4.10.2006

Is the US headed for a military coup?


Sharing some dangerous thoughts . . .

My uncle John was the patriot's patriot. After serving as a Navy Commander near the end of WWII, he subsequently worked as a systems analyst as a civilian DoD employee for over forty years. His brother, my dad, was a lefty, blackballed for his views in the McCarthy area.

I had frequent conversations with John over the years. He was my Godfather, taking his sworn role in my life when my father died when I was thirteen. A Catholic Godfather in those days did his duty.

In the Vietnam years, John totally disowned me for over six years because of my own developing pacifist views and activities. Although he was a lifelong Democrat, born and raised in JFK country, he retired from the Navy in 1945 in San Diego and lived the rest of his life in Orange County.

By the time Dick Nixon was President, John had worked for DoD for about thirty years or so. It was beginning to show. John and I reconciled and began talking to each other again around the time the last choppers were lifting off from the US Embassy roof in Saigon. Soon after, when the military-industrial procurement scandals were breaking, John's patriotism did not waver, but he began to show and voice some pretty sophisticated facets of that patriotism. On several occasions, during our talks, John got a very fair-away look in his eyes, shaking his head almost imperceptibly at thoughts he just couldn't share with me yet. I found out later that what he felt most was betrayal.

John knew a lot about procurement, "consulting", and the well-oiled door that led from military service to private military contracting. Just before he retired he began to describe in graphic detail the abuses and downright thievery that happened right under his nose every day. After he retired, he told me that "the biggest regret I have is that I didn't blow the whistle while I was there". He said he felt like a coward and thought he had betrayed his country with his silence. He said, "we're still the greatest country on earth, but the folks who are running it are mostly crooks."

John died well before 9-11. But I know he would be outraged at The Doubleduh-Cheney Gang. He would damn Rummy to hell, I'm sure, and could muster up a searing rant at executive- and legislative-branch chickenhawks.

I wonder how many Johns there are today in the military and the MI complex. I've got a feeling there are quite a few and their numbers, I wager, are growing.

Time magazine today published a piece by former Marine Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Greg Newbold (former operations director for the joint chief's staff), entitled "Why Iraq Was a Mistake". Some excerpts:
From 2000 until October 2002, I was a Marine Corps lieutenant general and director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. After 9/11, I was a witness and therefore a party to the actions that led us to the invasion of Iraq--an unnecessary war. Inside the military family, I made no secret of my view that the zealots' rationale for war made no sense. And I think I was outspoken enough to make those senior to me uncomfortable. But I now regret that I did not more openly challenge those who were determined to invade a country whose actions were peripheral to the real threat--al-Qaeda. I retired from the military four months before the invasion, in part because of my opposition to those who had used 9/11's tragedy to hijack our security policy. Until now, I have resisted speaking out in public. I've been silent long enough.

I am driven to action now by the missteps and misjudgments of the White House and the Pentagon, and by my many painful visits to our military hospitals. In those places, I have been both inspired and shaken by the broken bodies but unbroken spirits of soldiers, Marines and corpsmen returning from this war. The cost of flawed leadership continues to be paid in blood. The willingness of our forces to shoulder such a load should make it a sacred obligation for civilian and military leaders to get our defense policy right. They must be absolutely sure that the commitment is for a cause as honorable as the sacrifice.

With the encouragement of some still in positions of military leadership, I offer a challenge to those still in uniform: a leader's responsibility is to give voice to those who can't--or don't have the opportunity to--speak. Enlisted members of the armed forces swear their oath to those appointed over them; an officer swears an oath not to a person but to the Constitution. The distinction is important . . .

I will admit my own prejudice: my deep affection and respect are for those who volunteer to serve our nation and therefore shoulder, in those thin ranks, the nation's most sacred obligation of citizenship. To those of you who don't know, our country has never been served by a more competent and professional military. For that reason, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent statement that "we" made the "right strategic decisions" but made thousands of "tactical errors" is an outrage. It reflects an effort to obscure gross errors in strategy by shifting the blame for failure to those who have been resolute in fighting. The truth is, our forces are successful in spite of the strategic guidance they receive, not because of it . . .

