We have endemic terrorism – but few wars and epidemics. That’s good news!

Summary:  The changes of the past two centuries have made the world a far better place.  This post discuss a grim but beneficial trade-off:  fewer wars and plagues, more terrorism.

The world changes, and so do its dangers.  Throughout human history humanity suffered the scourges of war and disease.  The population of cities, entire regions, were decimated with grim frequency.  In the late 19th century the chief dangers facing humanity began to shift.

In 1867 Nobel invented dynamite, the first cheap and easily transported explosive.  This gave terrorists unprecedented ability to destroy.  Subsequent inventions in the chemical, biological, and nuclear sciences have expanded their capacity even further.

A similar (if arbitrary) bright line occurred in 1862, when Louis Pasteur developed the first practical application of his germ theory:  pasteurization. Since then a host of medical and public health measures have made massive plagues a rarity — not a commonplace.

Then there were nukes, probably ending large-scale state-to-state warfare.  It’s good to be King, much more fun than being a cloud of radioactive dust.

The net trade is clearly positive for humanity.   We’ll probably lose many buildings and a few cities during the 21st century (IMO an optimistic forecast).  But clearly an improvement of the human condition.  Less terror, overall.

This provides a helpful context to evaluate the threat of terrorism.  It’s little more than an inconvenience compared to what our ancestors withstood.  They suffered and rebuilt after almost unimaginable disasters, without wetting their pants in hysteria.  We can do as well.

Perhaps the greatest danger of terrorism:  it provides an opportunity for our leaders to exacerbate our fears, largely through lies (as they did following 9/11 to promote wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) — and strip away our liberties.  It’s only a problem if we’re weak.

A look at the past century of American disasters

For a different perspective, here are some of the major natural disasters of the century or so.  I list only one disease.  Like disease, science and growing wealth have made natural disasters less dangerous.  After each of these people picked up their remaining belongings and rebuilt.

  • Cholera epidemics in 1832, 1849, 1854, 1866, and 1881-96; death tolls of over 3,000 per city are commonplace.
  • 1871 – Fires in the upper Midwest (IL, WI, MI — including Chicago).  Kills over 3,000; several hundred thousand homeless.
  • 1889 – Dam burst near Jonestown PA, 2,200 dead.
  • 1900 – Hurricane hits Galveston TX; kills 8-10 thousand.
  • 1906 – San Francisco earthquake.  Kills aprox 3 thousand; 200 thousand homeless.
  • 1927 – Mississippi flood; 200 thousand homeless.
  • 1928 – Hurricane hits Lake Okeechobee region; kills 2,500.
  • 1980 – Heat wave kills aprox 10-15 thousand.
  • 2001 – 9/11 attacks kill 2,992

For more information from the FM site

Reference pages about other topics appear on the right side menu bar, including About the FM website page.

Posts with good news about America:

  1. Good news: The Singularity is coming (again), 8 December 2007 — History tends to look better over longer time horizons. Consider one bit of good news: the Singularity is coming.
  2. Some good news (one of the more important posts on this blog), 21 December 2007 –  I do not believe we need fear the future, despite the tough times coming soon. 
  3. A crisis at the beginning of the American experiment, 27 December 2008 — Looking at the problems looming before us, it is easy to forget those of equal or greater danger that we have surmounted in the past.  
  4. An important thing to remember as we start a New Year, 29 December 2007
  5. Is America’s decline inevitable? No., 21 January 2008 – Why be an American if one has no faith in the American people?  How can you believe in democracy without that faith? 
  6. Let us light a candle while we walk, lest we fear what lies ahead, 10 February 2008
  7. A happy ending to the current economic recession, 12 February 2008 — Sometimes we can see medium-term outcomes with greater clarity than short-term events or long-term trends.  So it is with the current economic down cycle in America.
  8. Fears of flying into the future, 25 February 2008 — Reasons we need not fear the future.
  9. Experts, with wrinkled brows, warn about the future, 2 May 2008
  10. Good news about the 21st century, a counterbalance to the doomsters, 9 May 2008

Afterword

Please share your comments by posting below. Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 word max), civil and relevant to this post. Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

27 thoughts on “We have endemic terrorism – but few wars and epidemics. That’s good news!

