• Enough Gossip. Where are the Trump Whistleblowers?

    September 17, 2018

    Tags: , , , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Trump

    As a federal whistleblower who lost his career to tell the truth about the Iraq war publicly, I am burdened by how the interviewees in Bob Woodward’s new book, Fear, and Anonymous, that New York Times “resistance” Op-Ed author, have been hailed in heroic terms.

    Many see them as patriots “resisting Trump” from the inside, holding back his worst impulses through fibs and bureaucratic tricks, being the clandestine adults in the room. Having faced similar choices, I know their approach is neither honorable, nor effective. In the past the more common word applied to such officials would have been insubordinate.

     

    No one should join government to do only things they think are personally right; one serves the United States, and takes an oath to a Constitution which spells out a system of government and a chain of command running from the president. There is no addendum saying “but if you really disagree with the president it’s OK to do what you want.” In many military offices, the chain, from president to the lowest officer present, is literally displayed on the wall via pyramided portraits of those specific men and women; the blank space at the end is “you.”

    This is not to support robotic bureaucrats. But ideas, no matter how vigorously debated or opposed, at some point change from being Trump’s or Obama’s policies to those of the United States. Implementing them on a global scale, whether on a battlefield or across a negotiating table, is a team sport. Any other way is to bring on the chaos Anonymous claims to be pushing back against.

     

    I served 24 years in such a system, joining the State Department under Ronald Reagan and leaving during the Obama era. That splay of political ideologies had plenty of things in it to disagree with or even believe dangerous. Same for people in the military and the intelligence agencies, who, for example, were sent to train Afghan mujaheddin under one president and then kill them under another, more significant than wonky disagreement over a trade deal. An amoral president, in Anonymous’ words? How about one who set Americans to torturing prisoners to death?

    In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, some inside government were privy to information about the non-presence of weapons of mass destruction, and understood the president was exaggerating the case for war if not lying about it. Three senior officials resigned from the State Department and left a clear marker in the history books the policy was wrong. Another State Department official, a former Marine, resigned in protest over the war in Afghanistan. He stated in the New York Times (a signed letter, not an anonymous Op-Ed) “[I] tried and failed to reconcile my conscience with my ability to represent the current administration. I have confidence that our democratic process is ultimately self-correcting, and hope that in a small way I can contribute from outside.” More than a decade earlier, four State Department officials quit over the Bosnian conflict, also via public letters of resignation.

    Others who believed a president’s decisions were harmful to the United States blew the whistle, making public information at the cost of their jobs and/or freedom to build an evidence-based case. Chelsea Manning spent years in prison to expose war crimes, Ed Snowden ended up with a lifetime in exile to inform the public of NSA policies threatening Constitutional freedoms. For me, I chose to write a whistleblowing book exposing the failed reconstruction efforts in Iraq I once helped lead, and lost my career in return.

    The consistent threads are important: disagreements over policy, many involving millions of lives, are not new or unique to the Trump administration. Nor are questions of competence: Reagan was thought to be senile, Bush a dolt. Challenges to conscience were answered by good people who believed enough in the United States that they placed their lives, fortunes, and honor as collateral toward being listened to. Challenges to conscience were not thwarted by working from deep inside government to surreptitiously ruin policy.

     

    Until now, at least according to Anonymous’ Op-Ed and Woodward’s book, Fear. Anonymous claims they disrupted things without giving any details; we’re to assume whatever they are doing, accountable to no one, must be better than anyhing Trump wants. Woodward claims Jim Mattis put a Resistance-like stop to Trump’s demand to assassinate Syrian President Bashar Assad, though Mattis denies it. Of course the order to kill, if it occurred at all, would have been illegal and thus require anyone in government to refuse it. No resistance there, simply someone following the law.

    About the only actual act of “resistance” to examine comes from Woodward’s book. Gary Cohn, Trump’s former economic adviser, supposedly walked into the Oval Office and snatched a letter off Trump’s desk saying the United States was pulling out of a trade agreement with South Korea. Cohn thus stopped Trump from signing the document after he never noticed it missing.

    The story is almost certainly untrue; “decision paper” for signature going in and out of the Oval Office is tracked assiduously by White House staffers. Stuff doesn’t just go missing, and if it does, someone looks for it; I know, I held just such a job working for the American Ambassador in London. It’s like tearing up a credit card bill thinking the debt will go away. And that’s before getting into how few people the Secret Service lets drop by the Oval Office and grab stuff off the Resolute desk.

    But even accepting Cohn pulled off his heist, is protecting a trade agreement the act of resistance America demands? Reading the actual letter, Trump’s intent was to make a threat of withdrawal, taking advantage of an 180 day delay in implementation to force new negotiations. Trump campaigned on just such promises. There was no madman with his finger on a button. Cohn didn’t agree with his boss (or the results of an election.) That’s not patriotic, it’s a disgruntled employee.

