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Larry Wilkerson joins a panel of Real News members and Paul Jay as part
of the special programming for the 200k fundraising challenge

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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. And welcome to the 2011 $200,000 challenge campaign. As you know, we are in the midst of our year-end campaign. We need to raise $200,000 so that we can keep doing real news in 2012. And now joining us as part of this special event is Larry Wilkerson. Larry is a retired colonel. He is the former chief of staff for Colin Powell. And he’s in the midst of writing a new book. Thanks for joining us, Larry.


JAY: So we’re doing something new, which we’ve invited our viewers to send in questions ahead of time for you, and then we pick some of the best questions. And some of those viewers were selected to actually be on the show with us. So we are going to go right to the panel, and then you and I will talk some more after that. So now joining us from … Switzerland, is …. Thanks for joining us …

Thank you, Paul.

JAY: So what’s your question for Larry?

… disastrous consequences … Iraq and Afghanistan war … don’t make any sense … same thing with Iran even … hardliners point of view. And the second one is what is … and other intelligence agencies … war in … Iran … allow such things to happen … considering China’s … Iran?

JAY: I’ll reread it. Knowing all of the disastrous consequences to the USA in particular of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, does it still make any sense from oil, military-industrial complex, Gulf region domination, etc. to do the same thing with Iran, even looking from an ultra-hardline point of view?

WILKERSON: I think it’s absurd to contemplate another war, as Secretary Gates himself said before he left office in the Middle East, whether that war is fought primarily by surrogates or whether it was fought primarily by the United States or by a combination of the two. We don’t need another war in Middle East. I would take some exception a neoconservative point of view the argument would be that the verdict is still out on Iraq and that the long-term verdict is nowhere near being settled in Afghanistan. And the neoconservatives love to talk this way and to say that the Iraq War will someday prove the historians wrong who jump to conclusions that George W. Bush’s administration will be the worst in the history of the country and so forth and that what happens in Iraq eventually will be what is happening, people hope, with regard to the so-called Arab Spring, that is to say, Iraq will be a bastion of stability, economic, political, and otherwise in Western Asia. And what happened in 2003 up until 2010, ’11, ’12, largely at the behest of the United States and its partners, would be a positive development. Obviously, I’m going to be dead for resolution to that issue comes to pass. But I do think opening yet another theater of war in Western Asia right now would be just absurd and absurd from a number of points of view–fiscal point of view comes to mind immediately: we simply don’t have the money to run another war, and we clearly don’t have the politicians to vote the money to run the war. Secondarily, we are not talking about an Iran that is divided into different segments much the way Iraq was, particularly prominently Shia and Sunni. We are talking about an Iran that somewhere … percent Persian, and the rest will adhere to the Persian way pretty well, I think, and you’ll have … hard-core nationalists who are opposed to whatever presence the United States wants to create … Iran once conflict starts. And anybody that tells you that bombs and missiles can subjugate Iran is just smoking something in a very high degree. Iran can only be subjugated the way Iraq was subjugated, and that is with half-million or more troops on the ground for an extended period of time. So we are talking about another occupation, we are talking about more US forces on the ground in a major Muslim country. We are talking about 70 million guerrillas opposing that presence on the ground. We are talking about a nightmare. Unfortunately, empires that are in the decline stage, despite how long that decline may take, generally do these sorts of things. They fritter away their power on the peripheries of the Empire. So that we would contemplate another war in Western Asia is not out of the realm of the possible.

Okay. I’ll just ask you a second question.

Yeah. So the second part is … position on the CIA and other intelligence agencies over the war in Iran? Would we allow such things to happen … China’s … commercial interests in Iran?

JAY: You paint a scenario which is pretty not just apocalyptic for the Iranian people, but it seems like it’d be disastrous for American policy as well. You’d think the intelligence agencies, the military leadership understand this. And there has been some push-back from military leadership during the Bush-Cheney regime about attack on Iran. But would the intelligence agencies, would the military leadership oppose this kind of thing?

