Remembering Hiroshima

(Disclaimer: this post solely represents the opinion of the author.)

On August 6, 1945, a B-29 Superfortress named Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, the climax of the gruesome struggle in the Pacific between the US and Japan. Approximately 90,000 people were killed immediately, and another 50,000 died within two years. Added to that was the toll paid by the survivors, and their descendents: radiation sickness, cancer, leukemia, mutation, genetic damage, and birth defects decades later add an incalculable amount of human suffering to the toll. Three days later, this Boschian tragedy was re-enacted, at Nagasaki.

It’s almost cliche, now, to dutifully go through the debate: the Japanese started the war, Pearl Harbor, Bataan, Manila, execution of prisoners, refused to surrender. The Bomb not only saved a million(?) Americans, but actually saved Japanese lives as well, by obviating the need for an invasion of Japan.

And so forth. For every one, there is a riposte, every charge, a justification. These justifications-and that’s what they are-are necessary, because they help obscure what the nuclear attack on Hiroshima was:

A massacre. A slaughter of the innocents. I don’t know what else you can call hitting an undefended city, containing few if any targets of military value, with a nuclear weapon.

You can call it justifiable if you want-I’ve given you the basic outline of the usual main points. Many do. But remember what you are doing: you are justifying the massacre of civilians, on a previously-unimagined scale. If massacres are justifiable, then where does it stop? It doesn’t, until it reaches its logical conclusion: justifiable genocide, as promoted in the Times of Israel last year.

Hitler and Stalin both thought massacres were justifiable, as seen in places like Babi Yar, Katyn Forest, the gulag archipelago, and the German concentration and extermination camp system. “Bomber” Harris was a big fan, as seen at Cologne, Hamburg, Dresden, and a hundred other incinerated cities. So was Curtis LeMay, whose firebombing campaign against Japan-hitting a major Japanese city every other day-made Harris look like a bush-leaguer. And of course, the Japanese officers who ordered the rape of Nanking, created IJA Unit 731, and killed hundreds of thousands in China, Korea, the Philippines, and Okinawa thought they were justified too. And Truman, who promised Japan “a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on the Earth”, went to his grave justifying his decision.

Nobody escapes the truth. Either these acts are universally wrong, or they are not. And if the massacre on a vast scale is justified, then why not genocide? After a while, they start to become indistinguishable from one another. If it is morally acceptable to nuke a city, then what is forbidden? And why? Is there still something worse, where we can draw a line and say “We won’t do that”?

So, amidst the jingoistic chest-pounding and nationalistic roars on one side, and the solemn memorial of the dead divorced from the acts of the leadership who brought this horror upon them on the other, remember Hiroshima, sacrificed on the altar of the justifiable massacre as an offering to the gods of vengeance. A vast, boiling, multi-colored monument to the failure of human beings to rise above their base, brutal, bloodthirsty programming. Remember the dead, the hibakusha, and the downwinders. And remember, even after all this time-it could still be you, your kids, your family.

We are all downwinders now.

Ferguson Is Your Future Too

(I wish I could say I wrote this, but alas! This post is the work of the Institute’s Cherubic Adonis, the victim of a particularly nasty tech issue.)

This is your future, America. The events in Ferguson, Missouri are a symptom of a broken country. You know it’s broken. You see the damage and you look the other way because it isn’t your children who are being killed at a frightening pace by authority figures in our society. But one day soon, it will be you and your children who are the victims. They will be drawn into the battle on one of the two sides.

Either all Americans share certain “inalienable rights” or none of us do. The problem stems from your own inability to address the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Prejudice. Now, when I say prejudice, I don’t automatically mean race, but racial prejudice is a big part of the problem. People can be prejudiced in any number of ways. Political prejudice (left vs right), economic prejudice (rich vs poor), intellectual prejudice (intellectual elites vs common man), sexual prejudice (men vs women) are all equally as bad for our national health. Until we, as a society, recognize that we all have value, none of us will really be worth a damn.

Local police forces are now paramilitary units who use counterinsurgency and urban-warfare doctrine to establish control of their areas of operation at any cost. Now, I realize that many people will read this and say, “Oh, you’re exaggerating. This is an isolated incident” but is it really? Take a look and you’ll see that these atrocities occur with staggering regularity in America. Some folks think that this squall will pass (and they may be right), but I guarantee you one thing, this storm isn’t over.

