By Rainer Shea – Jul 29, 2021
Revolutionaries in the US need to adopt the mentality that they’re being perpetually targeted by counterinsurgency, because they already are. Throughout this last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, the US National Security State has unleashed vilifying propaganda about the demonstrations coming from “outside agitators,” promoted media glorifications of the police which portray law enforcement as sympathetic to racial justice, used America’s network of liberal NGOs to funnel support for the movement into the Democratic Party, and flooded militant protests with liberal “peace police” to temper radicalization.
All of this has no doubt been done with the orchestration of US intelligence; covert government propaganda within US media has been officially legal since 2013, and the FBI has been working to infiltrate and co-opt social movements for decades. But such tactics are just the most surface-level aspects of the counterinsurgency that our government is going to wage in response to the social upheaval, power grid breakdowns, mass migrations, and additional pandemics that US military analysts expect to befall the country in the coming decades. What we must prepare for is a full domestic replication of the invasion and occupation tactics from Washington’s wars abroad.
To carry out these tactics, the US will need to put those within its borders under the most extreme environment of propaganda, censorship, and surveillance imaginable. Here’s what this environment will look like.
To understand the role that propaganda and co-optation tactics like the ones from the George Floyd protests are going to play in this coming war against liberation struggles, we must understand what that liberation movement will look like. This year, in response to unprecedentedly huge anti-police protests and the subsequent acceleration of US military aid to police departments, sociologist Temitope Oriola predicted an armed anti-police insurgency within the US.
He said that the poorest and most disenfranchised members of the colonized communities in this country reflect the characteristics of populations which have historically resorted to armed struggle to try to attain liberation. And that when they start proportionately retaliating against the ever-intensifying incidents of police brutality, their insurgency is going to carry too much social weight to be ended simply by assassinating movement leaders. The Africans, Natives, and indigenous brown immigrants will have already taken on their rightful role as the vanguard of the proletarian revolution on this continent, a role that they’ll be able to take due to their disproportionate targeting and exploitation under colonialism.
And at a certain point within our generation, the settler state’s systematic destruction of their wealth and increasing brutalization of their communities will leave them with no choice but to wage a revolt. A revolt too resilient to be quelled by the loss of some of those within their ranks. As Oriola speculates, “Entities operating independently will spring up, but over time, a loose coalition may form to take credit for actions of organizationally disparate groups for maximum effect. There will likely be no single leader to neutralize at the onset. Like US global counter-terrorism efforts, neutralizing leaders will only worsen matters.”
If the conditions of the colonized peoples in this country are going to get this bad, the US counterinsurgency leaders will have an obstacle towards the initial component of their strategy. As the Joint Publication 3–24: Counterinsurgency manual describes, swaying a population towards the side of the US military is indispensable to the military’s victory:
To be effective, officials involved in COIN [counterinsurgency] should address two imperatives — political action and security — with equal urgency, recognizing that insurgency is fundamentally an armed political competition…. COIN functions, therefore, include informational, security, political, economic, and development components, all of which are designed to support the overall objective of establishing and consolidating control by the HN [host nation] government. … This is the core of COIN, because it provides a framework around which all other programs and activities are organized. As described above, depending on the root causes of the insurgency, the strategy may involve elements of political reform, reconciliation, popular mobilization, and governmental capacity building.
Oriola’s prediction says that when the revolt starts, black elites will join the settler ruling class in calling for “peace.” This unity between colonialism and the country’s tiny black bourgeoisie will be used to spin the narrative that black America is overwhelmingly opposed to the actions of the “extremist” rebels, and that whites should therefore feel no guilt in reporting insurgency participants or insurgency sympathizers. The liberal NGO-industrial complex, and its deep ties to the media, will come in handy throughout this “pro-peace” propaganda campaign.
But this won’t be enough to end the revolt, prompting the anti-insurgency propaganda to take on a more paranoid nature.
If this revolt can’t be stopped through targeted assassinations, it certainly won’t be stopped by denunciations of the “extremist” insurgents. As Oriola says, “African American leaders will likely be helpless to stop the insurgency. Anyone who strongly denounces it in public may lose credibility among the people. Authenticity would mean developing a way to accommodate the insurgents in public rhetoric while condemning them in private.” And there’s where the necessity for creating an atmosphere of paranoia will come in; to make a movement with this much popular backing appear to lack credibility, the state will have to portray the rebels not just as “extremists,” but as agents of a conspiracy by Washington’s adversaries.