WILKERSON: We live a country that supposedly adhered to a civil military civil intelligence relationship that puts the civil on top. So the quick answer to your question is that the intelligence agencies and the military will do what its civilian masters tell it then to do. There will be a lot of bureaucratic playing before that happens, I guarantee you. We’ve seen some of the layout with the recent national intelligence estimate on Iran–I should say … estimates…. But at the end of the day, they’re going to line up and do what the civilian leadership tells them to do. Does the military want to go to war in Iran? Not the military I talked to. The military that I talked to is very tired. The army has the highest suicide rate in its history. The Marine Corps is not far behind. A $60-$100 billion bill just on major armaments–tanks, helicopters, and so forth–to repair from the Iraq-Afghanistan conflicts. It knows Afghanistan is anything but over. It’s going to leave residual forces in Iraq. It knows its coming home to basically an employment environment that means a lot of its veterans are going to find jobs. The military is sick and tired of war. But at the end of the day, as I said, it’s going to do what its civilian leaders tell it to do.

JAY: So if you look at this administration, Obama administration, it seems more likely that the strategy from this administration is containment … sanctions, with the objective really being to restrain Iran’s role in the region. What do you make of what the real motive for all this is? ‘Cause, I mean, the recent IAEA … even though it was billed as, you know, smoking gun, there wasn’t even really any proven smoke there, never mind a gun.

WILKERSON: No, the IAEA report was basically the new director general of the IAEA expressing his close line of thought with United States as opposed to Mohammed ElBaradei, his predecessor. There was nothing in the IAEA report that should have gotten anyone excited. I take your point about the administration. I think you’re right. I think the Obama administration is trying to use everything but military force. I think it’s a very dangerous tactic, though, because they may get to a point where they think they can control events but they then find out they can’t. The … forces in the northern Indian Ocean, for example, is a case in point. What happens if we suddenly had an incident there is … Revolutionary Guard Corps commander or something … to Tehran that he’s going to do something to an American warship, and suddenly we have an incident at sea, for example? I like to think that the commanders in of the U.S. forces in the Gulf would be circumspect enough where they wouldn’t follow that up. But, you know, we can go back to the Tonkin Gulf incident, we can go back to other things that have precipitated war in such circumstances. So I’m not all that sure that the administration can handle what its own rhetoric is setting up.

JAY: And then the other part of it is, as we’ve seen in some of our Real News reports, the former head of both Mossad and Shin Bet in Israel have accused Netanyahu and Barak of being reckless … they seem to be getting ready to do something, in spite of all their own intelligence….

WILKERSON: Absolutely. I don’t know if you saw Lara Friedman’s piece this morning–fantastic, eloquent piece by her that essentially just eviscerates Avigdor Lieberman and Netanyahu and the entire leadership of Israel right now, not with respect to possible war in Iran or possibly doing something the United States has wanted to do, but with respect to their being the worst possible leadership for Israel right now, both in the domestic labor unions … Israel’s economy, the maldistribution of wealth. You name it, they are aiding and abetting that. Or foreign-policy wise with their isolation, essentially telling Turkey, a strategic ally of the first order, buzz off, we don’t need you anymore, essentially isolating itself.

JAY: Of course, Netanyahu comes to Washington and gets 27 standing ovations in Congress.

WILKERSON: Yes, testifying to the utter absurdity of the legislative branch of this country.

JAY: Okay. Before we move to our next question, let me remind you, we are in the midst … $200,000 matching campaign. We have to get this $200,000 mark by the end of December if we are going to keep bringing you Real News in 2012. So this is how the matching campaign works. If you donate a buck, a small family foundation has agreed to match your dollar. If you decide to do a monthly pledge, for example, say you … $20 bucks a month, this family foundation will actually match $240. In other words, they’re going to trust that you’re going to donate for a year, and they’re going to donate the year’s match right now. If you donate $50, that’s $600 that we’ll get triggered. So it’s very significant. Our monthly donors are critical to us, because that’s our–you know, our base. That’s our reliable base that we know what we can do each month. So please click the donate button. And now we’ll move on to our next question from the panel. Questioner number two is Bill…. Bill is a retired professor of sociology. He’s in … California. Are you there, Bill?


