Tom Diaz

Archive for 2017|Yearly archive page

простите…er…I Mean, Pardon Me

In Corruption, Crime, Cronatos Hybamper, Ethics in Washington, Piracy, Political Satire, politics, Presidential Pardons, Russia, The Great Stupid, Transnational crime, Trump on July 21, 2017 at 4:00 pm

Goofy Trump copy

“I know what you’re getting at. Now, the plain fact is that I can’t just flat out order the FBI to drop this leak thing. They wouldn’t stop even if I asked them to. Such a request might seem an easy thing to do, but it would be the wrong thing to do. We in the White House must respect in thought, word, and deed the FBI’s independence as the first among all federal law enforcement agencies.”

Attorney General Charles-Bates nodded in agreement.

“So, instead of making such a request,” the President continued, “I am issuing a blanket pardon. White House Counsel has drawn it up and I have signed it. It provides that anyone who might have in any way been otherwise guilty of any crime related to the leaking of the Black Pearl directive is off the hook, so to speak in lay terms. There is therefore nothing left for the FBI to investigate. I am sure the Director won’t want to waste valuable time or tax dollars sniffing down a dead end.”

 

President Roger Wilson Lane

From Cronatos Hybamper –An Extraordinary Incident by Tom Diaz

I know. It’s tedious. I anticipated and wrote about virtually every hair-brained, self-serving grift the news is exploding with today. Yep, there is even a Presidential pardon scene.

The thing that amazes me and my tens of thousands…ummm…okay, score or so…of followers is how uncanny it is that I wrote Cronatos Hybamper before the preening, vacuous buffoon strutting around the White House today was even elected. And, to my credit, my fictional grifter never made it into the Oval Office. (Read the book to find out why.)

But Washington was, is, and always will be Crazy Town. So, no sooner do I write some unbelievable blather about pardons, and it appears in the news (fake, real, and in between) without missing a beat:

Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people. A second person said Trump’s lawyers have been discussing the president’s pardoning powers among themselves.

James Hohmann,“The Daily 202: Asking about a pardon for himself is a quintessentially Trumpian move,” The Washington Post, July 21, 2017.

Sail on, O Pirate Ship of State!

Pirate ship

To catch up with the innermost in-crowd:

https://read.amazon.com/kp/card?asin=B01MT0JMCM&preview=inline&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_6tXvyb1HWXMPQ

 

 

Victory Day, День Победы–May 9th

In Russia, War and Rumors of War on May 8, 2017 at 3:29 pm

Russian Officer o2

 

May 9th is celebrated in Russia as Victory Day, the final defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, and the conclusion of what Russians call The Great Patriotic War.

Putting wholly aside the political wars, cold and hot, that followed and still simmer, two things have to amaze anyone who has bothered to learn the real history of the Second World War. The first is the disparate weight that the Soviet Union carried in winning the war. The second is the shocking difference between the destruction and casualties in the West (including even “war-battered Britain”) and those of the East.

The Eisenhower Institute at Gettysburg College posted an excellent paper on this questions, The Soviet Experience in World War Two, by J.T. Dykman. What follows are relevant excerpts:

Overview

Americans have little conception of the Soviet Union’s experience in World War II. No cities in the United States were besieged, not a single bomb was dropped by an enemy airplane on any of our 48 states, no part of our population was enslaved, starved or murdered, and not one village, town or city was completely destroyed or even heard a shot fired in anger.

About the only way we can begin to understand is through imagination. The distance between Moscow and Berlin is about the same as that separating New York City and Atlanta. Imagine twenty million people being violently killed between those two American cities in four years. The Eastern Front in the war wound like a serpent from Sevastopol on the Black Sea to Leningrad on the Baltic. Including the twists, bulges and turns of the line of battle at the height of German penetration, November 1942, the line would have stretched from Baltimore to Cheyenne, Wyoming. In place of Leningrad, can you fathom Chicago under bitter siege and constant shelling for 900 days? Is it possible for us to mentally picture thousands of dead bodies lying on the frozen streets between Lake Shore Drive and Evanston? Could we endure seeing a million people die, mostly from starvation, during the Chicago siege or begin to fathom our own citizens engaging in cannibalism for profit? At the same time of the Chicago siege think of Cincinnati becoming a battleground such as Stalingrad where not a single structure was left habitable and several hundred thousand soldiers killed each other in the process of leveling the city. Mentally switch names such as Smolensk, Karkov, Minsk, Kiev and Rostov for American cities and picture them destroyed and silenced. If such images are possible for us to even conceive, we can begin to understand why Americans refer to the conflict as World War Two, but the Russians universally refer to it as the Great Patriotic War.

