Petraeus Spared Ray McGovern’s Question

Exclusive: New York City police arrested ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern to prevent him from attending a public event where he planned to pose a pointed question to retired Gen. David Petraeus, another sign of how much U.S. neocons love democracy, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, who was arrested by New York City police on Thursday night to prevent him from attending a speech by retired Gen. and ex-CIA Director David Petraeus, told me the day before that he was planning to ask a question during the Q-and-A.

McGovern, who writes regularly for Consortiumnews.com, compared his goal in New York to his famous questioning of then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in Atlanta in 2006 when McGovern pressed Rumsfeld on false statements he had made about Iraq’s WMD and ties to al-Qaeda.

But the 75-year-old McGovern was blocked from entering the event at the 92nd Street Y, was roughly put under arrest, and was held overnight in jail. He described his ordeal in an interview with RT, saying “I was warned as soon as I got to the ticket-taker, ‘Ray, you’re not welcome here.’”

McGovern, who was suffering from a shoulder injury, said he was caused sharp pain by being forcefully handcuffed. “If you’ve seen the footage, you can see me screaming in pain as they try to pin my left wrist around behind my back,” McGovern told RT.

He was hauled off to a local precinct and charged with resisting arrest, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct. He said he spent the night on a stainless steel cot.

In our conversation a day earlier, on Wednesday, McGovern said he was calling from the bus traveling between Washington and New York en route to speak at his alma mater, Fordham University. But he said he also planned to attend the Thursday speech by Petraeus, who was one of President George W. Bush’s favorite generals during the Iraq War. McGovern noted that prominent neocon theorist Max Boot was moderating the Petraeus talk.

During the Iraq War under President Bush and the Afghan War under President Barack Obama, Petraeus collaborated closely with leading neoconservatives as they pushed for escalations of the two conflicts. In 2009, Petraeus was part of a successful behind-the-scenes effort by Bush holdovers to trap Obama into a “surge” of 30,000 troops into Afghanistan.

“Before Obama’s decision to dispatch 30,000 troops, the Bush holdovers sought to hem in the President’s choices by working with allies in the Washington news media and in think tanks,” I wrote in 2010. “For instance, early in 2009, Petraeus personally arranged for Max Boot [a neocon on the Council on Foreign Relations], Frederick Kagan and Kimberly Kagan [two other leading neocons] to get extraordinary access during a trip to Afghanistan.

“Their access paid dividends for Petraeus when they penned a glowing report in the Weekly Standard about the prospects for success in Afghanistan if only President Obama sent more troops and committed the United States to stay in the war for the long haul.”

Upon their return, the three wrote: “Fears of impending disaster are hard to sustain, if you actually spend some time in Afghanistan, as we did recently at the invitation of General David Petraeus, chief of U.S. Central Command.

“Using helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, and bone-jarring armored vehicles, we spent eight days traveling from the snow-capped peaks of Kunar province near the border with Pakistan in the east to the wind-blown deserts of Farah province in the west near the border with Iran. Along the way we talked with countless coalition soldiers, ranging from privates to a four-star general,” the trio said.

A Manipulated Obama

How Obama was manipulated into the Afghan “surge” by Bush’s holdovers with the help of the neocons was chronicled, too, in Bob Woodward’s 2010 book, Obama’s Wars, which revealed that Bush’s old team made sure Obama was given no option other than to escalate troop levels in Afghanistan. The Bush holdovers also lobbied inside neocon-friendly media for the troop increase behind Obama’s back.

Woodward’s book notes that “in September 2009, Petraeus called a Washington Post columnist to say that the war would be unsuccessful if the president held back on troops. Later that month, [Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Adm. Mike] Mullen repeated much the same sentiment in Senate testimony, and in October, [Gen. Stanley] McChrystal asserted in a speech in London that a scaled-back effort against Afghan terrorists would not work.”

This back-door campaign infuriated Obama’s aides, including White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, Woodward reported. “Filling his rant with expletives, Emanuel said, ‘Between the chairman [Mullen] and Petraeus, everyone’s come out and publicly endorsed the notion of more troops. The president hasn’t even had a chance!’” Woodward reported.

Mouse-trapped by this clever maneuvering, Obama acquiesced to the 30,000-troop “surge” although he reportedly regretted his decision almost immediately. In the end the “surge” and Petraeus’s counterinsurgency strategy that went with it had little impact on the Afghan War beyond extending the carnage and adding another 1,000 or so U.S. troops to the rolls of “the fallen.”

Petraeus’s cozy relationship with Boot was also underscored in 2010 when the four-star general accidentally found himself in a public-relations kerfuffle because some of his prepared testimony to Congress had contained a mild criticism of Israel.