JAY: Good.

BILL: Larry, I feel so honored to be able to ask you a question. I admire all the work that you’re doing so much. My question is: how can we claim to be a country which there is rule of law when there has been no real independent investigation either of 9/11 or of those in the banking and financial industry who have committed fraud?

WILKERSON: Well, that’s a superb question, and I don’t really have an answer for you, except to say the way you’ve posted, you set it up to me to say we are not a country that is ruled by laws rather than men. We are a country that’s ruled by men, powerful men, money, wealthy men, men who have … so to speak. The fact that we can’t hold accountability for example, for torture and for violation of the ICC and the Geneva Conventions and other rules of warfare is one that just grates on me, because I understand, I think–I’m not a lawyer, but I understand the principle upon which the International Criminal Court was set up, and other courts like it, the tribunals that it has in other areas. They only exercise their jurisdiction if conditions exist where the country that is hosting the alleged crime, if you will, doesn’t have an adequate law system or won’t pursue it through that law system, pursue the case. Then the ICC can have jurisdiction. Well, they certainly have jurisdiction by those criteria here, ’cause we have a system, a well-tested system. Our Article 3 courts can do what they need to do. And yet we are not doing anything. That says that if I were, for example, Donald Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney, I would not travel too much. I might travel to Israel, I might travel to Canada, maybe some other countries that might not bring these cases against me, but I wouldn’t travel to other countries like Spain and Germany and places where there are brave and courageous judges who might be even now compiling cases and ready to bring a case against these people. Dick Cheney has publicly–publicly, on national television–said he would waterboard and … waterboard again. That’s a violation of international law. It’s a violation of domestic law. Dick Cheney should be tried.

JAY: Okay. Do you have a follow-up?

BILL: … agree with you more. Could I follow up with–given your answer, then, how do we go forward? How do we–how do you propose that we establish or reestablish equal justice for all?

WILKERSON: I’ll give you just one example. I’m not sure it’s possible, but I’ll give you one example of what we are trying to do right now in conjunction with a number of members of Congress who are themselves disgusted with the inability of that body to do anything about the torture issue. We are looking at a private commission which sets itself up, that would create a record. The record would be exhaustive. It would have all the kind of detail you would need in it in order to turn the data, for example, over to the Department of Justice for possible prosecution. And that’s what we’ll do when we finish this after a couple of years, when we’ve interviewed, when we deposed people, and so forth, and we’ve compiled a record. We are going to present government, and we’re going to literally dare them to ignore it.

How about 9/11….

WILKERSON: Nine/eleven is an interesting experience. I’ve only had people tell me about what’s in the classified findings. It’s a mystery to me why we can’t turn over a lot of what’s in the classified findings, because this individual has told me there is no danger to national security, this just major embarrassment for various institutions, departments, and governments. So I can’t see why we can’t open that up and maybe find that the 9/11 Commission did a better job than we think. I don’t think any commission that fresh-caught, as it were, is going to do as thorough a job as those of us who would like the eventual job to look like would do. But I do think they probably did better than we think, better than we know. If we had the classified part of it, we would be able to come to that decision a little bit better. Should there be a followup? I definitely think there should be a followup in several fields. One of the most prominent of those fields is intelligence, because we have not fixed our intelligence apparatus. It is as broken as it was before, perhaps even more so. All we did was create a 17th entity and add it to the other 16 in our community. We are now funding it at the level of sixty, seventy, eighty billions of dollars. The next failure will be just as prominent as the failures we’ve seen over the last two decades. So we haven’t fixed it. So that’s one area where I think we probably do need a followup, and it needs to be a very vigorous, rigorous followup, and not a whitewash, as so many of these things have been.

JAY: Bill, any other thing you want to add to this?