This is the approach that Colombia’s white supremacist government has taken towards demonizing the anti-austerity and anti-colonial protests that have been rattling the country. The Colombian government, with the direction of a neo-Nazi faction that’s taken control over law enforcement, has been attributing the demonstrations and all related anti-neoliberal organizations to a subversion plot by “Castro-Chavismo.” This fearmongering about foreign interference is part of the “dissipated molecular revolution” theory, a model for counterinsurgency developed by Colombia’s fascist former president Álvaro Uribe. It posits that by treating everyone that challenges free-market fanaticism—from human rights organizations to unions to civil society—as part of this supposed foreign-orchestrated conspiracy, the government will be able to preemptively stamp out Colombia’s potential socialist revolution on a molecular level.
The neoconservative think tank the Heritage Foundation, which has put forth statements endorsing facets of Uribe’s conspiracy theory, has already adopted the equivalent tactic for demonizing BLM. Last fall the think tank utilized US claims of Chinese interference, along with debunked Xinjiang atrocity propaganda from the fat-right Christian propagandist Adrian Zenz, to bolster its argument for China being behind the protests:
The Chinese Communist Party has an interest in sowing discord in the US, particularly during an election year. Robert O’Brien, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, last month said the CCP has targeted US election infrastructure with cyberattacks. Criticizing America for systemic racism is not just hypocritical but a convenient distraction from the Chinese Communist Party’s human rights violations against Uighurs and other Turkic Muslim minorities in China’s Xinjiang province. Americans have a right to know who is behind the continued violence in our cities. As a sovereign nation, we should know whether a foreign government is fueling this internal damage to our country. The US government should connect the dots and investigate the extent of the Chinese Communist Party’s support for the Black Lives Matter organization and the riots. It’s past time for answers.
When the anti-police insurgency starts, these kinds of conspiracy theories about the anti-colonial liberation movement will be more broadly embraced by the media. At least among the settlers who’ve psychologically separated themselves from the oppression of the colonized, and who therefore won’t be sympathetic to the actions of the insurgents, this will make the insurgency appear lacking in legitimacy. Which will create the perceived justification for the atrocities that the occupier is going to carry out to try to crush the rebellion.
To get its counterrevolutionary propaganda accepted going into these next several decades, the government will have to wall off the country’s communities from information that counters the official narratives. US military analysts see the contradictions that are piling up within our society, and they see pacifying the population to make way for a military clampdown as the only solution. A 2016 US Army War College document clarified how important these class warfare strategists view public perceptions, stating:
Presenting compelling narratives can enhance legitimacy and authority in the eyes of many stakeholders (such as the urban population). Understanding the utility and power of digital media, therefore, allows for enormous reach and breadth that can indirectly alter the battlefield. The user-friendliness of mass media and mobile technology allows adversaries to manipulate and garner favorable public opinion and recruit support. For these reasons and more, civilian and military leaders cannot afford to ignore the requirement for compelling narratives. In the final analysis, the battle of narratives and the contradictions of security are likely to be at the forefront, especially as the most likely contingencies will be humanitarian or stabilization operations. Moreover, such operations could even take place within the continental United States, as demonstrated by the Los Angeles riots and the responses to Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. Presenting a positive image of the military to the American public is indispensable for continued support.
To counter the domestic “civil unrest” and “anarchy” that the report says will materialize in the coming decades due to widening inequality, drastic crackdowns on the flow of information are being planned. The War College report says that “class conflict” might
…greatly complicate the post-combat, pacification, and occupation periods…the restoration of order and stability would have to accompany if not precede major disaster relief operations. This effort could also create opposition…The other problem when dealing with cyberspace in relation to megacity contingencies is that adversaries can exploit the almost automatic transparency that it creates — both to show US forces in bad light and their own actions very positively…Part of IPB [intelligence preparation for the urban battlefield] prior to any action in a megacity or sub-megacity must be to identify the services providers for both telecommunications and the Internet. It is also important to identify online opinion-makers who could have a major impact in any controversy over US military intervention.
Why are these analysts emphasizing telecommunications? Commentator Eric London, who’s written an article about this report, speculates that it’s because “invasion plans must involve efforts to shut down the internet, cell phone service, and ensure the local media publishes only US military propaganda.” This is the tactic that the imperialists and their neo-colonial proxies have used in response to Colombia’s protests, with a suspicious internet disruption having occurred in early May of this year—right when the demonstrators most needed communications and journalism.
So those within the US cities that the military might invade—which is essentially every city—should prepare for an even more extreme version of this censorship. This can be done by forming independent, radio-based communications networks between revolutionary cadre members.
And why does the War College emphasize identifying online “opinion-makers”? Because journalists who will try to expose the state’s coming domestic war crimes, like everyone else who challenges the US empire in the coming decades, are going to increasingly have targets on their backs. The US empire’s show trial and torture of Julian Assange, which have been done in response to WikiLeaks exposing US war crimes in Iraq, show how similar journalists are going to be treated when they reveal the truth about how the US military treats its own people.
