The Future We Fear is Here
Remember the 2018 devastating debris flow that changed Montecito forever? Those of us who lived here at the time do. Like it happened yesterday, with all the pain and loss and destruction it brought. But for those who made Montecito their home post-debris flow (or PDF as I like to call it), the knowledge of what happened is likely stored in the category of bullets dodged and things that will hopefully never happen again. And yet, what science tells us if we’re willing to listen, is that that’s wrong. That wild land-urban interface disasters are the natural order of things, and now, when climate change is the ongoing battle of our lifetime, they will happen more and more.
As Jerry Roberts reports this week (page 27) for the Montecito Journal – lucky us – this past Sunday afternoon, The Project for Resilient Communities (known as TPRC), received the 2022 National Service Award for “Leadership and collaboration to install Geobrugg Nets in canyons to protect lives and mitigate property damage from catastrophic debris flows.” TPRC is the local organization that came together in the wake of the 1/9 debris flow, as a public/private partnership with Santa Barbara County, to increase Montecito’s resilience against future natural disasters.
The award, given by the Ready Communities Partnership, was delivered to TPRC by Retired U.S. Army General Russel Honoré. (You may remember him as the Army General that oversaw the disaster relief in Katrina, or the expert brought in by Speaker Pelosi after the January 6th attack on the Capitol as the lead investigator in the Capitol Security Review Task Force.)
Because I was part of the group that humbly received this award, I did not want to cover the event myself. I did, however, jump at the opportunity to talk with General Honoré, a man who, in the world of careful high-level military speak, is known for his take-no-prisoners straight-talk, which includes the occasional (and I dare say well-placed) cuss word. General Honoré’s 37-year career in the U.S. Army included serving as commander of the 4th Battalion, 16th infantry, 1st infantry Division (Forward) in Operation Desert Storm, and commander for the joint Task Force Katrina, in which he coordinated military relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina hit the Louisiana Gulf Coast.
But the General makes no bones about the fact that first and foremost, his years of experience in war and disaster relief have taught him that what the future of our national security depends on most is – protecting our environment. And so Honoré, a Louisiana native, founded the GreenARMY, a coalition of environmental experts and advocates, to protect against pollution while fighting climate change and the natural disasters it causes.
As the go-to authority on the intersections of national security and the climate crisis, and government and military leadership, General Honoré was kind enough to break down for me some of the core issues regarding community resiliency, the challenges we face with rising temperature, and I may have snuck in a few questions about how he feels we are handling the situation in Ukraine, and how he thinks it will end.
Gwyn Lurie (GL): This award has an esteemed list of past honorees. Why Montecito?
General Honoré (GH): Because if you can’t make it happen here, you won’t make it anywhere. You got a combination of people with skills, talent, and resources. After watching what happened at Katrina, we could do better. And the tagline we used was creating a culture of preparedness. So, whether it was predictable things like hurricanes or things that evolved like fire, you either have minutes, hours, or days. But then you got scenarios like earthquakes, because you don’t get that warning. It’s just a snap. But even with no notice, there are things we should be doing; and California has done a lot of them.
How do you build your homes? How do you build your roads so they can sustain? There’s always been a history of earthquakes, but we didn’t have what, 40 million people in this state… At home, we used to have earthquake and wildfires. Things are different now. So how do we adapt? How do we create that culture of preparedness?
GL: How do we? It’s very hard to get people to focus on this when it’s not a crisis. How do you get people to talk about resiliency and take it seriously in the quiet moments?
GH: Well, it’s a function of us on the space we live. And people can talk until they’re blue in the face of action, and unless you get hit by an earthquake or unless you get something like the campfire, or something else that consumes your whole community or the fires that happened here. And it’s not just people in our community, it is government. The government don’t have money to spend on preparedness.
GL: So in a community like Montecito, we created The Project for Resilient Communities, but Montecito has more dry powder than many other communities. How do communities that don’t have these resources institute important, large public works and resiliency projects?
GH: Because you’ve already had an ‘aha moment,’ scared the hell out of people. Unless you have an aha moment, this is theoretical. It happens to other people. You’ve had an aha moment, you’ve acted, and you see the goodness that comes from that, from everything, from the debris flow to the resilience, and looking at codes and things that we do to evacuate – you’ve done all that.
But… for every dollar you spend on preparedness, you save nine. And I was giving that speech in Washington, D.C. to a bunch of the inter-agency people, the three letter agencies up there at Georgetown. And the professor asked me, he said, “General, where’d you get that number from?” I said, “You might be the first person that ever challenged me on that number.” He said, “Where’d you get it from?” I said, “I made it up.” And for about two years, I was making money, going giving this speech all over the country. Nobody challenged that number. So he said, “I think you’re full of s**t.” I said, “Okay, go do your study.” The Red Cross said for every dollar you spend, you save six, I said nine. That professor called me back about a year later, he said, “You low balled it.” He said, “I think it’s actually 12. For every dollar you spend on preparedness, you hit $12 on response.”
