“A Security and Finance State that Dominates the American People”

I’m a bit late to this Real News Network interview with Lawrence Wilkerson is a retired United States Army soldier and former chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell. It’s the last in a series, and seeing this one might motivate you to view the earlier ones (here and here) It’s pretty strong stuff (hat tip Philip Pilkington):

More at The Real News

If you are time pressed, read the transcript here.

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  1. ex historian

    I’d say it’s pretty wrong stuff from an historical perspective.

    Wilkerson said “We were actually treating people the way you saw people treated in those photographs at Abu Ghraib. [snip]… This was a perversion of American values and a perversion of American beliefs.”

    But who was running Abu Ghraib? The prison wardens of the tough prisons in the U.S. where torture is perfectly legal. Abu Ghraib is, if anything, a testament to actual American values and practices.

    It’s not something that’s happened recently unless you’ve forgotten American history. Recall what Amercians did in the Phillipines, in Hawaii, to the Native Americans, to the Blacks, to the Hispanics, to the Chinese immigrants, to the Japanese immigrants, to the poor, to the homeless… The list is endless and continuous from the first Salem witch trials to today. The only difference is that people who are P.C. have forced the torturers to pretend they are against torture.

    1. Anonymous Jones

      It seems like almost everyone makes this mistake (i.e., thinking things are getting worse). Hey, things are *bad*. That’s just a long way from saying things are *worse*.

      It’s an obvious failure of perception. When one is young, one does not understand how the world works and one does not have enough experience to see all of society’s flaws.

      As one ages and gains that experience, the newer, more worldly-wise perception suffers in comparison to the naive ignorance of youth, and the immediate assumption is that things have gotten much worse. But they haven’t. It’s just that one’s perception has become fuller.

      I mean, seriously, people, the U.S. government indiscriminately killed the natives, broke almost every treaty and promise ever made to those people, and abided by the capture and forced human trafficking and labor of a class of people based only on their origins and skin color. And this happened for decades upon decades. And then slavery was replaced by institutionalized racism in the form of Jim Crow laws for another hundred years! This was the *foundation* of this nation.

      And we’re worse *now*? Oy…

      1. wunsacon

        So, then…. If it hasn’t been getting worse, then odds are it won’t likely improve either.

        Dude, you’re depressing. :-P

        (just kidding)

      2. nonclassical

        ..read “Confessions of An Economic Hit Man”-Perkins, and “Killing Hope”, W.Blum. The history is telling. But for people here to disavow war crimes based on historical precedent is extremely dangerous. What is documented in these books-torture, killing of prisoners, is coming home to roost, as Malcolm intoned.

        British ambassador Craig Murray quit, documenting CIA and MIA torture of children in front of their parents, to cause
        “confession” of terrorism…

        Illegal surveillance of Americans and peace groups is back from Nixonland…

        Americans ignoring truth determine their own ignorance. That Obama has continued Bushit is the final cut. Without significant accountability for what has been perpetrated, it becomes the status-quo…the next time ever worse.

      3. Up the Ante

        Imagine the reaction of the Plains Indians tribes when the gold prospectors invaded their land after a treaty’d been made forbidding further invasions of their lands.

        Crazy Europeans coming into their lands and dumping CYANIDE into their streams, killing everything downstream that came into contact with it .. for gold, worthless to them.

        People utterly tied to the environment watching these fukking ALIEN Europeans completely destroying their ecosystem.

        As in Soviet Russia, the only ‘revolution’ ongoing is the subversion of values. The laying of the ‘revolution’ to waste.

        Cynical Soviet Amerika, where they had to become the enemy .. to defeat it. = FAILURE

    2. Externality

      If you look closely, Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib were initially run humanely. The first commander of Gitmo, General Michael Lehnert, and his officers tried to follow the Geneva Conventions. They were quickly overruled, publicly denounced, and ultimately relieved of their commands by neoconservatives (and neocon fellow travelers) at the Pentagon based on the advice of Israeli “experts” on the treatment of Muslims.

      Given very little advance notice, the military’s preparations for this group of predominantly unimportant ne’er-do-wells were hastily thrown together, but as Karen Greenberg shows, a number of capable and honorable Marine officers tried to create a humane and just detention center–only to be thwarted by the Bush Administration. The Least Worst Place is a gripping narrative account of the first one hundred days of Guantanamo.


      His successor, a favorite of neocons such as Paul Wolfowitz, systemically purged the guard force of officers and enlisted personnel unwilling to implement the new “regime.” (Soviet-era terms such as “camp of strict regime” suddenly entered official usage at the behest of shadowy contractors.) Bush, Cheney, and the neo-cons soon encountered widespread objections from military lawyers who warned, correctly, that torturing prisoners was a war crime. His response was overrule and force out senior military lawyers who objected to torture, while warning that promotions would be based on political beliefs, adherence to national goals, and whether they would be “Clinton generals”). http://www.harpers.org/archive/2007/12/hbc-90001929 Many, many American officers resigned or were forced to resign because they opposed Bush, Cheney, and the Israel-first neoconservatives.

