Learned Helplessness is a psychological term Medical News Today defines as “A state of being that occurs after a person has experienced a stressful situation repeatedly. They come to believe that they are unable to control or change the situation, so they do not try —even when opportunities for change become available”.
The United States just experienced the largest civil rights demonstration in the world. All 50 states and 18 countries protested in solidarity of Black Lives Matter. There were marches in Palestine, a mural painted on the remains of a bombed building in Syria, explosives were thrown in Greece at the U.S. embassy. It’s evident that groups fighting state oppression stand in strong solidarity with Black Lives Matter. Western countries like France, Germany, England, and Australia all drew crowds in the thousands. In Hollywood, California BLM mobilized 100,000 people to march on taxpayer streets to demand the defunding of the police department. Before that, thousands of Los Angelenos peacefully took their issues to the mayor’s doorstep and chanted defund the police.
The people of the United States are undoubtedly on an incredible precipice of power. In less than 10 days the national guard was unleashed on legal protestors. Over a 100 journalists were attacked by police while covering the protest; and in both Los Angeles and New York police officers drove their vehicles into crowds of people. All of which brings into question the strength of our ‘democracy’ and the public utility of police.
Defunding the police is an opportunity to create an indestructible public healthcare and education system independent of the federal government. Today, half of people killed by police are disabled. Policing does not address the conditions which create violence like poverty. In fact, policing is not remotely apt when compared to the education and skillsets required of other first responders like paramedics, firefighters, or social workers. Thus, the institution of policing is limited to its best weapon. This is the time in American history when people will decide if they want their tax dollars to sustain institutions that recruit and reward white supremacist —Or does it finally have the courage to distribute taxpayer money into public health and education.
Ending police brutality starts with defunding the police. Eliminating white supremacy begins with dismantling the military-industrial complex, border patrol, and the U.S. intelligence community. The systematic oppression of black and brown bodies is globalized through the imperialist occupation and bombings of western militaries. Acknowledging nationwide police brutality and racism is just the tip of the white supremacy iceberg. The actions of the U.S. police are a partial reflection of the endless hell reigned on black and brown countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) by the U.S. military. Both the U.S. police and military share the same systemic failures of immunity, lack of transparency, and overfunded budgets. They are only equipped with tools that monopolize violence. Which promotes an unquestioned and unaccountable culture of “might makes right”. If the goal is freedom we must abolish all institutions that operate within immunity and anonymity.
Inescapable Shock Training in the Shuttle Box
In the ’70s Martin Seligman conducted “inescapable shock training” (animal torture) on dogs, specifically beagles, because of the breed’s gentle demeanor. The dogs were put in electrical cages, and every time they moved the dogs were shocked by electricity. Crippled with fear the dogs learned not to move, to not respond to any stimuli, to stay perfectly still. Even when ‘researchers’ (a very flattering term for those who conduct torture) demonstrated that the electricity had been turned off the dogs wouldn’t dare move. Riddled with trauma and painful association the dogs were too scared to even try.
This study revealed several things about animal and human behavior, like that trauma makes us apathetic and passive. It heightens stress levels, and is so difficult to process that people and animals have difficulty learning new ways of responding to it.
The Senate Torture Report: War Crimes & Human Rights Violations
In 2014 the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, headed by Chairman and Senator of California, Dianne Feinstein, released a report on CIA torture programs and detention centers. The report revealed James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen two ‘military psychologists’ were paid 80 million dollars to create the CIA’s torture program. They were inspired by learned helplessness theories and believed it could be induced from specific acts of torture like waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and physical abuse. The report also details actions by CIA officials, including: “torturing prisoners, providing misleading or false information about classified CIA programs to the President, Department of Justice, Congress, and the media, impeding government oversight and internal criticism.”
It also revealed “the existence of previously unknown detainees, that more detainees were subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques than was previously disclosed, and that more techniques were used without the Department of Justice approval. It concludes that the use of enhanced interrogation techniques did not yield unique intelligence that saved lives (as the CIA claimed), nor was it useful in gaining cooperation from detainees.”
No one in the CIA is an elected official. Yet they are the only government entity with a black budget and black sites. Meaning they don’t have to go to congress for spending approval. They don’t have to disclose where they work, or what they do.
What kind of “democratic society” has a torture program and budget that elected officials and citizens aren’t aware of?
Suppressors of Democracy: 8 Mordad & Guatemala coup d’état
The CIA was created in the ’50s to overthrow the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammad Mosaddegh. The CIA faked a coup, caused riots, induced violence all because Mosaddegh was going to nationalize oil for his citizens. Which would have drastically increased the standard of living for Iranians. But the U.S. government wanted cheap access to Iran’s oil, so Mosaddegh was overthrown and the CIA installed their dictator.