The Numbers

The populations of the United States and the USSR were about the same, 130,000,000, when both nations went to war within six months of each other in 1941. To Americans, we were sending our boys to fight a foreign war that we’d never experience. To the Soviets, it was an up front and personal war of monumental savagery. America would lose slightly more than 400,000 soldiers (killed or missing) and almost no civilians during World War II and the USSR, depending on which historian you believe, would lose at least 11,000,000 soldiers (killed and missing) as well as somewhere between 7,000,000 and 20,000,000 million of its civilian population during the Great Patriotic War.

Numbers of such dimensions are hard to grasp in the abstract. This graphic from Business Insider helps understand the relative losses of the principal combatants:

this-chart-shows-the-astounding-devastation-of-world-war-ii

War is Hell.

We Had Our Chance Three Times Before—Moses, Jesus, And Mohamed. Now The Destroyer Is Here

In Cronatos Hybamper, Political Satire on January 19, 2017 at 4:16 pm

blackpearl

“All right,” Jyonah Fujimaki said more calmly. “All right. Yes, perhaps a trinity, but not necessarily in the sense of any given religion. More like in the mystery sense. I don’t pretend to know all that could be revealed here. But, you, Dr. Rivera. What was the first test of the atomic bomb called?”

“I don’t know,” Rivera answered acidly. “A ‘test?’”

“You do know!” Fujimaki shouted angrily. “What was the name of the project?”

“Oh,” Quin rolled her eyes. “Trinity. You mean, Trinity?”

“Very good,” he replied. “Very good. And what did Dr. Oppenheimer observe at the moment of the explosion?”

Quin shook her head.

“What is this, Doctor, Trivial Pursuit?”

She only barely knew who Oppenheimer was, much less what he might or might not have said. General Sanders furrowed his brow. It was on the tip of his tongue. The furtive guard moved a bit more quickly, sensing that he was far enough out of the angry scientist’s visual field to risk a few more steps.

“’I am become Death,’” whispered Minister Biryukov. “’I am become Death, destroyer of worlds.’”

“Yes. Excellent, Minister. Your English has improved remarkably. I am become Death. We had our chance three times before—Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed. Now the Destroyer is here. And how arrogant, even of the confused Dr. Oppenheimer. We are not destroyers of worlds. We cannot be destroyers of worlds. Only God can do that. We can only destroy each other. Black Pearl is here to show us a New Eden and tell us to beat our swords into—”

From Cronatos Hybamper –An Extraordinary Incident by Tom Diaz

Although Cronatos is in form a “political satire,” its entire fictional premise—what makes the characters act as they do—is the sudden and simultaneous appearance of three mysterious objects. One of the characters, a brilliant astrophysicist named Jyonah Fujimaki, proposes that these objects are in fact the final manifestation of God, giving humanity one last chance.

The objects appear in deep Alaska, Siberia, and the Negev Desert. They can only be accessed through invisible portals. They look like shimmering black pearls, each about 30 meters high. The kicker is that, within the portal, each appears to be creating an entirely new universe, one in which nothing electromagnetic works. In the face of this phenomenon, politicians, religious leaders, military commanders, spy agencies, and corporate magnates do pretty much what they do in real life—hence, the satire.

How “realistic” is the idea? Hell, I don’t know. I know of few religious traditions that would say the entity that they call “God” actually appeared in a way that human beings could experience directly (face to whatever) without being fried or scared senseless. The Deity’s appearances are usually indirect, mysterious, and through understandable media, such as prophets. Or, in this case, mysterious Black Pearls.

