Virtual Coup : Times, Pentagon Returning us to Vietnam?

Beware a Times/Pentagon ‘virtual coup’

It was the military’s manipulative misreporting in Vietnam that fueled Lyndon Johnson’s 1965 disastrous escalation.

By Harvey Wasserman / The Rag Blog / October 24, 2009

Some military coups are still done the old-fashioned way. Tanks surround the capital, generals grab the radio station, the slaughter begins.

Here, the Declaration of Independence scorned King George III for elevating his army over our colonial legislatures. The founders opposed a standing army. Our first Commander George Washington warned against military entanglements. So did Dwight Eisenhower nearly two centuries later. These “quaint” monuments to civilian rule form the core of our constitutional culture.

So when the Pentagon wants to trash inconvenient opposition and escalate yet another war, it seeks subtler means. For example: the “virtual coup” now being staged in league with the New York Times, aimed at plunging us catastrophically deeper into Afghanistan.

It’s how they drove us into the abyss in Vietnam and Iraq. It demands we decide who will rule — the Pentagon, or the public.

It was the military’s manipulative misreporting in Vietnam that fueled Lyndon Johnson’s 1965 disastrous escalation. With the much-medalled William Westmoreland front and center, the Pentagon concocted a non-existent attack in the Gulf of Tonkin, warned that a communist victory would bring on the Apocalypse, told LBJ he could win, and ran its occupation army up to 550,000 troops.

When its last advisors fled in shame off that Saigon rooftop, the Pentagon blamed those who had opposed the war from the start. It assaulted the heroic independent reporters who exposed the war’s true horrors. It even attacked the corporate media that had been its willing partner in the war’s creation.

To its credit, the Times broke from its early support, making welcome history by publishing the Pentagon Papers, among much else. As today, it published opposing views all the way through.

But its big guns enlisted again in Iraq. The Bush Administration needed no convincing, but the American public did. Led by warhawk cheerleaders Thomas Friedman and Judith Miller, the Journal of Record sold a war based on Weapons of Mass Destruction and Dick Cheney’s “grateful” Iraqi citizenry, both of which were non-existent.

Today central casting has brought us Stanley McChrystal to rerun the role of Westmoreland/Cheney. Now the hero of an endless stream of hauntingly familiar puff pieces, the General’s carefully leaked “secret” demand for “a bare minimum” of 40,000 more troops to avoid “mission failure” has become the ultimate blackmail note, the core of a virtual coup in the making.

It comes as the Times concocts a report on “frustrations and anxiety [that] are on the rise within the military.” Among “active duty and retired senior officers” there is “concern that the president is moving too slowly, is revisiting a war strategy he announced in March and is unduly influenced by political advisers in the Situation Room.”

“Unduly influenced by political advisers?” Does this mean that for the Commander in Chief, elected by the people of the United States, advice is duly acceptable only from hawks in uniform?

Joining Tom Friedman (again!) is the Times’s Roger Cohen, who says Obama needs “endurance” because if we lose in “Afghanistan, Pakistan and Pashtunistan” there “would be a disaster for Western security.”

Sub in “Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos” and you can be reminded that our military is again backing a cabal of world-class heroin dealers.

And would the “loss” of AfPak, whatever that means, be a greater “disaster for Western security” than another trillion dollars diverted from education, health care, the environment, and domestic employment in a nation in deep financial chaos?

McChrystal is certainly entitled to his First Amendment rights. But so far, the American public is not buying. Polls show the country deeply divided, with slight majorities opposed to McChrystal’s demand for more troops. That means, there is nothing like the public consensus that should be required for any military excursion.

The key may be the money. In the booming sixties, we could “afford” to blow $100 billion or more on a futile, senseless war merely by bankrupting our health care system, blowing college tuitions through the roof, sacking our infrastructure, failing to upgrade our grid and power systems, debasing our currency, falling from an exporting powerhouse to an import addict, and much more.

The Pentagon’s gratuitous squander of another trillion in Iraq has helped squeeze the last of that “fat” out of our economy. A U.S. far beyond the brink of bankruptcy is being told to “stay the course” in the Graveyard of Great Powers, a country the size of Texas, a deathtrap to every invader for the past 2,300 years, including the Soviet Union. Pakistan is about twice the size of California. AfPak together have more than 200,000,000 people, more than 2/3 the population of the U.S.

Official military reports say there are about 100 members of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Despite the global nature of terrorism we are allegedly there to stamp out, no other nation seems compelled to join us there in any meaningful way.