  1. Of course, if anthropogenic global warming is actually occurring, that could turn out to be a disaster on par with many of these earlier fires/diseases/hurricanes you have listed… or it could be worse. Overall though, I agree with your assessment: technological progress has had very real benefits for homo sapiens, balanced by the fact that it makes terrorism easier & more prevalent.

    I wonder if part of an answer to the main problem you state, the exacerbation of fears by politicians, would be some kind of resilience program for children. The problem is that IMO this would have to be done by the state to be widespread enough, and it would harden citizens against manipulation by the state. So I wonder if it could ever be done.

  2. A good list overall, particularly the dates but you skipped Katrina. Any idea on what the final death toll on that one was?
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    FM reply: Big in property damage. Tiny in lives. Due to the massive relief spending, the human impact was small vs. the ones I list.

  3. atheist, I would think that part of the task of parents is to try and teach their children a sceptical approach to authorities. It’s not perfect but what is.

    Having the state dealing with that task is like handing an arsonist a box of matches. And then ask him not to misused them. A very high risk venture.

  4. I can’t comment regarding pandemics since I know too little on this subject, but I am wary regarding the idea that large-scale state to state wars has become obsolete. It is 100 percent correct that there are few signs showing preparations for such a war today, but we simply don’t know what the future will entail. In Europe alone the CFE treaty from 1990 meant that 50.000 tanks, APC etc were scrapped after the Cold War, so the great powers have actually moved very far away from being able to wage a large scale conventional war. But it is also worth noticing that Russia in 2007 suspended its participation in the CFE treaty (enabling it to concentrate the necessary forces to invade Georgia in 2008) and that the START treaty expired this month without being replaced or renewed.

    None of this makes large scale conventional wars right now likely, but it is worth noticing that we have witnessed conventional wars against Iraq in 1991, against Yugoslavia in 1999, against Iraq in 2003 and between Russia and Georgia in 2008. I also don’t see any signs in non-Western countries of a shift away from conventional forces to forces able to wage wars like we see in Iraq or Afghanistan. Neither China, Russia nor India have made such a transformation. Indeed Russia is trying to modernize its forces and replaces its obsolete mass army with a smaller, more agile army build around brigades instead of divisions. It won’t make Russia able to invade Europe, but it will be more useful in local conflicts with for example Ukraine. Since Ukraine has the same size of France such a war would hardly be labeled a ”small” war. China still continues to build up its forces and each year makes its military stronger and more capable to threaten Taiwan and deter the United States. Back in 1996 the United States could deter China – who was trying to threaten Taiwan with missile tests – by deploying two carrier groups. During a war game in 2004 – named “Summer Pulse 04” the United States deployed seven carrier groups in the area around Taiwan to demonstrate its military capabilities. But it also showed that China had become stronger in the meantime since to carrier groups were no longer enough (China has for a long time refined its capabilities to sink one or two carriers, but not seven). Once again: I see no signs for actual conflict, but they not only maintain their capability to wage such a war but even strengthen it.

    Like I said before: I see no signs of a buildup toward a large-scale war. But I also don’t see the often mentioned disappearance of large-scale war. Rather I see a tendency in European countries and the United States toward using their forces in counterinsurgency and the expectation that this will be the wave of the future like when Secretary of Defence Robert Gates recently dismissed the utility of the F22 Raptor plane because it was build for a war that will never happen. While I personally consider the F22 a terrible expensive flying white elephant I am honestly skeptical to dismiss it because the war it was build for won’t ever happen. States will pursue their interest in the best way possible and right now there is no need for large scale wars between states because their interests are best served by participating in the global market. But if there is just a little truth in the often dire predictions of peak oil, climate change or overpopulation there will be plenty of reasons to expect the break-down of the global market and a renewal of even large scale conventional warfare. I don’t expect people today to go out in the trenches like they did in Europe in 1914, but they are hungry and starving they might be quite willing to do so.

    So lets hope the pessimists are wrong and the future will be better than expected.
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    FM reply: Nukes. None of the wars you mention were between folks with nukes. As for China, it’s rich that America complains that China is expanding its forces to challenge ours — ours being larger than everybody else’s combined by most metrics. A bit a paranoid, hey? Or perhaps blindness, the pot calling the kettle black.

  5. So the current situation in the Congo is not a “war”?
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    FM reply: I don’t understand what you are saying. Is this a response to something in this thread?

    If responding to me, I said no more “large scale state to state” wars. The civil war in the Congo is neither large-scale (geographically) or state-to-state.

  6. It’s very questionable that nuclear weapons have made our lives safer, any more than the possession of tanks and assault vehicles by local police make the lives of inner city inhabitants safer. Nuclear weapons are simply an admission that the possessor of them is unconfident or unwilling to resolve disputes by traditional techniques of give and take, and ultimately insists on havings its own way. In a sense, they are proof that the possessor of them is insane.
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    FM reply: Perhaps. These things cannot be proven. It might just be a coincidence that every conflict into which nukes are introduced suddenly becomes more peaceful.

  7. From my scanty knowledge of history , it seems that wars , like climate changes and epidemics , repeat themselves over the centuries , like the seasons of the year . Incidently , as an example of the brakeless wheel of history , try the (US) Helmand Valley Project , 1946-79 ? {Omar Zakhilwal, Institue for Afghan Studies, no date} or on the Defence of the Realm website , Afghan history .

    Excerpt:

    The Helmand Valley Project serves to provide an example of the most pervasive development project ever undertaken in modern Afghanistan. In this paper it is argued that the projects’ main aims of kindling an economic development in the one-fourth of the country covered by the project and bolstering the Afghan-US bilateral relationship were both doomed to failure. Perhaps, the latter failure was a direct consequence of the first one. It is concluded that the latter failure, perhaps, was a factor (if not the factor) for pushing Afghanistan a step closer to the USSR’s folder and therefore to the Soviet’s subsequent invasion of Afghanistan.

  8. Paranoid? I hardly think so. I would be paranoid if I have stated that China had the intention of invading Taiwan on 1th of January 2010. I merely pointed out that China and other great powers will keep every option on the table for the sake of their national interest and for that reason it is a fallacy to assume that even large-scale conventional war is a thing of the past. I also don’t see any signs right now for such a conflict should erupt, but one of the key lessons of the 20th Century should be that states go to extreme lengths to preserve their interests like witnessed at Somme, Verdun, Hiroshima or Dresden. Democracies, authoritarian and dictatorships are alike in their willingness to sacrifice their own population and other countries if they deem it necessary.

    I would also like once again to comment on the supposed wonders of the nuclear peace. By that I mean the idea that nuclear weapons should maintain peace. There is certainly something about it since nobody has used nukes since 1945. But even during the Cold War it was fully understood that the nuclear peace was at best imperfect and it was impossible to exclude the possibility that war could erupt simply by mistake. It also didn’t prevent aggressions short of open war like the invasion of Afghanistan, the CIA coup in Guatemala or the Berlin blockade. It was already in the fifties realized it wasn’t realistic to threaten with the destruction of the whole world if – say – the Soviet Union decided to occupy West Berlin. Which lead to replacing “massive retaliation” with “flexible response” in NATO. The problem remains today: What would our response be if a country like China or Russia suddenly – deliberately or by mistake – should challenge an ally? Do you really think that anybody would risk a nuclear war over Estonia? The dismantling of the Cold War stockpiles of nuclear weapons actually makes this problem larger, not smaller. During the Cold War it was at least understood that a single mistake could risk total war while it is at best unclear how countries would respond in crisis today. In the end it would come down to who would be willing to risk the most. Like Chinese PLA General Xiong Guangkai warned a visiting American envoy during the Taiwan Crisis of 1996: “In the end, you care more about Los Angeles than you do about Taipei.”

