The Deep State and the Dark Arts
Posted By Jason Hirthler On March 10, 2017
Rejecting populism for hegemony
There’s a superb scene in the movie Syriana where CIA bureaucrats distance themselves from one of their agents, Bob, played by George Clooney, who has become a troublesome asset for the agency. Terry, the pack leader, begins to extemporize a narrative to his subordinates. With cool detachment, he tells them: “Put some space between us and Bob. Bob has a long history of entrepreneurial operations. We haven’t really had a handle on Bob for years. After 9/11, some people got a lot of leeway, let their emotions get the best of them. These are complex times. There’s already an active investigation into Bob’s activities in…help me out here.”
At this point, the group flesh out the details of how they’re going to burn the agency’s connection to Bob, painting him as an agent gone rogue, slipping the net of agency supervision, defying protocol, and ultimately selling himself to unsavory elements that want a U.S. asset killed. In this way, the leviathan spits out a loyal servant, rendering him obsolete with a fable and a slander, sanctified by the imprimatur of the officialdom.
We should note the importance of the media in all this storyline, albeit fictional. The dark arts of propaganda aren’t overtly mentioned, but they are the pivotal tools that will animate the destruction of Bob’s career. All sound strangely familiar? It should. It’s pretty much the script the intelligence community uses as its modus operandi when it needs to deal with an inconvenient public servant.
Theater of the Absurd
With rumors of detente crackling through the ether, the imperialist machinery of anti-Russian foreign policy has cranked into high gear, leveraging leaks and the press to mute Trump’s overtures of peace. Leaks to the The Washington Post were leveraged in last month’s excommunication of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Flynn was rather easily vanquished by a leak from within the American intelligence community outing him as a confabulator and, in pundit spin, a man vulnerable to blackmail by the Kremlin.
After Flynn’s unceremonious ouster, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was the next target, pilloried by Democrats for his contacts with the Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, something he declined to mention in his confirmation hearings. A third interaction has now been surmised, with tantalizing rumors Sessions was in the same room as Kislyak during a cocktail party. Did they conspire over canapes? Smuggle thumb drives wrapped in prosciutto? Exchange piquillo peppers stuffed with nuclear codes? The possibilities blossom like a mushroom cloud. Can you feel the frisson of treason?
Of course, the FBI has been investigating more mundane contacts between the Trump team and Moscow, a project that will either result in Trump’s impeachment for some manner of treason or his complete and utter subjection to the foreign policy whims of the foreign policy establishment. A Times article reported that the Obama administration furiously laid the foundation for this investigation by disseminating innuendo that Trump was under Russian influence during the peace laureate’s last days in office. Typically, the unofficial commentariat in the comments thread praised Obama’s patriotism, as though this wanton Wall Street servant was doing anything other than performing last-minute janitorial services for his venal party.
A few weeks ago, a Congressman (Rep. Darrell Issa) obscurely called for the appointment of a special prosecutor. But now Lindsey Graham has embraced the call, suggesting one be named if contact between Trump aides and Moscow were found, regardless of the content of that contact. It reminds one of the proverb that Caesar’s wife must be above even unfounded suspicion, let alone actual wrongdoing. In any event, Graham and his monomaniacal bedmate, John McCain, continue their lurid press junket, now looking to subpoena intelligence agencies for wiretaps of Trump phone calls, though former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper refuted the wiretap rumor, as did FBI Director James Comey, albeit by the oblique means of asking the Justice Department to do so. In any event, the banishment of Flynn, the tarring of Sessions, and the net of suspicion cast over the Trump administration are fierce warnings from a rattled foreign policy community, a modern equivalent of the severed heads of Roman soldiers set on pikes as a message from Visigoth hordes.
The enveloping of the president in a cacophony of innuendo is likely a collaborative effort between the Justice Department, the National Intelligence Agency, the CIA, and crucially, the mainstream press. Beyond the corridors of the Capitol Hill, civil-society organizations like the George Soros-funded MoveOn.org and Barack Obama’s robust Organizing for Action (OFA) are turning up the heat on the streets, creating the visible signs of unrest, sometimes violent, that have capsized governments from Venezuela to Ukraine at the behest of Western oligarchs.
