Abby and Robbie Martin talk about the significance of Trump’s military budget increase of $54 billion, his ramping up of drone strikes and special ops, putting boots on the ground in Iraq and Syria and the danger of new wars in North Korea and Iran on Media Roots Radio.
This podcast is the product of many long hours of hard work and love. If you want to encourage our voice, please consider supporting us on Patreon. Listen to all previous episodes of Media Roots Radio onsoundcloudor subscribe onitunes.
As the circus of the 2016 presidential election grinds on, Hillary Clinton has posited herself as the candidate of the people. But not many “candidates of the people” have vacation homes in the Hamptons that cost $200,000 per month, or hang out with the world’s billionaires.
It’s hard to know who she is really–while once being a proponent of Donald Trump type positions, like building a wall at the Mexican border, supporting torture, and opposing same-sex marriage until 2013, today she presents herself as the anti-Trump, anti-Republican candidate.
There’s been a lot of outrage about the impression that the establishment has already anointed her as the Democratic nominee, and has carved out her path to the presidency.
But like in 2008, her guaranteed seat on the throne is being derailed by the unpredictable moods of the masses, and millions of young progressive voters. She continues to play her shape shifting game, morphing her positions to try to capture the support for her opponent, but the real Hillary is still inside.
In fact, every layer of Hillary’s career shows why, far from being a candidate of the people, she’s the top pick by corporations to do the real job of any US president: CEO of the Empire.
Digging deep into Hillary’s connections to Wall Street, Abby Martin reveals how the Clinton’s multi-million-dollar political machine operates. This episode of The Empire Files chronicles the Clinton’s rise to power in the 90s on a right-wing agenda, the Clinton Foundation’s revolving door with Gulf state monarchies, corporations and the world’s biggest financial institutions, and the establishment of the hyper-aggressive “Hillary Doctrine” while Secretary of State.
Abby Martin Exposes What Hillary Clinton Really Represents
When the Arab Spring started in 2011, the Empire decided which revolutions were “good” and which were “bad”, pouring arms and money into police state monarchies to crush legitimate protests, from Egypt to Bahrain.
But some movements were lauded by US politicians as great causes for freedom–conveniently in countries whose governments they had long hoped to overthrow–and rushed to their aid.
In Libya, the US was able to accomplish its plan for regime change in less than a year, thrusting the country deep into misery. But in Syria, the regime change plan hasn’t gone as smoothly–a list of changing rationales and goals have spanned the last 5 years.
Millions of dollars in cash and weapons flowed to the rebel forces fighting to overthrow the government. Once ISIS rose to dominance, US officials said it was no longer about toppling Assad, it was about defeating the terrorist group in Syria, without Syrian permission. But the administration still insists Assad must go in order to defeat ISIS.
Having gone far beyond an internal political struggle, the war is marked by a complex array of forces that the U.S. Empire hopes to command: Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Kurdistan, Iran, Lebanon, Iraq and more. There’s much at stake in a bloody war that has already taken the lives of 250,000 human beings.
To simplify this web of enemies and friends in the regional war, Abby Martin interviews Dr. Vijay Prashad, professor of International Studies at Trinity College and author of several books including “The Poorer Nations”, “A People’s History of the Third World” and “Arab Spring, Libyan Winter”.
Unraveling the Syria War Chessboard
VIJAY PRASHAD: When the uprising broke out in Syria, when there was initial protests–at that moment the US ambassador Mr. Ford, Robert Ford, went to the sites of the uprisings. Now this is a very important thing to recognize. A foreign ambassador inside a sovereign country went to support uprisings which were for the overthrow of the government. This is a very important thing for people to remember. In other words, the United States government, by the presence of Robert Ford, was telling the people who were opposed to the Assad government, that we are going to deliver Damascus to you. In other words, the United States took a position in 2011 by allowing Ambassador Ford to go to these places. So there was no confusion. The idea, as part of the anti-Iran policy, the idea was that Damascus has to be delivered to other powers other than Iran, perhaps Saudi Arabia. This has been a clear position. But the Syrian opposition knew from the very first that unless the United States bombed Damascus to smithereens, this regime was not going to fall. So knowing that they were not going to provide the Libyan solution, they nonetheless wound up the opposition to expect US planes to come and bomb in Damascus, which the Americans knew was not going to happen. So this in a sense is where responsibility also lies for the hundreds of thousands of people killed in Syria. In other words, the US green-lighted a regime change scenario which they very well knew they could not follow through on. So I don’t actually see any confusion in American policy. The confusion simply came in that the Obama administration had to in a sense dance around the fact that they were not able to honor what Robert Ford had suggested by his presence at this demonstration. And it was never really about the Syrian people. It was always about Iran.
