by Philip Greenspan
(Swans - June 5, 2006) In socializing a child an essential element in his code of conduct is telling the truth. It is not long before he is told that there are circumstances when that rule should be modified. In friendly social settings needless offense is to be avoided. Don't tell Aunt Sophie that her muffin tastes like a sponge.
In time it becomes apparent that being honest can jeopardize one's well being. Those who wield power and control, a parent, teacher, customer, supplier or employer -- even prestigious institutions and individuals regarded with respect and deemed to uphold strong moral and ethical standards -- will frequently retaliate if they are displeased by honesty. Employers, whether they are corporations, government entities, NGOs, or whatnots, have been the most vindictive. How? By subjecting miscreants not only to ridicule, demotions, and unemployment, but even murder. Yes, murder! A few examples of retaliation are what these well known and truly courageous whistleblowers were subjected to.
Sibel Edmonds, a translator at the FBI, was fired for notifying her superiors of sabotage, incompetence, and corruption. If the shoddy work and security breaches she exposed had not occurred the 9/11 disaster might have been prevented.
Jeffrey Wigand, an executive of the Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corp, was sacked after he complained in a memo to the CEO that the company deceptively marketed an addictive and unhealthy cigarette product. The vengeance intensified when he went public. He was subjected to lawsuits, he was vilified, and he was threatened with death.
After being turned down by various congressmen and media outlets, Daniel Ellsberg prevailed with the publication of the Pentagon Papers. He was ridiculed as a drug-using pervert, the most dangerous man in America, a traitor, etc., and was charged with twelve felonies that could have sent him to prison for 115 years.
Karen Silkwood spilled the beans about Kerr-McGee's criminal negligence in exposing employees to radioactive plutonium. It is not unreasonable to conclude from the circumstances preceding her suspicious death that she was murdered.
Whistleblowers and their ilk are a rare breed. Most individuals yield to the conventional wisdom to get along, go along. Therefore how one acts and speaks in various situations will be quite different from what one sees, knows, and thinks. If one's livelihood is on the line he'll respond to the interests of his employer like a robot. While the urge to tell the truth may always remain, the retaliatory price is usually too high.
Consequently a sub-class of whistleblowers has arisen -- a group of Johnnies-Come-Lately whose exposés come after years and years of first-hand experience. When they have satisfactorily but reluctantly fulfilled their disagreeable roles and the impact of retaliation no longer holds the same sting, they readily divulge secrets of the fraud and criminality they were aware of and may have been complicit in.
Ralph McGehee disclosed back in 1983 what the public has learned during the Bush years about the CIA. The agency does not provide authentic intelligence but clandestinely executes the president's foreign policy and concocts "intelligence" to justify their actions -- actions that overthrow democratically elected governments and insert puppet dictators. Ironically the very secretive Bush administration by its incompetence has brought to light criminal activities that were routinely engaged in by prior administrations. An idealistic and patriotic McGehee eagerly joined the agency only to learn over the years that what he originally expected was an illusion. What could he do? His financial obligations included four children in school, two in expensive colleges, a mortgage, and no prospects for a decent job. The dirt he was vehemently anxious to disclose had to wait until his retirement and then he had overcome the resistance of the closed-door media to get the word out.
Wesley Swearingen was a true blue conservative patriot who admired J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI. Shortly after he eagerly joined the esteemed agency he found out that it was not the honorable organization he expected. Over his years of service he learned of, and sometimes participated in, activities against innocent people and organizations that Hoover disapproved of. Burglary, illegal wiretaps, bigotry, perjury, and murder were standard practices. FBI dirty tricks were probably a major contributing factor in the suicide of actress Jean Seberg. FBI dirty tricks framed Black Panther Geronimo Pratt for a murder that sentenced him for life. FBI dirty tricks were complicit in the gangland type shooting of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark. And FBI dirty tricks caused the murders of other Black Panthers. The Bureau targeted legitimate progressive organizations for investigation. The mafia however, since they knew and would have blown the whistle on Hoover's homosexuality, had no need to worry about the formidable FBI.
John Perkins was well aware of the unconscionable activities he would be engaged in as an economic hit man. Nevertheless he was enticed and recruited with an offer he could not refuse. Several times he intended to speak out but threats and bribes persuaded him not to. The 9/11 disaster convinced him it was time to speak. He was, in reality, a con man for the American empire -- a respectable businessman, the chief economist of a private corporation who negotiates huge loans with foreign Third World governments. Ostensibly, those funds constructed the infrastructure of a country. Actually, most of the money went to US corporations, which built projects that benefited the elite of the country. The teeming poor were then saddled with an onerous un-repayable debt. Loan renegotiation entailed a sell-out of the poor country's public assets to American big business at a pittance.
Dwight Eisenhower -- after a lifetime of service in the military and as president of the U.S. -- retired from government service with a warning against a combination of influential interest groups he designated "the military-industrial-complex." In his capacity as a general and as president he was a major and loyal player in that combination. He certainly knew what he was talking about and accurately predicted what would occur. Unfortunately his wise advice was not followed.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. . . . We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together. . . . Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. . . . The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded. Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific technological elite. . . . Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society's future, we -- you and I, and our government -- must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. . . . Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose.
Smedley Butler, like Ike, was a highly decorated military general who spoke out when he retired. He pointed out that the military is just an auxiliary arm of big business dependant on the lives of ignorant soldiers.
War is just a racket... It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small "inside" group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes. . . . I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service . . . . during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism... I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested. During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.
Many knowledgeable people are unaware of the shocking information that these whistleblowers have disclosed (Eisenhower's farewell speech excepted). Most spent their working lives in the bellies of the beastly organizations that wield so much power and influence. Their messages should be proclaimed far and wide. But the major media, another influential beastly group, has effectively blotted out their disclosures.
Deadly Deceits: My 25 Years in the CIA, Ralph W. McGehee, Publisher: Sheridan Square Publications, Inc., New York, 1983; 231 pgs.
FBI Secrets: An Agent's Exposé, M. Wesley Swearingen, Publisher: South End Press, Boston, MA, 1995; 192 pgs.
War Is a Racket: the Anti-War Classic by America's Most Decorated General, Smedley D. Butler, Publisher: Feral House, ; 2003; 120 pgs.
"Farewell Address" -- The Dwight D. Eisenhower Library.
"An Interview with Sibel Edmonds," Christopher Deliso, Antiwar.com.
"Jeffrey Wigand: the Whistle-Blower," Chuck Salter.
"Pentagon Papers Chase," H Bruce Franklin, The Nation.
"Daniel Ellsberg" on Wikipedia.
"It's Time to Take Risks," Guardian Unlimited.
"Karen Silkwood - Campaigner" (BBC).
"Karen Silkwood" on findadeath.com.
"The Karen Silkwood Story," PBS-Frontline.
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