Holding Leaders Accountable for Lies

by RAY McGOVERN

While the pot continues to boil in Washington and London over the manipulated evidence used to ”justify” attacking Iraq, an equally passionate debate has been taking place in Australia, where former Australian intelligence analyst Andrew Wilkie resigned before the war and immediately went public about the lying.

That the Australian Senate saw fit, in a rare move on Oct. 7, formally to censure Prime Minister John Howard for misleading the public shows that truth can win out even in a country with a largely apathetic populace and a mainstream press all too eager to parrot the official line. There are lessons for us, of course, but Americans cannot be accused of apathy in this particular instance because the U.S. media have largely ignored the story.

The Australian Senate censured Howard for producing no evidence to support his claims last March that Iraq had stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons, and for suppressing Australian intelligence warnings that war with Iraq would increase the likelihood of terrorist attacks. One senator accused Howard of "unprecedented deceit.”

The Senates action came just six weeks after Wilkie testified before a parliamentary committee about the abuse of intelligence in the run-up to war and found himself embroiled in a highly publicized one-on-one debate with the prime minister. A senior analyst in Australia’s (CIA-equivalent) Office of National Assessments, Wilkie is still the only intelligence analyst, of all those in Washington and London with direct experience of the flim-flam marketing of the war, to resign in protest.

His testimony included the following accusations against the government:

"Australia’s tiny agencies needed to rely on the sometimes weak and skewed views contained in the assessments prepared in Washington. . . . Intelligence gaps were sometimes back-filled with disinformation. Worst-case sometimes took primacy over most-likely. The threat was sometimes overestimated as a result of the fairy tales coming out of the U.S.”

"Most often the government deliberately skewed the truth by taking the ambiguity out of the issue. . . . Qualifications like `probably,’ ‘could’ and ‘uncorroborated evidence suggests’ were frequently dropped. Much more useful words like ‘massive’ and ‘mammoth’ were included, even though such words had not been offered to the government by the intelligence agencies. Before we knew it, the government had created a mythical Iraq, one where every factory was up to no good and weaponization was continuing apace.”

Australia’s government, for its part, has done everything it can to smear and discredit Wilkie. Sound familiar?

The Australian press found it impossible to ignore the Howard-Wilkie controversy, and now much of the populace understands that the ostensible reasons for attacking Iraq were cooked in Washington and served up by Australian leaders all too willing to march in lockstep with the Bush administration. Those Australian leaders are now being held accountable.

Wilkie’s Aug. 22 testimony to parliament was devastating and holds up particularly well in the wake of special CIA advisor David Kay’s fools errand in search of "weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.”

In his testimony, Wilkie addressed the question that keeps cropping up not only in Australia but in the United States and the United Kingdom as well: If the casus belli was neither WMD nor support for al Qaeda, then what was it? He reminded Australian lawmakers that ONA had made it ”very clear” to the government that "the U.S. was intent on invading Iraq for more-important reasons.”

To find the ”more-important reasons,” Wilkie’s former ONA colleagues needed no spies to ferret out the answer. They could, and did, simply read the ideological and strategic rationale for conquering Iraq by clicking on the Project for a New American Century, a think-tank created in 1977 by Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others now in charge of U.S. policy toward the Middle East.

A PNAC White Paper of September 2000, ”Rebuilding Americas Defenses,” laid out two central requirements for U.S. military forces: (1) ”Fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars;” and (2) "perform the `constabulary duties associated with shaping the security environment in critical regions.”

The tragedy of 9/11 made it possible for Cheney, Rumsfeld and others, with help from National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, to morph that White Paper into a new military strategy. On Sept. 20, 2001, the White House proclaimed its new preemptive war strategy in ”National Security Strategy of the United States of America” — the ideological twin of "Rebuilding Americas Defenses.”

If Wilkie’s colleagues could discern the implications, so can intelligence analysts in Syria, Iran and North Korea. What is truly remarkable is the way that the U.S. press remains clueless. We are being fed the line that, because the United States has its hands full with its ”constabulary duties” in Iraq, the likelihood of further adventures is slight.

I want to believe it. But a year ago, despite the escalating rhetoric, I wanted to believe that U.S. leaders would realize the folly of attacking and trying to occupy Iraq. Given what they said then about Iraq, it is far from reassuring to hear senior administration officials now say that, although the Syrians have WMD, President Bush ”has no plans” to attack Syria.

It is all the more essential, then, that the Andrew Wilkies of U.S. and British intelligence come out of hiding and tell their fellow citizens of the curious change that Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have introduced into the intelligence cycle — first decide on war, and then cook up the ”intelligence” to justify it.

RAY McGOVERN is a 27-year veteran of the CIA and co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. He is currently Co-Director of the Servant Leadership School, an inner-city outreach ministry in Washington, DC. He can be reached at: RRMcGovern@aol.com

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
September 01, 2015
Mike Whitney
Return to Crisis: Things Keep Getting Worse
Michael Schwalbe
The Moral Hazards of Capitalism
Eric Mann
Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
Pam Martens
How Wall Street Parasites Have Devoured Their Hosts, Your Retirement Plan and the U.S. Economy
Jonathan Latham
Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs
Fran Shor
Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders Campaign: a Case of Historical Amnesia?
Joe Paff
The Big Trees: Cockburn, Marx and Shostakovich
Randy Blazak
University Administrators Allow Fraternities to Turn Colleges Into Rape Factories
Robert Hunziker
The IPCC Caught in a Pressure Cooker
George Wuerthner
Myths of the Anthropocene Boosters: Truthout’s Misguided Attack on Wilderness and National Park Ideals
Robert Koehler
Sending Your Children Off to Safe Spaces in College
Jesse Jackson
Season of the Insurgents: From Trump to Sanders
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal