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Interview with Doug Burton “Pentagon Criticized for Wrong Priorities amid China Threat”

This episode examines the February 5 and February 26 Pentagon directives issued by Defense Secretary Austin which many see as a purity test or a witch hunt with dangers to US Military morale.

Douglas Burton is an award-winning reporter living near Washington, D.C.

Doug put in years as an editor of magazines published by The Washington Times Corporation before heading to the Middle East as a special hire for the U.S. Department of State during the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Today he is respected as an investigative reporter on terrorism in Nigeria,  the Iraq War and on Central Asia. His reportage has appeared in The Epoch Times,  U.S. News and World Report, the Colorado Springs Gazette, The Washington Times, Washington Examiner and Washington Free Beacon.  Currently, he is reporting on terrorism in Nigeria for The Epoch Times and America’s complex stew of political controversies for Chronicles, A Magazine of American Culture, published by the Charlemagne Institute.  His most recent product is about politicization of the U.S. military.

Here is the Epoch Times article

Read the rough transcript of the interview here:

Doug Burton Interview - Rough Transcript, March 20, 2021

Frank Kaufmann (FK) - Good morning. I'm Frank Kaufmann, President of the settlement project. I'm very happy to welcome to the program this evening, Mr. Doug Burton to discuss his Epoch  Times article entitled, “Pentagon Criticized for Wrong Priorities amid China Threat.”

Doug Burton is an award winning reporter living near Washington DC. Doug put in years as an editor of magazines published by the Washington Times Corporation, before heading to the Middle East as a special hire for the US Department of State during the United States occupation of Iraq. Today he is respected as an investigative reporter on terrorism in Nigeria, the Iraq war and on Central Asia. His reportage has appeared in the Epoch Times, US News and World Report, the Colorado Springs Gazette, The Washington Times, Washington Examiner and Washington Free Beacon. He is currently is reporting on terrorism in Nigeria for the Epoch Times, and America's complex stew of political controversies for Chronicles, a magazine of American Culture published by the Charlemagne Institute, his most recent product is the politicization of the United States military. Please join me to welcome to the program, Mr. Douglas Burton.

Douglas Burton (DB) -Yes, I'm very happy to be with you, Frank.

FK - Thank you very much. We've known each other, and have had a lot of conversations over time. But I recently stumbled across a major article of yours, which made a strong impression on me. And so I've asked for a little time with you to go through the content. And maybe you can help me think through the matters that are giving me a lot of concern. So the name of the article is “Pentagon Criticized for Wrong Priorities amid China Threat.” That's the headline of it. Of course, there's also sub writing. And this appeared on March 16, just this past week,

DB - Wednesday.

FK - Wednesday was the first appearance of the article. And so this is with epoch. And I wanted to just get a quick update on your twists and turns career wise, I think you're writing for two major places right now or more? Can you say a word about where you're writing and where your efforts are at the moment?

DB - Yeah, thank you, Frank. Sure. I am an independent writer. I chiefly write now for two publications. The Epoch Times. This is my third article for the Epoch Times. And I'm also contributing to a conservative magazine called Chronicles, the Magazine of American culture. In recent months, or in the last year, I contributed to a news service, a web based news service called Zanger news, as well as to the Washington Times the Washington Examiner, and a few other thought journals.

FK- Very good. Thanks. So Chronicles is associated with an institution?2

DB - the name of the magazine is Chronicles the Magazine of American Culture. And it's a well known conservative magazine that was previously published by the Rockford Foundation, and was acquired by the Charlemagne Institute in 2019. Charlemagne is a conservative think tank based in the Twin Cities in Minnesota.

FK - Very good. And, and I learned from you in private conversation that this particular article you said this is only your third article, but it was the big headline of the day above the fold. And who was the first thing you saw if you opened the paper that day?

DB - Yeah, that's right. I was really honored. This was the lead story top of the fold. It was the idea of the editor, Stephen Gregory. He had contacted me about a week earlier, he had a lead or news tip at a source and he asked me to take it on. So I did the interviews, and this is what we came up with. 

FK - Excellent.