In recent weeks, President Donald Trump’s appointment of delusional hawk H.R. McMaster as National Security Advisor, a call for an unnecessary $54 billion dollar expansion of the military budget, his sudden demand for the return of Crimea to Ukraine, his fulminant echoes of Bush administration hysteria over Iran, among other hawkish developments, can be read as an unsettled president’s efforts to appease a foreign policy establishment that is ruthlessly using the media to undermine, and reign in, a wayward steward of empire.
Full-Spectrum Dominance vs. Clear-Headed Detente
But why is Russia such a perennial target of Washington’s? Why are peaceful overtures toward Moscow so scorned? As the Trump administration found out, de-escalation is a no-no in Washington. Russia, along with China, are the leading targets of American long-term foreign policy. They represent the only two nations that might seriously rival the U.S. in Eurasia, which is considered the fulcrum of the 21st century global economy. Preventing the rise of new rivals is long-standing U.S. policy, most explicitly articulated by Paul Wolfowitz on behalf of the Clinton administration in early 1990s.
None of this should come as a surprise. Consider what was at stake. At the macro level, the entire program for global hegemony is under threat. Outlined over decades by foreign policy luminaries such as George Kennan, Allen Dulles, Wolfowitz, and Zbigniew Brzezinksi, the general plan is for full-spectrum dominance, meaning control of land, sea, air, and space, on a planetary basis, with a special emphasis on “Eurasian landmass,” as the ghoulish McMaster called it in a recent anti-Russian speech.
If history is any guide, it is unacceptable for a U.S. president to thaw relations with Russia unless that thaw consists of Russia capitulating to American demands. Mikhail Gorbachev’s trusting dismantling of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact led to a decade of Western looting of Gorbachev’s country. Vladimir Putin has since restored a measure of Russia’s economic and military strength. Where Gorbachev was exploited, Putin is proving resistant to such entreaties, except on the economic front, where he appears to have bought into some of Western neoliberal policy.
Instead, Putin is posing a threat to the forward progress of Washington’s neoconservative foreign policy. He has actively promoted a variety of pipeline projects that would speed Russian oil and gas to Western Europe, undercutting profits of Western multinationals and addicting NATO nations to the energy teat of the Russian Federation. And he has conducted a few military maneuvers that have enraged the Washington elite, which are used to being conciliated by effete comprador elite in developing nations. This is different. A nuclear nation that can’t be overrun or bombed into submission. And it shows.
After successfully dismembering Yugoslavia, Congo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, the West-led spread of chaos across the Middle East stalled in Syria. After happily expanding NATO throughout Eastern Europe with little opposition, expansion hit a wall in Ukraine. In both instances, it is Moscow behind the holding action preventing the American project of global dominion from advancing. That’s why Putin has replaced Hugo Chavez as the West’s most demonized public figure.
Worryingly for covetous D.C. schemers, there’s a lot of new economic activity afoot in Eurasia, little of it involving the U.S. This activity includes plans for a Eurasian Union headed by Russia, a metastasizing Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and the rapidly advancing One Belt, One Road vision of the Chinese. The latter would effectively be a New Silk Road stretching from Vladivostok to Lisbon, animating Chinese and Russian economic influence across the Asian and European continents, and lifting countries like Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. This is Washington’s nightmare scenario, since no serious geo-strategist believes global hegemony is feasible short of dominion in Central Asia. This understanding fuels the underlying animus toward Moscow and Beijing. It has nothing to do with ceaseless repeated lies about Russian aggression in Eastern Europe and Chinese aggression in the South China Sea. And it has nothing to do with lies about Moscow rigging the election for Donald Trump or Michael Flynn lifting sanctions in a nefarious quid pro quo.
