Director John Frankenheimer's 1964 political thriller "Seven Days in May" is a clear warning to beware of martial law packaged as a well-meaning and overriding concern for the nation's security.
Yet, incredibly enough, 50 years later, we find ourselves hostages to a government run more by military doctrine and corporate greed than by the rule of law established in the Constitution.
The film’s premise is straightforward enough: With the Cold War at its height, President Jordan Lyman signs a nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviet Union. Believing that the treaty constitutes an unacceptable threat to the security of the United States, Gen. James Mattoon Scott plans a military takeover of the national government.
Scene from Seven Days in May. Photo Credit: IMDB.com
When the military coup is uncovered, Lyman confronts Scott, declaring, “You want to defend the United States of America, then defend it with the tools it supplies you with—its Constitution. You ask for a mandate, general, from a ballot box. You don’t steal it after midnight, when the country has its back turned.”
Unfortunately for the American people, the coup d’etat wresting control of our government from civilians and delivering it into the hands of the military industrial complex happened decades ago, while our backs were turned.
Over the past half century, America has actually been at war more than we’ve been at peace, enriching the military industrial complex with trillions of taxpayer dollars. Consequently, we now find ourselves in the unenviable position of longing for an elusive peace while trying to rein in a runaway militarized government with a gargantuan and profit-driven appetite for war.
Here's the problem, though: what happens to all those hefty profits for the military industrial complex when you start to scale back on 50 years' worth of wars abroad?
Picture of the American cemetery in taken on October, 3 2013. Credit: AFP/Getty Images
If war is a business, as it has become, in order to maintain a profit margin when there are no more wars to be fought abroad, one would either have to find new enemies abroad or, as I show in my book "A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State," focus on fighting a war at home, against the American people, and that's exactly what we're dealing with today.
Together, the military industrial complex and its counterpart, the security industrial complex, a.k.a. corporate surveillance state, serve as the iron-fisted right and left hands of the police state that now surrounds and profits from us. Consequently, we now find ourselves navigating a strange new world of militarized police, urban training exercises, domestic military training drills, SWAT team raids and military battle weapons and equipment used against Americans domestically—all funded by millions of dollars in grants from the Department of Homeland Security.
These grants also provide for law enforcement and terrorism prevention and typically include planning, training and exercises, such as the training exercises that were scheduled to take place in Boston around the same time that the Boston Marathon bomber detonated several homemade backpack bombs.
This image from a Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security joint bulletin issued to law enforcement and obtained by The Associated Press, shows the remains of a black backpack that the FBI says contained one of the bombs that exploded during the Boston Marathon. The FBI says it has evidence that indicates one of the bombs that exploded in the Boston Marathon was contained in a pressure cooker with nails and ball bearings, and it was hidden in a backpack. Credit: AP
Curiously enough, as the Boston Globe reported, the exercise, planned months in advance and dubbed "Operation Urban Shield" "has eerie similarities to the police investigation that led to the capture of the alleged Boston Marathon bombers." Indeed, these Live Active Shooter Drill training exercises, carried out at schools, in shopping malls, and on public transit, can and do fool law enforcement officials, students, teachers and bystanders into thinking it's a real crisis.
Now it's easy to write off as conspiracy-minded and sensationalist any suggestion that the government could be so calculating and diabolical as to not only deliberately plan and execute a terror exercise but pass it off as an actual event. It's easy to do so, that is, unless you've started to question whether your government actually exists to serve you, as growing numbers of Americans have.
It's certainly easy to do so unless you've started to read up on those less savory aspects of our nation's history, the parts not included in public school textbooks, in which the government has, in fact, engaged in downright immoral and, at times, criminal behavior, including "giving hepatitis to mental patients in Connecticut, squirting a pandemic flu virus up the noses of prisoners in Maryland, and injecting cancer cells into chronically ill people at a New York hospital."
And unless you've reached a point where you believe that the government views you as little more than a dollar sign, and prioritizes your rights far below your monetary worth, then you may not have a hard time believing that the government, marching in lockstep with the military and security industrial complexes, sold you out long ago.
Detective Sgt. Childers stands atop the massive MRAP armored vehicle recently acquired by the Livingston County Sheriff's Department for use by its tactical response team, July 16, 2013 in Howel, Mich. PhotovCredit: ALAN WARD/AP
So what does "Seven Days in May" have to do with the military/security-industrial complex, government grants for training exercises and terrorism preparedness, and military drills staged to look like the real thing?
Instead of an answer, let's try another series of questions. How do you get a nation to docilely accept a police state? How do you persuade a populace to accept metal detectors and pat downs in their schools, bag searches in their train stations, tanks and military weaponry used by their small town police forces, surveillance cameras in their traffic lights, police strip searches on their public roads, unwarranted blood draws at drunk driving checkpoints, whole body scanners in their airports, and government agents monitoring their communications?
Try to ram such a state of affairs down their throats, and you might find yourself with a rebellion on your hands. Instead, you bombard them with constant color-coded alerts, terrorize them with shootings and bomb threats in malls, schools, and sports arenas, desensitize them with a steady diet of police violence, and sell the whole package to them as being for their best interests.
And when leaders like John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lennon come about, who not only dare to challenge you by championing peace over war, but actually manage to get people to pay attention, you carry out surveillance on them, intimidate them, threaten them, and eventually do away with them, knowing full well that few will rise up to take their place.
Likewise, when individuals like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, lacking followers or name recognition, rise up and shine a spotlight on your misdeeds, you label them traitors, isolate them from their friends and loved ones, and make an example of them: this is what happens to those who challenge the police state.
Constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute and author of "A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State." Whitehead can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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