September 30th, 2009

General Krulak, son of Brute,
blasts Cheney re Torture.
Very interesting! But …

On September 11 (weeks ago), two high-ranking generals came out of retirement to hit Cheney on the head about torture. Interesting but odd.

Their Op Ed was published in The Miami Herald: “Fear was No Excuse to Condone Torture.”

Well and good. But also a bit odd. Is there nothing current behind it? Torture, per se, is no longer an issue. Cheney seems history.

And note that one of the generals — former Marine Commandant Charles Krulak — bears a name that rings in the annals of American postwar history.

In the 1960s (and maybe 50s, under CIA auspices), Marine General Victor “Brute” Krulak was involved in the energetic effort to win in Vietnam. Air Force Colonel Fletcher Prouty worked closely with him, and has written a lot about him.

Relevant bits in a nutshell: Prouty says that Brute, atop the Marine staff in the Pentagon in the early 60s, became a close ally and advisor to JFK in the effort to turn the Vietnam policy around.

The McNamara-Taylor of October 2, 1963 — supposedly the findings of the Secretary of Defense and JFK’s special advisor General Maxwell Taylor on their grand tour of Vietnam — was principally authored by Krulak, Prouty & co, working closely with the White House — and then placed in McNamara & Taylor’s hands, for the sake of the cameras, as they returned from their mission.

That is: The policy change this much publicized report effected was sold using Taylor’s and McNamara’s names, but was actually the thinking and initiative of JFK’s narrow circle, which at this moment included, on the brassy side, Brute and his assistant Fletch. (Thus spake Prouty.)

1. Is Marine Gen. Charles C. Krulak the son of Marine Gen. Victor Krulak? Shouldn’t be hard to find out, I guess.

Uh yes — that’s a roger. Charles is the son of Victor.

2. Why is Charles coming out of retirement to hit the retired Cheney on the head now?

3. Are you playing the Preakness pool?


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  1. ed says:

    It seems Charles and his co-author, Joseph Hoar — who commanded the Pentagon’s Central Command, which oversees the mideast, in the early 90s — are part of a larger general movement in reaction to Cheney’s retired media blitz.

    Human Rights First seems to be their organ of choice. Impressive.

    Hats off to these officers.

    And, who knows, given the breadth of their organization and campaign, maybe it was silly to think anything in particular re the recent Op Ed piece by Mssrs Krulak and Hoar.


    Hey Jigs, gotcher picks in for the Preakness?

    September 30th, 2009 at 2:36 am

  2. ed says:

    A friend sent an email saying he don’t know what in Sam Hill I’m talking about.

    1. Perhaps many have neither read Seven Days in May nor seen the film.

    I read it as a kid. Along with Fail Safe and The President’s Plane is Missing. Real great stuff. And great real stuff.

    Perhaps fewer know that the film was produced at the steady behest of the JFK White House, which was indeed worried about the Pentagon’s behavior, and hoped the movie would alert and arouse the public and repress the grumbling generals. (See next comment below for cites.)

    2. The relation of General Charles Krulak (co-author of the recent editorial blasting Cheney) to General Victor Krulak (close brassy aide to the JFK White House during its Vietnam policy struggle) is sketched in the main post above.

    3. SO THEN.

    Why is a large handful of respected retired generals, including Charles Krulak, with his family history, organizing now — post Bush-Cheney — to battle the Cheney media blitz underway since Obama took office?

    Cheney is history!

    Or …?

    The tiny worry: Do these patriotic generals sniff something unpatriotic fermenting within the wide circles of their brassy acquaintance?

    The time would seem ripening — as Obama, on the Sunday talk shows ten days ago, for the first time publicly expressed doubts about the Pentagon’s Surge in Pakghanistan — having supported the Surge sedulously since spring 2008.




    In the novel, it was Air Force General James Mattoon Scott who would be king. Burt Lancaster played him in the film.

    (That’s General Scott, third from the lower right corner, in the War Room. )

    The coup was organized by right-wing brass, with a few dangling civilians, using a betting pool on the annual Preakness thoroughbred stomp. By placing a bet, you said yes to your invitation to join the coup, which would require issuing certain orders to the regiments, vessels and squadrons under your command when the time came.

    Kirk Douglas was General Scott’s loyal aide, Colonel Jigs Casey.

    But, like Colonel Fletcher Prouty in real life — with regard to his erstwhile superior Air Force General (and career CIAist) Edwin Lansdale — Jigs Casey at some point sniffs a rat. Setting the drama in motion.

    (That’s Lansdale, directly above Nixon, between Allen Dulles and General Buck Turgidson, in the War Room.)

