Sunday, September 30, 2007

The GOP vs. the U.S. Military: Part Six- Purging the Officer Corps, Indoctrinating the Ranks

* The Danger Grows...

Our topic is an ongoing campaign by President George W. Bush and the Neoconservatives to undermine, discredit, suborn and crush the professionals who make up the U.S. Civil Service, the intelligence and law enforcement communities, the courts, scientists, and any others who might stand in the way of their principal program -- the unlawful usurpation of unaccountable power.

Foremost among these skilled and dedicated public servants -- who have been the Bushites’ first and worst victims -- are members of the United States Military. As I have been showing, our men and women in uniform are harassed, overworked and undersupported. The services are worn down and misused, apolitical traditions shredded, and careers terminated... especially whenever a brave officer or enlisted person stands up to protest.

Whether this destructive process is driven by obstinate dogmatism -- or something diabolically deliberate -- is left to opinion. (Or else, it is a matter for our harried professionals to uncover.)

HowDemocratsRepublicansWageWarNevertheless the overall outcome is unmistakable. It appears that flag-waving jingoism and noisy posturing do not guarantee genuine support for our troops. Indeed, they seem to correlate with the exact opposite.

* The Great Purge

In Parts One and Two we discussed the demolition of our nation’s reputation for invincibility and our stature on the moral high ground. Two traits of inestimable value, even in strictly military terms. But those are still abstractions, so Part 3 focused on the marrow -- the plummet in readiness of the United States army and Marines. A situation that is horrifying, the more you learn.

In Part 4 we saw how demolishing the Army, the Marines and the Reserves, without asking the rich for money or the rest of us for volunteers, does not even remotely resemble how leaders of a rational nation would fight either a war of national policy or a response to dire crisis. All of the excuses that have been offered have been revealed as absurd.

* But that ain’t the worst, by far.

Vastly more chilling is the relentless effort to purge the officer corps. A culling process that has only accelerated in the last couple of years, eliminating men and women of high calibre from what had been a pool of supremely educated, competent and apolitically dedicated professionals, replacing many of them with yes-man hacks...

...a catastrophe that could justifiably be compared to Joseph Stalin's purge of the Red Army in 1937-1938, which is widely blamed for leaving the Russian officer corps understaffed and undertrained on the eve of war with Nazi Germany. True, the neocons aren’t shooting our generals and admirals, just forcing them into early retirement. But be patient. We may still be in early days.

A couple of years after I first broached this matter (pretty much alone), news articles began circulating about clusters of retired flag officers, speaking out against the creeping betrayal.

What remains puzzling is the gaping silence from prominent democrats -- except for Wesley Clark -- about a scandal that should be right out there. Treated as a major campaign issue and one of our paramount concerns.

(Let’s take a note of optimism in the rise of Navy CNO Admiral Mike Mullen to be our nation’s next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, along with Adm.William Fallon as Commander of US Central Command -- both of them outspoken critics of administration policy and diametrically opposite to kind of officers we are accustomed to seeing rewarded by this president. These important promotions suggest that the military professionals aren’t exactly lying down. Dedicated to silence on political matters, they may nevertheless have applied forceful back pressure of their own, behind the scenes, against the ongoing Bushite purge. If so, these people deserve honor for defending us, yet again, this time from an enemy within.)

See: The Under-reported Purge of the U.S. Officer Corps

* But the Great Purge Has Many Sides

Alas, our military’s professionalism and dedicated tradition of Constitutionalism are under assault from many directions, not just the ongoing effort to bully or dumb-down commanders at the top. There is also a deeply worrisome campaign to suborn and infiltrate dogmatism into the ranks, from the side and from below.

Bruce Wilson a lead researcher for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, wrote to me about ongoing neocon efforts to transform the United States Military, turning it into an active force for the fundamentalist Christianization of America. (Moderate churches have always played a very different and positive role.)

Read more about scandalous efforts to turn our apolitical and Constitutional military into an instrument of religious orthodoxy, on our way toward a theocratic state like the one forecast - in fiction - by a worried Robert A. Heinlein. (In prophetic novels he portrayed theocracy beginning, chillingly, in the year 2012.) MRRF is commendably trying to combat this trend, which some services have resisted more vigorously than others. (For a darker view, from an even more worried perspective, see

Take this testimony from a recently-serving Army NCO: “In Basic Training in Kentucky, all soldiers are sent to a local church that gives you a few hours of downtime on a weekend and required to attend an Evangelical Christian worship service - no matter your religious persuasion. (Those who objected based on religious grounds were so harshly threatened that they gave in and went.) This fire and brimstone service in no uncertain terms paints the current geopolitical situation in terms of the Book of Revelations, anoints these trainees as chosen soldiers of God converting and killing heathens, and ends with a conversion ceremony where nonbelievers are peer-pressured into being 'Saved' .”

