There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there—good for you! But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that maurauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea—God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.
Next year the first of the Baby Boomers will turn 65. In total, 36 million Americans will hit 65 over the next decade, plus another 45 million in the following decade. Some of them won’t be retiring for quite some time, though, if they can help it. New estimates say that three in five Boomers are financially unprepared for retirement.
It appears they haven’t saved enough … and their homes have lost value … and continuing to work is difficult in a recession-ravaged job market flooded with recent grads … and so on. We’re not even mentioning the slightly-valid question of whether Social Security will continue to provide at the same levels, which currently account for about 40 percent of senior income. So much for the Golden Years.
So, to recap: the U.S. creates a worldwide regime of torture, disappearances and lawless imprisonment. Then, the Bush administration, the Obama administration, and the American federal judiciary all collaborate to shield the guilty parties from all accountability (Look Forward, Not Backward!), and worse, to ensure that not a single victim can even access American courts to obtain a ruling as to the legality of what was done to them, let alone receive compensation for their suffering, even while recognizing that many of the victims were completely innocent and even though other countries have provided the victims with compensation for their much more minor role in what happened. Our courts even ensure that Blackwater guards are shielded from prosecution for the cold-blooded murder of Iraqi citizens. But we invade, occupy and destroy Iraq — while severely abusing, torturing and killing their citizens — and then demand, as a condition for our allowing the end of crippling sanctions, that they fork over hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation to American torture victims, even though it all happened 20 years ago, under an Iraqi regime that no longer even exists. They hate us for our Freedoms.
The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, succeeded far beyond anything Osama bin Laden could possibly have envisioned. This is not just because they resulted in nearly 3,000 deaths, nor only because they struck at the heart of American financial and military power. Those outcomes were only the bait; it would remain for the United States to spring the trap.
The goal of any organized terrorist attack is to goad a vastly more powerful enemy into an excessive response. And over the past nine years, the United States has blundered into the 9/11 snare with one overreaction after another. Bin Laden deserves to be the object of our hostility, national anguish and contempt, and he deserves to be taken seriously as a canny tactician. But much of what he has achieved we have done, and continue to do, to ourselves. Bin Laden does not deserve that we, even inadvertently, fulfill so many of his unimagined dreams.
But the rise of this national-security state has entailed a vast expansion in the government’s powers that now touches every aspect of American life, even when seemingly unrelated to terrorism. The most chilling aspect of Dave Eggers’s heartbreaking book, Zeitoun, is that the federal government’s fastest and most efficient response to Hurricane Katrina was the creation of a Guantánamo-like prison facility (in days!) in which 1,200 American citizens were summarily detained and denied any of their constitutional rights for months, a suspension of habeas corpus that reads like something out of a Kafka novel.
Fareed Zakaria - What America Has Lost - It’s clear we overreacted to 9/11.
In the same week in which the world was told about mass rapes taking place in the Congo, a report was released which detailed the prevalence of rape in prisons and jails across the United States. In 2008 and 2009, 88,500 adults held in jails and prisons reported being sexually assaulted. The rates of exploitation of juveniles is even higher, one in eight will be victimized during their incarceration. Those are numbers that ought to give rise to mass protest around the nation.
American journalists will go all the way to Africa to report on sexual assault when they are able to inform the world on the same subject without ever leaving home. Rape in the Congo or Haiti are viewed as a kind of strange pornography, allowing Americans to see themselves as superior, and others, usually black people, as inferior and inhuman.
Movies and jokes told by stand up comics elicit bizarre interest or laughs if the subject is rape behind bars. The horror of sexual assault is usually not considered amusing, unless it takes place in America’s prison industrial complex.
Talking about prison rape means acknowledging the full horror of this nation’s reliance on the prison system to keep some groups, black American’s in particular, in a place of ultimate control and subservience. The 2 million person prison population is fully one half black, a statistic which in and of itself ought to create outrage and protest.
“My whole outlook on the war changed that day. … It was heart-wrenching. … That’s why I’m speaking out — is to let people know the atrocities of war. … I see the images of stuff like that every night.” — Ethan McCord, former member of Bravo Company 2-16, the ground troops involved in the now infamous “Collateral murder” video released by Wikileaks in April of this year
“He could not say, for instance, that the Iraqis are broadly resentful of the U.S. presence in their country and have wished to see us go for years. He could not say what even the most enthusiastic supporters of the Iraq war have been forced to admit: namely that peace in Iraq is tenuous and bloody civil conflict could soon break out again.
He could not say that the predictions of the war’s proponents, both within and outside government, proved to be entirely wrong — from their claim that weapons of mass destruction would be discovered to their claim that Iraqi oil would pay the costs of the invasion and pacification to their claim that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein would result in a wave of democratic reform across the region.
He could not say that U.S. prestige and influence in the Mideast have declined sharply, or that our capacity to criticize human rights violations in other countries — ruled by thugs like Saddam — has suffered lasting damage due to our own illegal and brutal mistreatment of detainees in Iraq.
He could not say that the war and occupation resulted in historic levels of corruption, wasting hundreds of billions of dollars on ghost projects, phony public relations scams, and crooked Iraqi politicians and American contractors — not to mention all the money that simply vanished in pallets of cash, without a trace.
He could not say that the misconduct and irresponsibility of the previous administration’s officials, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former proconsul Paul Bremer, and many others who botched the occupation so lethally, were a disgrace to the United States.”