     

    As to the claims Trump is uniquely too stupid to be president, John Kelly, like Mattis, denies he said anything of that to Woodward (in kindergarten did to, did not style, Woodward called Mattis a liar for calling Woodward a liar.) As with Michael Wolff’s nearly-forgotten book which spurred the last round of calls for the 25th Amendment to oust Trump eight months ago, there is no evidence of actionable insanity or stupidity. It’s all circular reinforcement, unnamed voices repeating things heard before, backed by psychiatrists who never met the president claiming he is insane, and enhanced by shock jock pundits reading tweets like a fortune teller reads goat entrails. Almost two years now of the world and democracy not ending have diluted claims this president is a unique danger.

    Until now the people working for presidents as different as Reagan was from Obama understood, as I did, the only way for America to function credibly was for us on the inside to work on her behalf until we couldn’t, and that meant following the system created by the Constitution, remembering we weren’t the ones elected, that we ultimately worked for those who did the electing, that there is no “But Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush/Obama/Trump is different…” clause in the Constitution. We understood acting as a wrench inside the gears of government to disaffect policy (the Washington Post warned with some apparent glee “sleeper cells have awoken”) is what foreign intelligence officers recruit American officials to do. Instead, we argued inside our offices, we dissented via internal channels, and for some, we resigned or blew the whistle to credibly and effectively force the issue into the public eye.

     

    So let one of the people inside government who believes America is at mortal risk do something more than gossip to their favorite journalist to keep detrimental memes alive for another painful news cycle– resign, testify, and bring out the documents as proof to separate yourself from the partisan operatives. That person of conscience need not be a Cabinet secretary; Chelsea Manning was a private. Snowden a contractor, not even an NSA employee. “We never should have heard of them,” said a 1993 story in the Washington Post about those State Department Bosnia dissenters. “They were mid-level bureaucrats, dots in the State Department matrix. But they’ve gone and done something extraordinary in Washington: They quit their jobs on moral grounds.”

    Until any of that happens, we shouldn’t waste another moment on anonymous resisters and unnamed/uncredible sources, whether they write in the Times or show up in books by Woodward or Wolff. America, if she truly is at grave risk, is more important than a job in the West Wing. Stand up if the threat is real, shut up if it’s not.

     

     

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    Copyright © 2018. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

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  • Recent Comments

    • Rich Bauer said...

      1

      What, and give up that cushy federal job? Repeat after me: Career BEFORE country.

      09/17/18 4:52 AM | Comment Link

    • There have been many #trump regime #whistleblowers It troubles me t… | Dr. Roy Schestowitz (罗伊) said...

      2

      […] There have been many #trump regime #whistleblowers It troubles me that this Trump apologist and former whistleblower cannot name them https://wemeantwell.com/blog/2018/09/17/enough-gossip-where-are-the-trump-whistleblowers/ […]

      09/17/18 5:03 AM | Comment Link

    • Joseph Carson said...

      3

      You wrote a book, several years after you could have made whistleblower disclosures to US Office of Special Counsel, State IG, Congress and/or media while you were deployed in Iraq.

      Why did you wait and why did you make your disclosures via such an informal channel? Did you give your royalties away?

      At one level, I see and agree with your point. At another, given how corrupt and dysfunctional federal agencies are, in essential part because the “merit principles” are anything but “embodied” (as the law requires the President to ‘take any action necessary” to ensure), I don’t.

      Perhaps if you made more clear what a “protected disclosure” is and what the merit principles are.

      09/17/18 7:03 AM | Comment Link

    • wemeantwell said...

      4

      Before even thinking of writing my book about Iraq, I tried to get someone to care about what I had seen. I was refused meetings with the Ambassador. I did speak with his deputy, I shared my information with my boss, the Army IG, a group of Senate aides, and many others. Every member of Congress I contacted refused to meet with me except Dr. Ron Paul, with whom I shared my information. I tried very wide and hard to “go through channels” but no one was interested. I did not believe the media would tell the story accurately as they had been such a part of misinforming the public about Iraq and the very things I sought to blow the whistle on. So I decided to tell the story myself, with my name, and lost my career as a result.

      09/17/18 8:19 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      5

      When Trumpie resigns and his flying monkeys flee for their lives, just imagine all the “honorable” career employees who will come forward to spill the dirt…when it is safe.

      09/17/18 8:53 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      6

      And when will a whistleblower tell the truth about the peepee tape? Gotta be a copy floating around the NSA. And what will the Repugnicans hypocrites do about it then? They helped to create the Al Frankenstein monster that may kill their creepy candidate for the court. It is a low bar they set.

      Tina Dupuy writes in The Atlantic that Franken put his hand around her waist while the pair posed for a photo and squeezed “at least twice” during an event in 2009. The senator has not specifically responded to that allegation.

