King David and His Howling Commandos

As Renaissance political scientist Niccolo Machiavelli noted, the fall of Rome came about when its military elite, known as the Praetorian Guard, gained control over the emperor and the Senate. Had irony survived the Bush Jr. administration, it would relish that America’s empire is crumbling under the undue influence of its military elite, the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

A May 24 New York Times story by Mark Mazzetti informed us that last September “King David” Petraeus empowered himself, through a secret directive, to expand “clandestine military activity” throughout his Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility without seeking permission of Congress or the commander in chief. “Clandestine military activity” involves SOCOM assets.

The Mazzetti story, sourced to unnamed “defense officials,” was the first volley in the next round of the information warfare being conducted among elements of the national security structure to avoid taking the fall for the miserable failures of our Iraq and Bananastan* misadventures while managing to keep the Long War going for an indeterminate length of time.

The rest of the media gave little bandwidth to Mazzetti’s story until unnamed “senior military and administration officials” leaked in anger to Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post. A June 4 article titled “U.S. ‘Secret War’ Expands Globally as Special Operations Forces Take Larger Role” announced that the “Obama administration has significantly expanded a largely secret U.S. war against al-Qaeda and other radical groups.”

DeYoung and Jaffe hint that the White House is driving the escalation of special force activity against the Evil Caliphate (the neocons’ post-Cold War successor to the Evil Empire), or is at least a willing victim. Special-ops types have “become a far more regular presence” at the executive mansion, even more so than they were during the Bush administration. “We have a lot more access,” one military official told DeYoung and Jaffe. From the way this military official talked, the White House is doing everything shy of handing out sexual favors to attract SOCOM’s help and loyalty. He says OBAMACOM is “asking for ideas and plans … calling us in and saying, ‘Tell me what you can do. Tell me how you do these things.'”

“These things” boil down to those things that Stanley McChrystal and his band of merry assassins did when he commanded the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC): zorch around the western half of Asia like Sergeant Fury and his Howling Commandos blowing away “suspected” terrorists and civilians galore on the basis of intelligence gathered from human sewers – like Afghan drug lord Wali Karzai – who love nothing better than having the U.S. military pay them handsomely for the privilege of rubbing out their enemies.

(Here’s something else irony would have liked: Adm. Gary Roughead, the sycophant who became chief of Naval Operations after Adm. Mike Mullen got promoted to Joint Chiefs chairman for changing his vote to “aye, aye, sir” on the Iraq surge, said for the record in 2009 that “The biggest breakthrough in the current fight in [Iraq and Afghanistan] is the successful integration of intelligence with operations.” Judas hanging from a redbud tree, how do cement-heads like Roughead wind up in positions of such enormous power?)

What’s more, Gen. Stan and his Hooligan Clan pulled their deadly shenanigans under direct orders of Dick Cheney, who as vice president didn’t have a pig’s wings’ worth of constitutional or legal standing in the military chain of command. Special operators were shaking in their jump boots at the prospect that all their beautiful wickedness might melt away if a Democrat became their commander in chief, but lo! Obama turned out to be their newest, biggest, bestest buddy since Sgt. Hulka from Stripes.

Candidate Obama got his tongue stuck in a wringer when he begged for the war mongrel vote by promising to “get the job done” in Afghanistan. When it came time to decide whether to keep executing all those drone raids that were killing so many innocent Bananastani bystanders, Commander in Chief Obama said, sure, heck, what else we got going for us? YES YOU CAN execute more special force assassinations. This COIN (counterinsurgency) bull plop we’ve been feeding the public isn’t going to work. We have to do something, even if it’s something stupid like blindly striking at suspected evildoers and killing lots of civilians in the process. Sure, that just adds more recruits to the ranks of the evildoers than we had before, but it’s better than doing nothing, right?

So you’d think the SOCOM commandos have all the autonomy to spread mayhem globally that they could possibly want, but no, they’re howling for more. They don’t want to work for anyone who isn’t a special operator and doesn’t understand their special needs. They “bridle” at the authority of wimp ambassadors who “control who comes in and out of their country.” They “chafe” at needing permission from the president and secretary of defense to use lethal force outside of war zones. They want to wreak whatever havoc they feel like wreaking whenever and wherever the feel like wreaking it, and they don’t want to hear any guff about it.

Will no one protect the world from these psychopaths? This invertebrate president and Congress certainly won’t. The Constitution won’t save us. Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin would have anybody who challenged SOCOM in court bludgeoned to death with tea bags for failure to support the troops.

Be on the alert for Joe Lieberman or some other congressional concubine of the warmongery to introduce legislation that cancels the parts of Title 10 of U.S. Code that require SOCOM forces to conduct missions under the “command of the commander of the unified combatant command in whose geographic area the activity or mission is to be conducted” unless “otherwise directed by the president or the secretary of defense.”

Yeah, the snake eaters and frogmen have a good thing going now, what with their buddy Petraeus in charge of CENTCOM, and a pushover president, and bureaucratic twit Bob Gates for a SECDEF. But they’d like to get their civilian chain of command neutered in writing in case somebody with a pair of baby-makers ever gets elected president (you never know, it might happen).

And look for the recent discovery of “vast riches” of untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan to be the excuse Obama needs to cave in to the military’s demands to flush his withdrawal timeline all the way to the chow hall. The decades it will take for Afghanistan to exploit its riches plays into SOCOM’s “Era of Persistent Conflict” [.pdf] like an egret plays into an oil spill.

*The Bananastans are Afghanistan and Pakistan, our Central Asian banana republics where U.S. and NATO troops are under the command of “Bananas” Stan McChrystal.

Author: Jeff Huber

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (retired), was a naval flight officer who commanded an aircraft squadron and was operations officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the carrier that fought the Kosovo War. Jeff earned a master of arts degree in post-modern imperialism at the U.S. Naval War College. His weekly satires on U.S. foreign policy high jinks are archived at his blog, Pen and Sword. Jeff's critically applauded novel Bathtub Admirals, a lampoon of America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now. Jeff lives with dogs in a house by the beach on Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, and in the summer he has a nice tan.