Military / General

Burrows, William E. Deep Black: Space Espionage and National Security. New York: Berkley Books, 1988. 406 pages.

William Burrows, who has written about space and aviation for more than two decades, is a professor of journalism and director of the Science and Environmental Reporting Program at New York University. The subject matter of this book, particularly where it concerns the capabilities of modern spy satellites, is classified as Sensitive Compartmented Information -- which is higher than Top Secret. But by using open literature, scholarly papers, and interviewing scientists working on similar technology in the private sector, Burrows has put together an informative and readable history of aerial and space reconnaissance.

Modern espionage uses TECHINT (technical intelligence) along with HUMINT (human intelligence). The latter depends on human penetration agents and, with much luck and assuming no counter-penetration, is able to discern the status and intentions of the enemy. TECHINT consists of SIGINT (signals and communications interception) and PHOTINT (imaging intelligence). It is more reliable than HUMINT but can also be expensive. Lyndon Johnson claimed in 1967 that the entire space program could be justified ten times over simply for its contribution to space photography: "Because tonight we know how many missiles the enemy has and, it turned out, our guesses were way off. We were building things we didn't need to build."

Chang, Iris. The Rape of Nanking. New York: Penguin Books, 1998. 290 pages.

Her grandparents narrowly escaped when Japanese soldiers invaded Nanking in December 1937, and the author grew up hearing stories about the sadistic slaughter of 300,000 civilians and disarmed Nationalist Chinese soldiers. This is the first major history of the Nanking holocaust, which lasted for six weeks and was one of the major crimes of the twentieth century. Thanks to cold war politics, the story has not been widely told. After the revolution in 1949, neither the old nor the new China pressed for reparations from Japan, but instead competed for Japanese trade. At the same time, the U.S. needed Japan as an ally against the Soviet Union.

Some Japanese war criminals were tried in Nanking and Tokyo from 1946-1948; about a dozen were found guilty of complicity in Nanking and executed. The royal family was never investigated, and continued their lives of leisure after the war. Many Japanese scholars and politicians still insist that nothing happened in Nanking. But the evidence is undeniable, thanks in part to a couple dozen brave Western missionaries and diplomats who chronicled the events from the Nanking Safety Zone, and somehow managed to accommodate 200,000 desperate refugees as the holocaust was underway. One of bravest of these Westerners was John Rabe, a pro-Nazi businessman who had lived in China for thirty years. The author unearthed thousands of pages of his diary, and calls him "the Oskar Schindler of China."

Fitzgerald, A. Ernest. The Pentagonists: An Insider's View of Waste, Mismanagement, and Fraud in Defense Spending. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1989. 344 pages.

Ernest Fitzgerald is perhaps the most famous whistle-blower in Washington. While employed by the Pentagon as an engineer and cost expert, he testified to Congress in 1968 and 1969 about the concealed cost overruns and the technical problems of the Lockheed C-5A transport plane. He was fired by Nixon for telling the truth, and wrote about it in "The High Priests of Waste" (1972). After a 14-year legal battle against duplicitous Pentagon brass and self-serving executive-branch careerists, a federal judge ruled that the Air Force had to restore Fitzgerald to his former position.

That happened just as the new Reagan administration handed the Pentagon a blank check for bigger and better procurement scandals. Some years later, congressional committees were clucking over $748 pliers and $500 cotter pins, and then they'd walk away from the issue (they knew that congressmen come and go, but Pentagon generals live forever). Fitzgerald's politics are centrist, yet he considers America "the world's largest banana republic." (page 3) "In other banana republics the military comes to power with a sudden coup and the installation of a junta. Here it is different.... America runs on money. And the military has quietly come to vast economic power by taking vast amounts of the federal income for itself." (page 70)

Klare, Michael T. War Without End: American Planning for the Next Vietnams. New York: Vintage Books, 1972. 464 pages.

Klare, Michael T. Supplying Repression: U.S. Support for Authoritarian Regimes Abroad. Washington: Institute for Policy Studies, 1977. 72 pages.

Michael Klare is perhaps the only anti-Vietnam War activist who made a career out of researching the U.S. defense establishment. He began with the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA) in the late sixties; we still recommend their 69-page Research Methodology Guide (1970). Ten years later Klare was doing most of his work as a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. Even some among the ruling class like his work: he has been on the staff of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and in 1985 received a three-year Ford Foundation grant to direct the Five College Program in Peace and World Security Studies based at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. He also writes for Nation magazine.