What I insist is indeed “realistic” is that existing religious and political establishments would uniformly resist such a “last warning” and seek to discredit it. End of Days or not, the establishment will cling to its human ways. It always has and always will.

You can read more and open an introduction to the novel here:

From Miniskirts to Shoulder Boards—Women in the Russian Military

In Cronatos Hybamper, Espionage, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, Political Satire, Putin, Russia, Russian Army, Ukraine, War and Rumors of War on January 13, 2017 at 11:50 am

putins-miniskirt-army

The mysterious and intoxicating beauty rarely left Russia. But she was definitely confirmed by multi-sourced intelligence to be the most dynamic senior force in the Russian military research and development hierarchy. If there was a glass ceiling in the Russian armed services, she refused to accept it. Colonel Nadezhda Sergeevna Vodovatova was one of a handful of women who had not merely overcome, but blasted through, the sexism that still abounded in Russia’s hierarchy of power. Even President Gribov was said to treat her as a full equal, not merely some sexy dangle to be shown now and again, but a true equal.

From Cronatos Hybamper –An Extraordinary Incident by Tom Diaz

Three strong women play pivotal roles in the novel Cronatos Hybamper. Others have lesser but key places in the narrative.

Things get very complicated when Russian Colonel Nadezhda Sergeevna Vodovatova and a CIA operations officer go toe-to-toe. (You’ll have to read the novel to get the full significance of that very deliberate double entendre. I won’t spoil the plot by leaking any more classified data on that series of events.)

One might fairly ask, so what is the status of women, and especially high-ranking women, in the real life of the Russian armed forces?

Well, it turns out that there actually is woman who is a Russian Deputy Minister of Defense. Her name is Tatiana Shevtsova. However, unlike Col. Vodovatova, Shevtsova’s career was made in the civil service and not in the military.

Another woman, Natalia Poklonskaya, was supposedly the youngest general in Russia when she resigned and was elected to the Duma, or parliament. But, her rank was also not military. She was formerly the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Crimea. She also has the distinction of being the only woman on the United States’ list of individual sanctions against Ukrainian separatists and Russians.

Poklonskaya enjoys international fame for her beauty, according to Wikipedia:

After a video of Poklonskaya at a press conference on 11 March 2014 was uploaded to YouTube, her attractiveness and youth went viral among Japanese and Chinese internet users and also became the focus of attention of Internet communities…Within a month, the press conference was viewed over 1.7 million times. Many fan-created anime-style images of her uploaded to the Internet also attracted international media attention. A music video by Enjoykin based on Poklonskaya’s press conferences and interviews has had 20 million views on YouTube.

The only “real” female Russian military general I could find in my background research was General Yelena Knyazeva, deputy chief of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Main Department for International Military Cooperation. According to the Russian outlet Sputnik News. “She became Russia’s first woman general in almost two decades and second after woman cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, who was bestowed the rank of the Major General Lieutenant of the Air Force in the middle of the 90s.”

I’m not sure that General Knyazeva’s views on gender would fly in the U.S. military, however. “Maybe it would be good [for women to do voluntary service], but I think it’s better for women to get married, have children and bring up their sons who will serve their Motherland,” Knyazeva, the only one-star female officer in Russia’s Armed Forces, told RIA Novosti.

On the lighter side, one should not miss the current (real) Russian President’s so-called “Army in Miniskirts.” An interview with one of the female soldiers can be found on a Pravda Report on You Tube.

You can buy the novel and read about Colonel Nadezhda Sergeevna Vodovatova and the other strong women characters in Cronatos by following the link below, which also opens a long read from the book’s beginning pages.

 

 

Answer Me This, Just for the Hell of It: Is Satan Real?

In Cronatos Hybamper, Political Satire, War and Rumors of War on January 12, 2017 at 3:50 pm

nick

“Call me Nick,” the wizened old man in the open vehicle said.

