“The True Flag” and Wars of Choice

Remarks to a Committee for the Republic Salon with Stephen Kinzer

By Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. (USFS, Ret.)

Senior Fellow, the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University

October 26, 2017, Washington, D.C.


I’m Chas Freeman.  I chair the loose, transpartisan coalition known as the Committee for the Republic.  I want to welcome our members – especially the contributors who sponsor these salons and make it possible for us to air important issues that would otherwise go publicly unaddressed.


A very warm welcome too to Stephen Kinzer.  Stephen, we are honored to have you back as our speaker at this evening’s discussion.  Your stalwart opposition to the promiscuous interventionism that has replaced diplomacy in America’s management of its foreign relations is directly relevant to the purposes of the Committee for the Republic.


As you probably know, the Committee came into being in 2003, when many here tonight worried about how the American lurch into ill-defined wars in the Middle East might damage the civil liberties and traditions of our republic. Sadly, these concerns have proved justified, and, despite widening popular discomfort with the state of the nation, things seem to be getting worse rather than better.  We Americans have come to accept perpetual warfare as the norm for our society.  We now regard the “big government” and enormous national debt needed to make constant war on other peoples and care for our own fallen warriors as inescapable burdens on our body politic.


In military affairs, for Americans, more is always better.  We have acquired a vested interest in big armies, big navies, big air forces, big armaments industries, and big talk about how we will destroy recalcitrant foreign societies.  And despite the clear language of our Constitution, we have stood ineffectually by as Congress has yielded its power to authorize wars of choice to the Executive.  The current, apparently limitless authority of the president to launch wars at will, including nuclear wars, negates the most distinctive and revolutionary element of our system of government: – the decision to entrust the power to start wars exclusively to Congress. …


In our republic, the President of the United States swears an oath to the Constitution before delivering an inaugural address.  Based on some of what President Trump said during his campaign, I and others had hoped we might hear something like this from him last January 20:


“I pledge to the American people that, as your president and the commander-in-chief of your armed forces, I shall vigorously defend the United States of America against any attack, but I will initiate no war except upon a vote in Congress declaring it, defining its objectives, and funding it, as required by our Constitution, which reserves the right to authorize wars of choice to the Congress alone.  I have inherited multiple wars from my predecessors that were not so authorized.  I intend to submit these wars, one-by-one, to Congress for consideration and an up-or-down vote.   I will take the failure of Congress to declare these wars as a mandate to end them on the best terms and as expeditiously as possible.”


That is not what we heard.  If the president cannot bring himself to say such words, we must look to the Congress to muster the courage to assert its powers under the Constitution.


There is now apparent concern about the currently unconstrained power of the president to launch a nuclear attack on other nations at will.  The answer to this and related anxieties is to take steps to implement the Constitution.  We should clarify in legislation that any order by the president to our military directing a non-retaliatory attack on another nation that has not been explicitly approved by Congress is both illegal and an impeachable offense.  We should return to respect for our founders’ carefully considered framework for decisions about war and peace.  My hope is that members of Congress will yet form a bipartisan caucus devoted to promoting the constitutional exercise of the war power.

In Germany and Ireland Ray has some success in finding audiences

On October 22, Ray gave a talk in Galway, completing a string of talks and interviews over the past two weeks in Berlin, Bonn/Koenigswinter, and Dublin.  Below is a link to one of the articles that the Galway Alliance Against War was able to place in a few of the papers in western Ireland.



In this photo, former UN Assistant Secretary General Denis Halliday poses a question to Ray about the staying power of the U.S. Empire.


Ray had not seen Halliday in several years and was delighted that Denis, who now lives in Clifton, Connemara, came to Galway City for the “Public Meeting” arranged by the Galway Alliance Against War.


Halliday quit the UN after a 34-year career when, as UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq from 1996-1998, he was unable to stop what he called the “genocide” in Iraq caused by Western sanctions, mostly at U.S. insistence.  He explained why he quit:

I was driven to resignation because I refused to continue to take Security Council orders, the same Security Council that had imposed and sustained genocidal sanctions on the innocent of Iraq. I did not want to be complicit. …

And above all, my innate sense of justice was and still is outraged by the violence that UN sanctions have brought upon, and continues to bring upon, the lives of children, families – the extended families, the loved ones of Iraq. There is no justification for killing the young people of Iraq, not the aged, not the sick, not the rich, not the poor.

Some will tell you that the [Iraqi] leadership is punishing the Iraqi people. That is not my perception, or experience from living in Baghdad. And were that to be the case – how can that possibly justify further punishment, in fact collective punishment, by the United Nations? … International law has no provision for the disproportionate and murderous consequences of the ongoing UN embargo for well over 12 long years.

To refresh memories regarding what Denis was up against, here is a short excerpt of a May 12, 1996 “60 Minutes” interview of then-U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright.  Stahl asked Albright if she thought the death of 500,000 Iraqi children [under the age of 5] was worth it.  You have to see Albright’s answer to believe it.  (9/11 came 5 years later.)



In Koenigswinter/Bonn, Ray’s formal speech focused on the conference topic: “Entspannung JETZT!” (Détente NOW).


