Thursday, June 2, 2011

Jefes of the Empire

I was listening to Amy Goodman’s interview of illegally-ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya yesterday, when Zelaya offered this stunner:
“The United States is an empire, and so Obama is the President of the United States, but he is not the chief (jefe) of the Empire.”

Whoa! I said, urging Goodman in my mind to ask the obvious follow-up question: ‘So who is the chief (capo di tutti capi) of the Empire?’ But she didn’t. She had asked the question that led to this answer, i.e. didn’t the coup take place under President Obama? which itself had been in response to Zelaya’s contention that it was the Bush-era ambassador, Charles Ford, who had set up the coup just before he left Honduras to join the Southern Command (one of ten U.S. commands, responsible for planning and operations in Central and South America, the Caribbean, Cuba, and for ensuring the militarization of the Panama Canal, located in Miami, FL). Ford’s parting gesture, that is, had been a profile of Zelaya that he left for Obama’s incoming ambassador, Hugo Lawrence. That profile, published by Wikileaks, had urged Amb. Lawrence to make plans to “detain” then-Pres. Zelaya because he was tied to “narco-trafficking, terrorism,” and many other nefarious things. This was consistent with Ford’s posture towards Zelaya from as soon as eight days after he, Zelaya, took office: forbidding him to join ALBA (Alianza Bolivaraiana para los Pubeblos de Nuestra America—the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America—first proposed by Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, to integrate the social, political and economic aspects of several countries of Latin America such as Antigua, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent, and Venezuela, many of them now run by socialist leaders); saying he couldn’t have a friendship with Hugo Chavez; and urging Zelaya to give political asylum in Honduras to the convicted terrorist Luis Posada Carriles. So Charles Ford, employed by the Southern Command at the time of the coup against Zelaya, was the one who had set in motion.

Earlier in the interview, Zelaya had implicated several others, many of them well-known right-wing zealots and Reagan/Bush I/Bush II appointees:
The conspiracy began when I started to join ALBA…Otto Reich (of Iran/Contra fame, former ambassador to Venezuela, and a board member of the notorious School of the Americas where most Latin American death squads get their training) started this, Roger Noriega (also involved in the Iran/Contra scandal, the U.S. backed coup in Venezuela in 2002, and the ouster of Pres. Aristide from Haiti in 2004), Roberto Carmona and the Arcadia Foundation created by the CIA (according to the Mexican newspaper La Jornada, Venezuelan lawyer Roberto-Carmona Borjas helped to draft some of the infamous anti-constitutional "Carmona decrees" after Hugo Chávez was overthrown in the April 2002 military coup. After Chávez was returned to power, Carmona Borjas fled to the United States where he found his calling as a leading anti-Chávez figure and, more recently, as a fierce critic of the Zelaya regime in Honduras. see Nikolas Kozloff,, 7/14/09). They associated themselves with the right wing and formed a conspiracy. They said I was a communist, a friend of Fidel, a friend of Chavez.

Whether all this means that the “Jefe” of the American Empire is some combination of the Southern Command, Otto Reich, Roberto Carmona, Roger Noreiga, and the CIA is never made clear. But it seems that some combination of these notorious figures, most of them quite prominent during the Bush years and before, together with whatever economic interests still dominate what’s left of the U.S. empire in Latin America (United Fruit Co., Chevron & Big Oil, AT&T, and mining interests, not to mention the bankers who dominate—and sometimes bring down—the world’s finances) can be assumed to be involved.

Still, I wish Amy Goodman had asked the question. Because it’s one thing to make assumptions about a conspiracy; it’s another to have its “jefe” (or jefes) named and outed.

