In Case You Missed…

Some of our special stories from August focused on the failure of the mainstream media to question prevailing “group thinks” on almost any topic, the bitter fight over the Iran nuclear deal, the hidden reality of U.S. allies aiding Al Qaeda in Syria, and the surprising surge of anti-Establishment candidates.

The ‘Two Minutes Hate’ of Tom Brady” by Robert Parry, Aug. 1, 2015

Nuclear War’s Unlearned Lessons” by Robert Dodge, Aug. 1, 2015

The Soft Power Hoax” by Mike Lofgren, Aug. 2, 2015

Reporter Wins Fifth Amendment Case” by Marcy Wheeler, Aug. 3, 2015

Confronting a Very Dark Chapter” by Gary G. Kohls, Aug. 3, 2015

How US Allies Aid Al Qaeda in Syria” by Daniel Lazare, Aug. 4, 2015

Why Many Muslims Hate the US” by William R. Polk, Aug. 5, 2015

Obama’s Pragmatic Appeal for Iran Peace” by Robert Parry, Aug. 5, 2015

‘Paint-balling’ the Presidents” by Sam Husseini, Aug. 7, 2015

Christianity and the Nagasaki Crime” by Gary G. Kohls, Aug. 9, 2015

Exposing Nixon’s Vietnam Lies” by James DiEugenio, Aug. 10, 2015

Gauging the Violent ‘Fox Effect’” by Mike Lofgren, Aug. 11, 2015

Rectifying Israel’s Crimes” by Lawrence Davidson, Aug. 11, 2015

Pope Francis’ Appeal for the Future” by Daniel C. Maguire, Aug. 12, 2015

Congress’ Test of Allegiance: US or Israel?” by John V. Whitbeck, Aug. 12, 2015

Escalating the Anti-Iran Propaganda” by Jonathan Marshall, Aug. 13, 2015

The Saudi Royals, Unchained” by Joe Lauria, Aug. 14, 2015

Neocons to Americans: Trust Us Again” by Robert Parry, Aug. 16, 2015

Reviving the ‘Successful Surge’ Myth” by Robert Parry, Aug. 16, 2015

Propaganda, Intelligence, and MH-17” by Ray McGovern, Aug. 17, 2015

Explaining the Trump Phenomenon” by Lawrence Davidson, Aug. 17, 2015

Assange and Democracy’s Future” by Norman Solomon, Aug. 18, 2015

Pentagon Manual Calls Some Reporters Spies” by Don North, Aug. 19, 2015

The Honduran Coup’s Ugly Aftermath” by Jonathan Marshall, Aug. 19, 2015

Why US Police Are Out of Control” by Daniel Lazare, Aug. 20, 2015

The Riddle of Obama’s Foreign Policy” by Robert Parry, Aug. 21, 2015

The Case for Pragmatism” by Robert Parry, Aug. 24, 2015

American Jews Split from Netanyahu” by Lawrence Davidson, Aug. 24, 2015

The Trump/Sanders Phenomena” by Robert Parry, Aug. 26, 2015

Sanders’s Screwy Mideast Strategy” by Sam Husseini, Aug. 27, 2015

Will Peace Find a 2016 Advocate?” by Robert Parry, Aug. 27, 2015

Pushing the Edge on Nuclear War” by William R. Polk, Aug. 28, 2015

America’s Short-sighted ‘Grand Strategy’” by Franklin Spinney, Aug. 31, 2105

Schumer’s Troubling Mideast Record” by Jonathan Marshall, Aug. 31, 2015

Ron Paul and Lost Lessons of War” by Todd E. Pierce, Aug. 31, 2015

To produce and publish these stories and many more costs money. And except for some book sales, we depend on the generous support of our readers.

So, please consider a tax-deductible donation either by credit card online or by mailing a check. (For readers wanting to use PayPal, you can address contributions to our PayPal Giving Fund account, which is named “The Consortium for Independent Journalism”).

 

 




Propaganda, Intelligence and MH-17

Exclusive: Propaganda is the life-blood of life-destroying wars, and the U.S. government has reached new heights (or depths) in this art of perception management. A case in point is the media manipulation around last year’s Malaysia Airlines shoot-down over Ukraine, says ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

By Ray McGovern

During a recent interview, I was asked to express my conclusions about the July 17, 2014 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine, prompting me to take another hard look at Official Washington’s dubious claims pointing the finger of blame at eastern Ukrainian rebels and Moscow based on shaky evidence regarding who was responsible for this terrible tragedy.

Unlike serious professional investigative reporters, intelligence analysts often are required by policymakers to reach rapid judgments without the twin luxuries of enough time and conclusive evidence. Having spent almost 30 years in the business of intelligence analysis, I have faced that uncomfortable challenge more times than I wish to remember.

So, I know what it feels like to confront issues of considerable consequence like the shoot-down of MH-17 and the killing of 298 passengers and crew amid intense pressure to choreograph the judgments to the propagandistic music favored by senior officials who want the U.S. “enemy” in this case, nuclear-armed Russia and its Western-demonized President Vladimir Putin to somehow be responsible. In such situations, the easiest and safest (career-wise) move is to twirl your analysis to the preferred tune or at least sit this jig out.

But the trust-us-it-was-Putin marathon dance has now run for 13 months and it’s getting tiresome to hear the P.R. people in the office of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper still claiming that the U.S. intelligence community has not revised or updated its analysis of the incident since July 22, 2014, just five days after the crash.

Back then, Clapper’s office, trying to back up Secretary of State John Kerry’s anti-Russian rush to judgment, cited very sketchy evidence in both senses of the word drawn heavily from “social media” accounts. Obviously, the high-priced and high-caliber U.S. intelligence community has learned much more about this very sensitive case since that time, but the administration won’t tell the American people and the world. The DNI’s office still refers inquiring reporters back to the outdated report from more than a year ago.

None of this behavior would make much sense if the later U.S. intelligence data supported the hasty finger-pointing toward Putin and the rebels. If more solid and persuasive intelligence corroborated those initial assumptions, you’d think U.S. government officials would be falling over themselves to leak the evidence and declare “we told you so.” And the DNI office’s claim that it doesn’t want to prejudice the MH-17 investigation doesn’t hold water either since the initial rush to judgment did exactly that.

So, despite the discomfort attached to making judgments with little reliable evidence and at the risk of sounding like former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld it seems high time to address what we know, what we don’t know, and why it may be that we don’t know what we don’t know.

Those caveats notwithstanding I would say it is a safe bet that the hard technical intelligence evidence upon which professional intelligence analysts prefer to rely does not support Secretary of State Kerry’s unseemly rush to judgment in blaming the Russian side just three days after the shoot-down.

‘An Extraordinary Tool’?

When the tragedy occurred U.S. intelligence collection assets were focused laser-like on the Ukraine-Russia border region where the passenger plane crashed. Besides collection from overhead imagery and sensors, U.S. intelligence presumably would have electronic intercepts of communications as well as information from human sources inside many of the various factions.

That would mean that hundreds of intelligence analysts are likely to have precise knowledge regarding how MH-17 was shot down and by whom. Though there may be some difference of opinion among analysts about how to read the evidence as there often is it is out of the question that the intelligence community would withhold this data from President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Kerry and other top officials.

Thus, it is a virtual certainty that the Obama administration has far more conclusive evidence than the “social media” cited by Kerry in casting suspicions on the rebels and Moscow when he made the rounds of Sunday talk shows just three days after the crash. On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Kerry told David Gregory that “social media” is an “extraordinary tool.” The question is, a tool for what?

The DNI report two days later rehashed many of the “social media” references that Kerry cited and added some circumstantial evidence about Russia providing other forms of military equipment to the rebels. But the DNI report contains no mention of Russia supplying a Buk anti-aircraft missile system that Kerry and the DNI cited as the suspected weapon that downed the plane.

So, why does the administration continue refusing to go beyond such dubious sources and shaky information in attributing blame for the shoot-down? Why not fill in the many blanks with actual and hard U.S. intelligence data that would have been available and examined over the following days and weeks? Did the Russians supply a Buk or other missile battery that would be capable of hitting MH-17 flying at 33,000 feet? Yes or no.

If not supplied by the Russians, did the rebels capture a Buk or similar missile battery from the Ukrainians who had them in their own inventory? Or did some element of the Ukrainian government possibly associated with one of Ukraine’s corrupt oligarchs fire the missile, either mistaking the Malaysian plane for a Russian one or calculating how the tragedy could be played for propaganda purposes? Or was it some other sinister motive?

Without doubt, the U.S. government has evidence that could support or refute any one of those possibilities, but it won’t tell you even in some declassified summary form. Why? Is it somehow unpatriotic to speculate that John Kerry, with his checkered reputation for truth-telling regarding Syria and other foreign crises, chose right off the bat to turn the MH-17 tragedy to Washington’s propaganda advantage, an exercise in “soft power” to throw Putin on the defensive and rally Europe behind U.S. economic sanctions to punish Russia for supporting ethnic Russians in Crimea and eastern Ukraine resisting the new U.S.-arranged political order in Kiev?

By taking a leaf out of the Bush-Cheney-Tony-Blair playbook, Kerry could “fix the intelligence around the policy” of Putin-bashing. Given the anti-Putin bias rampant in the mainstream Western media, that wouldn’t be a hard sell. And, it wasn’t. The “mainstream” stenographers/journalists quickly accepted that “social media” was indeed a dandy source to rely on and have never pressed the U.S. government to release any of its intelligence data.

Yet, in the immediate aftermath of the MH-17 shoot-down, there were signs that honest intelligence analysts were not comfortable letting themselves be used as they and other colleagues had been before the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

To buttress Kerry’s shaky case, DNI Clapper arranged a flimsy “Government Assessment” reprising many of Kerry’s references to “social media” that was briefed to a few hand-picked Establishment reporters two days after Kerry starred on Sunday TV. The little-noticed distinction was that this report was not the customary “Intelligence Assessment” (the genre that has been de rigueur in such circumstances in the past).

The key difference between the traditional “Intelligence Assessment” and this relatively new creation, a “Government Assessment,” is that the latter genre is put together by senior White House bureaucrats or other political appointees, not senior intelligence analysts. Another significant difference is that an “Intelligence Assessment” often includes alternative views, either in the text or in footnotes, detailing disagreements among intelligence analysts, thus revealing where the case may be weak or in dispute.

The absence of an “Intelligence Assessment” suggested that honest intelligence analysts were resisting a knee-jerk indictment of Russia just as they did after the first time Kerry pulled this “Government Assessment” arrow out of his quiver trying to stick the blame for an Aug. 21, 2013 sarin gas attack outside Damascus on the Syrian government.

