• Do American Airports Suck? Yes, Yes They Do

    April 26, 2017 // 16 Comments »

    tsa toy

    Traveling by air in America is one of the best ways to see the country, although it is not always the nicest view. I recently took a fresh look, with the goal of advising my foreign friends what to expect when they drop by the United States.

    Our Air Palaces

    You’ll enjoy our older airports’ retro-touches, which evoke the Golden Age of air travel of the 1950s and 1960s. The typical lack of free WiFi, just like when your parents first visited America, the two electrical outlets serving an entire wing of the airport, the toilets which have not been cleaned since when your parents first visited America, and the “Welcome Home Troops” signs reminiscent of those displayed for soldiers coming home from that war where America invaded your country, all quaintly harken back to simpler times.

    Your chances of finding public transportation to and from the airport are slim. Maybe if you look around there’ll be an old city bus for the workers (live like a local!) And stop standing out as a “tourist,” looking for trains that connect to the city center as you’ll find nearly everywhere else in the developed world. As you pay a month’s salary out to the cab driver who is cheating you just like in Cairo, or the Uber guy 23 hours into a shift trying to feed his family, think of it all as a great only-in-the-developing world story to tell if you survive to get back home.

    Keep in mind our newer airports are clean and shiny, and look like shopping malls, our most popular places of worship. You can buy the same stuff made in some other country in the airport as out of the airport, eat at the same fast food places, and sample the daily ration of fat required by all the pre-diabetic locals. The newer airports are also a lesson in economics. America has only three viable industries left: government, our largest employer (generally off limits to foreigners, though those we accuse of being terrorists are often taken in as a kind of adjunct), retail sales, and serving/delivering things to each other. See it all while you’re here!

    Security First

    But the real treat inside our airports is that most American of things, security.

    Prior to 9/11, no one but Nazis in old movies and zoologists mapping out elephant migration routes used the term “Homeland.” But now everyone in America does. You should try it, too. Say it with the right mix of fear and awe, and the locals might not even guess American English is not your first language.

    Speaking of which, one fun thing that distinguishes our international airports from those in many other third world countries is the near-exclusive use of English. Few Americans appreciate the efforts we go to as a nation to provide these gratis tutorial sessions to you.

    A curious fact is that American airport workers seem to believe that anyone can speak English if it is blasted at them loud enough and s-l-o-w enough. Idiomatic phrases, such as “ I SAID, liquids in a baggie, 3:1, c’mon, people are waiting behind you” will be taught to you by our security staff. If you don’t catch it all the first time, don’t worry, the worker will repeat it as many times as necessary. American passengers will often help out by advising you how to manhandle your laptop, tear open wrapped gifts, disassemble iPads, and pour out bottled water purchased earlier in the airport, all so you can speed through the security checkpoint enroute to Disneyworld and not Guantanamo.

    If you are new to our shores, understand removing shoes at the airport wasn’t always some sort of American custom, but we now embrace it with fervor. Even the Japanese, who are shoe-removing fetishists, often seem unsure about wearing only socks to tread upon a filthy public floor, but you jump right in. We also love to take off our belts, jackets, and jewelry at the airport. Play along; I once saw some yokels from Communist China, where the government controls their every action, worried pants might be next. Hah!

    They quickly found out we Americans would never bow to a bully government like they do at home. We instead wait in long, slow lines for our chance to appear before a petty government official with blind power over us, all for safety. Pay attention to our unique style of officials. Unlike in some parts of the world where holding near-life-or-death power over someone is just an excuse to collect bribes, or the bored-as-hell Euro style, our airport workers approach their task with gusto.

    If you get touched by a security agent on your private parts, that’s considered good luck by many.

    You may think this anger is all directed at you, as a foreign visitor. Actually, if you are from a Muslim country, it is all directed at you. But sometimes Americans are also often singled out for some fun.