GL: How did he come up with that number?
GH: Well, he and his graduate students, they went in and they looked at a couple storms, a couple fires. So in the storm what happens? People in the South got the trees on granddad’s plantation that nobody wants to cut down. So the tree falls on the house, destroys the house, might even kill or hurt somebody. Then the tree takes the grid out, because it’s tall enough, it not only takes the service line, it takes the distribution line out. As a result of that, the local Walmart that didn’t have a generator, lost all their food. Now you just keep going down the road here, and because they built it – that elevation didn’t build above last flood, had we cut that tree down the grid probably would’ve stayed up. Based on the last flood, if we had elevated the home, the store wouldn’t have flooded. One of the most awesome pictures I saw in New Orleans, right near the New Orleans Airport after Katrina, and I was meeting the mayor there for a prep meeting. President was coming and we went to this hotel. We were going to meet there.
So, we pulled in the garage. I was standing outside having a cigar with myself… and I looked at this building, and it’s a place where people go buy televisions and computers. The first floor of this building was the store… and the parking lot was on the top. I said, “What an ingenious use of the land?” The guy didn’t have enough property, so he just put his parking lot on top… he planned to optimize the space, not taking into consideration that this place floods. I said, “If the dumbass had the parking lot on the bottom and the store on the top, he never would’ve closed.” And what do people need after a disaster? Televisions, computers. The garage was fine. All the bottom of that store had a full foot of water in it. So, all that stuff… It’s just a rhythm to it, of going from the half full to the half empty glass. We recognize it, but until you’ve had an aha moment… and they rebuilt that store, guess what? They did not flip it… the garage is still on top.
GL: Still on top?
GH: Still on top. Because they wanted to hurry up and open. I mean he who opens first, is going to sell all the stuff he can get his hand on, you see? So they went for speed as opposed to resilience. On the other hand, after Katrina, President Bush and Speaker Pelosi went after building a levee system in New Orleans; they put a $14 billion levee system. And last year we had an equal size storm, and the city didn’t flood. So we know resiliency works.
GL: You’ve said that the future we fear is here. Why do you think that people have such a hard time getting their heads around doing what we have to do to save ourselves?
GH: Yeah. Well, if you look at it in context… We got multiple wars going on. You are responding to a drought-fire cycle. The biggest war we’ve got going on now is a climate war. And that scientists have stated that much of the things that are happening with the climate, the phases of droughts, the repetitive frequency of wildfires, the strength and persistence of storms coming out of the Gulf… The super cell rains that are coming off the Northern mile of range and go through the Midwest and flood it, is a function of warming sea levels, melting of the ice caps that’s raising the water and temperature in the Gulf that meet, and the amount of water we’re getting off the El Niños and Del Niños and all of them, it’s causing the weather to change; it’s getting hotter annually for more consistent days and it’s climate change, but it’s happening. And it’s coming at a time that the world is going from seven to ten billion people. The USDA and UEN have said, we’ve got to raise 30% more food.
And we’ve got to do it on less arable land. Land that is being lost because of drought or coastal land that’s being flooded because of rising sea level. We’re looking at the coast of Louisiana losing two feet, having a two feet elevation by 2050… And that was put out by the government. So to come back to your question, while over time it looked like it’s happening slowly, we’re like the frog you put in cold water and turn the water on because it’s happening gradually. So the future we feared is here. As Pope Francis said, we are burning up the planet. I mean, we’re burning it up because of the amount of greenhouse gas and the proliferation of methane that’s being produced as a result of more L&G production… and it is accelerating what we had previously thought because we hadn’t been producing that much L&G for export.
So we got climate change and we got a pandemic. The future we feared is here. In that book I talk about, I went and testified before the House and the Senate. And said… “I worry about a pandemic because this is going to be a lot worse than a storm that was concentrated on the coast.” I said that in 2005.
GL: You’re talking about science. But we’re living in a world right now, unfortunately, where fewer and fewer people understand science and therefore don’t believe in it. What do we do about that?
GH: Well, let me just add on. So we got climate, we’ve got war, we got pandemic, and we got an assault on democracy as we knew it, autocracy. I spent two months last year, in the Capitol with 16 generals studying the security capital. And people might want to add even more to that – but climate change is real – and it’s going to affect everybody, and it is affecting everybody. That war is already there.
GL: So you wrote a book; your last book is Leadership in the New Normal, is that correct?
GH: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
GL: What is the new normal and what does this new normal call for in terms of leadership?
