Stone: ‘Mind, Body, Spirit’ vs. security-industrial complex |

Stone: ‘Mind, Body, Spirit’ vs. security-industrial complex

Returning to Aspen after a prolonged absence, I was startled to find the town in the throes of something called the Aspen Security Forum.

I wondered how things here had gotten so bad that we needed a forum to discuss Aspen security. How did we get so insecure up here in the mountains?

Eventually, being pretty sharp, I figured out that it wasn’t a forum about Aspen security.

But that didn’t really ease my mind.

How did Aspen become part of the security-industrial complex?

I know the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies dropped the reference to humanity years ago and became just the Aspen Institute, but it’s hard to imagine that many of its founders and early lights aren’t rolling over in their graves at this spectacle. (Remember, the institute sprang from a speech in Aspen by Albert Schweitzer, the great humanitarian and philosopher-scientist.)

When did “Mind, Body and Spirit” turn into “Mind, Body, Bend Over and Get Ready for a Cavity Search”?

More to the point, what are we doing providing an uncritical platform for the people who bring us the infinitely annoying airport security that leaves us without shoes, belts or dignity every time we fly?

What are we doing broadcasting messages from the people who trace our phone calls, take our photos and snoop into our lives?

What are we doing leaping into bed with the people who gleefully violate our Constitution?

And speaking of leaping into bed, do you have any doubt that, if they in their wisdom deem it “necessary,” these same people will eagerly keep track of exactly who is leaping into bed with whom?

Now I’m not saying that these are bad people. Not necessarily. But even if they are good people — and some of them certainly are good people, some genuine heroes — we have to remember that, just as bad things happen to good people, so also bad things are done by good people.

Remember: “The best and the brightest” dragged us into the swamp of Vietnam.

Of course, we also should remember that some of the worst (though maybe also the brightest) dragged us into the horror of Iraq.

And it is from the horror of Iraq — no, before that: It is from the horror of Sept. 11, 2001, that this infernal security apparatus emerged. And the horror of Iraq was part of the legacy of 9/11, right along with all the rest of this security-industrial complex.

Let’s drop back a step and remember.

Sept. 11 was a horror, to be sure, a vast and despicable crime. But our national reaction was a horror, as well. We launched two wars and a program of brutal torture that, taken altogether, went a long way toward bankrupting this country financially and morally.

Disagree with that if you will, but we all will be paying the trillion-dollar price tag of those two wars for decades to come. And the graves of those we tortured to death are scars on the land and will long remain scars on our national conscience.

And it is from those roots of deceit and dishonor that the Security Forum has flowered.

The Aspen Security Forum. Fruit of the poisoned tree.

Those who pushed us into war said the terrorists “hate us for our freedom,” but their first response to those terrorists was to jettison that very freedom. All in the name of security.

And thus we turned so much of our lives and so much of our once-precious freedom over to those for whom security is just a profit center.

Again, I am not condemning those who spoke at this Security Forum. Their beliefs might be quite sincere. But those sincere beliefs are fodder for the security machine and its relentless drive for profits.

And that’s the problem. When any activity becomes industrialized at the government level, there is suddenly so much money floating around — and so much power floating around — that it becomes almost impossible to control.

Some people find “security” politically profitable; others find it just plain profitable. Obscenely profitable.

And if I may quote a prominent Republican on the subject of those who profit from the business of war: “Worse than traitors in arms are the men who pretend loyalty to the flag, feast and fatten on the misfortunes of the nation while patriotic blood is crimsoning the plains.”

That was President Abraham Lincoln.

And while we’re on the subject, I also should mention another Republican president, that well-known leftist Dwight D. Eisenhower, who warned us, “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence … by the military-industrial complex. … Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

And, though perhaps lacking Lincoln’s flair, that gets to the heart of the matter: We must be alert and knowledgeable. We must hear both sides so we can guard against unwarranted influence and allow security and liberty to prosper together.

But instead, we have a nation where secret courts make secret interpretations of laws governing security and privacy — interpretations that those who wrote the laws say are dead wrong.

But those who wrote the laws only learned about those secret interpretations because a few brave (or reckless) men have exposed that trespass by security, that trampling of liberty, that unwarranted influence we were warned of — and those men are declared traitors and put on trial.

And instead of an open discussion of how best to balance the dangers to our freedom carefully against the dangers to our security, we have an Aspen Security Forum that serves only as an opportunity for the security-industrial complex to trumpet its claims without fear of contradiction or debate.

So here we stand, possessing military might sufficient to destroy the planet and technological might sufficient to destroy the last shred of liberty and privacy.

And with the fate of humanity on the line, we proudly present a program from the institute that has eliminated humanity from its title.

Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His email address is andy@aspen

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