Saturday, May 26, 2007

In Memory of Those Who Have Lost Their Lives Defending Their Ideals

"Somebody Had to Speak Out. If Not Me, Who?"

- Maj. Gen. John Batiste Fired by CBS News for Anti-Iraq War 'Advocacy'
Friday, May 25th, 2007

Major General John Batiste was offered a promotion to become a three-star general, the second-highest-ranking military officer in Iraq. Instead, he quit over the war. After he appeared in a commercial for, CBS News fired him as a paid news consultant. collected 230,000 signatures on a petition demanding he be rehired. In a wide-ranging interview, Maj. Gen. Batiste discusses the Iraq war, calls for the closing of the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, says private security firms like Blackwater USA should be investigated and says President Bush has failed by surrounding himself with "like-minded, compliant subordinates."

CBS News is being accused of political censorship after it fired a retired U.S. general from his position as a paid news consultant after he criticized President Bush's Iraq war policy. The controversy began when the general - John Batiste - appeared in a television commercial sponsored by the group

TV commercial sponsored by

Two days after the ad aired, CBS News fired Batiste. In response, the group collected 230,000 signatures on a petition demanding Batiste be rehired.
For Batiste this marks the second time in a year he has made headlines for criticizing the Bush's administration's handling of the Iraq war.

Last year he shocked many in the Pentagon when he publicly called for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to resign. Six other retired generals also called for Rumsfeld to quit - but Batiste was the only one of the group to have served in a high position in the Pentagon and had commanded troops in Iraq.

Prior to the war he was then Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz's senior military assistant.

In 2004 and 2005 Major General John Batiste served as the commander of the First Infantry Division in Iraq. He led 22,000 troops fighting in the Sunni Triangle.

Batiste was offered a promotion to become a three-star general and become the second-highest ranking military officer in Iraq. Instead, he resigned after a 31-year career in the Army. Months later he began speaking out.

On Thursday, Major General Batiste spoke with Democracy Now! for an hour from Rochester, New York, where he now runs a steel company.

Maj. Gen. John Batiste, served as commander of the First Infantry Division of the U.S. Army in Iraq in 2004 and 2005. He was recently fired as a consultant at CBS News after he criticized President Bush in an ad for


AMY GOODMAN: CBS News is being accused of political censorship after it fired a retired US general from his position as a paid news consultant after he criticized President Bush's Iraq war policy. The controversy began when the general, John Batiste, appeared in a television commercial sponsored by the group

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I have always said that I will listen to the requests of our commanders on the ground.

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: Mr. President, you did not listen. You continue to pursue a failed strategy that is breaking our great Army and Marine Corps. I left the Army in protest in order to speak out. Mr. President, you have placed our nation in peril. Our only hope is that Congress will act now to protect our fighting men and women. Senator McCain, protect America, not George Bush.

AMY GOODMAN: Two days after the ad aired, CBS News fired Batiste. In response, the group collected 230,000 signatures on a petition demanding Batiste be rehired by CBS.

For Batiste, this marks the second time in a year he’s made headlines for criticizing the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq war. Last year, he shocked many in the Pentagon when he publicly called for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to resign. Six other retired generals also called for Rumsfeld to quit, but Batiste was the only one of the group to have served in a high position in the Pentagon and had commanded troops in Iraq.

Prior to the war, he was then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz's senior military assistant. In 2004 and 2005, Major General John Batiste served as commander of the First Infantry Division in Iraq. He led 22,000 troops fighting in the Sunni Triangle. Batiste was offered a promotion to become a three-star general and the second-highest-ranking military officer in Iraq. Instead, he resigned after a thirty-one-year career in the Army. Months later, he began speaking out.

On Thursday, I interviewed General Batiste for an hour in Rochester, New York, where he now runs a steel company. I began by asking him about CBS's decision.

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: CBS and I left on very friendly terms, quite frankly. It’s not about money. It’s about being able to speak out. For example, here we are, you and I, untethered, so I can speak my mind.

AMY GOODMAN: But CBS is a news network. Why shouldn’t you, as a retired general, be able to talk about your attitude toward the Iraq war right now?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: Again, I’m pleased that you and I can be having this conversation right now, that I can speak out and say what’s on my mind without any limitations.

AMY GOODMAN: You were a paid consultant for them, but will they invite you on simply as a pundit, as a general would comment on what is happening today?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: I was a part-time consultant. I had been signed on for a few months. I think I had one or two opportunities to talk with them. If they invite me back to comment, I’d think about it. I’m not interested in going back in any capacity as a paid or part-time paid consultant.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of the fact -- well, for example, Talking Points Memo documented how CBS News has allowed the Brookings Institution pundit Michael O’Hanlon to continue to appear as the CBS news consultant, even though he has repeatedly advocated for the surge.

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: You know, that’s something you'll have to ask CBS. I’m focused on other things more important.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let's talk about what you are focused on and your decision to leave the military. First, give us a little of your background, serving in the Gulf, then serving here as a general in the current war, and how your decision-making or how your decision to be a part of this changed.

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: Sure. Thirty-one-year Army veteran, two-time combat veteran, first Gulf War, Operation Iraqi Freedom, multiple tours of duty in the Balkans serving in Bosnia, Kosovo, commanding Army formations from platoon through division, commanded the First Infantry Division, most recently, for three years, an incredible career. But gut-wrenching decision in the summer of 2005 to put my uniform up and leave an institution I loved, because I realized I could do more good for my soldiers wearing the suit that I am today than the fatigues that I wore some time ago.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk specifically about that decision and, especially for young people to see how you, with your history in the military, your history going back to your father and your grandfather, what those days were like? Where were you when you made this decision?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: Tough decision. As you said, both grandfathers served. My father served multiple times, career infantry officer. Myself, a West Point graduate, thirty-one years in the military. Decision was made in my quarters in Germany in the summer of 2005.

You see, we got this war terribly wrong. I’m not antiwar at all. I don't support That’s the reason I joined Vote Vets. This is all about getting it right. This is all about recognizing that it’s not about timelines and deadlines. It’s more about recognizing that this administration got the national strategy so wrong in Iraq, wrong in March 2003, wrong today in May 2007. This administration failed to mobilize this country in any way, shape or form to complete the important task of defeating worldwide Islamic extremism, global terrorism.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think, General Batiste, that it was wrong for the United States to invade Iraq, March 19, 2003?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: You know, that’s all hindsight, and we certainly could debate that forever. The point is, we are where we are. And again, the strategy is so incredibly flawed from a national perspective -- an interagency process that is all but dysfunctional, the many facets of mobilizing a nation to accomplish something as important as war. You know, you exhaust all political, diplomatic and economic means before you commit your military into this kind of endeavor.

