Obama’s Petulant WWII Snub of Russia

Exclusive: Russia will celebrate the Allied victory over Nazism on Saturday without U.S. President Obama and other Western leaders present, as they demean the extraordinary sacrifice of the Russian people in winning World War II  a gesture intended to humiliate President Putin, writes ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

By Ray McGovern

President Barack Obama’s decision to join other Western leaders in snubbing Russia’s weekend celebration of the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe looks more like pouting than statesmanship, especially in the context of the U.S. mainstream media’s recent anti-historical effort to downplay Russia’s crucial role in defeating Nazism.

Though designed to isolate Russia because it had the audacity to object to the Western-engineered coup d’état in Ukraine on Feb. 22, 2014, this snub of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin like the economic sanctions against Russia is likely to backfire on the U.S. and its European allies by strengthening ties between Russia and the emerging Asian giants of China and India.

Notably, the dignitaries who will show up at this important commemoration include the presidents of China and India, representing a huge chunk of humanity, who came to show respect for the time seven decades ago when the inhumanity of the Nazi regime was defeated largely by Russia’s stanching the advance of Hitler’s armies, at a cost of 20 to 30 million lives.

Obama’s boycott is part of a crass attempt to belittle Russia and to cram history itself into an anti-Putin, anti-Russian alternative narrative. It is difficult to see how Obama and his friends could have come up with a pettier and more gratuitous insult to the Russian people.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel caught between Washington’s demand to “isolate” Russia over the Ukraine crisis and her country’s historic guilt in the slaughter of so many Russians plans to show up a day late to place a wreath at a memorial for the war dead.

But Obama, in his childish display of temper, will look rather small to those who know the history of the Allied victory in World War II. If it were not for the Red Army’s costly victories against the German invaders, particularly the tide-turning battle at Stalingrad in 1943-1944, the prospects for the later D-Day victory in Normandy in June 1944 and the subsequent defeat of Adolf Hitler would have been much more difficult if not impossible.

Yet, the current Russia-bashing in Washington and the mainstream U.S. media overrides these historical truths. For instance, a New York Times article by Neil MacFarquhar on Friday begins: “The Russian version of Hitler’s defeat emphasizes the enormous, unrivaled sacrifices made by the Soviet people to end World War II …” But that’s not the “Russian version”; that’s the history.

For its part, the Washington Post chose to run an Associated Press story out of Moscow reporting: “A state-of-the-art Russian tank … on Thursday ground to a halt during the final Victory Day rehearsal. … After an attempt to tow it failed, the T-14 rolled away under its own steam 15 minutes later.” (Subtext: Ha, ha! Russia’s newest tank gets stuck on Red Square! Ha, ha!).

This juvenile approach to pretty much everything that’s important — not just U.S.-Russia relations — has now become the rule. From the U.S. government to the major U.S. media, it’s as if the “cool kids” line up in matching fashions creating a gauntlet to demean and ridicule whoever the outcast of the day is. And anyone who doesn’t go along becomes an additional target of abuse.

That has been the storyline for the Ukraine crisis throughout 2014 and into 2015. Everyone must agree that Putin provoked all the trouble as part of some Hitler-like ambition to conquer much of eastern Europe and rebuild a Russian empire. If you don’t make the obligatory denunciations of “Russian aggression,” you are called a “Putin apologist” or “Putin bootlicker.”

Distorting the History

So, the evidence-based history of the Western-sponsored coup in Kiev on Feb. 22, 2014, must be forgotten or covered up. Indeed, about a year after the events, the New York Times published a major “investigative” article that ignored all the facts of a U.S.-backed coup in declaring there was no coup.

The Times didn’t even mention the notorious, intercepted phone call between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt in early February 2014 in which Nuland was handpicking the future leaders, including her remark “Yats is the guy,” a reference to Arseniy Yatsenyuk who after the coup quickly became prime minister. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Still Pretends No Coup in Ukraine.”]

Even George Friedman, the president of the Washington-Establishment-friendly think-tank STRATFOR, has said publicly in late 2014: “Russia calls the events that took place at the beginning of this year a coup d’état organized by the United States. And it truly was the most blatant coup in history.”

Beyond simply ignoring facts, the U.S. mainstream media has juggled the time line to make Putin’s reaction to the coup and the threat it posed to the Russian naval base in Crimea appear to be, instead, evidence of his instigation of the already unfolding conflict.

For example, in a “we-told-you-so” headline on March 9, the Washington Post declared: “Putin had early plan to annex Crimea.” Then, quoting AP, the Post reported that Putin himself had just disclosed “a secret meeting with officials in February 2014 … Putin said that after the meeting he told the security chiefs that they would be ‘obliged to start working to return Crimea to Russia.’ He said the meeting was held Feb. 23, 2014, almost a month before a referendum in Crimea that Moscow has said was the basis for annexing the region.”

So there! Gotcha! Russian aggression! But what the Post neglected to remind readers was that the U.S.-backed coup had occurred on Feb. 22 and that Putin has consistently said that a key factor in his actions toward Crimea came from Russian fears that NATO would claim the historic naval base at Sevastopol in Crimea, representing a strategic threat to his country.

Putin also knew from opinion polls that most of the people of Crimea favored reunification with Russia, a reality that was underscored by the March referendum in which some 96 percent voted to leave Ukraine and rejoin Russia.

But there was not one scintilla of reliable evidence that Putin intended to annex Crimea before he felt his hand forced by the putsch in Kiev. The political reality was that no Russian leader could afford to take the risk that Russia’s only warm-water naval base might switch to new NATO management. If top U.S. officials did not realize that when they were pushing the coup in early 2014, they know little about Russian strategic concerns or simply didn’t care.

Last fall, John Mearsheimer, a pre-eminent political science professor at the University of Chicago, stunned those who had been misled by the anti-Russian propaganda when he placed an article in the Very-Establishment journal Foreign Affairs entitled “Why the Ukraine Crisis is the West’s Fault.”

You did not know that such an article was published? Chalk that up to the fact that the mainstream media pretty much ignored it. Mearsheimer said this was the first time he encountered such widespread media silence on an article of such importance.

The Sole Indispensable Country

Much of this American tendency to disdain other nations’ concerns, fears and points of pride go back to the Washington Establishment’s dogma that special rules or (perhaps more accurately) no rules govern U.S. behavior abroad American exceptionalism. This arrogant concept, which puts the United States above all other nations like some Olympian god looking down on mere mortals, is often invoked by Obama and other leading U.S. politicians.

That off-putting point has not been missed by Putin even as he has sought to cooperate with Obama and the United States. On Sept. 11, 2013, a week after Putin bailed Obama out, enabling him to avoid a new war on Syria by persuading Syria to surrender its chemical weapons, Putin wrote in an op-ed published by the New York Times that he appreciated the fact that “My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust.”

