Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Deviant and the Damned

Ex-CIA Director George Tenet is notorious in the annals of atrocity for being an uncool punk with a cold, black heart. But unlike punk rocker Joan Jett and her Blackhearts band, he apparently does give a damn about his bad reputation. 

Waterboarding, he has long insisted, was simply a standard deviation, a perk of his exalted station. Like Adolf Eichmann, Tenet was simply following orders and doing his job when he defied the damned Geneva Conventions and ordered as many as 200 of his operatives to torture a whole bunch of people. It was just a terrible time when the elites running the joint experienced a strange bout of the fear normally reserved for the little people. The blowback of the 9/11 attacks blew their minds.

Even so, Tenet fears that he's going to look mighty strange when that long-suppressed and redacted Senate report on CIA torture comes out later this summer. And to that end, President Barack Obama is bending over backward to insure that Tenet and his co-conspirators are getting a chance to whitewash their own public relations disaster before the rest of us get a peek at it. (Because President Drone has already vowed there will be no such thing as a criminal indictment. What's past is past. We must look forward, not backward while bending over backward. It's a brand new hip generation. Above all, the Kill List president is counting on his own successor to continue paying it forward.)

Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times has the scoop: 
 Just after the Senate Intelligence Committee voted in April to declassify hundreds of pages of a withering report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s detention and interrogation program, C.I.A. Director John O. Brennan convened a meeting of the men who had played a role overseeing the program in its seven-year history.The spies, past and present, faced each other around the long wooden conference table on the seventh floor of the C.I.A.’s headquarters in Northern Virginia: J. Cofer Black, head of the agency’s counterterrorism center at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks; the undercover officer who now holds that job; and a number of other former officials from the C.I.A.’s clandestine service. Over the speakerphone came the distinctive, Queens-accented voice of George J. Tenet.

Over the past several months, Mr. Tenet has quietly engineered a counterattack against the Senate committee’s voluminous report, which could become public next month. The effort to discredit the report has set up a three-way showdown among former C.I.A. officials who believe history has been distorted, a White House carefully managing the process and politics of declassifying the document, and Senate Democrats convinced that the Obama administration is trying to protect the C.I.A. at all costs.
Not surprisingly, Senate Moll Dianne Feinstein helped orchestrate the secret reading sessions for the spies. She apparently quickly recovered from her Senate floor hissy fit earlier this year, when she pretended to be shocked that her CIA buddies were spying on her staffers and hacking into congressional computers. Attorney General Eric Holder, who also never met a thug he didn't like, be they from Wall Street or from Langley, declined to prosecute the Spy vs. Spy imbroglio. Because like banks, the Senate and the CIA are too big to fail.

Senator Ron Wyden, the foil in this triangular kabuki drama, is dutifully playing his part of publicly whining that Obama is protecting the CIA branch of the organized crime cartel which poses as a representative democracy. But of course he never mentions that I word (impeachment.) That is reserved for the Republicans, who serve as useful idiots in the fomenting of primitive tribalism and survival of the Obama Victimization Cult. The GOP ignores the real corruption, because they are absolutely complicit in it. They concentrate on petty stuff, like who lied on Page 1,502 of the Affordable Care Act. It keeps Obama smelling like a wilted plastic rose. It keeps his low-40s approval rating artificially high among people fooled into picking between two sides of the same filthy coin.

Meanwhile, it's apparent from the preview of his own pseudo-indictment that the pseudo-disgraced George Tenet is still calling the shots. Although he'd been forced to resign during the Bush administration over faulty Iraq War intelligence, Bush later awarded him the Medal of Freedom. As a fabulously wealthy private surveillance state contractor and partner in a secretive boutique bank catering to the tech and entertainment industries, Tenet is still a valued part of the powerful and permanent Inner Circle, and remains close to Obama drone henchman and current CIA Chief John Brennan. It was Tenet who invented the Orwellian term "disposition matrix" as the go-to euphemism for government murder by Predator drone. So he is definitely owed.

The Defiant Deviant Duo of the Disposition Matrix: Obama and Brennan

And as for Obama himself? "I was clear throughout this campaign and was clear throughout this transition that under my administration the United States does not torture," he vowed in 2009.

On the other hand....

 "I am really good at killing people," he reportedly bragged to aides during his re-election campaign three years and thousands of drone deaths later.

An' I don't give a damn 'bout my reputation
The world's in trouble, there's no communication
An' everyone can say what they wanna to say
It never gets better, anyway.
So why should I care about a bad reputation anyway?
Oh no, not me, oh no, not me.

