FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

New Book Reflects Analyst Outrage

by RAY McGOVERN

The book has an apt title: “Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror.” And the author spells out “why.” We are losing because of the misguided war on Iraq and the upsurge in terrorism it has engendered.

Sadly, that conclusion was validated last week by the widespread, coordinated attacks by the Iraqi resistance-attacks that brought Vietnam to mind and, specifically, the country-wide “Tet” offensive by Communist forces in early 1968 that made Walter Cronkite and many other Americans realize we had all been badly misled into thinking that that war was winnable.

The final week of formal US occupation of Iraq was a bad one. And the last thing the Bush administration needed was publication of the challenging judgments of a CIA analyst who devoted 17 years to tracking al-Qaeda and other terrorists. That analyst (let’s call him Mike) wrote that the Iraqi adventure was “an unprovoked war against a foe who posed no immediate threat.” He emphasized, “There is nothing that bin Laden could have hoped for more than the American invasion and occupation of Iraq.”

Mike added that the US has “waged two failed half-wars and, in doing so, left Afghanistan and Iraq seething with anti-US sentiment, fertile grounds for the expansion of al-Qaeda and kindred groups.”

Asked yesterday to comment on these biting charges, National Security assistant Condoleezza Rice refused on grounds that she did not know who Anonymous is. Did she not think to ask the CIA? If I had no trouble finding out, certainly she should have none.

Worse still for the administration, during an interview with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell on June 23, Mike rubbed salt in White House wounds, subjecting to ridicule the dumbed-down bromide that what motivates bin Laden and his Muslim followers is hatred of our “freedom,” our “democracy.”

It’s the Policy, Stupid!

“It’s not hatred of us as a society, it’s hatred of our policies,” Mike insisted. He gave pride of place to the neuralgic issue of Israel. With candor not often heard on American television, he emphasized “It’s very hard in this country to debate policy regarding Israel,” adding that bin Laden’s “genius” is his ability to exploit those US policies most offensive to Muslims-“Our support for Israel, our presence on the Arabian peninsula, in Afghanistan and Iraq, our support for governments that Muslims believe oppress Muslims.”

Asked how bin Laden views the war in Iraq specifically, Mike said bin Laden looks on it as proof of America’s hostility toward Muslims; that America “is willing to attack any Muslim country that dares defy it; that it is willing to do almost anything to defend Israel. The war is certainly viewed as an action meant to assist the Israeli state. It isa godsend for those Muslims who believe as bin Laden does.”

Mike drove home this general message again Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” He argued that it is US policies that “drive the terrorism,” and said failure to change those policies could mean decades of war. Only if the American people learn the truth can more effective policies be fashioned and implemented, he added.

What Sets Mike’s Teeth on Edge

Here is where Mike’s understated outrage shows through most clearly. The undercurrent in both interviews is that his analysis was offered well before the war but, as he told NBC, “senior bureaucrats in the intelligence community (were unwilling) to take the full truth, an unvarnished truth to the presidentWhatever danger was posed by Saddamwas almost irrelevantThe boost that (the war) would give to al-Qaeda was easily seen.”

Many experienced intelligence analysts will find it easy to identify with Mike’s frustration. Put on your analyst hat for a few minutes and put yourself in his place. You have studied the issue with painstaking professionalism for 17 years and have acquired an expert view of the forces at play and the likely result of this or that policy. You warn, you warn, and you warn, as Mike did. And yet, because of wooden headedness, stupidity, or sycophancy, your superiors disregard your views and you are reduced to looking on helplessly as a calamitous course is set for the country.

Adding insult to injury, you hear Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld confess, as he did on June 6 in Singapore, that “The troubling unknown is whether the extremistsare turning out newly trained terrorists faster than the United States can capture or kill them. It is quite clear to me that we do not have a coherent approach to this.”

For self-confident analysts, all this creates powerful incentive to publish their own analysis. Once published there is always a chance it might have some resonance-perhaps even influence. In any event, they will be able to tell their grandchildren: Don’t blame me; this is what I tried to get them to understand.

Many of us have been there, done that-including me during the sixties when I had a ringside seat at the crafting of US policy toward Vietnam, while serving as principal CIA analyst of Soviet policy toward Vietnam and China. As US forces got bogged down in the quagmire of Vietnam, senior officials in Washington began to indulge the wishful thought that the Soviets could be pressured or cajoled into “using their influence” to help the US find a graceful way out-and that, until then, we had to “stay the course.”