Looking the other way when someone’s rights are being violated doesn’t strengthen your rights. It weakens them. Sooner or later you or people like you are going to become very upset about something (perhaps a big gubmint takeover of *insert cause here*) and they are going to go to the streets because of it. When they do they are going to find out what many minorities in America already know: America does not care about you. America cares about its image and it won’t tolerate you making it look bad on the news. America is a sixteen-year-old girl taking a selfie. America is a self-absorbed douchebag talking into their Bluetooth in the checkout line at the grocery store. America will step over your bleeding (and maybe dead) carcass on its way into a Starbucks to get their caffeine fix. America only cares about America. You aren’t America. America isn’t you. You have become a cog in a machine and if you get worn out or break down, it won’t matter. The machine will continue grinding away. Today it’s Ferguson, Missouri, but soon it will be YourTown, USA. It won’t be fair. It will hurt.  You’ll whine about it and maybe your friends and relatives will be killed or maimed by the “authorities” but don’t expect anyone else to care, because you don’t care right now. In fact, expect people to giggle with glee at your misfortune. Expect to be made into a meme. Expect to be shot through the door when you ring the doorbell and cry for help. Expect to be exploited, first as political fodder and then as comedy, because that’s what America does.

I leave you with an old quote about America by Carl Schurz, “My country right or wrong.” Most people have heard it before but that’s not the whole quote. The whole statement reads, “My country right or wrong; if right to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.” Until we are all prepared to set America right when it is wrong there won’t be any right to celebrate.

The Covert Action Virus

Twenty or so years ago, I had a conversation with a soil scientist of my acquaintance, who had recently returned from an extended trip through Central America. He had been teaching alternative farming techniques to peasant farmers being squeezed into less and less available land, as part of a private aid group. It sounded to me like an ideal gig for the Peace Corps, so I was surprised when he answered: “Uh-uh. No way. If you’re in Central America with the Peace Corps, everyone just assumes you’re CIA. Nobody will talk to you, and you can’t get anything done.”
I was taken aback, given that, as the Peace Corps itself says:

Persons who have been employed by an intelligence agency, or otherwise have been associated with intelligence activities, are ineligible to serve as volunteers. This exclusionary policy is one aspect of the broader, long-standing policy of maintaining an absolute separation between Peace Corps and intelligence activities conducted by the U.S. government. This absolute separation is necessary to protect volunteers’ safety and to maintain the trust and confidence of the people in the countries in which volunteers serve.

The inverse, however, is also true. Because of this exclusionary policy, the Peace Corps would in fact make an excellent cover for an agent. This goes to the very nature of the deception that is the core of what intelligence agents do: it does not matter what lie is believed, as long as a lie is believed. As long as the target believes something that is not true, he/she can be manipulated. Which means that everything is a potential cover story, a legend, and a potential target for infiltration and exploitation. Every bureau, every commercial outlet, every information source is a potential target. Every cell of the body politic is susceptible to this, either proactively or by being compromised; a virus of deceit, secrecy, and covert action.

The problems with this are obvious, and became apparent to me again this morning, when I opened Firedoglake and saw USAID Fake HIV Center in Cuba Undermines Global Health Efforts. I followed the links; the gist, as reported by the AP, is that “Over at least two years, the U.S. Agency for International Development — best known for overseeing billions of dollars in U.S. humanitarian aid — sent nearly a dozen neophytes from Venezuela, Costa Rica and Peru to gin up opposition in Cuba.” These untrained agents, supplied with encrypted flash drives, and codes for communications, “posed as tourists, visited college campuses, and used…[a]n HIV-prevention workshop one called “the perfect excuse” to recruit political activists.” Perhaps not surprisingly, the operation was set up by the same contractor that dreamed up the failed “Cuban Twitter” project.

This program is being defended by the Obama Administration: according to State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, the program “enabled support for Cuban civil society, while providing a secondary benefit of addressing the desires Cubans express for information and training about HIV prevention.” Note the moment of honesty: the secondary benefit of the HIV awareness program was HIV awareness. The first was covert action.

