A response to ‘Cork Graham is a CIA-faker’ (Part 3)

The photo started it all...

[Third in a three part series, Part 2 here, where Cork Graham responds to critics and discusses his combat experience in Central America in the 1980s.–editor]


Selling Books

Many might be surprised that I have no problem with a known pedophile, who raped his own step daughter, once again president of Nicaragua, or Salvadorans voting in a president who represents one of the most diabolical terrorist organization in Latin America during the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s: not a week went by that a bomb didn’t go off killing civilians that wasn’t placed by the various killer groups under the umbrella of the FMLN, such as the ERP.

But, El Salvador’s FMLN and Nicaragua’s President Ortega were legally voted in, and it is their country and their mess—and most importantly they’re no longer a communist military threat to the US, having shot their last wad during Tet II San Salvador that was orchestrated by Sandinista President Daniel Ortega, Cuba’s Raul Castro and Vietnam’s General Giap, and unlike Vietnam, there was no longer a Soviet Union to rearm them.

El Salvador, like Nicaragua, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Russia, before them is learning that the charade of politics might change, but the same people remain in power.

But again, that’s their business, and we have enough problems of our in the US that need fixing—namely how far our own government has fallen from fulfilling its duties as described by the very document that’s supposed to keep them in check.

“I have never met a r-eal CIA paramilitary officer who ever advertised like this, that he had been a CIA paramilitary officer,” Spencer said.  “Only since 9/11 have there been a couple of books that have come out by guys [who served] in Afghanistan, but that was not the norm for people in the 1980s.”


Spencer’s right. Aside from shooting photographs for the various news services, I never said a damned word about what I actually did from 1985 to 1990 for 20 years. Repercussions like this maelstrom of attacks on my character would be the result, I was told many times, especially back in the early 1990s, after many attempts to help get recognition for those who had died in combat and not some “training accident” (we all knew as “bodywashing”), fell on deaf ears.

Unlike most of my fellow combat buddies, I made sure I had a variety of pictures taken of me in the field, something I learned to do all the way back to my days in the US Navy: If I didn’t I’d just be some guy in a bar, telling you some pretty fantastical stories, right?

In closing, I’ll respond directly to two items: Thomas Leo Briggs, I read your book. You may have been a fellow paramilitary with the Agency, but I never knew about you until I read your memoir, “Cash on Delivery.”

Frankly, I’m dismayed that after a pretty good description of what YOU did running teams from the safety of your base, the book ended as yet another “why didn’t the Agency treat me better and give me the respect I deserve?” regarding your comments at the end of the book about your ending times in Greece: Get in line.

I created the online multimedia magazine GCT Magazine to provide worthwhile tactical information for those in harm’s way for the US that likely aren’t getting it because the bureaucracy of the US Government and military is such that carryover of knowledge is amazingly poor; or, as can be seen by the misinformation and lack of knowledge in books such as those by Professor David Spencer, it’s often lost or missing.


You might also want to keep a tight lip on accusations and egotistical statements about people you know nothing about. Remember that old saying from WWII: you never know who’s listening…I got that email being sent around the retired intelligence community within days of the inflammatory blogs about me, stating how I emailed you “to beg a ‘free’ copy” of “Cash on Delivery.” To clarify, anyone who has been in the publishing business knows that I emailed you for a “review” copy.

Frankly, I all too frequently get requests from publishers, and especially self-publishers like you, to send me review copies, but I extended the offer to a fellow paramilitary officer. Evidently, you too didn’t check your facts and let your ego and ignorance get in the way of your professionalism.

It is all about selling books these days, though, isn’t it, Merle Pribbenow, Jeff Stein, Thomas Leo Briggs and Adam Weinstein? I do wish you well with your own line of books that you’re pushing. That’s after all why I’m writing now, instead of when you probably hoped I’d jump back at you guys in 2011: after time off writing fulltime to help take care of my father as he dealt with the relapse of prostate cancer, I’ve just released a new John Corbett series of spy novels with “The Panmunjom Protocol,” and will next month be coming out with a new series of post economic collapse novels under the “Borrowed Time” series.

I was actually tickled that Mother Jones took an interest in me (even if it was only a mere copy editor by the name of Adam Weinstein) , especially considering their pro-communist record with a commie for mommy film director Michael Moore back in the day when he was editor of Mother Jones and more than ready to publish a pro-Sandinista article no matter the cost of facts and loss of lives to communism.


Weinstein seems in good company with that historic masthead. It is ironic that someone who writes like Adam Weinstein would accuse me of “purple prose,” or better yet that he would have problems with my books being self-published. Shoot, my longtime friend Joe Galloway and his co-author Gen. H. Charles Moore, took 10 years going the traditional route of getting an agent and a New York publishing house, and flying their book through the flack of unwilling, fresh out of college, wet behind the ears, editors to ultimately great success as “We Were Soldiers.”

