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WHEN TYRANTS FACE RETRIBUTION: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 22, 2022 at 12:12 am

The United States Marshals Service is now charged with protecting the nine Justices who comprise the Supreme Court of the United States.

Deputy U.S. marshals have had decades of experience in protecting Federal judges, members of Congress and organized crime witnesses

As protectors, they are probably best-known as the operators of the Justice Department’s Witness Security Program. Launched as part of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970, they have successfully protected and relocated thousands of endangered organized crime witnesses.

But there are significant differences between the security provided for Mafia witnesses and that being provided for Supreme Court Justices.

While a witness is testifying, s/he receives 24-hour protection from five to a score of marshals. Since visits to courthouses are especially dangerous, marshals often use deception as a vital weapon in keeping their charges alive.

A caravan of marshals cars, with sirens blaring, will pull up to the front of a courthouse, with a deputy playing the role of the witness. While all eyes (including those of mob assassins) are focused on this, a postal truck will enter the building through an underground passage. Inside: The witness and one or two guards dressed as mailmen.

U.S. Marshals Service, Career Opportunities, Duties

A witness security detail

Helicopters and speedboats have also been used to transport witnesses to and from court.

In at least one case, marshals installed Joseph “The Animal” Barboza, the most-feared Mafia hitman in New England, in a fortified room inside the courthouse. When it came time to testify, he would be brought into the courtroom through the judges’ elevator. 

But once testifying is completed, the marshals no longer offer 24-hour protection. Instead, they provide witnesses (and their wives and children, if there are any) with new names, Social Security numbers, driver’s licenses and other records supporting their new identities. 

Then they are shipped off to a new state where—hopefully—they can start their lives over on the right side of the law and safe from their enemies.

Thus, round-the-clock protection by the marshals isn’t intended to be permanent. 

But in the case of at least six Supreme Court Justices this may well prove different. These are the ones who are preparing to strike down Roe v. Wade and re-criminalize abortion for millions of women.

To prevent attacks on the Justices at the Supreme Court, an eight-foot, “non-scalable” fence now surrounds the building.

Fencing Goes Up Around US Supreme Court - YouTube

Once a long-held fundamental right is revoked, anger toward those responsible becomes the natural reaction. And for some people, that anger can easily flare into violence.

Thanks to the Supreme Court’s January 22, 1973 Roe decision, abortion has been legal throughout the United States for 49 years. Those who have been born since can’t recall a time when it was a criminal offense.

On June 8, Nicholas John Roske, 26, of Simi Valley, California, was arrested by deputy U.S. marshals near Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s house in Maryland after threatening to kill the Justice. He was armed with a Glock 17 pistol, ammunition, a knife, zip ties, pepper spray and duct tape.

In this case, the marshals had been alerted by Roske’s threat. But the truly dangerous assassin is one who doesn’t announce his intentions and simply acts on them.

Knowing you are so hated that people want to murder you creates huge psychological pressures on those threatened. Some people become prisoners of their own bodyguard, venturing out only when absolutely necessary. 

Others adopt a “Live it up, because tomorrow I may die” attitude. They chafe at the security regimen imposed on them, sometimes even trying to elude their protectors.

Security specialists for the Marshals Service have warned countless witnesses: “You’ve got to realize that your life’s in danger.  Keep your eyes open. Use your head.  Don’t lie to us. Stay close to us. 

“Keep us apprised of everything that’s going on.  Suppose you’re sitting out on your balcony and you see something flash. What could it be?  A pair of binoculars?  A rifle-scope?  Be aware of your position, and help us protect you.” 

Presidents have been protected by the United States Secret Service since 1901, when Vice President Theodore Roosevelt became the first Chief Executive to be assigned agents.

Logo of the United States Secret Service.svg

Before this, three Presidents had been assassinated—Abraham Lincoln (1865); James A. Garfield (1881) and William McKinley, Roosevelt’s predecessor (1901).

In 1963, John F. Kennedy would become the fourth.

Two attempts were made on Gerald Ford (1975) and, in 1981, Ronald Reagan was seriously wounded.

