Americans like to think of their country as different from those run by military regimes. They are only fooling themselves. Ever since the federal government was converted into a national-security state after World War II (without a constitutional amendment authorizing the conversion), it has been the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA that have run the government, just like in countries governed by military dictatorships.
Oh sure, the façade is maintained — the façade that is ingrained in all of us in civics or government classes in high school and college: that the federal government is composed of three co-equal, independent branches that are in charge of the government.
But just a façade. It’s fake. It’s a lie.
It’s true that the federal government used to consist of three branches. But that quaint notion disintegrated when the federal government was converted to what is known as a “national-security state” after World War II. Even though it was done without a constitutional amendment, that conversion effectively added a fourth branch of government to the federal government — the national-security branch, which consists of the NSA, the CIA, and the Pentagon.
The addition of that fourth branch fundamentally altered the original three-branch concept, especially because the fourth branch quickly became the most powerful branch. The reason is because ultimately government is force, and the fourth branch is where the most force was concentrated within the new, altered governmental structure.
As law professor Michael Glennon has pointed out in his book National Security and Double Government, the result is a federal government in which the military, the CIA, and the NSA are in charge. They are the ones actually calling the shots. But they permit the other three branches to maintain the façade that they are in charge, including periodically going along with decisions in the other three branches to keep Americans thinking that everything is the same as it always has been.
Consider the Pentagon’s and the CIA’s torture center, prison, and kangaroo tribunal system at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They set that up with the aim of establishing a place to hold people and do whatever they wanted to them, without any judicial interference. Guantanamo was a dream-come-true for the military and the CIA. Like most conservatives, they had long lamented those “constitutional technicalities” that let people go free. If only America stopped coddling criminals, we could finally establish order and stability in our land. Guantanamo was going to be their showcase, their model for the United States and the world for dealing with criminals.
That model, as we now know, entailed kidnappings, bounties, torture, indefinite detention, no criminal defense attorneys, denial of speedy trial, kangaroo military tribunals, use of hearsay evidence, use of evidence acquired through torture, denial of due process of law, and other violations of long-established criminal-justice procedures that stretch back to Magna Carta in 1215.
Contrary to what the Pentagon and the CIA and their acolytes within the mainstream press have long maintained, terrorism is a criminal offense, not an act of war. If you don’t believe me, go look up the US Code. That’s where all federal crimes are listed. You’ll see that terrorism is in fact a federal criminal offense.
Alternatively, go into any federal courtroom in the land where a federal criminal prosecution for terrorism is being held. Ask the judge why he’s holding such a trial. He will tell you that it’s because terrorism is a federal criminal offense.
The Pentagon-CIA torture-prison-tribunal center in Cuba didn’t change that fact. It simply meant that the CIA and the Pentagon were now getting into the law-enforcement business, which would enable them to punish people they were certain were guilty of terrorism.
Now, let’s turn to President Obama, the president who vowed to shut down this Pentagon-CIA model torture-prison-military tribunal facility. He made that vow at the very start of his presidency, if not before.
Obama was a two-term president. That meant 8 years in office. When Obama left office, he still had not fulfilled his vow. The Pentagon-CIA torture, indefinite detention, and kangaroo center at Guantanamo was still open. It still is.
The reaction of Obama supporters and the mainstream press? “Oh, poor President Obama. He meant well. He really wanted to shut down Guantanamo. He just wasn’t able to pull it off before his 8-year term ended.”
Hey, this guy was commander-in-chief. No, not of the American people but of the federal government’s military and para-military forces. That means that he is supposedly the head honcho. As such, he gives the orders to everyone below him. In a military structure, the superior officer gives the orders and the subordinate officers obey and carry out the orders.
That means that all that President Obama, as commander in chief, had to do was issue an order to his military subordinates: “Close it down. Now!”
But that’s not what happened. The Pentagon and the CIA obviously would not let Obama issue that order. And he understood that if he did, it was a virtual certainty that they wouldn’t have obeyed it.
Some Obama supporters say it was all Congress’s fault because Congress passed a law that forbade the president from bringing any Gitmo prisoners to the continental United States.
But Obama is president. He could have vetoed that law. And even if the veto was overridden, he didn’t have to bring any prisoners to the United States. As commander-in-chief of the military and the CIA, he could have simply said, “Close it down and release them all.”
After all, that’s how our regular constitutional system — the one whose principles the CIA and the Pentagon rejected — works. Government officials have to charge a person with a crime and try him within a reasonable period of time or they are required to release him.
The real question is: Why was Congress so intent on keeping Gitmo open, over the president’s objections? After all, keeping a US kidnapping-detention-torture-kangaroo tribunal center in place in a foreign country, over the president’s vehement objections, is not the type of thing that we would ordinarily expect from the elected representatives of the American people.
There is only one explanation that makes sense: That the national-security establishment told Congress that it wanted Gitmo to be kept open. We know that the CIA has assets in the mainstream press. We know they have assets in state and local governments, including police departments. It would stand to reason they would have assets in Congress, ones that they can call upon whenever necessary to protect the interests of the Pentagon, CIA, and NSA.
And there is also the matter of military bases, programs, and projects in the district of every member of Congress. Congressmen knew what would happen to them if they bucked the Pentagon and the CIA on Guantanamo. All that the Pentagon would have to do is announce a closure of major military bases or other facilities in that Congressman’s district. Immediately, the press would denounce him as an “ineffective congressman,” one who was incapable of bringing home the political bacon to his district.
What about the Supreme Court? Early on, they rejected the Pentagon’s arguments that they had no jurisdiction over Guantanamo. The Court held it did and said that the federal courts would entertain habeas corpus cases brought by Gitmo prisoners. The Pentagon acceded to the ruling but it was all part of the façade.
After all, given that there is no constitutional authorization for the federal government to have a bifurcated judicial system — one run by the federal courts and the other run by the military — the Court should have ordered an immediate closure of the facility and a termination of the kangaroo judicial system that the Pentagon and the CIA established.
Instead, unwilling to cross any red lines when it came to the national-security branch of the government, the Supreme Court has left Gitmo standing. That’s why dozens of prisoners have been held there for more than 10 years without trial and without the hope of a trial, much less a fair one.
Look the people who surround President Trump: US “Defense” Secretary: A general. National Security Council advisor: A general. Trump’s chief of staff: a general.
Think about those flyovers and all other glorification of the military and US sporting events and in US airports and churches and most everywhere else. Think about how so many Americans profusely thank the troops for protecting our rights and freedoms by killing people abroad who aren’t threatening our rights and freedoms. Think about how Trump wants to have “patriotic” military parades, which would undoubtedly feature the latest missiles, rifles, tanks, and planes.
Remember President Trump before the election? He was criticizing the Pentagon’s forever wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East. He was criticizing NATO and the UN. He was fighting a political war against the CIA. He was all for making friends with Russia.
Today? Trump is expanding the Pentagon’s forever wars. He let the CIA continue its decades-long secrets in the JFK assassination. He’s extolling NATO. And he’s imposing sanctions on Russia. Trump has been absorbed into the national-security establishment blob.
Consider Egypt or, for that matter, Chile under Pinochet. In Egypt, the military-intelligence establishment runs the government. Same for Chile under Pinochet. America’s system is not much different, at least not in principle. The only difference is that in Egypt, the military-intelligence role is overt, just like it was in Chile. Here in the United States, the role is more disguised, with the legislative, executive, and judicial branches being permitted to have a fig leaf of ostensible control.
Welcome to America, one of the world’s premier military nations.
Reprinted with permission from the Future of Freedom Foundation.