Security Blanket: Western Democracy and the Strategy of Tension
Monday, 24 November 2008The idea that a democratic government would deliberately create fake "extremist groups" then send them out to foment violence and terrorism -- in order to discredit legitimate opposition to elite rule and to "justify" authoritarian powers -- has long been derided in "serious" circles as that worst of modern heresies: "conspiracy theory." Anyone advancing such a preposterous notion is instantly relegated to the ranks of the "lunatic fringe," and dismissed with varying degrees of contempt and condescension.
And the woeful fact that millions of the ruminants out there in the vast public herd swallow these wild tales and believe that their betters are up to no good is also widely deplored in the higher circles of public discourse. As any fully-accredited, perk-laden, sinecured think-tanker can tell you, democratic governments are led by men and women devoted to public service. Sure, there can be fierce disputes over policies and approaches and outcomes and ideologies and competence. Sure, some people may step over a line here and there in their pursuit of what they believe is the nation's best interests. But just as western democracies do not torture, do not launch aggressive wars, do not spy upon their own people or imprison them by the millions, they most assuredly do not create and support extremist groups and instigate acts of terror and chaos to advance authoritarian agendas.
It is indeed unfortunate that the general public is prey to these disturbing theories, which breed such a widespread distrust of the noble intentions and essential (if occasionally misguided or incompentently executed) goodness of our leading men and women. However, there is a very reasonable explanation for the credence given to these fringe beliefs:
They happen to be true.
We've written often here of the Pentagon's plan to foment terrorism where needed to achieve the goals of the "National Security State." This is but one of a staggering array of examples of the use of "the strategy of tension" by the "advanced" Western democracies of the modern world. This week came yet another. As Robert Mancini reports in the Guardian, the former president of Italy, Francesco Cossiga, let a great many cats out of the bag when he gave some sage advice to Italy's current interior minister, Robert Maroni, on how to deal with the ongoing protests by students and professors over funding cuts for higher education. As Mancini notes, Cossiga -- who had once been interior minister himself, as well as prime minister -- told the Quotidiano Nazionale:
Mancini notes that Cossiga's advice tracks closely with his own experience at the head of Italy's security organs in the 1970s:
Yes, the story of terrorist creation, chaos and murder by Western governments is an old one -- especially in Italy, the epicenter of Operation Gladio, which I outlined in a Moscow Times column some years ago:
And as we have often noted here, similar operations -- the "El Salvador option," death squads, "High-Value Targeting," etc. -- have been an integral part of the Anglo-American subjegation of Iraq. Indeed, they are a pillar of the "counterinsurgency doctrine" proclaimed by the other president-in-waiting, David Petraeus, and now avidly embraced by the War Machine. As Tara McElvey reports in The American Prospect, the Pentagon is eager to apply "High-Value Targeting" and refinements of the "Phoenix Program" -- in which U.S. forces and local proxies murdered more than 20,000 people -- and the whole panoply of "psy-ops" to imperial imbroglios around the world, applying them "to Afghanistan, then Pakistan, the Philippines, Colombia, Somalia, and elsewhere."
It's true, of course, that the American people -- and Europeans, as well -- are showing signs of growing weariness and wariness of the heavy-handed security regimes their governments have imposed upon them. There also seems to be little enthusiasm for plowing ahead in the various killing fields opened up by their elites to reap the enormously profitable blood fruits of war. Public toleration for this extravagant adventurism will be even more diminished as the cratering of the global economy -- caused by the greed and deceit of those same elites -- continues to deepen.
But more war is exactly what we've been promised by our agents of change. More war, an even bigger War Machine, "tougher" security measures, national ID cards packed with personal data and tracking devices, more surveillance cameras, new "preventive detention" laws -- and more unbounded authority to use public money to bail out the elite. Yet how to make this happen in the current atmosphere of exhaustion and anxiety? How to catalyze the public into continuing to support the Security State? How to discredit the rising chorus of opposition to neocolonialism, elite cronyism, rampant militarism and growing authoritarianism?
Elite elders like Francesco Cossiga know the answer: the strategy of tension. The Gladio way. Was this the kind of thing Joe Biden was talking about, when he said the "young president" would be tested by a crisis, and forced to take unpopular measures in response?
It seems our "interesting times" are going to continue unabated in this bold new era.
Chris Floyd has been a writer and editor for more than 25 years, working in the United States, Great Britain and Russia for various newspapers, magazines, the U.S. government and Oxford University. Floyd co-founded the blog Empire Burlesque, and is also chief editor of Atlantic Free Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This column is republished here with the permission of the author.
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This story was published on November 20, 2008.
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