Saturday, September 25, 2010

Nacht und Nebel

I have up to this point refrained from posting anything much regarding the "secret sacred wars" that the Bush, and now, the Obama Administrations have been conducting as part of their "Global War on Terror".

Partly because I don't really see what more needs to be said; lots of people in the blogosphere as well as conventional media have hammered away on this pernicious combination of secrecy, executive power, and "war" that go a long way to realizing Judge Jeffries' and the Court of Star Chamber ideal of guilt and execution without the bother and tedium of trial.

And partly, frankly, because of the very secrecy of the damn thing. At least with the conventional wars we're fighting in central Asia and elsewhere We the People have some vague notion of the purpose (at least the stated purpose), means, methods, approximate progress, and costs. With this stuff...who the hell knows? Which is obviously the point, since we can't get upset about the foolish waste of time, money, and human lives of some nonsensical secret program if we don't know enough about it to know whether it IS a waste of time, money, and lives.

But the Obama "Justice" Department's latest step is just too ridiculous to pass.
"The Obama administration urged a federal judge early Saturday to dismiss a lawsuit over its targeting of a U.S. citizen for killing overseas, saying that the case would reveal state secrets."
So what the Obama DoJ is saying, in effect, is:

1. We get to decide if you are a "threat" without showing you or anyone else the evidence and your U.S. citizenship is no defense, i.e. you have no due process of law with regard to the charge.
2. We get to decide what to do about that, up to and including assassinating you. Again, we need not show any evidence of why you need to die, so you have no recourse there, either.
3. And if you or your proxies have the temerity to challenge us in court, we will simply refuse to meet you there, citing State Secrets.

Three strikes, you''re out.Or dead, as the case may be.

This is insane.

The Constitution expressly forbids the U.S. government to take life or liberty "without due process of law" and this is supposed to be a government of laws, not of men.

Why, why, WHY are we not rioting in the streets about this?

If this is not tyranny, what is it then?


  1. I assume there's no riot because the only opposing party would do the same?

    You need to get a multi-party system, and reshuffle gubernatorial and legislative powers.

  2. Oh it's tyranny alright, but it's not tyranny of the majority rather than tyranny of apathy.
    People, and by people I mean Democrats (who still somewhat have their heads in their hands, and Republicans (who tossed their heads off the wagon as it weighed to much to hang on to it.)
    They all are in on the great dismemberment.
    I have said, and will continue to say this...we currently live in a Plutocracy...and the difference between the two parties is that one wants to rule us all, and the other wants us to want them to rule us all.
    We have passed over the event horizon of Fascism, and we are inexorably caught in the maelstrom of what will be an epic defenestration of what made this country...well...what we used to be...of course, as I think about our history I think I may be wearing rose colored glasses too.
    perhaps knowing to much hamstrings the thought processes.

    We're screwed up nation to begin with...and though our f*ckeduppedness is pretty sad to begin turning into a fascist nation isn't the best direction we've gone in...nor will the end result be pretty either.
    And of course, if due process is tossed for one American citizen because he's been labeled a threat, then what hope do any of us have?

    Where will the line be drawn that emphatically states that "XYZ" is our current definition of what we consider a threat to the nation, and not the arbitrary "today it's X, tomorrow it may be Y, it will always be Z, and next week it could be A."
    Where does it end?

    What makes me sad is that this is not new, nor is it's been done, unsuccessfully for eons, and still we rinse and repeat the same tired process.

    We're so human.

  3. Sven: I think there's no riot because:

    1. Our "citizenry" has been effectively converted into passive subjects through a decades-long convergence of public indifference and elite propaganda, and

    2. The past decade has seen an intense lobbying effort from both government agents and domestic power mavens/national greatness conservatives to frame this as a "national defense" issue.

    So lots and lots of American citizens don't see this as the camel's nose under the tent, and don't see that surrendering this sort of power to governments is extremely easy to do and impossibly difficult to walk back. The tendency will always be for governments to try and push this sort of power further. And the continuity between the Bush and Obama regimes just emphasizes that this isn't a partisan issue - regardless of who is in power, if the party in power has this ability it will use it.

    And I would also opine that it emphasizes how much this shows the gulf between the Joe and Molly citizen, who gains nothing (and, in fact, has their lives and liberties to lose) from giving their government this power, and the assembled political/economic/social class that DOES gain from this. Merely rearranging the structures of government will not change things unless the citizenry can become engaged enough to act in their own interests, and currently the U.S. public does not show any indication of this.

    Sheerah: I don't think we're over the falls yet, but I think the lack of general outrage over this is a very bad indicator. As you point out, there is no structural defense against our government using this again, and the fact that We the People don't seems to be worried about that is, to me, a very troublesome precedent.

    I think the difference here is that historically there needs to be some sort of overt push from a leader who wants oligarchic power to push a society into true monopolistic rule. I think the progress here towards oligarchy is more through a series of spastic moves driven by fear, stupidity, and greed.

    What I worry about - as was my trope in that post about the "Land of the Free Because of the Brave" - is that the U.S. public has for a long time been conditioned to be passive, receptive of simpleminded solutions, respectful to the point of deference and subjugation to authority, and disconnected from policymaking.

    So, if someone or someones ever DO come along who can and want to push us towards that oligarchy we've greased the slide pretty damn well for them.

    "Change", indeed.

