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Editors’ Note: Former CIA official, Ray McGovern, has leveled serious accusations at the Bush administration in connection with the war in Iraq. McGovern served as a CIA analyst for almost 30 years. From 1981 to 1985 he conducted daily briefings for Ronald Reagan’s vice president, George Bush, the father of the incumbent president. The following interview originally appeared in Die Tagesspiegel, one of Berlin’s largest daily papers. Imagine this appearing in the Sunday edition of the New York Times.
The US Senate Intelligence Committee this week began hearings on the dispute over the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. What do you expect will come of this?
Nothing. The committee chairman, Republican Pat Roberts, has already refused to ask the FBI to investigate allegations that Iraq has tried to obtain uranium from Niger. This, despite the fact that in making these allegations, administration officials knowingly relied on crudely forged documents.
In a Memorandum for President Bush dated May 1 you speak of a "policy and intelligence fiasco." What do mean by that?
Take, for example, the business about the aluminum tubes that Iraq tried to obtain. According to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, these were "only suited to nuclear weapons programs." But nuclear engineers have been virtually unanimous in deciding that the pipes are not suitable for that. Despite this, President Bush on October 7, 2002 said that Iraq could possibly produce a nuclear weapon within a year.
These are deliberate distortions. Lies. When a US president decides it is necessary to go to war, he has to procure intelligence to prove the need for war.
And what happens, in your experience, if the "proof" is too thin?
In that case it gets inflated. So, for example, an incident in the Tonkin Gulf involving a North Vietnamese "attack" on a US warship–which "attack" never took place–nonetheless was deliberately used by President Johnson to get Congress’ endorsement for war with North Vietnam.
This current administration had decided by September 2002 to make war on Iraq–five months before Secretary of State Colin Powell’s speech at the UN. What was missing was the intelligence basis to justify the decision for war.
But the intelligence is still not conclusive. And in the case of the uranium Iraq was said to be seeking, it was based on forged documents.
That didn’t make any difference. In retrospect, the train of thought in the White House at the time is clear: How long can we keep the forged documents from the public? A few months? In that case we can use the documents to get Congress to endorse war with Iraq and then wage it and win it before anyone discovers that the "evidence" was bogus.
In addition, the administration has very artfully taken advantage of the trauma of September 11. So, for example, al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were always mentioned in the same breath, without any proof of a connection between the two.
Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels said that, if you repeat something often enough, the people will believe it. On October 7, 2002 Bush said, without any evidence to support it, that what is to be feared is that in Iraq’s case, the "smoking gun" could come in the form of a "mushroom cloud." National Security Adviser Rice repeated this on October 8, and Pentagon spokesperson Victoria Clarke did so on October 9. On October 11 Congress voted for war.
And no one saw through this?
This is largely the fault of US mainstream media. No one told the people what was really going on.
But doesn’t the US press have a reputation for good investigative reporting?
It did once. But that reputation goes back 30 years to the time of Vietnam and Watergate. The investigative reporting of those days is a thing of the past. The mainstream press now marches to the drumbeat of the administration.