In 1954 the CIA did the same thing in Guatemala to President Jacobo Árbenz. At the time Guatemala formed a successful labor party that raised the minimum wage and regulated working conditions. The United Fruit Company, a private U.S. company whose profits were contingent on exploitative labor, was outraged by Guatemala’s pursuit of workers’ rights. So they lobbied the U.S. government to overthrow the democratically elected president Jacobo Árbenz. The CIA armed, funded and trained 480 men to stage a coup. The coup was preceded by efforts to incite social conflict within the country. The CIA did this through campaigns of psychological warfare. These campaigns took literacy and economic status into consideration when creating effective ways of “indoctrinating the masses”. The creation of radio stations and media outlets were methods used to broadcasted anti-government propaganda and portrayed the military as more trustworthy. The CIA staged a military coup and installed their dictator Carlos Castillo Armas.
In the ’60s the CIA launched MK-Ultra a “mind control” programs which included torture, electrical shock, psychological abuse, and dosing people with LSD people. The creators of the mind control program hired Nazi ‘doctors’ and Japanese ‘torture’ experts. Many of these “experiments” were tested on U.S. citizens in universities, jails, and hospitals. One of the purposes of MK-Ultra was to discover subconscious fears of society to exploit them, and induce mass submissiveness. To create the “de-politicization” of society, to decrease the public interest and participation in government, politics, and economic planning.
Today the CIA has perfected killing world leaders, overthrowing governments, and suppressing social movements. Needless to say, they are experts in social engineering. Yet, their motives have recently come into question from other intelligence agencies like the FBI and Department of Defense.
Mark Rossini and Doug Miller are both former FBI agents assigned to the CIA Counter-Terrorism Center (CTC), both claim the CIA could have stopped 9/11. Rossini and Miller, both worked on the “al Queada, Osama bin Laden” unit and provided leads of then, future hijacker, Khalid al-Mihdhar using a multi-entry visa with a Saudi passport to enter the U.S. They claim the government “ covered up secret relations between the CIA and Saudi individuals who may have abetted 9/11”.
Independent of those accusations, Steven Butler an FBI agent in San Diego had been tracking Nawaf Alhamzi and Khalid Al-Midhar, two of the hijackers for over a year. Butler also claims that the CIA did not share information they had to prevent the 9/11 hijackers.
In the wake of these damning accusations, The CIA inspector general released a report of 9/11 classified documents that suspiciously blackout over thirty pages, all pertaining to Saudi Arabia. When the intelligence community fails us, what are the consequences? The CIA is guilty of gross negligence that led to 9/11, providing false information about weapons of mass destruction, and created an illegal secrete torture program which they withheld from the President. When the U.S. military and CIA are the worlds unmatched superpower, we must consider who is doing the terrorism.
In 2016 the United States and NATO allies bombed Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Afganistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia. The U.S. has dropped over 40,000 bombs that have predominately killed civilians in all seven countries. It’s worth noting that Iraq, Afganistan, and Pakistan all share borders with Iran. —and that Syria and Yemen are allied with Iran.
Also in 2016, the CIA came under fire for arming militias in Syria to fight counter- militias backed by the U.S. Department of Defense. Do we consider this another “concerning” intelligence oversight or are we brave enough to question who the CIA serves? The U.S. military has unleashed hell and terror on an entire region, displacing millions, inducing inter-generational trauma and poverty.
In 2019 the United States dropped over 7,000 bombs on Afganistan. The U.S. invaded Afganistan in 2001, and twenty years later is dropping an average of 20 bombs a day on a country that didn’t attack us. The military only knows how to war. There can be no re-construction, no peace-building, no end to a “refugee crisis” as long as the U.S. military occupies and bombs foreign countries.
It is decades overdue, to reject all mainstream media (CIA propaganda) that claims “fighting terrorism” is what’s happening in MENA. Especially after the U.S. signed a 110 billion dollar weapons deal with Saudi Arabia.
Since 9/11 the U.S. has attacked and destabilized every country that competes with Saudi oil. The U.S. is doing the dirty work of the Saudi’s, by attacking their enemies, supplying them with an endless arsenal, and letting them use U.S. military bases to re-fuel Saudi planes en-route to bomb civilians in Yemen.
There is no goal, no strategic foreign policy. Just western imperialism, a re-configuration of colonialism. A small group of private corporations, military officials, and defense contractors who grossly profit from exploiting global resources and committing genocide.
Might Makes Right
The United States is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or most legal conventions that would hold them accountable to the international community, let alone sequester their power to a human rights court. This exposes the legitimacy and purpose of the U.S. military having over 800 bases and CIA black sites around the world. The U.S. military does not function to uphold rights or promote human dignity. Which is exactly why they are ridiculed by the international community.
