Posted on | October 23, 2013 | 6 Comments
Chronic mismanagement and cost over-runs. Incomplete software coding, timely political donations and undelivered promises. And zero accountability.
Now, imagine the outrage.
No, really. You will actually have to imagine the outrage.
That’s because The Great American Outrage Machine™ has no interest in generating a scandal around the ultimate example of government failure: the F-35 fighter jet.
Like the comically bad roll-out of the Affordable Care Act’s website, the long-delayed and often-rejiggered F-35 program is a costly disaster rife with technological snafus, software problems and repeated contractor incompetence.
Unlike the circle-jerk of posturing, pontification and media preoccupation that gave us The Shutdown of 2013, the “first $1 trillion weapon system in history” has quietly metastasized into a debacle that is, to quote Sen. John McCain, “worse than a disgrace.”
And although increasingly well-compensated contractors will “surge” over the next few weeks to remediate the epic fail of a healthcare website that has ballooned from an estimated cost of $94 million to over $400 million, it pales in comparison to an “aerospace megaproject” that is seven years behind schedule and 70% over the initial budget estimate of $233 billion—all to deliver 409 fewer planes than originally planned.
Even worse, a recent report by the Pentagon’s Inspector General detailed an array of management and quality-assurance problems at Lockheed Martin’s production facility in Fort Worth, Texas, all of which contributed to over 200 repairs on each plane. Of course, each of those repairs translates into added cost to the taxpayer-funded program. Citing the report, McClatchy’s James Rosen noted that beyond the 28 “major” problems among the total of 70 found at Lockheed’s Fort Worth facility, there were another 119 “major issues at Lockheed’s five main subcontractors’ plants.”
Despite these problems, the F-35 program soldiered on through the Congressional budget process, thus far emerging both “unscathed” by budget battles and immune to the “indiscriminate” cuts imposed by The Sequester.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the IG’s report was completed at the end of 2012, but was not released until September 30th of this year—months after the House approved $600 billion of Pentagon spending and weeks after the Senate Armed Service Committee submitted its slightly less fruitful version of the defense spending bill.
And Lockheed used the long interregnum between the completion and release of the IG’s report to simply dismiss its claims as “out-of-date” and functionally irrelevant. It is true that Lockheed has trimmed the per plane cost from, according to the Project on Government Oversight, a peak of $161 million per plane to $133 million in 2012 and, if Lockheed is to be believed, downward over the next few years to somewhere between $114 million and $156 million per plane, depending on model specifications, engine options, retrofits and upgrades.
If these numbers are a bit mindboggling, it is only the tip of a giant contracting iceberg uncovered by Adam Ciralsky in a lengthy Vanity Fair exposé of the F-35 program. It reads like anti-government porn for hot and bothered budget hawks. Here are some of the “sexier” details:
- Looking for software coding issues? Lockheed’s got ’em. The F-35 will not be “fully-functional” until Lockheed’s rapidly expanding pool of software engineers finally delivers 8.6 million lines of code. Also, proper maintenance of the planes is delayed until another 10 million lines of code are written and uploaded to maintenance computers.
- How about design flaws? There have been many, but none sums up the problems more than the case of the $500,000 helmet that had to be developed to compensate for the massive, dangerous blind-spots created by a visually restrictive cockpit design.
- What about incompetence? The stealthy design of the F-35 may have been sold as state-of-the-art, but continual redesigns have literally slowed down the plane. The special radar-evading coating was changed in mid-production, but the new coating bubbles and peels at high speeds, meaning the planes are restricted from flying at or above supersonic speeds until Lockheed can remediate the problem.
But the real takeaway of Ciralsky’s story is something called Total System Performance Responsibility. It refers to a type of “Performance Based Logistics” (PBL) that “revolutionized” the way the Pentagon issued contracts by putting more “responsibility” (a.k.a. “power”) in the hands of the contractor. This “innovative thinking” in the Pentagon’s contracting process promised to free-up the creative power of the private sector by removing the oppressive power of government oversight.
Sure, it sounds like something Ayn Rand wrote in a love letter to Milton Friedman. But this deadly serious idea took flight at the start of Bush the Younger’s administration and it portended a decade of defense contractors gone wild—particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan.
What it meant for the F-35 contract was, according to Ciralsky, that “…Lockheed was given near-total responsibility for design, development, testing, fielding, and production.” Instead of oversight along the way, “…the Pentagon gave Lockheed a pot of money and a general outline of what was expected.”
Which brings the story back around to Healthcare.gov.
Like the open-ended Total System Performance Responsibility contract system used by the Pentagon, various agencies tasked with launching the Affordable Care Act sometimes awarded Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts—as is the case with the now infamous deal GCI Federal received to “build” the website. And yes, an IDIQ contract is exactly like it sounds—it is a broadly-defined trough with few parameters and little oversight, kinda like your plate during the “Oceans of Shrimp” promotion at Golden Corral.
Sadly, IDIQ contracts are not unusual. Nor is the practice of contractors giving well-timed political donations.
The Beltway is teeming with companies drawn to the recession-proof feeding frenzy chummed by members of Congress and various political appointees. Fifty-five companies got a piece of the Affordable Care Act. But only a select few hook “free from oversight” mega-deals like the one secured by Lockheed Martin.
Unsurprisingly, some of the winners of the ACA rollout are well-practiced anglers of tax dollars. Yup, the Sunlight Foundation found that defense giants like Booz Allen Hamilton ($2.6m), Northrop Grumman ($1.66m) and Science Applications International Corp. ($1.77m) couldn’t resist getting “a taste” of the ACA. The big winner was General Dynamics’ subsidiary Vangent ($28m), which they acquired just in time to belly up to the ACA trough.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon served up $6.3 billion worth of contracts during the Obamacare-inspired shutdown. So, the corporate feasting continued even as taxpayers were force-fed a bogus debate over a “government takeover of healthcare,” which is little more than a legally-binding promise under the ACA to enshrine in perpetuity the profitable health insurance industry and its massive, private bureaucracies. An actual government takeover would’ve replaced health insurance with healthcare. But that didn’t happen.
And the punchline of this grand budgetary joke?
When it comes to securing their profitable contracts, government failure is not an option.Tweet
Posted on | September 4, 2013 | 13 Comments
He just can’t get any respect.
Despite a solid resume as a crazed, brutal dictator responsible for killing approximately 1.7 million of his own people, his name never comes up when the caretakers of American empire set their sights on an enemy du jour.
The same goes for Josef Stalin, Chairman Mao, General Franco, Idi Amin, Attila the Hun, Caligula and Vlad the Impaler.
No, when it’s time to fire up the Great American Fear Factory for another “lobbying blitz” and bellicose “product launch,” America’s policymakers conjure up the darkest star of human history. They say “Hitler.”
Saddam Hussein? Say “Hitler.”
Slobodan Milosevic? Say “Hitler.”
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Say “Hitler.”
And now, as if on cue, Secretary of State John Kerry said “Hitler.”
Faced with sparse domestic and international support for launching expensive cruise missiles into the middle of a civil war, Kerry re-booted the Hitler franchise by comparing Syria’s Bashar al-Assad to history’s first name in unchecked evil. In fact, he compared Assad to Hitler and Saddam Hussein. Looks like Saddam is now in an elite class of evildoer.
Evoking Hitler is the foreign policy equivalent of yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. Comparisons to Hitler are meant to spark an immediate, visceral reaction and designed to “clear out the building.” Once the dissent leaves the room, the debate has effectively ended. It also demarcates a rhetorical red line. If you cross it, you are siding with Hitler.
And no one wants to be on the side of Hitler.
At least, that’s what Team Obama is banking on with its next “lite” war. The Peace Prize President likes bombs and missiles and drones, and that means war without American body bags and graves and, therefore, much domestic fallout.