      Gee, What will they think about date rape and pussy grabbing?

      Oh yeah.

      09/17/18 1:42 PM | Comment Link

    • Joe said...

      7

      @PVB: Been away for awhile (for reasons) but your latest posts compel me to write. I’m very sorry to hear about what Twitter did to you – but after your fight with the Department over WMW, I hope your skin & psyche are hard enough to adapt to this kind of cr@pola. Regarding your last couple of posts, what worries me most is this: I saw the last election as a contest between a corrupt liar & an incompetent racist/sexist – so I (reluctantly) voted for Trump, because I thought his shenanigans would be more difficult to conceal, thus exposing how bankrupt our entire political system has become. The Republicans/conservatives seem to get this to some extent (in a very weirdly expressed way IMO) but I fear the Democrats/progressives/liberals don’t – because they’re still living in a state of denial about the last election. (i.e where was the rioting in the streets after Donna Brazile’s book came out?) More to the point, where are all the real/real whistleblowers in the Trump administration, after almost two years of “resistance”? Yet “this is our life now” (to paraphrase the once-sage Rachel Maddow) – social media sound bites rule, & mature, factual & open discussion (which you seem to specialize in) is a thing of the past. (Though to be honest, you also seem to flavor your writing with a healthy dose of “wiseacre” – you must have been a hoot at Country Team meetings.) So have a drink on me & best of luck – cheers!

      09/17/18 3:08 PM | Comment Link

    • Karl Kolchak said...

      8

      Thank you for so elegantly stating this hard truth. I was one of the 7 State-OIG officials who blew the whistle on Bush’s appointed IG who was attempting to cover up two major investigations into contracting in Baghdad, including Blackwater.

      We ultimately prevailed, but the two most senior of us did indeed have their careers sidetracked. One ended up having to leave the SES, and never regained his rank. THAT’S what it means to be a real whistleblower.

      09/18/18 1:21 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      9

      Where are the Trump whistleblowers? Stormy has been blowing the Trump toadstool whistle. Does that count?

      09/18/18 2:18 PM | Comment Link

    • chucknobomb said...

      10

      I like Ike. Stop the MIC. Have a nice day and night. What is a False Flag? Ever lie? Wage Peace… and TY PVB!

      09/18/18 7:44 PM | Comment Link

    • Kyzl Orda said...

      11

      —————–
      For Karl Kolchak:
      —————–
      Thank you and I thank Peter for your service. Some give their lives for their country; others their careers or sanity. I’m sorry anyone has to go through this.

      —————
      For Joe Carson:
      —————
      At one point, I don’t think State had an IG after the Bush appointee was removed. We had no Ombudsman at State for most of the Bush administration and even during much of Clinton’s tenure — the Ombudsman can be another go-to source. The post(s) were deliberately left vacant.

      Peter did write his first book at a time when few dared speak. During the Bush-Cheney administration — everyone was gripped with fear. ‘See something, say something’ wasn’t generally an idea because if you did report — you were helping the enemy, you were /part/ of the problem. ‘Where are your loyalties?’ was more the prevailing idea at that time.

      ———-
      For Peter:
      ———–
      I came across the name of the employee in that State office who jumped from the roof at Main State. He had been the desk office for the Iraq portfolio — is it known if he was going through retaliation at the time? This occurred before the invasion and his office initially did not support the basis for the invasion.

      09/20/18 12:21 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      12

      Kyzl,

      Wouldn’t be surprised. DS aka dip shit engaged in harassment of State employees who voiced opposition to the illegal war.

      09/20/18 2:45 PM | Comment Link

    • Kyzl Orda said...

      13

      For Rich: So much for harassment and retaliation being illegal

      09/21/18 6:59 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      14

      DS- DipShit- hired a bunch of goons during that time. The harassment wasn’t well organized or intelligent- just like the Iraq war plan.

      09/21/18 11:01 PM | Comment Link

    • Kyzl Orda said...

      15

      Ugh, nk. Everyone will be paying for the Iraq war for many years to come, not just monetarily

      09/22/18 4:46 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      16

      US not so much. The Vietnamese are still paying- and dying of cancer- for our Agent Orange war crimes. How many innocent Iraqis have been killed for our war crimes?

      09/22/18 5:09 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      17

      Monsanto is appealing one US citizen cancer verdict for over $200 million. Vietnam should bankrupt US.

      Within 10 years (1961-1971), in Vietnam the US army sprayed about 80 million litres of toxic chemicals, of which the agent orange/dioxin represented 61%, on nearly 26,000 villages and hamlets covering an area of more than three million hectares. It was estimated that every Vietnamese person was subject to about three liters of agent orange/dioxin, which created an agent orange chemical catastrophe unprecedented in history.

      09/22/18 5:17 PM | Comment Link

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