(In fairness, when I queried soldiers and marines whom I know or could reach via blog, only a minority report having seen this kind of travesty, though more subtle attempts at suasion appear to be common. Notably, none of the sailors I’ve spoken with -- either serving or retired -- have experienced anything like it. But that’s the Navy for you.)

Responding to my recent articles, Bruce Wilson wrote: “I can guarantee your concerns were not overblown. In fact, my research findings have recently demonstrated that.” Wilson acknowledged though, that none of their efforts have yet been directed at what may be the most dangerous part of this trend, an attempt by up to one hundred far-right members of Congress to stock the military academies with young men and women whose allegiance would no longer be Constitutionalist and neutral, but rather, as personal, ideological and lopsidedly political as the praetorians, janissaries, or jaguar warriors of old.

Of course, I had hoped that MRFF would already be monitoring this part of the problem. Perhaps now they will. It could take substantial dedication and research... or else, perhaps, just a simple polling of Congressfolk, under the letterhead of a quasi religious group, asking a straightforward question: “Are you using your Congressional privilege to appoint dedicated evangelical Christians to the military service academies?” One might be surprised how eagerly obliging and up-front some of the representatives are likely to be. (If any of you out there have suggestions or contacts that might be helpful, do contact MRFF.

I am especially interested in further confirmation of one clear impression -- that the Navy has been stalwart in resisting attempts to “stock” fanatics into Annapolis, while the Air Force has given in completely -- lock, stock and MX missile.

* Again... at least there is the Navy.

God bless the United States Navy.

And let’s go save the Army.

==Continue to Part 7


Enterik said...

I contend that the rocket-like upward failure of Major General Petraeus is a consequence of the purging and promotion of incompetent political insiders that you decry.

Do we have any examples of in theater success lead by Petraeus? No.

How about the administration of Mosul and Nineveh? I suppose one could say that his presence (meaning the 101st) forestalled the subsequent insurgent surge in Mosul starting Spring 2004 as well as forestalling the assassination of the Governor of Nineveh. A less generous interpretation would be that all of his efforts in that region were for naught and that his techniques did not stand the test of time. Is that his fault? Can we blame him for failing so miserably in the millieu established by Paul Bremer III De-Baathification program? Is Petraeus another academic parading as a military man? Prior to his recent Iraq deployment, he was certainly long on schooling and short on combat experience.

Nonetheless, only six months after 101st redeployment he was promoted before the house of cards that was Nineveh collpased. His new task? Stand up the Iraqi Army and Police forces. How have his efforts panned out? 30% of all the weapons distributed to Iraqi forces are missing due to the sloppy logistics of the Petraeus lead effort. Observers assert that the forces that have stood up are rife with corruption and thoroughly infiltrated by sectarian militias. Again is this Petraeus' fault? Maybe, but it certainly doesn't look like a success worthy of rapid promotion, unless one considers the temporal PR needs of the BUsh Administration and supporters of continued occupation of Iraq.

But before anyone could judge the quality of his work, Petraeus moved on to reforming the Army's counterinsurgency doctrine in his own image, revamping their manual, training officers to emulate his "successes" in Mosul and Nineveh. How long would that take, amazingly, less than two years. For he was then promoted (to four star general) to replace General Casey to Command the Multination Force in Iraq. So how has the Petraeus doctrine panned out so far?

Given his rash of temporary successes and rapid upward promotion I think Petraeus qualifies as one of those purge replacement officers of which you speak. All through his mercurial ascent, Petraeus failures have served to degrade the situation in Iraq, yet now the US Army is poised to embrace his model as doctrine?

David Brin said...

I am about to cross post this on Kos. ANy comments suggestions before that? I guess you guys are getting tired of the topic and I do wax on too much. But there are so many aspects.

*Here's a piece of news. The Defense Department just anoounced one program that is actually ahead of schedule. The dismantling of US nuclear weapons under the final U.S. Russia arms reduction protocols.

Now, normally, that would be just fine. Okay, I was all in favor of the START process and I'm glad to see at least one defense-related program actually move ahead efficiently, under this administration, instead of spiralling into delays, inefficiencies and odors of crony-corruption.

Except... can one be forgiven for having - by now - developed a bump for paranoia, somewhere at the back of the skull? A creepy sensation on the hairs of the neck?

The Bushites do something well, at last... and it just happens to be something that has the effect of reducing U.S. military power. If Clinton had done this, while maintaining our alliances and science and armed readiness, it would havessemed comepletely natural. In this case though, we have to wonder.

Anonymous said...

I thought that we already had more than enough nukes to effectively destroy the world, so we could get rid of lots of them and it wouldn't matter?

