Endless War Film

It has been almost six months since I have updated this site.

Many of you often inquire about my health and I can tell you it has been up and down, although still much better than this time last year – the cost of that is a lot of meds with some side effects and possibly some long term consequences.

However, this post is to update this site on some recent work.

Last month An Endless War? Getting Out of Afghanistan premiered. You can see the full film here: http://endlesswar.org/film/

Besides myself the film includes Afghan and American peace activists and scholars, General Charles Krulak, who was the Commandant of the Marine Corps when I was a lieutenant, and the late Republican Congressman Walter Jones.

Representative Jones passed in February. I personally owe him a great deal and as I type this I am disappointed I have not written anything to honor his memory and friendship.

I am also including on this post a link to the hour long interview I did with Brian Lamb on CSPAN’s Q&A program in March.

https://www.c-span.org/video/?458394-1/qa-matthew-hoh

Below is the transcript from my appearance with Brian.

Thank you for following my blog. Let me know of any thoughts you might have and Wage Peace.

Q&A with Matthew Hoh

March 1, 2019

  • Brian Lamb: Matthew Hoh, back in 2009, September the 10th, you wrote the following, “Dear Ambassador Powell, it is with great regret and disappointment I submit my resignation from my appointment as a political officer in the Foreign Service and my post as the senior civilian representative for the U.S. government in Zabul Province.” What was that?
  • Matthew Hoh: That was — and first of all, thank you for having me here. But that was almost 10 years ago now, and it’s hard to express how I was feeling then compared to now and what has occurred since then. I had no expectation of that letter actually becoming public. I had no expectation to become an antiwar activist or a peace activist or veteran for peace.
  • I had — and tragically, I had no expectation that we’d be sitting here in 2019 talking about this war in Afghanistan, the way it’s been escalated, the way it has escalated very year, the countless lives that have just been wasted and the continual suffering. So it’s shocking to hear. It is and it’s very surreal for me to be sitting here with you right now, Brian.
  • Brian Lamb: So what’s your background leading up to when you resigned from the State Department?
  • Matthew Hoh: Yes. I went to college and graduated college and worked in publishing and doing financing — doing finance. And I didn’t have a military family background. I had an uncle who had been in Germany same time as Elvis Presley and that’s about the biggest military connection we had.
  • And so, when I joined the Marine Corps a couple of years after college, it was mainly because I was bored, I was looking to do something bigger with my life. And I spent time in the Marine Corps in Okinawa, Japan. I was assigned to the Pentagon and worked for the Secretary of the Navy. I had a position on a State Department team in Iraq in 2004, 2005 doing reconstruction work and political work as a Department of Defense civilian.
  • I led a Marine Corps company back to Iraq in ’06 and ’07 as a combat engineer company commander. And then, I ended up receiving a direct appointment into the Foreign Service in early 2009, went to Afghanistan. I think what I was expecting was that the Obama administration was going to seek peace, seek an end to the conflict. President Obama had campaigned on winning the war on Afghanistan. But when he said so, he said so in the context of sending two brigades of troops which is about 6,000 or 7,000 men and women.
  • He ended up sending over 70,000 plus an additional 40,000 NATO troops and 100,000 contractors. What I saw in Afghanistan in ’09 was the same as I had seen in Iraq in ’04, ’05, ’06, ’07, as well as when I worked on Iraq and Afghan war issues at the Pentagon and at the State Department in between those times. There was no difference in the administrations. The administrations were both — their desire was to win politically or to win for political reasons, domestic political reasons. Everything else was secondary.
  • And so, particularly in ’09 after I saw the elections stolen by the Afghan government after so many had been killed in the run-up to that, I just couldn’t go along with it any longer. I was basically broken inside. And so, the fact that I’m here now still doing this was never my intention. It was just — it just has continued to go along almost as if my work in antiwar or peace activism has been a way to make up for what I did in the wars.
  • Brian Lamb: What have you done in the last 10 years?
  • Matthew Hoh: Well, I became a think tank expert. So I have a title at a “think tank” which is nothing really more than a title but I’m a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, led a project called the Afghanistan Study Group in 2010, 2011, and 2012 which was a compilation of about 40 or 50 different international affairs experts, retired generals, academics, arguing for basically what we’re seeing now, a peace process in Afghanistan and an end to the war.
  • I’ve tried to get away from this type of thing. I’ve worked at the YMCA. I sold cars. I worked as a consultant for a private family philanthropic fund. None of that stuck. I keep coming back to this. A lot of veterans no matter what war it is will say, “I left the war but the war never left me” and that’s in my case.
  • So I primarily work with an organization now called Veterans for Peace. I’m on a couple of different boards and advisory boards, and this is what I do. I’ve also struggled with the invisible wounds of war, post-traumatic stress disorder, moral injury, depression, substance abuse, and also in the last several years, traumatic brain injury has flared up for me just as so many other men and women are experiencing. There’s a latency with traumatic brain injury. For me, it was probably from explosive blast exposure. I was around a lot of explosions both in training and then in combat, of course.
  • But, it’s very similar to what the football players or may be very similar to what the football players and the boxers are experiencing. So I’ve had to deal with that as well, which has been not just a challenge for me, but a challenge for my family, a challenge for my wife, a real challenge for my wife. It’s what she’s gone through because of my wounds, those invisible wounds of the wars. She has PTSD herself because of it.
  • Brian Lamb: How much combat did you see?
  • Matthew Hoh: Quite a bit. I mean, it was — one of the misnomers about these wars is that men and women aren’t seeing that much combat and it’s actually the complete opposite. According to the VA, according to the Department of Defense, according to various studies from like the RAND Corporation, veterans of the Afghan and Iraq wars have seen more combat than any other veteran of American wars as far back as the First World War. That’s as far back as we have those studies and that polling and that understanding.
  • So we saw a lot. I mean, even when I was over there as a civilian working on reconstruction and politics and going to parliamentary meetings and provincial council meetings and working with engineers, we were constantly under IED attack, rocket attack, mortar attack. You constantly were in small arms engagements. My time when I led a company of Marines in Iraq in ’06, ’07, this was before the Sunni awakening and the Sons of Iraq, every time you left your base, every time you left your outpost, you got into something. You got into a gun fight or there’s an RPG shot at you or a roadside bomb, an IED went off.
  • So we saw quite a lot. I saw quite a lot. And it changes you, of course, and we know with PTSD, basically you spend a year or seven or eight months or however long every day going out hunting people and other people are hunting you. And that changes your entire body chemistry, to change that. We know that with PTSD, brain size and shape changes for soldiers who go over to war and come back. When they come back from the war, their brains are actually different sizes and shape because of PTSD, because your body is releasing all these survival chemicals constantly and that causes you to have serious problems when you come home.
  • But for me and for many others and I think this is what leads into understanding why so many veterans of these wars are killing themselves, there’s a moral component to it. So it’s the civilians. It’s the innocents who one way or another we took part in killing and that is something that you can never get past, that moral injury. It’s very much like Macbeth, “Out, out, damned spot”, you can’t get that blood off your hands.
  • And so, that sticks with you and that brings you to thoughts of suicide and that’s something I dealt with for a number of years and I’m here because I had really great doctors at the VA who saved my life.
  • Brian Lamb: Go back to your original resignation letter, the next day the Washington Post — I believe, I don’t have it in front of me, puts on you page one?
  • Matthew Hoh: Above the fold, too, Brian.
  • Brian Lamb: Above the fold on page one.
  • Matthew Hoh: Yes.
  • Brian Lamb: Headline, “U.S. Official Resigns Over Afghan War”, written by Karen DeYoung and in it — by the way, why do you think it made the front page? Did you ever ask Karen DeYoung?
  • Matthew Hoh: I did. I said, “Why did you do this? Why did you write this 3,000-word or however long expose on me?” And she said, “Because everything you said in your resignation letter and everything you’ve said to me — and at this point, DeYoung was — she was the — she worked on Secretary Clinton’s detail for the Post. So she covered Secretary Clinton and the foreign affairs and the wars.
  • She said, “Everyone I spoke to at the White House, at the NSC, at the Pentagon, the State Department, all of them agree about what you’re saying about Afghanistan.”
  • Brian Lamb: In this piece, early on it says, “While he did not share Hoh’s view that the war, quote, ‘wasn’t worth the fight’, unquote, Holbrooke said, ‘I agree with much of his analysis.’ He asked Hoh to join his team and then Washington saying, quote, ‘If he really wanted to affect policy and help reduce the cost of war on lives and treasure, why not be inside the building rather than outside where you can get a lot of attention but you won’t have the same political impact.'”
  • Matthew Hoh: Yes.
  • Brian Lamb: Did you talk to Richard Holbrooke about this?
  • Matthew Hoh: Yes. I did. I did. I went and saw him up at the Waldorf Astoria in New York.
  • Brian Lamb: What was he doing then?
  • Matthew Hoh: He was up there for the United Nations General Assembly. He — I met with him in his bedroom. He was reclining on his bed drinking a purple Gatorade. I mean he was shuttling between all these different meetings.
  • I had just met previously the U.S. — I mean, I’m sorry, the U.K. ambassador to Afghanistan who later, Sherard Cowper-Coles who later wrote a book about the war and how the war was unwinnable and not just unwinnable, the war was a moral failure. But, Holbrooke, yes, he did offer me that position. He told me 95 percent of what I’d written he agreed with. I left and he had talked me into taking that job and I went home, took the train back home to Arlington and thought about it and on a few days later called back and said “I can’t do it because I didn’t resign just to get myself promoted. I mean, I quit because I was quitting the wars. I’m really done. I can’t do this any longer.”
  • And I also knew that nothing I did would have any impact, nothing I was — would have worked on would have changed the war. The decision had already been made. And I can tell you this from discussions with Holbrooke as well as with Ambassador Eikenberry that they were effectively — they were the voices of dissent of escalating the war, but they were shut down by Secretary Clinton. Secretary Clinton was very much in favor of escalating the war. You can see this very clearly in stories written in the New York Times at that time or in Bob Woodward’s, Obama’s Wars.
  • Secretary Clinton was very enthusiastic about escalating the Afghan war to the point that Holbrook and Eikenberry had no voice. So — and I knew that and so, it made no sense for me to accept that offer and to join that team. It wouldn’t have changed anything.
  • Brian Lamb: Ten years later and one of the reasons we asked you to come here because you wrote a huge piece about the last 10 years and how you feel about it now. And that was in — the title of this piece is “Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies.” Where can people read that?
  • Matthew Hoh: They can find that at CounterPunch.
  • Brian Lamb: CounterPunch.
  • Matthew Hoh: CounterPunch, yes.
  • Brian Lamb: And what is CounterPunch?
  • Matthew Hoh: CounterPunch is a — I’m not even sure how long CounterPunch has been around for, but it’s certainly — to say it leans left to center is probably a bit of not saying enough about it. But it’s been around for a long time and it is a very good, very thorough, very in-depth look at American politics in the world from a left of center perspective.
  • Brian Lamb: The word “lies” is in the headline of your piece. What lies are you talking about?
  • Matthew Hoh: There’s, I mean, from start to finish with this war, with the notion of who we put in power in Afghanistan, that somehow these men that we put in power were democrats or were in favor of women’s rights, let alone the fact that the — completely ignoring their roles as warlords, as war criminals, as drug lords, the notion that the Taliban have never wanted peace.
