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American nightmare

genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran
Please forgive the self-promotional aspects but the following column I wrote for my local paper is just on a topic I take seriously. (I'm posting the whole thing because I'm not sure how well the link is likely to work:

By ADAM FISHER
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
(Published in print: Wednesday, February 19, 2014)

NORTHAMPTON — I once read a wonderful latter-day fairy tale in which a man refused to go outside because he was convinced there was an alligator in the front yard that would eat him.

His friends did what they could to convince him otherwise — after all, when they looked out the window, they didn’t see any alligator. His friends talked and talked and urged and urged. They were loving and concerned. Finally, the man was convinced.

He went outside ... and the alligator ate him.

On Jan. 24, the U.S. Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group cut the ribbon on a $90.1 million, 300-acre fake city at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia. The site is about 60 miles south of Washington. The city contains a fake bank, soccer stadium, underground subway station with subway cars, train station with real train cars, an embassy and a mosque, according to the U.S. Army’s website.

The objective is to address possible — or, given the financial commitment, perhaps probable — combat in urban areas.

Some of the onlookers at the ribbon-cutting noticed that the new fake structures bore no resemblance to Baghdad or Kabul or anywhere else that the U.S. has lately been prosecuting its military adventures. Instead, it resembled a kind of Anywhere, USA, and it was hard not to speculate that in the future, the military might be forced to take up arms against its own citizens.

This speculation might be dismissed like the alligator in the front yard, except for a quietly mounting body of evidence.
A July 25, 2012, article in “Small Wars Journal” provided this overview of the problem: “If we face a period of persistent global conflict as outlined in successive National Security Strategy documents, then Army officers are professionally obligated to consider the conduct of operations on U.S. soil.

Army capstone and operating concepts must provide guidance concerning how the Army will conduct the range of operations required to defend the republic at home. In this paper, we posit a scenario in which a group of political reactionaries take over a strategically positioned town and have the tacit support of not only local law enforcement but also state government officials, right up to the governor.”

OK, it’s just speculation. A $90.1 million fake city is chump change in the Pentagon’s budget. Flag, mom, apple pie and mounting profits suggest the alligator is a figment of an overactive imagination. Or is it?

The 2012 article, like the fake city at Fort A.P. Hill, no doubt took a cue from a 2006 Army Military Police training manual which outlines responses to civil unrest both inside and outside the continental United States.

The manual states that “during operations to restore order, military forces may present a show of force, establish roadblocks, break up crowds, employ crowd control agents, patrol, serve as security forces or reserves and perform other operations as required.”

The internment and “re-education” of “dissidents” are addressed, as is the use of deadly force: “No warning shots will be fired.”

Elsewhere, in a variety of settings, a Navy SEAL warned that the Obama administration was quietly asking top military brass if they would be comfortable disarming American citizens; Christians, tea party supporters and anti-abortion activists have been portrayed as a “radical terrorist threat”; and the Department of Homeland Security has suggested “liberty lovers” were domestic extremists.

Let me make it plain: I dislike paranoid, nut-job conspiracy theorists — the ones who come up with righteous yowls based on cherry-picked and sloppily applied information.

I dislike the tendency in others and I dislike it in myself. But Fort A.P. Hill is not exactly Area 51 (where all the aliens are stored, right?). It’s a $90.1 million reality as are the documents cited above. All the sweet reasoning in the world, all the patriotic explanations in the world, cannot dissuade the thoughts:

• Americans killing or applying police-state force to other Americans?
• “Democracy” turned on its head for “patriotic” reasons?
• $90.1 million in taxpayer money spent to keep taxpayers in line?

Given the economic disparities of these times, it’s hard not to ask, “If this is the direction the country is heading in, who benefits?” The country? Its citizens?

This is not a movie like “V for Vendetta.” This is not some made-up alligator.
Fort A.P. Hill and the thoughts that fueled it may be out of sight and out of mind by the time the next news cycle rolls around, but that doesn’t change the reality of the alligator.

