Guantánamo Bay’s last British resident: we are treated like animals

Guantanamo hunger striker being force fed
(Click image to watch animated video)

Shaker Aamer, the last British resident held in Guantánamo Bay – where he has been incarcerated for the past eleven years despite protests from the British government – has spoken from his prison cell for the first time.

“Tell the world the truth … Please, we are tired. Either you leave us to die in peace – or tell the world the truth. Let the world hear what’s happening,” Aamer told CBS’s 60 Minutes show.

Aamer added: “You cannot walk even half a metre without being chained. Is that a human being? That’s the treatment of an animal.” […]

Read the full article: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/18/guantanamo-bay-british-resident

On this day in history (December 29, 1890): The Wounded knee Massacre

Wounded knee massacre - Mass Grave
U.S. troops posing for a photo beside a mass grave dug for the victims of the massacre at Wounded Knee

December 29, 1890:

Chief Spotted Elk was deathly sick with pneumonia. His band of Lakota set off in the snow from Cheyenne River to seek shelter with Red Cloud at Pine Ridge reservation. They were intercepted by Major Samuel Whitside and a battalion of the Seventh Cavalry and escorted five miles to Wounded Knee Creek.

That evening (just a few weeks after the murder of Sitting Bull), Colonel James Forsyth arrived to take command and ordered his guards to place four rapid-fire Hotchkiss guns in position under cover of darkness around the camp.

The soldiers then came into the camp and began disarming the Lakota at gunpoint. A scuffle broke out between one of the Lakota and a group of soldiers, causing a rifle to go off, and the Army opened fire on the encampment. The families with their children tried to run for cover, but were cut down by the rapid crossfire of the Hotchkiss guns and rifles (and most of the few who did manage to escape were methodically hunted down and killed, or died of exposure). Ultimately 300 people were killed, and were afterwards buried in a mass grave at the site of the massacre.

Twenty of the soldiers that day were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Bodies lying in the snow after the massacre at Wounded Knee

U.S. Military Creating Software to Manipulate Social Media

General-David-Petraeus-008‘The US military is developing software that will let it secretly manipulate social media sites by using fake online personas to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda.

A Californian corporation has been awarded a contract with United States Central Command (Centcom), which oversees US armed operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, to develop what is described as an “online persona management service” that will allow one US serviceman or woman to control up to 10 separate identities based all over the world. […]

The Centcom contract stipulates that each fake online persona must have a convincing background, history and supporting details, and that up to 50 US-based controllers should be able to operate false identities from their workstations “without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries”. […]

Once developed, the software could allow US service personnel, working around the clock in one location, to respond to emerging online conversations with any number of co-ordinated messages, blogposts, chatroom posts and other interventions. Details of the contract suggest this location would be MacDill air force base near Tampa, Florida, home of US Special Operations Command.

Centcom’s contract requires for each controller the provision of one “virtual private server” located in the United States and others appearing to be outside the US to give the impression the fake personas are real people located in different parts of the world.

It also calls for “traffic mixing”, blending the persona controllers’ internet usage with the usage of people outside Centcom in a manner that must offer “excellent cover and powerful deniability”.’

(Source: Fielding, Nick & Cobain, Ian. “U.S. Military Creating Software to Manipulate Social Media“. Guardian, 17 March 2011)

CIA torture research and its applications, from MKULTRA to Abu Ghraib

For years, there has been a lot of debate about whether or not the United States government “really” tortures, or if it is doing something that is supposedly more benign (“harsh interrogation”, “psychological pressure”, etc). However, anyone who takes an honest look at history will have no doubt that the U.S. does torture.


The U.S. government has used beating, burning, cutting, rape, electrocution,  dismemberment, solitary confinement, hooding, stress positions, shackling, etc. — anything their sadistic minds can come up with to get what they want. Let’s take a minute to explore some history of torture by people working for the the U.S. government.