  • Brian Lamb: You’re talking about — by the way, when you say democrats, you’re talking about…
  • Matthew Hoh: Yes. Yes, exactly.
  • Brian Lamb: …Iraqis and Afghanistan.
  • Matthew Hoh: Yes, exactly, in the sense of believing in a democratic process and that what we were creating in Afghanistan was an actual democracy when in reality it is an incredibly corrupt, predatory kleptocracy.
  • The lies continue into when things are discussed about the drugs in Afghanistan. You hear that the poppy crops and the drug trade is primarily done by the Taliban, and that may be true now because the Taliban has gained so much land the last few years, but for most of our time in Afghanistan, the drug trade has really been in control by the Afghan government and the Afghan military.
  • I mean, the lies that go on that somehow American boys and girls are over there killing and being killed in order to keep us safe, that if we’re not there, another 9/11 is going to happen. Well, that completely is belied by an understanding of the 9/11 attacks, by the fact that Osama bin Laden was in Afghanistan, but the 9/11 hijackers spent more time in the United States than they did in Afghanistan. The most important safe haven for those hijackers were the United States flight academies and those martial arts gyms they went to.
  • Let alone the fact that the planning was, really took place and the preparation took place in Germany, in Pakistan. They had meetings in Spain, in Malaysia, possibly in the UAE. So the idea that they needed Afghanistan, that is, as if the jets that struck the twin towers took off from Kandahar Airport is one of the greatest and the most tragic lies, because what that lie does is it dishonors the memory of everyone who’s been killed, whether they were killed on September 11th, whether they’ve been killed in combat, whether they’ve been killed as innocents in the Afghan war, and not only that, we act as if the Afghan war was born or was hatched on September 11th.
  • When this war started — I was born in 1973, the same year the king was deposed in Afghanistan and you can trace this war to that. I mean, if I was an Afghan man, I would have lived my whole life with at best political chaos and normally war.
  • So that’s another lie that somehow this war began on September 11th, that it hasn’t been going on for over 40 years now. And so, you can unpack these things and go further into it. But the reality is that almost 17-plus years, getting close to — we’re going to be hitting 18 years come October in terms of how long our troops have had, been on the ground, again killing and being killed. And we talk about this with these sound bites that are completely unrelated to the reality of the conflict there.
  • Brian Lamb: And I’m going to say something and it may not be perfectly accurate, but you can correct me. You almost never hear anybody in this country talking about the Afghan situation, not entirely, but members of Congress don’t talk about it. Once in a while there’s a hearing on it. Why do you think that is?
  • Matthew Hoh: And I agree with you. I had a friend of mine running for Congress last year. In the year and a half she spent campaigning, she got exactly one question about the wars, not about the Afghan wars, but the wars in general.
  • So if you look at what journalists like Nick Turse have done who writes for The Intercept or Vice or TomDispatch or what the Cost of War project has done at Brown University, we have active combat operations in 14 different countries right now. We’re bombing at least seven nations. So today, today, as people are watching this show, we took the lives of people in seven different countries and we’re going to do it again tomorrow.
  • And so, it’s not just a discussion about the Afghan war. It’s a discussion about all the wars, what we’re doing overall, not just in the Middle East, but now throughout Africa. Why this is? I think that there is — and you contrast it to what I’ve been told. It was like during the Vietnam War where the Vietnam War was on at dinner time every night. I think there’s a real fear in much of the media to negatively speak about the war, to get into details about the war.
  • I also think and this is something that — so, a guy like Noam Chomsky talks about a lot, it’s hard to talk about something complex in two or three minutes or in 500 words. So for much of our media, it’s framed. It’s not like this show, where we’ve got an hour to talk which is this is great journalism. This is the way it’s supposed to be, right? You’ve got two or three minutes.
  • I, one time, was asked about by a journalist about this argument about safe havens, whether or not Afghanistan is a safe haven. And I start to explain that, look, they really don’t need these kinds of safe havens. They don’t need large amounts of land. How much room do you need to plan a hijacking? You need a basement or you need somebody’s apartment or a backyard. I mean, you don’t need much.
  • And he said, “I can’t…” and this is a pretty prominent journalist, he said, “I can’t go into all that. That’s going to take up too much room in the column.” So I think a lot of it is just the fact that once we get a narrative going, once — and it’s probably not just with the wars. You could probably say it about, say, healthcare or, say, social security or any other issue. Once we get a narrative going, it’s really difficult because of the way our media is set up in two to three-minute segments or 500 or 600-word columns to go back and reassess that narrative.
  • Brian Lamb: You talk in a lot of these pieces and there’s so much in there. We won’t get to half of it. The Pashtun, we have a map I want to put up on the screen that shows Afghanistan and where the Pashtun area also is over in Pakistan. Can you explain? What are we looking at in this map and what would you want people to know about your experience in this area?
  • Matthew Hoh: OK. Well, of course, going from left to right, the far left is Iran, Afghanistan, and then Pakistan and then India. Understanding that up to 100 — or I’m sorry, up until 75 years ago or so until after World War II, there was no Pakistan and India. There was only the one country ruled by the United Kingdom.
  • And the same going back now over 100 years, the border between Afghanistan and India as it was at that time was nebulous. It really didn’t exist and it was drawn like so much of the Muslim world, so much of Africa, so much of some parts of Asia, by European diplomats, just basically drawing a line down the map. And what you have there, the Afghanistan and Pakistan border is what’s called the Durand Line. And the idea behind that was for the British who had spent — who had gone to war three different times in Afghanistan, never successfully, always, always very bloody, always a punch to the noise, very much an embarrassment to their pride as well as they never achieved their objectives.
  • The idea was to divide the Pashtun people with that border. And so, what you get is you get the Pashtuns which by some estimates are the largest tribe in the world, divided by a border written by a British diplomat 100 years ago. And what that creates then is within Afghanistan, you have — Afghanistan is a country made up of different, of many different ethnicities, different religions. You have the Pashtun people who are in Afghanistan constitute about 40 percent of the Afghan people and they are primarily in the south and the east.
  • And what you have found over the last 40 years in particular was that whether it’s been the United States or the Soviet Union or other nations, India, Pakistan, Iran, they have — we have utilized those ethnic differences for the purposes of the war. So we saw this first under Jimmy Carter’s presidency with Zbigniew Brzezinski who was the national security adviser at the time who, his idea was to fan the flames of not just Muslim unrest in the Soviet Union because the Soviet Union at that time extended all the way down to Afghanistan, to cause ethnic problems and religious unrest in that — and as they described it, the soft underbelly of the Soviet Union.
  • And so, that begins this long process of ethnic division, a division that really didn’t exist and very similar, Brian, very similar to what happened in Iraq where the Shia-Sunni divide in Iraq didn’t exist in reality and certainly not violently. It didn’t exist anyway, as a civil war that was raging in Iraq 10 years ago until the United States invaded. And you could trace this back to the Native Americans.
  • The United States government, the United States military has used the policy of playing off one ethnic group, one religious group, one tribal group against another for centuries now. So the importance of understanding about the Pashtuns in Afghanistan is that they constitute or nearly constitute the whole of the Pashtun — I’m sorry, the Taliban insurgency. And they constitute almost nothing of the Afghan government and Afghan military.
  • Now, of course, you can point and say, “Hey, look, President Ghani of Afghanistan, President Karzai of Afghanistan, they are Pashtuns”, but that’s like pointing to President Obama and saying because we had a black President of the United States, we don’t have any racial problems in the United States or the fact that there isn’t a wealth gap in between blacks and whites in the U.S. because we had a black President.
  • So what you could see is that you have this insurgency that’s almost completely composed of Pashtuns against a government and an army that by last count I saw was only four percent Pashtun. So you very much have this divide.
  • Brian Lamb: You’re talking about the Army of Afghanistan.
  • Matthew Hoh: Of Afghanistan. Last time I saw only four percent of their soldiers were Pashtun.
  • Brian Lamb: In your letter 10 years ago, you listed, you said the Afghan government’s failings, particularly when weighed against the sacrifice of American lives and dollars appear legion and metastatic, and you list things. And the first one on the list is glaring corruption and unabashed graft.
  • Matthew Hoh: Yes. Yes.
  • Brian Lamb: Where’s the corruption and who gets the graft?
  • Matthew Hoh: It goes — first of all, I would say and I think many Americans who look at this would understand that the graft starts here in this country where corporations receive the lion’s bulk of — or the bulk of the funding for the war.
  • I remember when I was working on reconstruction work in Afghanistan — I’m sorry, in Iraq, 40 percent of every dollar, so, 40 cents on each dollar that the Congress had appropriated for Iraq reconstruction never even left the United States. Right off the bat for overhead in management cost right to corporations here in the United States. The same occurs in Afghanistan. But everybody takes their cut, and not just in a way that you would think of corruption to grease the wheels to make sure the machine works. This is, as I said, unabashed and it’s — well, I mean, you can look at what we know about it.
  • We know that billions and billions of dollars each year in cash are moved out of the Kabul Airport. We know that. We know that there are billions of dollars, more money and cash leaves the Kabul Airport out of Afghanistan than the Afghan government budgets.
  • Brian Lamb: Where does it go?
  • Matthew Hoh: It goes offshore to Dubai. It goes offshore to Europe. It goes into various local banks.
  • Brian Lamb: Who’s doing it?
  • Matthew Hoh: It is everyone who is somehow connected to the war, including the highest levels. So when…
  • Brian Lamb: You’re talking about Americans.
  • Matthew Hoh: Well, no, the Americans get the money through what others would say — others outside the United States would say is corruption because it’s — that’s cooked into the system, OK? As I’ve said, 40 percent of every dollar that the Congress appropriates for building bridges, say, in Afghanistan stays right here in the United States. It goes right to the corporation overheads many times, right, or goes into security costs.
  • Brian Lamb: Do you have any idea how the physical money gets from here to Kabul and then physically gets from Kabul to some place offshore?
  • Matthew Hoh: Yes. We put it and I have this in Iraq when I — because it’s very similar. When I was in Iraq and I was running my reconstruction programs, one program I had was $50 million. It was all done in cash.
  • The most money I ever had once in my possession was $26 million. I kept that in safes, in my bedroom, on the base I lived in, Tikrit and we paid that money out in cash. It came right from the Federal Reserve, was shrink wrapped $100 bills. You can get $6 million in your standard C bag or duffle bag. That standard green military duffle bag, that holds $6 million.
  • So that money arrives in pallets in Iraq or Afghanistan or Syria or wherever — Libya, wherever these wars are taking place. It is then moved under control of the U.S. government and U.S. military and it’s then paid out through various mechanisms, various types of projects, various types of programs, building schools, buying desks for the schools, paying teachers.
  • Brian Lamb: Can you, by the way, take some of that for yourself?
  • Matthew Hoh: No. No. No. I never did. I was…
  • Brian Lamb: No. No. No. I didn’t say you did. But, I mean, could you have?
  • Matthew Hoh: Absolutely, absolutely.