This type of covert action is not rare, as Peter at FDL goes on to elaborate; nor is it just medical aid being used as cover. The fake NGO that was used to decapitate a FARC unit in Columbia is missing, but he includes the fake hepatitis vaccine program in Pakistan that helped identify Usama bin Laden-since then, the Pakistani Taliban has outlawed polio vaccination and killed 60 vaccination workers, allowing polio to make a robust comeback. Another one Peter could have pointed to was the role of the NED-the National Endowment for Democracy-in Ukraine, where it has spent tens of millions of dollars on a wide variety of programs. As  One of the founders of the NED-“whose purpose is to support foreign organizations sympathetic to US foreign policy goals” explained it in 1991“A lot of what we do was done 25 years ago covertly by the CIA.” And so it is: whether it be Nicaragua, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Albania, Iran, Cuba, Mongolia, or Venezuela, the NED is there. No wonder Putin was pissed about US operations in Ukraine. Every dollar spent there was intended to lessen Russian influence. Every single aspect of the “civil society” NED is supporting there can be considered a covert operation targeted on Russian interests.

And that’s the real issue-the meta-issue. The effect of using everything as a cover for covert operations is the certain destruction of the ability of people to have faith in institutions that, in a democracy, require faith to operate (rampant conspiracy theory-the guaranteed response to pervasive secrecy-has the same effect). You can have democracy-or you can have deceit and covert action. You can have citizen participation-or you can have counterintelligence programs designed to “expose disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize…” You can have journalism-or you can have Operation MOCKINGBIRD, in which the CIA compromised dozens of journalists and fed them CIA propaganda. You can have community policing-or you can have Phoenix Program-style counterinsurgency as law enforcement, in which pervasive surveillance, secret and unconstitutional police methods, and Special Operations teams combine to “neutralize threats.” Radley Balko reports an average of fifty thousand SWAT raids annually in the US…we have come a hell of a long way from “to serve and protect.”

And that’s the point-when everything is a covert action bureau, or cover, that is all it is. It cannot be an institution that operates by deceit and covert violence, AND be a democratically-controlled institution responsive to citizens’ needs. You can have democracy, and freedom, and all the messy processes that democratic institutions require to operate; or you can have the expediency, secrecy, deception, and violence of government-by-secret-police-agency. When your service providers collect and sell your information; when your cell phone is tracked by retailers in the mall; when your movements are tracked via car tracking, facial recognition programs, and ubiquitous cameras; and when your police subvert oversight by deceiving responsible authority, your institutions have become spy agencies, whose tools are secrecy and deception: anathema to self-government in a free society. A paradigm of covert action, or a representative democracy. You cannot have both.

You cannot have both, and there will be no progress until this question is answered, definitively. Subverting change in defense of the status quo, after all, is what intelligence agencies do. Our government is infected with a virus, that has seemingly moved into every cell; healing America will require, first, a robust immune response from a citizenry that will not be able to suspend the necessary weight of disbelief much longer, and second, an intense vaccination course to keep the patient from  relapsing.

 

The Great Crusade: Remembering D-Day

(Updated for 2014)

The date was June 6, 1944. The biggest invasion fleet ever assembled was about to depart their ports in Britain, on the way to their landing areas, the beaches of Normandy, France. It was the launch of the “Great Crusade”-Operation OVERLORD, the 1944 seaborne invasion of France by the combined forces of the US, Britain, Free France, Belgium, and Poland, and the beginning of the liberation of Western Europe, occupied by the Nazis since the lightning victory of 1940. Supreme Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower nervously fingered the note in his pocket: the note in which he defended his troops and accepted full responsibility for the failure of the invasion. There was reason to worry: while success may seem inevitable in hindsight, poor weather had already delayed the invasion by a day, the degree of success in Allied deception operations was unknown, and the Germans in the West had had four years to prepare their defenses AND were being commanded by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the famed “Desert Fox” who had taught the Allies such painful lessons in mobile warfare in North Africa in 1942. A thousand troops had been killed just practicing for the invasion, when the landing craft were surprised by German E-boats. The rough seas were destined to sink many of the ‘swimming’ tanks, and the minefield-clearing flail tanks developed by the British were not included in the American order of battle. It was a gigantic gamble, with the highest possible stakes. Long demanded by Stalin and obsessed over by Hitler, this invasion was considered the decisive engagement of the war by Rommel’s superior, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt. While this is debatable, its role as a decisive engagement is beyond question.

