Monday, May 15, 2006

Wilkes and the cult of intelligence

Thoughtful War and Piece (is this some kind of bad pun?) on Wilkes, Cunningham, et al (I’ve taken out the links in the original):

“But what has particularly interested me about the Wilkes case is the controversial national security policies he has been connected to, via his lobbying and contracting work, recently and going back to the Reagan era. The fact that he and his former partner Wade were going for not just any federal contract that fell off the truck, but for defense and intelligence contracts, including increasingly in recent years off-the-books, ‘black’ contracts. What is the common theme, if there is one, between the policies that generated those black and gray contracts, and the unusual degree of corruption that seemed to accompany them? I've been thinking about this a lot, and it's not an obvious one. Why is it in some ways the more prosaic, superficial issue - the corruption - that gets surfaced and investigated - rather than the policies connected to it? Is it an easier, or politically safer, topic to investigate how they got the contracts, than to investigate the underlying purpose of some of the more controversial contracts doled out to Wilkes and Wade?”

and (on the fact that corruption is a symptom of the disease, and not the cause of the disease):

“Certainly the fact that black contracts - along with the secret policies that generate them - have zero public scrutiny is a factor in the accompanying propensity for corruption. 'We can get away with it, because who's going to know but us?'”

and (interesting patterns here which could include all varieties of institutional ‘anti-communism’ up to and including the World Anti-Communist League, John Singlaub - also a Californian - and Moon):

“It seems there is perhaps something deeper, a mutual buying-into a philosophy of governance, combined with a set of deep common cultural experiences from a certain era in southern California Republican circles, that connects those who doled out these contracts to those who received them, lavishing favors in return. These people - Cunningham, Wilkes, Foggo, Lowery, Brant ‘Nine Fingers’ Bassett, and perhaps others - were truly sympatico. They came from similar backgrounds, had many shared experiences, and were on the same wave length. One senses that in some way, they felt themselves to be part of a fraternity, this club that had as one of its principals unquestioning supporting for perhaps controversial national security policies (arming the contras, the anti communist cause, the extraordinary renditions, the Top Gun stuff, etc.). That's my theory, looking at how long and overlapping the history is, the common experiences in the southern California GOP and San Diego's Naval aviation community and the SDSU College Republicans, Wilkes' and Bassett's ancestral roots in Mormon Idaho, the common tour many of them took to central America to be part of the covert US effort to arm the contras, the later flocking together to almost a southern Californian/Hollywood idea of Washington power, from the Watergate to the houseboats, etc. They were their own sort of fraternity, with a fraternity's peculiar sort of self-selecting cultural insularity, debauchery, and ritual displays of machismo - and a fraternity's tradition of helping each other out later professionally.”

Guys like Wilkes very rarely, if ever, end up in jail.  They may have heart attacks, die in mysterious plane crashes, or commit suicide with multiple gun shot wounds to the head.  But jail?  Hardly ever.  Why is that?  Because Wilkes was working under official sanction.  You can’t jail a guy for working for his country.  Rather than blame it on the United States being Californicated, the real bad guy is the cult of intelligence and its ties to the American elite far right.  Wilkes is protected because he works for the CIA, and the CIA is protected because it does what the Powers That Be want done, but can’t be seen to be doing.  The corruption is what trips them up – and always does, back to the days of Watergate – but the corruption is really a side issue.  The real issue is that there are a lot of Americans – not just in California and not just Republicans (although most are) – who are prepared to use covert power to attempt to impose the American version of a neo-fascist utopia on the United States and the world.