Today, our Army and Marine Corps, and portions of the Navy and Air Force, by the way, because they’re competing for the same shortage of funds, are in serious shape. And this should not sit well with any American, based on the current situation and the other threats in the world today. We've got the best military this nation has ever fielded.

We're on the verge, in a few days, of celebrating Memorial Day. This is a day to stop what we’re doing and pay our respects to our fallen comrades, Americans who have given their last full measure. It’s not a day to debate timelines. It’s not a day to debate whether or not we should be in Iraq. It's not a day for Republicans to be fighting Democrats. It’s a day for all of us to say, “Stop. Let's pay our respects to our fallen comrades.”

AMY GOODMAN: General Batiste, I want to ask you about your criticism of the previous Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Last year, you joined other generals in publicly calling for his resignation. This is what you said last September.

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: Donald Rumsfeld is not a competent wartime leader. He knows everything, except how to win. He surrounds himself with like-minded and compliant subordinates who do not grasp the importance of the principles of war, the complexities of Iraq, or the human dimension of warfare. Secretary Rumsfeld ignored twelve years of US Central Command deliberate planning and strategy, dismissed honest dissent, and browbeat subordinates to build his plan, which did not address the hard work to crush the insurgency, secure a post-Saddam Iraq, build the peace and set Iraq up for self-reliance. He refused to acknowledge and even ignored the potential for the insurgency, which was an absolute certainty. Bottom line, his plan allowed the insurgency to take root and metastasize to where it is today.

AMY GOODMAN: General Batiste, testifying in Congress. I wanted to read from the Wall Street Journal a recent piece they did on you, “The Two-Star Rebel: For Gen. Batiste, a tour in Iraq turned a loyal soldier into Rumsfeld's most unexpected critic.” And it says, “Six days after he called for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to leave his post, retired Maj. Gen. John Batiste faced a crushing moment of doubt. Earlier that morning, Mr. Rumsfeld had brushed off Gen. Batiste and other critics as inflexible bureaucrats, uncomfortable with change. A few hours later, President Bush vowed to stand by his secretary. Now CNN's Paula Zahn was grilling Gen. Batiste: ‘So, do you plan to continue with these kinds of attacks ... when the president has made it clear he's not budging?’ [Gen. Batiste said,] ‘I have yet to determine if I will do that or not.’ Afterward, the 53-year-old officer retreated to a deserted parking garage outside the television station. For 30 minutes, he paced up and down, he says, literally shaking.” Why were you shaking? And go through that thought process with us.

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: I remember it well. And, by the way, everything that you just played on the recording, I’d say again. For a moment, I had doubts. Remember where I came from: West Point graduate, thirty-one years in the Army. We take an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and to obey the orders of the President and the officers appointed over us when we’re commissioned. That’s the reason I chose to get out of the Army, before I started to speak out.

But any moment of doubt was quickly eclipsed with absolute certainty that I knew what I was doing, it was the right thing to do, and it is important to keep speaking out for our country, for our incredible military and their families, who are bearing the brunt of this war. The military is the only element of our national strategy that this administration is focused on. It seems to me they've all but forgotten about the diplomatic, political and economic hard work that needs to be done before the military is even committed and concurrently to accomplish what needs to be done. It’s absolutely outrageous.

AMY GOODMAN: Major General John Batiste, speaking from Rochester, New York, where he now lives and runs a steel company. When we come back, I talk to him about officers who refuse to fight, like Ehren Watada; I ask him about the private mercenary firms, like Blackwater; and he talks more about his life and his decision. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: We return now to our interview with retired Major General John Batiste. I asked him about what should be done now in Iraq.

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: First off, we need a comprehensive national strategy with an interagency process that is well led, focused and synchronized to accomplish what we’re trying to achieve. Diplomatically, we need to be making up lost ground, speaking with friends, allies and enemies, to galvanize support to accomplish what we’re trying to do. Politically, there’s a whole range of issues that need to be considered and addressed. We owe it to the Iraqi people. Economically, we've never gotten off dime one to change the attitudes of the Iraqi people to improve their quality of life and give them alternatives to the insurgency. Mobilizing the country is fundamentally important to accomplish what we’re doing. We haven't done any of that. From properly resourcing the military, to the Veterans Administration, to figuring out ways to fund a war that’s costing over $10 billion a month, we're mortgaging our futures.

The people that I speak to in America want to get involved, beyond sending a care package and putting a magnet on the back of their car. We're screaming out to our leaders to lead the way, and nothing is being said. If we can't figure this out, if there is not a comprehensive national strategy -- and we haven’t seen one yet -- and if we don't get this nation mobilized, then we need to take stock in where we are. Our Army and Marine Corps are at a very serious point. They’re doing a great job. General Petraeus, his officers and men are doing unbelievable work in Iraq. We owe them all a great debt of gratitude. But a fact is, without a national strategy that makes sense and without mobilizing the country, we got to think about America first.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about General Harold Johnson, going back in Vietnam?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: Harold K. Johnson, sure. Sure, yeah. Sure. You know, one of the points that made a big difference to me in my decision process to speak out is the story of General Harold K. Johnson, who was chief of staff for the Army during the Vietnam years. This case was studied by myself and other officers at the Army War College and, previous to that, at the Command and General Staff College.

It goes something like this. As the chief of the staff for the Army, General Johnson realized that everything was going wrong in Vietnam. The story goes that his purpose was to jump in his sedan and go to the White House to confront President Johnson, President Lyndon Johnson, to say something like that we have completely screwed up the war in Vietnam, you haven't mobilized the nation, you violated principles of war, and on and on, and I therefore resign, and I’m going to go out and tell the press waiting for me out in the parking lot exactly why I’m doing this. He, like so many of us, made the decision not to do that, to stay within the institution, to fix things from within. They can do more good serving than outside.

On his deathbed, he was asked by a very close friend, “Do you have any regrets?” And his answer was, “I have but one: that I lacked the moral courage that day in the President's office to do what I should have done.” I paraphrased that a bit, but, essentially, you get the notion.

AMY GOODMAN: Is that what went into your thinking as you gave up -- I mean, you were going to be promoted to a three-star general.

