TEHRAN (FNA)- A prominent American constitutional attorney says that the US citizens have lost many of their rights and civil liberties, especially following the 9/11 attacks.
According to John W. Whitehead, the American people have been subject to the disturbing consequences of the rise and growth of military-industrial complex, which the former US President Dwight Eisenhower had warned against back in 1961.
“In his final address to the nation, President Eisenhower warned the American people of the rise of the military-industrial complex. We didn’t listen. Our economy is now largely fueled by war, military spending, and arms production. There are obviously better things we could be spending our time, money, and energy on, but there are many powerful corporations and powerful government institutions which depend on this production to maintain their influence,” said Whitehead in an exclusive interview with Fars News Agency.
On the influence of the interest groups and corporations on the media in the United States which drives Washington to more wars and military confrontations, John Whitehead said, “There is definitely a strain of entertainment in America which glorifies violence and war. This is in part because corporations that produce military products are also entertainment products. This is also in part because the Department of Defense actually influences the content of movies and TV shows by re-writing scripts or disapproving certain content if it’s not to their liking.”
John W. Whitehead is the President of The Rutherford Institute and the author of “A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State.” Whitehead founded The Rutherford Institute in 1982, and is a civil liberties organization that provides free legal services to people, whose constitutional and human rights have been threatened or violated.
Mr. Whitehead took part in an interview with FNA to present his viewpoints regarding the police state and the lack of democracy in the US, the restrictions imposed on the American citizens following the 9/11 events and the costs the American taxpayers pay for the US government’s military expeditions across the world. What follows is the text of the interview.
Q: Mr. Whitehead; you’ve argued that the United States is becoming a police state in which the civil liberties are restricted, the phone calls, emails and transactions are spied on, the financial transactions are monitored, the legal types of protesting are criminalized and the innocent citizens are killed in shooting rampages. These are the realities which exist in the American society, but there are many people in the Third World countries, who tend to think of the United States as a utopia in which everything is orderly, perfect and freedom is unrestricted and at its highest level. Is it really the case? What’s your response to such people?
A: Americans do enjoy a significant amount of freedom in some respects compared to people in other countries. Obviously Americans are freer than, say, people in North Korea, but that is just an extreme example. Americans have largely ceded their rights and freedoms to the federal government, particularly since September 11, 2001, and every day we’re giving up more and more of our individual freedoms to the government. Furthermore, our electoral system is thoroughly corrupt, such that the average American has no real chance of affecting government policy. I would agree that Americans are in some respects more free than people in other nations, but if we don’t take note of our quickly eroding freedoms, that won’t be the case for long.
Q: You once cited the Bureau of Justice Statistics as reporting that some 400 to 500 innocent citizens are killed by the police officers in the United States every year. This is a considerable figure, but is rarely mentioned in the US mainstream media. Why is it so?
A: Police officers in the United States tend to receive extreme deference, both among regular people and in the media. They are generally treated as heroes. When examples of corruption or illegal activity come to light, the accused officers are generally treated as bad apples, exceptions to the rule of good policing. However, people are now becoming more cognizant of the manner in which police agencies across the country have become unaccountable to the public. Combined with increasing media attention on police militarization, there is a significant portion of the public that is beginning to question the central role given to police in American society.
Q: It’s noted that since its declaration of independence, the United States has taken part, either directly or indirectly, in more than 50 military expeditions and wars that have claimed the lives of millions of innocent civilians. Why does the United States, as you write in your articles, spend so much lavishly and extravagantly on wars and military adventures? Why should the United States make up nearly 80 percent of the global arms export market?
A: In his final address to the nation, President Eisenhower warned the American people of the rise of the military-industrial complex. We didn’t listen. Our economy is now largely fueled by war, military spending, and arms production. There are obviously better things we could be spending our time, money, and energy on, but there are many powerful corporations and powerful government institutions which depend on this production to maintain their influence. It would take a bold, mass movement to bring down American military spending to more appropriate levels.
