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Foreign Correspondent
by international syndicated columnist & broadcaster Eric Margolis


Copyright: Eric S. Margolis, 2005

February 7, 2005

WASHINGTON DC - Life sometimes imitates art. One of my all-time favorite films is the gripping drama, `Seven Days In May.' Made in 1964 and starring Burt Lancaster, the film depicts an attempted coup by far rightists in Washington using a top secret, Pentagon anti-terrorist unit called `Ecomcon.'

Last week, the respected former military intelligence analyst William Arkin revealed a hitherto unknown government directive, with the Orwellian sobriquet `JCS Conplan 0300-97,' authorizing the Pentagon to employ special, ultra secret `anti-terrorist' military units on American soil for what the author says are `extra legal missions.' In other words, using US soldiers to arrest or kill citizens at home, acts that have been illegal since the US Civil War and are a grave violation of the constitution and tradition.

The above frightening news comes as Washington is gripped by retro-Cold War fever - `Muslims Under Our Matresses' having replaced the 1950's scare, `Red's Under Our Bed's' - galloping paranoia, feverish threats of war against Iran from the real president, Dick Cheney, and a titanic bureaucratic battle just won by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Instead of being fired for the gigantic military-political-financial fiasco in Iraq and the shameful torture scandals that are still coming to light , Rumsfeld has just managed to create a new, spy/special ops organization under the Pentagon, blandly named `Strategic Support Branch,' that will replace or duplicate many of CIA's tasks.

CIA is being punished big-time. Too many CIA veterans criticized or contradicted Bush and Cheney's phony claims over Iraq and terrorism. The agency failed to back up Cheney's grotesque claims about Iraq's alleged nuclear weapons and links to al-Qaida. So Bush and Cheney imposed a new, yes-man director on the agency, Porter Goss, slashed budgets, conducted massive purges of veteran offciers, and downgraded CIA to third class status.

There is little doubt that CIA performed poorly in its foreign assessments. Part of the fault lay with lack of human intelligence on the ground; but an equal share of the blame came from a reporting structure that progressively filtered out any information the White House or Pentagon would find objectionable and, of course, from former CIA director George Tenet, who failed his responsibility to Americans and the facts by pandering to Bush/Cheney fantasies whipped up by a cabal of neoconservative extremists.

The last straw for the White House was publication of the brilliant book, `Imperial Hubris,' by `Anonymous,' the CIA chief terrorism/bin Laden analyst, that totally and embarrassingly refuted or contradicted almost all of the Administration's claims about Islamic extremism.

Rumsfeld's new SSB will become the Pentagon's very own, in-house CIA, complete with mammoth budgets, commando units, hits squads, spies, mercenary forces, intelligence gathering and analysis, and a direct line to the White House. The Pentagon has just effectively taken over the spy business.

Mind you, the Pentagon has been deeply involved in intelligence for 50 years. The Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency is increasingly active around the globe. Army intelligence and its covert sub-branches have long conducted `black' ops, including unlawful missions in the US as well as assassinations and sabotage abroad. The Pentagon consumes three quarters of the total US intelligence budget.

Rumdsfeld has skillfully used terrorism hysteria to wrest control of intelligence and make the Pentagon supreme in Washington's bureaucratic power struggles.

The Pentagon's new spy arm will be largely excluded from Congressional oversight or media examination. Its special operations teams will roam the globe, killing or kidnapping at will, torturing suspects, and bringing down governments, all under cover of `deep black' missions of which no records will be kept, and no questions asked.

Equally worrying, the Pentagon's new special ops units are headed up by notorious religious fanatic and loudmouth, Lt. Gen. William Boykin, who calls the US Army, `the house of God,' and Islamic insurgents, `agents of Satan;' and told Muslims `my God is bigger than your god, which is an idol. '

Boykin's command will now dispatch post-modern Christian crusaders to cleanse the world of Satanic Muslims and other miscreants. The Pentagon's new special forces will be able to hire local armies and hit men, as well as run ops of which CIA knows nothing. The 9/11 Commission called for improved intra-agency cooperation and data sharing - what we will now get is far less cooperation, as the Pentagon goes its own, secret way.

Equally worrisome, the Pentagon's new `black' warriors will not be supervised by a normal military chain of command or some degree of Congressional oversight, as were CIA combat teams. These irregular forces will draw into their ranks rabid ideologists, uniformed bounty hunters, and Bible Belt mutants wearing t-shirts proclaiming, `kill em'all, let God sort'em out.' These militarized thugs and video arcade Rambos are sure to run amok, commit serious crimes, and drag America's once good name ever deeper into the mud.

Anyone who doubts this should look back at the wars in Indochina and Central America, where some US special forces, CIA combat teams, mercenary units and local allies engaged in wide scale murder, torture and dealing in opium and cocaine. The `black' forces run by Pentagon neocons and Crusader Boykin will largely operate outside of the control of the top brass, bypassing the chain of command under cover of secrecy and `need to know.'

Have we reached `Seven Days in May?' Not yet, but the second Bush Administration has been taking dangerous steps that continue to curtail personal rights, undermine the supine, cowardly Congress, and empower ideological or religious extremists and shadowy agencies with unrestrained powers that endanger Americans at home and all those abroad suspected of troubling the Pax Americana.

To read previous columns by Mr. Margolis: Click here

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