    (And here he is in the Pentagon, early in the JFK years, with Dulles and a coupla other interesting characters.)

    Colonel Prouty, in real time, sniffed the rat about twelve hours after JFK was killed, and resigned his high position in the Pentagon a few months later.

    Thereafter he pursued a writing career across decades, trying to interest the American public in what he believed certain: A cabal of National Security Apparatchiks, including Lansdale, had organized the assassination.

    And that today’s Gen Charles Krulak — going out of his way at this seeming late date to bash Cheney — is the son of Camelot’s Victor, who (by Prouty) was the principal author of the famous report advising a change of direction in Vietnam …

    Well, it’s just piquant, that’s all, as Obama sets about changing direction in Pakghanistan.

    Check out the patriotic generals’ organ of choice: Human Rights First. Rather amazing.

    Hats off.



    September 30th, 2009 at 12:21 pm

  3. ed says:

    Re JFK and Seven Days in May:

    The bestselling thriller, by reporters Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey, was a hit in Spring 1962: a year after the Bay of Pigs fiasco and six months before the Cuban Missile Crisis.

    1. JFK speechwriter and right-hand wonk Ted Sorensen notes in his Kennedy, 1965:

    Enjoying a popular novel, Seven Days in May, about a fictional attempt by a few military brass to take over the country, the President joked, “I know a couple who might wish they could.”



    2. Presidential historian Richard Reeves, in President Kennedy, 1993, reports that on May 6, 1962, JFK’s old chum, Red Fay, asked him about the book:

    “Could it happen here?”

    “It’s possible,” Kennedy said. “But the conditions would have to be just right. If the country had a young president, and he had a Bay of Pigs, there would be a certain uneasiness. Maybe the military would do a little criticising behind his back. Then if there was another Bay of Pigs, the reaction of the country would be, ‘Is he too young and inexperienced?’ The military would almost feel that it was their patriotic obligation to stand ready to preserve the integrity of the nation and only God knows just what segment of Democracy they would be defending …

    “Then, if there were a third Bay of Pigs it could happen,” said the President.

    His friend looked shocked and Kennedy added: “It won’t happen on my watch.”

    How well may Kennedy’s analysis apply to young President Obama, as he begins to back out of Pakghanistan?

    (Reeves cites the draft ms of Fay’s memoir, “The Pleasure of His Company.”)




    3. Journalist David Talbot reports in Brothers, 2007:

    Knebel, a White House correspondent for Look magazine, said he got the idea for Seven Days in May after interviewing the country’s always disturbing Air Force chief, Curtis LeMay [fifth from lower right in the the War Room], who at one point shocked the journalist by going off the record to fume against President Kennedy’s “cowardice” at the Bay of Pigs.

    Knebel and his co-author were not just expressing their own anxieties — and those of the public — about the stability of the Kennedy presidency. They were channelling the fears of the Kennedy brothers themselves. Both men … raised the subject of a coup or assassination with eerie frequency during their brief hold on power. …

    Knebel made sure Kennedy got an early copy of Seven Days in May … JFK quickly devoured the book, as did his brother and others in their circle. Then Kennedy contacted Hollywood director John Frankenheimer, maker of the soon-to-be-released film The Manchurian Candidate — another Cold War thriller Kennedy admired — and encouraged him to turn SDIM into a movie.

    So began a remarkable, little-known footnote of the Kennedy years, when the president appealed to his Hollywood friends to help him awake the nation to the threat of far-right treason. …

    “Kennedy wanted SDIM to be made as a warning to the generals,” Arthur Schlesinger said years later … “The president said the first thing I’m going to tell my successor is, ‘Don’t trust the military men — not even on military matters.’

    “President Kennedy wanted SDIM made. Pierre Salinger conveyed this to us,” Frankenheimer recalled. “The Pentagon didn’t want it done. Kennedy said that when we wanted to shoot at the White House, he would conveniently go to Hyannis Port that weekend.” …

    Frankenheimer and an A-list of Hollywood liberals responded to the president’s call. Kirk Douglas’s production company acquired the rights to the novel even before it was published and he agreed to co-star in the film with Burt Lancaster … and Frederic March as peace-loving president Jordan Lyman.

    The Defense Department “shunned” the SDIM project, Knevel later reported, after Frankenheimer refused to submit the script (by future Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling) for “consideration” …

    But with Kennedy’s support, Frankenheimer filmed scenes at the White House and staged riots outside on Pennsylvania Avenue — mock battles … that echoed the real-life clashes swirling around the Kennedy administration.