ABBY MARTIN: And it’s not just the Pentagon, it’s figures within the antiwar movement, the left actually making a main pillar of the demand for Assad to step down. What would this mean for the Syrian people?
VP: The Assad government is a government of a certain class of people. The Syrian government had made enormous advances, despite really quite ruthless prison policies against the opposition. Ruthless against anybody that stood up against the government. They nonetheless made some advances in human welfare, they created institutions of different kinds, etcetera. Bashar Al-Assad, when he in a sense inherited the regime, came at a completely different moment in world history. He was much more open to the Americans and the Europeans. He was very much open to what we consider neo-liberal development, new construction projects, etcetera. He made an alliance with the Turks. Turkey made so much money, in a sense, gentrifying northern Syria in the 2000s. This was a period where it created a sense of displacement among the population. There were real grievances in the country. Nonetheless, despite having these grievances, popular opposition was extraordinarily weak in Syria. There was no way they were going to be able to actually win against the government. And I don’t mean militarily. I mean even in terms of appealing to vast numbers of people who had yet supported the government. So you can’t create revolution by shortcuts. You have to take the protracted road. And, in a sense, the American offer to the Syrian opposition was a shortcut. By opposition what do we mean? You see, the people who were revolutionaries, the left inside Syria, which there was a section, were never the people that the Americans saw as the opposition. Who did they see as opposition? From the beginning they saw the proxies of Turkey, of Saudi Arabia, maybe of the Muslim Brotherhood. These were the people that they were talking to. They were not talking to the socialists on the ground. Those socialists on the ground are disposable for everybody. This term opposition captures too much. Some people when they hear opposition they mean the rebels who came from nowhere fighting on the ground. But actually when Western governments talk about opposition, they mean the people who were in exile in Turkey and formed these groups. This was a certain kind of elite similar to the transnational coalition created in Libya. Who were they? They were bankers. These are the people that the West sees as opposition. So you know, we should not fool ourselves that very early on the poor people had been discounted by the West who had become serious with these proxies. And these proxies as we know are not merely businessmen in suits. They morphed very quickly to the very worst kind of characters and were given free rein by Western backing. And of course Gulf Arab backing to create mayhem in Syria.
AM: It feels like déja vu because we just went through the same thing in Libya not too long ago, where the character of the uprising was secondary to the overthrow of Gaddafi. What lessons can be gleaned from Libya?
VP: It depends on who is going to learn which lesson. See, the West is learning no lessons. The West has believed that regime change against its adversaries is allowed. And by the way, there was so-called soft regime change in this period. In Honduras in 2009, the United States fully backed the overthrow of the legitimate government of the Honduran people. That was when Hillary Clinton was the Secretary of State. In Japan, the Japanese people actually voted a government to power which had a mandate to remove some – some, not all – US bases from Okinawa. Hillary Clinton lobbies the government and they, the United States, overthrows a legitimately elected government and brings another government power. This was barely mentioned in the US press. So at the same time as there’s this kind of regime change in the Middle East, there was a successful regime change in Honduras, successful regime change in Japan. Have you ever heard anybody talk about regime change in Japan? No. They will blame, say, what happens in Afghanistan, what happens in Syria, emergence of ISIS, Taliban –they blame it on somebody else. They’ll say it’s Assad’s fault that ISIS is created. I mean come off it. ISIS is a direct product of the chaos sown by the US overthrow of Saddam Hussein. When Saddam was captured in Iraq, he comes out of his hiding hole and he says to the American troops, “I am Saddam Hussein the president of Iraq, I want to negotiate a surrender.” They mocked him, laughed at him, humiliated him. Imagine if the government had actually said, “Okay, we want to accept the surrender.” In other words, we want to create a new Iraq, which we’ve illegally attacked and illegally destroyed, okay, but we want to bring the fedayeen, Saddam. Your people have to have a role in the future because they are Iraqis. We cannot simply excise them from Iraqi history. But no, they didn’t accept the surrender, they essentially turned him over to be lynched. Gaddafi – Gaddafi was killed by what? A NATO strike hits his car and then he was lynched on the street. There are right now in Sirte, which is Gaddafi’s home town, there ISIS has taken control of Sirte. Inside Sirte, it’s not merely the old jihadis but also people of Gaddafi’s green movement, who have been totally isolated again, and who have joined ISIS. Why? Because that’s the only avenue they have. You’ve marginalized… Why didn’t they arrest Gaddafi? Again, an illegal arrest, but at the time accept his surrender and say, “Your block of supporters will have a place in Libya.” No. They said none of you will have a place in Libya. You know there are tens of thousands of Gaddafi-era supporters who are in prison in Libya uncharged. This is a human rights violation. So when you conduct these regime-change operations and then tell a section of the population you are no longer relevant, you’re condemning them to social death, to political death, and in some cases to prison for life. And I think this is a lesson that nobody’s is thinking about. They’re saying, “I wish there was no war.” Well you’ve done these wars, you’ve destroyed these countries. You must, having done all that illegally, you must open yourself to the possibility that, you know what, an American should not decide what happens in Libya. Let all the Libyan people decide, including those who you now consider persona non grata. In Syria, the military is very well organized, it’s very disciplined. There hasn’t been defections. So to imagine that just because an American ambassador shows up in a square where there are fifty people standing there, that you’re going to somehow terrify the military, was an illusion. A very dangerous illusion. I don’t feel like there’s a need for anybody to say, “I support Assad. I don’t support Assad.” This is an irrelevant question. The question is, I believe in freedom of people, but I also believe that freedom is a protracted struggle. Freedom has to have a set of obligations upon human beings to win other people over. As I said, there’s no short-cut to these things, you can’t bomb your way to freedom. It’s a protracted struggle. And in a place like Syria, the government may not appeal to some people but it does appeal to others. The fact is, vacuums are the worst thing to create in any territory in the world. I think people have now understood that the Syrian Army is going to have to become one of the factors that fights the war against ISIS.