South Vietnamese soldier tortures VC prisoner
January 9, 1964: a South Vietnamese soldier uses the end of a dagger to beat a farmer for allegedly supplying government troops with inaccurate information about the movement of Viet Cong guerrillas in a village west of Saigon

As part of the Phoenix Program during the Vietnam War, the United States military and CIA captured, tortured, and murdered tens of thousands of civilians. Common methods of torture in the CIA interrogation centers included:

“Rape, gang rape, rape using eels, snakes, or hard objects, and rape followed by murder; electric shock (‘the Bell Telephone Hour’) rendered by attaching wires to the genitals or other sensitive parts of the body, like the tongue; the ‘water treatment’; the ‘airplane’ in which the prisoner’s arms were tied behind the back, and the rope looped over a hook on the ceiling, suspending the prisoner in midair, after which he or she was beaten; beatings with rubber hoses and whips; the use of police dogs to maul prisoners.”‘

State terrorism and neoliberalism: the North in the South

Military intelligence officer K. Milton Osborne witnessed the following use of torture in Vietnam:

“The use of the insertion of the 6-inch dowel into the canal of one of my detainee’s ears, and the tapping through the brain until dead. The starvation to death (in a cage), of a Vietnamese woman who was suspected of being part of the local political education cadre in one of the local villages … The use of electronic gear such as sealed telephones attached to … both both the women’s vaginas and men’s testicles [to] shock them into submission.”

Vietnam: the (last) war the U.S. lost

Hooded prisoner, wired up for electroshock torture -- Abu Ghraib
Hooded prisoner, wired up for electroshock torture — Abu Ghraib

This was not limited to Vietnam. The CIA and U.S. military trained thousands of Latin American police and military personnel in torture techniques. Here’s some testimony from a trainee in El Salvador:

“The officers said ‘We are going to teach you … how to teach a lesson to these guerrillas’. The officers who were teaching us this were the American Green Berets … then they began to torture this young fellow. They took out their knives and stuck them under his fingernails. After they took off his fingernails, they broke his elbows. Afterwards they gouged out his eyes. They took out their bayonets and made all sorts of slices in his skin … They then took his hair off and the skin off his scalp. When they saw that there was nothing left to do with him, they threw gasoline on him and burned him … the next day they started the same thing with a 13 year old girl. “
— Witness testimony from El Salvador, Covert Action Information Bulletin, March 1982

The corpse of Manadel al-Jamadi -- Abu Ghraib prison, 2003
The corpse of Manadel al-Jamadi — Abu Ghraib prison, 2003

However during the 1960s, in a quest for more effective interrogation techniques, the CIA began funding a large number of psychological-control/torture experiments using human subjects in the United States. These experiments, known by their CIA cryptonym “MKULTRA”, determined that physical pain, while certainly a vital tool, was not actually the most effective method for achieving psychological dominance over an unwilling subject (the ultimate goal of all torture).

What worked better than using physical abuse alone, was to use techniques that were carefully designed to break people down psychologically, making them feel totally helpless and dependent upon the torturer. Shame/degradation, solitary confinement, sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, heavy doses of pharmaceuticals, and self-inflicted pain were actually found to work better than just ripping someone’s fingernails off and electrocuting their genitals. This is not to say that physical abuse has stopped (as you can see from the photos here), but rather that these physical methods are much more effective when combined with advanced, scientifically tested psychological torture techniques.

For example, one of the MKULTRA subprojects most relevant to the torture camps of today (Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram, etc.) is Project ARTICHOKE, which was described by the CIA as follows:

Project Artichoke -- excerpt from CIA internal memo

The goal of ARTICHOKE was to find answers to the question:

“Can we get control of an individual to the point where he will do our bidding against his will and even against fundamental laws of nature, such as self-preservation?”