Kerry cited this pseudo-intelligence product, which contained not a single verifiable fact, to take the United States to the brink of war against President Bashar al-Assad’s military, a fateful decision that was only headed off at the last minute after President Barack Obama was made aware of grave doubts among U.S. intelligence analysts about whodunit. Kerry’s sarin case has since collapsed. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Collapsing Syria-Sarin Case.”]

The sarin and MH-17 cases reveal the continuing struggles between opportunistic political operatives and professional intelligence analysts over how to deal with geopolitical information that can either inform U.S. foreign policy objectively or be exploited to advance some propaganda agenda. Clearly, this struggle did not end after CIA analysts were pressured into giving President George W. Bush the fraudulent not “mistaken” evidence that he used to make the case for invading Iraq in 2003.

But so soon after that disgraceful episode, the White House and State Department run the risk that some honest intelligence analysts would blow the whistle, especially given the dangerously blasé attitude in Establishment Washington toward the dangers of escalating the Ukraine confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia. Given the very high stakes, perhaps an intelligence professional or two will summon the courage to step up to this challenge.

Falling in Line

For now, the rest of us are told to be satisfied with the Sunday media circus orchestrated by Kerry on July 20, 2014, with the able assistance of eager-to-please pundits. A review of the transcripts of the CBS, NBC, and ABC Sunday follies reveals a remarkable if not unprecedented — consistency in approach by CBS’s Bob Schieffer, NBC’s David Gregory (ably egged on by Andrea Mitchell), and ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, all of whom hewed faithfully to a script apparently given them with two main talking points: (1) blame Putin; and (2) frame the shoot-down as a “wake-up call” (Kerry used the words repeatedly) for European governments to impose tight economic sanctions on Russia.

If the U.S. government’s hope was that the combination of Kerry’s hasty judgment and the DNI’s supportive “Government Assessment” would pin the P.R. blame for MH-17 on Putin and Russia, the gambit clearly worked. The U.S. had imposed serious economic sanctions on Russia the day before the shoot-down but the Europeans were hesitant. Yet, in the MH-17 aftermath, both U.S. and European media were filled with outrage against Putin for supposedly murdering 298 innocents.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European leaders, who had been resisting imposing strong economic sanctions because of Germany’s and the European Union’s lucrative trade with Russia, let themselves be bulldozed, just two weeks after the shoot-down, into going along with mutually harmful sanctions that have hurt Russia but also have shaken the EU’s fragile economic recovery.

Thus started a new, noxious phase in the burgeoning confrontation between Russia and the West, a crisis that was originally precipitated by a Western-orchestrated coup d’état in Kiev on Feb. 22, 2014, ousting Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych and touching off the current civil war that has witnessed some of the worst bloodshed inside Europe in decades..

It may seem odd that those European leaders allowed themselves to be snookered so swiftly. Did their own intelligence services not caution them against acquiescing over “intelligence” from social media? But the tidal wave of anti-Putin fury in the MH-17 aftermath was hard if not impossible for any Western politician to resist.

Just One Specific Question?

Yet, can the U.S. concealment of its MH-17 intelligence continue indefinitely? Some points beg for answers. For instance, besides describing social media as “an extraordinary tool,” Kerry told David Gregory on July 20, 2014: “We picked up the imagery of this launch. We know the trajectory. We know where it came from. We know the timing. And it was exactly at the time that this aircraft disappeared from the radar.”

Odd that neither Gregory nor other “mainstream” stenographers have thought to ask Kerry, then or since, to share what he says he “knows” with the American people and the world if only out of, well, a decent respect for the opinions of mankind. If Kerry has sources beyond “social media” for what he claims to “know” and they support his instant claims of Russian culpability, then the importance of his accusations dictates that he describe exactly what he pretends to know and how. But Kerry has been silent on this topic.

If, on the other hand, the real intelligence does not support the brief that Kerry argued right after the shoot-down, well, the truth will ultimately be hard to suppress. Angela Merkel and other leaders with damaged trade ties with Russia may ultimately demand an explanation. Can it be that it will take current European leaders a couple of years to realize they’ve been had — again?

The U.S. government also is likely to face growing public skepticism for using social media to pin the blame on Moscow for the downing of MH-17 not only to justify imposing economic sanctions, but also to stoke increased hostility toward Russia.

The Obama administration and the mainstream media may try to pretend that no doubt exists that the “group think” on Russia’s guilt is ironclad. And it seems likely that the official investigations now being conducted by the U.S.-propped-up government in Ukraine and other close U.S. allies will struggle to build a circumstantial case keeping the Putin-did-it narrative alive.

But chickens have a way of coming home to roost.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. During his 27-years as a CIA analyst, he served as chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch, and prepared and personally conducted early morning briefings of the President’s Daily Brief.  In January 2013, he co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).




In Case You Missed…

Some of our special stories in July dealt with the failures of U.S. strategy in the Mideast, the Greek financial crisis, the unsavory fighters for Ukraine, the MH-17 mystery, early slip-ups in the 2016 presidential race, and the railroading of NFL quarterback Tom Brady.

Toward a Rational US Strategy (Part 2)” by William R. Polk, July 1, 2015

Hillary Clinton’s Failed Libya ‘Doctrine’” by Robert Parry, July 1, 2015

Behind the Greek Crisis” by William R. Polk, July 2, 2015

How Zionism Corrupts Judaism” by Daniel C. Maguire, July 2, 2015

Jeb Bush’s ‘Transparency’ Ploy” by Chelsea Gilmour, July 3, 2015

Not Learning from Mideast Mistakes” by William R. Polk, July 3, 2015

Still Waiting for USS Liberty’s Truth” by Ray McGovern, July 4, 2015

Whining White Southerners” by Robert Parry, July 5, 2015

Can Greece and EU Make Amends?” by William R. Polk, July 6, 2015

Greek ‘No’ Vote Spurs Wider Resistance” by Andrés Cala, July 6, 2015

America’s Endless Air Wars” by Nicolas J S Davies, July 6, 2015

Ukraine Merges Nazis and Islamists” by Robert Parry, July 7, 2015

The 51-Day Genocide” by David Swanson, July 8, 2015

MH-17 Case Slips into Propaganda Fog” by Robert Parry, July 9, 2015

Obama’s Deadly Cold War Legacy” by Robert Parry, July 10, 2015

Risking a Jihadi Victory in Syria” by Ted Snider, July 10, 2015

Struggling for Women’s Sports Equality” by Chelsea Gilmour, July 12, 2015

‘Secret’ History of the Greek Crisis” by William R. Polk, July 12, 2015

The Mess that Nuland Made” by Robert Parry, July 13, 2015

The World Rebukes Netanyahu” by Robert Parry, July 14, 2015

US/Israeli/Saudi ‘Behavior’ Problems” by Robert Parry, July 15, 2015

The Path Ahead for Palestine” by Dennis J Bernstein, July 15, 2015

Entering the Age of Nuclear Terror” by Gary G. Kohls, July 16, 2015

MH-17 Mystery: A New Tonkin Gulf Case?” by Robert Parry, July 17, 2015

Making Excuses for Saudi Misbehavior” by Daniel Lazare, July 18, 2015

Seeking War to the End of the World” by Robert Parry, July 19, 2015

Who Benefits from Iranian Business?” by Andrés Cala, July 19, 2015

Hidden Origins of Syria’s Civil War” by Jonathan Marshall, July 20, 2015

The US Hand in the Syrian Mess” by Jonathan Marshall, July 20, 2015

Learning from the Greek ‘Betrayal’” by Dennis J Bernstein, July 21, 2015

Hillary Clinton’s Leftward Flip-Flops” by Evan Popp, July 22, 2015

Obama Should Release MH-17 Intel” by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, July 22, 2015

NYT Enforces Ukraine ‘Group Think’” by Robert Parry, July 23, 2015

The Dangers of European Dis-Union” by Nat Parry, July 23, 2015

Israel Clears the Bench in Iran Fight” by Robert Parry, July 24, 2015

How ‘Adjunct’ Professors Are Exploited” by Laura Finley, July 25, 2015

When Israel/Neocons Favored Iran” by Robert Parry, July 28, 2015

The Tom Brady Railroad” by Robert Parry, July 29, 2015

Obama’s Egypt Policy Breeds Terrorism” by Jonathan Marshall, July 29, 2015

Why Russia Shut Down NED Fronts” by Robert Parry, July 30, 2015

A Clash Over Whose Lives Matter” by Sam Husseini, July 31, 2015

To produce and publish these stories and many more costs money. And except for some book sales, we depend on the generous support of our readers.

So, please consider a tax-deductible donation either by credit card online or by mailing a check. (For readers wanting to use PayPal, you can address contributions to our PayPal Giving Fund account, which is named “The Consortium for Independent Journalism”).

 

 




In Case You Missed…

Some of our special stories in June focused on the bloody crises in Ukraine, Syria, Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East — and on propaganda’s harm to democracy and fairness, from war to Tom Brady.

Neocon Fugitive Given Ukraine Province” by Robert Parry, June 2, 2015

NYT’s New Propaganda on Syria” by Robert Parry, June 3, 2015

An Urgent Reassessment of Jesus” by the Rev. Howard Bess, June 3, 2015

Sleepwalking to Another Mideast Disaster” by Robert Parry, June 4, 2015

How Reagan’s Propaganda Succeeded” by Robert Parry, June 4, 2015

On TV, the Enemy We’ve Met” by Patrick Cribben, June 5, 2015

Obama’s Big Lie on Syria” by Daniel Lazare, June 5, 2015

Obama’s ‘G-1-plus-6’” by Ray McGovern, June 7, 2015

Cold War II to McCarthyism II” by Robert Parry, June 8, 2015

Israel’s ‘Legitimacy’ War” by John V. Whitbeck, June 8, 2015

Obama’s Stupid Propaganda Stuff” by Robert Parry, June 9, 2015

Barack Obama: No Jack Kennedy” by Ray McGovern, June 10, 2015

Israel Seeks to Criminalize Criticism” by Lawrence Davidson, June 10, 2015

WPost Plays Ukraine’s Lapdog” by Robert Parry, June 11, 2015

U.S. House Admits Nazi Role in Ukraine” by Robert Parry, June 12, 2015

Hiding Facts to Thwart Democracy” by Kirk Wiebe, June 12, 2015

Jeb Bush’s Tangled Past” by Chelsea Gilmour, June 12, 2015

The Bush Family ‘Oiligarchy’” by Sam Parry, June 12, 2015

NFL’s ‘Deflategate’ Findings ‘Unreliable’” by Robert Parry, June 14, 2015

The Saga of Cesar Chavez” by James DiEugenio, June 14, 2015

Standing Up for Truth and Ben Franklin” by Coleen Rowley, June 14, 2015

Samantha Power: Liberal War Hawk” by Robert Parry, June 15, 2015

Explaining Myself” by Robert Parry, June 16, 2015

Fiddling While the World Burns” by David William Pear, June 17, 2015

Can US Stop Enabling Israel?” by Alon Ben-Meir, June 18, 2015

Obama’s Libya Fiasco” by Andrés Cala, June 19, 2015

The Rush to a New Cold War” by Dennis J Bernstein, June 19, 2015

Facing America’s Great Evils” by Robert Parry, June 20, 2015

The Dangers of Religious Primitivism” by Lawrence Davidson, June 21, 2015

NYT’s Orwellian View of Ukraine” by Robert Parry, June 22, 2015

The Nitwits Are in Charge” by Robert Parry, June 24, 2015

Turkey’s Troubling War on Syria” by Rick Sterling, June 25, 2015

Neocons Urge Embrace of Al Qaeda” by Daniel Lazare, June 26, 2015

Shaking Off the Symbols of Racism” by William Loren Katz, June 26, 2015

Turkish Voters Rebuke Erdogan” by Alon Ben-Meir, June 27, 2015

Was Turkey Behind Syria Sarin Attack?” by Robert Parry, June 27, 2015

Confronting Southern ‘Victimhood’” by Robert Parry, June 29, 2015

Toward a Rational US Strategy (Part 1)” by William R. Polk, June 30, 2015

To produce and publish these stories and many more costs money. And except for some book sales, we depend on the generous support of our readers.

