Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build the big bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks –Bob Dylan
Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster is supposed to be a great pick for national security advisor after the 24-day debacle of Mike Flynn.
His reputation for courage in speaking truth to power is based on his book, “Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, The Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam.” But he really wasn’t speaking truth to power. The powers that ran the Vietnam War were mostly dead by 1997 when he published the book.
And his criticism of the conduct of the government and the military for their handling of The Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba and the Vietnam War is not that the actions were wrong, immoral, contrary to international law and treaties and unwinnable, but that they didn’t try hard enough to win.
He writes, “Johnson brought with him to the presidency a low opinion of the nation’s top military men and a long history of taking positions on military issues to enhance his political fortunes.” Vietnam “was lost in Washington, D.C., even before Americans assumed sole responsibility for the fighting in 1965 and before they realized the country was at war; indeed, even before the first American units were deployed.” The joint chiefs of staff told him, “Don’t go into Vietnam unless you start with 60,000 men and are prepared to use nuclear weapons to guarantee victory.”
His hero was Curtis LeMay, who said, “We’re going to bomb them back into the Stone Age. And we would shove them back into the Stone Age with Air power or Naval power—not with ground forces.” And, “I think there are many times when it would be most efficient to use nuclear weapons. However, the public opinion in this country and throughout the world throw up their hands in horror when you mention nuclear weapons, just because of the propaganda that’s been fed to them.”
LeMay believed genocide was a legitimate weapon of war.
McMaster quotes LeMay as telling Kennedy a blockade of Cuba wasn’t enough, any other solution than direct military action would be like appeasement of Hitler and just encourage the Soviets to commit more aggression. McMaster: “The other Chiefs reinforced LeMay’s argument, describing a surprise air strike, blockade, and invasion as the ‘lowest-risk course of action.’ ”
McMaster had hands-on, go-for-broke, military action in Iraq. The Washington Post: “In the Iraq War, McMaster commanded a 3,500-soldier brigade in the northern city of Tal Afar, which was being torn apart in 2005 by Iraq’s civil war. He largely jettisoned the Bush administration’s official strategy at the time of pulling back from cities and training Iraqi forces to take over the fight so U.S. troops could go home.
“McMaster pushed his troops deep into Tal Afar, establishing 29 small American-manned command outposts. Instead of focusing on training the Iraqis, McMaster and his troops worked to stop the killing in the city and replace the local mayor and security forces.
“ ‘It’s unclear to me how a higher degree of passivity would advance our mission,’ he said at the time in response to criticism.
“Eventually his strategy, dubbed ‘clear, hold and build,’ became a model for the broader campaign, led by Gen. David H. Petraeus, to stabilize Iraq in 2007 and 2008.”
AP correspondent Peter Arnett wrote on Feb. 7, 1968, about the genocidal massacre in Ben Tre City: “‘It became necessary to destroy the town to save it,’ a United States major said today. He was talking about the decision by allied commanders to bomb and shell the town regardless of civilian casualties, to rout the Vietcong.”
That was the lesson McMaster learned from Vietnam.
In 2010 McMaster was sent back to Kabul to supervise an anti-corruption campaign. Millions of dollars of U.S. aid was being syphoned off by graft and corruption, and much of U.S. weaponry was being sold illegally to the insurgents. An Afghan Army doctor was stealing millions from the hospital, and soldiers were dying there because of lack of care. The Army staff investigated and McMasters leaked a scathing indictment and blistering letter to the press, but he never sent it to Karzai because he didn’t want to cause a fuss.
Of course the biggest cesspool of corruption was in the multi-billion dollar opium and heroin smuggling racket. McMaster had to know all about it. UPI reported on Aug. 13, 2009, “British troops have seized several tons of raw opium on a farm belonging to the half brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, according to a media report.”
James Risen reported on Oct. 4, 2008, in the New York Times: “When Afghan security forces found an enormous cache of heroin hidden beneath concrete blocks in a tractor-trailer outside Kandahar in 2004, the local Afghan commander quickly impounded the truck and notified his boss.
“Before long, the commander, Habibullah Jan, received a telephone call from Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of President Hamid Karzai, asking him to release the vehicle and the drugs, Mr. Jan later told American investigators, according to notes from the debriefing obtained by The New York Times. He said he complied after getting a phone call from an aide to President Karzai directing him to release the truck.
“Two years later, American and Afghan counter-narcotics forces stopped another truck, this time near Kabul, finding more than 110 pounds of heroin. Soon after the seizure, United States investigators told other American officials that they had discovered links between the drug shipment and a bodyguard believed to be an intermediary for Ahmed Wali Karzai, according to a participant in the briefing.
“The assertions about the involvement of the president’s brother in the incidents were never investigated, according to American and Afghan officials, even though allegations that he has benefited from narcotics trafficking have circulated widely in Afghanistan.
“Ahmed Wali Karzai was now the chief of the Kandahar Provincial Council, the governing body for the region that includes Afghanistan’s second largest city, and home of the province in Afghanistan that provides about 95 percent of the world’s supply of heroin.
“But Khan Mohammad, the former Afghan commander in Kandahar who was Mr. Jan’s superior in 2004, said in a recent interview that Mr. Jan reported at the time that he had received a call from the Karzai aide ordering him to release the drug cache. Khan Mohammad recalled that Mr. Jan believed that the call had been instigated by Ahmed Wali Karzai, not the president.
“ ‘This was a very heavy issue,’ Mr. Mohammad said.
“He provided the same account in an October 2004 interview with The Christian Science Monitor. Mr. Mohammad said that after a subordinate captured a large shipment of heroin about two months earlier, the official received repeated telephone calls from Ahmed Wali Karzai. He was saying, ‘This heroin belongs to me.’ ”
Donald Trump has said he wouldn’t rule out using nuclear weapons.
So it seems, Trump has an ideal sidekick in McMaster: someone who understands the drug game in Afghanistan and someone who isn’t afraid to use nuclear weapons.