— De-classified 1952 Project ARTICHOKE memo

I’ve been reading a book recently, called A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation from the Cold War to the War on Terror, by Alfred McCoy, which is talking about the history of the CIA’s torture techniques — how they were developed, where they have been applied, and what legal/political issues have arisen as a result. McCoy points out that when people talk about MKULTRA, they often focus on the fact that government agents dosed people will LSD and other such things, that just sound weird or crazy, for example:

[…] There were at least three CIA safe houses in the Bay Area where experiments went on. Chief among them was 225 Chestnut on Telegraph Hill, which operated from 1955 to 1965. The L-shaped apartment boasted sweeping waterfront views, and was just a short trip up the hill from North Beach’s rowdy saloons. Inside, prostitutes paid by the government to lure clients to the apartment served up acid-laced cocktails to unsuspecting johns, while martini-swilling secret agents observed their every move from behind a two-way mirror. Recording devices were installed, some disguised as electrical outlets.

Abu Ghraib guard punching bound and hooded prisonersTo get the guys in the mood, the walls were adorned with photographs of tortured women in bondage and provocative posters from French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The agents grew fascinated with the kinky sex games that played out between the johns and the hookers. The two-way mirror in the bedroom gave the agents a close-up view of all the action […]”

— “Operation Midnight Climax: How the CIA Dosed San Francisco Citizens with LSD

A prisoner at Abu Ghraib, with feces smeared all over his body. Humiliation and sexual abuse/degradation are key components of the CIA’s psychological torture system
A prisoner at Abu Ghraib, with feces smeared all over his body. Humiliation and sexual abuse/degradation are key components of the CIA’s psychological torture system

This is certainly disturbing: federal agents dosing San Francisco residents with LSD, without their knowledge, and then having them enact  bondage/rape/torture … watching through a one way mirror, chugging martinis, in order to develop more effective torture techniques … It lays waste to the claim that they are concerned with “protecting” the public. The people that were doing it certainly didn’t have any illusions that this was what they were up to:

“… it was fun, fun, fun. Where else could a red-blooded American boy lie, kill, cheat, steal, rape and pillage with the sanction and bidding of the All-highest?”

— 1971 letter to MKULTRA overseer Sidney Gottlieb, from George Hunter White, who oversaw the Operation Midnight Climax experiments

But while the things that were done during Operation Midnight Climax were horrible, they become even more repulsive when viewed in the wider context of all of the MKULTRA experiments, and the overarching ends towards which Midnight Climax was aiming.

Even here, in what are are often referred to as “LSD experiments”, the air of a torture chamber is clearly present. The bondage porn, photographs of tortured women on the walls to “get the guys in the mood” … men watching from behind two-way mirrors at the torture scene inside, which they are directing …

Abu Ghraib prisoner covered in shitThe solitary confinement, sensory deprivation, sexual abuse, sleep deprivation, humiliation (being rubbed in feces, etc.), threats of violence against loved ones, and other forms of psychological torture employed today at places like Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib (which are combined with traditional methods like rape, electrocution, beatings, etc.), are all elements of a torture system designed — with funding from the CIA and military — in the science labs of U.S./Canadian universities, in mental hospital electroshock chambers, and in covert experiments on civilians such as Operation Midnight Climax.

The techniques developed during these experiments were later integrated into the CIAs KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation manual and other training programs, and are still being used by the U.S. and fascist police forces around the world.

“The frequent screams of the patients that echoed through the hospital did not deter Cameron or most of his associates in their attempts to depattern their subjects completely.”

Ewen Cameron‘s psychological torture/control experiments done as part of MKULTRA

Another victim of torture at Abu Ghraib, 2003
Another victim of torture at Abu Ghraib, 2003, displaying his wounds/scars

Federal officials were aware that these experiments, and their desire to torture people, would be repulsive to the public; so they took active steps to hide the existence of these programs from them, and continued the programs with the full knowledge that they were unethical and illegal:

The concepts involved in manipulating human behavior are found by many people both within and outside the Agency to be distasteful and unethical. […] Public disclosure of some aspects of MKULTRA activity could induce serious adverse reaction in U.S. public opinion.