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: Absolutely. Those and other factors -- my experiences in the Pentagon from March 2001 ’til June of 2002, my experiences within the First Infantry Division, service in Kosovo, service in Turkey, service in Iraq in a three-year period. I realized that change doesn't come from within. There comes a time when you got to look at yourself in the mirror and do the right thing. I chose to hang up my uniform, leave an institution and a way of life that I loved. But I realized, as I said before, that I could do more for my soldiers wearing this suit and tie than I could wearing the Battle Dress Uniform of the United States Army.

AMY GOODMAN: What has been the response of fellow generals?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: Extremely supportive. Not long ago, ten days ago, there was a story about me in the New York Times, good story, and in that, I said that, you know, I rarely get any feedback from active-duty or retired officers to say, “Don't say what you’re saying.” In fact, since the airing or the printing of that story ten days ago, there has been two cases where folks have gotten back to me, and I respect their opinion and I appreciate their feedback. But the vast majority of the feedback and the response from active-duty, retired, serving folks, comrades, is, “Keep saying what you’re saying.”

AMY GOODMAN: General Batiste, last September, you co-signed a letter urging Congress to reject a provision of the Military Commissions Act that would redefine Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. Can you talk about the Military Commissions Act, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: Sure. In December of 2003, January 2004, the First Infantry Division was in Kuwait preparing for combat, preparing to move into Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I remember the day that the division staff came to me, and the subject of the decision briefing was how the First Infantry Division would run its five prisons and detention centers within our area of operations in Iraq. We started out with the rules that the Department of Defense had promulgated that watered down the provisions of the Geneva Convention, giving American soldiers what I considered to be incredible and unacceptable latitude in the dealing with prisoners. We collectively, at that meeting, decided to do away with all of these rules and ground everything we would do on the Geneva Conventions -- that is, you treat prisoners right. We found that the information that we garnered from our prisoners was much better when we didn't use torture.

AMY GOODMAN: General Batiste, Haditha. More details have emerged on the US massacre of twenty-four Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha in November 2005. Your response.

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: I think Haditha is a sad chapter in the story of our military. It did not reflect the vast majority of our great soldiers and Marines, which is not to say that a very small percentage make mistakes. On a different level, I think Haditha represents the incredible frustration and friction that’s in the military today, under-strengthed, under-resourced in Iraq, trying to accomplish a task that required over three times the number of coalition troops without the right capability. So you see the frustration building in our great soldiers and Marines. Unacceptable behavior, there’s no excuse for it.

AMY GOODMAN: Recently, Sergeant Sanick Dela Cruz testified he urinated on the dead body of an Iraqi killed by his fellow Marines. Sgt. Cruz also said he saw his squad leader shoot down five Iraqi civilians who were trying to surrender. The testimony came in a pretrial hearing for a Marine charged for the massacre and the ensuing cover-up.

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: There is a fine line between an armed mob and a disciplined military force, and it’s up to military leaders to hold that line with rigid discipline. What you just relayed are examples where we lose it. There is no reason in the world why that kind of behavior should be condoned or, for that matter, happen in combat.

AMY GOODMAN: How did it happen? This is one example that we know about, because there was film, although it was raised for months before. It was when Time magazine brought the film to the military that it could no longer be denied.

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: It happened because of a couple of things. One is a failure in leadership. Two, mitigating, but does not excuse it, is the fact that we have a great Army and Marine Corps committed into something in Iraq -- they're bearing the burden almost entirely. The rest of the elements of national strategy, like diplomatic, political and economic measures, all but nonexistent. A force that is under-resourced with boots on the ground by a huge number, factors three times -- what we’re seeing there is frustration. Again, there’s no excuse for it. I don't condone it. It’s wrong. It’s a failure in leadership.

AMY GOODMAN: General Batiste, a recent Army survey has found more than one-third of US soldiers in Iraq said they believe torture should be allowed in some cases. In addition, about two-thirds of Marines and half the Army troops surveyed said they would not report a team member for mistreating a civilian or for destroying civilian property unnecessarily. The Army survey found that less than half of the soldiers polled believed that noncombatants should be treated with dignity and respect, and 10% of the troops said they had personally mistreated civilians in Iraq. Nearly 1,800 troops took part in the survey. Acting Army Surgeon Major General Gale Pollack characterized the report as positive news, telling reporters what it speaks to is the leadership that the military is providing, because they’re not acting on those thoughts, they’re not torturing the people.

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: None of us should be proud of those numbers. I think it speaks to the legacy of the office of the Secretary of Defense, back in the spring of 2003, where the military of this incredible nation of ours was committed into something with a flawed strategy, a war plan that was outrageous, violated principles of war and the principles of the Geneva Convention, watered down to the point where we got to the terrible situation of Abu Ghraib and, by the way, many other instances of a similar nature. This is not good. This is a failure in leadership from the very top of this administration that generates that kind of response in our military.

AMY GOODMAN: Guantanamo, General Batiste, just that one word. Your response to the -- I guess it’s been more now than 700 men who have been held there, many for years, for up to five years, without charge.

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: Outrageous. Where is the American principles?

AMY GOODMAN: What discussion was happening among the generals, your fellow generals, as this has been going on for years now?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: I can only relate what I know. And that’s, within the First Infantry Division in north-central Iraq, we chose to ground our operations on the Geneva Conventions. There can be no watering down of that document. I don't want my soldiers treated like that, should they be captured.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think Guantanamo should be shut down?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: Absolutely. There is such a thing called due process.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of the military contractors, what some call mercenaries -- I mean, companies like Blackwater, made up of tens of thousands of soldiers? What do you think of what they’re doing in Iraq? The Special Inspector General on Iraq Reconstruction has just announced that they will begin an audit of companies like Blackwater.

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: Well, I think they should. There’s a real problem in Iraq. There’s a huge number of these contractors, and it creates, in effect, two chains of command, which violates one of our principles of war, which is unity of effort and unity of command, creates enormous confusion on the battlefield, and as a result, we haven't done as well as we should have in Iraq. The problem is, we went to war with a military that was sadly under-strengthed, under-resourced, and it’s a problem today that this country has got to address.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think that Blackwater mercenary soldiers, police should be under the Uniform Code of Military Justice?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: I haven't thought much about that, but what I do think is there needs to be unity of command in a theater of operations -- in other words, one person in charge of all Americans, no matter what uniform they’re wearing, inside that theater. We don’t have that in Iraq, and it creates incredible frustration. I know as a division commander, it drove me crazy, as it did the other division commanders, that we never had unity of effort, a fundamental principle of war that we dare not violate.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the pretext for war, weapons of mass destruction, that has turned out not to be true? You’re a general who led troops into war on those grounds. What are your feelings about that today?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: I certainly knew before deploying to Iraq that there was no connection between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein, and I had my doubts about the weapons of mass destruction. In the course of the twelve months in Iraq, we confirmed, at least in our area of north-central Iraq, that, other than 1980 vintage chemical munitions that we found in stockpiles rusting in a state of dilapidation, there was nothing. So you can imagine my feelings about that.