So there's a few names we're going to come across when talking about One is, of course, Joe Biden's most recently appointed Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin. He's a major figure in the story. And then there are two there's Michael Waltz, who's the republican representative Congressman. 

DB - Yes

FK - Very good. And then and then later on Boykin now what is the military title? He is?

DB - Well, Jerry Boykin is a retired general, he was Undersecretary of defense for intelligence under George W. Bush. General Boykin is a decorated Combat Arms military officer, I'm not sure of his rank, whether he was a two star or three star General, he was involved in several major operations, including the failed attempt to collect US Embassy hostages in 1980. You know, after the crisis, he was involved in rescuing hostages from Ebola. I think that Sudan or Somalia, and with the Blackhawk down rescue in Somalia. 1

FK - I mean, I'm not a huge military student but the name Boyken is almost a household name. I recognize that immediately. And I'm glad to have the background on him and he'll come up in a moment or two when we discuss what you've written. And Michael waltz is in his first term, but he's a new Congress person or is he is a veteran in his

DB - second term, Congressman from the Florida sixth District, which is about midway down in Florida, and he is currently still serving in the military, he is a Green Beret who is at the rank of colonel and serves in the Maryland National Guard.

FK - Very good. I see. Okay. All right. Excellent, we have Austin carrying out directions to well, there was a February 5 directive, all military leadership was given 60 days in which to hold leadership stand down to address extremism in the force on Oh, That's the February 26. One, so the original one on February 5 came out. And this was called one, actually,

DB - it's confusing, because both memos have the word stand down to address extremism. But the second memo on February 26, is called the Framework. So it's the instruction memo, telling how to implement or giving further guidance on how to implement the stand down.

FK - Got it. Got it, because when I read your piece, I did go to the military issue PDFs that were sent around, just to try to familiarize myself. So the February 5 memo is kind of telling these guys telling the military leadership schedule some point or another in the next 60 days to hold a sander. 

DB - Yeah, they're going to have they're going to have instruction sessions at all the US sports and installations and old branches of the US military. And I'm told by military guys that a stand down is not so unusual. They This is an order that's given to examine a problem or a malfunction in the system somewhere it could be defective aircraft to it crashes, it could be a chink in the military organization of some kind. So this is an extensive review of the problem of people in uniform, having extremist views and getting involved in extremist organs. Then, of course, this is a military order, probably one of the first orders that defense secretary Austin gave, after getting confirmed by the US Senate because it office and the first thing he does is say, we're going to examine the whole force to see where the extreme is star. Yeah, this one.

FK - And then and then at the end of this little one or half, one and a half pager, it says Stay tuned, we're going to send you the details on what we expected to stand down. And that was the February 26 document, which was the framework which had and so is this the type of thing that the Secretary of Defense would generate on his own? Is he instructed or guided to do this type of thing? Or is it something where does that start? Was it directed from the commander in chief? Or is it something that the Secretary of Defense can generate as part of his own or her own understanding?

DB - Well, I think he has authorization to issue a stand down on any topic he thinks worthy. I don't know where it came from. I don't know where the idea came from. But we know that stand on order came exactly one month after the massive demonstrations in Washington called the Save America rally that the President organized. And then there was the breach of the US Capitol that was termed later an insurrection, not on the day of but as the narrative was built by the progressive left, they started to call the unauthorized walk in into the Capitol. They called it an insurrection. In spite of that, none of the people who came into the Capitol that day had weapons. They didn't hurt anybody. The only person who was shot with a weapon was an innocent. There was a protester Ashli Babbitt, and she was killed by an unidentified Capitol Hill police. There were five people who died that day. Three of them died from strokes or heart attacks. One was officer Sicknick, who died of a stroke the day after the break in, it's not clear why he had a stroke, but he was definitely not hurt with a fire extinguisher as was falsely claimed by the New York Times, days after he died. 

FK - Yes, that's, that's correct. And so ordinarily, if it were merely a concern for extremism, per se, this would be a legitimate concern. For example, in your article, you identified two occasions in which extremists did cause death inside of the military on US soil. Is that correct? Go ahead. 