As a result, it’s unthinkable that a President would not be guarded round-the-clock. 

But no Supreme Court Justice has ever been assassinated.

Justices have been able to come and go as they please, without even being recognized by the vast majority of citizens they affect with their rulings.

That will soon change—at least for those who intend to strike down Roe. They will become familiar faces—for those who hate them. Already, their home addresses have been splashed across the Internet.

At least 13 states will automatically ban abortion in the first and second trimesters if Roe is overturned. This will create legions of new enemies for the Justices. And there will be no end-date to this hatred.

Which means the Justices will likely live in fear—and under heavy armed guard—for the rest of their lives.

WHEN TYRANTS FACE RETRIBUTION: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 21, 2022 at 12:13 am

Tyrants know they lack legitimate authority–and so they must live behind armed guards and high fences. They constantly fear being overthrown–or killed.

“It was only years later, when I was imprisoned at Spandau, that I really understood what it must be like to live each day under such intense psychological pressure,” Albert Speer, architect and Minister of Armaments to Adolf Hitler, told Playboy during a 1971 interview.

“Looking back on Hitler’s physical environment in his military bunkers in Berlin and Rastenburg, I realized how similar the atmosphere was to a prison—immense concrete walls and ceilings, harsh electric light instead of daylight, iron doors and iron grilles over the few windows.  

“Even Hitler’s brief strolls through the barbed wire perimeters, surrounded by armed guards and police dogs, resembled a convict’s exercise in the jail yard. Hitler had turned all of Europe into a prison, but he had become its leading prisoner.”

Albert Speer and Adolf Hitler 

Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-V00555-3 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

At least six Justices of the United States Supreme Court have joined Adolf Hitler as prisoners of their own bodyguard.

In the past, Justices came and went as ordinary citizens did. Occasionally they made a controversial decision, but then the uproar died down and everything stayed the same.

It took the alleged gutting of Roe v. Wade to change all that.

On May 2, Politico published a leaked draft of the Supreme Court majority decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that would explicitly overturn Roe v. Wade.

In doing so, it would end the Court’s 49-year-old decision guaranteeing a woman’s right to obtain an abortion. 

Reaction was swift—and devastatingly angry. 

Threats of violence against the Justices have poured in—especially the six Right-wing ones behind the decision:

  • Amy Coney Barrett
  • Brett M. Kavanaugh
  • Clarence Thomas
  • Samuel A. Alito
  • Neil M. Gorsuch and 
  • John J. Roberts. 

Supreme Court defies critics with wave of unanimous decisions - ABC News

Justices of the Supreme Court

As a result, all nine Justices have been given extra security through the U.S. Marshals Service.

The marshals have had decades of experience in protecting Federal organized crime witnesses, members of Congress and Federal judges. So the odds are that the Justices will remain safe from violent attack. 

The question that remains to be answered: How well will they hold up under the intense pressures of facing potential violence—and having to live under constant guard? 

Almost immediately after Politico published its article on the Justices’ decision to overturn Roe, an eight-foot steel fence went up around the Supreme Court building. All entry points were blocked to vehicles and police patrols were beefed up.

United States Marshals Service - Wikiwand

As if that were not claustrophobic enough, the Justices’ home addresses were quickly shared online.

Justices have received threatening phone calls at their homes.

The group, “Ruth Sent Us”—named in honor of deceased Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—planned a protest at what it called “the homes of the six extremist justices.”

“ANNOUNCING: Walk-by Wednesday, May 11, 2022! At the homes of the six extremist justices, three in Virginia and three in Maryland. If you’d like to join or lead a peaceful protest, let us know,” the website stated. 

“Our 6-3 extremist Supreme Court routinely issues rulings that hurt women, racial minorities, LGBTQ+ and immigrant rights. We must rise up to force accountability using a diversity of tactics.” 

The group even published a Google Maps graphic pinpointing homes “where the six Christian fundamentalist Justices issue their shadow docket rulings from.

“We intend to stop the corruption of our Supreme Court, and stop the spread of fascist laws,” the group said. “Instead of waiting for the extremist Court to strip our rights further, we must rise up now.”

