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Col. Lawrence Wilkerson and Paul Jay discuss the war mongering talk of star of the moment, Carly Fiorina, and most other GOP candidates

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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore. On Wednesday night I, and I guess millions of others, at any rate I watched with rather morbid fascination the Republican party debate. Here’s a couple of clips. It was mostly, in my mind, basically incomprehensible. Many of the people didn’t even finish their sentences or paragraphs. Carly Fiorina actually spoke in paragraphs, which apparently is enough to make you the star of the evening. So here’s a couple of clips of Carly Fiorina, and one response from Rand Paul, who actually spoke in full sentences. Here they are. CARLY FIORINA: Here’s my plan. On day one in the Oval Office I will make two phone calls. The first to my good friend Bibi Netanyahu to reassure him we will stand with the state of Israel. The second to the supreme leader to tell him that unless and until he opens every military and every nuclear facility to real anytime, anywhere inspections by our people, not his, we the United States of America will make it as difficult as possible and move money around the global financial system, we can do that. We don’t need anyone’s cooperation to do it. And every ally and every adversary we have in this world will know that the United States of America is back in the leadership business, which is how we must stand with our allies. Having met Vladimir Putin, if I may, having met Vladimir Putin, I wouldn’t talk to him at all. We’ve talked way too much to him. What I would do immediately is begin rebuilding the Sixth Fleet. I would begin rebuilding the missile defense program in Poland. I would conduct regular, aggressive military exercises in the Baltic states. I’d probably send a few thousand more troops into Germany. Vladimir Putin would get the message. RAND PAUL: We have to learn, sometimes the interventions backfire. The Iraq war backfired and did not help us. We’re still paying the repercussions of a bad decision. We have to make the decision now in Syria. Should we topple Assad? Many up here wanted to topple Assad. And I said no, because if you do, ISIS will now be in charge of [Syria]. MODERATOR: Thank you, Senator Paul. JAY: Well as I said, for most of the night I found those two people, Fiorina and Rand Paul, the only ones that actually made cogent points. On the other hand, Fiorina’s warmongering, back in the leadership business, seemed to be a complete repetition of the kind of stuff we were hearing from Dick Cheney for eight years. And one would think that this kind of foreign policy outlook would have been distasteful and found ineffectual even for the interests of large sections of the American elite who found–not only was the Iraq war a debacle for American foreign policy, most people by the time President Obama gets elected called the Bush administration the worst foreign policy defeat in American since World War II. And of course, George Bush had a, his lack of regulation, oversight of finance, had a lot to do with helping trigger the ’07-’08 crash. But still, these candidates who are espousing more or less the same ideas or even more lunacy than even George Bush, they’re raising millions and millions of dollars from sections of the elite. Now, I understand there are ordinary people who are not very well educated, who don’t know anything about foreign policy. And throwing out we’re the toughest and we’re number one and this kind of red meat seems to have some kind of appeal to. But you would think educated people in the elite, and of course not all of them are educated but they certainly have access to lots of information, you would think they would have some sense that it’s not even in their interests. Well, not so. So now joining us to try to make sense of all of this is Larry Wilkerson. Larry was the chief of staff for Colin Powell. He’s a regular contributor to the Real News Network. Thanks for joining us, Larry. LARRY WILKERSON, FMR. CHIEF OF STAFF TO COLIN POWELL: Good to be here, Paul. JAY: So with the exception of Rand Paul, who comes from a libertarian background and has this sort of non-interventionist position, which is actually in itself not really consistent with the professionals that run the empire’s foreign policy so we can kind of park him over here for a minute. Virtually every other candidate on that rostrum were miles away from even what people that run the empire actually think should be done. Back into the Cheney-Bush type of sociopathy. And this gets financed to the tune of tens and tens of millions of dollars. So who’s doing this, and what is–what kind of psyche is behind this? WILKERSON: The first thing I’d say is, after you play the clips and so forth, I thought John Kasich also made some cogent comments about the budget. But I agree with you that other than the three we’ve just cited this was another freak show, as the Financial Times called the first debate. Only this one was a little longer and a little worse, maybe. To answer your question directly I think you have to start looking at the money. I would agree with you 100 percent that a lot of these people are not as educated, if you will, as their money would indicate. It’s not the equivalency that people think it is that brains go along with money. Entrepreneurship, creativity sometimes, good business skills and so forth, perhaps. Not even that, sometimes. But brains do not necessarily go along with money. But there is a group in this country who will put money behind anyone who looks like he’s going to maintain and even push more stridently than before the business of war, if you will. I’ve recently had a person at