  4. Chief,
    Why not add the use of agents provacatuer to your list of illegalities.?
    Let's also add entrapment.
    What about sting operations bordering on entrapment.?
    Why not look at keeping sex offenders in prison BEYOND their sentence BECAUSE they might do it again.
    Then there's gitmo.
    We have entered a mindset that is reminisent of Germany in the late 30's. It's successive approximations-first the undesireables and then????
    If we fail to question the open ended actions of the govt when it comes to reprihensibles , then it's just a short stroll down memory lane which is also a concentration camp.

  5. FDChief: I think the progress here towards oligarchy is more through a series of spastic moves driven by fear, stupidity, and greed.

    Fear is an amazingly powerful motivator. It's the old "flee or fight" decision, and all too many folks don't want to fight. So what's left? Let someone else do the fighting (which, for all intents and purposes is fleeing) or actually flee. To me, that's the basic situation, and all the discussion in the world ain't gonna change it until this behavior results in outcomes catastrophic enough to make people in large numbers reassess their decisions.

    In short, WASF.

  6. Brilliantly put...I had to link it on my blog. I wish I had an answer....I don't know why we aren't ALL rioting after this many years of tyranny in sheep's clothing.

  7. I linked over here from Constitutional Insurgent's blog.
    Glad I did. I will return.
    Glenn Greenwald has a good article about this that I posted earlier.

    They have perfected ways to keep these crimes under the radar.
    No one seems to be listening, or cares.
    If one speaks out about this we are called the Professional left,anti-American, the fringe left, or even cowards.
    Even political dissent is no longer allowed.
    The W/O wars have brought our own kind of tyranny to our own shores.
    We did not need a foreign state to bring it.
    We brought it upon ourselves.
    The American sheeple have chosen security over liberty.
    Silence in freedoms greatest threat.

  8. No one seems to be listening, or cares.

    That's part of it. It's easy to be complacent when something isn't a clear and present danger. With a society that is immersed in, and addicted to vicarious experience, what is "reality"?

    As noted before, we are dealing with people who really think that the federal government has nothing to do with their Medicare. To quote one of my most brilliant subordinates, "It's all PFM (Pure F--ing Magic)". Somewhere, Mandrake waves his wand and that's all it takes. All too many folks haven't a clue as to what's involved in delivering their basics of life to them.

  9. Chief,

    I will try to take something of a counter argument, as hard as that may be, with three questions/comments:

    1. Is this really all that new? Haven't we been doing this (extrajudicial killings) since the birth of our foreign (and domestic) policies? I ask this not as a justification, but as a possible reason we don't see "riots in the streets", because we only riot when something impacts us, not the other guy.

    2. From the politicians' perspective, they are given intelligence stating that bad people intend to due harm (perhaps 9/11 times 1,000). You are told there are people plotting to do something nefarious, and there is no possible way to arrest/detain these individuals due to their remote location in lawless lands, what do you do? You do the only thing you can, you order an airstrike. If you do nothing, and an attack occurs, you are fried politically.

    Therefore it becomes and argument of risk. Risk of the consequences of conducting an extrajudicial killing (there are none) vs. the risk of losing American lives on your watch (as well as your job). Law or no law, it becomes a decision based on risk. What would you do?

    3. Right or wrong, that is how we justify it. Sadly, it has become a cultural thing. I live in this culture. I see it ever day, as I am among those who receive these orders. When you give it to the military, it becomes a military problem. How do you change that culture? Again, I fall back on you can't just make it a Law enforcement problem because the law does not reach into Somalia, or the FATA, or other lawless lands of the world. How do you change the culture?

  10. bg:
    RE: ' How do you change the culture?'
    We obey the law.
    With out the rule of law, we have nothing.

  11. To tag on to BG's points, I'll add two more:

    First, we live in a different culture. Before the mass media the only method to protest was to get out in public and march or protest. When mass media came along, public protest stayed powerful because even a minor protest would be reported and "make the news." In today's very diverse media environment you don't need to protest at all to make an impact - you can write a blog post or put it on Facebook or any other number of methods. IOW, just because people aren't on the streets over a particular issue doesn't mean nothing is happening. In that sense, there are a lot of people "in the street" including yourself.

    Secondly, it seems we've been here before - many times in fact - over the course of this nation. I've probably missed some history, but I don't recall people taking to the streets everytime the government exceeded it's authority. There's usually been a pattern where the executive, citing whatever cause, takes extra authority upon itself. Over time as clearer heads prevail, as the crisis abates and as the counterbalances in the system (which are slow) work, those excesses are rolled back. That pattern is quite common in our history.

    I also think people, in general, trust that system to work things out. We've seen that camel's nose peek under the tent many times yet somehow we've managed to keep the camel out of the tent for all these years. Though there's no guarantee that trend will continue, it doesn't strike me as unreasonable to suggest it will.

    In this particular case, legal remedies have not been exhausted. Things are still playing out. The system takes time to work. The sky hasn't fallen yet. None of that means, of course, that people of conscious should stand by and do nothing and by all accounts, many people aren't, including yourself.

  12. BG,

    On your point number three, that is a problem. For all the problems and deficits in our military I have to say it looks much worse in other areas of government. After almost a decade in Afghanistan it's the military that's still doing almost everything. How many times have I heard calls for reforming the "interagency" or for a "civilian surge" or "development" or "experts" or whatever buzzword du-jour, in the time since preparing for my first Afghan deployment six years ago? Endless times it seems. Never seems to happen and at this point, I don't think it ever will. As far as I can tell, we still don't even have unity-of-command in Afghanistan. Where does the buck stop? Petraeus? Holbrooke? Eikenberry? None of them.

  13. BG,
    I accept your challenge.

    1)Is this really all that new? Haven't we been doing this (extrajudicial killings) since the birth of our foreign (and domestic) policies?

    Actually, in latter part of our history, i.e. we, as in the non-political we, had a way of handling extrajudicial, killing, which was called vigilantism. However, when it came to official killing it was against foreign agents/non-American's.
    The extraneous caveat being that Americans have the right of habeus corpus, facing one's accusers, innocent till proven guilty, etc, etc, etc.
    That is now all tabled with Mr. Obama's short the current determinant for assassination is "we can't get him because we're fat, indolent, and lazy." I'm sorry, that would be incorrect, our current determinant is probably a cover for if one of our Predators were to get lucky and off the SOB we don't have a huge ass constitutional hang-wringing like we did when that one American got greased by said Predator in Yemen and there was a question of legality, and of course legal responsibility of inadvertent killing of an American. Still, the fact that this may very well be hte current determinant who is to say what the future determinant may be?
    In short, we have laws, and if we have the evidence to rationalize and justify an assassination, then we have the evidence to bring the SOB to trial. We have done the extrajudicial international habeus grabbus in the past...much to Italy's ire, so we can do it again.
    We're just being unf*ckingbelievably lazy...but that's just my opinion.

    2) "You are told there are people plotting to do something nefarious, and there is no possible way to arrest/detain these individuals due to their remote location in lawless lands, what do you do?"

    Seriously, BG, only in Hollywood does such false dilemmas exist.
    If we have the intel that says "baddies are planning nasties" then we have them in the planning stage, and all sorts of spoilers can be brought to bear.
    In short, I call bullshit on the above scenario.

    If, however, we have intel that says "baddies inbound with nasties" then it becomes a spoiler raid, and much like police converging on people in the act of committing a crime, so to can we act with force to stop a crime being committed.
    It's really that simple...and seriously, that's amazing what legal loop holes open up when Probable Cause comes into the play.

    3)Again, I fall back on you can't just make it a Law enforcement problem because the law does not reach into Somalia, or the FATA, or other lawless lands of the world. How do you change the culture?


    I am NOT the only one who remembers the terrorist groups of the 70's am I?

    Think and remember how all those groups were dealt with...the ones who were treated like criminals...and thus through the criminal justice system...ARE NO LONGER AROUND.

    And the ones who were treated like "state actors"...yep...they're still around.

    You see, I agree, when we hand off a problem to the Military, they, the Military, are going to handle it like a military problem...and that leads to fail.

    that's it...our Military, as wonderful a machine of destruction that has ever been assembled is completely and utterly useless for thinking outside the box...because for the military, all problems handed to the military become military problems...and our current problem...Al Qaeda is a criminal problem, not a military one, and hence, we have seven plus years of fail in our attempts to derail AQ.

    If only we had treated it like a criminal'd be over by now...but nope...we're stuck hugging this tar baby, and no about of turpentine is going to separate us.

    I know you're playing DA here, BG, but I've had to deal with this with friends who are...for the life of me I'll never understand why, but are Republican/Tea-Partier-curious.

  14. Hi all-

    Nice discussion. Glad to see bg posting again.

    Two points I would make. First, the title of the thread is a direct result of what I call the "stalking horse" argument (if you can get the people to accept torture as state policy, they'll accept all the other trappings of a police state -"to keep us safe" - and not even realize what they are doing) and what Jacques Ellul called "total propaganda" or simply what makes up our national mythology, the "filters" that keep us from questioning certain assumptions.

    Second, 2000 was the watershed as I have argued in the past. Consider for instance 9/11 "conspiracy theories". Oh, how often that term is bandied about! But wait, the problem is that the main "conspiracy theory" was that spread by the Bush regime implying that Saddam was linked to the attacks. To that we can add the official rumors of Iraqi involvement in the Anthrax attacks as well. It should also be recalled that this derogatory definition was coined by a Clinton administration official regarding all the fanciful tales spread about horn dog by the high GOP, among others.

    Given their trackrecord since 2000 why should any official US government version of such events have any credibility at all? Return to the "filters" mentioned above . . .

  15. BG: In your order:

    1. No. Whilst our intelligence services have been performing various acts of skulduggery overseas, the issue of a public order to murder an American citizen without indictment, trial, or conviction in absentia is, so far as I know, sui generis.

    2. As seydlitz points out, these "ticking bomb" scenerios have been used far too often, and have turned out to be utter bullshit far too often - remember how Saddam's smoking gun was gonna become a mushroom cloud? - for me to trust the DoJ now. Jack Bauer has a lot to answer for.

    You want to slot this guy? Sorry, you gotta show up in court and prove to me how he is both a clear and present danger, how you cannot extradite him, and how what he has done violates a statute that demands the death penalty.

    To answer Andy, the difference I see here is:

    1. How very openly illegal this is. This isn't some vague Mossadegh or Diem coup, not some farcical Castro assassination. This is pretty clearcut; U.S. citizen, assassination order. In this case the guy is pretty clearly an open enemy of his country, citizen or no. But we all know how easy it is to make someone into an "enemy" - ask that poor bastard security guard at the Atlanta Olympics, the Chinese-American scientist as Los Alamos, or pretty much any enemy-of-the-state-de-jour.