Obama was elected in large part because the American public has sensed that — unlike his predecessor or opponent — he is intelligent enough to grasp all this. He ran promising a full commitment in Afghanistan. Now he has dared to take his time making a final decision. But will he have the courage to stand against the brass at crunch time?

Robert Gates, the Bush holdover at Defense, who won’t set a timetable for withdrawal, has gone public with his demand for more troops. As Yale’s David Bromwich puts it, the brass at The Times wants “a large escalation in Afghanistan. The paper has been made nervous by signs that the president may not make the big push for a bigger war; and they are showing what the rest of his time in office will be like if he does not cooperate.”

In other words, the virtual tanks have again surrounded the White House.

We cannot let them win. Another bloody, trillion-dollar Lone Ranger fiasco will definitively end any hope for health care, employment, education, the environment, a decent life for our children.

As usual, the Pentagon will be enriched and empowered. We will be impoverished and disenfranchised. Isn’t that what coups are all about?

So when the military and its minions demand we defer to their “experts,” we might recall the Cuban Missile Crisis. At its most terrifying peak, President John Kennedy — himself genuine war hero — polled the Joint Chiefs on how to respond to Soviet warheads in the western hemisphere. The generals unanimously demanded a nuclear attack. Thankfully, the president and his brother, the Attorney General, stood their ground.

Obama must now do the same. There are nuances in all global conflicts. But in an electronic age, when perception means virtually everything, the question is not just what happens in Afghanistan.

It is who rules here at home — the Pentagon, or the public.

[Harvey Wasserman’s History of the U.S. is at, along with Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth.]

The Rag Blog

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20 Responses to Virtual Coup : Times, Pentagon Returning us to Vietnam?

  1. Sadly history repeats itself like an old man who can barely remember his name, so he just mutters the same ‘crap’ – he has no idea what he’s talking about, but like hair styles that go ‘in and out of trend’, so do wars – how sad, and how futile.

  2. masterspork says:

    Hold on. First thing that I wanted to challenge was this sentence.

    himself genuine war hero — polled the Joint Chiefs on how to respond to Soviet warheads in the western hemisphere. The generals unanimously demanded a nuclear attack. Thankfully, the president and his brother, the Attorney General, stood their ground.

    Except that the choices on how to deal with Cuba was this;

    1. Do nothing.
    2. Use diplomatic pressure to get the Soviet Union to remove the missiles.
    3. An air attack on the missiles.
    4. A full military invasion.
    5. The naval blockade of Cuba, which was redefined as a more restrictive quarantine.

    There is no listing for a nuke attack.

    Also the Taliban is also a threat in the area. Right now that have issued a waring on anyone who took part in the run off election.

    “Sub in “Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos” and you can be reminded that our military is again backing a cabal of world-class heroin dealers.”

    Except that Pakistan has nukes that could be compromised.

    Also this is a place where if we do not get it right we will find ourselves trying to deal with it 10-20 years down the road.

    We cannot let them win. Another bloody, trillion-dollar Lone Ranger fiasco will definitively end any hope for health care, employment, education, the environment, a decent life for our children.

    People seem to forget that this was a UN sanctioned action supported by NATO. So I am not sure how this is seen in this light.

    Also the last part seems to be advocating for isolationism.

    Also something to read and compare.

    They planned: first, to prepare the United States for foreign war under the guise of American defense; second, to involve us in the war, step by step, without our realization; third, to create a series of incidents which would force us into the actual conflict. These plans were of course, to be covered and assisted by the full power of their propaganda.

  3. Richard says:

    Stay tuned there are two more “helicopters off the roof” shows coming; one from Kabul and one from Bagdad, I can’t wait.
    As to the generals motives we must turn to the real expert:

    Hermann Göring spoke about war and extreme nationalism to U.S. Army captain G.M. Gilbert, as recorded in Gilbert’s Nuremberg Diary:
    “Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.”

    “There is one difference,” Captain Gilbert pointed out. “In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.”

    “Oh, that is all well and good,” Göring continued, “but voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

    The only congress can declare war part was a joke.


  4. masterspork says:

    Stay tuned there are two more “helicopters off the roof” shows coming; one from Kabul and one from Baghdad, I can’t wait.”

    I have to ask, do you even care about the people that live in ether country. Considering what happened with all the massacres during the middle 70s, why would you even joke about wanting that to be repeated again?

    Also your taking about the fat man who promised 6,000 tons of supplies to Stalingrad where the 6th Army was located? The bad advice that lead to the worse military defeats in modern history. Who was removed from his command from the Luftwaffe in shame?