    Finally I also think it should be pointed out that nuclear powers have actually been at war, although on a fairly limited basis: China fought a border war against the Soviet Union in 1969 and India fought a similar border war against Pakistan (the Kargil conflict) in 1999. It doesn’t mean that nukes doesn’t have a sobering effect on the human mind, but only that the effect is limited. It is not a panacea, it doesn’t work wonders and it is very likely to fail in the end because of the human nature. We have been lucky so far.
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    FM reply: To assume that China’s tiny military build-up constitutes a serious threat to the US is IMO paranoid, esp given our massive superiority. As for the end of war, I expressly said the end of “large scale state to state war.” Poxy wars, tiny border conflicts, civil conflicts — none of these meet my criteria.

  9. I’m cautiously optimistic about the future. I don’t see Armageddon in the future, but the next 30-40 years could bring a large war to Asia, as China, India and Russia sort it out. Climate change could be the key: if Asian agriculture collapses because water disappears . . .
    One very hopeful sign is the solid progress being made in developing fusion as a source of power, especially the Polywell project funded by the U.S. Navy. You can find an overview here: http://iecfusiontech.blogspot.com/

  10. Just in order to be precise: Almost every country in the world recognize Taiwan as a part of China, including the United States. Should war erupt and the United States intervene it would be the Americans who would intervene in the continuation of the Chinese civil war, not a Chinese attempt to threaten the United States. The Chinese military build-up is an attempt to keep all options on the table while their government works toward a peaceful reunification and I suspect they will succeed in their endeavor like it happened with Hong Kong and Macao.
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    FM reply: OK, how does this relate to the discussion.

  11. If responding to me, I said no more “large scale state to state” wars. The civil war in the Congo is neither large-scale (geographically) or state-to-state.

    Following your logic, the Taiping Rebellion was not a war. And 5.4 million have died in Congo.
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    FM reply: You’re not responding to what I said. I said that there would be no more large-scale state-to-state conflicts. That does not imply no more conflicts of other types, such as small state-to-state wars, large-scale civil wars, or fights with your spouse.

  12. I am merely answering the claim you make when you seem to believe that I think China’s military modernization should be a threat towards the United States. This is hardly what I think. At worst they are planning to invade their own backyard.
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    FM reply: Thank you for explaining.

  13. The title of this thread, I believe, was “endemic terrorism, but world generally safer.” This gives the wrong message, that somehow the leading nations of the world have become more pacific, humane, are treating their citizens better, etc. It also gives the impression that terrorism has no connection with the actions of the leading nations of the world.
    On the contrary, the fact that we can now talk of “global empire” means that the world is generally less safe and worse off than before. In 1939, only Europe and Russia were threatened by Germany, now the entire globe is threatened by the whims of an American president, the needs of the American ruling class.

    If we are safer now, why do our legal institutions, our ethical principles, seem so impotent to prevent official violence?
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    FM reply: Can you cite any evidence, esp numbers, to support your assertions? They seem unlikely, IMO.

  14. Agree about the pandemic good news. We all got lucky and have had some wake up calls which has given us the fright and motivation to improve our systems.

    H1N1, after the bird flu scare, seems to be following the first ‘swine flu’ path .. and hopefully it doesn’t follow the 1918/1919/1920 path. But if it does we are far better able to handle it now.

    By that I mean the first swine flu didn’t start out as a mass killer straight away, rather it seemed, after introduction into the troops in Europe, to be “relatively” benign. It must have went through quite a few cycles of infection/morphing/reinfection before it hit the ‘big time’ and then was brought back to the rest of the World by the returning troops. Then it killed big time.

    Now the odds (massively) are that it will evolve into something more benign, though it has shown some of the properties that made the first one such a killer (immune system overeaction on the lungs in particular), but even if it does … and it will be bad .. we are so much more aware now and (by and large) are able to deal with it with, hopefully, “relatively” minimal impacts.

    However “relatively” does mean a mass shutdown for a couple of weeks. So keep your house stocked with a couple of weeks of food, which you should do anyway as a general principle.

    One day it will happen with something. The important thing is that our systems (and ourselves of course) understand that and can deal with it effectively.