BILL: Well, I’d really like you to comment about what you think about the 9/11 Truth movement and the data and engineering analysis that’s been done and posted on the Internet. That seems, at least to me, as if that warrants an independent investigation.

WILKERSON: I’ve seen enough of that to, I think, categorically say that I don’t think there’s a case there. I have read a number of studies of alternative scenarios that sounded convincing until experts, engineers and others, jumped on those alternative findings and gave me several different findings. I just don’t–I haven’t seen any of those cases, no matter how strident and passionate their advocates are, I haven’t seen any of them that hold any water. I think 9/11 happened as it happened: nineteen terrorists boarded airplanes and drove them into buildings and into a field in Pennsylvania. I think there is enough malfeasance in office, lying, cheating, and deception involved with that to keep us busy for another 20 or 30 years. It’s clear to me, for example, that Mr. Tenet lied before the 9/11 Commission about a number of things, not least of which was why he, the CIA, did not turn over the names of the two people who were coming out of Asia into the United States–that would be two of the 19–to the FBI as was the requirement. They didn’t turn them over, because of incompetence in the CIA–that’s what Tenet told the 9/11 commission with a…. They didn’t turn them over to the FBI, because the CIA was … them inside the United States and maybe getting a mole inside al-Qaeda. So this would have been illegal. This guy is not supposed to operate inside the United States. And so Mr. Tenet did not want to admit to it before the 9/11 Commission. It would have been understandable, I think, by the American people, though, had they succeeded in that. But as it turned out, these were two people who helped fly airplanes into buildings. I’m told Mr. Tenet remarked upon seeing the list of 19 people who were thought to be the hijackers, that his words were, “Oh, Jesus, they’re there.” I think that’s probably accurate, because he said that recognizing the two names of the people that he had let into the United States, had not told the FBI about.

JAY: But there does seem to be a pattern of that seems to be me needs to be investigated of intelligence agencies within the United States apparatus having some real foreknowledge of what was happening and that knowledge being suppressed. We know there was a unit within the Joint Intelligence Command, I believe it’s called, where they actually did come out now through a Freedom of Information Act request….

WILKERSON: … group?

JAY: No, ….

WILKERSON: The group?

JAY: This is the guy known as Iron Man. We did work for together with Truthout about this, where they had actually said they have located the homes of Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar, and we’re told–this is, I believe, in early 2000–we’re told it’s not your business to find those things, and they were pulled off the … a data modeling of what would be the likely terrorist threat to the United States. This again is in early 2000. The modeling said the targets are likely to be the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, it’s likely to be planes, it’s likely–it’s even possible one of the buildings would fall down. They went to that level of detail. And through the Freedom of Information Act, this–one of the officers complained that this was … after 9/11, ’cause one of the congressional committees, called the Joint Intelligence Force leadership to come and testify and asked them, what did you know, and they said, we didn’t know anything. So when the officers involved formally complained and gave up the papers and documentation to show them they have modeled this as a possible scenario, and it was pressed. There is many examples at the very least of a culture of not wanting to know. And then, of course, you get … in the joint congressional committee saying there was outright suppression of the Saudi connection and that the 9/11 Commission simply covered up under White House pressure … role of the Saudi’s.

WILKERSON: I think that some of the coverup of the reason that the classified portion remains classified–.

JAY: Is the Saudi stuff.


JAY: Yeah.


JAY: So, it seems to me, one way or the other, does it not make sense there–. And even on the engineering side, although I have to say I personally have not been persuaded by the engineering arguments. It looked at them as well as I can as a layperson. When I see the argument and counterargument … that persuaded by the counterargument.

WILKERSON: The two authors of the best book I’ve read–it’s called The Eleventh Day–went through all of the major conspiracy theories, spent hours painstakingly going through the engineering analyses and the other purported evidence and so forth. In their book–just came out this year–they concluded that none of the conspiracy theories held any water.

JAY: On the engineering side.


