Zombie Alert! (How Government Secrecy Seduces Congress to Support War)

by Joe Scarry

I saw Rep. Thomas Massie (R, KY) on TV last night and he gave a convincing explanation of why Congress always ends up supporting the President’s wars.

During a segment on the Campaign for Liberty Conferenceon the Russian news channel RT — the irony of which I will address in some future blog post! — they showed a clip of Massie explaining how it works:

Step 1: Members of Congress get constituent input telling urging them to vote against war.

Step 2: The member lets it be known that s/he is a “no” or “leaning no.”

More on Congressional
zombies and permawar

Step 3: The administration pulls them into a classified briefing.

Step 4: The member turns into a zombie and votes the way the administration wants.

The Ellsberg Connection

This dovetails closely with the description provided by the heroic whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg in the film The Most Dangerous Man in America. In the film, Ellsberg recounts his advice to Henry Kissinger, when Kissinger first went to work at the Nixon White House. Ellsberg hold him that he would be receiving classified briefings, and that a four-step process would ensue:

First, he would feel exhilaration — to have access to all this “inside” information.

Second, he would feel foolish — realizing how little he had known all along.

Third, he would begin to view everyone else as fools — because they don’t have the classified briefings.

Fourth, you stop listening.

It was startling to me to hear this at the exact moment the Syria debate was going on, and the administration was starting its arm-twisting in Congress.  For instance, on September 5, I listened toSen. Diane Feinstein (D, CA) speaking to the press, and explaining that, yes, her constituents were “overwhelmingly negative” about military intervention in Syria, but “they don’t know what I know; they haven’t heard what I heard” — i.e. they didn’t have the inside scoop that she had because of classified briefings.

Even members of Congress who are critical of the Administration and highly analytic don’t seem to fully grasp that it’s not enough for the sharing of information to stop with Congress. Take, for instance, the New York Times op-ed “On Syria Vote, Trust, But Verify” by Rep. Alan Grayson (D, FL): his demand for full disclosure is valid (“We have reached the point where the classified information system prevents even trusted members of Congress, who have security clearances, from learning essential facts, and then inhibits them from discussing and debating what they do know. And this extends to matters of war and peace, money and blood. The ‘security state’ is drowning in its own phlegm.”) but he gives the impression that it’s enough that he and other members of Congress are fully briefed (“I need to know all the facts”).

The U.S. government is addicted to secrecy, and that feeds its addiction to permawar. The only solution is to get the information into the hands of the people.

This entry was posted in American Military Culture, Barack Obama, National Security State and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Zombie Alert! (How Government Secrecy Seduces Congress to Support War)

  1. Bill Jacoby says:

    The secrecy and surveillance are so exaggerated now that one really can’t believe anything the government says. They don’t have to lie (although they do); they only have to say “it’s a State secret”. I read things this week that I would not normally believe: that the Syrian rebels, in league with the US, caused the Sarin attack; and that the World Trade Center was brought down by Dick Cheney, for example. But I know what the consequences have been of “secret” activity of 50 years ago or more: in Iran, in Chile, in Guatemala, in Vietnam…. None of these activities were in our interests, all should have been publicly debated and defeated, all have had horrible consequences; and none has been apologized for or forsworn, as the Germans did when the concentration camps were disclosed by the Allies. It has reached the point where on matters of foreign policy at least, my presumption is that our government is lying. When enough people feel that way, the government is in trouble, and we as a nation are in trouble. Which is perhaps why they (in our name) are developing a witches’ brew of drones, surveillance, secret prisons and torture facilities, secret courts, and legal rationales for bypassing indictments and trials. Even another WTC attack would not be as serious, to anyone who loves the Constitution and the American experiment, as the threat that secrecy, surveillance, and the military-industrial-congressional-national security complex poses now. From now on, I will not vote for any candidate for national office who doesn’t pledge to fight against secrecy, surveillance, and the National Security State. And I will suspect that anyone who so pledges, is lying. We should all notify our candidates of such pledges.

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