His perch was a ridiculously outsized bucket seat in what looked like a big, rusted-out toy wagon. He licked his thin lips, drawn back like two unevenly twisted rubber bands. The resulting expression was something between a lecher’s smirk and a dead man’s grimace.

“Or Nicholas. Or Nikolai. Whichever pleases you. I answer to them all. If you don’t like any of them, I have others I can suggest.”

“Okay, Nick,” Staff Sergeant Keiko Boynton nodded. “Nick is good.”

She smiled at him. Maybe he was fucking with her, the way he talked in smart-ass riddles. Still, she thought, that was no reason to assume that the locals are unfriendly, or that this one in particular was dangerous. She could see nothing on him or in the vehicle that looked like a weapon. He was just a Jawa, a bare-chested, wrinkled old guy wearing tan cargo shorts and flip-flops cut out of old tires.

From Cronatos Hybamper –An Extraordinary Incident by Tom Diaz

“Nick” is an interesting character. He shows up at the damnedest places in the novel, Cronatos Hybamper. Even people who have met him face to face develop doubts about his reality.

Let’s say—just for the sake of discussion—that the character Nick in the novel is actually “Old Nick.” The Devil.

Do you believe such a being actually exists?

Or, do you think that Satan is just a Biblical metaphor, or the invention of medieval moralists, or just silly? And thus, by extension, the character Nick must be regarded as entirely fanciful?

Not that there is anything wrong with using the Devil as a literary device in a novel, even in pursuit of a “higher” mythological or theological meaning:

…Satan is a character about whom one is always tempted to tell stories, and one may best understand him not by examining his character or the beliefs about his nature according to some elaborate and rootless metaphysical system, but rather by putting him back into history, into the narrative contexts in which he begins and which he never really leaves. That is, we must try to see him as an actor, or what Aristotle called an “agent,” with a role to play in a plot or mythos.

Neil Forsyth, The Old Enemy—Satan and the Combat Myth (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987), p. 4.

In the United States, at least, polls show that a very large number of people believe that the Devil, Satan, is as real as it gets.

Gallup asked Americans if the devil is something they believe in, something they’re not sure about, or something they don’t believe in. Sixty-eight percent said in a May 2001 poll that they believe in the devil, 20% said they don’t, and 12% said they aren’t sure. Majorities of Americans of every political inclination, region, educational level, and age group said they believe in the devil.

Gallup, “The Devil and the Demographic Details,” by Jennifer Robison

Here is a chart from the same article.

belief-in-the-devil-graph

It perhaps won’t surprise anyone that belief in Satan’s existence varies by geographic region as well as religion and political affiliation.

belief-in-the-devil-by-region-graph

Bottom line from Gallup?

Over the centuries, science has been able to explain many phenomena that once seemed supernatural. Bad weather, ill health, and heretical opinions may not be the work of the infernal after all. With the advent of evolutionary theory and modern psychology, these days we’re more likely to think of people who do terrible things as broken human beings, rather than agents of the netherworld. Furthermore, religion has ceded its civil authority, and religiosity has declined somewhat in American society. So we might expect belief in the devil to have largely evaporated. It hasn’t. Regardless of political belief, religious inclination, education, or region, most Americans believe that the devil exists.

This leads inevitably to the question, why? Why do people in a modern, aggressively “secular” culture believe in the literal existence of this creature known by so many names? Libraries of books have been written about Satan and this question of why (not counting scripture and its gloss). I have half a dozen in my own library, as well as books of art about how the Devil has been represented throughout the ages.

Here is one representative explanation of Satan’s necessity from a Christian perspective:

In Satan, nothing that is good, humane, or redeemable can reside. Unless the wretched sinners cling to the mercies of God provided through Jesus Christ, the reprobate would spend all of eternity suffering in the never-ending fires of Hell where they would be tormented by hordes of hideous creatures…Even if we wanted to move beyond dualistic notions of absolute Good (God) and absolute Evil (Satan), the fact remains that the current religious imagination of Christians, fueled by centuries of reinforcements from popular culture, is locked in this binary world-view that dates back to the early church and its struggle against paganism. To hint that evil comes from God (as did some biblical passages), or that Satan can lead believers to good consequences, continues to be considered blasphemy among most Christians.

