters. A few decades of
meddling in the Middle East with our Israeli doppelgnger and we get
Hezbollah, Hamas, al-Qaida, the Iraqi resistance movement and a resurgent
Taliban. Now we trash the world economy and destroy the ecosystem and sit
back to watch our handiwork. Hints of our brave new world seeped out
Thursday when Washington's new director of national intelligence, retired
Adm. Dennis Blair, testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. He
warned that the deepening economic crisis posed perhaps our gravest threat
to stability and national security. It could trigger, he said, a return to
the "violent extremism" of the 1920s and 1930s.
It turns out that Wall Street, rather than Islamic jihad, has produced our
most dangerous terrorists. We will
see accelerated plant and retail closures, inflation, an epidemic of
bankruptcies, new rounds of foreclosures, bread lines, unemployment
surpassing the levels of the Great Depression and, as Blair fears, social
The United Nations' International Labor Organization estimates that some 50
million workers will lose their jobs worldwide this year. The collapse has
already seen 3.6 million lost jobs in the United States. The International
Monetary Fund's prediction for global economic growth in 2009 is 0.5
percent--the worst since World War II. There are 2.3 million properties in
the United States that received a default notice or were repossessed last
year. And this number is set to rise in 2009, especially as vacant
commercial real estate begins to be foreclosed. About 20,000 major global
banks collapsed, were sold or were nationalized in 2008. There are an
estimated 62,000 U.S. companies expected to shut down this year.
Unemployment, when you add people no longer looking for jobs and part-time
workers who cannot find full-time employment, is close to 14 percent.
And we have few tools left to dig our way out. The manufacturing sector in
the United States has been destroyed by globalization. Consumers, thanks to
credit card companies and easy lines of credit, are $14 trillion in debt.
The government has pledged trillions toward the crisis, most of it borrowed
or printed in the form of new money. It is borrowing trillions more to fund
our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And no one states the obvious: We will
never be able to pay these loans back. We are supposed to somehow spend our
way out of the crisis and maintain our imperial project on credit. Let our
kids worry about it. There is no coherent and realistic plan, one built
around our severe limitations, to stanch the bleeding or ameliorate the
mounting deprivations we will suffer as citizens. Contrast this with the
national security state's strategies to crush potential civil unrest and you
get a glimpse of the future. It doesn't look good.
"The primary near-term security concern of the United States is the global
economic crisis and its geopolitical implications," Blair told the Senate.
"The crisis has been ongoing for over a year, and economists are divided
over whether and when we could hit bottom. Some even fear that the recession
could further deepen and reach the level of the Great Depression. Of course,
all of us recall the dramatic political consequences wrought by the economic
turmoil of the 1920s and 1930s in Europe, the instability, and high levels
of violent extremism."
The specter of social unrest was raised at the U.S. Army War College in
November in a monograph [click on Policypointers' pdf link to see the
report] titled "Known Unknowns: Unconventional 'Strategic Shocks' in Defense
Strategy Development." The military must be prepared, the document warned,
for a "violent, strategic dislocation inside the United States," which could
be provoked by "unforeseen economic collapse," "purposeful domestic
resistance," "pervasive public health emergencies" or "loss of functioning
political and legal order." The "widespread civil violence," the document
said, "would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in
extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security."
"An American government and defense establishment lulled into complacency by
a long-secure domestic order would be forced to rapidly divest some or most
external security commitments in order to address rapidly expanding human
insecurity at home," it went on.
"Under the most extreme circumstances, this might include use of military
force against hostile groups inside the United States. Further, DoD [the
Department of Defense] would be, by necessity, an essential enabling hub for
the continuity of political authority in a multi-state or nationwide civil
conflict or disturbance," the document read.
In plain English, something bureaucrats and the military seem incapable of
employing, this translates into the imposition of martial
law and a de facto government being run out of the Department of
Defense. They are considering it. So should you.
Adm. Blair warned the Senate that "roughly a quarter of the countries in the
world have already experienced low-level instability such as government
changes because of the current slowdown." He noted that the "bulk of
anti-state demonstrations" internationally have been seen in Europe and the
former Soviet Union, but this did not mean they could not spread to the
United States. He told the senators that the collapse of the global
financial system is "likely to produce a wave of economic crises in emerging
market nations over the next year." He added that "much of Latin America,
former Soviet Union states and sub-Saharan Africa lack sufficient cash
reserves, access to international aid or credit, or other coping mechanism."
"When those growth rates go down, my gut tells me that there are going to be
problems coming out of that, and we're looking for that," he said. He
referred to "statistical modeling" showing that "economic crises increase
the risk of regime-threatening instability if they persist over a one to two
Blair articulated the newest narrative of fear. As the economic unraveling
accelerates we will be told it is not the bearded Islamic extremists,
although those in power will drag them out of the Halloween closet when they
need to give us an exotic shock, but instead the domestic riffraff,
environmentalists, anarchists, unions and enraged members of our
dispossessed working class who threaten us. Crime, as it always does in
times of turmoil, will grow. Those who oppose the iron fist of the state
security apparatus will be lumped together in slick, corporate news reports
with the growing criminal underclass.
The committee's Republican vice chairman, Sen. Christopher Bond of Missouri,
not quite knowing what to make of Blair's testimony, said he was concerned
that Blair was making the "conditions in the country" and the global
economic crisis "the primary focus of the intelligence community."
The economic collapse has exposed the stupidity of our collective faith in a
free market and the absurdity of an economy based on the goals of endless
growth, consumption, borrowing and expansion. The ideology of unlimited
growth failed to take into account the massive depletion of the world's
resources, from fossil fuels to clean water to fish stocks to erosion, as
well as overpopulation, global warming and climate change. The huge
international flows of unregulated capital have wrecked the global financial
system. An overvalued dollar (which will soon deflate), wild tech, stock and
housing financial bubbles, unchecked greed, the decimation of our
manufacturing sector, the empowerment of an oligarchic class, the corruption
of our political elite, the impoverishment of workers, a bloated military
and defense budget and unrestrained credit binges have conspired to bring us
down. The financial crisis will soon become a currency crisis. This second
shock will threaten our financial viability. We let the market rule. Now we
are paying for it.
The corporate thieves, those who insisted they be paid tens of millions of
dollars because they were the best and the brightest, have been exposed as
con artists. Our elected officials, along with the press, have been exposed
as corrupt and spineless corporate lackeys. Our business schools and
intellectual elite have been exposed as frauds. The age of the West has
ended. Look to China. Laissez-faire capitalism has destroyed itself. It is
time to dust off your copies of Marx.
Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer prize-winning reporter, is a Senior Fellow at the
Nation Institute. His latest book is Collateral Damage: America's War
Against Iraqi Civilians.
Enver Masud, "Corporate Globalization
Threatens World's Poor, Middle Class," The Wisdom Fund, October 10,
Enver Masud, "A Clash Between Justice
and Greed, Not Islam and the West," The Wisdom Fund, September 2,
Amy Chua, "Free-Market Democracy: Our
Most Dangerous Export," The Wisdom Fund, February 28, 2004
William Greider, "Paulson Bailout
Plan a Historic Swindle," Nation, September 19, 2008
Enver Masud, "A Four-Point Plan for Bailing
Out America," February 7, The Wisdom Fund, 2009