    2. The opposition is coming nearly entirely from the usual suspects. I'd argue that you could quiz 100 people on the street an 98 of them would know nothing about this. Could you have said the same about the Alien and Sedition Acts? Or Executive Order 9066? The nation fought the first and applauded the second, but at least there was a broad knowledge and understanding of what was at stake.

    Here, the response seems to be a vast yawn. That seems to me to be a risky thing, and a very encouraging sign for those who treasure "security" over liberty.

  16. And let me restate my opposition to all this assassination, secret or otherwise. The problems I see with it are:

    1. Life is almost never as simple as it looks, and "bad guys" are seldom as clearcut as the Idi Amins, Pol Pots, and Hitlers.

    2. The other real problem here is that you you never either understand of control the blowback.

    3. And BG's reminder - that we have done this previously, in secret, is a reminder that the Founders intended public business to be done in public for reasons of democracy, but there are good functional reasons as well. One of the biggest failures of the Bush 2 Administration, I think, was its obsession with secrecy led to many decisions being made by small groups with very insular worldviews. Groupthink, bad intel, and poor analysis combined to produce some spectacularly boneheaded foreign policy decisions.

    One of the reasons I voted for Obama was the hope that he seemed to understnad and reject this approach. Now it appears he has not, and I'm starting to wonder if this is becoming not a bug in the U.S. government but a feature...

  17. You may find my new post somewhat related:

  18. BG,
    Regardless of your reasons there is a major flaw in your thinking.
    Indeed T is a legal issue and is not a military issue until we made it so. In the old days T would be dealt with as a LIC issue and would be seen as a spectrum of war issue- but it is not warfare.Sorry giving CIB's does not make it warfare.
    Anyway , my point is that the military and civilian leadership have fuzzied the logic to a point that we no longer prioritize levels of threat, nor do we ever talk about the near or far threats.
    Who gives a fuck about Somalia etc .. and all the other danger spots that have he population shivering with fear.The threat posed by the Talib to Afgh is not the threat that the US Army need address.Afgh is not the Homeland. That's a disconnect.
    Deal with the threat when it becomes a real exportable entity, not in a desert while they are wearing shower shoes and unable to even roam our Homeland. My god man these are WOGs and a far threat-what don't you or our leaders not get when doing this evaluation/ threat analysis? Are we so desperate for a credible enemy that any ass hole will fill the bill??
    Do SF officers no longer think b/f they engage their mouths? Or is everything just phony words and concepts that don't get it?
    You can kill every mother fucker carrying an AK in Somalia/AFGH/PAK and all you've accomplished is a bunch of killing with no military objective.Nothing will justify this goat screw mess.
    Your logic is disconnected from reality and is unjustifiable. Are we not in this mess to protect the Homeland or are you a Afgh defense force?
    All my comments are made thinking that you may be playing DA.
    I sure do hope so.

  19. Sheerahkhan,
    Using the 70s/80s groups as a template is not adequate. They do not equate to the groups that we face today.
    Usually the groups that you mention were indig threats and were easily id'd and nuetralised. Also they had limits to the violence that they would employ.
    Even the pflp/plo after Maalot would not target women and kids in schools. The groups accepted limits and acted with some discretion. Violence had a purpose that could be understood, and this is no longer the case.
    But my point is that we screwed the pooch when we by pass a host nation and assume a military response to their internal problems.
    The host nation must address the threat, but how can this happen when the areas are not properly governed.?
    It's a big circle jerk that brings us back to threat analysis and proper threat assessment with a proportional adequate legal response.
    IMO you are trying to say that liberal values cannot be subverted to address the issue of T.

  20. Chief,

    The three point you make in your 6:57 comment are all well made and I agree with them. On your earlier points:

    [i]1. How very openly illegal this is. This isn't some vague Mossadegh or Diem coup, not some farcical Castro assassination. This is pretty clearcut; U.S. citizen, assassination order.[/i]

    I would say the historical examples are equally clearcut. Their veneer of legality was just as paper-thin then as the veneer of legality over killing US citizen abroad.

    2. The opposition is coming nearly entirely from the usual suspects. I'd argue that you could quiz 100 people on the street an 98 of them would know nothing about this. Could you have said the same about the Alien and Sedition Acts? Or Executive Order 9066?

    Of course both those were domestic cases that directly affected thousands of people living in the US. It's not surprising the public would be more aware of the issue in those cases than this case where no one is impacted domestically. That's just human nature IMO.

    Regardless, the system is going through the motions. We'll see if the courts and/or Congress roll back this executive power grab.

    In short I think we agree on the substance of the issue but IMO it is too early to determine whether this portends anything of long-term significance to our country.


    Seriously, BG, only in Hollywood does such false dilemmas exist.
    If we have the intel that says "baddies are planning nasties" then we have them in the planning stage, and all sorts of spoilers can be brought to bear.
    In short, I call bullshit on the above scenario.

    Well, that's pretty much the situation that President Clinton faced in the 1990's. The LE approach, by itself, didn't work out too well. Looking back, his administration was probably overly-cautious, but their dual-track strategy of diplomacy with the Taliban while planning for other options was unreasonable given the context. However, that approach ultimately failed. Given that failure, I don't think it's politically possible to simply return to that status quo ante. On the other hand, I don't think our present course is either wise or sustainable and the legal basis (the AUMF's) are growing more questionable. It seems to me we need a more holistic solution.

  21. That should be "wasn't unreasonable" in my last paragraph. WTB comment editing.

  22. BTW,

    I think you guys may be interested in this short essay over at SWJ (PDF file). It's pretty good IMO.