AMY GOODMAN: Does that mean you feel it’s wrong that the US invaded Iraq to begin with?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: Again, that's a debate we could have all day. It really doesn’t matter. We are where we are.

AMY GOODMAN: What about General Shinseki, someone you were close to, being driven out? What are your thoughts about that today?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: I have enormous respect for General Shinseki, an incredibly talented and competent chief of staff for the Army. You recall in the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2003, when asked what it would be take to be successful in Iraq, he gave an answer that was based on the war plan developed by US Central Command.

AMY GOODMAN: Major General John Batiste, talking to him in Rochester, New York. We'll come back to the conclusion of our interview after this break.


AMY GOODMAN: We return to our interview with retired Major General John Batiste. I asked him about the popular TV show 24 on FOX. This past fall, the dean of West Point, Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, along with experienced military and FBI interrogators and representatives of Human Rights First, flew to Southern California to meet with the creative team behind 24 and told them to stop using torture on the program, because American soldiers were copying the show’s tactics. I asked for Major General Batiste's response.

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: Well, it goes back to my previous comments that there is no room for the use of torture in how we treat our detainees and our prisoners. We violate the principles of the Geneva Convention at our own peril, which is exactly what we did, driven by the office of the Secretary of Defense in late 2002-2003, which allowed all this to happen. It’s a culture that we got to get beyond. You know, all of us watch 24, but in the American military it's fundamentally important that we embrace the Geneva Conventions, never step away from them, stay on the moral high ground. We're the United States of America.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re a lifelong Republican?


AMY GOODMAN: The New York Times is reporting you’re now a consultant for Hillary Rodham Clinton?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: No, that is not true. I will answer any candidate’s questions, whether that be Senator Clinton or Senator Obama or Rudy Giuliani. If somebody calls me and wants my opinion, I’d be happy to give it to them. It’s important that we educate our candidates.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you feel about Senator McCain?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: You know, I’d rather not comment on the politics of this right now.

AMY GOODMAN: What is your understanding of where President Bush is coming from right now?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: Good question. I think the President, for whatever reason, perhaps surrounded by like-minded people so he doesn't get the different views, opposing opinions, the full sides of an argument before he makes a decision, is fixated on something called “victory in Iraq,” this notion of creating democracy in Iraq. I don't think there will ever be democracy in Iraq. I think there’s a chance that they’ll establish some form of representative government. But you know what? It has to account for the tribal system in Iraq, and we've all but ignored that. And until we figure that out, whatever political system we impose on that culture will not work.

AMY GOODMAN: We know the number of soldiers who have died in Iraq, and that number doesn't include contractors. But what about Iraqis? Do you believe the study that was published in the British medical journal, Lancet, out of Johns Hopkins, that estimated somewhere around 655,000 Iraqis had died -- that’s months ago. A more recent study said somewhere over a million. Does that jive with your experience in Iraq?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: There’s no question in my mind that there has been too many Iraqis, innocent Iraqis, killed and maimed in their country. There’s also no question in my mind that our failure to plan for, resource and rehearse a transition from war fighting to peace enforcement back in April of 2003 created the situation where our Army and Marine Corps continued to attack in zone and create more enemies than there were insurgents geometrically. That happened.

I don't know what the right number is, but I know that the good Iraqi people deserve better than that. We invaded their country. We tore apart their structure -- good, bad or indifferent -- and left them in the malaise that they’re in now.

AMY GOODMAN: I asked you about President Bush. What about Vice President Cheney?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: I think President Bush has surrounded himself with like-minded, compliant subordinates, and therefore he does not get the opposing opinion, the other side of the coin, so to speak. I recently read the book Team of Rivals on Abraham Lincoln. It impressed me that Abraham Lincoln hired his political opponents, his campaign opponents, to be his cabinet, so that he would ensure that he got all sides of the argument before he took a decision. I think that’s a lesson learned from this administration as we go into the future.

AMY GOODMAN: What about, General -- what about the -- now, the Defense Secretary Gates?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: I think he’s an incredibly talented, capable person. Time will tell.

AMY GOODMAN: And the Congress moving forward with President Bush funding the troops in Iraq?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: Wow! I think a couple of things. One is it’s absolutely morally right to get our troops, in contact with the enemy, anything and everything they need to be successful. I also think this is not about timelines and deadlines, as I said before. This is all about recognizing that we have a fundamentally flawed strategy from the national perspective. We have completely failed to mobilize our country in any way, shape or form.

Look at what’s going on with the VA. Today, I attended a dedication of a new building at the Rochester Veterans Outreach Center. This is a nonprofit organization. Its purpose is to take care of veterans returning from war. Thank God there's institutions like that all over our country, not just in Rochester, New York, but all over our country, to take up the slack. Our VA is not doing a good job, by and large. I could go on and on talking about why it’s important to mobilize this country and where it hasn't been done.

AMY GOODMAN: Would you do anything differently now?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: You know, I don't think so. Life is a journey, and you make that journey, and you make the best decisions that you can along the way. My decision to speak out in June of 2005, to leave the Army so that I could speak out, was the toughest thing I’ve ever done in my life. But you know what? I haven't looked back, and I can look at myself in the mirror in the morning, knowing that I’ve done the right thing. Somebody had to speak out. If not me, who?

How long are we going to continue down this road to nowhere, where we're depending on our military almost entirely to accomplish this ill-fated mission in Iraq, all the while ignoring, virtually, the tough diplomatic, political and economic measures of a successful strategy and absolutely failing to mobilize this country to accomplish what I believe is a terribly important effort to defeat worldwide Islamic extremism, global terror, whatever you want to call it. But this is the defining issue of our time. I also believe that Iraq and Afghanistan are but the first two chapters in a very long book, very long book. And guess what? We’re off to a very bad start.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you going to be writing that book?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: I might. I might.