The Deep State vs. the Nation State
Long-time Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren refers to the murky agencies at work to ensure this planetary plan stays on track as the “deep state,” in his book of the same name. He writes that it includes key elements of the national security state, which ensure continuity of policy despite the superficial about-faces from one administration to the next. The deep state is effectively a warlike oligarchy, hell-bent on full spectrum dominance, driven by a lust for wealth and power, and anxious to inscribe its name in history. Specifically, Lofgren says, the deep state includes the Department of Defense, the State Department, the National Intelligence Agencies, Wall Street, the defense industry, and the energy consortium, among other major private players. They share common agendas, operate a revolving door of employees, and have a collective distaste for democracy, transparency, and regulation. The deep state is the link between military interventions and trans-pacific trade deals, between sanctions and IMF loans. All of these tools, be they arms or loans or legal structures, serve a single purpose: the overarching control of world resources by a global community of corporate elites. One can also see how these three instruments of policy and power all do tremendous damage to a particular entity, the nation-state. It is the nation-state that is considered by elites to be the sole remaining barricade between populations in nominal democracies and their unfettered exploitation by multinationals, although one might reasonably argue that the state more often abets exploitation rather than deters it.
The Dystopia to Come
So where is this all headed? Aside from the theatrics of the Trump presidency and its sequestration or removal. What would full-spectrum dominance look like? Probably something like a one-world market, populated by enfeebled states, ruled by a worldwide raft of interlocking investor rights agreements that allowed private capital to plunder natural resources free of state restraints, such as labor safeguards, environmental protections, reasonable tax regimes, capital controls or border tariffs. Faceless multinationals would pillage the planet, their anonymous appointees manning the joysticks of power behind the reflective glass of their cloud-draped spindles, unreachable and unelected by the armies of the destitute that prowled the wastelands below. The amalgamated forces of corporate elitism would coolly play labor arbitrage across continents, threaten and destroy defiant economies through currency flight and commodity manipulation, and continue to consume an outsized percentage of the world’s resources. This would fulfill the hegemonic dreams of former State Department Director of Policy Planning Kennan, who once argued that we must dispense with humanitarian concerns and “deal in straight power concepts,” the better to control and consume an outsized portion of the world’s resources, presumably a privilege reserved for elite whites, and a selection of mandarins from other ethnicities with special clearances.
A criminal corporate commonwealth, supported by a fiat dollar as global reserve currency enforced by threat of war and economic collapse, will be deaf to protest from below, its weaponized satellites aimed at populations like sunlit magnifiers at a column of ants. Currency itself would be wholly digitized. This move would be sold as a positive advance as it would provide better tax accountability and therefore fund future programs of social uplift. Rather it will be employed as a means of totalitarian financial control over populations. Their wealth will be institutionalized. The concept of withdrawal will fade along with the fiction of ownership.
Terrorism will become the chosen tool of this elite power (insofar as it isn’t already). Surgical strikes, be they military, economic, or news-driven, will “keep the rabble in line” as all societies become subservient to the portents of war, the fear of inaccessible funds, and the black smears of an amoral media. The ‘deep state’ will become an obsolete term, as the nation-state will recede in memory as a relic of a strife-ridden dark age.
After all, the laissez faire cult of the beltway actually believes the planet would prosper sans nation-states. As another scene from Syriana reminds us, elite capital has a very different worldview from the majority of labor, who continue to believe the state has a role to play defending their interests. At one point in the film, Texas oil man Danny Dalton lectures lawyer Bennett Holiday on the true definition of corruption, “Corruption!? Corruption is government interference in market efficiencies in the form of government regulation. That’s Milton Friedman! He got a goddamn Nobel Prize!” The U.S. already practices free-market militarism, refusing to recognize borders, legal constraints, or geostrategic jurisdiction. Why not free-market finance and trade?
