Our Descent Into Darkness
Slouching Towards Nuremberg?
by MORRIS BERMAN
LAWS: Strange things are happening in the
United States these days, and every day seems to bring
additional scary news. The
similarity to the erosion of civil liberties in Germany
during the 1930s is a bit too close for comfort.
As I look around today - even
among those who are biblically oriented and
seem to genuinely grasp what's happening insofar as the
unfolding events of the "end of the age" are
concerned - I am UTTERLY appalled at how ill-prepared
people are both psychologically and spiritually for what
is shortly to come to pass.
There seems to be no way to get through to people;
to convince them that NOW
is the time for action, not tomorrow, nor the next day,
nor the day after that. Most Christians today seem to
be helpless prisoners of the "here and now,"
and though from time to time they may be excited by a
particular calamity that augurs for the "end of the
age," once the commotion of the event dies down,
they tend to gravitate back to their old habits of doing
things and their old ways of thinking.
Yes, they understand how hopelessly apostate today's
Christianity is; how inextricably bound the church is
to the American New World Order System; and yes, they're
planning to take action someday - but not today; maybe
tomorrow. There are more pressing "responsibilities"
to be taken care of: there are payments to be made on
visa and mastercards, mortgages to be met, businesses
to run; there are "responsibilities" to children
and aged parents - and on and on and on; and in taking
care of all these things they forget the admonition of
the Scriptures concerning "Last Things:" that
we who "know His will" concerning the "end
of the age" are to "prepare ourselves for it"
just as Noah did with regard to the Flood (cf.
Luke 12:45-47). The fact is, it was the little, routine
"responsibilities of life" that hindered the
people of Noah's day from responding to God's warning,
and so it is with Christians today:
"But as the days of Noe [Noah] were, so shall
also the coming of the Son of man be.
"For as in the days that were before the flood
they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in
marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,
"And knew not until the
flood came, and took them all away; so
shall also the coming of the Son of man be."
Listen dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, none
of these things - "eating," "drinking,"
"marrying" and "giving in marriage"
- are "bad things." They're not sins; they're
the legitimate "responsibilities of life" -
but, again, it was precisely these
things that prevented the people of Noah's time from responding
to God's warning; and it is exactly these things that
are hindering Christians today.
help you if you are letting these kinds of things prevent
you from taking action now. The people of Noah's day weren't
spared, and I somberly warn you (no! - not I but the Lord)
neither will you be spared either. As I said in the New
"Prophecy is nothing more than
a road sign telling us of the danger that's ahead and
warning us to take corrective action BEFORE
we get to the danger. If we do nothing until we finally
get there, it will be too late. Thus, if the only reaction
the NEW ANTIPAS PAPERS can elicit from someone
who has read the book is 'Wow! - what a wonderful book'
- then we have utterly failed in what we set out to
do, and that person has missed the point of the book
altogether. KNOWLEDGE WHICH DOES
NOT PRODUCE ACTION IS WORTHLESS."
[We URGE you to take the time to read our
Der Prozess or 'The Trial'."]
Strange things are happening in the United States these days,
and every day seems to bring additional scary news. The
similarity to the erosion of civil liberties in Germany during
the 1930s is a bit too close for comfort. Many will
regard this statement as hyperbole. But let's take a close look
at what is going on before we dismiss the comparison.
In terms of the historical record for Germany, legal discrimination
against Jews certainly existed before the Nuremberg Laws of
1935, and grew steadily over time. There
was always a feeling in the Jewish community—most of whom
regarded themselves as Germans, after all—that "OK, that's
the worst of it." Hence, the decision to stay. Then came the
next set of restrictions, and again the response: "This is as
far as it will go." It was like the classic experiment of turning
up the heat on frogs placed in warm water. Gradually, they get
boiled to death, because the increase of heat is incremental.
It was only toward the end of the thirties that the choice began
to look like: jump or die. Finally, it became simply, die.
There was always
a feeling in the German Jewish community-most of whom
regarded themselves as Germans, after all-that "OK,
that's the worst of it." Hence, the decision to stay.
Then came the next set of restrictions, and again the
response: "This is as far as it will go." It was like
the classic experiment of turning up the heat on frogs
placed in warm water. Gradually, they get boiled to
death, because the increase of heat is incremental.
It was only toward the end of the thirties that the
choice began to look like: jump or die. Finally, it
became simply, die.
In 1935, the Nuremberg Laws deprived Jews
of German citizenship and prohibited marriage between Jews
and "Aryans." They also prohibited sexual intercourse between
Jews and "Aryans," and the employment of "Aryan" females
under forty-five years of age as domestic workers in Jewish
households. In addition, Jews could not work as lawyers,
doctors, or journalists; could not use state hospitals;
and could not be educated by the state past the age of fourteen.