Miguel A. De La Torre and Albert Hernandez, The Quest for the Historical Satan (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2011), p. 197.

On the other hand, the Christian Post reported in 2009 that most U.S. Christians “do not believe that Satan is a real being or that the Holy Spirit is a living entity.” Rather, citing another survey, the Christian Post stated that “nearly six out of ten Christians either strongly agreed or somewhat agreed with the statement that Satan ‘is not a living being but is a symbol of evil.’” Christian Post, Jennifer Riley, “Most U.S. Christians Don’t Believe Satan, Holy Spirit Exist,” April 13, 2009.

You can read more about Nick in the novel, which you can preview and order from this link.

The Rain in Moscow Wasn’t Purple: Of Honey Traps and Con·cu·pis·cence

In bad manners, Cronatos Hybamper, Espionage, Ethics in Washington, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, Political Satire, politics, Putin, Russia, Russian Intelligence Operations, The Great Stupid, Trump on January 11, 2017 at 1:24 pm

sweet-apple

Two weeks after her arrival, [redacted] was delighted to have been invited to Monica’s Moscow flat for lunch. The flat was surprisingly roomy. It was just the two of them. Vasily could not break away from work. There was a good champagne, and lots of it. One thing led to another, skillfully guided by the charming Monica. Before mid-day, the two … were lying in bed, naked and deliciously exhausted. They had enjoyed every variety of passionate sexual embrace imaginable. This was all recorded on high-quality sound film by KGB technicians, working in an adjoining room from behind a strategically placed two-way mirror.

From Cronatos Hybamper –An Extraordinary Incident by Tom Diaz

Forgive me for being repetitious, but once again the headlines are ripped from my novel, Cronatos Hybamper.

I have no idea whether the “unconfirmed” allegations about President-elect Trump described below are true or not. But use of the so-called “honey trap” has been a staple of the Russian intelligence services for at least a century. So, my only point here is that my little fictive device has a long, solid, eminently believable foundation in real life.

I don’t want to include a plot-spoiler in this excerpt, so you’ll have to read the novel to find out who was the victim of the honey trap in Cronatos.

Buzzfeed posted a version of the actual memo containing the alleged Russian “kompromat” activities in this story, “These Reports Allege Trump Has Deep Ties To Russia.”

A dossier, compiled by a person who has claimed to be a former British intelligence official, alleges Russia has compromising information on Trump. The allegations are unverified, and the report contains errors.…

The dossier, which is a collection of memos written over a period of months, includes specific, unverified, and potentially unverifiable allegations of contact between Trump aides and Russian operatives, and graphic claims of sexual acts documented by the Russians.

The New York Times alluded to the sexual antics that are described in some detail in the Buzzfeed post in its story, “Trump Received Unsubstantiated Report That Russia Had Damaging Information About Him,” by Scott Shane, Adam Goldman and Matthew Rosenberg, Jan. 10, 2017.

WASHINGTON — The chiefs of America’s intelligence agencies last week presented President Obama and President-elect Donald J. Trump with a summary of unsubstantiated reports that Russia had collected compromising and salacious personal information about Mr. Trump, two officials with knowledge of the briefing said.

The memos describe sex videos involving prostitutes with Mr. Trump in a 2013 visit to a Moscow hotel. The videos were supposedly prepared as “kompromat,” or compromising material, with the possible goal of blackmailing Mr. Trump in the future.

The Washington Post’s story skipped the salacious part and went with full pabulum suitable for reading by children and in church, “Intelligence chiefs briefed Trump and Obama on unconfirmed claims Russia has compromising information on president-elect,” by Greg Miller, Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger and Steven Mufson, January 10 at 10:04 PM

A classified report delivered to President Obama and President-elect Donald Trump last week included a section summarizing allegations that Russian intelligence services have compromising material and information on Trump’s personal life and finances, U.S. officials said.