"War Without End" is a detailed look at the current state of military planning, from counterinsurgency and social science engineering, to rapid deployment, the electronic battlefield, mercenaries, and foreign police assistance. This book was written three years before the collapse of Saigon, when critics expected that U.S. warmongers would be able to sustain their efforts indefinitely. Twenty years and one Ronald Reagan later, it's clear that we have neither the moral conviction nor the economic resources to pull it off -- at least not until the New World Order gets its act together. Nevertheless, the book remains valuable as a slice of imperial history.

Almost half of "Supplying Repression" contains tables of U.S. aid and corporate sales to foreign countries in the areas of military and police training, narcotics control, and arms transfers, while the remainder of this little book offers further historical details and commentary. "The evidence suggests that our corporations and governmental agencies are deeply involved in the supply of repressive technology and techniques to many of the world's most authoritarian regimes..., [and] the measures adopted by Congress in 1974 to restrict arms and training assistance to foreign police forces have not been successful in cutting off the flow."

McClintock, Michael. Instruments of Statecraft: U.S. Guerrilla Warfare, Counterinsurgency, and Counterterrorism, 1940-1990. New York: Pantheon Books, 1992. 604 pages.

Michael McClintock spent 16 years as a human rights monitor, traveling extensively in Latin America, Thailand, and the Philippines. With 122 pages of end notes, this is something of an academic tome, and it functions as a counterweight to the fascination that some academics have demonstrated for elitist military doctrine. McClintock is always aware that "counterterrorism" is too often another name for torture and assassination, and despite such fancy terms as "psychological warfare," "counterinsurgency," "unconventional warfare," and "low intensity conflict," when you take away the rhetoric there seems to be a problem. For one thing, U.S. special warfare has always been cast in an anti-Communist mode, regardless of whether the "Communist" insurgents had the support of the local population. The techniques have emphasized "fighting fire with fire," with much more emphasis on winning respect out of fear than soliciting popular support out of enlightened self-interest.

McClintock's numerous quotes from military manuals and experts begin to drag after a few hundred pages, but his material on Edward Lansdale, and on President Kennedy's love affair with Special Forces, are almost worth the effort it takes to wade through them.

Mollenhoff, Clark R. The Pentagon. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1967. 450 pages.

Clark Mollenhoff was a Pulitzer-winning reporter who had been with the Washington bureau of Cowles Publications for seventeen years before writing this book. But a comprehensive study of the Pentagon requires more access than either the General Accounting Office or a slew of Congressional subcommittees has ever been able to muster, and is certainly beyond the means of a mere reporter. Instead Mollenhoff presents 35 short chapters, each of which amounts to a brief but suggestive case study of a different tip of the Pentagon iceberg.

After several short chapters that cover War Department corruption and mismanagement from the Civil War through World War II, he then gets into more current issues with chapter titles that include names such as Howard Hughes, Benny Meyers, Harold Talbott, Robert McNamara, Roswell Gilpatric, and Fred Korth. Other chapters concern various weapon systems procurement scandals, the Pentagon's "black" budget, kickbacks for generals disguised as consulting or travel-expense fees, nonprofits such as Aerospace Corporation that contract with the military and suck in huge amounts for questionable expenditures, and the "profit pyramid," where layers of subcontractors each add on their profit margins and pass the bill up to the next level until it finally reaches the Pentagon and the taxpayer.

Perry, Mark. Four Stars. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1989. 412 pages.

This is a history of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, established in 1947 and consisting of the four-star leaders of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, and a chairman and vice chairman. These six men meet three times a week in the Pentagon "tank" where they coordinate the nation's military forces. Each of the four services is in also cross-organized into seven "unified" operational commands that have regional responsibilities and are controlled by a CINC, or commander in chief. And each service also has a civilian secretary, who is responsible for the maintenance of readiness and for waging budget battles in Congress.

The President's formal command authority bypasses the JCS, but in practice his decisions, or those of the Secretary of Defense acting on his behalf, are routed through them on their way to the CINC unified commands.

Inter-service rivalry is one recurring problem within the JCS, but the most serious incident was a conflict between the JCS and civilian leaders. It occurred in August 1967, when the Joint Chiefs threatened to resign over civilian handling of the war in Vietnam. Sixteen years later, with the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, it was clear that the JCS still hadn't achieved their goal of holding civilians accountable for the use of troops abroad.

Pyadyshev, B. The Military-Industrial Complex of the USA. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977. 187 pages.

