Above: from the National Immigrant Justice Center
In the last several years, U.S. Customs & Border Protection has been embarking on a project so overkill that it makes you wonder just what its ultimate purpose is. This is the project to install surveillance towers along the U.S.-Mexico border. Which renders not just migrants, but everyone in the communities surrounding these towers, under constant monitoring whenever they’re outdoors within a 7.5 mile radius of the spying devices.
In 2019, Will Parrish of The Intercept wrote about the experiences of one resident of the indigenous reservation within the periphery of the towers: “Nellie Jo David says the constant surveillance has profoundly disrupted the cultural fabric of the Tohono O’odham people, alongside other federal government intrusions like the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range, built adjacent to the reservation in the 1940s. ‘The towers are just one more target on our culture and way of life,’ David says. ‘We can’t really have the same ceremonies if there are going to be eyes on us, coming from an operational control room with likely a white male agent looking into what it is to be O’odham.’”
In the short term, the objective of this blanket of total surveillance is simply to fortify the colonial apartheid occupation which these Natives have lived under since the United States came, in addition to the project’s surface-level objective of stopping the movement of other indigenous peoples from south of the border. These are certainly the intentions made clear by Elbit, the Israeli technology company that’s constructing these towers; the very same monitoring tactics that the Zionist occupiers use to keep Palestinians in line and restrict their movements are being brought into the core of the empire. And these tactics are just another addition to the oppression the Natives along the border have been living under for generations.
But as I see the implosion of the U.S. economy, the explosion of revolt from this country’s colonized peoples in the form of Black Lives Matter, and the ways that global warming and U.S. geopolitical decline threaten to destabilize our society, the thought comes that these types of measures are being carried out because of fear. Fear that if the most thoroughly repressive surveillance and police state isn’t put in place, the U.S. will be defeated by an uprising from the people it subjugates in these next few decades.
It’s an open secret at this point that this is one of the scenarios the U.S. military is preparing to try to prevent. A 2016 U.S. Army War College report describes near-future outcomes where growing unemployment, natural disasters, and growing slum populations necessitate for the army to be sent into parts of the U.S. so Washington can retain control over all of the territories it now holds. The report warns of “class conflict” and “a risk of insecurity among the urban poor,” which could lead to “a surplus of unemployed males with little to do but join gangs or engage in crime as a source of income. Joining extremist or terrorist organizations might also appear attractive as a way out. At the very least, in the event of some kind of conflict, these young men would provide a pool of potential recruits for those opposing the United States. In short, slums would be an inordinately difficult battlefield.”
This anxiety about the difficulty the U.S. would face in fighting off a lower class rebellion within the slum environments that U.S. capitalism has created is echoed in a separate Army study from 2016, which stated that the “U.S. Army is incapable of operating within the megacity.” The War College report makes it explicit that it’s envisioning a hypothetical class-motivated near future U.S. civil war, listing Los Angeles, Baltimore, and San Francisco as potential locations for the army to invade in the coming decades. And according to these assessments, there would be ample opportunities for class and anti-colonial liberation guerrilla forces to stake out territories and evade defeat by the military.
Another risk factor for the U.S. military in such a domestic rebellion scenario will be how public sentiment could very easily shift away from Washington’s favor. If the U.S. brings home tactics from its forever wars like carpet bombings, drone strikes, and use of depleted uranium, the population is going to react with horror and rage. The rebels seeking a breakaway from the U.S. will have a much easier time convincing their surrounding communities that America’s government is effectively a terrorist organization, and that its occupation over this land must end.
One way the military plans to avoid these pitfalls is through drastic moves towards cutting off the flow of information in and around the hypothetical army occupation zones. The War College report implies that internet and cell phone access could be shut down within the most sensitive areas, where it would be most narratively damaging to the U.S. for evidence of the military’s atrocities to leak out. Plans for crafting compelling narratives which portray the military as heroic are of course also part of this. But for now, Washington’s approaches towards preventing a successful anti-colonial proletarian revolt are pre-emptive.
The network of total outdoor surveillance devices-whose builders ultimately aim to expand to the country’s ports, harbors, and northern border-is one way the U.S. national security state is trying to stay one step ahead of the potential revolutionaries. The state has found a way to monitor the movements of the hypothetical future rebels within many miles of the numerous surveillance towers that will be installed along the country’s edges in the coming decades. And who’s to say these kinds of towers won’t also be put into the urban areas where domestic class conflict is expected to break out. Added onto the NSA’s unparalleled digital surveillance state, and to the streets blanketed with cameras which the high-tech sector plans to create in partnership with the intelligence community, this network will serve as an omnipresent eye on anyone daring to defy the state.
This is the U.S. empire’s design for maintaining control over its core territory in the face of its geopolitical decline abroad, and in the face of the 21st century’s economic and environmental unravelings. The U.S. colonial occupiers and their partnered tech industrialists aim to police the population so tightly that a rebellion can’t occur. This strategy applies not just to the expansion of the surveillance state and the militarization of the police forces, but to the counterrevolutionary propaganda which the U.S. masses are being bombarded with. To try to discredit the historically proven revolutionary model of Marxism-Leninism, the CIA is inculcating Americans with the baseless idea that China is committing “genocide” against the Uyghurs through mass detentions and abusive surveillance. Ironically, the U.S. is doing these exact things to its indigenous victims of state violence.
If we build institutions that can bring the masses towards anti-colonialism and revolutionary socialism, the system’s contradictions will be too great for the state to solve through surveillance and repression. The tyranny we see being constructed is a reaction to this century’s great potential for revolution to sweep the core of global imperialism.
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