Adam Fisher lives in Northampton. His column will appear on the third Wednesday of the month.

Comments

  • I am convinced that all the paranoids are ganging up on me. Its probably my age.
  • If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck....
  • There were articles along this general vein during the anti-Wall Street protests. About the increasing militarization of the police.
  • BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran
    edited February 2014
    A new revolution is going to happen if America keeps going the way its going, no doubt. The rights of the people have slowly been being erased over the last 50 years and its not getting any better but excelerating.

    Now couple that with an economy in the crapper and America(along with most of the western world) having more debt then it could ever pay back in thousands of years along with mounting entitlement and welfare costs and ever growing police state and military industrial complex.. We are screwed.

    This can go two ways, there can be a revolution by the people, or more likely based on how apathetic and easily placated the people are, the government will continue its march towards tyranny and we end up in a v for vendetta situation.

    Yes it sounds conspiracy nut ish, but its also happened in history over and over again. The future only knows what will happen. I use to worry about these things, but not anymore... Im getting off this crazy train.
  • Well, I'm not so sure the entirety of the Military would continue to follow orders, should they be forced to fight the people they swore to protect.

    http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/02/18/3299971/food-stamps-military/#

    The soldiers get paid barely enough for their families to live off of. Continuously have their benefits cut. Are repeatedly sent back on another tour of duty after theirs ends, even if they do not agree to it... I've spoken at length to a few soldiers (literally like 3, so take this with a grain of salt) And they say that many, many of the low ranked soldiers and even some NCO's are getting fed up with it. I think ordering them to fight, subdue, and potentially kill the people they were fighting to protect might be too much to ask of them.

    If civil unrest ever took off like, say it has in the Ukraine. I am not entirely certain 100% of the military would comply with orders. If it came down to the citizenry VS the Government. I feel there would be a significant military presence that would side with the populace. Most soldiers are painfully aware of the fact that they are the guns and boots on the ground. And what that means, should they decide to not take orders en masse.
  • BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran
    I also know many veterans who are owed basic pay and benefits and many things being cut.. Its a disgrace really.
  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran
    How would Americans feel in general about paying more taxes to improve the welfare system and so that civil servants are paid more?
  • @Bunks while it'd make it a bit harder, there are other countries with higher taxes (generally also higher wages) such as Britain and Australia, where higher taxes seem to work. I wouldn't like it, but I wouldn't be up in arms over it.
  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran
    Yes @Zayl - look at the Scandanavian countries. They pay high taxes but their public services are outstanding. One of them (not sure which country?) I believe has 2 years paid maternity leave!

    Compare that with my American female friends who had to go back to work for financial reasons 12 weeks after having a baby!

    You can probably tell I am a lefty :)
  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran
    Unfortunately it would be political suicide though so it ain't going to happen (not any time soon anyway).
  • BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran
    edited February 2014
    its about size and involvement of government.. the more you want government to do things, the larger it has to become and the more money it needs, so therefore you have places with 50% tax rates.

    I live in the most highly taxed state in America and I don't see much but corruption and waste(and I'm a state worker technically since CPS is a state organization). To own and survive in a small home here costs sometimes 2x+ more then in a McMansion in other states.

    I'd personally prefer to live in a place with less government and where people are more self reliant and independent.. like perhaps where the latest quiz says I should live.. Wyoming lol.
  • I have often wondered, as a Brit and a student of history, about the possibility of the collapse of the "US experiment". Revolutions have tended to start within a disaffected middle class (vide the American colonies and France) before spreading to a disinherited "lower" or poor class. The US appears to have a seriously "squeezed middle". Alongside this there also appears to be the idea that US institutions are, at one and the same time, solid and dysfunctional - all depends on which commentator you believe. Political polarisation has become the norm so that consensus is less and less likely.

    If, as has been suggested above, civil disorder breaks out and governments, state or fedral, attempt to use the military and are confronted with mutiny, the results can only be guessed at.

