The sun was setting over Capitol Hill as we took up our positions. All entrances were covered: those were the orders coming down from on high, and who were we – mere pawns in the game – to question why, or (heaven forfend!) disobey? We did what we were told. And we had a list of those who were to be detained: the troublemakers, our captain called them: a list with names and photographs, although we all knew by sight who they were. There weren’t many of them, to be sure: there weren’t all that many troublemakers on Capitol Hill these days. Go along to get along: that was the unspoken rule, and most obeyed. So the list was short. But there was that noxious minority – from both parties – who could conceivably give us a bit of trouble.
Evil loves the night, which is why most crimes occur under cover of darkness, and this one was no exception. The plan was to quickly take out the Secret Service – those who weren’t in on the plan, that is – and move the President to an Undisclosed Location. Lop off the head and the body would be paralyzed. Although I was just a drone – a mere sergeant at the time – and not in on the big boys’ plans, it was clear to me what they were doing. In a highly centralized apparatus such as Washington, all we had to do was go after a few vulnerable locus points and the bloated body of the bureaucracy would be immobilized while we ran rampant over the prostrate body of the republic.
Nobody expected President Paul – or his guards – to put up much resistance: of the Secret Service agents who were guarding him, two were in on the plot. He did resist, however, although that didn’t come out until much later: we had the media on our side, or at least the major players, and they could be counted on for discretion – and, if not, we had ways of dealing with them. Even as the CIA paramilitaries were moving in on the White House that night, so were smaller groups of urban commandos moving through the streets of New York City’s “media district,” securing the major networks. All stations would broadcast the message from the chairman of the joint chiefs the next morning, at 9 am sharp, and we frankly didn’t expect much trouble from those quarters. Those guys hated the new President, the Kentucky Hick as they called him: although it’s verboten to diss the commander-in-chief, when my company commander called him the Poor White Trash President in the company of several officers, everybody laughed.
Rumors of the coup had been rife in the weeks: you can’t keep a secret in Washington, and especially not this kind. But the guys upstairs had that one all figured out way in advance: anticipating leaks, they had started spreading the rumors themselves, and then had their pet pundits debunk them as “wild conspiracy theories” spread by “extremist” supporters of the President-elect. Yet more evidence that the Paulians – or Paulbots, as the media dubbed them – are dangerous hotheads who see a conspiracy hiding behind every bush. What kooks! And as for their Kook-in-chief, who had somehow snuck into the White House when no one was looking – a leader is defined by his supporters. The election of 2014 had all been one huge mistake. Can we roll back the tape?
I chuckled to myself as I moved through the darkness. Get ready, folks, because this is one “urban myth” that’s about to come true, like those alligators in the New York City sewers my buddy from Brooklyn told me about: he grew up in that hood and had actually seen one. Or so he said. But you never know, do you?
It was a stroke of genius to have called that Emergency Alert, although the pretext – some guy in a cave somewhere in Afghanistan had issued a threat to blow up the Capitol – seems in retrospect a little on the thin side. But you have to understand how it was back in those days, right after the terrorist attack on Chicago’s Sears Tower, and the defacing of Mount Rushmore. I mean, the whole country went crazy.
It may have been impolitic for Hillary Clinton to remark privately on why the terrorists had gone after Lincoln and Teddy, while leaving Washington and Jefferson – “those two slave owners” – untouched. That kind of stuff is okay if you’re Rachel Maddow or Chris Hayes demagoguing it from the sidelines, but Hillary was running for President. The next day the secretly recorded tape was out and the headlines blared: “Hillary Goes After George Washington.” From that moment on, she wasn’t running against Rand Paul, who was never supposed to have a chance – she was running against two of the Founding Fathers.
Hillary’s support for the war didn’t help. Sen. Paul, of course, was against it from the beginning, and that boosted his popularity with the kids, even some in my company who didn’t savor getting sent to Iran to police the ruins. I don’t blame the Israelis for nuking the place: the best defense is a good offense. That’s their strategic orientation, and mine too. The war that followed, however, got pretty ugly, and I can’t blame the kids in my company who didn’t want to go over there to clean up the Israelis’ mess. They voted for Paul, lots of them, but thanks to our crack military intelligence unit, we had them all identified, and that night – the night of November 18, 2014 – we made sure they were in barracks before 9, or on furlough until the smoke cleared.
And there was smoke. I could smell it. As I moved through the night, the radio crackled in my ear: new orders. Forget the Capitol, there’s trouble at the White House.
The now iconic image of the White House in flames has been used by the extremist resistance to illustrate their cause, but isn’t that what they really wanted – to destroy the federal government? Didn’t they say all our problems were centered in Washington, DC, world capital of Evil? Well, then, we gave them their wish. We burned the White House to the ground.
As has been documented definitively since then – of course – the real responsibility for this tragedy was squarely on President Paul’s shoulders. The actions of his private “security squad” were the real cause of the fire that broke out that night. As CIA special units moved in on the White House, Paul was there for a conference with the transition team. Obama was in Chicago: they kept him in the dark and lured him there on the pretext of an “emergency” meeting with Rahm Emanuel and big Democratic party donors. We chose that time to strike because it would simplify matters to take out both the White House and its would-be future occupant all at one blow. The plan was to arrest him, and then transport him to a secret prison before putting him on trial for massive election fraud.
We didn’t plan on encountering any kind of resistance at the White House, let alone imagine it would have to be burned to the ground. But the circle around Paul was wise to us, or at least some of them, and had set up a security team recruited from among their own hardcore supporters. “I don’t trust the military,” said one advisor, whose conversation with the President-elect had been snapped up by our monitors the week before. Of course we were bugging the hell out of their “private” conversations, and knew every move they were making before they knew they were making it. Paul’s fatal flaw was that he didn’t listen to his more paranoid advisors, who believed the coup rumors. He really thought they’d let him take power: the big boys, I mean.
I have to laugh at the naivete: the Kentucky Hick, indeed. Threatening to take away the Pentagon’s toys like that, and then provoking them further by coming out so strongly against the war. Our troops were already in the field – after President Obama had gone to the UN, of course, and received proper authorization to intervene “in the name of humanity” – and here was the Republican candidate saying they ought to make a u-turn on the way to Tehran and come home. It was treason, but it was popular: Americans were sick of war.
The terrorist attacks hadn’t changed that: instead, they had turned what seemed to be a majority of Americans into what Hillary contemptuously referred to as “9/11 Truthers.” Instead of hysteria, what followed was a barrage of questions: How did the Chicago blast occur when a terrorist alert had already been issued and the building was supposed to have been under surveillance 24/7? And what about the evidence tying Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to the bomb plots? The Iranian exile group pushing that narrative was once listed as a terrorist organization by the US State Department, although it was delisted during Hillary’s reign, a development she had something to do with. Or so the Truthers claimed.
It was, of course, a coincidence the attacks occurred right before the presidential election, one in which candidate Paul had charged his opponent with “sacrificing liberty for a phony security.” It is a measure of how the conspiratorial mind works that every development is tied to every other development in a Grand Scheme that defies the laws of cause and effect. At any rate, the terrorist attacks didn’t help Hillary: quite the opposite. The anger of the American people, instead of being directed at the officially designated Enemy – in this case, the Iranians – was aimed squarely at our own government for “letting this happen.”
As I said, the whole country went crazy, and in ways no one could have predicted. That libertarian Kook was indeed elected President – I am, myself, not fooled by the official propaganda that Paul actually “stole” the election due to a Republican campaign of “voter suppression.” I mean, I wasn’t born yesterday.
The truth is Paul was – and is – a dangerous guy, who almost succeeded in subverting the very foundations of our national security. He actually wanted to dismantle what his even kookier father called the “American empire” – actually, the bulwark of America’s defenses around the world. Unlike his father, however, he was intent on doing it in a stealthy manner, first dismantling the foreign aid program, cutting the Pentagon’s budget down to “manageable” levels, and closing longstanding overseas bases, including in Okinawa – to appease China as much as the long-suffering Japs. Yeah, those bases are crime vectors, sources of endless trouble – economic as well as social – for the natives, but that’s just tough. There is a price to pay for the umbrella of security we provide, and if it means putting up with our exported social problems, then so be it.
The generals really didn’t like it when he started talking about closing down all those expensive overseas bases, instead of making the States pay the economic price of base closings: those were their prized pieces on the global chessboard, and if the commander-in-chief was going to start taking their toys away then it was time he was chucked out of the game.
But he wasn’t going to go without a fight, it seemed: as I got closer to the White House I could see the flames arching up over the trees.
How the President-elect got away and then disappeared, only to turn up in Australia, of all places, with a “US government-in-exile” all ready and raring to go, is one of those mysteries historians will be debating for a long time to come, and I don’t want to get in on that action. What I’ll say is only what I know: that the private security team set up by Paul’s staff had some real firepower at their command. We weren’t ready for it, and took some casualties. Although the Emergency Alert had cleared the streets around the White House, the Capitol, and all government buildings, and the presence of armed soldiers wasn’t all that unusual in the circumstances, Paul’s security was on high alert. Paranoia can be an advantage.
The firefight had already started before I got there, and it went on for a good hour or more. News of it leaked out, of course, over Twitter initially, but we had the networks covered, and they didn’t really show any footage until the next morning, after the fire had been put out, and the building, the city – and the country – secured.