      1. Dave of Maryland

        If you look closely, Iraq was invaded without cause. Nothing good can come from the initial murders & war crimes.

        1. liberal

          __Exactly__. Justice Jackson at Nuremberg famously said that the crime of aggressive war is the most important war crime, in the sense that that’s the crime from which all the others follow.

        2. required

          it doesn’t require a close look to determine the sovereign nation of iraq was illegally invaded

      2. Francois T

        All what you describe just made it even clearer (if such a thing was needed) why Obama should not get a 2nd mandate.

        He just covered up war crimes, systematic torture and widespread violations of the UCMJ. Moreover, he made it possible for the next Cheney and Addington to use much more expanded powers of repression.

        Is it any wonder the Reichpubliscums were so able to come back for the dead politically? Once they knew that anything goes (again!!) they busied themselves fulfilling the commands of their ultrawealthy enemies of this nation.

        Stephen Roach was wrong to compare the US to a zombie; it’s more like a beaten veal forced to the slaughter by sadistic meat wardens.

        1. Doug Terpstra

          In many ways, Obama’s offenses are now worse, because he appealed expressly to the conscience of so many Americans appalled by the terror and violence perpetrated in their name. He convinced many that he recognized the international crimes of the Cheney-Bush administration and made very explicit promises about specific changes in policy (Gitmo, torture, rendition, aggressive war, etc.), as well as selling a sea change in values, vision, and direction—in short a pardigm shift. Yet in almost every area, foreign and domestic, he has determinedly leveraged the Cheney-Bush crimes exponentially. His very salesmanship is evidence of premeditation and malice aforethought.

          From Foreign Policy in Focus: “Has the Rendition Program Disappeared?”, V. Noah Gimbel writes:

          “Rendition — particularly extraordinary rendition — turned out to be a public relations nightmare for the Bush administration … Thus to avoid negative publicity, the Obama administration has pursued a different strategy toward suspected terrorists (and whoever else happens to be in their vicinity): killing them.”


      3. nonclassical

        THis sir, is a LIE.

        I have friends who guarded at Guantanamo, and have spent hours with James Yee discussing this matter. You are a phoney Bushit follower, attempting to cover for known war crimes-criminals:




        Note from indymedia-Janet Karpinski has told truth about Bushit war crimes, and stands ready to do so in the Hague. She ran Iraq prisons.

        1. Externality

          I looked at all three links you posted. None of them contradicted my post. Janis Karpinski, the former commander of Abu Gharib who was demoted to colonel for shoplifting, said the following in one of them:

          “General Miller and General Sanchez would not have implemented a new set of [harsher] techniques without the approval of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. The Secretary of Defense would not have authorized without the approval of the Vice President.”

          General Miller was the officer sent to Gitmo to replace General Lehnert, whose adherence to the Geneva Convention was denounced by Rumsfeld and the neocons as “outdated” and bordering on treasonous. After orchestrating the widespread abuse of detainees at Gitmo, Miller was then went to Iraq at the behest of Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz to “Gitmoize” Abu Gharib.

          Pointing out that the military initially tried to behave correctly, only to be repeatedly overruled and purged by the Bush Administration, does not make me an apologist for the Bush Administration.

    3. Externality

      Abu Ghraib was a creation of the American ruling elites, not the American people. An average American, Sergeant Joe Darby, a reservist from rural Maryland, stepped forward to stop the abuse that was sanctioned, at least implicitly, by nearly the entire DC establishment. Ahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Darby

      US soldiers, private contractors, CIA employees, and Mossad operatives physically and psychologically tortured, sexually abused, and/or killed captured Iraqis at Abu Gharib. The CIA station chief in Baghdad, Gerry Meyer, had a system of “ghost prisoners” that appeared and disappeared from the official prison roster to help cover-up (or shift blame for) torture and murder. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41484983/ns/us_news-security/ (expand article) Interestingly, many of the techniques were almost identical to what the Israelis called “moderate physical pressure” and what the US military uses to train its airmen and special forces to resist interrogation. The use of torture, as it is commonly defined, was approved by high-level Bush Administration officials.

      When the scandal broke, the American people were horrified and demanded accountability. What happened?

      The neo-conservatives who authorized and implemented the regime all prospered. Paul Wolfowitz was made head of the World Bank, a position he held until it was discovered he had arranged a lucrative position at the bank for a mistress. Jay Bybee was made a federal appellate judge. Michael Chertoff was made Secretary of Homeland Security by President Bush, and now makes money as a “consultant” pushing the adoption of the RapeScan (sic) scanners used by TSA.

      The contractors were never held accountable for reasons of national security.

      An MSNBC article, “CIA officers make grave mistakes, get promoted” tells how the CIA abuses at Abu Gharib and elsewhere went largely unpunished. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41484983/ns/us_news-security/

      Two military officers received letters of reprimand, a third was demoted from general to colonel because she had been caught shoplifting years earlier. One of the reprimanded officers was also administratively fined eight thousand dollars. The general in charge of Iraq at the time, Ricardo Sanchez, retired after an investigation revealed that he knew of problems at the prison but hesitated to reprimand a female general and invite charges of sexism. He is now running for the Senate.