GH: The new normal is about adaptation. And really, I said new normal because normal never was good enough. There’ll be old people I talk to and they say, “Well, I miss the old days.” What do you miss about the old days? Is that when I had to go to segregated schools and ride a bus an hour in the morning to school, leave home at 6:15, and there was a school right down the street from me, is that the good old days you’re talking about? So normal is relative. Normal is relative in time. And some of the mergers I talked about when I wrote that book, Leadership in the New Normal, was relevant to the issues at the time. I did talk about the growing population in that book. I also talked about chapter nine in that book, saving your best leadership for when you get home.
That the principle of leadership I talk about in that book, in the New Normal, is that we must embrace the impossible. That our future economy can be driven by doing the impossible. You know what, we had Katrina, we didn’t have Twitter and Facebook. Now, I can sit here and send a note to the President of the United States and there’s somebody in the White House reading it as I’m sending it. We didn’t have that before. On the other hand, we’ve got autocracy and a dictator in Russia, who’s cut the outside world out. These people know what he tells them. So the new normal is relevant to the things that we think that most of us have come to accept, but we’ve got to find solutions to those things.
GL: You said earlier that governments by and large don’t have money to deal with the disasters that are happening. Do you think that governments can and should learn to be more nimble in those moments, because certainly, the bureaucracy and all of the red tape makes it impossible for them to move quickly enough to make a difference in those moments?
GH: So here I’m in Atlanta, I retired from the Army, rented a nice house… They get me into the Rotary Club. I’m going to lunch with Ted Turner. I mean, going to Coca-Cola and eating in the President’s Suite. I mean they’re wining and dining me – 17 corporate fortune 500s, Delta airlines CEO, Morehouse College, Georgia Tech, boy, just making the circuit.
I said, there’s some things we need to do in the city to be more resilient. So I started talking about them. I said, make sure all of your drugstores and gas stations have generators. Because if the grid goes out, people need medicine, they need food and they need to be able to leave. You can’t do that if the grid goes out. Because the best thing if you have a big blackout is to get people to leave. But if the grid’s out, they can’t pump gas. And the retired mayor said, “Okay, General, we’re going to work on this…” They came up with 4,000 kW generators, go to put them around the city in pharmacies, not one pharmacy would take them.
GH: Corporate. Because there’s no longer your mom-and-pop stores. You got a Walgreens on one corner, you got a CVS on the other. They didn’t see a need to do that. They didn’t see the value of what that is to that community like I saw in Gulf Port, Mississippi, where people came back home the week after the storm, but they had no medicine because the grid was out. And here’s the store, if it had a generator, it didn’t flood. It just lost power. The medicines would’ve still been good, people would have come back quicker. And we had to ship medicines in there to people. That’s what they didn’t see. And we had to ship generators into gas stations.
GL: Why is it that in smaller countries like South Korea, which you’ve talked about, the people understand resiliency and sustainability so much more deeply than we do?
GH: Well, number one, they have a unique appreciation for space. Because the size of their population and 60% of the country is hills. So, people in general live on the side of the hill and in the valleys. And when they know monsoon season come in, they don’t wait to go clean out the catch basins. And during monsoon, when I was the division commander there, the division stopped for the first 10 days of monsoon because in order for us to be ready to fight the North Koreans, we had to maintain our lines of communications. And if the bridges got backed up with debris, in some cases, takes the bridge out.
That didn’t happen on my watch. It happened on my predecessor’s watch and they told me about it, I said, “We’re not going to do that.” Because we’re going to make sure that doesn’t happen here. And we preposition generators. We preposition engineer equipment and throughout the storm, we would go out with our trucks and dozers. We even used armored personnel sometimes to go break the debris fields. Because some of them could go through the water, kind of what you all dealt with here. So you’ve got to adapt and overcome. That’s the first lesson we teach every soldier. But that’s not a rhythm that gets into a budget. You cannot get the federal government to put money into preparedness.
GH: Because they’re too busy trying to raise money based on the last disaster – and the next election. There’s three things important to a politician: Get reelected, get reelected, get reelected.
Ace reporter, Jerry Roberts, is sitting next to me as I interview General Honoré, sitting on his hands trying to respect that this is my interview. He jumps in…
Jerry Roberts (JR): I just want to go back to the guy with the garage a little bit. So much of what you’re talking about, makes much sense on a rational level, but there’s so much irrationality among people in resisting it. Whether it’s: Climate change isn’t real or man doesn’t have anything to do with it. Or my house burned down here, I’m going to rebuild it right here. I mean, talk a little bit about how you approach people who are carrying these oppositional attitudes about things and I guess how do we as media people do a better job of changing that?
GH: I was down in Alabama, walking around with this guy at his place… They had come to town and did a lot of volunteering, feeding people. And in a nice, big old wooden house, the family estate… I said, “You need to cut that damn tree.” He said, “Why?” I said, “That tree’s going to fall in your house, destroy it, and may even kill somebody in there.” I said, “Who’s sleeping in that corner room?” “Well, my daughter sleep there.” “And she’s a target, that tree’s going to fall.” He said, “Well, General, my great, great, great granddad had planted that tree.” “And excuse my French, because it is an old-ass tree. If you feel sentimental about it, cut it down, make everybody some furniture out of it and say this come from grandpa, then plant 10 new trees.”