  • Brian Lamb: And did you know anybody that did?
  • Matthew Hoh: Yes, I did. I know that just for example my predecessor in Tikrit, in Iraq he left the day that I arrived. After I showed up, $200,000 was found in his bedroom.
  • I took over for this guy and he had just pages and pages of paperwork, no pay receipts though, no receipts have actually — and because the way this — the way the wars were running, because of the desperation, because of what other choice did you have.
  • If you’re an Iraqi or an Afghan engineer or contractor, you’re going to take whatever is given to you. And particularly if it’s coming from the United States, so very easy that I could have. And I spent time dreaming about if I was going to write a novel how would I do it? And I would have moved the money up to Kurdistan and then gone back and gotten the money. But now, you spend your whole life looking over your shoulder for the FBI or something like that at that point of the Treasury Department I guess.
  • But there has been. There are a good many stories of this money showing back up in the United States because it comes right from the Federal Reserve, right? And because it — the banks know that this money shouldn’t be showing back up in the U.S., but it has. It shows back up around Fort Benning or around Fort Hood, Texas, around Camp Pendleton, California because it’s so easy to take this money.
  • Now to get it back here, it requires a bit of work because you have to go through customs and everything. But if you’re in — and if you’re not too greedy, if you’re only going to take $40,000 or $50,000 back rather than $4 million, you’ll probably get away with it, no one’s looking for that.
  • Now on the — on the say Iraqi or the Afghan side, that money after it arrives in Afghanistan and then changes hands to the Afghans and various people take their cuts, that money just gets transported directly out of Afghanistan. We know, because of WikiLeaks, we know that the Afghan vice president showed up in Dubai with $55 million in his suitcases, U.S. taxpayer money that he was just bringing and no repercussions at all.
  • Brian Lamb: But if you know this, why doesn’t the Congress know it? And I know we’ve had John Sopko in this network many times who is the Special IG for Afghanistan and he talks about this. It doesn’t — does it seem to matter this — you don’t ever hear about anything, and has this stopped?
  • Matthew Hoh: It — it’s very frustrating and it’s heartbreaking.
  • Brian Lamb: Let me read something you wrote in your piece, this latest piece we’re talking about. “The idea of military success and hard-won gains has nothing — has been nothing but craven and homicidal war propaganda trumpeted by U.S. generals and the world’s largest public relations operation and bleated obediently by politicians and, shamefully, journalists, the Pentagon spends on journalists,” I’m sorry about the way I’m ready it. “Depending on spends, almost $5 billion a year on recruiting, public relations, and psychological operations. By comparison, the largest public relations company in the world had annual fees for all of its clients of less than $900 million.”
  • Matthew Hoh: Yes. Yes.
  • Brian Lamb: Where did you get that figure? So…
  • Matthew Hoh: Oh, the $900 million, it’s linked in the article but it’s for, through some public relations institute.
  • Brian Lamb: More importantly, where how — where did you get the $5 billion?
  • Matthew Hoh: Oh, the $5 billion is — that’s U.S. government data, that comes out of the, what is it, the blue book or whatever the — if you go to — one, you can go to the Department of Defense website and the budget’s all there.
  • You can go to OPM and look at it there, or you can just Google as I did what is the Pentagon’s budget for public relations. And there had been numerous articles written about this. So none of this is hidden, this is — this is well known. I’m blanking on exactly what source I used for the $5 billion figure in there.
  • Brian Lamb: But you sourced everything.
  • Matthew Hoh: I’ve sourced everything and everything is sourced. Every — and it’s sourced using U.S. government or U.S. military data, United Nation’s data, Afghan government data, or if it’s used, journalism, I’m not using some far left or far right alternative media. I think probably I quote from the New York Times the most in there or…
  • Brian Lamb: But let me ask you, because I know what some people in the audience think when we have these guests on. People out there are saying, “PTSD’s gotten to this guy.”
  • Matthew Hoh: Yes.
  • Brian Lamb: “He’s a left winger, he’s way over there, he has no sense of the responsibility, the worldwide responsibility that the United States government has to stop all this stuff.” What do you say to them?
  • Matthew Hoh: I’d say you use your own brain. I mean, you use your own…
  • Brian Lamb: And what are your politics or your overall?
  • Matthew Hoh: Yes.
  • Brian Lamb: And what were they — when you first went into the Marine Corps?
  • Matthew Hoh: Well I Bob — I voted for Bob Dole in 1996. And 1992 was the first time I couldn’t vote and I didn’t like any of my choices or I could vote and I didn’t vote, and voted for Dole in ’96 and went into the Marine Corps. Reading the Economist, you know, being a conservative like most of my family was.
  • And at some point around 1999, 2000 I started moving more to the left, and now I am in many ways a socialist and not — now, if I was European, of course, I would be just a member of a left party. But I have come to understand the world that we have to work together. That — so I’m a civil libertarian, so I’m against government surveillance, I’m against government saying what you can do in your bedroom, I’m against over politicization.
  • If you’re actually to look at what I’m actually am, I am a libertarian socialist. So I believe in working together…
  • Brian Lamb: But what does socialism mean to you?
  • Matthew Hoh: Socialism just means to me that we are working for the — for the benefit of the whole as opposed to the individual, which is what I believe capitalism is about.
  • So I — I’m a believer that we need to come together to move forward, and we have done that in the past and in our best examples in this country when we have moved forward, we’ve done it together. So my understanding, my beliefs are that there is no way we can survive.
  • And when I say survive, you know, I’m talking about climate change, I’m talking about the divisions in this country, I’m talking about another aspect of the work I do, the dangers of nuclear war which is something we never or hardly have spoken about.
  • Brian Lamb: For the time being, let’s go back to the Afghanistan situation.
  • Matthew Hoh: Sure. That’s a whole another episode, right?
  • Brian Lamb: True. But let’s go to February the 8th, 2019. Here is some video of Zalmay Khalilzad who is a special representative of this government to try to negotiate with the Taliban. By the way, is there a way quickly for you to define who the Taliban are?
  • Matthew Hoh: It’s — they’re not a monolithic organization. The best way to describe it are primary Pashtun groups who are fighting against foreign occupation and against the government in Kabul as well as traditional enemies.
  • Remember, this war goes back to the ’70s. These men, their grandfathers fought originally in the ’70s. So much of this goes back to conflicts and grievances and rivalries that go back four decades.
  • Brian Lamb: OK. Let’s watch Zalmay Khalilzad and give me your reaction to this.
  • (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
  • Zalmay Khalilzad: After many conversations, we have reached an agreement in principle with the Taliban on a framework that would provide guarantees and enforcement mechanism that no terrorist group, international terrorist group or individuals would be able to use Afghanistan, the areas that they can control and should they be part of a future government against the United States, its allies and others.
  • (END VIDEO CLIP)
  • Brian Lamb: What is your reaction when you hear him say that?
  • Matthew Hoh: The Taliban have been saying that for over 10 years now. You’ve — if you go and look at the statements from at that time, their supreme leader, Mullah Omar going back in his — he would produce annual statements.
  • And he would say exactly what Khalilzad had said. When Bin Laden died, Osama Bin Laden was killed in 2011, the Taliban’s official statement about that was, we respect him because he fought against the Soviets and then he fought against the Americans and we respect him. But his war was not our war. Our wars in Afghanistan, we had nothing to do with Bin Laden.
  • Brian Lamb: Here’s the current president of Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014, it was Hamid…
  • Matthew Hoh: Hamid Karzai.
  • Brian Lamb: Karzai, thank you. Here is Ashraf Ghani currently and I want your reaction to this.
  • (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
  • Ashraf Ghani: The United States is not there because it’s fighting in Afghanistan. It’s fighting for its security. Second, we have engaged in a very open dialogue, the United States is a sovereign power, it’s a global power, it’s entitled to leave. But we need to get the departure right. All the fundamental reasons that brought the United States to Afghanistan, are those objectives accomplished?
  • (END VIDEO CLIP)
  • Brian Lamb: That was in the month of February.
  • Matthew Hoh: Yes. And he says the — what brought the United States to Afghanistan, that’s been accomplished. I’m very suspect of the Afghan government because the government is propped up by the United States. So the desire for the Afghan government to see the United States leave is not there, because it…
  • Brian Lamb: How much has this war in Afghanistan already cost the American taxpayer?
  • Matthew Hoh: Well directly, it’s almost $1 trillion.
  • Brian Lamb: How many people have we lost?
  • Matthew Hoh: Twenty five hundred plus another eighteen hundred or so contractors and relying on Department of Veterans Affairs figures, and you can’t really untie the Afghan and Iraq wars because the money crosses over as well.
  • Brian Lamb: What’s that total cost?
  • Matthew Hoh: But in terms of total cost, if you’re looking at what’s going to — what it’s going to cost in terms of future as well as the — $6 trillion we have spent according to Brown University just on debt payments on these wars.
  • So just on — because we’re paying for these wars — we’re not funding these wars, these wars are being paid on the credit card basically. So according to Brown University, we have already spent over $700 billion just on debt payments, on interest payments for these wars. But with regards to the bodily cost, the physical cost of the wars, when you look at suicide data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, 9,000 American soldiers or American men and women who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan have killed themselves since coming home from the wars.
  • Brian Lamb: How…
  • Matthew Hoh: So that’s a number that you can’t — you can’t divorce from that.
  • Brian Lamb: How close did you come to…
  • Matthew Hoh: I came very close. I came — I was — a number of times I tell you I was getting my — putting my cat in the — had the cat in the crate and the dog was getting leashed up and I was going to my vet to drop them off and then I was going to go kill myself.
  • There’s been times I’ve walked into the Wal-Mart and looked at the gun I was going to use. I’ve always been fortunate that I haven’t owned a weapon or else I probably wouldn’t be here. So I came close a number of times.
  • Brian Lamb: How did you stop from going that far?
  • Matthew Hoh: There’s a couple of things, one is I had professional help and that’s the reason why. Secondly, I called the crisis line. I called the people who are dedicated to answering those calls and a number of times that saved me.
  • But the only reason why was because I got professional help. The first time I ever got professional help was, that was almost — it was the beginning of 2012, my first therapist had been in the Navy, he had through very similar experiences, that’s the only reason why I trusted him.
  • I mean, so many of us come out of these wars and if you didn’t carry a rifle, I’m not going to listen to what you said. You don’t know anything you’re talking about. So I needed someone like that that I could trust. And he’s the one who got me on the path to be able to be here with you today. But I was laying on the floor broken down in 2012, and I had to decide either go put that gun in your mouth today or get help, and fortunately I chose to get help.
  • Brian Lamb: When did you get married?
  • Matthew Hoh: We just got married this past year, but we’ve known each other since 2004. We met in the Pentagon. And she has been with me, we’ve had a saga but she has known me since before the wars and she’s seen me every time I’ve come home from the wars and she’s been with me in so many ways. We have been back together now for five years or so, but yes, she has — she’s a veteran of this war as much as I am.
  • Brian Lamb: Back in 2017 here is General David Petraeus who was the boss in Iraq — in Afghanistan, and Iraq for some time, let’s watch this.
  • Matthew Hoh: Yes.
  • Brian Lamb: It’s not very long.
  • (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
