“National security” is a euphemism for the forbidden word, imperialism, whose despotic power has accelerated under George W Bush. Secret presidential “signing decrees” that can overturn the rare opposition of an otherwise supine Congress are now normal practice, along with a Gulag of secret prisons, described approvingly by Bush as “the CIA programme”. The United States today is an extension of the totalitarianism it has long sought to impose abroad. That unpalatable truth is unspoken, of course; in spite of his current “difficulties” over Iraq, corporate propaganda remains on Bush’s side. The search for an “exit strategy” may make “embarrassing” headlines, but the deliberate, systematic looting of billions of dollars of Iraq’s resources has been quietly achieved, with an estimated $20bn “missing”. The same silence applies to the class and race war at home, as the Bush gang kicks away the ladder that once led to the American middle class. Last January, 25,000 people applied for 325 jobs at a Wal-Mart in Chicago.
Constitutional rights are formidable American myths. The American press is often put forward as constitutionally having the freest speech on earth; and it does, theoretically. Yet during every period of internal repression, the press and broadcast journalism have played a compliant, “Pravda” role, backing imperial wars, indulging the lies of the “red baiter” Joe McCarthy, promoting phoney debates about phoney threats (Cuba, Nicaragua, the nuclear arms race) and the supercult of “anti-communism”. Bush’s lies about Iraq and Afghanistan were merely amplified and promoted. Seymour Hersh and a handful of others stand out as honourable exceptions.