Rock on, oh cool crypto-fascist Ship of State.

In related news, a European Human Rights Commission judge apparently did not get the "look forward" message from the Obama administration and defiantly ordered Poland to pay reparations to two torture victims who'd been "renditioned" to a CIA black site prison in that country during the Bush administration. The Obama administration still refuses to even confirm or deny the very existence of such prisons in Europe and elsewhere in the world. Those culpable countries are now vulnerable to prosecution while "the one indispensable nation" is not. Let us hope that the fear factor, if not the ethics factor, inspires Europe to resist calls from the American media-military-industrial complex to enter into World War III for a few drops more of oil and gas.


Bill Neil said...

Thanks Karen, great job, the words were still smoking slightly on my screen...

World War III, June-August 2014, June-August a link to the latest I could find from Professor Stephen F. Cohen on the Ukraine situation...a low key exposition of just how "on the brink we are..."

Really, just one "miscalculation" away from what we always feared...

My "disclaimer:" I in no way endorse or present any other views held by John Batchelor, he's just the place where I can hear Cohen relatively straight. Strange for a conservative host, since Cohen is trying to silence the drumbeat for war with Russia.

Zee said...

@Bill Neil--

I don't know a thing about John Batchelor, but, by way of clarification, not all conservatives--including this
one--are lockstep-eager for a war with Russia, or, for that matter, any further intervention in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan or any place else that we've mucked up in the recent past.

James F Traynor said...

But Zee, you are a very small minority, an exception
that ...oh, you know.

Jay - Ottawa said...

That Cohen interview is worthwhile. Thanks, Bill. Cohen is an informed professor emeritus who has all the right credentials on his study wall as well as important personal connections in the East and West. Besides Wiki, there’s this for background:

People at Sardonicky have talked about the Ukrainian business before. The Kiev leadership is not a poster child for democracy. Once again on a different point of the map Western hubris has brought us to the point of looking eye-to-eye with Russia on its own doorstep. Putin in 2014 may not turn out to be the Khrushchev of 1962. (Blessed be his name –– Nikita –– for not playing nuclear chicken with the world.)

The MA17 shootdown threw diplomacy for a loop. There are hawks in both Russia and the US squawking at full volume right now. It’s not sure the hawks can be put back in their cages. All bets are off if this keeps escalating, and it is escalating.

Both the US and Russia will have to work hard to avoid another full-bore cold war –– or worse –– assuming that’s what’s desired by TPTB on both sides. The US is not NATO, and NATO at this point is divided about the next step. Cohen explains Angela Merkel’s welcome efforts at calming everybody down. As for Obama, sometimes he squawks like a hawk, sometimes like a dove. As usual, he’s letting others like Merkel set the agenda. Good idea.

Irrespective of what intelligence specialists tell them, which is probably a great deal more authoritative, detailed and up-to-date than what Professor Cohen can come up with alone, one wonders whether the intelligence policy chiefs described in Karen’s post are capable of being influenced more by the facts and a sense of fair play than by their neocon ideology.

Denis Neville said...

@ Bill

An excellent interview with Stephen Cohen! Thanks for sharing the link.

Having spent time at a USAFSS listening post across from Crimea during the cold war years, the collapse of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War was astonishing. I never imagined it would occur during my life time.

It is dismaying to see the re-emergence of a new cold war. The major shift in U.S. policy toward Russia, to isolate Russia and make it a pariah state, is alarming.

The coup of an democratically elected government on Russia’s western border, clearly engineered by the U.S. Intel assets in the region, just as the CIA has done countless times over its history, what could possibly go wrong?

Excellent analysis by Stephen Cohen and John Mearsheimer here:

The role of folly, foolish leadership producing disaster, is an unlearned lesson for many today. Hubris gets many of our so-called leaders into trouble. And the people, in their customary position at the bottom of the many hills, bear the brunt of all the shit that rolls downhill, pawns in the cynical and hypocritical east-west power games of spheres of influence.

Cohen, of course, is being called Vladimir Putin's best friend and propagandist by russophobe MSM. The scurrilous ad hominem attacks on his work and character is appalling.

James F Traynor said...

Karen, you'v really locked on to these guys - too bad you can't send a missile up their asses.

But 'twill do
not as deep as a well
nor wide as a church door
but 'twill do, 'twill serve

to paraphrase Old Will, I think.

Pearl said...

The Silence of American Hawks About Kiev’s Atrocities

Bill Neil said...

