Facing the sobering reality of what the United States of America truly has become requires, firstly, the suspension of all mythology devised to hail Americans as the good guys, the gallant cowboys in the white hats saving the world from itself. We are many things but we’re no more good than anyone else, no matter how we like to fancy ourselves through our national myths.
To sustain our hyper-consumptive economy, to fill our malls with a vast array of luxuries that would have made Cleopatra and Louis XIV weep with envy, to build and fuel our tens of millions of gas-guzzling autos so we can drive along our massive highway and roadway system to our space-and-energy-wasting suburban McMansion homes, to “provide” for our children far beyond even a reasonable magnitude of profligate excess, we have cut moral and ethical corners to such an appalling degree that calling ourselves “the good guys” is a self delusion bordering on insanity.
It has been a costly, but necessary, enterprise to keep the massive incoming flow of crude oil, raw materials, and cheaply manufactured goods that we get from the world outside our borders. To maintain our current profligate consumer lifestyle without disruption, we’ve become the greatest empire in world history. To protect, expand, and maintain our vast imperial economic interests all over the world, we have built the mightiest military machine the world has ever seen. Indeed, the USA spends more on its military-industrial complex than the rest of the world combined. Our Naval dominance and air superiority are unrivaled. Our ground forces can easily defeat any foreign army with great ferocity and frightening efficacy. Our apparatus for gathering intelligence data and executing direct action strikes all over the world, powered by space-based satellites, weaponized unmanned drones, and almost omnipotent computing technology, is more impressively and devastatingly potent than any science fiction writer could have imagined a generation ago.
However, as we’ve learned since Vietnam, even the mightiest military is useless at fighting all those pesky little swarms of revolutionaries, insurgents, terrorists, criminal cartels, and other shadowy groups who can deftly evade our imperial military and technological leviathan and are hellbent on disrupting the gigantic economic cash cow that is the world economy over which the USA has been lorded to maintain with its vast military might. Despite our immense military power and moral and ethical “goodness,” especially during the Cold War, we lost innumerable battles, both militarily and in the ever-growing realm of public relations, with these pesky little groups of outlaws.
To deal with them we created a new kind of imperial power structure, super secret, that has largely exercised its power outside the rule of law. And each US President has expanded this power structure and enjoyed its immense benefits.
Since the Iran hostage crisis in 1979, the USA has had a super-secret military-intelligence apparatus in place, under the guise of an ever-changing group of organizations and command and control mechanisms (changing and reinventing themselves to maintain plausible deniability), where the USA has largely ignored international law and military codes of conduct and engaged in “black ops” all over the world to eliminate, without due process or any kind of accountability, those we deem “insurgents,” “terrorists,” or just plain enemies. We largely took our cue from the way Israel systematically eliminated many of the Black September actors after their 1972 Olympic Games attack on Israeli citizens.
By means of the President’s Executive authority and power, the USA has, for the last 30 years, through these super-secret, lawless military-intelligence groups, engaged in acts of kidnapping, rendition, torture, and assassination, by our own hands or through foreign proxies, and now by means of drones as our proxies. Every President since Reagan has used these methods and expanded the Executive powers of the President, regardless of the President’s party affiliation and ideology.
During the 80s countless thousands of Central and South American, Filipino, South Korean, African, and Middle Eastern dissidents, leftist insurgents (real or imagined to be), trade unionists, anti-government activists, terrorists (real or imagined to be), and anyone else deemed “enemies” were systematically kidnapped, tortured, and often murdered by our proxies in El Salvador, Guatemala, Chile, Panama, et al. This was all done under the careful command and control, or “hands-off” supervision by proxy, of various super-secret US military-intelligence groups such as the CIA’s SOG, the US Army’s FOG/ISA, and the DOD’s joint commands the DIA and USSOSOCOM.
For 30 years this activity has never stopped under any President, and has, in fact, been expanded and given great power to act with impunity and almost zero accountability. The morality and ethics of it all can be relentlessly argued, and has been for the last 30 years, but no one, least of all our Congress and Presidents, has lifted a finger to dismantle and stop this activity. We needed that massive flow of oil, those shiploads of cheaply-manufactured goods, and all the raw materials an sweatshop slave labor
And do you know why? Because of its success in eliminating a lot of problems that lawful action and the rule of law all over the world cannot fix with the same kind of efficiency and efficacy as this lawless and immoral action. Despite the moral and ethical depravity of such action, it is expedient and eliminates a lot of threats, both real and political, that the USA faces outside its borders. So why would a US President, even one so seemingly ethical and moral like Barack Obama, even try to dismantle these black ops groups and their activity, or cut back these vast Executive powers, when they quite often bolster his power in the world and political standing back home?
Obama has surely disappointed the American Left by continuing, and even expanding, all these largely illegal black ops. However, our Empire must be fed continuously, and any obstacles to this must be dealt with harshly, or tens of millions of Americans would be denied their right to profligate consumption. Either we accept the moral depravity that drives our greed, venality, and consumption, or we learn to live with less, dismantle our evil imperial forces, and contract our economy. The choice is that simple.
Fat chance of it ever happening.