Flaws in our civilians are one thing; the failure of the Pentagon's military leaders is quite another. Those are men who know the hard consequences of war but, with few exceptions, acted timidly when their voices urgently needed to be heard. When they knew the plan was flawed, saw intelligence distorted to justify a rationale for war, or witnessed arrogant micromanagement that at times crippled the military's effectiveness, many leaders who wore the uniform chose inaction. A few of the most senior officers actually supported the logic for war. Others were simply intimidated, while still others must have believed that the principle of obedience does not allow for respectful dissent. The consequence of the military's quiescence was that a fundamentally flawed plan was executed for an invented war, while pursuing the real enemy, al-Qaeda, became a secondary effort . . .

There have been exceptions, albeit uncommon, to the rule of silence among military leaders. Former Army Chief of Staff General Shinseki, when challenged to offer his professional opinion during prewar congressional testimony, suggested that more troops might be needed for the invasion's aftermath. The Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense castigated him in public and marginalized him in his remaining months in his post. Army General John Abizaid, head of Central Command, has been forceful in his views with appointed officials on strategy and micromanagement of the fight in Iraq--often with success. Marine Commandant General Mike Hagee steadfastly challenged plans to underfund, understaff and underequip his service as the Corps has struggled to sustain its fighting capability.

To be sure, the Bush Administration and senior military officials are not alone in their culpability. Members of Congress--from both parties--defaulted in fulfilling their constitutional responsibility for oversight. Many in the media saw the warning signs and heard cautionary tales before the invasion from wise observers like former Central Command chiefs Joe Hoar and Tony Zinni but gave insufficient weight to their views. These are the same news organizations that now downplay both the heroic and the constructive in Iraq . . .
Back in 1935, Marine General Smedley Butler wrote War is a Racket. This is a clip from the Forward:
War is just a racket. I wouldn't go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.

It may seem odd for me, a military man to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers.

I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.

I helped make Mexico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.


In addition to Lt. Gen. Newbold, retired former high-level military figures who have launched scathing rebukes of the administration's failures include former CentCom commander Gen. Anthony Zinni and Gen. Paul Eaton, who headed-up the effort to retrain the Iraqi military after the invasion. Although he has never spoken publicly, it is reported by insiders that former CentCom commander Tommy Franks retired in 2003 after seeing the writing on the wall in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Most recently, Sy Hersh's upcoming article on the possibility that The Gang is planning to nuke Iran has really stirred the pot. As Think Progress reports:
A new report by Seymour Hersh finds that senior Bush administration officials are developing plans for a massive attack on Iran which could include nuclear weapons. Hersh points out that the Joint Chiefs of Staff — a panel of the highest-ranking military officials from each branch of the U.S. armed services — are strenuously opposed to the plan, so much so that some have threatened to resign if it goes forward:

[A] Pentagon adviser on the war on terror…confirmed that some senior officers and officials were considering resigning over the issue. “There are very strong sentiments within the military against brandishing nuclear weapons against other countries,” the adviser told me. “This goes to high levels.” The matter may soon reach a decisive point, he said, because the Joint Chiefs had agreed to give President Bush a formal recommendation stating that they are strongly opposed to considering the nuclear option for Iran. “The internal debate on this has hardened in recent weeks,” the adviser said. “And, if senior Pentagon officers express their opposition to the use of offensive nuclear weapons, then it will never happen.”
Throughout the history of this country there have been desertions and minor uprisings among the military, but never the threat of a military coup. But we live in interesting times. The military person must balance duty and conscience. It is altogether clear that Congress will not move to stop the neocon madness. How will the military leadership respond when more truth is exposed and it has to choose between loyalty to madmen and a sacred oath to defend the Constitution?

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