Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Zombie Alert! (How Government Secrecy Seduces Congress to Support War)

Rep. Thomas Massie
I saw Rep. Thomas Massie (R, KY) on TV last night and he gave a convincing explanation of why Congress always ends up supporting the President's wars.

During a segment on the Campaign for Liberty Conference on the Russian news channel RT -- the irony of which I will address in some future blog post! -- they showed a clip of Massie explaining how it works:
Step 1: Members of Congress get constituent input telling urging them to vote against war.

Step 2: The member lets it be known that s/he is a "no" or "leaning no."

More on Congressional
zombies and permawar
Step 3: The administration pulls them into a classified briefing.

Step 4: The member turns into a zombie and votes the way the administration wants.

The Ellsberg Connection

This dovetails closely with the description provided by the heroic whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg in the film The Most Dangerous Man in America. In the film, Ellsberg recounts his advice to Henry Kissinger, when Kissinger first went to work at the Nixon White House. Ellsberg hold him that he would be receiving classified briefings, and that a four-step process would ensue:
First, he would feel exhilaration -- to have access to all this "inside" information.

Second, he would feel foolish -- realizing how little he had known all along.

Third, he would begin to view everyone else as fools -- because they don't have the classified briefings.

Fourth, you stop listening.
It was startling to me to hear this at the exact moment the Syria debate was going on, and the administration was starting its arm-twisting in Congress.  For instance, on September 5, I listened to Sen. Diane Feinstein (D, CA) speaking to the press, and explaining that, yes, her constituents were "overwhelmingly negative" about military intervention in Syria, but "they don't know what I know; they haven't heard what I heard" -- i.e. they didn't have the inside scoop that she had because of classified briefings.

Even members of Congress who are critical of the Administration and highly analytic don't seem to fully grasp that it's not enough for the sharing of information to stop with Congress. Take, for instance, the New York Times op-ed "On Syria Vote, Trust, But Verify" by Rep. Alan Grayson (D, FL): his demand for full disclosure is valid ("We have reached the point where the classified information system prevents even trusted members of Congress, who have security clearances, from learning essential facts, and then inhibits them from discussing and debating what they do know. And this extends to matters of war and peace, money and blood. The 'security state' is drowning in its own phlegm.") but he gives the impression that it's enough that he and other members of Congress are fully briefed ("I need to know all the facts").

The U.S. government is addicted to secrecy, and that feeds its addiction to permawar. The only solution is to get the information into the hands of the people.

Related posts

A person may not feel that s/he is another Daniel Ellsberg ... or Paul Revere ... or Otto and Elise Hampel ... or Ai Weiwei ... or Bradley [Chelsea] Manning. But these are heroes we can aspire to emulate.

(See I am (I will become) Bradley Manning )

The Gospels are full of provocations to confront this paradox: people are forever saving up and guarding against a future that is never going to come, while throwing away the present that they do have. ("You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?" Luke 12:20)

(See Edward J. Snowden: The 365-Day Man )

Edward J. Snowden has forced us to confront what we all knew already: our government is running wild and we can't get our privacy back, short of some kind of very extreme change . . . . We have a problem with our government. It sees opportunities for power in every bit and byte of our personal data, and it's time to call it what it is: wrong.

(See Fed Up With Being Spied On )

Isn't now a moment when, instead of falling back into our existing habits of trying to change America's war-making ways, we should put our recent experience under a microscope? And ask what we can learn from this experience? Can we make 2014 the year that we sort the wheat from the chaff in Congress? And get the control over war and peace back into our own hands?

(See Election 2014: The Moment of Truth for the US Antiwar Movement? )