In Virginia, where three of the six justices live, protesting outside a private home is illegal.

Justice Samuel Alito, author of the draft majority opinion, canceled a scheduled appearance in Nashville, and the other justices are also cutting back on public events. 

Meanwhile, the Court has been thrown into a frenzy of self-investigation to discover who leaked the upcoming decision.

Far more attention has been paid to this by the Justices than to the enormous implications for millions of American women if abortion once becomes a criminal act. Chief Justice John Roberts publicly said: “To the extent this betrayal of the confidences of the court was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed.” 

Not all protests were aimed at the Justices. 

Ruth Sent Us also planned to target Catholic churches on Mother’s Day—telling followers to protest “that six extremist Catholics set out to overturn Roe.” It published a video of churchgoers trying to kick out protesters who interrupted a service, chanting, “Without this basic right, women can’t be free — abortion on demand and without apology.”

The Catholic group, CatholicVote, demanded that President Joe Biden condemn Ruth Sent Us for targeting Catholic churches and disrupting Mass on Mother’s Day. 

Joe Biden presidential portrait.jpg

Joseph Biden

Biden, a lifelong Catholic, strongly favors abortion rights.  

The U.S. Marshals Service has operated the Witness Security Program for threatened organized crime witnesses since 1970. Of its approximately 19,100 participants, none have been killed who followed its guidelines.

But there are serious differences between the security afforded Mafia witnesses—and that being accorded Supreme Court Justices.

WHY TRUMP WILL BE RE-ELECTED IN 2020: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on June 23, 2017 at 12:26 am

On June 20, a friend of mine named Dave wrote Kamala Harris, his United State Senator from California.

A longtime Democrat, he was concerned that the party had declined to the point of political insignificance.

In 2010, Democrats had lost the House; in 2014, they lost the Senate. Then, in 2016, after Barack Obama had held the White House for eight years, they lost it again to Donald J. Trump.

In 1996, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich had written a memo entitled: “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control.” It urged Republicans to attack Democrats with such words as “corrupt,” “selfish,” “destructive,” “hypocrisy,” “liberal,” “sick,” and “traitors.”

Newt Gingrich

Democrats, for the most part, have failed to craft effective counterattacks on their integrity and ability.

As a veteran writer, Dave wanted to pass on to Harris some specific ways that Democrats could do this.  

“Above all,” wrote Dave, “Democrats should not simply borrow but co-opt a page from the Republican playbook and CONSTANTLY brand Republicans as TRAITORS.

“America’s foremost Intelligence agencies have proven, categorically, that Russian Intelligence agents played a major role in securing Trump’s election.

“And Trump’s firing [FBI Director] James Comey to short-circuit the Russia investigation—as he himself admitted in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt—only proves how much he wants to hide his guilt.” 

On June 21, Harris’ office responded as follows: 

Dear Mr. —–,

Thank you for reaching out to voice your concerns about the workings of our government and the state of our nation. The importance of civic involvement cannot be overstated, and it is an honor to serve as your United States Senator. I have heard your concerns, and my legislative work will continue to be guided by the needs of constituents like you.

I believe that each and every American has the right to education, public safety, and health care. I have dedicated my time in the Senate to fighting for the most vulnerable among us and defending the inalienable rights guaranteed by our Constitution.

It is for this reason that I introduced the Access to Counsel Act, which guarantees legal counsel for those detained while entering the United States, passed a bipartisan resolution condemning ethnic and religious hate crimes, and introduced the Empowering Federal Employment for Veterans Act, a bipartisan bill to boost federal employment opportunities for the veterans who gave so much to defend our nation.

I am proud of the progress we have made during our time in the Senate. And still, I know our work has just begun.

As a career prosecutor and the former Attorney General of California, I understand that our constitutionally-guaranteed rights must be diligently protected. I will fight to protect these rights, and make sure that our voices not silenced or forgotten.

As your senator, I will spend my time in Congress advocating for every Californian and every American.