Team Obama is also banking on ignorance—of historical context and basic historical facts—on the part of the media, members of Congress and the American people. Adolf Hitler started World War II. He invaded Western Europe, Eastern Europe and Russia. Over twenty million Russians died. So did 2.5% of the world’s entire population. Hitler declared war on the United States without direct provocation and, when coupled with casualties fighting Hitler’s Japanese allies in the Pacific, some 400,000 Americans died. And then there is the Holocaust. Six million European Jews died in a systematic genocidal pogrom.
Bashar al-Assad, on the other hand, is fighting a complicated civil war with competing ethnic, religious and proxy factions. He has invaded no one. Declared war on no one. But he is a dictator. Some 100,000 people have died. And, according to Team Obama and their French partners, he used chemical weapons on his “own people.”
That fact does make him comparable to another Baathist bad guy—Saddam Hussein. According to “Professor” Kerry, Saddam’s use of gas on his “own people” and on Iranian people sets him apart from guys like Stalin and Mao who, history has shown, are responsible for the deaths of millions of people.
But does that make him Hitler?
Rather, was Saddam, like Bashar, more comparable to other dictators and despots of the 20th Century? How about the Shah of Iran, General Suharto, General Pinochet or Colonel Qaddafi?
They all ruled with iron-fisted brutality—as evidenced by the Shah’s infamous SAVAK, Suharto’s purges of communists and political opponents, and Pinochet’s bloody, neo-fascist repression. They all subverted democracy. They all killed their “own people.”
Perhaps the problem with those far more rational comparisons is that those dictators were all supported by the United States. Even Qaddafi had his day in the sun after 9/11 “changed everything” and he traded his WMDs and access to his oil for a free pass from Washington. In fact, the 20th Century saw both tacit and explicit US support of various repressions, dictatorships, mass killings and, in a particularly woeful period during the 1980s, Central American death squads. So far—from Egypt to Saudi Arabia and across Central Asia—the 21st Century isn’t much better.
But the problem is even deeper than that litany of compromised values.
If chemical weapons are sui generis—thus, uniquely abhorrent—then it is truly unfortunate that Kerry lumped Assad with Saddam the very same week that documents confirmed US implicit and active support for Saddam’s use of chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq War. What’s more, the US did nothing when he used them on his “own people.” Maybe that was because Saddam was gassing the Kurds, which was quietly welcomed by America’s steadfast allies in Turkey who, like US client Saddam, were also fighting an internal war against Kurdish rebels.
Apparently, Kerry and Co. don’t read Foreign Policy magazine or, for that matter, much actual history. Or, if they do, they must hope that Congress and the media don’t dust of books or search Lexis-Nexis. They might find that it was just a short time ago that a “rendition-obsessed” US government sent “suspects” to be tortured by Assad’s regime!
However, Kerry’s knack for revisionism is nothing new. Remember that classic line from the 2004 election about funding for the Iraq War? While choking on some pretzel logic, Kerry said, “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.”
Well, he may also have been for Bashar before he was against him. Until the Arab Spring came along, Assad was a darling of Washington’s foreign policy and media establishment. Now, also as if on cue, the Daily Mail publishes a cozy picture of then-Senator Kerry and his wife sharing dinner with the Assads in 2009 to discuss, perhaps, regional peace efforts. Although we don’t know what was said, the picture is reminiscent of Don Rumsfeld’s famous, grainy handshake picture with then-dictator Saddam Hussein in 1983.
And that’s history. No matter how much Team Obama refuses to acknowledge it, it does have a nasty habit of repeating itself—like those incessant Nazi documentaries on the History Channel. Hopefully, enough people have watched enough Nazivision™ to see that this sad, belligerent effort to protect Obama’s credibility strains the bounds of credulity.
If nothing else, he won’t be compared to Pol Pot.Tweet
Posted on | August 27, 2013 | 4 Comments
It is the mother’s milk of imperialism.