In Berlin Ray spoke with Bundestag members from the Linke and the Green parties.  The Linke expects to be in opposition (together with the Social Democrats) when a new coalition government is formed in the coming weeks.  The Greens and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) have considerable leverage as they bargain with the CDU/CSU to form a governing coalition, since the CDU suffered significant losses in the September election.  A common assumption is that, Chancellor Angela Merkel will be history, if she fails to form such a coalition.


The Germans were much relieved – not to say shocked – at the news in German media that that Putin not only did NOT interfere in the German election, but also has stopped beating his wife.


Ray is looking forward to getting back to Washington this coming week to take his place with other designated “useful idiots.”

Where’s the Beef?  The Senate Intelligence Committee and Russia

By Mike Whitney, October 12, 2017


Senate “oversight” committee sleuths come up short but committee leaders profess enduring faith that, sooner or later, they will get the goods on Russia and vindicate all the “assessing” that “handpicked analysts” performed.  Assessing is what analysts do when they lack evidence but are “handpicked” to come up with desired conclusions and then move up the management ladder.  All it will take is just one analyst with a conscience, who doesn’t think ii’s a good idea to risk war with Russia, to spill the beans on Clapper-Comey-and-Brennan-dom.  There has to be at least one.

Flu Shots For Russia-gate Virus

The Nation: Russiagate Is More Fiction Than Fact

By Aaron Maté, October 6, 2017


From accusations of Trump campaign collusion to Russian Facebook ad buys, the media has substituted hype for evidence.


Forbes: There Remains No Evidence of Trump-Russia Collusion

By Paul Roderick Gregory, May 23, 2017



Newsweek: Is This Proof Russia Hacked The Election? Hacker Turned FBI Witness: Report

By Greg Price, August 16, 2017


“President Donald Trump and his defenders have flatly, and correctly, stated that no physical proof of Russia hacking the 2016 presidential election exists or has been brought to light. Indeed, no evidence has been made public, and the final tally of votes and who chose whom has not been questioned, even by the U.S. intelligence community, which firmly stands by its claim that Russia attempted to meddle in Trump’s favor.

“But now, it’s quite possible the creator of a malware program that resulted in one key aspect of last year’s election that certainly helped Trump win could finally be known. In fact, he’s already spoken to the FBI.  …  [the usual drivel follows] …”

Ellsberg, Swanson, and Ray address Vietnam – focusing on 1967-1968

At the World Beyond War conference on Sept. 23 at American University, Daniel Ellsberg (via Skype), David Swanson, and Ray compared notes on Vietnam following a screening of Episode 7 of Oliver Stone’s and Peter Kuznick’s “The Untold History of the United States.”  Ray saw the Vietnam War from the perspective of Washington; he was principal analyst for Soviet policy toward China and Vietnam during the 1960s and a close associate of CIA analyst Sam Adams.

34 minutes; and

6 minutes




Videos of all the presentations at World Beyond War conference, Sept. 22 – 24, 2017 can be found at:


Seymour Hersh Honored with Sam Adams Award; Edward Snowden and Daniel Ellsberg were among those taking part (remotely) in the celebration that followed at American University.

An early-dinner ceremony on Sept. 22, at which Seymour Hersh was given the annual Sam Adams Award for Integrity, while less formal than those of most former years, was well attended by Sam Adams Associates and other supporters who came to honor this year’s awardee.  An account of the proceedings, including a photo of Sy with the award citation, is posted at:



Later that evening at the World Beyond War conference at American University, Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence continued to celebrate those who have demonstrated the kind of courage for which the annual award is given.  A highlight was having, as MC of the evening, Annie Machon, a former officer in MI5 (the UK’s FBI equivalent), who years ago blew the whistle on serious wrongdoing in the UK’s secret services and paid the price.


Edward Snowden (Sam Adams awardee in 2013) was live-streamed in, as was Daniel Ellsberg, for the first part of the program.  Then other SAAII members shared remarks out of their own various experiences and perspectives.  Sam Adams Associates were grateful to the World Beyond War and American University for the video recording and the very prompt YouTube postings shared below.


You may find it well worth the time to watch the entire recording.  For convenience, we have broken the various segments down into minutes.


00:01 – 4:30: Guitarist Bryan Cahall with a splendid song


04:30 – Annie Machon, MC of Sam Adams event

09:00 – Elizabeth Murray, remarks and introduction


11:20 – Edward Snowden (by livestream)


12:00 – Edward Snowden (Sam Adams Laureate, 2013)


23:00 – end


23:50 – Annie introduction: Daniel Ellsberg


25:00 – Daniel Ellsberg (via Skype)

34:10 – Ellsberg continues at:

00:01 – to 04:00


04:00 – Annie Machon introduction of next 3 speakers


06:15 – Ann Wright


13:20 – John Kiriakou


20:45 – Ray McGovern


32:00 – Annie Machon introduction of Coleen Rowley and Todd Pierce


32:55 – Coleen Rowley

34:10 – Rowley continues at:

00:01 – to 02:20


02:20 – Todd Pierce


10:30 – Annie Machon concluding remarks


15:15 – end