In interviews and posts on social media in recent days, current and former U.S. intelligence officials have expressed dismay at the similarity between events at home and the signs of decline or democratic regression they were trained to detect in other countries.The article concludes by noting that even the Chechens are taking the piss out of Amerika.
"I've seen this kind of violence," said Gail Helt, a former CIA analyst responsible for tracking developments in China and Southeast Asia. "This is what autocrats do. This is what happens in countries before a collapse. It really does unnerve me."
Helt, now a professor at King University in Tennessee, said the images of unrest in U.S. cities, combined with President Donald Trump's incendiary statements, echo clashes she covered over a dozen years at the CIA tracking developments in China, Malaysia and elsewhere.
Marc Polymeropoulos, who formerly ran CIA operations in Europe and Asia, was among several former agency officials who recoiled at images of Trump hoisting a Bible in front of St. John's Episcopal Church after authorities fired rubber bullets and tear gas to clear the president's path of protesters.
"It reminded me of what I reported on for years in the third world," Polymeropoulos said on Twitter. Referring to the despotic leaders of Iraq, Syria and Libya, he said: "Saddam. Bashar. Qaddafi. They all did this."
The impression Trump created was only reinforced by others in the administration. Defense Secretary Mark Esper urged governors to "dominate the battlespace" surrounding protesters as if describing U.S. cities as a foreign war zone. Later, as military helicopters hovered menacingly over protesters, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, toured the streets of the nation's capital in his battle fatigue uniform.
"As a former CIA officer, I know this playbook," Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., said in a tweet. Before her election to Congress last year, she worked at the agency on issues including terrorism and nuclear proliferation.
...Former intelligence officials said the unrest and the administration's militaristic response are among many measures of decay they would flag if writing assessments about the United States for another country's intelligence service.
They cited the country's struggle to contain the coronavirus, the president's attempt to pressure Ukraine for political favors, his attacks on the news media and the increasingly polarized political climate as other signs of dysfunction.
...But there were also indications that senior members of the administration were uncomfortable with the president's outing and eager to minimize their role in it.
A senior Pentagon official said Tuesday that neither Esper nor Milley knew when they set out to accompany Trump that police were about to charge through seemingly docile protesters or that they would find themselves playing supporting roles in a photo op.