Latest read – War of Numbers

War of Numbers: An Intelligence Memoir was published after the death of Sam Adams. He spent his career working in CIA intelligence during the Vietnam War. He leaves behind a memory of dedication to country and an unbending legacy speaking truth to power.
War of NumbersSam graduated from Harvard and began a CIA intelligence career in the Congo. Adams won high praise for accurately predicting changes to the Congolese government in 1966.

His initial Vietnam war research focused on the moral of Viet Cong troops in 1967. He wrote a larger Viet Cong order of battle. This began a long clash with CIA, MACV, the Joint Chiefs and the White House over the size of VC forces before the Tet Offensive.

His initial reports never made it out of the CIA. His experiences in chapter 4 “Bulletin 689” changed everything. Adams was able to discover errors in the MACV order of battle. Insights from CIA interrogations allowed Sam to separate deserters vs. defectors regarding guerrilla troops at the hamlet, village and district levels. His order of battle data revealed MACV underestimating VC guerrillas by 120,000 by 1967.
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Pentagon Papers Part IV-C7a

Air War in the North: 1965 – 1968 Its interesting to read Pentagon Papers Volume IV-C7 to learn how global politics was playing out against China for a majority of the war. To be frank it’s all stated at the beginning of the volume on the US air war in the north:

1 Jul 65
Under Secretary of State George Ball memo to the President.
Ball argues for “cutting our losses” in Vietnam and negotiating an end to the war. A massive US intervention would likely require complete achievement of our objectives or humiliation, both at terrible costs.

Pentagon PapersBall was the Director of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey in London during the war which measured the impact of bombing Nazi Germany.  Before Johnson, Ball served President Kennedy and was the only one in the President’s inner circle who opposed escalating the war in Vietnam.

He told President Kennedy “within five years we’ll have 300,000 men in the paddies and jungles and never find them again.” In response to this prediction, “JFK is reported to have laughed and replied, “Well, George, you’re supposed to be one of the smartest guys in town, but you’re crazier than hell. That will never happen.” Further in this Volume George Ball wrote a telling statement before Kennedy’s assassination:

Politically, South Viet-Nam is a lost cause. The country is bled white from twenty years of war and the people are sick of it. The Viet Cong — as is shown by the Rand Corporation Motivation and Morale Study — are deeply committed. Hanoi has a Government and a purpose and a discipline. The “government” in Saigon is a travesty. In a very real sense, South Viet-Nam is a country with an army and no government. In my view, a deep commitment of United States forces in a land ‘war in South Viet-Nam would be a catastrophic error. If ever there was an occasion for a tactical withdrawal, this is it.

If only President Kennedy had listened to his advice. Maybe he did but did not live long enough to see it through.
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Pentagon Papers Part IV-C6c

Pentagon PapersVolume IV-C6c reveals a number of interesting items. The CIA’s contributions to prepping Westmoreland and a memorandum immediately following Tet had the following expanded topics of recommendation:

4. Drive on the Viet Cong Infrastructure
In our concern over the behavior of our allies, we must not neglect our enemies and the present opportunity to compound and exacerbate communist problems. Operation Phoenix which is targeted against the Viet Cong must be pursued more vigorously in closer liaison with the US. Vietnamese armed forces should be devoted to anti-infrastructure activities on a priority basis. The Tet offensive surfaced a good deal of the infrastructure and the opportunity to damage it has never been better. This would force the VC on the defensive and head off the establishment of local VC administrative organizations and VC attempts to set up provisional governmental committees.

7. The Prime Minister
We should solicit Ambassador Bunker’s views on the desirability of replacing the Prime Minister. If he is to be replaced we should agree on his successor beforehand, in consultation with Thieu and Ky.

The dreaded Phoenix Program.  For the first time Phoenix was mentioned in the Pentagon Papers.  CIA was always commenting on how effective this counter-terror program was in weakening the Viet Cong during an ‘unconventional war’ in the South following Tet.

For the first time in the Pentagon Papers this volume displays the full text of American journalists articles critical of the US command.  The first was written (Part IV-C6c – Page 65) by Neil Sheehan and Hedrick Smith:
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Pentagon Papers Part IV-C6c

I feel that the opening pages of Volume III: 1965–1967 US Ground Strategy and Force Deployments is a telling example of why we lost Vietnam.  One cannot help notice that we were way off the mark regarding the enemy in this volume.

