Is America Becoming a Garrison State?
Fmr. Chief of Staff to Colin Powell Larry Wilkerson says the increasing militarization of the police and gated communities protecting the elite shows signs of America looking more like Israel
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. And welcome to this edition of the Wilkerson Report. Now joining us from Falls Church, Virginia, is Larry Wilkerson. He’s the former chief of staff for U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. He’s also currently an adjunct professor of government at the college of William and Mary, and of course he’s a regular contributor to the Real News. Thanks for being with us, Larry.
LARRY WILKERSON: Thanks for having me, Jessica.
DESVARIEUX: So Larry, what are you working on this week?
WILKERSON: I’m looking at actually some transcripts of Ronald Reagan’s National Security Council meetings, getting ready for a new semester. And I wanted to read up on why the Persian Gulf and oil in general is so important to the United States in the words of the presidents who have actually said it was. At the same time I’m looking at the transition that I’m teaching about in some of my seminars, from the democracy that we were pre-1945 to the national security state we began to build with the foundation, of course, being the 1947 National Security Act. And then today with 9/11 and its aftermath, the likelihood that we’re going to turn into a garrison state.
DESVARIEUX: Okay. Can you explain that a little bit further, when you say garrison state?
WILKERSON: Well, in general terms that the public would understand, when you’re looking at a normal state, Westphalian state, post-Westphalian state, if you will [in the world], you’re looking at Norway, you’re looking at Sweden, you’re looking at Germany, even. You’re looking at France, you’re looking at many–many instances after the [errors], if they are over. You’re looking at the United Kingdom, you’re looking at Korea, and so forth.
If you’re looking at a garrison state, you’re looking at Israel. You’re looking at a state–and Switzerland to a certain extent, too, although Switzerland is a garrison state in being, if you will, not necessarily every day. Israel is every day. That’s where every citizen owns a firearm and has it at beck and call, with ammunition. Every citizen is more or less trained to operate in a military fashion. Fences and gates guard everything. And you’re ready for an attack every minute, and you sacrifice–and this is a key point–you sacrifice all the elements of what we might call a true democratic state to include civil liberties and so forth, in order to maintain that garrison state.
That’s where we’re headed today. We’ve made the transition from being just a democracy scrambling along with the rest of the world in 1945 to being the new Rome, being a national security state in building, and now we’ve built that national security state. We’ve built it all through the Cold War. And now we’re looking to turn into a garrison state, with all the ramifications that that needs for us.
DESVARIEUX: Can we talk about specifics, here? What is signaling to you that we’re heading in that direction?
WILKERSON: The first thing that I would indicate is a metaphoric description of it that Eisenhower gave not in his 1961 farewell address, which everyone usually refers to, but his 1953 April 16, as I recall, address to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, wherein he described this sort of condition where security subsumes everything. Security becomes the raison d’etre of the state. Security becomes the raison d’etre of the citizen in that state. And when we talk about that with Eisenhower, Eisenhower says, this is no way of life at all. It’s humanity hanging from a cross of iron, and that cross of iron, of course, is the military-industrial complex, is the armaments necessary to maintain this security state.
That’s a very vivid metaphor. It’s one people forget about that Eisenhower used. But it is a very apt description of what we’ve become today. We’ve militarized our police forces. I’m sitting right now on a Constitution Project subcommittee right now trying to recommend to the Congress and to the White House ways to reverse this trend of militarizing our police forces. But that’s what we’re doing. We’re putting them in armored cars, we’re giving them no-knock warrants, we’re letting them break into people’s houses, indeed, kill people under these no-knock warrants. Use stun grenades, and so forth and so on. They’re just like, [inaud.] police, like the Italian Carabinieri, only worse. They’re more like our Marine Corps.
The other aspects of it, of course, are gated communities where only the wealthy live, and the peons, the plebians, are kept outside. You contemplate building fences around your own state entity. Look at what we did on the Mexican border. Look at what some of the circus crowd that poses as the Republican party’s campaign for the presidency in 2016 is proposing with regard to fences, with regard to security of our borders, with regard to keeping immigrants out. Indeed, with regard to throwing those already here out.
This is the, the vivid indication that we are becoming a garrison state. And with that garrison state, of course, you are willing to sacrifice all your civil liberties, all your personal privacy, and so forth, in the name of security. And of course, when I, when I talk about this I usually throw out old Benjamin Franklin’s little saying about those who will sacrifice their liberty for security deserve neither. And in [real form], they’ll have neither. Because they forget that the liberties they labored to build over the 150-200 years we did so, actually 400 years if you consider our time as a colonial portion of Britain, if you throw that away for the purpose of security in a generation, you’re going to throw all your security away, too. All your liberty away, too. And when you throw your liberty away you’ve thrown away that which is the greatest bastion, the greatest insurance of your security. That’s of course what Franklin meant.
Well, we’re doing that. We’re cavalierly doing that. There are some, you know, there are some people who are working on things like demilitarizing law enforcement, on things like trying to have a decent immigration policy in this country, and so forth. But what I see in the general trend, and what I see in the polls of at least 51-52 percent of Americans is they not only are going along with this building of the garrison state, they want to man the ramparts, as it were. And my God, they’ve got enough guns to man those ramparts.
DESVARIEUX: Yeah, it’s quite scary just how militarized this country is. And we want to keep tracking this story and your work there on the subcommittee, Larry, so we’ll certainly have you back on, probably in the new year. So happy new year to you, and thank you so much for joining us.
WILKERSON: Thanks for having me, Jessica. And happy new year to you, and happy holidays to all those at the Real News. You do a great job.
DESVARIEUX: Thank you. Thank you, Larry. And thank you for watching the Real News Network.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.