I’m about 100-pages into Jeremy Scahill’s “Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield”. I’m a big fan of his investigative journalism, and already the book is proving to be a real-eye opener – lifting the lid on the U.S.’ planet-wide killing machine.
So far, the biggest theme is the massive influence wielded by Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and Paul Wolfowitz in Bush’s first administration. These three neoconservatives are often discussed in relation to the Iraq War – the intelligence “failures”, the military failures, the “reconstruction” failures, and the abuses of the executive branch.
But they were also architects of the ascendance of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). Rumsfeld, in particular, personally saw to it that the military would have its own “CIA” – a force capable of full-spectrum kinetic operations, HUMINT, and assassinations from the sky. Previously JSOC was a kind of “training” organization that would send Special Forces to regional commanders. But it soon became, in essence, the President’s private army in the year after the attacks of 9/11.
Relatedly, Scahill exposes the legal “void” that JSOC operates in. Covert operations conducted by the CIA are overseen by Congressional Intelligence Committees and the Commander-in-Chief is required to sign off on a Presidential Finding prior to any such activity. Conversely, “clandestine” operations do not meet this legal threshold–or come anywhere close. In fact, so long as they count as “traditional military activities” directed towards an enemy or state that is “anticipated” to be the site of “future hostilities”, they remain more secret that covert CIA missions. The U.S. military has no legal obligation to report “specifics” to the administration, and the administration has no obligation to report military activities to Congress.
And when the world is a battlespace, “preparing the environment” through pre-emptive force can therefore take place anywhere.
With many celebrating President Obama’s “crossroads” speech last Thursday, where he announced (but did not really specify how) the drone program would switch from the CIA to the regular military, this should give us all pause for thought.
Anyway, the book is tough going. 100 pages is as far as I could get today.