AM: The White House said part of its strategy is working with regional players on the ground. Of course, there’s several contradictory players here. First there’s Saudi Arabia. Is this a logical partner for peace when even Hillary Clinton has said that it’s the biggest exporter of Wahhabi terror worldwide?
VP: The United States government has one principal ally in the region. And that ally, apart from Israel – because Israel is not really consequential for some of this stuff. The principal ally the United States has is Saudi Arabia. The United States has on several occasions said the defense, not of Saudi Arabia, but of the royal family, is the obligation of the United States of America. Why is that so? It’s because of oil. Not because America buys oil from Saudi Arabia, but because the Saudis are able to control oil prices. Look at the recent situation. The Venezuelans fought to rebuild OPEC. They won new unity in OPEC. They raised prices of oil. In raising prices of oil, they were able to collect money and do it for regional transformation, to provide money to lesser countries with no resources, to build up the capacity of the countries, etcetera. Saudi Arabia jacked up oil production, brought down the price of oil deliberately, and did what? Brought to the knees the adversaries of the United States. Who are they? They were Venezuela, they were Russia, they were to some extent but not entirely Brazil, and eventually China. As all these countries went into free-fall, the strategy that the Chinese were building… The oil, the gas station of Saudi Arabia is a weapon against forces around the planet. So if there’s one thing the United States needs to – the people of the United States need to consider, is this unbending alliance with a theocracy that is not only brutal to its population, but is providing the material for counter-revolution around the planet. Saudi Arabia understands its region entirely through sectarian eyes. It sees the struggle in Yemen as a struggle of Shia versus Sunni, which the Yemeni people don’t see exactly like that. It sees Syria as a Sunni-Shia thing.
In Syria it’s much more complicated than Shia and Sunni, per se. So they are sectarian. They have a sectarian viewpoint. Since the 1960s, backed by the Americans, they have pushed this sectarian view on the world, not merely this region. If I asked you, Abby, let’s make a map of where Al-Qaida recruits from, one of the stunning things you’ll discover is that from the 1960s,the Saudi-backed group called the Word Muslim League, the WML, was funding groups in these exact places because Saudis were funding this from the sixties. They opposed Arab nationalism. This was their game. So this is the major American ally. There is a terrific WikiLeaks cable from 2005, again from Syria, where the Syrian political officer of the USembassy says, “We have to back the Saudi game of increasing Shia-Sunni tension.” Imagine this. This is a serious problem. I think now sober Western governments, not necessarily the United States, have understood that this is gotten out of hand. And something needs to be done to rein back this mad dog approach to domination in that region.
AM: Let’s expose another regional player, Turkey. How has Turkey made it possible for ISIS to thrive?
VP: They kept the border open. When Obama in 2014, August 2014, said ISIS is a threat to the world, the United States, etcetera, they could have invoked the NATO charter. Turkey as a NATO member could have been forced to close the border. But the United States didn’t invoke the NATO charter. So the border has remained porous. And so ISIS since August 2014 has continued to get recruits coming in. Look, the press picks it up here and there. They’ll say yes, the Paris attacker, the first time, the woman she is now in ISIS territory. She went through Turkey. How did she go through Turkey? She landed in Istanbul Airport, flew to Sirok, I mean to Gazientep, drove across the border. Are you kidding? Turkey is a sovereign … how can … The border is porous. Turkey has played a game which has set it in a destructive direction wherein in order to deflate the Kurdish balloon it has gone to war against the Kurds. Not only the Kurds inside Turkey, they’re bombing cities in Kurdistan, in Turkey, but they’re also bombing BKK and YPG bases in Iraq where these people are training to fight against ISIS. Understand now, if you are an American strategic planner, you are using Incirlik base inside Turkey to bomb ISIS. Meanwhile you’re providing ground support to the Kurdish militias. Meanwhile your ally, the Turkish Air Force, is bombing the Kurds. Now what is going on here? And why should people like you and I explain this? This is not for us to explain. This is a question that the United States State Department needs to explain, and the [Turkish] foreign ministry needs to explain.