Q: What’s your viewpoint regarding the contribution of the entertainment industry to the growth of the culture of violence and warmongering in the United States, especially among the children and young adults who are most likely to be influenced by the Hollywood “blockbusters” and as Nick Turse puts it, the productions of the defense contractors like Sony, Samsung, Panasonic or Toshiba?
A: There is definitely a strain of entertainment in America which glorifies violence and war. This is in part because corporations that produce military products are also entertainment products. This is also in part because the Department of Defense actually influences the content of movies and TV shows by re-writing scripts or disapproving certain content if it’s not to their liking. This usually happens when movie producers want to use actual military equipment or military locations to shoot their films. We could certainly stand to have a less violent culture.
Q: You’ve extensively written about the US government’s use of drones and unpiloted aerial vehicles to purportedly target the Al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and also for reconnaissance missions inside the United States. Is this extensive use of drones which regularly results in the killing of innocent civilians legal and compliant with the international law?
A: The use of drones to assassinate certain high value military targets, particularly American citizens, is a blatant violation of international law. The precedent which America has set in this arena will become more troublesome as more nations acquire drones and begin using them for the same reasons that the American government has purported to use them.
As far as their use inside the United States, the constant surveillance of American citizens is a violation of the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Unfortunately, the precedent for mass surveillance has been set by the NSA’s wiretapping of various American communications, so there does not seem to be much hope that the courts or legislatures will work to reel in their use until the American people demand it.
Q: The seminal ideology of War on Terror initiated by President George W. Bush was to eradicate the Al-Qaeda terrorists and the extremists who posed a threat to the US national security; however, this project has got expanded in the recent years and is now turned into an all-out confrontation between the United States and the Muslim world in general. Is it fair to punish all the Muslim nations economically, politically and militarily simply because it is alleged those who attacked the World Trade Center towers were Muslims?
A: It’s obvious that whatever mandate the American government had in the days after 9/11 to bring to justice the group which perpetrated that attack has spun out of control. America is now occupying a number of countries in the Middle East and Africa, at a great cost to the American taxpayer and the lives and well-being of people in those countries. I think there is a strand of the American public which is becoming increasingly vocal in regard to wanting to pull out of these various military engagements, and only use the military for its true purpose: protecting the continental United States.
Q: Would you please explain about the recent laws and constitutional double standards in the United States which prohibit the Americans from gathering to protest at the elected officials for their policies, gives immunity to police officers who shoot unarmed civilians, and as you note, “gives government agents carte blanche access to Americans’ communications and activities?” How are these infringements upon the rights of the American citizens justified?
A: Most of the justifications for stamping out free speech and conducting mass surveillance relate to the War on Terror mindset which has gripped the nation since September 11. The government says they are enacting these policies to protect us, but there is very little evidence that they actually contribute to our safety. And even if they did, we as Americans cannot allow all of our rights and freedoms to go out the window in the name of safety.
Q: In some of your writings, you talk about the economic inequality pervasive in the United States and the fact that there is a large underrepresented, underprivileged majority that is in no way equal to the powerful, affluent minority in terms of income and the facilities it has. You say that the deprived majority works and makes money for the influential minority, and the influential minority spends what is earned for waging wars and militarizing the nation’s civil institutions. Doesn’t this inequality undermine the values which the US politicians have always boasted lay out the basis of the American society?
A: There is no doubt that extreme economic inequality harms the quality of life of all Americans, and seriously threatens our freedoms. With only a few people calling the shots in government and business, the rest of America simply must do what they can to get by while the economic elite continue to put forth abusive policies which most Americans are not in favor of. A forthcoming study to be published in the academic journal “Perspectives on Politics” confirms that a small economic elite controls public policy in America. As the authors put it, “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”
Q: As a final question, do you think that the United States government is currently providing its citizens with the absolute, unrestricted and unconditional freedoms and civil liberties, as the freedom of speech and press freedom, which the mainstream media and the Hollywood movies usually depict and claim?
A: No, the United States government is not living up to the standards and laws as set out in the Constitution, which the officials in the American government are sworn to uphold.
Interview by Kourosh Ziabari
Source: Fars News