Today, I was reminded of a conversation I had had with one of my sons, when he was about seven years old.
“Dad,” he said, “what is government?”
Of course, as an adult I knew that government is a very complex organism, but I tried to give the seven year old a basic understanding of it.
“Well, government is a group of people whom the rest of us choose to go to a special meeting place and work with each other to express our wishes for how to change the country and keep making it the best place it can be for us to live. And, since the rest of us don’t agree all the time on what changes need to be made, we send these people, called representatives, to talk to each other, argue out the details and try to come up with solutions that benefit everyone.”
“Okay. And what if we don’t get what we want?”
“We can change the person whom we send to speak for us. We do that in an election, every few years.”
“Okay. So Florida sends a person, and Pennsylvania sends a person, and Texas sends a person?”
“Right. Every state sends people to speak for them in the government.”
“And France and England send people?”
“Well, no, the government is for the people from the fifty states and a few other places, like Puerto Rico and Guam and the Virgin Islands.”
“How do England and France get what they want? I mean, from us?”
“Well, we have this part of the government, called the State Department, and their job is to work with the governments of other countries, to make friends where they can, and to make sure that American people and American businesses are safe and protected by the governments of other countries when they are living or working there.”
“Okay. But we choose the people in the State Department, right?”
“Umm, no, some of the people in the State Department are there because it is a job that they were hired to do by the other people that we did send to the government. And some of the people, the leaders at the State Department, are given their jobs by the President that we elect.”
“But the State Department does what we want it to do. Right?”
“That’s the idea. But truthfully, we often don’t really know what the State Department is doing. A lot of it is kept kind of quiet.”
Thinking this way, trying to take a complex issue and boil it down to its essential components, makes you realize how onion-like our government really is. In that sense of layers upon layers, we get to vote for a President or a representative to Congress, and we are somehow led to believe that these are the people at the center of the government. It might be argued that they represent only the outermost layer. What is inside the onion, hidden at the core, are the layers of government who are appointed, hired into the mailroom and brought up through the ranks, or given a position out of nepotism or the sense of a favor owed. And it is these people, people who do not answer directly to the voters of this country, who do the bidding of the government behind the scenes, the Other Government.
Of course, they answer to the people we elect (or at least, that is the plan). But we often fail to get “progress reports” from our elected officials. And so, much of what they do, behind the scenes, is also under the radar, and not necessarily in our best interests.
Of chief concern to most of us, would be the actions of the FBI / Homeland Security and the State Department / CIA. As citizens, we want to know that our guaranteed freedoms remain guaranteed, so we want to keep tabs on the FBI and Homeland Security Departments and their surveillance of or spying into our own affairs. And it is with the State Department that we need to know that their actions are making the world safer for Americans to inhabit, both at citizens and as business people. The CIA? Well, that has become a whole ‘nother kettle of fish, entirely.
In recent weeks, and particularly since the addition of Representative Tulsi Gabbard to the Bernie Sanders campaign, the issue of judgement in terms of our foreign policy has come to the fore. We have already heard from the Republican side of the aisle, in the form of Ted Cruz and Donald Trump and their plans to “carpet bomb” or “bomb the shit out of” ISIS. As an expression of foreign policy, it is direct, to say the least. It also is manifestly illegal by any and all International Conventions on war.
Recently, Donald Trump had stated that he would ramp up the use of torture as a means of leveling the playing field between us and ISIS, and that the military would follow his orders to torture prisoners and even murder the families of terrorists. They won’t. The United States military swears an allegiance to the Constitution, not the President. They follow the laws of our land and the International Conventions on warfare. They do not do the President’s bidding.
That is the job for “the other government.” That is the job for the government which we do not get to elect, and it is the number one reason that we have to focus on the judgement of the people we do elect.
The State Department functions, in many ways, like its own government. It makes agreements with other nations and establishes laws that exist between multiple countries. It gathers information. It has the task of making the world a better place for Americans and American business. And, since the end of the Second World War, it has had its own army to act as an agent of change. That army is the CIA.
