Tuesday, June 2, 2009

American Death Squad

Obama inherits Cheney's army of assassins – and promotes their commander

by Justin Raimondo
May 20, 2009

As the story of Bush administration’s war crimes comes out in fits and starts, it appears that torture is only one aspect – and not the worst, by any means – of this horrific history. In an interview in mid-March, Seymour Hersh let slip the following:

"After 9/11 – I haven’t written about this yet – but the Central Intelligence Agency was very deeply involved in domestic activities against people they thought to be enemies of the state. Without any legal authority for it. They haven’t been called on it yet. That does happen."

Well, yes, that’s hardly surprising. The PATRIOT Act and other legislation [.pdf] passed by Congress gives the government the legal "right" to spy on American citizens and, in the case of Jose Padilla, lock them up without a trial and throw away the key. But, as Hersh reveals, it gets worse. Much worse:

“Right now, today, there was a story in the New York Times that if you read it carefully mentioned something known as the Joint Special Operations Command – JSOC it’s called. It is a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently. They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office. They did not report to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff or to Mr. [Robert] Gates, the secretary of defense. They reported directly to him. …

“Congress has no oversight of it.It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on. … Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That’s been going on, in the name of all of us."

Well, yes, that’s not too surprising, either, actually. It’s so – what’s the word? – Cheneyesque. Those Rethuglicans! Well, we’re past all that now. The Dear Leader’s in the White House, and it’s time to move on, right? Oh wait…

It turns out the commander of this international order of assassins has just been appointed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. As part of the "fresh thinking" in the Obama administration, epitomized by the COIN crowd, Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal replaces Gen. David McKiernan. So who is McChrystal? A 2006 profile in Newsweek put it this way:

"JSOC is part of what Vice President Dick Cheney was referring to when he said America would have to ‘work the dark side’ after 9/11. To many critics, the veep’s remark back in 2001 fostered his rep as the Darth Vader of the war on terror and presaged bad things to come, like the interrogation abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay. But America also has its share of Jedi Knights who are fighting in what Cheney calls ‘the shadows.’ And McChrystal, an affable but tough Army Ranger, and the Delta Force and other elite teams he commands are among them."

The dark side includes McChrystal’s overseeing of Camp Nama, a detainee center outside of Baghdad (since renamed and relocated) notorious for its brutality. The very same administration that is up on its high horse about forbidding torture has just elevated one of the chief torturers to direct Obama’s war in Afghanistan. It is hardly inconceivable that what we saw at Camp Nama – beatings, degradation of prisoners, and outright, cold-blooded murder – is going to be replicated on a nationwide scale.

That’s what they call "fresh thinking" over at Obama’s Pentagon.

The response to all this – or, rather, the non-response – indicates to me that torture is not really the issue, as far as the Obamaites and their amen corner in the media are concerned, it’s who’s doing the torturing. If Bush and Cheney ordered it, it’s reprehensible and might even be a war crime. If, however, a known torture-enabler is elevated by Obama’s secretary of defense to the position of commander of our armed forces in Afghanistan – well, then, that’s a far different matter. ...



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