"Who are these civilians who have been appointed to 'control' the generals? They turn out to be arms industry magnates working under Pentagon contracts and making fortunes on the arms drive. Consider the top civilian leaders in the Pentagon under the Eisenhower administration. Secretary of Defense Charles Wilson had been president of General Motors, which is not only the world's leading automobile maker, but also one of the Pentagon's major contractors. Roger M. Kyes, a vice-president of General Motors, was Deputy Secretary. Robert T. Stevens, President of Stevens and Company, a leading supplier of military uniforms, was appointed Secretary of the Army. Harold E. Talbott, a member of the board of three corporations working for the Defense Department, became Secretary of the Air Force. Robert B. Anderson, financier and oil tycoon, became Secretary of the Navy, and later Deputy Secretary of Defense.

"The U.S. war machine is run by career military men or men from the arms business. On all major political issues, every U.S. Secretary of Defense has acted hand-in-glove with the chiefs of staff. They have never had -- and could never have had -- any differences on measures to extend military preparations, secure larger appropriations for the needs of war, and condition the population in a militaristic spirit." (pages 22-23)

Rasor, Dina. The Pentagon Underground. New York: Times Books, 1985. 310 pages.

In 1979 Dina Rasor, 23, started a job with the National Taxpayers Union, where she researched cost overrun issues with the Lockheed C-5 transport plane. In early 1981 she struck out on her own with modest funding, and started the Project on Military Procurement. The problems with the M-1 tank were her first project, but coffee brewers for the C-5 that cost $7622 got more attention. She interviewed Pentagon whistle-blowers, received guidance from A. Ernest Fitzgerald, developed numerous contacts in the press, and within a couple of years became one of the most visible people in the country on the topic of waste and fraud in the Pentagon.

The Project on Military Procurement was two people, Rasor and an assistant, working out of a tiny office. It was strictly nonpartisan and nonideological, interested only in better value for the taxpayer and better weapons for the military. The funding came from both libertarian and progressive sources. It helped that Rasor was squeaky clean. All of her research was backed up with unclassified documents -- she wouldn't touch anything that was classified, nor chat with the occasional friendly "diplomat" from the Soviet embassy. Rasor's visibility and professionalism provided an option for frustrated Pentagon workers, by allowing the whistle-blower "underground" to expose waste and fraud without retaliation.

Scahill, Jeremy. Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army. New York: Nation Books, 2007. 452 pages.

Blackwater was founded in 1997 by Erik Prince, a Christian fundamentalist, with part of the $1.35 billion from the sale of his father's auto-parts business. Eventually Blackwater contracted with the U.S. State Department to guard diplomats in Iraq. They recruited a bunch of trigger-happy ex-SEALs and ex-Special Forces cowboys, and earned more than $600 million in revenue in 2008. A third of that was from the U.S. contract, and the rest from an aviation business and a military training operation in Moyock, North Carolina.

On September 16, 2007, Blackwater was involved in a shooting incident that left 17 Iraqis dead. This book went to press earlier that year, at a time when Blackwater still enjoyed a little bit of favorable publicity for its work in Iraq. As of 2009, the Justice Department has charged five of Blackwater's men for their alleged role in the incident, and the government of Iraq has denied Blackwater a license to work in Iraq. Blackwater USA changed its name to Blackwater Worldwide, and now it's been changed again to Xe, in an effort to rid themselves of the Blackwater stigma. The parent company is called EP Investments LLC. While this book does an excellent job of covering Blackwater's rise to stardom, just two years later the company finds itself in very different circumstances.

Schnabel, Jim. Remote Viewers: The Secret History of America's Psychic Spies. New York: Dell Publishing, 1997. 452 pages.

This is a straightforward history of government interest in remote viewing, a paranormal experiment that the CIA began at the Standard Research Institute in 1972. Military intelligence started their own team at Fort Meade in 1977. Each program involved only a handful of people. When the CIA lost interest, a couple of generals (Edmund R. Thompson and Albert N. Stubblebine), congressmen (Claiborne Pell and Charlie Rose), and a powerful Senate staffer (Richard D'Amato) kept it alive under the Pentagon budget. It ran out of steam due to its own eccentricities, its enemies within the budgetary process, and the Republican victory in 1994.

Remote viewing is neither fraudulent nor silly, but on rare occasions it can lean toward either. More often it is just plain wrong, or distorted by subjective interference. The brass kept worrying about the "giggle factor" should the secret programs be discovered by the press. Stubblebine earned the nickname "General Spoonbender," and his power at the Pentagon soon declined. The remote viewers themselves had unconventional ideas: several were Scientologists, others were into UFO lore, and most took themselves too seriously. The burnout rate was high. It's just as well. When all is said and done, everyone benefits if our ethically-challenged spooks have really given up on this creepy, unpredictable phenomenon.

Simpson, Charles M. III. Inside the Green Berets: The First Thirty Years -- A History of the U.S. Army Special Forces. Foreward by Lt.Gen. William P. Yarborough. Novato CA: Presidio Press, 1983. 231 pages.