So, please consider a tax-deductible donation either by credit card online or by mailing a check. (For readers wanting to use PayPal, you can address contributions to our PayPal Giving Fund account, which is named “The Consortium for Independent Journalism”).




Still Waiting for USS Liberty’s Truth

Exclusive: During the Six-Day War in 1967, Israeli warplanes and warships tried to sink the USS Liberty, killing 34 of the spy ship’s crew. Afterwards, U.S. and Israeli officials excused the attack as an unfortunate mistake and covered up evidence of willful murder, as ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern explains.

By Ray McGovern

Israel’s chokehold over U.S. politics and politicians has been so powerful for so many decades that this obvious reality is routinely denied, a collective gagging of the truth that is itself a measure of how strong the Israeli grip is.

The most potent and poignant example of how much American independence has been surrendered to Israel when it comes to events in the Middle East may be the contortions of cover-up that followed Israel’s attempt to sink the USS Liberty during the Six-Day War in 1967, killing 34 American seamen.

The desire of virtually the entire U.S. political and media establishments was for this unpleasant incident to go away. No one, it seemed, wanted to hold Israel to account or to challenge its lame excuses about an inadvertent mistake. One of the few who eventually did was Navy Admiral and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Thomas Moorer, who helped lead an independent, blue-ribbon commission to investigate what happened to the Liberty.

Those finding were released on Oct. 22, 2003. The introduction and first four findings stated:

“We, the undersigned, having undertaken an independent investigation of Israel’s attack on USS Liberty, including eyewitness testimony from surviving crewmembers, a review of naval and other official records, an examination of official statements by the Israeli and American governments, a study of the conclusions of all previous official inquiries, and a consideration of important new evidence and recent statements from individuals having direct knowledge of the attack or the cover up, hereby find the following:

“1. That on June 8, 1967, after eight hours of aerial surveillance, Israel launched a two-hour air and naval attack against USS Liberty, the world’s most sophisticated intelligence ship, inflicting 34 dead and 173 wounded American servicemen (a casualty rate of seventy percent, in a crew of 294);

“2. That the Israeli air attack lasted approximately 25 minutes, during which time unmarked Israeli aircraft dropped napalm canisters on USS Liberty’s bridge, and fired 30mm cannons and rockets into our ship, causing 821 holes, more than 100 of which were rocket-size; survivors estimate 30 or more sorties were flown over the ship by a minimum of 12 attacking Israeli planes which were jamming all five American emergency radio channels;

“3. That the torpedo boat attack involved not only the firing of torpedoes, but the machine-gunning of Liberty’s firefighters and stretcher-bearers as they struggled to save their ship and crew; the Israeli torpedo boats later returned to machine-gun at close range three of the Liberty’s life rafts that had been lowered into the water by survivors to rescue the most seriously wounded;

“4. That there is compelling evidence that Israel’s attack was a deliberate attempt to destroy an American ship and kill her entire crew; evidence of such intent is supported by statements from Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Undersecretary of State George Ball, former CIA director Richard Helms, former NSA directors Lieutenant General William Odom, USA (Ret.), Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, USN (Ret.), and Marshal Carter; former NSA deputy directors Oliver Kirby and Major General John Morrison, USAF (Ret.); and former Ambassador Dwight Porter, U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon in 1967;”

[The signers included Adm. Moorer; General Raymond G. Davis; former Assistant Commandant, United States Marine Corps; Rear Admiral Merlin Staring, United States Navy (Ret.), former Judge Advocate General Of The Navy; and Ambassador James Akins (Ret.) former United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.]

The findings went on to make other more general observations about U.S. political subservience to Israel, stating that because of Israel’s “powerful supporters in the United States, the White House deliberately covered up the facts of this attack from the American people”; that because of that pressure, the attack was “the only serious naval incident that has never been thoroughly investigated by Congress”; that “there has been an official cover-up without precedent in American naval history”; that “the truth about Israel’s attack and subsequent White House cover-up continues to be officially concealed from the American people to the present day and is a national disgrace”; that “a danger to the national security exists whenever our elected officials are willing to subordinate American interests to those of any foreign nation” and that this policy “endangers the safety of Americans and the security of the United States.”

Frightened Presidents

Just weeks before his death on Feb. 5, 2004, Adm. Moorer made a final public statement urging that the truth finally be revealed about the attack on the USS Liberty but recognized the behind-the-scenes control that Israel exerts over even the highest U.S. officials:

“I’ve never seen a President, I don’t care who he is, stand up to [Israel] They always get what they want. The Israelis know what is going on all the time. I got to the point where I wouldn’t write anything down. If the American people understood what a grip these people have got on our government, they would rise up in arms.” [As quoted by Richard Curtiss in “A Changing Image: American Perceptions of the Arab-Israeli Dispute.”]

Israeli messages intercepted on June 8, 1967, leave no doubt that sinking the USS Liberty was the mission assigned to the attacking Israeli warplanes and torpedo boats as the Six-Day War raged in the Middle East. Here, for example, is the text of an intercepted Israeli conversation, just one of many pieces of evidence that the Israeli attack was not a mistake but likely a willful attempt to prevent the U.S. government from eavesdropping on Israel’s military operations.

Israeli pilot to ground control: “This is an American ship. Do you still want us to attack?”

Ground control: “Yes, follow orders.”

Israeli pilot: “But, sir, it’s an American ship I can see the flag!”

Ground control: “Never mind; hit it!”

The Israelis might have been able to report “mission accomplished, ship sunk, all crew killed” save for the bravery and surefootedness of 23-year-old Navy seaman Terry Halbardier, whose actions spelled the difference between the murder of 34 of the crew and the intended massacre of all 294.

Halbardier skated across the Liberty’s slippery deck while it was being strafed in order to connect a communications cable and enable the Liberty to send out an SOS. The Israelis intercepted that message and, out of fear of how the U.S. Sixth Fleet would respond, immediately broke off the attack, returned to their bases, and sent an “oops” message to Washington confessing to their unfortunate “mistake.”

As things turned out, the Israelis didn’t need to be so concerned. When President Lyndon Johnson learned that the USS America and USS Saratoga had launched warplanes to do battle with the forces attacking the Liberty, he told Defense Secretary Robert McNamara to call Sixth Fleet Carrier Division Commander Rear Admiral Lawrence Geis and tell him to order the warplanes to return immediately to their carriers.

According to J.Q. “Tony” Hart, a chief petty officer who monitored these conversations from a U.S. Navy communications relay station in Morocco, Geis shot back that one of his ships was under attack. Tellingly, McNamara responded: “President Johnson is not going to go to war or embarrass an American ally over a few sailors.”

John Crewdson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the Chicago Tribune, asked McNamara about this many years later. McNamara’s answer is worth reading carefully; he said he had “absolutely no recollection of what I did that day,” except that “I have a memory that I didn’t know at the time what was going on.”

Crewsdon has written the most detailed and accurate account of the Israeli attack on the Liberty; it appeared in the Chicago Tribune, and also in the Baltimore Sun, on Oct. 2, 2007. Read it and you’ll understand why Crewdson got no Pulitzer for his investigative reporting on the Liberty. Instead, the Tribune laid him off in November 2008 after 24 years.

On the few occasions when the mainstream U.S. media outlets are forced to address what happened, they blithely ignore the incredibly rich array of hard evidence and still put out the false narrative of the “mistaken” Israeli attack on the Liberty. And they attempt to conflate fact with speculation, asking why Israel would deliberately attack a ship of the U.S. Navy.

Why Tel Aviv wanted the Liberty and its entire crew on the bottom of the Mediterranean remains a matter of speculation, but there are plausible theories including Israel’s determination to keep the details of its war plans secret from everyone, including the U.S. government.

On June 25, 2015, The Real News Network interviewed the only U.S. Marine survivor, Sgt. Bryce Lockwood, and me, a CIA analyst in June 1967 responsible for reporting on the activities of the Soviet Union. Paul Jay, the interviewer, made a strong attempt to separate fact from speculation.

Part 1 presents the facts. They include: (1) Israel attacked the USS Liberty by air and sea for two hours on June 8, 1967 during the six-day Israeli-Arab War; (2) The Israelis knew they were attacking a U.S Navy ship and gave the order to sink it and leave no survivors; (3) The U.S. Navy betrayed its own in obeying White House orders to parrot the Israeli excuse of “mistaken identity.” Not one naval officer resigned in protest.

Part 2 of the interview proceeds from those facts; it features speculation regarding what the Israelis may have had in mind in trying to sink the Liberty and leave no survivors. The facts being what they are, it should come as no surprise that trying to put a rationale behind them is a mind-boggling task. And, sad to say, no U.S. official has apparently dared confront the Israelis!

Interviewer Paul Jay, understandably, comes down hard on the obvious need for an official U.S. investigation. We know from the testimony of some of those who actually took part in the whitewash “investigation” commissioned by Adm. John S. McCain Jr. (father of Sen. John McCain) that it was a travesty.

Will the Navy Finally Take Care of Its Own?

There are some glimmers of hope.

–The annual ceremony on June 8 to honor Liberty crew killed that day has typically been ignored by Navy brass. This year was different. Three senior active duty Navy officers came to pay their respects. They were led by Rear Admiral Nancy A. Norton, Director, Warfare Integration Directorate, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.

It struck others, as well as me, not only that her presence betokened more interest on the part of the Navy in righting this wrong, but that the admiral seemed genuinely interested herself in digging into what happened and what might be done at this point to properly acknowledge what happened.