AMY GOODMAN: And officers like Ehren Watada, the first officer to say no to employment in Iraq; people like the Army medic Agustin Aguayo, who went to Iraq, applied for CO status -- his investigating officer recommended this, said he was the real deal -- he refused to load his weapon for a year that he was in Iraq, went back to Germany, where he was based, told he had to go back to Iraq, and that’s when he went AWOL -- thousands of soldiers have gone AWOL -- what do you think of these soldiers who are resisting?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: I think that the right thing for that lieutenant to have done is to certainly express his displeasure within his chain of command, but remember the oath of commissioning that he took when he pinned on his second lieutenant bars. And the truth is, he should have deployed with his platoon and led them in combat. And then, if at the end of that he still felt the same way that he did, then he should have gotten out to speak out. And if he had done that, he would have had a whole lot more to say, and people would have taken him a lot more seriously.

AMY GOODMAN: Florida Army National Guardsman Camilo Mejia went to Iraq, came back, was on leave, and said he couldn't go back. He offered to testify before Congress to talk about the abuse he had seen. But he was court-martialed. He was imprisoned for almost a year. He did go to Iraq, came back. Do you think these men and women should be going to prison?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: You know, I don't know the specifics of that case. I have a lot of faith in the military justice system. I also think, as do most Americans, that our Congress, for the better part of six years, abrogated their responsibilities to provide the oversight on our executive branch of government, a function that our Constitution depends on. So all of us voters have a big say in this. We need to vote when the elections roll around, and we need to vote for the candidate who knows the issues and the candidate who has the moral courage to do the right thing, to make the right kinds of decisions. But I’ll tell you, none of us should be too happy with the way our congressional and executive branch of government have been conducting themselves since 2001.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go back to Ehren Watada. You’re saying that he should have gone to Iraq, but if he felt it was wrong and he felt as a leader, as an officer, he didn't want to take his men and women into battle -- I was thinking about the psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton, who has written many books on war -- and talking about Iraq being an atrocity producing situation, why should Lieutenant Watada, if he now, upon reflection before he went to Iraq, realized it was wrong, that WMD wasn't the reason that was originally given, that they didn't even exist in Iraq, why should he take young men and women in that direction, lead them into Iraq when he felt it was wrong?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: He followed his conscience, and for that, I respect that. I respect him as a person. I don't agree with what he did. In the military, as I said, there is a fine line between an armed mob and a seasoned disciplined force. And one of the glues that hold it together is discipline. When an outfit, a company, a battalion or a brigade receives orders to deploy to Bosnia or Kosovo or Turkey or Iraq, or whatever, the soldiers all saddle up and they go. There’s no questions. It’s “Yes, sir. Let's go.” That’s the way the military works. And he stepped out of that. He stepped out of that and, as a result, needs to face the music, whatever it turns out to be.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you agree with Congressman Rangel that there should be a draft? Do you think that would mobilize this country, if everyone's children were equally, well, possibly going to war?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: We have a problem right now. We’re facing a long-term threat in a military -- Army and Marine Corps, primarily, but Navy and Air Force, as well -- that is in serious trouble, in trouble with equipment, in trouble with troop strength. The Army, by some accounts that I’ve read, needs to be increased by 100,000 soldiers. The Marine Corps, by some accounts that I’ve read, needs to be increased by 50,000 soldiers to accomplish our national strategy. Where are those soldiers and Marines going to come from in our current recruiting scheme? They don't exist. We have two or three generations of Americans who have never served. This is not a good situation.

I think it’s time that we debate national service. National service can come in many flavors. The Peace Corps -- my daughter served two years in Malawi -- AmeriCorps -- think of the opportunities with Homeland Security for national service and, of course, the military. We need to have that debate, and we need to have it soon.

AMY GOODMAN: So do you think there should be a draft?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: There needs to be some form of national service to get Americans back into the game, their heads into serving their country. We don't have that right now. Part of the problem is the military is under-resourced, and the current recruiting scheme is insufficient. It won't take us to where we need to go. So we need to debate the draft and form it the way it makes sense for us today to complement things like the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps and other opportunities that we should be thinking about to support Homeland Security.


MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: A concern. Persian. Much bigger than Iraq. A unified country working on nuclear capability. Let's not take them lightly.

AMY GOODMAN: And how do the American people believe the whole issue of Iran getting weapons of mass destruction, given what happened with Iraq?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: You know, that’s a problem. The people of Iran, by and large, are good people. I lived in Iran as a young boy. Old enough to remember well the good people in Iran. A different culture, to be sure, but good people. It is strange to me that we have not established, much sooner than this, a dialogue with the people of Iran.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you see that happening?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: Well, it takes an administration with some imagination. It’s all about getting close with your friends and your enemies. Relationships matter. And the only way to make relationships is to spend time with people, whether you like them or not. You need to understand them, so you can make better decisions.

AMY GOODMAN: What about dissent and what many feel is a crackdown on dissent in this country, that dissent is not patriotic?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: Well, I tell you, anybody that tells me that I’ve stepped out of line or dissent is not patriotic, I absolutely disagree with that person. I have a moral obligation, a duty, to speak out. Again, if not me, who? How long are we going to trudge down this path of a flawed strategy, a failure to mobilize the country, a war plan that violated basic principles of war that officers like me for thirty-one years took on board and understood, that to be successful in war you don't violate principles of war.

AMY GOODMAN: Major General John Batiste, he was offered a promotion to become a three-star general, the second-highest-ranking military officer in Iraq. Instead, he quit over the war. General Batiste did an ad for against the Iraq war. Two days after the ad aired, CBS fired him as a paid news consultant for his advocacy. In response, the group collected 230,000 signatures on a petition demanding CBS News rehire Batiste.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Addiction = Repeatedly Running from Pain Towards Pleasure

Tricycle's Daily Dharma: May 18, 2007

Opening Our Hearts

We shield our heart with an armor woven out of very old habits of pushing away pain and grasping at pleasure. When we begin to breathe in the pain instead of pushing it away, we begin to open our hearts to whats unwanted. When we relate directly in this way to the unwanted areas of our lives, the airless room of ego begins to be ventilated.

