Government of the Shadows: Parapolitics and Criminal Sovereignty
a book edited by Eric Wilson and Tim Lindsey
(our site's book review)
Government of the Shadows: Parapolitics and Criminal Sovereignty analyzes the concept of clandestine government. It explores how covert political activity and transnational organized crime are linked—and how they ultimately work to the advantage of state and corporate power.
The book shows that legitimate government is now routinely accompanied by extra-governmental covert operations. Using a variety of case studies, from the mafia in Italy to various programs for food and reconstruction in Iraq, the contributors illustrate that para-political structures are not "deviant," but central to the operation of global governments. There is more gray in the world than black or white. Hardly a surprise, nor is the fact that there are fewer legitimate aspects of "legitimate" government than illegitimate aspects in many places.
The creation of this truly parallel world economy (drug empires, the black market, the underground economy, etc.), the source of huge political and economic potential, entices states to undertake new forms of regulation, either through their own intelligence agencies, or through the more shadowy world of criminal cartels—and then there are bribes and payoffs that states extract from criminals when officials "look the other way." E.g., pot enticed some U.S. states to undertake new forms of regulation so they could cash in on pot. So pot growers (where it is legal) must buy expensive licenses and retail pot products are heavily taxed. Oregon pot sales tax is about 20%, for example.
Pot—a perfect blend of legitimate and illegitimate
Parapolitics is the lurking presence to all of the chapters of this volume. Peter Dale Scott has provided the formal definition of this ‘shadow’ presence.
- A system or practice of politics in which accountability is consciously diminished.
- Generally, covert politics, the conduct of public affairs not by rational debate and responsible decision-making but by indirection, collusion and deceit. Cf. conspiracy.
- The political exploitation of irresponsible agencies or para-structures, such as intelligence agencies.
Peter Dale Scott once again manifests brilliance, here on the correlation between blowback and vertical North–South flows:
Covert power is like nuclear power: it produces noisome and life-threatening byproducts [that] cumulatively are more and more threatening to the environment supposedly served. The by-products of covert power include trained terrorists who in the end are more likely to target their former employers, the incriminating relations to government [that] hinder the terrorist’s prosecution, and the ensuing corruption of society at large. The result is deep politics: the immersion of public political life in an immobilizing substratum of unspeakable scandal and bad faith. The result in practice is 9/11. See The CIA’s Secret Powers: Afghanistan, 9/11, and America’s Most Dangerous Enemy, Critical Asian Studies, 35/2 (2003), pp. 233–58 at 233. See also Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire.
Dubya Bush the Liar lied us into the illegal Iraq invasion
The only president to ever out-lie Bush is OBomb'em who gave us ISIS and the NSA spying on our own citizens
With all the lying going on, is there really a need for the media to do it also? They seem to think so!
Awareness of the power of propaganda in the broadest sense to manage (that is to say, manipulate) public opinion has been deeply subversive of confidence in democracy and has given rise to a sustained effort by states to counter what they term subversion, by means of the clandestine management of public opinion. In particular, state security-intelligence organizations not only control the mainstream media message but also have been recruited on numerous occasions to stage phoney events designed to create public alarm for political purposes. False flag events are the extreme version. And reporting various trumped-up threats to a country will keep them in fear and therefore willing to have their rights eroded. Telling the public to "look out—the terrorists are coming" is one thing, but it is something else to be manufacturing the conditions for a 9/11 attack and ensuring its success by making sure the intelligence agencies get inadequate intel and advance notice and undermining the preventative responses (interceptor fighter jets that should have dealt with the off-course planes that were intentionally undermined) and then employing transparent coverups—all of which happened. See 9/11 Ten Years Later: When State Crimes against Democracy Succeed.
The editors Wilson and Lindsey seemed unable or unwilling to provide good examples like the above (except for Peter Dale Scott's contributions), which made this book too boring and theoretical. Are a gaggle of professors attempting to outdo each other with big words and clever theories, or do Wilson and Lindsey et al. have something important to say? They need to decide. Happily, Scott knows how to filter the blah out of important theoretical discussions and create articles and books that pack a punch and bravely tell it like it is. He is one of our wise men. He makes this book well worth reading, although reading five of Scott's most recent works would probably do as well—probably better.
Are a gaggle of professors attempting to outdo each other with big words and clever theories, or do Wilson and Lindsey et al. have something important to say? They need to decide. Happily, Peter Dale Scott's contributions save this tome.
Wilson uses the term shadow governance as a synonym for parapolitics to indicate that the substance of the field is actual political practice, rather than a generalized understanding of the functioning of human society. But shadow governance is not the same as shadow government.