— John Earman, CIA Inspector General

“While I share your uneasiness and distaste for any program which tends to intrude upon an individual’s private and legal prerogatives, I believe it is necessary that the Agency maintain a central role in this activity.”

— Richard Helms, CIA Deputy Director of Plans

We should never fall into the trap of believing that when some horrendous example of U.S. torture is leaked to the public, that it is just a problem caused by “a few bad apples”. The system used by the Bush and Obama administrations is simply the “state of the art” in torture technique, based on decades of careful experimentation. The use of torture by the U.S. government is nothing new. What is new is the techniques and strategies they are using, and the way they talk about torture.

Good times in Abu Ghraib -- necrophilia
Good times in Abu Ghraib

Thanks NATO! (from Lashkar Gah, Afghanistan)

Below are photos taken of children who were severely wounded in a NATO bombing raid in the Kajaki area of Helmand Province, and taken to the hospital in Lashkar Gah, hours away. This is the reality of the wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq.

Child victim of NATO bombing

“We really want children to be a part of the NATO experience,”

Lori Healey, Chicago NATO Host Committee Executive Director

Child victim of NATO bombing

Child victim of NATO bombing

“The American atrocities in Afghanistan roll on like a drumbeat from hell. With every affront to the human and national dignity of the Afghan people, the corporate media feign shock and quickly conclude that a few bad apples are responsible for U.S. crimes, that it’s all a mistake and misunderstanding, rather than the logical result of a larger crime: America’s attempt to dominate the world by force. But even so, with the highest paid and best trained military in the world – a force equipped with the weapons and communications gear to exercise the highest standards of control known to any military in history – one would think that commanders could keep their troops from making videos of urinating on dead men, or burning holy books, or letting loose homicidal maniacs on helpless villagers.

These three latest atrocities have brought the U.S. occupation the point of crisis – hopefully, a terminal one. But the whole war has been one atrocity after another, from the very beginning, when the high-tech superpower demonstrated the uncanny ability to track down and incinerate whole Afghan wedding parties – not just once, but repeatedly. Quite clearly, to the Americans, these people have never been more than ants on the ground, to be exterminated at will.

The Afghans, including those on the U.S. payroll, repeatedly use the word “disrespect” to describe American behavior. But honest people back here in the belly of the beast know that the more accurate term is racism. The United States cannot help but be a serial abuser of the rights of the people it occupies, especially those who are thought of as non-white, because it is a thoroughly racist nation. A superpower military allows them to act out this characteristic with impunity.”

— Glen Ford, “The U.S. Empire’s Achilles Heel: Its Barbaric Racism

Photos taken by Maso Notarianni in the Emergency Hospital in Lashkar Gah, Afghanistan (source)

The Invisible War: New Film Exposes Rape, Sexual Assault Epidemic in U.S. Military

“On the heels of a new military survey that the number of reported violent sex crimes jumped 30 percent in 2011, with active-duty female soldiers ages 18 to 21 accounting for more than half of the of the victims, we speak with Trina McDonald and Kori Cioca, two subjects of ‘The Invisible War,’ a new documentary that examines the epidemic of rape of soldiers within the U.S. military, which won the Audience Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. […]”

Via Democracy Now!: http://www.democracynow.org/2012/1/30/the_invisible_war_new_film_exposes

Pentagon Fingered as a Source of Narco-Firepower in Mexico

Another series of leaked State Department cables made public this week by WikiLeaks lend credence to investigative reports on gun trafficking and the drug war published by Narco News as far back as 2009.

The big battles in the drug war in Mexico are “not being fought with Saturday night specials, hobby rifles and hunting shotguns,” Narco News reported in March 2009, against the grain, at a time when the mainstream media was pushing a narrative that assigned the blame for the rising tide of weapons flowing into Mexico to U.S. gun stores and gun shows.

Rather, we reported at the time, “the drug trafficking organizations are now in possession of high-powered munitions in vast quantities that can’t be explained by the gun-show loophole.”