-Pema Chödrön, Start Where You Are From Everyday Mind, a Tricycle book edited by Jean Smith

Thursday, May 17, 2007

What People Will Do To Sustain Their Addictions

Cartoon from

The Beast That Ate The Earth
The Environment Cartoons of Chris Madden

Inkline Press

Weaponized Weather

May 3, 2007 By Bennett Gordon,

Proposed global warming "solutions" could do double duty as weapons

As the world slowly wakes up to the threat of global warming, a few high-profile scientists known as geoengineers are pushing plans for large-scale technological "solutions" to the looming crisis. According to David Shiga, writing for the New Scientist's environmental blog, the various ideas have included a proposal to launch trillions of tiny "sunshades" into space to angle the sun's rays away from the earth and a plan to inject sulfur into the atmosphere to create a sort of global shade. Shiga questions the plausibility of these plans, asking whether "even entertaining these ideas take[s] focus away from practical, if somewhat inconvenient, steps we will have to take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?"

The real problem with geoengineering might be worse than simple distraction. Historian James R. Fleming writes for the Wilson Quarterly that the United States has been pursuing geoengineering technology since the 19th century. Early attempts by American scientists focused on rainmaking to combat droughts, but the projects quickly turned militaristic as the US government realized the potential of turning earth's climate against its enemies.

After World War II, Fleming writes, advances in "cloud seeding" technology were quickly turned against the post-war enemies of the United States. North and South Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Panama, Portugal, Okinawa, and Cuba have all been the targets of US programs of artificial rainmaking, Fleming reports, all under military sponsorship with "direct involvement of the White ­House." When evidence of those programs emerged in the 1970s, the United Nations quickly banned the use of environmental modification techniques for hostile purposes.

Today's geoengineering projects, however, are presented as efforts to protect the earth, rather than acts of war. Writing for the electronic engineering magazine IEEE Spectrum, William Gail acknowledges the militaristic history of geoengineering, but still maintains that such projects are needed to combat global warming. In fact, according to Gail, the question is not if these projects will be implemented, but when. "[I]t is inevitable," he writes, "that we will begin to apply our newfound capabilities to actively manage -- even engineer -- climate."

In spite of the United Nations ban, the Wilson Quarterly's Fleming argues, "it is virtually impossible to imagine governments resisting the temptation to explore military uses of any potentially ­climate-­altering ­technology." When scientists speak of injecting the atmosphere with sulfur, the idea begs the question: Who will control the weather? Fleming points out that many countries, including Russia, may have differing views from the United States on what an ideal environment is (for example, the Russians might want an ice-free Arctic Circle open for trade routes). Should these two nuclear powers end up butting heads over their preferred climates, the so called "solution" to global warming may end up causing more harm than the problem itself.

Go there >> The Climate Engineers

Go there, too >> Far-Out Schemes to Stop Climate Change

And there >> Climate Control

Related Links:

Nine Ways to Cool the Planet (pdf)

Related Links from the Utne Reader Archive:

A Dose of Reality for Those Greens Going Nuclear
Arbor Angels
Global Warming Probability Wheel

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Tricycle's Daily Dharma: May 15, 2007

This Small Planet Earth

When I meet people in different parts of the word, I am always reminded that we are all basically alike: we are all human beings. Maybe we have different clothes, our skin is of a different color, or we speak different languages. This is on the surface. But basically, we are the same human beings. That is what binds us to each other. That is what makes it possible for us to understand each other and to develop friendship and closeness.... Because we all share this small planet earth, we have to learn to live in harmony and peace with each other and with nature. That is not just a dream, but a necessity.

The Dalai Lama, Nobel Peace Prize Lecture, in The Dalai Lama: A Policy of Kindness, edited by Sidney Piburn From Everyday Mind, a Tricycle book edited by Jean Smith

Saturday, May 12, 2007

What About Your Dogma???

Swami Beyondananda on Dogma.... (Visit Swami's website at


Yes, it's a dogma-eat-dogma world out there, filled with pit bulls whose bull pits them against other dogmas. And while we might be tempted to raise a stick to these bad dogmas, any dogma-trainer will tell you that you cannot train a dogma to be loving and obedient by beating it. To win a dogma's heart, offer it a treat.

"Good dogma. Sit. Roll over ... heal."
Now of course it's sad but true that when a dogma is foaming at the mouth and is clearly rabid, it must be put down before it infects other innocent creatures. Even the most sentimental dogma-lover understands that.

Can formerly vicious dogmas be trained to sit, stay -- and most importantly, to heal? In other words, can you teach an old dogma new trick?

So to help us all, I have divided dogmas into two categories:

1. Angry, unfriendly FundaMENTAList dogmas:

Accent on the mental.
Heaven is above us.
Ours is the One Way.
Laughter is frowned upon.
An eye for an eye.
You stone people.


2. The happier, friendlier FUNdamentalist ones:

Accent on the fun.
Heaven is where you make it.
One Way? Do not enter!
Frowning is laughed upon.
Live and let live.
People get stoned on their own.

And to help teach those angry dogmas to heal, I am launching a Blisskrieg to warm the heart of even the most fearful and angry dogma. We begin by kindling the spark of peace in our hearts and turning it into a bright flame. Then we share this spark of peace to light everyone and everything we come in contact with.

These challenging times call for Emerge-n-See measures. It’s time for us to emerge from our fearful and powerless hiding places and see the big picture. We have met the Savior and He is Us. I see all these Children of God praying for Jesus to intervene, but we cannot expect to be fed intervenously forever. It’s time for Children of God to grow up, for Christ's sake, and become Adults of God for a change. Playful adults, that is."

"Do you know what the leading cause of war and terrorism is?" asks the Swami. “I will tell you. It is seriousness. Seriousness is the most serious problem we face on the planet today. I'm serious. Think about it. Every terrorist act -- not to mention terror itself -- begins with seriousness. Everywhere we look, we are faced with laugh-threatening seriousness."

It's a fight to the life! We will light them on the land, we will light them on the sea, and we will light them in the air! We will even shine the light of love and laughter into their caves! And maybe with enough light, enough of us will get so frustrated with the stupidity of dogma fighting; we'll just surrender and say, "Ah, peace on it!" And with a little peace here and a little peace there, pretty soon all the peaces will fit together. We may end up with one Big Peace everywhere, and both Nonjudgment Day and Disarmageddon will come to pass.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Cowboy Humor

A cowboy walked into a bar and ordered a whiskey. When the bartender delivered the drink, the cowboy asked, "Where is everybody?

"The bartender replied, "They've gone to the hanging.""Hanging?" asked the cowboy, sipping his drink. "Who are they hanging?"