That’s what we got to do in the new normal. We adapt. It’s not that we don’t value the tree, but we take it down. Whatever memory we have from it, plant 10. But if that tree also came down, it was going to take out the service line that runs that community, and his house. That’s just how big a tree it was. We got to get people to think inside their zone and the new normal, the things we got to deal with constant change. Who thought, when you came up with the plan for this place, you had to deal with it during the pandemic? That change, that’s new normal. It is constantly what is the new normal based on things that we can predict? And then the – oh what. So in blue sky, we got to be working as hard. Nearly as hard preparing for the next eventuality as we are for dealing with watching the fire burn.
GL: But so often it rains once, and people think the drought is over. So it’s very hard, as Jerry is saying, to get people to have a sustained focus on resiliency.
GH: And as I said, they give FEMA so much money each year and they get a lot more money than they used to. And that’s helped. But that’s not the answer… I was at a book fair a couple days ago, down in New Orleans where people are still getting bit by the wars of Katrina. And now most recently Irma, and folks were asking me, I said, our county governments are becoming useless.
What we’re missing is a scope of leadership. People said, what do you like watching, the ball juggler or the play spinner? The ball juggler, always in a frantic. He doesn’t have a smile on his feet. I mean, he or she is, they’re trying to catch that next ball before it falls. And that’s how government generally works.
You’re worried about the trees over there. And I’ve got a water system over here that we got to go repair… They understand that infrastructure has a life cycle to it. That every 10 years you got to rebuild that water pump. Every 30 years, that bridge has to be replaced. So how do we create these plate spinners that are touching things when they need to, because they understand that if you don’t cut these trees, as they get taller, they’re going to get taller than the grid, electrical power, or you can be in a place like this, where everything’s underground in this community.
GL: Unfortunately, it’s not.
GH: And it’s not… That’s plate spinning. The ball juggler is, well, we’re going to go cut those 10 trees out there. How much money we got in the budget this year, Jerry? Well, we got $50,000 to make the trees. And a lot of them own private property. And you go to their homeowner and say, “Hey,” like the guy whose granddad planted a tree and tell them, you got to cut a tree. You had to get the hell out of my property. But that one tree could take the whole grid down. So I don’t think there’s a clean answer and don’t try to make one. But going back to that lead question, the future we fear is here. Every generation has a war to fight. You can look out through the history of this country. It went from Washington and Revolutionary War. It went to our nation, doing what we did with the Indians and establish the manifest destiny to the West Coast, to the Civil War, to World War I, didn’t get it right. 37 years later, World War II, Vietnam. I think the war of this generation is going to be climate change.
GL: Do you think that young people should be conscripted to work in this war? And if so, what would that look like?
GH: I think that’s one of the options. There’ve been many people that say, you’re in a high-risk area, you need to reduce the fuel in fire zone. As many, many people that say in your high hurricane areas, you need to trim more trees and make your homes more resilient by making them more weatherproof. So 25% of the air conditioning in that house, goes through the roof. Doesn’t have s**t to do with cooling the house – 25% of it.
GL: Into the ozone.
GH: Right out. The energy that’s used to cool and or heat that house is going through the roof. We could have programs that go and help people reduce their energy bill by 50, 40%… And we’ve got to re-look at building codes. But to build to that right now, it costs more to be properly insulated, to have the windows insulated. I mean, you go to a lot of poor people’s houses, I mean, they’re just energy hogs. But we got states now, like my state in Louisiana, who’s expunging climate education from the school system. You can’t teach climate in the school. Like Florida, you can’t say gay in school. What’s that s**t coming from? Excuse my French.
JR: … Well, how do you get your message across at a time when we really are so divided, can’t even agree on basic facts. People say, COVID wasn’t real, only a million people dead. I mean, who would’ve imagined that? There’d be a million deaths in the United States from that? It’s just so politically divided—
GH: … We’re not wearing masks today… We’re ready to move on. But we’re still losing 1,000 people a day to COVID. When we first hit 1,000, people went bats**t, 1,000 dead today. Oh my God. Then we got conditioned to it.
GL: Now it’s a million and we’re completely inured to it. But I think just as an add on to your question, Jerry, I think it’s not only that people are so divided, it’s that people have come to care more about their personal liberties than taking care of community or investing in community wealth, as my friend Guy Walker would say.
GH: I think that’s well stated. I share your observation. But there’s still… The other book I wrote is Don’t Get Stuck on Stupid. I’ll give you a copy of it, because that’s leadership in your moment saying, we had to constantly change. I said a lot of stuff we are doing don’t make sense.
