Authoritarian Losers in Power

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With Petraeus slated to rule the massive and mysteriously budgeted CIA, and Panetta poised for the Pentagon, one cannot help but admire the Washington elite's audacity of hope.

Bush 41 family friend and cohort in crime, Robert Gates has overseen the astounding over- and under-the-table money churn called the Pentagon for over four years now. Under Gates' leadership, two wars and two nation-builds have blossomed and continued to waste billions of US tax dollars, grow the debt, create uncertainty and shortages in global oil markets, and sow hatred, and a third oil and regional basing occupation effort has been launched — as usual, with neither a plan nor an exit strategy. As the great men in America are measured, in death and destruction, we can count several million displaced, and tens of thousands murdered on Gates' watch. Gates was a 27-year intelligence "professional" in the CIA prior to his current position. The new Prince of Pentagonia will be former CIA Chief, Leon Panetta, whose most recent claim to fame is his enthusiastic cheerleading of CIA military-style operations in Pakistan, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere.

We don't yet have a definitive investigative guide to CIA budgets and intelligence community funding along the lines of Winslow Wheeler's new book The Pentagon Labyrinth. But the appointment of these insider-bureaucrat front-men tell us that the power elite in Washington is not really worried about growing domestic anti-war sentiment, nor are they concerned that the growing outcries opposing out-of-control federal spending overseas and at home will have any impact. Instead, it tells us that the power elite is fat and happy, hauling in the rewards of the American corporate-political kleptocracy hand over fist, with the boot firmly planted on the throat of average Americans who can't seem to get a straight answer from anyone except Ron Paul.

Panetta offers nothing new. He represents and embraces the chronic spending addiction, the chronic stupidity, and the chronic misunderstanding of the Constitution that characterizes both his predecessor at the Pentagon, and his successor at CIA. Look at this interview he gave last summer. Panetta denies the Executive Branch maintains an assassination list that includes US citizens, defends drone attacks everywhere, and expresses great concern over both Iran's [nonexistent] capabilities to threaten the US while exaggerating the risk that cybercrime poses for the U.S. proper. Panetta is hugely on board with the latest Pentagon bureaucratic cancer called USCYBERCOM, co-located with the National Security Agency Headquarters in Fort Meade, MD. The NSA is a massive sector of the U.S. intelligence community, reporting operationally to the DoD rather than directly to the CIA. Traditionally, NSA has been prohibited from collecting information and intelligence on US citizens when they are within US territory. But the co-location of Cybercom (with its domestic defense mission) with "born fighting for any new mission" NSA is a sign of things to come.

The selection of Petraeus for CIA chief is not unprecedented. For 50 years now, we've known how important it is for a President to have reliable yes-men running the CIA. This talent was certainly the key to the great career success of George Tenet, and Petraeus brings not only three bags full to the Executive suite, but provides a kind of military "reliability" to "managing" the massive CIA bureaucracy and keeping a lid on its potential to cause transparency malfunctions that could publicly embarrass the president or the power elite.

Petraeus' knowledge of the "secrets" of the Afghanistan, Iraqi, Pakistan and Yemen operations, his culpability in the torture of Afghan prisoners (and their prisonbreaks!) and the official lies about incremental success in the various U.S. outposts in the Middle East makes Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea scandal appear innocent and mild. His connection, through his hiring of past and present theater commanders, to the whole strange but true story of our Knights of Malta foreign policy in the Middle East will be very useful to him as CIA Director.

There is a bright side to these pending appointments, of which the power elite is well aware. Panetta, at age 72, may not be long for his California walnut ranch, and Petraeus' health history of prostate cancer, and the odd fainting spell during Congressional testimony frontload both of the bureaucrats for a public sacrifice, whenever needed.

For the moment, there is no hope for a rational and rapid contraction of the metastasizing U.S. empire. There is no hope for a serious reduction in debt accumulation, pointless and costly military spending, or any kind of fiscal sanity in Washington. Eighteen months from another big presidential election, in which Obama has declared himself a candidate and shifted smoothly into electoral mode, we are witnessing the final days of the empire — but all signs indicate it will not go gracefully.

Instead of wisdom, rationality and grace in Washington in this time of substantial governmental and constitutional crisis, these two appointments tell us exactly what we the people should expect from the political elite over the next few years. We can look forward to an increased police state at home, and a new wave of Washington-generated media implemented fear-fests (hysteria levels and color-coding to be determined). We can expect an increasingly nationally-directed economy, where public welfare crushes private production, driving the smart and lucky ones overseas or to Galt's Gulch, and everyone else into the ground. The only acknowledged "good" jobs will remain in public education, or in one of the military, law enforcement, and prison industrial complexes. Wars and occupations, current and future will continue to consume our domestic wealth and our international credibility. Inflationary pressures will cause the people to rise up and demand a new kind of "Hope," and "Change" they can believe in. And, shortly before the election, as a sign of this hope and change, Panetta and Petraeus will be thrown under the Obama bus.

It will seem audacious, assertive, finally a real sign that things will get better. The news cycle will consume and digest the significance for the useful idiots, while the political elite sucks the last bits of depleted marrow from what was once a prosperous republic, stopping only to check on the communications upgrades, helopads and security fences around their second homes in South America.

LRC columnist Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D. [send her mail], a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, blogs occasionally at Liberty and Power and The Beacon. To receive automatic announcements of new articles, click here or join her Facebook page.

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