At the end of the Second World War, the CIA grew out of the old OSS and became the chief tool for gathering information and implementing “compulsory change” in our dealings outside our own borders. As an organization, it is tasked with two responsibilities, gathering intelligence and covert operations. And, since about 1953, these operations have often involved the changing of regimes in other countries. There is not enough room here to delve into too many specifics, so there is a link at the bottom of this article to a timeline of CIA operations. Suffice it to say, the United States, through its agent, the CIA, has played a large part in the changing of numerous regimes in the Caribbean, South and Central America, and the Middle East:
1953 – Iran, Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh overthrown in favor of the Shah
1954 – Guatemala, President Jacobo Arbenz forced from power
1959 – Haiti, CIA installs Papa Doc Duvalier and his private police force, the Tonton Macoutes
1960 – Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba assassinated by the CIA
1961 – Ecuador, President Jose Velasco forced to resign
1961 – Dominican Republic, Rafael Trujillo assassinated with CIA support
1961 – Cuba, CIA led attempt to remove Castro from power fails in Bay of Pigs disaster
1963 – South Viet Nam, puppet leader Ngo Dinh Diem, originally installed by the CIA in the late 1950’s, removed and executed with CIA support
1963 – Dominican Republic, Juan Bosch overthrown and military junta installed by CIA
1964 – Brazil, President Joao Goulart, thought to be moving toward a communist style government, removed in a coup with CIA support and Humberto Castello Branco, chief of staff of the military, installed as head of government
1973 – Chile, Salvador Allende, socialist President elected in 1970 is overthrown in CIA backed coup, and General Augusto Pinochet is installed
1989 – Panama, Manuel Norriega removed from power and President Guilllermo Endara sworn in
2001 – Afghanistan, CIA works in support of US led invasion to oust the Taliban
2003 – Iraq, Saddam Hussein is ousted from power. The CIA had originally supported Hussein with arms, training and intelligence as an ally against the Iranian revolutionary regime
2011 – Libya, CIA support of rebels in Libya leads to the capture and assassination of Muammar Gaddafi, but many of the arms we delivered found their way into the hands of ISIS and other Islamic terrorist factions, culminating in the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi
2016 – Syria???
2017 – Mexico??
The general idea is that the President sends as his or her emissary, the Secretary of State, to pursue the interests of the United States in foreign locales. In recent years, John Kerry has fulfilled that function. Prior to Kerry, that job belonged to Hillary Clinton for a four year stretch under President Obama’s first term. And today, Hillary Clinton is running for Obama’s office.
While she can certainly lay claim to having the most foreign policy experience of any candidate, Republican or Democrat, running for President in this cycle, she can not lay claim to demonstrating particularly good judgement in that capacity. Under her watch, the efforts we had made in rebuilding the nation that is Iraq unraveled into chaos that allowed for the rise of ISIS. Her leadership in Libya provided for the arming of rebels who in may cases turned out to be the very terrorists we hoped to suppress. And now, in Syria, we are still trying to sort out the disaster that she left as she attempted to oust Assad and the influence of the Russians with him.
It is now becoming clearer that along with the support of the CIA, then-Secretary Clinton entered into an arrangement with the governments of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar to support their countries with arms and materiel, while they provided the ground forces to overthrow Assad and fight ISIS. A lot of American armaments have been moving into that often unstable and unpredictable area of the world, much to the dismay of our largest ally there, Israel, and to one of our chief adversaries in that region, Iran. One supposition is that our recent agreement in economic support of the Iranian regime, was really an overture meant to calm tensions which had arisen from our arming of its neighbors.
One of the reasons that Hillary Clinton’s email scandal refuses to die is simply this; by refusing to establish a secure, government provided server for her email correspondence, Secretary Clinton created a situation in which our own government was not immediately privy to the complexity of her dealings with foreign governments. No one knows what quid pro quo may have transpired outside the realm of government business to “grease the wheels.” While the Secretary was negotiating the arming of Saudi Arabia, for example, the Saudi government was contributing millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation. In total, during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, the State Department approved $165 billion dollars in commercial arms sales to twenty countries which had all donated sizable sums to the Clinton Foundation. And sixteen of those same countries received a further $151 billion in separate deals through the Pentagon. Not too surprisingly, a number of American defense contractors, the beneficiaries monetarily of those sales, were also large donors to the Clinton Foundation. While that might just be a coincidence, it would certainly require that the left hand did not know what the right hand was doing.
Our country has a history of involvement in the world outside its own borders, going all the way back to Stephen Decatur and the Barbary Coast Pirates in 1801. Since the end of the Second World War however, much of that history has been written with the aide of the CIA, and that history is not very glorious. Nearly every instance of regime change that we have undertaken has ended disastrously and has spoken to the poor judgement of our State Department and the hubris of our own intelligence community. What we have seen from Mrs. Clinton is poor judgement on a grand scale and the lingering concerns that her office was corrupt, for sale to the highest bidder, and actively engaged in flying under the radar of her own government.
Whomever becomes the next President of the United States is going to appoint his or her own Secretary of State and that person is going to do the bidding of the American government and by extension, the American public in the world of foreign affairs. That President and that Secretary of State needs to exemplify sound judgement in order for this country to repair its relationships with much of the rest of the world. As voters, we need to think not only of the government that we will elect, but also of the other government which our elected officials will install at the heart of the onion. We can always vote out a President if we feel we have made a mistake in our judgement. But mistakes in his or her judgement can haunt this nation for generations.
Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Disasters:
Arms deals and the Clinton Foundation:
Timeline of CIA operations: