By Andre Damon
World Socialist Web Site (10/23/17)
The militarist diatribe by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, a retired Marine general, at a White House press briefing last week laid bare an open secret of American politics: behind the façade of democratic rule, the United States increasingly resembles a military dictatorship.
Firing back at criticisms of President Donald Trump’s handling of the October 4 deaths of four US soldiers in Niger, Kelly called members of the US military “the best one percent this country produces.” He then announced that he would take questions only from journalists who were family, friends or acquaintances of soldiers killed in action.
In an expression of undisguised contempt for the civilian government, Kelly denounced Democratic Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who had publicly exposed Trump’s callousness in his condolence call to the widow of one of the soldiers killed in the October 4 incident. Kelly falsely accused Wilson of bragging about securing funding for a government building in Miami named after slain FBI agents, saying of her: “Empty barrels [make] the most noise.”
The next day, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders implied at a press briefing that any questioning of the pronouncements of the military was out of bounds. “If you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general,” she said, “I think that that’s something highly inappropriate.”
The move toward dictatorship in the United States, accompanied by the drive to world war, is proceeding at breakneck speed. There is not much time.
Concerned over the White House’s undisguised contempt for the constitutional principle of civilian control over the military, some military figures sought to verbally distance themselves from Kelly’s statements. ABC’s “This Week” program on Sunday led with an interview with retired four-star army general and former CIA director David Petraeus, who declared, “We in uniform…are fiercely protective of the rights of our fellow Americans to express themselves, even if that includes criticizing us.”
Kelly’s remarks evoked such defensive statements not because they challenge nearly 250 years of civilian rule in the United States, but because sections of the US political establishment see it as necessary, at least for the time being, to cloak the massive power exercised by the military over political life with the formal trappings of civilian rule.
This task, however, is increasingly difficult. Shortly after Petraeus’s appearance, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” where he had an extraordinary exchange with moderator Chuck Todd. Asked whether as Senate Democratic leader he had been briefed on the situation in Niger, Schumer nonchalantly replied, “Not yet.”
When Todd asked whether Schumer knew the US had a thousand troops stationed in Niger, Schumer replied, “Uh, No, I did not.”
Todd pressed him further: “How do you describe it any other way than never-ending war?” Schumer gave a meandering reply that ended with the words, “We have to keep at it.”
In other words, the country’s civilian leadership neither knows where the US military operates, nor dares to inquire. Wars are not declared. Those who lead them are not accountable to Congress or the people. The military is deployed at the discretion of the president and his generals, as in the over one dozen African countries where US troops are engaged in combat operations. The ranking member of the nominal opposition party has no problem with this state of affairs.
Should anybody be surprised, then, when Kelly, one of three generals occupying the most sensitive positions in Trump’s cabinet, denounces a member of Congress for daring to question the commander-in-chief?
Infatuated with the military
One need only consider the rest of Sunday’s broadcast of ABC’s “This Week” interview program. With only the slightest modifications, the entire program could have been produced in a country run by a military junta. In the midst of host Martha Raddatz’s interview with Petraeus, the program cut to a prerecorded segment showing Raddatz on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan as it carried out a war exercise off the Coast of North Korea, with Raddatz declaring enthusiastically, “The Sea of Japan is bristling with warships.”
The segment featured statements by the captain, the commander, a signal officer and a pilot aboard the ship. Raddatz concluded, “With the region remaining on the brink, they have to be ready to fight tonight.” The program then went on to preview an upcoming eight-part miniseries by the National Geographic Channel glorifying the Iraq war.
By this point, three quarters of the program had elapsed and not a single nonmilitary figure had made an appearance on one of the premier political talk shows of the world’s leading “democracy.”
Kelly’s comments triggered statements of concern among some segments of the US press. …
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