Most human minds in their day-by-day operations cannot bear to look the truth of politics straight in the face. They must disguise, distort, belittle and embellish the truth. But there are exceptions: E.g., Gore Vidal said there is now “only one political party, the Property Party, with two right wings, Republican and Democrat.” This is truth wih a vengeance. Similarly, a shadow government controls the USA, and elected leaders are puppets of shadow government oligarchs, and elections are merely tools to pacify the sheep/citizens so as to preserve the illusion of democracy. More truth wih a vengeance. See Democracy—an American Delusion.
Elected leaders are puppets of shadow government oligarchs
It's easy to see just how much our human minds need to disguise, distort, belittle and embellish such truths. People love to believe that there are two parties and that it matters who you vote for. Note that in voting for an antidote for Dubya, people got Dubya squared: Obama. Obama promised to stop wars, further the progressive agenda, and give us change. Instead, he increased conflicts, drone murders, rightwing oppression of U.S. citizens—especially whistleblowers, and funneled our money into the hands of oligarchs via war, bailouts and giveaways as he skyrocketed our debt.
Obama increased conflicts, drone murders, rightwing oppression of U.S. citizens—especially whistleblowers, and funneled our money into the hands of oligarchs via war, bailouts and giveaways as he skyrocketed our debt
But the worst thing he did was bungle Mideast policy so badly that ISIS was generated, making everything in the region a million times worse, and endangering Westerners and especially Americans forever. If he'd told us of his stupid, evil plans during his 2008 election, he would not have received a single vote. But he did not, and the U.S. is in the worst shape it has ever been in.
Here is the normal American response when they detect an uncomfortable truth coming their way
The Property Party is working for the shadow government oligarchs, who want wars because they funnel money from the 99% (poorer) citizens to the 1% (wealthy oligarchs, although the accurate percent is more like .0001%). The two right wings, Republican and Democrat, have as their stealth purpose the happiness of the Property Party which in turn must please the shadow government oligarchs. How does all this fit into even a madman's vision of a democracy? It doesn't. In Iraq, empire building is the (attempted but bungled) reality, but democratization is the cover story. In the USA, shadow government control is the reality. Democracy is the cover story, as evidenced by the fact that citizens can vote (thereby making fools of themselves).
Our Vietnam and Iraq wars were much more about imperialism than democratization
In the USA, shadow government control is the reality and democracy is the cover story—here an oligarch buries democracy
Most editors and authors think of the shadow government as the puppet masters, and elected leaders as flunkies of the oligarchs. The shadow government neocons want to maintain control in the world, and the disasters in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan will not force them to reevaluate their neocon plans or close down the 800 military bases they have around the world, nor to cease being obsessed empire builders even when any fool can see that they're simply driving this country off a cliff as they lead us to ruin and bankruptcy, and their "empire" is starting to shrink, not expand. (Think of Latin America which threw out oppressive, dictatorial, U.S.-installed regimes everywhere in the 1990s and chose self-determination.) Sane people would wise up and quit forcing our young into shadow-goverment-created wars. But neocons are not truly sane and they do not care what happens to our young or to Mideast citizens. They care about their own power and wealth, and see citizens as mere cannon fodder—a means to an end.
Neocons do not care what happens to our young or to Mideast citizens—they care about their own power and wealth, and see citizens as mere cannon fodder—a means to an end
How much money is enough? Will the greed ever end?
Unless American citizens start defecating money, the debt has put us all in deep doo-doo
But the citizens above that are unable to face reality (most people) and keep having delusions of being secure in a functioning democracy (another delusion) with freedom of the press (another delusion) mostly do not know about shadow government and empire building truths. They read normal mass media articles that preserve these delusions and that tell them that anyone who doesn't buy into mass media lies and democracy delusions needs to wise up and quit reading conspiracy theory nonsense. The fact that most of our wisest people are now seeing the light and sounding the alarm changes little since the minute a wise person ceases drinking the Kool-Aid of mainstream media propaganda, they get labelled as a kook by the mass media and the citizens in their collective gullibility keep believing the lies from the shadow-government-controlled mainstream media. See Freedom of the Press—an American Delusion and Democracy—an American Delusion.
