The Burden of Truth
The Burden of Truth
Dec 25 2003, 11:21 PM
التسجيل: 23-April 03
رقم العضوية: 388
December 22, 2003
Ray McGovern came to the CIA in 1964 in the wake of President John
Kennedy's call to "ask what you can do for your country." For the next 27
years, McGovern did his best to speak the truth, as he saw it, to those in
power—including presidents and their national security staffs. David
MacMichael also worked for the CIA, investigating Reagan administration
claims that Nicaragua was fomenting regional wars. Both men came to the
conclusion that ideology and politics, not "truth," was fueling U.S. foreign
policy, in Iraq and elsewhere, and have since been on a mission to bring light
to the shady world of spy vs. spy—and encourage their former intelligence
colleagues to refuse to remain silent. They were interviewed in July by
Sojourners editors Rose Marie Berger and Jim Rice.
Sojourners: In the buildup to the war in Iraq, the Bush administration made
allegations about Iraq that are proving to be demonstrably false. Were they
just misunderstandings of intelligence data, or were we sold a bill of goods?
Was it an honest mistake?
Ray McGovern: No, by no stretch of the imagination was it an honest
mistake. We were able to tell by last fall that there was very little substance to
the main charges with respect to weapons of mass destruction. Even the
sanitized version of the National Intelligence Estimate that was put on the CIA
Web site—if you have any experience in intelligence, you could see what a
thin reed they were relying on, and that there was little possibility of
substantiating Dick Cheney's claim that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear
weapons program. That, of course, is the mushroom cloud that scared
Congress into ceding its power to wage war.
Sojourners: Why is that significant?
McGovern: It's the first time that I've seen such a long-term, orchestrated plan
of deception by which one branch of our government deliberately misled the
other on a matter of war and peace. Here was a very calculated plan,
proceeding from a "Mein Kampf" type of document. All one need do is consult
the Project for the New American Century on the Web to see the ideological
and strategic underpinnings of this campaign. The first objective was to
deceive Congress into approving the plans. They succeeded masterfully. They
had their war, and they thought that in the wake of the war, with Iraqis opening
their arms to us, no one would really care whether there were, in fact,
weapons of mass destruction. They were absolutely wrong on that. People do
care, as one by one our servicemen and women are killed in a war fought on
David MacMichael: The use of deception to frighten Congress and secure its
consent for the October resolution reflects the way our government has been
functioning in the area of war and peace for more than half a century.
Congress has effectively resigned its power in these areas to the executive.
This has been done over and over again, mostly notably in the case of
Vietnam, and the response of Congress has been nearly always to pass what
is, by my definition, a plainly unconstitutional act, the War Powers Act.
Sojourners: Do you think that those deceptions amount to high crimes and
MacMichael: It's rather more serious than misleading about dalliances with
McGovern: I was strongly in favor of the impeachment of Bill Clinton, because
he lied under oath. When a president of the United States lies under oath, he
should be impeached, in my view. Certainly deceiving Congress and the
people of the United States into waging an unprovoked war is a matter of a
different scale altogether.
Sojourners: Bush administration officials claimed to have no knowledge that
the allegations about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction were thoroughly
discredited and the "evidence" proven to be forgeries before it was made
public. Are they telling the truth?
McGovern: I go back to Yul Brynner's famous line in The King and I: "It is a
false lie." The real sin was committed back in September 2002, when that
false lie was dragged out and used as the most persuasive evidence that
Saddam Hussein was about to get nuclear weapons in his hands. It was a PR
masterpiece. That was where the damage was done. That's where the
constitutional crisis comes in.
Sojourners: So you'd say that the intelligence was being used to support
policy, not to shape it?
McGovern: That's correct. That's the unpardonable sin for an intelligence
analyst. That is a violation of our ethic. It's a violation of honesty, and it's a
violation of the orderly progress of government. If a president cannot go to the
CIA and say, "Look, I want a straight answer here. I don't care what the State
Department says, or what the Defense Department says. I want you to tell me
what you really think." If he cannot do that, then the president is missing an
essential tool for the orderly conduct of foreign policy.