  • General David Petraeus: This is a generational struggle. This is not something that is going to be won in a few years, we’re not going to take a hill, plant the flag, and go home to a victory parade and we need to be there for the long haul. But in a way this is again sustainable. You know we’ve been in Korea for 65-plus years because there’s an important national interest for that.
  • (END VIDEO CLIP)
  • Brian Lamb: We need to be there for the long haul.
  • Matthew Hoh: No, we don’t. Absolutely not. Our presence, and this is something that General Petraeus himself has said, our presence causes these insurgencies.
  • For every one “terrorist” we kill, we create 10 more. I mean, this is — this is knowledge — well-known knowledge. Also too, one of the things when I — when I signed up to go to Afghanistan, General Petraeus had taken on central command, so he was in charge of the Middle East for the United States military.
  • And I remember very clearly his thoughts were that — his words were that we were going to seek peace, that we were going to talk to the Taliban just like we talked to the Sunni insurgency in Iraq. What strikes me so much about that comment there about Korea is that as we now see what’s happened over the last year and a half with North Korea, it’s all happening just because we’re talking to them.
  • And that’s what’s happening now with this peace process in Afghanistan, just like what happened in Iraq with the Sunnis in ’07, ’08 when I — in ’06, ’07 when I was there, all we did was start talking to them and the violence stopped. They came forward with their grievances, we said, “Yes, that’s understandable” and we worked to figure out a way past that.
  • That’s what we’re seeing now with these talks in Afghanistan. All it took was just us saying, “Yes, we’ll talk to you.” And now there is a potential peace process.
  • Brian Lamb: I want to show you a chart and it’s all because of reading your stuff and the background. There’s one of these organizations that you’re a member of called — oh where is it, World Beyond War.
  • Matthew Hoh: Oh yes.
  • Brian Lamb: What is World Beyond War?
  • Matthew Hoh: World Beyond War is just exactly like it sounds, it’s an organization devoted to creating a world without war. That — and it sounds Pollyannaish, but I tell you what, there’s no other alternatives.
  • Brian Lamb: One of the things, and I just came across that link to is the U.S. Census Bureau showing the number of bullets that this country sends over the years. And if you look on the chart, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 through November. And if you look up some of the big numbers there, that worldwide we have sent cartridges and parts thereof to 474 million.
  • Matthew Hoh: Yes.
  • Brian Lamb: And then it goes down the list and some of the bigger countries, Afghanistan was 123 million bullets. Canada is 74 million, it doesn’t explain why. What is — do you have any idea what all this is — why we’re…
  • Matthew Hoh: This is just an example of just the amount of bullets, not planes, not tanks, not ships, but just bullets. Whether it’s .556 or .762 millimeter, just the amount of rounds that we export as a country each year.
  • So one of the titles — subtitles I used in my piece was even a losing war makes money, and it’s true. The amount of money involved in these wars are what allow the wars to continue to go on. What — it’s what underlines the wars. It is campaign donations to members of Congress, it is think tanks that are funded by the defense industry that then go into Congress and say this is what we’re going to do. I had — I met with Senator Bob Casey’s stuff in…
  • Brian Lamb: Pennsylvania.
  • Matthew Hoh: …in Pennsylvania.
  • Brian Lamb: Democrat.
  • Matthew Hoh: A Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and he has a military officer on his staff. Like so — like everyone in the Senate and most members of the House do. And this military officer told me, because he was upset by this, he’s saying, “You know what, seven out of ten briefings that we get on Afghanistan or Iraq doesn’t come from the CIA or the Pentagon or the State Department, it comes from these outside think tanks.”
  • Like Institute for the Study of War, Center for New American Security, American Enterprise Institute, that receive millions of dollars each year from the defense industry. So this money is circular and that is one example of, yes, even a losing war makes money.
  • Brian Lamb: Former ambassador I believe to both Iraq and Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, here’s 30 seconds of him I want your reaction of this.
  • (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
  • Ryan Crocker: You have to understand the Pakistani perspective as well. We walked out of them — we walked out on them in the early ’90s after the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan, slapping sanctions on them and heading home.
  • The Pakistanis are never ever going to forget that. What we have to do now is provide some assurances that this time we’re not going home, this time we’re going to stay with whatever force composition makes sense because we have vital interests at stake here.
  • (END VIDEO CLIP)
  • Matthew Hoh: Well that’s one of the myths that I get when we left Afghanistan when the Soviets left. We didn’t. We continued to fund the various rebel groups, the Mujahideen groups for over three years until the government in Kabul fell.
  • We had no interest in a peace process, we wanted victory. And that led directly to the civil war, that brought about the Taliban. One of the things too that Ambassador Crocker, it strikes me and as I just heard this again recently is that over the last couple of decades, the Pakistani people have seen 70,000 people killed through terrorist acts.
  • You know, I heard that. I mean, it made me — made me — you know, really startled me. That amount of people, that would be the equivalent of, we have roughly three and a half size — we have roughly three and a half time the size of Pakistan. We’re talking about 250,000 Americans being killed over the same period.
  • So the Pakistanis have very legitimate grievances, some of which Ambassador Crocker does speak to, but others that we don’t talk about ourselves, that we don’t — we don’t acknowledge. We don’t acknowledge what these wars have cost them. As well as too, again, that was a good example of the myths, that we just got up and left. You know, we didn’t. We stayed funding those groups and for years after the Soviets left.
  • Brian Lamb: Here’s former general — I mean, retired General Jack Keane talking about this subject.
  • (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
  • General Jack Keane: From 2003 Stewart to 2008 Afghanistan was on a diet. We never provided adequate resources. The Taliban reemerged during that timeframe and gained momentum.
  • It wasn’t until late 2008 that President Bush because of the success of the surge in Iraq, he was able to put some forces in. And then Obama puts some forces in in 2009 and 2010, but shorted the commanders by 25 percent and then pulled the forces out 15 months later. So we have never ever gone about this thing appropriately with the right strategy and the right amount of forces.
  • (END VIDEO CLIP)
  • Matthew Hoh: He’s one of those craven warmongers I was talking about. General Keane who was chief of staff of the army has the institutionalized madness I believe. He is completely — he is not stating factually what occurred in Afghanistan…
  • Brian Lamb: But why wouldn’t he? I mean, he’s not here, so…
  • Matthew Hoh: Right. He’s — I mean, a number of reasons. One, he’s on a tremendous number of boards for arms companies. General Keane is, if people are aware of the recent controversy of the — of the Trump Administration wanting sell nuclear technology to the Saudis without the approval of Congress.
  • Well, the company that’s involved in that, IP3, General Keane founded that company. General Keane is on, again, the boards of many different arms companies like the ones that export 475 million bullets a year.
  • Brian Lamb: But in a way, though you’re suggesting that General Keane is not a good American, that he’s not patriotic, this is all about his pocketbook.
  • Matthew Hoh: Absolutely. I have no problem saying that. I have no problem, because so many people have died, so many people are living lives of hell now because of men like General Keane and because of the lies he keeps telling.
  • We didn’t ignore Afghanistan for all those years, we went after the Taliban mercilessly. We were backing warlords who were — who were — who were trying to settle decades-old — decades old quarrels. We were backing drug lords for all those years. We started expanding NATO in Afghanistan in 2006.
  • It was only when we got to the American sector in ’08 that we’ve started putting American troops in, then he talks about shorting the commanders by 25 percent, we didn’t have the troops to do it. The way Obama — we just did not have that many troops to send. And besides, again, Obama sent 70,000 American troops, he sent 40,000 NATO troops, he sent 100,000 contractors, that’s 200,000 troops. So Keane wants you to believe that another 25 percent more would have made a difference?
  • Brian Lamb: Right after your letter of resignation that ended up on the front page of the Washington Post in 2009, a couple months later Barack Obama said the following on December the 1st about more troops.
  • (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
  • Barack Obama: We will pursue a military strategy that will break the Taliban’s momentum and increase Afghanistan’s capacity over the next 18 months. The 30,000 additional troops that I’m announcing tonight will deploy in the first part of 2010, the fastest possible pace, so that they can target the insurgency and secure key population centers.
  • They’ll increase our ability to train competent Afghan security forces and they will help create the conditions for the United States to transfer responsibility to the Afghans.
  • (END VIDEO CLIP)
  • Matthew Hoh: Again, at that point…
  • Brian Lamb: Ten years later now.
  • Matthew Hoh: Ten years later. At that point at his speech he’d already sent 40,000 troops. Something that was barely talked about while he was doing it, and this is why when I was there in ’09. Then he spent — so he sends all these extra troops.
  • I wish President Obama was here now. I wish he was here to explain how he felt about it. If you read books like the Obama’s Wars by Bob Woodward, you see that he was very skeptical. I remember when President Obama first received recommendations in the fall to expand the war, continue to expand the war in Afghanistan, he said, “Where has this been successful? Has this ever worked?” And they couldn’t show him where it had worked.
  • And all they did was — the Pentagon, all they did was give him small, medium, large escalation. The large escalation was completely impossible because we didn’t have that many troops, just did not have that many troops in the U.S.
  • And so what President Obama does in ’09 is the small escalation was 20,000 troops, the large — the medium escalation was 40,000, I’m going to cut the difference, 30,000 troops. And that’s what happens.
  • Brian Lamb: We’re about out of time and I want to make sure that we go over some things quickly. If people want to read your article, “Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies,” where do they go?
  • Matthew Hoh: Go to counterpunch.org.
  • Brian Lamb: And you served how many years in the United States Marine Corps?
  • Matthew Hoh: Ten years.
  • Brian Lamb: And you served in how many different war situations?
  • Matthew Hoh: Well, I went to Iraq twice and Afghanistan once.
  • Brian Lamb: How long did you work for the State Department?
  • Matthew Hoh: Oh, in Afghanistan, it was only for a period of five months. I couldn’t do any more than that.
  • Brian Lamb: And before I forget, what is the white flower on your lapel?
  • Matthew Hoh: Most people are familiar with the red poppy that recognizes the deaths of soldiers. The white poppy recognizes the deaths of everyone involved in combat, soldier and civilian alike. It’s to remember all the losses and all of the suffering of war.
  • Brian Lamb: Last question to you is, how have you recovered — at what point have you — is your recovery at this point from PTSD and concussion and all that stuff?
  • Matthew Hoh: I take 19 pills a day, sometimes I take as many as 26 because the migraines, the exhaustion, the being overwhelmed, mood issues. I go to therapy weekly. I have a great therapist at the Washington, D.C. VA.
  • But it is — it is my primary — I only do things like this when I’m able to. And I certainly don’t work. I’m a hundred percent disabled, I can’t work basically, I just don’t have the ability to do it fulltime. After an interview like this, sitting with you for an hour, I’ll probably sleep for 14 or 15 or 16 hours to recover from it and the rest of — you know, the next couple of days will be not good days for me.
  • So it — and it’s — but, you know, live by the sword, die by the sword. I’m not saying any of this to gain sympathy other than just to communicate so that people can understand that these wars don’t really ever end, that they come home and they stay home with us. And if we continue them or if we expand them or begin new ones, we’re going to create a whole new generation of young men and women and their families and their communities that are going to live through that kind of hell.
  • Brian Lamb: Matthew Hoh, thank you very much for joining us.
  • Matthew Hoh: Thank you, Brian.
  • END