JAY: I miss other side. There seems to be a ream of unanswered questions, because it makes sense even on the engineering side, frankly, given the millions of people who do believe there is something questionable, even the way the buildings came down, I mean, doesn’t–why not have an independent commission to go through all of this?

WILKERSON: I see no harm in it, but I will add this: my working at the highest levels of US government–and I tell my students this all the time–indicates to me that nine times out of ten, maybe 99 out of 100, when you want to fall back on a conspiracy theory or theory of, as you said, lots of little people beavering away and finding the truth somewhere and yet not being believed or that truth not making it up through the labyrinth, generally speaking, it’s incompetence, it’s not conspiracy.

JAY: Well, I’ll give you … example. We are getting into 9/11 stuff here, but there’s no way not to. Too many people want to know. I’ll tell you one thing: it’s not incompetence. Why did they demote Richard Clarke? You’ve got a guy who you would have thought you would have wanted to have continuity with the previous administration–.

WILKERSON: Why would you ask me a question that’s so easy to answer, Paul? The question is that Dick Clarke was in some respects an asshole. He was a guy who always got his voice heard, one way or another.

JAY: Well, then, you would place him with someone you trust.

WILKERSON: Clinton, Sandy Berger, others tolerated Dick Clarke. When the Republicans came in, their mantra was ABC–anything but Clinton. Clark had Clinton written all over it. So you don’t do it because you know an al-Qaeda attack is coming … the United States and this guy might thwart that attack; you do it because you are sending a signal: we are not the Clinton….

JAY: You’re head of CIA, and your first national security briefing, you’re being told President Bush tells you the number one threat to the United States is al-Qaeda, and the next thing you do is demote your national security czar, replace and if–replace them if you don’t like them.

WILKERSON: You can’t have it both ways. You can’t denigrate the CIA, you can’t … and then on the other hand attribute to them this kind of genius when it comes to something that you want to make a point about. They are not geniuses.

JAY: I’m only going on the public record. The public record is George Tenet says his national first national security briefing, he told Bush the number one threat to the United States is al-Qaeda. Then what we find out in the chain of events, Clark gets demoted, the FBI’s told we are not interested in national security/terrorism issues. On all the intelligence side you get this kind of chill going back … we are not interested in this kind of stuff, we are interested in the big picture, you know, SALT talks … Soviet Union and state actors. When the people from the previous administration that hand the baton to you tell you you’d actually better be concerned about those guys. I mean, you’re just coming in from non-inside the government life, right? You’re coming in as politicians … you think you would think … listen to the previous administration and the professionals. How do you make such a decision? All of a sudden, we know better than all of you guys do, and we are not interested in this.

WILKERSON: Well, I don’t think it was that cut and dry, although it was a significant reversal of priorities, if you will.

JAY: Yeah, I mean, I mean, listen to Coleen Rowley and the FBI. The FBI was told, forget about this stuff.

WILKERSON: The priorities were anti-ballistic missile defense, that’s $1 billion, multibillion dollar program that feeds the military-industrial complex, much of which Donald Rumsfeld and the Defense Policy Board and others were in direct connection with. You denigrate all the things that don’t fit that priority, heap praise on things that do fit that priority, and terrorism was not something that fit that priority. It’d mean that they pushed it off the chart entirely, but it did mean that it got decreased in terms of their attention, in terms of the amount of time they spend dealing with those issues.

JAY: Well, we can’t resolve it now, but it seems to me there was a culture created that we don’t want to know, and intelligence that had been gathered did not–was not–deliberately was not allowed to filter up. Was that done with intent or not?

WILKERSON: I don’t think so. Intent, yes, it was done with the intent to raise other things to the priority level that they got the bugs, bugs, they get the attention, they get….

JAY: Well, we are competing theories here, and I’m saying what there needs to be is there’s enough on this–there’s enough evidence that intelligence was in fact suppressed, there really needs to be an independent inquiry here to find out if the intent was more malevolent.

WILKERSON: Oh, I think that pales–if you want to talk about intelligence being manipulated, that pales beside the intelligence being manipulated that led to the Iraq War….