Concerned that his standing in Official Washington might be jeopardized if he were deemed “anti-Israel,” Petraeus begged Boot to help him head off the controversy. The e-mails from Petraeus to Boot revealed Petraeus renouncing his own testimony in March 2010 because it included the observation that “the enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests” in the Mideast.

Petraeus’s testimony had continued, “Israeli-Palestinian tensions often flare into violence and large-scale armed confrontations. The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support.”

Running Scared

Though the testimony was obviously true, many neocons regard any suggestion that Israeli intransigence on Palestinian peace talks contributed to the dangers faced by American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan or by the U.S. public from acts of terrorism at home as a “blood libel” against Israel.

So, when Petraeus’s testimony began getting traction on the Internet, the general turned to Boot at the high-powered Council on Foreign Relations, and began backtracking on the testimony. “As you know, I didn’t say that,” Petraeus said, according to one e-mail to Boot timed off at 2:27 p.m., March 18, 2010. “It’s in a written submission for the record.”

In other words, Petraeus was saying the comments were only in his formal testimony submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee and were not repeated by him in his brief oral opening statement. However, written testimony is treated as part of the official record at congressional hearings with no meaningful distinction from oral testimony.

In another e-mail, as Petraeus solicited Boot’s help in tamping down any controversy over the Israeli remarks, the general ended the message with a military “Roger” and a sideways happy face, made from a colon, a dash and a closed parenthesis, “:-)”.

The e-mails were made public by James Morris, who runs a Web site called “Neocon Zionist Threat to America.” He said he apparently got them by accident when he sent a March 19 e-mail congratulating Petraeus for his testimony and Petraeus responded by forwarding one of Boot’s blog posts that knocked down the story of the general’s implicit criticism of Israel.

Petraeus forwarded Boot’s blog item, entitled “A Lie: David Petraeus, Anti-Israel,” which had been posted at the Commentary magazine site at 3:11 p.m. on March 18. However, Petraeus apparently forgot to delete some of the other exchanges between him and Boot at the bottom of the e-mail.

McGovern was aware of this history and told me that he thought an opportunity to question Petraeus in such a setting with Boot might prove illuminating. After his arrest and release, McGovern told RT that he had planned to ask Petraeus, who was responsible for training the Iraqi army, about his failure to train those forces sufficiently to stand up to a recent offensive by the Islamic State.

“Will you come out of retirement and try to do it better this time to train the Iraqi forces?” McGovern said, describing his intended question.

Petraeus retired from the U.S. Army in 2011 to become the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, which he left in disgrace in November 2012 after revelations that he had an extramarital affair with an admiring female biographer.

“This is no saint. This is actually no great strategist,” McGovern said of Petraeus. “He’s an embarrassment to the U.S. Army in which I used to be proud to have served.”

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.




Big Media Has Betrayed the People

For years, Americans relied on the mainstream U.S. news media for information; some folks were even convinced the MSM was “liberal.” But the current reality is that the major papers have become mouthpieces for the national security state while amassing a sorry record of deception, writes Greg Maybury.

By Greg Maybury

In his farewell address to the American people in 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower delivered what turned out to be his most memorable public utterance, famously warning Americans about the perils of the growing “military-industrial complex.” He went on to say: “Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Although it was the “military-industrial” bit that most folks remember, it was the “alert and knowledgeable” part that also needed to resonate. Unfortunately, instead of an “alert and knowledgeable citizenry,” which Ike suggested was the only bulwark against the continued growth, power and influence of this monster within, much of the American citizenry remained oblivious to it all. They either fell asleep at the democratic wheel or chose to remain ignorant of the already disturbing implications of the military-industrial complex’s encroaching reach into every aspect of the American demos and polity.

 

When the torch was passed to the new generation as John F. Kennedy declared in his Inaugural Address just days after Ike’s warning — the “good life” beckoned. Few, it seemed, wished to rock the boat. More than a half century after Eisenhower’s warning and nearly 15 years into what some like to call the New American Century, the growth of this “military-industrial complex” has far exceeded anything even the Old Warhorse could have imagined. Yet despite this, most Americans are still asleep at the wheel. There seems little evidence that is likely to change anytime soon.

And here we should ponder at least one of the main reasons why this is so.

For those folks who retain any faith or confidence that the mainstream or corporate media is providing us with all the insight we need to make sense of the world and the driving forces behind the big trends and developments, a reality check of the first order is in order. What was once called the Fourth Estate, a public institution of journalism intended to check on the powerful, has become a Fifth Column against democracy, a means for the Power Elites in business, finance and politics to manage the people, not a way for the people to keep tabs on the powerful.

The big fix is in on behalf of the Agenda Benders of the National Security State. The game is rigged. And it is decidedly not in favor of equality, democracy, freedom, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness of the majority; nor is it for that matter, designed to nurture “an alert and knowledgeable citizenry.”

