Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis

At every single moment of one’s life one is what one is going to be no less than what one has been.

I feel as if I want to say I wish I had read Wilde’s letter from prison, De Profundis, sooner, but, as one of the themes of the letter, the continuance of the travels and development of your life suggests, I may not have been ready for Wilde’s themes of suffering, art and Christ. Not ready because I hadn’t suffered in the years before the wars, not ready because I was too blinded by drunkenness to understand myself or to care to understand myself, and, more recently, not ready, because I don’t think I was open enough to appreciate Wilde’s transition in life and his growth through suffering, as his own transition and growth without trying to transplant my experiences onto his.

Trying to learn from others, without trying to become others, has been a difficult process for me these last few years in recovery. I am not sure how many other men and women like me are beguiled by this trap, this trying to put a square peg in a round hole approach to “fixing” your life, but it has been a steady and challenging presence in my recovery. When someone else’s solution doesn’t fit, doesn’t take hold, transform and reveal a new life that leaves behind all the suffering, sorrow, guilt and anger of the past, discouragement and exhaustion give way to depression and despair, and one of those inevitable setbacks in my lifetime of recovery overtakes me.

In response Wilde offers: This New Life…is of course no new life at all, but simply the continuance, by means of development, and evolution, of my former life. So throw away those pegs and walk past the holes, find your way ahead, embrace what life has given you, what you have found through your decisions and through Nature’s circumstances, and understand your life as your life through the reflections of others, through art and through the Divine.

Keep moving forward, don’t give up and have the courage and compassion to love yourself-even you men whose lives have been testaments and self-edicts to leadership, self-sacrifice and duty. There is much strength, wisdom, and, ultimately, purpose in understanding and accepting your suffering. With such compassion towards yourself comes not mawkish grousing, but rather galvanized fortitude, sustainable confidence and insightful concern, not just for yourself, but for others and for our world. Denying yourself compassion and rejecting the concept of understanding your suffering to have a purpose in your life, although macho and tough, will put you in a place where ultimately the alcohol and drugs no longer bring the numbness that the barrel of your pistol can only achieve. It takes courage to do the above, but what other choice did I have, what other choice do you have?

Others have suffered, it is what unites us as men and women, it is our greatest commonality. Do not hide from it.

He [Christ] understood the leprosy of the leper, the darkness of the blind, the fierce misery of those who live for pleasure, the strange poverty of the rich. Some one wrote to me in trouble, ‘When you are not on your pedestal you are not interesting.’ How remote was the writer from what Matthew Arnold calls ‘the Secret of Jesus.’ Either would have taught him that whatever happens to another happens to oneself, and if you want an inscription to read at dawn and at night-time, and for pleasure or for pain, write up on the walls of your house in letters for the sun to gild and the moon to silver, ‘Whatever happens to oneself happens to another.’ Oscar Wilde.

Peace and Merry Christmas.

Ida and the Cycles of Violence and Forgiveness

Have you seen the film Ida?

It is a Polish film from last year that is a powerful, brilliant piece of filmmaking. I use those words powerful and brilliant, because, 48 hours later, I am still contemplating and dissecting the movie; I am still in meditation over its meaning and in awe at how the film has stimulated my own thoughts and tested my beliefs.

The story is a road trip in the early 1960s in Poland between a young woman, brought up in a convent and on the verge of taking her vows to become a nun, and her aunt, a once leading figure in Poland’s post war Communist Party and now a judge. The young woman has no worldly or sensual experiences and is about to begin her adult life by joining the once almighty, but now politically bankrupt, morally spent, and intellectually disregarded Church. The older woman with her life ending professionally, and judging by her alcohol consumption, physically and emotionally as well, belongs to the new order, the new way of the world, the post war communist party promising brotherhood, meaning and purpose in the years after the cataclysms and holocausts of WWI and WWII. It is a political and philosophical movie, but it is also a deeply personal movie, as two individual life stories, differentiated by commitments to competing ideologies and life’s purpose, commitments that dominate and control their lives because of circumstance and history, more than by individual choice, are forced to look past the veneer and trappings of their costumes and titles, to examine who they are and why they are.