      The enlisted military personnel who carried out the orders were court-martialed, stripped of their ranks, and imprisoned. Some are still serving prison terms, despite their insistence that they were just following orders. Having listened to some of them speak, it seems unlikely that they were intellectually capable of devising sophisticated psychological torture regimens based on US and Israeli techniques. To the extent that they engaged in anything more complicated than a senseless beating, they were, in my opinion, simply doing what they were told.

      1. Dave of Maryland

        An average American, Sergeant Joe Darby, a reservist from rural Maryland, stepped forward to stop the abuse

        You mean, he opposed the initial invasion? Yes or no?

        If yes, he had plenty of company.

        1. Externality

          While I am unaware of his position, Army officers far more senior than then-Specialist (E-4) Darby objected to both the war and the war plans and were overruled by the Bush Administration.

          Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki was forced to take early retirement when he questioned the plan for invading Iraq, warning that the invasion would not be as easy as the Bush Administration promised.

          Shinseki publicly clashed with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during the planning of the war in Iraq over how many troops the U.S. would need to keep in Iraq for the postwar occupation of that country. As Army Chief of Staff, General Shinseki testified to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee that “something in the order of several hundred thousand soldiers” would probably be required for postwar Iraq. This was an estimate far higher than the figure being proposed by Secretary Rumsfeld in his invasion plan, and it was rejected in strong language by both Rumsfeld and his Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz, who was another chief planner of the invasion and occupation.[7] From then on, Shinseki’s influence on the Joint Chiefs of Staff reportedly waned.[8] Critics of the Bush Administration alleged that Shinseki was forced into early retirement as Army Chief of staff because of his comments on troop levels, but the claim is disputed.[9]


          1. liberal

            Given that the invasion was a terrible war crime, the only honorable response would have been to refuse to comply with orders.

            No one in the armed forces in March 2003 was a conscript, remember.

          2. Externality

            The Bush Administration actually prepared for this, and began taking steps such as appointing “advisers” to monitor (and in the future overrule) military officers who deviated from the party line. They wanted, in other words, to replicate the Soviet system of political officers monitoring military commanders for ‘politically unsound’ beliefs and removing them if necessary.

            John Yoo, the man who authored the Administration’s torture policy and other abominations, and who rather surprisingly continues to roam freely across the political stage, is the dark figure behind this move as well. He authored a shocking piece in the UCLA Law Review recently [as of 2007] in which he viciously, and falsely, attacks the JAGs [military lawyers] and suggests aggressively that they need to be brought under political control. I discussed his piece [link]. Now we see the control measure that has been settled on.

            Yoo frequently parrots the German legal philosopher Carl Schmitt. But on this point, he has another model: Leon Trotsky. Given responsibility by the Bolsheviks for crafting a new army which reflected the Communist state ideology, Trotsky quickly concluded that it was essential that the officers corps be put to careful tests of fidelity to the party and its leadership. To this end, party functionaries were to have control over all decisions as to promotions of military officers, and the military commissioner (the so-called военком for военный комиссар) were instituted to keep an eye on those already in place. All of this is laid out in the first volume of Trotsky’s How the Revolution Armed from 1919. And since any number of the Bush Administration’s Neocon advisors are recovering Trotskyites (not to mention Condoleezza Rice, who wrote her thesis on this subject), I’m sure there are no shortage of cadres familiar with Trotsky’s plans for controlling the military hanging around the White House.

            Obama’s decision to start putting some military units under CIA control is a step in this direction.

      2. Externality

        Given that the invasion was a terrible war crime, the only honorable response would have been to refuse to comply with orders.

        No one in the armed forces in March 2003 was a conscript, remember.

        Many American intelligence and military personnel refused to help the Bush Administration fabricate evidence of WMDS in Iraq.

        The neo-con response was to create the Office of Special Plans, which distorted or fabricated information about Iraq’s purported WMDs before, during, and after the invasion, supplanting the military unit that was supposed to handle Iraq-related intelligence. Located in the Pentagon, OSP was headed by neo-con Douglas Feith, reported to neo-con Paul Wolfowitz, and relied on an analyst, Larry Franklin, who was subsequently convicted of spying for an Israeli lobbying group. A similar organization, the Iranian Directorate, was later created to justify the neo-cons’ desire for war with Iran.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Office_of_Special_Plans http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/jul/17/iraq.usa

        According to then-Air Force Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, whose responsibilities included Iraq-related intelligence, OSP took complete control of the intelligence process and intelligence personnel in order to create the assessments the neocons wanted. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karen_Kwiatkowski

        She wrote:

        I witnessed neoconservative agenda bearers within OSP usurp measured and carefully considered assessments, and through suppression and distortion of intelligence analysis promulgate what were in fact falsehoods to both Congress and the executive office of the president.