The fundamental principles of journalism sound hunky-dory in theory. But when the rubber hits the road these standards are all too quickly deep-sixed in favor of more prosaic and less lofty goals. Professionalism becomes careerism. The “public interest” becomes “private gain.” But finally much of the public is figuring this game out.

The extraordinary growth of the independent and alternative media underscores this premise and surely points to more people looking for news, viewpoints and opinions outside the MSM. The “marketplace of ideas” isn’t just expanding; the monopoly is breaking down and whole new niches are opening up.

This is of course a welcome development although no one should underestimate the residual power of the MSM and the difficulty of producing truly independent journalism. Although there are promising signs the MSM’s readership is waning, there remain many folks implacably wedded to their daily fix of “impropaganda” from the establishment newsmakers and the “opinionocracy” whose positioning statement might well read: “Here is the news we choose, to give you all today.”

The Great Malaise

Yet, as long as we are not relying on the MSM for our daily dose of context and perspective, examples underscoring the broader trend abound everywhere we care to look. Writer Ulson Gunnar reported in an article at the New Eastern Outlook website that Vladimir Putin’s recent address to the Valdai Discussion Club was wide ranging and well worth reading.

But it is Gunnar’s article that’s pertinent here. After applauding Putin’s willingness to point to Washington’s hypocrisy in key foreign policy areas and noting the seemingly irreversible loss of “respect and legitimacy once commanded” by the U.S. in the international arena, Gunnar then cites the MSM’s “utter failure to hold accountable, poor policy driven by corrupt, criminal special interests” as one of the main reasons:

“Leaving it to Putin to point out the sorry state of American foreign policy grants Russia the respect and legitimacy the US would have otherwise held onto were it capable of putting its own house in order. The inability of America’s media to serve public interests is a symptom of America’s greater malaise.” [My Emphasis]

But the reality is even worse than that. The major U.S. media has not simply failed to hold U.S. officials accountable for their destructive arrogance. The MSM chose to mock Putin for his undeniably accurate remarks. For instance, The Washington Post published an editorial entitled (in print editions), “Putinoia on full display,” which said, about Putin’s Valdai remarks, “out poured a poisonous mix of lies, conspiracy theories, thinly veiled threats of further aggression and, above all, seething resentment toward the United States.”

The Post editors then cited examples of Putin’s “Putinoia” such as his statements that the United States had “declared itself the winner of the Cold War” and promoted a “unipolar world [that] is simply a means of justifying dictatorship over people and countries.” Other examples of Putin’s madness, according to the Post, included his observations that Washington’s interventions have created chaos around the world and that the overthrow of Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych was a “coup d’etat.” In other words, Putin made observations that were either obviously true or certainly arguably true but the Post insisted on its own reality, one that grossly misleads its readers and implicitly sets the boundaries of MSM-approved debate.

For another exemplary case study of this MSM phenomenon of distortion and deception, we might look at the recently released “Kill the Messenger,” a film treatment of the life and times of investigative journalist Gary Webb. Webb attempted in 1996 to shed light on the CIA’s connections to, and knowledge of, cocaine distribution by the CIA-backed Nicaraguan Contras and their associates, and the consequent crack epidemic that spread across America throughout the 1980s.

Ultimately Webb’s career was destroyed by a concerted, relentless character assassination and disinformation campaign by the Big Three of the U.S. print media  The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, each one of which variously, yet ruthlessly distorted, and then refuted, Webb’s claims, setting up straw men and then knocking them down. Several years later, in 2004, his career and marriage over, and financially destitute, Webb pulled the pin by committing suicide.

If Webb’s fate had resulted from a rare manifestation of an unholy mix of journalistic nonfeasance, misfeasance and malfeasance in the history of reportage and public opinion-making, we might be tempted to view this case as an aberration. But sadly it is not. It is part of a pattern of covering up criminal nonfeasance, misfeasance and malfeasance at the highest levels of the U.S. government, especially in matters of “national security” or in Eisenhower’s phrase, the “military-industrial complex.”

In the Webb case, his destruction also camouflaged the MSM’s own venality and incompetence, since the same Big Three newspapers had missed or disparaged reports of Contra-cocaine trafficking when the crimes were occurring in the 1980s (and when the American people needed to be informed of what the Reagan administration was doing and not doing). It is notable that it was not one but three of the so-called newspapers of record in established MSM circles that led the attack against a fellow journalist.

Taking into account the extraordinary significance of Webb’s reportage, along with the fact it is now generally accepted he largely got his story right, his own personal and professional odyssey is a savage, wholly justifiable indictment on all things MSM in the Home of the Brave. Yet insofar as we can gather, none of them has openly or unequivocally acknowledged its complicity in covering up the details of Webb’s revelations and/or for what they did in destroying his career, his family and ultimately his life. No one has been held to account, and no one has forthrightly apologized.