JAY: Oh, but that we know. That’s for sure that it was manipulated.

WILKERSON: Don’t tell my colleagues in the Republican Party that. Don’t tell the neoconservatives that. They feel like that intelligence was sacrosanct, that there was nothing in the way of political cherry picking or manipulation of that intelligence was just wrong. It just happened to be wrong about one thing, WMD. And the next thing they will tell you is that Saddam Hussein would’ve had WMD, including nukes, within ten years anyway. So what’s the big deal about intelligence being wrong? And to a certain extent they’re right. Who in his right mind would have thought that Saddam Hussein faced with Tehran … working on a nuclear weapon, by the way, would suddenly forfeit WMD? He forfeited the WMD because of the sanctions, because of the containment policy, because he couldn’t get away with it. And so he was waiting and biding his time. Anyone who knows Iraq and knows Saddam Hussein knows full well that he’d have had WMD eventually. He would have gone back to them. So that’s the neoconservative argument, and it has a certain amount of believability about it.

JAY: Well, what Hussein’s intent or not intent, the intelligence was pretty clear there was nothing. And Hans Blix has said clearly there was nothing, they couldn’t find anything.

WILKERSON: Oh, that’s what I’m saying. It was a colossal intelligence failure. But it was not just an intelligence failure; it was also willful manipulation by the highest people in the land of that intelligence.

JAY: So you would like to see an inquiry and charges based on all of this.

WILKERSON: Well, I don’t think you can bring charges at that level with regard to intelligence and misuse thereof. If you can, show me another democracy. I just don’t think–look at what the Grits are doing right now. They’re doing far more than we are doing great. They’re doing ten times what we are doing. But I don’t think at the end of the day Tony Blair is going to be hauled before some court justices and put in jail. It’s just not done at that level of power.

JAY: Do you think it should be….

WILKERSON: But–well, I think we should know what happened so that we can guard against it happening again. For example, it’s happening right now with regard to Iran. In fact, the neoconservatives are so confident that this plan will work again that they are not deviating much from the original script.

JAY: The Iraq script?


JAY: Okay. Okay. Bill thanks very much.

BILL: Thank you.

JAY: Now joining us from Washington is Jessica Desvarieux. She is actually a journalist and producer with The Real News Network. She wanted to get a question in for Larry. Go ahead, Jessica.

JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN: Hi, Larry. We have a lot of viewers kind of ask about your core belief system in regards to the military. So my question is: is the military CIA industrial complex … force for good that needs tweaking? Or is it fundamentally evil? Is it this idea that needs to be completely replaced? What is your take on that?

WILKERSON: That’s a fascinating question. Eisenhower, the icon of the military and the civilian world, if you will– … building a huge memorial to him now, finally–would have answered that question very differently, probably, I think than most military people would have. He would not have agreed with your connotation or the part of your question that connotes that it might be inherently evil. He would have said no, it’s not. What makes it evil, what makes it too powerful, what makes abuse power, what makes it ultimately a threat to the nation is civilian leadership that is not alert to the problem. And in that civilian leadership, he would have included not just the Congress and the White House, but also the rest of the nation, that is to say, all adults who have the vote. He would have said, I think, that this is not something that’s insidious, it’s not something that’s evil, it’s not something that’s Machiavellian, plotting outside the confines of your knowledge. What it is is power. It’s raw power. And if you don’t oversee it, if you don’t check and balance it, if you don’t keep it in its place, if you don’t deal with it and manage it correctly, it will wind up being the greatest danger to your freedoms and liberties. This is a military guy, a five-star general saying that. And I couldn’t say it any better than he did.

JAY: So don’t forget we are in the midst of our $200,000 matching campaign. If you click “donate”, every dollar gets matched. If you sign up for a monthly donation, the whole year gets matched, a year of your donations. Like, if you make it $20 donation, it’s $240 to us right now. If you want more real news, we need you to donate. So now on to our next question. Now joining us is … joins us from San Francisco where he is a retired construction manager. Thanks for joining us, ….