Tony Fisk said...

If you want to nourish your paranoia, I'd ask whose nukes are being decommissioned?

Talking of tin foil, my 'surprise' scenario now looks like this:
- a 'surgical strike' at Iran, targetting not the nuclear facilities but the 'Terrorist supporting' Revolutionary Guard.
- a botched raid incurring blood debt on both sides. (Nothing like unfinished business...)
- the administration hands over the driving seat with the controls smashed and jammed on 'war'. If Cheney is any sort of visionary, his plans don't necessarily leave him at the top, just close enough to guide. ('We are very patient' saith the Drakh, and so was Sideous... Ooh! It all sounds so much like SF, no wonder no-one believes it!)

And, *if* you can pin a botched coup attempt on all those retired generals who won't shut up... hmm, didn't Palpatine do that too?

Anonymous said...

Yes, God Bless the USN - until we invite a counterattack on our forces in the Gulf, perhaps as they transit Hormuz.

If Hersh is to be believed, the Navy may get in its own version of quagmire in the near future.

We may see the birth of a new form of insurgency - but this time at sea. Sea denial in the form of hidden Silkworm anti-ship missiles fired unpredictably, and terrorist strikes coming from speedboat swarms. I begin to give more credence to your argument that maybe, just maybe, someone in this administration is actually TRYING to destroy the military.

Anonymous said...

Ach, the previous link failed. Headline article as of today (10/1) Also posted on RealClearPolitics. Must read, IMO, though a tad off topic for this post.

Tony Fisk said...

The Hersh report is here:

(Hence my comments on targetting the guard rather than the enrichment plants)

It also features a disingeneous riposte to the 'what if Clinton had done this?' argument

David Brin said...

Andrew, why do you think Mullen absolutely refused to send a third carrier battle group into the Persian Gulf?

Whereupon, he was promoted!

Proof that there really are heroes who are fighting for us, right now! Things have been said, ultimatums exchanged. There is a quiet war going on, right now, as some of the professionals fight back on our behalf.

Oh, but what can the military do, in the long and short of it? The REAL wakening has to be at the FBI and CIA. Somehow, they have to start behaving as if -- as if - their agencies have been suborned and taken over by enemies, at the top.

Only by instituting the right protocols for such an event...

...even if it isn't quite true...

...can they step back far enough to examine the range of big picture possibilities. Trace the patterns of influence. Spot the blatant signs of one or more corrupted (or blackmail-turned) associates.

Even if this has not happened in an all-pervasive and top directed way (the "manchurian " scenario) is almost certainly has happened on a point-by-point basis. With many of their politically appointed superiors either knowingly in cahoots or else troglodytic-dogmatic thugs.

Either way, the effect has been to undermine society's very immune system of open accountability. What we are experiencing is the societal equivalent of AIDS, in which our defense organs and cells were the ones attacked first!

Individually and in small groups, the FBI and CIA and other professionals must start a rapid slog back uphill, tracing the patterns and exposing the filth. For in a democracy, as Justice Brandeis said, the greatest medicine is always light.

David Brin said...

Please go view my version at:

and post a comment, if only to up may rangings!

Anonymous said...

If these researchers are on target (and I do believe they overstate the efficacy of US military technology) the third carrier issue may be a moot point. (though apparently we're at another overlap point this month with 3 in the region)

I'll grant though, that Admiral Mullen is definitely one of the good ones, and many praises to Gates for rolling back the Rumsfeld purge as best as he can. Though whether there are 2 or 3 carriers won't matter if Cheney gets this attack approved, as Mullen is obligated to follow orders if they come down. His potential resignation has likely been anticipated, and I'm sure there's some overly ambitious orthodox lacky waiting in the wings.

Agreed on the necessity of getting these reforms to start with the FBI and CIA, as they're the ones who have more freedom to bend the rules and undermine illegal actions. It is far easier, if nothing else, for someone to whistleblow at one of these agencies and survive with a career after they're done. (Michael Scheuer comes to mind) A tad hard once you're in the active military to protest, as they've ways to deal with anyone who breaks ranks -see Watada, who still languishes in limbo last I checked.

Which leads to my main question in this discussion - how to actually effect the necessary institutional changes? It is immensely difficult to create and sustain a complex institution, and probably equally as difficult to reform one once entrenched. What procedures and mechanisms can we begin to create to promote dissent from the party line within the CIA and FBI, in order to cushion the first martyrs and turn them into rallying points? And once the support exists for reform, how to insulate the changes from the control of the neocons and their reflections on the left (Lieberman, et. al.)?

Tony Fisk said...

Speaking of Adm Mullen and the FBI...

The new top military adviser to US President George W Bush has said he wants to prepare the military for challenges beyond Iraq and Afghanistan.

