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Larry Wilkerson

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John Bolton on the Warpath

A former official said, of Bolton’s world view, “A lot of nasty people out there want to do us harm. If our country’s interests align with another’s, it’s a fleeting phenomenon.”
Photograph by Mark Peterson / Redux for The New Yorker

Earlier this year, as Donald Trump prepared to meet the North Korean Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un, in Vietnam, he took a moment in the State of the Union address to congratulate himself on a diplomatic masterstroke: “If I had not been elected President of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea, with potentially millions of people killed.” For John Bolton, the national-security adviser, the summit represented a conundrum. Two months before he entered the White House, in April, 2018, he had called for preëmptive war with North Korea. During the past two decades, Bolton has established himself as the Republican Party’s most militant foreign-policy thinker—an advocate of aggressive force who ridicules anyone who disagrees. In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, he argued that Kim’s regime would soon be able to strike the United States with nuclear weapons, and that we should attack before it was too late. “The threat is imminent,” he wrote. “It is perfectly legitimate for the United States to respond to the current ‘necessity’ posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons by striking first.”

Trump—erratic, impulsive, and largely ignorant of foreign affairs—has promised since the start of his Presidency to scale back America’s foreign commitments and to cut its expenses. With North Korea, he began by trying to intimidate Kim into surrendering his nuclear arsenal, threatening “fire and fury” and mocking him as “Little Rocket Man.” When that failed, Trump embarked on a campaign of diplomacy by sentiment, meeting Kim in Singapore and, despite their failure to reach an agreement, declaring, “We fell in love.” In Hanoi, he intended to try again.  ……


In May, 2001, Bolton was named Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs. The terror attacks of September 11, 2001, came a few months later, and the State Department and the White House were often in conflict about how to react: Dick Cheney, the Vice-President, urged an assertive use of military power abroad, while Colin Powell, the Secretary of State, was more restrained. Lawrence Wilkerson, Powell’s chief of staff, told me that Bolton was appointed to his position only at Cheney’s insistence. “Everyone knew that Bolton was Cheney’s spy,” Mark Groombridge, an aide to Bolton at the time, told me.

George W. Bush’s Administration had vowed to attack any “rogue nation” that developed weapons of mass destruction, and Bolton began a public crusade against America’s enemies, real and presumed. In May, 2002, he spoke at the Heritage Foundation, where he accused the Cuban government of developing an ambitious biological-weapons program and of collaborating with such pariah states as Libya and Iran. As he prepared to give similar testimony to Congress, Christian Westermann, an analyst at the State Department’s internal intelligence bureau, told him that the bureau’s information did not support such a view. (Westermann declined to comment for this story.) Bolton, according to several officials, threatened to fire him. “He got very red in the face and shaking his finger at me, and explained to me that I was acting way beyond my position for someone who worked for him,” Westermann later testified. “I told him I didn’t work for him.” Bolton began excluding Westermann’s supervisor from daily briefings and, after an unsuccessful attempt to fire him, tried to transfer him to another office.

Carl Ford, who oversaw the intelligence bureau, complained to Powell that Bolton was misrepresenting the views of its officials. Powell decided to have Ford brief Congress in Bolton’s place. Bolton was angry enough that he didn’t speak to Ford for six months. Then, as Ford was preparing to retire, Bolton called him on the phone. “He told me he was glad I was leaving,” Ford said. (Bolton denies making this call.)

Bolton’s immersion in the arcana of weapons of mass destruction encouraged an absolutist view. “The first thing he thinks about in the morning is protecting Americans from nuclear weapons,” Sarah Tinsley, who has worked as an aide to Bolton since the eighties, told me. In 2003, as he prepared testimony for an appearance before Congress, he described Syria’s efforts to produce nuclear and biological weapons as an urgent threat—an assessment that intelligence agencies thought was exaggerated. A bitter internal debate ensued; the accusations endangered the Syrian government’s coöperation in hunting suspected terrorists. “We were getting some of our best, if not our best, intelligence on Al Qaeda from Damascus,” Lawrence Wilkerson told me. Richard Armitage, the Deputy Secretary of State, took Bolton aside and “told him to shut up,” Wilkerson said. Before Bolton testified to Congress, much of his language was diluted. Armitage reached out to a team of intelligence officers who vetted public statements made by State Department officials, and asked them to give special scrutiny to Bolton’s. “Nothing Bolton said could leave the building until I O.K.’d it,” Thomas Fingar, who led the team at the time, told me.


Armistice is what’s needed

By Lawrence Wilkerson, Published in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Nov 10, 2016

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

“Snowden Has Done a Service”: Former Bush Official Lawrence Wilkerson Applauds the Whistleblower

Salon, by Ben Norton, March 24, 2016

Wilkerson says Snowden did not threaten U.S. security, and, in a perfect world, the whistleblower would be rewarded.

“I try to stay up with Snowden,” said Lawrence “Larry” Wilkerson. “God, has he revealed a lot,” he laughed.

A retired Army colonel who served as the chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell in President George W. Bush’s administration, Wilkerson has established himself as a prominent critic of U.S. foreign policy.

He sat down with Salon for an extended interview, discussing a huge range of issues from the war in Syria to climate change, from ISIS to whistle-blower Edward Snowden, of whom Wilkerson spoke quite highly.

“I think Snowden has done a service,” Wilkerson explained. “I wouldn’t have had the courage, and maybe not even the intellectual capacity, to do it the way he did it.”

(rest of article here)

Burr’s CIA torture cover-up makes America less safe, less respected

The Charlotte Observer, March 3, 2016


He tried to bury reports on CIA torture, won’t hold hearings

It hurts America’s security and reputation

From Larry Wilkerson, a retired U.S. Army colonel and former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell. He is the Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Government and Public Policy at the College of William & Mary in Virginia. He is a Republican.

As he runs for re-election, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr is airing $300,000 in television ads that tout his record as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The truth, however, is that Burr’s handling of this key job has done our nation and North Carolinians a huge disservice.

The biggest challenge that confronted Burr as he took the helm of Intelligence in January 2015 was to come to grips with President George W. Bush’s torture program.

The committee’s six-year investigation had just revealed grim details of lawlessness and barbarism in the Central Intelligence Agency’s enhanced interrogation program. In every way, Burr has shown himself to be the ultimate protector of the criminals at the CIA, not their overseer.

His first act as chairman was an attempt to recall the committee’s 6,900-page “torture report” from the White House and executive agencies. He also tried to bury the Panetta Review, a still-secret internal CIA assessment of the torture program that, according to Intelligence members who have read it, is a “smoking gun” bolstering the negative conclusions of the committee’s own report.

And Burr refuses even to hold hearings on CIA misconduct like “rectal feeding,” sexual abuse and the torturing to death of detainees in its custody.

As a result, some presidential candidates now vie over who will order the harshest techniques. One promises more waterboarding, while another says he would go even further.

Read more here:

Interview of Larry Wilkerson on The Empire Files

Bush Military Official: The unfixable corruption inside the establishment and the corporate interests driving foreign policy: Abby Martin's Empire Files

Posted by The Ring of Fire on Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Abby Martin of The Empire Files interviews retired Colonel Larry Wilkerson on the unfixable corruption inside the establishment and the corporate interests driving foreign policy.