As I watched Ida the same challenges arose in me, and as a testament to the great storytelling of the film, are still resident with me. Most concerning, about 2/3rds through the film, I said to my girlfriend, “if I were them, I’d take that shovel and split his head”. It was an honest and true feeling. I was not acting or parading as some phony tough guy or a has-been Marine, but my visceral, gut reaction at that time, during that scene, was that I would commit violence and I would revel in it to assuage my anger and celebrate revenge. But, as the film went on, and as I reflected on those emotions, spurned by the actions of the characters, I realized how wrong, how foolish and how weak such a sentiment and desire was and how embarrassing my utterance.

In the scheme of the movie, killing the man would have been possible and it would have fulfilled some form of duty or obligation to my family, my community and my people, as well as fulfilling a duty to my own image of myself and my need for vengeance; vengeance based on personal, cultural and institutional values. However, taking myself away from that scene, watching the characters and applying my own life’s experience participating in and around the violence of war, I grudgingly recognize and must accept the futility of such violence. I say grudgingly, because violence and revenge is such a part of our identity and our culture that I am loathe to give it up, I am afraid to move on, and to recognize the myth of redemptive violence, as exactly that, a myth constructed primarily for the purposes of national, ethnic, sectarian or religious hegemony, dominance and absolution.

But if I had killed that man, if I had split his head with that shovel, seen death overcome him and gain the satisfaction of such grisly passage of state, what would come of it, what events would I now own? His wife and children, as innocent of crimes as those in whose name I murdered, would be widowed and orphaned on a struggling farm. His sons, would they not seek revenge and in time come for me and my family? Would not the children of my family, the next generation, be butchered in turn? My actions, murder and the infliction of suffering on the innocent, would begin a cycle of violence, an uncontrollable, bloody cycle without end, the likes of which we see in our wars overseas and in the wars in our own cities. And for me? My own experiences in war, my own and personal struggles with moral injury, is that not instructive to me? What would become of my mind and my soul after killing the man?

To move on and say nothing to the man is an option and a better one than violence. However, it is an incomplete option, leaving a chapter of life open ended and without closure, in essence running from a problem and not attempting a resolution, but it does not require the strength needed for a third, and rightful, option. Imagine saying to the man: “I forgive you” and giving him your hand and your blessing. How hard that would be! It seems nearly impossible to me and such a thought, such an option, which leads to an involuntary reflex and rejection within me, would stop the cycle of violence and lead to peace, both within me and my community.

The choice of mercy, of forgiveness, is anathema to my sense of manhood and my obligation for revenge and justice; but what would come of such forgiveness, besides a rejection of cultural and institutionalized violence and loss of personal pride, if I had the courage to enact it? A man would be given mercy and his family spared, and perhaps nothing more than that, but, with deep consideration, is anything else truly necessary? Breaking the cycle of violence is enough. Quite possibly, and maybe very likely, the man would be changed and his family enlightened, hell, maybe his daughter would grow to be the second coming of Mother Theresa, but such achievements or results would not be necessary to validate or vindicate the forgiveness proffered to the man. Stopping the cycle of violence is enough, the peace that would come to my mind and to my community would be enough.

I like to say that one of my favorite quotes is from Saint Francis de SalesNothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength. Yet, how difficult to turn such an outlook into an attribute, even when through personal experience you have seen the glaring failure and horrific counter-production of violence and have been affected so forcibly by grace, kindness and forgiveness as I have.

So please give Ida a watch. It’s a wonderful, well done, contemplative film and I trust it will challenge something in you.

*For another excellent film that takes on the myth of redemptive violence and exposes it for the tragedy it really is, please watch Blue Ruin. Both films are available on Netflix.

Sam’s Ride For Peace

Sam Winstead is a Marine combat veteran of the Peleliu and Okinawa campaigns of World War II, two island names that will send a shudder through you if you know your WWII history. Sam was a scout and would have undoubtedly had a hard time of it.

During our second Iraq War Sam received a letter from his grandson, also a Marine. His grandson’s words from Iraq reminded Sam of the waste and worthlessness of war.