Does Weinstein begrudge me that I took the more independent and faster route of publishing it myself, as so many well-established authors are doing now? If you don’t feel confident enough in your own writing to invest the cost of printing and marketing, would you expect anyone else to put down the $14.95 it cost then for a copy of my Vietnam prison memoir “The Bamboo Chest,” whose sales got it to #1 for non-fiction at The New York Times in 2004?

What surprises me most, Weinstein, is that you said you tried to verify from the publisher that the The Bamboo Chest was a NYT bestseller. Wouldn’t a writer for Mother Jones of all publications have enough clout to just call the NYT and get confirmation from them directly? After all, you list C.J. Chivers, a senior writer at the NYT as a mentor on your resume—couldn’t you have been a little less lazy and used him to get verification from the horse’s mouth?

Oh, and lest we forget that Weinstein used Wikipedia to find out that I was a “failed conflict photojournalist” he’ll need to explain why he didn’t contact the Associated Press and ask them about one of many photos that was purchased by them and one noted as the best combat shot for Christmas 1985. You might just catch the tracer coming up at the chopper from the FMLN in the shot.

One of the photos AP purchased in 1985 during Graham’s days as a freelance photographer selling to the various news services in Southeast Asia and Latin America.
One of the photos AP purchased in 1985 during Graham’s days as a freelance photographer selling to the various news services in Southeast Asia and Latin America.

And since we evidently all write articles these days because we got books to sell, as I’ve noticed with all the little Amazon book reviews littered by Merle Pribbenow, Charles (Charlie) Gillen, Thomas Leo Briggs and the rest of the AFIO Little Ole Ladies Mahjong Club, I’ll help you guys out. So in sharing the controversy and hopefully book selling publicity, be sure to check out the book by Briggs if you want to read about one of the ways paramilitary officers led campaigns in covert wars, as was Laos.

It’s edifying, and a reminder of why I think every paramilitary officer should be single and in no way bringing spouses to the theater work. Then, again, it was a lot safer in that scenario than it was for those of us in Central America who worked much more closely with our men and women than Briggs documents of his own experience, and dealing with things such as being shot in the back by infiltrators, which occurred to more than a few of we Americans in that war. The book again is titled “Cash on Delivery.”

Another book worth mentioning is “Victory in Vietnam,” a translation by Merle Pribbenow, who states in his foreword that he “left Saigon aboard a Marine CH-46 helicopter, dazed and confused at the rapid collapse of the largest and most expensive US Military effort since World War II.” Other than finding the comment partly the title of a humorous film about stoners in the 1970s, I’m surprised that Pribbenow was dazed and confused.


How could it have been any clearer that Saigon was going to fall immediately after the North got the go ahead by Congress refusing to back South Vietnam in 1975? They were fulfilling a campaign that General Moore and his men had originally stopped, what was well-described in “We Were Soldiers,” and to which I refer in my new novel “The Panmunjom Protocol.”

Item two, yes, most paramilitary officers come to the Agency from having been in the military. I didn’t say that I wasn’t in the military. And I don’t respond well to demands left by reporters who can’t tell they’re being responded to by an auto-responder, Jeff Stein, but thank you for reminding me to add a clause to my autoresponder to spell it out to later receivers of my autoresponder sent emails—I get so many attempts at contact I’ve needed to put one up just to make sure everyone’s taken care of.

So, here’s a bit of history, a little secret I’ve kept for a very long time, that’s sure to get Vietnam into a heated chat with Secretary of State John F. Kerry: I was an ID card carrying member of the US Navy when I was taken prisoner by the Vietnamese on the island on Hon Tre Lon at 2000 hours on June 16, 1983. When I reported to the Pentagon in 1984, a few weeks after my release on May 17, 1984, not even the investigators at the POW/MIA resolution office, the Joint Casualty Resolve Center, knew I was in the Navy until they debriefed me.

Cork Graham, back row, under "XIN" in Lexington, at Pensacola NAS, in 1983. (Courtesy)
Cork Graham, back row, under “XIN” in Lexington, at Pensacola NAS, in 1983. (Courtesy)

Yes, folks, I’m a wannabe. No, I’m not a wannabe CIA paramilitary: who would ever willing want to be considering all the fiascos, lack of recognition for actual victories, and well-earned reputations for horrendously useless spending, reported and not reported? No, I’m actually a wannabe F18 pilot. That was the then new jet all those in my squadron were dreaming of being assigned when we were midshipmen and looking toward to our commissions.


Too bad, while on an LOA, leave of absence, from my unit, my left eye went from perfect 20/20 to 20/80 after a Vietnamese militiaman went to town with the stock of an AK-47 on left side of my head: I signed my discharge papers from the Navy that following summer of 1984.

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