    For example, on my last trip I was selected for random extra screening, which included removing a Chapstick from my pants pocket, and opening it in front of the security person as proof it was not terrorist balm meant to moisten my lips before shouting “Allah hu Akbar!”

    Just like with the foreigners, the agent spoke English loudly to me, as if to reaffirm we are all equal here in America. He also made me open my wallet in case it included a very, very thin gun. In some countries that might be seen as a request for a bribe, but here I understood it was just bullying by a public servant.

    What happened after I passed through the checkpoint I think as a “fun” freebie for those who comes from cultures that revere elders. After discovering a typo in the name on a boarding pass, security sent an elderly woman back to the airline counter for a new one even though she said that would cause her to miss her flight, after which she would need a new boarding pass once again. You’re not going to see something like that sitting at home!

    Boarding Your Flight

    At your the gate, be sure to see who boards first, as the list includes military in uniform. I know of no other country in the world that does that, so foreign friends, watch for it as a real “thing.”

    Americans will try and rush onto the plane as if they’re not sure that there’ll be a seat for them. But looks can be deceiving, because what those citizens are actually doing is playing one of America’s favorite blood sports, fighting for overhead storage space.

    See, the airlines had this idea that since everyone carries luggage on trips, if they charged a fee for luggage, they’d get rich. Americans responded as revolutionaries do, protesting such unjust laws by dragging enough crap on to the plane as “carry on” luggage that the aisles often look like the barricade scene from Les Miserables. The plane cannot accommodate all that stuff, and so a struggle ensues.

    Watch closely for regional variations, from passive aggression to outright close combat. Have your camera ready, and let the kids take a swing! If you miss that photo while boarding, you’ll see a slimmed down version of the scrum when it is time to exit the plane. Sometimes the exit fights are even more fun; people have been drinking inflight, and there are scores to settle from the boarding process.

    You’ll soon enough arrive at your American destination feeling very much like a local — exhausted and frustrated. And isn’t feeling like you belong somewhere new one of the real goals of travel anyway?

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy, Post-Constitution America

    Secret Service Handcuffs The First Amendment

    May 9, 2016 // 8 Comments »


    Thomas Jefferson said that an informed citizenry is critical to a democracy, and with that as a cornerstone the Founders wrote freedom of the press into the First Amendment to the Constitution.

    The most basic of ideas at play is that the government should in no way be allowed to control what information the press can report to the people, and cannot place restrictions on journalists. One of the principal characteristics of any fascist state is the control of information, and thus the press is always seen as a check on government power that needs to be stomped on. Ask any surviving journalist in North Korea, or Saudi Arabia.

    And so it is with terror we learn the United States Secret Service, in the name of security, is for the first time in our Republic’s history running background checks on thousands of journalists who plan to report from this summer’s Republican and Democratic Party nominating conventions.

    Journalists who don’t pass the security screening process, for which of course there are no publicly-stated criteria and which has no system of appeal, will be denied credentials to cover the GOP convention in Cleveland, and the Democrats’ in Philadelphia. As the Daily Beast writes, this is the government deciding who can and can’t be a journalist, and through that process, heavily influencing what will be reported. Happytime government stenographers from CNN? Step right in, sir. Investigative, real journalists from The Intercept? Um, maybe not. Will a journalist from an “un-American” news source such as The Daily Worker be denied simply based on affiliation?

    Oh, the issues are many.

    For example, security clearances are typically denied to persons with an arrest record. Will that also apply to journalists who have been arrested in protest situations while exercising one or more of their First Amendment rights? Drug use is also often a negative indicator for a security clearance, so does that mean a person busted for a loose joint in college may not report from inside the convention hall?

    The Secret Service denies that a protest arrest will lead to a denial, though admits that arrests for assault, or domestic violence, charges could. At issue is that such arrests can cover a very broad spectrum of behavior, determined at a very local level. For example, imagine an African-American falsely charged with assault in some mean Texas backwater. Note also, as in most security clearance processes, the standard is an arrest, not necessarily a conviction.