There’s a lot of stupid people… We have a tendency to repeat failure. I told the House and the Senate, we need to harden the Capitol. So we put so many million dollars in there to harden the doors and windows of the Capitol. So people couldn’t break in with a flagpole in the future. Passed the House, got to the Senate and the Senate said, “No, we ain’t doing that.” The architect to the Capitol didn’t support that. We asked, “Well, what happened, man?” He said, “Well, the curator of the Capitol is worried about historical preservation of the Capitol.” I said, “You got to be s**tting me.”
He said it was so bad last year we got a couple million dollars to re-stain all the doors in the Capitol. That lady in her committee had been working six months but if somebody bomb rushes your capital, you put the fences up. Boom. And they said, we’re going to double the number of dogs they have, because dogs help. There are people from the Civil Rights movements saying, “Oh, they use dogs on John Lewis. We don’t want to use that.”
What are you all doing? Their riot equipment was out of date, by years. The non-lethal ammunition was out of date. And it was stored in a truck that they couldn’t move. It’s like, this is the Federal Government man. How can we be that stupid? I’m going to tell you, people are reluctant to change unless there’s something that forced them to change. And that divide you speak of, it’s not like those Republican senators didn’t realize we need to harden the Capitol. But since the report came out of the House, their obligation to say no to anything coming out of the House. You’re hearing me?
GH: And I don’t know how to answer that question, but it’s phenomenal that we’re in the future we feared. I used to go around the world to countries talking about democracy and the normal countries that were struggling, trying to come out of a coup where the military was leading, and they’re going into voting to replace that military control of the country. And we used to speak civilian control, or the military. Well guess what? On one six, we lost our innocence because now we are a country that went through fighting a coup. And we used to tell the rest of the world, hey peaceful transfer of power… Another January 20th and peaceful transfer of power. Only in America. We lost our innocence that day.
GL: There is a dovetailing of the world environment and climate change, and the war that’s going on in Ukraine right now. Europe doesn’t need to be dependent on Russia for oil and gas. Isn’t there enough wind solar, geothermal available to replace dependency on fossil fuel? And if they went in that direction, couldn’t that do a lot for climate change?
GH: Yeah, they closed all the coal plants, which they promised they would do. And for whatever reason, Germany closed all their nuclear power plants. Because they took the easy way. Easy was just to buy gas from Russia. It’s a country that’s the size of Oregon, Germany, when you look at it. Industrialized, very metro, very ancient. I mean you got buildings, going back to Charlemagne at the same time, they didn’t adapt because they had fossil fuel and now fossil fuel is being weaponized. If you mess with me, I’ll cut it off on you in the middle of the winter.
GL: I don’t mean to jump to silver linings, because it’s such a disaster what’s going on, but couldn’t this jumpstart the move away from fossil fuel?
GH: I think you’re right. I said in a Newsweek interview a couple weeks ago, this might be the thing that caused Europe to adapt, to move away from fossil. This could be the event, geothermal heat pumps. I mean, there are all sorts of solar heaters on housing. There’s all kinds of solutions. But it would take a decade to make that transition. I think you all passed a law that all new houses must have solar on it. And what a great concept. I mean we could generate all kind of power. Then not far from here, there’s a plant burning fossil to generate power. Where on days like this, we could be putting on that power and not use as much fossil. And batteries are going to be better. Where homes like this could be almost off the grid. And people with the resources can do this, people without the resources, it’s hard to make that transition. But if they wanted to, this home could easily be off the grid.
GL: I have a question, because the attack on Iraq was 31 years ago, not the second one, but the first one.
GH: The first one. Yeah, I was there.
GL: I know you were there and Kuwait was not a part of NATO.
GL: And yet NATO stepped in.
GL: Why is NATO so reluctant to do the same now in the Ukraine?
GH: Because Iraq didn’t have 1,400 nuclear weapons like Putin has.
GL: And do you think that’s a legitimate fear?
GH: That is a fear that’s been articulated by the government, that we have not directly confronted Russia. NATO has been in existence for over 70 years. And up until last month, they did their job, and prevented and held back what was then the Iron Curtain, the Soviet Union. And when the Soviet Union fell, when we brought Gorbachev over here and showed him the amount of money we were putting into defense, he went back and said, “Hey, we can’t keep up with this.” The median income in Russia is 47, $4,800. In the U.S., it is around $70,000.
That’s not everybody, but when you level it out, that’s what I’m talking about. Even when they level it out in Russia, it’s less than $5,000. So Russia and China don’t have an immigration problem. Nobody wants to go to that s**t hole. And the people that get money leave. They go buy villas, like this, in France and Spain and the U.K. and the U.S. There’re probably some of them in these hills here. They don’t want to live there, but that suppressive regime generates the money for them to go out, and do what they’re doing because they’re pedaling oil. I think McCain had it right, Putin is a thug with a gas station…
GL: Is he insane?
