This Veterans Day, instead of using the day to assuage our collective guilt by thanking military veterans for their service in what’s now called “the perpetual war,” why not instead ask one or two for their opinions on the hard questions? While some might be reluctant to share their innermost feelings, gentle probing sometimes gets results. Admittedly, we veterans do this gentle probing the best because a fellow veteran knows something about what they’ve been through—and that we care genuinely for his or her answers.
When I was at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center a year or so ago, I met a multiple-amputee. He had been badly wounded while attempting to defuse an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. As we sipped coffee together in the hospital’s main lobby, he began to talk to me straightforwardly and candidly. He told me he had just been visited by a congressional delegation. He smiled slyly as he told me that he had succeeded in running them off. They had entered his room together, immediately thanking him for his service. He had cut them off in midsentence, saying: “Don’t thank me for my service because I’m conflicted over that. You can thank me for my sacrifice which you can plainly see.” The entire delegation departed the room rather swiftly.
Today, it is crucial to listen to that less-than-1-percent of us who have gone into harm’s way on behalf of the other 99 percent. It is crucial because the country is perched on the edge of a dangerous new Cold War, potentially more military deployments to western Asia, and a looming battle in the South China Sea. This is to say nothing of the growing likelihood of the use of nuclear weapons, from Korea to Ukraine, and of a Congress dead-set on unraveling theonly successful diplomacy in several years, the nuclear agreement with Iran.
Does our nation’s ever-increasing militarization cause abuses of power, as almost every one of our Founders warned it would? Could our massive and costly counter-terrorism efforts be counterproductive? Do mass surveillance, indefinite detention, torture, ceaseless war and the expenditure of a trillion-plus dollars every year for national security, help or hurt our real security? If we always look forward and never backward, are we doomed to repeat history’s most serious mistakes? Could we be sleepwalking right into World War III?
What if we could ask the hard questions of someone like World War II General Dwight Eisenhower, architect of the Normandy landings and our 34th President? In January 1961, Ike presciently tried to warn us about the dangers of the Military Industrial Complex, now more accurately called a “globalmerchant of death.” He also expressed grave misgivings about nuclear weapons and the decision to use them in 1945 against Japan. Strange thoughts for a five-star general — unless we stop to think about the pinpoint accuracy of his remarks about the Complex and the almost religious intensity of his dislike for weapons of mass destruction. Truth about war more often emanates from the warrior than the non-warrior. We needn’t wonder why.
What advice might America’s veterans of the First World War give us? In 1918, at the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month, the armistice for the “war to end all wars” was signed in Compiègne, France. The date and specific timing were carefully chosen as a lasting symbol of that goal to end war for all time. While this eleventh day of November is still commemorated as “Armistice Day” in most countries, in 1954 the name and focus were shifted in the U.S. to “Veterans Day.” Would the WWI doughboys be disappointed in our having relinquished that lofty goal? Have we conceded that we will be locked in perpetual war for the foreseeable future, war with its insatiable consumption and waste of lives, treasure and the environment?
This Nov. 11, ask a veteran what he or she thinks about all this. Ask them the hard questions. You might be surprised by their answers.
Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired U.S. Army colonel, was chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell. He teaches national security affairs at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. Wilkerson is scheduled to speak at Armistice Day events in the Twin Cities, including during a forum at Hamline University at 11:30 a.m. Nov. 10, where he will be joined by the Rev. Chris Antal, a former U.S. Army chaplain in Afghanistan.
Truth about war more often emanates from the warrior than the non-warrior. We needn’t wonder why.
——Videos of Armistice Day Forums in the Twin Cities Nov 10-11, 2016——————
Hamline University Forum, Nov 10
Forum at First Unitarian Society, Minneapolis, moderated by Mnar Muhawesh, Mint Press News
A group of ex-U.S. intelligence officials is warning President Obama to defuse growing tensions with Russia over Syria by reining in the demonization of President Putin and asserting White House civilian control over the Pentagon. (Originally published on Oct 2, 2016 on Consortiumnews.com)
ALERT MEMORANDUM FOR: The President
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
SUBJECT: PREVENTING STILL WORSE IN SYRIA
We write to alert you, as we did President George W. Bush, six weeks before the attack on Iraq, that the consequences of limiting your circle of advisers to a small, relatively inexperienced coterie with a dubious record for wisdom can prove disastrous.* Our concern this time regards Syria.
We are hoping that your President’s Daily Brief tomorrow will give appropriate attention to Saturday’s warning by Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova: “If the US launches a direct aggression against Damascus and the Syrian Army, it would cause a terrible, tectonic shift not only in the country, but in the entire region.”