Military-grade weapons seized in Mexico drug warThose weapons, found in stashes seized by Mexican law enforcers and military over the past several years, include U.S.-military issued rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers and explosives.

The State Department cables released recently by WikiLeaks support Narco News’ reporting and also confirm that our government is very aware of the fact that U.S military munitions are finding their way into Mexico, and into the hands of narco-trafficking organizations, via a multi-billion dollar stream of private-sector and Pentagon arms exports.

Narco News, in a report in December 2008 [“Juarez murders shine a light on an emerging Military Cartel”] examined the increasing militarization of narco-trafficking groups in Mexico and pointed out that U.S. military-issued ammunition popped up in an arms cache seized in Reynosa, Mexico, in November 2008 that was linked to the Zetas, a mercenary group that provides enforcement services to Mexican narco-trafficking organizations.

Tosh Plumlee, a former CIA asset who still has deep connections in the covert world, told Narco News recently that a special-operations task force under Pentagon command, which has provided training to Mexican troops south of the border, has previously “… found [in Mexico] hundreds of [U.S.-made] M-67s [grenades] as well as thousands of rounds of machine gun-type ammo, .50 [and] .30 [caliber] and the famous [U.S.-made] M-16 — most later confirmed as being shipped from Guatemala into Mexico as well as from USA vendors. …”

Similarly, an AP video report from May 2009 confirms that “M16 machine guns” have been seized from Mexican criminal groups engaged in the drug war.

“It’s unclear how cartels are getting military grade weapons,” the AP report states.

Narco News offered an answer to that question in March 2009, when it reported that the deadliest of the weapons now in the hands of criminal groups in Mexico, particularly along the U.S. border, by any reasonable standard of an analysis of the facts, appear to be getting into that nation through perfectly legal private-sector arms exports, measured in the billions of dollars.

Those exports are approved through the State Department, under a program known as Direct Commercial Sales. A sister program, called Foreign Military Sales, is overseen by the Pentagon and also taps U.S. contractors to manufacture weapons (such as machine guns and grenades) for export to foreign entities, including companies and governments.

Between 2005 and 2009, a total of $41 billion worth of U.S. defense articles were exported under the FMS program and a total of nearly $60 billion via the DCS program, according to a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. The bulk of those exports went to seven nations, including South Korea, but Mexico, too, was a receiving nation, with some $204 million in military arms shipments approved for export in fiscal year 2008 alone, according to the most recently available DCS report.

[…]

Read the full article at: http://narcosphere.narconews.com/notebook/bill-conroy/2011/02/pentagon-fingered-source-narco-firepower-mexico

From the Pentagon to the Private Sector: Boston Globe Analysis Finds Large Numbers of Retiring Generals Entering Defense Industry

(via Democracy Now!)

A new investigation by the Boston Globe finds that retiring generals are leaving the military in large numbers to take lucrative jobs in the defense industry with little concern for any conflicts of interest. We speak with Bryan Bender, national security reporter for the Globe.

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: We’re turning now, though, from the Pentagon to the private sector. That’s the title of a new investigation by the Boston Globe that exposes how retiring generals are leaving the military in large numbers to take lucrative jobs in the defense industry with little concern for any conflicts of interest.

The Globe analyzed the career paths of 750 of the highest-ranking generals and admirals who retired during the last two decades. The results are staggering. From 2004 through 2008, 80 percent of retiring three- and four-star officers went to work as consultants or defense executives. That compares with less than half who followed that path a decade earlier.

The Globe analysis found that in many cases the generals are recruited for private-sector roles well before they retire, raising questions about their independence and judgment while still in uniform. What’s more, the Pentagon is aware and even supports this practice.

Bryan Bender is the national security reporter for the Boston Globe. He’s joining us from Washington, D.C.

Bryan, thanks so much for joining us on this very snowy day. The East Coast is blanketed. Talk about this research you have done, which is really a stunning exposé.