    Obtaining security clearances also involves the “voluntary” turning over of personal information to the government, to often include associations, employment history, professional affiliations, fingerprints, financials and the like. If a journalist wishes not to hand over that information to the Secret Service, does that automatically bar him/her from playing his mandated role of informing the public? Apparently it does.

    There is also the question of control of all that personal information. The Secret Services states on its website that it has a contract with the Ardian Group, a private contractor, “to capture that Personally Identifiable Information for credentialing production” (though the Service itself makes the actual yes or no decision to allow access.)

    In a widely distributed “Dear Colleagues” letter, John Stanton, Washington bureau chief of BuzzFeed, asked the capper question: “Should the Secret Service have jurisdiction over the First Amendment?”

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy, Post-Constitution America

    Over-Classification at State

    November 6, 2013 // 8 Comments »

    Over-classification in our government is real.

    Designed primarily to hide the actions of the peoples’ government from the people, federal agencies now routinely slap a classified label on just about everything; the Department of Defense recently classified a memo about over-classification. Obama even signed (albeit with his fingers crossed behind his back) the Reducing Over-Classification Act, which required various parts of the federal government to (you guessed it) reduce over-classification. As part of implementing this law, federal inspectors general are supposed to “evaluate” the classification policies of the organizations.

    As a public service to inspectors general, may I suggest you take a look over at the State Department?

    State, which about a year ago sought to fire me, in part, for “revealing” a document that was labeled Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU), snail-mailed me an SBU document. That document was a form letter, appropriately classified because, why not? Let’s be a touch civilly disobedient and have a look at it:

    Like most of you (“the internet”) I have no security clearance. I am pretty sure my mail carrier does not have a security clearance, nor does the youngster at my home who first opened the mail yet there, all pink and naked, lies an actual SBU document. Now of course it is a form letter about income taxes with a rubber stamp signature, but dammit, don’t your eyes burn? Now look away! FYI, my financial information, included in the envelope, did not carry any classification. The youngster has been appropriately punished.

    Of course the whole concept of “Sensitive But Unclassified/SBU” is a bit of a joke; technically no such category of actual US Government classification actually exists. The State Department and others just sort of made up “SBU” after 9/11 in an attempt to include basically every document and email created inside Foggy Bottom in some sort of restricted category. In a report prepared by the Library of Congress, the authors wrote “Although there is growing concern in the post 9/11 world that guidelines for the protection of SBU are needed, a uniform legal definition or set of procedures applicable to all Federal government agencies does not now exist. Regulations are reported to be under development in the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Homeland Security.”

    State itself self-defines SBU as “information which warrants a degree of protection and administrative control that meets the criteria for exemption from public disclosure.”

    So all you inspectors general out there, can you tell we people out here exactly what in the State Department’s form letter about taxes “warrants a degree of protection and administrative control that meets the criteria for exemption from public disclosure”? ‘Cause if you can’t find anything, then maybe State is just a little bit heavy-handed with its classification policies.

    At least I hope so. Otherwise, somebody at State just sorta leaked an SBU document into the mail system. OH NO!

    BONUS: It is apparently of no interest to law enforcement when someone high up in the State Department leaks an actual Secret document to the media, at least when said leak was designed to benefit the Department.

    BONUS BONUS: Since State willfully sent a classified document to me, knowing I have this blog, were they hoping I’d expose it here? Is the State Department whistleblowing on itself in some odd national security act of autoeroticism?

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    Posted in Democracy, Post-Constitution America

    Guess Whose Embassies Get Attacked the Most?

    February 4, 2013 // 22 Comments »

    While disappointing to many that last week’s Turkish suicide bomber was not a Muslim, just a crazy Marxist, there seems to be something of a pattern. Despite its near-constant bleating that the U.S. is a force for good and sparkle pony of democracy and all, it just seems others never seem to agree. In fact, the U.S. holds the undisputed top place among all nations in number of attacks on our diplomatic institutions worldwide.