AM: Can you provide any more context to why Turkey has this war against the Kurds?
VP: The point about the Middle East, or any part of the world, is they are complex cultural ecologies. If you travel in northern Iraq, for instance, the landscape is craggy and hilly and mountainous in such a way that from one valley to the next, you have language that can be slightly different. Religious traditions that differ. There is great diversity in the Middle East, it’s incredible. These people lived in various forms of fellowship for a long time. I’m not going to romanticize it. As I’ve said, various forms, there were tensions, whatever, a large Armenian population, etcetera. After the First World War, the Turkish government took a very hard republican Turkish nationalist view, led by Kemal Ataturk, the father of the Turks. They took a Turkish nationalist position, which made no or very little space for minorities. And in this of course is the killings of Armenians, a genocide of the Armenians. But also in this was the relation, the role of the Kurds. Kurds were told, “You are like us, not like the Christians.” They tried to make it about religion initially. But it was never really about religion. The attack on Armenians was not about religion, it was about difference. Are you going to be like us, are you going to assimilate fully or not? It was a very much an assimilative nationalism. And the Kurds therefore were told, “You have to assimilate to become Turks. There’s no such thing as a Kurd.” You know, that’s a very ruthless form of nationalism, and that’s been the history of modern Turkish nationalism. It has had to grapple with this very virulent strain in its nationalism, which doesn’t have space for minorities. And what’s interesting is in Turkish history, in the last twenty odd years, the Kurdish political movements have oxygenated Turkish politics. The HDP for instance is one of the few political parties that is totally socially progressive, and which is why it’s linked with the Turkish left. It’s provided the Turkish left with a mass movement.
In other words, the Kurdish nationalist movement, which surrendered its nationalism in 1993, you know they decided in ‘93 no longer to call for an independent Kurdistan, but to have rights within Turkey. You got a mass constituency for the Turkish left. And so the Kurds therefore are not some alien life form, you know, they’re part of Turkish society. The largest Kurdish city is Istanbul. There are one million Kurds that live in Istanbul. Kurds live all over the country. But they have provided through their struggle for self-determination an oxygenating space for the Turkish people, all the Turkish people. And so they are trying to revise the idea of this virulent Turkish nationalism, which Erdogan has now bizarrely come to represent. The Kurdish struggle is not a struggle of ethnicity, it’s a struggle of values. The HDP is not a Kurdish exclusionary party. It’s a party of a certain set of values, progressive values. So that’s available inside Turkey.
AM: There’s been a scholar that studied every suicide bombing since 1980, and found that 95% of them share one strategic motivation, which is the response to military intervention or occupation in their country. Given this, why do you think that the empire continues to respond with military intervention?
VP: Well there are many reasons. One of them is that if you have no other solution for the people’s problems, you utilize the hammer. If you no longer have the ability to propose a solution for poverty, starvation, desperation, etcetera… If you don’t have a solution in the United States, why talk about the world? Even in American cities you can’t provide jobs. You can’t provide schools. You provide police. You provide prison. This is the domestic cognate of imperialism overseas. Here they have no answer to people who are starving. They only know how to throw them in jail. There they have no answer to people’s demands. They only know how to bomb them. This has become a habit. Why? Because the very rich around the world have gone on strike. They refuse to pay taxes. They refuse to provide wealth for human betterment. They are happy to provide money to bomb people and build gated communities and things like that. They are happy to create dystopia. They are on strike when it comes to creating utopia. It is people who are well-meaning, well-thinking people who believe in the good side of history that have to fight for utopia. They have an end game. It is purely dystopic. We have forgotten that we need to fight for an end game. Our future is not merely resistance. Our future has got to be something beautiful.
Lawrence Wilkerson, retired US Army Colonel and former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, has some surprising things to say about the US government.
Wilkerson doesn’t hold back when he explains how US foreign policy has always been about the expansion of sheer power. After WWII, the US expanded “imperial dots”, or military impressions in order to generate a financial apparatus that would expand Empire, allowing for the rich to continue to grow their capital.