When the situation on the ground gets too hectic for the government to be able to detain these journalists, or when the military simply wants to be efficient in smoking out threats within the information war, the military could simply try to kill these reporters on the spot. This is what the U.S. did to al-Jazeera’s journalists in Iraq during Washington’s battles to take down the Fallujah guerrilla resistance. Al-Jazeera’s reporters, who were some of the only ones to expose US atrocities, reported repeatedly coming under fire from U.S. forces. Specifically fighter jets.
At one point, when the US demanded al-Jazeera leave Fallujah as a condition for a cease-fire, the US punished al-Jazeera for not leaving by bombing the house where the network’s reporters had been in the night prior. The owner of the home died, another one of the many casualties of Washington’s attempt to effectively colonize Iraq.
From then on, every time the fighter jets spotted these reporters they became under fire. The US neo-colonial regime in Iraq justified this by claiming that al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya were “misreporting facts on the ground and contributing to a sense of anger and frustration.” The same accusations will be made against those who try to expose what the military is going to do to those within US borders in the coming decades, and these journalists will face the same kinds of extreme violence.
And it’s not just the military, the police, or the intelligence agencies that are going to be participating in this campaign to snuff out journalism. The ruling class is importing para-state methods for repression. Methods that have been used in brutal recent U.S. foreign occupations like Washington’s dictatorial rule over the Iraqi city of Fallujah, or Washington’s reign of terror over Afghanistan that depends on CIA death squads. In both of these countries, private military contractors have been taking on an increasing role, especially as Biden pulls official troops out of the region and replaces them with mercenaries. And such mercenaries are already taking on the role of surveilling journalists within US borders, no doubt with the ultimate objective of terrorizing these journalists into submission.
This month in Minneapolis, a mercenary company whose contractors refuse to name their employer has descended on the city. They’re there to suppress protests against last month’s killing of Winston Smith. Smith, a black man who the US Marshall Service attempted to arrest, didn’t behave the exact way the officers would have preferred, and was effectively executed on the spot as punishment.
Smith’s story is a case not just of censorship—with police refusing to release the footage of the event that might contradict their claim about Smith provoking the officers—but recently turned into a case of surveillance. Because when the mercenaries have been unable to prevent their own recent atrocities from being exposed to the public, they’ve begun keeping tabs on the people who’ve exposed them.
Earlier this month, as the Smith protesters in Minneapolis were holding an open-air conference to describe their experiences with the mercenaries to journalists, a reporter from the news outlet Unicorn Riot wrote online that “A mercenary is perched high in the parking ramp taking cell phone pics of the press conference right now.” Below this statement the reporter included a photo of a man with shades and a baseball cap in a dark room above, snapping pictures seemingly both with his phone and with a camera on a tripod next to him.
Are the speakers and journalists at this event now in danger because of this? Given that these speakers said this mercenary company has inflicted brain trauma on protesters, physically grabbed them, and profiled them, this situation presents an elevation in the level of the danger which activists and journalists in this country normally face. (Which is a high danger as is.) The totally unaccountable and disconnected nature of these mercenaries relative to the community they’re operating within has made it seemingly benign for them to stalk people who dare to speak out. And it’s this extra layer of impunity which privatized surveillance affords that’s going to make the domestic counterinsurgency—which in Minneapolis is already in its early stages—heavily rely on privatized spying.
The 2016 War College document describes that when the military invades and occupies America’s urban areas—or when it conducts domestic operations against rebels in any other places — mass surveillance is going to be integral. It recommends using “human intelligence assets” within these conflict zones, which that mercenary company is evidently already providing in Minneapolis. The company has also been reported to be operating a “fusion center” within the city, which has potentially involved the types of protest infiltrators and agent provocateurs who were sent into Standing Rock by the mercenary company TigerSwan.
TigerSwan also set up an entire de facto intelligence center, but not in response to protests as small-scale as the Smith demonstrations. Which shows just how paranoid the US National Security State has recently become, and how prevalent these privatized spook hubs will become by the time the insurgency starts.
Drones will also be involved in this effort to totally monitor cities. The War College says that “Human intelligence assets will be able to offer far greater insight on adversaries because of their ability to capture emotions and relationships — things that will long remain outside the purview of even the most sophisticated drones.” By measure of surveillance, the impoverished neighborhoods of places like Minneapolis could become like Gaza, where drones are a constant threat in terms of both surveillance and weaponry. The Washington Post reported in 2011 that:
Across northern Gaza, the response to the arrival of drones overhead is swift and, for some, almost involuntary. Their near-constant presence shapes life beneath them in a thousand ways—from how Islamist militants communicate to the color of exercise clothes chosen for a morning jog to the quality of satellite-television reception. When the buzz begins, an unemployed tailor in the hilltop village of Ezret Abed Rabbo walks to his window and opens it—one, then another, until the glass in all of them is safe from what he expects to be an imminent blast. The most recent rocked the area in late October when Israel responded with drones and F-16s to the attack on Ashkelon, killing nine Palestinian militants. “For us, drones mean death,” said Hamdi Shaqqura, a deputy director of the human rights center. “When you hear drones, you hear death.”