Speaking on Russian TV, she warned of those whose “logic is ‘why do we need diplomacy’ … when there is power … and methods of resolving a problem by power. We already know this logic; there is nothing new about it. It usually ends with one thing – full-scale war.”
We are also hoping that this is not the first you have heard of this – no doubt officially approved – statement. If on Sundays you rely on the “mainstream” press, you may well have missed it. In the Washington Post, an abridged report of Zakharova’s remarks (nothing about “full-scale war”) was buried in the last paragraph of an 11-paragraph article titled “Hospital in Aleppo is hit again by bombs.” Sunday’s New York Times totally ignored the Foreign Ministry spokesperson’s statements.
In our view, it would be a huge mistake to allow your national security advisers to follow the example of the Post and Times in minimizing the importance of Zakharova’s remarks.
Events over the past several weeks have led Russian officials to distrust Secretary of State John Kerry. Indeed, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who parses his words carefully, has publicly expressed that distrust. Some Russian officials suspect that Kerry has been playing a double game; others believe that, however much he may strive for progress through diplomacy, he cannot deliver on his commitments because the Pentagon undercuts him every time. We believe that this lack of trust is a challenge that must be overcome and that, at this point, only you can accomplish this.
It should not be attributed to paranoia on the Russians’ part that they suspect the Sept. 17 U.S. and Australian air attacks on Syrian army troops that killed 62 and wounded 100 was no “mistake,” but rather a deliberate attempt to scuttle the partial cease-fire Kerry and Lavrov had agreed on – with your approval and that of President Putin – that took effect just five days earlier.
In public remarks bordering on the insubordinate, senior Pentagon officials showed unusually open skepticism regarding key aspects of the Kerry-Lavrov deal. We can assume that what Lavrov has told his boss in private is close to his uncharacteristically blunt words on Russian NTV on Sept. 26:
“My good friend John Kerry … is under fierce criticism from the US military machine. Despite the fact that, as always, [they] made assurances that the US Commander in Chief, President Barack Obama, supported him in his contacts with Russia (he confirmed that during his meeting with President Vladimir Putin), apparently the military does not really listen to the Commander in Chief.”
Lavrov’s words are not mere rhetoric. He also criticized JCS Chairman Joseph Dunford for telling Congress that he opposed sharing intelligence with Russia, “after the agreements concluded on direct orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama stipulated that they would share intelligence. … It is difficult to work with such partners. …”
Policy differences between the White House and the Pentagon are rarely as openly expressed as they are now over policy on Syria. We suggest you get hold of a new book to be released this week titled The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War by master historian H. W. Brands. It includes testimony, earlier redacted, that sheds light on why President Truman dismissed WWII hero Gen. Douglas MacArthur from command of U.N. forces in Korea in April 1951. One early reviewer notes that “Brands’s narrative makes us wonder about challenges of military versus civilian leadership we still face today.” You may find this new book more relevant at this point in time than the Team of Rivals.
The door to further negotiations remains ajar. In recent days, officials of the Russian foreign and defense ministries, as well as President Putin’s spokesman, have carefully avoided shutting that door, and we find it a good sign that Secretary Kerry has been on the phone with Foreign Minister Lavrov. And the Russians have also emphasized Moscow’s continued willingness to honor previous agreements on Syria.
In the Kremlin’s view, Russia has far more skin in the game than the U.S. does. Thousands of Russian dissident terrorists have found their way to Syria, where they obtain weapons, funding, and practical experience in waging violent insurgency. There is understandable worry on Moscow’s part over the threat they will pose when they come back home. In addition, President Putin can be assumed to be under the same kind of pressure you face from the military to order it to try to clean out the mess in Syria “once and for all,” regardless how dim the prospects for a military solution are for either side in Syria.
We are aware that many in Congress and the “mainstream” media are now calling on you to up the ante and respond – overtly or covertly or both – with more violence in Syria. Shades of the “Washington Playbook,” about which you spoke derisively in interviews with the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg earlier this year. We take some encouragement in your acknowledgment to Goldberg that the “playbook” can be “a trap that can lead to bad decisions” – not to mention doing “stupid stuff.”
Goldberg wrote that you felt the Pentagon had “jammed” you on the troop surge for Afghanistan seven years ago and that the same thing almost happened three years ago on Syria, before President Putin persuaded Syria to surrender its chemical weapons for destruction. It seems that the kind of approach that worked then should be tried now, as well – particularly if you are starting to feel jammed once again.
