(YellowTimes.org) As often happens, current events seem to be torn from the pages of history and, as Santayana said, those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Of course, the places and names change but a meticulous inspection reveals the same patterns and the same destructive behavior.
When the Russian Revolution appeared on the world stage, life, which was already quite cheap, became incredibly cheaper, to be dispensed with on a whim in the cause of the end result -- an establishment and solidification of the new regime. Minds had to be changed or the bodies that housed them eliminated. Independent thought was dangerous and expressly forbidden. Many people, in order to curry favor with those in power, informed on their neighbors and adopted the slogans of "patriotism." Individuals could be incarcerated on an impulse of the government, tortured, sent off to the Gulag or worse, the firing squad. There was no Bill of Rights for these people.
To further their ends, the Bolsheviks co-opted communications and created Tass and Isvestia, the infamous propaganda organs of the Soviet regime. American students were taught at an early age how terrible this was, how we couldn't believe what was printed or said by these despicable people. This could never happen in America where we were free to think what we wanted and the press would always report the truth.
So, what has happened? In the glorious USA, we've had a revolution of our own. No, it wasn't an armed rebellion but an insidious, creeping change from our former democratic government to one where an oligarchy of big business interests has seized control. We now have in Washington our own modern version of Bolshevism. Far out, you say? I don't think so.
Consider that since the events of 9/11 we have had an administration empowered to seize people, citizens or not, and incarcerate or deport them without charge, without due process, without legal representation and without familial notification. We've created our own Gulag called Guantanamo and others we know not of. Our Justice Department is "disappearing" people and blocks all attempts at accountability in the name of security. We even send people off to countries where we know they will be tortured. The president, who has been given and has assumed dictatorial powers, decides whether a person has rights or whether enacted laws apply to them. Do we, too, like the hapless Russians, not have a Bill of Rights?
Consider also the monopolistic communications empires that have been created by "friends" and patrons of the administration. When you think about it, what is the difference between Fox Network and Tass? They both spout the party line without regard for the truth. They promote their government's adventures while reviling dissident opinion. In short, Fox is just like their Bolshevik brethren.
Investigative journalism has gone the way of the vacuum tube radio. What doth it profit a newsman to report the actual chaos in Iraq instead of the coalition-claimed "positive" developments? Or the serious morale problems in our armed forces, glossed over by fraudulent form letters sent to the press? What of the true body count of dead and wounded and images of the dead GIs returning home that would perchance awaken a compliant, general public? How about the casualties inflicted on the Iraqi civilians, casualties that aren't counted because they don't count? Or the numerous lies told by administration officials to justify their war mongering and pillaging of the treasury to support their adventures? Where are the juicy stories of profiteering by corporate friends and relatives of the administration in the reconstruction of Iraq? Is not the chaos in Afghanistan, where the "huge victory" is in reality limited to the occupation of one large city, a reportable event?
Instead of these earthshaking stories, "respected" journalists write columns that claim the Patriot Act is a benign piece of legislation that is misunderstood and that the reconstruction contract awards for Iraq are strictly above board. One newspaper filled its pages with the breathtakingly important details about the firing of a local college football coach (217 column inches in one edition) instead of events in the Middle East (92 column inches in the same edition) that are supposed to be "vital to America's security interests." Yet, hundreds of people are being shot at and many are being killed every day in Iraq and Afghanistan, and this gets a fraction of the ink used about a football coach being fired. No, the lackey press does not highlight the nasty things that do not further their interests or protect their administration friends.
You should also take note that whenever someone rushes to cover up their bad acts by labeling critics with pejorative names. you can be sure their actions will not bear close scrutiny. When people tried to complain in Bolshevik Russia, they were called counter-revolutionaries and dealt with extremely harshly. When Americans complain about their country's policies, they are called unpatriotic and subjected to public ridicule. The rallies and protests of dissenters aren't reported fairly, if at all. If you criticize George W. Bush, you are being disrespectful of the presidency. If you criticize the war in Iraq, you are not supporting our troops. If you criticize the Justice Department or Homeland Security, you don't care about the defense of our country. If you criticize America's Middle East policy, you are anti-Semitic. I could go on but I think you get the picture. All tyrannical regimes have used the same strategy.
Unfortunately, these tactics always work on a largely docile and uninformed population, a large number of whom, like their president, don't read the newspapers and form their opinions from a few repeated sound bites. When the history of this era is written, it will contain all the eerie similarities of times past that we refused to recognize and learn from.
Raff Ellis lives in the United States and is a retired former strategic planner and computer industry executive. He has had an abiding and active interest in the Middle East since early adulthood and has traveled to the region many times over the last 30 years.
Raff Ellis encourages your comments: rellis@YellowTimes.org
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