–The current chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes, R- California, is one of the few politicians who knows and cares about the attack on the Liberty. Congressman Nunes took the initiative to facilitate the awarding of a Silver Star to Terry Halbardier, the seaman from Texas who did what was necessary to save what remained of the crew and ship. He had to slosh through a lake of napalm and dodge Israeli strafing of the deck to hook up the cable needed to broadcast the SOS.

Halbardier was finally honored on May 27, 2009 42 years late but better late than never at the small award ceremony in Rep. Nunes’s office in Visalia, California. The Republican congressman pinned the Silver Star next to the Purple Heart that Halbardier found in his home mailbox three years before.

Nunes said, “The government has kept this quiet I think for too long, and I felt as my constituent he [Halbardier] needed to get recognized for the services he made to his country.”

Nunes got that right. Despite the many indignities the Liberty crew has been subjected to, the mood in Visalia was pronouncedly a joyous one of Better Late Than Never. And, it did take some time for the moment to sink in: Wow, a gutsy congressman not afraid to let the truth hang out on this delicate issue. I was able to be there that day; seldom have I experienced a more poignant moment.

Congressman Nunes, by virtue of the powerful position he now holds as chair of the House Intelligence Committee, is in position to extend recognition and gratitude to the rest of the Liberty crew, whether alive or dead. (Halbardier died last August.)

–Israel’s seizure of the Swedish boat Marianne in international waters on June 29 en route to Gaza brought back bitter memories of the torpedo attack on the USS Liberty. The Marianne’s passengers and crew were taken to the Israeli naval base of Ashdod the same base from which three Israeli torpedo boats sailed at noon (local time) on June 8, 1967 with explicit orders to join Israeli Air Force fighter-bombers already engaged in trying to sink the USS Liberty.

Most of the 34 Liberty crew killed that day died when one of the five torpedoes fired by the Ashdod-based torpedo boats hit the Liberty. Sgt. Lockwood, who was in the process of throwing sensitive material and equipment over board, lost all the Marines under his command in that attack. According to Lockwood, the wheel from the torpedo boat that fired the killing torpedo has been on display at the Israeli Navy Museum in Haifa along with a life raft the Israeli boats picked up on their way back to Ashdod adding insult to injury.

Would it be too much to expect that, after the latest Israeli crime on the high seas on June 29, a Navy admiral might find his voice and pick up where Adm. Moorer left off? My candidate would be the unsung patriot who helped prevent the war on Iran that Vice President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush were still planning for 2008, their last year in office, despite the unanimous conclusion of the U.S. intelligence community that Iran was not working on a nuclear weapon.

It took some guts to say, as Admiral William J. “Fox” Fallon did in early March 2008, an attack on Iran “isn’t going to happen on my watch” as CENTCOM commander for which he was unceremoniously replaced by a far-more-malleable general named David Petraeus, a former insubordinate subordinate for whom Fallon had a personal as well as a policy dislike. After his first meeting with Petraeus a year earlier in Baghdad, Fallon reportedly sized him up as an “ass-kissing little chickenshit.”

Assuming there is no Omerta code for Navy admirals (at least not for retirees) why should we hesitate to encourage Adm. Fallon to push for a proper investigation of the attack on the USS Liberty. Perhaps while Israel’s most recent act of piracy is fresh in some minds, Fallon could reboot the process of righting the wrong done to the USS Liberty crew.

Ray McGovern served for a total of 30 years in Army intelligence and CIA analysis.  He now works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington.  He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).




In Case You Missed…

Some of our special stories from May focused on powerful institutions abusing their authority by making exaggerated, dubious or false allegations to justify punitive actions from the U.S. government to the mainstream media to the NFL while often covering up their own offenses and hypocrisies.

The Lasting Pain from Vietnam Silence” by Ray McGovern, May 1, 2015

How Saudi-Israel Alliance Helps Al Qaeda” by Lawrence Davidson, May 1, 2015

Climbing into Bed with Al-Qaeda” by Daniel Lazare, May 2, 2015

WPost Blames Obama for Syrian Mess” by Robert Parry, May 3, 2015

Letting Scientific Knowledge into Religion” by Rev. Howard Bess, May 3, 2015

Gifting Russia ‘Free-Market’ Extremism” by Robert Parry, May 5, 2015

The War over the Vietnam War” by Don North, May 5, 2015

The Inhuman Failure of Austerity” by David William Pear, May 5, 2015

Holes in NFL’s ‘Deflategate’ Report” by Robert Parry, May 7, 2015

Amnesty International’s Palestine Sell-out” by Paul de Rooij, May 7, 2015

Why Write about NFL’s ‘Deflategate’” by Robert Parry, May 8, 2015

Obama’s Petulant WWII Snub of Russia” by Ray McGovern, May 8, 2015

Saudi Cash Wins France’s Favor” by Jonathan Marshall, May 8, 2015

Enforcing the Ukraine ‘Group Think’” by Robert Parry, May 9, 2015

America as Dangerous Flailing Beast” by John Chuckman, May 9, 2015

Failing to Hide Israel-Iran-Iraq Secrets” by Robert Parry, May 11, 2015

Saddam’s Green Light” by Robert Parry, May 11, 2015

Tom Brady and Theoretical Crime” by Robert Parry, May 12, 2015

Punishing Another Whistleblower” by Ray McGovern, May 12, 2015

The Saudis’ Hurt Feelings” by Jonathan Marshall, May 14, 2015

The Bin Laden Murder Mystery” by John Gardner, May 14, 2015

The Phony ‘Bad Intel’ Defense on Iraq” by Ray McGovern, May 15, 2015

Losing the American Republic” by William R. Polk, May 15, 2015

William & Mary Honors War Criminal” by Ray McGovern, May 17, 2015

Fake Evidence Blaming Russia for MH-17?” by Robert Parry, May 18, 2015

Right-Wing Pressure in Academia” by James DiEugenio, May 18, 2015

Punishing Poland for US Crimes” by Nat Parry, May 19, 2015

Saudi Arabia’s Nuclear Bluster” by Jonathan Marshall, May 19, 2015

You Be the Judge” by Robert Parry, May 20, 2015

Israel’s Plan to Kill Lebanese Civilians” by Jonathan Marshall, May 20, 2015

Obama’s Strategic Shift” by Robert Parry, May 21, 2015

The MH-17 Propaganda War” by Greg Maybury, May 22, 2015

Why Islamic State is Winning” by Daniel Lazare, May 23, 2015

Israel Seeks International Law Rewrite” by Lawrence Davidson, May 23, 2015

How to Honor Memorial Day” by Ray McGovern, May 24, 2015

Saudis Eye Human Rights Chair” by Jonathan Marshall, May 25, 2015

More Video Fakery on MH-17” by Robert Parry, May 26, 2015

A Reckless ‘Stand-Upper’ on MH-17” by Robert Parry, May 28, 2015

Resurgence of the ‘Surge’ Myth” by Ray McGovern, May 28, 2015

Holes in the Neocons’ Syrian Story” by Robert Parry, May 31, 2015

To produce and publish these stories and many more costs money. And except for some book sales, we depend on the generous support of our readers.

So, please consider a tax-deductible donation either by credit card online or by mailing a check. (For readers wanting to use PayPal, you can address contributions to our PayPal Giving Fund account, which is named “The Consortium for Independent Journalism”).

 




Barack Obama: No Jack Kennedy

Exclusive: A half century ago at the peak of the Cold War President Kennedy appealed to humankind’s better nature in a daring overture to Soviet leaders, a gamble that brought bans on nuclear testing and a safer world, a bravery that President Obama can’t seem to muster, says ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

By Ray McGovern

Democratic Sen. Lloyd Bentsen’s “you’re no Jack Kennedy” put-down of Republican Sen. Dan Quayle in the 1988 vice presidential debate springs to mind on a day on which I cannot help but compare the character of President Barack Obama to that of John Kennedy, the first President under whom I served in the Army and CIA.

On this day 52 years ago, President John Kennedy gave a landmark speech at American University, appealing for cooperation instead of confrontation with the Soviet Union. Kennedy knew all too well that he was breaking the omerta-like code that dictated demonization of the Soviet leaders. But the stakes could not have been higher a choice of an endless arms race (with the attendant risk of nuclear conflagration) or bilateral cooperation to curb the most dangerous weapons that jeopardized the future of humankind.

Forgoing the anti-Soviet rhetoric that was de rigueur at the time, Kennedy made an urgent appeal to slow down the arms race, and then backed up the rhetoric with a surprise announcement that the U.S. was halting nuclear testing. This daring step terrified those sitting atop the military-industrial complex and, in my opinion, was among the main reasons behind Kennedy’s assassination some five months later.

At American University, John Kennedy broke new ground in telling the world in no uncertain terms that he would strive to work out a genuine, lasting peace with the Soviet Union. And to underscore his seriousness, Kennedy announced a unilateral cessation of nuclear testing, but also the beginning of high-level discussions in Moscow aimed at concluding a comprehensive test ban treaty.

In tightly held conversations with speechwriter Ted Sorensen and a handful of other clued-in advisers, Kennedy labeled his address “the peace speech.” He managed to hide it from the military advisers who just eight months before had pressed hard for an attack on the Soviet nuclear missiles sent to Cuba in 1962.

It was then that Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, his Soviet counterpart, stood on the brink of ordering the incineration of possibly hundreds of millions of people, before the two worked out a face-saving compromise and thus thwarted the generals of both sides who were pressing for Armageddon.

Kennedy’s resistance to relentless pressure from military and civilian advisers alike for a military strike, combined with Khrushchev’s understanding of the stakes involved, saved perhaps the very life of the planet. And here’s the kicker: What neither Kennedy nor his advisers knew at the time was that on Oct. 26, 1962, just one day before the U.S.-Soviet compromise was reached, the nuclear warheads on the missiles in Cuba had been readied for launch.

This alarming fact was learned only 30 years later, prompting Robert McNamara, Kennedy’s defense secretary to write: “Clearly there was a high risk that, in the face of a U.S. attack which, as I have said, many were prepared to recommend to President Kennedy the Soviet forces in Cuba would have decided to use their nuclear weapons rather than lose them.

“We need not speculate about what would have happened in that event. We can predict the results with certainty. … And where would it have ended? In utter disaster.”

It was that searing experience and the confidential exchange of letters between Kennedy and Khrushchev that convinced them both that they needed to commit to working out ways to lessen the chance of another such near-catastrophe in the future.

American University Speech

Kennedy’s “peace speech” was a definitive break with the past. Saturday Review editor Norman Cousins wrote simply: “At American University on June 10, 1963, President Kennedy proposed an end to the Cold War.”

Kennedy told those assembled that he had chosen “this time and this place to discuss a topic on which ignorance too often abounds and the truth is too rarely perceived … world peace.”