Essay and interviews update

Counterpunch was kind enough to publish a long essay of mine that deconstructs the myths and lies used to continuously propel the war forward in Afghanistan. The essay utilizes US government, UN and major media sources, as well as many of my experiences, to argue for peace in Afghanistan. I am very happy with the reception this essay has received, most especially honored by its translation into Dari and Pashto by Afghan friends.

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/02/15/time-for-peace-in-afghanistan-and-an-end-to-the-lies/

In the last few months I have done several interviews.

This interview with The Real News Network on Afghanistan. I have pasted below the transcript for this interview as I comment a good deal on overall US military war strategy across the Muslim world.

An interview with comedian Lee Camp about Veterans For Peace:

And this interview last week with Telesur English about Venezuela:

Transcript from The Real News Network (11/30/18):

MARC STEINER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Marc Steiner. Great to have you with us today.

Seventeen years ago, the war started in Afghanistan. Seems like this is a war with no end. I remember interviewing Hamid Karzai as he was hiding in a cave just crossing the border back into Afghanistan. So many thought it was just, a war that we needed; it was a just war because Americans were revenging the 3000 deaths of 9/11. But doing so completely unaware of why the Taliban was in power in the first place, and how the United States was complicit in their coming to power in many ways, and in creating the likes of, yes, bin Laden.

Now, this week three Americans were killed, more in one day than any time this year. In retaliation, American and allied forces bombed a village they said was Taliban controlled. And later, when they learned that 30 civilians were killed, said they didn’t realize civilians were living there. Among the dead were 16 children. Then a British office was bombed in retaliation, and others were killed, one Brit and five Afghans. The UN reported that the number of civilian casualties from air attacks was higher in the first nine months of this year than any year since 2009.

It’s been a year since the Trump buildup of forces to Afghanistan and more money being spent. So what are we actually fighting for? What Is this war about? When will it end? How do we know where this war is taking us? These are questions many people are to ask themselves. The war’s cost 105,000 Afghan deaths, 7,000 American lives, hundreds of thousands wounded, and even more affected by the war. All this and the Taliban’s still strong enough to be on the verge of seizing power.

To help us wade through the latest news and what lies ahead is Matthew Hoh. A senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, former director of the Afghan Study Group, who was a Marine Corps officer in the Iraq war. And he 2009 he publicly resigned his position in the State Department in Afghanistan in opposition to the escalation of that war then, in 2009. He’s also a member of Veterans for Peace. And Matthew, welcome. Good to have you with us.

MATTHEW HOH: Hi, Marc. Thank you for having me on.

MARC STEINER: So I’m just curious about your reaction to the latest series of events, to start with, what’s at the top of the news. The killing of the American soldiers, the death of American soldiers, the retaliation to the bombing that killed 30 civilians, 16 children; then the next attack that took place at a British office. So I mean, every time we hear this news it seems like greater escalation, more deaths. What was your initial reaction to all this?

MATTHEW HOH: Well it’s the cycle of violence. I mean, this is, this is what’s occurred there in Afghanistan, not since 9/11, but since the 1970s. Something, as you mentioned in your introduction, we’ve been complicit in. I mean, we were–the United States–was funding the Mujahideen in Afghanistan prior to the Soviet Union invading Afghanistan. I mean, this has been going on for nearly 40 years now. And it is, it is a tragedy. It’s immense suffering. The numbers of casualties are undercounted. When an airstrike occurs like what we saw this week in Helmand and kills 30 people, we are aware of it. But smaller airstrikes, I could tell you this from my experience being there, smaller airstrikes, or airstrikes where the locals don’t alert the media, or the Afghan government doesn’t alert the media, go underreported, or undercounted.

So the idea that this is the most amount of civilians killed by air strikes since ’09 is certainly true. But I would hesitate to believe that that’s the actual number. The number is probably a much greater. And you see with this war a continual pattern, a continual pattern now of talks, a continual pattern of money and foreign troops being put into Afghanistan, a continual escalation of the war by the West and the Afghan government. And, of course, the response by the insurgency, most prominent among them what we call the Taliban, in a complete [an] appropriate response. Again, you’re in a cycle of violence here that, unless it’s broken–and when I mean broken, I mean the funding is cut off, the support is cut off for all parties so that the violence simply can’t occur anymore–it’s just going to continue to go on.

So we’re all kidding ourselves if we’re thinking that these talks, like this five-year plan which is the latest thing that’s coming out the Afghan government, peace will come in five years, we’re kidding ourselves if we think that’s going to make any real difference for the lives of the Afghan people.

MARC STEINER: This is a slight digression. I’m very curious, as you were speaking about this. I mean, so whether you were in Vietnam, whether you were in Afghanistan or Iraq, if you are a soldier fighting or whether you are a civilian working in that war, you get jaundiced pretty quickly about what’s going on around you. So the question is, I’m curious, from your time both as a soldier in Iraq–as a Marine, excuse me. Don’t want to insult you. [crosstalk]

MATTHEW HOH: I don’t, I’m not the guy that does the whole [inaudible]. I can’t do nearly the number of pullups I used to be able to do. I don’t [inaudible] get too concerned if people don’t get the right title.

MARC STEINER: OK, just checking. Just–I know how it is. But given your time in Afghanistan working with the State Department, I’m curious what is the tenor of the men and women working there, working on the, in the American sphere, about what we’re doing, what we’re really accomplishing, or not. And how you have to hide the reality from yourself, almost, to continue the work that you’re doing.

MATTHEW HOH: Yeah. I mean, I can–one thing I can tell you is that it has been nine years since I publicly resigned, and it was on the front page of the Washington Post, the Today Show, and everything. So it wasn’t–my resignation was pretty prominent. And you know, no reason of my own, really Forrest Gumped myself into that. But in the last nine years, the number of negative responses I’ve received from service members who are folks who served in Afghanistan I can count on my one hand. I have received hundreds, if not thousands, of positive responses from men and women who have been with the military, or with our civilian agencies in Afghanistan.

What you’re seeing is within the military, guys get the golden handcuffs. They get locked into their careers. They get locked into the fact that pay and benefits and everything in the military is pretty good right now. They get into the notion that I’m a professional soldier, or a professional Marine, or sailor, or airman. And so I don’t make the policy, I just enforce it. A lot of us would say, hey, that’s … You’re surrendering your soul and your conscience that way. So this zombie-like adherence to what’s occurring there, and looking for excuses, looking for ways to lie to yourself, looking for other metrics to determine whether or not what you’re doing is successful. I took my Marines to Iraq, or I took my Marines to Afghanistan, and only a couple were killed, or none were killed, or only a few were wounded, or–you know, trying to find ways to justify your actions. And that’s certainly what I did. I went three times to war, twice for Iraq and in Afghanistan. And it was–you become numb to that.

But when you get to a position, I think, where you’ve seen the realities of the policymaking, you’ve seen the realities of what we’re doing there, you’ve seen both conflicts–in my case both Iraq and Afghanistan–you see that neither is different. The only thing that matters is that the U.S. is occupying both countries. You’re going to have the same outcomes. In my case, where in Afghanistan I was meeting with the interlocutors, or actually Taliban themselves, and reporting back to the embassy and being told we’re not interested in negotiating, we’re not interested in finding peace, we’re interested in victory, we’re interested in winning, you realize, like, well, I can no longer go home and meet somebody who lost a son or a husband in these wars and tell them it was worthwhile. At the same time too, you see enough dead children, you see enough dead kids, you see enough grieving women in these countries, many of it from our actions, and you start to break, as I was doing.

So part of it is the constant cycling of people into Iraq and Afghanistan, or into Syria, into into these positions, so that they’re coming back out and then going back in, they’re not continuously getting burned out or overwhelmed by it. But it is a question, because–and I think now you start to get into issues of like, why did we get rid of the draft? We have not seen anything like what we saw in Vietnam, where by the early ’70s the U.S. Army, in particular, was completely broken. Where the U.S. Army was experiencing mutinies nearly every week, where units were refusing to fight. By the Army’s own estimate, a quarter of its officers who were killed in Vietnam were killed by their own soldiers. And that’s a conservative estimate. I mean, so we have seen nothing like that in these wars. And that’s, that’s, part of it is why they created this volunteer army, or in many ways like a mercenary army.

MARC STEINER: So–I’m sorry, go ahead. Americans are deeply disconnected from this war. It is very different in Vietnam, or even–especially World War II. People are disconnected because people don’t have a, aren’t in this fight personally at any level, for the most part, in this country.

So the question becomes if we are now in this war that is being escalated by the Trump administration, where more people are being killed then were in the previous years, and in the last years, here, of Obama–not saying it was great under Obama, but nonetheless was of Obama. And I just spoke just the other day with people who had just come back from Helmand province who were saying that, you know, the Taliban is in complete control of the rural areas. You cannot go out at night. Even in the cities you can’t go out at night. So if that’s the case, I mean, what is the endgame here? I mean, how do you get out of this war? How do you stop it? And if the Taliban is really that strong, and you know, for years you’ve seen people some people in the Karzai government and others were trying to negotiate with what they call the good Taliban, to try make some peace, headway. And the Americans didn’t like–kind of opposed them doing that, as well. So in any sense, what is the endgame here? I mean, what–how do you see it?

MATTHEW HOH: The Trump administration has brought about a new era in U.S. foreign policy and U.S. militarism. The Trump administration is different than the Bush and Obama administrations. While both Bush and Obama with the wars in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, were completely wrong-headed, criminal, they honestly thought they could find a way out. They honestly thought that they could bring about some type of political change. They believed that with elections, by building schools and healthcare centers, that we could bring about a change in political structure in these countries that favored the United States.