Putin added, though, “I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism,” adding: “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. … We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”

More recently, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov drove home this point in the context of World War II. This week, addressing a meeting to mark the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe, Lavrov included a pointed warning: “Today as never before it is important not to forget the lessons of that catastrophe and the terrible consequences that spring from faith in one’s own exceptionalism.”

The irony is that as the cameras pan the various world leaders in the Red Square reviewing stand on Saturday, Obama’s absence will send a message that the United States has little appreciation for the sacrifice of the Russian people in bearing the brunt and breaking the back of Hitler’s conquering armies. It is as if Obama is saying that the “exceptional” United States didn’t need anyone’s help to win World War II.

President Franklin Roosevelt was much wiser, understanding that it took extraordinary teamwork to defeat Nazism in the 1940s, which is why he considered the Soviet Union a most important military ally. President Obama is sending a very different message, a haughty disdain for the kind of global cooperation which succeeded in ridding the world of Adolf Hitler.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. A specialist on Russia, he served as chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch during his 27 years as a CIA analyst. He now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).




The Lasting Pain from Vietnam Silence

Exclusive: Many reflections on America’s final days in Vietnam miss the point, pondering whether the war could have been won or lamenting the fate of U.S. collaborators left behind. The bigger questions are why did the U.S. go to war and why wasn’t the bloodletting stopped sooner, as ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern reflects.

By Ray McGovern

Ecclesiastes says there is a time to be silent and a time to speak. The fortieth anniversary of the ugly end of the U.S. adventure in Vietnam is a time to speak and especially of the squandered opportunities that existed earlier in the war to blow the whistle and stop the killing.

While my friend Daniel Ellsberg’s leak of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 eventually helped to end the war, Ellsberg is the first to admit that he waited too long to reveal the unconscionable deceit that brought death and injury to millions.

I regret that, at first out of naiveté and then cowardice, I waited even longer until my own truth-telling no longer really mattered for the bloodshed in Vietnam. My hope is that there may be a chance this reminiscence might matter now if only as a painful example of what I could and should have done, had I the courage back then. Opportunities to blow the whistle in time now confront a new generation of intelligence analysts whether they work on Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, ISIS or Iran.

Incidentally, on Iran, there was a very positive example last decade: courageous analysts led by intrepid (and bureaucratically skilled) former Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence Thomas Fingar showed that honesty can still prevail within the system, even when truth is highly unwelcome.

The unanimous intelligence community conclusion of a National Intelligence Estimate of 2007 that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon four years earlier played a huge role in thwarting plans by President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to attack Iran in 2008, their last year in office. Bush says so in his memoir; and, on that one point, we can believe him.

After a half-century of watching such things closely, this is the only time in my experience that the key judgment of an NIE helped prevent a catastrophic, unwinnable war. Sadly, judging from the amateurism now prevailing in Washington’s opaque policymaking circles, it seems clear that the White House pays little heed to those intelligence officers still trying to speak truth to power.

For them I have a suggestion: Don’t just wring your hands, with an “I did everything I could to get the truth out.” Chances are you have not done all you can. Ponder the stakes the lives ended too early; the bodies and minds damaged forever; the hatred engendered against the United States; and the long-term harm to U.S. national interests and think about blowing the whistle publicly to prevent unnecessary carnage and alienation.

I certainly wish I had done so about what I learned of the unconscionable betrayal by senior military and intelligence officers regarding Vietnam. More recently, I know that several of you intelligence analysts with a conscience wish you had blown the whistle on the fraud “justifying” war on Iraq. Spreading some truth around is precisely what you need to do now on Syria, Iraq, Ukraine and the “war on terror,” for example.

I thought that by describing my own experience negative as it is and the remorse I continue to live with, I might assist those of you now pondering whether to step up to the plate and blow the whistle now, before it is again too late. So below is an article that I might call “Vietnam and Me.”

My hope is to spare you the remorse of having to write, a decade or two from now, your own  “Ukraine and Me” or “Syria and Me” or “Iraq and Me” or “Libya and Me” or “The War on Terror and Me.” My article, from 2010, was entitled “How Truth Can Save Lives” and it began:

If independent-minded Web sites, like WikiLeaks or, say, Consortiumnews.com, existed 43 years ago, I might have risen to the occasion and helped save the lives of some 25,000 U.S. soldiers, and a million Vietnamese, by exposing the lies contained in just one SECRET/EYES ONLY cable from Saigon.

I need to speak out now because I have been sickened watching the herculean effort by Official Washington and our Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) to divert attention from the violence and deceit in Afghanistan, reflected in thousands of U.S. Army documents, by shooting the messenger(s), WikiLeaks and Pvt. Bradley Manning.

After all the indiscriminate death and destruction from nearly nine years of war, the hypocrisy is all too transparent when WikiLeaks and suspected leaker Manning are accused of risking lives by exposing too much truth. Besides, I still have a guilty conscience for what I chose NOT to do in exposing facts about the Vietnam War that might have saved lives.

The sad-but-true story recounted below is offered in the hope that those in similar circumstances today might show more courage than I was able to muster in 1967, and take full advantage of the incredible advancements in technology since then.

Many of my Junior Officer Trainee Program colleagues at CIA came to Washington in the early Sixties inspired by President John Kennedy’s Inaugural speech in which he asked us to ask ourselves what we might do for our country. (Sounds corny nowadays, I suppose; I guess I’ll just have to ask you to take it on faith. It may not have been Camelot exactly, but the spirit and ambience were fresh, and good.)

Among those who found Kennedy’s summons compelling was Sam Adams, a young former naval officer out of Harvard College. After the Navy, Sam tried Harvard Law School, but found it boring. Instead, he decided to go to Washington, join the CIA as an officer trainee, and do something more adventurous. He got more than his share of adventure.

Sam was one of the brightest and most dedicated among us. Quite early in his career, he acquired a very lively and important account, that of assessing Vietnamese Communist strength early in the war. He took to the task with uncommon resourcefulness and quickly proved himself the consummate analyst.

Relying largely on captured documents, buttressed by reporting from all manner of other sources, Adams concluded in 1967 that there were twice as many Communists (about 600,000) under arms in South Vietnam as the U.S. military there would admit.

Dissembling in Saigon

Visiting Saigon during 1967, Adams learned from Army analysts that their commanding general, William Westmoreland, had placed an artificial cap on the official Army count rather than risk questions regarding “progress” in the war (sound familiar?).

It was a clash of cultures; with Army intelligence analysts saluting generals following politically dictated orders, and Sam Adams aghast at the dishonesty, consequential dishonesty. From time to time I would have lunch with Sam and learn of the formidable opposition he encountered in trying to get out the truth.

Commiserating with Sam over lunch one day in late August 1967, I asked what could possibly be Gen. Westmoreland’s incentive to make the enemy strength appear to be half what it actually was. Sam gave me the answer he had from the horse’s mouth in Saigon.