“What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. … I am talking about genuine peace the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living the kind that enables man and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women not merely peace in our time but peace for all time. …

“Today the expenditure of billions of dollars every year on weapons acquired for the purpose of making sure we never need to use them is essential to keeping the peace. But surely the acquisition of such idle stockpiles which can only destroy and never create is not the only, much less the most efficient, means of assuring peace. …

“So let us persevere. Peace need not be impracticable and war need not be inevitable. … No government or social system is so evil that its people must be considered as lacking in virtue. … We can still hail the Russian people for their many achievements in science and space, in economic and industrial growth, in culture and in acts of courage.

“Among the many traits the peoples of our two countries have in common, none is stronger than our mutual abhorrence of war. Almost unique among the major world powers, we have never been at war with each other. And no nation in the history of battle ever suffered more than the Soviet Union suffered in the course of the Second World War. At least 20 million lost their lives. Countless millions of homes and farms were burned or sacked. A third of the nation’s territory … was turned into a wasteland a loss equivalent to the devastation of this country east of Chicago.

“Today, should total war ever break out again … all we have built, all we have worked for, would be destroyed in the first 24 hours. And even in the Cold War … our two countries … are both devoting massive sums of money to weapons, which could be better devoted to combating ignorance, poverty, and disease.

“So, let us not be blind to our differences but let us direct attention to our common interests and to means by which those differences can be resolved. … For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal. …

“Above all, while defending our vital interest, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war. To adopt that kind of course in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy or of a collective death wish for the world. …

“Finally, let us examine our attitude toward peace and freedom here at home. … In too many of our cities today, the peace is not secure because freedom is incomplete. … We shall do our part to build a world of peace, where the weak are safe and the strong are just. We are not helpless before that task or hopeless of its success. Confident and unafraid, we labor on … toward a strategy of peace.”

As mentioned above, Kennedy backed up his words by announcing the unilateral halt to nuclear testing and the start of negotiations on a comprehensive test ban treaty. In a sharp break from precedent, the Soviets published the full text of Kennedy’s speech and let it be broadcast throughout the U.S.S.R. without the usual jamming.

Khrushchev told test-ban negotiator Averell Harriman that Kennedy had given “the greatest speech by any American president since Roosevelt.” The Soviet leader responded by proposing to Kennedy that they consider a limited test ban encompassing the atmosphere, outer space and water, as a way to get around the thorny issue of inspections.

In contrast, Kennedy’s AU speech was greeted with condescension and skepticism by the New York Times, which reported: “Generally there was not much optimism in official Washington that the President’s conciliation address at American University would produce agreement on a test ban treaty or anything else.”

A ‘Complex’

In giving pride of place to his rejection of “Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war,” Kennedy threw down the gauntlet to the “military-industrial complex” against which President Dwight Eisenhower had pointedly warned in his Farewell Address:

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, but the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

Ike got that right. Then, as now, the military-industrial complex was totally dependent on a “Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war.” It was policed by the Pentagon and was/is a hugely profitable enterprise.

Opposition coalesced around the negotiations toward a test ban treaty, with strong opponents in Congress, the media, and (surprise, surprise!) the military-industrial complex. Kennedy courageously kept his warmongering senior military out of the loop, and rushed Harriman through the talks in Moscow.

On July 25, 1963, Harriman initialed the final text of a Limited Test Ban Treaty outlawing nuclear tests “in the atmosphere, beyond its limits, including outer space, or under water, including territorial waters or high seas.”

The next evening, Kennedy went on TV, using his bully pulpit to appeal for support for ratification of the treaty. In a swipe at the various players in the formidable anti-treaty lobby, the President stressed that the vulnerability of children was a strong impetus to his determination to fight against all odds: “This is for our children and our grandchildren, and they have no lobby here in Washington.”

But the Establishment was not moved; and seldom have its anxieties been more transparent. It is axiomatic that peace is not good for business, but seldom do you see that in a headline. But the plaintive title of a U.S. News and World Report on Aug. 12, 1963, was “If Peace Does Come What Happens to Business?” The article asked, “Will the bottom drop out if defense spending is cut?”

Kennedy circumvented the military-industrial complex by enlisting the Citizens Committee led by Norman Cousins, the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, and prominent religious leaders among others to appeal for ratification. In early August, Kennedy told his advisers he believed it would take a near-miracle to get the two-thirds Senate vote needed. On Sept. 24, the Senate ratified the treaty by a vote of 80 to 19.

I am indebted to James Douglass and his masterful JFK and the Unspeakable; Why He Died & Why It Matters, for much of the play-by-play in that whirlwind rush to ratification. Douglass argues persuasively, in my view, that Kennedy’s bold move toward carving out a more peaceful strategic relationship with the Soviet Union, first announced on June 10 at American University, was one of the main factors that sealed his fate.

An Obama Complex

While it’s true that comparisons can be invidious, they can also be instructive. Will President Obama ever be able to summon the courage to face down the military-industrial complex and other powerful Establishment forces? Or is it simply (and sadly) the case that he simply does not have it in him?

Referring to Obama’s anemic flip-flopping on Ukraine, journalist Robert Parry wrote that Obama’s policy on Ukraine suggests that he (1) believes his own propaganda, (2) is a conscious liar, or (3) has completely lost his bearings, and simply adopts the position of the last person he talks to.

I see as the primary factor a toxic, enervating mix of fear and cowardice. Former Air Force Col. Morris Davis, who quit his job as chief prosecutor at Guantanamo when ordered to accept testimony based on waterboarding under the Bush administration, may have come close with his unusual burst of military-style candor.

Davis told an interviewer: “There’s a pair of testicles somewhere between the Capitol Building and the White House that fell off the President after Election Day [2008].”

Shortly before his re-election in 2012, Obama reportedly was braced at a small dinner party by wealthy donors who wanted to know whatever happened to the “progressive Obama.” The President did not take kindly to the criticism, rose from the table, and said, “Don’t you remember what happened to Dr. King?”

It is, of course, a fair question as to whether Obama should have run for President if he knew such fears might impinge on his freedom of decision. But let’s ask the other question: What did happen to Martin Luther King Jr.? Would you believe that the vast majority of Americans know only that he was killed and have no idea as to who killed him and why?

In late 1999, a trial took place in Memphis not far from where King was murdered. In a wrongful death lawsuit initiated by the King family, 70 witnesses testified over a six-week period. They described a sophisticated government plot that involved the FBI, the CIA, the Memphis Police, Mafia intermediaries, and an Army Special Forces sniper team. The 12 jurors, six black and six white, returned after 2 ½ hours of deliberation with a verdict that Dr. King has been assassinated by a conspiracy that included agencies of his own government.

My hunch is that Obama walks around afraid, and that this helps explain why he feels he has to kowtow to the worst kind of thugs and liars lingering in his own administration the torturers, the perjurers, and the legerdemain lawyers who can even make waterboarding, which Obama publicly condemned as torture, magically legal. So far at least, Obama has been no profile in courage and he’s nearly 6 ½ years into his presidency.

I have two suggestions for him today. Let him take a few minutes to read and reflect on President Kennedy’s American University speech of 52 years ago. And let him also reflect on the words of Fannie Lou Hamer the diminutive but gutsy civil rights organizer of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and of Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964:

“Sometimes it seems like to tell the truth today is to run the risk of being killed. But if I fall, I’ll fall five feet four inches forward in the fight for freedom.”

Obama has a nine-inch height advantage over Fannie Lou Hamer; he needs somehow to assimilate a bit of her courage.

[For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Can Obama Speak Strongly for Peace?”]

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He served as an Army Infantry/Intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for 30 years from the administration of John Kennedy to that of George H. W. Bush.




Obama’s ‘G-1-plus-6’

Exclusive: As much as President Obama needs President Putin’s help on Syria, Iran and other global hotspots, he has fallen in line behind U.S. hardliners in seeking to ratchet up the confrontation over Ukraine and now is trying to bring the Europeans along at the G-7, writes ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

By Ray McGovern

The “G-7 summit” at a resort in Germany’s picturesque Bavaria region is likely to show whether “G-7” should be called “G-1-plus-6” number “one” being what President Barack Obama continues to call the “only indispensable country in the world”; the “six” being those countries that Russian President Vladimir Putin has labeled Washington’s “junior partners.”

The “G-7” consisting of Germany, France, Italy, the UK, Japan, Canada and the U.S. formerly was known as the “G-8” until Russia was booted last year after being blamed for the violent aftermath of the U.S.-sponsored coup d’etat in Kiev on Feb. 22, 2014.

Last year, the West was in high dudgeon over what it deemed “Russian aggression” and what Secretary of State John Kerry termed Russia’s “Nineteenth Century behavior.” After all, the U.S. and its allies are well known for always respecting the territorial integrity of other countries regardless of the circumstances. Okay, well, maybe not.

However, at the Bavarian summit, the U.S. is hoping to rekindle some of that old outrage to get the European Union to extend economic sanctions on Russia, though they are hurting the EU’s struggling economies, too.

The main question is whether German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, who have witnessed up-front-and-personal the behavior of Washington’s neocon policymakers and their Ukrainian puppets, will summon the courage to act like adults.

Will the leaders of Germany and France continue to bend to the U.S. diktat? Or are they more likely, this time, to stand up on their own feet and resist pressure from the U.S. and its UK lackey for continued punitive sanctions against Russia?

Merkel and Hollande have had the chance personally to take the measure of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and his client relationship with the U.S. At a very different kind of summit on Feb. 11-12 in Belorussia, with U.S. representatives pointedly not invited and only Poroshenko reflecting U.S. objectives, Merkel and Hollande worked out with him and Putin the so-called “Minsk II” package agreement that included a ceasefire which pretty much held until just recently and a mechanism for resolving the political confrontation between the post-coup regime in Kiev and the ethnic Russian resistance in the east.

Merkel and Hollande are no political novices. And, if they know their history, they know what a Pétain or a Quisling looks like. In any case, they cannot have failed to recognize what Poroshenko looks like and how he continues to do the bidding of the neocons running U.S. policy on Ukraine, who are hell-bent on demonizing Putin and ostracizing Russia all with little heed to the economic and longer-term security damage inflicted on “junior partners” like Germany and France.

Shortly after Minsk II was signed, the hard-line Ukrainian parliament, led by U.S. favorite Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, approved implementing legislation that was designed not to implement the political side of the agreement. A “poison pill” was inserted that, in effect, required the ethnic Russian rebels in the east to surrender before negotiations proceeded. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Ukraine’s Poison Pill for Peace Talks.”]

Sinking Peace

Poroshenko signed the law to the delight of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, the neocon operative who had hand-picked Yatsenyuk before the coup, telling U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt that “Yats is the guy” while also repudiating the European Union’s more cautious approach back then with the pithy remark, “Fuck the EU.”

