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 exactly what is happening and why.
From the well-told tales of historic horrors such as Operation Northwoods to the immigrant concentration camps on the American border, the 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 UK rumours of rationing, evacuations and mass detentions have swirled around no-deal Brexit, with much of the planning for the October 31st event still being kept under close secrecy despite the release of the Yellowhammer documentation. The government’s willingness to suspend the right to free protest and arrest thousands en masse has been put on perfect display during the recent Extinction Rebellion protests and perhaps the police have used the protests as a convenient dry-run for the potentially much larger Lebanon scale demonstrations to come.
Yet there is no such secrecy in the United States where 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.
Originally 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 and 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 clear 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 major 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” and page 244 stating 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 areas that are divided 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, which have been described as “concentration camps” by those on the left such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have been constructed with very similar physical and psychological echoes of what is described above.
Dolly Lucio Sevier, a private-practice physician was given access to one such facility in McAllen, Texas earlier this year and after examining 39 children discovered that all 39 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, with piecemeal information and exposure to the concepts and images from these kinds of facilities being exposed to the public. 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 and 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 begin to see yet more scenes such as those we have witnessed over recent months in Lebanon, 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.
FM 3-39.40 can be downloaded securely from Public Intelligence’s website.