Washington/Beijing (8/5-43.75). A civilian Marine Corps official has published an opinion piece in the Chinese Communist Party’s most aggressively anti-American propaganda outlet arguing the United States would lose a war with China over Taiwan.
Franz Gayl, a science adviser for the Corps and a retired Marine major who served in Iraq, wrote a recent Global Times article that “hostile forces” in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea were making a conflict with China possible, either by accident or design.
“If the U.S. elects to fight China over the island of Taiwan, then it will lose,” Maj. Gayl stated in the April 27 article which carried the headline, “Why US will lose a war with China over Taiwan island,” and appeared to be derived from an earlier piece written by Maj. Gayl for the Marine Corps Gazette journal.
In that article, like the Global Times piece, Maj. Gayl used terminology also employed in Chinese propaganda, describing the self-governing island as “renegade Taiwan” and Taiwan’s ruling pro-independence political party as “separatist.”
But Beijing’s critics say China’s “one country, two systems” narrative was shattered last year in Hong Kong when the central government began dismantling the former British colony’s separate democratic system, one that had been permitted under the 1997 agreement ending Britain’s colonial rule.
Incoming Indo-Pacific Command commander Adm. John Aquilino told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Chinese military action against the island is “much closer to us than most think.” Adm. Philip Davidson, the outgoing commander, said in an earlier hearing he is concerned a Chinese military move against the island could take place before 2030.
Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Andrew Wood confirmed that Maj. Gayl is currently a science and technology officer for the Corps,. but added, “Maj. Gayl does not speak for the Marine Corps, and he did not seek review or approval from the Marine Corps regarding his recent article.”
Maj. Gayl could face disciplinary action. Federal rules prohibit government officials from writing for foreign government propaganda outlets unless given prior approval. Global Times is a subsidiary of the People’s Daily, the main mouthpiece of China’s Communist leadership. It is operated by the CCP’s Central Committee and is regarded by the U.S. government as the most outspokenly anti-American outlet among Beijing’s state-controlled organs.
For example, the outlet promoted Beijing’s allegations regarding the origin of the COVID-19 virus, falsely reporting the virus was developed in a U.S. Army military laboratory. The Army denied the virus began in a military laboratory.
The Trump administration last June designated the Global Times, the People’s Daily and two other Chinese outlets as foreign government entities covered under the Foreign Missions Act. The action was designed to limit their activities in the United States while pressing Beijing to allow more access to U.S. and Western reporters working in China.
“The Communist Party does not just exercise operational control over these propaganda entities, but it has full editorial control over their content,” David Stilwell, then-assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs said at the time.
Press Secretary John Kirby has addressed the Biden administration’s support for Taiwan and American efforts to bolster the island’s defenses in a number of briefings. Mr. Kirby said nothing had changed regarding U.S. defense commitments to Taipei under the Taiwan Relations Act and three U.S.-China communiques outlining relations.
Asked about a U.S. defense of Taiwan, Mr. Kirby said: “The United States military remains ready in all respects to meet our security commitments in the region.”
The Global Times article described Maj. Gayl as a retired Marine infantry officer who now serves as a civilian official in the Pentagon. It included a disclaimer that the opinions were those of the author and did not reflect the views of the U.S. government.
The article reportedly triggered feelings of outrage and disgust from several current and former Navy and Marine Corps officers.
Retired Navy Capt. Jim Fanell, a former Pacific Fleet intelligence director, said Maj. Gayl’s article supported enemy propaganda.
“As someone who has personal experience regarding the impact of exercising free speech while working within the U.S. government, I am left dumbfounded at this ex-Marine Corps officer’s parroting of talking points from an enemy of the United States,” Capt. Fanell said. “Maj. Gayl’s actions have not only denigrated the United States and the Marine Corps, but he has demonstrated his ignorance about the history and relationship of the United States and Taiwan.”
Capt. Fanell said Maj. Gayl in the article appears to have ignored stepped-up threatening operations by the Chinese military against Taiwan.
“That should set off counterintelligence alarm bells within the Pentagon, regardless of his previous stature as a ‘whistleblower,’” Capt. Fanell said. “It’s one thing to speak out at a public forum sponsored and approved by the U.S. government, but it is entirely another thing to be a mouthpiece for the Chinese Communist Party.”
Former State Department official John Tkacik said Maj. Gayl has most of the history about Taiwan wrong and said one of the reasons is that he relied on Chinese Communist sources.
“Maj. Gayl’s recommendation to abandon our commitment to Taiwan’s defenses is comparable historically to the British and French telling Czechoslovakia in 1938 that they have to sacrifice their independence to Nazi Germany so that French and British boys wouldn’t have to defend them,” Mr. Tkacik said. “If Maj. Gayl were serious in his policy recommendations, he would advise the U.S. to supply the latest U.S. weaponry in massive amounts, from submarines to fighter aircraft, standoff missiles, as quickly as possible so that at least Taiwanese would have a fighting chance.”
Capt. Fanell said he hopes Maj. Gayl “will be held to account for his pro-PRC propaganda, that is fundamentally designed to destroy the very system that has benefited him.”
The private Government Accountability Project rallied to Maj. Gayl’s defense in the early 2000s when he came under criticism from the Marine Corps for allegedly exposing wrongdoing regarding the service’s response to sending armored vehicles called MRAPs to the Middle East. The project described the ex-Marine as a “troop safety” whistleblower.
The Washington Monthly, in a 2011 profile, revealed the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and FBI had investigated then-Maj. Gayl for ties to China.
“The investigation is still classified, but it seems to have been incited by communications he had with Chinese diplomats while writing [his 2005 book] ‘Realism and Realpolitik,’” the magazine wrote, noting the NCIS resolved the investigation in Maj. Gayl’s favor.
Maj. Gayl obtained whistleblower status in 2007 after he contributed to a USA Today article that claimed U.S. military leaders in wartime had failed to provide troops in Iraq with urgently-needed mine-resistant MRAP jeeps. Congressional Democrats seized on the article to criticize the George W. Bush administration.
According to a person familiar with the issue, Maj. Gayl was put in touch with the USA Today reporters for the story by Erin Logan, a staff member in the office of then-Sen. Joseph Biden.
An investigation of the MRAP issue conducted by Steve Chill, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel who served in Iraq, concluded that Democratic charges were wrong. Mr. Chill contended that documents and emails he obtained show the accusations that the Marines had failed to protect their troops by delaying requests for armored vehicles between February 2005 and September 2006 were false and misleading.
Instead of buying off-the-shelf armored vehicles, Marine Corps officials instead had selected an MRAP made from blast-hardened M1114 vehicles, known as up-armored Humvees. Mr. Chill said in his report that the armored Humvee development program was the Marines’ highest priority nearly a year before Maj. Gayl went public with his charges made to Mr. Biden and the press.
As a result of the controversy, the military spent $45 billion on a program critics dubbed the MRAP boondoggle that produced 27,000 armored vehicles. A Pentagon-based study in 2012 reported that heavily armored MRAPs, costing $600,000 each, were “no more effective at reducing casualties than the medium armored vehicles” like the M1114.
Maj. Gayl in 2017 defended his role of the MRAP issue, saying Mr. Chill’s remarks were “very similar to those made by senior Marine leaders ten years ago when I spoke with the Congress and press.”
“But, for all my faults, on balance I believe that I did more good than bad through my disclosures at that time, and given similar emergency circumstances and despite imperfect knowledge of all things, I would do the same today,” he said. “I’m a sinner like everybody else, but I did try to do the right thing back then, however wrong I may have gotten it in some details.”
But Mr. Chill insisted his research “definitively proves that the Marine Corps did not sit on MRAP requests.”
“A falsehood was fostered by the press, politicians and interest groups that the Marine Corps was negligent in supporting fellow Marines in Iraq with armored vehicles during Operation Iraqi Freedom,” he said.