"Brown Paper Pete," the bartender replied."What the heck kind of a name is THAT?" the cowboy asked.

"Well," said the bartender, "he wears a brown paper hat, brown paper shirt, brown paper trousers, and brown paper shoes.""Sheesh, a nut case, for sure!" exclaimed the cowboy, taking another sip of his whiskey. "What are they hanging him for?"

"Rustling," said the bartender

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Right Here Right Now

Opening From Heart

Right now, and in every now-moment, you are either closing or opening. You are either stressfully waiting for something--more money, security, affection--or you are living from your deep heart, opening as the entire moment, and giving what you most deeply desire to give, without waiting. If you are waiting for anything in order to live and love without holding back, then you suffer. Every moment is the most important moment of your life. No future time is better than now to let down your guard and love. Everything you do right now ripples outward and affects everyone. Your posture can shine your heart or transmit anxiety. Your breath can radiate love or muddy the room in depression. Your glance can awaken joy. Your words can inspire freedom. Your every act can open hearts and minds. Opening from heart to all, you live as a gift to all. In every moment, you are either opening or closing. Right now, you are choosing to open and give fully or you are waiting. How does your choice feel?

--David Deida, from 365 Nirvana, Here and Now by Josh Baran

Monday, May 07, 2007

I Wonder Why whe USA is in Such a Mess.....Hmmm

Early departures clip Bush security team
By MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 18 minutes ago

Top members of President Bush's national security team are leaving in one of the earliest waves of departures from a second-term administration — nearly two years before Bush's time ends.

As rancor in the nation rises over handling of the war in Iraq, at least 20 senior aides have either retired or resigned from important posts at the White House, Pentagon and State Department in the past six months.

Some have left for lucrative positions in the private sector. Some have gone to academic or charitable institutions. The latest was Deputy National Security Adviser J.D. Crouch, who spoke favorably of Bush's policies as he announced he was leaving last week.

Turnover is normal as an administration nears its end, but "this is a high number," said Paul Light, a professor of public service at New York University and an expert on government.

"You would expect to see vacancies arise as things wind down, but it's about six months early for this kind of a mass exodus," he said.

One reason may be that Vice President Dick Cheney will not run to succeed Bush in 2008, setting the stage for wholesale changes at all levels of government no matter who wins the election. Also, several of the departures were not voluntary.

Some officials, however, speaking only privately, say some people may be leaving to avoid being associated with the increasingly unpopular Iraq conflict.

About six in 10 Americans say the United States made a mistake in going to war in Iraq and almost as many say they think it's a hopeless cause, according to recent AP-Ipsos polling. Less than a third support Bush's handling of the war.

At the White House, four top officials have stepped down, including Crouch; Meghan O'Sullivan, another deputy national security adviser who worked on Iraq; Tom Graham, the senior director for Russia, and Victor Cha, the point man for Asian affairs.

O'Sullivan's departure has set off a search for a "war czar" to oversee operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, a job reportedly turned down by a number of senior or retired generals.

Graham's resignation comes as tensions with Russia rise over U.S. missile defense plans in Europe, and Cha leaves amid concerns over North Korea's failure to comply with deadlines to eliminate its nuclear weapons programs.

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld resigned under fire in November and is not included in the list of 20.

His close associate and chief of intelligence Stephen Cambone followed him out the door as did Peter Rodman, the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. Army Secretary Francis Harvey was fired over shoddy conditions at Walter Reed hospital.

Another Pentagon official, Richard Lawless, the senior policy coordinator for Asia, is expected to leave this summer.

The State Department has been hit hardest with at least five so-called "principals" — people in the top four tiers of the bureaucracy — stepping down.

Light said the diplomatic departures appeared to demonstrate a feeling that the administration is running out of time for foreign policy accomplishments despite Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's perseverance.

"They reflect a decline in the Bush foreign policy agenda," he said. "No matter how hard Condi Rice works, this administration's foreign policy has pretty much run its course."

Deputy State Department spokesman Tom Casey said the departures were not unusual and would not affect the agency's handling of relations with foreign governments.

"This is a normal part of life at the department," he said. "It's part of a cycle where people pursue other opportunities at times that are appropriate for them but we continue to be blessed with exceptional people in the building for our important diplomatic work."

A total of 12 senior officials have left the State Department in recent months, beginning with John Bolton, the hawkish former ambassador to the United Nations who, facing congressional opposition, resigned in December when his recess appointment expired.

His departure was followed that month by the retirement of John Miller, the department's ambassador at large for human trafficking, and the resignation of Rice's counselor, Philip Zelikow, who returned to academia.

In January, John Hillen, the assistant secretary of state for political and military affairs, resigned. In February, two senior officials quit: counterterrorism coordinator Henry Crumpton and protocol chief Donald Ensenat.

Robert Joseph, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, resigned in March after complaining the administration was being soft on North Korea. The department's policy planning director, Stephen Krasner, also announced his departure that month.

April saw the departures of two senior officials, undersecretary of state for economic, business and agricultural affairs Josette Sheeran and assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor Barry Lowenkron.

Then just this month, Randall Tobias, director of the U.S. Agency for International Development who held a rank equivalent to deputy secretary of state, resigned after being linked to a Washington call girl scandal.

A few days later, Dina Habib Powell, the assistant secretary of state for education and cultural affairs who was also the administration's highest-ranking Arab-American official, announced she was leaving to take a job with the Wall Street investment firm Goldman Sachs.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

HEY TEACHER... Leave the Kids alone....

George Tenet: Loser, Yes. Sycophant, Yes. Fall Guy? Yes

From Mother Jones' Washington Dispatch: With all the gloating over the ex-CIA head's kiss-and-tell, let's not forget who else screwed up American intelligence.

By James Ridgeway

May 3, 2007

The last thing I want to do is defend George Tenet. The slick, self-serving, and stunningly unrepentant Tenet should at best have been fired on September 12, 2001; at worst, he should be in jail. Instead, he has a Presidential Medal of Freedom, a best-selling book, and an excuse for everything. Nonetheless, when the former CIA director suggests, as he has in numerous interviews over the last week, that he is a fall guy for the twin disasters of 9/11 and the Iraq War, he's right. He's a fall guy for the failings of two administrations—for the timidity of a scandal-ridden Clinton and for the far worse incompetence and perfidy of Bush & Co. He's also the perfect scapegoat for the longstanding and endemic problems of the Central Intelligence Agency, and the political system it serves.