...Meanwhile, the FBI is to investigate US security firm Blackwater over the deaths of 11 Iraqis last month.

US politicians are also to question the company's chairman about the incident.

(Why these topics get lumped into the same article isn't clear!)

David Brin said...

At last --- some guts.

Three senior House Democrats proposed an income tax surcharge Tuesday to finance the approximately $150 billion annual cost of operations in Iraq, saying it is unfair to pass the cost of the war onto future generations.

The plan, unveiled by Reps. David Obey, D-Wis., John Murtha, D-Pa., and Jim McGovern, D-Mass., would require low- and middle-income taxpayers to add 2 percent to their tax bill. Wealthier people would add a 12 to 15 percent surcharge, Obey said.

The plan's sponsors acknowledged the tax measure is unlikely to pass, but Democrats have been seeking in recent weeks to contrast the approximately $190 billion cost of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars with the $23 billion increase that Democrats want in domestic programs.

Eodark said...

Hi David,

Forgive me if all of these comments are not directly related to Part Six. I just recently discovered your blog and will try to get future comments associated with your posts.

It seems reasonable to me that any prolonged military conflict would net the following things…
Reduced Interest in joining the Armed Forces. Thereby lowering requirements or increasing the cost of replacements.
Reduced Ability to counter other Threats while involved in existing ones.

Is it not fair to say all large conflicts (wars) destroy Armies naturally? This natural grind can be countered with Glory, Cash, a draft, and no doubt other methods I’m not thinking of.

Regardless the main effects which you describe seem natural to me. The problem being a Commander in Chief who created the situation without good cause and is willing to allow them to continue indefinitely.

We don’t have a good reason for being there other than cleaning up the mistake of being there. (Please counter this if I am mistaken) Remaining there continues to lock our forces. It is bad for National Defense and Disaster response.

You seem to argue that he wants a weak America, but this is hard for me to buy. It certainly doesn’t follow from this line of thread. I would say instead that he is willing to drain the resources of the country while it bolsters the strength of the ‘neocons’. It isn’t a war on the military so much as indifference/minimalizing of the situation.

Can you help me understand what I’m missing? I’m rather certain I’m not as well informed as you.


David Brin said...

Vietnam deeply weakened America, its military and our society.

Can you name for me another war that had that effect? We emerged from the Civil War a titan. From WWI a great power. From WWII the masters of the world.

The difference? Those others united us, were led by men whose GOAL was to unite us. ANd who asked the rich to pay and the poor to volunteer.

Vietnam was a divisive-stupid, pointless, wasteful land war of attrition in Asia.

ALas, there is not a single para of yours that makes sense. The common people DO sign up, and keep volunteering, if they believe in a war. But blue America loathes this disaste, led by a man whose central aims are to divide us and to help is rich backers.

Eodark said...

Haha, if I don’t make sense it may be because we have such a difference in our knowledge of the matter at hand. I am not very knowledgeable, but I am trying to learn. Would you like to help a fledgling such as myself to understand?

I try to break things down into parts which may cause me to lose the big picture at times. I would contribute the grow related to those early wars as an effect of restructuring our industry and training our population in engineering and management. Perhaps this is not the case. Another reason for our growth might have been the acquisition of spoils of war. But they don’t include that in the videos I’ve seen.

I will agree whole heartedly that this war has been mismanaged and has harmed the US. Unfortunately I also think that Bushies, as you call them, created the situation by focusing on their interests rather than the country’s. Halliburton, Big Oil, and many domestic political assignments have benefitted from this.

Let me summerize my thoughts with a part of your last line. “A man whose central aims are to divide us and to help [his] rich backers.” I do not understand why he would want to divide us. I just haven’t seen any arguments which approach this. I’m open minded though, do you have a post/essay or the like that can explain the (twisted) logic of it? “And to help his rich backers” is something which definitely rings true to me. I believe this is the tragedy of the situation. He is looking after his people rather than the United States of America. I could accept him giving advantages to them as corruption/favoritism will always be somewhat present in man.

The problem is he is indifferently, blatantly doing it at the great expense of the Country.

My goal in the above post to try to illustrate my lack of understanding for why you believe he actively wants a weak military. Heh, I fear I’ve asked you to explain neocon dogma.

Anonymous said...

Why weaken the American military? One reason might be that they're in the pocket of Saudi Arabia, which, far from being a natural ally of the United States, is basically North Korea but with oil.

David Brin said...

The fundamental to remember is one word. Accountability.

If you and your friends plan to steal a great nation blind, you must ruin accountability. That means increasing secrecy, crippling the FBI and auditing agencies, granting "emergency" contracts that aren't supervised, distracting the people with war.

A divided people won't look at the national leaders because they are at each others' throats.