The Bush administration was well known for its lack of accountability and its disregard for international law, yet if the lead proponents of outlaw governance — men such as Dick Cheney and his chief of staff David Addington — preferred to operate in the shadows, there was a political form of accountability in as much as their approach was seen as an integral feature of the neoconservative agenda — an agenda that got roundly criticized in many quarters.
This is what makes President Obama’s approach in some ways more dangerous than that of the neocons.
The New York Times reports on Obama’s secret war being conducted in Yemen and elsewhere which discredited neocons must now be applauding not only because this administration has in in so many ways adopted their approach but because this approach has now become institutionalized and legitimized by an administration that is not weighed down by the ideological baggage of its predecessor.
A convergence between the CIA — operating increasingly as a paramilitary organization — and the Pentagon — conducting more and more clandestine operations — has produced an American killing machine that operates with minimal political and legal oversight. As the Times says: “the American military campaign in Yemen began without notice in December and has never been officially confirmed.”
“Where we want to get is to much more small scale, preferably locally driven operations,” said Representative Adam Smith, Democrat of Washington, who serves on the Intelligence and Armed Services Committees.
“For the first time in our history, an entity has declared a covert war against us,” Mr. Smith said, referring to Al Qaeda. “And we are using similar elements of American power to respond to that covert war.”
Some security experts draw parallels to the cold war, when the United States drew heavily on covert operations as it fought a series of proxy battles with the Soviet Union.
And some of the central players of those days have returned to take on supporting roles in the shadow war. Michael G. Vickers, who helped run the C.I.A.’s campaign to funnel guns and money to the Afghanistan mujahedeen in the 1980s and was featured in the book and movie “Charlie Wilson’s War,” is now the top Pentagon official overseeing Special Operations troops around the globe.