    Months later, Look magazine ran a photo essay by Knebel on the making of SDIM … “At the outset of filming, the moviemakers had a call from still another arm of government. The Secret Service was alarmed at a spurious report that the movie involved a presidential assassination.”

    Three days after the magazine’s publication date, Kennedy was dead. A strange and melancholy air would hang over the film when it was finally released in February 1964, despite the fact that in the story, at least, the good guys won.

    The day Kennedy was assassinated, Paramount Pictures, the distributor of SDIM, planned to run an ad for the film, using a quote from one of its fictional military conspirators. “Impeach him, hell. There are better ways of getting rid of him.”

    The studio yanked the ad at the last minute, … “narrowly avoiding an embarassing coincidence on the very day the president was shot,” Variety later reported.




    Talbot reports that Ted Sorenson, elaborating on the Cuban Missile Crisis, recalled General LeMay challenging the president’s decision to not directly attack Cuba and instead try a naval blockade:

    “In that meeting, what LeMay said is almost out of Seven Days in May,” exclaimed Sorenson in a recent interview. “Telling Kennedy this is like Munich, this is too soft, and the American people will think so too! That’s what outraged me — a general telling the president of the United States what the people think.” …

    The military chiefs’ scorn and frustration with the president came pouring out in a torrent of “insubordination” as Sorenson later described it. “What they said after he left the room about their commander-in-chief was outrageous.” …

    As [JKF] came out of the Cabinet Room that morning, he bumped into Sorensen… “He burst out of the meeting, hot under the collar, and he said, ‘You and Bobby have to get a consensus on this [blockade] thing.’ And he pointed at the meeting and he said, ‘They all want war.’ He just felt that with the kind of pressure rising in that quarter, he knew time was going to run out.” …

    At a conference held in Havana in 2002 to mark the fortieth anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, former Kennedy officials were stunned to hear from their Russian counterparts how cocked and ready Soviet nuclear forces were during the showdown.

    “The Joint Chiefs were pushing to take out the missiles with a surprise attack,” recalled Schlesinger … “But as we discovered at the conference, the Soviet military had 40,000 troops in Cuba, not the ten or twelve thousand we expected. And the Soviet commanders in Cuba were equipped not only with strategic missiles but with tactical nuclear missiles, and they had delegated authority to use them to repel an American invasion. I was sitting next to Bob McNamara in Havana when the Russian general who had been head of the Red Army contingent in Cuba in 1962 suddenly revealed this. McNamara nearly fell out of his seat.” …

    “The Havana conference,” observed Sorenseon, “brought to my mind and … all of us who participated — as never before, how close the world came to stumbling into a nuclear exchange that would have escalated very quickly on both sides to a nuclear holocaust …”

    The Joint Chiefs, Sorensen continued, “were certain that no nuclear warheads were in Cuba at the time. They were wrong.” If Kennedy had bowed to their pressure, Sorensen concluded, the world would have been reduced to smoking rubble.

    Kennedy, then LeMay, during the missile crisis


    So it goes and went.

    Fast forward nine months. Kennedy, more powerful than ever in the struggle with the Pentagon for having successfully survived the Cuban Missile Crisis, sends McNamara and his special military advisor, retired General Maxwell Taylor, on a grand tour of Vietnam — while back in Washington Brute Krulak, Prouty and co. complete the famous report.

    When done, they fly the report to Hawaii — and there put it into McNamara’s hands as he and Taylor return from the far east.

    Thus spaketh Prouty.

    Days later, Kennedy invites photographers into the White House to witness Taylor and McNamara hand him the Report of the McNamara-Taylor Mission to South Vietnam — which three days later gave birth to National Security Action Memorandum 263, signed by the President on October 5, 1963, which ordered 1,000 advisors home by Christmas and anticipated complete withdrawal, of the remaining 15,000, by January 1965.


    Official delivery of the McNamara-Taylor Report

    September 30th, 2009 at 7:00 pm

  4. ed says:

    Son of a gun.

    Noted here last week that the Marine general who built and ran Gitmo told the press he thought it was a bad idea.

    Harpers Magazine also noticed and put out a quick piece, entitled (as if reading my mail), The Generals vs The Cheneys

    And now we have a published memo — seemingly GOP media talking points — arguing that a military coup to depose the president is “not unrealistic” and might be best for the country.

    And so, a new thread, to bring together the three strands of this story about Obama breaking away from the Pentagon he had plighted troth with in the spring of 2008.

    October 1st, 2009 at 7:32 pm

  5. ed says:

    Wow — a biography of Brute has come out.

    Hot dog.

    November 9th, 2010 at 10:44 pm

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