Laying the foundation for 2016?
A number of years’ back, I witnessed a coup. I was attending my very first state Senatorial Convention in Texas as a voting delegate from my precinct. It was the same year that the news reported that the “Christian right” had “taken over” the Republican Party in the State of Texas, and I got to see part of the “takeover” at ground level.
The first item of business at the convention, after the roll call, is to elect permanent officers. When the convention begins, it is chaired by the temporary chair and temporary officers. Apparently in years’ past, the convention simply rubberstamped the temporary chair as the permanent chair and went about their business. This year however was different. This year there was a much larger number of delegates than in previous years, and these delegates had something different in mind.
I am not going to go into the ins and outs of the Senatorial Convention – if you are interested, read this article, which I wrote back in 2002. Suffice it to say that the “coup” consisted of people simply showing up at the preceding convention, the Precinct Convention, held the night of the primary elections after the polls closed, and thereby becoming delegates to their County or Precinct Convention, where they elected their slate of officers to be the permanent chair rather than simply rubberstamping the old guard. It is ridiculously easy to do, even today, if a large enough group of people organize a concerted effort, as the Precinct Convention is very poorly attended. This whole convention system is something that simply is not taught in school and of which most Americans are entirely unaware.
The “old guard” was not unaware of what was about to happen, and they planned accordingly. Once the vote was taken, and they were not voted in, they simply up and left; without any sort of orderly transition of any kind. The new permanent chair and officers were left with a disorganized mess, perpetrated by the old guard “go along to get along country club Republicans,” who expected them to fall flat on their face.
Whether this was done out of spite at being ousted from a position that they felt was their just due by a pack of upstart newbies, or whether it was a failed gambit, intended to wrest control back at a later date, I do not know. In any event, it didn’t work. By dent of Herculean effort on the part of a whole lot of folks, many of whom, like me, had no previous experience, they managed to muddle through, and the “old guard,” at least in Texas, never recovered.
Last election cycle, the Democrats were pummeled in spectacular fashion, increasing their slide in the House, and losing control of the Senate in an apparent repudiation of their policies over the past six years. As the President has stated on many occasions, “elections have consequences,” and one of the consequences of losing control of a house of congress is that you lose control of the chairmanship of the many committees that you had been in charge of up until now.
One of those committees is the Senate Intelligence committee, chaired by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
In the aftermath of the 9-11 terrorist attack, the Bush Administration empowered the CIA to undertake “enhanced interrogation techniques” against certain high-value detainees we had captured during the ongoing Global War on Terror. For over five years now Democrats in the Senate Intelligence Committee have been in the process of compiling a report on the CIA’s use of EITs, or, as they now deem it, torture, in obtaining intelligence from said high-value detainees.
So, on 9 Dec 2014 (coincidently, on the same day that Jonathan Gruber gave testimony before congress on his recent controversial statements on Obamacare, how it was written, passed, and on the stupidity of the voting public in general – but that’s another story), in the waning days of her chairmanship, Senator Feinstein released a 480-page executive summary (which was approved in December 2012 according to its title page) of the 6,000+ page report (both report and summary written exclusively by Democrats) over the unanimous objection of the Republicans on the committee.
In advance of the report, US facilities overseas were directed to take protective measures. Warnings have gone out to military personnel to keep a low profile and take measures to protect themselves and their families. As White House spokesman Josh Earnest said prior to the release, “There are some indications that the release of the report could lead to a greater risk that is posed to U.S. facilities and individuals all around the world.”
This being the case, why release the report? What, if anything, does the United States have to gain?
As with the actions of the “old guard” I described above, one has to wonder; did Feinstein do this out of spite or is there some deeper purpose being served here? Beginning in January of next year, she goes from being the powerful chairwoman of the prestigious Senate Intelligence Committee to being just another senator. Additionally, as just another senator, with the congress in Republican hands, her dream of enacting a new “assault weapon” ban, and other onerous gun control laws she is a proponent of, is probably dead as well. Spite is certainly a potential motive.
Perhaps she released it simply because it was the last opportunity she had before the Republicans took office. It is certain they wouldn’t release it once they took over control of the committee. Why not release it before now; according to the title page, it has essentially been sitting there for two years? Of course, had it been released before November, it might have somehow damaged the Democrats re-election chances. It can’t damage President Obama; for one, it happened before he took office and two, he can’t be re-elected and three, he signed an EO immediately after taking office to prevent such occurrences in the future. The only ones it could hurt now would be Republicans (not a problem) and of course, the United States, United States assets, and United States citizens (apparently not an issue).
On the other hand, as chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, “preparation of the battlespace” is a term she is probably familiar with. Just as Clausewitz stated that “war is the continuation of politics by other means,” politics is, as James Carville stated, “war.”
In politics, the “battlespace” is ultimately everything needed to win the “war” - the election. Key components of this battle space include the information domain, financial domain, and the physical domain. Much of the battlespace lies in the information domain. They say that “perception is reality.” In truth, how we perceive something is key to what we believe and how we will react. Make no mistake about it; while Republicans are cheering their win, Democrats are planning their comeback, and probably have been since it became clear that this election might not go their way. In the military we have contingency plans for all sorts of events, however unlikely. I am sure the same is true of political parties too.