    Indeed, in her farewell address to the State Department, Hillary Clinton said “I am more convinced than ever in the strength and staying power of America’s global leadership and our capacity to be a force for good around the world.” Every president since Lincoln has said something similar.

    Unfortunately, as pretty as that sounds, it does not seem to be believed by anyone but the speakers. The Pew Global Attitudes Project shows us that after a wave of positivity for Obama in 2009 because he was not George Bush (the same wave got him a Nobel Peace prize in 2009, which must really piss the Nobel folks off now that they have sobered up), opinions of America have declined; in Europe, where we are not currently bombing and drone assassinating, America’s stock fell 15 percent. In Muslim countries, the fall was 19 percent (figure minus those Muslims killed by the U.S. between 2009-2012 of course.)

    On the other side of the mirror, some clever crowd-sourcing over at Wikipedia tells the tale.

    The U.S. leads the world in attacks on our embassies and consulates with a recorded 32. The only other nation even in double digits is France, with 10. And those numbers are actually misleading, given some of the whoppers the U.S. has experienced, say Tet in Vietnam in 1968, the embassy takeover in Tehran in 1979, the massive Nairobi bombing of 1998 and of course Benghazi 2012. The list also excludes the near-constant attacks against the U.S. mission in Iraq 2003-2011 and in Afghanistan, considering those parts of the wars and not “attacks” per se.

    It is hard to reconcile the image the U.S. holds of itself with the reality of how the very symbols of that same country are treated abroad. It is almost… almost… as if foreigners don’t see us as we see ourselves, almost as if our leaders knavishly sell us a vision of the United States that is removed from reality. Nah, couldn’t be.

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    Posted in Democracy, Post-Constitution America

    Insecurity: State Department Suspends My Security Clearance

    October 18, 2011 // 1 Comment »

    Feeling safer America? After 23 years of holding a Top Secret security clearance, and without a single security violation in that time, the State Department Stasi, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, suspended my clearance today.

    “Suspension” is another in a long line of government extra-legal actions, in that it cannot be questioned, challenged or appealed. You just suck on it. The best part is that the reason for the suspension is not revealed. Diplomatic Security is not required to tell you in detail why your clearance is suspended, just that it is.

    So why was my security clearance suspended? Let’s try and guess.


    A good friend who works on The Line on the Seventh Floor for Hillary told me that my NY Times profile was not included in Hils’ media summary. Bill called her up to mention it, and she was angry at being kept in the dark and lashed out.

    I Called DS Child Molesters

    Sure, I did help call out Diplomatic Security agents as child molesters and Chinese spies, but do you think they took that personally?

    DS is BS

    I did publicly call out Diplomatic Security as being a bunch of bullies. And that article calling them out was reprinted by CBS News, Huffington Post, Salon, The Guardian (UK), Le Monde Diplomatique, Politico, Mother Jones, Wikileaks Forum, The Nation, Jon Wiener at The Nation, Michael Moore, Guernica, ZNET, The Rebellion,
    Atlantic Wire, American Conservative Magazine, Democratic Underground, Lobelog,
    al-Arab online, War in Context, Gary Null, Open Market, SpyTalk,
    Pacific Free Press, warandpeaceinthemiddleeast.com, Buzzflash.net, Nation of Change. John Brown’s public diplomacy blog, Truthout, Antiwar.com, Oped News, Common Dreams, Daily Kos, Empty Wheel, and American Empire Project


    Diplomatic Security accused me of disclosing classified information when I included a link from this blog to a Wikileaks document already online. The State Department refuses to acknowledge that any Wikileaks documents are actual classified material, but draw your own conclusions America. In a way, I should thank DS for bringing this to America’s attention. When the original blog post ran in late August, it garnered a couple of hundred page views. To date, with all the attention, the post has received over 11,000 page views. A lot more people now know of John McCain’s duplicitous stance toward Libya, and that the US sought to supply Qaddafi with military spare parts.