You have to understand, this is something that goes back decades now. I won’t get into prior to World War II, but certainly we had our imperial ambitions, right, for in this country before World War II. Simply ask the Native Americans, ask Hawaiians, ask Filipinos, et cetera. But after World War II what you see is the United States gets put in this position that is summarized best by George Kennan, who was the American diplomat who came up with the containment strategy of the Soviet Union. So a famed American diplomat. In 1948 he says, you know, he says, the United States now has 50 percent, more than 50 percent of the world’s wealth. We’re only 6 percent the world’s population. That’s a disparity that’s going to prove really hard to keep. But it’s our purpose to keep that disparity, and we have to do whatever it takes.

And from that point, I mean, you can trace when he says that to seeing what we did in Italy and Greece, right into Korea, into Vietnam. The dictatorships we supported in Indonesia, the Philippines, what we did in South America, and especially what we’ve done in the Middle East. Now, the idea of the Bush and Obama administration was that somehow we would do these military actions that would bring about political change in these countries that would make Iraq be the same color on the map that the United States is, right. It’s like this is one big game of Risk, basically. Or Afghanistan was going to be the same color as the United States.

Under the Trump administration, because I really believe of the significant influence that the generals like General Mattis and General Kelly, who are the secretary of defense and White House chief of staff, as well as other officials and other theorists who have gone into this Trump administration, you have a Trump administration that doesn’t see any purpose in trying to have such political change in these countries to create a new political order. What they believe is that you can just subjugate, and that’s the best way to go about it. You’ve tried elections, you’ve tried building healthcare centers, you tried building schools, you’ve tried to win hearts and minds. It didn’t work. So what we do is basically we subjugate those parts of those countries, and in this way keep our proxies in power.

So we’ve seen that. We’ve seen that already, say, like in Iraq, where rather than trying to do any type of political change with the Sunnis, we basically backed Shia armies and Kurdish armies with massive airpower, flattened every Sunni city in Iraq. I mean, the cities along the Euphrates and Tigris river valleys are completely flattened. Tens and tens of thousands killed; tens and tens of thousands are still missing. Millions displaced. And that’s the way they’re going to do it from now on. So basically–yeah.

MARC STEINER: I’m curious about–so what you’re describing here, though, as we conclude, just describing here is a strategy in the Trump administration that in some ways, even though the other strategies have been wrong-headed, flawed, and this war is insanely wrong. But this is–we’re escalating in a dangerous new way, here, in which rather than finding a way to pull out and end it, we’re actually escalating this in a way that is detrimental to Afghanistan and to us.

MATTHEW HOH: Yes, exactly. And this is what you expect from a cycle of violence, right. Cycles of violence continue to escalate. We engage in these wars in the Middle East, we occupy these countries. We tried by using religious sects against one another, by using ethnicities against one another. You’re seeing that right now in Afghanistan, the ethnic splits really occurring, with the Taliban attacking the Hazara minority. And this is this goes back–again, this goes back 40-some odd years. That goes back to Zbigniew Brzezinski’s ideas in the Carter administration to use ethnic and religious differences in the Soviet Union, particularly in Central Asia, to light the Soviet Union afire; to cause them problems, right.

So this is why it’s important that we don’t talk about Afghanistan in the sense that it began on 9/11, because this goes back decades. And what we’re seeing right now is the culmination of this type of imperial militarist policies that have by necessity morphed into–look, if you’re looking to see how Secretary Mattis talks about himself, he speaks of himself as if he’s like a legionnaire. He speaks about defending the republic. He describes the United States as being the apex of civilization. Basically, the idea that they are defending the United States and other parts of the empire, Europe and such, against the barbarians, and that we’re always going to be fighting in these borderlands, basically. And you’re going to look and you see John Kelly, the chief of staff of the White House, he said the same types of things.

And so that’s what you’re seeing with this Trump administration, basically. Subjugate those who won’t fall in line. Keep in power our proxies. Use other proxies. So that’s why you’re, that’s why this year you’ve only seen 12 Americans killed in Afghanistan. We’ve killed more Afghans than any other year since 2009. But we’ve only lost 12 Americans. That keeps it out of the papers, right. That keeps it off of CNN. You know, so let the Afghans kill the Afghans. Use the ethnic differences to really help subjugate one another. Use the Shia and Kurds to keep the Sunnis in line in Iraq. Use the Sunni Saudis and UAE forces to keep control in Yemen. So on and so on.

And so where this goes to–my God. I mean, it leads towards genocide. It leads to displacement, and it leads to further horrors and suffering that, you know, many people have been saying all along will be the consequences of this.

MARC STEINER: So very quickly here, as we conclude now. But I want to go back to where we began and just ask you, when the Americans and allied forces said they did not know there were civilians in this Taliban village, the Taliban-controlled village that they bombed in retaliation for the killing of the Americans, how real is that? I mean, how do you not know that where the Taliban are, civilians–you know, it’s the same stuff in Vietnam.

MATTHEW HOH: Yeah. As a guy–as a guy who did this, as a guy who was part of that stuff, as a guy who had Top Secret clearances, who took part in ground combat, who was involved–I’ve been involved in all kinds of levels. I was in the Secretary of the Navy’s office. Am I allowed to say–it was complete fucking bullshit. Can I say that on The Real News? I mean, like-

MARC STEINER: That describes it succinctly.

MATTHEW HOH: That’s bullshit. How can you not know–that, that’s like bombing a house in the United States and saying you didn’t know that there’d be a family in there. I mean, it’s complete bullshit. It’s complete nonsense. It’s–and what you do–this is what’s interesting. Last year, when the journalist Anand Gopal, and I’m blanking on who his counterpart was, they went into Iraq and they found that the United States was, by a factor of like 37 or 38, miscounting the numbers of civilians that were killed. Basically underreporting civilian deaths in the thousands. And then you look and you see what these Air Force general or Army generals say about it. And what it is, though, is that they basically are able to lie to themselves. And what it comes down to is if all the sources–if your sources in the military, if your intelligence people say they weren’t killed, if your pilots didn’t see them killed, if what the regulations say–if that’s, if that’s what–that’s what’s going. If that’s what it is, then they weren’t killed. That’s how they’re still able to lie to themselves so callously, so cruelly. How they were able to murder these people. And our generals shrug and say, well, now, that’s not the case. Because we didn’t–you know, our people said it didn’t happen. So it’s not the case.

You develop a mentality–it’s a sickness, really. But to be able to have that kind of dissonance with reality … yeah. And these generals who are in charge now, they were junior officers when this war began. So they’ve been brought up on-.

MARC STEINER: On this war.

MATTHEW HOH: Just decades now of lying. And getting away with it. And being promoted because they lie, or lied.

MARC STEINER: That’s an interesting perspective. I never thought about that before.

Matthew Hoh, this has been a pleasure to talk with you. I look forward to doing many more conversations. Thank you for the work, and thank you for standing up.

MATTHEW HOH: Thank you, Marc. Appreciate it.

MARC STEINER: We were talking to Matthew Hoh, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, and a Marine Corps veteran of the wars that we seem to be stuck in. And I’m Marc Steiner here for The Real News Network. Thank you so much for joining us. Take care.

2 minutes to Midnight

I’ve linked to an important article below. For the past decade generals and admirals have been speaking about usable nuclear weapons. We now have them.

Along with the new W-76 warhead which the article discusses, we also have B-61 air dropped nuclear bombs that have low yield warheads.

What this article leaves out, and what makes this issue more important and scarier, is that the W-76, which are carried on our subs, were refitted a few years ago with a new superfuze, making them as accurate as the land based W88 warheads – meaning they can be used against Russia and Chinese missile silos and command and control centers.

US submarines can now launch accurate first strike attacks with the lower payload warhead. Attacks from submarines would only take 10 or 15 minutes in total, Russia and China would have nearly no time to react. So the US has the ability now to destroy Russia or China’s land based nuclear missile fleet with the US submarine force, which would leave the US land and air based nuclear force intact. With their land based nuclear forces destroyed Russia or China would be forced to rely on launching a retaliatory attack from their submarines with warheads that are less accurate and have a high yield, meaning US cities and populations centers would be destroyed and effected. These attacks would not be able to destroy the US land based missile force, at least with any certainty, and the Russians and Chinese would fear additional retaliation from the US land based ICBMs ensuring destruction of their societies. The Russians and Chinese now have to seriously consider their position and, potentially, give up their no first use doctrine. The US does not and never had a no first use policy.

This is very dangerous.

This is incredibly dangerous.

https://consortiumnews.com/2019/02/14/the-most-dangerous-weapon-ever-rolls-off-the-nuclear-assembly-line/

The colors on the map…

An important read is attached to help understand the structure of decision making in Washington, DC; decision making that has killed millions overseas and destroyed entire nations in the Middle East.

When interviewed about such things, I’ve often described the maturity of national security decision making to nothing more than a game of Risk. Whether it be Republican or Democratic administrations the purposes of the policies enacted, murderous and barbarous when realized in person, are nothing more than to make the countries on a map the same color as the US and its allies. So, as in the case described by Lazare in the attached essay, to make Syria blue, to dis-align it from Iran (or Russia as is argued today), is the purpose in itself, it is the end that justifies all those bloody means.

Lazare’s essay is incredibly instructive and the cited memo, written by James Rubin to Hilary Clinton in April 2012, shows such thinking and decision making in its actual form. This is the true embodiment of what leads to 500,000 dead in Syria, 1 million dead in Iraq, unknown numbers of dead in Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan and throughout Africa. For my friends who still are in the military or government, or for their families, this is what has destroyed so many lives not just abroad, but also here at home – how many of us have followed such vainglorious and cavalier leadership and how many of us now know the true costs of such “service”? How many still go along with thoughts that the leadership of these wars might get better, the realities and circumstances of the wars may change, or that the professionalism of military, foreign or civil service absolves the necessity of understanding clearly, and acknowledging, the masters being served.

The first paragraph of Rubin’s memo to Clinton lays plain the convoluted, arrogant and ignorant thinking of those in DC power: “The best way to help Israel deal with Iran’s growing nuclear capability is to help the people of Syria overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad.”

From this opening Rubin lays down rationale that makes sense only when understood in what Washington, DC national security elites and their politician benefactors believe to be tangible goals; goals as have been passed onto them by previous generations and goals that are as if dreamt up by international relations graduate students in Kissinger-esque fever dreams. Goals that prove ephemeral in outcomes which can be controlled and are nearly always, inevitably, hopeless and damned for those upon who they bear.

Evidence of this simple, yet absurd, thought has been common throughout the war in Syria, for example see Michael Vickers’ Washington Post op-Ed in August 2017 https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-trump-administration-should-not-give-up-on-removing-assad-in-syria/2017/07/23/a7073878-6d59-11e7-96ab-5f38140b38cc_story.html?utm_term=.6255bc9ca7e5

or the examples laid out in Lazare’s essay. Similar clear and inculpatory evidence is also easily and readily available for our wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen etc.