Though a relatively junior analyst at the time, I had already become convinced that the Soviet Union, in fact, had precious little influence with the Vietnamese Communists, mostly because it had sold them down the river at the Geneva Conference in 1954. If US policymakers thought differently, it was important to send them our own analysis and try to dialogue with them. My conclusions, however, were thought to be unwelcome among policymakers, and so an earlier generation of “senior bureaucrats” refused to send those judgments downtown.

Going Public

In early 1967 I drafted an article in which I documented my case for the judgment that “the USSR’s voice counts for little in Hanoiwhen it comes to North Vietnam’s conduct of the war.” After receiving clearance from CIA’s Publications Review Board (PRB), the article was published in the scholarly journal, “Problems of Communism.” Like me, Anonymous Mike received PRB clearance with no changes required.

While understandable, speculation that clearance of Mike’s book betokens an intent by senior CIA officials to take a swipe a those responsible for US mistakes on Iraq and terrorism does not ring true. It is not as unusual as press reports suggest for a serving CIA official to publish a book, although Mike’s was, because of the subject, bound to be highly controversial.

In my view, there is good news in the approval he obtained. It is a sign that there remain pockets of professionals at the CIA who are determined to honor their responsibility to protect First Amendment and other constitutional rights of CIA employees.

I regret to admit that I was not certain this was still a sure thing, in view of the way senior CIA officials have played fast and loose with the Constitution on even more consequential matters. Two summers ago, CIA Director George Tenet was a willing co-conspirator in the successful effort by the Bush administration to use counterfeit “intelligence”-including a known forgery-to deceive Congress into ceding its Constitutional power to declare war.

It is a safe assumption, though, that serious CIA analysts are glad to see Mike’s book out on the street. His judgments are congruent with what substantive analysts there have been saying for years about Iraq and terrorism-without much sign that policymakers were listening. Perhaps Dr. Rice and other senior officials will get the book and read it. That might help someone like Secretary Rumsfeld, for example, who often refers to the fact that some key factors are “unknown” and/or “unknowable” and complains that he frequently encounters a lack of “situational awareness.”

Embarrassed for Rumsfeld

I was embarrassed for Rumsfeld when he was on ABC’s “This Week” months ago and tried to field a question about how to reduce the number of terrorists. “How do you persuade people not to become suicide bombers; how do you reduce the number of people attracted to terrorism? No one knows how to reduce that,” he complained.

Again, it’s the policy. Well before the war in Iraq, CIA analysts provided an assessment intended to educate senior policymakers to the fact that “the forces fueling hatred of the US and fueling al-Qaeda recruiting are not being addressed,” and that “the underlying causes that drive terrorists will persist.” The assessment cited a Gallup poll of almost 10,000 Muslims in nine countries in which respondents described the United States as “ruthless, aggressive, conceited, arrogant, easily provoked and biased.” Again, that was before the attack on Iraq.

Too Little, Too Late?

Over the weekend former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke echoed many of the points made in Mike’s book. Clarke said the invasion of Iraq was an “enormous mistake” that is costing untold lives, strengthening al-Qaeda, and breeding a new generation of terrorists. “The hatred that has been engendered by this invasion will last for generations,” he added.

Which reminded me: With all due respect-and respect is indeed due the likes of Clarke, former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neil, and Anonymous Mike, who broke fraternity rules in speaking truth-why did they not do so before the war? One of the most depressing facts of the whole experience is the dearth of serving officials who were willing to speak out about the lies while it might have done some good.

Is it legitimate to ask Clarke, O’Neil, and Mike why they waited so long, when-just conceivably-earlier outspokenness might have made a difference? Surely they did not choose to put their publishers’ preferences as to timing before the cost of “untold lives.”

As for intelligence officers, the only ones to blow the whistle publicly before the war were Katherine Gunn of the UK and Australian intelligence officer Andrew Wilkie. In contrast to the timidity prevailing in US intelligence circles, three US Foreign Service officers, without direct access to the adulteration of intelligence, nonetheless were able to smell the rotten fish and summon the courage to follow their conscience. Without consulting (or even knowing) one another, Brady Kiesling, John Brown, and Mary Ann Wright all realized what they had to do. They quit the Foreign Service in protest-as loudly as they could, given the domesticated US press. And they did it before the war.

