Notes on Sources - Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power - Rachel Maddow

Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power - Rachel Maddow (2012)

Notes on Sources

The source notes that follow are not intended to be comprehensive. They’re meant to give you a sense of where I went digging, and where you might follow up yourself if you’re interested in learning more. You will have found many citations in the body of the book, but it would have been jarring to keep stopping for specific attribution, especially when a fact has two or three or four sources; where there are conflicts I have used my best judgment.

One general note in dealing with presidents in particular: whenever possible, I have tried to rely on their own words. The less recent ones—Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Bush the elder, and Clinton—already have accessible libraries full of diaries and documents and speech texts and audiotapes and even video. If you’re interested in chasing down specific notes or utterances of a president of that era, having a date and key word in mind is often enough to find what you’re looking for online.

When I was unable to get an official transcription of an important press conference or hearing, I found that newspapers like the New York Times had often provided its readers a pretty full account (or even a transcription) the day after.

Prologue: Is It Too Late to Descope This?

Hampshire County, Massachusetts, and Wazir Akbar Khan in Kabul are places I have seen with my own eyes. The debacle of the water treatment plant in Fallujah is detailed in official government reports made by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. The 2010 Washington Post series “Top Secret America” by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin is a seminal account of our shoveling good money after bad into the vague and very profitable intel and “security” industries after 9/11. The series is available online at with a lot of supporting documentation and interactive resources—it’s worth every prize it won and more.

Chapter 1: G.I. Joe, Ho Chi Minh, and the American Art of Fighting About Fighting

Direct quotes from Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and Abraham Lincoln have been taken from letters, speeches, or writings that can all be found at the Library of Congress. Sources there include the Thomas Jefferson Papers, the James Madison Papers, the Abraham Lincoln Papers, Annals of Congress, and The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, in Farrand’s Records, vol 2. Hamilton’s Federalist Paper #8 is central to the argument in this chapter.

For troop numbers across the years I have relied on the Records of the American Expeditionary Forces (World War I), available at the National Archives, and official statistics compiled and published by the US Department of Defense. Also helpful was the US Army Center for Military History’s American Military History, vol. 2, The United States Army in a Global Era, 1917-2003.

Instrumental to my understanding of Gen. Creighton Abrams was the work of Lewis Sorley, most especially his book Thunderbolt: General Creighton Abrams and the Army of His Times. Robert Timberg’s The Nightingale’s Songprovided important insight on the breach between civilian and soldier that cracked open during the Vietnam War. Also helpful was Neil Sheehan’s A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam.

Lyndon B. Johnson’s taped conversation with Sen. Richard Russell on July 26, 1965, is available at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, Presidential Recordings Program. It’s accessible online, and well worth listening to, even just for fun. (The same archive also includes the amazing tape of LBJ ordering pants to be delivered to the White House—someone should have made that into a ringtone by now.) Also available there is the April 18, 1971, recording of Nixon discussing Abrams with Henry Kissinger.

The specifics of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s visit to President Gerald Ford’s White House are found in Memorandum of Conversation, Monday, April 14, 1975, declassified in 1992 and available online at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Digital Library. Other details come from A Time to Heal: The Autobiography of Gerald R. Ford.

Chapter 2: A Nation at Peace Everywhere in the World

In understanding Ronald Reagan’s life and politics I was greatly aided by Edmund Morris’s authorized biography, Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan, as well as Lou Cannon’s books, including Governor Reagan: His Rise to Power; Reagan; and President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime. Particularly helpful on Reagan’s experience in World War II was Ronald Reagan in Hollywood: Movies and Politics, by Stephen Vaughn. I also drew from Reagan’s autobiography, An American Life.

Contemporaneous coverage by the New York Times and Time magazine provided nice color to the story of the 1976 Republican presidential primaries.

On the politics of the Panama Canal in the late 1970s, I benefited from and highly recommend Adam Clymer’s Drawing the Line at the Big Ditch: The Panama Canal Treaties and the Rise of the Right. Also helpful was William F. Buckley’s The Reagan I Knew. The text of Reagan’s “To Restore America” speech is available at the Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library Archives. Reagan, In His Own Hand: The Writings of Ronald Reagan That Reveal His Revolutionary Vision for America was a useful source not only for the text of Reagan’s radio broadcasts, but for his own thinking.

For Reagan’s Fum-Poo experience, Rear Gunner and Winning Your Wings, among others, are watchable via YouTube.

The text of President Jimmy Carter’s 1979 speech “Crisis of Confidence” is available at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center.

The text quoted from “A Soldier’s Faith” is found in An Address by Oliver Wendell Holmes Delivered on Memorial Day, May 30, 1895, at a Meeting Called by the Graduating Class of Harvard University (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1895). Louis Menand’s insightful book The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America was of great help in understanding Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. and the way he was shaped by his experiences in the Civil War.