Thank you again for reaching out.  If you have additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to visit my website at —.——.——-.— or call my Washington, D.C. office at (—) — —-.

Sincerely,

Kamala D. Harris

United States Senator 

Dave wasted no time in replying to what he considered a thoroughly unresponsive reply:  

On June 20 I sent you an email outlining ways that Democrats can successfully mount attacks on Republicans generally and Donald Trump in particular. 

Your email says better than anything I can why so many people have given up on the Democratic party.

Image result for images of tombstones marked Democrat

NOTHING in this email even REMOTELY addresses the issue I raised in mine. It’s boilerplate that could have been sent out to ANY constituent of ANY member of Congress. No doubt I could have told you I was suffering from a poison ivy rash and you would have sent me the same “reply.”

And yours is NOT unique in its “outreach” to constituents. I have seen letters and emails from other Congressional members whom people I know contacted. And those “replies” had NOTHING to do with the subjects those constituents had written about.

Since Trump’s election, Democrats have had FOUR opportunities to upset his agenda via four special elections. The most recent of these occurred on June 20—and, for the fourth time, the Democratic nominee got flushed down the toilet.

So I would think that if someone directly addressed some of the reasons WHY Democrats keep blowing elections, YOU would have had the decency to directly respond to the subject.  But of course you did not.

At the end of your email, you (or, more likely, your staffer) wrote: “If you have additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to visit my website at ——.——-.— or call my Washington, D.C. office at (—) — —-.”

After getting the completely UNresponsive “response” cited above, I do not see any reason to expect that any further emails or letters to you will garner a direct reply to whatever issue I have addressed.

Prepare yourself for a Trump re-election in 2020. The cowardly, Politically Correct approach Democrats habitually take to campaigning will guarantee it.

The tragedy is that, while your party DESERVES to go into the trashcan of history, those who depend on its members for protection against Republican greed and cruelty deserve far better.

WHY TRUMP WILL BE RE-ELECTED IN 2020: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on June 22, 2017 at 11:15 am

David Gergen has served as a White House advisor to four Presidents–three Republican, one Democrat: Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

He is now a senior political analyst for CNN.

In addition, he is a U.S. Navy veteran, a member of the D.C. Bar and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.  And as if that wasn’t enough, he graduated with honors from Yale and Harvard Law School.

In short, he is a serious man who intimately understands politics from both the Republican and Democratic perspective.

David Gergen World Economic Forum 2013.jpg

David Gergen

So when he says the Democrats are in trouble, they should listen closely.

In a June 22 analysis for CNN, Gergen warned that President Donald Trump “could be on his way to re-election in 2020.”

To back up his assertion he cites two defeats Republicans handed Democrats in just one week. At stake: Two vacant seats in the Republican-dominated House of Representatives.

On June 20, Ralph Norman defeated Archie Parnell in a special election for South Carolina’s 5th congressional district. The seat had been occupied by Republican Mick Mulvaney, who was chosen by President Trump to become the new director of the Office of Management and Budget. 

Related image

Ralph Norman

And, on the same day, Karen Handel defeated Jon Ossoff in another special election for the 6th District of Atlanta, Georgia. The seat became vacant in January, when its Republican holder, Tom Price, became Secretary of Health and Human Services. 

Karen Handel

Since Trump took office on January 20, there have been four special elections to fill vacant Congressional seats.  And Republicans have won all of them.

“What’s really important is that Donald Trump has seized the narrative back,” said Gergan during a June 22 appearance on  CNN’s Erin Burnett Outfront, “that he’s doing better with the voters than Democrats think he is.

“It should be a wake-up call for Democrats. It is possible that he could actually get re-elected if Democrats aren’t careful.”

Recently, a Democratic friend of mine, whom I’ll call Dave, came to the same conclusion.  Admittedly, he has never served any President, let alone four of them

But an email exchange with Kamala Harris, his own United States Senator from California, left him angry and despairing. 

Kamala Harris

First, his email to her—sent on June 20:

Democrats are fatally neglecting a key weapon against the Trump abomination: Effective language.

In 1996, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich wrote a memo that encouraged Republicans to “speak like Newt.”

