The following clip may be for you if you were at all surprised that the end of the Bush W. administration did not bring about an end to the Bush wars, or the Bush war shenanigans, or Gitmo, or that the Obama presidency has shown less than zero appetite for pursuing and prosecuting Bush officials who lied, deceived, profiteered, and engaged in such war crimes as unprovoked war, attacks on civilians, use of banned weapons, torture, and illegal detention, or that two resounding Democratic presidential victories still find America hip-deep and drone-high in dirty undeclared wars, or that in a Washington DC where every player and every entity supposedly clings tenaciously to its every power and perogative, Congress shows not even tepid interest in asserting its sole legal right to make war, or that in these times of tough austerity talk, the defense budget remains sacrosanct, the REAL third rail of US politics.
Even if you are not surprised by any of the above, you should probably watch this fascinating period-piece from the dusty archives of access television (the proto-podcast medium). It was recorded shortly after the election of George H. W. Bush in 1988 and opens with the question, ‘how did a man so steeped in the scandals of the Reagan period and so caked in dirt and blood from his time in the CIA, manage to eke out a presidential victory?’
I worked for [Bush], I witnessed personally his supervising the CIA’s covering up of illegal activity at the end of the Angola operation, in early 1976. And he was actually fending off a hostile Congress, instead of investigating and firing the perpetrators of crimes, he was fending off the FBI and the Congress, on at least three or four major CIA criminal activities.
The show was broadcast at a time when the USSR had already begun its dramatic implosion. Within eight months, Solidarity would win power in Poland, and the whole of the East Bloc would teeter and collapse. Talk would soon turn to the ‘peace dividend’, the massive economic gains that western powers would enjoy now that the Cold War was over. Defense, intelligence and security budgets could be cut back, and Eastern European markets would open up. Google ‘peace dividend’ today, and you won’t find much. (Talk would also turn to the inevitable break-down of communist China, but that didn’t happen either.)
The program is Alternative Views which broadcast out of Austin Community Television from 1978 to 1998, often on little budget (watch the co-host leap up to man a camera to get the show rolling, then yell out his questions or comments from the far side of the lens). The guest is John Stockwell who served thirteen years in the CIA, in Congo, Vietnam, Angola, before resigning in 1976. His book, In Search of Enemies (1978) caused the agency to sue him, dropping the case only after he was bankrupted.
The clip is sobering. Amongst other things it presages Bush Sr.’s invasion of Panama to capture Noriega (December 1989). The picture of covert operations that emerges from the conversation could have been ripped from the pages of James Ellroy (with touches of Pynchon. Perhaps Kathryn Bigelow’s next film should be an adaptation of Vineland with Robert Pattinson as DEA super-agent Brock Vond).
Don’t ever forget that these people fight a lot, they are as bad as people in the peace movement… …you remember when Black Eagle eventually fell apart and then the enterprise came apart, Oliver North and Felix Rodriguez were at each others throats. And these are two very volatile, unstable, dangerous men who couldn’t get along. You remember the incident that’s cited in the Foreign Policy, Fall ’88 issue that broke Black Eagle was when the CIA operatives – it doesn’t name them – and Israeli operatives drew their pistols on each other.
Stockwell and his hosts take it as simply given that the prime function of the defense budget is to serve as conveyance for redistributing wealth upwards. These gentlemen would not be at all surprised by our current, burgeoning surveillance state. Why didn’t LBJ go after Nixon and Kissinger for their treacheries at the Paris peace talks between north and south Vietnam? Why didn’t Carter go after Reagan for his treachery in the Iran hostage negotiations? Why didn’t Dukakis go after H.W. Bush for his deep involvement in Iran/Contra and other ill-doings? Why hasn’t Obama gone after W. Bush for war crimes? Stockwell’s answer is ‘team-players, all.’
Why cannot a presidential election (or two, or four), by itself, curtail the military-industrial-congressional-intelligence complex? Because not even the presidency has the competence to do it. We’re gonna need a bigger boat. Watch the clip, it’s worth your 54 minutes, otherwise Argo, fuck yerself.