Bright Shining Lies: American Death Squads and 'Dissident' Self-Delusion
Politics is entertainment. It’s a sport. It’s for the well groomed and well-heeled. The impeccably dressed. Party animals. Politicians are interchangeable...The real power is in the hands of small groups of people and I don’t think they have titles. -- Bob Dylan
Following up from yesterday's post, we now turn to Winter Patriot for a deeper look into how the world really works -- or rather, how the American power structure really works. In this powerful and detailed piece, WP takes "dissident" icon Seymour Hersh to task for his very typical schizophrenic reaction to the literally atrocious crimes that he uncovers in the American system. Hersh condemns the crimes while absolving the criminals -- in this case, the American death squads in Afghanistan -- because, in the end, their hearts are in the right place.
Hersh is rightly lauded for working his inside sources in the security apparat to reveal high crimes and corruption committed by other insiders in the security apparat. But his relevations usually come larded with heaping helpings of unwitting obfuscation: he will root out a rotten tree here and there, even while admiring the beauty of the whole poisonous forest as it keeps spreading.
This was never more true than in Hersh's latest bombshell: his public assertion that there is a covert American death squad operating outside all ordinary chains of command, and reporting solely to the White House. This is the Joint Special Operations Command, which is now breaking into houses in Afghanistan and murdering people, including women and children -- foul crimes which even the Pentagon was forced to admit, when it announced that it had halted certain Special Forces operations for two whole weeks because of the surfeit of civilian deaths. (Or rather, as WP points out, because of bad publicity about civilian deaths.) Of course, as Abdul Waheed Wafa and Carlotta Gall reported Sunday in the New York Times, these death squads are back in action with all guns blazing:
A predawn raid by United States Special Forces that killed five people on Sunday has produced sharply conflicting accounts from the American military and local Afghan officials as to whether the dead were civilians or militants, resurrecting a sore point that has troubled the American-led war here.
The United States military said in a statement that its forces killed five militants and detained four suspects in an operation against a “terrorist network” near the Afghan-Tajikistan border in the northern province of Kunduz. Local officials said that those killed were not militants and that the raided house belonged to the mayor of the town of Imam Sahib.
The military statement also said the operation was coordinated with the local Afghan police. But the provincial police chief, Gen. Abdul Razaq Yaqoubi, said no information had been given to him, the Kunduz governor or the head of intelligence.
He said the American unit that conducted the raid had called the police chief of Imam Sahib when it started the operation and specifically told the police not to go to the area.
What a sweet deal! You just call up the cops and tell them to stay away -- you've got some wetwork to do, and you don't want to be bothered. So who got iced this time by our brave boys in midnight black?
General Yaqoubi confirmed that the compound belonged to Mayor Abdul Manan. “The targeted house belongs to the mayor of Imam Sahib, and those who were killed are his driver, his cook, his bodyguard and two of the guests,” he said...Mr. Manan told The Associated Press that he was hunkered down in a room with his wife and children and had no contact with the troops during the raid. He said the helicopter-borne forces had blown open the gates of his compound.
And as we noted yesterday in regard to the Serbian death squad leader aligned with the CIA (and Saddam Hussein, Manuel Noriega, etc.), past service to the imperial overlords means nothing:
The mayor is a well-known former mujahedeen commander, and was a member of Jamiat-i-Islami, the anti-Taliban faction that supported the American intervention in 2001, General Yaqoubi said.
(We should note here that "mujahadeen" was once a good word in the imperial courts; indeed, Ronald Reagan himself called them "freedom fighters" for their battle against the Soviet forces which had been deliberately drawn into Afghanistan by the chaos and terrorism fomented the saintly Jimmy Carter and the international movement of Islamic extremists that he helped midwife. Reagan and his CIA handler -- sorry, his vice president, former CIA chief George Herbert Walker Bush -- then took this baby, shot it full of steroids and turned it loose on the world.)
But back to Hersh. Winter Patriot notes the remarkable fact that even as Hersh was revealing the existence of the death squads, he was lauding the perpetrators as the "best and brightest" -- and using the term unironically, as most people do these days, unlike the originator of the phrase, the late David Halberstam, who meant it as a bitter mockery of the poltroons who led America into the Vietnam War.
The propaganda operation is by no means limited to Pentagon insiders or acknowledged supporters, as Hersh convincingly demonstrates when he says:"It’s complicated because the guys doing it are not murderers, and yet they are committing what we would normally call murder. It’s a very complicated issue. Because they are young men that went into the Special Forces. The Delta Forces you’ve heard about. Navy Seal teams. Highly specialized.
"In many cases, they were the best and the brightest. Really, no exaggerations. Really fine guys that went in to do the kind of necessary jobs that they think you need to do to protect America. And then they find themselves torturing people."
And so, here we are, in never-never land. Even Seymour Hersh, famed investigative reporter, can't help slinging it, one shovel-full at a time.
They're not murderers, even though what they're doing is murder. But how do we define a "murderer"? Is it not someone who murders? Hersh can't even bring himself to call it that, but he will go so far as to say that they're "committing what we would normally call murder".
I'm not a writer. I'm just doing what we would normally call writing. And you're not a reader. You're just doing what we would normally call reading. Really. No exaggerations. It's all highly specialized.
Apparently it's "very complicated", at least in Hersh's imagination. And it might not be murder, even though it's what we would normally call murder, because the murderers are not actually murderers but instead "young men that went into the Special Forces".
Special Forces, of course, are those on the front lines of Special Operations. What we would normally call our own terrorists, if it weren't so very complicated.
So: They're not murderers because they're hired to kill people, or more properly they're not murderers because they've volunteered -- and qualified -- to be cogs in their country's elite force of hired killers.
Winter Patriot then notes Hersh's own admission that he is no dissident attacking the system from outside, but an inside man. That is to say, his revelations come from, and on behalf of, one imperial faction or another. That doesn't mean his exposes aren't true, and often important. But they are, again, part of the "ever-shifting scrum of blood, money, lies and power" that we spoke of in yesterday's post. From WP:
But for all his inside connections, Hersh cannot see it any other way. By his own admission, he has no outside connections.Hersh insists [...] that his close ties with the underside of the defense world are the reason he’s so confident about his understanding of that reality. “I’m not working with guys outside the system,” he tells me. “You do understand that, don’t you? I’m not outside the system in what I do. I’m really not.”
So perhaps it's not entirely imaginary. Perhaps for Sy Hersh, and for everyone else who works entirely within the "national defense" "system", the Navy Seals and the Delta Forces and all the other Special Operations not-murderers really are the best and the brightest. Which is to say: they are the best and the brightest of those who are not quite good enough or bright enough to see that the American military is a blight on both America and the rest of humanity.
There is much more in Winter Patriot's piece, which should be read in full. But his conclusion -- on how thoroughly the fix is in -- is worth highlighting. After first noting Hersh's expression of surprise that, somehow, bad guys like Bush and Cheney keep ascending to the top rung of national power (but, thank goodness, are always replaced by good guys like Obama), WP writes:
The sad fact -- which Hersh won't touch -- is that party politics is nothing more than an intersquad scrimmage, an exhibition game intended to convey the impression that the two "competing teams" are adversaries.
They're not. They're partners. They're working together to put on the big show every four years. And we know this is true because of what happens to prospective players who are not interested in furthering the big show, but would try to change the game. Most of them don't even get onto the field. And those who do never last very long.
We've seen what the Democrats and the media did to Mike Gravel, which was exactly what the Republicans and the media did to Ron Paul. We've seen the cold silence -- or jeering derision -- which has greeted every serious attempt to uphold the rule of law, to stop the war in Iraq, to stop the war in Afghanistan, to investigate the crimes of 9/11, to reform a clearly broken electoral system, to rein in a clearly complicit national media, or even to bring just a little bit of accountability to our government. These were all efforts to change the game in one way or another, and no such efforts will be tolerated.
This is the system. This is what it does. The time for amazement is past.
Except, of course, for the amazement one never ceases to feel at the ingrained, inherent and apparently incurable moral schizophrenia of even our -- dare we say it? -- "best and brightest" muckrakers.