Adams told me that in a cable dated Aug. 20, 1967, Westmoreland’s deputy, Gen. Creighton Abrams, set forth the rationale for the deception. Abrams wrote that the new, higher numbers (reflecting Sam’s count, which was supported by all intelligence agencies except Army intelligence, which reflected the “command position”) “were in sharp contrast to the current overall strength figure of about 299,000 given to the press.”

Abrams emphasized, “We have been projecting an image of success over recent months” and cautioned that if the higher figures became public, “all available caveats and explanations will not prevent the press from drawing an erroneous and gloomy conclusion.”

No further proof was needed that the most senior U.S. Army commanders were lying, so that they could continue to feign “progress” in the war. Equally unfortunate, the crassness and callousness of Abrams’s cable notwithstanding, it had become increasingly clear that rather than stand up for Sam, his superiors would probably acquiesce in the Army’s bogus figures. Sadly, that’s what they did.

CIA Director Richard Helms, who saw his primary duty quite narrowly as “protecting” the agency, set the tone. He told subordinates that he could not discharge that duty if he let the agency get involved in a heated argument with the U.S. Army on such a key issue in wartime.

This cut across the grain of what we had been led to believe was the prime duty of CIA analysts, to speak truth to power without fear or favor. And our experience thus far had shown both of us that this ethos amounted to much more than just slogans. We had, so far, been able to “tell it like it is.”

After lunch with Sam, for the first time ever, I had no appetite for dessert. Sam and I had not come to Washington to “protect the agency.” And, having served in Vietnam, Sam knew first hand that thousands upon thousands were being killed in a feckless war.

What to Do?

I have an all-too-distinct memory of a long silence over coffee, as each of us ruminated on what might be done. I recall thinking to myself; someone should take the Abrams cable down to the New York Times (at the time an independent-minded newspaper).

Clearly, the only reason for the cable’s SECRET/EYES ONLY classification was to hide deliberate deception of our most senior generals regarding “progress” in the war and deprive the American people of the chance to know the truth.

Going to the press was, of course, antithetical to the culture of secrecy in which we had been trained. Besides, you would likely be caught at your next polygraph examination. Better not to stick your neck out.

I pondered all this in the days after that lunch with Adams. And I succeeded in coming up with a slew of reasons why I ought to keep silent: a mortgage; a plum overseas assignment for which I was in the final stages of language training; and, not least, the analytic work, important, exciting work on which Sam and I thrived.

Better to keep quiet for now, grow in gravitas, and live on to slay other dragons. Right?

One can, I suppose, always find excuses for not sticking one’s neck out. The neck, after all, is a convenient connection between head and torso, albeit the “neck” that was the focus of my concern was a figurative one, suggesting possible loss of career, money and status not the literal “necks” of both Americans and Vietnamese that were on the line daily in the war.

But if there is nothing for which you would risk your career “neck” like, say, saving the lives of soldiers and civilians in a war zone your “neck” has become your idol, and your career is not worthy of that. I now regret giving such worship to my own neck. Not only did I fail the neck test. I had not thought things through very rigorously from a moral point of view.

Promises to Keep?

As a condition of employment, I had signed a promise not to divulge classified information so as not to endanger sources, methods or national security. Promises are important, and one should not lightly violate them. Plus, there are legitimate reasons for protecting some secrets. But were any of those legitimate concerns the real reasons why Abrams’s cable was stamped SECRET/EYES ONLY? I think not.

It is not good to operate in a moral vacuum, oblivious to the reality that there exists a hierarchy of values and that circumstances often determine the morality of a course of action. How does a written promise to keep secret everything with a classified stamp on it square with one’s moral responsibility to stop a war based on lies? Does stopping a misbegotten war not supersede a secrecy promise?

Ethicists use the words “supervening value” for this; the concept makes sense to me. And is there yet another value? As an Army officer, I had taken a solemn oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic.

How did the lying by the Army command in Saigon fit in with that? Were/are generals exempt? Should we not call them out when we learn of deliberate deception that subverts the democratic process? Can the American people make good decisions if they are lied to?

Would I have helped stop unnecessary killing by giving the New York Times the not-really-secret, SECRET/EYES ONLY cable from Gen. Abrams? We’ll never know, will we? And I live with that. I could not take the easy way out, saying Let Sam Do It. Because I knew he wouldn’t.

Sam chose to go through the established grievance channels and got the royal run-around, even after the Communist countrywide offensive at Tet in January-February 1968 proved beyond any doubt that his count of Communist forces was correct.

When the Tet offensive began, as a way of keeping his sanity, Adams drafted a caustic cable to Saigon saying, “It is something of an anomaly to be taking so much punishment from Communist soldiers whose existence is not officially acknowledged.” But he did not think the situation at all funny.

Dan Ellsberg Steps In

Sam kept playing by the rules, but it happened that unbeknown to Sam Dan Ellsberg gave Sam’s figures on enemy strength to the New York Times, which published them on March 19, 1968. Dan had learned that President Lyndon Johnson was about to bow to Pentagon pressure to widen the war into Cambodia, Laos and up to the Chinese border perhaps even beyond.

Later, it became clear that his timely leak together with another unauthorized disclosure to the Times that the Pentagon had requested 206,000 more troops prevented a wider war. On March 25, Johnson complained to a small gathering, “The leaks to the New York Times hurt us. We have no support for the war. I would have given Westy the 206,000 men.”

Ellsberg also copied the Pentagon Papers the 7,000-page top-secret history of U.S. decision-making on Vietnam from 1945 to 1967 and, in 1971, he gave copies to the New York Times, Washington Post and other news organizations.

In the years since, Ellsberg has had difficulty shaking off the thought that, had he released the Pentagon Papers sooner, the war might have ended years earlier with untold lives saved. Ellsberg has put it this way: “Like so many others, I put personal loyalty to the president above all else above loyalty to the Constitution and above obligation to the law, to truth, to Americans, and to humankind. I was wrong.”

And so was I wrong in not asking Sam for a copy of that cable from Gen. Abrams. Sam, too, eventually had strong regrets. Sam had continued to pursue the matter within CIA, until he learned that Dan Ellsberg was on trial in 1973 for releasing the Pentagon Papers and was being accused of endangering national security by revealing figures on enemy strength.

Which figures? The same old faked numbers from 1967! “Imagine,” said Adams, “hanging a man for leaking faked numbers,” as he hustled off to testify on Dan’s behalf. (The case against Ellsberg was ultimately thrown out of court because of prosecutorial abuses committed by the Nixon administration.)

After the war drew down, Adams was tormented by the thought that, had he not let himself be diddled by the system, the entire left half of the Vietnam Memorial wall would not be there. There would have been no new names to chisel into such a wall.

Sam Adams died prematurely at age 55 with nagging remorse that he had not done enough.

In a letter appearing in the (then independent-minded) New York Times on Oct. 18, 1975, John T. Moore, a CIA analyst who worked in Saigon and the Pentagon from 1965 to 1970, confirmed Adams’s story after Sam told it in detail in the May 1975 issue of Harper’s magazine.