    Also the War Power’s Act allows a President to send troops for a small amount of time. But still requires approval from Congress. Both operations where given the green light to.

  5. Richard says:

    Do I care about the people who live in either country? I need to sort that one out. Let’s say for the sake of argument that I do care and I wanted to show that I care, I guess the best I could do for them is to work to remove the armies of occupation from both countries.

    I do care very much about the servicemen who will die today for no discernable reason. They are us. Our families moms and dads cousins and aunts, Americans sent to war to sooth W.’s ego, and now Obama’s ego. What happens in those countries and to the people who live there is none of my or your or any Americans business. So, Yes I do care but only so much as I care about anything that is none of my business, which ain’t very much.

    Am I wrong or was it the german 9th army decimated at Stalingrad?

    Goering was removed from his command after the luftwaffer had no more planes. It was not his luftwaffer record but his astutness in the field of proparganda that I was citing. Rove was good but no match for the original master.
    The war powers act was created for LBJ after the Tonkin Gulf proparganda was sucked up by congress. It lasts only a short time, 60 days. The UN resolution ran out last June and now they are operating on some bullshit NATO resolution in Afghanistan and nothing legal in Iraq.
    I care: bring the troops home now or when those last helicopters fly. The difference is a few thousand of “family” stuffed in body bags.

  6. masterspork says:

    How is leaving before ether nation is able to defend themselves going to help them? Not to mention helping the population’s overall needs and building infrastructure to help their daily lives.

    The reason that I bring that up is that I think people get so caught up in trying to have our troops pulled out that they often forget about what happens to the people that live there. For example we left Somalia in 1993 and they have had enormous problems where there is constant violence and fighting. But for the most part Somalia has been forgotten with the exception of the Pirate raids. So the 40,000 dollar questions if we withdrew from Afghanistan what would make it from becoming another Somalia?

    About the servicemen this is a repost from another blog.

    Well because for me I count myself as part of the number being asked. The Army in Afghanistan is asking for help, as a solider that is enough in itself. But if you ask me will this all us to be successful there? I like to think so, but because that place is so uncertain and the fact that I have never been there I would have to say “I do not know”.

    Afghanistan was done by the UN and the as of this writing the mandate is still good. I believe that we are helping in both areas, so that is why I ask if people care about the locals. Becuase we have in some cases worked and lived with them. So it is easier to become detached when you are half way around the world.

    I checked, the 9th was at Moscow and later at Kursk. As far as Goering, I think he held onto his position but for the most part was far out of favor after 1943. Because the last great German air offensive was in January 1945 on the Western front. Also from what I have been reading it was not a lack of planes as much as it was a lack of qualified pilots.

    Wait, how can the war powers be made well after LBJ left office? The UN resolution for Afghanistan is still very good.

    Now the US forces are in Iraq are working there on the US-Iraqi security pact.

    It is hard to leave because of getting involved there and wanted to help. That is why I am very vocal about that.

  7. Richard says:

    Afghanistan didn’t have a dejure government when we arrived and we don’t owe them one now. I know you have a stake in the outcome but think it through, where will the government come from, I mean who? I lived through the days of Diem, then Ky, and finally Thieu except for the last 3 days under Big Ming. None of them were ever what you would call a “government” just puppets of MACV who enriched themselves. Karzi is cut from the same cloth, looks like he and his CIA election riggers outdid themselves. He will never “govern.” Let’s bring our troops home and let the Afghanis sort it out, that is what will happen anyway in the end.

  8. Fed Up says:

    Masterpork said: “How is leaving before ether nation is able to defend themselves going to help them? Not to mention helping the population’s overall needs and building infrastructure to help their daily lives.”

    We’ve been there EIGHT years and so far we have not helped them at the contrary, they hate us and support the Taliban. What on earth makes you think it will be different? Be specific.

    The only difference I can see now is Obama is in charge. But you don’t support Obama, do you?? If you don’t, then by your positions. nothing has chnged? If you do support Obama, then you need to be specific about how he has/will change things. McCrystol is a Republican.

  9. masterspork says:

    But we removed the Taliban government and while I still believe that it is a good thing, that the removal of the Taliban left a power vacuum in the area. Considering what happened in 1988 when we left there after it looked like the USSR was starting to go into decline, what happens in that area should be of great concern.

    I have no illusions about the current government in Afghanistan considering involvement of the and their past actions. However we cannot deal with this problem and the Taliban at the same time. But because we are holding the needed support to the troops in hope that this election is not rigged again is directly causing massive problems for our troops since that we now have had another base that was almost overrun again.

    But my concern is that the Taliban and the Warlords will start fighting each other if we left now. Because you really think that things will reach a stable state with this going on?

    I disagree with that because I do not think it was effectively used until recently.

    Also I think that the Taliban are there because it is a good bet that a lot of the smaller villagers get ignored and have to turn to such groups like the Taliban for critical needs. Also considering even if the Taliban can strong arm isolated villages it is not surprising that they have control of the remote areas. That is what changed in Iraq when instead of dealing with the higher level of government (on the view that everything would be run and controlled from the top). It is when we started talking to the local villages and where able to help provide aid and such that things started to turn around. But we needed additional troops to do that.

    I did not vote in the election. While I did prefer Senator McCain over President Obama, the comforting fact was that he was not going to abandon the operation in Afghanistan. I just want to see his promise held through.

    Except that this is not the first time that the Joint Chiefs have been at odds with the President. Also that President Obama appointed General McChrystal to that position.

  10. Richard says:

    All of afghanistan is rural villages. Kubal is the only real city. Every election in Vietnam was rigged, this so called runoff will be rigged also, and the only power the government will have is to fill their pockets. We have been there eight years do you think it will be any better in 2 or 5 or 10 years. More troops, more casulities, and for what?

  11. On October 13, Sy Hersh told a Duke University audience that the military was making war on President Obama. He said, “They think he’s weak and the wrong color. Yes, there’s racism in the Pentagon. We may not like to think that, but it’s true and we all know it.”

    They have him in a political box. Either way he loses support.

    This reminds me of how they manipulated LBJ in 1965. Don’t forget they wre caught stealing documents from Nixon in 1971-1972.

  12. masterspork says:

    But it is not the size that I am concerned about, but rather the distance. That is why I think that a increase in troop levels can help. We cannot run the country just working from Kubal.

    I know there is corruption, that is why it was/is vital to work with the villages that will be ignored in such a system. I have heard first hand about such stories from the locals in Iraq and the many problems that they face. (For example I talked to some Iraqi Soldiers through a interpreter and asked about the emergency treatment that they would get. They said that because of the red tape to get them to a hospital that there would be massive delays. He said that if they got seriously hurt you where expected to die.) This was out in a remote checkpoint next to a village that could be better described as a apartment complex. So that is why I get upset when people have the out of sight out of mind notion.

    It honest I cannot say that things will definitely get better, but even if it fails I would rather say that we tried to do something about it then just stand by.( I am hoping to be able to help there after my one year break from deployment is over.


    This is about the troops there and we need support NOW.

  13. pebbles says:

    Great work, Harvey, as usual! I am waiting for Americans to realize (again) that we can refuse to fight for these greedy folks. Why do we continue to willingly sacrifice our children for people who see them and us as human garbage? Why should American children spend their entire adult lives living as disabled people (physically or mentally) so a handful of fabulously rich men can attempt to

  14. masterspork says:

    "Any nation, like ours, that so readily embraces the mass murder of civilian populations in reaction to the acts of a few violent men probably does not deserve better."

    Except we are not the ones doings thins. If you are not directly involved, it is hard to understand why we do what we do and the reason that it is work fighting for.

  15. Anonymous says:

    MS: Your incessant denial disgusts me. Please open your eyes and accept the facts on the ground.

  16. masterspork says:

    Except I have been to Iraq and seen the conditions that they live it. I also have seen how our forces act with those that we work among and those that want to kill us. Long story short what people say about our forces there such as pebbles are unfounded.

    What is your proof?

  17. Anonymous says:

    "Proof," he says. Sadly, the evidence means nothing to you – 1.3 million Iraqi civilians dead since March 2003 as a result of the war; 4 million or more Iraqis displaced, the vast majority to other countries. Thirty-five thousand Afghan civilians killed since the war began in October 2001; unknown numbers displaced. Proof?

    As Pebbles said, "Any nation, like ours, that

  18. masterspork says:

    So you are saying that the US service members did all those killings by themselves?

  19. Anonymous says:

    No, I did not. If the US military had not become involved in those places to begin with, there would be nothing to report. The civilian deaths and displacements were the result of the conflicts, both sides being responsible. But as I say, if the US had not gone into those nations, this would not have happened.

  20. masterspork says:

    Except Iraq was very similar to Yugoslavia in how it was formed and the many parties did not like each other. There was bloodshed there and the world seemed perfectly content n letting them kill each other.

    If Saddam had died I would be willing to bet that Iraq would have fallen apart just like Yugoslavia did after Teto.

    Also may I remind you that the UN approved the mission to Afghanistan.

    Also this should be interesting.

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