by William Skink
I finished a series on Netflix this week that originally aired on CBS, called Jericho. The premise is what kept me watching through the melodrama, which was obnoxious at times. There will probably be some spoilers in this post, so you’ve been warned.
The show begins with the protagonist, Jake, returning to his hometown, Jericho, Kansas. Then a nuclear bomb goes off in Denver and everyone freaks out except for the mysterious guy who just arrived with his family, a guy who has curiously specific advice for dealing with nuclear fallout.
As the show progresses the audience learns that there were 23 nuclear bombs set off in a coordinated terrorist attack that plunges America into a survivalist’s wet dream. The attacks are blamed on Iran and North Korea, but the mysterious guy knows better and ultimately finds out that the attacks were coordinated at the highest levels of the US government. The result is an attempt by a new government based in Cheyenne, Wyoming (complicit in the attacks) trying to take over the remnants of the Federal government east of the Mississippi.
The first season is 28 episodes and the second season is a 7 episode wrap-up that makes it appear the show wasn’t cleared for more time, so they had to rush to tie up the narrative. It’s the second season that really got me thinking about authority, occupation and following orders. I swear I’m going somewhere relevant with this, so bare with me.
One of the main bad guys in this fictional series is the head of DHS (Department for Homeland Security). Another bad guy is a private contractor that works for Ravenswood, a clear reference to the company of mercenaries formerly known as Blackwater. Ravenswood is part of a company called J&R, a company that makes me think of Halliburton. Add this to the fact the new government is based in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and it starts looking like this series is a commentary on the reign of Dick Cheney and the unaccountable power that has poisoned the Federal government after 9/11.
In the second season, a military commander is sent to Jericho to restore order after Jericho goes to war with a neighboring town. The military commander is an honorable man and struggles with the growing realization that he is serving a corrupt government. With episode titles like “Sedition” and “Patriots and Tyrants” you can clearly see where this is going.
The implication of this fictional narrative suddenly became oddly relevant this week with another controversial article from investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, claiming the US military undermined the Obama administration in 2013 over foreign policy in Syria:
The military’s resistance dates back to the summer of 2013, when a highly classified assessment, put together by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then led by General Martin Dempsey, forecast that the fall of the Assad regime would lead to chaos and, potentially, to Syria’s takeover by jihadi extremists, much as was then happening in Libya. A former senior adviser to the Joint Chiefs told me that the document was an ‘all-source’ appraisal, drawing on information from signals, satellite and human intelligence, and took a dim view of the Obama administration’s insistence on continuing to finance and arm the so-called moderate rebel groups. By then, the CIA had been conspiring for more than a year with allies in the UK, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to ship guns and goods – to be used for the overthrow of Assad – from Libya, via Turkey, into Syria. The new intelligence estimate singled out Turkey as a major impediment to Obama’s Syria policy. The document showed, the adviser said, ‘that what was started as a covert US programme to arm and support the moderate rebels fighting Assad had been co-opted by Turkey, and had morphed into an across-the-board technical, arms and logistical programme for all of the opposition, including Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State. The so-called moderates had evaporated and the Free Syrian Army was a rump group stationed at an airbase in Turkey.’ The assessment was bleak: there was no viable ‘moderate’ opposition to Assad, and the US was arming extremists.
Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, director of the DIA between 2012 and 2014, confirmed that his agency had sent a constant stream of classified warnings to the civilian leadership about the dire consequences of toppling Assad. The jihadists, he said, were in control of the opposition. Turkey wasn’t doing enough to stop the smuggling of foreign fighters and weapons across the border. ‘If the American public saw the intelligence we were producing daily, at the most sensitive level, they would go ballistic,’ Flynn told me. ‘We understood Isis’s long-term strategy and its campaign plans, and we also discussed the fact that Turkey was looking the other way when it came to the growth of the Islamic State inside Syria.’ The DIA’s reporting, he said, ‘got enormous pushback’ from the Obama administration. ‘I felt that they did not want to hear the truth.’
‘Our policy of arming the opposition to Assad was unsuccessful and actually having a negative impact,’ the former JCS adviser said. ‘The Joint Chiefs believed that Assad should not be replaced by fundamentalists. The administration’s policy was contradictory. They wanted Assad to go but the opposition was dominated by extremists. So who was going to replace him? To say Assad’s got to go is fine, but if you follow that through – therefore anyone is better. It’s the “anybody else is better” issue that the JCS had with Obama’s policy.’ The Joint Chiefs felt that a direct challenge to Obama’s policy would have ‘had a zero chance of success’. So in the autumn of 2013 they decided to take steps against the extremists without going through political channels, by providing US intelligence to the militaries of other nations, on the understanding that it would be passed on to the Syrian army and used against the common enemy, Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State.
If true, this is huge because this isn’t just military officials pushing back against the foreign policy of the White House. When the article describes actions being taken outside official political channels, we are getting very close to describing acts of treason.
Once again, Hersh should be commended for his investigative journalism. If we had more Hersh’s maybe we wouldn’t be in a situation where the Obama administration is trying to repeat the disastrous policy of regime change that has turned Libya into a haven for jihadists. And if we had more honest, accurate assessments of the consequences of US foreign policy, maybe we wouldn’t have such a propagandized population incapable of understanding the risk of America playing global cop.