Not THAT David Brooks, this David Brooks:
THIS David Brooks has been the U.S. correspondent for Mexico's national and well-read left-wing newspaper, La Jornada, since 1992 as well as a researcher, writer and collaborator in a variety of ventures addressing Mexican-US relations. I like David Brooks's columns addressing US-Mexico issues, because, unlike many writers, he does not try to convince that Mexico is not "so violent" or that Mexico is really more like the US than USAers think, etc. It would be quite wonderful if the NY Times saw fit to print some of THIS David Brooks's columns as a left-wing counterpoint to their own David Brooks's writing.
Below I translate his recent piece "Salvation," from his regular column, American Curios. This column does not directly address US-Mexican relations but rather excoriates US leadership's habit of engendering fear in its people for its own ends. While I hope later to deal with Mexican-American issues, I thinkit is valuable for USAers to understand that others can be very critical of the US -- that it is not always envied and revered.
According to its leadership, the threats against this country [The US] never cease. The European economic crisis, the electrical storms in the east, the fires in the west, drugs, migrants, crimes, and of course "the extremists" throughout the world, but it also appears that the same country which supposedly is defending itself, is also a potential threat.
How to explain that this country with the most people in jail of any country in the world and where the govenrment has systematically eroded civil rights-- to privacy, to free expression, and to peaceful free assembly among others-- under the justification of maintaining the sacred "democratic" order which one finds, they say, under threat of suspicious forces, all in some manner included in an increasingly broad definition of terrorism.
This [reasoning] has been utilized in investigating and attacking Wikileaks and the soldier Bradley Manning among uncountable -- still many not identified-- citizens around the world who were detained in clandestine jails. It has also been used to hold hostage governments not subordinate to Washington, among them Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia. But more astonishing is that these strategies have been used increasingly in the United States against citizens: against groups opposed to the wars of George Bush, and now Barack Obama, against journalists who have dared to publish leaks about the management of these wars, about migrants and the Muslim community in this country [and not just in Wikileaks], and most recently against participants in the movement Occupy. Again, all is justified in defense of "democracy" in this country.
One of the best examples of how extreme this internal supervigilance has become has recently been reported by a journalist in Wire: The National Security Agency (NSA) -- the most powerful federal office of expionage-- refuses to inform two powerful federal senators how many citizens' communications it has spied on because, the agency explained in a letter in response to the legislators' request, to provide the senators with the information would violate the privacy of the citizens." That is to say, those in the government who actively ride roughshod over the privacy of citizens by intervening in a secret manner in their communications, can't inform the Congress about these activities, since that would violate their privacy! David Sirota [a progressive US journalist among other things] explains in Truthdig that the senators only sought an approximate numer of people who had had their communications inspected by the agency, not their names, since it has been reported that the NSA has developed a massive program of intervention of the communications of millions of citizens since 2001.
This explanation, that being vigilant of and defending the rights of the United States is violating the same guarantees is, for Sirota, almost more extraodinary than the famous phrase from the Vietnam War when a young journalist, Peter Arnett of the Associated Press, asked a US official about the great possibility of civilian casualties in attacking a Vietnamese village, was told that "it is necessary to destroy the village to save it."
After at least a billion dollars spent and hundreds of thousands dead--including thousands of USAers- in these wars and operations in defense of the US since 9/11 (the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could come to between 3 and 5 billion dollars, according to some calluculations) the notable result is that a USAer runs a risk of 0.0001 percent of being a victim of "terrorism" according to the magazine The Atlantic -- that is to say that of the 13,288 dead because of terrorist attacks in the past year, 17 were US citizens. Of the 978 kidnapped in incidents related to terrorism in the past three years, only three were US citizens. In fact, where it is possible to identify the religious affiliation of those brought down by acts of terrorsim, Muslims suffer betwen 82 and 97 percent of the deaths related to terrorism. All this is according to official data of the US government, Micah Zenko, specialist in these matters, reports in the magazine.
In fact, Zenko and his colleagues, in a report for the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR), report that since 9/11 a total of 238 have died in terrorist efforts, that is to say, an average of 2.9 per year. They point out that to put this in context, the average USAer has the same chance of being crushed by his television set or furniture as to die at the hands of a terrorist. They add that since 9/11 in this country almost 150,000 murders and 300,000 suicides have been recorded. In fact, they affirm that this country lives in a world with more security and fewer violent conflicts than at an other time in human history. This, they argue, reveals the "inflation of threat" which prevails in Washington and a "chronic exaggeration of threats to the national security of the United States" in official discourse.
It is nothing new that the heights of political leadership inflate threats to succeed in getting what they want. Noam Chomsky has documented this repeatedly, reminding us that what leadership most fears is citizens and that to promote measures against the popular will they always resort to generating fear. They have used this to justify wars and interventions for decades, first with the use of the "Communist" threat and then in recent years with the threat of "terrorism." In 1947 a senator who presided over the Committee on Foreign Relations advised then-President Harry Truman that to succeed in his wish to finance anticommunist forces in Greece and Turkey he should "Exaggerate the fears of the countries."
Now, it appears, the leadership (as much political as economic) is disposed to employ the same logic proposed by the official in Vietnam, but now applied here: to "save" this country from threats at times it will be necessary to destroy it.
David Brooks has been La Jornada’s U.S. correspondent since 1992. He is the author of several scholarly works, including a book with noted sociologist of Mexico, Jonathan Fox. In 1988, Brooks founded the Mexico-U.S. Diologos Program, which has promoted an ongoing bilateral interchange among national social sectors from both countries on economic integration. He has contributed to various media, academic and NGO journals in both countries, and has worked on various U.S.-Mexico projects as a researcher and consultant. Before his long tenure at La Jornada, Brooks worked at the Instituto de Estudios de Estados Unidos at CIDE, one of Mexico's leading research institutes, and as a senior researcher and founding member of the Centro Latinoamericano de Estudios Estrategicos (CLEE), also in Mexico City.