HARPER: COL. W. PATRICK LANG R.I.P.

It is hard to believe that one year has passed since our founder Col. Pat Lang, a voice of reason in these troubled times, passed away. We can only imagine what kinds of wisdom would have been forthcoming from his pen in these 12 months of war on multiple fronts, turbulence and political missteps on the home front.

My wife and I had the privilege of working on a daily basis with Pat as he churned out his last two books–his Memoir Tattoo and his collected writings The Portable Pat Lang. Even as his health was deteriorating in his final months, he made clear that he viewed his published works as his enduring legacy. His memoir is a work of art that provides unparalleled insights into the second half of the last century and the early years of the present century. It was his gift to current and future generations who need to understand the follies and achievements of our recent past to avoid the former and build upon the latter.

I can think of no more fitting way to celebrate Pat’s life and recall our personal experiences as his friends, colleaguess, and students than to redouble our efforts to get his works circulating as widely as possible. Start with your own purchases for yourself and those who you hold dear and wish to see benefit from Pat’s wisdom, biting humor, and literary brilliance. Military libraries and other institutions have been slow to purchase and distribute his books.

In addition to his two final literary gifts, several years before his death, Pat was able to secure the copyright on an earlier book he wrote on human intelligence. He reworked it, with a new introduction and it was published as The Human Factor: The Phenomenon of Espionage. At last year’s Miami Book Fair, The Human Factor was a popular item and all the available copies at the Fair were sold out in one day. It is a unique and vital work on the challenges associated with the work of a case officer. Remember that during the final years of his career, he was the director of global human intelligence for the Defense Intelligence Agency. That short book is a gem, which should be part of the curriculum at every intelligence program.

We know that Pat is in a better place, looking down and wagging his fingers at the would-be leaders of our nation and the world. He devoted his life and career to speaking truth to power.

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23 Responses to HARPER: COL. W. PATRICK LANG R.I.P.

  1. Condottiere says:

    I’ve wondered at times. Where is his obituary? I can’t find it. I also haven’t seen his passing listed in the back of AFIO’s quarterly journal, The Intelligencer.

  2. Barbara Ann says:

    Harper

    Tattoo is an astonishing book. If I had not corresponded regularly here with its author I might have imagined that the antagonist was a work of fiction. But Colonel Lang was the real deal – both the epitome of the American Scholar and something I had thought one only encountered in literature; a bona fide warrior poet.

    I have no doubt he is busying himself right now building a new intelligence network in preparation for the Final battle. I like to think he also leaves time for hunting rattlers with his beloved uncle John.

  3. Harper says:

    TTG is 100 percent correct. He wished to remain a private person whose engagement with the world was through the blog (Committee of Correspondence in his words) and his writings. Pat graduated from VMI with a degree in English Literature, a subject of great pride to him and a reason he was such an effective case officer. Great literature is a gateway to the mind, a point he emphasized in his wonderful little book about the human factor in espionage His trilogy on intelligence and espionage during the Civil War is a gem.

  4. John Minnerath says:

    After I ran across Pat Lang’s blog here we began to exchange a few personal emails.
    We found we had been in the same platoon at Jump School in Fort Benning and realized starting in that summer of 1962, we had known many of the same people and shared many of the same experiences.
    For me he will always be deeply missed.

  5. Keith Harbaugh says:

    I wonder what Col. Lang would have thought about
    what seems to me to be a piece of misinformation and disinformation about the U.S. intelligence community and its supposed power to control events:

    https://theconservativetreehouse.com/blog/2024/04/02/house-speaker-mike-johnson-3-point-plan-to-fund-ukraine-senator-graham-happy/

    Here is an excerpt:

    The key [U.S.] politicians within the dynamic exist inside information silos, essentially control mechanisms, where the intelligence community (IC) constructs reality by briefing the politicians about what is going on in the world. [Like those politicians don’t have other sources of information, and advocacy groups tugging at their sleeves.] The IC tells the politicians what is happening, defines the importance and instructs the politicians on the priorities. The IC is never challenged because ultimately the IC has “seven ways to Sunday” to target the politicians if any non-compliance is identified.

    [U.S. House] Speaker Mike Johnson is one of the “gang-of-eight” members within the legislative branch.
    The Go8 are briefed and controlled by the IC, using the exact same intelligence given to the President.
    Speaker Johnson has the funding of Ukraine as his top priority, because the IC officials who set priorities have told him it must be.

    What misinformation, IMO.
    I thought the IC provided information to policy-makers, but did not itself set policy.
    There may have been gray areas, but has anyone heard such a one-sided, paranoid, view of the intelligence/policy relation before?