BRYAN BENDER: Well, what we did is, as you mentioned, went back and looked at the most senior military officers who have retired in the last 20 years to see where they went and what they did in their post-military careers. And the growth in the share of the three- and four-star generals and admirals who have gone into private defense work has increased quite substantially.

But what we found was not just the numbers. I think some would suggest that the nation has been at war for nearly a decade, so that explains, at least partially, why the rise. But more interesting was the sort of blurred lines between the role of these senior officers in the defense industry and their continuing role as official or unofficial advisers to the military.

AMY GOODMAN: Go through —- well -—

BRYAN BENDER: In other words —

AMY GOODMAN: Go ahead.

BRYAN BENDER: I was going to say, in other words, they’re leaving the military and very quickly taking jobs at defense companies or, increasingly, as private consultants either in business for themselves or in these consulting firms that specialize in what people call the “rent a general” phenomenon. But while they’re doing this private defense work, they’re still shaping, in a very real way, what the Pentagon’s priorities are, where they’re investing money. And so, in any other world, that would seem a pretty clear conflict of interest.

In one example, we found a retired four-star general from the Air Force who had been in charge of weapons programs, including the B-2 bomber, retires and then, within — literally within hours, is hired by Northrop Grumman, the manufacturer of the B-2, as a consultant, and then, very soon after, is called back by the Air Force to help oversee a study of what’s going to replace the B-2 bomber. So, that’s just one example of, again, these blurred lines between a private defense company official or consultant and an adviser to the Pentagon.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re talking about the man you started your piece “From the Pentagon to the Private Sector” with. “An hour after the official ceremony marking the end of his 35-year career in the Air Force, General Gregory ‘Speedy’ Martin returned to his quarters…” And you went from there saying, “almost as soon as he closed the door that day in 2005 his phone rang. It was an executive at Northrop Grumman.”

So, explain then — as you make your bullet points, you say, “When a general-turned-businessman arrives at the Pentagon, he is often treated with extraordinary deference — as if still in uniform — which can greatly increase his effectiveness as a rainmaker for industry. The military even has name for it — the ‘bobblehead effect.'” Explain that.

BRYAN BENDER: Well, that’s one of the things that’s most concerning to observers of this, including some retired generals and admirals themselves, who we interviewed. And that is that it’s quite well known that there’s a revolving door in Washington. If you leave Congress, if you leave an executive department, you go be a lobbyist or a consultant to the very industry that you had a responsibility to oversee while you were in the government.

Where the military is different, people suggest, is this very rigid, ingrained system of hierarchy and deference to seniority. And the old adage, I think, applies: once a general, always a general. When you talk to some of the people who sit in some of these meetings of advisory panels and the sort of mind-numbing number of these commissions and other bodies that advise the military, if there’s a retired four-star general in the room, he’s going to get a level of respect. People are going to hear him out in a very real way, as if he’s still a general and he didn’t leave the military.

And the bobblehead effect is a term that a few people used, which refers to those bobblehead toys where the head goes up and down. You get a retired general or admiral in many of these settings, and everybody sitting around the table, particularly military officers who may have worked for that general when he was in uniform — he or she was in uniform — or, you know, certainly knew of him, knew the command that he or she had had, they will sit around the table and nod their head as the general speaks. So, the bobblehead effect really is something that is sort of specific to the military. You have this deference to seniority, in a way that you don’t elsewhere, that doesn’t go away when a general or an admiral takes off their uniform.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the meeting that took place on the National Defense University’s campus on the banks of the Potomac River in June of 2009, Bryan Bender.