Sam is now organizing his fourth Ride for Peace. For the past three years Sam, who will turn 90 this coming year, has pedaled 350 miles from Raleigh, NC to Washington, DC to petition our elected leaders to learn from history and avoid war.

This year a documentary will be made by FILMS for World Peace chronicling Sam’s ride . Please take a watch of their trailer and please consider donating or volunteering your support.

 

If there can be one thing I ask, please watch and share this video:

If I could articulate well and share succinctly my entire thoughts on PTSD, depression, moral injury, alcohol abuse and, especially, suicide, it would be ensconced in this 4 1/2 minute video from Ze Frank.

When I was first shown it, my shield went up and I spurned it, wanting to disregard his words, because he was talking about teenagers and that certainly doesn’t apply to the pain and experiences of a returned warrior [cue the self-indulgence…;)], but I listened and everything, EVERYTHING, he says applies to me and to so many like me who have suffered and are suffering from the pains of mental and psychiatric wounds.

Frank’s description of himself, his breakdown, his rejection of others, his forays into getting help and how bloody hard it can be, and how this mental pain, this psychiatric trauma, is worse than anything physical, applies to those of us who carried rifles in far away lands just as it does to civilians at home. This commonality of suffering does not just unite us as humans, children of a natural and spiritual order, but it a source of relief and compassion. For, as you may be suffering, just as Frank and I suffered, you know that you are not alone, and through that shared suffering, through this community and commonality, you can find assistance, begin recovery and, through time and effort, including seemingly inevitable regression and relapse, you can regain your life.

The video ends with words to the effect that “if someone sent you this video it is because they love you”. No one is going to ask you to watch this video who doesn’t care, who doesn’t love you or who won’t help you. Most importantly someone who has sent you this video is offering their hand. They are not going to leave you and they will help you get to that other side.

Please watch and share.

 

Whistleblower Panel in Oslo with Daniel Ellsberg

A panel I took part on while I was in Oslo last month. Daniel Ellsberg skyped in and I joined Coleen Rowley, Kirk Wiebe and Norman Solomon, as well as Arne Ruth, a very preeminent Swedish journalist. Only the first few moments are in Norwegian 🙂

“Political Leaders Who Made Them Sacrifice For Nothing”

An interview I did with RT in London on Afghanistan regarding President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to the UK and assessing our war in Afghanistan and its long term effects.

Interview with Op-Ed News and Joan Brunwasser

From Op-Ed News earlier this week:

Matthew Hoh with More on Hagel’s “Forced Resignation”
By Joan Brunwasser

My guest today is Matthew Hoh, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy. A former Marine who served on US Embassy teams in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Hoh was the highest ranking official to explicitly resign because of US policy in Afghanistan. Welcome to OpEdNews, Matthew. Everyone’s abuzz regarding Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s resignation. What do you make of it?

Hello, Joan. Getting past the name calling and the personal attacks on Hagel by anonymous officials in the White House, which is often the case when the White House has something to hide, I think what this ultimately will be about is that Chuck Hagel did not want to go along with the re-escalation of the war in Afghanistan, which is the most unpopular war in American history, or the involvement of American forces in the Iraqi and Syrian civil wars that will not work.

I haven’t spoken to Chuck Hagel directly in the last two years, during his time as Secretary of Defense, but I have known him for five years now, and his views of the wars prior to his appointment as Secretary of Defense were that they were reckless and counter-productive. So, it wasn’t a surprise to me that he is leaving the Administration, particularly in light of the emphasis on the wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan; wars that will prove counter-productive and morally and politically disastrous. I expect, in time, that Hagel’s resignation will be seen as an act of personal integrity in regards to disagreement with perpetual war.

Before we delve into Hagel’s positions on the subject, I’d like to go back your comment about the war in Afghanistan being the most unpopular war in American history. Is that really true? Is your statement based on a single CNN poll? I’ll tell you why I’m asking. I was around during the Vietnam War, and that felt very different to me: there were numerous well-attended rallies and demonstrations, a lot of media coverage. The anti-war movement was energetic and very visible. This just doesn’t have the same feel. Am I misremembering or way off-base here?

