Saturday, November 15, 2014

After the election

We have a pretty good idea of what will happen now that the Republicans are more powerful than ever: more tax benefits for the rich, more hardship for the poor, and more saber rattling and war-making in foreign policy. The voters wanted a change. I am not sure they are going to like the changes they get.
But this is the time to look at what will not change whoever gets elected. A political scientist at Tufts University, Michael Glennon, has recently argued that significant portions of the federal government are in no way under control of elected officials. Leadership in these shadowy agencies is handed down from one person to the other without consultation with the voters or elected members of the executive branch. Their policies are made by officials not elected and most of the time are shrouded in deep secrecy. Voters not only have no control over the national security apparatus and its allies in the military, but most of the time they do not know what policies are being made and executed.
Glennon makes this point impressively. He reminds us that before Obama was elected president in 2008 he promised to close Guantanamo Bay. He opposed the Patriot Act and government spying on civilians. He was a champion of civil liberties. He was an opponent of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But once he was elected Guantanamo Bay remained open. Obama conducted the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His administration has continued the surveillance of civilians begun during the previous administration and has been harsh in prosecuting government whistleblowers. This administration has consistently supported government secrecy. It has been hostile to the press and press freedom.
That is not the Barack Obama who campaigned in 2008 and whom we elected. Glennon explains this sudden reversal by arguing that the security apparatus of such agencies as the National Security Administration and the Central Intelligence Agency operate mostly in secrecy. What they do sometimes comes out after it is all done. But elected officials and the voters have no control over their projects – one more bizarre and sinister than the next. Hence Obama's government failed to do what he had promised the voters.
A long time ago Bill Moyers presented a Public Broadcasting Special about this secretive and undemocratic security apparatus. It was created he said when Harry Truman signed the National Security Act in 1947 that created both the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency. Very soon these new agencies proved to be a major liability to the U.S.
In 1952 the Iranian people electorate Mohammed Mossadegh to be their Prime Minister. Our government had liked him until he decided that Iranian oil should not be owned by British interests and nationalized the Iranian oil industry. Such a move was anathema to all the capitalists and anti-communists in the United States. The CIA cooked up a plot to have Mossadegh toppled by a popular uprising and the Iranian military. The Shah of Iran returned and began a reign of terror. The CIA helped him to set up his secret police force that arrested people without trial, tortured and killed them.
CIA complicity in the events in Iran were not known at the time. They could not be discussed in our political arena. 60 years later we harvest the bitter fruits of this insane CIA project. That was the beginning of a series of secret interventions in the Middle East that have made us the most unpopular government in that part of the world. The men and women who died in Iraq and Afghanistan did not, as we often say, fight for our freedoms. Rather, they harvested the bitter fruits of the CIA intervention in Iran and many other secret manipulations of Middle Eastern policies—policies not motivated by concern for our freedoms or those of peoples in the Mid-East but designed to maintain corporate profits.
Two wars are now winding down. Another one in Syria and Iraq is just beginning. We owe those wars to the secret projects not controlled by our elected government. Voting has become a lot less effective because large portions of foreign policy are made we don't know by nameless “security” planners.
The effects of those secret projects by agencies not elected by us or supervised by our elected representatives, are felt not only in foreign policy but in the price all of us pay for the wars we fight, the losses many families sustain, the returning veterans seriously affected by their service, the moneys blown on weapons and warfare, that are not available to provide needed services to returning veterans, to build new schools, to hire more teachers, to repair roads and bridges and ameliorate the lives of the poorest, the elderly and disabled.
If we want to restore our democracy and peoples' control of the government, we need to dismantle the secretive national security apparatus, including the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency and replace it by agencies solidly under democratic control.