Yatsenyuk remains Nuland’s go-to guy when it comes to not resolving the Ukraine crisis — and surely not restoring the pre-crisis working relationship that Obama had with Putin, a tandem that had undermined neocon dreams of more “regime change” in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Iran, by instead working on diplomatic solutions to those difficult problems.

Now, with many EU economic sanctions against Russia due to expire this month, the neocons and their clients in Ukraine understood the need to again kick-start the Putin bashing and almost on cue there was a pre-summit uptick in ceasefire violations in southeastern Ukraine that the West’s mainstream news media predictably blamed on Putin.

However, the German and French leaders and of course Putin are acutely aware of which side sees advantage in wielding outrage over the increased fighting as a transparently convenient cudgel to pound Russia and demand that the U.S. “junior partners” renew the economic sanctions.

Europeans have a giant economic stake in what happens at the “G1-plus-6” summit in Bavaria. Trouble is, European press coverage of Ukraine is almost as poor as what you read in the U.S. media. Odd as it strikes me, having analyzed Soviet propaganda for decades, the U.S. fawning corporate media has recently proven to be at least as adept at spreading half-truth and lies as Pravda and Izvestia in the old Soviet days.

Because of my previous professional experience, it is hard for me to accept that President Putin’s account of what went down in Kiev since early 2014 is far more factually based than what we hear from President Obama or read in the New York Times, but it is. For instance, here are excerpts from an interview Putin gave on June 6 to the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera:

“What sparked the [Ukraine] crisis? Former President Viktor Yanukovych said that he needed to think about signing Ukraine’s Association Agreement with the EU, possibly make some changes and hold consultations with Russia, Ukraine’s major trade and economic partner. In this connection and under this pretext riots broke out in Kiev. They were actively supported by both our European and American partners.

“Then a coup d’état followed a totally anti-constitutional act. … The question is: what was the coup d’état for?  Why did they need to escalate the situation to a civil war? … The result that we have a coup d’état, a civil war, hundreds of lives lost, a devastated economy and social sphere, a four-year $17.5 billion loan promised to Ukraine by the IMF and complete disintegration of economic ties with Russia…

“I would like to tell you and your readers one thing. Last year, on Feb. 21, President Yanukovych and the Ukrainian opposition signed an agreement on how to proceed, how to organize political life in the country, and on the need to hold early elections.

“They should have worked to implement this agreement, especially since three European foreign ministers signed this agreement as guarantors of its implementation. If they were used merely for the sake of appearances … they should have said [after the coup the next day], ‘You know, we did not agree to a coup d’état, so we will not support you; you should go and hold elections instead.’”

However, instead of upholding the Feb. 21, 2014 agreement, the EU under strong pressure from Nuland and the Obama administration hastened to recognize the “legitimacy” of the coup regime in Kiev. The Feb.21 agreement was quickly forgotten and the new Ukrainian authorities, with Yatsenyuk elevated to prime minister and right-wing extremists given key ministries, moved to crack down on the ethnic Russians in the south and east, citizens who had been Yanukovych’s political base and who resisted the unconstitutional coup.

Perhaps now is the time for Merkel and Hollande to remember that German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, in addition to Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, mediated the Feb. 21, 2014 agreement and signed it as official witnesses. An envoy from Russian President Putin, Vladimir Lukin, was also involved but did not sign as a witness.

There may be no such thing as a guilty conscience in high-stakes diplomacy. Still, what happened just one day before the Feb. 22 coup in Kiev is a matter of record.

Would it be too much to expect of Steinmeier and Fabius to remind their bosses of this shameless piece of failed diplomacy, before Merkel and Holland cave in once again to Washington’s diktat and to the neocons who could then rush off to a Bavarian Biergarten to celebrate the escalation of Cold War II?

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. During his 27 years as a CIA analyst, he was chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy branch in the 60s, and Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Western Europe in the 70s. McGovern now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).




Resurgence of the ‘Surge’ Myth

Exclusive: Official Washington loves the story the Iraq War was failing until President George W. Bush bravely ordered a “surge” in 2007 that won the war, but President Obama squandered the victory, requiring a new “surge” now. Except the narrative is dangerous make-believe, says ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

By Ray McGovern

As American politicians and editorial writers resume their tough talk about sending more U.S. troops into Iraq, they are resurrecting the “successful surge” myth, the claim that President George W. Bush’s dispatch of 30,000 more soldiers in 2007 somehow “won” the war a storyline that is beloved by the neocons because it somewhat lets them off the hook for starting the disaster in the first place.

But just because Official Washington embraces a narrative doesn’t make it true. Bush’s “surge” was, in reality, a dismal — an unconscionable — failure. It did not achieve its ostensible aim — the rationale Bush eventually decided to give it — namely, to buy time for Iraq’s Sunnis and Shiites to reconcile.

Rather, it did just the opposite, greatly exacerbating antagonisms between them. That result was clearly predicted before the “surge” by none other than Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, top U.S. military leaders, and even the Washington Establishment-heavy Iraq Study Group, all of which were pressing for less — not more — military involvement.

In one very important sense, however, the “surge” into Iraq was wildly successful in achieving what was almost certainly its primary aim. It bought President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney a “decent interval” so they could leave office without an explicit military defeat sullying their legacy and for the “acceptable” price of “only” 1,000 more U.S. dead.

At the time there were other options and indeed many of the “achievements” credited to the “surge” had already happened or at least had begun. The hyper-violent Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in June 2006; ethnic cleansing was separating Sunni and Shiite communities; and the Sunni Awakening the buying off of some tribal leaders was being implemented.

Yet, by fall 2006 it also was unavoidably clear that a new course had to be chosen and implemented in Iraq, and virtually every sober thinker seemed opposed to sending more troops. The senior military, especially CENTCOM commander Gen. John Abizaid and his man on the ground in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, emphasized that sending still more U.S. troops to Iraq would simply reassure leading Iraqi politicians that they could relax and continue to take forever to get their act together.

Here, for example, is Gen. Abizaid’s answer at the Senate Armed Services Committee on Nov. 15, 2006, to Sen. John McCain, who had long been pressing vigorously for sending 20,000 more troops to Iraq:

“Senator McCain, I met with every divisional commander, General Casey, the corps commander, General Dempsey, we all talked together. And I said, ‘in your professional opinion, if we were to bring in more American troops now, does it add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq?’ And they all said no. And the reason is because we want the Iraqis to do more. It is easy for the Iraqis to rely upon us do this work. I believe that more American forces prevent the Iraqis from doing more, from taking more responsibility for their own future.”

The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, sent a classified cable to Washington warning that “proposals to send more U.S. forces to Iraq would not produce a long-term solution and would make our policy less, not more, sustainable,” according to a New York Times retrospective on the “surge” by Michael R. Gordon published on Aug. 31, 2008. Khalilzad was arguing, unsuccessfully, for authority to negotiate a political solution with the Iraqis.

There was also the establishment-heavy Iraq Study Group, created by Congress and led by Republican stalwart James Baker and Democrat Lee Hamilton. After months of policy review during 2006 with former CIA Director Robert Gates as a member it issued a final report on Dec. 6, 2006, that began with the ominous sentence “The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating.”

It called for: “A change in the primary mission of U.S. Forces in Iraq that will enable the United States to begin to move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly By the first quarter of 2008 all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq.” Though a member of the Iraq Study Group, Gates quietly disassociated himself from its findings when Bush was dangling the position of Defense Secretary in front of the always ambitious Gates. After Nov. 8, 2006 when Bush announced Gates’s nomination, Gates quit the ISG.

Gates would do what he needed to do to become secretary of defense. At his confirmation hearing on Dec. 5, he obscured his opinions by telling the Senate Armed Services only “all options are on the table in terms of Iraq.” The Democrats, including then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, swooned over Gates’s supposed thoughtfulness and wisdom.

Many Democrats assumed that Gates would help persuade Bush to implement the ISG’s plan for a troop drawdown, but they were in for a surprise. With unanimous Democratic support and only two conservative Republicans opposed, Gates was confirmed by the full Senate on Dec. 6, the same day the ISG report was formally released. But the Democrats and much of the mainstream media had completely misread the behind-the-scenes story.

Gates to the Rescue

The little-understood reality behind Bush’s decision to catapult Robert Gates into his Pentagon perch was the astonishing fact that previous Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, of all people, was pulling a Robert McNamara; he was going wobbly on a war based largely on his own hubris-laden, misguided advice. In the fall of 2006 Rumsfeld was having a reality attack. In Rumsfeld-speak, he came face to face with a “known known.”

On Nov. 6, 2006, a day before the mid-term elections, Rumsfeld sent a memo to the White House, in which he acknowledged, “Clearly, what U.S. forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough.”

The rest of his memo sounded very much like the emerging troop-drawdown conclusions of the Iraq Study Group. The first 80 percent of Rumsfeld’s memo addressed “Illustrative Options,” including his preferred or “above the line” options such as “an accelerated drawdown of U.S. bases to five by July 2007” and withdrawal of U.S. forces “from vulnerable positions, cities, patrolling, etc. so the Iraqis know they have to pull up their socks, step up and take responsibility for their country.”

Finally, Rumsfeld had begun to listen to his generals and others who knew which end was up. The hurdle? Bush and Cheney were not about to follow Rumsfeld’s example in “going wobbly.” Like Robert McNamara at a similar juncture during Vietnam, Rumsfeld had to be let go before he caused a U.S. president to “lose a war.”

Waiting in the wings, though, was Robert Gates, who had been dispatched into a political purgatory after coming under suspicion of lying during the Iran-Contra scandal as Ronald Reagan’s deputy CIA director. Though President George H. W. Bush pushed through Gates’s nomination to be CIA director in 1991, Gates was sent packing by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

The elder Bush bailed Gates out again by getting him appointed as president of Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, the site of Bush’s presidential library. But Gates began his Washington rehabilitation with a spot on the Iraq Study Group. While on the ISG, he evidenced no disagreement with its emerging conclusions at least not until Bush asked him to become Secretary of Defense in early November 2006. Rumsfeld had outlived his usefulness.

And, because of Official Washington’s famous forgetfulness, Gates was remembered not as a conniving and deceptive CIA bureaucrat, but as a “wise man” who was seen as a restraining emissary sent by the senior George Bush to rein in his impetuous son.

Rumsfeld’s ‘Known Knowns’

Easing the going-wobbly Rumsfeld off the stage was awkward. Right up to the week before the mid-term elections on Nov. 7, 2006, President Bush insisted that he intended to keep Rumsfeld in place for the next two years. Suddenly, however, the President had to confront Rumsfeld’s apostasy favoring a drawdown of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Rumsfeld had let reality get to him, together with the very strong anti-surge protestations by all senior uniformed officers save one, the ambitious Gen. David Petraeus, who had jumped on board for the “surge” escalation following the advice of his favorite neocon theorists, including Frederick Kagan.