  23. Andy-

    I find the article pretty weak. How is Moreno going to understand the war if he ignores the policy which in fact led us to this point in time.

    "The Taliban lost control of the government"? That's how he describes the decision by Bush to overthrow and replace the Taliban government? Nothing as to the extensive nature of the new war aims . . . the need to establish a new government in Kabul. Oh, and the "brilliant" Bush bait and switch, suckering the US's NATO allies into committing to Afghanistan, as Bush shifted US forces to hit Iraq . . . if you ask me it is this history which tells us the whole sad, sordid, yet obvious story . . . a whole sequence of missed strategic opportunities leading to operational stalemate. And it's not going to get any better.

    We keep the war going without a decision through our tactical and operational presence, but to what achievable end?

  24. I guess I don't understand what you're objecting to. Your comment that the "whole sad, sordid, yet obvious story . . . a whole sequence of missed strategic opportunities leading to operational stalemate" is, I think, the point of the essay. He says as much in one of the concluding paragraphs:

    "Pursuing national security phantoms in Iraq and Afghanistan, getting involved in never-
    ending conflicts, exhausting the patience and goodwill of allies, wearing thin military resources and even thinner economic ones, can only be detrimental to American national security."

  25. Glad I could stir the pot once again. Appreciate the comments by all, wish I had more time. A few points:


    "Seriously, BG, only in Hollywood does such false dilemmas exist."

    Seriously. That is how these people think. I don't make this stuff up, these scenarios are exactly what these people talk about. I am just calling it as I see it, not trying to make up BS arguments for the sake of argument. Somehow you have to convince scared people of the laws of probability and of unintended consequences.

    "If only we had treated it like a criminal'd be over by now...but nope..."

    In my short time dealing with this nonsense, and a brief study of history, I have learned a few things. One of them is when you use a hammer, sometimes you don't get the desired effect. Instead of hammering a nail that is sticking out, you shatter it into a hundred pieces. Now you no longer have the effects of the nail (holding something together) and your mess is worse than the previous situation (a stubborn nail sticking out that cut your foot). We saw this with "Killing Pablo", when the streets of Medellin exploded when the king was dead, I personally saw this with the removal of Saddam, and we've seen it with the attacking of AQ as the AQ ideas went viral and franchised.

    Sometimes slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.

  26. jim,

    "Do SF officers no longer think b/f they engage their mouths? Or is everything just phony words and concepts that don't get it?"

    Sad, but yes. I work for SF officers, I have for many years now. You know the direction SF has gone, and that is "stacking up bodies like cordwood". It is about how many scalps you got, it don't matter whose or why. It is the thrill of the hunt.

    To all IRT hunting an American citizen "dead or alive." Yep. I don't get it either. Ain't no change, I thought there would be, but things are actually more "loose" than ever. There was a strike in Somalia about a year ago, some may have noticed, most didn't. It went well, really well. And nobody cared that some unheard of Somali of Kenyan descent (and colleague of many American Jihadists in Somalia) met a brutal end on some dirty road in the desert. Fact is, Americans don't care what we do as long as they feel it is for "the greater good." Does anyone here truly believe that average American considers the rule of law as the "Greater good?"

  27. The other thing about all this secret killing is that;

    1) it greases a very slippery slope. We are not at war, or even formally cooperating with the governments of Pakistan or Somalia (would that there WAS an actual government there...) on FID. But we are conducting acts of war on their sovereign territory.

    Can you imagine the shitstorm that would have blown up had we, say, sent a bomb wing over Mikkeli in 1943 to kill Mannerheim? Despite the fact that we were at war with his notional ally Germany? Despite the fact that he was a genuine warlord, with actual armies and air forces at his command? Despite the fact that he was leading a war against our ally The Soviet Union?

    We never sent an airstrike out to get Hirohito - in fact, we went to great lengths to avoid bombing the imperial palace. And this was in a war where we firebombed fucking Tokyo to burn out the Jap vermin!

    Or can you imagine OUR outrage if a Nicaraguan drone blew up the townhouse where Ollie North was staying? Or how about a Sons-of-Iraq bombing of the hotel where Dick Cheney was putting up? These two men are directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of Nicaraguans or Iraqis; I can't imagine a more legitimate pair of targets for their assassination squads. But how well do you think that would play here, or in the international papers?

    2. So legality aside, this stuff is worse than a crime - it is a mistake. It is a total PSYOP fail, making us look cowardly and weak. And stupid, when we miss. And brutal, when we kill women and kiddies along with the "bad guy".

    3. It is also ridiculously expensive, costing a pantsload of cash and the time and effort of professional soldiers to wax some amateur goomba who may or may not have thought about lobbing a grenade at some GIs.

  28. Ah, Chief gets to the heart of the matter.

    A pantsload of cash and something to keep professional soldiers busy.

    It really is a self-licking ice cream cone and is swallowing the Union.

  29. Andy-

    My problem is with his point of departure. Such radical policies are programmed for failure, especially given the lack of focus/resources/concepts at the strategic level from 2001-2008 in this specific case. Instead Moreno ignores the political aspect completely, at least in my reading.

    That would be the most important lesson we should take from this sorry charade.


    Only non-state actors commit "terrorism", that is the official definition we go by.

