by Dennis Loo Max Blumenthal, the well-known journalist, attended the Aspen Security Forum and wrote about it in an OpEd News piece published on July 27, 2013 entitled "Shocking 'Extermination' Fantasies by the People Running America's Empire on Full Display at the Aspen Summit." In describing the gathering, Blumenthal put it this way:
Partisan lines and ideological disagreements faded away inside the darkened conference hall, as a parade of American securitocrats from administrations both past and present appeared on stage to defend endless global warfare and total information awareness while uniting in a single voice of condemnation against a single whistleblower bunkered inside the waiting room of Moscow International Airport: Edward Snowden.
With perhaps one notable exception, none of the high-flying reporters junketed to Aspen to act as interlocutors seemed terribly interested in interrogating the logic of the war on terror. The spectacle was a perfect window into the world of access journalism, with media professionals brown-nosing national security elites committed to secrecy and surveillance, avoiding overly adversarial questions but making sure to ask the requisite question about how much Snowden has caused terrorists to change their behavior.
I want to highlight just three of the points touched upon in Blumenthal's article, which readers should check out in its entirety at OpEd News.
First, there is the all too brief description that Blumenthal gives of former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft's remarks. Ashcroft appeared in his current capacity as a Board Member of Academi. You might wonder, as I did, what Academi is. Academi is one of the Aspen Forum's co-sponsors. Is Academi some new right-wing academic think tank? No, not exactly. it's the new name for the mercenary organization formerly known as Blackwater, last previously known as Xe. The former U.S. Attorney General is now a board member for Blackwater! This isn't part of the script of a Hollywood flick about an all-too incestuous dystopia in which the highest levels of the U.S. government and a shadowy and all-too well-connected mercenary group are bedmates. This is reality.
Ashcroft, Blumenthal recounts,
Responding to a question about U.S. over-reliance on the "kinetic" approach of drone strikes and special forces, Ashcroft reminded the audience that the U.S. also likes to torture terror suspects, not just "exterminate" them.
"It's not true that we have relied solely on the kinetic option," Ashcroft insisted. "We wouldn't have so many detainees if we'd relied on the ability to exterminate people...We've had a blended and nuanced approach and for the guy who's on the other end of a Hellfire missile he doesn't see that as a nuance."
Hearty laughs erupted from the crowd and fellow panelists. With a broad smile on her face, moderator Catherine Herridge of Fox News joked to Ashcroft, "You have a way with words."
But Ashcroft was not done. He proceeded to boast about the pain inflicted on detainees during long CIA torture sessions: "And maybe there are people who wish they were on the end of one of those missiles."
Competing with Ashcroft for the High Authoritarian prize was former NSA chief Michael Hayden, who emphasized the importance of Obama's drone assassinations, at least in countries the U.S. has deemed to be Al Qaeda havens. "Here's the strategic question," Hayden said. "People in Pakistan? I think that's very clear. Kill 'em. People in Yemen? The same. Kill 'em."
No doubt secure that they are speaking to those who share their warped perspective on the world and therefore they don't need to dress up their words and can also share an insider's "sense of humor," these henchmen for empire make jokes that would make anyone else outside of Nazis blanch. Note in this regard, too, that the gathering including big names in media such as CNN's Wolf Blitzer. With one or two exceptions, according to Blumenthal, the media there shared in the hearty laughs at Ashcroft's "humor." Ashcroft's reference to a "blended" and "nuanced" approach is not something that Ashcroft is describing on his own but terms that Obama, his administration, and others have used to describe what Obama is doing. Note here too the euphemism for assassinations and lots of collateral damage of innocents, including children: "kinetic." The "nuance" that Ashcroft is referring to is preventive and indefinite detention of individuals subjected to torture, which Ashcroft boasted about and the pain inflicted "during long CIA torture sessions." What does this tell us when policymakers and leaders think that torture = nuance and blowing people up is merely "kinetic," like a physics lecture?
former CIA director John McLaughlin rose from the audience to call for the U.S. to form a secret, Sikes [Sykes]-Picot-style commission to draw up a new set of borders.
"The American government should now have such a group asking how we should manage those lines and what should those lines be," McLaughlin told the panelists, who dismissed the idea of a new Great Game even as they discussed tactics for preserving U.S. dominance in the Middle East.
Sykes-Picot was a secret agreement between the U.K. and France and secondarily, Russia, over how they should divide up the former Ottoman Empire between themselves in "spheres of influence." This was colonial powers' wheeling and dealing behind the backs of T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) and the Arabs who Lawrence was promising will be in charge after they overthrow the Turks/Ottoman Empire.
Third, NSA's current head, Gen. Keith Alexander, defended the NSA's spying program and then made this gem of a remark:
Corporations like AT&T, Google and Microsoft that had been compelled to hand over customer data to the NSA "know that we're saving lives," the general claimed. With a straight face, he continued, "And that's good for business because there's more people out there who can buy their products."
"There you have it folks," the carnival barker says to the crowd gathered outside the tent containing sights you have never seen before, "Come on in. See the strange and twisted logic of the people who run our country! You will not believe your ears! Step right up! Only $1!"
Alexander touts the NSA's universal spying program as saving American lives, not for its own sake. No, that's not good enough. They're saving lives so that there will be more consumers to buy products, and that, my friends, is good for business!
Horray for the NSA!
Is there any question why we need a revolution that creates an entirely different system when these are the people who are running our world?