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Chris Slatter

My Blog


The Empire

I can’t tell you how difficult this blog was to write. Before starting I had to clear away the influence of decades of propaganda contained in movies, television shows, literature and in the speeches of Presidents persuading me that the United States was a moral and upstanding meritocracy, an example to the rest of the world.

Try this: “And now we prove once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope!”

This is a fragment of Barack Obama’s election night speech, a soliloquy so noble and uplifting that it inspired us. Millions in the United States and around the world thought the messiah had come at last to sweep away all the accumulated evil of the previous years.

I remember debating his victory that very night and relating my unease that the new president had little actual experience of government, and could turn out to be a babe in the woods. Dealing with the  government agencies which had brought us concepts such as extraordinary rendition, and enhanced interrogation techniques was going to a monumental task. I was shouted down by my fellow journalists. Five years later my unease has ratcheted higher because the sentiments uttered so grandly by President Obama haven’t changed a thing.

The prison facility in Guantanamo Bay remains open with 166 untried prisoners still incarcerated there; this in spite of President Obama’s promises to close it on numerous occasions.

The number of US organisations involved, according to the Washington Post in 2010, in intelligence gathering is 1,271 government and 1,931 private companies employing at least 854, 000 people. Known collectively as the US Intelligence Community it was formed by Executive Order in 1981 by President Reagan. In the decades since then it has grown and grown and grown.

The USIC has become, I submit, so powerful and uncontrollable that even if the will were present, it is virtually impossible to dismantle even with strong leadership.

And now we have the vengeful pursuit of those who dared to release details of this intelligence-gathering organisation. Bradley Manning, the troubled 25-year-old US soldier, now undergoing trial on numerous charges including aiding the enemy, downloaded secret government files to the Wikileaks website. The founder of this organisation, Julian Assange, now cowers from the wrath of the US in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.  Neither of these whistle blowers will ever be free from pursuit.

And so we come to the most troubling case of all, that of private contractor Edward Snowden who revealed to the UK Guardian newspaper details of the vast intelligence gathering operations undertaken by the USIC and its UK equivalent. He fled to Hong Kong and is now in transit in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. Federal prosecutors have charged him with espionage. So desperate are US officials to capture him that they grounded Bolivian President Evo Morales’ plane in Vienna on the chance that Snowden may be on board. In order to accomplish this Spain, Portugal, France and Italy closed their airspace to the plane, an indication of how much pressure the US is willing to use to capture the whistle blower.

Has the United States become another surveillance state? There is no war to justify such a vast intelligence network, not even the war on terrorism, and even that does not justify the charges of espionage and aiding the enemy that these men are facing. There is no moral justification for the actions of the United States in these cases, but it has become so powerful that it can act without justification.

Hugo Chavez, former President of Venezuela, used to refer to the United States as the Empire. He meant a nation bent on domination and on maintaining its dominion. Several other Latin American leaders now refer to the US the same way, including President Evo Morales of Bolivia, who experienced the power when his aeroplane was summarily prevented from returning him home.

Many Latin American nations fear the actions of their northern neighbour.

Should we be scared, too?



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About Me

I have been an advertising copywriter, film director, teacher of screenwriting and a television producer. I have worked for some of the world's largest advertising agencies in Australia and the UK before attending the London Film School for two years.

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