  30. World War II? How about another analogy? Soviet Union during the Cold War . . .

    The Soviet Union DID have the capability to smuggle in say five suitcase nukes into the US and detonate them in five different US cities. It would have caused massive damage and confusion. In addition they HAD numerous active spies who provided them with very accurate and useful information. The Walker family especially offered them the key to whiping out the SLBM arm of our strategic triad.

    Given the actual level of the potential threat, how did we respond? Did we target the Soviet leadership? Seize their assets abroad? Execute any of their spies without trail?

    No. Because the actual nature of the threat did not call for that, such actions would have been seen as absurd, actually playing into the hands of Soviet propaganda . . .

    So why do we act this way with "Al Qaida"? Same reason, the actual nature of the threat, which is seen as mostly hype, as cover for something else. If Al Qaida were the actual global threat as portrayed, our actions would have been quite different . . . going into Iraq because 9/11 provided an excuse? No way.

    Current US policies in regards to what we are talking about reflect not outside threats imo, but rather possible public reaction to US foreign policies . . .

  31. I've been following the discussion with great interest and finally have a comment that somebody else hasn't already made.

    So what can/should the members of the Milpub do about this? Personally I'm thinking about ducking and waiting for 20 years or so. It isn't very responsible but I simply can't think of another constructive thing to do.

    Here's a link to an article about FBI raids on the homes of anti-war protesters looking for evidence tying them to terrorists. It looks to me more like their goal is harassment rather than evidence. Considering how ineffective the anti-war movement has been, it is a major statement about the paranoia of the government that they feel the need to bother doing this. Maybe it was suggested by a bored junior field officer looking to score some brownie points.

    The government is not only on the slippery slope, it is getting close to the bottom (which is much more slippery than the top was). I think that moment of no return will come when:
    a) A car crossing the US-Canadian border is hit by a Hellfire missile fired by a drone
    b) We discover that the people in the car had wandered across by accident and were innocent
    c) The government successfully argues in court that its actions were legal and gets permission to continue firing missiles at vehicles inside the US

  32. "So why do we act this way with "Al Qaida"? Same reason, the actual nature of the threat, which is seen as mostly hype, as cover for something else. If Al Qaida were the actual global threat as portrayed, our actions would have been quite different . . . going into Iraq because 9/11 provided an excuse? No way.

    Current US policies in regards to what we are talking about reflect not outside threats imo, but rather possible public reaction to US foreign policies . . .

    And so we come to that moment, Seydlitz, where we must stare at the wreckage we have wrought on both the world and our society and ask ourselves, "what is the purpose of the unseen given the actions that are open to all to view?"
    I say, this is a calculated redirection towards a totalitarian state with the rich and wealthy deeply entrenched as influential guidons that will inevitably lead to a dictatorship.
    Since you have cautioned me on the use of Nazi Germany, I then point to Julius Ceasar...but with less panache, and more menace.

    I say we have crossed the event horizon, and the hand must be played out now...there is no going back, and there is nothing we can do Pluto, to stop it.
    We are caught in the cyclone, and it must burn itself out.
    Whether that takes a year, a decade, or a century I have no idea...however, as noted with the aforementioned examples...the Nazi's lasted little more than a decade, and Julius Ceasar...what...less than five years?

    We are stuck...and all we have to arm ourselves with is knowledge, rhetoric, wisdom, and moral outrage...that, my friends, is a pretty useless arsenal to affect change on a society hell-bent for a "Strong Leader."

  33. bg wrote: Does anyone here truly believe that average American considers the rule of law as the "Greater good?"

    More importantly, what is the general notion of the "Greater Good" in America? When thinking about that question, my mind goes back to the writings of Canadian historian Pierre Burton, who compared the founding documents of the US and Canada. For Canada, government exists to ensure "peace, order and good governance". For the US, government exists to ensure the inalienable individual rights of "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". In Canada, the collective well being trumps individual desires. In the US, the underlying concept is that the individual trumps all. How do you define a "Greater Good" in egocentric terms? Even our Constitution, as amended, speaks more of "Rights" than "Responsibility".

    So, why would the average American care if the "Rights" of someone else are abridged when it brings no responsibility home to him or her? As long as their individual "Rights" remain intact, who cares? As long as a policy poses no clear and present danger to Joe Sixpack or Wally WallStreet, it's a non-issue.

    We may claim to be a nation of laws, but for the typical person seeking "Life, Liberty and Happiness" only those laws that limit their personal pursuit of same are of concern. Until we accept that we all are responsible for the rights of others, which in itself means that individual rights are thereby inherently limited, we'll continue to see the abuses and aberrations we rail against here.

  34. Al: I would argue that this doesn't require a huge realignment of American brain housing groups. This is one of those simple connect-the-dots "First they came for the Jews..." sort of thing.

    I was thinking of this today while reading Glenn Greenwald going all freaky about the Obama DoJ's request for decryption tech for stuff like Facebook, e-mail, and text messages (

    I think the Greenwald post is a good example that a big part of the problem is that there's just so MUCH of this going on and it's very difficult to figure out if there are tigers in the woods or if that is just the shadow of a pussycat blown up by bad lighting and moving foliage.

    To me the bottom line is that there are some very reasonable acts we can and should take to prevent or apprehend people doing stuff that is hazardous to our health. Cops having the ability to listen in to conversations is a good thing, just like using stoolies and other forms of intel gathering is a good thing.

    And, with overseas enemies, sometimes a little toxin in the night can be a good thing, too.

    The crucial part here is oversight. BG's comments suggest that there are WAY too many folks - good people, smart people, otherwise-honorable-people - who have gotten it into their heads that this sort of snooping and killing is something that just "happens", and that if they are the ones who just make it happen, so much the better.