To read more about the honey trap in Cronatos and its consequences, read the novel, which you can sample and order here:

 

 

A Spy May Be A Spy By Any Other Name, Or Gait—But You Won’t Recognize Them

In Cronatos Hybamper, Espionage, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, Movies, Political Satire on January 10, 2017 at 5:22 pm

real-argo-and-carter

Lisabeth Purnell was certainly clever enough to appreciate the grand irony of her opening at the White House as Ingrid Carlsbad, appearing in a one act play about the power of redemption, accompanied by ear-shattering thunder and dramatic sweeps of rain.

Who really knows the heart and soul of anyone among us? she asked herself.

Like many intelligence officers in the clandestine service, Purnell used more than one pseudonym. Ingrid Carlsbad just happened to be her favorite fake name. Bogus names threw off of her trail any curious civilians—including clandestine agents of hostile services—who might be inclined to follow up after events in the open like this briefing.

Lisabeth was also wearing light disguise. This was a subtle collection of invisible, almost magic alterations to her facial structure, her hair, and certain parts of her body. Lifts and slight orthopedic adjustments to her shoes changed her height, and the pace and cant of her walk. The CIA had used these techniques for decades to ensure that no one who happened to see an actual covert operations officer in such a public context would recognize the real person in a chance encounter elsewhere.

From Cronatos Hybamper –An Extraordinary Incident by Tom Diaz

Lisabeth Purnell (aka Ingrid Carlsbad) is just about the coolest character in my novel, Cronatos Hybamper. A CIA operations officer, she “had the perfect cover for her work in Moscow Station. And she had a score to settle. This was a dangerous combination for the Russians.” You can read her story and how she got her revenge in the novel.

There are several good sources on the use of disguise by agents in the field. Three that I thoroughly enjoyed listening to are these podcasts from the Spycast series posted by the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC. They feature Antonio (Tony) Mendez and his wife Jonna Mendez, both of whom worked in the CIA’s Technical Services Division. At separate times, each was Chief of Disguise for the agency.

Tony Mendez was the real agent who got out the American diplomats trapped in Tehran, the story featured in the movie Argo. The pair have written several books about their craft and episodes from real life.

Here are links to the three podcasts:

A discussion of the intricacies of developing disguises for use in hostile environments, the advantages of selective aging, and the secret history of facial recognition technology. https://www.spymuseum.org/multimedia/spycast/episode/from-the-vault-the-tony-and-jonna-mendez-edition-part-1/

Jonna Mendez discusses some of the operations she was involved in as well as opportunities for women in the intelligence community. https://www.spymuseum.org/multimedia/spycast/episode/from-the-vault-the-tony-and-jonna-mendez-edition-part-2/

The story of how Tony Mendez mounted an elaborate deception and disguise operation to exfiltrate six Americans from Tehran before the Iranians were able to track them down.https://www.spymuseum.org/multimedia/spycast/episode/from-the-vault-the-tony-and-jonna-mendez-edition-part-3/

One of the rescued diplomats wrote an article praising the film and Mendez, but explaining how the cinematic version differed from real life. See, Mark Lijek, “I Was Rescued From Iran: It wasn’t like the movie.” Slate.

Both of the Mendez couple have written books. Here are links to just two, and there are more. The Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA, and Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History.

To read a sample of Cronatos Hybamper and order the book, click on the link below.

 

 

The Latest Aircraft Carrier is a rowboat

In Chicken Hawks and Other War Birds, Corruption, Cronatos Hybamper, Defense Spending, Ethics in Washington, Expendable Youth, Political Satire, politics, True Patriotism, War and Rumors of War, Washington Bureaucracy on January 9, 2017 at 3:11 pm

carrier-landing

“Now, the job we and the military writ large face is going to require funding. And lots of it. Don’t be afraid to ask for it. And don’t be shy about the numbers. We’ll get our foot into the door and shove it open from there. Those expensive experts are going to help us, whether they know it or not. Think big! If it helps, General, think of Cronatos Hybamper as chump change, lint in your pocket. The latest nuclear aircraft carrier is a rowboat. Understood?”

“Yes, sir.”

