Chalmers Johnson (don't read him if you aren't into self-questioning) has a piece at TomDispatch.com today which sits well with this former, fervent Democrat who has now moved away from the party as it has moved shamelessly towards the right. If you want an example of that rightward move, you only have to look at the actions of the Democratic majority in the House and the slim majority in the Senate. What you may not want to do is look back at the Clinton administration's enthusiastic embrace of corporatism. It handed the Republicans not only the White House but gave them license to turn much of the government over to corporations, continuing a tradition which, like it or not, began during the FDR presidency when the purpose of building a huge defense industry was to end hard economic times.
Then it got to be a habit -- deeply entrenched, as Eisenhower warned. Let's start with a quotation from investigative journalist, Tim Shorrock:
"Bill Clinton… picked up the cudgel where the conservative Ronald Reagan left off and… took it deep into services once considered inherently governmental, including high-risk military operations and intelligence functions once reserved only for government agencies. By the end of [Clinton's first] term, more than 100,000 Pentagon jobs had been transferred to companies in the private sector -- among them thousands of jobs in intelligence… By the end of [his second] term in 2001, the administration had cut 360,000 jobs from the federal payroll and the government was spending 44 percent more on contractors than it had in 1993."
In his essay for TomDispatch.com, Chalmers Johnson is cataloging the gradual handover of intelligence and military work from government to private contractors. He writes:
"The end result is what we see today: a government hollowed out in terms of military and intelligence functions. The KBR Corporation, for example, supplies food, laundry, and other personal services to our troops in Iraq based on extremely lucrative no-bid contracts, while Blackwater Worldwide supplies security and analytical services to the CIA and the State Department in Baghdad. (Among other things, its armed mercenaries opened fire on, and killed, 17 unarmed civilians in Nisour Square, Baghdad, on September 16, 2007, without any provocation, according to U.S. military reports.) The costs -- both financial and personal -- of privatization in the armed services and the intelligence community far exceed any alleged savings, and some of the consequences for democratic governance may prove irreparable.
"These consequences include: the sacrifice of professionalism within our intelligence services; the readiness of private contractors to engage in illegal activities without compunction and with impunity; the inability of Congress or citizens to carry out effective oversight of privately-managed intelligence activities because of the wall of secrecy that surrounds them; and, perhaps most serious of all, the loss of the most valuable asset any intelligence organization possesses -- its institutional memory."
Johnson warns -- and we'd do well to listen -- that we have put ourselves at much greater risk than ever.
..."The current situation represents the worst of all possible worlds. Successive administrations and Congresses have made no effort to alter the CIA's role as the president's private army, even as we have increased its incompetence by turning over many of its functions to the private sector. We have thereby heightened the risks of war by accident, or by presidential whim, as well as of surprise attack because our government is no longer capable of accurately assessing what is going on in the world and because its intelligence agencies are so open to pressure, penetration, and manipulation of every kind."
War by accident. Even as I was typing this, a Pakistani political analyst and author, Shuja Nawaz, speaking on the phone from Rawalpindi, spoke about yesterday's CIA drone+missile strike and the collateral damage it has done. Nawaz reported that a fellow journalist had had a conversation about this just nowwith rebel leader Massoud who put numbers to the number of recruits the rebel movement gets normally versus the numbers immediately following an American attack which causes civilian deaths. The recruits are lining up as a result of the CIA's attack.
Presidential whim? War by accident or war on purpose? We're looking at a growing appetite for endless war over which the American voter has lost all control.