the highest levels of power in this land say to me, inside Washington there’s a bias toward war. That’s absolutely correct. Lots of people made a lot of money off the invasion of Iraq. Lots of people made a lot of money off Afghanistan. Lots of people are still making, did and are still making lots of money over this politics of fear associated with terrorism and the counter-terrorism associated with it. So it is a very lucrative business, war. And I think there was a–I’m coming increasingly to believe with regard to George W. Bush, there was a group around him that thought he was malleable, manipulatable, that were he the president you could get just about anything you wanted, domestically or internationally. And I think there’s a group around these people, too, who feel the same way about most of them, whose intellectual quotient with the exception of perhaps Kasich in monetary matters, Rand Paul in terms of the use of the war instrument, and maybe one or two others with niches of excellence, these people present that opportunity par excellence. There is no one in this group who is qualified to be president and commander in chief of the United States, period. JAY: I mean, it’s somewhat–I don’t know how one still gets surprised at this kind of stuff, or alarmed. As I said, I was kind of watching with morbid fascination. But if only Donald Trump, other than Rand Paul, but only Donald Trump actually called the Bush administration a disaster and all the others are essentially defending it–I mean, here’s a clip of Jeb Bush talking about how his brother kept the country safe. JEB BUSH: You know what, as it relates to my brother, there’s one thing I know for sure. He kept us safe. I don’t know if you remember, Donald. JAY: Now, I understand Jeb Bush finding it necessary, and perhaps believes that he has to defend his brother. Perhaps he–I don’t even know how he could think that President Bush kept the country safe. But what I was astounded at is how much applause he got. It wasn’t that long ago that even in Republican party circles, by the end of the George Bush administration they realized, to quote Donald Trump, what a disaster that administration was. Senator Bob Graham, who was chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee writes a book where he says the number one reason to impeach George Bush is that 9/11 might have been preventable. And he talks about all the various examples of how the Bush administration at the very least didn’t pay attention to intelligence, and perhaps worse. But the amount of incompetency, again, at the very least that helped facilitate or not stop 9/11–and if you watch the Real News we think it goes further than that, but we don’t need to go into that now. But the applause in defense of the Bush administration was astounding. Did you find that? WILKERSON: Well you know, I don’t look at CNN much different from Fox News. And as a matter of fact I don’t look at any of the corporate media much different from any other aspect of the corporate media. They have their own lines and their different progressive, liberal, conservative, if you will, bents. Although I don’t even know what those words mean anymore in the ambiguity of the American political scene. But I don’t feel that CNN is any better than anyone else. They put–look what they do with Trump. They put Trump up there to increase their ratings. And they bait him in order to increase their ratings. They even encourage by their innuendo and questions the other candidates to help them bait Trump, and therefore increase their ratings. The only reason Donald Trump has he ratings he has is because of that. And I must say, because of my political party, which is composed of a lot of nuts. A lot of crazies. A lot of people who probably shouldn’t be casting a vote, as a matter of fact, because they are so–they are such lunatics. They’re [maniacal]. So this is, this is something that we look at as theater, I think, if we’re going to look at it in reality. Comic theater. Farce. A freak show, as I said the Financial Times called it. It’s scary when you think that any one of these people might have, because of Hillary Clinton’s fading numbers, maybe even win the White House. But they’re not any scarier than George W. Bush, when you come to think of it. That’s pretty scary though, as you’ve pointed out. But what choice do we have in this country anymore? We’re 330 million people strong and we can’t produce any more than those 17 and the people who preceded them in the so-called little debate. We can’t produce for one of our major political parties anything better than they’ve displayed. This is pretty pathetic. JAY: When you get back to this issue of money and the amount of money made out of war, how direct the connection do you think there is between the propping up these kind of candidates between industrial-military complex, manufacturers, fossil fuel, which I would guess on the whole does pretty well with war, or almost war. And these sections of capital that do so well out of war. The extent of their own shortsightedness is so profound. I always go back to the issue of tobacco companies. That tobacco companies were not only sitting on research that showed that cigarette smoking caused cancer, but they were encouraging their own kids to smoke even though they knew that. I mean it’s, there’s a, the profound blindness of all of this is remarkable. But this is the kind of thing that leads to world wars. WILKERSON: And when you look at the history of democracy, Paul, when you look at it closely from Athens through Britain to the United States, you see a suicidal tendency. Not for nothing did John Adams say that there never was a democracy yet that didn’t commit suicide, or Abraham Lincoln say no Napoleon would cross the Appalachians. No