So how might Feinstein’s actions constitute preparation of the battlespace?
In any election, a key ingredient is psychological operations, a component of Information Warfare. When we are talking about operations concerning our side or our allies, we put a nice face on it and call it “Public Affairs;” when our enemies do it we call it “PSYOPS.” It both cases it boils down to the same thing; perception management.
A key component of Democratic perception management strategy has been to deflect blame from them and to pin it on Republicans. They have done a very good job during this administration of pinning the blame for everything bad on the Bush administration, with the exception of things that are clearly theirs, such as Obamacare; dissatisfaction of which was a key player in their losses in this election.
Feinstein’s release of the report has had effects in multiple areas. It deflected some from the Gruber hearings. It got discussion going again on EITs (which haven’t been used since before Obama signed Executive Order 13491 in January 2009, banning EITs and restricting interrogations of prisoners to the techniques outlined in the current Army Field Manual) and reminded us that this was a Bush era Republican policy (even though it was supported by Democrats at the time it was initiated).
It has seriously alienated allies, in whose countries the secret interrogation facilities were located, and who wished it to remain secret. Will they trust us again anytime soon? It also likely has further inflamed those who seek us harm and aided in their recruitment efforts against us.
All these things “set the stage” for future campaign ads, speeches, and talking points, sure to be used by Democrat candidates at all levels in the 2016 elections, taking the narrative away from what occurred during the Obama administration and putting the focus back on the “bad old days” of the George W. Bush administration.
It doesn’t hurt at all that one of the main contenders for the Republican presidential nomination is John Ellis Bush, better known as “Jeb”, former Governor of Florida, and brother of George W. himself. We can just rerun the 2008 presidential campaign and pretend that Hillary won the nomination instead of Barack.
Then there is the use of the word “torture.” The title of the report is the “Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program,” not “The Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Torture Program.” Nevertheless, every news article I read featured the word “torture” as part of its headline. Indeed, Feinstein herself uses the word “torture” in the forward of the document, to wit:
“…it is my personal conclusion that, under any common meaning of the term, CIA detainees were tortured.” -- pg 5 of 525 pages.
This has serious ramifications, both for the United States, and for those involved in what they believed to be at the time, lawful interrogations of enemy combatants, authorized by the highest levels of government. The United States is signatory to a number of international treaties which prohibit torture; and here we have a high-level government official stating in an official document that the United States engaged in torture. We have every news outlet in the country (and probably the world) calling it torture. The President of the United States has stated publically that “we tortured some folks.”
Is there any surprise then that the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, is calling for those involved in the “torturing” of these detainees to be prosecuted? After all, we are signatories to the 1994 U.N. Convention Against Torture, and we have admitted to torturing prisoners. As Rush Limbaugh is so famous for pointing out on numerous occasions, “words mean things.”
Just in case you think it’s just a guy named al-Hussein, who one might infer from the name is probably no fan of the United States, that is asking for heads on platters, Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. Secretary-General has stated that he hopes the report is the “start of a process” toward prosecutions, since the “prohibition against torture is absolute.” I would presume these prosecutions would involve those carrying out the policies as well as those who ordered them; as we learned during the Nuremburg trials in the aftermath of World War II, “I was just following orders” is not a valid defense.
All this promises to “stir the pot” as the new Republican Senate takes office in January, deflecting interest in ongoing Republican investigations into the Obama administration (Obamacare, Benghazi, IRS scandal, et al), redirecting the media towards interest in the Bush administration and Republican involvement in the “evil doings” thereof, and providing many sideshows such as calls for war crimes trials for those involved in the “torture” and those who authorized, condoned, or simply knew about it, such as Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condolezza Rice, and of course, the war-criminal-in-chief, George W himself.
How can we check on the veracity of the information in the forward without actually checking it against the source material? Which we cannot do because it is still classified? I would feel much better about the accuracy of this report if it had been written by and endorsed by members of both parties. But it was not; as is true with so many things this administration has done, both it and the original 6,000 page document were purely Democrat initiatives and actions. And its “findings” are being hotly disputed; by ex-CIA director Michael Hayden, by current CIA director John Brennan, by one of the psychologists who developed the techniques and claims that some of the things in the report are “just plain not true,” to Dick Cheney who describes the report (in his own inimitable way) as “full of crap.”
Keep in mind Rahm Immanuel’s immortal words, “never let a good crisis go to waste” (even if you have to manufacture the crisis yourself); or how about Cloward and Piven; “overload the system” (give us so many things to look at that we can’t process them all); or Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” (All of them).
What about creating an atmosphere that makes it impossible to govern, and then blaming Republicans for not being able to govern? What about derailing the Republican train before it can even leave the station, by forcing it to focus on other issues instead? That way not only do they not accomplish what they set out to do, but they take heat from their base for getting sidetracked and conducting “business as usual” instead of “what they were sent there to do.” Maybe they will do you a favor and take out some of the incumbents in the primary so you won’t have to face them in the general.
Nice job Ms. Feinstein. Nice job indeed.