What is the deep state within, behind, or above the United States government? Let’s look at some real world examples of brief moments when we the public get to glimpse the dark underbelly of power, indicating what kind of beast it might be. Let’s begin wth a recent incident. Bloomberg News reported that Mitch McConnell threatened Trump. He told him that, if he pardoned Julian Assange, the Senate Republicans would ensure he was impeached even after he left office. Why was McConnell so concerned about ending the torture of an innocent man? And on whose behalf was he concerned? Was he acting alone or as an intermediary for others? Who exactly was worried about Assange going free? Why was he still deemed such a threat? Is Assange even still sane after all these years of solitary confinement? What harm could he do at this point?
Maybe it was simply punishment and setting an example to disuade others. Assange had revealed the illegal and unconstitutional actions of the deep state, and such forced democratic transparency and public scrutiny could not be forgiven. Still, threatening Trump is an audacious move, considering how much of a wild card he is. A threat might have backfired and sent Trump careening into unpredictable behavior. Besides, if the report on McConnell is true, that sounds like blackmail and should be prosecuted, but it’s reported in the corporate media as a normal news story — politics as usual, if a bit shady. [One is reminded of the FBI’s COINTELPRO-style attempt to blackmail Martin Luther King Jr. into suicide.] There has been little outrage in the media or among politicians, as few have pity for Trump. Most of the corporate media didn’t bother to say much about it. In web search results, a few articles from the alternative media showed up where the accusation of blackmail was suggested, although Tucker Carlson came close to calling it that on his show.
A worse case, from several years back, involved the Senate Intelligence Committee when they investigated and filed a report on “enhanced interrogation.” This investigaton was justfied by the fact that torture is illegal according to US and international law (e.g., the US government prosecuted WWII Japanese soldiers for waterboarding and sentenced them to death). That is why they located the torture prison in a foreign country that is outside of US legal jurisdiction. Trying to get around US law was an admission of guilt, althugh they would have preferred that the torture prison had remained a secret (one strongly suspects that many such secret prisons, torture or otherwise, are maintained by the deep state without ever being disclosed).
Anyway, the CIA criminally hacked the Senate’s computers, spied on the committee, intimidated Senate staffers, and attempted to block the release of the committee’s report about the CIA’s torture program. When caught, the CIA Director lied about it and then later refused to admit that it was wrong. Senator Dianne Feinstein, previously a supporter of spying on US citizens, suddenly became a critic when she found herself the target of spying. Yet, even then, nothing came of it. The CIA, having seriously broken the law and attacked democracy, was let off the hook with a mere apology, once again demonstrating that the rule of law only applies to the rest of us without power. Sadly, who ever revealed these crimes, if they had been caught, would’ve been treated like a criminal as happened to Assange or else they would’ve disappeared (by the way, who was the leaker and what happened to them?).
The deep state isn’t any single organization or group of people. It’s simply the collective actions that happen behind the scenes in determining what the government does — whether the ultimate source of power is high up in the government itself, in quasi-governmental organizations and networks, or in a cabal of puppet masters entirely outside anything that looks like government at all. In the above examples, these activities occasionally come to the surface, but most of what is done by the deep state never sees the light of day. When something does get ‘leaked’ or reported, it’s probably often because the deep state wanted it to be known, to serve as a warning or to manipulate media narratives and public perception. Our government is so tightly controlled, as is media reporting and public debate. Unplanned leaks, of course, are preferrably kept to a minimum.
As McConnell warned Trump, the CIA gave a warning to the Senate (similar to deposing Saddam Hussein and annihilating Iraq with an illegal war of aggression was a warning to other countries to not defy American interests or rather the deep state’s interests) — we live in a world of warnings. It is made clear, for those aware of the deep state, that everyone will do what the deep state demands or there will be harsh consequences. If the Senate Intelligence Committee hadn’t submitted to this power play and instead continued such investigations, and if they weren’t open to bribery or other soft coercion, the CIA would’ve found other ways of eliminating or silencing the Senators and staffers involved by means of blackmail, scandals, etc; maybe even accidental deaths.
Consider the death of Representative Sonny Bono when he was about to begin an official investigation that never happened because no one dared to follow up on it. Accident? Maybe or maybe not. He wasn’t the only politician to die skiing into a tree — less than a week before Bono’s death Michael Kennedy, son of assassinated Robert F. Kennedy, also had a similar tree-related ski accident (in that case, it seemed a more obvious accident). Or think of Paul Wellstone, someone on Karl Rove’s shit list, coming to an early death in a plane accident. And there is the case of Michael Connell, a witness in a case involving Karl Rove, who also met his end in a plane crash, after Rove supposedly threatened him. There is quite a list of politically-involved people dying in this manner, which makes one wonder what is the probability of dying in a plane for those in politics vs those not in politics.