    Blind optimistic faith in the supposed strength of an "American dream" that is further and further out of the reach of millions, together with an unstable economy do not make for happy bedfellows. The history of the collapse of empires does suggest that we may be seeing the start of a period in which a heavily armed population decide that "enough is enough" and, without necessarily any clear idea of a desired outcome other than the end of the current situation, bring about chaos and - God forbid - violent revolution.

    If the government is also seeing this possibility (let us hope that it is not a probability) then it will be making plans to maintain power by all possible means.
  • anatamananataman Who needs a title? Where am I? Veteran
    edited February 2014
    Then let us pray @simonthepilgrim for there is nothing more we can do than let what is becoming be what it will be...

    Or can our desire(s) be nothing more than a minuscule instrument of change.

    And as that instrument do we desire something positive, neutral or negative, and can we observe without interference?

    What is the US experiment?

    My belief is that we are all entwined in a historical and sociopolitical philosophy, none agrees to, yet are carried along with the flow. Discuss, but be a force for change?...

    Mettha




  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran
    edited February 2014
    There is something simultaneously uplifting and frightening where groups coalesce. On the one hand, much can be accomplished (the "US experiment," for example) when many act "together."

    On the other hand, LaRochefoucauld was not wrong when he observed, "the intelligence of the mass is inversely proportionate to its number:" Groups have a way of self-congratulating themselves into perilous waters by imagining that if "everybody says so," then a certain course of action or philosophy or religion "must be right." Groups are groups in part because they exclude others and when those others gain in number and when what "must be right" is largely wrong or painful for them, then bloodshed (whether literal or metaphorical) becomes a real possibility.

    Perhaps it all boils down the little more than the observation in "The Godfather" that (Mafia or otherwise) wars are inevitable every five or ten years as a means of getting rid of the "bad blood." As @simonthepilgrim suggests, where no consensus can be reached, a chaotic friction is bound to result.

    Along the political highways and byways, promises of "hope" and "change" and "transparency" ring increasingly false. The Internet redistributes power away from those who might wish to assure their status. Again, as @simonthepilgrim suggests, people may not know precisely what it is they do want, but they know they don't want this. Perhaps it is like the 1976 movie "Network" that summed things up with the line, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more!"

    Is there some light at the end of this amorphous tunnel? I imagine there is, but I doubt that anyone could make it clear with either pollyanna optimisms or gloom-and-doom pessimisms.

    I'm not trying to join some "ain't it awful" glee club here ... just muttering in my beer.
  • anataman said:

    .............

    What is the US experiment?

    ...........

    I mean the experiment of creating a republic based on Enlightenment values and a semi-sacrosanct, written constitution.

  • anatamananataman Who needs a title? Where am I? Veteran
    What I find distressing is sometimes there is a group psychology going on where people are driven to do something that most individual members abhor but as a group the decision appears to be taken out of their hands. The London riots produced many examples of this.

    Is it generally the poor and disaffected? In my home town when I was young there were a few days of rioting. People burnt cars and beat up a few people and then a few days later everything was back to normal. Weird or what. We are always on a knife-edge when it comes to civil unrest.

    When this 'mass hysteria' is let loose, who is going to protect me and my young family? Just muttering into my cereal bowl, with man flu on board.
  • I find when tempted to assume maleficence and malice on the part of others, any others , that it pays first to look into my heart and see if anything I am involved in, anything going on in my life, is troubling me.
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran
    I find when tempted to assume maleficence and malice on the part of others, any others , that it pays first to look into my heart and see if anything I am involved in, anything going on in my life, is troubling me.
    @Citta -- I think that is a good habit ... or at least it's a good habit to the extent that it is not used to camouflage or shirk the obvious.
  • Hence.. ' first '.
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran
    @Citta -- Or hence, perhaps, simultaneous.
  • anatamananataman Who needs a title? Where am I? Veteran
    ?
  • anatamananataman Who needs a title? Where am I? Veteran
    Or to put it another way

    ?
  • Bunks said:

    How would Americans feel in general about paying more taxes to improve the welfare system and so that civil servants are paid more?