They could not enter public parks, libraries, or beaches,
and could not receive winnings from the national lottery.
By way of comparison, one thing that makes me particularly
nervous is what has been called the "conspiracy of silence."
Almost nobody spoke up in Germany as this process was unfolding,
and the American public has been similarly
silent about the events documented below. Indeed,
I would venture to say that 98% of the American public (maybe
more) is unaware of events such as these, or of the passage
of repressive legislation, and that they wouldn't care even
if they did know about it. ("Hey, I ain't no Ay-rab!") The classic
quote that has come down to us is from Martin Niemoeller, a
German pastor and theologian who wound up in the Sachsenhausen
and Dachau concentration camps (he was liberated by the Allies
in 1945). It goes something like this:
"First they came for the communists, but I
didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist. Then they came
for the trade unionists, but I didn't speak out because I
wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, but
I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came
for me, but by that time there was no one left to speak out."
It is no accident that Chris Hedges entitled a recent article
"First They Come for the Muslims" (see below, Item 4).
God forbid something like that might happen in the U.S., but
the signs of a gradual slide towards Nuremberg, and concomitant
citizen apathy, are very much present in the current political
milieu. Let's have a look at what has been going on in the decade
since 9/11. I'm going to discuss the following topics:
- The creation of a political climate in which the
police are out of control, arbitrarily free to intimidate
anyone for virtually anything
- The persecution of whistleblowers, protesters,
- The dramatic expansion of the surveillance of American
citizens on the part of the National Security Agency
- The corruption of the judicial system by means
of show trials of Muslim activists
- The construction of political detention centers,
also known as Communication Management Units (CMU's)
- The shredding of the Bill of Rights by means of
the National Defense Authorization Act
- Future scenarios: The "disappearing" of intellectual
critics of the U.S. government?
The creation of a political climate in which the police
are out of control, arbitrarily free to intimidate anyone
for virtually anything.
The evidence for this is perforce anecdotal, but events
such as the ones discussed below are getting to be so common
that we have to keep in mind that when you have accumulated
enough anecdotes, the result is called "data."
June 2011 the sheriff of Nelson County, North Dakota,
called in a Predator B drone from the local Air Force
base to capture three men who had stolen some cows.
Once the unmanned aircraft located the suspects, police
rushed in to make the first known arrests of U.S. citizens
with the help of a Predator spy drone. It turns out
that predator drones are frequently used for domestic
investigations all over the U.S.—by the FBI,
the Drug Enforcement Administration, and by state and
local law enforcement officials.
In July 2011 police in a small town in
Georgia shut down a lemonade stand being run by three
girls, ages 10-14, who were trying to save up for a
trip to a local water park. The police said that they
didn't know what was in the lemonade; and in addition,
that the girls needed a business license, a peddler's
permit, and a food permit in order to run the stand.
The permits, by the way, cost $50 a day.
April 2012 the Supreme Court ruled that jail authorities
may strip search people arrested for minor offenses
before they are jailed while awaiting a hearing. Individuals
have been strip searched for offenses such as biking
with an inaudible bell, walking a dog without a leash,
and driving with a noisy muffler. The sexual humiliation
involved in these searches, writes Naomi Wolf, is clearly
a way of keeping the masses in line, politically docile.
How long, she asks, before saying anything controversial
online or on the phone (see Item 3, below) will result
in the "guilty" party facing arrest and sexual humiliation?
I think we need to pause a moment before we summarily
dismiss this as paranoia.
The persecution of whistleblowers, protesters, and dissenters
This has been going on throughout the past decade, first
under President Bush, and then more aggressively under President
Obama. According to the New Yorker, "the Obama Administration
has pursued leak prosecutions with a surprising relentlessness."
To which the New York Times added: "In 17 months
in office, President Obama has already outdone every previous
president in pursuing leak prosecutions." In the famous
case of Bradley Manning, who revealed government documents
to Wikileaks, Mr. Obama publicly declared him guilty before
he went to trial or was convicted of a crime. The overall
result is that the government has basically criminalized
public servants who speak out to expose waste or corruption
or unethical behavior. Whistleblowing and dissent have,
in themselves, become criminal activities.
Since 2006 the filmmaker Laura Poitras, who made a documentary
about the U.S. occupation of Iraq, has been detained and
questioned at airports more than forty times. Government
agents confiscate her computer and notebooks without a
warrant. She is hardly an isolated case. With no oversight
or legal framework for its activities, the Department
of Homeland Security routinely singles out individuals
who are suspected of no crimes, detains them at the airport
when they return to the U.S. from an international trip,
and then seizes their laptops, cameras, cellphones, notebooks,
and credit card receipts.