Whether it is in the service of “civilizing” barbarians, converting “heathens,” or, in its most recent incarnation, extending the reach of “democracy,” the bottom line of imperialism has always been the bottom line.
The bottom line of the infamous “White Man’s Burden” borne by the once-ubiquitous British Empire was merely the heavy weight—the pure tonnage—of the incredible wealth the colonials dutifully carried back home.
When the United States picked up “the Burden” after World War II, it became the world’s self-appointed champion of freedom, unreflective “protector” of inalienable rights and self-serving dictator of democracy’s terms and conditions. But it faced a problem—what is the rationale for empire in a post-colonial world?
The problem was solved ideologically and, truth be told, cinematically. “International Communism” emerged as if from central casting, like a 1950s B-movie invader from a godless Red Planet. Fighting it created the greatest source of publicly-funded largess in human history, often cycling tax dollars through client states that, in turn, spent the “aid money” at the All-American Arsenal of Democracy shopping center.
How ironic it was, however, that a nation born of revolution so quickly and easily became the counter-revolutionary stalwart against self-determination. Even as European empires fell, American power often came to the aid of the old regime’s remnants, propping up reactionaries and arming dubious freedom fighters. While the epic battle against Red totalitarianism gave America’s growing empire some ideological cover, it was the existential fear of releasing a global thermonuclear Leviathan that kept the Red, White and Blue façade intact.
Now, the Soviet Union is a distant memory. Nuclear holocaust doesn’t quite loom over the planet with the same inevitability. And a persistent thaw is releasing the dirty secrets of hypocrisy previously locked away by the frozen logic of the Cold War.
Perhaps that is why America’s national security establishment works so hard to preserve the Leviathan, now rebranded as the catch-all acronym of evil incarnate—the WMD.
Chemical, biological and nuclear weapons comprise the three-headed beast of the 21st Century’s Leviathan. Somehow, bunker-busting bombs, costly cruise missiles, indiscriminate cluster bombs and life-altering land mines—along with an inventive array of massively destructive ordinance made, used and sold by the United States—don’t seem to qualify as “weapons of mass destruction.”
This is, of course, in spite of Iraq.
An obvious “case in point,” it suffered massive destruction by a shocking onslaught of said weapons. In fact, Iraq’s significant toll of civilian causalities will continue to mount decades after the war because of America’s widespread use of depleted uranium—a chemically toxic, radiological weapon that was first used in the 1991 Gulf War and then used again in the 2003 invasion.
But don’t call that a WMD. Like Agent Orange before it, America’s “leadership” hides behind the veil of collateral consequences to obfuscate the mass destruction caused by both of those weapons. One defoliated. The other disabled armor. Any mass destruction was purely coincidental. But any hypocrisy you detect is completely understandable.
Take, for example, Secretary of State John Kerry’s “pre-targeting” statement on Syria.
Without blushing, he referred to the “indiscriminate slaughter of civilians” as a “moral obscenity.” In an eerie echo of Dick Cheney, he expressed no doubt about claims the Syrian regime used chemical weapons against its own people. Apparently, Assad crossed the much-discussed “red line” in the sand drawn by President Obama. A deadly serious Secretary Kerry intoned with baritone forcefulness, “…there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people.”
Yet, there is little accountability built into America’s barely-secret drone war against suspected militants in numerous countries. The heinous Hellfire missiles they launch “indiscriminately” kill civilians at an obscenely higher rate than piloted bombing missions. But those are not “technically” WMDs. Drones also purposely double back and kill “vulnerable” first responders after the initial attack. But those deaths are purely “conventional.”
Even though death by conventional weapons versus non-conventional weapons seems more and more like a distinction without a difference, the sad fact is that American hypocrisy runs deep on the issue of non-conventional warfare.
Ironically, that story leads back to Iraq.
