Robert Dreyfuss / The Nation – 2010-05-27 10:56:09
(May 25, 2010) — A secret military directive signed last September 30 by General David Petraeus, the Centcom commander, authorizes a vast expansion of secret US military special ops from the Horn of Africa to the Middle East to Central Asia and “appears to authorize specific operations in Iran,” according to the New York Times.
If President Obama knew about this, authorized it and still supports it, then Obama has crossed a red line, and the president will stand revealed as an aggressive, militaristic liberal interventionist who bears a closer resemblance to the president he succeeded than to the ephemeral reformer that he pretended to be in 2008, when he ran for office. If he didnâ€™t know, if he didnâ€™t understand the order, and if heâ€™s unwilling to cancel it now that itâ€™s been publicized, then Obama is a feckless incompetent. Take your pick.
If Congress has any guts at all, it will convene immediate investigative hearings into a power grab by Petraeus, a politically ambitious general, and the Pentagonâ€™s arrogant Special Operations team, led by Admiral Eric T. Olson, who collaborated with Petraeus. And Congress needs to ask the White House, What did you know, and when did you know it?
Drop what youâ€™re doing and read the whole piece, by Mark Mazzetti, in the Times, which ran it on page 1 as the lead story in today’s paper. (Critics of the “mainstream media” take note: the Times broke this story fearlessly, even though it apparently redacted certain operational details at the behest of the administration.)
Hereâ€™s the Cliffâ€™s Notes version: In September, Petraeus signed the Joint Unconventional Warfare Task Force Execute Order providing for a “broad expansion of clandestine military activity” in the region of Centcom’s responsibility, the Middle East and South Asia. Reports Mazzetti:
The secret directive, signed in September by Gen. David H. Petraeus, authorizes the sending of American Special Operations troops to both friendly and hostile nations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa to gather intelligence and build ties with local forces. Officials said the order also permits reconnaissance that could pave the way for possible military strikes in Iran if tensions over its nuclear ambitions escalate….
The seven-page directive appears to authorize specific operations in Iran, most likely to gather intelligence about the countryâ€™s nuclear program or identify dissident groups that might be useful for a future military offensive.
Officials said that many top commanders, General Petraeus among them, have advocated an expansive interpretation of the military’s role around the world, arguing that troops need to operate beyond Iraq and Afghanistan to better fight militant groups.
The Times story raises a million questions: Is this how the United States intends to carry out the order to assassinate Anwar al-Awlaqi, the Yemen-based US citizen who is reportedly an Al Qaeda operative? Does the revelation of this order have anything to do with the abrupt resignation of Dennis Blair, the departed Director of National Intelligence?
What sorts of “dissident groups” in Iran might the military connect with, and might they include paramilitary forces associated with rebellious Kurds in western Iran, several of whom were just put to death by Tehran, or the Pakistan-linked Baluchistan rebels in southeast Iran?
For decades, the military has tried to elbow the Central Intelligence Agency into a subordinate role. Even as the intelligence budget ballooned (since the 1990s) to enormous proportions, the Pentagon has gobbled up most of it and tried to force the civilian CIA into a subordinate role. (According to Mazzetti, the CIA supports the Petraeus directive, even though it is explicitly aimed at “break[ing] its dependence on the Central Intelligence Agency,” but weâ€™ll see.)
The gung-ho Special Ops folks at the Pentagon have been pushing hard to become a kind of uniformed covert operations unit of the US government, even though military operations arenâ€™t governed by the same sort of restrictive Congressional oversight that the CIA operates under. And, according to Mazzetti, the Petraeus order is intended to accomplish things that the CIA “will not” do:
The order, which an official said was drafted in close coordination with Adm. Eric T. Olson, the officer in charge of the United States Special Operations Command, calls for clandestine activities that “cannot or will not be accomplished” by conventional military operations or “interagency activities,” a reference to American spy agencies.
Petraeus, along with General McChrystal, should have been fired long ago by Obama, if for no other reason because of their insubordination in 2009 is trying to force Obama’s hand in pushing for a series of escalations of the Afghanistan war. Obama can still redeem himself by firing them now.
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