We need no conspiracy, however, to see that whoever is or is not the empire’s “jefe,” the agreed-upon strategies and tactics are getting always more ruthless. This is laid out in detail by Conn Hallinan’s piece, “The New Face of War,” posted on on May 28. There, Hallinan points out that with the openly-acknowledged assassination of Osama bin Laden, and the appointment of General David Petraeus as head of the CIA, the United States has in essence announced that the firewall that used to exist between intelligence gathering and military action, between suspicion and extra-judicial murder has now evaporated. If the empire decides that someone—based on shadowy evidence or no evidence at all—is considered a threat to “stability” or “order,” then the legitimate response is to simply kill that person. No trial necessary. No evidence necessary. No declaration of war necessary. If you show up on the anti-terrorist or anti-U.S. radar, you can be eliminated with further ado. In a sense, this constitutes the merger of the Rambo-type tactics we see in countless movies and TV dramas with real-world policy (apparently, many Bushies were great fans of rogue agent Jack Bauer, of the TV series, “24.”) Concern for the niceties of the law are routinely characterized as silly and counter-productive. The criminal can get away; he can “lawyer up;” he can get off on technicalities. Or simply disappear. “Justice” cannot be done. So the Rambo types dispense their own ‘rough’ justice. And though there is always a curtsy to the legal procedures that should have been followed, the satisfaction on the faces of all concerned and the relief on the faces of those who have lost their “loved ones” to the predatory criminals, provide justification enough to the viewer. Kill first and worry about the law later. That’s the mantra being chanted daily and nightly on countless shows. And it has now become the mantra of the government that increasingly infiltrates our lives and monitors our communications via the internet. All snooping is legal. And once that is legal, so are all the eliminative tactics that weapons manufacturers can dream up.

What an irony. After the failure, as Hallinan points out, of the Powell doctrine (total war power), the Rumsfeld Doctrine (lean, technical military), and the Petraeus Doctrine (counterinsurgency by establishing trust with the locals), we have now come to the Obama doctrine: targeted assassination. Nevermind capturing the “jefes” and bringing them to justice. Just kill them. It’s cheaper, more efficient, and the cause of far less complication, and, as a bonus, public approbation.

In a sense, then, perhaps Zelaya and Aristide and Chavez should count themselves among the lucky ones. If today’s policies had prevailed, all might have been simply assassinated. On the other hand, perhaps our “jefes” of Empire should start to watch their backs as well, for while the truism doesn’t always hold, with enough time it often does: what goes around comes around.

Lawrence DiStasi

addendum, June 3:
An interview Amy Goodman did today with investigative journalist Seymour Hersh adds some steam to the “jefe of the Empire” question raised by Manuel Zelaya. Hersh, in a speech at the University of Minnesota on March 10th, described a Bush administration “executive assassination wing” that reported directly to Vice-President Dick Cheney. Hersh said that the wing, over which Congress has no oversight, has been going into countries, “not talking to the ambassador or to the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving.” Hersh referred to a statement confirming the existence of the wing made by John Hannah, deputy chief of staff for Cheney, who admitted to Wolfe Blitzer on CNN, in Hersh’s description of it, that “Yes, we go after people suspected of crimes against America. And I (this is Hersh speaking) have to tell you that there’s an executive order, signed by Jerry Ford, President Ford, in the ’70s, forbidding such action. It’s not only contrary—it’s illegal, it’s immoral, it’s counterproductive.” Hersh went on to say that the hit squads have gone into “at least a dozen countries” in the Middle East and Latin America, with, contrary to what John Hannah said, “no legal basis for it whatever.”

The upshot: another candidate for Jefe of Empire is none other than our old friend, Dick Cheney. In addition to his nefarious role as Vice President under George W. Bush, he has also been Secretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush, White House Chief of Staff under Gerald Ford, and U.S. House of Representatives Minority Whip prior to being chosen as Defense Secretary under Bush I. When one considers that this same George H.W. Bush was also head of the CIA in the late 70s before he became VP under Ronald Reagan, then President himself, then behind-the-scenes President under his son, (i.e. the central power broker from the 70s through the first decade of the 21st century), one can easily envision him and/or his family (his father Prescott Bush was a long-time senator from Connecticut and, along with father-in-law banker George Herbert Walker a powerful financial supporter of the Nazis—see “Nazis and Bush Family History,” online at as, if not the “jefes” of empire, then as the center around which other “jefes” would cluster. If they would support the Nazis and import several to the U.S. after WWII to serve as American "advisers," what would such distinguished patriots NOT do?

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