As the defining event of the Twentieth Century, the Second World War and the experiences of those who fought it, both individuals and nations, became central to the identity of the participants: Britain had Dunkirk, the Blitz, and El Alamein, the US had Pearl Harbor and D-Day (and the A-bomb), and the Soviet Union had Stalingrad, Kursk, and Berlin. The character and behavior of every major participant was informed by the experience. The State of Israel was formed as a result, and both Germany and Japan underwent major cultural shifts, both in dealing with defeat and in confronting the reality of their conduct of the war. For better or worse, the world would never be the same.

The narrative of D-Day is also an essential building block of the discourse of heroic Americans storming ashore into the teeth of German fire to liberate helpless Europe groaning under a Nazi boot, and the root of a million resentful “we saved your ass from speaking German” reminders from Americans insulted by European perceptions of them as arrogant, uncivilized rubes. In reality, given the speed of the Soviet advance from the East, the likelihood is that the US, rather than saving anyone from speaking German, instead actually saved a whole lot of people from speaking Russian. The Soviet Army had crushed the bulk of German mobile forces in the East at Kursk in July 1943, and the Soviet march towards Berlin that then began had stopped only to occasionally resupply and reorganize, and to crush fanatical German resistance. The German response was to transfer the vast majority of its remaining forces to meet the onrushing Russians, and this reduction of available German forces was an important factor in the success of the D-Day invasion. And success was essential: had OVERLORD failed, it would not have been possible to try again until the next year. The alternatives, such as the Red Army standing watch on the Atlantic Wall in France, the invasion of a France held by Stalin instead of Hitler, or the use of atomic weapons against Germany, the Soviet Union, or both, are nearly unimaginable. In short, for millions, the stakes could not have been higher.

The OVERLORD invasion also heralded the true opening of the long-delayed “second front” in Europe; while forces of the Western Allies had been engaged in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy, and the combined air forces of RAF Bomber Command and the US Eighth Air Force had been bombing Germany since 1942, these actions represented piecemeal commitments to the war against Hitler, and constituted no direct threat to Hitler’s position in Europe. The delay in opening this front had fueled Stalin’s belief that the Western Allies were dragging their feet in order to force the Soviets to bear the brunt of the fighting and the lion’s share of the losses. This belief was reinforced by British attempts to conduct peripheral operations more designed to assure the solidity of the British Empire after the war, especially in the Mediterranean, the Balkans, and India. After the Tehran Conference, when Stalin made this belief plain and mentioned the possibility of a Soviet-German truce, the plans for OVERLORD were set for May, 1944.  The D-Day invasion is often mischaracterized as “the biggest/greatest invasion of all time,” and other such hyperole. The biggest invasion of all time was Operation Barbarossa, the 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union, and the biggest coordinated military operation ever was Operation Bagration, the 1944 Soviet offensive in the East that followed closely after D-Day in the West.  OVERLORD was, however, the largest amphibious invasion ever, one of the most complex operations ever, and the apex of the amphibious invasion as military operational art, rivaled only by Saipan, Iwo Jima, and Inchon.

There were two possible landing grounds:  Pas de Calais, directly across the English Channel from  Dover, and Normandy. Choosing Normandy over the more advantageous Pas de Calais created several important effects: dissension in the German chain of command, and the biggest deception operation of the war. Rommel, as the German ground commander, anticipated the Allied landings at Normandy, but his superior Rundstedt was convinced the stroke would fall at Calais. This was particularly important because it was the deciding factor in where to place two German Panzer (tank) divisions being held as strategic reserve. The disagreement eventually reached Hitler, who made a frustrated parent’s decision: neither would get the Panzers, which would be held in yet another place, and released only upon Hitler’s direct order. The consequences were catastrophic: Hitler was sleeping when the call to release the panzers first came in, and his staff declined to wake him and ask; and, in any case, the Panzers would have been unable to reach either, due to Allied air superiority.

The Allies had gone to a great deal of trouble to encourage Rundstedt’s belief: during the build-up, General George S. Patton, who had been recalled and disciplined after slapping a shellshocked soldier in a hospital, was put in charge of a mythical US invasion army mustering opposite Pas de Calais. Thousands of inflatable decoy tanks, trucks, and artillery pieces were built and deployed in pre-invasion configuration, and the air was filled with fake radio traffic. Rundstedt bought it. Had Rommel prevailed, the consequences at Omaha Beach in particular, where the US was very nearly driven back into the sea with heavy losses anyway, may have been catastrophic.