  15. As another addedum: “endimic terrorism”. Hey I lived though the IRA peak years in London … now that was terrorism (plus Europe and the Bader crowd, Red Brigade, et all). Despite has happened in the UK, US and Spain in recent years.. we have not gone through long term terrorism attacks for ages. Rather we have had one off (and in many ways “lucky”, in the sense they “flew under the radar”) incidents which have (thankfully) not been repeated.

    Try living under 10+ years of that, when a member of the Royal family was killed, or the Prime Minister was nearly killed or when you walked down the street and looked at every parked car suspiciously or when you watched every backpack or briefcase on the Tube with an eagle eye until someone picked them up or …. That was terrorism (damn their eyes).

    Did it work for them, no because after many stuff ups (and the British Govt made just about every mistake in the book, several times) the key thing was ordinary people. The real people who beat terrorists is not the spaggetti soup of letters (CIA, FBA, TSA, ASIO, MI5 ,,, sadly et al) naturally all looking for money, it is us. Yep you and me and the good old ordinary police plus a decent sense of justice. And that is what wins.

    Those “letter” clowns usually (or almost always?) get in the way.
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    FM reply: These things are matters of perspective. How many terrorist attacks were there in Ireland? Orange, IRA, and Brits (e.g., hits by the SAS)? Did any of these lead to peace, or did the war just burn itself out? Think of the treatments by pre-modern “doctors”. They too produced “cures”, although we now know that the treatments were ineffective.

  16. Maybe if we think of total war as a wildfire, then terrorism might be like many smaller blazes. Frequent small fires help to prevent the BIG one, by preventing an accumulation of ‘fuel.’

  17. Yet another addendum: FM “fewer wars”? War with now (directly or through puppets [one is “your master”] or through buying their [temporary I suspect] elite): Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Yemen, Lebanon, Pakistan, Palestine. Plus a few on the periphery such as Georgia (getting yourself photo’d in US uniforms .. tsk tsk).

    Soon (there is now no way the US can back down from this after the US Congress law just passed): Iran … the real war.

    “War, War, Glorious War
    Nothing like it for spilling the blood”
    — to the tune of “Mud, Mud”.

    Next? Has to be South America, moving in that way already in a big way. New fleet, bases there that means war .. woth someone, somewhere. And Africa, under AFRICOM .. aren’t there some US troops already fighting somewhere there now? .. If I am wrong about that .. they will be soon.

    Or will it be in US cities?
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    FM reply: Did you read the post? It clearly states “Then there were nukes, probably ending large-scale state-to-state warfare”. None of the wars you describe are large-scale state-to-state wars. None involve war between major states, most of whom have nukes.

  18. From #19

    “War, War, Glorious War
    Nothing like it for spilling the blood”
    — To the tune of “Mud, Mud”.

    Dude. I thought I was the only one who even knew who Flanders & Swann were anymore! (Wikipedia link)

    About the “fewer wars or not” argument, don’t you think Fabius has a point, though, that the scale of these imperialist wars is less than, say, WWI or WWII? And note, he pointed out earlier on the thread that he’s mainly talking about wars between nation-states w/ nukes. Pakistan is the only one with nukes on your list.

  19. Of course, if the USA, or Israel attacks or especially if we/they invade Iran, then all bets are off, and we’re in a whole new space whose parameters we can only guess at.

  20. Athiest I’ve long argued that the relentless ‘push’ by the US (and increasingly reluctant ‘allies’) into even more wars (Yemen … que?) means the probability of the ‘big mistake’ increases. War is now the only tool of the US in dealing with just about everything.

    The ‘long war’ advocates means permanent war with all the socio/geopolitical/economic and especially ‘blowback’ impacts. And as war becomes a habit then the chances of a fatal miscalculation increases.

    Take the Israeli sponsered, just passed Iran refined fuels embargo (and that is what it really is) it is now US ‘LAW’.

    What if a US sub takes down a Chinese tanker? Bombs Russian or Chinese pipelines? Try to fine or jail Chinese businessmen over their dealings with Iran? Et al, you see the many chances for fatal miscalculation. That’s what it means, because there is now a permanent state of war, with just about everyone, over just about any reason then war expands. The ‘push’ as I call it.