Sojourners: It appears in that formulation that the president honestly went for
a candid assessment and didn't get it. Is that how you see the situation?
McGovern: Whether the president was aware of all the chicanery around him
or not, I don't know—but I ask you, which would be worse?
Sojourners: Tell us about your journey. How did you get to where you are
MacMichael: In the early 1980s, I was working at the National Intelligence
Council over at Langley, in the analytic group. Our main task was the
preparation of National Intelligence Estimates, and I had the dubious honor of
heading the drafting of one or two of these. It was then that I became totally
convinced that the Reagan administration was seriously misrepresenting the
evidence used to justify its supposedly covert war on Nicaragua.
After returning from a trip to Nicaragua, I wanted to find some way of trying to
alter the ongoing policy the government followed both in El Salvador and
Nicaragua, and came across Witness for Peace. I helped out filing papers for
a little while until I got some knowledge of who these people were and what
they were about.
Sojourners: Doing some investigation of them, as it were.
MacMichael: Precisely. Just because people put a cross on their door
doesn't mean they're people I want to associate with!
After several events in Nicaragua—including the attacks on the airport, the
mining of the harbors, and a few other things—I became convinced that we
were in real danger of an open U.S. invasion of Nicaragua. I said, "Well, if I'm
going to speak out, I'd better do it before the event instead of after it."
If I required moral justification for what I was doing, it was my acquaintance
with inspiring figures like Archbishop Oscar Romero and Father Miguel
D'Escoto in Nicaragua, whom I came to know well. That helped me to believe
that what I was doing was not only necessary but also right, and that has
helped me sleep better at night.
Sojourners: Ray, what was your work with the CIA?
McGovern: I considered my work with the Central Intelligence Agency to be
the best job ever. It involved preparing and presenting the president's daily
brief, briefing one-on-one to the vice president, secretaries of State and
Defense, the assistant to the president for national security affairs, and the
chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. My experience was that we on the analytic
side of things were able to do what the scripture says on the entrance to the
building, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." It's
not always possible to know the truth, but it's always possible to gather the
evidence and that, by and large, is what we were able to do.
Sojourners: For many of us, the CIA represents illegal assassinations, the
overthrow of duly elected governments, and the like more than it does
truth-telling. Do you think one can live a life of integrity while working inside
MacMichael: There is an inherent seduction in being on the inside—the
belief, which is sometimes justified, that you can have more influence if you
are on the inside "speaking truth to power," or at least maybe speaking
half-truths to power. C.S. Lewis in his trilogy pointed out that that is a
seduction, and it almost always leads to failure. Ray alluded to Nazi
Germany. If properly organized, a system need only have a small minority of
its officials involved directly in the apparent evil-doing. The others shuffle the
papers and write the memoranda and don't have to go down into the torture
Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), which we founded in
January, recently challenged U.S. intelligence officers who believe their work
is incorrectly represented by the administration that they have an ethical duty
to stand up and tell the general public, "This is wrong."
Sojourners: What led you to go public in your opposition to what the
government was doing?
McGovern: Toward the end of World War II, one of the few Germans who
spoke out against the war, a man named Albrecht Haushofer, was imprisoned
in Berlin. The people in charge of the prison were required to get an admission
of guilt from a prisoner before execution. Just days before his death, Albrecht
composed a sonnet he titled "Guilt," which says in part, "Okay, I acknowledge
I was guilty, but it is other than you think. I should have earlier recognized my
duty. I should have more sharply called evil evil. My own heart, my own
conscience, I too long betrayed. I lied to myself and others for too long,
because I knew earlier what this whole course would lead to. I warned, but not
hard enough and clear." I believe we are all guilty of that, even those of us who
did warn. We didn't warn early enough and we didn't warn sharp enough and
we didn't warn "clear."