GH: He’s acting different. He appears to be trying to relive himself in Alexander the Great, or some of these other conquerors. He seems to be driven by something beyond just Ukraine. And that came out in his speech, in his rhetorical BS. And he said it like he believed it, that this is his mission, to reconnect the Soviet Union. Because things were so good for them back then. Good Lord, look how good we had it. And the people in Ukraine said, bulls**t we’re living good over here. We got data centers, we got coffee shops. We got a tech community in Ukraine. They generate some of the biggest agriculture in Europe. And you want us to go back and live like Russia. Whereas if you protest today, you get 15 years in jail. Bulls**t, we don’t want that. It’s the same dilemma when America was created. General Washington, I call Zelenskyy General Washington of Ukraine. When King George imposed his will on America and he sent his army, and we had the pure, we had the loyalists, and we had the people saying, “No s**t, we want to be free.”
And we wrote the Declaration of Independence and the promise that everybody would be free. King George had to ask the people to pray that the Declaration of Independence would never come to fruition because he knew that would be the end of the British Empire. This idea that people are going to be free to live the way they want, marry who they want, have what religion they want, and pay taxes to him. What a concept. And our ancestors, what they said is, bulls**t, we want to be free. They want you to tell a man or woman, you can do what your daddy did. If your daddy was a shoemaker, that’s what he expects you to do. No.
And it took on the most powerful army in the world, the British Army. And Washington was overpowered. And they just had to keep winning battles. And the way they won battles, the code that the Americans broke was, shoot the British officers. Observe, watch because when a British officer was shot, many of the soldiers were mercenaries. The British officers came from the upper British class. The only way you could be an officer in the British army, you had to buy your way into the regiment. Or you had to be related by blood to royalty.
That’s how you became officer. You couldn’t just come off the street, work your way through college, like I did, and become an officer in the British army in 1775. It didn’t work that way. So they started killing the officers and it put so much pressure on King George back at home, and they said, “Hey George, our sons are coming back in body bags. What the hell are you doing?” And that’s eventually what caused him to stop with the amount of money he was spending in the army. Matter of fact, George wrote a note to Washington, he said, “Hey, tell your soldiers to stop killing our officers, it’s bad for morale.” Because when the officers were killed like we’ve seen in the Russian army, when you kill the officer, the formation falls down. Because it’s made up of 90% conscript.
GL: What do you think of how the administration is handling this? Do you think they’re playing a good game of chess?
GH: I think Biden’s playing a good hand and telling the American people what they want to hear. We’re not going to nuclear war. But that’s not where you want to fight in a war.
JR: Because we’re using deterrence. We’re putting it out front. We’re deterring ourselves.
GH: We’re not going to fight you.
GH: You can’t do that with a bully. I mean, we’ve all had experiences, you can’t do that with a bully. Now the downside is we could go into mutual assured destruction. But I don’t think he’s going to go. I don’t think his generals will let him go down.
GL: So there’s a gamble there. Would you allow a no-fly zone? If it were up to you?
GH: It’s too late… If you go back and look at my Twitter feed, I said, put the no-fly zone on him before the ground attack.
GL: What would you do now?
GH: I would take S-300 SAMs missiles that are owned by the NATO nation, and were part of the Soviet Union, and I get the SA-400s out of Turkey who we bought from Russia a couple years ago, and put them, slip them while we can, inside of Ukraine. Because they know how to operate those systems and create the air cap using the air defense.
GL: But you wouldn’t even put a no-fly zone on the borders?
GH: It’s too late now. Because the Russians, they can sit back in Russia and cover Ukraine with their long-range air defense. They can sit in Russia and they can shoot Tomahawk missiles like the ones they shot last night. Most of those are being shot from way eastern Ukraine, or inside of Russia, or shooting them off ships. But we could put an iron dome there inside. We could have driven around chrome and dome in there a few weeks ago, but we’re in a dilemma. And it’s not a time now to talk about these survivors, or the victims. But you remember until the night before the war started, the president [Zelenskyy] was saying, they’re not coming. “They’re not coming. They’re not coming.” It’s bulls**t, Man, they’re coming. We are telling you they’re coming. We’re not going to tell you our sources and methods. But we know that they’re coming. And he didn’t prepare his people… About 10 days before, there was a news feed that got through to the Department of Defense. They were loading an airplane at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and the State Department was shipping 83 tons of ammunition to Ukraine. I said, that’s not s**t. To the American people that sounds like a lot – an M-1 tank weighs 70 tons. So imagine a tank sitting here, you could put two M-1 tanks to the C-17. And these ass hats are bragging about sending 82 or 83 tons of ammo to Ukraine. That’s bulls**t. You should have been sending shiploads.
GL: You’ve been quoted as saying at a certain point, enough is enough. Would you say enough is enough? What’s your red line?