You can now go to jail in the United
States simply for speaking. In July 2011, environmental
activist Tim DeChristopher was sentenced to two years
in prison for his repeated declaration that environmental
protection required civil—i.e.,
One wonders if the same judge, Dee Benson, would have
also put Rosa Parks and Mahatma Gandhi in jail, had
he been around during their lifetimes.
In March 2012 the president signed H.R.
347, the so-called trespass bill, into law, which allows
the government to jail anyone protesting near someone
with Secret Service protection for up to ten years. This
makes it quite easy for the government to criminalize
protest per se, because the exclusion zones defined
by the law have no clear boundaries. In fact, they can
be as large as the law wants them to be; which means that
the free speech zone is a moving target.
The dramatic expansion of the surveillance of American
citizens on the part of the National Security Agency (NSA)
On 19 July 2010 the Washington Post
reported that 854,000 people work for the National Security
Agency in thirty-three building complexes amounting
to 17 million square feet of space, in the DC Metro
and suburban area. Every day, collection systems at
the NSA intercept and store 1.7 billion emails and phone
calls of American citizens, in what amounts to a vast
domestic spy system. Writing in the New Yorker
on 23 May 2011, Jane Mayer reported that the NSA has
three times the budget of the CIA, and has the capacity
to download, every six hours, electronic communications
equivalent to the entire contents of the Library of
Congress. They also developed a program called Thin
Thread that enables computers to scan the material for
key words, and they collect the billing records and
the dialed phone numbers of everyone in the country.
In violation of communications laws, ATT, Verizon, and
BellSouth have opened their electronic records to the
government. At the height of its insanity, the Stasi
in East Germany was spying on 1 out of 7 citizens.
The U.S. is now spying on 7 out of 7.
To make the surveillance of American
citizens even more comprehensive (assuming that is even
possible), the NSA is currently building the biggest-ever
data complex in Bluffdale, Utah, as part of a secret
surveillance program code-named "Stellar Wind." The
center, scheduled for completion in 2013, will be twice
as large as the U.S. Capitol, and contain 100,000 square
feet of computer space, at a cost of $2 billion. In
addition, the NSA has established listening posts throughout
the country as part of this operation. All in all, there
are now 1,271 government agencies and 1,931 private
companies that work on programs related to counterterrorism
and homeland security in about 10,000 locations across
the U.S. The goal is to store and review the e-mails,
phone calls, online shopping lists, and virtually every
bit of information about every single American. Everything
you do, from traveling to buying groceries, will be
displayed on a graph. William Binney (see above, Item
2) has stated that we are about two millimeters away
"from a turnkey totalitarian state."
The corruption of the judicial system by means of show
trials of Muslim activists
This was discussed at length by Chris Hedges on truthdig,
16 April 2012. That very week, Tarek Mehanna, a U.S. citizen,
was sentenced to 17½ years in prison. He was convicted
of conspiring to kill American soldiers in Iraq and giving
material support to al-Qaeda. No proof of these charges
was provided. What seems to have been
the more relevant issue is that Mehanna had spoken out against
U.S. foreign policy, and had refused to become a government
These types of trials have been going on since 9/11. In
them, federal lawyers are allowed to prosecute people on
"evidence" that the defendants are not allowed to see.
Stephen Downs, a lawyer who has defended Muslim activists
since 2006, has documented the phony charges used to label
these people as terrorists and then put them behind bars,
typically for long stretches of time. He told Hedges:
"People who have committed no crime are taken into
custody, isolated without adequate recourse to legal advice,
railroaded with fake or contrived charges, and 'disappeared'
into prisons designed to isolate them."
Basically, they are condemned before they have committed
a crime, in a process that Downs calls "pre-emptive prosecution."
Downs discovered all this in 2006, when Yassin Aref, the
imam of a mosque in Albany, New York, was entrapped in a
government sting operation. What then happened, he told
Hedges, was that the government -
"... put together a case that was just one lie piled
on top of another lie, and when you pointed it out to
them they didn't care. They didn't refute it. They knew
it was a lie....But the facts are irrelevant. The government
has decided to target these people." Essentially, he went
on, the government lawyers "must know they're prosecuting
people before a crime has been committed based on what
they think the defendant might do in the future."
These are, in other words, kangaroo courts.
