sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Book Review - The Way of the Knife

"The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth," by Mark Mazzetti tracks the transformation of the CIA and U.S. special operations forces into man-hunting and killing machines in the world’s dark spaces: the new American way of war. 

The post-911 CIA took on a different flavor than pre-9/11 CIA and Mazzetti discusses that difference, using his opening chapter to illustrate how the CIA stopped being a traditional espionage agency. Raymond Davis, hired by CIA to manhunt Pakistanis, got into trouble in Pakistan and the CIA paid the blood price (Islamic practice) to the relatives of the deceased in order to secure his release from custody.

During Panetta's CIA tenure, he authorized 216 CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, killing at least 1,196. In this age of electronic marvels, a guy can sit in an office in Virginia and kill people marked for death -- remotely through drone aircraft. Thus the character of the Agency is changing. Not all of it, to be sure. But's changing the way America fights its never-ending-war. The war began with a generally middle of the road Republican presidency and it's continuing with a far left Democratic presidency. That indicates a general political acceptance that it's now who we are and what we will be doing for quite some time into the future.
The Phantom Ray, a militarized version of the X-45 stealth drone

Mazzetti discusses a number of important changes in the world that you may not be aware of. There has been an exponential increase in the number of Private Military Corporations and Private Intelligence Activities that are undertaken by non-state people on behalf the US Government. They don't have the same level of accountability as official government agencies - though technically they do. A lot of this activity is deniable.

The book is well-written, but I didn't find anything new here. That, of course, is a heavily loaded statement because some people will be shocked at the disclosures that Mazzetti makes.
The Old Whore: A Novel of Cartel Wars

In the parlance of the Central Intelligence Agency, old whores are clandestine operators who would do anything to get the job done.
"Sanctioned assassination, extraordinary rendition? You weren't sitting in the big chair that you're in today, but the Outfit handed it off to the Special Activities Division for resolution two years ago." He leaned forward in his chair. "Why not do it again? They're very good at that sort of thing." 
"Not possible under the present guidelines. We ran it past the Director of National Intelligence and he ran it past the President's godfather, the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He said that we should forget about it." 
"So we forget about it?" 
"Uh, no, Frank, definitely not. We simply can't do anything directly, but we can use a cat's paw."

North Korea - Cause and effect

It still appears likely that North Korea will launch at least one missile in the direction of South Korea and/or Japan/or Guam within the next few days. Preparations point to a launch in honor of Kim Il Sung’s birthday on April 15. All of the targeted parties have vowed to shoot down a missile targeted at their territories. North Korea would then have the option of considering those defensive measures as acts of war. 

Kim Jong Un - a fat little dictator
The launch site area, as reported in the press and confirmed by several sources, is important because there is no direction to fire a long range missile from the middle of the east coast of North Korea without overflying Japan or South Korea.

There is a disconnect between the xenophobic philosophy of the North Koreans and the reality that the rest of the world sees clearly.  From a North Korean perspective, they should be allowed to do whatever they want to do without paying a cost that is measured as national humiliation.

President Obama has not been as clear as he should have been to the North Koreans. Bill Whittle (below) explains what the US President should be saying.

Military Discrimination Against Christians?

None of us should be surprised that the progressive movement that has swept much of the nation and kept Barack Obama in power for a second term is changing the way the US Military looks at traditional  values, such as those represented by Christianity.
(Fox News)“It’s been a steady attack on faith and religious freedom that we’ve seen in our military like we’ve never seen before,” Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) told Fox News. “We are getting a lot of calls from soldiers saying ‘we’re afraid of going to church, we’re afraid to be seen praying, we’re afraid that would hurt our careers, our promotions.’”
Rep. Forbes put several questions to SECDEF Hagel, who has only been the SECDEF for a couple of weeks, on Thursday. In Hagel's defense, he has only been SECDEF for a couple of weeks.
Forbes asked questions about instances of the Christian faith coming under attack in the military including:
  • Commanders barred from disclosing any programs that are tied to the Chaplaincy or any programs involving religion;
  • The Air Force banning the word ‘God’ from an Air force patch logo – even though the reference had no religious connotation;
  • A directive that banned Bibles at Walter Reed Hospital;
  • An Army Reserve training program that listed Evangelical Christians and Catholics as examples of religious extremism;
  • An Army email that listed prominent Christian ministries like the Family Research Council and American Family Association as “domestic hate groups.”
“When you get the U.S. military starting to paint in the minds of soldiers that Catholics and Evangelical Christians are the equivalent of Al Qaeda or Hamas – that’s a big problem,” Forbes said. “That’s not a little problem.”
Forbes also asked whether the military is enforcing section 533 of the National Defense Authorization Act. The Act, signed into law last year, includes a conscience provision clause protecting the religious rights of troops. The section reads, “No member of the Armed Forces may — require a chaplain to perform any rite, ritual, or ceremony that is contrary to the conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the chaplain; or discriminate or take any adverse personnel action against a chaplain.
The values that have underpinned the United States since its founding are under assault like never before. The Executive Branch of government is working diligently to push back the Bill of Rights in a number of areas and that's disturbing. This would seem to be but one more manifestation of that situation.