Three years ago, during the height of the Occupy movement, I was ejected from a Congressional hearing for allegedly “assaulting” Leon Panetta, then Secretary of Defense and former Director of the CIA. He was testifying to the House Armed Services Committee about “lessons learned by the Department of Defense over the preceding decade.” I jumped out of my audience seat to tell him that young people were paying the price of those “lessons,” and we were sick of the government funding war instead of education. The baseless assault charges against me were ultimately dropped.

A few years and trillions of dollars later, I found myself sitting in front of Leon Panetta once again, this time for his book talk at George Washington University, where he was gunning for more war. Just when we thought the US was finally leaving Iraq alone, the world was hit with a paranoid media frenzy: showcasing ISIS beheadings ad infinitum, hysterical Congresspeople claiming that they were “coming for us all,” paving the way to more war, war, war – no questions from the public, no Congressional debate. Bombs started falling on Iraq and Syria, innocents are dying, ISIL is gaining traction, yet the White House is declaring the whole operation so far “successful.”

Don’t be fooled: this operation has indeed been a success for some. The weapons-making company Raytheon just signed a $251 million Pentagon contract to produce the Tomahawk missiles the US is dropping on Iraq and Syria. Some media pundits speculate US involvement for a few months, some a few years, but Panetta said we better count on closer to 30 years.

Despite Panetta’s reputation for being a relatively “liberal” Democrat, his legacy is now associated with the expansion of President Obama’s killer drone program – covertly bombing countries that the US wasn’t, and still isn’t, at war with, killing countless civilians with total impunity.

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There is a simple rule that is followed scrupulously by most U.S. commentators of every stripe on world affairs and war.

This rule allows strong criticism of the US But major official adversaries of the US, Iran, Russia and China, must never, ever be presented as better than the US in any significant way. The US may be depicted as equally bad (or better) than these enemies, but never worse.

The Rule.

  • Major Adversaries: Never better than the US
  • US (and the rest of West): Never worse than the Major Adversaries

Of course this is a recipe for demonization and war. In essence the US must be presented at worst as the lesser evil.

That is the Rule for Respectable Commentary.

Who or what is the enforcer? I have written to other writers who admit that they avoid speaking well of Major Adversaries even when it is warranted. They know that they will come under attack and their credibility will be questioned. They know that editors, ever conscious of their credibility (as they should be) and of their donors (as they should not be) will turn down the writing of one who violates The Rule for Respectable Commentary, hereafter known as The Rule.

So it is censorship that enforces The Rule, but largely self-censorship of the very kind which runs rampant in the Main Stream Media and which is so often bemoaned in the alternative press. "We have met the enemy and they are us."

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In recent media appearances, ex-chief of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, Michael Scheuer, came out strongly against the latest American military campaign in Iraq. Echoing past criticisms, thoroughly voiced in his books Through Our Enemies Eyes, Marching Toward Hell, and Imperial Hubris, Scheuer offers a case against the new Iraq intervention based on his 20+ years of experience as a US intelligence officer, as well as an intimate and detailed knowledge of Islamic extremism.

In Scheuer’s view, another US military intervention in the Middle East against groups such as the Islamic State (IS) will not meet its stated objectives, and will fall into the same errors made in past operations of a similar character. Continuing this policy, he says, will only help to motivate and radicalize Muslims the world over, and will provide exactly the impetus IS needs to step up their drive to establish a long-sought Islamic caliphate in the Levant region.

From a 23 September article published to Scheuer’s home on the web, Non-Intervention.com:

And why should we have refused to re-intervene in Iraq?

Because IS is cutting the heads off Westerners to lure America into re-intervening. Why? Because U.S. military intervention in any Muslim country means more donations, recruits, and popular support for IS, al-Qaeda, and other like-minded organizations. US intervention in the Iraq-Syria theater will, over time, make everything it is designed to stop much worse.

For those familiar with Scheuer’s point of view, these comments aren’t out of the ordinary, yet they nonetheless provide a distinct contrast to the general view adopted today by the American public at large. In a recent poll, Americans in substantial majorities are shown to see Sunni insurgents like the Islamic State as an imminent threat to the US national interest, and are increasingly supportive of military action against them.

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No single review or interview can do justice to Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War – the new book by James Risen that is the antithesis of what routinely passes for journalism about the “war on terror.” Instead of evasive tunnel vision, the book offers big-picture acuity: focusing on realities that are pervasive and vastly destructive.

Published this week, Pay Any Price throws down an urgent gauntlet. We should pick it up. After 13 years of militarized zealotry and fear-mongering in the name of fighting terrorism, the book – subtitled “Greed, Power, and Endless War” – zeros in on immense horrors being perpetrated in the name of national security.

As an investigative reporter for the New York Times, Risen has been battling dominant power structures for a long time. His new book is an instant landmark in the best of post-9/11 journalism. It’s also a wise response to repressive moves against him by the Bush and Obama administrations.

For more than six years – under threat of jail – Risen has refused to comply with subpoenas demanding that he identify sources for his reporting on a stupid and dangerous CIA operation. (For details, see “The Government War Against Reporter James Risen,” which I co-wrote with Marcy Wheeler for The Nation.)

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Like Richard Nixon always said, the nation’s cartoonists are a pox on national security.  And now Garry Trudeau of Doonesbury has gone and exposed the secret calculations behind the latest U.S. intervention in Iraq. Sorta.

If American citizens had real-time access to the secret memos, emails etc. that are driving Obama’s latest bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria, the truth would probably be at least as absurd as this cartoon.   It is the secrecy that permits Obama to bomb with impunity.  Secrecy prevents far more opposition to Obama’s latest harebrained scheme for benevolent carnage.

And if the ISIS terrorists begin targeting Americans and U.S. facilities abroad or here, the Obama administration will assure us that there was no way they could have anticipated such a response to the bombing campaign against ISIS.  And homeland security and nitwit pro-bombing foreign experts will win lifetime job security as a result.

On Twitter @jimbovard       www.jimbovard.com

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