Entitled “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control,” it urged Republicans to attack Democrats with such words as “corrupt,” “selfish,” “destructive,” “hypocrisy,” “liberal,” “sick,” and “traitors.” 

Such terms have proven highly effective in making Republicans masters of Congress and the White House.

Unfortunately, Democrats have shown themselves indifferent to or incapable of making language work for them.

Consider what conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks said last year about how Donald Trump used language to demolish his political opponents:

“Trump, for all his moral flaws, is a marketing genius. And you look at what he does. He just picks a word and he attaches it to a person. Little Marco [Rubio], Lyin’ Ted [Cruz], Crooked Hillary [Clinton].

“And that’s a word.  And that’s how marketing works.  It’s a simple, blunt message, but it gets under. It sticks, and it diminishes.  And so it has been super effective for him, because he knows how to do that. 

“And she [Hillary Clinton] just comes with, ‘Oh, he’s divisive.’ These are words that are not exciting people. And her campaign style has gotten, if anything…a little more stagnant and more flat.” 

But there ARE exciting words that Democrats CAN use to quickly destroy Trump’s credibility.  It only takes imagination and courage—imagination to create them, and courage to use them.

Let me offer some examples:

Everybody knows that Vladimir Putin is the ONLY politician Trump has refused to attack. In fact, he has formed a Mutual Admiration Society with Putin. Yet Democrats have failed to effectively capitalize on this by fusing the two together.

No longer: “TrumPutin” should be CONSTANTLY on the lips of every Democrat when referring to Trump. It’s easy to remember and say–and it says “traitor” and “dictator” without having to actually use those words.

Republicans should be CONSTANTLY referred to as “RepublicaNazis,” or “Nazi Republicans.” Given Trump’s use of Nuremberg-like rallies, his Nazi-like salutes and demands for personal loyalty from his followers, creating TV ads that drive home this message will be easy.

If you want a more modern term to liken Republicans to dictators, you can use “Republican Guard,” as in: “We are facing a Republican Guard of opposition in the Senate.”

This would establish a subliminal link in the minds of voters between Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard and Republicans holding sway in Congress….

Above all, Democrats should not simply borrow but co-opt a page from the Republican playbook and CONSTANTLY brand Republicans as TRAITORS.

America’s foremost Intelligence agencies have proven, categorically, that Russian Intelligence agents played a major role in securing the Trump’s election.

And Trump’s firing James Comey to short-circuit the Russia investigation—as he himself admitted in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt—only proves how much he wants to hide his guilt.

REAGAN’S RASPUTIN

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on December 2, 2014 at 12:00 am

The Presidency of Ronald W. Reagan consumed eight years of American history: 1981 – 1989. But its greed-fueled legacies continue to haunt us.

On October 21, the woman responsible for one of those legacies–government by astrologer–passed away at age 87.

Yes, Joan Quigley is dead.

For those unfamiliar with that name: Quigley was the court astrologer to Ronald and Nancy Reagan.

Ronald and Nancy Reagan in the White House

Nancy Reagan met Quigley on “The Merv Griffin Show” in 1973.

Quigley gave Nancy–and through her, Reagan himself–astrological advice during the latter’s campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination in 1976.

That effort failed to unseat President Gerald Ford–who was defeated that November by Jimmy Carter.

Four years later, in 1980, Reagan defeated Carter to become the 40th President of the United States.

On March 30, 1981, a mentally-disturbed loner named John W. Hinckley shot and critically wounded Reagan.  Fixiated on actress Jodie Foster, he believed that by shooting the President he could gain her affection.

For Nancy, the assassination attempt proved a watershed.

Shortly after the shooting, Merv Griffin told her that Quigley had told him: If Nancy had called her on that fateful day, she–Quigley–could have warned that the President’s astrological charts had foretold a bad day.

From that moment on, Nancy made sure to regularly consult Quigley on virtually everything that she and the President intended to do.

When Reagan learned of Nancy’s consultations with Quigley, he warned her: Be careful, because it might look odd if it came out.

Click here: The President’s Astrologers – Joan Quigley, Nancy Reagan, Politicians and Their Families, Ronald Reagan : People.c

Many–if not most–of these calls from the White House to Quigley’s office in San Francisco were made on non-secure phone lines.

Joan Quigley

This meant that foreign powers–most notably the Soviet Union and Communist China–could have been privy to Reagan’s most secret intentions.

Nancy passed on Quigley’s suggestions as commands to Donald Regan, chief of the White House staff.

As a result, Regan kept a color-coded calendar on his desk to remember when the astrological signs were good for the President to speak, travel, or negotiate with foreign leaders.

Green ink highlighted “good” days; red ink “bad” days; yellow ink “iffy” days.

A list provided by Quigley to Nancy made the following recommendations–which Nancy, in turn, made into commands:

Late Dec thru March    bad
Jan 16 – 23    very bad
Jan 20    nothing outside WH–possible attempt
Feb 20 – 26    be careful
March 7 – 14    bad period
March 10 – 14    no outside activity!
March 16    very bad
March 21    no
March 27    no
March 12 – 19    no trips exposure
March 19 – 25    no public exposure
April 3    careful
April 11    careful
April 17    careful
April 21 – 28    stay home

Donald Regan, no fan of Nancy’s, chafed under such restrictions: “Obviously, this list of dangerous or forbidden dates left very little lattitude for scheduling,” he later wrote.

Forced out of the White House in 1987 by Nancy, Regan struck back in a 1988 tell-all memoir: For the Record: From Wall Street to Washington.

In 1988, after her secret role in the Reagan White House was revealed, Quigley told the Associated Press that she was a “serious, scientific astrologer.”

The book revealed, for the first time, how Ronald Reagan had actually made his Presidential decisions.

All–including decisions to risk nuclear war with the Soviet Union–were based on a court astrologer’s horoscopes.  Rationality and the best military intelligence available played a lesser, secondary role.

The last time major world leader to turn to the supernatural for advice had been Russian Czar Nicholas 11.  His advisor had been Grigori Rasputin, a Siberian peasant whom Empress Alexandra believed was the only man who could save her hemophilic son–and heir to the throne.

In 1990, Quigley confirmed the allegations an autobiography, What Does Joan Say?: My Seven Years As White House Astrologer to Nancy and Ronald Reagan.

Click here: What Does Joan Say?: My Seven Years As White House Astrologer to Nancy and Ronald Reagan: Joan Quigley

The title came from the question that Ronald Reagan asked Nancy before making important decisions–including those that could risk the destruction of the United States.

Among the success Quigley took credit for:

  • Strategies for winning the Presidential elections of 1980 and 1984;
  • Helping Nancy Reagan overhaul her image as a spoiled rich girl;
  • Defusing the controversey over Reagan’s visiting a graveyard for SS soldiers in Bitburg, Germany;
  • Pursuing “Star Wars” as a major part of his strategy against the Soviet Union;
  • The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty;
  • Protecting Reagan from would-be assassins through timely warnings to Nancy; and
  • Moving Reagan from seeing the Soviet Union as the “Evil Empire” to accepting Mikhail Gorbachev as a peace-seeking leader.

Thirty-three years after he became President, Ronald Reagan remains the most popular figure among Republicans.

His name is constantly invoked by Right-wing candidates, while his deliberately-crafted myth is held up as the example of Presidential greatness.

A number of precedents of the Reagan administration–like government by astrologer–might lend themselves to easy abuse.  Thus, voters should consider this carefully before elevating “another Reagan” to the Presidency.

GOVERNMENT AS IT REALLY WORKS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 22, 2014 at 12:40 am

In 1972, 41 years before Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency was spying on the Internet, David Halberstam issued a warning about government secrecy.

As a young reporter for the New York Times covering the early years of the Vietnam war, Halberstam had repeatedly confronted government duplicity and obstruction.

David Halberstam (on left)

Halberstam arrived in South Vietnam in 1962.  Almost at once he realized that the war was not going well for the United States Army and its supposed South Vietnamese allies.

