Collateral Damage in 1989 and 1999: "Clear and Present Danger" after 10 years

Workers World / Chicago wwchi at
Fri Aug 13 01:44:49 MDT 1999

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<DIV>The firm which employs me has created an "Employee Involvement
Committee" whose function is to stage some innocuous activities of
"amusement" for the workers as a substitute for more dangerous forms
of organization, such as unionization.  Every month this committee
organizes a "book swap", at which the workers put theiir old books
which they no longer want on a table and can take other people's old books away
with them.  I have been a major contributor and recipient at these
affairs.  This is my excuse for obtaining a copy of the book "Clear
and Present Danger" by Tom Clancy, written in 1989, which I had never
read.  (I never saw the movie either.)  It is possible that some list
members outside the U.S. may not recognize the name, but Clancy, whose best
known work is "Hunt for Red October", is a very successful author who
glorifies the hard-working spies, Green Berets, weapons scientists, and other
warriors who have made the U.S. what it is today.  Clancy has many friends
in the U.S. covert and overt war machine, and his novels have a reputation for
technical accuracy.</DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>I confess to the crime of wasting a few hours reading this book. 
(Although it was time which my employer had paid for.)  However, it was not
a complete waste.  The book concerns a U.S. secret war operation supposedly
being conducted against the Medellin drug cartel in Colombia.  Today the
U.S. is conducting precisely such operations in Colombia (and Peru and
elsewhere), although they are directed against the revolutionary forces, not
against the drug lords.  Clancy describes the FARC as the "politically
bankrupt" servants of the drug lords, a statement which has not stood the
test of time.  Clancy did not think to include such a fantastic detail as
having the wife of one of the top military officials on station turn out to be a
cocaine smuggler herself, which has turned out to be the case in 1999.</DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>I suppose I should write "SPOILER WARNING" here, because I'm
going to discuss the plot of the book - don't read any further if you want to
read the book yourself and want to be surprised!  But you've had ten years
to read it.  In the book, the (apparently Republican) U.S. president, in an
election year, who is under political pressure to show "concrete
results" in the war on drugs, authorizes a series of covert military
operations.  These include: intercepting drug-smuggling planes over the
Gulf of Mexico, ordering them to land, and shooting them down if they refuse;
putting a force of jungle-trained Latino soldiers in Colombia to watch the drug
lords' airfields to notify when the smugglers' airplanes are taking off; sending
this same force to destroy drug processing facilities and kill the guards and
workers whom they find; and dropping bombs on houses where drug lords are
meetings.  In general, this is pretty much the sort of operation that the
U.S. -claims- to be conducting in Colombia today.</DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>But here is the interesting part: the author's treatment of these matters
gives us a look at the way the political landscape of the U.S. and the world has
changed since 1989.  The reader of the book is supposed to be increasingly
disturbed, then shocked, at the fact that the U.S. is conducting these
activities on the soil of Colombia, a "friendly" country with which
the U.S. is not at war.  The reader is expected to believe that the U.S.
has gone too far, has "crossed the line," is pursuing good ends with
impermissible means.  And this is a book written by a right-winger! 
Furthermore, the architects of these operations are terrified of public
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>In one of the turning points of the plot, as I mentioned, a U.S. Navy plane
drops a laser-guided bomb which explodes next to a house where drug lords are
having a meeting.  The wife and children of one of the drug lords are also
killed.  The bomb has been designed to produce the appearance of a car bomb
explosion; it is not apparent that it was dropped from an airplane.  The
operations director of the CIA, Ritter, reports to Cutter, the president's
national security adviser:</DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>   "...we got d'Alejandro, Fernandez, Wagner, and Untiveros,
plus the usual collateral damage."</DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>   "What do you mean?"</DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>   Ritter looked again at the satellite photo of the house ...
"I mean there were a bunch of security guards around, and we</DIV>
<DIV>   probably got a bunch of them.  Unfortunately there was
also Untiveros's family - wife, a couple of kids, and various</DIV>
<DIV>   domestic servants."</DIV>
<DIV>   </DIV>
<DIV>   Cutter snapped erect in his char. "You didn't tell me
anything about that!  This was supposed to be a surgical strike. 
<DIV>   What if the papers get hold of it?  This is cold-blooded
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>The president reacts the same way:</DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>   "Oh my God," the President said, watching one of the
several televisions in the Oval Office.  "If anybody figures this
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>   "Mr. President, we've dealt with this sort of thing
before," Cutter pointed out.  "The Libyan bombing under Reagan,
the air</DIV>
<DIV>   strikes into Lebanon and ---"</DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>   "And we caught hell for it every time!  Nobody cares
why we did it, all they care about is that we killed the wrong people.</DIV>
<DIV>   Christ, Jim, that was a kid!  What are we going to
say?  'Oh, that's too bad, but he was in the wrong place'?"</DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>Cutter is going to be the "leading U.S. villain" in the
book.  In these books there is always a leading foreign villain - evil,
skilled, Soviet-trained, diabolically clever, bold, and energetic - and a
leading U.S. villain, who is a self-serving, cowardly, amoral man, not a real
soldier but a REMF (Rear-Echelon Mother-Fucker) who will betray the hard-working
and heroic U.S. soldiers and spies to the leading foreign villain.  The
leading foreign villain in this book is a guy named Felix Cortez, a
Soviet-trained Cuban intelligence officer who has defected and now works for the
drug cartel.  Later in the book, Cortez tries to blackmail Cutter: he wants
Cutter to</DIV>
<DIV>abandon the U.S. soldiers in Colombia so that Cortez can have them killed
as part of his own plot to become the supreme</DIV>
<DIV>drug lord of Colombia.</DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>   "Sorry," Cutter said. 
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>   Cortez made a helpless, shrugging gesture with both
hands.  "In that case we will inform the world that your </DIV>
<DIV>   government has invaded Colombia and has committed murder on a
particularly epic scale.  You are aware, of</DIV>
<DIV>   course, of what will probably happen to you, your President,
and many senior members of your government." ...</DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>   "You can't blackmail the United States
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>   " .... Your risk is exposure.  Untiveros's family
was there, you know, his wife and two little ones, eleven domestic</DIV>
<DIV>   servants, I believe.  All dead from your bomb.  I
will not count those who were carrying guns, of course.  A soldier</DIV>
<DIV>   must take a soldier's chance.  As did I.  As must
you, Admiral, except that yours is not a soldier's chance.  Your</DIV>
<DIV>   chance will be before your courts and television reporters,
and congressional committees."</DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>Cutter agrees to Cortez's demands, and, in a later scene, orders Ritter to
go along.  "If this gets blown," he says, "the</DIV>
<DIV>-best- thing you can hope for is that we'll be on the same
cellblock."  When Ritter balks, Cutter threatens to blame</DIV>
<DIV>the whole operation on Ritter:</DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>   "I just could be the guy who exposes you.  Then your
attempts to tie me in with all this would merely look like</DIV>
<DIV>   a feeble effort at exculpating yourself."</DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>   "It would still wreck the election."</DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>   "And guarantee your imprisonment.  Hell, Fowler [the
president's opponent in the election, apparently a Democrat, who</DIV>
<DIV>   is a foe of the death penalty] doesn't even believe in putting
serial killers in the chair.  How do you think he'll react</DIV>
<DIV>   to dropping bombs on people who haven't even been indicted -
and what about that 'collateral damage' you were so</DIV>
<DIV>   cavalier about? ..."</DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>Reading this book in the year 1999 - after the Gulf War, after Somalia,
after Khartoum, after Yugoslavia - I felt a strange sense </DIV>
<DIV>of unreality and disorientation, as if the characters were visitors from
another world with strange motivations and presuppositions.</DIV>
<DIV>"What ARE they afraid of?" I kept asking myself.  "What
IS this risk of exposure?  When Cortez threatens to go and</DIV>
<DIV>'inform the world' that the U.S. is conducting covert operations in
Colombia, why doesn't Cutter just laugh at him?  We</DIV>
<DIV>have been 'informing the world' about the war crimes of the United States
for years!  What is so 'extreme' about these</DIV>
<DIV>operations?  Why is the reader expected to be horrified that children
were killed by a U.S. bomb?  Why are the media</DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2>and Congress expected to be unforgiving of
'collateral damage'?  And how, by the way, is it possible that the
Democrats nominated</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2>an opponent of the death penalty, who, we find,
is ahead in the polls by 14 points!"  (You have to think hard to
remember that in</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2></FONT><FONT size=2>1988 the Democrats really
DID nominate an opponent of the death penalty.)</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT size=2></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT size=2>You might answer that the right wing is always paranoid about
the danger and power of the left, and point to the Iran-Contra investigations,
the trials of Oliver North, etc.  But that doesn't explain everything,
because in fact Clancy's alter ego and hero, Jack Ryan, who ultimately rescues
the remaining soldiers from Colombia in a hurricane (hey, I gave you the spoiler
warning ;-) ), is also upset, to the point of stealing Ritter's documents and
taking them to the heroic FBI, which then investigates Cutter.  No, the
mismatch between the ideas of the book's characters and the reality of today
reflects in large part a real shift in the terms of political struggle, from the
"kindler, gentler" years of the Reagan administration [SIC] to the
more shamelessly murderous imperialism of today, which is entirely comfortable
with "collateral damage" and perfectly willing to say that, yes, the
girl crossing the bridge was "in the wrong place."  Of course,
the collapse of the USSR and Warsaw Pact governments is the material reality
underlying this shift.  Because the real function of the courts, the
"independent" media, the Democrats in Congress, and so on, in so far
as they ever really did object to or restrain or impede the unchecked
murderousness of the spies and generals, was to "save imperialism from
itself" - that is, to keep them from doing such monstrous things that
people, and organized groups, and governments, around the world, would turn to
socialism and/or the socialist camp for solutions.  And now that is not
seen as a danger.    </FONT></DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2>Louis Paulsen</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2>member, Workers World Party,
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2><A
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2></FONT> </DIV></BODY></HTML>
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 Gary MacLennan wrote:
> >>>>
> <excerpt>Hi
> Were you watching the programme on BBC2 on Jean Paul Sartrel? There were
> two others before --on Nietsche and Heidegger.
> What did you think of them of the programmes?
> Warm regards
> George Pennefather
> Be free to check out our Communist Think-Tank Website:
> <<>
> </excerpt>
> Jeesuss, I almost choked with envy when I read this.  Does anyone have a
> copy of them?  I could send blank tapes? Would love to see them.  And
> pigs will fly before they show them here in Oz.
> regards
> Gary
Is there a possibility for us poor mortals without access to BBC2 to
find out what is that all about?


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