It saddens me that of the scores of US intelligence officers with inside knowledge regarding the abuse of intelligence and other indignities regarding the underpinnings of US policy on Iraq, not one-serving or retired-not one proved willing to risk his/her neck, career, friendships, or serene retirement in an attempt to stave off our country’s first major war of aggression.

RAY McGOVERN, a CIA analyst for 27 years, is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and a contributor to CounterPunch’s unsparing new history of the Aghanistan/Iraq wars, Imperial Crusades. McGovern can be reached at: RRMcGovern@aol.com

This article first appeared on TomPaine.com

Ray McGovern was an Army officer and CIA analyst for almost 30 year. He now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). He can be reached at: rrmcgovern@gmail.com. A version of this article first appeared on Consortiumnews.com.  

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 09, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nasty As They Wanna Be
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Second Gilded Age: Overcoming the Rule of Billionaires and Militarists
Andrew Levine
Trump’s Chumps: Victims of the Old Bait and Switch
Chris Welzenbach
The Forgotten Sneak Attack
Lewis Lapham
Hostile Takeover
Joshua Frank
This Week at CounterPunch: More Hollow Smears and Baseless Accusations
Paul Street
The Democrats Do Their Job, Again
Vijay Prashad
The Cuban Revolution: Defying Imperialism From Its Backyard
Michael Hudson - Sharmini Peries
Orwellian Economics
Mark Ames
The Anonymous Blacklist Promoted by the Washington Post Has Apparent Ties to Ukrainian Fascism and CIA Spying
Erin McCarley
American Nazis and the Fight for US History
Yoav Litvin
Resist or Conform: Lessons in Fortitude and Weakness From the Israeli Left
Conn Hallinan
India & Pakistan: the Unthinkable
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Nativism on the Left – A Realer Smith
Joshua Sperber
Trump in the Age of Identity Politics
Brandy Baker
Jill Stein Sees Russia From Her House
Katheryne Schulz
Report from Santiago de Cuba: Celebrating Fidel’s Rebellious Life
Nelson Valdes
Fidel and the Good People
Norman Solomon
McCarthy’s Smiling Ghost: Democrats Point the Finger at Russia
Renee Parsons
The Snowflake Nation and Trump on Immigration
Margaret Kimberley
Black Fear of Trump
Michael J. Sainato
A Pruitt Running Through It: Trump Kills Nearly Useless EPA With Nomination of Oil Industry Hack
Ron Jacobs
Surviving Hate and Death—The AIDS Crisis in 1980s USA
David Swanson
Virginia’s Constitution Needs Improving
Louis Proyect
Narcos and the Story of Colombia’s Unhappiness
Paul Atwood
War Has Been, is, and Will be the American Way of Life…Unless?
John Wight
Syria and the Bodyguard of Lies
Richard Hardigan
Anti-Semitism Awareness Act: Senate Bill Criminalizes Criticism of Israel
Kathy Kelly
See How We Live
David Macaray
Trump Picks his Secretary of Labor. Ho-Hum.
Howard Lisnoff
Interview with a Political Organizer
Yves Engler
BDS and Anti-Semitism
Adam Parsons
Home Truths About the Climate Emergency
Brian Cloughley
The Decline and Fall of Britain
Eamonn Fingleton
U.S. China Policy: Is Obama Schizoid?
Graham Peebles
Worldwide Air Pollution is Making us Ill
Joseph Natoli
Fake News is Subjective?
Andre Vltchek
Tough-Talking Philippine President Duterte
Binoy Kampmark
Total Surveillance: Snooping in the United Kingdom
Guillermo R. Gil
Vivirse la película: Willful Opposition to the Fiscal Control Board in Puerto Rico
Patrick Bond
South Africa’s Junk Credit Rating was Avoided, But at the Cost of Junk Analysis
Clancy Sigal
Investigate the Protesters! A Trial Balloon Filled With Poison Gas
Pierre Labossiere – Margaret Prescod
Human Rights and Alternative Media Delegation Report on Haiti’s Elections
Charles R. Larson
Review:  Helon Habila’s The Chibok Girls: the Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria
David Yearsley
Brahms and the Tears of Britain’s Oppressed
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail