A Thoroughly Despotic Freedom

Believe it or not I usually shy away from writing about topics that I think will result in being labeled a crackpot, conspiracy theorist, or Chicken Little who claims the sky is always about to fall. But when Special Forces units conduct night time operations in your community, operations that local law enforcement asks local news outlets not to report on, all in the same week that the new presidential administration releases it’s plan to focus on domestic rather than foreign extremism, and it happens with almost no substantial pushback from anyone, I felt like I had to say something. I don’t live in the city, so I doubt I would have even found out about the military operations if it wasn’t for Dustin Milligan and his independent reporting at Terre Haute Vice News, as well as his sharing of posts from Dave Askins independent reporting at The B Square Bulletin in Bloomington.

Let’s backup to where it all started for me. During my 2004 deployment to Iraq our unit was tasked with exterior security for the now infamous Abu Ghraib prison. For a few weeks my squad was responsible for manning the prisons entry control points, and we were advised that occasionally Special Forces units would be “coming in hot” to the compound, that we would receive a heads up, and we were not to inspect them like other vehicles. I didn’t know it at the time but what I was witnessing was part of the dramatic increase in the size, scope of operation, and budget for US Special Forces units around the world. As reported in The Nation the number of deployed US special forces troops went from 2,900 in 2001 to over 8,300 in 2018, and the budget went from $3.1 billion to $12.3 billion in that same time frame. Possibly even more concerning is that under obscure new legislation often referred to as “Section 127e” special forces units are now operating in 149 out of 195 countries in the world, and they’re not just advising but often controlling those operations.

Shortly after my deployment I started to question US foreign policy and my own participation in Operation Iraqi Freedom II. On my Influences page for this website I have listed two resources that shaped my thinking in this process, the first was the book War is a Racket by the highly respected Marine Corps General Smedley Butler and The Tillman Story, a documentary about the unusual events surrounding the death of professional football player turned Army Ranger Pat Tillman. What changed me from a skeptic of US foreign policy to a fierce critic, however, was the combination of Edward Snowden’s 2013 revelations about the NSA’s wire tapping and global surveillance programs, and in the same year several legislators, including Lindsay Graham, tried to have the younger Tsarnaev brother tried as an “unlawful enemy combatant” for his role in the Boston Marathon bombings despite the fact that he was a US citizen. Although he was not ultimately treated as an enemy combatant, which would have meant that he could be detained indefinitely, post 9/11 legislation titled “Detention of American Citizens as Enemy Combatants: Order Code RL31724” had cleared the way for that to be a possibility.

At this stage we could ask ourselves how in the world a country founded on anti-imperial revolution could have possibly become what we revolted against in just a couple hundred years, but that topic would need a whole post unto itself, and I’ve written a few of them, from the first special forces botched attempt at a regime change in Tripoli to the decades long militarization of the police. We could also ask where we should go from here, but that question is fraught with as much complexity as the previous one. Those things are important but they aren’t necessary. We don’t have to fully understand what happened or have all the answers for how to move forward in order to start protesting the fact that we’re way off course as a nation. This 4th of July I hope we can all remember that our nation was founded on protest. It’s not disrespectful to protest our nation through it’s symbols like the flag or the anthem. It shouldn’t be dishonoring to the troops either, in fact it’s just about the most American thing you can do.

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