Glad to be here, Paul.

JAY: So what’s your question for Larry?

I propose to Larry a question that would be addressing in a single piece of legislation what he thought would be the most important aspect within our democracy that might bring us back these checks and balances that we need so desperately in order to maintain our democracy. And my adjunct to that was if you could come up with that single piece of legislation, who would be your allies in the government and the corporate world, finance, and military? It would seem to me all of these institutions would be somehow needed in order to break the monopoly on the ruling class.

WILKERSON: Good question.

JAY: So he wants to know, if you had to advocate one piece of legislation–.

WILKERSON: I would come out of my academic expertise for a moment, because I’m not an economist, and I’d say I would rewrite and modernize Glass-Steagall and put it back in place, most important thing being there that we separate out genuine banks, people who are going to deal with me when I buy a house, when I want to start a business, people were going to be interested in me and my business and my house are going to loan me my money, and they’re going to stay in touch with me and protect me and protect their money and their investment in me. In other words, separate out the banks, like South Dakota and North Dakota still do–and they are doing right well, by the way–from the investment banks or those who deal strictly in money and become too big to fail. If you’ve seen the movie Too Big to Fail, you know what I’m talking about. If you’ve seen the movie Inside Job by Charles Ferguson, you darn well know what I’m talking about. But I’m not an expert there. Where I am an expert and what I teach, I would like to go into what I would like to write a new national security act. You would probably be surprised and maybe stunned at what I would do in that new national security act. And the latter part of your question really struck me, because it would be extremely difficult for finding allies in finding people who would support what I want to do, when what I want to do is simply to return us to that aspect of checks and balances that were so important to men like James Madison and George Washington and Benjamin Franklin and a host of others. I would first and foremost return the war power to the Congress of the United States. They wouldn’t affect the reaffirmation of the fact that 535 ladies and gentlemen represent the people of the United States of America in collective meeting would have to declare war before a single soldier or sailor or airman or Marine could fire bullets at a single soldier, be it soldier, airman, sailor, Marine, guerrilla, or whatever of another country. That is to say, I would stop this going abroad to fight monsters, because we, as John Quincy Adams predicted so eloquently, have become a monster in doing it. The other aspects of of my national security act would be a complete revamping of, revising of the Central Intelligence Agency and other aspects of our announced 17 member intelligence community, as well as complete revamping of the relationship between the executive and the Cabinet departments and agencies of government. Right now what we have, because of the and … system created by the 1947 National Security Act is power in the White House. There is no real power in the departments. The power is in the White House. And that kind of centralized foreign policy, national security policy, might seem good if you are in favor of tyranny, but if you’re in favor of democracy or in favor of a foreign policy that supports that democracy, you’re not in favor of this kind of consolidation and centralization of power in the White House. So those are just some of the things that I would do if I, you know, were king for a day.

JAY: Okay, … thanks very much. We’re going to move on, because Larry’s going to have to leave in a few minutes. So we are going to have to—-we are going to move on to the next questioner–unless, …, you have a really quick follow-up.

My follow up would be … seems to me that the intelligence community, i.e. Homeland security, has grown exponentially since 9/11 to add to the momentum that our clandestine security system has and that what Larry suggested is a monumental task.

WILKERSON: Absolutely. And it’s worse than perhaps even you think. I’ll give you just one example. The CIA, in order to avoid the oversight established by the Church Committee, the … committee, and others back a few years ago in the select committees on intelligence in both the House and the Senate, the CIA, in order to avoid that oversight, has now more or less contracted gentlemen’s agreement with the Delta Force and other special operating forces of the U.S. military to do the covert operations of the paramilitary bases. That is to say, they are doing the covert operations rather than the CIA. So you get out from under any kind of oversight of these very secretive, very covert operations that are taking place, for example, in Somalia, in Iran, and elsewhere in the world that the American people don’t know anything about. It’s being done in their name and their treasure. And 25 years from now, as we found out with so many things the CIA did, and now the military is assisting them, the American people will find out that it was all a failure, or even backfired and caused problems down the road. This is not a good development. This is not a good development is all. It began in Honduras with the support of the Contras versus the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, and it has taken on all manner of depth and profundity in Afghanistan and Iraq as the military becomes the arm of our covert operation the world and the CIA sits by and watches and manages.

