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In part two of our interview with Gareth Porter, we examine the roots of Obama’s break with the military leadership over Iraq. In doing so, we examine the leading voice for continuing the occupation, Gen. Jack Keane. Keane, like many so-called ‘retired’ military officials, has continued to participate in policy-making at the Pentagon, while simultaneously working in the private military contracting sector and commenting publicly on US foreign policy. In this sense, he serves as an example of the military-industrial complex at work.

Story Transcript

Why you should know Gen. Jack Keane Pt.2

JESSE FREESTON (VOICEOVER), TRNN: In this time of alleged disagreement between Obama and the US military brass, do Obama and the military leadership differ in any significant way on the broader question of what motivates them to support the use of US military power? A recent article by Gareth Porter claims that mere hours into his presidency, Obama was visited by a contingent of military leaders. The Real News spoke to Gareth Porter about his findings.

GARETH PORTER, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST AND HISTORIAN: I think that there’s a degree of similarity in the views of the military leadership and the civilian advisers in the national security community, broadly speaking, and I think that it converges. I mean, the military and civilian national security people all converge around the proposition that the United States must remain the dominant power in the world, as well as in the Middle East, specifically. So their vision is always that, you know, whether we have to get out of Iraq in 16 months or in 3 years, nevertheless, the key point is that we must maintain our military presence there. So I think that there is, fundamentally, a degree of consensus on fundamental propositions around that.

FREESTON: Gareth, you mentioned in Part 1 of our interview that retired general Jack Keane is a key figure in this battle over US policy in the Middle East. What do people need to know about Jack Keane?

PORTER: Well, I mean, I think that Jack Keane is somebody who people who want to understand what’s happening in the Middle East really should become familiar with, because in a way he’s sort of the mafia don of this network of retired and active-duty generals who are now quietly at work trying to figure out how they can really turn this storyline over the next few weeks against Obama, making sure that anybody in the Pentagon who meets with a reporter is going to give the same line that, you know, he’s threatening stability in Iraq, and this is not acceptable, and he needs to change his policy.

FREESTON: So what motivates Keane to push for the continued occupation of Iraq? Upon leaving the Army in 2003, he founded Keane Advisors, a financial consulting firm that specializes in servicing military contractors. [edit] Web site claims that their “extensive network within financial institutions and government agencies makes us ideal for this service.” Keane also sits on the board of directors of General Dynamics, the world’s fifth-largest military contractor. General Dynamics released their fourth quarter financial report just last week.


Promotional video for ‘Stryker’ vehicle

NICHOLAS CHABRAJA, CHAIRMAN & CEO, GENERAL DYNAMICS: The General Dynamics corporation had yet another strong quarter, completing another outstanding year from an operating point of view. Sales in the quarter were $7.9 billion, a 4.5 percent growth rate over what was, you might remember, a very powerful fourth quarter in 2007. Net earnings from continuing operations were $630 million, an increase of 9 percent over that same fourth quarter in 2007. Order intake has been strong all year and was particularly strong during the fourth quarter. In fact, the order intake this quarter, which totaled $22.2 billion, is the largest during my tenure at General Dynamics.


FREESTON: Over this same retirement period that Keane has joined the private military contracting world, his advice continues to be sought by the Pentagon on a regular basis. He was even credited as the mastermind of Bush’s 2007 troop surge in Iraq. Keane is a textbook example of the military-industrial complex in action.

PORTER: Jack Keane is somebody who was vice chief of staff of the Army, 1999 to 2003. And since then, he has sort of kept in touch with this network of generals. He’s the one who pushed Petraeus as the person to become the senior commander in Iraq in 2006, when the rest of the senior officers in the Army were against the surge. This is something that we easily forget, that Petraeus was pushed in there, was ready to support this policy when everybody else who understood that this was a disaster in the Army was against it. And then, in 2007, 2008, as I say, it was Keane who was really protecting Petraeus and making sure that the White House would not begin to pull troops back. So Keane is the one who, more than anybody else, is pushing this line and sort of coordinating the whole campaign.

FREESTON: That campaign for continued occupation requires the defense of recent US history in Iraq, a position that Keane took up in the debate in October, when he defended the position that the US is winning the war in Iraq.


JACK KEANE, RETIRED GENERAL, US ARMY: And I also know what the word “winning,” what success looks like in Iraq. It’s been a stunning achievement in Iraq, somewhat unprecedented in the history of counterinsurgency warfare, for such a dramatic turnaround in such a short period of time. The natural rhythm of life is returning to the people of Iraq. Iraq is all about its people, in my judgment. So that is why we spend so much time understanding what happened to them and what is now happening to them.


PORTER: The problem that I see with the policy of the Bush administration, all the people left over, including Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Mullen, of the other military leaders—Petraeus, Odierno—all those people really ignore the fundamental reality that the vast majority of Iraqis want the American troops out of there. And they simply close their eyes or turn their head and ignore it, because it doesn’t fit into their narrative, it doesn’t fit with their interests. And, you know, if you ask the followers of Petraeus, as I have, “Well, what about this fact?” they basically just don’t know how to deal with it. I mean, they simply sort of cough and change the subject, and that’s all they can do.

FREESTON: And what about Obama?

PORTER: Well, I think that Obama has never really been asked that question. I mean, the problem partly is that the news media have also coughed and turned their head on the question of the viewpoint of the Iraqi people, that is to say, the news media covering this issue in Washington, people covering the State Department, the Pentagon, and the White House. I mean, they all sort of have gone along with the narrative that says Obama is really sort of a new hand here, he doesn’t really understand the realities, and when he comes into office with a plan for a 16 month withdrawal, he simply has to be tutored by the real experts, meaning Petraeus and Gates, and once he hears them out, he will, of course, adjust his policy to the realities, and he will pull back then and reach an accommodation with the adults who are running national security policy.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Gareth Porter is a historian and investigative journalist on US foreign and military policy analyst. He writes regularly for Inter Press Service on US policy towards Iraq and Iran. Author of four books, the latest of which is Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam.