The Unspoken Truths
Paris, April 22, 2008 – The gap between the actual making and execution of American national policy and the way in which it is reported and discussed is now so wide that the latter barely connects to the former. This is true not simply in media treatment of issues and in the presidential debate, but in how the national government itself thinks and acts.
It is not a matter of conspiracies, or expedient official lies or propaganda, as in the secret manipulation by the Pentagon of television and press. On many matters, even the people who do not know that they are lying are doing so.
Irresponsibility, individual careerism or cowardice, or ignorance on the part of those of us who belong to the media, undoubtedly contributes to this darkened national intelligence or consciousness.
The overall cause of self-suppression of public discussion of certain issues and the self-censorship by politicians, officials, "public intellectuals" and press, is a consensus that now exists among officials, politicians, publishers, media corporations and journalists that it is impolitic to recognize certain realities.
This is true even when national security, as such, is not involved. The nation has a certain image of itself. It is unprofitable to raise the possibility that this is not a true image.
Take a subject which everyone concerned with American foreign affairs knows about : the construction in Iraq of several huge, fortified, self-sufficient but vulnerable United States bases which the Pentagon prefers to describe as "enduring camps," but are meant to be permanent, serving a Pentagon strategy of regional military control that antedates the Bush administration.
Hundreds of thousands of American servicemen and women know about these bases, have served on them, and see perfectly well what they are for. Journalists infrequently visit them because they know that what they write is unlikely to be published, will make waves, and will identify them in a manner unlikely to help their careers.
The Pentagon's construction of a system of a "regional commands" as structure for possible military intervention or operations globally began under President Jimmy Carter. The plan will have originated in some study of future crises -- whether plausible or implausible being of no particular concern. It had bureaucratic sex-appeal, promising money and expanded Pentagon power.
In that, it resembles the periodic "national security strategy" statements supplied by the Pentagon to the White House. These characteristically foresee universal risk to the nation and propose measures to make American invulnerable and omnipotent.
Today the Pentagon's regional commanders are the most important American officials functioning outside the United States. Their funds, resources, and staff manpower, as well as the bases and troops under their orders, plus their bureaucratic and financial power base as agents of the Pentagon, make them Washington's true overseas proconsuls, recognized as such by foreign governments and foreign military establishments. The State Department's ambassadors, constitutionally charged to represent the U.S. abroad, are overshadowed and bureaucratically overpowered by them.
This is not the result of a new American militarism, as such. The Pentagon has simply done its duty, and Congress and successive administrations have approved. Military men are trained to seize the high ground, physical or bureaucratic, wherever they find it, prepare for all imaginable contingencies, and for all of the unimaginable ones they can persuade Congress to pay for. This adds up to a contingency plan to rule the world.
The Pentagon is at the disposal of the civilian government. The latter has only to ask, and the military will do it. It turns out that they sometimes cannot do the task successfully, as in the Iraq occupation shambles, the attempt to protect a permanent American client regime in Afghanistan, the emerging program to "go into" Waziristan to get the "bad guys" despite what the Pakistan government and people think, the new disaster in Somalia, and the failure to eliminate drug production in Colombia and Afghanistan. They give it all the good old West Point and Annapolis try. But this is not enough to realize policies that are fundamentally foolish, with unachievable goals.
In the presidential campaign, responsible people are reluctant to talk about this. Imagine the moderators of the disgraceful ABC Democratic primary debate last week asking the candidates how many permanent bases there are in Iraq, why they are there, and what they imply concerning the withdrawal promises made by both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama!
Imagine them asking about another reality known to everyone concerned with the matter, the fact that the policy of both Labor and Likud governments of Israel since 1967 has been to dominate Palestine and maintain and expand Israel's settlements there, despite ineffectual American objections. This, for Israel, has been a ruthless but reasonable policy, serving its perceived interests, but irreconcilable with U.S. Middle Eastern interests.
What is to be done about this? It would have been foolhardy for ABC's commentators even to have mentioned the matter. Jimmy Carter, who dared to pose the question, is being treated as a pariah by virtually all "responsible" people. Yet this could prove the biggest issue of war or peace that will face a new president. In the circles that claim the right to shape the American future there is guilty silence; but it is necessary that the silence on such matters to be broken.
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