VSF: The interview below is a sober sane look at the American Empire from Lawrence B. “Larry” Wilkerson (born 15 June 1945) is a retired United States Army Colonel and former chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell. Wilkerson has criticized many aspects of the Iraq War, including his own preparation of Powell’s presentation to the UN.
Education and military service
Wilkerson was born in Gaffney, South Carolina. After three years of studying philosophy and English literature at Bucknell University, Wilkerson dropped out in 1966 and volunteered to serve in the Vietnam War. He told the Washington Post: “I felt an obligation because my dad had fought, and I thought that was kind of your duty.”
Wilkerson arrived as an Army officer piloting an OH-6A Cayuse observation helicopter and logged about 1100 combat hours over a year. He flew low and slow through Vietnam, and was involved in one incident in which he says he prevented a war crime by purposely placing his helicopter between a position that was full of civilians, and another helicopter that wanted to launch an attack on the position. He also had many vocal disagreements with his superiors and his own gunner crew over free-fire zones, including an incident in which one of his crew shot a wagon that wound up having a little girl inside it.
He went on to Airborne School and Ranger School before receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature and graduate degrees in international relations and national security. He attended the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, and later returned there to teach. He later served as deputy director of the Marine Corps War College at Quantico.
Wilkerson spent some years in the United States Navy’s Pacific Command in South Korea, Japan and Hawaii, where he was well regarded by his superiors. These recommendations led in early 1989 to a successful interview to become the assistant to Colin Powell, who was then finishing his stint as National Security Advisor in the Reagan administration and moving to a position in the United States Army Forces Command at Fort McPherson. He continued this supporting role as Powell became Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff through the Gulf War, following Powell into civilian life and then back into public service when President George W. Bush appointed Powell Secretary of State.
Wilkerson was responsible for a review of information from the Central Intelligence Agency that was used to prepare Powell for his February 2003 presentation to the United Nations Security Council. His failure to realize that the evidence was faulty has been attributed to the limited time (only one week) that he had to review the data. The subsequent developments led Wilkerson to become disillusioned: “Combine the detainee abuse issue with the ineptitude of post-invasion planning for Iraq, wrap both in this blanket of secretive decision-making…and you get the overall reason for my speaking out.”
Published on Dec 11, 2015
Abby Martin interviews retired U.S. Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former national security advisor to the Reagan administration, who spent years as an assistant to Secretary of State Colin Powell during both Bush administrations. Today, he is honest about the unfixable corruption inside the establishment and the corporate interests driving foreign policy.
The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives
Nick Turse explores how the industrial complex of the United States military has pervaded the everyday lives of Americans. Turse investigates the relationship between the Pentagon and the Hollywood entertainment industry, military actions in the civilian sphere, and joint projects between the U.S. military and companies including NASCAR and Marvel Comics.
Turse describes how military tacticians and flyers were outfitted with Apple PowerBooks. He illustrates how the military has attempted innovative methods to reach out to and recruit contemporary youth, including making “friends” on MySpace. Turse notes that the research and development budget of the military, and its spending in the private sector, has increased dramatically over the last few years. The book posits that many changes have occurred since President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex, and relates the changes to the present day.
From iPods to Starbucks to Oakley sunglasses, historian Nick Turse explores the Pentagon’s little-noticed contacts (and contracts) with the products and companies that now form the fabric of America. He investigates the remarkable range of military incursions into the civilian world: the Pentagon’s collaborations with Hollywood filmmakers; its outlandish schemes to weaponize the wild kingdom; its joint ventures with Marvel Comics and NASCAR. Similarly disturbing is the way in which the military, desperate for fresh recruits, has tapped into the “culture of cool” by making “friends” on MySpace.
A striking vision of this brave new world of remote-controlled rats and super-soldiers who need no sleep, The Complex will change our understanding of the militarization of America. We are a long way from Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex: this is the essential book for understanding its twenty-first-century progeny.