Here is the Gallup poll information. Here is data from Pew. The BBC has the most recent poll I could find. And here is a Washington Post article comparing polling data on previous wars, leading to the classification of our war in Afghanistan as America’s most unpopular war.

It makes sense why the White House kept silent its decision to re-escalate the war in Afghanistan until after our mid-term elections. What doesn’t make sense is our congressional leaders silence on it.

So, help me understand, please. Admittedly, I haven’t been following this closely. But I thought that we were actually winding down. Now, we’re escalating. Why? How did this come about? And why is Congress holding its collective tongue on this? There are many mysteries to unravel.

This weekend, The New York Times revealed that several weeks ago, President Obama signed a secret order to re-introduce American troops in Afghanistan back into an active combat role. Over the last couple of years, American troops have withdrawn from direct combat with the Afghan insurgents, focusing on training Afghan Army and Afghan Police forces (which should not be viewed as an inclusive national force as Pashtuns in the south and east of the country are very much under-represented in the Afghan Security forces and over-represented in the insurgency hence the nature of the war in Afghanistan as a civil war and one that has long needed a political solution and reconciliation).

For what I believe to be primarily domestic political reasons, President Obama has ordered American troops to once again kill and be killed in an Afghan Civil War that dates back to the 1970s. President Obama has bowed to hysterical pressure from hawkish Republicans and Democrats over the violence in Iraq and Syria. To protect himself from criticism that he is prematurely (after over 13 years!) ending the war in Afghanistan, and to prove that he is as tough as his critics, President Obama has committed American troops to combat, once again, in Afghanistan.

This move by President Obama also belies the notion that America’s war in Afghanistan, so publicly embraced by Presidential Candidate Obama in 2008, has been successful in militarily defeating the Taliban as a path to peace and stability in that part of the world. Rather, we have seen that America’s escalation of the Afghan War in 2009 has only produced greater violence, more corruption and a larger insurgency with no end in sight to the war or to the suffering of the Afghan people.

As for the silence of members of Congress, the words craven and corrupt come to mind. Members of Congress are terrified to speak their minds on the war, afraid of being accused of not supporting the troops, not being tough or not being patriotic. Additionally, with a $1 trillion a year national and homeland security Leviathan, members of Congress are ensconced in a cocoon like cycle of war-policy chasing war-money and war-money chasing war-policy. So, members of Congress see no political, policy or financial advantage in questioning the war, even if they believe the war to be wrong, misguided or failing.

And essentially, the fact that this war is exceedingly unpopular makes absolutely no difference, in terms of form or substance, in terms of derailing this juggernaut? Where does that leave the American public? And what does this portend in terms of a state of perpetual war? This is very very bad.

I think we should look back a year and look at the groundswell that came from libertarian and progressive organizations against American involvement in the Syrian Civil War that was pursued by the Obama Administration in the summer of 2013. A concerted and unified opposition by the American public to US bombing in Syria took the Obama Administration by complete surprise and derailed efforts to begin American intervention in Syria. This was a real success for not just the anti-war and peace movements, but also for American Democracy. It is important to remember that the system can be responsive and responsible to the citizens and so we should not lose hope, even when we are up against such an overwhelming force as the American war machine.

However this lesson was not lost on the Obama Administration and so, this year, when the opportunity came for the United States to insert itself into the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, the Administration was much better prepared to sell the war. The Administration was also more inclined to demonstrate patience and not offer a rush to war. Through a very effective public relations campaign, in many ways similar to the public relations campaign utilized by the Bush Administration to sell the Iraq War in 2002 and 2003, the Obama Administration has been able to manipulate the American public into fearing the Islamic State and demonstrating a need for American intervention (again, this is very similar to the public relations tactics used by the Bush Administration in 2002/3). This lesson is as important for us to remember as the lesson of success we had in 2013 in stopping American entry into the Syrian Civil War.

Those of us opposed to the state of perpetual war that we find our country committed to, and in many ways dependent upon, must understand the environment and dynamic that we must work with: public opinion, media and narrative. These elements are fluid and alive, but are also very susceptible to manipulation by the US government. To engage against the wars we must be robust in our work, learning from past experiences, anticipating future events and making sure that we utilize the greatest strengths of our movement: that America’s war in our modern age, despite US government narratives to the contrary, have nearly all been immoral and counter-productive.