    No thank you.

  • Shak said:

    Bunks said:

    How would Americans feel in general about paying more taxes to improve the welfare system and so that civil servants are paid more?

    No thank you.

    It's the old 'keep doing what you've been doing, and hoping for a different result', scenario.
    vinlyn
  • Taxation and, in particular, the need by the sovereign power (monarch, parliament, Congress et al.) to raise more money have been at the root of most rebellions even before the Peasants' Revolt (1381) where the first action taken by the mob was to destroy all tax records in each town assaulted. The American colonies rebelled over taxation as did the French. Governments - or, at least, the powers that be - never seem to learn from history.
    BhikkhuJayasara
  • robot said:

    Shak said:

    Bunks said:

    How would Americans feel in general about paying more taxes to improve the welfare system and so that civil servants are paid more?

    No thank you.

    It's the old 'keep doing what you've been doing, and hoping for a different result', scenario.
    Look, I'm no 1 percenter, but it's pretty bad when my 3 largest household bills, mortgage, health insurance, and groceries combined are less than our monthly tax obligation for state local and federal taxes. I am all in favor of a social safety net for those who truly need it, but our welfare system is broken beyond belief.

    BhikkhuJayasara
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    Shak said:

    robot said:

    Shak said:

    Bunks said:

    How would Americans feel in general about paying more taxes to improve the welfare system and so that civil servants are paid more?

    No thank you.

    It's the old 'keep doing what you've been doing, and hoping for a different result', scenario.
    Look, I'm no 1 percenter, but it's pretty bad when my 3 largest household bills, mortgage, health insurance, and groceries combined are less than our monthly tax obligation for state local and federal taxes. I am all in favor of a social safety net for those who truly need it, but our welfare system is broken beyond belief.

    Not that you mind using many of the government services that your taxes are paying for.

  • BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran
    edited February 2014
    robot said:

    How would Americans feel in general about paying more taxes to improve the welfare system and so that civil servants are paid more?
    No thank you.



    It's the old 'keep doing what you'imperialism ing, and hoping for a different result', scenario.


    Oh, no things need to change, but the OTHER way.. Ei less taxes and less government, with people being able to keep what they make and it not go to a wasted bloated government.

    Larger government not only erodes natural born rights, it is also large enough to be bribed by corporations, unions, and other lobby groups and make laws/ control us in ways they see fit.

    A smaller government is less bribeable, and if bribed has less impact on our lives. I know there are Europeans and others on here who are born with socialized everything and 50% tax rates, and i dont really see you guys doing all ao much more fine and dandy then us.

    What is needed is a small government true free market system( those words are used to describe America now but it couldn't be further from the truth, kind of like how people say China and Russia never had true communism), with the governments only role being protection of our rights, not to support people through welfare(personal and corporate), and a military that is small and for self defense, not imperialism.
    ShakThaiLotus
  • Thank you Jayantha, very well said.
  • vinlyn said:

    Shak said:

    robot said:

    Shak said:

    Bunks said:

    How would Americans feel in general about paying more taxes to improve the welfare system and so that civil servants are paid more?

    No thank you.

    It's the old 'keep doing what you've been doing, and hoping for a different result', scenario.


    Not that you mind using many of the government services that your taxes are paying for.

    Outside of my two children attending public school, I'm not much of a consumer of government services. If I could afford it they would go to a private school.


  • BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran
    vinlyn said:

    Shak said:

    robot said:

    Shak said:

    Bunks said:

    How would Americans feel in general about paying more taxes to improve the welfare system and so that civil servants are paid more?

    No thank you.

    It's the old 'keep doing what you've been doing, and hoping for a different result', scenario.
    Look, I'm no 1 percenter, but it's pretty bad when my 3 largest household bills, mortgage, health insurance, and groceries combined are less than our monthly tax obligation for state local and federal taxes. I am all in favor of a social safety net for those who truly need it, but our welfare system is broken beyond belief.

    Not that you mind using many of the government services that your taxes are paying for.

    vinlyn said:

    Shak said:

    robot said:

    Shak said:

    How would Americans feel in general about paying more taxes to improve the welfare system and so that civil servants are paid sanity ?
    No thank you.

    It's the old 'keep doing what you've been doing, and hoping for a different result', scenario.
    Look, I'm no 1 percenter, but it's pretty bad when my 3 largest household bills, mortgage, health insurance, and groceries combined are less than our monthly tax obligation for state local and federal taxes. I am all in favor of a social safety net for those who truly need it, but our welfare system is broken beyond belief.

    Not that you mind using many of the government services that your taxes are paying for.




    I know people here in nj who are middle class, not rich by any means, but pay 10,000 in property taxes and have to pay extra for services like garbage pick up..... The whole "enjoy the service you pay for" doesn't quite make it.. Here in NJ the education industrial complex counts for 80% of those taxes too.. Insanity.
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    Shak said:

    vinlyn said:

    Shak said:

    robot said:

    Shak said:

    Bunks said:

    How would Americans feel in general about paying more taxes to improve the welfare system and so that civil servants are paid more?

    No thank you.

    It's the old 'keep doing what you've been doing, and hoping for a different result', scenario.


    Not that you mind using many of the government services that your taxes are paying for.

    Outside of my two children attending public school, I'm not much of a consumer of government services. If I could afford it they would go to a private school.


    Oh? You don't use the highways (as just one example)?

  • Sure I do. Six days a week when I go to work. Infrastructure is a little different than services.
  • I particularly enjoy the toll highway I pay to use everyday.
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    I'm sorry you don't understand "the common good" concept.

    But this sidetrack isn't really what the thread is about, so I'll stop here. You may have the last word.
  • Please forgive me for being dense but I hear this expression "smaller government" but what, precisely, does it mean? For example, should the vast expenditure on armaments and the armed forces be privatised? Should individuals decide, like my neighbour who is a Quaker pacifist, refuse to pay that percentage of his taxes that is spent in this way? He goes to prison for it but is he right? What else should the government not do?
  • Well, how about the Government not build replica cities for the military to train for repressing its own citizens? That should be a good start.

  • "Small government" is not a realistic goal when the environment is, frankly, on its knees and gasping. The tragedy of the commons ensures that, if not regulated, we users of air, water and earth will take unsustainably and poison these common resources. I would happily be taxed more to pay for these things. --To me, the evil of capitalism is corporate money used to purchase political influence, at the expense of individual rights. The OP started this thread with fears that the government is moving secretly to plan for citizen revolt. If that's true (which I doubt), you can bet there are corporate types behind the curtain making it happen.
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran
    The OP started this thread with fears that the government is moving secretly to plan for citizen revolt. If that's true (which I doubt), you can bet there are corporate types behind the curtain making it happen.
    [emphasis added]

    @Nele -- As a matter of curiosity, if a citizen revolt is inconceivable/unlikely to you, then why, from your point of view, are government agencies planning/speculating/spending-money to address the issue?
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    There's a degree of conspiracy-hysteria here.

    First of all, having traveled to Bangkok and Singapore and Jakarta, I don't find the structure of cities to be too terribly different, although superficial building styles can vary. The apartment complex where I lived in Bangkok and the shopping malls there didn't vary much from similar structures in the United States. And most of Europe isn't that very different from the States, at least in terms of structural integrity. So soldiers learning to fight in urban settings might very well be in foreign places that don't look like some village in the Middle East...or might be in a city in the Middle East.

    Second, considering people like Timothy McVeigh, and similar groups (and if you don't think we have weird groups in the U.S., think KKK and neo-Nazis), what the heck is wrong with the military being prepared for every eventuality? Who is to say that terrorists might not target some American town or city big time for an attack (you know, like flying planes into a Trade Center-like building).