Pentagon PapersWe relied upon technology to fight when behind the scenes we knew the political structure of the South Vietnamese government would never succeed, their desertion rate was rising and constant turnover of leaders weakened their moral. Yet we continued to support the South because of the risk (at the time) attributed to the domino effect regarding communism in Asia and the Cold War relationship with the Soviet Union:

The friendly picture gives rise to optimism for increased successes in 1968. In 1967, our logistics base and force structure permitted us to assume a fully offensive posture…A greatly improved intelligence system frequently enabled us to concentrate our superior military assets in preempting enemy military initiatives leading us to decisive accomplishments in conventional engagements. Materiel and tactical innovations have been further developed and employed: Long range reconnaissance patrols, aerial reconnaissance sensors, new observation aircraft, air-mobile operations and the Mobile Riverine Force (MRF), to name a few.

The MRF has been significantly successful in depriving the enemy of freedom and initiative in the population and resources rich Delta areas. The helicopter has established itself as perhaps the single most important tool in our arsenal — and we will welcome more.

While the helicopter may have won the day in the Ia Drang Valley at LZ X-Ray bad command decisions to not to use helicopters led to an ambush for those remaining troops walking from LZ X-Ray to LZ Albany, about 4 kilometers to the north-northeast. I’m no longer convinced about the accuracy of the report are concerning Tet:

The enemy’s TET offensive, which began with the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Saigon on 31 January 1968, although it had been predicted, took the U.S. command and the U.S. public by surprise, and its strength, length, and intensity prolonged this shock.

Predicted? The Pentagon Paper’s acknowledge the Tet offensive had been predicted.

Really?

Its safe to assume IV-C6c will reveal more problems with Clark Clifford as the newly installed Secretary of Defense.

Latest read: The Cell

I finished reading The Cell: Inside The 9/11 Plot, and Why the FBI and CIA Failed to Stop It and was a bit disappointed. Not due to the writing, but rather I also read Triple Cross: How bin Laden’s Master Spy Penetrated the CIA, the Green Berets, and the FBI–and Why Patrick Fitzgerald Failed to Stop Him just a couple of months ago and felt it was much more in depth.

the cell

Triple Cross critiques issues addressed as errors in the reporting by the authors John Miller and Michael Stone.  Miller is a noted former investigative journalist with ABC News.
There was much attention drawn to The Cell for two reasons: The ABC movie The Path to 9/11 which was America’s first network movie behind the attack on 9/11 was based upon the book.  Second, it was Miller’s famous 1998 interview with Osama bin Laden.

At that interview Miller learned bin Laden was well on his way to leading al-Qaeda‘s war on America.  The only problem was it was too early for most law enforcement agencies to act upon.

The interview was interesting enough to see how Al was protecting bin Laden and Miller’s recollection of how 15 years old boys were shooting AK-47s next to his ears (as a way to intimidate him) repeatedly as bin Laden arrived for his interview.

Miller shared how he even initially met with bin Laden’s right hand man Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri.  It was quite an interview for Miller and helped establish him as a strong source on terrorism for ABC even before the 9/11 attack.

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Latest read: One Day in September

After watching Steven Spielberg‘s Munich I wanted to learn more about the tragic events of the ’72 German Olympic Games.  Simon Reeve’s book One Day in September: The Full Story of the 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre and the Israeli Revenge Operation “Wrath of God” is a sad and detailed overview of the events surrounding the massacre of 11 Israeli Olympic coaches and athletes.

 One Day in September: The Full Story of the 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre and the Israeli Revenge Operation “Wrath of God”The book includes a new epilogue by Reeve that mixes the ’72 Games with America’s 9/11 regarding the confrontation with terrorists.  Speilberg focused his film upon a controversial book Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team. A web search and reading a few blogs regarding the event pointed to Reeve’s work as a well written overview of that tragic summer.

Reeve includes a chapter of a tragic and sad event left out of Speilberg’s movie, The Lillehammer Affair when Israel’s Mossad agents killed an innocent man who they mistook for a Black September leader.  To this day Mossad has never apologized for the killing even though they reached a settlement with the family after more than 20 years.

Reeve’s focus surrounds Black September, Andre Spitzer and his wife Ankie who had just given birth to their daughter Anouk before the games.  Reeve brings Ankie’s life before, during and after into the book.  He writes about the impact of family members whose children, husbands and fathers were killed at Fürstenfeldbruck when German authorities attempted a poorly planned rescue of the athletes.

Reeve also reveals the battle between German police and the terrorists at the airport lasted over two hours while the movie suggests the confrontation lasted only minutes.  Learning the gunfire during the rescue lasted that long only made their deaths all the more tragic and horrifying.

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My latest read – American Spy

As most of the President’s men who served Nixon have released their own accounts of their roles in Wategate, Howard Hunt’s book American Spy: My Secret History in the CIA, Watergate and Beyond is no different.  Hunt spent his career in the CIA from the end of WWII to Watergate. I must admit Hunt lived quite a life.  He was also a respected writer having published over 45 books.

He will always be known for his role in the Bay of Pigs and his reported involvement in the assassination of President Kennedy however his book’s focus is Watergate.

I cannot honestly believe how stupid the Republicans were in dealing with Hunt’s team from Miami.  G. Gordon Liddy was the mastermind of Operation Gemstone and directed the overall planning with the White House while Hunt ran the team.   Its amusing to see the amount of detail Hunt provided regarding the planning to break into DNC offices in the Watergate building.

Many believe the break-in was a one time event.  In the last twenty years it has become accepted that Liddy directed four break-ins at the Watergate.

Why?  A member of Hunt’s Miami team, Virgilio Gonzàlez the lock picker actually forgot to bring the correct tools to break into the DNC office.  Hunt’s team had to cancel the operation while Gonzàlez actually fly back to Miami over a weekend to located a correct set of tools to successfully pick the lock.

This just proves how stupid Hunt and Liddy were regarding this group of clowns….the guy who is in charge of picking the lock to get you inside the DNC forgets to bring his lock picking tools?

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Latest read: Triple Cross

My understanding of the events leading up to 9/11 have been shaped by great authors and believe Triple Cross: How bin Laden’s Master Spy Penetrated the CIA, the Green Berets, and the FBI–and Why Patrick Fitzgerald Failed to Stop Him by Peter Lance makes significant contributions to understanding the full breakdown of the US intelligence community.  Many elements of his research and interviews will should shock Americans.

Triple Cross: How bin Laden’s Master Spy Penetrated the CIA, the Green Berets, and the FBI–and Why Patrick Fitzgerald Failed to Stop HimLance reveals Al Qaeda had a mole in the NYFD who was able to steal blue prints of the World Trade Center before the 1993 bombing and that US authorities had been tracking Al Qaeda for more than 10 years.

The book’s primary focus is the role of Al Qaeda master spy Ali Mohamed and his work as a mole within US Army intelligence, the CIA and the FBI.  Lance brings a number of key points that were overlooked or more appropriately ignored by the 9/11 Commission.

Patrick Fitzgerald, National Security Coordinator for the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York met multiple times with Ali Mohamed years before 9/11.  During this timeframe Ali Mohamed declared his loyalty to Osama bin Ladin and told Fitzgerald that he did not need a fatwà to attack America.  And yet Fitzgerald did nothing.

Ali Mohamed was identified by the US State Department as Osama bin Ladin‘s first security trainer and helped smuggle Al Qaeda’s co-leader Ayman al-Sawahiri into mosques located in California and North Carolina for recruiting and fund raising.  Lance reveals that even Bin Ladin recruited at mosques in Chicago in the late 1980s.
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Latest read: The Assault on Reason

Must admit the timing at first seemed strange. I was reading Al Gore’s book The Assault on Reason when Michael Jackson died. Gore has written a book about what has gone wrong in our country. Yet I was able to watch it simply unfold right in front of me. The non-stop media coverage of Jackson’s death will not be forgotten.
Ultimately Gore’s book addresses the change in American values and repeated failures of the Bush Administration yet outlines an opportunity for our country to correct the ship.  The impact of the environment to no surprise is also a strong part of his book.  Gore sets the “mood” right from page one – where he addresses loss of conversation regarding our government’s role to launch the war in Iraq:

Not long before our nation launched the invasion of Iraq, our longest-serving senator, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, stood on the Senate floor and said: “This Chamber is, for the most part, silent – ominously, dreadfully silent.  There is no debate, no discussion, no attempt to lay out for the nation the pros and cons of this particular war.  There is nothing.  We stand passively mute in the United States Senate.

Gore is right on the mark when he wrote “Why do reason, logic and truth seem to play a sharply diminished role in the way America now makes important decisions?”  In some ways this book is a case study in the loss of reason, the foundation of our political democracy.  He has modeled this from Thomas Paine‘s The Age of Reason written in 1793. Ultimately Gore wants to bring back core values of our democracy to our fellow countrymen.

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