        Co-workers who had watched the transition from Clintonista to Bushite shared conversations and stories indicating that something deliberate and manipulative was happening to NESA [which normally handled Iraq-related intelligence]. Key professional personnel, longtime civilian professionals holding the important billets in NESA, were replaced early on during the transition. [snip] Removing such a critical continuity factor was not only unusual but also seemed like willful handicapping. It was the first signal of radical change.

        At the time, I didn’t realize that the expertise on Middle East policy was not only being removed, but was also being exchanged for that from various agenda-bearing think tanks, including the Middle East Media Research Institute, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. Interestingly, the office director billet stayed vacant the whole time I was there. That vacancy and the long-term absence of real regional understanding to inform defense policymakers in the Pentagon explains a great deal about the neoconservative approach on the Middle East and the disastrous mistakes made in Washington and in Iraq in the past two years.


        1. Dave of Maryland

          This is a nice discussion but methinks we are too eager to pat ourselves on the back.

          In the decade that has now passed, what has been done to bring these criminals to justice?

        2. lambert strether

          Enough with the Opologies. Where are the prosecutions? Obama normalized everything Bush did on torture and war crimes, just as he normalized everything Bush did with the banksters. No jail time for any of ’em. The attempt to shift the blame to the neo-cons is ludicrously transparent.

          1. Externality

            The neo-cons and their liberal interventionist allies still dominate DC. Obama is just a more articulate, politically correct mouthpiece for the elites’ pro-war, pro-Israel, pro-fascist, pro-banker agenda. Instead of Bush’s cowboy swaggering, we have a predetermined decision-making “process” being justified by reams of pseudo-legalistic “analysis” intended to justify global war and an intensifying national security state. In the end, the outcome is the same: the implementation of the neoconservative agenda described in An End to Evil by David Frum and Richard Perle. http://dir.salon.com/story/books/review/2004/01/30/frum_perle/index.html

            Look how quickly Wolfowitz et al. appeared in the mainstream media and corridors of power to support the attack on Libya. Or the DC lovefest for the Israeli prime minister. The same FBI officials who loyally served Bush remain in office, with Obama asking Congress to remove an important safeguard by expanding FBI director Robert Mueller’s term in office.

            In short, the neo-cons never left DC.

      3. Externality

        (Part II)

        OSP, according to Kwiatkowski, censored reports that contradicted their agenda, spread disinformation, and effectively overrode the standard chain of command. Her objections to the actions of OSP ended her career, and made her a target of public attacks by Republicans and neo-cons.

        Subsequent investigations by the Pentagon inspector general and Senate Armed Services Committee largely backed her charges. According to Wikipedia, Senator Carl Levin, Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, stated that

        The bottom line is that intelligence relating to the Iraq-al-Qaeda relationship was manipulated by high-ranking officials in the Department of Defense to support the administration’s decision to invade Iraq. The inspector general’s report is a devastating condemnation of inappropriate activities in the DOD policy office that helped take this nation to war.


        Other allegations regarding OSP include:

        * Sending unauthorized paramilitary and mercenary teams into Iraq before, after, and during the invasion. http://rawstory.com/news/2005/Secretive_military_unit_sought_to_solve_0105.html These units sometimes interfered with the units that the military assigned to secure WMD sites.

        * Once it was clear there were no WMDS, OSP allegedly tried to find captured Iraqis willing to _falsely_ claim that there were. http://rawstory.com/news/2005/Secretive_military_unit_sought_to_solve_0105.html

        * Improperly shared intelligence directly with members of the Israeli Likud Party, often bypassing both US channels and the Mossad. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/jul/17/iraq.usa

  2. David

    I listened to one of these clips and it was definitely
    worth the time. What jumped out was when he said that
    he did not think that his granddaughter would live in a
    democratic republic as an adult. To me that implied that
    all the gloves will be off within 10 to 20 years, it will be just the iron fist, no gloves and no need for kabuki.
    Thanks again Yves.

    1. ex historian

      Doubtful. As long as some people can be deluded into thinking America is a democratic republic, lip service will be paid to that notion. It’s just too useful of a way to fool people and one of the many ways short of killing people to control them. The Chinese will catch on sooner or later.

      1. David


        Not disagreeing, what I found interesting was that Wilkerson believes that the gloves will come off, that is not to say
        he is correct.

      2. albrt

        I’m not sure the world has ever seen a culture where such a large percentage of the population is so expendable. No need to waste time controlling the population if you can just kill them.

        I think ten to twenty years is a generous estimate. Our best hope is that a Republican buffoon will be elected next year and will fail so badly that it will discredit corporate fascism before the oligarchs are ready to implement it fully.

        1. rafael bolero

          You are right: 10-20 is way longer than it will be dome : the current austerity-marketing-regime shows it will be more 2-4 years.

        2. wunsacon

          Good point, “albort” ;-)

          Once robots can harvest the crops, drive the trucks, and guard their mansions, the plutarchs will have no reason to keep us around. They might decide they’re better off exterminating the bottom 98% (‘useless eaters’) or anyone too weak to threaten them but who would otherwise continue consuming the planet’s resources.

