If there is one positive aspect to the worldwide political chaos of recent years, it is a much wider acceptance that “it couldn’t happen here” is a complete fallacy. As the West moves ever closer toward all-out Orwellian authoritarianism, swathes of the public are informed and aware enough to understand precisely what is happening and why.
We have all read well-told tales of historic horrors such as Operation Northwoods. We know of the immigrant concentration camps on the American border, and all saw the horrific scenes of the military rolling into U.S. cities to suppress Black Lives Matter protests. This growing acceptance that governments do not have the interests of either the planet or humanity at heart is a silver lining amidst a black cloud of oppression.
Yet, there still comes a time when the machinations of the government still have the power to shock. There comes new information on the actual depth of their depravity and willingness to commit atrocities against their own people.
Here in the U.K. rumours of rationing, evacuations and mass detentions initially swirled around no-deal Brexit following the release of the “Yellowhammer” documentation in 2019. The alarm at the willingness of the government to suppress the freedom to protest and arrest thousands en masse only increased on the left following the suppression of Extinction Rebellion protests in 2019. It might be suggested that the police used those protests as a convenient dry-run for the possibility of Yellow Vest or Chile style demonstrations to come.
Of course, those protests never came. The “silver lining” of the COVID-19 outbreak for governments around the globe was that a growing anti-capitalist protest movement was stopped in its tracks. Anger instead turned to racial justice and BLM, with many anti-capitalists joining that fight on American streets.
The coronavirus necessitated the implementation of restrictions on our way of life that has caused a severe reaction from libertarians and capitalists. Protest movements that deny the science behind COVID-19 include a growing “anti-mask” movement and even those who believe the entire contagion to be a conspiracy to bring in authoritarianism. While the causes of this movement are varied and many adherents cross political lines, the lack of public scrutiny and openness from our governments is undoubtedly a factor.
We may rightfully criticise the anti-mask movement for their denial of science and recognise that far-right libertarians make up the bulk of the activity. Equally, we may realise that capitalist interests are undoubtedly fueling the fire to ensure the openness of the economy. Still, we have to also understand that the worry surrounding government oppression often has a legitimate cause.
While the British government’s Yellowhammer plans prior to Brexit were supposed to be secret, there is no such secrecy in the United States. The military plan for the mass detention of thousands of people and identification of political dissidents is openly out there for the world to see.
Initially written in 2010 and leaked via PublicIntelligence.net in 2013, the document entitled — “Army Field Manual 3–39.40: Internment and Resettlement Operations” caused a storm after its leaking, with activists horrified by the implications and military precision of the plan to imprison thousands of civilians in detention facilities that closely resemble concentration camps.
The document in question has origins much further back than 2010 however and has existed in various forms since 1978. It contains headings such as “Capture, Detention, and Initial Screening,” “Detainee Flow,” “Theater Internment Facility,” “Strategic Internment Facility,” and “Detainee Rehabilitation Programs.” The document is a well-considered plan for the control of tens of thousands of people, not only on foreign soil but also domestically.
Indeed, the report is explicit that it applies not only to foreign theatres but also to potential internment in the United States.
Page 38 of the 325-page document makes it clear that the procedure applies to the homeland and page 146 makes it equally explicit that U.S. citizens would be identified through social security numbers, photographs and fingerprints. The methods in the document are taken directly from the United States’ policy and experience of internment in Iraq and Afghanistan at facilities such as Camp Bucca which is said to have housed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and other future Islamic State leaders.
Defenders of the document both within the military and online have suggested that the procedures are benign and even humanitarian, that they concern disaster relief for significant incidents such as a potential nuclear or biological attack or another natural disaster on the scale of Hurricane Katrina. Yet this argument fails to hold water, with page 238 of the document stating that deadly force is permissible to “terminate an active escape attempt”. Page 244 says that snipers will be utilised to “scan a crowd and identify agitators and riot leaders for apprehension and fire lethal rounds if warranted”. The fact that the detainees are to be considered prisoners is obvious.
The removal of political dissidents and opposition activists from the internment group is identified as a priority, stating that “malcontents, trained agitators, and political leaders” will need to be identified within the controlled groups in order “to reduce or remove antagonistic attitudes.”
The layout of the Camp Bucca style “facilities” to house the interned includes interrogation areas, tribunal areas and mortuaries with a capacity of 4,000. The camps would be divided into several regions that are separated by barbed wire and would have a double barbed-wire outer perimeter and 24 watchtowers.
While a separate program from the one identified in this document, the United States’ willingness to utilise facilities such as those outlined in Field Manual 3–39.40 has also come under scrutiny more recently with the controversy surrounding Border Patrol holding facilities. The facilities have been described as “concentration camps” by those on the left such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They have been constructed with very similar physical and psychological echoes of what is explained above.
Dolly Lucio Sevier, a private-practice physician, was given access to one such facility in McAllen, Texas in 2019. After examining 39 children, she discovered that all were showing signs of trauma and had been exposed to “extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day, no adequate access to medical care, basic sanitation, water, or adequate food.” This is merely a snippet of the conditions created at these camps.
There is little doubt that the U.S. has moved to once again place mass-detention on the table. The concepts and images from these kinds of facilities are piecemeal exposed to the public as they are drip-fed information. From Afghanistan to Iraq and the Texas border, inhumane treatment, mass incarceration, the identification of dissidents, and the potential for lethal force are issues that are not only being openly discussed but widely encouraged. Though base nationalism and capitalist endeavour, these ideas are celebrated by the far-right and military-industrial complex in equal measure.
As nations ever increase their methods of surveillance and control and as the neoliberal elites continue to milk the tired and desperate populations for more work and less pay, we begin to see rights and humanity being pulled ever further apart. As those freedoms vanish, we will start to see yet more scenes such as those we have witnessed over the past 12 months in Portland, Louisville, Chile, France and beyond, a public yearning for change and willing to take direct action to ensure it happens. This eternal fear of the masses by the elite has historically led governments down the path of atrocity, and the American government has in place all the planning and facilities it needs to ensure that those calls for change remain forever unheeded.
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