Moore wrote: “My only regret is that I did not have Sam’s courage. The record is clear. It speaks of misfeasance, nonfeasance and malfeasance, of outright dishonesty and professional cowardice.

“It reflects an intelligence community captured by an aging bureaucracy, which too often placed institutional self-interest or personal advancement before the national interest. It is a page of shame in the history of American intelligence.”

Tanks But No Thanks, Abrams

What about Gen. Creighton Abrams? Not every general gets the Army’s main battle tank named after him. The honor, though, came not from his service in Vietnam, but rather from his courage in the early day of his military career, leading his tanks through German lines to relieve Bastogne during World War II’s Battle of the Bulge. Gen. George Patton praised Abrams as the only tank commander he considered his equal.

As things turned out, sadly, 23 years later Abrams became a poster child for old soldiers who, as Gen. Douglas McArthur suggested, should “just fade away,” rather than hang on too long after their great military accomplishments.

In May 1967, Abrams was picked to be Westmoreland’s deputy in Vietnam and succeeded him a year later. But Abrams could not succeed in the war, no matter how effectively “an image of success” his subordinates projected for the media. The “erroneous and gloomy conclusions of the press” that Abrams had tried so hard to head off proved all too accurate.

Ironically, when reality hit home, it fell to Abrams to cut back U.S. forces in Vietnam from a peak of 543,000 in early 1969 to 49,000 in June 1972, almost five years after Abrams’s progress-defending cable from Saigon. By 1972, some 58,000 U.S. troops, not to mention two to three million Vietnamese, had been killed.

Both Westmoreland and Abrams had reasonably good reputations when they started out, but not so much when they finished.

And Petraeus?

Comparisons can be invidious, but Gen. David Petraeus is another Army commander who has wowed Congress with his ribbons, medals and merit badges. A pity he was not born early enough to have served in Vietnam where he might have learned some real-life hard lessons about the limitations of counterinsurgency theories.

Moreover, it appears that no one took the trouble to tell him that in the early Sixties we young infantry officers already had plenty of counterinsurgency manuals to study at Fort Bragg and Fort Benning. There are many things one cannot learn from reading or writing manuals, as many of my Army colleagues learned too late in the jungles and mountains of South Vietnam.

Unless one is to believe, contrary to all indications, that Petraeus is not all that bright, one has to assume he knows that the Afghanistan expedition is a folly beyond repair. So far, though, he has chosen the approach taken by Gen. Abrams in his August 1967 cable from Saigon. That is precisely why the ground-truth of the documents released by WikiLeaks is so important.

Whistleblowers Galore

And it’s not just the WikiLeaks documents that have caused consternation inside the U.S. government. Investigators reportedly are rigorously pursuing the source that provided the New York Times with the texts of two cables (of 6 and 9 November 2009) from Ambassador Eikenberry in Kabul. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Obama Ignores Key Afghan Warning.”]

To its credit, even today’s far-less independent New York Times published a major story based on the information in those cables, while President Barack Obama was still trying to figure out what to do about Afghanistan. Later the Times posted the entire texts of the cables, which were classified Top Secret and NODIS (meaning “no dissemination” to anyone but the most senior officials to whom the documents were addressed).

The cables conveyed Eikenberry’s experienced, cogent views on the foolishness of the policy in place and, implicitly, of any eventual decision to double down on the Afghan War. (That, of course, is pretty much what the President ended up doing.) Eikenberry provided chapter and verse to explain why, as he put it, “I cannot support [the Defense Department’s] recommendation for an immediate Presidential decision to deploy another 40,000 here.”

Such frank disclosures are anathema to self-serving bureaucrats and ideologues who would much prefer depriving the American people of information that might lead them to question the government’s benighted policy toward Afghanistan, for example.

As the New York Times/Eikenberry cables show, even today’s FCM (fawning corporate media) may sometimes display the old spunk of American journalism and refuse to hide or fudge the truth, even if the facts might cause the people to draw “an erroneous and gloomy conclusion,” to borrow Gen. Abrams’s words of 43 years ago.

Polished Pentagon Spokesman

Remember “Baghdad Bob,” the irrepressible and unreliable Iraqi Information Minister at the time of the U.S.-led invasion? He came to mind as I watched Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell’s chaotic, quixotic press briefing on Aug. 5 regarding the WikiLeaks exposures. The briefing was revealing in several respects. Clear from his prepared statement was what is bothering the Pentagon the most. Here’s Morrell:

“WikiLeaks’s webpage constitutes a brazen solicitation to U.S. government officials, including our military, to break the law. WikiLeaks’s public assertion that submitting confidential material to WikiLeaks is safe, easy and protected by law is materially false and misleading. The Department of Defense therefore also demands that WikiLeaks discontinue any solicitation of this type.”

Rest assured that the Defense Department will do all it can to make it unsafe for any government official to provide WikiLeaks with sensitive material. But it is contending with a clever group of hi-tech experts who have built in precautions to allow information to be submitted anonymously. That the Pentagon will prevail anytime soon is far from certain.

Also, in a ludicrous attempt to close the barn door after tens of thousands of classified documents had already escaped, Morrell insisted that WikiLeaks give back all the documents and electronic media in its possession. Even the normally docile Pentagon press corps could not suppress a collective laugh, irritating the Pentagon spokesman no end. The impression gained was one of a Pentagon Gulliver tied down by terabytes of Lilliputians.

Morrell’s self-righteous appeal to the leaders of WikiLeaks to “do the right thing” was accompanied by an explicit threat that, otherwise, “We shall have to compel them to do the right thing.” His attempt to assert Pentagon power in this regard fell flat, given the realities.

Morrell also chose the occasion to remind the Pentagon press corps to behave themselves or face rejection when applying to be embedded in units of U.S. armed forces. The correspondents were shown nodding docilely as Morrell reminded them that permission for embedding “is by no means a right. It is a privilege.” The generals giveth and the generals taketh away.

It was a moment of arrogance, and press subservience, that would have sickened Thomas Jefferson or James Madison, not to mention the courageous war correspondents who did their duty in Vietnam. Morrell and the generals can control the “embeds”; they cannot control the ether. Not yet, anyway.

And that was all too apparent beneath the strutting, preening, and finger waving by the Pentagon’s fancy silk necktie to the world. Actually, the opportunities afforded by WikiLeaks and other Internet Web sites can serve to diminish what few advantages there are to being in bed with the Army.

What Would I Have Done?

Would I have had the courage to whisk Gen. Abrams’s cable into the ether in 1967, if WikiLeaks or other Web sites had been available to provide a major opportunity to expose the deceit of the top Army command in Saigon? The Pentagon can argue that using the Internet this way is not “safe, easy, and protected by law.” We shall see.

Meanwhile, this way of exposing information that people in a democracy should know will continue to be sorely tempting, and a lot easier than taking the risk of being photographed lunching with someone from the New York Times.

