Obama expands “secret war”

News flash. The United States engages in secret war.

To millions of Americans, and hundreds of millions around the world, this is not news. It’s part of an ongoing part of U.S. foreign policy.

Last century is littered with examples. Chile, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Korea, Congo, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Cuba, Panama, Grenada, Haiti, Colombia, Poland, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Soviet Union … shall I go on?

All these countries — and more — have had U.S. special forces deployed in them. Many of them under the auspices of the CIA or the Pentagon or some other U.S. military/intelligence group, including private corporations.

Some of these operations have been run out of the basement of the White House. (Last century’s Reagan and Iran-gate) Some have been run out of the vice president and president’s offices. (This century’s Bush/Cheney and Iraq, Afghanistan … )

All of these operations have had the goal of crushing democracy and any budding socialist-oriented or worker-friendly movements or nations, controlling resources, including labor, for U.S. corporations, and, especially during the Cold War, blunting the Soviet Union. Some of these operations have assassinated people, including elected leaders.

(It’s also important to point out these “special ops” also happen on U.S. soil: re: COINTELPRO ,etc. That is one reason in the 1970s  Sen. Frank Church and a Senate committee investigated the CIA and FBI and found the CIA conducts “covert media operations” in the U.S. to “manipulate” public opinion. Hmmm. Sounds eerily familiar to 2002-2003 Iraq war build up.)

But recently, The Washington Post reports President Obama has “significantly expanded a largely secret U.S. war against al-Qaeda and other radical groups.” A reality, they say, in a post-Sept. 11 world.
The article continues, “Special Operations forces have grown both in number and budget, and are deployed in 75 countries, compared with about 60 at the beginning of last year. In addition to units that have spent years in the Philippines and Colombia, teams are operating in Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia.”

There are 13,000 such special operatives, according to the report, with 9,000 of them mainly in Iraq and Afghanistan. Eighty percent of them, one official said, are to resolve “current conflicts.”

Assassinations and drone attacks are part of the operations, yet, WaPo reports, they “go beyond unilateral strikes and include the training of local counter-terrorism forces and joint operations with them.”

The Atlantic Monthly, in a recent blog post called “The end of Dick Cheney’s kill squads,” says there is considerable difference in Obama secret warfare policy and the Bush/Cheney  years.

Comparing it to Seymour Hersh’s expose of the Bush/Cheney “executive assassination ring” AM says, “While reports for some time have indicated that the Obama administration has continued and even expanded military special operations throughout the world, it is now clear that he has increased oversight and ended the Bush-era practice running secret military operations directly from the presidential and vice president offices.”

AM calls it “an important change to the Bush-era use of military special operations,” which now is overseen by “regional military commanders as well as the State Department.”

But, AM, questions, like many, the expansion of secret warfare, without any judicial oversight, legal (or moral) authority, including assassination orders, which only continues the “judge, jury and executioner”-type of foreign policy of old.

The secret war report somewhat eclipsed the release of the Obama administration’s new National Security Strategy, which, by all reports, looks “beyond” military might to “maintain” U.S. influence and interests around the world; emphasizes diplomacy and development; does away with unilateralism of the Bush/Cheney era and emphasizes building “global institutions,” expanding partnerships and multilateralism beyond “traditional allies.”

Many have said it’s a departure from the saber-rattling of the Bush administration, but does not go far enough in a break with past, destructive foreign policies, and is a long way from a more “good neighbor”-type of policy.

At a recent progressive conference, America’s Future NOW!, speakers on foreign policy emphasized the shift , but also said there has to be a larger and more influential movement on the ground to win a significant change in U.S. foreign policy.

Photo: Public Domain


Teresa Albano
Teresa Albano

Teresa Albano was the first woman editor-in-chief of People’s World, 2003-2010, leading the transition from weekly print to daily online publishing and establishing PW’s social media presence. Albano had been a staff writer for People’s World covering political, labor, and social justice issues for more than 25 years. She traveled throughout the U.S. and abroad, including India, Cuba, Angola, Italy, and Paris to cover the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. An award-winning journalist, Albano has been honored for her writing by the International Labor Communications Association, National Federation of Press Women, and Illinois Woman Press Association.