In moments as of now I am reminded of Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” dictum of not to give our lives to brutes or to those machine men with their machine minds….I did so for a long time, such a regret and a shame I’ll never get past. What I can do, and how can I not, is to offer what I know, not just from study and observation, but from my years at multiple levels of military, government and congressional roles.

The importance now is to pass on this information, to educate in order to embolden our society and population to the whims and fantasies of such men and women as Rubin and Clinton. For now we have the most malleable and mercurial President we have had in modern memory (and maybe in our country’s total existence) and I can tell you with great certainty that more wars will occur and that the simplemindedness and arrogance shown by Rubin and Clinton extends to both sides of the political aisle. It is only a matter of time until nuclear weapons will be cast into fiery apocalyptic use, bringing forth our demise as a species along with this beautiful planet, just to preserve or improve the color shadings of the map in the heads of the ruling neoconservatives or liberal interventionists.

https://consortiumnews.com/2019/01/13/the-memo-that-helped-kill-a-half-million-people-in-syria/

Tulsi Gabbard’s 2020 run

I am very excited #TulsiGabbard has announced her run for #2020. Tulsi Gabbard is arguably the strongest progressive that has run in modern memory – Dennis Kucinich is another that comes to mind.

Her anti-war and anti-militarism stances will be a very welcome addition to the Democratic primaries, as will her domestic polices.

She’s not the Green or the Socialist I want, but politics is the art of the possible and I believe a strong and prominent run by Gabbard will educate a large part of our population to what is possible for our society and world and possibly pull the Democratic Party platform towards something resembling the platform of FDR or Henry Wallace.

If Gabbard is shut out by the governing corporate interests of the Democratic Party my hope is that will cause a stronger multi party system, or at least something more democratic than the corrupt and fraudulent two party system we have now.

As has been said so well by others, we can neither fetishize or reject our elections and voting. Only strong and direct action against the government will stop our wars, save the planet and bring about a just and equitable society. However, rejecting outright the politics of now leads us no where. There are many calls for an overthrow of the system, something I am in favor of, however that overthrow must come peaceably and nonviolently – I have taken part in the violent change and administration of revolutionary democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan and with the greatest certainty I can tell you that only the naive believe that violence helps anyone but the powerful and wealthy – it is always the weak, the poor, the voiceless that suffer and suffer horribly.

We must find leaders for the political moment – like Tulsi Gabbard – while continuing to advance with great nonviolent force ideas, principles and actions that will bring about the radical change we need to survive what the present political system provides.E1DA5683-DA3B-4BDF-8F6D-B3E78074447B.jpeg357ec25d-17b7-486d-9ce5-96e3a634b76b

Asylum for Julian Assange

I was very pleased and proud to be included on this call for asylum for Julian Assange by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS – I am an associate member).

VIPS Plead for Humanitarian Asylum for Julian Assange

Memorandum for: The US Embassies of Ecuador and the United Kingdom, and the U.S. State Department

From: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

Subject: Humanitarian Asylum for Julian Assange

For six years, WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange has been effectively imprisoned without charges at Ecuador’s London embassy. In that time, two international courts and dozens of respected legal and human rights organizations have decried actions of the UK, US and Swedish governments that confine the journalist in what now amounts to torturous isolation, deprived of space, sunlight, visitors, communication with the outside and necessary medical care.

The catalyst was an arcane effort by the Swedish government to extradite Assange for questioning about claims of sexual improprieties.1 The UK government subsequently arrested Assange and released him on bail.2 Ecuador granted Assange asylum at its embassy based on concerns he could be extradited to the US where he would not receive a fair trial and could receive a death sentence.3 (Former Obama DOJ spokesperson Matthew Miller has acknowledged that US officials intended to arrest Julian Assange but decided against it because of the expected impacts on press freedom.)4

The UK government threatens to arrest Assange if he leaves the embassy for “not surrendering at bail” and refuses to rule out extradition to the US.5 Under a new president, Ecuador has cut off Assange’s communications with the outside world.

Experts Criticize Treatment of Assange

In June, 2014, The National Lawyers Guild and 59 human rights and legal organizations petitioned the United Nations to act on violations of Assange’s “fundamental human rights.” In addition, “33 union, human rights, media and civil society organizations” petitioned the Human Rights Commission in Geneva on behalf of freedom for Assange. Reports submitted by the groups identified “numerous systematic deficiencies in Swedish pre-trial procedures like the routine placement of persons who have not been charged with any crime in indefinite, isolated, or unexplained pre-charge detention.”6

In February 2016, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) concluded that Assange’s situation constitutes “arbitrary detention” and violates both the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.7 Assange’s Swedish lawyer, Per Samuelson, told The Guardian, 4 Feb 2016, “If he is regarded as detained, that means he has served his time, so I see no other option for Sweden but to close the case.”8

Another year would pass, however, before Sweden dropped its investigation, after finally consenting to interview Assange at the embassy.9 Recently obtained emails show that Sweden would have dropped the case years earlier but for pressure from UK authorities.10 In summary, Assange has been confined for six years over allegations that never resulted in charges, much less a criminal conviction.

On July 12, 2018, the Organization of American States’ (OAS) Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) sent out a ruling11 that was virtually unnoticed by US news media. The IACHR found “it is the duty of nations to allow for the passage of successful asylum seekers from embassies to the mainland territory of the state that has granted an individual asylum.”

For Julian Assange, this would mean that, according to the Court’s decision, Britain has a legal obligation to allow Julian Assange to exit the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in peace and allow for his safe transit to an airport from which he would be able to fly to Ecuador, the country that has granted Assange asylum and where he now also holds formal citizenship12

“[I]t is imperative,” the ruling states, “that Assange is allowed to make the safe passage to Ecuador demanded by the Court as his physical and mental health conditions have been described as deteriorating rapidly. If, nevertheless, UK authorities insist on arresting Assange, “the British government will have wantonly failed to uphold Assange’s rights as a legitimate receiver of asylum by Ecuador.”13

The IACHR ruling suggests further that outright abuses occurred when Ecuador removed security assigned for Assange;14 when the UK rejected Ecuador’s request for safe passage of Assange to Ecuador15; and when the US obstructed efforts to end Assange’s virtual imprisonment.16

Mistaken Assumptions Underlie Government Policies

President Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions hinted at a crackdown on the press.17 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Wikileaks a “non-state, hostile intelligence service” that is often “abetted by state actors like Russia.”18 Pompeo laments the “hero worship” of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and suggests harsh measures would prevent future “leaks” of classified information. But, it is government persecution, not the lack of it, that gives truth-tellers hero status. Also, what truly upsets senior intelligence officials is not (frequently condoned) “leaking” but blowing the whistle on government wrongdoing.

Harsh measures do not deter individuals with strong moral convictions from whistleblowing. Instead, these motivate potential whistleblowers to find more creative avenues for disclosure. Edward Snowden, for example, was well aware of the US government’s brutality toward Thomas Drake, who used “official channels” to express concerns about the legality of NSA surveillance activities. Drake’s experience, Snowden says, were his inspiration. “It’s fair to say,” Snowden said, “if there hadn’t been a Thomas Drake, there couldn’t have been an Edward Snowden.”19

Similarly, despite the bullying of Julian Assange, new websites have appeared that draw inspiration from WikiLeaks.20Should the US take custody of Assange and prosecute him like Drake, they could find success elusive in the opinion of Harvard Law professor Jack Goldsmith.

“The most relevant law, the Espionage Act, is famously overbroad and thus an uncertain basis for prosecution,” observed Goldsmith. “This is one reason the government has never successfully prosecuted a member of the media for soliciting or publishing classified information. Nor has the government ever successfully prosecuted a non-media organization for solicitation or receipt of classified information.”21

“Failing in the effort would make the United States look even more ineffectual than it does as a result of the leaks,” Goldsmith concluded.

A successful prosecution could have worse consequences. With little that distinguishes Wikileaks’ activities from those of mainstream news gatherers22, a dangerous legal precedent would be established. Journalists employed by major newspapers that also published government secrets, including some of the same secrets published by Wikileaks, could be imprisoned by any administration with animosity toward the press. The impacts of prosecuting Assange would ripple around the world as officials in other governments followed the most powerful nation’s example. With no means of holding governments accountable, despotism would proliferate, triggering cascading crises and worldwide disruption.

UN human rights expert Alfred de Zayas observes that “Order depends on the consistent and uniform application of international law.”23

Governments could simply ignore the court directives on Assange’s asylum rights; but that too carries risks, undermining efforts by those countries to support dissidents of their choosing. Potentially, in the future, the diplomatic privileges of UK, US and Ecuadorian diplomats could also come under assault.

A Fork in the Road

Collectively, the governments of Sweden, the UK, the US, Ecuador (recently) and, through its silence, Assange’s home country of Australia have imposed six years of suffering on Assange and possibly life-long damage to his health. With their proxies, they pound Assange with threats, ad hominem attacks and misleading statements. He cannot defend himself because the government of Ecuador terminated his access to communications systems. This may have a temporary effect of confusing the public; but as more legal experts and human rights authorities hazard coming to his defense, the public may recognize these assaults as the desperate flailings of governments that lack credible defenses for their actions.

Public dissatisfaction with governments worldwide is currently high, as evidenced by numerous massive street protests, passages of referendums against centralized power, and wide-spread elections of anti-establishment candidates. Any additional erosion of public support risks a tipping point with unforeseeable consequences. Brutality against Julian Assange, particularly as his health declines, can only increase his stature as a journalist, enshrine his popular global status as a martyr for freedom, and effectively undermine support for his persecutors.

The involved governments have arrived at a fork in the road. They can continue the persecution of Assange, risking catastrophe for diminishing returns. Or, they can let Assange proceed to Ecuador, or home to Australia if it provides suitable guarantees,24 and boost their public standing as self-described supporters of human rights, the rule of law, and a free press.

We the undersigned members of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity urge all governments to honor the OHCHR and IACHR directives with respect to Julian Assange and other asylum seekers.

For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

William Binney, Technical Director, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)

Richard H. Black, Senator of Virginia, 13th District; Colonel US Army (ret.); Former Chief, Criminal Law Division, Office of the Judge Advocate General, the Pentagon (associate VIPS)

Marshall Carter-Tripp, Foreign Service Officer (ret.) and Division Director, State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research

Bogdan Dzakovic,  former Team Leader of Federal Air Marshals and Red Team, FAA Security (ret.) (associate VIPS)

Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)

Mike Gravel, former Adjutant, top secret control officer, Communications Intelligence  Service; special agent of the Counter Intelligence Corps and former United States Senator

  Matthew Hoh, former Capt., USMC, Iraq & Foreign Service Officer, Afghanistan (associate VIPS)

Larry C. Johnson, former CIA and State Department Counter Terrorism officer.