While many parts of the world are forced to live in abject poverty, there are generations of families that have a concentration of wealth that surpasses the GDP of most countries. According to the latest Oxfam study, only 62 people now own as much wealth as the bottom half of humanity.
Wilkerson decided to come forward and blow the whistle about US crimes after learning about how torture had been authorized and encouraged by the highest levels, violating the Geneva Conventions, the law of war, and the manuals that they operated under. “I can’t stay silent anymore. I’m going to speak out.”
Wilkerson joins Abby Martin for a must-watch interview exposing the dark underbelly of DC bribery, intelligence hoaxes as war pretexts and the ruthless nature of US corporate Empire.
Former Bush Official: “The Ship Is Sinking”
ABBY MARTIN: I’m sitting here in Washington, D.C. with the rare opportunity to speak with someone who served in the innermost circles of the US war machine. Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson is a former US Army Airborne Ranger who flew over 1,000 combat missions in Vietnam. He was national security adviser to the Reagan administration and later served as chief of staff to Colin Powell during the Bush administration. You’re a retired Army officer. You’re a Republican. Given your inside experience in the government and military, how would you explain the purpose of US foreign policy?
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Today? Today the purpose of US foreign policy is to support the complex that we’ve created in the national security state that is fueled, funded and powered by interminable war, and the ramifications thereof. That’s a sad commentary on what America has become, but it’s a realistic and I think honest appraisal of what America has become.
AM: Has it ever been about altruism?
LW: You could say there were even altruistic aspects to the slaughter and ethnic cleansing of Native Americans from the Mississippi to the Pacific coast by Phil Sheridan’s Army of the West. If you wanted to really dip into the bag and find something, but I don’t think overall and comprehensively it’s been altruistic. It’s been about sheer power, and lately it’s not even been about realistic application of that sheer power, or realistic attempts to expand it. It’s been more or less so failed in its overall general aspects that it has diminished our real power in the world. And this is what concerns me most seriously because history demonstrates, I think, that this is what empires do when they’re getting ready to collapse. They began to be so zealous of their own power and its expansion that they actually decrease their power until it becomes inevitable that they cease to exist, or they don’t exist in the same form they did when they were an empire.
AM: And you’ve talked about the capital interests that are behind pretty much every US military intervention in the last decade if not century. What sort of economy are we waging war in today and what capital interest would you say are behind the war on terror?
LW: After WWII, the United States engaged in a monstrous twilight conflict, if you will, that it calls the Cold War. It’s probably a pretty apt term. In that process it built up what are the appurtenances now of a national security state: the military-industrial-congressional complex, all the armaments industry that goes into that, the far-flung basing structure we have all over the world which now is eight or nine hundred places that we have little colonial dots, if you will, imperial dots, and to the wars there we’re fighting now almost interminably.
All of this is the leftover of what we did during that Cold War, which could include physical expenditures beyond the scope even of human imagination. We’ve spent so much money on maintenance of our empire that is becoming a critical part of it too. Our debt now is something like eighteen trillion dollars, unparalleled debt in my mind in the in the history of empire, in constant dollars or in current dollars. So this is a situation that’s unsustainable, but it has come to a point where the power structure, which I would define as both the financial apparatus that this empire has generated, and the economic aspects of it which are less and less industrialized and productive, therefor [less] a real economy, in other words, and more and more playing with money and the interest on money and capital in general, as Thomas Piketty has pointed out in his book Capitalism in the 21st Century so eloquently. We now have more capital awash in the world than we have earned income. Earned income is a very second place in the world. Capital is the real driving force in the world and this capital is passed on from family to family, from generation to generation and therefore corruptive and poisonous.
We’re in real trouble right now because of what this empire has generated, because of the incentives and motivations of it, and because it’s basically run by about 1 percent of the people, if not fewer, in this country constituting essentially a plutocracy. There are 400 families, 400 wealth centers, private wealth centers in the United States constituted around a family structure that equal the gross domestic product of Brazil. Today I read a percentage which I can’t even recall—it had so many zeros in front of it—but it was much less than one percent of the country that has the approximate wealth of the GDP of India. So we’re talking about a concentration of wealth, and a concentration of capital, which is not productive wealth unless it is actually going back into the real economy to generate industry that produces something. It’s unconscionable. It’s reprehensible in many ways because what you’ve got is the rest of the country, and in many respects the rest of the world, living off the rest of the scraps.
AM: And it’s totally unsustainable, as you were mentioning, this is not a trajectory that is going to last. Behind the belligerents waging a war there are certain industries that are in play that continue to garner interest, extract resources.
LW: Look at what’s happening in Syria right now, for example, just a microcosmic example. The Air Force is about to run out of ordnance. It has dropped so many bombs and shot so many cruise missiles that it’s about to run out of ordnance. Well, I will guarantee you that companies like Raytheon and Lockheed and others who make these armaments are salivating because they are going to be making another round of these are armaments, and into the interminable unknown future they’re going to be making these armaments. It’s incredible what we are doing.