Longstanding claims of U.S. complicity in Iraq’s use of chemical weapons against Iran have finally been verified. Although previously dismissed as a loony conspiracy theory or the anti-patriotic musings of naïve peaceniks, the relentless journalists at Foreign Policy magazine forced a timely bit of bold truth into the black hole of historical indifference so often peddled by the bedazzled stenographers of the mainstream media. Declassified CIA documents, a key interview and some dark dots connect Reagan officials with foreknowledge and consistent support of Saddam’s use of chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq War. The U.S. even provided satellite intelligence for a deadly chemical attack on Iranian troops in 1988.
So, while Egypt cracks down on “its own people” after a “not-coup” and Saudi Arabia continues its Taliban-like rule over “its own people” and a nuclear Israel continues to confiscate the land of another people, Syria becomes the next target in America’s ongoing struggle to remain atop the moral high ground.
To that end, the world’s leading nuclear power, with the world’s leading bioweapons facility and lingering stockpiles of chemical weapons will punish a non-client state in another undeclared war based on hard to verify charges stemming from a bloody civil conflict.
Perhaps that’s the only way to preserve the transparent walls around this American empire. Protest when others have rocks. Arm yourself and your allies with even bigger rocks. And pre-emptively or punitively launch rocks at the few glass houses in which you and your rock sellers are not welcome.
Ultimately, that’s the bottom line of the American empire.Tweet
Posted on | August 13, 2013 | 2 Comments
Let’s say you own an auto-glass repair shop.
Doesn’t it make a lot of financial sense to periodically hire a few thugs armed with baseball bats to go out and surreptitiously break a few windshields?
It’s Marketing 101. If you want to sell your product, you’ve gotta create a need.
That simple analogy may be all you need to know about Fox Entertainment’s likely involvement in NBC’s already-controversial Hillary miniseries and, sadly, the entire American Two-Party System™.
Why? Because American politics is little more than a business, and that business is, first and foremost, concerned with the bottom line. And the bottom line depends on shocking controversies, fits of outrage, simple dichotomies and stoking partisan fires.
Unity is boring. But division is hot and sexy and dramatic.
It ignites “consumers” of partisan ideology. It inspires a lot of spending by parties and candidates and SuperPACs on political campaigns and political ads. Ka-ching!
It feeds the political class. Consultants, fundraisers, ad agencies, candidates and political hacks ply their trade, sell their political products, make their ad buys and charge their fees. The grand total for the 2012 election cycle was upwards of $7 billion. Ka-ching!
And, of course, it supports the media. Spending on political ads every two and four years is how local stations often turn a profit and, increasingly, how cable networks pump up revenues. The more they “cover,” talk about and gin-up partisan politics, the better their bottom line. Ka-ching!
Is it any surprise that political “news” now dominates the cable networks?
It’s the cheapest news to produce. It practically comes to you gift-wrapped! Consultants, strategists and politicians will literally walk into the studio and start talking—often free of charge! Political news is continually piped into newsrooms from the wires, from press releases and speeches. And there’s an endless stream of wild statements on Twitter and Facebook and YouTube. You don’t need reporters in the field. Just pull a viral clip from the internet and voilà—insta-controversy!
Talk is cheap. Talking about all those controversies and personalities is really cheap. And that’s no joke. It equals advertising sold with low overhead, and that’s money in the bank.
Considering the way FOX News and MSNBC make their money and hold their surprisingly meager audiences, is there any doubt why NBC and Fox Television Studios are in talks to team up and re-boot the Clinton saga?
Do you hear the sound of breaking glass?
Not only will Fox Television Studios make money from the production and international distribution of NBC’s docu-dramatic Hillary show, but the announcement of this infotainment effort has also effectively kicked off what will be the longest, most expensive Presidential campaign in human history.
No debates yet?
Don’t worry. We’ve got debates about debates!
Unfortunately for the few journalists still toiling away at FOX or NBC, the debates they’re having are with themselves. Chuck Todd, in particular, has voiced his displeasure with the miniseries and its potential impact on NBC News, but he also still thinks there is a “giant firewall” between the news and entertainment divisions.
Alas, it is a distinction without a difference. Politics is a business and there is no business like show business.