The five invasion beaches were Omaha, Utah, Sword, Gold, and Juno. The  landings at Utah and Sword went fairly smoothly with light casualties, while the landings at Gold and Juno took heavy casualties, and the US landing at Omaha, though successful, was a bloodbath. Ineffective naval gunfire and aerial bombing had left many of the well-prepared and dug-in German troops intact and ready on the cliffs overlooking the landing beach. The resulting carnage nearly repulsed the American landings, and victory was in grave doubt, until a Ranger unit managed to scale the cliffs and eliminate the German positions there. The survival of the American beachhead was assured, and could finally begin moving off the beach; two months later, after finally breaking out of the bocage country around Normandy, the end was assured, with only the timing and final Soviet position remaining in question. As Rundstedt said, “the war ended in September.” That may have indeed been the case for any realistic possibility of a German victory in the West, the Battle of the Bulge notwithstanding, although millions of German civilians were still to face the wrath of a Soviet Army for whom the war wasn’t nearly over yet. D-Day is the iconic American experience of World War II. To have simply survived such an event is an act of heroism, as anything less than individual heroism in the aggregate would have been insufficient to the moment. The affirmation that may be taken from that, however, is tempered by the certainty that many, every bit as heroic, motivated, and determined, still found their deaths on the beaches of Normandy. Heroism was necessary, but it was not in and of itself sufficient: one’s position in a landing craft when the grenade went off was utterly beyond one’s control. This, then, shows the expression of necessary faith that is part  of every military operation, that confirms itself in the survivors while betraying the dead,  and leaves all to ponder the meaning of the sacrifice. The examples are all there. Faith. Heroism. Boldness. Honor. Confidence. Responsibility. Competence. Resiliency. Fortune. Imperfection. Humanity…. No wonder D-Day is such a defining moment in 20th century American identity-it should be.  Remember–D-Day, June 6, 1944. Happy D-Day, America!

I’m Not Saying I Agree…But I Understand

Chris Rock once did a stand-up routine where he talked about the OJ Simpson case, and his theme was, “I’m not saying it’s right-but I understand.” This is kind of how I feel about Ukraine: I’m not defending Putin, and I’m not saying taking the Crimea in violation of treaty was right-but I DO understand. Here’s why:

I had forgotten about Zbigniew Brzezsinski’s famous quote: “without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be an empire, but with Ukraine suborned and then subordinated, Russia automatically becomes an empire.” This kind of fanatical bipolar myopia isn’t really funny anymore, given that the Cold War ended a generation ago, but it seems to be the core of much US thinking toward the current crisis in Ukraine, much to the detriment of our understanding why Russia is doing what it is doing. With communism defeated, there was  little ideological reason to continue fighting, beyond the entrenched corporate interests of  surviving Cold War -era institutions and the knee-jerk opposition of the Grand Chessboard-type thinking that thought it was a good idea to, say, march NATO up to Russia’s border. The idea that Russia, and any Russian leader, has a legitimate interest in Ukraine complicates this simplistic Good Guy/Bad Guy  narrative, so attempts to undermine Russian influence in Ukraine are left out of the mainstream conversation, as are the activities of Western intelligence agencies in fanning the unrest, and the uncomfortable presence of a significant fraction of neo-Nazis in Ukrainian resistance.

This reactionary impulse may have something to do with US motivation in aiding the anti-Russian Ukrainians, and maybe some of the Ukrainians are simply US aid sponges,  but there is a long history of antipathy between Ukraine and Russia, even before Stalin starved somewhere around 3.5 million Ukrainians to death in the Thirties. This was repaid, of course, by many Ukrainians welcoming the Nazi invaders of 1941. After the war, a Ukrainian independence movement largely controlled by unreconstructed fascists fought on, until finally crushed by the Soviets.

Fast forward. During de-Stalinization, Crimea is transferred to Ukraine from Russia, though the Russian Black Sea Fleet is headquartered there.