Generally, there is a long history of investigators and witnesses suspiciously and conveniently dying of accidents and suicides when US officials and other powerful figures are investigated (Clint Curts, Ray Lemme, etc). Or people are suicided as well when they simply hold too much info that could hurt certain individuals and interests (e.g., Jeffrey Epstein supposedly killing himself in his prison cell precisely when the video camera failed and the guard was asleep). The corporate media has a habit of not doing investigative journalism into such coincidences, as everyone knows conspiracy theories are for loonies — a view promulgated by the deep state while inventing conspiracy theories of their own to muddy the water.
It’s probably why Sanders toes the line. He understands the power that could come down on him like a sledgehammer. Even Trump has enough sense of self-preservation to know when to back down and do what he’s told. Speaking of being at war with the deep state as political rhetoric is one thing, but actually challenging the deep state will really get one in trouble. It’s almost guaranteed that anyone who has been in DC government for decades (Bushes, Clintons, etc) is either in the deep state, an asset or agent of the deep state, controlled by the deep state, or otherwise subservient to and silent about the deep state. The problem with Trump is he turned out to be a loose cannon because of narcissism, mental illness, and senility; and so he was never going to be allowed into the deep state, despite spending decades as a political actor at the edge of it. He was a pawn of forces he didn’t understand.
This deep state doesn’t care about the United States, per se. All these malignant dominators care about is their own power that increasngly is international or transnational. I suspect that, if the US were to collapse, the CIA would continue to operate as an international power structure, although it likely would rebrand itself. The US serves the CIA or the deeper power behind it, not the other way around. The US is the present headquarters of the international deep state of inverted totalitarianism, but if a new global superpower took control this same global power elite would relocate their headquarters elsewhere. They go after whistleblowers and publishers of leaks for self-interested agendas, not patriotic defense of the nation-state.
On a more mundane level, this shift in political loyalty can be seen in the more open behavior of politicians. The US isn’t a normal country nor is it even a normal empire. Consider that a surpising number of US politicians have multiple citizenships. Technically, the US government doesn’t acknowledge the citizenships of other countries, but neither does it require loyalty to other countries be denounced. Not only can US politicans and other elites have multiple citizenships but also multiple houses, bank accounts, etc in other countries. If anything goes wrong in the US, they’d abandon ship in an instant and leave the rest of us to clean up the mess. They perceive themselves as a global ruling elite. Nationalism is so bourgeois.
That wouldn’t have been true of the older generations of political and economic elite. From the Federalists to the Roosevelts, there were plenty of upper crust Americans who were authoritarians and imperialists, but they were fairly open about it and softened it with patriotic nationalism and paternalistic noblesse oblige. Also, in the past, most business leaders accepted economic nationalism as the default position, identifying the nation’s interests as their own. None of these elites were neoliberals (with the pretense of) favoring unrestricted and unegulated global ‘free’ trade (enforced by neocon militarism) for they assumed that economics was a part of politics, and that both were defined by patriotic loyalty to one’s country. This would’ve meant an old boy’s club, just not a deep state as we know it and certainly not inverted totalitarianism.
That said, there was a reason the US government moved away from those old power structures. The Populist Movement, followed by the Progressive Era, was in response to immense corruption and elitist cronyism, along with machine politics and other kinds of local oppression such Jim Crow, company towns, etc. For all our complaints about our present system, the American ruling elite is less violent toward its own citizens than it was in the past, although now more violent to foreigners in having become the leading military empire. Certainly, the corruption didn’t go away but changed form in becoming more centralized and systematized. In an earlier era, local problems could be dealt with by democratic means or else direct action of protests, strikes, or riots — sometimes even gun battles between workers and corporate goons. Now the ruling elite, ever more distant, act as if they are untouchable.
Trump may have thought he was part of this untouchable class. And that seems to have been true for so many decades. Going by the evidence, he could’ve been prosecuted and imprisoned so many times in his lifetime. Yet, for some reason, he and his family seemed to get away with all kinds of things — possibly: tax evasion, money laundering, political bribery, sexual misconduct, etc. The legal system acted as if uninterested, such that some have wondered if he wasn’t working for the US government because of his ties to organized crime in New York City, Russia, and probably elsewhere. If he did have an agreement at one time, that agreement is apparently now null and void. As for the likes of Assange, it didn’t matter that he wasn’t a US citizen at all. The deep state doesn’t limit its claim of power and authority to the US itself. His only option of escape, like Edward Snowden, would have been to seek refuge within the territory of a competing global superpower with its own nefarious deep state.
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