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Americans Love a Good Killer

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The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic and a killer.
- D.H. Lawrence

The realist in murder writes of a world in which gangsters can rule nations " where a judge with a cellar full of bootleg liquor can send a man to jail for having a pint in his pocket " where no man can walk down a dark street in safety because law and order are things we talk about but refrain from practicing.
- Raymond Chandler
 
 
American pop culture is certainly not unique in having a love affair with killers. Since the first cave man cracked his neighbor's head open to control a water hole, eliminating others has been top on the list of problem-solving techniques.

Life today has evolved to the point the club has been improved and a young man can sit in an air-conditioned room sipping a Diet Pepsi as he whacks somebody 12,000 miles away. Or else an elite team of tricked-up killers with sophisticated air support can be dropped in at night to do the job.

That's the state of the art of homicide 2012, America's dirty little secret.



Retired General Stanley McChrystal and special ops soldiers by unknown

Our military is now establishing secret bases all over the world from which to launch these types of homicide assaults specifically focused on leaders of movements we don't like. It's now going on big time in Yemen, the very poor country on the southern edge of the Arabian peninsula, which is dominated by the super-rich Saudi royal clan, an oily collaboration with which US leaders have had a half-century relationship.

As Jeremy Scahill's excellent reporting from Yemen makes clear, our drone attacks and support for Yemeni government troops are aggravating poor Yemenis like crazy, driving them into the arms of al Qaeda elements. And, as we should all know by now, once the magic word "al Qaeda" is mentioned all reason and compassion goes out the window and homicide becomes the acceptable problem-solving recourse.

This new US military doctrine based on sophisticated intelligence and secret homicide raids virtually anywhere is growing at a time our military is linking more and more with local, domestic police agencies. This phenomenon has the potential for serious civil liberties abuse. National borders are fading and life is becoming more and more globalized; burgeoning communications technologies ironically make us less socially cohesive. Add economic, religious and political polarization to the mix and the symbiosis between the military and local police becomes quite scary.

For Americans, the ultimate dark question lurking in all this is: Are death squads within the domestic borders of the United States a possibility? Some will surely see such a question as hysterical -- in both senses of the word. But for those who feel it can't happen here, there's the lesson of that mythic frog who doesn't hop out of the pot because the temperature of the water is raised very slowly. For those on the right, there's also the beloved metaphor of Munich, which says if you appease the initial signs of oppressive force and don't act against it, you're certain to be screwed later.

Creeping Militarism Arriving On a Street Near You

Several recent stories suggest how very deep militarism has seeped into the post-9/11, Drug War-obsessed American culture. The Bush Administration's decision to invade two countries and engage in counter-insurgency wars for ten years is front and center as part of the problem. War has consequences. In the case of Vietnam, it divided the nation.

The first story is about how returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan are employing counter-insurgency tactics on the street in places like Springfield, Massachusetts. The enemy is drug gangs, the domestic suppliers of controlled substances illegally imported from places like South America. "Gang members and drug dealers operate very similarly to insurgents," Massachusetts State Trooper Michael Cutone told the Times; he was a Green Beret in Iraq.

A second story is summed up in its headline: "U.S. Drug War Inside Honduras Waged Iraq-Style." To interdict drug shipments from South America headed for the US, the US military has constructed three forward operating bases (or FOBs) in Honduras, one a former CIA airfield from the controversial Contra War days. This kind of military intervention inside Honduras would have been unlikely without the June 2009 military coup that overthrew elected President Manuel Zelaya. The Obama administration, as some may recall, did nothing to prevent or oppose this coup, which there's little doubt was undertaken with the knowledge of elements in the US government.

Admiral Joseph Kernan, deputy commander of Southern Command, told the Times there are "insidious" parallels between drug traffickers and terror networks. "They operate without regard to borders," he said. And, of course, so does the military of the United States of America. According to the Times, Admiral Kernan "spent years in Navy SEAL combat units," the elite unit in the forefront of the new quick-and-lethal special operations doctrine.

The third story recounts the warm reception fired General Stanley McChrystal is getting at Yale, where he has been hired to lecture on leadership. McChrystal, of course, is a proven master at two things: public relations (he was the one-star briefing officer during the Iraq Invasion) and the management of special operations units. He's arguably the key person in the successful use of killer teams in Anbar Province -- known colloquially as "the Salvadoran option" -- which developed into the US military's current special operations doctrine relying on assassin teams and drones to weaken and destabilize enemy leadership. The bin Laden hit was a highly publicized example of this; most examples are top secret.

General McChrystal is famous for a stark and ascetic lifestyle. When reduced to its crude fundamentals, General McChrystal's leadership expertise amounts to controlling information from the US public and organizing killers. In the 1960s, a man like McChrystal would have faced protests on a college campus. Today, he's a rock star.

Even the former antiwar candidate President Obama knows how much Americans love a good killer, and he's bragging about being the man who "took out" Osama bin Laden with a SEAL Team.

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I am a 65-year-old American who served in Vietnam as a naive 19-year-old kid. From that moment on, I've been studying and re-thinking what US counter-insurgency war means. I live outside of Philadelphia, where I'm a writer, photographer and a video (more...)
 

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