    2. LAS

      I sometimes think WE’RE not living in a democracy. In Australia it is mandated that everyone vote, but in America our voters are being thrown off the voter rolls without any notice or reason. In the UK, every citizen is pretty much registered for health care, but in America the population continues to lose its access. A majority of citizens want something, but they are frequently out-manuevered to swallow something disadvantagious to them by deals between politicians and the wealthy. On and on … I just hope the grandkids are more rebellious and resistant than we have been.

  3. stevelaudig

    What will happen will be the natural outgrowth of an organism spawned on the idea of conquest and weaned on genocide, land theft and slavery.

  4. ex historian

    Wilkerson also writes that “And those two things happening together, the corruption of our very governance process and the fact that we were turning into a country that knew only one way of achieving its purpose, and that was to kill people, really troubled me.”

    But it isn’t true that America knows only one way. America uses marketing, propaganda, harassment through legal process, the coercive power of capital, and countless other means to achieve its purpose (whatever that is).

    Moreover, the corruption of the political process is no greater now than it was in Chicago in the days of Al Capone, or mayor Daley, or Chicago at any point in its history. Obama would be breaking with Chicago precedent if he and his associates were any less corrupt.

    But I suppose we’re supposed to ooh and ahh over this statement of the obvious from the fact that this is coming from Wilkerson (whoever he is) and not from a random blog lurker posting a comment.

    1. Dan Duncan

      Japan. Russia. Great Britain. Spain. Germany. Mexico. Columbia. Italy. France. China. India. And on and on it goes.

      Yet, here we have ex historian, issuing this profundity:

      America uses marketing, propaganda, harassment through legal process, the coercive power of capital, and countless other means to achieve its purpose (whatever that is).

      Ooohh, ahhhh…so profound. So deep. America is so bad. So evil. Only America uses coercive power. Nation states, in general don’t do these things. The same damn things could never be said about the nations listed above. No way. Ooohhh. Aahhh. Please, tell us more of your insights ex historian.

      What a f*cking joke.

      1. ex historian

        I always get a kick out of you Dan. Even though you like to play the schoolyard bully, and are abusive and hateful, it’s a bit of compliment to have roused you out of your cave. If you had one more neuron, you could have a synapse. But, really, kudos for your patriotism.

      2. Anonymous Jones

        Where did he write that other nations don’t do the same thing?

        I missed that part.

        You have the most amazing skill, and it shows up in almost every comment you make: The ability to see things that aren’t there.

        Congrats, sir. I commend you (and your “jokes”).

      3. ambrit

        Dear Dan;
        I think the joke is risible in proportion that observable reality deviates from the ‘Subjective History’ put forward by elite enablers. Go and read Jaimie Gailbraith and Col. Bacevitch to get a realistic view of the process America is going through right now. History might not be deterministic, but it sure as H— has a limited repertoire.

  5. Susan Truxes

    This is exactly what I mean when I say that the old conservatives were steamrolled by events after WW2 and done in completely by Vietnam. Not to mention seriously impoverished by warmongering. (Dirksen getting his millions and billions mixed up almost epitomizes this.) The United States was naive in 1945. We wised up as we went along but everyone against war was always out smarted by the MIC and “national security.” “National Security” was/is indeed the oxymoron of all time and it is therefore always very encouraging to hear truth spoken to power by a military man. It is almost always a serious military man who steps forward and speaks the truth from a position of clarity not just anger and frustration.

    1. ambrit

      Dear Mz Truxes;
      I fear you are too ‘soft’ on us. This kind of behaviour is all too common throughout history. Just consider the reign of Zaharoff at Vickers Arms during the First World War. Or, closer to home, Standard Oil of Californias ‘export’ program where drums of fuel oil ended up at the U-Boat facility on the Baltic, (by way of Sweeden.) Or, one final grotesque example, an excellent book, “IBM and the Holocaust” about how the Ur-Computer Company actively enabled the Reich to automate their files concerning ‘populations’ to streamline and speed up the system that ‘eliminated’ those self same ‘populations.’ This behaviour continued during and after the war, all focused on the companys ‘bottom line.’ The winners do indeed write the ‘official’ history.

  6. LoveTron2010

    I nearly laughed myself into a hysteria on his final comment regarding Eric Holder doing the “Right Thing” with respect to torture allegations and manufactured evidence if he were given the proper authority. Apparently Wilkerson has been living on another planet for the past two years.

  7. Blurtman

    It always comes home because you define yourself through your actions. Which is but one reason why Americans should have demanded war crimes trials if for no other reason than expiation.

    What kind of animals tolerate torture and the killing of innocents as long as it is not in their neighborhood?

    1. Dave of Maryland

      Hello Blurtman,

      We are the only animals who have any idea what goes on in other backyards. No other animal has the ability to snoop.

    2. Externality

      As I pointed out above, it is the American ruling class, of both parties, who oppose war crimes trials and ensure that at most, only a few soldiersand contractors from rural America, get punished for when they are held.

