TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 7 June 2012
Colonel John Alexander (US Army, retired) PhD, has had long exposure to the UFO issue during his commendable career - which includes combat experience as a Green Beret in Vietnam, and later a Project Manager at Los Alamos and consultant to the NIC and CIA. He was one of the original `men who stare at goats,' involved in the development of non-lethal weapons and in many fringe areas of military research, and is reputed to have extensive connections to the `black world' of restricted-access hi-tech R&D projects. Additionally he is known to have a life-long interest in the occult, in shamanic rituals and near-death experiences and admits to having taken the hallucinogen ayahuasca in the Amazon Basin on several occasions.
I have met John face-to-face a few times. I like him personally and find him charming, good-humoured, highly intelligent and excellent company. Due to his military intelligence background, any book on the subject of UFOs written by him was bound to generate controversy and the polarised reactions to `UFOs: Myths, Conspiracies and Realities' are no surprise.
So, to the book and its thesis.
Following a foreword by his friend Jacques Vallee (predictable, as the ideas of Vallee and Alexander on the UFO issue are almost in lock-step), a `commentary' by Tom Clancy (less predictable) and an `introduction' by Burt Rutan, John launches into the main thesis of his book which can be summarised as follows: there exists plentiful and compelling evidence that UFOs are real anomalous phenomena, not man-made and possibly extraterrestrial in origin, though the phenomena are complex and one single explanation may never accommodate all the data. The quantity and quality of data is so unassailable that everyone `in the know' acknowledges the phenomena to be real. However, in 50 years of involvement with military intelligence and hi-tech R&D projects, dealing closely with the Air Force, the DIA, the CIA and with contractors developing leading-edge technology for military applications I found no evidence of any governmental or quasi-governmental organization which is `in charge' of collecting data. Everyone believes someone else has responsibility for managing the issue, when the truth is that no-one is, and the government knows no more than you do. In a nutshell there are no `crash retrievals' and no autopsied/frozen aliens; Roswell was a mogul balloon, there is no `secret cabal' running things, and no `cover-up.'
The author lays out three essential requirements if you're going to seriously research UFOs:
1. A sense of humour, as you are going to be attacked sooner or later
2. An understanding of conspiracy theory, as you are now part of the `plot'
3. A day job, or be independently wealthy, as no-one makes money from this topic
Dr. Alexander views conspiracy theorists of all hues with particular derision:
"There are those in the conspiracy theory crowd that believe that I'm part of MJ-12, or some other mystical group that is part of a sophisticated cover-up...depending on which conspiracy one believes in, this `cover-up' is run by the US Government...some rogue element of a black organization...or international cabal controlled by the Bilderburgers, Trilateralists, or the Council of Foreign Relations. Many CT-ers just seem to believe there exists some great unidentified `THEY'. This is not true. I am not part of any covert group...but in the convoluted logic of the CT crowd, just denying association is proof `THEY' exist "(p4).
Dr. Alexander then takes us through his involvement with the `Advanced Theoretical Physics Project', official investigation of psychic phenomena and his knowledge of the Lockheed Skunk Works and Area 51 and what NORAD, the CIA, the DIA, the NSA and senior military really know about the UFO issue: not much, reportedly, except that everyone knows they're real, they're not made by us, they intrude into our airspace at will, they do whatever they want and we're unable to stop them.
The author spends a chapter deconstructing the blatant fabrications of Philip Corso (an easy task, you might think) whom he knew well personally and with whom he spent face-to-face time. He gives insight into the way bureaucracies work and the governing psychologies which drive governmental institutions - right on the money, IMO. He summarises the attitudes of POTUS since Truman to the UFO issue, and includes acknowledged sightings by Presidents Carter and Reagan and their various public pronouncements on the subject. He effectively deconstructs the MJ-12 hoax in great detail, and examines the Apollo program and rumours of astronaut-UFO contacts. He spends a long chapter examining real, hard cases (Cash-Landrum, Rendlesham, the Belgian `triangle' wave) where he demonstrates to the skeptical reader that there is a real anomalous phenomenon here and we don't understand what it is.
Dr. Alexander claims to have particular respect for the work of Robert Hastings, who has researched the repeatedly demonstrated interest in nuclear weapons sites from UFOs and their habit of deliberately shutting down ICBMs, and acknowledges his work in publicising the issue to be of exceptional importance. However, here we have a problem: he blatantly misrepresents Hastings' views by claiming he (Hastings) considers the CIA to have no interest in these phenomena, when in his book `UFOs and Nukes' Hastings spends an entire chapter (chapter 26) demonstrating the precise opposite, that the CIA has always had a deep interest in the phenomena, and has engaged in an active cover-up and campaign of debunking and ridicule in order to delude the public at large that there is `nothing to see here.' Robert may have something to say about John's misrepresentation of his views in due course. This is one of many instances where the careful and knowledgeable reader will see Alexander's employment of such tactics: he relies on the reader being unfamiliar with specific data and the real views of researchers and insiders such as Admiral Hillenkoetter, Victor Marchetti and Barry Greenwood, to name but three. His criticisms of the mind-set of conspiracy theorists, however, are right on target: basically the `disclosure' crowd do far more harm than good in marginalising the topic and preventing scientific enquiry by associating it with the lunatic fringe. The subject becomes a `tar baby', Alexander (correctly) points out: once you're contaminated by touching it, it sticks and will never let go of you, and your reputation can be destroyed by association with it (look how the mainstream media tore into Dennis Kucinich in 2008, when all he did was be honest about a multiply-witnessed sighting).
The book has in total around 10 obvious typos in 273 pages of text, excluding the appendices. Whilst this is a small total, it still betrays poor proofreading: they shouldn't be there, and will hopefully be corrected in a second edition. Alexander however is an excellent writer and the book is informative, engaging, lively and never dull. Each chapter concludes with a useful half-page summary which draws the ideas together.
So, is it worth reading? Definitely, in the same way that Jacques Vallee's work on the subject is worth reading: it might ultimately not be very helpful in explaining any of this stuff but it's different to the mainstream, contains some nuggets of interest and might make you think. However, those convinced John Alexander is a `spook' disseminating clever disinformation are unlikely to be swayed by the author's reasoned, thorough and good-humoured arguments. He avoids plenty of compelling evidence which might weaken his `no-one officially cares about this and there is no cover-up' thesis - the hundreds of credible witnesses to Roswell, Kecksburg, Aztec and other incidents; the testimonies of Gordon Cooper, Ed Mitchell etc. - and chooses to include only that which can be made to support his line. Could he have been persistently lied to about `no-one is in charge'? He says possibly, but unlikely. Could he be engaged in a disinfo campaign? Sure he could: read his bio, closely examine the detail of his claims in the book and consider what he leaves out.
Please read the book, with an open mind. The revelations about how government bureaucracies actually work in the real world are so enlightening and detailed they are alone worth the price of the book, and the author's description of the negative effect which CTs have on public perceptions of the UFO subject are priceless. Whether you end up believing the author is `on the level' or remain convinced he is some kind of clever disinformant, reading the book is still time well spent.