AM: And in fact they are salivating at that. At Lockheed, Boeing, all these different institutions, defense institutions, are openly talking about what a great benefit this is to them—this Syria war, all of these escalations. I wanted to read you a quick fact. In 2008, the Government Accountability Office found that over 2,400 former generals were employed at 52 of the biggest defense contractors as senior executives and acquisition officers. A high percentage of retired general officers retire, go straight into jobs in the defense industry making well over six figures, often with the corporations they dealt with while serving. How does this revolving door function? I mean, how close is this relationship in terms of actual foreign policy creation.
LW: It’s so close that you actually had during the Iraq war, and as far as my history lessons go, it’s the first time it’s occurred this way and now is going on continuously, general officers who not only go out into the armaments industry and its associated paraphernalia and make money based on their influence gained while in service, you actually have them going out and joining the media and making the media more conversant with and attuned to and want war. So you actually have general officers who will go to CNN, go to MSNBC, go to Fox News, and they will get again your six-figure salaries for being the security experts on those news shows, and they will report to the American people the dire need for this continued conflict, the dire need for soldiers on the ground in Syria, the dire need for more war. It’s incredible what has happened in that respect. That’s not a direct contribution to the armaments industry, but it’s certainly a very vivid contribution to the war mongering and to the interminable state of war.
AM: Is it the interlocking board of directors in these companies, or is it just advertising injected straight into the corporate media?
LW: I wish it were something that you could put your finger on like that. It’s so many different things, including what you just said, but not necessarily consciously or coherently except in some cases, I think. It’s all of these things contributing and it’s not any one of them. As Eisenhower said in his farewell address, it’s not something you put your finger on and say, “Aha! That’s malicious. That’s intent. It’s not only complicit. It’s intent.” It’s not that. It’s this accumulation of vast power that’s oriented towards what first increases its power, and second what makes it rich that comes together and causes this. If it were something that you could root out and you could hand over to the FBI or to the Supreme Court or someone to adjudicate, it would be a different matter, I think, not that it would get done very easily, but it would be a different matter. It’s not something like that. It’s pernicious. As Eisenhower said, it’s in every state house in every federal office building. It’s even in every home in America. It is this unconscious sometimes power-driven aspect of it that makes it so difficult to combat. In fact, I’ll sit here and be a pessimist, a cynic, and I’ll say we aren’t going to correct this until something truly serious happens to right the ship of state, which might also sink the ship of state. Now we have every other general officer, admiral, walking out and signing up with glee to work for armaments.
AM: Well, other than the egregious unethical nature of how this functions… I mean, what is the legal caveat to how this is actually working? Is it just a machine that’s working on its own and just continues to become more pernicious as time goes on?
LW: They’re not the most competent people in the world. They’re not the most capable people in the world, and they’re not the most, shall we say, professional people in the world. That’s a part of it, but a second part of it is it’s become the thing to do. It’s become de rigueur. I mean, it’s what you do if you serve 30-35 years. You expect to have a six-figure salary with someone like Raytheon or Halliburton or Booz Allen Hamilton. We haven’t talked about the Beltway bandits that do more intelligence than the CIA. Now I use that term very loosely there—intelligence, but it is a corporate complex that is growing, and its surrounds everything else, including what I call fateful decision making, which is the decision-making to send young men and women to die for state purposes.
AM: And speaking of the young men and women who go to die, you know there seems to be a huge class stratification between the people who are making the policy and the people who are actually giving their lives on the battlefield. I mean, if you join the military in today’s age, whose interests are you serving when you do put your life on the line?
LW: You’re serving what one veteran in my seminar at William and Mary [University] said to me not too long ago, about three weeks ago, an Army veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan: You’re serving the ulterior purposes of the leadership of the country, and I said, “What do you mean by that?” And he said, “You’re serving corporate and commercial interests. You’re serving the interests of people who bureaucratically are seeking power within the structure, and you’re serving the interest of what is basically an incompetent governing process.” Wow. That was a pretty powerful statement, I told him, and he said, “Yep, and I’ll never go back again. I guarantee you that because I didn’t realize that until I was about halfway through my last tour in Afghanistan.”
AM: Let’s talk about the draft. It hasn’t been in place for some time. On one hand, you have the military so desperate that they’re paying NFL and sports stadiums for pro-military propaganda. On the other hand, you have women that are now being pushed to enlist. What do these measures of desperation mean and what do you think about the draft?