The good news is that, if you can clamber into the top one percent of the U.S. population, for instance, serving as a parasite on the grizzled hide of the corporate beast, you might yet partake of unimaginable luxuries, high in the clouds, sipping Mimosas as you transit between the ring-fenced metropoles of the world, where stateless elites intermingle.
http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/03/10/ ... dark-arts/
Rumblings of a ‘Deep State’ Undermining Trump? It Was Once a Foreign Concept
By JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVISMARCH 6, 2017
WASHINGTON — President Trump’s allegations that former President Barack Obama tapped his phone and his assertions that the bureaucracy is leaking secrets to discredit him are the latest signs of a White House preoccupation with a “deep state” working to thwart the Trump presidency.
The concept of a “deep state” — a shadowy network of agency or military officials who secretly conspire to influence government policy — is more often used to describe countries like Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan, where authoritarian elements band together to undercut democratically elected leaders. But inside the West Wing, Mr. Trump and his inner circle, particularly his chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, see the influence of such forces at work within the United States, essentially arguing that their own government is being undermined from within.
It is an extraordinary contention for a sitting president to make. Mr. Trump, who last year angrily dismissed the conclusion of intelligence officials that the Russians interfered in the presidential election to boost his candidacy, has now asked both his staff and a congressional committee investigating Moscow’s influence on the election to turn up evidence that Mr. Obama led an effort to spy on him.
How the White House and its allies see the deep state threat
“What President Trump is discovering is that he has a huge, huge problem underneath him, and I think he’s shocked that the system is as hostile as it is,” said Newt Gingrich, a top adviser to Mr. Trump’s campaign who said he has spoken with Mr. Bannon many times about his suspicion of the deep state and what he sees as its pernicious influence.
“We’re up against a permanent bureaucratic structure defending itself and quite willing to break the law to do so,” Mr. Gingrich said.
Neither Mr. Trump nor Mr. Bannon has used the term “deep state” publicly. But each has argued that there is an orchestrated effort underway, fueled by leaks and enabled by the news media, to cut down the new president and interfere with his agenda.
“Reports concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election are very troubling,” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said on Sunday.
Mr. Bannon, speaking last month at the Conservative Political Action Conference, said a central element of Mr. Trump’s presidency would be the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” It was his latest articulation of a dim view of federal agencies that he argued had grabbed power at the behest of the “progressive left.”
Breitbart News, the conservative site Mr. Bannon used to run, uses the term deep state frequently in its coverage, including in a story on Sunday headlined “DeepStateGate: Trump Ends the Wiretapping Innuendo Game by Dealing Himself In.” The term has gained currency on other right-leaning websites, conservative talk radio and on social media, where Mr. Trump’s supporters are inflamed by the notion that a powerful secret cabal is plotting his downfall.
Projecting a new role for Obama
Veterans of prior administrations have been alarmed by the charge, arguing that it suggests an undemocratic nation where legal and moral norms are ignored.
“ ‘Deep state’ I would never use,” Michael V. Hayden, the former Central Intelligence Agency director under both Mr. Obama and former President George Bush, said on MSNBC on Monday. “That’s a phrase we’ve used for Turkey and other countries like that, but not the American republic.”
Loren DeJonge Schulman, a former top official in Mr. Obama’s National Security Council who is a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, said presidents and top White House officials often bristle at what they consider to be a sluggish bureaucracy. But it is jarring for an administration in power to claim that civil servants are actively working to subvert the government.
“A deep state, when you’re talking about Turkey or Egypt or other countries, that’s part of government or people outside of government that are literally controlling the direction of the country no matter who’s actually in charge, and probably engaging in murder and other corrupt practices,” Ms. Schulman said. “It’s shocking to hear that kind of thinking from a president or the people closest to him.”
Yet to Mr. Trump’s allies and supporters, the president is giving voice to a favorite theory.
“We are talking about the emergence of a deep state led by Barack Obama, and that is something that we should prevent,” said Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa. “The person who understands this best is Steve Bannon, and I would think that he’s advocating to make some moves to fix it.”
Mr. King cited as evidence of a thriving deep state Mr. Obama’s decision to stay in Washington after leaving the White House, a decision he said was driven by the former president’s desire to frustrate Mr. Trump’s agenda. (Mr. Obama has said he is remaining in Washington until his younger daughter, Sasha, graduates from high school in 2019.)