Propaganda manipulates the citizens into believing the lies from the shadow-government-controlled mainstream media, including the lie that we have freedom of the press
It's important to realize that the proof about who controls the message and CW (conventional wisdom) of the mainstream media is not a theory or opinion. The proof is right there in the Congressional Record—a government record. The same goes for the fact that the CIA has control of the foreign policy and military policy messages that get reported in all mainstream outlets. This is not a theory or opinion. It is a fact admitted on the record by high government officials and the CIA itself. When your own government tells you that the fix is in and the game is rigged and you're being spoon-fed carefully controlled propaganda and spin, wouldn't it be a good idea to believe them and cease your delusional Disneyland beliefs that keep you in a mental stupor and at least attempt to get back in touch with reality? So if you feel an emotion telling you to dismiss what we are saying as kooky, keep in mind that it is the words and records of your very own government—The United States of America—that you are dismissing. Here's the irony: if you dismiss these words as lies, then you are dismissing the words of your government as lies—you're calling them liars. And yet, THAT is OUR point as well: your goverment is feeding you propaganda (and admitting it) instead of truth. So you see, no matter what, you are now seeing that you've been on a rich diet of propaganda for years. Of course, its rich aspect is that it makes military and corporate oligarchs richer—on your dime.
Media propaganda convinces you of things that make you spend money on ads or support military actions—all things that make military and corporate oligarchs richer
The effective monopolization of violence is not merely a derivate attribute of an objective sovereignty, but the primary signification of sovereignty itself, subverting any hierarchical distinction between government and governance. The appropriation of public functions by organized criminal cartels in Colombia, Sicily, and Russia
are outstanding empirical examples of the state as a self-legitimating pariah entrepreneur based upon effective provision of the commodity of protection; a private agent who manages to achieve monopoly over violence in a specific territory eventually becomes a public actor. Successful state building is thus invariably equated with the successful monopolization of violence coupled with a self-sustaining collection of protection rent, either in the form of tribute or, in a more bureaucratized form, of taxation.
Shadow governance is the acquisition of the functions of governmentality by sub-statist groups or structures by means both judicial and extra-judicial. The successful operation of shadow governance, in turn, provides scope for the establishment of criminal sovereignty, the investiture of extra-legal groups with a de facto autonomy through the acquisition of the requisite marks of sovereignty. It is truly possible to see crime as a continuation of the state by other means. We call this state of affairs parapolitics.
Yes, he IS wearing clothes, and, by the way, there is no such thing as a shadow government—right?
For Ola Tunander, all of this reveals the bad faith of mainstream liberal political science. Liberal political science has been turned into an ideology of the deep state because undisputable evidence for the [national security] deep state is brushed away as pure fantasy or "conspiracy." Tunander shows the liberal state to be contemporary with the deep state which has deployed a liberal form of political culture that legitimates itself through a systematic denial of the operational presence of its dangerous supplement—clandestine, or shadow, government. Legitimacy through deception: Yes, the emperor really IS fully dressed.
The shadow government may be a bit of a horror show to contemplate, but if the zombies are leaving the graveyard and heading for YOUR house, wouldn't you like a bit of a heads up?
The no-such-thing-as-shadow-government propaganda may engender a comfortably embalmed and deliriously semicomatose stupor of denial and head-in-the-sand oblivion in naïve citizen-sheep. But they might as well be wired up and tubed up in a Matrix-like life simulation and never really live at all, in that case. (In the movie the hero is given a blue pill to continue his fake life of eternal slumber and a red pill to awaken, see the truth, and try to have a real life. He chooses red. But will YOU?) The shadow government may be a bit of a horror show to contemplate, but—not to mix metaphors—if the zombies are leaving the graveyard and heading for YOUR house, wouldn't you like a bit of a heads up?
Sadly, the liberal state political culture feels obligated to call deep state theory 'conspiracy theory' in spite of indisputable evidence for it and in spite of knowing better
Criminal sovereignty is seen as corresponding to the more local intra-state/micro-level of analysis. And global governance is seen as corresponding to the inter-state/macro-level of analysis. Parapolitics is seen as corresponding to the transversal bridge that discursively links these two levels of interpretation, providing the other terms with mutual conceptual interdependence.
Why is it exactly that states always seem to require back doors? Simply put: parapolitics constitutes a continuation of both political science and international law by other means. One of the basic premises of Government of the Shadows: Parapolitics and Criminal Sovereignty is that parapolitical structures are neither parasitic nor deviant, but functionally central to the routine operation of global governance and private authority, which is argued by Peter Dale Scott, who is the author of The American Deep State: Wall Street, Big Oil, and the Attack on U.S. Democracy. Perhaps this parapolitics premise is a bit milder than the shadow reality that brought us such treats as the assassinations of JFK, RFK, and MLK, and such horrors as 9/11. The premise declares shadow entities well-nigh inevitable. However much this is so, does it also follow that we must let them control us, using the democracy facade and the election farce as time fillers that sell lots of ads on TV and radio? We say it does not.
In a 1955 study of the United States State Department, Hans Morgenthau discussed the existence of a US dual state. According to Morgenthau, the US state includes both a regular state hierarchy that acts according to the rule of law and a more or less hidden security hierarchy—which we will refer to here as the security state (also known in some countries as the deep state)—that not only acts in parallel to the former but also monitors and exerts control over it. In Morgenthau’s view, this security aspect of the state—the security state—is able to exert an effective veto over the decisions of the regular state governed by the rule of law. State control is accomplished, for example, through the fostering of war or terrorism to create fear and increase public demands for protection. So a false flag 9/11 attack leads to the Patriot Act and invading an innocent country—Iraq—to control oil.
The shadow government not only acts in parallel to state but also monitors and exerts control over it—exerting an effective veto over the decisions of the regular state governed by the rule of law
It is an age of risk and security. From the perspective of liberal Western democracies vying for global hegemony, 9/11 was the crunch point—the Apocalypse Now. In these scenarios of terrorism lie the seeds of the new globalization. The radical conflation which was 9/11 complemented long-standing antipathies and ushered in a regime of war against ideology, dominion and a redefinition of global citizenship. The restructuring of jurisdiction, standing, citizenship, humanity, community and exclusion, essential for the new age of globalization, have their justifications and projections in 9/11. Global governance through reaction became the reluctant priority.
Wilson and Lindsey say that due to 9/11, 'Global governance through reaction became the reluctant priority'—we say it gave Bush neocons an excuse to start wars
The main actors in the shadow economy are not only criminals but also corporations, whose leaders are in constant engagement with states and state actors. What is being contested and negotiated in this process is the extent to which big business will be subject to and regulated by formal state laws and processes and in which jurisdictions (e.g., offshore tax shelters for tax avoidance). The shadow economy has its counterpart in shadow politics, as surely as the duality of male and female.
However, this is especially true at the international level. The IMF's overall policy for decades has basically been to be a co-conspirator in the exploitation of developing countries which has harmed cultures, economies, environments, trust, and plunged many into hopeless debt, in spite of their public relations [propaganda] pieces that proclaim that the IMF "has been the primary vehicle for spreading Western, neoliberal economics to emerging markets over the last 40 years. Such policies have [arguably] helped pull billions of people out of poverty, mainly by opening global trade." See Top Ten Reasons to Oppose the IMF.
(But it’s also the reason that financial crises around the world have grown bigger and more damaging. The IMF now admits they oversold neoliberalism and globalization, and that a lot of financial flows across countries aren’t about allocating capital to where it’s most needed, but rather are part of a process of what some call “financialization,” that ends up only enriching the 1% which many who worked to facilitate this process frankly admit was its only purpose from the getgo.) See Globalization’s True Believers Are Having Second Thoughts and A Game As Old As Empire: The Secret World of Economic Hit Men and the Web of Global Corruption.
The US refusal to recognize International Criminal Court (ICC) procedures (The United States and the International Criminal Court) reflects a Rumsfeld Doctrine effort to pursue unfettered intervention and to be able to attack non-state armed groups in the manner of their choosing. (Reagan gave the finger to the International Court of Justice, the ICJ, when it ruled in favor of Nicaragua and against the United States and awarded reparations to Nicaragua in 1986.) This reflects the idea that these enemy groups operate outside of international law, as do their erstwhile state backers, and that the US must be free to do so as well, in order to destroy these groups. Despite considerable international criticism of the US, some critics of US strategy seek the same exemptions to intervene.
Practitioners of parapolitics doubtless would argue that their efforts served the larger purpose of fighting against profoundly undemocratic movements and regimes—whether driven by Soviet power, Marxist ideology or radical Islamic fundamentalism. Yet parapolitics, which necessarily involves assumptions about threats and priorities, can shape policy outcomes in ways that detract from a nation’s stability and wellbeing. And let us not forget that the U.S.—especially in Latin America in the 20th century—was a major supporter of undemocratic movements and regimes.
The US-backed government in Kabul is increasingly viewed by Afghans as weak and corrupt—unable to deliver economic benefits, exercise its authority or stem the rising Taliban attacks. At this point only a significantly larger commitment of US and NATO forces to take on the Taliban, massive investments in rural reconstruction and alternative livelihoods and aggressive targeting of the narcotics-trafficking infrastructure might save Afghanistan from disintegrating again into rival armed factions. This commitment is not likely to be forthcoming.