Like the wholly-owned folks at NBC, the folks at FOX News cannot really claim independence from the folks at Fox Television Studios. Although Rupert Murdoch engineered a division of print news from the entertainment divisions after the phone hacking scandal, FOX News is officially an asset of 21st Century Fox, not the new News Corp.
Stock splits notwithstanding, the butter on the bread still ends up in the same corporate mouths. The stockholders of both 21st Century Fox and News Corp will benefit mightily from Hillary’s candidacy, from an outrage-inspiring Hillary miniseries and, when all is said and done, from a Hillary presidency.
And that’s the kicker with the whole Two Party System™. No matter who loses, the same people keep on winning. When Bill Clinton shepherded the 1996 Telecommunications Act through Congress and onto his desk, Murdoch’s News Corporation was a big winner. When Bill left his human stain on American politics, FOX News was a big ratings winner. And when Hillary finally became a political candidate, she was fêted by Murdoch at a campaign fundraiser in 2006.
Murdoch doesn’t adhere to ideology. He sells it. The same is true of MSNBC, which tattooed every anti-Constitutional softball the Bush Presidency tossed into the strike zone, but is now loathe to admit that Obama differs little (and may be worse) on the War on Terror or the surveillance state.
If ideology is fog, these two media partners—like the Republican and Democratic Parties they amplify—produce lotsa hot air that does little more than fog up the window between the financially insecure masses and the trans-party elites in the national security state, on Wall Street and in Washington, D.C.’s permanent political class. Isn’t it telling how they all seem to prosper regardless of political outcomes?
Even more telling was a Freudian slip by glass-breaking thug extraordinaire—Rush Limbaugh. He recently told a caller named “Tony from Tampa” to stop watching political hacks on FOX News because “…they’re designed to get you ticked off. They’re designed to make you question your sanity.” Although Rush quickly explained away his momentary lapse into reason, his statement betrayed the simple truth about American politics—the show must go on.
So, entering stage “left”—the Hillary miniseries.
It feeds the Republican outrage machine and will no doubt help them raise millions of dollars. In response, Democrats will, of course, circle the wagons around their beloved standard-bearer and will no doubt raise millions of dollars to re-tell themselves and America the halcyon lies of the Clinton Years.
And for the blatherati at FOX News and MSBNC, the talking points will practically write themselves.Tweet
Posted on | August 8, 2013 | 4 Comments
Timing is everything.
Terrifying terror thwarted.
The media dutifully regurgitated and the conversation changed.
Frankly, when it comes to justifying the national security state, “potential terror” is almost as good as actual terror. In some ways, it’s better. It keeps Americans on their toes and critics on their heels, but without any unpleasant details. And that detail-free approach has worked quite effectively for well over a decade.
Put bluntly, the War on Terror has been predicated on blind trust.
If you don’t want to re-live the terror of 9/11, you will just have to trust us. If you want to preserve “The Homeland” and your family, you will just have to trust us. And if you aren’t doing anything wrong, you have no reason not to trust us.
Therein lies the rub.
The national security state relies upon the willingness of the public to trust them without question. Don’t worry about the facts and details—just let us handle the truth. But the public airing of facts and details is also imperative to the constitutional system the national security state is tasked to preserve.
However, some troublesome facts have disrupted that once-reliable Catch-22.
It’s not just Edward Snowden’s revelatory details about the NSA’s massive, extra-constitutional surveillance infrastructure. And it’s not just that DNI James Clapper lied to Congress. Or that the President and key members of Congress keep lying to the public. Now newly-released documents show the NSA went so far as to violate orders issued by the ultra-secret rubber-stamping FISA court. Even worse, other governmental agencies covet the NSA’s epic haul of data and, if the DEA’s “Special Operations Division” is any indication, the collection of everything possible can easily metastasize into a massive, classified law enforcement crackdown on the beleaguered denizens of “The Homeland.”