Mr. Trump “needs to purge the leftists within the administration that are holdovers from the Obama administration, because it appears that they are undermining his administration and his chances of success,” Mr. King said.
Pakistan, home to military coups, is considered Exhibit A
The deep state is a phrase often heard in countries where there is a history of military coups and where generals often hold power independent of elected leaders.
Pakistan is Exhibit A: The deep state is often invoked in serious discussions about the role of the Pakistani military and its intelligence service, the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence.
Wide swaths of the population see the unseen hand of the security services behind major political events and all kinds of everyday happenings, such as random traffic stops.
The views are not without basis — there have been repeated military coups in Pakistan, and the military and the spy service often operate largely independent of the country’s politicians.
“The deep state concept emerges in places where the army and the security apparatus creates boundaries within which the civilian political people are allowed to operate,” said Peter Feaver, a specialist in civil-military issues at Duke University and a national security aide to Mr. Bush. “If they transgress those boundaries, then the deep state interferes to reorder things, often using military force.”
Leaks vs. serious opposition
“There are milder forms of it in healthier democracies,” Mr. Feaver said, arguing that American presidents have often chafed against the constraints of the federal bureaucracy.
“Nixon shared a similar kind of distrust of the government and felt the government was out to get him at points,” Mr. Feaver added. “President Trump’s view seems to be more on the Nixon part of the spectrum, which is far from the Pakistan part.”
In the United States, it is hardly unusual for dissent among warring factions inside the government to burst into public view. Under former President Ronald Reagan, the secretary of state, George P. Shultz, and the secretary of defense, Caspar W. Weinberger, were often at odds and would feud through dueling news reports.
“Just because you see things like leaks and interference and obstruction doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a deep state — that’s something we’ve seen before, historically, and it’s nothing new,” said James Jay Carafano, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation who advised Mr. Trump’s transition. “What would be different is if there were folks from the previous administration that were consciously orchestrating, in a serious way, inside opposition to the president.”
In the absence of evidence one way or the other, Mr. Carafano added, “It’s hard to know: Is this Trump using some strong political rhetoric, or an actual theory?”
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/06/us/p ... trump.html
Commentary: Five myths about the 'deep state'
President Donald Trump and his administration, according to reports, are worried that government employees are allied against him. Between his accusations of wiretapping and leaking, adviser Steve Bannon's campaign to dismantle "the administrative state," and the hunch (not without evidence) that government employees lean left, the White House seems to buy the "deep state" theory of governance — the notion that the will of a duly elected president can be thwarted by bureaucrats, especially in the national security realm. While civil servants and the 5.1 million people with security clearances do sometimes act in concert (when fighting a war, for instance), many misconceptions persist about civil servants, their ties to previous administrations and their degree of independence.
Myth No. 1: It's the hidden source of national security policy.
According to some on the right, there exists a group of unaccountable men and women who have collectively decided to go rogue. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn "was ousted by former Obama officials to protect [the] Iran Deal," reported the Blaze, a conservative site. And according to some on the left, including civil libertarian Glenn Greenwald, deep-state officials want to make sure Russia remains an enemy of the United States.
The reality is that the deep state is a major, hidden amplifier of national security policy that is set by elected officials and carried out primarily through public communication, concentrated diplomacy and overt military action. After 9/11, for instance, the George W. Bush administration decided that preemptively killing terrorists before they could strike the homeland was a top priority. The military carried out that policy by war, as did the CIA's drone fleet. Similarly, the CIA's "enhanced interrogation" program morphed quickly into a state-sanctioned torture regime, because the Bush administration wanted it to work and assumed it was working. The policy was approved at the highest levels of our government by citizens we elected to serve us. Congressional leaders knew the gist of what was happening, even if they didn't get all the details.
If President Trump decides to reach out to Vladimir Putin, the deep state will help him, even if the product of its intelligence-gathering suggests wariness and caution. These operations are merely meant to assist difficult political choices made by the executive branch.