Incidentally, it would be helpful toward that end if you had one of your staffers tell the “mainstream” media to tone down it puerile, nasty – and for the most part unjustified and certainly unhelpful – personal vilification of President Putin.
Renewing direct dialogue with President Putin might well offer the best chance to ensure an end, finally, to unwanted “jamming.” We believe John Kerry is correct in emphasizing how frightfully complicated the disarray in Syria is amid the various vying interests and factions. At the same time, he has already done much of the necessary spadework and has found Lavrov for the most part, a helpful partner.
The Security Council adopted resolution 2310 (2016) urging all States that have either not signed or not ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) to do so without further delay. The Council also called upon all States to refrain from conducting any nuclear-weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion and to maintain their moratoria in this regard. The resolution was adopted with a vote of 14 in favour, and one abstention (Egypt).
Still, in view of lingering Russian – and not only Russian – skepticism regarding the strength of your support for your secretary of state, we believe that discussions at the highest level would be the best way to prevent hotheads on either side from risking the kind of armed confrontation that nobody should want.
Therefore, we strongly recommend that you invite President Putin to meet with you in a mutually convenient place, in order to try to sort things out and prevent still worse for the people of Syria.
In the wake of the carnage of World War II, Winston Churchill made an observation that is equally applicable to our 21st Century: “To jaw, jaw, jaw, is better than to war, war, war.”
* In a Memorandum to President Bush criticizing Colin Powell’s address to the UN earlier on February 5, 2003, VIPS ended with these words: “After watching Secretary Powell today, we are convinced that you would be well served if you widened the discussion … beyond the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.”
For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
William Binney, former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)
Fred Costello, Former Russian Linguist, USAF
Mike Gravel, former Adjutant, top secret control officer, Communications Intelligence Service; special agent of the Counter Intelligence Corps and former United States Senator
Matthew Hoh, former Capt., USMC, Iraq & Foreign Service Officer, Afghanistan (associate VIPS)
Larry C. Johnson, CIA & State Department (ret.)
John Kiriakou, former CIA counterterrorism officer and former senior investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Linda Lewis, WMD preparedness policy analyst, USDA (ret.) (associate VIPS)
Edward Loomis, NSA, Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)
Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA analyst (ret.)
Elizabeth Murray, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Middle East, CIA (ret.)
Todd Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)
Coleen Rowley, Division Counsel & Special Agent, FBI (ret.)
Kirk Wiebe, former Senior Analyst, SIGINT Automation Research Center, NSA, (ret.)
Robert Wing, former Foreign Service Officer (associate VIPS)
Ann Wright, U.S. Army Reserve Colonel (ret) and former U.S. Diplomat
The U.S. government gives free passes to officials who commit war crimes but imprisons whistleblowers who tell the truth, a fate that befell CIA’s John Kiriakou for disclosing torture. But he was honored by some ex-intelligence officers, reports Ray McGovern.
By Ray McGovern
Former CIA official John Kiriakou, who spent two years in prison for revealing the truth about White House-sanctioned torture, became the 15th recipient of the Sam Adams Award for Integrity at a ceremony at America University.
Last year, PEN Center USA, a human rights and freedom of expression organization, honored John Kiriakou, with its “First Amendment” award. It has since become clear that while John Kiriakou sat in prison, Senate Intelligence Committee investigators were uncovering heinous details about torture by the CIA from its own original banality-of-evil cables, which showed that CIA and others had lied in claiming torture “worked.”
President Barack Obama chose to add his weight to a remarkably brazen effort to cover it all up and scuttle the Senate report. To her credit, committee chair Dianne Feinstein, with support from then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and committee members Mark Udall and Ron Wyden (all Democrats) faced President Obama down.
This scarcely believable fact – missed somehow by the “mainstream” media – is woven into the citation presented to Kiriakou on Sunday:
The Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence presents its INTEGRITY AWARD for 2016 to John Kiriakou Know all ye by these presents that John Kiriakou is hereby honored with the traditional Sam Adams Corner-Brightener Candlestick Holder, in symbolic recognition of Mr. Kiriakou’s courage in shining light into dark places.
John Kiriakou found himself atop the CIA’s WANTED list when he confirmed publicly that the CIA had been carrying out a White House-approved torture program, which turned out to be using techniques virtually identical to those in the Gestapo Handbuch.
Alarm bells at the CIA. Put this guy in prison before there are additional disclosures. And seduce Hollywood into seducing Americans into “seeing with their own eyes” that torture “works.” And make sure the media ignores others with impeccable credentials, like Army Intelligence chief Gen. John Kimmons, who said on September 6, 2006: “No good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices. … the empirical evidence of the last five years, hard years, tells us that.”
