first_imgSalt Lake City is a religious town. The awe-inspiring Mormon Temple dominates a SLC skyline framed by the majestic Wasatch Mountains. Virtually all of downtown is owned by the church, and everyone is welcome to come and spend their money. The temple, however, is reserved for the devout. The church of Latter Day Saints holds many secrets: sacred temple garments, shadowy rituals, ordinances instituted in the heavens, and so much more. While this stuff doesn’t always make sense, its congregation believes in the righteousness of the faith Joseph Smith cooked up. A subcontractor who worked on the construction of the project told me as we drove by recently that the buildings descend six stories into the earth, making the facility a total of 1-1.5 million square feet. All that square footage to store our personal lives. While it’s shrouded in secrecy, the Intelligence Community Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative Data Center is the government’s looking glass into everyone’s communications and activities. We are animals in the government’s zoo, constantly being watched to make sure we are good little doobies, for our own protection. Uncle Sam has a military larger than the next 10 combined and a national security outfit able to suck in close to five billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the planet. Back in 2006, the NSA’s Special Source Operations group said it could gobble the Library of Congress every 14.4 seconds. More than 92 million documents were classified by the federal government in 2011 alone. The government spends trillions, acts as if it knows everything, and claims it can exterminate any foe, superpowers included. Yet when some guys in Syria driving Toyota trucks mounted with rocket launchers start rolling across the middle of nowhere, we’re told it’s an imminent threat to folks back here in the US. Our betters in Washington say we need all of this in the name of “national security,” which has turned into what Tom Engelhardt calls “a proselytizing warrior religion,” complete with sacred (classified) texts, dogma, and warrior priests. And while the Great Salt Lake was Brigham Young’s promised land for the Mormons, the national security state’s promised land is simply “the homeland.” In Bluffdale they store the data retrieved by our protector. “As with so many religions,” writes Engelhardt in his book Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World, “its god is an eye in the sky, an all-seeing being who knows your secrets.” The national security state even has its own Judas—Edward Snowden, “an apostate, never to be forgiven by those in its holy orders.” So if Snowden is Judas, who is the devil? Al-Qaeda, of course. And like any devil, it changes forms to perpetrate its evil intent. Today it’s ISIS in Syria. Tomorrow the devil could be Russian or Chinese, spreading Ebola or detonating his or her sneakers on an airplane. This is why no expense can be spared. The devil is everywhere and can be anything. The national security state does its preaching not in church, but on the Sunday talk shows. These evangelists “speak bureaucratically, tend to sport military uniforms and medals, and inhabit high-tech government facilities,” as Engelhardt describes. It’s more than ironic that our warrior priests “issue the equivalent of fatwas against those they proclaim to be their enemies,” using “a set of Sharia-like laws, both immutable and flexible.” The Washington security apparatchiks believe their knowledge is God-given, “and that the deepest mysteries and secrets of their religion should be held close indeed.” Manipulating the press, public, and Congress has been standard operating procedure since, well, forever. Think Pearl Harbor or the Gulf of Tonkin incident. Salt Lake’s other religion, Mormonism, is the fastest-growing faith group in American history, according to U.S. News & World Report. The church recently opened 32 new temples across the US; there are now 100 temples internationally. The Christian Broadcasting Network marvels at the Mormons’ “aggressive missionary effort. Last year the church sent out almost 60,000 missionaries to 120 countries, where they won 306,000 converts.” The church of national security is also rallying millions of bodies and billions of dollars. Engelhardt writes that like other successful religions, national security has turned “itself into a lucrative global operation.” But while there are always souls needing saved, in today’s world, “genuine enemies are in remarkably short supply,” says Engelhardt, and still the fearmongering brings in constant funding. After all, there are no peaceniks anymore on either the right or the left. Protest songs are a thing of the past, because everyone has bought into the fear or wants to make a buck. War makes money not just for surveillance contractors and the G4S Risk Managements of the world, but also performers. Back in the day, even a bubblegum band like the Monkees sang anti-war songs. Now Rolling Stone reports: This Veterans Day, Bruce Springsteen, Eminem, Rihanna, Dave Grohl, and Metallica will be among numerous artists who will head to the National Mall in Washington D.C. on November 11 for “The Concert for Valor,” an all-star event that will pay tribute to armed services. Rory Fanning, who did two deployments to Afghanistan with the 2nd Army Ranger Battalion and became a conscientious objector after his second tour, writes, “Concert For Valor? That sounds like something the North Korean government would organize.” Fanning wonders if any songs will be dedicated to Chelsea Manning, John Kiriakou, or Edward Snowden—“two of them languishing in prison and one in exile—for their service to the American people?” Fanning and many veterans are annoyed with constantly being thanked for their service and called heroes. He writes: And what about that term “hero”? Many veterans reject it, and not just out of Gary Cooperesque modesty either. Most veterans who have seen combat, watched babies get torn apart, or their comrades die in their arms, or the most powerful army on Earth spend trillions of dollars fighting some of the poorest people in the world for 13 years feel anything but heroic. Since 9/11 trillions have been spent on two wars—Iraq and Afghanistan—both of which were against enemies that were “lightly armed minority insurgencies,” writes Englehardt. He continues, “(I)f the 21st century has taught us anything, it’s that the most expensive and over-equipped military on the planet can’t win a war.” But if Uncle Sam won, the congregation might stop believing they are in danger. When the plate is passed, there would be no more giving. National security employs thousands who keep us safe because the rest of the world hates us for our freedom. Our around-the-clock, monitored-by-government, taxed and regulated freedom. Amen. The Mormons now have competition in Salt Lake. In the suburb of Bluffdale, a new temple has been erected. It’s as stark as the LDS temple is ornate, resembling a warehouse distribution center tucked into a rocky hillside, across the road from what was once a dormant Army base, Camp Williams. It’s now bustling.last_img