    Can’t Find Their Ass in Iraq
    I did write a piece on Huffington Post claiming that DS will be unable to oversee the $5 billion Iraqi police training programs now underway in that vast sink hole for taxpayer dollars in Baghdad.

    Failure to Redact

    The State Department demanded redactions from my book, which I refused to make. Here is the State Dept fax 9 20 11 to my publisher. Note the requested redactions, and then turn to the chapter in my book called “A Spooky Dinner,” and read the original text. It could be classified! I continue to receive emails asking to buy an unredacted copy of the book “before it is too late,” so thanks DS for those sales as well.

    I Actually Disclosed Something Classified

    Trick question, as I did not ever disclose anything classified. Not now, not in the book, not in my two decades’ long career. Not to Bradley Manning, not to the New York Times, not to my wife, not to you. This is the only valid reason to suspend my security clearance. It does not apply.

    So which is it? Which of the above horrific infractions deemed me insecure?

    Answer is all of them except the last one, as this is an act of revenge by DS for me pointing out their flaws and writing a book State hates, not much more. The funny thing is, it does not matter.

    I have not had access to the State Department classified system since 2005; I have not needed it, as the jobs I have done have not required access. So the suspension accomplishes nothing.

    In Iraq, my access to classified information was through the Army, the same way Bradley Manning read State’s cables. So the suspension accomplishes nothing. Bradley and I actually used the same system, I know, I know, more irony.

    My current work does not require classified access. I am still doing the same job today, without a clearance, as I did yesterday, with a clearance. So the suspension accomplishes nothing.

    If for some reason I had wanted to purposely disclose classified information at any time over the past 23 years, I could have done it. I never did. The secrets I know today I knew yesterday, and they stay secret with me. So the suspension accomplishes nothing.

    So the suspension accomplishes nothing.

    Nothing of course but a bully’s revenge, a last gasp from a sad group of thugs that feels lashing out is pleasurable, that a symbolic, futile gesture is what Cabinet agencies are left to do when their relevance is questioned, their budgets are in question and their very being is apparently threatened by a book.

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    Posted in Democracy, Post-Constitution America

    Got What it Takes to Join State Department Army?

    October 17, 2011 // Comments Off on Got What it Takes to Join State Department Army?

    With the State Department seeking to field its own army in Iraq, some 5100 mercenaries with their own armor and air wings, recruiting might be a problem. Yes, true, America has an abundance of armed nuts, but to join State in occupying Iraq after the US military pulls out, you have to be the best of the bestest.

    The plan calls for 3,650 mercenaries to guard the World’s Largest Embassy (c), with the remaining hired guns stationed throughout free Iraq: 600 in Irbil, 575 in Basra, 335 in Mosul, and 335 in Kirkuk.

    There is some irony here (actually this war is in irony-overload). The reason the US Army is hightailing/withdrawing/retreating out of Iraq by year’s end is that free Iraqi won’t give them immunity, meaning when a soldier kills, rapes or robs an Iraqi, s/he could be prosecuted in Iraqi courts. And after eight years of capacity building in the Iraqi justice system, we all know how fair the courts are– fair and balanced for certain.

    Now why won’t Iraq give American troops immunity?

    Many people believe the refusal dates back to State’s previous orc army, Blackwater. Past attempts by the State Department to control the mercenaries in its pay have proved to be disastrous. For example, a Blackwater USA convoy of State Department officials murdered 17 Iraqis in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square in an unprovoked massacre on September 16, 2007. The use of mercenaries by the State Department undermines stability in Iraq and creates a conflict of interest when those being protected oversee their guards. This cozy relationship led to State Department officials blocking any “serious investigation” of the massacre. That really torqued the Iraqis off.

    We always like to end with some good news, so here it is. Think YOU have what it takes to be a mercenary killer for the State Department? Well, Fresh Meat, let’ see what you got.

    Blackwater is now endorsing its own X-Box game, sold under the slogan of “Have You Got What It Takes?” You buy the game with your Mom’s money, test yourself and if you make the cut, sign up with the State Department.

    They are hiring! Send an email to DSRecruitment@state.gov and tell ’em “We Meant Well” sent you.

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    Posted in Democracy, Post-Constitution America

    Wikileaks Prompts New Security Procedures at State Department

    September 2, 2011 // Comments Off on Wikileaks Prompts New Security Procedures at State Department

    An encrypted WikiLeaks file containing 251,000 unredacted US State Department cables is now widely available online, along with the passphrase to open it. The release of the documents in raw form, including the names of US informants around the globe, has raised concerns that dozens of people could now be in danger.

    The release has prompted new security procedures at State. The State Department has previously banned its staff from viewing the Wikileaks site, and has punished employees who view the leaked cables, or included links to them on blogs.

    The new security measures take things a step further.

    According to a Department Notice released today, all State Department employees are now required to take an oath of silence. Similar to monks, no one is allowed to actually speak within the building. To avoid further leaks, communication of an urgent nature will be done via gestures, mime and interpretive dance (PA only). The Department spokesperson, gesticulating wildly, fruitlessly engaged the media in an attempt to explain the new policy. She was saved from further frustration when one reporter produced a Pictionary game set.

    Written communication remains a vulnerable point. In response, all reports from the field will be written on white board using dry erase markers, couriered back to Foggy Bottom by eunuchs and licked clean by interns and Entry Level Officers currently being trained for the task.

    When a State Department employee now tries to access the Wikileaks site, s/he will find a “warning page” similar to those typically found on porno sites, with one button labeled ENTER and another labeled EXIT.

    The Bureau of Diplomatic Security, formerly engaged full-time in witch hunts against Foreign Service Officers who glanced at the Wikileaks site, planned a new role for itself as enforcer of silence. Security personnel wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “Shut the Barn Door After the Horse has Left” were deployed at strategic spots with roles of duct tape. “It’s for their own damn good,” mimed one uniformed officer.

    “We’ve been deaf and blind for a long time,” said a diplomat moments before the new rules took place, “so adding dumb to the list seems a small price to pay for security.”

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    Posted in Democracy, Post-Constitution America

    Can’t the Marines Guard the US Embassy in Baghdad?

    May 24, 2011 // 2 Comments »

    As the Department of State’s plans for fielding its own private army in Iraq start to gel, details are limited to what can be discovered through the contracts signed (always follow the money). You can read a lot of what is known here. Basically State wants to spend billions to hire thousands to secure the Embassy in Baghdad.

    Why can’t the Marines do it like everywhere else?

    It might be helpful to step back and look at how things are done now in Iraq, and how security is done elsewhere in the world, to put State’s new plans in some context.

    If you found yourself in Baghdad with an interest in dropping by the US Embassy, drive up to one of the handful of entrance points to the Green Zone, now politically-correctly known as the International Zone by Americans, though the Arabic signs the Iraqis have out still say Green Zone. These entry points are all controlled by Iraqi security forces, because it is sort of their country again. You’ll need one of the many, many kinds of badges issued by the US military to get past the Iraqis (the Iraqi Government has recently started to issue their own badges for the Green Zone, but the two systems work the same). Rumor has it that the proper bribe also works.

    The badges are color-coded, and any Iraqi who deals with the US speaks this language. The worst badge is a red one, which means you can get into the Zone only under escort, like dating in the back seat while your Dad drives. A skilled worker, like a plumber, might carry such a badge. Orange is only a slight step up, meaning the holder underwent some security screening but crucially, still has to be escorted. Yellow badge holders rock, because this is the first level at which you can escort other people, meaning you can bring someone into the Zone. American Embassy, military and loyal contractors have blue and green badges that are like Disney Fast Passes. The ultimate E-Ticket is a blue or green badge annotated for access to the military stores (PXes) and free food at the chow halls.

    What level of access you can get is so important to life in Iraq that the Lieutenant Colonel in charge of the US badge issuing office has been called the “most powerful woman in Baghdad” because she is.

    To keep things complicated, persons riding in big US military vehicles do not always need badges, though the trucks do need to sign in and out at the Iraqi checkpoints as the American soldiers and the Iraqi soldiers scowl at each other. VIPS who enter the Green Zone by helicopter at one of its several helo pads don’t have to show badges to anyone (insert “we don’t need no stinkin’ badges” joke here for those old enough to get the reference).

    As an aside, the main helo pad (now closed) in the Green Zone used to have the world’s most comprehensive Chuck Norris joke collection written in hundreds of hands on its waiting room walls (insert link to Chuck Norris jokes here for those too old to get the reference. My favorite: Why are they called the Virgin Islands? Because Chuck hasn’t been there yet. I understand the Chuck Norris wall is in the possession of an appropriate curator, who no doubt will eventually turn it over to the Smithsonian.

    Once past the Iraqi security checkpoints with your badge, helo or large military vehicle, you are in the Green Zone proper. However, to enter any of the compounds or buildings in the Zone, you need to pass through each of those places’ separate security. So, still on your way to the US Embassy, you better have a US Embassy issued ID card, or a Diplomatic Passport, or a Diplomatic friend waiting for you or you won’t get closer to the place than the outer perimeter wall.

    But you have the right badge let’s say and hop out at the Embassy gate. Unless you are driving an Embassy vehicle, don’t even think of trying to drive in. Even Army vehicles are not allowed inside unless they have a serious VIP aboard. At the gate you’ll start off showing your badge to the Peruvian contractor mercenary security force that guards the Embassy walls. Most of these nice folks speak little or no English or Arabic, so knowledge of Spanish and pantomime skills are needed. After the first Peruvian, you end up passing through several others, all of whom want to see your badge like it was the coolest thing ever, plus search your bags, run you through a metal detector and maybe have you sniffed at by a doggy or two. All this costs a lot; some 74% of Embassy Baghdad’s operating costs go to security. You made it inside the US Embassy compound.

    So if all this stuff is already in place, today, what does the US military really have to do with Embassy security, and why are all those new contractors going to be needed?

    Despite the restrictions on entering the Zone, and all the perky Peruvians scattered along the Embassy walls, the US military still brings a lot to the table. It is still the Army that owns all the serious armor, and the helicopters, and the drones that constantly scan the Zone and areas nearby for trouble. It is the Army that stands by with a quick reaction force of shooters to intervene if something goes wrong. The Army still does all the EOD Hurt Locker bomb stuff, and controls the radars and electronics that monitor things 24/7. As the Army withdraws, every one of those functions will need to be replaced by a contractor, a hired gun, for the Embassy to function.

    What about the Marines? It is the stuff of legend that US Embassies are guarded by Marines, and indeed they are there in Baghdad and at every other US Embassy. The less-known story is that the Marines are there primarily to protect the building and the classified stuff inside, not necessarily the people. The Marine contingent at any normal Embassy, and even in Baghdad, is often quite small, nowhere near enough men and women to protect the building from a serious assault.

    Around the world at every US Embassy except Baghdad and Kabul the Marines are at best a last line of defense. The primary responsibility for guarding each US Embassy and Consulate office in every country lies with the host government. So, it is Japanese cops who guard our Embassy in Tokyo, and Chilean cops at our Embassy in Chile. Iraq is special, both because there remains an ongoing war and because the Iraqi security forces usually just phone it in, and hence the need for our mercenary army to ensure the safety of the Embassy.

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy, Post-Constitution America