Michael S. Kearns, Captain, USAF (ret); Wing Commander, RAAF (ret); Intelligence Officer and Master SERE Instructor

John Kiriakou, Former CIA Counterterrorism Officer and former senior investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Karen Kwiatkowski, former Lt. Col., US Air Force (ret.), at Office of Secretary of Defense watching the manufacture of lies on Iraq, 2001-2003?

Linda Lewis, WMD preparedness policy analyst, USDA (ret.) (associate VIPS)

Edward Loomis, NSA, Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)

Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA analyst (ret.)

Elizabeth Murray, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Near East, CIA and National Intelligence Council (ret.)

Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)

Coleen Rowley, FBI Special Agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel (ret.)

Kirk Wiebe, former Senior Analyst, SIGINT Automation Research Center, NSA

Sarah G. Wilton, Intelligence Officer, DIA (ret.); Commander, US Naval Reserve (ret.)

Robert Wing, former Foreign Service Officer (associate VIPS)

Ann Wright, Col., US Army (ret.); Foreign Service Officer (resigned)

Endnotes

1 Marchand & Schaus. European Court of Human Rights. 2016. http://www.ecchr.eu Accessed 2 Aug 2018.

2 BBC News. “Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy: Timeline.” 30 Jul 2018. http://www.bbc.com Accessed 2 Aug 2018.

3 Wallace, Arturo. “Julian Assange: Why Ecuador is offering asylum.” BBC News, 16 Aug 2012.

4 Greenberg, Andy. “The US Charging Julian Assange Could Put Press Freedom on Trial.” Wired, 20 Apr 2017.

5 The Telegraph. “Arrest warrant for Julian Assange still valid.” 6 Feb 2018

6 National Lawyers Guild. “NLG and Nearly 60 International Organizations Urge UN to Remedy Human Rights Violations in Pre-Charge Detention of Julian Assange.” 19 Jun 2014

7 United Nations. UN News, 5 Feb 2016.

8 Addley, Bowcott, Elgot, Farrell & Crouch. “Julian Assange is in arbitrary detention, UN panel finds.”

The Guardian. 4 Feb 2016

9 BBC News. “Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy: Timeline.” 30 Jul 2018. http://www.bbc.com Accessed 2 Aug 2018.

10 Bowcott & MacAskill.“Sweden tried to drop Assange extradition in 2013, CPS emails show.” The Guardian,11 Feb 2018.

11 Inter-American Court of Human Right. “Advisory Opinion on the institution of asylum and its recognition as a human right in the inter-american system of protection.” [press release] 12 Jul 2018. http://www.corteidh.or.cr/docs/comunicados/cp_28_18_eng.pdf

12 Garrie, Adam. “Julian Assange Scores Major Legal Victory as Court Orders Safe Passage of Wikileaks Founder Out of Embassy.” EurasiaFuture, 13 Jul 2018.

13 Ibid.

14 “Ecuador orders withdrawal of extra Assange security from embassy in London.” Reuters, 7 May 2018

15 Saul, Heather. “Julian Assange: British Government denies Ecuadorian request for ‘safe passage’ to get Wikileaks founder to a hospital.” The Independent, 15 Oct 2015.

16 Solomon, John. “How Comey Intervened To Kill Wikileaks’ Immunity Deal.” The Hill, 25 Jun 2018.

17 Ainsley, Julia Edwards. “Trump administration goes on attack against leakers, journalists.” Reuters. 4 Aug 2017

18 Milman, Oliver. “Trump CIA director blames ‘worship of Edward Snowden’ for rise in leaks.” The Guardian, 24 June 2017.

19 AJ Plus. “Exclusive: Edward Snowden on the man who inspired his work.” (video) 5 Aug 2015.

20 Reitman, Rainey. “Will the rise of WikiLeaks competitors make whistleblowing resistant to censorship?” Electronic Frontier Foundation. 6 Feb 2011.

21 Goldsmith, Jack. “Why the U.S. shouldn’t try Julian Assange.” Washington Post, 11 Feb 2011.

22 ”Quite simply, our motive is identical to that claimed by the New York Times and The Post — to publish newsworthy content,” Assange wrote in a recent op-ed in The Washington Post. “Consistent with the U.S. Constitution, we publish material that we can confirm to be true irrespective of whether sources came by that truth legally or have the right to release it to the media. And we strive to mitigate legitimate concerns, for example by using redaction to protect the identities of at-risk intelligence agents” (CNN, 21 May 2017).

23 UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. “UN rights expert urges the UK and Sweden to give good example to the world and implement the Assange ruling.” 15 Feb 2016. Retrieved on 1 Aug 2018 from http://www.ohchr.org.

24 Murdock, Jason. WikiLeaks: Australia has ‘obligation’ to protect Julian Assange, Lawyer says.” Newsweek. 1 Aug 2018.

Impeach the President for War-Making: Support H. Res. 922

Update: You can quickly and easily send a letter asking your representative in the House to support H. Res 922 by visiting The Action Network. Please do so, it will help.

Impeaching the President for starting wars without the consent of Congress is the central tenet of House Resolution 922, which is co-sponsored by Representatives Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Walter Jones (R-NC).

I am very privileged to help introduce H. Res. 922 this Wednesday, July 18, along with Representatives Gabbard and Jones, and constitutional law expert Bruce Fein, at the US Capitol (11am, House Triangle). H. Res. 922 defines presidential wars not declared by Congress, to includes wars of co-belligerancy, such as the United States role in the atrocities in Yemen, as impeachable offenses.

H. Res. 922 provides a framework for the House of Representatives to assert its duty and responsibility in US war-making, as obligated by the US Constitution, by providing definitions and context to Article I, section 8, clause 11 of the Constitution (the declare war clause), as well as labeling presidential indifference to, neglect of and subversion against Congress’ role, and by extension the public’s will, in war-making “a high crime and misdemeanor”. This latter purpose of H. Res. 922 provides the justification for impeachment of a president for war-making, which, regardless of political party, has proven to be a constant, murderous and unchecked facet of our imperial presidents.

Will H. Res. 922 directly end war? No. However, it is an extremely valuable and non-partisan effort to put a check on current imperial presidential powers and to demonstrate a desire for accountability for the daily and unending madness and cruelty of US wars. H. Res. 922 should be viewed as part of a larger and broader campaign to end the wars we wage both abroad and at home (and if you don’t understand how the wars overseas are directly tied into the wars here at home, then please read how the US military is prepared to jail 20,000 children on US soil). Such a campaign necessarily requires legislative and political efforts, but must also include direct action, resistance, education and alternatives to the yearly one trillion dollar military-industrial complex.

Whatever assistance you and your organizations can provide in support of this resolution will be extremely helpful. Please share widely this announcement with your friends, family, organizations, networks, readers, listeners, followers, etc, and please also directly contact your representatives in the House and ask them to co-sponsor H. Res. 922.

All press are welcome on Wednesday and press inquiries can be directed to Allison Tucker in Congressman Jone’s office (202-225-3415) and Lauren McIlvaine in Congresswoman Gabbard’s office (202-225-4906). I have pasted below the text of the resolution.

Wage Peace.

115th CONGRESS

2d Session

H. RES. 922

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

June 6, 2018

(for himself and Ms. Gabbard) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

RESOLUTION

Defining presidential wars not declared by Congress under Article I, section 8, clause 11 (Declare War Clause) as impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors within the meaning of Article II, section 4 of the Constitution and defining the meanings of war and cobelligerency for purposes of the Declare War Clause and Impeachment provisions.

Whereas presidential wars not declared by Congress under Article I, section 8, clause 11 are the most flagrant and dangerous of presidential usurpations;

Whereas President George Washington, who had presided over the Constitutional Convention and supported the Declare War Clause, elaborated during his service in office: The Constitution vests the power of declaring war with Congress; therefore, no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they have deliberated on the subject and authorized such a measure.;

Whereas presidential wars saddle the people with multi-trillion dollar indebtedness, diverts national genius from production to destruction, cripples liberty, silences the law, awakens enemies, and provokes blowback in the United States;

Whereas the absence of impeachment standards creates an appearance that impeachment is a partisan exercise, which undermines its legitimacy and deters its use;

Whereas the absence of definitions of war and co-belligerency for purposes of the Declare War Clause undermines its enforcement through the impeachment process or otherwise;

Whereas the law should warn before it strikes;

Whereas Article I, section 2, clause 5 provides that, The House of Representatives … shall have the sole Power of Impeachment;

Whereas the impeachment power of the House of Representatives is a cornerstone safeguard against Presidential tyranny;

Whereas the past neglect of the House of Representatives to use the impeachment power against Presidential usurpations and lawlessness has concentrated alarming power in the executive branch, crippled liberty, undermined transparency, and encouraged Presidents to further aggrandizements;

Whereas Article II, section 4 of the Constitution provides that, The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors;

Whereas the Constitutional Convention rejected neglect of duty or maladministration as impeachment standards in favor of high crimes and misdemeanors because the former terms were too broad;

Whereas impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors has an objective meaning based on the intent of the Constitution’s framers and British impeachment precedents;

Whereas Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 65 explained that impeachable offenses proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself;

Whereas the House of Representatives has voted articles of impeachment against two Presidents, one Cabinet officer, one Senator, one Supreme Court Justice, and 14 Federal judges without providing a general standard for defining an impeachable offense; and

Whereas every participant in the drafting, debating, and ratifying of the Constitution understood that the Declare War Clause prohibited presidential wars and entrusted exclusively to Congress the solemn responsibility for deciding whether the Nation should cross the Rubicon from a state of peace to a state of war: Now, therefore, be it

1.

Defining Presidential wars as impeachable offenses

The House of Representatives declares the following Presidential actions shall constitute impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors within the meaning of Article II, section 4, which will cause the House to vote an article or articles of impeachment to send to the Senate for trial:

  • Initiating wars against state or non-state actors without prior congressional declarations under Article I, section 8, clause 11 (Declare War Clause) by which Congress itself decides to take the United States from a condition of peace to a condition of war against an identified enemy.
2.

Defining presidential wars

Nothing in this resolution shall be interpreted to prohibit the President from responding with proportionate military force in the exercise of national self-defense to actual or imminent aggression or a declaration of war against the United States.

3.

Co-belligerncy

This resolution shall be interpreted to prohibit the President from making the United States a co-belligerent in an ongoing war without a congressional declaration under the Declare War Clause. For purposes of this section, the United States becomes a co-belligerent if it systematically or substantially supplies war materials, military troops, trainers, or advisers, military intelligence, financial support or their equivalent in association, cooperation, assistance, or common cause with another belligerent.

4.

Non-exclusivity

This Resolution shall not be interpreted to preclude the House of Representatives from concluding that other presidential actions constitute impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors within the meaning of Article II, section 4 either by supplemental resolutions or by ad hoc determinations.

5.

Effective date

This Resolution shall take effect upon passage by the House of Representatives.