The American Bear


MATT SLEDGE: I think—we’ll get to, you know, WikiLeaks and whistleblowing in a minute, of course. Before we do that, I wanted to re-ask my question from the last panel about this drones memo. You know, what’s the end game with this—with the lawsuit [against the NDAA]? You know, if you win the lawsuit and the administration retains the power to assassinate American citizens, you know, how—is that Pyrrhic victory?

CHRIS HEDGES: The memo is fascinating to read. It looks like it’s written—

MS: Well, they won’t release the memos yet.

CH: Yes, well, the free white paper.

MS: It’s a white paper, the pre-memo white paper.

CH: The white paper. Right, the pre-memo white paper. What is—because it’s so amateurish. It looks like it’s written by a first-year law student. I mean, you know, whatever you think of John Yoo—and I hope he burns in hell—he actually had a much more sophisticated legal argument to torture human beings. Look, the drone wars—this is—it’s not an example of—and I think this is true with the NDAA, I think it’s true with the FISA Amendment Act, I think—go all the way back. What they’re attempting to do is legally justify what they’re already doing. They have argued that under the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force Act they have a right to assassinate American citizens. I have read that act innumerable times, and Bruce and Carl did, and none of us find that in the act. That is, to be generous, a radical interpretation of the AUMF. And so, what they’re seeking to do is legally justify, in the same way that Yoo was attempting to legally justify torture. They’re essentially looking for kind of legal cover.

And so, I think it’s all connected. It’s all a part of this very rapid descent into a frightening form of corporate totalitarianism. And that is just writ large across the landscape. And as we go down—and they know we’re going down. Look, I mean, you know, they—these forces are cannibalistic. Forty percent of the summer Arctic sea ice melts, and here we’re literally watching the death throes of the planet, and these corporations, like Shell, look at it as a business opportunity. They know only one word, and that’s “more.” They have commodified everything. Human beings are commodities, disposable commodities. The ecosystem is a disposable commodity. And they will—now with no impediments, they will push and push and push. It makes Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, which I’m just re-reading, the most prescient study of the American character, because we’re all on the Pequod, and Ahab’s running the ship. And as Ahab said, “My means and my methods are sane, and my object is mad.” And they’re not going to stop themselves. The formal mechanisms of power are not going to stop them. It’s up to us.

And literally, you know, I have a five-year-old, and his favorite book is Out of the Blue. He’ll sit on the floor and look at narwhals and porpoises, and every time I see him do it, it rips my heart out, because I know that if there is not a radical change in our relationship to each other and to the planet, every single one of those sea creatures will be dead within his lifetime. In theological terms, as a seminary graduate, these are forces of death, literally.

MS: Well—

CH: And it is all—

MS: Which is the corporation arguing, you know, or lobbying for Section 1021 of the NDAA?

CH: All of them. All of them. Who writes our legislation but corporate lobbyists? The security and surveillance state is the mechanism. Look, we have, not far from here, a few blocks from here, a joint command center with the NYPD and Goldman Sachs. I was arrested in front of Goldman Sachs with the Occupy movement. And let me tell you that when they—when the security came out, it was a mixed security of Goldman Sachs security and NYPDsecurity. These corporations have created 70 percent of our—we have 16 intelligence agencies, and as Jeremy Scahill has pointed out, 70 percent of their work are outsourced corporations. We have handed the capacity for the security and surveillance state to private corporations.

Hedges v. Obama post-trial panel discussion