    We Americans have been spoiled (thank goodness) because in our lifetimes, no war has ever been fought on home-soil. But they have been fought on "Western" soil -- France, England, just for starters.

    I want our military to be ready for any eventuality.

    And, I might add, for much of our history, the military did operate within the boundaries of our country. I don't think the American people minded the military's efforts during the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and resulting fire.

    America is not perfect, but I like it pretty-much the way it is. I don't want some wacko far right (or far left) group revolting. That, in fact, would be revolting.
  • Almost every military base has "fake cities" with varying degrees of realism. Some are as cheap as a few shipping containers stacked on top of each other with windows cut out. Others are meant to mock Baghdad and some look more Western. It's unlikely but not entirely inconceivablel for America to one day experience something like a city-wide takeover by terrorists ala Mumbai or smaller scale like in Kenya.
  • edited February 2014
    I happen to agree with others here in reducing military expenditure. There is a terrible amount of waste in dead-end projects and bad personnel who need to be drummed out.

    As for the tragedy of the commons, I've always taken it to mean that when the public owns something, no one takes direct ownership of it and no one cares. That's why privately owned businesses or parks are almost always more efficient than government run entities. My neighborhood has a privatized DMV and it's wonderful and the people are nice. So in that sense I prefer smaller government. The more we can privatize services, the better quality they are.
  • genkaku said:

    @Nele -- As a matter of curiosity, if a citizen revolt is inconceivable/unlikely to you, then why, from your point of view, are government agencies planning/speculating/spending-money to address the issue?
    Genkaku, didn't you mention the "speculation" aspect of the idea that this new training center is a precursor of martial law? In fact, a simple search pulls up many other, perhaps less spectulative, ideas of what's going on.

    https://www.metabunk.org/threads/debunked-fake-city-us-army-trains-for-martial-law-in-us.3110/

    At any rate...thanks for introducing the topic, it's an interesting one to say the least!
  • DharmaMcBumDharmaMcBum Spacebus Wheelman York, UK Veteran
    Shak said:

    If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck....

    Then it's a really good decoy duck with a great big fangy alligator lurking underneath it...

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran
    edited February 2014
    There's a degree of conspiracy-hysteria here.... America is not perfect, but I like it pretty-much the way it is. I don't want some wacko far right (or far left) group revolting. That, in fact, would be revolting.
    I agree with your wariness @vinlyn. It's easy enough to cherry-pick the facts and then declare "the sky is falling!" But to the extent the military needs to be ready for all eventualities, to that extent as well I think the public might also be prepared.

    The current disparity in wealth, the lack of jobs and the sense of employment malaise does not prove we are headed towards civil unrest. But it does call to mind the early days of the American labor movement when those seeking better working conditions (40 hour work week, living wage, an end to child labor, etc.) were excoriated as "communist" "anarchist" "socialist" etc. and both the police and the military (the Bonus March of 1932) were used to beat back civilian grievances. I think it is fair to say that the military and paramilitary forces stood then and stand now as instruments of the state under a banner of "domestic tranquility." Is "tranquility" true or is it camouflage? I can't say for sure, but I see no reason not to examine whatever aspects crop up.

    These days, the word "terrorist" is used right around the world as a verbal excuse (sometimes warranted sometimes not) for maintaining what may be a very inequitable status quo. Countries have taken to excusing their violent adventures by labeling those who don't agree with them as "terrorists." And it has become a short step from labeling "terrorists" to attacking them before they have done concrete and verifiable harm (think drones).

    I agree with you that flying off the hysterical handle may not be warranted. But I also think there's no reason to play the Pollyanna patriot ostrich (not accusing you here) and put our heads in the sand. Who knows, maybe we too will be designated as "terrorists" for imagining ... well, who knows what? :)
    vinlyn
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