Friday, August 24, 2012

Hedges: From "The War in the Shadows"

By Chris Hedges. from, August 20, 2012
The CIA has become a huge private army, as Chalmers Johnson pointed out in his book “Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic,” that is “unaccountable to the Congress, the press or the public because everything it does is secret.” C. Wright Mills called the condition “military metaphysics”—“the cast of mind that defines international reality as basically military.”
Since the attacks of 9/11, the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM)—which includes the Green Berets, the Army Rangers and the Navy SEALs—has seen its budget quadrupled. There are now some 60,000 USSOCOM operatives, whom the president can dispatch to kill without seeking congressional approval or informing the public. Add to this the growth of intelligence operatives. As Dana Priest and William M. Arkin reported in The Washington Post, “Twenty-four [new intelligence] organizations were created by the end of 2001, including the Office of Homeland Security and the Foreign Terrorist Asset Tracking Task Force. In 2002, 37 more were created to track weapons of mass destruction, collect threat tips, and coordinate the new focus on counterterrorism. That was followed the next year by 36 new organizations; and 26 after that; and 31 more; and 32 more; and 20 or more each in 2007, 2008, and 2009. In all, at least 263 organizations have been created or reorganized as a response to 9/11.”
There are now many thousands of clandestine operatives, nearly all of them armed and equipped with a license to kidnap, torture and kill, working overseas or domestically with little or no oversight and virtually no transparency. We have created a state within a state. A staggering 40 percent of the defense budget is secret, as is the budget of every intelligence agency. I tasted enough of this subterranean world to fear it. When you empower these kinds of people you snuff out the rule of law. You empower criminals and assassins. One of these old CIA operatives, Felix Rodríguez, was in El Salvador when I was there during the war in the early 1980s. He wore Che Guevara’s Rolex watch. He had removed it from Guevara’s body after ordering Guevara to be executed in the Bolivian jungle. I would later run into clandestine operatives in the Middle East, Africa or Yugoslavia I knew from the wars in Central America. We would invariably chat briefly in Spanish. It was a strange fraternity, even if I was the outsider. The Great Game.
These black forces have created as much havoc, or blowback, in the Middle East as they did in Latin America. And by the time they are done there will be so many jihadists willing to blow themselves up to vanquish America, the Islamic radicals will be running out of explosives. These clandestine operatives peddle a self-fulfilling prophecy. They foment the very instability that allows them to continue to proliferate like cockroaches. The dozens of CIA kidnappings—“extraordinary renditions”—of radical Islamists in the late 1990s, especially from the Balkans, many shipped to countries such as Egypt where they were tortured and murdered by our allies, was the fuse that lit the al-Qaida bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and the attacks on the Navy destroyer Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden on Oct. 12, 2000. Militant Islamists had publicly vowed reprisals for these renditions.
Privatizing the military, as Bush did in Iraq, serves at least two nefarious purposes:
  • It eliminates the need to "report" to Congress, and thereby to be accountable
  • It provides an unfair and capitalistic model against which to ridicule the official military
And that does not address the budget implications of privatizing military operations. If Hedges is right, that approxiamtely 40% of the Pentagon budget and every other security agency is "secret," then who knows what actions are being taken on behalf of the nation, and thereby eradicating any pretense of accountability to the public whose taxes are funding those actions.
Is there a "behind the curtain" set of operations and personnel that has been created in order to provide the kind of "national security" that would permit Americans to "sleep" well every night? And if there is, just how extensive is their operation? In what corners of the globe are they operating and to what effect?
Is Hedges correct that Americans have created a "state within a state"?
And if that is factually correct, then who votes for the "interior state" within the public one?
Has democracy become the victim of the workings of the interior "national security network"?
And if there is any truth to Hedges contentions, then it is long past time when these facts, figures and narratives are made public, not only by Hedges but also by the responsible media, starting with the New York Times and the Washington Post.
Public relations, the game of politics and politicians, is, as we all know, the conventional approach to "power" in the democratic sense. And we also know that "s/he who plays that game most effectively wins."
And public relations is like make-up, in that it seeks to make the face look much prettier than it actually is. The good stories are front and centre, while the warts, and the zits and the deformities are  minimized and if possible covered up.
If a nation's culture is dedicated to the entertainment industry's archetypes in both character and method, such a nation is well placed to develop a parallel force of operatives "under the radar" yet still with public monies.
And therein lies the betrayal of the democratic ideal.
It would seem that there are a myriad of questions that need to be asked in an even larger number of board rooms, by another army of investigative reporters whose words can help to shed some light on these many shadows.

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