DBV - Yeah, well, the framework quarter of February 2006 is supposed to help answer the question, Who are the extremists? Probably many military officers were reacting to the first order and say, Well, why don't you define what an extremist is for heaven's sakes? I mean, what do you mean by that? They figured probably that the memo was aimed at the Trump supporters who went into the Capitol, but it just didn't spell that out. So the framework order says gifts for examples of impermissible or dangerous behavior. The four examples are three servicemen who tried to join a neo nazi group, like one serviceman, he wanted to be a temporary soldier with the Ukrainian army, fighting the Russian troops in eastern Ukraine and the unit he wanted to join at associations with some neo nazi groups. So that was an example then the other. The fourth example, was a white supremacist guy who was building a bomb somewhere. So those are the four examples. Now in terms of who are the real threats, the FBI has a most wanted list with 26 names on it. 24 of those names are Islamist terrorists 24 of 26. There are two other names once a communist bomb maker and the other is an environmentalist terrorist. There's nobody on the 26 names of most wanted, who are Proud Boys or Oath Keepers. Or, you know, right wing people, supposedly neo Nazis, no white supremacist on the list. Yeah. So that is why many people in the military are looking at this framework order and you're taking that a double take and they're asking what gives. 

FK - Exactly, yeah, exactly. So as I was milling that question, technically, if a secretary of defense was concerned with extremism most I was asking you about there were two prior cases in which soldiers were shot by soldiers. Correct both of them that ties to jihadist terrorism,

DB - I believe, right. Yeah, that's correct. That's first case was the awful tragedy in 2009 with the Arab medical doctor, Dr. Nadal Hassan, who killed 13 soldiers in Fort Hood. And then the second case was very recent on January 19, was a cavalry scout in Fort Stewart, Georgia, Rosa, colluding with an ISIS operative to do harm to US personnel in the Middle East.

FK - So in the entire recent history, there have been two pieces of evidence of extremist designs to commit harm inside of us military operations. The only two in fact that have had and one was thwarted. One was a profound tragedy. And both of these are tied to ISIS. One is to Islam as he was. He was a known actually cell activist I believe, this doctor in Fort Hood and so here sudden Do you have a framework for a stand down, that has identiifies only conservative or right wing or neo nazi or white supremacist examples in rooting out, quote unquote, extremism in the military? When we spoke privately, Doug, this was how I expressed myself. If Nancy Pelosi wants to impeach President Trump, within 10 hours after the breach, okay, that's fine with me. That's her job. She hates the man if she can pull it off. If she gets the votes, that's just the ugliness of politics. Good luck. I wish you failure. But that's what you do. You hate. You’re a partisan politician. You hate somebody. So she tried to impeach him. Okay. Google tech, which is a known enemy of the conservative voice, Facebook tech, known enemy of the conservative voice, Twitter, Dorsey the worst of them all, okay, they immediately censor, censor all information on the breach and establish a unified narrative, that this was the greatest threat that ever happened to the United States government. anyone other than just kind of dumb spoon fed, consumers of CNN and ABC, everyone knows this is political theater. It's a political game. It's a coordinated pursuit of power. Good enough. But when I read your article, my worry was that you're destroying the United States Army with this, it's, it's different. It's different from these kinds of pampered Congress people who play their games at our expense. Okay, but when, when you destroy the United States Army,  it's a really serious and irreparable type of action. This is what concerns me and I don't know if you can help me with either modifying my worry, or telling me I'm right or wrong, but I'm sorry to talk so long. This is your interview. But if I walked into an office and said, somebody's stealing, stealing papers, stealing pencils, you immediately destroy morale, you immediately create no productivity on your small little office team. You'll hurt recruitment, nobody will want to work there. And something as serious as the United States army, we can't afford to have no morale, to have people spying on each other ratting on each other looking around over their shoulder. Can you help me with this

DB - your right Frank, the military code, and their culture, you know, for 180 years has been that it is an honor and a duty to serve to defend the people in the United States and to serve the president who is the commander in chief regardless of which party he comes from. So former Marines that told me they served in the Middle East during, you know, the Gulf invasion, the Persian Gulf War Desert Storm one, you know, they may not have supported president HW Bush, but they were proud to serve and, and gave their full effort to serve in that war. Soldiers who served in the 1990s. Some of them didn't like President Clinton, but their oath was to serve to defend the United States regardless of who the President was for so my concern is that the military is being politicized and soldiers will be turning against each other. I spoke to one active duty officer who spoke on background only. He said, Yeah, I'm not sure that I'm gonna stay in the service. He's in the reserves. I'm not sure I'm gonna stay. If I am putting my life on the line, when I'm called up overseas, and yet, the loyalty from the President or his administration is not coming back to me so they don't have my back. That's the concern. General himself said this action hurts morale, it will hurt recruitment and hurt retention. 

