No more national security excuses

July 2, 2013

Since 9/11, the federal government has increasingly used the excuse of “national security” to justify violations of human rights and civil rights, to spy on allied foreign governments, and to increase spending on intelligence gathering, weapons and war.  We now know that the National Security Agency has even been spying on millions of American citizens — monitoring our phone calls, e-mail, and even directing the U.S. Postal Service to monitor our letter mail.  A military response seems to be the answer in every situation vis a vis the positioning of American troops and carrier strike groups all over the world, combat drone strikes, or even aerial bombardments or invasions followed by occupations.  

Ironically, the copious use of the military, and violations of international law to address issues of “national security” is not legitimate. Why? Because rather than protecting the security of Americans, it undermines our security further. It creates an escalating national security spiral that increases the use of weapons and war while creating enemies faster than the military can capture or kill them, thereby justifying more weapons and war.

Who are the enemies created by the national security spiral? According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the U.S. kills 98 non-combatants for every 2 al Qaeda members.  The families, friends and community of the “collateral damage” are all likely to become people who have good reason to hate the United States. The communities that live under the buzzing drone surveillance always at risk of attack, learn to hate the United States.  When the U.S. holds someone in Guantanamo for over ten years without charges, their families are in pain, as are their neighbors, friends and community.  Again, these people have good reason to hate the United States.  When the U.S. violates the sovereignty of other nations, disregards the Geneva Conventions and ignores international treaties and laws, it gives the rest of the world reason to hate the United States. These are just a few examples of many how US national security policy makes Americans less secure.

It is time to end the national security spiral that leads to greater insecurity.  The United States needs to stop policies that seek hegemony over the world through extreme militarism and economic domination.  President Obama should renounce the NSA worldwide dragnet of phone records, Metadata and Internet communications.  It is time to bring transparency to U.S. foreign policy, stop classifying materials that are not justifiably classified so that we, the American people, know what is being done in our name.

In addition to transparency, it is time to reverse the spiral and unwind the national security state.  The United States needs to be spending much less on weapons, war and intelligence gathering and much more on human needs like health care, hunger, education and shelter.  It needs to join the community of nations, not dominate, or bully  it.  We need to work in partnership with other nations to address mutual problems like climate change, poverty and disease.  The only way this can be accomplished is by elevating diplomatic alternatives, while shrinking military and intelligence programs that currently dominate our foreign policy.

And, the United States needs to respect the rule of law.  This includes international law which deems an aggressive military attack as the greatest crime, and where human rights are respected and the necessities of the people are met.  It is time to end U.S. lawlessness as typified by extrajudicial assassinations, torture, and holding prisoners without charges. It is time to close the Guantanamo prison, return the prisoners to their homeland, or prosecute them in federal court. And, it is time to end rendition for torture, and to close U.S. prisons around the world.

Unwinding the national security state will put us on the path of real security.  No amount of money will make Americans secure if militarism, spying and economic dominance remain the pillars of U.S. foreign policy.

~ Cdr. Leah Bolger serves as Secretary of Defense and Kevin Zeese as Attorney General in the Green Shadow Cabinet of the United States.