From what I have learned over these past 43 years, supervening moral values can, and should, trump lesser promises. Today, I would be determined to “do the right thing,” if I had access to an Abrams-like cable from Petraeus in Kabul. And I believe that Sam Adams, if he were alive today, would enthusiastically agree that this would be the morally correct decision.

My article from 2010 ended with a footnote about the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence (SAAII), an organization created by Sam Adams’s former CIA colleagues and other former intelligence analysts to hold up his example as a model for those in intelligence who would aspire to the courage to speak truth to power.

At the time there were seven recipients of an annual award bestowed on those who exemplified Sam Adam’s courage, persistence and devotion to truth. Now, there have been 14 recipients: Coleen Rowley (2002), Katharine Gun (2003), Sibel Edmonds (2004), Craig Murray (2005), Sam Provance (2006), Frank Grevil (2007), Larry Wilkerson (2009), Julian Assange (2010), Thomas Drake (2011), Jesselyn Radack (2011), Thomas Fingar (2012), Edward Snowden (2013), Chelsea Manning (2014), William Binney (2015).

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was a close colleague of Sam Adams; the two began their CIA analyst careers together during the last months of John Kennedy’s administration. During the Vietnam War, McGovern was responsible for analyzing Soviet policy toward China and Vietnam.




How Many Islamic State Fighters Are There?

From the Archive: The mainstream U.S. media is marking the Vietnam War’s end 40 years ago with superficial remembrances that downplay the horror that the U.S. military inflicted on the Vietnamese. That prevents the real Vietnam lessons from illuminating today’s conflicts, as ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern noted in 2014.

By Ray McGovern (Originally published on Nov. 16, 2014)

Why was I reminded of Vietnam when Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Iraq to “get a firsthand look at the situation in Iraq, receive briefings, and get better sense of how the campaign is progressing” against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL?

For years as the Vietnam quagmire deepened, U.S. political and military leaders flew off to Vietnam and were treated to a snow job by Gen. William Westmoreland, the commander there. Many would come back glowing about how the war was “progressing.”

Dempsey might have been better served if someone had shown him Patrick Cockburn’s article in the Independent entitled “War with Isis: Islamic militants have an army of 200,000, claims senior Kurdish leader.” Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff of Kurdish President Massoud Barzani, told Cockburn that “I am talking about hundreds of thousands of fighters because they are able to mobilize Arab young men in the territory they have taken.”

Hussein estimated that Isis rules about one-third of Iraq and one-third of Syria with a population from 10 million to 12 million over an area of 250,000 square kilometers, roughly the size Great Britain, giving the jihadists a large pool of potential fighters to recruit.

While the Kurdish estimate may be high it certainly exceeds “the tens of thousands,” maybe 20,000 to 30,000 that many Western analysts have claimed the possibility that the Islamic State’s insurgency is bigger than believed could explain its startling success in overrunning the Iraqi Army around Mosul last summer and achieving surprising success against the well-regarded Kurdish pesh merga forces, too.

So, on his flight back to Washington, Dempsey will have time to ponder whether he has the courage to pass on this discouraging word to President Barack Obama about ISIS or whether he will put on the rose-colored glasses like an earlier generation of commanders did about Vietnam, where Westmoreland insisted that the number of enemy Vietnamese in South Vietnam could not go above 299,000.

Unfortunately, those obstinate Vietnamese Communists would not observe that artificial, politically inspired limit. Westmoreland was aware of the troubling reality but knew that acknowledging it would have undesired consequences in the United States where many Americans were souring on the war.

The inconvenient truth finally became abundantly clear during the Tet offensive in late January and early February 1968, but still the misbegotten war went on, and on, ultimately claiming some 58,000 U.S. lives and millions of Vietnamese.

Westmoreland’s gamesmanship with the numbers was known to some CIA officials first and foremost, a very bright and courageous analyst named Sam Adams but CIA Director Richard Helms silenced them out of fear of political retribution. “My responsibility is to protect the Agency,” Helms told them, “and I cannot do that if we get into a pissing match with a U.S. Army at war.”

Today’s CIA Director John Brennan is similarly at pains to protect the Agency on a number of fronts. Is he likely to tell the truth about ISIS if it means the prospects for a renewed war in Iraq and a new war in Syria are especially grim? If not, are there no Sam Adamses left at the CIA?

Honest Analysts?

Honest intelligence analysts played a key role in the November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, “Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities,” which helped thwart Bush/Cheney plans to apply Iraqi-type “shock and awe” to Iran during their last year in office. The NIE concluded, unanimously and “with high confidence,” that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon in late 2003.

In his memoir, Decision Points, President George W. Bush called the NIE’s findings “eye-popping.” He openly bemoaned how the estimate deprived him of the military option, writing “How could I possibly explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?”

The NIE on Iran was issued seven years ago. One has to hope that a few honest analysts on the Near East have survived the CIA directorships of Michael Hayden, Leon Panetta, David Petraeus and John Brennan and have the courage to tell the truth about ISIS including how U.S. military intervention now is swelling ISIS’s ranks, much as the Bush/Cheney invasion of Iraq in 2003 created the conditions for the group’s birth, then called “Al-Qaeda in Iraq.”

If honest intelligence analysts are silenced, as Sam Adams was 47 years ago, they need to plumb their consciences and see if they have the guts to make public both the undercounting of enemy forces AND the fillip given to their multiplication by further U.S. military involvement.

Though having worked within the system to get the real enemy troop estimates to senior U.S. officials, Sam Adams went to an early, remorse-filled death, unable to overcome the thought of what might well have happened to shorten the war if he had broken with the CIA’s demands for secrecy and made the actual enemy numbers public.

Possibly, the armed conflict might have ended in 1968. Or, to put it another way, the Vietnam Memorial in Washington would have no need for a western wall since there would be no names to chisel into the granite.

If Gen. Dempsey decides to ape Westmoreland and dissemble about the realistic obstacles to military success against the Islamic State fighters and about the counterproductive effects of U.S. intervention, well, our country will need a new Sam Adams willing, this time, to blast the truth into the open.

Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence

Sam Adams’s memory is invoked each year as Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence make their annual award for integrity. SAAII is a movement of former CIA colleagues of former intelligence analyst Sam Adams, together with others who hold up his example as a model for those in intelligence who would aspire to the courage to speak truth to power.

SAAII confers an award each year to a member of the intelligence community or related professions who exemplifies Sam Adam’s courage, persistence and devotion to truth, no matter the consequences.

It was Adams who discovered in 1967 that there were more than a half-million Vietnamese Communists under arms, roughly twice the number that the U.S. command in Saigon would admit to, lest Americans learn that claims of “progress” were bogus.

Gen. Westmoreland had put an artificial limit on the number Army intelligence was allowed to carry on its books. And his deputy, Gen. Creighton Abrams, specifically warned Washington that the press would have a field day if Adam’s numbers were released, and that this would weaken the war effort.