Fast forward. When the USSR collapses, Ukraine has the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal on its territory. In return for giving them up, Russia signs a treaty guaranteeing Ukraine’s territorial integrity; this is the one broken-maybe-by Russia’s incursion into the Crimea. We’ll return to that momentarily. Also, US Secretary of State James Baker promises Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO will refrain from moving East if the USSR stands down. After the USSR dissolves, NATO, of course, immediately adds most the old Warsaw Pact nations of Eastern Europe to NATO, which is why it so infuriated the Russians when Ukrainian President Yushchenko started talking about Ukraine, on Russia’s border, joining NATO, and expelling the Black Sea fleet from Crimea.

So, when Putin outbid the EU for favorable trade terms with Ukraine, he was operating within the accepted rules of the game. Meanwhile, the US is funding the Ukrainian resistance, and is wiretappedamong other things, picking the next leader of the resistance. Then, after Yanukovich’s “turn” toward Russia backfired, and the demonstrations got out of hand-the Russians brokered a deal to end the protests, and Yanukovich agreed to step down and transfer power to the Parliament.

That should have been the end of it; instead, the Ukrainian resistance reneges on the deal, essentially staging a coup d’tat even though they had already won. Furthermore, to complete the circle, there is a significant, visible presence of Ukrainian neo-Nazis in the Ukrainian nationalist movement.

And that’s why Putin is pissed. In his mind, he was playing a clean game, while Russia was being undercut by a covert op; he brokered a deal in good faith, only to see the Ukrainians immediately renege; and finally, the symbols of the hated fascists who killed at least 30 million Russians in the defining event of Soviet history are being prominently displayed, on Russia’s border.

There is simply no way in hell that any Russian leader is going to allow a hostile government with operational ties to Western intelligence to thrive in Ukraine-period. Especially one that reneges on its agreements, and is working hand in glove with both the US and NATO, who have lied to Russia at every step. Especially one that insists on rubbing its identification with the Nazis in Russia’s face. And, since temporal distance seems to have fogged people’s memories, Russia is a major strategic nuclear power and need have no fear of a conventional military threat, since attacking Russia is a prescription for national suicide.

Also, Russia is allowed to keep 25,000 troops in Crimea, although they are supposed to stay in their restricted area. That’s the treaty violation. There are no dragnets, roundups, or mass executions underway. Putin is walking a fine line here, asserting Russian hegemony in Ukraine without taking the irrevocable plunge of massive bloodletting. So far, he can still back out, and there are some signals that he may be looking for a way out. If he is, we should let him, since the alternative is for Russia to go all the way forward, and just take Ukraine, install the government it wants, and then withdraw to avoid a bloody counterinsurgency campaign. The closest analog in recent US history is probably the invasion of Panama in 1988.

So, I’m not saying it’s right, or saying I approve-but I understand.

An Example is Clearly Needed

Enough. This has got to stop somewhere.

I’ve had it with the casual dishonesty. Lying is a standard feature in American political life, and I for one am just flat sick of it. The profusion of malignant bullshit  in American political life is a national disgrace. They lie to each other, they lie to the people, they lie about having lied. They lie all the time-they lie, they obfuscate, they “can’t remember”-and the overwhelming majority of the time, they get away with it. They get away with it, because the laws are both narrowly written, and because anyone pressing a criminal charge against another politician had better be very sure to watch their own words-and rearview mirror- very carefully. Therefore, the status quo is maintained. Central to the effort to maintain this status quo is the importance of keeping up appearances, since even a cursory examination will start to reveal the awful truth-politicians pretend to tell the truth and we pretend to believe them. Which brings us to the point-if we are going to have public servants lie to us, they need to be very damn sure that they are going to do it well enough to avoid drawing our attention to it. Because, we must crush those overtly caught lying, just to maintain the fiction that lying is an aberrant exception in US political identity. They must be crushed when caught lying, if we are not to admit that we are a nation of liars.

Which brings us to DNI James Clapper. He was given the question in advance, chose to lie about it in testimony, AND declined an opportunity to amend his remarks. What are we supposed to do? Pretend we don’t notice? This is the most egregious example of bald-faced out-front lying to Congress that I can remember in recent years, and to tolerate this kind of flagrant dishonesty is to encourage it. An example is clearly needed; not the kind of sentence that Richard Helms wore as a badge of honor, but the kind that would truly strike fear and give pause to those considering lying to the Congress. Judge Sirica comes to mind, and the efficacy of his method in dealing with unrepentant criminals like Liddy cannot be denied: a twenty-year sentence has a way of punching through one’s sense of entitlement. And it’s not just that he lied; it’s that he’s still lying, and forcing us to notice.