The CIA's role in 9/11—the less discussed of the two intelligence disasters, but in many ways the more telling—began 20 years before the attacks. In the early 1980s, under Director William Casey, the agency took the lead in recruiting and equipping a guerrilla army to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan; it was during these years that Al Qaeda was born. Casey had dreams of not only pushing the Soviets out, but following them over the border and bringing open fighting to their own territory, in the Central Asian republics. The Soviets quit Afghanistan before things got to that point, and the CIA promptly exited as well, leaving behind thousands of revved up mujahedeen—some of whom, with support from the CIA's partner, the Pakistani Intelligence Service, were instrumental in forming the Taliban.

Meanwhile, the CIA was seemingly unable to adjust to a changing world after the Soviet Union collapsed—an event which, incidentally, Langley failed to either anticipate or predict.

After the first World Trade Center attack of 1993, it was clear that the intelligence community had to adjust to world where the primary threat came from freelance terrorists, not a monolithic communist nation-state. Its Soviet specialists were useless in this world, and the agency had relatively few experts, and even fewer linguists, qualified to deal with the Middle East and Central Asia. The consequences became clear after 9/11: As the 2002 Joint Inquiry by the Senate and House Intelligence Committees documented, the CIA was simply unable to penetrate Al Qaeda. James Bamford, in his book A Pretext for War, has pointed out that John Walker Lindh, along with at least seven other young Americans, was able to walk right into Al Qaeda camps, join their training operations, and learn enough about their plans that he could later tell investigators that there were originally meant to be 5—not 4—flights on 9/11, with the fifth aimed at the White House, but the pilot for that flight was unable to get a visa. Another American volunteer sat down with Bin Laden himself for an interview, as did Mother Jones contributor Peter Bergen.

The CIA's inability to crack Al Qaeda meant the U.S. intelligence community had to rely on second- and third-hand informants (who often had their own concealed agendas) and on foreign intelligence services like the corrupt Pakistani ISI. Even this imperfect network brought ample warnings from friendly intelligence services in the months leading up to 9/11—from the Jordanians, the Italians, the British, the Germans, and the Egyptians. Former Senator Bob Graham, who headed the Congressional Joint Inquiry, reports in his book Intelligence Matters that there were no fewer than 12 instances "in which we had learned of terrorist plans to use airplanes as weapons." The Joint Inquiry found that, beginning in 1998 and continuing through the summer of 2001, the intelligence community "received a modest, but relatively steady stream of intelligence reporting that indicated the possibility of terrorist attacks within the United States." The National Security Agency, with its extraordinary surveillance network, reported "at least 33 communications indicating a possible, imminent terrorist attack in 2001." The intelligence community knew enough to advise senior government officials, in June and July of 2001, that the attacks were expected, among other things, to "have dramatic consequences on governments or cause major casualties" and that "attack preparations have been made. Attack will occur with little or no warning."

How is it possible that the CIA could be so spectacularly incompetent in obtaining vital intelligence, or act upon the intelligence it did have? The agency was, after all, created in 1947 to ensure the nation would not fall victim to a second Pearl Harbor. But as historian and political analyst Chalmers Johnson has noted, from the beginning the agency's leadership "saw intelligence analysis as a convenient cover for subversive operations abroad." In his view, "intelligence collecting and analysis would quickly become camouflage for a private secret army at the personal command of the president devoted to dirty tricks, covert overthrows of foreign governments and planting disinformation—as well as efforts to counter similar operations by the Soviet Union.'' In 1960s Washington, former CIA officials spoke glowingly of how they'd pulled off the overthrow of Mohammaed Mossadegh, the elected nationalist premier of Iran, replacing him with the Shah. They eagerly participated in the destabilization of governments in Afghanistan, Chile, Congo, El Salvador, Guatemala, Greece, Indonesia, Nicaragua, and Vietnam (a partial list), and did their very best to kill Castro. During the same Cold War period, the agency was far less successful in gathering intelligence, losing numerous agents behind the Iron Curtain and proving unable to detect Soviet spies within its own top ranks.

Yet the CIA was often not forced to account for its failings. Its activities are secret; its budget and personnel list are off the books. Congressional oversight is limited, and classified. Tenet, like other CIA directors before and after him, answered only to the president. Why should it have been so surprising to find out that his answer was always yes? Tenet may have told Clinton to bomb Al Qaeda bases, only to be turned down because of the Lewinsky scandal. He may even have been, in terrorism czar Richard Clarke's words, "running around with his hair on fire" trying to warn Condi and Cheney and Bush about terrorist threats in 2001, when they were already getting busy planning the invasion of Iraq. But he didn't stake his pension on it.

As inadequate as the CIA's intelligence was, before both 9/11 and the Iraq War, it was often still more than Bush and his colleagues wanted to hear. So the pieces that didn't fit their agenda were discarded, or replaced by others. Some dedicated agents and analysts may well have objected to such practices—in the past week, a group of retired officers has attacked Tenet, charging that "by your silence you helped build the case for war." But in the end, the CIA director, like all members of the executive branch, serves at the pleasure of the president. And if the president's pleasure is to exploit 2,973 deaths in America to advance his agenda in the Middle East, then it is the director's job to support that agenda—as Tenet did so well.

The fruits of this closed system are obvious: a 16-acre hole in Lower Manhattan, and tens of thousands dead in Iraq.

James Ridgeway is Mother Jones' Washington correspondent.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Excerpt from what Amma once said about optimism.

Amma once said this to a heart-broken lady who had practically given up on life.

"Amma knows it isn't easy to always be optimistic. You may ask, how is it possible to be optimistic in the face of the many hardships and sorrows in life? It is true that it's difficult - but by being pessimistic you move towards even greater despair and darkness. All your strength and clarity of mind gets dissipated, and in the darkness of pessimism you feel abandoned and isolated. Optimism is the light of God. It is a form of grace which allows you to be much more perceptive and to look at life with greater clarity.

Life and God are one and the same. You are God's child. God would never close all the doors around you. His unlimited love and compassion would not allow Him to be that cruel. God always keeps more than one door open. They may look as if they are closed, but they have, in fact, been left slightly ajar. Just a mild knock and they'll give way."

Thursday, May 03, 2007


Tricycle's Daily Dharma: April 30, 2007

The First Principle"You talked about the first principle again, but I still don't know what it is," I said to Suzuki. "I dont know," he said, "is the first principle." --Shunru Suzuki