LW: It really isn’t an all-volunteer force. It’s an all recruited force because we’re spending billions of dollars to entice these people, who feel that they don’t have many other prospects, into the armed forces. We’re bringing them into a service that is supposed to be professional, disciplined and altruistic. We’re bringing them in with the most heinous of selfish, greedy purpose. We’re paying them what they couldn’t make otherwise. We’re giving them bonuses. It is so bad now that the cost for personnel in my army and to certain extent in the marine corps is coming close to being fifty percent of the cost of that service on an annual basis. If for no other reason the all-volunteer force is going to bankrupt the defense department, so they’re going to have to look at some other options.
AM: Let’s talk about your role in the Bush administration during the lead-up to one of the most devastating wars ever perpetrated by the empire—the Iraq war. You not only served as Colin Powell’s chief of staff, but you prepared his infamous speech to the UN about Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction. How did you miss the faulty nature of the intelligence, given your weeks-long analysis, given the stakes?
LW: I’ve looked at it from a much more, shall we say, soul-piercing way. Not only was the intelligence picture a failure on the part of the intelligence agencies for various reasons, it was also cherry-picked by the vice president. It was put together to a certain extent by the Office of Special Plans, in Doug Feith’s shop in the Pentagon, and it was largely orchestrated, as the MI6, the British memo said, it was orchestrated, shaped around the policy or the policy was essentially fed with intelligence that would shape it, that would feed it. So there were a number of reasons for the failure. There were a number of reasons for my own personal failure. I lament those reasons. I will never forget the occasion. I’ll go to my grave remembering it, but I can certainly, from an academic point of view, see how this this is sad, and it frightens me to a certain extent how this happened in the past, has happened in the past or whether it’s something in the future.
For example, let me give you a vivid example. I’ll tell you how I looked at the immediate reports that Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons in Syria a year or so ago. I said bullshit. I’ll believe it when I see evidence that it actually happened. And I went to every person I knew in the intelligence community, and every person outside the United States I knew to include two people who were in Syria at the time, and I knew what was going on and I respected their vision and their knowledge. None of them could confirm for me, not a single one, that Bashar al-Assad used those chemical weapons. Instead there were possibilities they were used by other parties in Syria as well as by Assad, and frankly, the evidence looked more strongly for other parties than the president. So I still think there is high potential for this kind of manipulation of intelligence, this kind of fabrication of intelligence, and this kind of refusal to take dissent in the leadership in this country right now today. And I’ll tell you very seriously I’m very skeptical of the intelligence establishment and what it says.
AM: Right, I mean, I always thought it was weird that the UN weapons inspectors were there on the ground and that’s when Assad decided to use the chemical weapons—when he already knew that was the red line. This whole red line mantra is really interesting because why should weapons of mass destruction of any sort of be that red line to actually legitimize the invasion and occupation of a sovereign nation? I wanted to say one more thing about the case. One of the biggest resonating factors, I think, in the speech was Saddam’s anthrax stockpiles and bio-weapons labs. Considering the fact that America had just been traumatized by its own anthrax attacks where five people tragically lost their lives, why did you choose to hinge so much on anthrax in the speech?
LW: No, as a matter of fact, we winnowed that thing to death. We threw tons of stuff out that we simply looked at and said, “All this is is an extrapolation from 1991 or 92. In other words, we looked at it and said the CIA has no evidence that Saddam has done what they’re saying he’s done. All they’ve done is made a linear projection. If he was producing six ounces in 1991, and we knew that positively from the inspectors after the war, then he’s now got 46 ounces because he could do two a year, or whatever. That’s what they’ve done.
AM: Of course, it came out that the anthrax came from our own bio-weapons lab. The final report from the FBI found no hard evidence linking Bruce Ivins to the attack.
LW: Well, I don’t know that, and I can’t tell you why don’t know that, but I don’t know that. I don’t know it with the clarity with which you just expressed it.
AM: That’s what the FBI said.
LW: Well, the FBI is as incompetent as any other bureaucratic entity within the federal structure.
AM: Right, but I think it is pretty much conclusive that it came from within… I mean, the bio-grade of the anthrax came from within the US establishment.
LW: It wouldn’t surprise me.
AM: Well, let’s talk about what was your kind of deciding factor to speak out and be so vocal…
LW: Torture. When Powell came through my door in May, I guess it was, of 2004, and told me about some photographs that we’re going to come out, may be made public, about a place called Abu Ghraib in Iraq… By the time I walked out of the State Department, I was ready to go find somebody and cut his throat because I knew that the United States had been involved in heinous activities in Vietnam. I knew they’d been involved in heinous activities in the Philippines. Indeed, a brigadier general, as I recall it, machine-gunned a thousand people in a ditch in the Philippines, and Teddy Roosevelt had sent him a telegram congratulating him. When people found out what he’d really done, Teddy had to kind of withdraw that approval, but I knew we had done some really bad things in the past, particularly in war, but I never, never knew any time in our history where those bad things had not only been authorized at the highest levels in the land but encouraged by the highest levels in the land. And I mean the president and the vice president of the United States and some of the cabinet officers. They were complicit in this. They gave instructions that they damn well knew we’re going to cause the Armed Forces of the United States to involve themselves in violations of the Geneva Conventions, the law of war and the manuals that they operated under. That just threw me. I said I can’t stay silent anymore. I’m going to speak out.