BRYAN BENDER: This was a meeting that the Army convened, the vice chief of staff of the Army convened. And the purpose was to lay out a strategy for the Army’s future combat vehicle, something — a program called the ground combat vehicle, or GCV, which is a new program that is potentially worth billions of dollars for the defense contractors that will build it. And at this meeting, the Army invited about a hundred mostly government officials, military officers, congressional staffers. There were a few scholars there from think tanks or academia. Defense companies were not invited, because this was a very initial meeting laying out what some of the specifications might be for this new vehicle. They had not awarded a request for companies to respond to yet. But at the meeting were a bunch of retired Army generals. And it turns out that many of them are private industry consultants, including for the companies that later bid on the ground combat vehicle contract when it came out. And it was just one example that we came across of, again, this blurring of the lines. Here, you know, are a bunch of retired Army generals who are brought in because clearly they have a lot of expertise in military affairs — many of them were responsible for overseeing some very similar programs when they were in uniform — the Army seeking their advice, seeking their input, as they craft this new major weapons program.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s talk about, Bryan —

BRYAN BENDER: At the same time —

AMY GOODMAN: Bryan? Let’s talk about who was there.

BRYAN BENDER: Go ahead.

AMY GOODMAN: Retired Army Lieutenant General William H. Campbell, who oversaw all the Army’s information systems before leaving the service in 2000. Since 2002, he’s been employed as a senior vice president at BAE Systems, one of the Army’s primary weapons suppliers and a major bidder for the new ground combat vehicle. You emailed him. He wrote back it’s not a conflict of interest because he’s in the electronics division of BAE, not the ground combat division. Campbell, you say, and BAE declined to say how much, if any, of the electronics system in the new tank might be produced by Campbell’s division at BAE. But Campbell suggested other generals at the meeting may have been skating closer to the edge. Like who, Bryan Bender?

BRYAN BENDER: Well, there’s a retired Army three-star general, Joseph Yakovac, who specialized in developing weapon systems just like this one when he was in the Army. And he’s a consultant for the same company, BAE Systems, but specifically on this ground combat vehicle program.

And this gets to the issue of disclosure. A lot of these generals will say, “Well, you know, when I was invited to this meeting, I had to fill out an ethics questionnaire.” And many of them, if not all of them, did so, as far as I can tell, but that’s where some people will come in and say, “Well, you know what? Yes, they filled out an ethics questionnaire, and presumably they told the truth, that they have a variety of defense industry clients or they plan to consult in the future on this very program that they’re advising the Army on, but I cannot find an example where anyone in a situation like that has been precluded from participating in a panel like that.” And that’s where some of the critics will say the process is broken. There’s a lot of paperwork these generals have to fill out. They file to the Army ethics questionnaires and nondisclosure agreements. But from what I can tell, in most cases, those documents get stuck in a drawer somewhere or on a computer hard drive and basically disappear. No one ever reviews them. No one ever says, “You know what? General Jack Smith, or whatever his name is, has these industry consulting clients and he’s advising us on some very similar technologies. Maybe we shouldn’t include him in this example.” So, that’s where public disclosure comes in.

And I think most people will say the problem with these disclosure forms is that there’s no way for the public to know who’s working for whom, particularly if they’re a consultant, and that, in the minds of some, there should be more disclosure, because at least there would be some sunlight on this process from the outside that might lead the Army and the other military services to do a better job of policing who is advising the military while they’re also being paid by the very companies who could benefit from that advice.

AMY GOODMAN: You mention retired General William S. Wallace, who ran the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command before retiring in 2008, who said he wasn’t representing one of the prospective bidders at the time of the meeting. Like the other participants, however, one of the ethics questions he was asked to answer, according to a blank copy, was whether he intended to consult in the future for a client that may have a direct interest in bidding on the new tank. Wallace didn’t say how he answered that question. But explain what his job is now, Bryan Bender.

BRYAN BENDER: Well, General Wallace, who, as you mention, ran the Training and Doctrine Command, which is basically the senior Army headquarters for determining what weapons and equipment the military — the Army should buy, he’s now a private consultant. And one of his clients now is General Dynamics Land Systems Division, which is directly bidding on the ground combat vehicle program that he was brought to the National Defense University to advise on. And it gets to my earlier point. I have no reason to believe that General Wallace was, you know, untruthful in his ethics questionnaire. So when the question came up — “Do you have any plans or intention to consult for a company in the future that might have a stake in this program?” — it really doesn’t matter what he said, whether he said yes or no, because obviously, in the end, it really didn’t matter, because he soon thereafter went to work for General Dynamics Land Systems.