I'm trying to imagine 50 years from now, a college professor mounting a lecture podium trying to explain the vector of events in the former Soviet Union after the fall, as the satellites one by one left the old orbits from their own historical momentums and varying amounts of prying and enticing. One would have to throw out three centuries of analysis, precedents and the nature of national sovereignty to see the world through the lens currently being imposed by the US. No former great power is going to stand by idly and watch a state like the Ukraine move into "the other column," although the move is a lot more complex than that, isn't it? Without saying anything good about Putin or Russian motives, this is the way states behave, the way we behave in protecting our "orbits" in Latin America and both borders, although our spokespeople have cleaned up a lot of history to say with a straight face that nations no longer use Russia's crude tactics, please come into the circle of civilized nations, good manners required now and don't look under our rug.

My, my, the load that has been swept under the rug with that sweep of thought.

This loss of perspective has old state and intelligence hands saying disaster is not far away, the magnitude of the blunders in pushing NATO right up to the edge not comprehended at all by most of the public. Ray McGovern for one can't believe what he is reading or the advice being given, this being his old desk and task. He's been on the Real Network and I believe Lawrence Wilkerson is also in disbelief.

Glad folks liked the Cohen piece. He's a voice I turn to help sort it out.

And thanks to Karen for setting the tone getting it rolling.

Denis Neville said...

Bill said … “I'm trying to imagine 50 years from now, a college professor mounting a lecture podium trying to explain the vector of events in the former Soviet Union after the fall…”

That professor will likely have had to swear a loyalty oath in order to be on that podium.

“Loyalty oaths are an old familiar means of hounding unpopular people … The very presence of an oath requiring one official to swear he is a true believer puts pressure on all to take the oath lest they too be persecuted as ideological strays…The loyalty oath has a special and severe impact on teachers. It is wholly inconsistent with the ideal of the university … a center of independent thought and criticism that is created in the interest of the progress of society …

“With the passage of the loyalty security programs, university environments did not relax; rather they hardened. The lessons of conformity and the rewards it brought became subtle influences in academic circles. Faculties walked more and more in goose step to the tunes of the Establishment. Universities were no longer places of ferment but became more and more institutions dispensing information on how to get ahead and sedatives that made students less and less responsive to the mighty forces of rebellion that were making the nation seethe … The campus is now like the compulsory ghetto."
- William O. Douglas, "Judicial Treatment of Nonconformists,” The Court Years 1939-1975: The Autobiography of William O. Douglas

Pearl can relate the experiences of her husband in this regard.

I remember when we were at the brink in 1962. Here we are 52 years later with the Obama administration and the neo-con and neo-liberal extremists pushing us and the world to that line again.

It is beyond comprehension.

“Political language -- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists -- is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one's own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase -- some jackboot, Achilles' heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno, or other lump of verbal refuse -- into the dustbin, where it belongs.” - George Orwell, Politics and the English Language

William Neil said...

A couple of more thoughts to help explain the vehemence with which Professor Cohen is attacked for his attempts to explain the Ukrainian crisis and how the West's behavior is viewed by Russians.
Let's begin with America's notion that we are exceptional actors on the world stage, the indispensable nation. This angle was again brought home to me by reading Friday's NY Times front page article about Dinesh D'Souza the conservative provocateur, and the title of one of his books, "America: Imagine a World Without Her."

It's not much of a stretch to put it this way: only exceptional nations should be allowed to issue "red lines" in foreign policy that other nation's cannot cross - or else. Obama got in trouble in Syria last summer and fall, if not earlier, by drawing them, and finding out they can be limiting and trapping, not "liberating." And of course, in this American way of thinking, other nations, no matter what their present or importantly, former standing, have no right to issue their own red lines. In Professor Cohen's view, and I've heard Ray McGovern say almost the same thing, Russia was clearly announcing to the US, Europe and the world that pushing NATO into the Ukraine and prying that nation out of the Russian sphere of influence, was a red line for them. If we crossed it they would come out fighting by any means necessary to stop it.

I think even kids can understand this, around their neighborhoods. Try walking out your door and carrying yourself as the "exceptional" neighbor, and a child taking that posture to the local playground. This was the neocon worldview from the late 1990's...and its been a disaster...our policy vis a vis Russia is only another offshoot, but one that may yet have terrible consequences. Ray McGovern says we have yet to grasp the magnitude of this blunder, simply put, the inability to put oneself in another's shoes and walk in them for any length of time.

And the domestic ramifications of this outlook overseas? Let us count the ways...