FK - Yes, Yes, this here's what here's what you wrote as a quote from the framework. If you observe a co worker exhibiting concerning behaviors, you have a responsibility to report it through the chain of command or supervision or to your local security manager or directly to the Insider Threat Program office. Who on earth can imagine serving in such an environment even if you're just working at a gas station or a dunkin donuts? And these are the people who have to stand together with bullets flying. I'm very concerned and very pained over this. This is like Soviet Russia. To me. It's like children ratting on their parents and parents getting hauled away by the state. How can this happen so immediately, and these are military people like Mr. Austin. He's a  general right is his identity. He's appointed as the Secretary of Defense isn't something like that known about military culture? How can this happen in a single stroke? 

DB - Well, we live in an unusual time Frank. So I think it's, it could be an effort by people in the administration to realize that their time in office might be cut short, after the elections of 2022. But to do as much as possible in two years, to disempower their opponents, in any branch of the US government. So this is an effort at the Department of Defense, which is probably the most or one of the most powerful agencies of government. This is an effort of the far left wing social progressives in the Democratic Party to root out their opponents who might oppose them in a nomination process. They want to get people out who might run for office someday. And you know, by the way, this kind of feature, this kind of order from the top allows people to make a spurious accusation in secret against a colleague. Yeah. What can remove from them their secret classification, you know, that their top secret classification, they can't get advancement, this ineffective effectively, could stop the ladder of advancement. For officers who want to get to the senior ranks. He could also hurt officers who are rising in the ranks of noncommissioned officers. It could poison the careers of, well, hundreds of people, right,

FK - I guess, I've hit my limit, too. To me, I can understand raw political ambition. I get it. But I would think that nobody wants their country vulnerable, doesn't want young men, 18, 19 year old young people living in a swamp of distrust, when they're the people who are going to be on the battlefield. What more can be said? I don't know what more can be said. But it's troubling to extreme degrees for me, especially when perpetrated by a military veteran, like the Secretary of Defense. Now, last question, Doug, this may be outside of the realm of your expertise, because you're just faithfully doing a fantastic piece of journalism. You got a lot of good interviews there and knowledgeable people speaking on the matter. But is there anything a mere citizen can do under such circumstances? It's not electoral politics, it's inside the military. Is there a word you got for us there? Or is that really asking too much for a person who's just faithfully done some solid reporting?

DB - Well, Frank, there's plenty that citizens can do to register their descent and their horror, at this kind of attempt to purge the ranks of patriotic citizens. They just happen to be members of the party that their fellow colleagues don't like. Boyken said, point blank, he said outright, this is simply an effort to punish the Trump supporters. It is a logical operation, he calls it a psyop. And it's aimed at demonizing the Trump supporters. Well, yeah, that's what many people believe. citizens can get engaged by contacting their representatives in Congress, both congressmen and senators, and they can raise their voices on social media. And they can call in on radio talk shows, and they can certainly create a buzz of disenchantment that will be heard by elected representatives. And many people are doing exactly that as congressman Watz said, Look, it's certainly a good idea to get deranged extremists out of our ranks. But let's be fair about it. If we're going to get the white supremacist out and the neo nazis, let's, let's have a fair examination of all the extremist ideologies, including the anarchism, Antifa, communists, and other kinds of groups.

FK - Doug, this has been great. And I really appreciate the practical advice at the conclusion here. I know you're going to keep writing and I know we'll try to have you on every time we need to examine some of the terms. We're just at the start and already this is kind of stuff happening. But thank you very much for being with us for such a long time. We'll be back again with us.

DB - Thanks for having me, Frank.