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New Hope for Defending Democracy

Congress, judiciary and the mass media no longer provide constitutionally mandated checks and balances; they are largely extensions of Executive power.

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This incident contains all the essential elements of the Executive Branch's typical media strategy, even or especially when they know they have committed a crime: (1) acting in secret; (2) lying if the secret is revealed; (3) attacking journalists or others who reveal their lies; (4) conducting a cover-up; and (5) claiming it was a justified mistake or aberration if the cover-up fails. The strategy has worked. Nothing more illustrates the success of Executive "information operations" that its turning a band of lawless JSOC assassins into America's greatest heroes.

Under Bush but vastly expanded by Obama, the Executive secretly  switched from a small number of "targeted drone strikes" aimed at "senior al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders" to indiscriminate "signature strikes" killing thousands of people whose names they did not know based on patterns of association. Under Obama a large infrastructure of drones, drone operators and targeting personnelhad been assembled, but they had run out of named targets. So they moved on to "signature strikes" which, a  study has just revealed, are often even more bloody than conventional bombing despite Executive claims to the contrary.

So when Mr. Obama  told Americans in September 2012 that a drone strike "has to be a situation in which we can't capture the individual before they move forward on some sort of operational plot against the United States," he was conducting an "information operation" designed to aid his presidential campaign and build support for U.S. drone killing.

Apologists for drone assassination often cite polls showing that a large majority of Americans support drone strikes. But who wouldn't support a fictional version of drone strikes only surgically conducted against people actively planning to kill Americans who cannot be stopped any other way?

But suppose the American people were told the truth. Imagine if the polling question read "do you support drone strikes which General McChrystal, former Director of National Intelligence Admiral Dennis Blair, and dozens of other experts say are creating far more enemies than they kill, primarily kill many civilians and low-level militants who pose no threat to America, and are thus both endangering your life and immoral?"

Consent obtained through lies is not consent. It is victimization, and should be treated as a felony. And again, when warmaking Executive Branch officials lie, their lies kill Americans as well as countless foreigners.

Executive Subversion of Congress

The Executive subversion of Congress has gone even beyond muzzling members of the Intelligence committees. Scahill reports that it has redefined JSOC assassination and torture activities as "Advance Force Operations," so they can avoid even Senate Intelligence Committee oversight and be "carried out with minimal external oversight for a significant period of time." (6)

The structural reasons for congressional rubberstamping Executive warmaking include matters that have often been discussed since Eisenhower declared that the military-industrial complex's "total influence—economic, political, even spiritual—is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government."

The Pentagon has spread huge military bases around America, providing local constituencies for military spending in every state and dozens of congressional districts, as do the large corporations they fund. Conservative veterans have been a potent domestic lobby for Executive war-making, and are often elected to Congress. And of course a dominant factor is campaign contributions from corporations which benefit from military spending.

Why do even powerful US. senators so fear the Executive Branch? Part of it is indeed its real power back in their states or districts. But the answer goes even deeper. The term "National Security" is the closest thing to a secular religion in this country, and being accused of violating it is the political equivalent of being accused of heresy during the Middle Ages. No senator or congressman believes that she or he could survive politically were the Executive to mount a campaign accusing them of violating "national security." And even more, if the charge could be proved, they fear being incarcerated themselves.

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