With the bemedaled Petraeus in the wings and pro-surge guidance from Kagan and retired Gen. Jack Keane, all the White House needed was a new Pentagon chief who could be counted on to take Rumsfeld’s place and do the White House’s bidding. (If the names Kagan and Keane sound somewhat familiar, would you believe that they are now playing on President Barack Obama’s Bush-like aversion to losing a war on his watch, and are loudly and unashamedly promoting the idea of yet another “surge” into Iraq?)

On Nov. 5, 2006, Bush had a one-on-one with Gates in Crawford, Texas, and the deal was struck. Forget the torturously hammered-out recommendations of the Iraq Study Group; forget what the military commanders and even Rumsfeld were saying. Gates suddenly found the “surge” an outstanding idea. Well, not really. That’s just what he let Bush believe. (While “chameleon” is the word most often used for Gates by those who knew him at the CIA, Melvin Goodman, who worked with Gates in the branch I led on Soviet Foreign Policy uses the best label — “windsock.”)

Gates is second to none, not even Petraeus, in ambition and self-promotion. It is a safe bet he wanted desperately to be Secretary of Defense, to be back at center stage in Washington after nearly 14 years in exile from the big show.

He quickly agreed to tell Gen. Abizaid to retire; offer Gen. Casey a sinecure as Army chief of staff, providing he kept his mouth shut; and to eagle-scout his way through Senate confirmation with the help of pundits like David Ignatius composing panegyrics in honor of Gates, the “realist.”

So relieved were the senators to be rid of the hated-but-feared Rumsfeld that the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Dec. 5, 2006, on Gates’s nomination had the aura of a pajama party (I was there). Gates told the senators bedtime stories and vowed to show “great deference to the judgment of generals.”

That “deference” included Gates dumping Abizaid and Casey. But the administration faltered embarrassingly in coming up with a reasonable rationale to “justify” the surge, especially in the face of so much on-the-ground advice opposing the troop increase. And, the truth wouldn’t work either. You couldn’t really say: “We’re trading the lives of U.S. troops for a politically useful ‘decent interval.’”

On Dec. 20, 2006, President Bush told the Washington Post that he was “inclined to believe we do need to increase our troops, the Army and Marines.” He added, tellingly, “There’s got to be a specific mission that can be accomplished with the addition of more troops,” adding that he would look to Gates, just back from a quick trip to Baghdad, to help explain.

Searching for a Rationale

By way of preliminary explanation for the “surge,” President Bush wandered back and forth between “ideological struggle” to “sectarian violence.” He told the Post, “I’m going to keep repeating this over and over again, that I believe we’re in an ideological struggle” and, besides, “sectarian violence [is] obviously the real problem we face.”

When it became clear that those dogs wouldn’t hunt, the White House justified the “surge” as necessary to give Iraqi government leaders “breathing space” to work out their differences. That was the rationale offered by Bush in a major address on Jan 10, 2007. Pulling out all the stops, he also raised the specter of another 9/11 and, of course, spoke of the “decisive ideological struggle of our time.”

Taking a slap at his previous generals, the ISG and the wobbly Rumsfeld, Bush dismissed those who “are concerned that the Iraqis are becoming too dependent on the United States” and those whose “solution is to scale back America’s efforts in Baghdad, or announce a phased withdrawal of our combat forces.”

The President did warn that the year ahead would be “bloody and violent, even if our strategy works.” He got that part right. One would be tempted to laugh at Bush’s self-absorption — and Gates’s ambition — were we not talking about the completely unnecessary killing of over 1,000 U.S. troops and the brutalization of other U.S. soldiers — not to mention the slaughter of thousands of Iraqis.

In reality, by throwing 30,000 additional troops into Iraq, Bush and Cheney got two years of breathing room as they wound down their administration and some political space to snipe at their successors who inherited the Iraq mess.

But what about the thousand-plus U.S. troops killed during the “surge”? The tens of thousand of Iraqis? The hundreds of thousands displaced from their homes in the Baghdad area alone? I fear the attitude was this: Nobody would get killed, just a bunch of Iraqis and GIs mostly from small-town and inner-city America. And, anyway, our soldiers and Marines all volunteered, didn’t they?

Bush, Cheney and Gates apparently deemed it a small price to pay for enabling them to blame a successor administration for the inevitable withdrawal from America’s first large-scale war of aggression. I have known Gates for 45 years; he has always been transparently ambitious, but he is also bright. He knew better; and he did it anyway.

While those tactical machinations and political calculations were underway, Col. W. Patrick Lang, USA (retired), and I wrote a piece on Dec. 20, 2006, in which we exposed the chicanery and branded such a “surge” strategy “nothing short of immoral, in view of the predicable troop losses and the huge number of Iraqis who would meet violent injury and death.”

Surprisingly, we were joined by Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Oregon, who explained to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos why Smith said on the Senate floor that U.S. policy on Iraq may be “criminal.” “You can use any adjective you want, George. But I have long believed that in a military context, when you do the same thing over and over again without a clear strategy for victory, at the expense of your young people in arms, that is dereliction. That is deeply immoral.”

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. In the 1960s he served as an Army infantry/intelligence officer and later as a CIA analyst. Full disclosure: In the 1970s, he was chief of CIA’s Soviet Foreign Policy Branch, in which Gates worked as a junior analyst. On his annual Fitness Report, Gates was formally counseled regarding the disruptive effects of his unbridled ambition — as were managers up the line. Later, when Reagan’s CIA Director William Casey picked Gates to head CIA’s analysis directorate, there was considerable regret that no one listened.




How to Honor Memorial Day

Exclusive: Of all the world’s holidays commemorating wars, Memorial Day should be one of sober reflection on war’s horrible costs, surely not a moment to glorify warfare or lust for more wars. But many pols and pundits can’t resist the opportunity, as ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern describes.

By Ray McGovern

How best to show respect for the U.S. troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and for their families on Memorial Day? Simple: Avoid euphemisms like “the fallen” and expose the lies about what a great idea it was to start those wars and then to “surge” tens of thousands of more troops into those fools’ errands.

First, let’s be clear on at least this much: the 4,500 U.S. troops killed in Iraq so far and the 2,350 killed in Afghanistan so far did not “fall.” They were wasted on no-win battlefields by politicians and generals cheered on by neocon pundits and mainstream “journalists” almost none of whom gave a rat’s patootie about the real-life-and-death troops. They were throwaway soldiers.

And, as for the “successful surges,” they were just P.R. devices to buy some “decent intervals” for the architects of these wars and their boosters to get space between themselves and the disastrous endings while pretending that those defeats were really “victories squandered” all at the “acceptable” price of about 1,000 dead U.S. soldiers each and many times that in dead Iraqis and Afghans.

Memorial Day should be a time for honesty about what enabled the killing and maiming of so many U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and the senior military brass simply took full advantage of a poverty draft that gives upper-class sons and daughters the equivalent of exemptions, vaccinating them against the disease of war.

What drives me up the wall is the oft-heard, dismissive comment about troop casualties from well-heeled Americans: “Well, they volunteered, didn’t they?” Under the universal draft in effect during Vietnam, far fewer were immune from service, even though the well-connected could still game the system to avoid serving. Vice Presidents Dick Cheney and Joe Biden, for example, each managed to pile up five exemptions. This means, of course, that they brought zero military experience to the job; and this, in turn, may explain a whole lot — particularly given their bosses’ own lack of military experience.

The grim truth is that many of the crème de la crème of today’s Official Washington don’t know many military grunts, at least not intimately as close family or friends. They may bump into some on the campaign trail or in an airport and mumble something like, “thank you for your service.” But these sons and daughters of working-class communities from America’s cities and heartland are mostly abstractions to the powerful, exclamation points at the end of  some ideological debate demonstrating which speaker is “tougher,” who’s more ready to use military force, who will come out on top during a talk show appearance or at a think-tank conference or on the floor of Congress.

Sharing the Burden?

We should be honest about this reality, especially on Memorial Day. Pretending that the burden of war has been equitably shared, and worse still that those killed died for a “noble cause,” as President George W. Bush likes to claim, does no honor to the thousands of U.S. troops killed and the tens of thousands maimed. It dishonors them. Worse, it all too often succeeds in infantilizing bereaved family members who cannot bring themselves to believe their government lied.

Who can blame parents for preferring to live the fiction that their sons and daughters were heroes who wittingly and willingly made the “ultimate sacrifice,” dying for a “noble cause,” especially when this fiction is frequently foisted on them by well-meaning but naive clergy at funerals. For many it is impossible to live with the reality that a son or daughter died in vain. Far easier to buy into the official story and to leave clergy unchallenged as they gild the lilies around coffins and gravesites.

Not so for some courageous parents Cindy Sheehan, for example, whose son Casey Sheehan was killed on April 4, 2004, in the Baghdad suburb of Sadr City. Cindy demonstrated uncommon grit when she led hundreds of friends to Crawford to lay siege to the Texas White House during the summer of 2005 trying to get President Bush to explain what “noble cause” Casey died for. She never got an answer. There is none.

But there are very few, like Cindy Sheehan, able to overcome a natural human resistance to the thought that their sons and daughters died for a lie and then to challenge that lie. These few stalwarts make themselves face this harsh reality, the knowledge that the children whom they raised and sacrificed so much for were, in turn, sacrificed on the altar of political expediency, that their precious children were bit players in some ideological fantasy or pawns in a game of career maneuvering.

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger is said to have described the military disdainfully as “just dumb stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy.” Whether or not those were his exact words, his policies and behavior certainly betrayed that attitude. It certainly seems to have prevailed among top American-flag-on-lapel-wearing officials of the Bush and Obama administrations, including armchair and field-chair generals whose sense of decency is blinded by the prospect of a shiny new star on their shoulders, if they just follow orders and send young soldiers into battle.

This bitter truth should raise its ugly head on Memorial Day but rarely does. It can be gleaned only with great difficulty from the mainstream media, since the media honchos continue to play an indispensable role in the smoke-and-mirrors dishonesty that hides their own guilt in helping Establishment Washington push “the fallen” from life to death.

We must judge the actions of our political and military leaders not by the pious words they will utter Monday in mourning those who “fell” far from the generals’ cushy safe seats in the Pentagon or somewhat closer to the comfy beds in air-conditioned field headquarters where a lucky general might be comforted in the arms of an admiring and enterprising biographer.

Many of the high-and-mighty delivering the approved speeches on Monday will glibly refer to and mourn “the fallen.” None are likely to mention the culpable policymakers and complicit generals who added to the fresh graves at Arlington National Cemetery and around the country.

Words, after all, are cheap; words about “the fallen” are dirt cheap especially from the lips of politicians and pundits with no personal experience of war. The families of those sacrificed in Iraq and Afghanistan should not have to bear that indignity.