From the dust jacket: "Guerrilla warfare, insurgency, counterinsurgency, all come within the circle of their operations. President Kennedy gave a powerful impetus to the growth of Special Forces, but they really came into prominence during the Vietnam War. Their Civic Action programs and "Psy Ops" became well known. Among the less publicized missions of SF have been: an airborne demonstration in Saudi Arabia; a rescue operation of a party of refugees in the Congo during the Leopoldville disturbances in 1960; a basic training program for Ethiopian recruits in 1965; training and assistance missions in nineteen Latin American countries from 1963 to 1970. Colonel Simpson knows the Army. Of his 30 years of service he spent nine with SF."

To the extent that CIA and Special Forces operations in southeast Asia can be considered separately, Simpson sides with the military and is gently critical of the CIA. For outsiders the distinction is less meaningful -- the CIA frequently used Special Forces to solve their manpower shortages, and the lines of command between the CIA, the U.S. ambassador, and the Pentagon are at best confusing. A certain amount of scapegoating was probably well- received in this gung-ho, insider account of the Green Berets, half of which deals with the Vietnam experience.

Smith, Paul H. Reading the Enemy's Mind: Inside Star Gate -- America's Psychic Espionage Program. Foreword by Jack Anderson. New York: Tom Doherty Associates (Forge), 2005. 507 pages.

Paul H. Smith spent seven years in the Department of Defense program of remote viewing. He was an operational viewer, an instructor and trainer, and unit historian. The CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency each had remote-viewing programs in the 1970s, based at Stanford Research Institute. In the early 1980s the Pentagon started up another program based at Fort Meade, Maryland. It survived until 1994 with a staff of about a dozen, at which point the program was transferred to the CIA and terminated in 1995.

The operational success of remote viewing is very much a mixed bag. It is unclear whether it could ever be used in situations where the stakes are high if the intelligence is faulty, and this book does not take a position on this issue. Rather, it is a chronological history of Smith's unit and remote viewing in general, and a description of techniques that viewers have found useful. Some of those involved continue to promote the techniques they learned. Smith is vice president of the nonprofit International Remote Viewing Association, and president of Remote Viewing Instructional Services (

Vistica, Gregory L. Fall From Glory: The Men Who Sank the U.S. Navy. New York: Simon & Schuster (Touchstone Edition), 1997. 478 pages.

Author Gregory Vistica, a reporter for Newsweek, tells us how the Navy brass really operates in the Pentagon. This book centers on John Lehman, Reagan's secretary of the Navy. Lehman was an egomaniacal infighter who destroyed anything that stood in the way of bigger battleships and bloated budgets. Tough-sounding flyboys such as Lehman were darlings to the fanged neocons who littered the Reagan years. A more sober analysis of the Soviet threat (which was already starting to rust in port), and of new threats from missile technology, might have saved billions. The subtitle for this book should have been, "Boys and Their Toys."

Then there were the scandals and morale problems. Vistica takes us behind the scenes of the Tailhook scandal, the Admiral Boorda suicide, the "Ill Wind" procurement scandal, the John Walker spy case (Walker gave the Soviets access to the Navy's secret communications for more than 17 years), the Iowa battleship explosion and cover-up, and the cruiser Vincennes, which shot down of an Iranian airliner and received combat action ribbons for killing all 290 civilians aboard. You won't find many heros in these pages; this is Reality Check time. It's unfortunate that it takes about two dozen investigative books from excellent journalists to balance out just one fake Tom Clancy thriller. Blame it on Hollywood culture and Pentagon corruption.

Weiner, Tim. Blank Check: The Pentagon's Black Budget. New York: Warner Books, 1991. 273 pages.

This book is based on Tim Weiner's Pulitzer Prize-winning series in the Philadelphia Inquirer. By following the money, Weiner finds appropriations of public dollars for highly-compartmentalized, secret research projects with no accountability to either Congress or the Secretary of Defense. The secret budget has never been published, a violation of Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution.

Reagan doubled the Pentagon budget between 1981 and 1985, and by 1991 Bush had increased the "black" portion to 25 percent. Born from the Manhattan Project, described by Weiner as a "mutant chromosome in the American body politic," this secret operation is now a full-blown parallel government.

Weiner shows the secret government at work in diverting funds illegally, creating military units outside the chain of command, conducting covert wars, and transforming Star Wars into a system for the control of space. This book is a solidly-documented description of how the U.S. responded to atomic weapons and the Cold War by giving birth to, nurturing, and ultimately succumbing to a national security state.

-- Lanny Sinkin

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