Reading between the lines of the article, it's obvious that both Admiral William H. McRaven and the Obama Administration are the likely sources. The usual leakers are not identified because they are "not authorized to speak". Or they are too coy to talk, and The Times is the willing stenographer. So we are left wondering whether McRaven is a loose cannon attempting a soft military coup against an inept executive branch, or whether this is a joint effort at a trial balloon to gauge public reaction before an end run around the State Department and Congress. The Times makes it clear that the White House is fully aware that McRaven is lobbying for more power. President Obama, of course, is known to be a huge fan of McRaven, of the Special Ops, and the bin Laden-killing Navy SEALs -- who are now starring in their own commercial Hollywood movie. They're playing themselves in a documentary disguised as a thriller. It's a recruiting tool! It's entertainment for the masses! It's propaganda to feed our fear and make us safe!
From today's article:
.... McRaven, who leads the Special Operations Command, is pushing for a larger role for his elite units who have traditionally operated in the dark corners of American foreign policy. The plan would give him more autonomy to position his forces and their war-fighting equipment where intelligence and global events indicate they are most needed.It would also allow the Special Operations forces to expand their presence in regions where they have not operated in large numbers for the past decade, especially in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Administration, military and Congressional officials say that the Special Operations Command has embarked on a quiet lobbying campaign to push through the initiative. Pentagon and administration officials note that while the Special Operations Command is certain to see a growth in its budget and personnel when the new Defense Department spending plan is released Monday — in contrast to many other parts of the military that are being cut — no decisions have been made on whether to expand Admiral McRaven’s authorities.
The article contains just enough doublespeak to confuse us. On the one hand, McRaven is quoted as saying while he is not really interested in running the global war on terror, he doesn't want to go through normal Pentagon channels in deciding where troops are to be deployed, or how many are to be deployed -- because sometimes there just isn't enough time to be deliberate and cautious. So if he isn't running the shadow wars, who will be? Is it because he doesn't want to bother Barry with a 3 a.m. phone call? Is it to give Barry plausible deniability? This is pretty unbelievable stuff.
McRaven already runs the elite military within the military. It is unaccountable to the public, of course. And now it wants to be unaccountable even to the brass, or (disingenuously) tothe executive branch. Forget about Congress. The full extent of his activities is already been deep in the shadows. According to Nick Turso of Counterpunch, Special Ops represent an industrial scale killing machine:
In 120 countries across the globe, troops from Special Operations Command carry out their secret war of high-profile assassinations, low-level targeted killings, capture/kidnap operations, kick-down-the-door night raids, joint operations with foreign forces, and training missions with indigenous partners as part of a shadowy conflict unknown to most Americans. Once “special” for being small, lean, outsider outfits, today they are special for their power, access, influence, and aura.On any given day, writes Turso, Special Ops are deployed in at least 70 countries (and likely about 120) throughout the world -- theoretically, by invitation only from the host country. Or whatever goon purports to be acting in behalf of the host country. Read Turso's whole article. It's an eye-opener.
That aura now benefits from a well-honed public relations campaign which helps them project a superhuman image at home and abroad, even while many of their actual activities remain in the ever-widening shadows. Typical of the vision they are pushing was this statement from (McRaven predecessor Admiral Eric) Olson: “I am convinced that the forces… are the most culturally attuned partners, the most lethal hunter-killers, and most responsive, agile, innovative, and efficiently effective advisors, trainers, problem-solvers, and warriors that any nation has to offer.”
The latest gimmick in that "well-honed public relations campaign to project their superhuman image" is the new commercial Hollywood movie about the SEALs that I mentioned earlier. Act of Valor is scheduled to open in 3000 theaters nationwide next week, and it has already generated controversy. It was originally meant to be a Pentagon recruiting tool, but the scenes were so exciting and action-packed that the producers decided to go commercial and make a buck.
A retired army lieutenant general gave Admiral McRaven a dressing down last week for approving the chest-thumping cinematic piece of propaganda, warning it might be used as a training tool for enemies. Others accused the admiral of using it as a tool to get more funding from Congress.
The movie reveals the faces of the SEALs -- but not to worry:
At the New York premiere, held at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, the Navy seemed to be trying to find the right balance between glitz and discretion. Most of the Seals arrived in limousines, dressed in their dress blues. There were canapes and champagne served at the reception afterward. Squads of paparazzi and press handlers swarmed through the crowd.
But when the Seals took the stage for a question-answer session after the screening, introduced by their ranks and first names only, a Navy public affairs officer waived off any questions from the audience and would not allow the Seals to talk to a reporter.This phony coyness is also very much the defacto policy of the Obama Administration's secret and exquisitely executed assassination program. The president pretty much destroyed the top secret nature of his kill list at an internet "Hangout with the President" PR appearance last week, when he bragged about the precise precision of his drone strikes. But he is still fighting a Freedom of Information request by the ACLU and others about the precise nature of the program.
JSOC, which has even been implicated in torture in the so-called black site prisons, has been described as Obama's own private army: a unique hybrid of killing machine and spy agency. Marc Ambinder, in a Wired magazine interview, describes the Constitutional end-run logistics:
There are legal restrictions on what the CIA can do in terms of covert operations. There has to be a finding, the president has to notify at least the “Gang of Eight” [leaders of the intelligence oversight committees] in Congress. JSOC doesn’t have to do any of that. There is very little accountability for their actions. What’s weird is that many in congress who’d be very sensitive to CIA operations almost treat JSOC as an entity that doesn’t have to submit to oversight. It’s almost like this is the president’s private army, we’ll let the president do what he needs to do. As long as you don’t get in trouble, we’re not gonna ask too many questions.The American public has not displayed too much curiosity about the foreign policy being conducted in our name, either. We apparently do not care. A recent poll revealed the vast majority of us are perfectly content to let Gitmo remain open forever, and have no problem with drone strikes against alleged militants in foreign countries. Even if they are American citizens.
And don't look for Obama to even consider firing Admiral McRaven for insubordination or overreach. This is no Truman/MacArthur scenario, at least not yet. These men belong to a mutual admiration society, McRaven having lauded the president for being the "smartest guy in the room", and in turn being awarded a prized seat in the First Lady's box at the State of the Union address. I guess the only consolation we have is that the "Protester" beat out the Admiral as Time's Person of the Year. (Read McRaven's magazine profile here.)
|Admiral McRaven (first from left) at State of the Union Address|