I have to say I marveled at how quickly people adapted to the new reality – the end of democracy in America. As I said, I never fell for the official propaganda – the “voter suppression” charge, concocted after the fact, that supposedly “proved” Paul and the Republicans had plotted to keep voter turnout low in certain areas. Yes, I know that case went all the way to the Supreme Court, with Chief Justice Sotomayer expressing the majority opinion that the Paul campaign had “systematically albeit unconsciously violated the voting rights of millions of Americans” who might have voted if only they had been sufficiently motivated to stand in line for an hour or two.
I ain’t buying it. Democracy is fine, up to a certain point. The breaking point is when the country goes crazy, as it did after 9/11/2014. That’s when the a line had to be drawn, and it had to be done by the leaders – that is, the military, acting in concert with responsible leaders of both parties, who saw the danger posed by a Paul presidency and took the future of the country into their own hands. The presence of Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham at the morning “press conference,” along with prominent leaders from both parties, did much to reassure the country that the regular process of government wasn’t going to be interrupted.
There were a few attempts to challenge the legitimacy of the new bipartisan “government of national unity,” but these were quickly quashed, ruled out of order by the courts. There were even efforts by local “militias” to rebel against the national unity government but these were discredited in the public eye by the exposure of their terrorist connections. It is well known that the principal underground group still operating in the US, the so-called Resistance, has documented ties to terrorist groups, including the notorious Friends of Hamas.
After an initial flurry of panic, Wall Street quickly got back on track. The bipartisan show of “unity” calmed the markets – and, whaddadya know, the next day the stock market went through the roof. Those draconian cuts Hillary had warned the country against weren’t happening, and the money spigot was turned back on: Wall Street was ecstatic. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke announced another rate cut – to “reassure markets” – and the party was back on.
I was proud to be part of the Honor Guard at Hillary Clinton’s inauguration and as I stood at attention, my hot breath billowing in the January cold, I could see her smiling as she raised her hand and took the oath of office. Yes, that’s how close I was: I could actually see that sly, crooked impish grin, and I thought I saw the sparkle in her eye as she swore to uphold the very Constitution she was even then trampling underfoot.
The big surprise, to me at least, was how quickly we experienced a “return to normalcy,” as Bill Kristol put it. The electorate, he declared, had gone crazy, but luckily it was a case of strictly temporary insanity: exhibiting “leadership,” the natural born wise men (and women!) of the country had brought us back to sanity: “We are well rid of ‘President’ Paul,” he intoned on Fox News, and Charles Krauthammer agreed, following up with something about eggs and omelets. The Republican Establishment, which had fought Paul tooth and nail during the GOP primary – and sat on its hands during the general election – was publicly outraged and secretly relieved. The outrage soon faded, however, as their role in the “government of national unity” was assured.
“History will absolve us,” one of the principal coup plotters is said to have remarked, but I don’t give a damn for history. Some men make history, while others simply record it. The events of November 18, 2014, will surely go down in history as a “military coup,” but the truth is it was a necessary and inevitable correction. You know, like a market correction, only political. It had to happen, and if you care about history – which I don’t – then History must have chosen us to do the deed. Otherwise, we would not have succeeded.
And we have succeeded, by and large, although there are still pockets of resistance stubbornly resisting the normalization process: the entire state of Kentucky, for one, which immediately seceded – along with Texas, Wyoming, and a number of other Western states – but this was just a pro forma rebellion, i.e. one backed up by zero firepower. Federal marshals soon moved in to tamp down any recalcitrant elements who might be thinking of causing trouble. It’s a good thing Janet Napolitano had all that firepower stored up at Homeland Security: indeed, the whole Homeland Security apparatus, with its spying “fusion centers” and implanted networks of political police, was very useful during post-coup mop up operations. We had the names of all the likeliest suspects in our Homeland Security database, and the jails were full by the time the week was out. Thanks to the cooperation of large segments of the outgoing Obama administration, we had access to all this information and we used it.
The guerrillas still fighting are isolated dead-enders with no hope of winning: they may score an occasional hit now and then, and could possibly succeed in stirring up trouble in less progressive parts of the country, but they are definitely in retreat. The “surge” just announced by President Clinton, with the introduction of more troops into Wyoming, Kentucky, and especially Texas, is expected to crush the hardcore extremists who remain. The National Reconciliation Commission is doing its good work, bringing together people from both parties and all walks of life to examine the madness that temporarily gripped the American public – and resolving to never let extremism get the upper hand again.
I’m writing this – well, I don’t exactly know why. I’m shipping out to Afghanistan next month – the withdrawal date has been pushed back again – so maybe that has something to do with it. This’ll be my second deployment there, and the first time was no picnic. Maybe I’m setting all this down in case I don’t come back. To make some kind of record, to make my mark on history – to let them know I was there. I saw it all. History may not absolve me, but, then again, I never sought absolution in the first place.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
I’m having great fun on Twitter these days, and I urge you to join me on this wonderfully interactive site: you can do so by going here.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Forward by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).