IHL (International Humanitarian Law) stipulates that states have a burden of targeted killings and proportionately. Many legal experts insist these two caveats render the use of CIA drone strikes illegal because they predominately kill groups of civilians instead of isolated targets; and because drones are launched at civilian infrastructure. Legal scholars like Christine Gray of Cambridge University and Mary Ellen O’Collen, Law Professor at Notre Dame, argue the current use of drones break international law because they are extrajudicial assignations that happen outside of conventional armed conflict.
Parallels of Oppression
In 2014 Christof Heyns, a former U.N. Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings and arbitrary executions issued a report for the Human Rights Council. Heyns, critiqued the legality and ethics of CIA drone strikes and at a Geneva conference said attacks carried out by the CIA, encourage other states to also abandon compliance with human rights law.
On June 5th, 2020 the same exact special rapporteurs office, responsible for human rights reporting on extrajudicial killings and arbitrary executions, issued a report on the “Modern Racial Terror Lynchings” by police in the U.S. The report urged for independent investigations and accountability for police violence. It recommended that “the government of the United States revisit and cease policies facilitating qualified immunity, provision of military equipment to, and military-type training of police, no-knock warrants and use of non-uniformed police in citizen interactions.” The failures of police departments did not happen in a vacuum. They are replications of the military paradigm. Unmatched power that responds to every situation with brute force.
The United States is having a hard look in the mirror, but this is just the beginning. People in the U.S. have a unique opportunity to thoroughly question the legitimacy of many deeply held beliefs, like the legitimacy of our elections, the strength of our democracy, and the purpose of our military/ intelligence community.
People in the U.S. must reach deep inside to consider all the ways in which the current organization of power and capitalist framework exist at the expense of global security. More importantly, people in the U.S. must be determined to act. The time of “leaving it to the experts” is no more. Reclaiming the value of U.S. citizenship is dependent on issue-specific structural demands and direct action.
Just as defunding the police will enhance the health and humanity of cities, abolishing the military can create an opportunity for international peacebuilding and regional cooperation. Social violence is not a unique thing, experts can process trace homicide rates to poverty. When communities lack basic needs, like access to food and shelter they are statistically more likely to be “radicalized”. Therefore, bombing countries into oblivion only signals a disregard for human life, not the intention to uplift communities out of poverty or violence. Perpetual warfare is not the solution to transnational issues like pandemics or climate change. U.S. Military bases around the world should be evacuated and repurposed, to better prepare regions for approaching climate diasters. People in the U.S. need to lobby for the elimination of their nuclear arsenals and instead build comprehensive climate action plans to address regional issues the America’s will face in the next decade. It cost trillions of taxpayer money just to “safely store” thousands of nuclear warheads. Facilitating the existence of thousands of weapons that can wipe out all of humanity, rather than creating a comprehensive health care system, or universal basic income reveals the indifference the U.S. government has towards its people.
The momentum of protest is critical because there have been immense and deliberate efforts to keep the “average American” from having an opinion on politics. The existence of 70,000 children in cages at the border has been trivialized for the profit of private prisons. There are nefarious and concerted efforts by the state to exhaust working-class people into political apathy.
A character trait of many dictators is strategically creating poverty up to a certain percent to induce political apathy. There is a reason the minimum wage is a poverty wage in the United States. There is a reason most people are uninsured. There is a reason the U.S. only has two political parties. (Both claim to oppose one another but vote in perpetual agreement of war and the increase of military budgets.) There is a reason the 1% evades taxes, privatizes profits (hoards wealth), and socializes their loses (receives government bailouts from taxpayer dollars). Working-class people don’t have time to dissect the organization of power in society, let alone the utility of policing and intelligence institutions, which they have been conditioned to accept.
All the reason why Black Lives Matter has become the spearhead of a major turning point in American history. If dismantling white supremacy, and the promotion of human dignity is the goal, then people it the United States must remain vigilant in protest to demand the defunding of police, the abolishing of ICE, and dismantling of the military. None of this will be easy, people must disrupt the status quo in meaningful ways, by occupying public space and taking their issue to the doorsteps of city officials.
When the U.S. government fails to uphold its part of the “social contract” to protect all people, the general public is not obliged to pay taxes for institutions that work against their well being. Communities and labor must organize general strikes against taxes, rent, and work. This is the beginning of a movement that could bring mass liberation to the global community, or one where the U.S. slips back into consumption apathy. Either way, the decision is left to the average American because brain drain has been plaguing the U.S. for over a decade. Intellectuals and academics are fleeing the U.S. in higher rates every year. Therefore, the average American worker must step into their power and organize their work force and communities into political action.