And, you know, General Wallace and others I talked to will say, “Well, we signed a nondisclosure agreement before we went to this meeting, so, you know, we promised that whatever we learn here, whatever we find out, whatever this meeting is about, we will not share that with anyone else.” But that gets to this other issue, which some others raised, which is, the policing mechanism basically is inside the brain of the general or admiral. As one put it, you have to have a firewall in your head. So you know some inside information, perhaps, that you got from a meeting like this or a variety of others in the Pentagon, but when you go to the boardroom or when you go meet with your client, you basically have to make sure that you don’t download from one side of your brain to the other the information that you learned that you’re not supposed to share with your client. And I think many will say that that’s a minefield that is very difficult to walk. And that’s why many people think that the generals shouldn’t be in that position to begin with.

And maybe one point I’ll make, which is sort of a broader point: even the most concerned critics of this phenomenon and how it’s grown, no one will say that, “Oh, the generals should just retire and go off to the golf course or sit in their rocking chair and smoke a corncob pipe.” You know, many of them retire at 55, they’re in great health, they’ve spent an enormous amount of years in the military, they certainly have an expertise that is valued. Everyone agrees that they’re going to go do something, like in any other industry, which is their expertise. Where the real concern is is, again, the blurring of the lines. No one’s saying they shouldn’t go work for defense companies. But they probably shouldn’t be also, in so many cases, advising the Pentagon on some of the very same issues that they’re working on in the private sector.

AMY GOODMAN: Brian, I want to —

BRYAN BENDER: And that particularly goes for the consulting arena. Go ahead.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to a related issue: David Barstow, the twice Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter, who exposed how dozens of retired generals working as radio and television analysts had been co-opted by the Pentagon to make its case for the war in Iraq and how many of them also had undisclosed ties to military contractors that benefited from policies they defended. This is David Barstow on Democracy Now! in May of 2009 explaining how Pentagon officials developed this program during the lead-up to the Iraq war.

DAVID BARSTOW: The way to really influence the American public was to try and find people who were viewed as independent of both government and the media, people who were considered authoritative and expert, and people who would have an ability to cut through the spin.

And the group that they began zeroing in on were all the military analysts who were being hired in droves after 9/11 by all the major TV networks. In the view of Torie Clarke and her staff, these guys were sort of the ultimate key influencers. They were seen as, most of them, retired decorated war heroes. They were, many of them, retired generals, some three- and four-star generals. They came from an institution that traditionally is extremely trusted by the American public. And they were seen by the public not really as of the media, but not of the government either.

And so, in the fall of 2002, Torie Clarke and her aides, with the strong support from the White House and from her bosses, set out to target this group and to make them, really, one of the main vehicles for reaching the American public and building support for the war on terror. So that’s how it sort of began, was with this idea that they could take this thing, this thing called the military analyst, which is a creature that’s been around for a long time — going back to the first Gulf War, we remember some of the retired generals first coming on air — and they could take this and the fact of 9/11 and the fact of how prevalent they were on air, sometimes appearing segment after segment after segment, getting more air time than many correspondents were getting, holding forth, not just on the issues of where the airplanes are flying and where the tanks are moving, but weighing more heavily on even the strategic issues of what should we do next and how should the war on terror unfold, what should be the next targets.

And they looked at them as effectively what they were doing was writing the op-ed on air for the networks and for the cables. And they noticed the way the relationships between the anchors and their sort of in-house generals, there was a sort of bond between anchor and general. And you didn’t see the kind of challenging questioning that would go on if you had sent, for example, a representative of the Pentagon to the TV station. It was a much more — almost fawning, in some cases, kind of relationship between anchor and general. So they saw this group, and they saw in this group a way of taking the media filter, which politicians are always so fond of complaining about, and turning the media filter into more of a media megaphone.

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