1. “Article about Who Really Calls the Shots
The internal battles between American presidents and their national security establishments are not much reported. But if it is an invisible game, it is also a devious and even deadly one. Our civilian leaders end up mirroring the chronically nervous chiefs of state of the fragile democracies to our south.
Those who do not kowtow to the spies and generals have had a bumpy ride. FDR and Truman both faced insubordination. Dwight Eisenhower, who had served as chief of staff of the US Army, left the White House warning darkly about the “military industrial complex.” (He of all presidents had reasons to know.) John Kennedy was repeatedly countermanded and double-crossed by his own supposed subordinates. The Joint Chiefs baited him; Allen Dulles despised him (more so after JFK fired him over the Bay of Pigs fiasco), and Henry Cabot Lodge, his ambassador to South Vietnam, deliberately undermined Kennedy’s agenda. Kennedy called the trigger-happy generals “mad” and spoke angrily to aides of “scattering the CIA to the wind.” The evidence is growing that he suffered the consequences.
In the 1950s, the late Col. L. Fletcher Prouty, a high-ranking Pentagon official, was assigned by CIA Director Allen Dulles to help place Dulles’s officers under military cover throughout the federal government. As a result, Dulles not only knew what was happening before the president did, but had essentially infiltrated every corner of the president’s domain. One Nixon-era Republican Party official told me that in the early 1970s, there were intelligence officers everywhere, including the White House. Nixon was unaware of the true background of many of his trusted aides, particularly those who helped drive him from office. Remember Alexander Butterfield, the so-called “military liaison,” who told Congress about the White House taping system? Years later, Butterfield admitted to CIA connections.
In December 1971, Nixon learned of a military spy ring, the so-called Moorer-Radford operation, that was piping White House documents back to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Chiefs were wary of secret negotiations the president and Henry Kissinger were conducting with America’s enemies, including North Vietnam, China and the USSR, and decided to keep tabs on this intrusion upon their domain. Jimmy Carter came into office as revelations of CIA abuses made headlines. He tried to dismantle the agency’s dirty tricks office, but wound up instead a victim of it – and a one-term president.
Those who avoided problems – Johnson, Reagan, Bush Sr. and Jr. – were chief executives that made no problems for the Pentagon and intelligence chiefs. All embraced military and covert operations, expanded wars or launched their own. The agile Bill Clinton was a special case – no babe in the woods, he focused on domestic gains and pretty much steered clear of the hornets’ nest.
As for the Bushes, their ascension represented a seizure of power by the national security state itself. Their family had profited from arms manufacturing for decades. The patriarch, Prescott Bush, monitored US assassination plots against foreign leaders as a senator; and records indicate that the elder George Bush had been a secret agency operative for decades before he became CIA director – and then, 12 years later, president.
None of this is likely to change soon, and not without a huge fight. Half a century after Ike’s famous admonition, conflict and intrigue remain the engine of our economy, and everyone from private equity firms to missile makers to car and truck manufacturers count on that to continue. The homeland security industry, the most recent head to grow on this hydra, is now seeking permanency.
So Barack Obama is boxed in. But so are the American people, and so, really, is democracy itself. Bringing this inconvenient truth out in the open is the essential first step toward taking back control of our government – and our future. For all the reasons laid out here, Obama will need help. He may, in the rote formulation, hold “the most powerful office in the world.” However, the extent to which he controls the government he heads, is another matter.
In broad outline, I can’t disagree with Baker’s depiction of the state of the US government. However, I have to pause when I read him say, ‘Obama will need help.’ And I am reminded of how I felt about Obama supporters a year ago–that they were like young children lost in fantasy, projecting onto him whatever they wanted to see. Baker seems to want readers to see Obama as wanting what they themselves want. But I beg to differ. If free to maneuver, a president might well turn out to pursue better policies than those desired by entrenched national security bureaucrats. But how much better? Do they really seek a world that isn’t managed by wealthy elites? Does Baker honestly think that Obama (and the powerful donors to his campaign) at any point wanted to end US militariazation of the Middle East and Central Asia? To repeal the Patriot Act or do away with the homeland security apparatus? Damned if I’ve seen any evidence of this, and it’s not logical at all to suppose, ‘Oh, he seems so nice, I’m sure he wants to change all of these things, he just can’t.’ To me, Obama’s supporters represent a line of thought according to which we, the masses, should opt for one type of elite governance over another type. But what we should have learned is that the only antidote when a country is descending into fascism is democracy. Yet democracy–government that truly takes its marching orders from the mass of average citizens–is precisely what Washington doesn’t want–ALL of them. And so, they continue to hope that the more extreme elements among them can be reined in without cuing the people into what’s really going on, continuing to keep us in the dark.
Obama sought the job with a pretty good idea that he was going to be working for some big players. His job is to sell whatever Washington and Wall Street have to offer to the American people, and try to pass it off as somehow representing the people’s will. And if he ‘needs help’ in doing so, he won’t get any from me.
I believe those who supported Obama need to find an excuse for his actions. However Obama is a sociopath, like the majority of American presidents. That’s why he seems ‘nice’. The way to deal with a sociopath is to avoid them, or at least judge them by their actions. They are very good at manipulating people as they have practised it their whole life. They literally have no conscience. Other people are like pawns in life’s great chess game. See Brzezinski, Obama’s foreign policy adviser, here:
Sociopaths rise to the top of institutions because they can lie and manipulate emotions without fear of guilt.
There is no evidence to suggest Robert Gates was kept on because Obama was blackmailed. Likewise, it should not be seen as evidence of blackmail when the ‘white house’ is upset because pro-war documents are leaked.
At any point in time Obama could address the nation, describe the situation, and stop the war. He would find huge support from the public if he did this. He does not, and will not, because he doesn’t want to.”
2. “Cheney Failed to Answer 72 FBI Questions
Documents from Interview in Valerie Plame Case Show Vice President was Unclear on Many Points, Big and Small”
“Meanwhile, it turns out that Canadian and probably US military interpreters of Pashto sometimes mistranslate statements of detainees, causing them to be branded Taliban and sent to prison! The CBC says that Thomas Hammes, a retired US Marine colonel who also was in Afghanistan told it: “We’re willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to make sure ice cream and steak is there . . . And I would trade all of that for my entire tour if I could have one decent translator . . . Many times I’d trade body armour for a translator.”
4. “Tortured in far-off Countries: Obama Resuming G. W. Bush’s “Extraordinary Renditions”
In other words, government officials are free to do anything they want in the national security context — even violate the law and purposely cause someone to be tortured — and courts should honor and defer to their actions by refusing to scrutinize them.
Reflecting the type of people who fill our judiciary, the judges in the majority also invented the most morally depraved bureaucratic requirements for Arar to proceed with his case and then claimed he had failed to meet them. Arar did not, for instance, have the names of the individuals who detained and abused him at JFK, which the majority said he must have. As Judge Sack in dissent said of that requirement: it “means government miscreants may avoid  liability altogether through the simple expedient of wearing hoods while inflicting injury“
I want to add one principal point to all of this. This is precisely how the character of a country becomes fundamentally degraded when it becomes a state in permanent war. So continuous are the inhumane and brutal acts of government leaders that the citizens completely lose the capacity for moral outrage and horror. The permanent claims of existential threats from an endless array of enemies means that secrecy is paramount, accountability is deemed a luxury, and National Security trumps every other consideration — even including basic liberties and the rule of law. Worst of all, the President takes on the attributes of a protector-deity who can and must never be questioned lest we prevent him from keeping us safe.
Surely that’s true, but it isn’t only the Arar majority that is guilty of that. It is the nation as a whole — drowning in infinite claims of “state secrets” and executive immunity and war necessity and the imperatives of “looking forward” — that has meekly acquiesced to the pernicious idea that the President in an allegedly national security context must never have his actions disclosed, let alone judicially scrutinized and held accountable, no matter how criminal, brutal and inhumane those actions are.”