The Secretary nodded and smiled. General Sanders was like a hound on a new bone. He would be the perfect fulcrum at—what was the man always calling it—“the serendipitous yet decisive axis of intersecting strategic forces?” Gus Scoggins settled back into the limousine’s cushioned seat. It’s just wonderful, he thought, how God, apple pie, the axis of intersecting strategic forces, and the American security interest have a way of magically coming together in a way that helps those who help themselves to it.

From Cronatos Hybamper –An Extraordinary Incident by Tom Diaz

Secretary of Defense Gus Scoggins, the focus of the quoted passage from my novel Cronatos Hybamper, knew jack about things military when he was offered the post of Secretary of Defense. But he did understand how to make money out of opportunity. He was, after all, one of the richest men in America.

The new Secretary of Defense was happy to leave the strategic thinking to the generals, men like General Sanders, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. What Scoggins saw clearly was that the Department of Defense is like a massive seed corn silo. And when the troubling, extraordinary incident spotted by Cronatos Hybamper came along, he was ready to take a giant shovel and start spreading the gullible taxpayers’ wealth among his friends in the technology-defense-industrial-mega-complex.

Scoggins knew that what goes around in defense funding circles would come back around to him and his many money interests sooner or later.

Read more about Scoggins and his wonderful tax milking machine in the novel. You can read a sample by clicking on the link below.

Generals in the Political Mine Field

In bad manners, Cronatos Hybamper, Ethics in Washington, Political Satire, politics, Turf Wars on January 7, 2017 at 5:56 pm

truman-macarthur

The general nodded absently, as if dismissing his driver. He was thoroughly enjoying himself. This was just getting better by the moment. It was precisely the kind of “serendipitous yet decisive axis of intersecting strategic forces” for which he had long prepared and on the foundation of which he had fashioned his ascent and tenure as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a tenure that was going quite well among his old conservative friends on the Hill. There had been some idle talk of his running for very high office, talk that he had, of course, squelched, and yet at the same time not squelched. No military man could engage in politics, or at least give the appearance of engaging in politics. Many star-studded forebears of his had stepped on career-fatal landmines walking that walk too early and too visibly.

“In two words,” he replied to such hints, exactly as he had also often explained his high national security concept to the Pentagon’s bewitched civilian overseers in Congress. “Be prepared. Simply, be prepared.”

From Cronatos Hybamper –An Extraordinary Incident by Tom Diaz

It’s not that generals don’t, or perhaps even shouldn’t, get involved in politics. But timing and the right touch are everything.

My fictional General Raymond (Ray) Sanders, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, whose thoughts are illuminated in the above quote from the novel, understands that. Too soon, too obvious, too disrespectful of civilian authority and a general’s political future gets blown up. A bit of patience, a bit of reluctance, and his political star rises.

General Douglas MacArthur tried to have his cake and eat it too in 1948. Rather than resign from the Army, where he was riding high as a hero, and campaign for the Presidency, he played an “if nominated, I will shall run” strategy. He got only crumbs. Thomas E. Dewey got the nomination.

A few years later, MacArthur again blew it while he was in command of the Korean War. He ignored an order from President Harry S. Truman to stop undermining Truman’s strategy by communicating his private wisdom to the Congress. When some of that wisdom was read on the floor of the House, Truman sacked MacArthur, later explaining:

I fired him because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the President. I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that’s not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail.

Lock them up?

MacArthur’s peer and professional rival General Dwight David Eisenhower played the game better–calmly, coolly, and with poise. “Ike” sailed into the White House.

Here in an excerpt from the thoughts of a prominent military scholar on the subject of generals in politics:

The 20th century also witnessed its share of generals vying for the political spotlight. General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, hero of the Southwest Pacific campaign in World War II and Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers in Japan, made no secret of his desire to secure the Republican nomination for president in 1948. He made no headway in the primaries, however, garnering only 11 delegates. The nomination went to Governor Thomas Dewey of New York.

Another war hero, General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, was still in uniform when he was drafted to run for president as a Republican in 1952, but he retired before accepting the nomination. Ike went on to become a popular two-term president.