You’re right, understanding tactics and history is undoubtedly important. But, how exactly do we join forces to mobilize in an effective way? What resources are there to utilize against this huge government/military machine? Can you give us anything more concrete?

Communication and education, of course, are paramount. However, I think we are too often entrenched in partisan or identity politics to build momentum. For instance, look at how many members of the Democratic Party were against the warrantless wire tapping program conducted by the Bush Administration, yet how many members of the Democratic Party were ok with the same spying on American citizens by the Obama Administration. We are a nation that divides and then further divides ourselves into artificial and ultimately meaningless sects; so reaching across these lines is key. Without dissolving these divisions, the wars at home and the wars abroad will continue and those in power will remain in power.

I also see greater need for non-violent civil action and disobedience, but this must be well-led and appeal to and not threaten other segments of the public. The Occupy Movement captured attention and sympathy from both the public and the media, but I believe their lack of leadership and lack of organization failed to capitalize on that media and public attention. Additionally, the civil action must be inclusive and welcoming of others, and must do all it can to make people want to join and support it. I think many who were at first open to Occupy quickly soured on it and came to view it as a collection of professional agitators and protesters. Whether or not that is the case, the perception became reality for the public and the media and the Occupy movement failed to maintain the widespread support it initially received.

Finally, I will say that what we are up against is well organized, well funded and very, very media savvy. Our movement will never be able to match those resources head to head, but we must be aware of the strengths of our opponents and counter or diminish those strengths. We must find the resources to build and sustain organizations capable of operating in the media, in Washington, DC and in local communities. What Occupy tapped into we must follow up on, because the people in the United States know the wars overseas are wrong and they know the divisions in our country are wrong. What the people need is someone to lead on these issues.

Thanks so much for talking with me, Matthew. I learned a lot. I’m looking forward to getting the backstory in our next go-round. I went to your blog last night and see that there’s been a lot going on. People need to hear that, too, it’s all part of the larger picture. Thanks so much for what you’ve done.

I’m happy to do another interview in the future. Thanks, Joan!

Profile in VICE: The First US Official to Resign Over Afghanistan Is Fighting to Help Whistleblowers

I’ve liked VICE for a bit of time now, so it was pretty cool to have been profiled by VICE UK while I was in London. Much appreciation for to Joe Sandler Clarke and Adam Barnett for their time and effort telling my story.

The First US Official to Resign Over Afghanistan Is Fighting to Help Whistleblowers

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It’s five years since Matthew Hoh became the first US official to resign in protest over the government’s handling of the Afghanistan war, resulting in a PR disaster for the US government.

“After I resigned, I was in a bar and it just so happened that I was sitting next to an editor from the Washington Post. We got talking and he told me to call the foreign affairs desk the next day.” He did and a few hours later, Post journalist Karen DeYoung was on the phone. They spoke for six hours and within days, his resignation letter was on the front page.

In the letter, Hoh explained he had lost confidence in the tactics being used in the conflict, and that he had no idea why it was going on. He wrote, “My resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end.”

Today, sitting in his hotel room in central London, wearing a War Resisters International badge and with leather elbow patches sown onto his jacket, he admits he is surprised by his journey from Marine Corps captain to peace activist. “I never planned any of this,” he says. “In a year I went from thinking I would have 35 years in the government before getting a PhD and teaching at a small college somewhere to saying, ‘Fuck you, I am not doing this anymore. It’s wrong.'”

The years since he resigned have been marked by the current administration embarking on what Glenn Greenwald has called “the mo​st aggressive and vindictive assault on whistleblowers of any president in American history.” Of the 11 times the Espionage Act has been used to prosecute whistleblowers who have leaked information to journalists, seven have been under Obama. Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist James Risen is to this day ​facing possible prosecution for refusing to reveal the identity of his one of sources to the authorities.

Hoh now fears that if he had blown the whistle today as he had done in 2009, he would be facing prosecution. This explains his motivation for becoming an advisory board member at ExposeFacts, a new website led by veteran journalist and activist Norman Solomon. The project is designed as a place for people to leak information safely, while also offering better protection to whistleblowers and campaigning to shield reporters from state surveillance. It already has the backing of a host of Pulitzer Prize winners and Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times.