The bottom line, of course, is that if you destroy the
judicial system, then finally nobody is safe. The government
could wind up railroading anyone they don't like, and I
very much doubt that this possibility is far-fetched. First
they came for the Muslims...
The construction of political detention centers, also
known as Communication Management Units (CMU's)
Where do the suspected Muslim terrorists go? It turns
out that the government is using secret prison facilities
to house inmates accused of non-violent activities, i.e.
of allegedly being tied to terrorist groups. As
it turns out, these are not just Muslim groups; the CMU's
are also being used to house environmental activists.
The first CMU was built in 2006 in Terre Haute, Indiana;
in 2008 a second facility was constructed in Marion, Illinois.
Restrictions on contact with the outside world are quite
severe—for example, having all phone calls monitored
and limited to fifteen minutes per week. Among the so-called
terrorists housed in these units are the following:
a major feature on NPR, covering the little-known
Communications Management Units (CMUs), located in
Terre Haute, Indiana, and Marion, Illinois, where
the inmates are mostly Muslims, who are subjected
to surveillance 24 hours a day, have their mail monitored,
and are prevented from having any physical contact
whatsoever with their families during prison visits.
Rafil Dhafir, an Iraqi-born oncologist
from Syracuse, New York, who created a charity called
Help the Needy to provide food and medicine to the people
of Iraq who had been suffering from U.S. economic sanctions.
He was sentenced to twenty-two years in prison for violating
those sanctions. (I cite some of these in Dark Ages
America; they include a ban on the importation of
medicine and toilet paper.)
Daniel McGowan, an environmental activist
who committed two acts of arson to protest logging in
the Pacific Northwest, was sentenced to seven years.
He was not convicted of any terrorist crime or being
affiliated with any terrorist group, although the government
claimed that he was a member of the Earth Liberation
Front, which they regard as a domestic terrorist organization.
One thing that did not help was his public visibility,
both through media appearances and his website.
Andrew Stepanian, recently released—the
first prisoner ever to be released from a CMU. He spent
three years in jail, which included six and a half months
at the Marion facility, for trying to shut down an animal
testing laboratory. He was then put under house arrest
in New York. In fact, he was not accused of any violent
crime or property destruction.
What distinguishes the CMU's from other jails is that they
are political prisons. All of the defendants are incarcerated
there for what appear to be ideological reasons. Meanwhile,
the definition of "terrorist" continues to grow (see below,
Item 6); it won't necessarily stop with Muslims or environmental
rights activists. Significantly, the word "ecoterrorism"
was coined by corporations in the early 1980s. The CMU's
even contain antiwar tax protesters. In general, the
legal wall separating "terrorist" from "dissident" is starting
to break down, if, indeed, it hasn't already.
shredding of the Bill of Rights by means of the National
Defense Authorization Act
The NDAA, also known as the "indefinite detention bill,"
was signed into law by President Obama on 31 December 2011.
It has no temporal or geographic limitations, and can be
used by Mr. Obama or any future president to military detain
U.S. citizens. As in pre-Magna Carta days, you can simply
be swept up and put away forever—disappeared—with
no explanation of why, no right to call a lawyer or anybody
else, and no right to a trial. You
can actually be tortured to death, if the government decides
it is in the national interest. The NDAA is probably
the greatest rollback of civil liberties in the history
of the United States. Under the Act, literally anyone can
be described as a "belligerent," or as they are now called,
"covered person." The president claimed that he signed the
bill only to provide funding for American troops, and that
he had been reluctant to sign it because it included American
citizens. This b.s. was subsequently exposed by one of the
bill's sponsors, Senator Carl Levin, who revealed that it
was Mr. Obama himself who insisted that the indefinite detention
clause include U.S. citizens. Meanwhile, the White House
had been conducting a misinformation campaign to secure
this incredible dictatorial power while portraying the president
as some type of reluctant absolute ruler. It is also important
to note that there was virtually no coverage of this issue
on the part of the mainstream media. In effect, as Naomi
Wolf has written, the U.S. "is sleepwalking into become
a police state." The New American website posted
the following comment on the new law:
"The universe of potential 'covered persons' includes
every citizen of the United States of America. Any American
could one day find himself or herself branded a 'belligerent'
and thus subject to the complete confiscation of his or
her constitutional civil liberties and nearly never-ending
incarceration in a military prison."
You don't have to be convicted of terrorism to be rounded
up, under this new law; you only have to be suspected of
terrorist activity. And as Senator Rand Paul pointed
out prior to the passage of the bill, the Department of
Justice now has a list of "identifying characteristics"
of terrorists that includes –
having one or more fingers missing from your hands;
having more than seven days' worth of food in your
and having a loaded weapon on your property
—which describes half the households in the United
States. In effect, with the NDAA, if the government, for
any reason, doesn't like you—for example, if you
are simply a critic of the U.S., nothing more—they
can brand you a terrorist and put you away forever, with
literally no one knowing what happened to you.