JAY: Thanks a lot …. Now joining us from Le Mans, France, is Eli …. Thanks for joining us, Eli.

Glad to be here, Paul.

JAY: So what’s your question for Larry?

… a series of interviews that he did earlier in the year for The Real News, you have talked about how the U.S., as a democratic republic, was dwindling away because of the rise of the national security state. And my specific question for you is: how important do you feel that independent media is to reversing this trend? In other words, if you wanted to reverse this growth of the national security state, if a news source like The Real News had the type of money and the type of pull that CNN or Fox News has, do you think that the more informed citizenry that comes from that would be enough to kind of push back the tide of the national security state? Or would they actually have to be structural changes that take place in Washington?

WILKERSON: I did hear the question, and I didn’t hear a French accent at all. Either you’re–.

I’m from Iowa.

JAY: Okay. Des Moines.


WILKERSON: I–your question is an excellent one. I think we have stumbled into a corporate media–one of my friends calls it the fawning corporate media–that in its main effort, it really supports the corporate interests for which works, and … provides entertainment. Sometimes it’s difficult to differentiate the two, because if you provide entertainment, you’re supporting the corporate entity from whom you work, because you’re not doing anything that … the industry to its interests. What you need is things like The Real News. What you need is things like bloggers. What you need is a new media. I don’t mean that you need the kinds of things that spread conspiracy theories and untruths and inaccuracies all across the world, which is to some extent what we have on the Internet right now, but we do need a very real, focused effort by lots of different competing entities on this new media in order to get the truth out to the American people. Dwight Eisenhower said in his 1961 farewell address, when he coined the phrase military-industrial complex and really gave the most eloquent warning early on about the potential for this misplaced power, said the antidote was a knowledgeable and alert citizenry. Well, the only way you have a knowledgeable and alert citizenry in this country is through some sort of media that speaks truth to power, that feeds the information out to the electorate, that the information that the electorate needs in order to make informed decisions. We don’t have that right now. And your question, of course, addressed that. The only way I see to restore it–and I have some hope about this–is this sort of lost in the media that’s coming up in opposition to the inanities and the ridiculous, polarized nature of things like Fox and MSNBC and others who simply fight each other on the airwaves and to whom no one of the opposite camp ever listened. The only people who listen to Fox are the people of my state of South Carolina who probably hate blacks and don’t like other things that are happening in the country, and so they listen to Fox, or where people from Nebraska or people from Iowa, people all over who have some kind of prejudice or bias that Fox feeds. And so they listen to it. They never listen to MSNBC. And the only people who listen to MSNBC are their polar opposites. And so you’re never getting any education … you’re never getting any information … you’re never swaying anyone. That’s what we need to do. You need to do it through reason and logic and sound news. … like The Real News and others of their type are doing that. I just hope it happens swiftly and it happens powerfully. Once someone said there’s nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. Maybe this is that idea and maybe this is the time. I hope so.

JAY: Thanks very much for joining us, Larry. And thanks for joining us to our panel, who came from various parts of the United States and Europe. And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network. Don’t forget, we are in the midst of our $200,000 matching campaign. Every dollar you donate will be matched. And if you want to become a monthly donor, which we hope you will–we are pushing monthly donors in this campaign–if you give a monthly pledge, you sign up for $10 or $20 a month, that entire year’s amount is going to get matched now. So your monthly pledge is very significant to us. If you’d like to see more work like interviews with Larry Wilkerson and the other kinds of work we do at The Real News, we need you to click this donate button now, like, today. Thanks for joining us on The Real News Network.

End of Transcript

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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.