New Pentagon boss Ashton Carter ‘unknown’ to Dutch media bureaus

The appointment of Ashton Carter as minister of defence of the US follows painful interruption in filling this role. Obama’s previous secretaries, Robert Gates and Leon Panetta, both compained that they were being sidelined by the White House. Readers of Jeremy Scahill’s books will know that Obama and his staff indeed wage war themselves, through the CIA and with secret operations of the Joint Special Operations Command. That goes over the head of the secretary of defence. 

Now, with new military adventures in the pipeline, Chuck Hagel has resigned, and it was widely expected that Michelle Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defence, would become the first female Pentagon boss. In 2007 Flournoy founded the Center for a New American Security, according to former presidential candidate and ex- senator Ron Paul a bulwark of the neoconservatives in the Democratic Party, financed by the military-industrial complex.

Flournoy however prefers to wait for a Hilary Clinton presidency in two years’ time—because then all brakes will be removed. Hilary after all is the war candidate, she wants to bomb Iran, she wants to bomb Russia, there is no limit. But the Dutch press, I know it already, will only be raving about the first female president, and then also the first female secretary of defence! It brings tears to your eyes.

A taste of the knowledge of our media and its ability to capture the essence of the matter can be gained from Wednesday’s issue of NRC-Handelsblad, the Dutch newspaper of record. ‘Unknown Ashton Carter’, the paper heads its item. It then cites Obama that Carter is ‘not at all politically motivated’, which of course is good news under any circumstance. Luckily he was already undersecretary/ assistant secretary under Bill Clinton and again from 2011 to ’13, mostly to buy expensive weapon systems. He graduated on a Ph D in theoretical physics. Het Parool, the Amsterdam newspaper, goes deeper into the matter, of course we first hear that the physics graduate is ‘unknown’ and for his MA wrote a thesis on Flemish monks in the middle ages. He also worked as as 11-year old in a car wash in Philadelphia, on a fishing board, and helped out with an emergency service for people with intent to kill themselves. Again tears in my eyes.

That sums up what I read in the Dutch papers on the matter. An now: who is Ashton Carter?

Aston Carter is an insider the Pentagon universe who belongs to the select group of people who saw the 9/11 attacks coming. That is why he was able, years in advance, to give a detailed to-do list just in case. Jointly with CIA director John Deutch and Philip Zelikow, a confidant of Condoleezza Rice, Carter in 1998 wrote an article in Foreign Affairs, the journal in which US global strategy is being debated—a piece titled ‘Catastrophic Terrorism’. In it the authors argue that is there is a big attack on the US, like the bomb attack in the World Trade Center in 1993, but then a really big one, America’s security situation will radically altered. The US would respond with ‘scaling back civil liberties, allowing wider surveillance of citizens, detention of suspects, and use of deadly force’.

Not a bad prediction of the response to 9/11, you would think. Not that we had the chance to learn more about these premonitions afterwards, because Zelikow edited the official 9/11 Report, in which all suspicion that there had been advanced knowledge about the attacks in and around the Bush government, is summarily dismissed.

In August 2000 the three aforementioned authors (Deutch, Carter, Zelikow) again set themselves to writing a programme for the incoming president (Bush Jr. as it would turn out). In the collection of papers edited by Zelikow Ashton Carter wrote a piece in which he summed up the threats that the US would face from 2001. First, the rise of China, then the possible collapse of Russia and the proliferation of its nuclear arsenal, and third, ‘catastrophic terrorism of unprecedented scope and intensity… on U.S. territory.’

Within a year this did indeed happen, but our Dutch newpapers write about Carter’s expertise in physics and his work in the car wash, where he got into trouble because he apparently spoke up too often. That tells you enough about our media. My problem is that I don’t feel comfortable to have somebody heading the Pentagon with Ashton Carter’s background at a time when one spark may cause a major world conflict.

Kees van der Pijl

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