Several other general and flag officers have run for president or vice-president since then, but they have all done so as retirees: General Curtis Lemay (vice presidential candidate with Governor George Wallace of Alabama) in 1968, General Alexander Haig (candidate for the Republican nomination) in 1988, Vice Admiral James Stockdale (vice presidential candidate with Ross Perot) in 1992, and General Wesley Clark (candidate for the Democratic nomination) in 2004.

With this long list of senior military leaders competing in the political arena, does the military actually have a tradition of being “apolitical?” If it does, it can be traced back to several prominent military figures, among them General George Washington, General of the Army General William T. Sherman, hero of the Civil War and originator of the “Shermanesque” statement categorically declining consideration for public office, and General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army during World War II. Marshall refused to even vote for fear of compromising his “professional independence and judgment.”

“Generals And Politics,”by Peter R. Mansoor, August 8, 2016

Read about the rest of General Sanders’ political career in Cronatos Hybamper, which you can sample and order here:

 

 

 

 

The Most Intelligent Men in the Washington Play Pen. Or Not.

In Cronatos Hybamper, Espionage, Ethics in Washington, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, Political Satire, politics, Turf Wars, War and Rumors of War, Washington Bureaucracy on January 6, 2017 at 11:51 am

clapper-hearingedited

“Our biggest challenge with implementing the Cronatos system,” Wes McRae, the Director of National Intelligence, quipped at a seemingly casual but well-planned off-the-record moment in a joint briefing that he and the Secretary of Defense gave on Capitol Hill, “Was separating out the workers’ farts from the chemical leaks at the Russian’s special warfare facilities.”

McRae was the iron-fisted paterfamilias of the intelligence community, a giant man with bushy eyebrows and an unflinching gaze. He was given to good wine, fine cigars, black cowboy boots, and the classics of literature and music. Although the DNI post had once been little more than royal eunuch and far less than godfather, Wes McRae had changed that. He had clawed his way to the top of the heap and had the requisite skills—the ability to ruthlessly kick or exquisitely kiss ass, as the strategic moment demanded—to enforce his will through fear, favor, and tactical brown-nosing. As long as half of the secret world loved him and half hated him, he was happy, because he then always had the deciding vote. Lesser aspirants came to learn the pleasures of life in such posts as outer Bolivia, deep Minnesota, and anywhere in Chad.

No one had ever proven that Wes McRae had leaked a single syllable about any elected or appointed member of the civilian government. Everyone, the President included, knew that he could. No one wanted to find out if he would.

The second was a portly, balding man in a dark gray pinstripe suit. He was Manfrey J. Ferbe, director of the CIA. Ferbe held an office that once commanded the heights of the intelligence world, and from those heights a great deal of America’s foreign policy. No one but the President of the United States told the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency what to do or when to do it.

That was true until Wes McRae was appointed to the theoretically higher post of Director of National Intelligence, charged with coordinating the work of all of the intelligence agencies. Generations of CIA directors had just ignored any nominal superior, including the DNI. But McRae succeeded where previous DNIs had failed. He wrestled the agency into limping submission to his superior authority as top dog of everything that even hinted at intelligence.

From Cronatos Hybamper –An Extraordinary Incident by Tom Diaz

If you write a novel that touches on the geopolitics of the United States, it’s fun to feature the preening cuckoos at the top of the U.S. Intelligence Community. The two excerpts above reflect the struggle between the Director of National Intelligence and the subordinate agencies.

Well, daggone it! No sooner did I write Cronatos Hybamper than a wee-wee match broke out in the real world spook play pen. Guess I was ahead of the curve.

[Retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn] … has called President Obama a “liar,” declared the U.S. justice system “corrupt” and insisted that he was pushed out of his assignment as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency because of his views on radical Islam. The claim has left former superiors seething, including Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., according to current and former officials who said Flynn was removed because of management problems.

Dana Priest and Greg Miller, “He was one of the most respected intel officers of his generation. Now he’s leading ‘Lock her up’ chants,” The Washington Post, August 15,2016.

You can read the rest of the future here.

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