Myth No. 2: The deep state evades oversight.
As former congressman Alan Grayson put it, oversight "is a joke." Congress has neither the staff nor the remit to direct or micromanage the execution of national security policy. And administrations withhold details from Congress, often by omission and because policies really are confusing, but occasionally on purpose. For a long time, the FBI routinely harassed American political dissidents; the National Security Agency opened telegrams sent to (and from) U.S. citizens abroad; and the CIA ran an entire secret war in Southeast Asia.
But in the 1970s, the Vietnam War and Watergate emboldened Congress. After a series of investigations, known to history by the last names of the senators who chaired them - Pike and Church - a more modern oversight system was born for the intelligence and defense worlds. Military policy, defense appropriations, intelligence agencies and homeland security all have separate committees before which officials must regularly testify under oath and justify their actions. At least some members of Congress must be notified before the start of any CIA covert operation, and the most highly classified of all defense activities, known as waived Special Access Programs, must be orally briefed to bipartisan congressional leadership.
Increased public access to information has also made sleuths of everyone, and the ability of less-powerful actors in our democracy to instigate larger investigations of the deep state has become a significant check. In the long run, the national security apparatus cannot attract the best and brightest when it does bad things.
Myth No. 3: The deep state leaks gratuitously.
The president has complained a number of times about those perfidious spies and their dangerous secrets, saying they have illegally disclosed classified information to the press. And yes, people with security clearances occasionally leak classified information to the media. Before Watergate, leaks often served as a genuine check on unconstrained executive power.
But nowadays, the deep state seems to be the source of fewer leaks of classified information than political officeholders and their staffs. The knowledge we have about the inner workings of Trump's White House appears to be coming from his own top aides. We have no way of knowing whether the officials who told reporters that Trump was keeping information about Flynn's contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak from his vice president came largely from Trump's own team, but given how tightly held that information was, at least some of them had to be close to the president.
Myth No. 4: The deep state Deep State is unchangeable.
Mike Lofgren, a former congressional staffer with significant experience in the defense budget world,calls the deep state "almost impervious to change." Versions of this argument persist on talk radio. "The people in Washington are not just going to sit idly by and let election results determine whether or not [change] happens to them," Rush Limbaugh said this month.
But the deep state is highly fragile - vulnerable, by its nature, to single-point failure, usually in the form of individuals who have something they'd like to tell the world. Think of Edward Snowden's intellectual revolt against the National Security Agency, or the decision by a lonely Army private in Iraq to steal diplomatic cables, or whomever gifted WikiLeaks with the CIA's phone and television hacking tools. In this way, a single person can completely alter the way an institution conducts tradecraft.
Further, bureaucrats cannot avoid the consequences of misbehavior directed at the president. Budgets can be slashed. Programs can be curtailed. And policy can be changed. The Obama administration made it harder for the government to assert its state secrets privilege, directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to declassify and disclose a significant amount of information about the NSA's legal wrangling with federal courts, and asked the NSA to disclose to companies many of the "zero day" (or previously unknown) vulnerabilities found by its hackers.
Myth No. 5: The military-industrial complex is the deep state.
Presidents have often felt threatened by the national security apparatus. In 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower presciently warned about the military's Cold War prerogatives, labeling a group of postwar elites as the "military-industrial complex." And John F. Kennedy was shaken enough about the CIA's own sense of grandeur that he appointed his brother to oversee all covert operations.
While Eisenhower's "military-industrial complex" was white, male, Christian and ruled by a priesthood that sanctified nuclear doctrine above all else, the national security bureaucracy today is professionalized, rule-based and highly diverse. It is organized around counterterrorism.
Furthermore, the deep state contains multitudes, and they are often at odds with one another. Defense contractors exulted at Trump's election, as did a plurality of rank-and-file soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who voted for him. But top generals and career civilians, whose interests converge around the public good, civic norms and global stability, fretted. And the CIA's senior officer cadre blanched.
The constituent parts of the deep state often do not align. They do not form one conspiracy.
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opin ... story.html