      If we fairly apply the precedents set down by the Nuremberg Tribunal, other post-WW II tribunals, and the ad hoc tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, literally tens of thousands of people in the US, UK, and Israel would be sent to prison. Pro-war neoconservative journalists (William Kristol, Thomas Friedman, Charles Krauthammer) and pro-Iraq war Democrats (Hillary Clinton), would follow Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the Bush administration neo-cons to prison. We will see, for example, whether the rest of the world agrees with Clinton Secretary of State Madeline Albright’s view that killing 500,000 Iraqi children through US-enforced sanctions were “worth it” or whether it was an act of genocide similar to Stalin’s Holomodor.


      The new “beltway consensus” will likely be that no one in authority should be held accountable for violations of international law. A few bit players will, under the consensus, be given show trials to show the world how America is punishing war criminals, but no one who is anyone will be punished. Consider it a 21st century version of “if we do not hang together, we shall all hang separately.”

  8. Bernard

    the surprise and indignation is always laughable coming from Americans. somehow they expected to avoid all those “things” we did to “others.”

    and now some are beginning to see the bared teeth of the “Elite” who own us lock, stock and barrel.

    as i heard in a song, “Don’t cry for me, Argentina/America!’ it doesn’t do any good anyway.

    what with the propaganda from the Republicans from St. Ronnie on, America is reaping the evil seeds sown.

    after all who would believe all those “nattering nabobs of negativity?”

    blowback as Chalmers Johnson described it, and it ain’t pretty, is it.

  9. Jim

    What are the political/economic alternatives to the Security and Finance State that now dominates us?

    Traditional Progresive/Left alternatives:

    Is the alternative of trying to reembed liberalism in a new web of social and political constraints a viable one?

    Do progressive ideals and ideas tend to deteriorate into bureaucratic manipulation offering nothing more for the future than the possibility of a more technocratic New Deal?

    Was Marxism as an alternative only saved in 1917 by the extrordinary revolutionary will of the Bolsheviks, who then managed to bring forth bureaucratic collectivism, industralism from above and Stalinist militarism?

    Traditional Right Alternatives:

    Has the Right also been wrong with its neoliberal assumption that if the state failed than the market disembedded from the state would succeed?

    Has it also been the case that the supposed “new era” ushered in by Thatcher and Reagan in the 1980s did not, in fact, reduce the role of the state in the economy?

    Has economic liberalization and financial deregulation colluded with central state intervention to extend the reach of the market and international finance?

    Outside the Box alternatives:

    Was democracy once linked both in theory and in practice to a broad distribution of property ownership?

    Does democracy have a future in nation of primarily wage-earners?

    Does large-scale production and political centralization inevitably weaken the spirit of self-reliance and discourage people from taking responsibility for their actions?

    Is there a difference between a democracy of consumers and a democracy of citizens?

  10. ToivoS

    I have to agree with those who are saying that things are not really that much worse for the simple reason they have been bad for a long time. But there is has been incremental progress towards worse that Wilkerson is stressing here. The active and open use of torture openly supported throughout the chain of command was new. At the end of WWII the US did not treat Nazi war criminals in the manner we treated Muslim prisoners.

    That is a dangerous precedent. If Obama had allowed Holder to prosecute the offenders, there is a chance that the precedence would have been stricken from the record. Thus the precedent has been established and we can thank Obama for it.

  11. Psychoanalystus

    I realize that the American police state has been building up during the past 10 years, but one must not forget that the brutality of the U.S. during the 60s, 70s, and even 80s in South-East Asia and Latin America was far worse than what it is now in the Middle East.

    So, I think the United States has become quite a bit more civilized in recent years.


    1. Salviati

      It’s difficult to compare the different era’s. Historically, the brutality of the American empire was critically dependent on the American population being kept ignorant. The elites had a healthy fear of public opinion.

      I think the critical difference today is that the elites no longer fear the public. They simply do not care. Over the past few years the US has expanded warfare on multiple fronts and yet recruitment has never looked better. When you add all these factors, the level of brutality of the US could rapidly increase.

    2. Justicia

      The police state machinery has been refined since the ’60s by the domestic war on drugs and dissent. But don’t be fooled by the velvet glove. If the workers get restive and refuse to take their austerity pills, they’ll be declared terrorists and dealt with as enemy combatants.

      What’s happening in China, workers’ paradise where crony capitalism reigns supreme, could happen here:


      Claims of injustice spur wave of unrest in China
      Tom Lasseter | McClatchy Newspapers

      Public discussion about the causes of the violence in Zengcheng has followed a familiar line: low wages and bad working conditions for migrant laborers — who make up more than half of Zengcheng’s 818,000 residents — possibly whipped up by criminal gangs.

      But interviews here show that the chaos was stoked by anger that had been building for years at the bullying tactics of both the “chengguan,” meter maid-like guards who’re charged with enforcing municipal ordinances, and the “public security teams,” ad hoc officers cobbled together by neighborhood or village committees.