    The politicians, decision makers, and public receive pro-Ukraine, anti-Russian information from a wide variety of sources, surely many not controlled by the IC.
    Most are, in fact, controlled by whoever funds them.
    The old “Golden Rule.”

    And as to

    Speaker Johnson has the funding of Ukraine as his top priority,
    because the IC officials who set priorities have told him it must be.

    surely the wishes of the big campaign donors hold significant, if not decisive, weight.

    I think most of us can agree that Sundance is using the IC as a scapegoat to avoid identifying whatever really is determining
    the overwhelming support for Ukraine at top levels of government on both sides of the Atlantic.
    As an example of that support, see
    https://www.politico.com/news/2024/04/02/allies-consider-moving-ukrarms-group-into-nato-to-shield-it-from-trump-00150151

    There is disagreement on what accounts for that consensus.
    Some argue it is somehow stupidity on the part of those who have risen to the top.
    I have a different, less acceptable to some, opinion.
    I don’t think it is stupidity.
    Rather, a different view of WHOSE interests are to be served.

    Consider the near identity of
    1. the policy positions advocated by the ADL,
    on many issues ranging from
    support for transgenderism and homosexuality in general,
    policies towards Ukraine and Russia,
    immigration policy, and DEI,
    with
    2. the policies advocated in the media and adopted by the government (in practically all Western countries),
    and ask yourself “Who is really in control?”
    It isn’t the IC.

  6. TTG says:

    I still have voicemails on my phone and emails on my laptop from Pat from late March last year. Hard to fathom it’s been a year since his last great PCS. We bonded over our common Army, SF and case officer backgrounds. Didn’t always agree, but often did. We spoke almost every day once Russia invaded Ukraine. Those conversations over a wide range of subjects beyond the war would make one hell of book, but they will forever remain between the two of us. DOL

  7. leith says:

    Harper –

    I remember Colonel Lang with a great deal of respect. He was a fierce patriot, even though he did not hesitate to speak out and criticize boneheaded government policies. He banned me from his blog several times for political differences, but never permanently. Despite our political differences I admired his stance on the blog against anti-Americanism.

    I agree that he would have had a lot of wisdom to share about the last 12 months. I’d like to hear his thoughts on the current situation – in the Red Sea, in Ukraine, in Israel, in Syria, in the Sahel, etc. He’d surely have some words for Gaza and also the IDF’s strikes that killed seven World Central Kitchen volunteers riding in white vehicles clearly marked with WCF logo. He never forgave Israel for the USS Liberty 57 years ago where they killed 34 Americans and wounded 171. I’d additionally like to hear his opinion on the why the Kremlin’s security services never took seriously the threat warnings from Iran and the US about potential terrorist attacks, that turned out so horrendous at the Crocus Concert Hall in Krasnogorsk.

    • LeaNder says:

      He was a fierce patriot, even though he did not hesitate to speak out and criticize boneheaded government policies. He banned me from his blog several times for political differences, but never permanently.

      Yes. A fierce (somewhat volcanic?) patriot. I am a bit volcanic myself. Maybe that is why I misjudge matters.

      I only understood, or thought I may understand, a very, very small percentage of his bans. Including mine, finally? Had to happen?

      I miss him, some of his comments were food for thought, and he was a great teacher of brevity. Something one may learn in the military. 😉

  8. walrus says:

    I think, with the greatest of respect to Pat, that being banned was a badge of honor. Pat had standards and if he didn’t think you were living up to them, well, you got to hear about it He was always courteous and provided your crime wasn’t being more than a little outspoken, you didn’t remain banned for long.

    Pats opinion of the Gaza war would be unprintable, as is mine. Netanyahu’s strategy is pure evil and merits the strongest Jewish criticism ie: “bad for business”. I like to think Pat might have moderated his view on Russsia by now.

  9. Stefan says:

    I started reading the blog some time in 2006. Not sure when I first started commenting, the earliest time I know of was when the Colonel made a comment of mine into a post on the blog back in 2007. We had communicated some behind the scenes about Yemen and Saudi prior to this.

    Early in 2018 he had emailed me and asked me to write for the blog as a guest author on Yemen issues. I was not able to take him up on the offer due to family issues, but even being asked was a huge compliment. I later (2018) tried to talk him into appearing on an al Masira documentary. They were looking for a US military expert but he declined.

    He was such a wealth of knowledge on a wide variety of issues. So seldom these days do you run into someone with such a wide array and depth of knowledge that he had.

    A modern Renaissance man if there ever was one. RIP.

  10. Jovan P says:

    Reading the blog, for me, began somewhere in 2016. The Colonel once put my article, since the Ukranian war I got banned three of four times, but for some reason kept returning back.

