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Architect of Terror


In the supposed controversy over Brennan’s confirmation as CIA Director, the elephant in the room that everyone has stepped around is the CIA itself.  Massive evidence of torture (under the impersonal designation, E.I.T.) should, were democracy truly applicable to the US, require the complete eradication of the CIA from the American structure and practice of government.

The reason for covert operations is that they cannot stand the light of day.  Intelligence, cryptography, fine—but everything from politicizing neuroscience (the excellent recent article in CP) to armed drones for targeted assassination, with rendition, black holes, subsidies to domestic fascistic groups for breaking up rallies (my experience with Breakthrough at antiwar rallies in Detroit during Vietnam) in between, raises the cloak-and-dagger genre to a merciless level of trained, intensified sadism oblivious to the restraints of civilized behavior.

We honor political murder as the insurance policy for securing the Homeland, and its practioners, noble warriors on the front lines of justice.  Brennan is a fitting Director.  He will “correct” previous mistakes, i.e., make them less easy to detect.  Secrecy is his and Obama’s plate of armor, impenetrable as befitting worship of the National Security State and its outsized hegemonic ambitions.  In one sense, targeted assassination is at least out in the open, whereas destabilizing societies and governments held to be the enemies of America, Venezuela being a not-too-distant case in point, is more the CIA’s stock-in-trade.  In Obama, the Agency, along with JSOC, has its impressario, cheerleader, and now tactical adviser, rolled in one.

The argument that it takes one to know one, here, that Brennan’s hardness and quarter-century service in CIA, will prove invaluable to bringing it to task, is akin to gallows humor infinitely compounded, given his own track record (not least his careful valuing of deniability when it comes to waterboarding and the whole gamut of inhuman viciousness).  Whispering in the president’s ear on how best to turn up the violence toward America’s (mostly self-created) “enemies,” destines this Dynamic Duo, as it goes about institutionalizing the drone program, to the perpetuation of Fortress America, creating more eneemies, more interventions, more surveillance at home, more paramilitary operations, all part of what I termed in an earlier article, liberal fascism, because dressed up in soothing phrases of peace, justice, and the virtues of the market.

As I see the situation, it appears that one cannot exist without the other, Obama, a novice in the commission of war crimes, dependent on Brennan for the ins-and-outs of their execution and expanding their scope, and Brennan, utterly without power, except now, as legitimated by POTUS, for translation into action.

Thus, Obama, a quick learner at the seats of power (plural, because one can no longer ignore factoring in the military to the political-economic ruling stratum), reaches well beyond his intelligence, training, and understanding to come up quite suddenly with the “pivot”-doctrine, a massive movement to the Far East, a Neo-Con,think-tank, Pentagon, rightwing sentiment in the air waiting to be articulated, and fully supported by supercarriers, defense alliances, joint maneuvers, troop movements, new weaponry in the pipeline, all for the purpose of challenging China in the reincarnation of the Cold War, in this case, a Pacific-first geopolitical vision and strategy directed to containing and isolating China, weakening its investment and trade in Africa and Latin America, and eliminating its obstruction to America’s unilateral quest for global dominance.]:

[My NYT Comment, Mar. 7. Serial arsonist to quell 5-alarm fire.]:

If, as I believe, the CIA is a cancer embedded in American government, would “reform” accomplish anything, or must it be torn out root and branch to conserve democracy?  Brennan, as the new Director (confirmation is clear, given both parties agree on precisely the need for E.I.T. and armed drones for targeted assassinatiion), is like sending a serial arsonist to quell a five-alarm fire.  Obama’s decision to nominate him speaks volumes about his own similarly fascistic leanings and willingness to violate international law—Brennan and his vast expansion of Bush’s campaign of assassination, and further expansion of secrecy, for that program, and presumably all matters under the head of national security.

Why such extreme secrecy?  To hide war crimes.  Period.  Placing Brennan at CIA serves one purpose only, to magnify and attach greater significance to Obama’s military doctrine:  in addition to drones (and assassination) the greater emphasis on paramilitary operations, Obama + Brennan = the doctrine and practice of permanent war.

Norman Pollack is the author of “The Populist Response to Industrial America” (Harvard) and “The Just Polity” (Illinois), Guggenheim Fellow, and professor of history emeritus, Michigan State University.

Norman Pollack Ph.D. Harvard, Guggenheim Fellow, early writings on American Populism as a radical movement, prof., activist.. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at

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