Gen. Kimmons had an institution at his back, not nipping at his heels. Enter the U.S. Senate, another institution that faced into its constitutional responsibility. While John sat in prison, Senate Intelligence Committee investigators pored through original CIA cables and concluded unambiguously that Kimmons and Kiriakou were right, and the CIA (and Hollywood) were dead wrong.
Briefed on those findings, President Obama in August 2014 trivialized torture with a dismissive comment, “We tortured some folks.” Then he joined the CIA in a concerted attempt to squelch the Senate report. But Sen. Dianne Feinstein thwarted that joint campaign and in December 2014 published an executive summary – redacted, but still gruesome beyond imagination.
John Kiriakou’s integrity – and the reality that he sat in prison while the torturers were covering up their actions and their lies – made Sen. Feinstein’s intrepid investigators even more determined to make sure Americans got to know the truth about what was done in their name. As for John, it is a sure thing that he will continue to give no quarter in his passion for spreading truth around, no matter the systemic hurdles he may still have to surmount.
Presented this 25th day of September 2016 in Washington, DC, by admirers of the example set by the late CIA analyst, Sam Adams.
Sam Adams’s painstaking analysis in 1966/1967 revealed there were twice as many Vietnamese Communists under arms in South Vietnam as Gen. William Westmoreland would admit to. The issue became a David-v-Goliath bureaucratic struggle, with CIA analysts unable to prevail against the Army (and the White House). Adams continued to press for honesty and accountability but stayed “inside channels” – and failed. He died at 55 of a sudden heart attack, with profound remorse. He could not rid himself of the belief that, had he not let himself be diddled – had he, in other words, gone to the media – hundreds of thousands of lives might have been saved. His story is told in War of Numbers, published posthumously.
Previous recipients of the Sam Adams Award are:
Coleen Rowley (FBI), Katharine Gun (UK-GCHQ), Sibel Edmonds (FBI), Amb. Craig Murray (UK Foreign Office), Frank Grevil (Major, Danish Military Intelligence)**, Sam Provance (Sgt. US Army, Abu Ghraib), Larry Wilkerson (Col. US Army, Chief of Staff to Secretary of State), Julian Assange (WikiLeaks),** Jesselyn Radack (Department of Justice), Thomas Drake (NSA), Thomas Fingar (Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence), Edward Snowden (NSA),** Chelsea (Bradley) Manning (PFC, US Army),** William Binney (NSA), John Kiriakou (CIA)**
* In bold = Names of former awardees who spoke at Kiriakou award ceremony
** = Earlier awardees imprisoned, confined, exiled for speaking truth
(Originally published at Consortiumnews.com and authored by Ray McGovern, who like Sam Adams, began a career as a CIA analyst under President Kennedy; working on Vietnam, they became close associates. Sam was too straight-arrow to go to the media about the unconscionable fraud regarding the number of Communist forces. Ray knew that and rationalized not doing so himself. So, while a close associate of Sam Adams years ago, Ray fell short of the standard set by the above awardees, who deserved to be honored by Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence.)
——-Additional articles, photographs and video—————————————
Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence is a movement of former CIA colleagues of former intelligence analyst Sam Adams, together with others who hold up his example as a model for those in intelligence who would aspire to the courage to speak truth to power. SAAII confers an award each year to a member of the intelligence community or related professions who exemplifies Sam Adam’s courage, persistence, and devotion to truth – no matter the consequences. Read more about the history here.
The annual Sam Adams Award has been given in previous years to truth tellers Coleen Rowley of the FBI; Katharine Gun of British Intelligence; Sibel Edmonds of the FBI; Craig Murray, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan; Sam Provance, former US Army Sgt; Maj. Frank Grevil of Danish Army Intelligence; Larry Wilkerson, Col., US Army (ret.), former chief of staff to Colin Powell at State; Julian Assange, of WikiLeaks: Thomas Drake, of NSA; Jesselyn Radack, formerly of Dept. of Justice and now National Security Director of Government Accountability Project; Thomas Fingar, former Deputy Director of National Intelligence and Director, National Intelligence Council, and Edward Snowden, former contractor for the National Security Agency; Chelsea Manning, US Army Private who exposed (via WikiLeaks) key information on Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as State Department activities; and to retired National Security Agency official William Binney, who challenged decisions to ignore the Fourth Amendment in the government’s massive — and wasteful — collection of electronic data.