Trust but Verify Applies Not Only to Foreign Governments

May 6th, 2012

By Dan Miller

Governance of a free people requires their continuously earned trust.  Verification is needed to preserve that trust when it is justified and to destroy that trust when it is no longer justified. That is not solely the function of the principal media.

Governance with decreasing mutual trust requires the use of ever increasing compulsion if not physical force.  Of the many problems facing the United States, a well deserved lack of trust in Government may be the greatest.


In Unicorns We (Don’t) Trust

The media have been our principal source of information about the Government.

Control media, control culture

Governments can control the media by providing comforting but misleading information to get incumbents reelected. That can involve slanting information for political purposes. As noted in The Daily Beast, that seems to have been done during the recent China – Chen kerfuffle.  When, as commonly happens, the media fail to follow up governmental mendacity can be effective.

chen_chinaIs the White House trying to insulate the president from the unfolding drama in China? Of course they are. …

This latest compromise is unlikely to get substantial direct comment from the White House, save general approval of the ultimate result achieved, as the president has been all too happy to leave Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to deal with the fiasco and maintained his administration’s silence on Chen Guangcheng’s fate when asked about it at a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Monday.

His silence is a political judgment designed to try to stem any erosion in his political position from a foreign policy snafu that casts a shadow over what had been a weeklong foreign-policy victory lap by the Obama administration — from the one-year anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s killing to the president’s surprise visit to Afghanistan.

Might the same SOP (Save Our President) mechanism have been involved in the killing of Osama Bin Laden? Should it turn out well, President Obama apparently was to get as much credit as possible for decisively masterful leadership; if it flopped, was he to be shielded from all blame? Does President Obama have an overwhelming compulsion to be loved and reelected? That is not a good thing in a president. According to Governor Christie,

When you’re looking for love in this job, that’s when deficits get run up…. When you’re looking for love in this job, it’s because you can’t say no to anything because someone somewhere won’t love you if you do.

Our culture also controls the media and to that extent the statement “whoever controls the media, the images, controls the culture” is tautological — i.e.,  whoever controls the culture controls the culture.  Our culture does in large part control the media because consumers decide what to view, listen to and read — and therefore what continues to be presented. If programming fails to get and to keep our interest and approval it eventually ceases to be presented. Many probably make their choices based on their perceptions of reality, a desire for popularity and/or desires for short, sensational stories. When the killing of Trayvon Martin became news, most media coverage was grossly distorted.  In some cases that may have been due to sloppiness and inadvertence but in others it was almost certainly intentional.

In a story for the “Today” show on March 20, Luciano used part of the George Zimmerman 911 call in which an entire phrase (italicized below) was taken from a later part of the conversation:

Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good or on drugs or something. He’s got his hand in his waistband. And he’s a black male.

Dispatcher: Are you following him?

Zimmerman: Yeah.

Dispatcher: Okay, we don’t need you to do that.

But here is how Zimmerman’s conversation with the 911 dispatcher actually went:

Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.

Dispatcher: OK, and this guy — is he white, black, or Hispanic?

Zimmerman: He looks black. (Emphasis in original.)

Why is that sort of thing done? Is hate what makes the world go ’round? Had that tape and others similarly edited been broadcast without deceptive editing they would have energized few. True, there was a concerted push for racial disharmony from the Reverend Mr. Sharpton and his colleagues, but the media did little to look behind (or even carefully at) what it was reporting. Some in the new media eventually did so and bits of their work are coming out; still, the harm done by our principal media lingers.

The paucity of readily verifiable legitimacy transcends the immediate Trayvon Martin inflammation. It seems probable that the number of conspiracy theories exceeds the number of actual conspiracies. All tend therefore to be impaled upon a dull sword of illegitimacy so that anything that can be labeled a “conspiracy theory” is likely to be rejected.  For quite a long time, the cry prevailed that President Clinton had not dallied with Ms. Lewinsky in the Oval Office or with anyone else anywhere else but was instead being persecuted by a vast right wing conspiracy. Then came the stained blue dress. More recently, former President Clinton shared his expertise with vast right wing conspiracies as they impact upon President Obama:

When asked whether the “vast right-wing conspiracy” is still present today, the former president answered without hesitation, “Oh you bet.”

“It’s not as strong as it was because America has changed demographically, but it’s as virulent as it was,” Clinton said today on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“Right-wing conspiracy” was the term used by former first lady Hillary Clinton to describe the tactics her husband’s political enemies used to attack his presidency after revelations of his affair with Monica Lewinski.

“I mean they may be hurting President Obama,” Bill Clinton said of the current attacks. “They can take his numbers down, they can run his opposition up, but fundamentally he and his team have a positive agenda for America. Their agenda seems to be wanting him to fail, and that’s not a good prescription for a good America.

“I mean, they’re saying things about him just like when they accused me of murder and all this stuff they did, but it’s not really good for the Republicans or the country, what’s going on now,” Clinton said.

The “birther” movement persists but is generally rejected as an extreme right wing conspiracy theory, even though less credible and extensive information has been provided about President Obama’s relevant background than an informed electorate should have; much of the little that has been provided has been of dubious provenance and legitimacy and has therefore been less than fully credible.  The “extreme, right wing birther movement” has been a result. Anything characterized as “extreme” is seen as bad. “Insane” could probably be substituted for “extreme” and child molester for “right wing” with similar effect.

The most recent “extreme right wing conspiracy theory” involves federal detention and reeducation centers. The ambiguity of President Obama’s March 16th executive order lends at least some credence to that theory.

Orders can be modified in facially innocuous ways to make them less ambiguous; that is often a good thing because it can limit the unbridled authority of those acting under them. However, orders can also be modified to make them more ambiguous.

Purposeful ambiguity seems to have infected President Obama’s March 16th order.

According to this post,

A leaked U.S. Army document prepared for the Department of Defense contains shocking plans for “political activists” to be pacified by “PSYOP officers” into developing an “appreciation of U.S. policies” while detained in prison camps inside the United States.

The manual outlines policies for processing detainees into internment camps both globally and inside the United States. International agencies like the UN and the Red Cross are named as partners in addition to domestic federal agencies including the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA.

The document makes it clear that the policies apply “within U.S. territory” and involve, “DOD support to U.S. civil authorities for domestic emergencies, and for designated law enforcement and other activities,” including “man-made disasters, accidents, terrorist attacks and incidents in the U.S. and its territories.”

The manual states, “These operations may be performed as domestic civil support operations,” and adds that “The authority to approve resettlement such operations within U.S. territories,” would require a “special exception” to The Posse Comitatus Act, which can be obtained via “the President invoking his executive authority.” The document also makes reference to identifying detainees using their “social security number.”

Here is the text of the lengthy (326 page) manual, written in bureaucrat-speak. The information provided above about the Posse Comitatus Act and presidential waiver of its provisions to permit federal military activity during domestic civilian disorders was taken from page 193 of the manual. Information about the functions of PSYOPS (psychological operations) teams within the camps is set forth at pages 194 – 201 of the manual. It can be frightening or perhaps comforting depending on one’s trust, interpretation and the degree to which evident ambiguities are ignored or penetrated.  For example, the manual provides,

The supporting I/R PSYOP team has two missions that reduce the need to divert military police assets to maintain security in the I/R facility. (See appendix J.) The team—

♦ Assists the military police force in controlling detainees and DCs. [Displaced Civilians]

♦ Introduces detainees or DCs to U.S. and multinational policy.

3-56. The PSYOP team also supports the military police custodial mission in the I/R facility. The team—

♦ Develops PSYOP products that are designed to pacify and acclimate detainees or DCs to accept U.S. I/R facility authority and regulations.

♦ Gains the cooperation of detainees or DCs to reduce the number of guards needed.

♦ Identifies malcontents, trained agitators, and political leaders within the facility who may try to organize resistance or create disturbances.

♦ Develops and executes indoctrination programs to reduce or remove antagonistic attitudes.

♦ Identifies political activists.

♦ Provides loudspeaker support (such as administrative announcements and facility instructions when necessary).

♦ Helps the military police commander control detainee and DC populations during emergencies.

♦ Plans and executes a PSYOP program that produces an understanding and appreciation of U.S. policies and actions.

Suppose (as now seems likely) that Mr. Zimmerman is not convicted of murdering Mr. Martin. In the event of riots beyond what local authorities may be able to manage conveniently, might civilians be relocated to federal detention facilities? Perhaps to help them over any perceived need to protect themselves? Might PSYOP personnel be used to reeducate them? What if the economy fails to the point that there are riots approaching those in Greece? Any number of scenarios can be imagined, and the natures of those to be imagined are functions of our own levels of trust in government; those levels are in turn functions of our perceptions of how much trust the government has earned and still deserves.

President Obama, along with his administration, has failed to deserve the trust of a free people and to an unsurprising degree it has been withheld. Will his campaign pleas that we continue to believe in him work?

Fighting to recapture the magic of his history-making 2008 campaign, President Barack Obama on Saturday laid out his fullest-yet case for reelection, pleading with struggling Americans to “keep believing in me” and hitting out at presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

“If people ask you what this campaign is about, you tell them ‘it’s still about hope.’ You tell them ‘it’s still about change,’” he told a cheering mass of supporters at Ohio State University in Columbus, six months and one day before the election. “I still believe in you. And I’m asking you to keep believing in me.”

It seems rather a narcissistic if not messianic approach. Will it work as well for President Obama as Tinker Bell’s plea that we believe in fairies worked for her?

While no president can earn the trust of all, President Obama’s efforts have appeared to be duplicitous and polarizing. Despite media efforts to help him along his chosen path, the transparency of his efforts has become manifestly apparent. As I observed here, should President Obama be reelected it seems likely that

he will do far more to advance his agendas than he has done thus far — after his reelection, he will have no need to campaign for reelection and will have no need to seek any consensus as to anything he can get away with “with or without the Congress.” There will be little to keep him from further weakening our nation and diminishing the rights of her citizens. Those are the only things I trust him to do.

A duplicitous and divisive president, lacking not only the trust of free people but concerns about being reelected, is unlikely to govern fairly, justly and well.  Lacking such a presidential trinity, Government must rely increasingly on compulsion and even, at some point, upon force.

Having rather transparently sought to divide the nation along racial, ideological, cultural and economic lines, there is little that President Obama can do to make amends. No need to make amends may even be apparent to him.

Arrogance begets arrogance.  The United States was born out of a reaction to imperial flunkies who truly believed that they could behave as vaingloriously as their monarch and his corrupt nobility.  The Bourbons were brought down not so much by their own actions (Louis XVI was in fact something of reformer) as those of their out-of-control bureaucrats.  It’s no different today.  We see it in the GSA scandal, the Secret Service hooker scandal, and above all in the Justice Department’s Fast and Furious scandal.  All these result from hirelings mimicking the activities and attitudes of their bosses, including their ultimate boss in the Oval Office.  Each is rooted, and obviously so to even to most blasé observer, in arrogance.  Fast and Furious reveals the blueprint: a crazy scheme (gun-running on one hand, ObamaCare on the other) that no commonsense individual would ever consider for a moment put into play despite protests, disaster ensuing by leaps and bounds, deliberately ignored because the scheme “has to work,” a climax amounting to complete collapse, with the protagonist (Holder, Obama) acting as if none of it has anything to do with him, as if he can simply walk off without so much as a word spoken.

Obama believes exactly that.  So pure is his arrogance, so exalted his narcissism, that he will do nothing to defend himself out of the conviction that no such thing is required of him.  That he, among all human beings alive in the second decade of the third millennium, does not need to respond under any circumstance.  This is the difference between Obama and previous administrations — Richard M. Nixon and Ronald Reagan worked like stevedores to overcome Watergate and Iran Contra, Nixon with no success while Reagan at last put it behind him.  But Obama, exactly like his appointees, doesn’t think he has to make any defense at all.  He truly believes that he can’t be touched.  (The other difference between these scandals and earlier ones is that hundreds have died as a result of this administration’s activities.) [Links added.]

That fits well with President Obama’s new campaign slogan, “Forward!” We must not look behind at his past if he is to be reelected (it’s great to look back to the reign of George Bush the Wicked, however).

If President Obama succeeds in his quest for reelection without having earned the trust of a free people, he is unlikely to earn it during a second term.  We are then likely to have an even rougher four years, during which he will have fewer constraints and far more flexibility to do as he sees fit — and not only as to our nascent missile defense system that has Russia sufficiently upset for Russian Chief of General Staff Nikolai Makarov to suggest the possibility of a preemptive strike.  President Obama’s post election flexibility will be at the expense of our freedoms.  Must we, as former Speaker Pelosi told us about ObamaCare, pass the bill reelect President Obama so that we can see what’s really in him and what he will do during a second term in office?

(This article was also posted at Dan Miller’s Blog.)

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Categories: Media, Military, Politics | Comments (3) | Home

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3 Responses to “Trust but Verify Applies Not Only to Foreign Governments”

  1. larry |

    Now your starting to scare me a little. I’ve long said that some really bad times could come if Obama isn’t stopped. Your description of possible scenarios come very close to what I’ve envisioned for our future. Why is it that no one pays attention.

  2. Tom Carter |

    Dan, a veritable tour of scary stuff! But I think some of it can be taken a bit too far. The FM 3-39.40 “leak,” for example, seems to have been a case of an unclassified draft of a document somebody gave to somebody else. I guess that’s a “leak” of some kind, but on the scale of leaks it’s pretty inconsequential. Of course, the usual suspects took that and ran with it, crying, “The FEMA camps are coming! The FEMA camps are coming.” Scanning through it doesn’t leave that kind of impression.

    Conspiracy theories as a phenomenon are interesting, but only in that sense. They basically amount to uninformed or ill-informed people dreaming up worst case scenarios based on a limited amount of information. There are real conspiracies, of course, but they’re rarely anything like the dreamings of fevered conspiracy theorists.

    President Obama is a good case study. Before he even moved into the White House, the conspiracy theories were all over the place — socialist with a secret agenda to destroy America, crypto-Muslim, Manchurian candidate, born in (fill in the blank) not in America, and on and on. In a great many cases the impetus for all this was race, but of course no one would admit it.

    If someone believes in American democracy, they will accept that a president (or any other politician) was elected and hope that he will do well, for the country’s sake. If he turns out to be a dud, as it appears Obama has, then opposing him strongly is justified — based on evidence, not feverish concocted conspiracies or bias.

  3. Dan Miller |

    Tom, I generally agree with the thrust of your comment. However, nature abhors a vacuum and much of the speculation about President Obama and his administration has resulted from an informational near-vacuum.

    I don’t think much of the birther stuff, regardless of its factual bases or lack thereof. It gets little attention in the principal media and little notice elsewhere beyond the right wing preaching to itself. It’s probably good for President Obama’s reelection to have that as a distraction from other issues. Ditto the rest of the stuff.

    The focus in defeating President Obama has to be on the state of the economy, the impact of radical environmental policies on oil dependency and job creation, the spreading culture of dependence on government, foreign policy and the like. There is ample useful ammunition available and more continues to present itself; there is no need to fire blanks.

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