      The trigger for last weekend’s rioting was the news that a pregnant migrant had been pushed to the ground — initial rumors said killed — during an altercation with security. It was a report with which migrants could easily identify.

      “It’s very common for them to beat people. They’ll do it for very petty reasons,” said Zhu, 28, who came here from Anhui province and works in a shop selling mahjongg gaming tables.

      Claims of injustice were a factor in other recent outbursts of rage. Among them:

      * The biggest protests in 20 years to hit Inner Mongolia, in the north of China. The unrest erupted after a Han Chinese coal truck driver ran over and killed a Mongolian herder who reportedly was trying with others to block the vehicle from crossing their land on May 10. It quickly became a lightning rod for Mongolian complaints that the mining industry and local government have violated their rights and culture.

      * On May 26, a businessman in the province of Jiangxi, just to the north of Guangdong, set off three coordinated car bombs that targeted government buildings and killed four people, including himself. The bomber, Qian Mingqi, launched the attacks after nearly a decade of efforts to recover compensation money that he said was taken by a local official took when the government demolished his house.

      * Paramilitary police backed by armored vehicles flooded into a town in Hubei province last week after more than 1,500 residents laid siege to government offices to protest the death of a local legislator. Ran Jianxin, who had a reputation for investigating corruption, died during a June 4 police interrogation linked to bribery charges against him. His family circulated photos that appeared to show the sort of bruising usually associated with torture.

  12. tyaresun

    The guy says that if Obama had given “Carte Blance” to Eric Holder he would have got some results. How delusional is that.

    1. Externality

      To paraphrase a joke from Zero Hedge, (now former) Congressman Anthony Weiner should run for President, and pick Eric Holder for as his running mate. The Weiner-Holder ticket would be a fitting name for what most administrations quickly become after inauguration.

  13. Hugh

    Re Abu Ghraib, it went something like this. In March 2003, Stephen Cambone was made Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence. That summer, with Rumsfeld’s OK, he sent the Islamophobic Lt. General William G. (Jerry) Boykin to Guantanamo to see Major General Geoffrey D. Miller about prisons in Iraq. Miller had been put in charge of Guantanamo in November 2002 to toughen it up and gain “actionable intelligence,” Rumsfeld’s constant mania. As a result, Miller went to Iraq Aug. 31-Sept. 9, 2003 and pushed Brigadier General Karpinski, the Abu Ghraib commandant, to gitmo-ize the facility, and use Guantanamo type tactics to gather intelligence. On his return, he briefed Wolfowitz (the Deputy Secretary of Defense) and Cambone. The torture and abuses by CIA and contractors began a few weeks later and ran from October to December 2003. On January 13, 2004, an MP Joseph M. Darby left disks with the photos which we all know as the Abu Ghraib photos (not all of which we have seen) with a military investigator. On February 26, 2004, Major General Antonio Taguba released a classified report on the abuses at Abu Ghraib.

    Abu Ghraib went public in April 2004. Seymour Hersh came out with the story on April 30, 2004 in the New Yorker. Sixty Minutes II which had been sitting on the photos for a couple of weeks in true courtier journalism fashion saw itself about to be scooped and came out with its own story on April 28, 2004.

    In the aftermath, Rumsfeld expressed his surprise that abuses had occurred and blamed a few low ranking bad apples, and not the chain of command that went straight back to him. Cambone stayed on in his post until the end of 2006 and then went through the revolving door to work for the intelligence industry. Boykin became Deputy Secretary of Defense for Intelligence. Miller was given control of prisons in Iraq. Miller later had problems because of his involvement in all this, not from the Bush Administration but for lying to Congress. He retired in 2006 foregoing an extra star and the increased pension of a Lieutenant General. Darby was ostracized and even received threats. Taguba was forced by Rumsfeld to retire because he didn’t follow Rumsfeld’s few bad apples story.

    1. lambert strether

      Nobody ever talked to the system administrators to follow the torture data. My own personal belief is that the video feeds were piped, live, directly to the West Wing.

  14. Paul Tioxon

    The owl of Minerva flies at dusk, pick a side. Currently we are the 3rd Hegemonic Capitalist Power from Western Civilization. We are declining relative to other industrializing nations. We will no longer have almost 700 military installations on foreign soil and a Navy that is greater than the next 17 navies of the world combined. When that day comes will we be a police state or a more graceful retired former overlord of the planet, like France. Current prison population of US, fed, state and local almost 2.5 million, with another 5 million under law enforcement administration. That is a convicted criminal population almost the size of Greece. Don’t expect banksters to join their ranks, but only more of the working class who will learn the survival skills of the outlaw. Expect servile revolts as we are kicked out of more and more countries and citizens refuse to support nation building half way around the world while our nation disintegrates into crime and poverty for 10s of millions of formerly so called productive citizens.