A SECRET/EYES ONLY cable from Abrams on Aug. 20, 1967, stated: “We have been projecting an image of success over recent months,” and cautioned that if the higher figures became public, “all available caveats and explanations will not prevent the press from drawing an erroneous and gloomy conclusion.”

The Communist countrywide offensive during Tet made it clear that the generals had been lying and that Sam Adams’s “higher figures” were correct. Senior intelligence officials were aware of the deception, but lacked the courage to stand up to Westmoreland. Sadly, Sam Adams remained reluctant to go “outside channels.”

A few weeks after Tet, however, former Pentagon official Daniel Ellsberg rose to the occasion. Ellsberg learned that Westmoreland was asking for 206,000 more troops to widen the war into Cambodia, Laos, and North Vietnam, right up to the border with China, and perhaps beyond.

Someone else promptly leaked to the New York Times Westmoreland’s troop request, emboldening Ellsberg to do likewise with Sam Adams’ story. Ellsberg had come to the view that leaking truth about a deceitful war would be “a patriotic and constructive act.” It was his first unauthorized disclosure. On March 19, 1968, the Times published a stinging story based on Adams’s figures.

On March 25, President Lyndon Johnson complained to a small gathering, “The leaks to the New York Times hurt us. We have no support for the war. This is caused by the 206,000 troop request [by Westmoreland] and the leaks. I would have given Westy the 206,000 men.”

On March 31, 1968, Johnson introduced a bombing pause, opted for negotiations, and announced that he would not run for another term in November.

Sam Adams continued to press for honesty and accountability but stayed “inside channels”, and failed. He died at 55 of a heart attack, nagged by the thought that, had he not let himself be diddled, many lives might have been saved. His story is told in War of Numbers, published posthumously.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was a close colleague of Sam Adams; the two began their CIA analyst careers together during the last months of John Kennedy’s administration. During the Vietnam War, McGovern was responsible for analyzing Soviet policy toward China and Vietnam.




A Call to End War on Whistleblowers

The post-9/11 expansion of U.S. government spying on citizens has coincided with an equally draconian crackdown on government whistleblowers who try to alert the American people to what is happening, an assault on the Constitution that seven whistleblowers say must end, writes John Hanrahan.

By John Hanrahan

Seven prominent national security whistleblowers on Monday called for a number of wide-ranging reforms, including passage of the “Surveillance State Repeal Act,” which would repeal the USA Patriot Act, in an effort to restore the Constitutionally guaranteed Fourth Amendment right to be free from government spying.

Several of the whistleblowers also said that the recent lenient sentence of probation and a fine for General David Petraeus, for his providing of classified information to his mistress Paula Broadwell, underscores the double standard of justice at work in the area of classified information handling.

Speakers said Petraeus’s favorable treatment should become the standard applied to defendants who are actual national security whistleblowers, such as Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and Jeffrey Sterling (who has denied guilt but who nevertheless faces sentencing May 11 for an Espionage Act conviction for allegedly providing classified information to New York Times reporter James Risen).

In a news conference sponsored by the ExposeFacts project of the Institute for Public Accuracy at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., speakers included William Binney, former high-level National Security Agency (NSA) official; Thomas Drake, former NSA senior executive; Daniel Ellsberg, former U.S. military analyst and the Pentagon Papers whistleblower; Ray McGovern, formerly CIA analyst who chaired the National Intelligence Estimates in the 1980s; Jesselyn Radack, former Justice Department trial attorney and ethics adviser, and now director of National Security and Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project; Coleen Rowley, attorney and former FBI special agent; J. Kirk Wiebe, 32-year former employee at the NSA.

Several speakers warned that the Constitution, since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has been shredded under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and that Obama’s unprecedented “war on whistleblowers” is part of the effort for the government to, as NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake put it, “unchain itself from the Constitution.” Drake said he and other national security whistleblowers were “the canaries in the Constitutional coal mine” to warn of the NSA mantra “to collect it all.”

Drake said he personally was “throwing my weight behind” passage of H.R. 1466, the Surveillance State Repeal Act, which was introduced by the bipartisan duo of Reps. Mark Pocan, D-Wisconsin, and Thomas Massie, R-Kentucky.

According to its sponsors, the measure would remove NSA’s claimed justification for its bulk phone metadata accumulation, but would also repeal the FISA Amendments Act through which the government claims the right to spy on Internet users. The issue is coming up now because three key provisions of the Patriot Act expire later this month. Responding to a question from a reporter, the other six whistleblowers said they also supported passage of H.R. 1466.

Petraeus’s recent favorable treatment from the Justice Department and a federal court judge came in for pointed comments from several speakers. In his deal with the government, Petraeus was allowed to plead to a misdemeanor for turning over classified materials to Paula Broadwell, who was writing an admiring biography of the general. Also, as part of the plea deal Petraeus was not even charged with the felony of lying to the FBI.

This stands in marked contrast to as many as nine individuals, including whistleblowers such as Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, Edward Snowden, John Kiriakou (CIA) and the soon-to-be-sentenced Jeffrey Sterling, who have all been charged under the Espionage Act since Barack Obama became president.

Until the Obama administration came into office, the Act had only been used three times since its passage in 1917, which means Obama has used it three times as much as all of his predecessors put together since the law’s passage. But General Petraeus somehow gets to skate free.

“We all owe a debt of gratitude to General David Petraeus for showing us what a farce (the Obama administration’s) war on whistleblowers and leaks more generally really is,” said Jesselyn Radack.

She said she personally had represented seven whistleblowers “charged under the draconian Espionage Actthe weapon of choice for the Obama administration except in the case of General Petraeus who was allowed to enter a plea on a minor misdemeanor charge,” which subjected him to two years probation and a $100,000 fine.

Drawing on Petraeus’ favored treatment despite the seriousness of his offense and his lying to the FBI about it, Radack said probation and a fine, such as Petraeus received, was “a more appropriate response” to unauthorized disclosure or leaks of classified information, rather than prison sentences.

Daniel Ellsberg commented in the same vein that, “I don’t think General Petraeus should go to prison” for providing classified material to Broadwell, but neither did he think true whistleblowers in the public interest should go to jail. He added, though, that “it would be wonderful for once to see a public official” go to jail for lying to Congress, or the courts, or the FBI, and for that I’d be willing to see him go to jail.”

As for the Obama administration’s overuse of the Espionage Act, Ellsberg said, “nobody but spies” who provide classified information to foreign governments should be tried under the Espionage Act.

Ellsberg prodded the mainstream press not only to protect whistleblower sources, but also to recognize that such sources are “the grist of investigative journalism.” Too many in the mainstream press, Ellsberg said, seem to regard whistleblowers the way police officers regard their informants, as “snitches” and “law-breakers.” He warned that Obama has “set the precedent” for dealing with whistleblowers, and the press needs to be more supportive of whistleblowers.