GH: My red line is being hit every day, and we need to, while we can get the clandestine logistics system built, so we can continue the flow air defense. If we can take the air from him, and put some kind of dome, give them some missiles that can shoot the incoming T-hawks – which is not big technology – and give them some more drones. You know those drones we use throughout the Obama years, where the pilots were in Colorado. They work eight-hour shifts. They take the kids to school and they go fly drones, killing people all day. How long would it take a Ukrainian captain with a master’s degree in electronic engineering to learn how to fly a drone. But you got to have a place. We were flying those drones out of one of the stands, one of them just north of Pakistan. We were flying them out of there. One of Russia’s former parts of the USSR. We just paid the guy there enough money in our obscure airfield. That’s where we were flying them from. Or we could fly them, they could fly for 24 hours. We could fly them anywhere and give them to a Ukrainian power. Let them shoot. But the way Austin and Milley look at it – well, if we do that, we’re going to piss Russia off. Hey, you pissed them off, what are you going to do tomorrow? Blow up another hospital. That logic doesn’t set with me. And Austin used to work for me as Secretary of the Defense.
JR: Austin did?
GH: Yeah. Another junk staff. He was a Colonel. I was a two star. But I think they are trying to follow U.S. policy that says, we’re in Europe as a part of NATO. And to keep that alliance together, an alliance that’s come a long way in the last three weeks. But I never agreed with the line that we won’t go to war unless it directly affects NATO. So what it means, I think there’ll be 10 million evacuees in the next month. I’ve always said 10 million.
GL: Are you making that number up?
GH: S**t. Right? My numbers normally don’t come off far. There’ll be 10 million in evacuees. Because as you draw down the food supply and the grids get cut down, people are going to start walking.
GL: Or freeze to death.
GH: Right. Or the combination of all the above.
GL: Why has Putin not shut down the grid yet?
GH: Okay. So, this is where he’s stupid, all his trend is kinetic, which is to blow s**t up. But if you take over Kyiv and there’s still two million people there, and you want to replace the government. Let’s say next week he gets in and puts in a new mayor, and he puts in a new president. You broke it, ass hat, you got to fix it. How are you going to feed two million people? How are you going to turn the water back on? Russia doesn’t have that money. Ukraine doesn’t have that money. So everything he breaks—
GL: He’s got to fix.
GH: Morally we’d say, he’s got to. But he’s not going to do it, he doesn’t give a s**t. See Putin figures out how many rules a day he can break. And the U.S. tries to figure out how many rules we don’t break. And in the disaster, the first rule is you got to figure out what rules you’re going to break. Rules don’t work in disaster and war. We’ve always said, going back to the history of warfare, the first casualty of war is the freaking truth. Every day, you hear the Defense Department public affairs guy go up and tell everything we know, “We shipped the 8,000 tanks.” Why are you saying that ass hat?
And then the next day Putin sees 50 of these tanks got destroyed. Why do you keep telling how much you’re sending over there. So being the villain, rules don’t matter to him. And I don’t want to get into politics, he’s like Trump, rules didn’t matter to him. It was all about what was for him. So you’re dealing with a guy that rules don’t matter. You attack a nuclear power plant with tanks. Rules don’t matter. Because to his people back home, he can just say, well, Ukrainians blew it up. We were trying to save it. And here we are being so careful, in our language – that’s we won’t do nothing – but we’re going to watch a country of 42 million people. There could easily be a million people dead. I bet the death rate in Ukraine now is closer to 150,000 than what they’re reporting. Because they don’t know.
GL: So how does this end?
GH: I don’t know. I do think he doesn’t have the capacity to go beyond a 90-day war. And all that stuff we did with the economy. That’s not going to happen quick. And it’s going to take at least 60 to 90 days for the mamas who sent their sons away to know they ain’t coming back. And as an estimate, we may kill up to 68,000 Russian troops. They brought cremation trailers with them to cremate the bodies. So the stories never get back to Russia. I think if Zelenskyy can hold on, and we can get some more of our defense in there and we can…
At this point General Honoré asks us to turn off our tape recorders to share some of what he’s heard or suspects, but is not at liberty to say. So we do.
GH: I think the end is going to have to come from Russia. And he’ll have to sue for peace. We have to take him to that point until he says, okay, I’ve had enough.
GL: What does that mean, sue for peace?
