These days I’m often reminded of this paragraph from what I think is Glenn Greenwald’s best book:
“Those with political and financial clout are routinely allowed to break the law with no legal repercussions whatsoever. Often they need not even exploit their access to superior lawyers because they don’t see the inside of a courtroom in the first place – not even when they get caught in the most egregious criminality. The criminal justice system is now reserved almost exclusively for ordinary Americans, who are routinely subjected to harsh punishments even for the pettiest of offenses.”
I couldn’t help but think of the above as I read the news that Jesse Benton, Ron Paul’s former campaign manager and a top aide to Sen. Rand Paul, and John Tate, a former official of the Paul-affiliated Campaign for Liberty, have had bogus charges of bribery, “conspiracy,” falsifying campaign records, and other trumped up charges – all serious felonies – thrown out of court. In dismissing the charges, US District Judge John A. Garvery cited prosecutorial misconduct: the government was clearly out to get Benton and Tate any way they could – and, of course, smear the libertarian movement.
This was always clearly a political case, in which a dissident group with little political influence in the corridors of power was being targeted by the Big Boys, who were out to discredit them and shut them up. Although the investigation had been going on for quite some time, it’s no coincidence that the indictment was announced days before the first GOP presidential debate was to begin.
Undeterred by this judicial rebuke, the government is still pursuing the remaining charge of lying to investigators: once they have you in their clutches, there’s no way they’re letting go – that is, if you aren’t, say, former CIA chief David Petraeus.
Petraeus, you’ll recall, was charged with turning over highly classified information to his mistress, but was allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor. He was sentenced to probation and a $100,000 fine. In a New York Times piece on another case involving mishandling of classified information, we learn that not even the head of the FBI could persuade the Powers That Be to take the Petraeus case seriously. Although a number of people have been charged with felonies for similar indiscretions, and jailed, Petraeus was let off with a gentle slap on the wrist. As the Times reports:
“That deal was so contentious that the FBI director, James B. Comey, personally appealed to the attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., and said that Mr. Petraeus’s crimes warranted felony charges, according to two government officials involved in the case. F.B.I. agents are still angry about that decision and say it set a standard that will make it harder to bring cases in the future.”
There’s one standard for you and I, and another standard for the power elite: that’s what life is like in the Oligarchic States of America.
Speaking of double-standards, the Hillary Clinton email scandal rolls on, with no sign that the would-be chief executive of the United States is going to be indicted for spreading classified information around like it was jam on toast. As a top member of an exclusive club that imbues its members with legal immunity, Mrs. Clinton need not worry about being punished for her crimes, and her attempted cover-up, although her precipitous drop in the polls shows that the voters are less forgiving than the Attorney General.
According to the official media narrative, there isn’t much of interest in the emails that have been produced so far. They’re focusing on the trivia, such as the former Secretary of State’s efforts to convince a White House operator that she was who she said she was, but as Branko Marcetic points out in an excellent piece for this site, several emails outline the inside story of Hillary’s efforts to embroil us in the disastrous intervention in Libya. Both Sidney Blumenthal, her longtime confidante, and former State Department official Anne-Marie Slaughter, sent her impassioned arguments for a “humanitarian” intervention in Libya to which she readily succumbed. That country is now a terrorist playground.
Clinton was more than ready to take “credit” for the US role in overthrowing Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi at the time, but as the situation deteriorated – and after our Ambassador was murdered by the very people we had “liberated” – she backed away from her handiwork. The newly-released emails, however, underscore her central role in what has got to be Washington ‘s most disastrous military adventure since the Iraq war. As Marcetic puts it:
“Although Clinton downplayed her role in pushing for intervention in her 2014 book Hard Choices (by which time the country had long plunged into chaos and claiming credit for Gaddafi’s ouster would have been a liability rather than a benefit), her own director of policy planning wrote a timeline of her ‘leadership on Libya’ in August 2011, demonstrating Clinton’s ‘leadership/ownership/stewardship of this country’s Libya policy from start to finish.’”
Hillary’s secret email server, Petraeus’s secret mistress, the secret surveillance of the US population by our secrecy-obsessed rulers – yes, Washington is chock full of secrets, which are harder to keep these days. With communications speeded up by the Internet, details of everyone’s dirty laundry – complete with photos! – travel around the world in the blink of an information packet, and it’s interesting to note just how these secrets are sometimes revealed. Some, like the Snowden revelations, are made public by brave whistleblowers: some are dislodged by other means, such as Russian war planes blasting American pretensions to smithereens.
If not for Vladimir Putin, we wouldn’t know that the US government had two programs to arm and fund Syrian Islamists, and replace the regime of Bashar al-Assad with an Islamic state. Of course the public program was supposed to be concerned with training “moderates” and “secular” elements, but what we might call the “Pollyanna Brigade” never did get off the ground, and – after handing over most of their equipment to al-Qaeda – has now been officially abandoned by the Pentagon.
Ah, but the covert program is still around: that’s what the squealing over Putin’s bombing raids in Syria is all about. “Our” rebels – who are aligned with al-Nusra, the official al-Qaeda affiliate in that war-torn country – are being bombarded by the Russians, and the War Party is livid, not least of all because their covert program has been “outed.” As the Associated Press reports:
“The CIA began a covert operation in 2013 to arm, fund and train a moderate opposition to Assad. Over that time, the CIA has trained an estimated 10,000 fighters, although the number still fighting with so-called moderate forces is unclear.
“The effort was separate from the one run by the military, which trained militants willing to promise to take on IS exclusively. That program was widely considered a failure, and on Friday, the Defense Department announced it was abandoning the goal of a U.S.-trained Syrian force, instead opting to equip established groups to fight IS.
“For years, the CIA effort had foundered – so much so that over the summer, some in Congress proposed cutting its budget. Some CIA-supported rebels had been captured; others had defected to extremist groups. The secret CIA program is the only way the U.S. is taking on Assad militarily. In public, the United States has focused its efforts on fighting IS and urging Assad to leave office voluntarily.
"’Probably 60 to 80 percent of the arms that America shoveled in have gone to al-Qaeda and its affiliates,’ said Joshua Landis, a Syria expert at the University of Oklahoma.”
The public program was just a façade, a Potemkin village meant to obscure the reality, which was – and is – a US alliance with al-Qaeda:
“[I]n recent months, CIA-backed groups, fighting alongside more extremist factions, began to make progress in Syria’s south and northwest, American officials say. In July and August, U.S.-supported rebels seized territory on the al-Ghab plain, in northwest Syria’s Idlib and Hama governorates. The plain is a natural barrier between areas controlled by Sunni Muslims and the Alawite sect to which Assad and his loyalists belong. The capture of the al-Ghab plain was seen as a breakthrough toward weakening the Alawites. Those and other gains put Damascus, the capital, at risk, officials say.”
They don’t care about the much-vaunted danger from the so-called Islamic State: they’re out to get the Alawites, who are seen as allies of Iran. And that little phrase, “more extremist factions,” refers to al-Qaeda, which is now Washington’s silent partner in their joint bid to overthrow Assad.
Hillary Clinton and Petraeus were among those who agitated for regime-change in Syria: the latter is now openly advocating an alliance with al-Qaeda in order to accomplish that goal, as he was no doubt doing during his time in office. When President Obama balked at allying with the perpetrators of 9/11, Hillary abruptly left the administration.
This crazy idea that there is a “liberal” wing of al-Qaeda really takes the cake – and it’s even more unbelievable that some Very Serious People hold to it. Yet it makes perfect Bizarro World “sense” if you understand that Russia, and not “terrorism,” is now Washington’s main target.
The evidence is clear: Putin is their main target, and has been for a while. The US and Britain have long cultivated Chechen criminal gangs who pose as “rebels”: how do you think the Tsarnaev brothers and their family entered the United States, and managed to stay under the FBI’s radar in spite of Russian warnings? Why is it that we have harbored Ilyas Akmadov, the Chechen “foreign minister,” despite protests from our own law enforcement agencies? A whole bevy of powerful figures, such as Sen. John McCain and Madeleine Albright, personally intervened in Akmadov’s case.
The reason is because, in spite of the folderol over “terrorism,” the real goals of US foreign policy have nothing to do with defeating terrorists. Indeed, we are presently using terrorists in our proxy war against Russia in Syria. Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, the power elite have kept their eyes on the prize: global hegemony in the post-Soviet era. The “war on terrorism” was and is just a public relations ploy to keep the people in flyover country from getting too restless as we pour our diminishing resources down the interventionist rat-hole.
While some half-wit is set up by the FBI, charged with aiding and abetting “terrorism,” and jailed for the next fifty years, our policy-makers are canoodling with the scum who brought down the World Trade Center, attacked the Pentagon, and murdered 3,000 people in cold blood on American soil.
That’s “justice” in America – a country where there is no justice, and no peace.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
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 Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.