Denis Neville said...

Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, favored prosecutions of the decision-makers and their closest advisors.

Jane Mayer of the New Yorker has written that CIA Director Leon Panetta initially supported the creation of a high-level truth commission so that Obama could delegate to others the legal problems stemming from Bush Administration actions. But Obama vetoed the idea.

Congressmen John Conyers and Jerrold Nadler requested that Attorney General Eric Holder appoint an independent Special Prosecutor to investigate and where appropriate prosecute participants in the Bush-era US torture system. But Holder rejected the request because Obama indicated he didn’t see the need for such a prosecutor.

David Broder of the Washington Post once explained, “Stop Scapegoating: Obama Should Stand Against Prosecutions,” that calls for accountability of the Bush Administration’s torture policy were not just wrong, they “cloaked an unworthy desire for vengeance.” Broder argued that Obama needed to intervene to stop any suggestion of a criminal inquiry because, “The memos on torture represented a deliberate, and internally well-debated, policy decision, made in the proper places - the White House, the intelligence agencies and the Justice Department - by the proper officials.”

Obama took Broder’s advice. We live in a banana republic where it is El Jefe Barry who decides who is, and who is not, criminally investigated.

If anyone questions why so many died or were maimed, and why the perpetrators of these crimes went unpunished, tell them it was because our government lied, and then did not have the guts and decency to enforce our laws against those powerful people.

Pearl said...

Denis: Your mentioning the use of the loyalty oath required at times and places for various reasons and specifically in the areas of education has interesting implications. My husband on advice of counsel was instructed to not sign a loyalty oath and to take the Fifth Amendment. As a result, many of the universities he applied to where they were required (by the state?)to administer these oaths could only hire staff who signed them. Many apologized to my husband saying they had no choice in the matter indicating they did not approve of this maneuver. I looked up the history of loyalty oaths which went as far back as the Civil War. It is a method that has been challenged at various times as limiting free speech, using coercion, and occasionally declared unconstitutional. One can sign the oath which seems legitimate but if the powers that be decide you are indeed not a loyal citizen according to their beliefs you are then in more hot water.
As to the Fifth Amendment it clearly indicates its purpose to protect citizens from prosecution and persecution by the government which indicated amazing foresight by the founding fathers about the future. Those that did not take the Fifth Amendment during the McCarthy era were then subjected to questions like, Have you stopped beating your wife? and coerced into naming names of people they believed to be disloyal.
Of course anyone refusing to sign a loyalty oath or using the Fifth Amendment to avoid being interrogated was immediately suspect and lost jobs and reputation.
The irony is that the methods of the various committees and intelligence agencies were truly unconstitutional in my opinion and certainly unethical. Many victims who had the means and time sued and some were cleared of accusations against them.
Besides the effects on our lives, it proved to us how a citizen's safety and protection could be removed given the right circumstances such as the advent of McCarthyism. And as we can clearly see today in the U.S. it has become the fruit of that ugly era of the late l940's. It also coincided in the past with the beginnings of the Cold War and with its continuance today.
Karen's columns provide us with a clear picture of the use and misuse of power in the nation today which most citizens are not aware of.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Ah, yes, David Broder.

Broder was another of those “serious” and “respected” political reporters who played at being wise men haughtily above the fray. The establishment loved Broder because, no matter what, he usually ended up in the corner of power and big money. His severest critiques were against peripheral players and big ducks already pronounced dead, never the top tier holding power. What he did not say was worth a fortune to him and the people he was supposed to cover. He fooled a lot of readers and TV viewers into thinking he was nonpartisan, balanced and always in search of the best course for the Republic. He died in 2011, long enough to run interference for the latest pack of swindlers.

Tim Russert was another of the same kind; in 2008 he moved on for a final evaluation by the editor-in-chief in the sky.

Today, similarly degreed, polished, honored and purposeful senior political reporters with their lips to the ear of power include David Gergen and, yes, Paul Krugman. It’s best to be aware of these types while they’re still alive and talking nice. That’s when they can hurt you most –– while putting an avuncular arm on your shoulder.

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks to Bill Neil for the podcast interview with Prof. Cohen. What really struck me was that Ukrainian govt forces had continued shelling areas around the crash site. But all you heard from American media was that the "militants" were desecrating the scene and disrespecting the bodies.

The whole situation is absolutely surreal.

Now the Obama administration is defending a shadowy NGO group in court lest its corporate secrets and shadow war financing get exposed:

When there is no discernible difference between the govt and corporations, that is fascism.