Ellsberg, Radack and Ray McGovern also said the Espionage Act, which prohibits whistleblowers from presenting their motives for disclosing classified information as part of their defense, needs to be amended to allow for “a public interest defense.” Illustrating the need for reform, McGovern said that in the Manning court-martial and the Sterling trial, as soon as defense attorneys started to raise the issue of motive, there was an immediate government objection and an immediate ruling of sustained from the judge.

McGovern said Sterling was convicted on “the vaguest of circumstantial evidence” in a “case that was not proven” against him. The government showed that Sterling had had telephone conversations with New York Times reporter James Risen, who had previously written about Sterling’s workplace discrimination lawsuit against the CIA, and prosecutors apparently convinced the jury that they were not discussing Sterling’s discrimination suit, but rather his knowledge of a CIA plan to provide flawed nuclear weapons blueprints to Iran .

What was the lesson any intelligence agency employee might draw from the flimsy evidence used in the Sterling case? Said McGovern: “Do not speak to journalists.” And, especially, “don’t speak to James Risen.”

Contrasting Sterling’s situation (facing a possible long prison sentence) with Petraeus (walking free, with a $100,000 fine, which McGovern noted was three-fourths of a one-hour speaking engagement fee for the general), McGovern said: “Equal justice? Forget about it.”

Coleen Rowley centered her remarks around a statement Obama made last week in apologizing for the deaths of two hostages, an American and an Italian, in a drone strike in Pakistan. Obama, she said, opined that “one of the things that sets America apart from many other nations, one of the things that makes us exceptional is our willingness to confront squarely our imperfections and to learn from our mistakes.”

“I wish that were true,” Rowley said. “That would be nice if we learned from our mistakes,” but instead the government is going in the opposite direction in areas such as the drone program, as witness the accidental killing of the hostages.

Gathering an accurate assessment of intelligence is inherently going to happen at the bottom levels of intelligence agencies, Rowley said, so employees in the lower positions have to resist someone at the top stating a desired outcome and asking people at the bottom to tailor the intelligence accordingly.

She said that government officials and employees’ “highest loyalty is to the rule of law itself.” That is where whistleblowers come in.

Kirk Wiebe said that the public and political response to the NSA surveillance disclosures has not been encouraging, and painted a dire picture of civil liberties abuses, the militarization of local police forces and the “de facto destruction of the Constitution.”

“I am now entering the phase where I am becoming frightened,” Wiebe said. “People have asked me, are we going to be able to get out of this mess to turn the Titanic around? I don’t see the way to miss hitting the iceberg.”

“We as a nation are more aware of these issues than ever before,” Wiebe said, but “we’ve become a society willing to look the other way in the face of wrongdoing,” adding: “We are no longer afraid of the police state happening. It’s here in small measures, in increasing measures, week by week, day by day”

In introducing William Binney, IPA’s executive director Norman Solomon noted that 10 months before Edward Snowden’s NSA surveillance documents began to appear in The Guardian in June 2013, Binney had already gone public in a mini-documentary by filmmaker Laura Poitras.

In that interview Binney, without documents, raised many of the spying allegations that Snowden subsequently disclosed. It was this video that apparently encouraged Snowden to contact Poitras, who in turn contacted journalist Glenn Greenwald, to give them the NSA documents.

Binney said the NSA since 2002 had managed to use “terrorizing and fear-mongering” as a way to manipulate and “co-opt Congress and a senior judge at the FISA court,” while keeping the public in the dark about “violating the Constitutional rights of everybody in the country.”

Since it had the White House blessing, Binney said the NSA controlled all three branches of government before its activities came to light. Former NSA director Michael Hayden “to this day” continues to lie that the agency doesn’t collect content, only metadata, Binney said.

In raising the alarm about the sweep of NSA programs since leaving the agency, Binney said he had been painted by NSA as someone who had no credibility “because I was a disgruntled former employee.”

John Hanrahan, currently on the editorial board of ExposeFacts, is a former executive director of The Fund for Investigative Journalism and reporter for The Washington Post, The Washington Star, UPI and other news organizations. He also has extensive experience as a legal investigator. Hanrahan is the author of Government by Contract and co-author of Lost Frontier: The Marketing of Alaska. He has written extensively for NiemanWatchdog.org, a project of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. [This story originally appeared at ExposeFacts.org]




Gen. Petraeus: Too Big to Jail

From the Archive: Retired Gen. David Petraeus confessed on Thursday to giving sensitive government secrets to his mistress and then lying about it to the FBI, but will get no jail time, only two years probation and a fine, showing that he is too big to jail, as ex -CIA analyst Ray McGovern predicted in March.

By Ray McGovern (Originally published on March 5, 2015)

The leniency shown former CIA Director (and retired General) David Petraeus by the Justice Department in sparing him prison time for the serious crimes that he has committed puts him in the same preferential, immune-from-incarceration category as those running the financial institutions of Wall Street, where, incidentally, Petraeus now makes millions. By contrast, “lesser” folks and particularly the brave men and women who disclose government crimes get to serve time, even decades, in jail.

Petraeus is now a partner at KKR, a firm specializing in large leveraged buyouts, and his hand-slap guilty plea to a misdemeanor for mishandling government secrets should not interfere with his continued service at the firm. KKR’s founders originally worked at Bear Stearns, the institution that failed in early 2008 at the beginning of the meltdown of the investment banking industry later that year.

Despite manifestly corrupt practices like those of subprime mortgage lenders, none of those responsible went to jail after the 2008-09 financial collapse which cost millions of Americans their jobs and homes. The bailed-out banks were judged “too big to fail” and the bankers “too big to jail.”

Two years ago, in a highly revealing slip of the tongue, Attorney General Eric Holder explained to Congress that it can “become difficult” to prosecute major financial institutions because they are so large that a criminal charge could pose a threat to the economy or perhaps what he meant was an even bigger threat to the economy.

Holder tried to walk back his unintended slip into honesty a year later, claiming, “There is no such thing as ‘too big to jail.’” And this bromide was dutifully echoed by Holder’s successor, Loretta Lynch, at her confirmation hearing in late January.

Words, though, are cheap. The proof is in the pudding. It remains true that not one of the crooked bankers or investment advisers who inflicted untold misery on ordinary people, gambling away much of their life savings, has been jailed. Not one.

And now Petraeus, who gave his biographer/mistress access to some of the nation’s most sensitive secrets and then lied about it to the FBI, has also been shown to be too big to jail. Perhaps Holder decided it would be a gentlemanly thing to do on his way out of office to take this awkward issue off Lynch’s initial to-do list and spare her the embarrassment of demonstrating once again that equality under the law has become a mirage; that not only big banks, but also big shots like Petraeus who was Official Washington’s most beloved general before becoming CIA director are, in fact, too big to jail.

It strikes me, in a way, as fitting that even on his way out the door, Eric Holder would not miss the opportunity to demonstrate his propensity for giving hypocrisy a bad name.