‘Successful Surges’

The so-called “surges” of troops into Iraq and Afghanistan were particularly gross examples of the way our soldiers have been played as pawns. Since the usual suspects are again coming out the woodwork of neocon think tanks to press for yet another “surge” in Iraq, some historical perspective should help.

Take, for example, the well-known and speciously glorified first “surge;” the one Bush resorted to in sending over 30,000 additional troops into Iraq in early 2007; and the not-to-be-outdone Obama “surge” of 30,000 into Afghanistan in early 2010. These marches of folly were the direct result of decisions by George W. Bush and Barack Obama to prioritize political expediency over the lives of U.S. troops.

Taking cynical advantage of the poverty draft, they let foot soldiers pay the “ultimate” price. That price was 1,000 U.S. troops killed in each of the two “surges.”

And the results? The returns are in. The bloody chaos these days in Iraq and the faltering war in Afghanistan were entirely predictable. They were indeed predicted by those of us able to spread some truth around via the Internet, while being mostly blacklisted by the fawning corporate media.

Yet, because the “successful surge” myth was so beloved in Official Washington, saving some face for the politicians and pundits who embraced and spread the lies that justified and sustained especially the Iraq War, the myth has become something of a touchstone for everyone aspiring to higher office or seeking a higher-paying gig in the mainstream media.

Campaigning Wednesday in New Hampshire, presidential aspirant Jeb Bush gave a short history lesson about his big brother’s attack on Iraq. Referring to the so-called Islamic State, Bush said, “ISIS didn’t exist when my brother was president. Al-Qaeda in Iraq was wiped out … the surge created a fragile but stable Iraq. …”

We’ve dealt with the details of the Iraq “surge” myth before both before and after it was carried out. [See, for instance, Consortiumnews.com’s “Reviving the Successful Surge Myth”;  “Gen. Keane on Iran Attack”; “Robert Gates: As Bad as Rumsfeld?”; and “Troop Surge Seen as Another Mistake.”]

But suffice it to say that Jeb Bush is distorting the history and should be ashamed. The truth is that al-Qaeda did not exist in Iraq before his brother launched an unprovoked invasion in 2003. “Al-Qaeda in Iraq” arose as a direct result of Bush’s war and occupation. Amid the bloody chaos, AQI’s leader, a Jordanian named Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, pioneered a particularly brutal form of terrorism, relishing videotaped decapitation of prisoners.

Zarqawi was eventually hunted down and killed not during the celebrated “surge” but in June 2006, months before Bush’s “surge” began. The so-called Sunni Awakening, essentially the buying off of many Sunni tribal leaders, also predated the “surge.” And the relative reduction in the Iraq War’s slaughter after the 2007 “surge” was mostly the result of the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad from a predominantly Sunni to a Shia city, tearing the fabric of Baghdad in two, and creating physical space that made it more difficult for the two bitter enemies to attack each other. In addition, Iran used its influence with the Shia to rein in their extremely violent militias.

Though weakened by Zarqawi’s death and the Sunni Awakening, AQI did not disappear, as Jeb Bush would like you to believe. It remained active and when Saudi Arabia and the Sunni gulf states took aim at the secular regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria AQI joined with other al-Qaeda affiliates, such as the Nusra Front, to spread their horrors across Syria. AQI rebranded itself “the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” or simply “the Islamic State.”

The Islamic State split off from al-Qaeda over strategy but the various jihadist armies, including al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, have now seized wide swaths of territory in Syria — and the Islamic State has returned with a vengeance to Iraq, grabbing major cities such as Mosul and Ramadi.

Jeb Bush doesn’t like to unspool all this history. He and other Iraq War backers prefer to pretend that the “surge” in Iraq had won the war and Obama threw the “victory” away by following through on George W. Bush’s withdrawal agreement with Maliki.

But the current crisis in Syria and Iraq is among the fateful consequences of the U.S./UK attack 12 years ago and particularly of the “surge” of 2007, which contributed greatly to Sunni-Shia violence, the opposite of what George W. Bush professed was the objective of the “surge,” to enable Iraq’s religious sects to reconcile.

Reconciliation, however, always took a back seat to the real purpose of the “surge” buying time so Bush and Cheney could slip out of Washington in 2009 without having an obvious military defeat hanging around their necks and putting a huge stain on their legacies.

The political manipulation of the Iraq “surge” allowed Bush, Cheney and their allies to reframe the historical debate and shift the blame for the defeat onto Obama, recognizing that 1,000 more dead U.S. soldiers was a small price to pay for protecting the “Bush brand.” Now, Bush’s younger brother can cheerily march off to the campaign trail for 2016 pointing to the carcass of the Iraqi albatross hung around Obama’s shoulders.

Rout at Ramadi

Last weekend, less than a year after U.S.-trained and -equipped Iraqi forces ran away from the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, leaving the area and lots of U.S. arms and equipment to ISIS, something similar happened at Ramadi, the capital of the western province of Anbar. Despite heavy U.S. air strikes on ISIS, American-backed Iraqi security forces fled Ramadi, which is only 70 miles west of Baghdad, after a lightning assault by ISIS forces.

The ability of ISIS to strike just about everywhere in the area is reminiscent of the Tet offensive of January-February 1968 in Vietnam, which persuaded President Lyndon Johnson that that particular war was unwinnable. If there are materials left over in Saigon for reinforcing helicopter landing pads on the tops of buildings, it is not too early to bring them to Baghdad’s Green Zone, on the chance that U.S. embassy buildings may have a call for such materials in the not-too-distant future.

The headlong Iraqi government retreat from Ramadi had scarcely ended on Sunday when Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, described the fall of the city as “terribly significant” which is correct adding that more U.S. troops may be needed which is insane. His appeal for more troops neatly fits one proverbial definition of insanity (attributed or misattributed to Albert Einstein): “doing the same thing over and over again [like every eight years?] but expecting different results.”

By Wednesday, as Jeb Bush was singing the praises of his brother’s “surge” in Iraq, McCain and his Senate colleague Lindsey Graham were publicly calling for a new “surge” of U.S. troops into Iraq. The senators urged President Obama to do what George W. Bush did in 2007 replace the U.S. military leadership and dispatch additional troops to Iraq.

But Washington Post pundit David Ignatius, even though a fan of the earlier two surges, is not yet on board for this one. In a column published also on Wednesday, Ignatius warned that Washington should not abandon its current strategy:

“This is still Iraq’s war, not America’s. But President Barack Obama must reassure Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi that the U.S. has his back, and at the same time give him a reality check: If al-Abadi and his Shiite allies don’t do more to empower Sunnis, his country will splinter. Ramadi is a precursor, of either a turnaround by al-Abadi’s forces, or an Iraqi defeat.”

Ignatius’s urgent tone is warranted. But what he suggests is precisely what the U.S. made a lame attempt to do with then-Prime Minister Maliki in early 2007. Yet, President Bush squandered U.S. leverage by sending 30,000 troops to show he “had Maliki’s back,” freeing Maliki to accelerate his attempts to marginalize, rather than accommodate, Sunni interests.

Perhaps Ignatius now remembers how the “surge” he championed in 2007 greatly exacerbated tensions between Shia and Sunni contributing to the chaos now prevailing in Iraq and spreading across Syria and elsewhere. But Ignatius is well connected and a bellwether; if he ends up advocating another “surge,” take shelter.

Keane and Kagan Ask For a Mulligan

The architects of Bush’s 2007 “surge” of 30,000 troops into Iraq, former Army General Jack Keane and American Enterprise Institute neocon strategist Frederick Kagan, in testimony Thursday to the Senate Armed Services Committee, warned strongly that, without a “surge” of some 15,000 to 20,000 U.S. troops, ISIS will win in Iraq.

“We are losing this war,” warned Keane, who previously served as Vice Chief of Staff of the Army. “ISIS is on the offense, with the ability to attack at will, anyplace, anytime. … Air power will not defeat ISIS.” Keane stressed that the U.S. and its allies have “no ground force, which is the defeat mechanism.”

Not given to understatement, Kagan called ISIS “one of the most evil organizations that has ever existed. … This is not a group that maybe we can negotiate with down the road someday. This is a group that is committed to the destruction of everything decent in the world.” He called for “15-20,000 U.S. troops on the ground to provide the necessary enablers, advisers and so forth,” and added: “Anything less than that is simply unserious.”

(By the way, Frederick Kagan is the brother of neocon-star Robert Kagan, whose Project for the New American Century began pushing for the invasion of Iraq in 1998 and finally got its way in 2003. Robert Kagan is the husband of Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, who oversaw the 2014 coup that brought “regime change” and bloody chaos to Ukraine. The Ukraine crisis also prompted Robert Kagan to urge a major increase in U.S. military spending. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “A Family Business of Perpetual War.”] )

What is perhaps most striking, however, is the casualness with which the likes of Frederick Kagan, Jack Keane, and other Iraq War enthusiasts advocate dispatching tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers to fight and die in what would almost certainly be another futile undertaking. You might even wonder why people like Kagan are invited to testify before Congress given their abysmal records.

But that would miss the true charm of the Iraq “surge” in 2007 and its significance in salvaging the reputations of folks like Kagan, not to mention George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. From their perspective, the “surge” was a great success. Bush and Cheney could swagger from the West Wing into the western sunset on Jan. 20, 2009.

As author Steve Coll has put it, “The decision [to surge] at a minimum guaranteed that his [Bush’s] presidency would not end with a defeat in history’s eyes. By committing to the surge [the President] was certain to at least achieve a stalemate.”

According to Bob Woodward, Bush told key Republicans in late 2005 that he would not withdraw from Iraq, “even if Laura and [first-dog] Barney are the only ones supporting me.” Woodward made it clear that Bush was well aware in fall 2006 that the U.S. was losing. Suddenly, with some fancy footwork, it became Laura, Barney and new Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Gen. David Petraeus along with 30,000 more U.S. soldiers making sure that the short-term fix was in.

The fact that about 1,000 U.S. soldiers returned in caskets was the principal price paid for that short-term “surge” fix. Their “ultimate sacrifice” will be mourned by their friends, families and countrymen on Memorial Day even as many of the same politicians and pundits will be casually pontificating about dispatching more young men and women as cannon fodder into the same misguided war.

It has been difficult drafting this downer, this historical counter-narrative, on the eve of Memorial Day. It seems to me necessary, though, to expose the dramatis personae who played such key roles in getting more and more people killed. Sad to say, none of the high officials mentioned here, as well as those on the relevant Congressional committees, are affected in any immediate way by the carnage in Ramadi, Tikrit or outside the gate to the Green Zone in Baghdad.

And perhaps that’s one of the key points here. It is not most of us, but rather our soldiers and the soldiers and civilians of Iraq, Afghanistan and God knows where else who are Lazarus at the gate. And, as Benjamin Franklin once said, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He served 30 years as an Army infantry/intelligence officer and CIA analyst and is now a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).