I see that as our task now. As we recognized that intelligence would play an
incredibly important role in how the war would be "justified," we founded VIPS.
This movement is directed at speaking clearly, speaking definitively enough
from our own experience in intelligence so that our fellow citizens can make
their own judgments with respect to the rectitude or deception attending this
Sojourners: You've mentioned a colleague at the CIA named Sam Adams
who wrestled with these issues during the Vietnam War.
McGovern: Sam uncovered the fact that there were twice as many
Vietnamese Communists under arms as the military in Saigon was willing to
admit. Over lunch Sam told me of a cable from Gen. Creighton Abrams that
said in effect, "We can't very well say that there are twice as many Viet Cong
as we thought there were. The press would have a field day about this." I said
to myself, My God, that cable needs to be taken to The New York Times. I
never suggested that to Sam. He never did do that. The Tet offensive just two
months later demonstrated that Sam was right—at great human cost. And the
war dragged on for seven more years.
A senior CIA official later made the mistake of jocularly asking Adams if he
thought the Agency had "gone beyond the bounds of reasonable
dishonesty." I had to restrain Sam, who had not only a keen sense of integrity
but firsthand experience of what our troops were experiencing in the jungles of
Vietnam. Adams himself became, in a very real sense, a casualty of Vietnam.
He died of a heart attack at 55, with remorse he was unable to shake. You
see, he decided to "go through channels." He allowed himself to be diddled for
so many years that by the time he went public the war was mostly over—and
the damage done.
The reason I didn't go public myself was because I had just been selected for
a plum assignment abroad. Rather than face into it, I equivocated. I said to
myself, "This is a great career, and if you stay in here you may get to fight
better battles and do even more good"—all these seductive, intoxicating
pretexts for avoiding facing the issue and saying this is a major lie perpetrated
by our country. I regret that very much. I failed.
Sojourners: Are we going to be seeing the same kinds of intelligence
estimates about Iran's alleged weapons of mass destruction and the peril
thereof as we did about Iraq? Is Iran next?
MacMichael: It's a matter of near certainty that the United States will apply
diplomatic, public relations pressure on Iran, an already designated rogue
state. But in terms of taking the type of military action that we took against
Iraq, I don't anticipate that that will happen, if for no other reason than we have
our military hands full in Afghanistan and in Iraq.
McGovern: The war on Iraq was just as much prompted by the strategic
objectives of the state of Israel as it was the strategic objectives of the United
States. The people running this war are people who are well attuned to Israel's
objectives. The authors of the Project for the New American Century have set
out for the United States to become the dominant power in the world. Israel is
hell bent on remaining the dominant power in the Middle East. The confluence
of objectives is striking.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, during his last visit here to Washington,
raised the possibility that Israel might take out the nuclear facilities that are
being constructed in Iran. This is exactly what they did, with respect to Iraq, in
1981. The Osirak nuclear facility was taken out by Israeli Mirage bombers.
Vice President Cheney endorsed that attack and cited it in his speech a year
ago. We later learned that Cheney has a photograph of the destroyed Osirak
reactor on the wall of his office. One can by no means rule out the possibility
that Sharon, with the tacit encouragement of the Pentagon, would fly his
fighter bombers right into Iran and take out their nuclear facility, with
consequences that one can hardly imagine.
Sojourners: What are some things that give you hope in what seem like dark
MacMichael: If there's anything that makes me hopeful, it's that we still have
a relatively open society. Whether this in itself is a snare and a delusion, I
don't know. If, in fact, you are merely being allowed to speak out because it's
having no effect on the decision-making process, it's not so hopeful. I certainly
hope for change, and we do have an election coming up next year. Maybe
we'll see something then.
لا خُيْرُ فيِ الافْرُاطِ وُالتُّفْرِيطِ كِلاُهُما عِنْدِي مِنَ التُّخْليِطِ
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