AM: And looking back at the horrors of the administration, as you mentioned, the torture, wanton detention, and of course, the illegal war that was based on false pretenses that cost the lives of a million Iraqis. Do you think that any members of the Bush administration should be charged with war crimes?
LW: I’ve said so in the past. I do think they should be charged. I think six lawyers in particular ought to be disbarred immediately. They should have been disbarred immediately. I think they should probably also be tried.
AM: Soldiers have been continuously dying in Afghanistan in America’s longest war. Today they’re still facing death, horrific injuries, for essentially no purpose it seems. I mean…
LW: Be careful.
AM: How do you think they should understand the war in Afghanistan?
LW: Be careful.
AM: What do you think their purpose should be?
LW: The war in Afghanistan has morphed. It’s not about Al-Qaida anymore, and it’s not about the Taliban anymore. It’s about China, Russia, the soft underbelly of Russia, which is mostly Muslim, about Pakistan, about Iran, about Syria, about Iraq, about whether Kurdistan is stood up or not, and ultimately about oil, water and energy in general. And the US presence in Afghanistan, I’ll predict right now, will not go away for another half century.
AM: My God. That’s a horrible thought.
LW: And it will grow. It will not decrease. It will grow.
AM: And let’s talk about strategic influence especially. We see this Cold War resurrection going on right now. As someone who lived throughout the Cold War… the schism within the establishment when it comes to Russia and this new posturing with Russia… After the reunification of Germany there was a promise on behalf of NATO that it would not continue to build up.
LW: Not one inch further east is what Jim Baker, Secretary of State, said to Edward Shevardnadze.
AM: What interests are behind the build-up?
LW: Why do we want more countries in NATO? Because then Lockheed Martin and Raytheon and Boeing and others can sell to them. Then the Soviets, now the Russians, won’t be selling to them. Why did we want Ukraine?
AM: Don’t we have enough?
LW: Empire never has enough. That’s the nature of imperial power. It never has enough. Have you ever watched Battlestar Galactica or Star Wars, or Game of Thrones? Empire never has enough power. It never has enough wealth. It never has a more stable status quo. It has an increasingly unstable status quo, and so its efforts are ever more frenetic to protect that status quo, its power and its wealth, and even expand them. That’s the nature of Empire, and that’s what we are now. That’s what we are. Everyone’s protestations to the contrary, that’s what we are. Depending on whose reports you read, about a third, 20% I’ll say, to 30 percent of Russia’s heavy armaments industry is in Ukraine. What do they do for tanks? What do they do for their heavy armaments in their military if Ukraine goes? The idea that we could do something in Ukraine, covert or otherwise, and have Putin not respond is just laughable.
AM: I feel like a lot of people of course feel helpless, especially those of us living within the Empire, paying and sponsoring all these atrocities with our tax dollars. What can we do to prevent this government, the military industrial complex from crushing us?
LW: The people, the American people, or at least a substantial powerful minority of them, hopefully a powerful majority of them, are going to have to get sick and tired of this. They’re going to have to get angry about it, and they’re going to have to take action. That’s the only thing that I see as a way to salvage this republic before it sinks completely. We are going to have to have a very powerful minority, or hopefully, as I said a majority, 51%, 52%, who actually stand up on their hind legs and say, “I’ve had it. This isn’t going to happen anymore. You’re not getting…” Does that mean revolution? It might. It might indeed.
US Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, a habitual peddler of fantastical, orientalist lies, is hailed as a war hero by the most cowardly members of society—from war profiteers to robotic nationalists. American Sniper reinforces this myth with two hours of pro-war agitprop.
This grotesque propaganda works to further US exceptionalism and helps lift the morale of Americans who are desperate for content that will make them feel better about their national identity.
Any critics of the acclaimed sniper’s actions experience a deluge of harassment, threats and attacks from Chris Kyle fans. Abby Martin, who faced the brunt of much of the Kyle-stans’ panicked vitriol, discusses the xenophobic, sexist, and racist campaign aimed against those daring to question the greater military industrial complex with Robbie Martin and Rania Khalek on Media Roots Radio.
Journalist Receives Death Threats for Chris Kyle T-Shirt