So, after decades of acting with impunity under a veil of relative obscurity, the beating heart of the national security state—the NSA—is enduring an unprecedented level of public scrutiny. Now the “just trust us” phase of the War on Terror is in real jeopardy.
Questions about the veracity and timing of seemingly convenient terror alerts reflect this new reality. Americans know the NSA never “met-a-data” it didn’t like to collect. And their Homeland Security “partners” in the ever-vigilant FBI not only seem to be forcing a merger with the telecom industry, but they’ve also employed hackers who could easily turn your snazzy new TV into a two-way observation mirror.
However, the national security state is so much more than just the data hounds in the NSA, the FBI and the DEA. It is the Pentagon, the National Security Council, the CIA, self-interested members of Congress, military contractors, defense lobbyists, oil executives, public intellectuals and the smarmy think tanks that harbor them.
They are the purveyors of perpetual war, and they have been ever since Senator Arthur Vandenberg infamously told a myopic, compliant haberdasher from Missouri that he’d have to “scare the hell out of the American people” if he wanted to engage in a multi-generational conflict with former allies in the Soviet Union.
On March 12, 1947, “Give ’em Hell Harry” did just that. He gave the “Truman Doctrine” speech that set in motion decades of proxy wars, the scourge of McCarthyism and the still-resonant debacle of Vietnam. In it he warned of an enemy that relied “upon terror and oppression, a controlled press and radio; fixed elections, and the suppression of personal freedoms.”
It worked. Three years later, on April 14, 1950, the National Security Council codified the multi-generational conflict in a top-secret, innocuously-named “NSC-68” report outlining the strategy of “containment.” That document was the exclamation point at the end of the Cold War sentence written by Truman and the nascent national security state when they dropped the atomic bombs on Japanese civilians.
Then as now, timing is everything.
Although the Japanese signaled their willingness to surrender, Truman and Co. knew the Soviets were coming—ready to turn their victorious army toward their long-standing Japanese competitors in East Asia. Wary of a Soviet presence in America’s growing sphere of influence, the national security state used the devastating attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a well-timed demonstration of force to the Soviets and the world. They certainly did nothing to keep the Emperor off the throne, which had been the supposed sticking point keeping the Allies from accepting Japan’s surrender before its civilians were summarily incinerated.
Ironically, it’s been 68 years since the US became the first and only nation to ever use nuclear weapons. Not ironically, it is still the national security state and the mantra of “national security” that trumps everything in American life and politics and business.
That one phrase classifies anything and justifies everything. It answers all questions and ends all discussions. It is the top secret that keeps the secrets of those at the top. That’s what “national security” is and has been—the fail-safe redoubt for a profitable shadow government of elite bureaucrats, military contractors, political salespeople and intelligence interlopers.
“National security” is also why al-Qaeda will never die.
Like the Soviet Union and communism before it, al-Qaeda is the perfect foil as “terror” incarnate. It is the nefarious leader of an international network of terrorists bent on destroying America simply because it hates the American Way of life.
Unlike the Soviet Union, it will be virtually impossible to trust or verify its demise. No matter how many “suspects” are killed or top leaders are felled, these non-state actors will never leave the stage. The mere presence of American power on their soil, hovering in their skies or simply operating behind their scenes will create an endless supply of individual enemies, ad hoc organizations and insurgencies against US-backed regimes.
And now that Osama bin Laden is gone, the national security state fights enemies it refuses to name. It deploys “suspected drones” to kill “suspected militants” and “suspected al-Qaeda” in Yemen, Pakistan or anywhere “affiliates” and “associates” and “al-Qaeda-linked” groups may pop up. Since drone strikes kill ten times as many civilians than do piloted airstrikes, they will pop up in perpetuity. And America’s global empire of bases, clients and far-flung “national” interests will forever expose Americans to potential harm and inspire domestic fear.
Perhaps the greatest irony is that this latest cocktail of fear and trust is being served at the same time the President criticizes Russia for “slipping back” into Cold War thinking.
The simple fact is that America’s national security state never stopped drinking the Cold War Kool-Aid.
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