The fact that at least one of these papers  the redoubtable Washington Post  is still trying to defend the indefensible is surely another nail in the coffin of the ancien régime of the corporate-controlled media, information and news industry. It seems though the Post may only be rubbing salt into its own wounds, as any number of more independent media folk seem determined to set the record straight on Webb’s behalf.

Weapons of Mass Disinformation

As for the rest of the MSM cohorts who jumped onto the Big Three’s “Get Gary Webb” bandwagon, it would appear they are letting sleeping dogs lie in the wake of the film’s release. It’s unknown if they are doing this to preserve whatever integrity they might have left over their own attacks on Webb and/or failure to undertake their own investigations, or whether it is because they really don’t care one way or another. Webb may just have been collateral damage an “expendable” in the perennial War on Truth in mainstream media circles.

If Watergate was a high-water mark in investigative reportage and political news coverage in the U.S. and by some accounts there are compelling reasons after all these years to view this assessment with some skepticism then the Webb affair would have to qualify as a suitable case study at the other end of the spectrum.

As significant as the destruction of Gary Webb was in its implications for a free, fair and fearless mainstream press in America, this MSM behavior has now become the norm, not the exception. (Indeed, President George W. Bush was able to mislead the American people into the disastrous Iraq War with the MSM especially the Washington Post and the New York Times  aiding and abetting his WMD deceptions of the American people).

With this in mind, we can hardly expect that we are going to get the kind of news and information we need to remain “alert and knowledgeable” from the MSM in an age when being so has possibly never been more important in homo sap’s sorry-ass history on the Big Blue Ball. There are now so many examples of that Unholy Trinity’s nonfeasance, misfeasance and malfeasance in journalistic reportage that it’s a challenge to list them all, from Vietnam to the Iran-Contra Scandal; from the first Gulf War to the Balkans War; from Iraq’s WMDs to the War on Terror. And these only skim the surface. If these bastions of fair and fearless reportage are the newspapers of record, the record is patchy indeed. Tragically so.

Moreover, there can be no better example of the double standards that prevail in U.S. politics and in its relationship with the Fourth Estate than Obama’s 2013 honoring of Ben Bradlee  the iconic Washington Post editor who famously presided over the paper’s coverage of the Watergate scandal, the outcome of which was the downfall of an American president with a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

But the real irony is that Obama the president who has done more to curtail and then criminalize the activities of investigative journalists, leakers and whistle-blowers in ways that even Richard Nixon might never have contemplated extolled Bradlee’s determination to ensure Americans are not denied the truth about what their increasingly secretive and subversive government does.

Obama’s own home-grown hypocrisy in these matters is itself something to behold. We should recall this was a president whose government he promised would be truly accountable and more transparent than previous ones.

In an article in OpEdNews recently, contributor Sherwood Ross takes the President to task for his stance against investigative reporters in particular. Among other examples, Ross cites the case of James Risen, whose book State of War looks like it could land Risen in jail in the foreseeable future for refusing to betray a source. Briefly the case which has become something of a cause celebre in the mainstream and alternative media circles involves the Justice Department under first the Bush administration and now under Obama seeking to force Risen to reveal a key source for the book, which the journalist has refused to do.

To an investigative journalist revealing the identity of sources that provide information on condition of anonymity is akin to a priest revealing someone’s confession in a sermon from the pulpit at Sunday Mass; to refuse to do so is an article of faith of the profession. But Risen’s courage in reporting important facts about the national security state and resisting government pressure to surrender his source (and thus make other sources much less likely to talk) is now the exception in the MSM, not the rule. Many such stories simply go unwritten. Career-wise, that’s a lot safer.

There is also the reality that as resources for real reporting continue to decline spending on public relations and other manipulation of the public continues to soar. The highly sophisticated multi-billion dollar lobbying and public relations industries in America are almost entirely employed on the dime of the Powers that Be (industry bodies, political parties, think tanks, Super PACs, sundry foundations, corporations and institutions etc.) Unless the ordinary news consumers go out of their way to seek out reliable sources of information, they don’t hazard a chance in Hades of ever getting anything resembling credible, untainted insight into the zeitgeist, so as to be able to maintain whatever might remain of their “alert and knowledgeable” status.

Yet, the MSM still commands attention from many folks. Why in this day and age of accessible and independent-minded news sources is a mystery inside a conundrum. Perhaps it’s simply because of the MSM’s size and inertia, living off its past reputation for supplying “responsible” news. Maybe people are too busy in their frantic lives or too afraid of being deemed “outside the mainstream,” so they stick with what’s considered traditional and safe.

But it’s no longer possible for anyone who truly wants to be an “alert and knowledgeable” citizen to ignore the establishment media’s lengthening reputation as one collective Weapon of Mass Disinformation.

Greg Maybury is a freelance writer based in Perth, Western Australia.