The day before I meet him, Hoh was part of panel of former intelligence workers at the launch of ExposeFacts that told the world’s media that they were fighting back against the Obama administrations “war on journalism and whistleblowing.”

They aim to provide technology for secure, anonymous whistleblowing, and to push the actions of whistleblowers “to the forefront of the public consciousness.”

Having enlisted for the Marines in the heady days before 9/11, initially Hoh’s military career was “just like the brochure said it would be.” He was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, with his days spent training, traveling the world, and hanging out at the base’s private beach.

Hardworking and intelligent, with supreme self-confidence and an inherent curiosity about the world, Hoh enjoyed what he describes as a “Forrest Gump-like” rise through the ranks.

By the time US forces invaded Iraq, he was working for the Secretary of the Navy. By 2004, he was leading reconstruction projects in Iraq, handing out money to political leaders and making arrangements, ostensibly so the country’s devastated athletics facilities could be rebuilt. He would travel with his own security team, with a pistol tucked into his suit pocket and $25 million in cash.

“It was part Scarface, part Lawrence of Arabia,” he recalls. “But it was very instructive to me about the folly of war.”

Throughout the conflict, Hoh was skeptical about the reasons for going to war and the mission itself. “I certainly doubted why we were there and could see it wasn’t adding up. I was doing all I could to do it right,” he says. “But it doesn’t matter how much honor you possess if a war is morally fraught.”

He worked with a group of women in Baghdad and the memory of them haunts him still. They were modern and educated. They wore hijabs that matched their mascara and believed in the US mission.

“We gave them this hope and this promise and then we gave them a hell that you and I can’t even imagine,” he says. “I know one of them is still alive, but that is something that has haunted me ever since. I don’t know if they were blown up in a car bomb, or if they were raped, or if their families were killed. That’s where a lot of my moral injury comes from.”

After a period spent moving from one prestigious desk job to the next, Hoh was back in Iraq in 2007. He was with a small group of men when the helicopter they were traveling in crashed over the Persian Gulf. “It was kind of ironic because you go to the desert and almost die in the water,” he says. “Four guys died, including one who was a friend of mine and I could not save any of them. It crushed me. I had survivor’s guilt.”

On returning home he could barely function. While spending a day at the beach in Delaware, he had a flashback. “It came over me as soon as I went in the water. All the stereotypical PTSD symptoms you hear about not liking fireworks, or not being in crowds, they’re all a joke, compared to this moral injury. It’s just blackness,” he says.

“The alcohol became key. I was always a big drinker, but this was different. It was the only way I could get through the day. My days in this period consisted of getting up, going to work, leaving work as soon as possible, getting home, working out, drinking, blacking out by 10 PM and then doing it all again.”

Two years later, figuring that if he was going to die, it may as well be in Afghanistan, he went back to fight. He was the State Department’s senior representative in Zabul province, an area which had seen some of the fiercest fighting of the war. But five months into his year-long contract, he was done with the military.

“I didn’t believe any of what was being said. That we were there to protect ourselves from another 9/11 and all that stuff. It just wasn’t true,” he remembers.

That’s when he resigned and before long he was being chased by journalists who wanted to hear of his disaffection. “It was a huge deal,” recalls Hoh. “I had three TV news trucks outside my house and 75 media requests, the day after it broke.”

Despite US Envoy Richard Holbrooke telling him that he understood his misgivings about the war and that his letter was being “taken seriously,” after news of his resignation went public Hoh found himself cut off from the Washington establishment. A Wikipedia page about him that downplayed his role in the State Department and featured a clip of him being used in an al Qaeda propaganda video surfaced online. For more than two years, he couldn’t find work and had no money coming in. He found himself selling cars for a few months just to get by.

Being frozen out took its toll. By 2011, suicide had become a daily obsession. He would plan it meticulously, figuring out when and how he would do it, how he would tell his family. “The only thing I didn’t do was buy a gun,” he says.

