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La macchina della sicurezza americana in azione


The big war news on the front page of the New York Times last weekend was headlined: “U.S. Is Planning Buildup in Gulf After Iraq Exit.” Its first sentence: “The Obama administration plans to bolster the American military presence in the Persian Gulf after it withdraws the remaining troops from Iraq this year, according to officials and diplomats.” Of course, for those reading TomDispatch.com, this news was undoubtedly less than startling, given that Nick Turse nailed down the same long-term buildup almost two years ago in a post presciently entitled “Out of Iraq, Into the Gulf.”

Nonetheless, that Times piece has a little gem buried in it, one that should get Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the Onion Orwellian-geopolitical-statement-of-the-week award. The newspaper of record quotes her as saying, “We will have a robust continuing presence throughout the region, which is proof of our ongoing commitment to Iraq and to the future of that region, which holds such promise and should be freed from outside interference to continue on a pathway to democracy.” Yes, it’s a fact: the United States is, on principle, against outside interference everywhere on Earth, and if you don’t believe us, we’re happy to garrison your country to prove it.

It’s evidently not, by the way, the season to write for TomDispatch.com. State Department official Peter Van Buren, whose firsthand book about the debacle of “nation-building” in Iraq, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, has gotten so much attention lately, and who wrote at this site about his (mis)treatment by his employer, has now been stripped of his security clearance and suspended from his job. He’s at home facing future punishment for being an honest man -- and so, evidently, not up to diplomatic snuff -- in his continuing blunt comments on the State Department’s path to madness in Iraq. Here’s how the official departmental letter put the matter: “[Y]ou have shown an unwillingness to comply with Department rules and regulations regarding writing and speaking on matters of official concern, including by publishing articles and blog posts on such matters without submitting them to the Department for review, and that your judgment in the handling of protected information is questionable.” Mind you, this is in an American world of security overkill in which, according to Dana Priest and William M. Arkin of the Washington Post, 854,000 people hold top security clearances, while "some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security, and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States."

In the meantime, Ann Jones, who has regularly reported for this site from grim global battle zones, finally left them for -- one bloody massacre aside -- a land so peaceable you can practically hear a pin drop. I’m talking about Norway. But as with Van Buren, no matter how far you go, the U.S. government still gets its man (... er, woman). What that’s meant for her is that, even in peaceable Norway, Jones found herself embroiled in some small corner of post-9/11 American national security madness. We’ve all heard about what happens when you find yourself trapped on a no-fly list, but how about a no-pay list (and worse yet, it’s your own money)?