    Plus, as any historian worth their salt, knows to create a society dedicated to war .. a new Sparta, means that individual rights have to be crushed.

    And now you, Americans have lost all your rights. In a decision (commented here as well as many places: “Dred Scott Redux: Obama and the Supremes Stand Up for Slavery“, Chris Floyd, Empire Burlesque, 19 December 2009) {about military use of torture} You only exist as a ‘person’ until you are declared as an ‘unperson’ .. with no rights and can be imprisoned, tortured, whatever.

    Bye Antiwar.com, Counterpunch, Yves Smith, etc, all those ‘anti American’ libertarians. Can’t be long until the roundup now.

    FM will survive because (as we all all know) this is a CIA forum ;)
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    FM reply: Sad to say, I agree with your opening. However to say that we’ve “lost all our rights” is a nutty exaggeration. Repeal of habeas corpus would do that, as would stopping future elections.

  21. OldSkeptic,

    Re: “Hey I lived though the IRA peak years in London … now that was terrorism”

    An associate of mine told me whilst he was growing up in England, the Irish Republican Army always tipped off the cops as to when, where & whom they were targeting some hours just prior to the bombings (unsubstantiated?).

    The moslem terrorists of these “interesting times” however won’t give two f***s whether collateral damage occurred or otherwise (anyways the casualties, minus the Caucasians & any jews & whoever not moslem, will be “martyred” along with the dimwit who blew himself up).

    In this light it seems the Irish were more humane than these extremist pricks.

    Gone off thread, sorry FM.
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    FM reply: The IED strikes against Coalition forces were often staged to minimize civilian casualties, almost certainly staged with the knowledge of the locals. That’s an enduring feature of insurgent warfare; otherwise one loses the necessary support of the locals. As always, there are exceptions. Such as attacks staged outside one’s territory. Also, al Qaeda often ignores this rule — which is why they’re losing in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

  22. But the supreme court decision still means that the US President, or one of his/her’s agents can declare you, a US citizen, basically, an ‘unperson’, who can be detained forever. Note that everyone else in the World automatically has this status as an ‘unperson’ and that the US Govt reserves the right to unilaterily detain, torture or kill anyone, anywhere outside of the US. Now they can do it legally within the US (Shrub did it also but until now it was legally ‘grey’).

    Habeas corpus does not apply if you are an ‘unperson’. So its not an issue whether or not it is repealed, just an issue of who it applies to. That’s the cleverness of it.

    From the redoubtable Yves Smith: “Supreme Court Guts Due Process Protection” Naked Capitalism, 20 December 2009 {FM correction: this is a quote from “Dred Scott Redux: Obama and the Supremes Stand Up for Slavery“, Chris Floyd, Empire Burlesque, 18 December 2009}

    “After hearing passionate arguments from the Obama Administration, the Supreme Court acquiesced to the president’s fervent request and, in a one-line ruling, let stand a lower court decision that declared torture an ordinary, expected consequence of military detention, while introducing a shocking new precedent for all future courts to follow: anyone who is arbitrarily declared a “suspected enemy combatant” by the president or his designated minions is no longer a “person.” They will simply cease to exist as a legal entity. They will have no inherent rights, no human rights, no legal standing whatsoever — save whatever modicum of process the government arbitrarily deigns to grant them from time to time, with its ever-shifting tribunals and show trials. “

    So who is this going to be applied to: Bush, Chaney and the previous administration? Goldman Sach’s senior execs? Pentagon generals? No I think not. Cindy Sheehan could be one. Gareth Porter, Antiwar.com, Counterpunch, Ron Paul and supporters .. yep could see that.

    “Republic .. if you can keep it” was Ben Franklin’s (yet another one of my great US heroes) comment. Looks like you just lost it (lots of turning in graves going on). But ‘Empire’ and ‘Republic’ are incompatible, as the old ‘right’ and Libertarians were correct about, but the US ‘left’ and ‘centre’ got totally wrong.

