FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Unless Otherwise Directed …

by JOHN GRANT

I’ve worked in journalism for 35 years. I did graduate study in journalism, I’ve worked as a daily newspaper reporter and I’ve freelanced magazine articles and newspaper op-eds. Now I blog.

I’ve learned that certain ideas are not permitted in the mainstream press. Well-paid gatekeepers might say these ideas are misguided, wrong or irresponsible, but that’s not really the reason. It’s because certain ideas are not in alignment with the middle-brow assumptions our mainstream press operates within. It also has to do with a commercial inclination for celebrity journalism and a fetish for scorekeeping over analysis.

Here’s a personal example. For three weeks, since the Times Square bombing attempt, I’ve been in a back-and-forth exchange with the op-ed editor of a major city newspaper over a 900-word piece focused on the motivations of would-be bomber Faisal Shahzad.

Over the years I’ve had numerous op-eds in this newspaper, most of them critical of the current wars and all leaning to the political left.

Based on remarks the editor emailed to me, I re-wrote the piece twice. Now I’m getting silence. It seems I have hit the wall of verboten ideas; I think he’s ashamed to tell me “no” outright.

Here’s the paragraphs that contain what I submit is an unacceptable idea for mainstream US minds:

There is no indication Shahzad calculated becoming a citizen to pull off a terrorist act. His decision to kill seems to have come later, a combination of his life coming apart and anger at US drone attacks in northwest Pakistan where he was raised.

Discussion of this case often assumes the interests of the Pakistan Taliban to attack America occurred outside history, that somehow the change in their attitude is not a result of our escalating drone attacks and our pressure on the Pakistani military to assault northwest Pakistan. It’s as if the United States is exempt from history and our actions don’t have consequences.

It’s exactly the same brand of denial that pushed 50 years of military and political intervention and oil exploitation in Saudi Arabia from the minds of Americans as to why 16 Saudis drove planes into our buildings on September 11th.

The idea in these sentences – that a history of US military intervention is a prime motivation of “terrorist” attacks on us here and around the world — is effectively embargoed from mainstream discussion. Instead, the working assumptions supporting stories must be Fear Of Attack and Support The Troops – and that we are being attacked due to the evil of those attacking us.

Sure, there’s evil in the world and a share of it resides in the hearts of our declared enemies. But a share of evil also lies in our hearts. That’s not the point.

The point is to get at the roots of the conflicts we are involved in so we can begin to ratchet them down, get out of places like Iraq and Afghanistan and focus our resources on neglected needs here in our own country.

Making this case is extremely difficult and frustrating because the deck is stacked against those who would seek to break the powerful momentum of war. Top-down power in America is constantly reinforcing itself and pushing the other way.

This week it was revealed that, in a secret directive, General David Petraeus, leader of Central Command, has ordered a significant expansion of US covert military action around the world. Unlike CIA covert actions, these covert military missions do not require presidential approval or congressional oversight.

Barton Gellman, in his book Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency, describes Petraeus as a masterful practitioner of UNODIR, military shorthand for putting a scheme in practice and, at the perfectly timed moment, sending a communiqué to a superior saying, “unless otherwise directed, I will continue to…” Dick Cheney, a major fan of Petraeus as he rose in the ranks, was the undisputed master of UNODIR in the Bush White House.

Critical discussion and analysis of such secret decisions is kept from Congress and the American people. By the time a recalcitrant congress member or senator fashions a bill to cut funding for the war in Afghanistan, things like the Petraeus directive are already in process — subject to the laws of UNODIR and the fact it’s harder to stop a train at full speed than to prevent it from leaving the station.

The legal realm works just as insidiously in keeping analysis and debate from the minds of mainstream Americans.

A federal appeals court just ruled that three detainees at Bagram AFB in Afghanistan have no recourse to habeas corpus, which is internationally considered a fundamental human right. The court ruled their detention by the US military on foreign soil was not reviewable because the detentions were on foreign soil.

Joseph Heller wrote the book on this kind of absurdity, and it’s called Catch 22.

The Obama administration was delighted with the decision, which legalizes the broad powers of detention they inherited from the Bush administration.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a former military JAG officer, said, to let these men review their detentions by the US military “would be the ultimate act of turning the war into a crime.”

If giving these detainees the fundamental human right to question their detention would make it clear our war in Afghanistan is illegal, then the court was in essence silencing the expression of ideas critical of the war.

Like the game of whack-a-mole, it’s all hands on deck to whack down inconvenient and dangerous ideas that call into question our endless state of war. Keep the ideas and the argument marginalized.

You can see this at work in the recent firing of Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, who found himself at odds with his subordinate CIA Director Leon Panetta and, it seems, General Petraeus.

According to The New York Times, Blair “has been outspoken about reining in the CIA’s covert activities, citing their propensity to backfire and tarnish America’s image.” The escalating stealth CIA drone war in northwest Pakistan was reportedly part of his concern. It seems logical the Petraeus expansion of unaccountable covert activities also fit into these concerns.

When it was created following a recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, one of the prime purposes of the intelligence director role was, according to The Times, “to provide strategic direction.” Telling the President his covert activities may backfire on him seems a vital element of the job description.

Again, we see the top-down shutting out of ideas.

The prime motivation for Faisal Shazad’s failed Times Square bombing was the escalating covert CIA drone attacks on his homeland in northwest Pakistan. I‘d say his actions qualify as a “backfire.”

The Obama/Petraeus policy is as fundamentally inconsistent as it is out of control. It seeks to counter a problem – attacks on the US – by escalating the very thing – US military intervention — that motivated the attacks and created the problem in the first place. And as it escalates the problem, it shuts out critical ideas and analysis.

It’s a déjà vu moment. This time “the best and the brightest” are Pentagon celebrities, and they’re leading the nation down a road to escalating global conflagration … unless otherwise directed.

JOHN GRANT is a founding member of the new journalist-owned, journalist-run news collective and online newspaper ThisCantBeHappening.net. Read his stories and stories by colleagues Dave Lindorff, Linn Washington and Charles Young, at www.thiscantbehappening.net

 

WORDS THAT STICK

 

JOHN GRANT is a member of ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent, uncompromised, five-time Project Censored Award-winning online alternative newspaper. 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
George Wuerthner
Caving to Ranchers: the Misguided Decision to Kill the Profanity Wolf Pack
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
John Stanton
Brzezinski Vision for a Power Sharing World Stymied by Ignorant Americans Leaders, Citizens
Philip Doe
Colorado: 300 Days of Sunshine Annually, Yet There’s No Sunny Side of the Street
Joseph White
Homage to EP Thompson
Dan Bacher
The Big Corporate Money Behind Jerry Brown
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
DNC Playing Dirty Tricks on WikiLeaks
Ron Jacobs
Education for Liberation
Jim Smith
Socialism Revived: In Spite of Bernie, Donald and Hillary
David Macaray
Organized Labor’s Inferiority Complex
David Cortright
Alternatives to Military Intervention in Syria
Binoy Kampmark
The Terrors of Free Speech: Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act
Cesar Chelala
Guantánamo’s Quagmire
Nyla Ali Khan
Hoping Against Hope in Kashmir
William Hughes
From Sam Spade to the Red Scare: Dashiell Hammett’s War Against Rightwing Creeps
Raouf Halaby
Dear Barack Obama, Please Keep it at 3 for 3
Charles R. Larson
Review: Paulina Chiziane’s “The First Wife: a Tale of Polygamy”
David Yearsley
The Widow Bach: Anna Magdalena Rediscovered
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail