At the end of the Cold War, the American people had a grand opportunity, one that entailed the dismantling of the national-security state apparatus that had been grafted onto our governmental system after the end of World War II. It would have made sense, given that the justification for making the national-security state apparatus a permanent feature of American life was the Cold War itself. No more Cold War should have meant no more national-security state.
Unfortunately, however, that was the last thing the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA were going to permit. Having become essentially the fourth branch of the U.S. government — and the most powerful branch at that — they weren’t about to permit themselves to be dismantled despite the fact that the justification for their existence — the Cold War — had suddenly and unexpectedly come to an end.
Instead, the national-security state apparatus went on what seemed to be a desperate campaign to convince Americans that it was still needed. The drug war. The war on immigrants. An unsafe world. The possibility of a resurgent communist threat. We’ll do anything; just don’t dismantle us, they said.
In the meantime, they went abroad, especially in the Middle East, with the aim of poking hornet’s nests. The Persian Gulf War. The intentional destruction of Iraq’s water and sewage treatment plants. The obsession with Saddam Hussein throughout the 1990s. The brutal sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. The Iraqi no-fly zones, which killed more Iraqis. The stationing of U.S. troops on Islamic holy lands. The support of Middle East dictatorships, including Egypt. The unconditional support for the Israeli government.
It all succeeded in generating the anger and hatred that led to anti-American terrorism, which, as we all know, provided a new, perpetual justification for the national-security state, a justification that was designed to replace the old one, the Cold War one.
When the Cold War ended, however, the U.S. government refused to dismantle another of its important Cold War institutions — NATO, which had been brought into existence to defend Europe against the Soviet Union.
So why wasn’t NATO abolished when the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union dismantled?
Good question. What we do know is that just like the poking of hornet’s nest in the Middle East, NATO continued poking Russia, to the point that now the national security state is exclaiming, “See, you need us after all—to face the twin threats of Russia and terrorism!” (And, well, communism in China and North Korea too, another area where the national-security state is poking hornet’s nests as well.)
Among the first things that NATO did after the Cold War ended was to sign up the countries of Eastern Europe and the Baltics that had been under the Soviet yoke. And NATO would love nothing more than to sign up Georgia and Ukraine too, thereby obligating Americans to come to their military defense too.
Now, one might say, “What difference does that make? Why should Russia feel paranoid about having U.S. missiles, military bases, and troops on its borders or being surrounded by U.S. forces?”
Well, maybe for the same reason that the U.S. national-security state gets paranoid about the same thing happening over in this part of the world!
After all, what’s that 50-year economic embargo against Cuba all about? Doesn’t it serve as a constant reminder to us of the U.S. national-security state’s extreme paranoia during the Cold War that the communists were coming to get us? Wasn’t it that paranoia that led to the CIA’s invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, to the CIA’s many assassination attempts against Cuban president Fidel Castro, and to the many acts of CIA sabotage and terrorism within Cuba?
Keep in mind, after all, that Cuba never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so. It was the U.S. national-security state that has been the aggressor the entire time. And it continues to be the aggressor with its Cold War-era cruel and brutal embargo.
And let’s not forget the regime-change operations in Guatemala and Chile, where the CIA and the Pentagon ousted democratically elected presidents and installed pro-U.S. military dictatorships in their stead. They did that because they thought that leftist presidents Jacobo Arbenz and Salvador Allende were the lead elements in a giant communist army that was being directed by Moscow.
And let’s not forget Operation Condor, the organized scheme of disappearances, torture, assassination, and murder that involved the CIA and the military-intelligence apparatuses of the pro-U.S. military regimes in Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, and Bolivia in the 1970s. That scheme involved incarceration, torture, and assassination of countless innocent people — that is, people whose only crime was having progressive, socialist, or communist beliefs or simply beliefs that opposed military dictatorships. Operation Condor reflected the extreme paranoid national-security mindset that people with leftist beliefs or anti-militarist dictatorships beliefs were actually part of a giant communist army coming to to take over the IRS, the Interstate Highway System, and the rest of the U.S. government.
Indeed, let’s not forget about the national-security state’s participation in the executions of two young American men in Chile, Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi. For that matter, let’s not forget Operation Condor’s assassination of Ronni Moffit and Orlando Letelier on the streets of Washington, D.C. Those murders were also rooted in anti-communist and national-security state paranoia.
And now, of course, we have the U.S. government involving itself in the internal affairs of Ukraine, doing everything it can to install a pro-U.S. regime into power, even if it involves the ouster of another democratically elected official. (So much for the much-vaunted democracy-spreading campaign that led to the invasion and occupation of Iraq, after President Bush, the Pentagon, the CIA, and the State Department bamboozled the American people into supporting their aggression against Iraq based on the bogus fear of WMDs).
Indeed, the violent protests in Ukraine bring to mind the violent protests that led to the CIA’s ouster of the democratically appointed prime minister of Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh, protests that were led by murderous thugs who were on the payroll of the CIA. They also bring to mind President Nixon’s order to the CIA to bring economic chaos to Chile in the hopes of bringing the brutal military dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet into power.
Has the CIA done the same in Ukraine (or, for that matter, in Venezuela)? Maybe Americans will find out in 50 years, assuming that Americans of 2064 will be permitted to view the files on CIA activities in 2014.
When is enough enough? Americans should have dismantled their Cold War-era national-security state apparatus when the Cold War ended? They should do so now, before it does any more damage to our nation and others around the world.
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
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