It’s sad enough that the people of the US have become so accustomed to contemptuous dishonesty from their government that they expect it. And before one shrugs in overwhelmed resignation, and retreats into the belief that it has always been this way, no, it has not. Long gone are the days when the reputation of the US was such that a US president’s offer to provide evidence to back up his statements was dismissed as unnecessary, but not quite so far gone that they are beyond recall.

Clearly, an example needs to be made. I hereby nominate James Clapper for a starring role.

State Terror in the Twentieth Century, IV: Beyond the Century of Terror

This is the fourth and last in a series. Earlier installments are The Century of Terror, Internal Security, and Foreign Policy. A companion video can be found here.

Over the course of this series, we have looked at the practice of state terror in the twentieth century from several different vantage points. I have tried to make the point, that from the outset, mass state terror is a defining characteristic of twentieth century political evolution. In internal security matters, states such as Nazi Germany, Stalin’s Russia, and Pinochet’s Chile embodied internal terror structurally, publicly, and deliberately, on a massive scale, while the Western democracies adopted a less-intense, and covert form, a paradigm necessary if they were to maintain their public’s faith in their own national identities and Enlightenment foundations. This is a fundamental point, especially for the United States: the adoption of the methods of covert warfare requires the democratic government to lie to its citizens, and subverts the basic ideals upon which democracy-whether parliamentary, republican, or whatever-depends.

There is certainly an irreducibly complex set of causes for this: the death of reason amidst the mindless carnage of the First World War, the technological perfection of the means of mass terror in the Second, the importation of  colonial counterinsurgency tactics and strategy into the domestic spheres of the Western democracies, the collapse of the Empires, the embrace of a ruthless “no rules” ethic, and most importantly, the fear. Fear of communism, of Stalin, of Hitler, of the nukes, but mostly a strange, formless, all pervasive, low-grade fever of worry about a future shrouded in doubt and uncertainty. This fear was both the reason for and the result of terror: a feedback loop, in which a general terror of the unknown became a the rationale for specific terror to counter that which cannot be defined; the integration of state terror as internal security policy in the US that began with the Palmer raids and the organized campaigns against labor and social movements was professionalized by the foundation of the FBI, the House Un-American Activities Committee, and the OSS; the passage of the National Security Act in 1947 provided the framework of secrecy that would enable this combination of secrecy and lawlessness to grow slowly over time, like all evolutionary processes do, until something new suddenly shifts the paradigm. The punctuated-equilibrium model of the evolution of state terror.
In the US, this punctuation-this shift- was COINTELPROthe nationwide “Counter-intelligence Program” by the FBI to infiltrate, disrupt, and destroy progressive organizations and movements across a wide spectrum, including civil, women’s, and gay rights organizations, anti-nuclear weapons groups, anti-war and a whole spectrum of other New Left organizations. The tools-the infiltrator, the informer, the agent provocateur, break-ins, false charges, set-ups, fake documents, “snitch jackets,” legal harassment, intimidation,and killings that resulted bear no resemblance to law enforcement, but a lot of similarity to the way an intelligence agency attacks a hostile enemy agency. This is fundamental: the enemy to be destroyed were citizens of the US, mostly just trying to exercise their rights. Believing that the government would play by its own rules was only their first mistake.

What Cointelpro really represents is the institutionalization of terror in the US; by the time of  its revelation and shut down in 1971, it didn’t really matter anymore. The means and methods of counterintelligence, including, first and foremost, deceit, became standard in police departments across the country, and the FBI maintained a national coordinating capability in any event, as seen in the subsequent destruction of the American Indian Movement (AIM), the infiltration of the anti-nuclear power movement, and the covert infiltration of anti-US Latin American policy groups like CISPES well into the Eighties.

Draconian anti-drug laws and the establishment of a parallel secret police agency, the Drug Enforcement Agency in 1973, added a whole new dimension to the US covert-terror infrastructure, and further brought the tools of counterinsurgency, the agent network and the strike team, into the domestic sphere. The incredible proliferation of paramilitary forces called SWAT teams, by several orders of magnitude, has created tens of thousands of available  troops for these covert forces. The NKVD in 1937 could hit a million homes in a night. How much more capable is the US now than the Soviet Union was then?