GH: Every war that we’ve tried to end without a loser, comes to the table, accept the conditions of surrender. Now I don’t mean he’s going to surrender the Soviet Union, but throughout history, all of his predecessors at war, died or were sent to Siberia. And he knows that’s his fate. Sue for peace would be when McCarthy met on the aircraft carrier with the Japanese Admiral, he said, “Okay, s**t’s over, what are the conditions?” Unconditional surrender. Yeah. But no, it’s when you’re ready to talk, we’ll continue to bomb. Yes. We’d already dropped the bombs in Japan, unconditional surrender. And I think if we end this right, it’s going to be unconditional removal of all your forces from Ukraine. If we allow him to say he can keep the southern access to Ukraine. That would be a compromise that we’ll continue to deal with for the next generation. And if he takes Odessa, my God, I don’t want to say it on TV, and exacerbate the moment that reminds some Russian intelligence officer who watches our TV, but God damn it, we got to hold Odessa. If he cuts Odessa off, Ukraine becomes a landlocked country. We got to hold Odessa. And I hope that our friends that work for us, that’s where they are, to make sure they don’t take Odessa. But I think the solution is going to have to come out of Russia. But I don’t think he can start maintaining a campaign like this over 60 to 90 days. I don’t think he’ll do it. With the losses he’s taken. And if we give him some more of our defense, and we put some more anti-missile systems in, Ukraine’s going to have to hang on, the country’s going to be destroyed. Then he can come back to NATO with the commitment to rebuild it, to give them the money to rebuild it.
GL: Why was Ukraine not led into NATO when we could see this coming?
GH: Okay. In order to come into NATO, we got rules. Free and fair elections, a judicial system that works. And Ukraine had a lot of issues with that.
JR: And anti-corruption.
GH: Anti-corruption. They’ve had a lot of issues. As well as they were doing. They brought a lot of the old Russian waves with them, met a lot of people in Ukraine, all from Russia. They brought a lot of the rich get richer attitude with them. And I think that’s part of the reason. That’s what I think. And they didn’t want to, again, piss Russia off. I mean, NATO the last four, five years under Trump, was diffused. I mean, we pulled troops out of NATO. When I was in NATO assigned in Europe, we had over 300,000 troops, until right before Desert Storm in Europe, there to fight the Russians. Our only enemy in Europe was the Russians. Over 300. We had two core headquarters, each with at least two to three divisions in them.
In Germany, I commanded a battalion there. In Germany, and then when we cut the deal in the fall of the Soviet Union, and then Bill Clinton starts here, we’re going to have a peace dividend. We’re going to invest this money. And we’re going to take down the size of the army. We’re going to take down the reserves, because we don’t need all those troops to be ready to go to war. And we cut the nuclear deal and went to Ukraine. We went clean. We paid to clean the nuclear s**t up in Ukraine. We did that for Russia. Because we knew they wouldn’t do anything. The U.S. did that, paid for that. And now Ukraine, who was the second most powerful nuclear country in Europe, gave this s**t up with a promise.
JR: Russia sure was guaranteed that border.
GH: Yeah. That we would help guarantee their border, now that s**t’s coming we say, “Well, no, you’re not a part of NATO, we can’t put you in here.” To a bully, as long as he gets his way, he can get everybody else to back down. Every night, I can give myself a little wish, I don’t say I pray, but I wish that the next day I wake up, the first thing I hear on CNN is Putin has been taken out. If we could just get rid of him once. He is showing a lot of tendencies of Hitler.
JR: I’m just curious, don’t get stuck on stupid, but a lot of people are stuck on stupid, or at least they’re stuck on tribalism. I’m for this, because you’re against him, or yeah. And also, it’s just so many things that I felt had been settled in our lifetime, the Cold War, Civil Rights.
GH: Yeah. Been settled.
JR: 40 years ago I was writing about—
GH: Voting rights.
JR: They are trying to get rid of gay teachers. All of these things. I just wonder, are you hopeful? Are you optimistic?
GH: Here’s what it is. I’m a person of mixed race. I’m African American. I believe what the country’s going through, is that there are a lot of white people, much of it emanates from the Southern states, who are scared as s**t when they lose the majority, and they become the minority. I think that’s the s**t’s that’s driving. And you got guys like Tucker Carlson and Hannity and day and night they’re hearing this s**t. And they talk about it. I think that’s the underlying think scheme, that one day you’ll have as many women and minorities on the Supreme Court that reflect the country. It scares the s**t out of them. You know what is said, for 160 years, all the Supreme Court have been white men except what, seven people in 160 years? And it just nominated this black woman, and people are talking about what the hell? Does she know? Lord, does she know Jim Crow. What kind of s**t is that? I think it is a lot of people in the country are worried about losing Texas one day, the biggest minority and they’re going to be Hispanic. And it is now almost – but they classified themselves as white, as a white Texan, white Hispanics. But tomorrow you could turn Texas blue if they voted, but they’re not voting that way, because they don’t see themselves as that, serving them as an interest. The biggest population in Texas, Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston are blue. But when you got 100 and something counties, and three or four of them got the majority of population, don’t matter when the legislature is out there making crazy laws and they’re representing these little counties with four or 5,000 people in them.
JR: So you’re not hopeful and optimistic about the future?
GH: I say it’s going to be turbulent. And we’re in another revolution. We’re in a revolution, but we’re like the frog, the water is warming slow and it’s happening around us when they start burning books. Hitler burned f**king books. You got people taking books out of the library of Louisiana because they don’t like to get talked about. The slavery and Jim Crow, they don’t like to talk about that.