    And finally a use for all those Haliburton built (just don’t touch the light switches .. or anything electrical at all actually) internment camps that have been built all over the country.
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    FM reply: Can you cite any attorneys — legal experts — who support this theory? Or is it secret (esoteric) knowledge, obvious only to lefty adepts? Supreme Court decisions are among the most closely analyzed texts in human history, 2nd only to actual religious works.

    The Floyd blognote cites an InterPress Service article (“US: Guantanamo Prisoners Not ‘Persons’“, 16 December 2009) which provides no support for your fantastic theory. The folks you cite have no relevant background. Yves Smith heads Aurora Advisors, a New York-based management consulting firm specializing in corporate finance advisory and financial services. Floyd’s blog gives no background.

    “Looks like you just lost it”

    Judging from your hysterical comments about this, I don’t believe we’re the ones who “lost it.” You read a blogpost making astounding claims but with no evidence — and believe it. I hope your friends do an intervention, as the Internet is dangerous for such folks.

  23. Mikyo of course .. haven’t you got yours yet (FM you’ve been a bit slow on the mailouts)?

    Nice colour too, impregnated fake diamonds as well, then I turned it over … “Made in China” ;)

  24. FM: “One Day We’ll All Be Terrorists“, Chris Hedges, Information Clearninghouse, 28 December 2009 — Some selections:

    ” Syed Fahad Hashmi can tell you about the dark heart of America. He knows that our First Amendment rights have become a joke, that habeas corpus no longer exists and that we torture, not only in black sites such as those at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan or at Guantánamo Bay, but also at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Lower Manhattan. Hashmi is a U.S. citizen of Muslim descent imprisoned on two counts of providing and conspiring to provide material support and two counts of making and conspiring to make a contribution of goods or services to al-Qaida”

    “Hashmi, who if convicted could face up to 70 years in prison, has been held in solitary confinement for more than 2½ years. Special administrative measures, known as SAMs, have been imposed by the attorney general to prevent or severely restrict communication with other prisoners, attorneys, family, the media and people outside the jail. He also is denied access to the news and other reading material. Hashmi is not allowed to attend group prayer. He is subject to 24-hour electronic monitoring and 23-hour lockdown. He must shower and go to the bathroom on camera. He can write one letter a week to a single member of his family, but he cannot use more than three pieces of paper. He has no access to fresh air and must take his one hour of daily recreation in a cage. His “proclivity for violence” is cited as the reason for these measures although he has never been charged or convicted with committing an act of violence”

    “Constitutionally protected statements, beliefs and associations can now become a crime. Dissidents, even those who break no laws, can be stripped of their rights and imprisoned without due process. It is the legal equivalent of preemptive war. The state can detain and prosecute people not for what they have done, or even for what they are planning to do, but for holding religious or political beliefs that the state deems seditious. The first of those targeted have been observant Muslims, but they will not be the last.

    “Most of the evidence is classified,” Jeanne Theoharis, an associate professor of political science at Brooklyn College who taught Hashmi, told me, “but Hashmi is not allowed to see it. He is an American citizen. But in America you can now go to trial and all the evidence collected against you cannot be reviewed. You can spend 2½ years in solitary confinement before you are convicted of anything. There has been attention paid to extraordinary rendition, Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib with this false idea that if people are tried in the United States things will be fair. But what allowed Guantánamo to happen was the devolution of the rule of law here at home, and this is not only happening to Hashmi.”

    FM: you will appreciate this:

    First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;
    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.

    Pastor Martin Niemöller, was imprisoned in Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps from 1937 to 1945. He narrowly escaped execution and survived imprisonment.
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    FM reply: I knew you’d eventually get around to comparing the US with NAZI Germany. Just nuts.

    This just in! In any society in the history of the world one can find gross mischarges of justice. Certainly American and UK history is littered with such. Small numbers of examples hardly justify your weird claims about Americans having “lost all our rights”. Is the frequency of such events increasing? Is the incidence higher than other developed nations? The material you show proves nothing at best. At worst it’s inept propaganda.

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