dictator would take America. We would murder ourselves if we were to fall. That’s the way democracies go. Special interest [inaud.] into the capital for their leaders, eventually take over the country. And they take over the country adverse to their own interest, in the end. The old metaphor, or the Aesop’s fable about killing the goose that laid the golden eggs, that’s what we’re talking about when we talk about democracy. We’re talking about it killing itself. Committing suicide. I agree with Lincoln that no one’s going to take this huge nation coast to coast, from Canada to Mexico, with an army. We’re going to murder ourselves. We’re going to kill ourselves. And that display last night of the Republican candidates is as good an indication of that as anything else I’ve seen. JAY: I mean, this is more or less what happened to German monopoly capital. They thought they could use Hitler, and they wound up destroying Germany. But–. WILKERSON: Precisely. Precisely. I watched 800 pound gorillas, Paul. Colin Powell. Donald Rumsfeld. Richard Cheney. Maybe Condoleezza Rice was a 200 pound gorilla, but nonetheless she fits this role, too. They all thought they had someone they could manipulate. They all thought that within their cabinet responsibility or their functional responsibility they could be president of the United States because they had a person who was president who was so manipulatable. And by God, Cheney did it. For six long years Cheney did it. He was president of the United States. And now you tell me that these people are being–these 17, these so-called Republican candidates for president are being supported by money, or at least some of them are, well it’s clear to me why they’re being supported by that money. Because that money thinks that they, too, will be manipulatable. And when you look at it from the perspective of George Bush’s disasters both domestic and international, I think–many of them, as I said, made money off those disasters. So they’re not necessarily worried about that. And then there is the aspect, too, of this purblind race to commit suicide. And gather all the money you can while you’re doing it, but nonetheless to commit suicide. Nationally, I mean. And that’s where we’re headed. JAY: The Republican establishment obviously wanted Jeb Bush, and so on. But given how lousy he’s doing, I mean, he’s one of the people that couldn’t make full paragraphs and finish his sentences. Carly Fiorina seems to be emerging as someone who actually can campaign, has a certain appeal. What do you make of her? If the Republican establishment decides that she’s, out of this group of what you call a freak show, she actually is someone who might be able to at least communicate with people. What do you make of her? WILKERSON: Well, I see her as a, and I’ll make this prediction right now, that she may well be the vice presidential candidate for whoever eventually gets the Republican nomination for president because she would balance the ticket well and attempt to attract women back to the Republican party, or at least more than the few women they have right now. I don’t think that much of her skills, and I think her comments, which you played some of at the beginning of the show about the military, I don’t think her skills are such that I would vote for her, though. She sounded like someone in 1985 talking about U.S. armed forces. The last thing we need is just a numerical addition to the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard, Marine Corps. What we need is a complete rethink of the strategy we use in the world, the military and the national strategy, of fleshing out of that strategy with the [fore] structure necessary, and then the equipment and people for that forestructure. I would submit to you that we could get by. She’s railing about we aren’t spending enough money, as are all the other candidates. We could get by with a trillion dollars less, Paul, over the next ten years that’s $100 billion a year, less for the Defense Department if we just rethought it, restructured it, restrategized it, and then fill that strategy with the proper instruments. We’re not doing that. No one has done that. The greatest disappointment for me was Chuck Hagel, who didn’t do that. Ash Carter’s not doing that. Bob Gates did not do that, although he tried a little bit. Someone has to come along to do that. And they have to fight people like Carly Fiorina to do it, because they’re still living in the 1980s. JAY: All right. Thanks very much for joining us, Larry. WILKERSON: Thanks for having me, Paul. JAY: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.


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Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Government and Public Policy

Lawrence Wilkerson's last positions in government were as Secretary of State Colin Powell's Chief of Staff (2002-05), Associate Director of the State Department's Policy Planning staff under the directorship of Ambassador Richard N. Haass, and member of that staff responsible for East Asia and the Pacific, political-military and legislative affairs (2001-02). Before serving at the State Department, Wilkerson served 31 years in the U.S. Army. During that time, he was a member of the faculty of the U.S. Naval War College (1987 to 1989), Special Assistant to General Powell when he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989-93), and Director and Deputy Director of the U.S. Marine Corps War College at Quantico, Virginia (1993-97). Wilkerson retired from active service in 1997 as a colonel, and began work as an advisor to General Powell. He has also taught national security affairs in the Honors Program at the George Washington University. He is currently working on a book about the first George W. Bush administration.