    Colonel’s stance on the Ukrainian war was uncomprehensive to me, but I attributed it to TTG’s opinions which the Colonel highly valued (he also mentioned leith in this context).

    I loved discovering the Colonel’s term ,,borg” for the neocons and etc, deeply respected his knowledge and life experiences, and was eager to catch from time to time small pieces of them (remember him writing that a few years after the Vietnam war, teaching on some US military school, nobody would mention Vietnam). One of the many memories is from the story he often reposted on Christmas in Vietnam, where if I understood correctly the US forces and the Vietkong shot different color bullets in the air to briefly celebrate the Lord’s birth, i.e, have short joy before the next fight.

    • Barbara Ann says:

      At midnight, celebration was interrupted by the sound of machine gun fire in the distance. The revelers trooped outside to see if they were going to have to fight on Christmas Eve. There were hard words concerning the ancestry of the enemy. Across the wire, across the outpost line, across the valley of no-man’s land were the crests occupied habitually by the “opposition.” From these heights rose a stream of green Soviet-made “tracer.” The celebrants contemplated this for a minute, and then Guzman suggested a reply. An M-60 machine gun emerged from the house, and while one man fired red tracer into the air, another held the bipod above his head, and another fed the gun its belted ammunition. The streams of bullets crossed in the black, star filled sky. The VC gun fell silent, as did the American. There was a hush as warriors waited for some sign that the hope of common humanity yet lived. The VC fire resumed. Now there were three guns shooting green stars into the blackness. The MI men’s guns chattered merrily, spilling a river of shell casings into the street. Red and green filled the night.

      Christmas Eve 1968 in Song Be, from Tattoo

  11. jim.. says:

    Thank You Harper….Have Long Enjoyed Your Participation Here for
    Many Years,,,And Somewhat Envy Your Personal Relationship With
    Colonel Lang…

    I Am Very Grateful That a Man of His Stature ,,Background ,,And Talent
    Created An Online Forum Like SST…and Allowed me to Participate With
    My Thoughts and Comments for about 22 Years now….Sine 9/11..

    I was Interested in All His Writing…His Books..His Back ground.
    His Guest Writers..And Wide Range of Topics…One Could Choose From..

    His Comments..His Moderation..His Photos…Patio..Steaks..Trips With His
    Wife…..Margurita…His Daughter MaureenHope she is Well..and His Dogs..

    There Will Never Be another ..Honorable,, W.Patrick Lang..He Was “The Human Factor”
    In The ICC..Military..History..Literature..Life..Love…and Spirit.. RIP Pat Lang,,..

  12. Eric Newhill says:

    I had great respect for Colonel Lang for the obvious; as a military man, a connoisseur of human cultures and history – and even as a well-honed curmudgeon at times. It wasn’t until I read his Civil War trilogy that I truly glimpsed the extent of his mental and creative abilities and became in awe of the man. He confided that he actually communicated with the spirits of the characters in the novels. Amazing. One of a kind. He is missed.

  13. gordon reed says:

    I started reading Col. Langs blog in 2003 when I saw him on the MSM questioning the rationale for the Iraq war, like all others who showed dissent from the neocon talking points he was blackballed by the corporate media. I discovered his blog and have read it every day since 2003.

  14. Fred says:

    Thank you Harper for your post. I first came to read Pat’s blog by way of a write up by James Wolcott in Vanity Fair in the early days of the Iraq War. I received quite an education via this Committee of Correspondence. I am grateful for his long, long, efforts to educate those willing to learn; and appreciate his inviting me to be a guest author, as well as our private correspondence.

  15. English Outsider says:

    Patrick Armstrong, like many in public life, packed in writing in February 2022. I think he got visited around then. He wrote in to say he was stopping and Colonel Lang invited him to resume if he wanted to. He wrote brilliant summaries and is now back in action.

    David Habbakuk? I google him every now and again but don’t come up with much. I always used to read him avidly. He knew stuff about English cultural and political life, and how that related to what was going on in the States, that few others did.

    Things have settled down a bit since ’22. Any chance of getting such people back? As said, the Colonel would I think have welcomed them.

    On the Colonel himself, he was unique. So also his site and his writings. I’m just glad I got a “Welcome back” from him before his premature death. Big-hearted, like the man himself.

  16. KjHeart says:

    hard to believe it has already been a year… I miss his good opinions as well as his clear -worded admonishments…

    I wish him well, and say a small prayer for his loved ones whenever I think of him

    Kj

  17. Jose says:

    The Colonel is missed, his insight was on target even when we disagreed.

    My condolences to his family and the rest of the community on this great loss.

    I wish we could hear his opinion on what these SOB’S have done to the military.

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