    I'm not worked up about the feds spying on Blackberries. I'm not even all that worked up about feds putting a round in someone's ten ring. There is some truth to the saying that we citizens sleep peacefully because hard men stand ready to do dirty deeds for us.

    But the ability of those deeds to run wild, to lead to things like tyranny, coups, stupid foreign policy - that's a problem. We need to have as many people as practical involved, to provide as many good ideas and good input as possible. And we need to make sure those people work from the starting point that the only real existential threat from all this islamic to-ing and fro-ing comes from within, from ourselves. Osama can't do to us in his wildest jihadi fantasies the damage we can do to ourselves by forgetting that the worst kind of tyranny, the deadliest because it is the hardest to argue against, is done by brave, smart, well-intentioned people who "just want to get the right things done".

    Dick Cheney and Reinheard Heydrich were freaks, aberrations. The greatest danger to life and liberty isn't the sneering villian but the earnest, decent man who just can't see how going just the teensy bit further in order to catch the villian could ever, ever, be a problem.

  35. Chief,

    Oversight is a critical issue. I don't have much of a window into it, but I tend to think it is more lax than it ought to be. Of course, my direct experience, limited though it is, reflects well on oversight. Two of the units I've been in supported domestic disaster operations, the biggest one being Katrina. As an intel person, I wasn't overly restricted, but there were definitely people looking over my shoulder and a set of rules I had to follow as I supported the effort. I tend to think, however, that oversight is probably more lax overseas. Maybe BG has something to say about that.

  36. sheer-

    "I say, this is a calculated redirection towards a totalitarian state with the rich and wealthy deeply entrenched as influential guidons that will inevitably lead to a dictatorship."

    That is how I read it. We see the current "insurrection" of the Tea Party movement actually being easily manipulated to support the status quo. They simply are unable to get beyond their own self-serving assumptions.

    As to Pluto's question as to what to do, I think we are doing it. How did the Refuseniks deal with the USSR? The "anti-socials" in the ole GDR? Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia? They simply refused to live by the lies they were told. They acted as if the lies did not matter and they oriented their actions towards the truth as they saw it. They sought out the like-minded and formed unofficial groups. And they didn't attempt to hide what they thought. Active resistance was not an option, was seen by them as counter-productive, rather passive resistance. They were also willing to deal with the consequences, come what may. Perhaps something along those lines . . .

  37. Seydlitz,

    I have a slightly different view of the tea party. I think most of it is authentically anti-establishment, but I think it will ultimately be destroyed in the same way the Reform Party was destroyed in the 1990's.

  38. Andy

    I also see the Tea Partiers as Anti-. However, most of the ones I know not only have no significant "pro-" objectives, but really don't have clarity in what they are "Anti-" over. The "I don't want the government taking over my Medicare" crowd are a prime example.

    Back in grad school, we learned the "textbook" approach to leading the public in policy formation:

    1. Establish Issue Awareness
    2. Cultivate Issue Understanding
    3. Formulate Approaches to Issue Resolution
    4. Evaluate and Compare Approaches
    5. Allow the electorate to make an informed choice.

    Unfortunately, many of the issues we face are very complex, and require a hell of a lot of time and effort to accomplish the above. Snippets and sound bites are much less painful.

    Can our society really come to reasonably informed choices as long as they see no clear and present danger in many of the policies they espouse? 19 guys armed with box cutters turned our country on its head because they stirred irrational fear in many, many minds. As long as folks are in their comfort zone on other issues, they are not going to take the time to understand what's going on.

  39. Chief,

    Here is a supporting argument for your statement about how expensive this whole thing is:

    $2B extra a year to keep brigades in Germany. Why do we still have brigades in Germany? What you guys aren't seeing, or perhaps you've heard, there is some significant belt tightening going on right now, and especially over the next couple of years. It is going to be interesting to see what gets cut. We already know JFCOM is gone, and contractors are being cut by 30% over the next 3 years. But why not also re look at our global commitments?

  40. Correction: $2B is over 10 years, not per year. Still lots of money.

  41. Andy-

    In regards to the Tea Party, I too think that they are sincere, at least those with rational thoughts in their heads. But look at their "leaders". Millionares with a BIG interest in maintaining the status quo, or rather the shared assumptions of what passes for the right. Actual reform would collide with most of what the leaders take for granted . . .

    "Tom Thumb" commenting on Lex's essay on Insurrection put it in very plain English . . .

    "The Tea Party is a very well crafted counter-insurgency. It is centrally financed and centrally controlled.

    The intent of the movements founders is to split up the inevitable backlash that was going to come from Bush's TARP program, aptly names the bailout for billionaires.

    It successfully slit the reform movement that was inevitable. Centerists and leftist will not join the Tea Party, it is too far to the right. It has complicated the messaging of center and left of center groups that want real reform.

    It is a brilliant move by the Koch brothers and other billionaires to turn the reform movement (that would have otherwise had a very broad base) against itself. There are thoughtful people that want reform; but that do not want to be associated with the Tea Party loons.

    The Tea Party has also sucked up all the media coverage of reform movements and directed it to pictures of people running around in costume, and signs that beg for both grammar and consistency."