Chapter 3: Let ’Er Fly

The John Travolta Army recruiting ad is available on YouTube, as are the “Be All That You Can Be” commercials—putting them side by side makes for a dissonant but interesting comparison. The U.S. Army’s Transition to the All-Volunteer Force, 1968-1974, by Robert K. Griffith Jr.; I Want You! The Evolution of the All-Volunteer Force, by Bernard Rostker; and “The Army in the Marketplace: Recruiting an All-Volunteer Force” (Journal of American History 4, vol. 1, June 2007) by Beth Bailey provided good color on recruiting and advertising.

Edmund Morris and Lou Cannon were again helpful in understanding Reagan’s first presidential term, as was Steven F. Hayward’s The Age of Reagan: The Conservative Counterrevolution, 1980-1989. I am indebted to Richard Reeves, especially, for his book President Reagan: Triumph of Imagination. His reporting provided much detail on Martin Treptow, David Stockman, and Alexander Haig, among others. David Sirota’s book Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live in Now—Our Culture, Our Politics, Our Everything is a great reference for anybody who wants to understand that strange time.

If you have a few days to spare, you can view the entirety of Ronald Reagan’s testimony in the John Poindexter criminal trial via YouTube. Nicholas Goncharoff testified about Lenin to the United States Senate Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws on July 15, 1954.

For information and analysis of Team B, I relied on its own words in Intelligence Community Experiment in Competitive Analysis. Soviet Strategic Objectives: An Alternative View. Report of Team “B” (US Central Intelligence Agency, 1976). I was also informed by Anne Hessing Cahn’s Killing Détente and her 1993 article (with John Prado) “Team B: The Trillion Dollar Experiment” in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists; as well as former CIA analyst Willard C. Matthias’s candid book America’s Strategic Blunders: Intelligence Analysis and National Security, 1936-1991.

The 1980s-era editions of Soviet Military Power make for sometimes terrifying and sometimes humorous reading, but read them with a counterpoint guide at hand: Tom Gervasi’s Soviet Military Power: The Pentagon’s Propaganda Document, Annotated and Corrected.

Chapter 4: Isle of Spice

More than you’d guess has been written about the very quick and very jumbled combat operations in Grenada. For the soldiers’ views of both the planning and the execution of the invasion I was aided by the memoirs of Capt. Robert Gormly, Col. John T. Carney, and command master CPO Dennis Chalker; journalistic accounts from Orr Kelly, as well as a richly detailed section of Rick Atkinson’s The Long Gray Line: The American Journey of West Point’s Class of 1966; and by The Rucksack War, something of an official history—great for timeline—by Edgar F. Raines Jr. Raines also wrote “The Interagency Process and the Decision to Intervene in Grenada,” which is more compelling reading than the title might suggest.

US-Grenada Relations: Revolution and Intervention in the Backyard, by Gary Williams, was helpful in seeing the wider story. Also a worthwhile read is Eastern Caribbean Regional Security Policy (NSC-NSDD-105), National Security Decision Directives, Reagan Administration, available online or from the Ronald Reagan Library.

The domestic political scene was well covered by major newspapers and magazines at the time, and I benefited from that coverage, but I was also aided by Tip O’Neill’s autobiography, Man of the House, and Reagan’s own autobiography, as well as his White House diaries, which are available in the Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library archives as well as in the book The Reagan Diaries.

Goldwater’s dust-up with the Reagan administration—and Casey in particular—was well documented in newspapers of the day.

Chapter 5: Stupid Regulations

To understand Ronald Reagan’s thinking during the Iran-Contra operation (and its aftermath) I relied on his own words, gleaning what I could from his White House diaries, his testimony in the Poindexter trial, notes from internal White House meetings, and texts of his contemporaneous speeches and press conferences. The “Report of the Congressional Committees Investigating the Iran/Contra Affair” (including Representative Dick Cheney’s minority report) provided much detail on the affair, but the “Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters,” authored by prosecutor Lawrence Walsh, is the definitive source. Walsh also wrote a pretty good book, Firewall: The Iran-Contra Conspiracy and Cover-up.

I was able to access the minutes from the June 25, 1984, National Security Planning Group meeting at the National Security Archive website at George Washington University. The National Security Archive is a wonderful resource in general—dogged, aggressive, fair, and with mad organizational skills that would please even the most persnickety Virgo.

Aside from the aforementioned books about Reagan, Landslide: The Unmaking of the President, 1984-1988, by Jane Mayer and Doyle McManus, and Robert Timberg’s The Nightingale’s Song were great sources.

On the question of Ed Meese and executive power, it’s worth anybody’s time to read Charlie Savage’s landmark book Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy. And thanks to the New York Times for publishing verbatim the remarkable exchange between Attorney General Ed Meese and Sen. Daniel Inouye I’ve excerpted in this chapter.

Chapter 6: Mylanta, ’Tis of Thee

I relied as much as I could on the contemporaneous notes and diaries and the memories of the key players in the run-up to the First Gulf War. All the Best, George Bush: My Life in Letters and Other Writings, along with A World Transformed, which the former president wrote with Brent Scowcroft, provided the backbone of the chapter. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, and Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf each wrote autobiographies. And Karen DeYoung’s biography Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell is helpful for anyone who wants to understand the general’s thinking. There was a lot of good DC-based journalism around that time, but R. W. Apple’s reporting on Washington on the verge of war was particularly sharp and uncompromising. Michael R. Gordon was already doing great work covering military matters.

C-SPAN has the video of the Ron Dellums press conference on the occasion of announcing his lawsuit. The PBS series Frontline has a useful reference website on the First Gulf War.

Chapter 7: Doing More with Less (Hassle)

The October 1995 “Report of the Defense Science Board: Task Force on Quality of Life” and the August 1996 “Report of the Defense Science Board: Task Force on Outsourcing and Privatization” were useful guides to the fiscal situation and thinking at the Pentagon in the 1990s. Anthony Bianco and Stephanie Anderson Forest did farsighted and smart reporting on the rise of private military contractors in BusinessWeek.

The United States General Accounting Office (GAO) reports on LOGCAP operations published in February 1997 and September 2000 provided details into both the benefits and costs of civilian augmentation in the Balkans.

The best reporting on the DynCorp sex-trafficking problems was done by Kelly Patricia O’Meara in the Washington Times magazine Insight and by Robert Capps in Salon. A November 2002 report by Human Rights Watch, “Hopes Betrayed: Trafficking of Women and Girls to Post-Conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina for Forced Prostitution,” is a harrowing portrait of that world. Kathryn Bolkovac’s memoir of her experiences in Bosnia, The Whistleblower: Sex Trafficking, Military Contractors, and One Woman’s Fight for Justice, was a useful guide to the culture inside DynCorp.

Again, I drew largely from the memoirs of Dick Cheney and Colin Powell, as well as Karen DeYoung’s biography of Powell, to understand their thinking about the budget realities at the Pentagon during the George Herbert Walker Bush administration. Rise of the Vulcans, by James Mann, provided further detail. “Defense Strategy for the 1990s: The Regional Defense Strategy,” published in January 1993, and authored by Cheney, was useful reading, as was the Clinton administration’s “National Performance Review. Report on Reinventing the Department of Defense,” published in September 1996.

Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry by P. W. Singer provides great information about MPRI and other private military operations; so does author David Isenberg’s Shadow Force.

To understand the conflict in the Balkans and the Clinton administration’s response, I recommend A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide by Samantha Power. I also drew on reports by the US State Department and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; President Bill Clinton’s autobiography, My Life; and writings by Clinton administration officials Madeleine K. Albright and Nancy Soderberg.

Chapter 8: “One Hell of a Killing Machine”

There has been much good reporting on the drone warfare and other secret and privatized military operations in recent years. For bringing to light what the government would prefer to be essentially secret, credit is due Jane Mayer, James Risen, Mark Mazzetti, Greg Miller, Julie Tate, Nick Turse, Jeremy Scahill, and Eric Schmitt. The Long War Journal and New America Foundation have made it their mission to track each and every drone strike in Pakistan, and should be commended for it.

Thanks to David Corn for the “million years” quote from John McCain in 2008.

The reporting at the Army Times proved a great source throughout, but especially on the issues of the Guard and Reserves.

Chapter 9: An $8 Trillion Fungus Among Us

A number of official government and military reports on the nation’s nuclear program, as well as congressional testimony of Air Force generals, helped in telling the recent (and not so recent) history of American nuclear weapons. The GAO’s March 2009 report for a House subcommittee, entitled “NNSA and DOD Need to More Effectively Manage the Stockpile Life Extension Program,” explains the Fogbank problem.

For the events surrounding the Minot-Barksdale whoopsie and the general readiness at Barksdale, I have relied in the main on the official reports commissioned by the Air Force and the Pentagon in the debacle’s aftermath. Thank you to the pseudonymous “Nate Hale” for shaking loose the “Limited Nuclear Surety Inspection Report” that followed the September 2007 Air Combat Command inspection at Barksdale. Reporting by Joby Warrick and Walter Pincus in the Washington Post offered extra detail of the Minot-to-Barksdale mishap.

Jaya Tiwari and Cleve J. Gray have compiled a most useful index of nuclear near-disasters in their paper “U.S. Nuclear Weapons Accidents.” For those particularly interested in the North Carolina incident, it’s worth poking around the website Broken Arrow: Goldsboro, NC, The Truth Behind North Carolina’s Brush with Disaster at

Readers might also enjoy Nuclear Family Vacation: Travels in the World of Atomic Weaponry, by Nathan Hodge and Sharon Weinberger; and Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons, by my friend Joseph Cirincione.

Epilogue: You Build It, You Own It

Although I have not used them as sources per se, readers interested in exploring the basic thesis here from different analytical and historical vantage points might find useful the writings of James Fallows (National Defense), Andrew Bacevich (The New American Militarism, The Long War, The Limits of Power), James Carroll (House of War), and Eugene Jarecki (The American Way of War).