Much like the NKVD, it is important to note the erosion of anything like compartmentalization between the various local,State, and national intelligence agencies in the US; this means that there is no real separation, that they are all, really, in effect, one force. Local law enforcement SWAT and antidrug forces cross train with counter-terror and federal authorities with great regularity. Another good example of this is the reciprocal relationship between the NYPD and the CIA, in which the CIA maintains an office inside the NYPD despite  legal prohibitions against CIA operations inside the US-they have to say that, because, like everything else, it is a cover story. The further metastasis of this condition that occurred with the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security, the Total Information Awareness program (the brainchild of Iran-Contra conspirator John Poindexter), the DoD’s CIFA program, the NSA’s multiple warrantless wiretapping programs, and the privatization of intelligence agencies into private enterprises with a vested interest in war and terror.

I have largely avoided mention of Russia this week, for a very simple reason: state terror in Russia is an enduring feature of the culture, and has been for several centuries. The relatively normal secret police operations against the Left by the Okhrana both foreshadowed later US efforts against its own leftists, and also trained the Bolshevks in secret police methods. Lenin’s Cheka added revolutionary Communist fervor to the Tsar’s tradecraft and created the first real, modern secret police agency, whose structure and operations would be copied by like-minded authoritarians around the world. The point is, that for Russia, state terror has been a constant, ubiquitous feature, whether it be the Cheka or the NKVD or the KGB or the SVR or the FSB (in an echo of US structure, after the fall of the USSR, the Russian government, rather than abolish the KGB, divided it into the SVR, the successor agency to the First Chief Directorate (Foreign Intelligence) of the KGB, and the FSB, the internal security service). In the years since, the Russian government has ran a relentless campaign of terror against Chechen separatists, domestic whistleblowers, dissidents, and uncooperative leaders, assassinating people at a rate not seen since the 1950s. The tragedy is, of course, that this is nothing unusual in Russia.

It is, however, something unusual in the United States, at least in the United States of the Constitution, of laws, of citizen self-government–or at least it should be. However, covert operations-state terror-is now a permanent feature of US government. It has been, as we’ve seen in previous weeks, for a long time; only now, decades too late, is it becoming so apparent that even the apathetic public finally notices. The reforms that followed the Church Committee were largely an illusion, as seen by US action in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and against critics of policies in both. The surveillance laws of the 1990s, CALEA, the Antiterrorism Act of 1996, and the subsequent creation of the CARNIVORE and ECHELON monitoring programs created the foundation for the drastic upscale of the surveillance after 9/11. The USA PATRIOT Act, the subsequent reauthorizations and extensions, and PRISM just extend it further, protestations of restraint notwithstanding: as has been revealed just lately, their public statements cannot be believed.

And now? The continued coordinating ability of the FBI was again visible during the destruction of Occupy Wall Street. A remarkably peaceful, populist movement that was mostly just demanding that Federal financial regulators do their jobs was destroyed by a national program of infiltration, subversion, and police violence. In other words, the covert action authority worked exactly as it was supposed to. What is happening  under the current Administration is not so much the creation of a covert terror apparatus as cracking of the shell of deniability around it, and the same industrial process that occurred in US industry 30 years ago: the replacement of humans with robots,as the armed, remote-piloted drone has become the most capable assassination weapon ever, and the symbol of technological state terror raised to a whole new level… Here it is, in all its foul glory: The National Covert Security State, where there is no problem that cannot be solved by the appropriate covert action, where there is no problem, foreign or domestic, that cannot be addressed through an appropriate dose of state terror. A few liters in some cases, gallons in others.

This is the world, the covert political world of the 21st Century. We are beyond the Century of Terror now; what made mass state terror so noteworthy in the 20th century was its alien nature, the way it obviously violated every principle of government or law, and was yet enthusiastically adopted across the ideological spectrum, for its sheer, brutal utility. It was a conflict between the constraints of an Enlightenment-inspired democracy and the efficacy of force; and in the end, the normalization of terror in the 21st century represents the triumph of force over reason, of fear over hope, of reaction over progress, and of exploitation over cooperation. The conflict was settled, when the last chance to roll back the NCSS passed in the 1990s. This is the 21st Century; state terror is the new normal, worldwide. Future cultural historians will have to look for some other distinguishing feature to differentiate it from its fellows.