  15. Hugh

    I am not a Wilkerson fan. He’s one of these Establishment types who sounds like he is condemning the very Establishment of which he is a part and which has given him a very nice career. But look how he still can’t call that steaming pile, and what many of us saw at the time was a steaming pile, that Powell presented to the UN on Iraqi WMDs what it, in fact, was, a steaming pile. Or how he points out John McCain as a voice against torture. McCain’s Detainee Treatment Act limited interrogation methods to those in the Army Field Manual, but these used in combination still amount to torture. Beyond this, the DTA denied detainees their right to habeas corpus. McCain was also one of those behind the Military Commissions Act which again sought to deny habeas rights and on top of this retroactively immunized torturers for their crimes.

    Wilkerson is trying to have it both ways. On the one hand, he talks about the corporate security state, and on the other he still looks fondly on those like Powell and McCain who did so much to see it happen and did nothing to prevent it.

  16. scraping_by

    From the interview —

    “We’d been building the national security state. We also concomitantly built, as you’ve pointed out on a number of your shows, a financial apparatus around that national security state that could dominate, at any time and place it chose to dominate, the whole American people. And those two things happening together, the corruption of our very governance process and the fact that we were turning into a country that knew only one way of achieving its purpose, and that was to kill people, really troubled me. It troubled me as both an individual who’d participated in that, from both a diplomatic and a military perspective, and it troubled me as a somewhat historian of our republic and a teacher of presidential decision-making since World War II and how that process had taken place.”

    In the introduction to The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War, Andrew J Bacevich writes —

    ” The marriage of military metaphysics with eschatalogical ambition is a misbegotten one, contrary to the interests of the American people or the world beyond our borders. It invites endless war and the ever-deepening militarization of US policy. As it subordinates concern for the common good to the paramount value of military effectiveness, it promises not to perfect but to distort American ideals. As it concentrates more authority in the hands of a few more concerned with order abroad rather than with justice at home, it will accelerate the hollowing out of American democracy. As it alienates people and nations around the world, it will leave the United States increasingly isolated. If history is any guide, it will end in bankruptcy, moral as well as economic, and will end in abject failure.”

    Also a Vietnam Vet, Bacevich also situates himself on the right.

    The split is no longer between the manly men of the right and the wimpy granola boys of the left. It’s between those thoughtful, decent upholders of good will and the noisy, lying, bribe-heavy warmaking corporate complex. Given the embezzlement, theft, and felonious overcharging for services supplies that mark the Bush/Obama anti-Islam wars, it’s the military-postindustrial complex.

    Peace is patriotic. Since we know the Saudis finance Al Queda, it’s leaving behind a chump game. Write your Congresscritter to impeach Obama for Libya and let’s take our country back.

  17. washington's choppers

    It’s telling that in Proceedings they have to talk about George Washington instead of the simpler fact that almost all our wars are illegal under the UN Charter, supreme law of the land. Instead of pointing out that war is regulated by the UN Charter, it’s always a matter of vision. In military think tanks they spend a lot of time chewing on the law of war but when they think about humanitarian law, it’s always from the standpoint of rationalizing complete US government discretion. In fact, these little Kissingers can justify any war to their own satisfaction, just by asserting that political weakness (that’s War College talk for qualified-majority voting in the Security Council) keeps the UN from doing what it wants. If the UNSC does not vote to authorize a war, that’s only because it can’t, although it really, really wants to. So when we commit criminal aggression, highest of crimes, we’re really helping the UN out. It’s really that psychotic in the war apparat.

  18. Patrick

    Big Brother merges with Big Banker. The mechanisms and the mind set have been established all that is need is the continued apathy of we citizens to make it a continuing reality. The inchoate public out cry – aka the
    ‘Tea Party” – knows something is wrong they just don’t know what. Unfortunately their political guides are channeling them into support for the current Big B’s construct.

  19. Dennis Szilak

    The social situation is moving towards civil unrest on the scale that the Army division now in place for “unrest” will be about as effective as Syria, Bahrain in shooting people. There is above the law for the few and martial law for the rest. It is not that it might happen. It already has happened. The military industrial interests already own the armed forces. It’s all private enterprise now. “Shoot the unemployed or Join them” is “semper fe”.

    1. ambrit

      Mr Szilak;
      The division you speak of, (the one up at Ft Drum?) is indeed the troubling factor. During Americas last “Robber Baron” era, the armed forces were used for strike breaking and dissent suppression. This could indeed come back mainly because of the ‘professionalization’ of the rank and file. Americas last big draft army war, Indochina, showed just how dangerous stupid or ‘unpopular’ orders could be, ie. ‘fragging.’ Now the ranks have ben isolated from the mainstream of society and fed a heavy dose of ‘Insularity and Exceptionalism.’ There are many good reasons for the American Founding Fathers’ distrust of a standing army. Those reasons are just as valid today, more so since the “Security State’ is so much more efficient at its’ work today. The main defense of the public against creeping militarization is a robust resistance to the politicization of the officer corps. Thank God for the Oath to uphold the Constitution. The old timers were smarter than we give them credit for. Nuff said.

    1. frances snoot

      Oh. Sorry. Rather looking forward to the mandatory/voluntary ethics training from the City of London-O! Pipp-Pippity and all! And not to say M15 like snuff is coming out one’s


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