The South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) was ill-trained and staffed with incompetent officers who sought to avoid military action.

Reports to military superiors were filled with career-boosting lies about “progress” being made against Viet Cong guerrillas and North Vietnamese soldiers.

“Screw up and move up” was the way Americans described the ARVN promotion system.

Halberstam soon learned that the phrase applied just as much to the American Army as well–for reasons of the same incompetence and duplicity.

Returning from Vietnam and resigning from the Times, Halberstam set to work on his landmark history of how the United States had become entangled in a militarily and economically unimportant country.

He would call it The Best and the Brightest, and the title would become a sarcastic reference to those men in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations whose arrogance and deceit plunged the United States into disaster.

Halberstam outlined how the culture of secrecy and unchecked power led American policymakers to play God with the lives of other nations.

Out of this grew a willingness to use covert operations.  And this meant keeping these secret from Americans generally and Congress in particular.

This ignorance allowed citizens to believe that America was a different country.  One that didn’t engage in the same brutalities and corruptions of other nations.

Thus, President Lyndon B. Johnson claimed to be the peace candidate during the 1964 election.  Meanwhile, he was secretly sending U.S. Navy ships to attack coastal cities in North Vietnam.

When North Vietnam responded militarily, Johnson feigned outrage and vowed that the United States would vigorously resist “Communist aggression.”

The history of covert operations has had its own in- and -out-of seasons:

  • During the Eisenhower Administration, the Central Intelligence Agency overthrew the governments of Iran (1953) and Guatemala (1954).
  • During the Kennedy Administration, the CIA repeatedly tried to assassinate Cuba’s “Maximum Leader,” Fidel Castro.
  • During the Nixon Adminisdtration, the CIA plotted with right-wing army leaders to successfully overthrow Salvador Allende, the Leftist, legally-elected President of Chile (1973).
  • In 1975, the CIA’s history of assassination attempts became public through an expose by New York Times Investigative Reporter Seymour Hersh.
  • Following nationwide outrage, President Gerald Ford signed an executive order banning the agency from assassinating foreign leaders.

After 9/11, President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney decided to “take off the gloves.”

The CIA drew up an ever-expanding list of targets and used killer drones and Special Operations troops (such as SEALs and Green Berets) to hunt them down.

Predator drone firing Hellfire missile

And when these weren’t enough, the CIA called on expensive mercenaries (such as Blackwater), untrustworthy foreign Intelligence services, proxy armies and mercurial dictators.

In his 2013 book, The Way of the Knife, New York Times national security correspondent Mark Mazzetti traces the origins of this high-tech, “surgical” approach to warfare.

Within the course of a decade, the CIA has moved largely from being an intelligence-gathering agency to being a “find-and-kill” one.

And this newfound lethality came at a price: The CIA would no longer be able to provide the crucial Intelligence Presidents need to make wise decisions in a dangerous world.

While the CIA sought to become a more discreet version of the Pentagon, the Pentagon began setting up its own Intelligence network in out-of-the-way Third World outposts.

And, ready to service America’s military and Intelligence agencies at a mercenary’s prices, are a host of private security and Intelligence companies.

Jeffrey Smith, a former CIA general counsel, warns of the potential for trouble: “There is an inevitable tension as to where the contractor’s loyalties lie.  Do they lie with the flag?  Or do they lie with the bottom line?”

Mazzetti warns of the dark side of these new developments. On one hand, this high-tech approach to war has been embraced by Washington as a low-risk, low-cost alternative to huge troop commitments and quagmire occupations.

On the other hand, it’s created new enemies, fomented resentments among allies and fueled regional instability.  It has also created new weapons unbound by the normal rules of accountability in wartime.

Finally, it’s raised new and troubling ethical questions, such as:

  • What is the moral difference between blowing apart a man at a remote distance with a drone-fired missile and shooting him in the back of the head at close range?
  • Why is the first considered a legitimate act of war–and the second considered an illegal assassination?

In time, there will be answers to many of the uncertainties this new era of push-button and hired-soldier warfare  has unleashed.  And at least some of those answers may come at a high price.

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