Note also that even before the passage of this law, the
president had the legal right, even though it violates the
Geneva accords, to designate anyone on the planet an enemy,
and have him or her assassinated. Thus on 30 September 2011,
Mr. Obama had two American citizens, Anwar al-Awlaki and
Samir Khan, assassinated because of suspected—i.e.
not proven—al-Qaeda membership and terrorist activity.
Two weeks later, the CIA killed al-Awlaki's sixteen-year-old
son. The real problem in these cases is not whether these
people were actually guilty of terrorism; it's that the
Constitution says that no matter how heinous the crime,
every American citizen has a right to his or her day in
court. If I remember correctly, it does not say that the
president has the right to rub them out without a trial.
Just as an aside, there are, in general, more people
under "correctional supervision" in America than there were
in the Russian gulag under Stalin, at its height. Writing
in the New Yorker on 30 January 2012, Adam Gopnik
"Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human
history is a fundamental fact of our country today."
Future scenarios: The "disappearing" of intellectual
critics of the U.S. government?
This leads me to my final point. The distinctive characteristic
of American democracy, from 1776, was the protection of
the individual and the preservation of individual rights.
That no longer exists. Anyone is a potential terrorist
now; anyone can be persecuted, prosecuted, and in effect,
destroyed. Democracy is only possible if dissent is
not only permitted, but also respected. This too is finished.
What does this mean for someone such as myself?, is something
I lay awake nights thinking about. I have published three
books, and half a collection of essays, showing where we
have gone wrong, predicting our eventual collapse—indeed,
this repression is part of that collapse—and arguing
that the U.S. no longer has a moral compass; that it is
spiritually bankrupt. I run a blog that is anything but
polite: it says the U.S. is finished; that
it is essentially a corporate plutocracy, run by a gangster
elite; that the American people are basically
morons, with little more than fried rice in their heads;
and that anyone with half a brain and the means to do so
should emigrate before it's too late. I'm not really a threat
to the U.S. government, largely because I am not a political
activist and because it's not likely that more than 74 people
out of 311 million regularly read my blog (it's probably
more like 24, in fact). But as the definition of terrorism
widens in this country, what is to prevent the creation
of a category known as "intellectual terrorism" from arising,
and putting folks like myself in that category? What is
to prevent the government from calling such activity a clear
and present danger to national security?
As must be obvious by now, the government can do anything
it wants to; as in Nazi Germany, we now have a government
of men, not of laws. Indeed, the "laws" are little more
than a pretext for whatever the government wishes to do.
Is the following scenario completely paranoid? Five or
ten years down the line, as I fly into the DFW Airport en
route to giving a lecture somewhere, or simply visiting
friends, I am suddenly surrounded by government agents,
whisked off to a holding cell, and eventually sent to Guantanamo.
Nobody knows what happened to me, and I'm not allowed to
phone anyone—not my lawyer, not a friend, and certainly
not Chris Hedges, who is probably being tortured in the
adjoining cell. Two points to remember here, historically
When a country puts laws such as torture
or indefinite detention or arbitrary assassination on
the books, sooner or later it will use these legal instruments.
They won't just lie dormant, in other words. As in the
case of technology, once the mechanisms are there, the
temptation to employ them simply becomes too great to
resist. That is what is happening today.
In a world that is politically construed
along Manichaean lines—which, as I have argued
elsewhere, America has been doing since Day 1—the
first line of attack is against the enemy outside. It
doesn't matter if we are talking about Protestants or
Catholics or al-Qaeda operatives or infidels of any
kind, the first order of business is to go to war with
them. But as the British anthropologist Mary Douglas
shows in her book Purity and Danger, or Norman
Cohn demonstrates in The Pursuit of the Millennium,
if the war goes on long enough, inevitably the enemy
is also seen to be a fifth column, i.e. within the walls
of the body politic itself. They become Huguenots or
Marrano Jews or heretics of whatever stripe, and as
in the case of Goya's famous painting, Saturn Devouring
His Son, the country begins to eat itself alive.
Everybody becomes an enemy; no one is safe any longer.
And so I believe that I, and you, really do have reason
We are not marching to Pretoria; rather, we are slouching towards
Nuremberg. To quote Edward R. Murrow,
"Good Night, and Good Luck."
- Morris Berman's latest book is Why America Failed.
God bless you all!
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