  42. Seydlitz,

    I've heard people make similar arguments to Tom Thumb's, but there is little evidence for such allegations. Most of it strikes me as projection. I read the New Yorker piece on the Koch brothers and almost all of it was conspiratorial drivel. For example, I'm not sure how it's possible to centrally finance and control what is a highly decentralized movement - at least no one has yet explained how that would be possible, particularly if done in secret, as is alleged. Central control requires some kind of national hierarchy, which doesn't really exist yet.

    So I think Tom has it backwards. The Koch brothers would probably like to seize control and are trying to do just that, but so would many others. I think that's really what we're seeing - a lot of conservative establishment people jumping on the tea party bandwagon hoping to influence/usurp it and ride the wave for their own ends. It was that kind of competition that destroyed the reform party and I think the same result is likely here.

    BTW, I thought the best comment to Lexington Green's original essay on the Beck rally was written by a great blogger named Dave Shuler over at Zen's place:

    I agree that Lexington Green is a smart guy. However, when I read his post over at chicagoboyz my immediate reaction was that I doubted that was the motivation behind the rally but was pretty sure that Beck & Co. would be happy to back that interpretation out of it after the fact.

  43. Al,

    Yeah, it's definitely not enough to be "anti" at least over the long term. If the tea party wants to remain a relevant force they will have to do more than run against things.

  44. Andy-

    Actually the millionaires I was referring to are Beck and Palin, not the Kochs who may be bankrolling the movement, but are not leading it. That was TT's view, not mine. Maybe I'm speaking too early in regards to Palin being a millionaire, but the money she must be racking in now? What I thought interesting about TT's view was how the reform movement has in effect been neutered so easily.

    Consider this quote from Walter Lippmann's "The Phantom Public" of 1927:

    "Since the general opinions of large numbers of persons are almost certainly to be a vague and confusing medley, action cannot be taken until these opinions have been factored down, canalized, compressed and made uniform. The making of one general will out of a multitude of general wishes is not an Hegelian mystery, as so many social philosophers have imagined, but an art well known to leaders, politicians and steering committees. It consists essentially in the use of symbols which assemble emotions after they have been detached from their ideas. Because feelings are much less specific than ideas, and yet more poignant, the leader is able to make a homogeneous will out of a heterogeneous mass of desires. The process, therefore, by which general opinions are brought to cooperation consists of an intensification of feeling and a degradation of significance."

    I remember Shuler's comment and I too agreed with it.

  45. Andy-

    What have you got against Jane Mayer btw? "Conspiratorial drivel"? Come on, she wrote a fact-based article as she usually does which simply brought up a whole series of questions. She's nothing like Judith "Rummy gave me a clearance" Miller who was a blatant propagandist and actual propagator of "conspiratorial drivel" . . .

  46. Drivel was bad word choice on my part. I'll have to read it again, but it seemed to me to be one of those one-sided hit pieces that are all too common these days. I have a pretty strong distrust of them generally.

  47. Meanwhile, back on topic, Greenwald has a fairly good summary of the arguments that this IS tyranny.

    And made me aware that one isn't the loneliest number when it comes to assassination; seems that there are at least four U.S. citizens on the "hit list".

    Greenwald's final graf poses the real question about this issue: "...if the President has the authority to order American citizens killed without a shred of due process under those circumstances, what doesn't he have the power to do provided he simply accuses them of being an Al Qaeda Terrorist? Al Gore asked the same question in 2006: under the theory by which these acts are committed, are there any acts that can on their face be prohibited?"

    I'm still not sure if we can answer this in a way we'd like to hear...

  48. BG,
    My belief is that the selection process has killed SF b/c it allows the jocks to rule the roost.
    Thinking was not a prime event in the old deployed 5th , but at least it was on the horizon, if one ever wanted to use it.

  49. @jim,

    in many ways, the jocks rule the roost across all parts of the government, economy and culture. Jocks and celebrities are our Mammon. Stir in failed/failing education and a dash of narcissism and indeed, we've probably crossed the event horizon and remain completely unaware that the bottom has fallen out.

    @seydiltz, great points about living through places and times in which active resistance is not possible. Orienting action towards truth and refusing to even acknowledge the lies. There's a lot to be said about this strategy.

    now-Retired Patriot

  50. now-Retired Patriot-

    Thanks for the kind words. Yes, if the US "system" has become totalitarian as I suspect, this refusal to play and operate by their rules would be perhaps the best option for those dissenting. Totalitarian states seemingly have this deterministic quality, whereby their very rigidity causes their collapse. When the GDR collapsed, those closest to the centers of power were the worst off, whereas those farthest . . . were best able to pick up the pieces and provide an alternative, at least initially.

    Enjoy your well-earned retirement!

  51. seydlitz89:

    What have you got against Jane Mayer btw?

    Me personally, IIRC she still supports the worldwide miltary effort to combat terrorism.

    Otherwise, she's good at what she does, and seems to me to be honest.

    Like Love, Truth hurts.

    BTW, is this a record for a thread here? 51 comments?



  52. seydlitz89 said...

    "In regards to the Tea Party, I too think that they are sincere, at least those with rational thoughts in their heads."

    My opinion of them is summed up by an (apocryphal?) letter written home by an American SGT in Germany, during the summer of 1945:

    "The Nazis all got back into their flying saucers and returned to Mars - if you believe the people hereabouts."

    We see massive right-wing rallies screaming about small government, blah, blah, blah...after 8 years in which Bush's only sins were electoral failure, not the vast clusfterf*ck he created.

    These people watched and helped Dubya & Co trash the country, and cheered him on.

    There's not a one of them who's honest.