Ultimately, it was through the support of family and an ex-girlfriend who forced him into therapy that he was able to dig himself out of that feeling. A sense of having a greater purpose helped too. Every time he saw a politician lie on TV, or when he read a newspaper article he knew to be untrue, he kept wanting to speak out. “I was out in public and doing media, so I felt like I couldn’t kill myself,” he says. “People would say, ‘You’re gonna listen to what that guy thinks about the war?! He shot himself in the head!’ I had this cause, this purpose and I could not discredit that by killing myself.”

Hoh is now 41. Having left Washington vowing never to return, he lives in Raleigh, North Carolina and earns $48,000 a year through his job the Center for International Policy. If he had stayed in the military, he says, he would be earning more than double that.

He’s turned his back on a career, a high salary, an institution, and a way of life—now he’s determined to help others who want to do the same. For all he’s lost by speaking out, he’s also gained a tremendous amount. “I’m very happy,” Hoh tells me later. “With the moral injury, the PTSD, the depression, the suicidality, I have my bad periods, but I’m getting through. I don’t own a gun, I don’t keep alcohol in my house, I see my psychologist every week, I take medication. I manage it like you would manage high blood pressure. I’m just happy that I can express my own thoughts and think my own way. That’s worth more than any amount of money.”

Journalism, Whistleblowing and the Security State

I took part in a fantastic panel at University of London on Journalism, Whistleblowing and the Security State. My fellow panelists were Norman Solomon, Katherine Gun, Kirk Wiebe and Coleen Rowley (Time‘s 2002 Person of the Year).

The audio podcast of the panel can be found here:

http://backdoorbroadcasting.net/2014/11/journalism-whistleblowing-and-the-security-state/

Also, while in London we did a host of media interviews including with The Guardian. Here’s an editorial The Guardian published on our efforts:

A diverse quartet of characters share a platform at the Foreign Press Association in London on Friday 21 November. They are a mix of effusive and reserved, leftist, conservative libertarian and politically unaffiliated. But all four have worked for US or UK security agencies, and all four have blown the whistle on misconduct as they saw it. They’ve won accolades for their integrity, yet none was in the end able to remain in post with his or her employer after airing inconvenient truths.

Matthew Hoh, Colleen Rowley and Kirk Wiebe are, like Edward Snowden, all one-time servants of the American security state. The former GCHQ translator, Katharine Gun, exposed an NSA plan to bug the UN offices of countries that George W Bush and Tony Blair regarded as potential swing votes in their doomed quest for a security council rubber-stamp for an invasion of Iraq, on which they were already set. She was, until the prosecution proved unwilling or unable to muster any evidence, pursued under the Official Secrets Acts, legislation that has rendered the British state a notorious shadowland for a century. The US is traditionally seen as blessed with more open government, but the immediate backdrop to today’s event is the increasingly ruthless pursuit of American whistleblowers.

For all Barack Obama’s background in civil rights law, his administration has charged more people under the Espionage Act, a 97-year old law rushed through in the first world war, than all previous administrations combined. Phone records covering journalists and, presumably, their sources have been subpoenaed. The trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer charged with revealing details of a botched US plan to feed Iran false nuclear leads, is pending. While British journalists are, as we report, resorting to legal action against Scotland Yard for monitoring their activities as part of a “domestic extremism” programme, US government directives and information campaigns are being trained on the “insider threat”, the new parlance for employees who are not to be trusted with classified information.

The whistleblowers taking to the London stage have been concerned with security threats and international relations, including matters of war and peace. There are of course some secrets in these fields that it is in the public interest to protect. Very often, however, embassies and spy agencies will wish to keep things hushed up for exactly the same sort of reasons that affect less exotic institutions – concealing cock-ups, and avoiding daylight falling on things that ought not be happening at all.

A banker with a conscience, Paul Moore of HBOS, lost his job after asking awkward questions about loans and sales practices. The daughter of a mis-treated patient, Julie Bailey, saw her mother’s grave vandalised after she began telling the truth about the NHS disgrace at Mid Staffs. Nobody, however, would today deny that both were on the right side. And from Iraq to waterboarding and mass surveillance, whistleblowers within the security state, too, have more often than not ended up being vindicated.