Israel’s innovations in necro-politics will contribute to America’s internal counterinsurgency in additional ways. Quoting European researchers, the War College also mentions that “The basic notion is that citizens with smartphones have become mobile sensors, reporting on events in the city with tweets, photos, messages, and the like. ‘This transforms human beings into potential sensors that not only have the ability to process and interpret what they feel and think but also to geographically localize the information (sometimes involuntarily) and spread it globally through the Internet, thus drawing people-generated landscapes.’” In addition to the numerous other ways US internal security has been “Israelified” in this last decade or so, Israelification and privatization are playing dual roles in bringing this surveillance vision to fruition. As the Washington Post reported this month:
Military-grade spyware licensed by an Israeli firm to governments for tracking terrorists and criminals was used in attempted and successful hacks of 37 smartphones belonging to journalists, human rights activists, business executives and two women close to murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and 16 media partners The phones appeared on a list of more than 50,000 numbers that are concentrated in countries known to engage in surveillance of their citizens and also known to have been clients of the Israeli firm, NSO Group, a worldwide leader in the growing and largely unregulated private spyware industry, the investigation found.
Since the NSO describes its clients as “60 intelligence, military and law enforcement agencies in 40 countries,” this tactic of mobile device infiltration could easily be used in the counterinsurgency surveillance effort that the War College anticipates. It will be as easy as a flip of the switch. And in the zones where this Zionist-facilitated private surveillance network has established the most intense presence, the mass spying will consist not just of drones, police cameras, mercenary cameras, movement infiltrator spies, and digital monitoring. It will also include high-tech surveillance towers that can perpetually watch every outdoor person and vehicle within a radius of up to 7.5 miles.
These are the monitoring devices that the Israeli tech firm Elbit has built along the US border in recent years. The purpose of the towers is to immediately alert the border patrol whenever an indigenous southern migrant enters US territory, similarly to how Israel gets its forces to kill any Palestinian who tries to flee the impoverished Gaza strip. “Now we won’t be able to go anywhere near here without the big US-Israeli eyes monitoring us, watching our every move,” reported one member of the indigenous Tohono O’odham community, which lives continuously under the watch of this system.
And the system is going to expand much further. The company aims to eventually establish the same kinds of towers along the northern border, and within the country’s ports and harbors. If you live near one of these places, The Intercept has described what you’ll be subjected to:
US Customs and Border Protection will soon construct a 160-foot surveillance tower…The tower will be outfitted with high-definition cameras with night vision, thermal sensors, and ground-sweeping radar, all of which will feed real-time data to Border Patrol agents at a central operating station in Ajo, Arizona. The system will store an archive with the ability to rewind and track individuals’ movements across time—an ability known as “wide-area persistent surveillance.”
All the ways that the imperialists accuse countries like China, north Korea, and Cuba of being dictatorial, the imperialists are themselves. And as their empire continues to decline, they’ll keep importing these tactics in necro-politics from foreign colonial laboratories like Israel and Latin America.
We in the core of the empire are going to be met with a concentrated version of the horrors that our government has inflicted upon Iraqis, Colombians, Palestinians, and so many others. And for the colonized peoples within US borders, like the Tohono O’odham or the African communities of Minneapolis, these horrors are already here; they’re just extensions of the colonial genocide that these nations have been subjected to since the start of colonialism. Philadelphia police bombed a neighborhood to snuff out a black liberation group in 1985, and the US government was shooting unarmed indigenous civilians at Standing Rock just five years ago. The precedents for what the military is planning have long been set by colonialism.
To survive the domestic bombing campaigns, house raids, death squads, arbitrary detentions, massacres, tank firings, drone strikes, and other warfare tactics that the state will meet us with after the revolt begins, we revolutionaries within the US must adopt the resistance tactics of those fighting against imperialism’s warfare abroad. These tactics, which range from forming radio-based communications channels to building morale-resilient cadres to operating with special stealth protocols, are only logical to embrace in the face of the state’s plot to bring its own global warfare approaches home.
Featured image: The Gaza border, where Israel enforces the lethal no-go zones, on which the US domestic security is modeling its own surveillance apparatus. Photo: TRT World