Interview With Glenn Greenwald on National Security and Foreign Policy

todayJune 10, 2013 3 1

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Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – Did you ever think that your political alliances, particularly in foreign policy, would come from so many different factions that would not traditionally be thought of as likeminded on anything, like libertarians want to legalize marijuana, the anti-war left, those on the right like Pat Buchanan that has a similar view on foreign policy?  The view towards foreign policy is really forming some strange new alliances, don’t you think?  Check out today’s transcript for the rest…


Here’s the latest from Glenn Greenwald:

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Begin Mike Church Show Transcript

Mike:  I enjoyed your last bit on Bill Maher.  I couldn’t tell because I wasn’t there, but it appeared as though you took Maher a little bit by surprise by telling him: You know, Bill, if we weren’t going around the world and doing all the things we’re doing, maybe people wouldn’t be so angry at us.  You posted a column yesterday about this barbaric murder on the streets of London and how it’s being classified as an act of terror.  In your column you said: Wait a minute, if that’s an act of terror, what is it that the United States and UK do around the world?  What do you call that?  Illuminate the audience on your last piece, please.


Glenn Greenwald:  Sure.  Whenever there’s an attempted attack or a successful attack on the United States or Western countries that are allies, like Britain, as happened in Boston a few weeks ago and then two days ago in London, there’s this immediate sense of not just outrage, which is understandable, because when you see violence, it’s natural to be outraged, but also kind of shocked and surprised and bewilderment, like how can anybody be so monstrous as to do something like this?  There’s even a kind of subtext to it that’s been going on for more than a decade, which is why would anybody possibly want to come to the United States or the streets of London and kill people?

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It’s a really important question to ask and the answer is almost always obscured.  The answer that’s usually given is these are people who hate us for our freedoms or they’re Islamic extremists.  The reality is that there are huge numbers of countries around the world that are entirely free — Brazil, Japan, South Africa, Peru, Sweden — where no attacks ever take place.  The question is why do they want to attack the United States as much as they do or countries like the UK?  All you have to do to answer that is listen to what virtually every person who perpetrates violence against the United States and the UK says, which is: We are doing this because you spent decades killing innocent Muslim children and women and men, dominating our countries, occupying and invading and bombing us, propping up our dictators, and we feel this is necessary not just to avenge on that aggression but to get you to stop doing it.  We need to ask ourselves what role we play in the kind of violence that we like to denounce when we’re the targets but not so much when we perpetrate it.

james-madison-gutzman-ad-signMike:  Did you ever think that your political alliances, particularly in foreign policy, would come from so many different factions that would not traditionally be thought of as like minded on anything, like libertarians want to legalize marijuana, the anti-war left, those on the right like Pat Buchanan that has a similar view on foreign policy?  The view towards foreign policy is really forming some strange new alliances, don’t you think?

Greenwald:  I do.  I’ve been writing about the possibility and my hope for this kind of trans-partisan, trans-ideological alliance on these issues for as long as I’ve been writing about politics.  In my first book in 2006 when I denounced the Bush administration’s executive power abuses, spying on us without warrants in secret, torture, and the like.  I devoted a whole chapter to people on the right who were not just as vocal but often more vocal than Democrats in denouncing these things, people like the Cato Institute who were very early critics of Bush foreign policy and civil liberties abuses were I’ve spoken several times, columnists like George Will and former Reagan administration officials.  Then, amazingly, the first person ever to go on the floor of the Senate and talk about the evils of President Obama’s drone program and the threats it poses to liberties, the way in which it’s killed innocent Americans and people around the world was Rand Paul.

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I do think you see this alliance.  It goes back a while.  The ACLU joined with the Christian Coalition against the Patriot Act and other measures that were designed to deprive Americans of their liberties.  It sort of lurks under the surface.  The problem is that the government and the two political parties are very good at concocting ways to keep these factions that should be joined together at each other’s throat over cultural issues, symbolic issues, and the like, and that prevents these kinds of alliances.  I think more and more you see them coming.

Mike:  You used to write at  Many folks may say: If he’s a writer at Salon, that means he’s a lefty.  He’s probably a big fan of President Obama.  I’ve read almost all of your work from about 2010 onward.  I’ve gotten the distinct impression that you’re not a fan of President Obama.  Is he a big disappointment to you?

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Greenwald:  Disappointment implies that I had high expectations and that he’s fallen short.  I think you saw the kind of politician he was even back in 2008 when he was seeking the Democratic nomination.  He vowed that he would filibuster any bill that gave retroactive immunity to the telecom for the role they played in the illegal Bush spying program.  He got the nomination and as soon as he got it, he turned around and not only didn’t filibuster that bill but voted in favor of a massive expansion of surveillance powers.  I think expectations with him are pretty low, but I do think that even those of us that were pretty cynical about him from the start have been surprised at just how aggressively he’s embraced and even expanded many of the Bush-Cheney programs in foreign policy and civil liberties that, as senator and candidate he pretended to oppose.

Mike:  Glenn Greenwald from Guardian UK newspaper is on the Dude Maker Hotline with us.  A follow-up question on that.  You mentioned the 2008 campaign.  As we looked at 2012 and the Republican side of it, we had some minor movement, with Ron Paul being present, and for a while it appeared that John Huntsman might actually be a noninterventionist.  Now looking at 2016, heaven forfend we should start talking about this already, do you think that the move towards nonintervention, does it have the kind of momentum that I hope for, and I think you hope for, as we move forward?

Greenwald:  Absolutely.  For one thing, I don’t think the full significance of what Ron Paul achieved in 2012 has been even remotely realized.  He went into the reddest of red districts in the country, to Iowa and South Carolina and New Hampshire, and very boldly spoke about American foreign policy and the aggression it’s unleashed and the cost we pay financially, militarily and in terms of risk to our security.  Really that message, although in 2008 it got demonized by demagogues like Rudy Giuliani, in 2012 it really found an audience.  There were other reasons why he appealed to as many people as he did, but he didn’t hide those views.   He really featured them centrally.  I really have always believed that once Americans start to fully realize the costs that they incur from this vast, sprawling, what Dwight Eisenhower warned as the military-industrial complex, in terms of billions of dollars going to Israel and Egypt in order to protect Israel, massive military bases all around the world, sustaining this massive, permanent army that increases the power of the federal government, as they start to lose their Social Security and Medicare benefits and ask where that money is going instead and realizing it’s going to all this military adventurism, I absolutely think that kind of economic anxiety will finally reel in this sprawling leviathan.

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Mike:  You write for Guardian UK.  You had written the other day that Spencer Ackerman, who I believe is one of the editors or senior writers of Wired Magazine is going to be joining you very soon there as well.  The Guardian is worldwide.  We can read it here in the United States, but it is based in London.  Do you think that international opinion is now turning against the kind of bellicose foreign policy that certainly the Bush administration practiced and the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner has done little to stop that?

republican-shirt-ifyouhavetoask1Greenwald:  I think that’s unclear.  Interestingly, the Guardian, what I technically write for is the U.S. edition.  They have an office of about 50 people now in New York because the U.S. media has been so miserable when it comes to covering issues of U.S. militarism and imperialism.  The Guardian has developed a huge American audience on its own.  That’s why they came into the U.S.  There’s this fascinating report from the CIA in 2008 that worries about growing antiwar sentiment in Europe.  It said the way to stop this is to elect Barack Obama because it would replace the face of George Bush, which had alienated so many people, with this prettier, constitutional, progressive face of Barack Obama as the face of America’s wars and would make these wars more popular.  I think to a large extent that did happen, but even in western Europe and elsewhere, there’s a growing sense that this permanent war is just unsustainable beyond the fact that it’s morally grotesque.

Mike:  You say permanent war.  Last week, we heard high-ranking officials in the Obama administration testify that they can see the “war on terror” dragging on for another 10 to 20 years.  John McCain is famous for having said in 2008 he thought we would be in Iraq for 100 years.  Based on what you heard President Obama say yesterday at the National Defense University, do you think that the perpetual and never-ending war is now with us perpetually, to never end?

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Greenwald:  I do, at least for as long as it can be sustained financially and politically.  President Obama did say some pretty words yesterday and some nice things about the dangers of endless war and the way it destroys liberty, quoting James Madison.  He sort of said ultimately at some point we may have to stop this war.  One thing we’ve learned is that his pretty speeches bear almost no relationship to his actions, except that they indicate what he’s not likely to do.  I think the bigger issue is this sprawling national security state composed of massive corporations and political agencies and officials who benefit greatly from this endless war, both financially and in terms of power.  They are very vested in having it never end.  They wield a lot of power.  Until there is some competing force demanding its end, which can really only come from the citizens, it’s impossible to see why or how it would.

Mike:  When the president also yesterday talked about the use of drones, and I was talking about this earlier today, that the danger with this is that this sterilizes warfare.  You have people sitting in nondescript buildings thousands of miles from where the action is and they’re moving pixels on a screen.  They have no weapons in their hand, per se, or in actuality, but they have the power to unleash a weapon.  To use the drone as the weapon of choice now, or it seems that President Obama has used the drone as the weapon of choice, are we dangerously entering a time in which our actions have become now so mechanized and computerized that even the killing of other human beings doesn’t have the impact, and won’t that make never-ending war even greater of a possibility?

Sidebar_ad_Secede_die_baseball_capGreenwald:  That’s a great question.  I think drones make never-ending war more likely for two reasons.  One is what you just said.  It’s always been the case that the U.S. government and the media have purposely hid the identities or number of people that we kill in other countries because they don’t want the American public to have to face, in a visceral way, how many lives we’re simply extinguishing.  That’s a key thing for sustaining popular support of the war, to let people block out the fact that we’re continuously slaughtering people.  Drone do that even more because it removes us even further from the results of our violence and, as you say, makes it more clinical and mechanized.

The other reason is that one major deterrent to war for countries always has been the fact that when they fight wars, they put themselves at risk.  If you go to war, you can be killed, shot down, attacked.  What drones enable the United States to do is to kill people from very far away, safe distances.  You remove that cost of war that has always been an impediment, which is the fact that you yourself can be killed as you engage in the violence, and makes it almost risk-free, or at least much less riskier.  That, too, I think makes the willingness of political leaders to engage in violence much higher.  Of course, there is the danger, and I don’t see why it won’t happen, that drones will start to be used by U.S. domestic police forces, not necessarily huge predator drones with hellfire missiles but small handheld ones.  Once you get the population to accept the framework that drones should and can be used to kill bad guys, why would it be confined to foreign nationals?  It’ll also be used to kill bad guys on domestic soil as well.  I think that poses all sorts of other dangers.

End Mike Church Show Transcript


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Vry thought provoking transcript. I am really beginning to acquire a whole new view of foreign policy. Thank you Mike Church for all the work and research you’ve done on this subject!

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