A Slap on Wrist for Serious Crimes

The Justice Department let David Petraeus cop a plea after requiring him to admit that he had shared with his biographer/mistress eight black notebooks containing highly classified information and then lied about it to FBI investigators. Serious crimes? The following quotes are excerpted from “U.S. v. David Howell Petraeus: Factual Basis in support of the Plea Agreement” offered by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Charlotte Division:

“17. During his tenure as Commander of ISAF in Afghanistan, defendant DAVID HOWELL PETRAEUS maintained bound, five-by-eight-inch notebooks that contained his daily schedule and classified and unclassified notes he took during official meetings, conferences, and briefings. A total of eight such books (hereinafter the “Black Books”) encompassed the period of defendant DAVID HOWELL PETRAEUS’S ISAF [Afghanistan] command and collectively contained classified information regarding the identities of covert officers, war strategy, intelligence capabilities and mechanisms, diplomatic discussions, quotes and deliberative discussions from high-level National Security Council meetings, and defendant DAVID HOWELL PETRAEUS’s discussions with the President of the United States of America. [emphasis added]

“18. The Black Books contained national defense information, including Top Secret//SCI and code word information.”

Despite the sensitivity of the notebooks and existing law and regulations, Petraeus did not surrender them to proper custody when he returned to the U.S. after being nominated to become the Director of the CIA. According to the Court’s “Factual Basis,” Petraeus’s biographer/mistress recorded a conversation of Aug. 4, 2011, in which she asks about the “Black Books.” The Court statement continues:

“ [Petraeus] ‘Umm, well, they’re really I mean they are highly classified, some of them.  I mean there’s code word stuff in there.’ On or about August 27, 2011, defendant DAVID HOWELL PETRAEUS sent an email to his biographer in which he agreed to provide the Black Books to his biographer. On or about August 28, 2011, defendant DAVID HOWEL PETRAEUS delivered the Black Books to a private residence in Washington, D.C. where his biographer was staying. On or about September 1, 2011, defendant DAVID HOWELL PETRAEUS retrieved the Black Books from the D.C. private residence and returned them to his own Arlington, Virginia home.” [emphasis added]

I would think it a safe guess that Petraeus’s timing can be attributed to his awareness that his privacy and freedom of movement was about to be greatly diminished, once his CIA personal security detail started keeping close track of him from his first day on the job as CIA Director, Sept. 6, 2011.

“32. On or about October 26, 2012, defendant DAVID HOWELL PETRAEUS was interviewed by two FBI special agents. [He] was advised that the special agents were conducting a criminal investigation. PETRAEUS stated that (a) he had never provided any classified information to his biographer, and (b) he had never facilitated the provision of classified information to his biographer. These statements were false. Defendant DAVID HOWELL PETRAEUS then and there knew that he previously shared the Black Books with his biographer.” [emphasis added]

Lying to the FBI? No problem. As “Expose Facts” blogger Marcy Wheeler immediately commented: “For lying to the FBI a crime that others go to prison for for months and years Petraeus will just get a two point enhancement on his sentencing guidelines. The Department of Justice basically completely wiped out the crime of covering up his crime of leaking some of the country’s most sensitive secrets to his mistress.” [emphasis added]

Talk about “prosecutorial discretion” or, in this case, indiscretion giving Petraeus a fine and probation but no felony conviction or prison time for what he did! Lesser lights are not so fortunate. Just ask Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning who is serving a 35-year prison sentence for disclosing information to the public about U.S. war crimes and other abuses. Or Edward Snowden, who is stuck in Russia facing a U.S. indictment on espionage charges for informing the people about pervasive and unconstitutional U.S. government surveillance of common citizens.

Or former CIA officer John Kiriakou who was sent to prison for inadvertently revealing the name of one Agency official cognizant of CIA torture. Here’s what Neil MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said then: “The government has a vital interest in protecting the identities of those involved in covert operations. Leaks of highly sensitive, closely held and classified information compromise national security and can put individual lives in danger.”

When, on Oct. 23, 2012, Kiriakou acquiesced to a plea deal requiring two-and-a-half years in federal prison, then CIA Director Petraeus sent a sanctimonious Memorandum to Agency employees applauding Kiriakou’s conviction and noting, “It marks an important victory for our agency  there are indeed consequences for those who believe they are above the laws that protect our fellow officers and enable American intelligence agencies to operate with the requisite degree of secrecy.” [emphasis added]

Consequences for Kiriakou but not, as we now know, for Petraeus.

If you feel no discomfort at this selective application of the law, you might wish to scroll or page back to the “Factual Basis” for Petraeus’s Plea Agreement and be reminded that it was just three days after his lecture to CIA employees about the sanctity of protecting the identity of covert agents that Petraeus lied to FBI investigators on Oct. 26, 2012 about his sharing such details with his mistress.

Why Did Petraeus Do It?

Old soldiers like Petraeus (indeed, most aging but still ambitious men) have been known to end up doing self-destructive things by letting themselves be flattered by the attentions of younger women. This may offer a partial explanation human weakness even in a self-styled larger-than-life super-Mensch. But I see the motivation as mostly vainglory. (The two are not mutually exclusive, of course.)

Looking back at Petraeus’s record of overweening ambition, it seems likely he was motivated first and foremost by a desire to ensure that his biographer would be able to extract from the notebooks some juicy morsels he may not have remembered to tell her about. This might enhance his profile as Warrior-Scholar-“King David,” the image that he has assiduously cultivated and promoted, with the help of an adulating neocon-dominated media.

Petraeus’s presidential ambitions have been an open secret. And with his copping a plea to a misdemeanor, his “rehabilitation” seems to have already begun. He has told friends that he would like to serve again in government and they immediately relayed that bright hope to the media.

Sen. John McCain was quick to call the whole matter “closed.” A strong supporter of Petraeus, McCain added this fulsome praise: “At a time of grave security challenges around the world, I hope that General Petraeus will continue to provide his outstanding service and leadership to our nation, as he has throughout his distinguished career.”

And Michael O’Hanlon, Brookings’ neocon military specialist who rarely gets anything right, spoke true to form to the New York Times: “The broader nation needs his advice, and I think it’s been evident that people still want to hear from him. People are forgiving and I know he made a mistake. But he’s also a national hero and a national treasure.”

The “mainstream media” is trapped in its undeserved adulation for Petraeus’s “heroism.” It is virtually impossible, for example, for them to acknowledge that his ballyhooed, official-handout-based “success” in training and equipping tens of thousands of crack Iraqi troops was given the lie when those same troops ran away (the officers took helicopters) and left their weapons behind at the first sight of ISIL fighters a year ago.

Equally sham were media claims of the “success” for the “surges” of 30,000 troops sent into Iraq (2007) and 33,000 into Afghanistan (2009). Each “surge” squandered the lives of about 1,000 U.S. troops for nothing yes, nothing except in the case of Iraq buying time for President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to get out of town without a clear-cut defeat hanging around their necks.

Many of the supposed successes of Petraeus’s Iraqi “surge” also predated the “surge,” including a high-tech program for killing top militants such as Al-Qaeda-in-Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the formation of the so-called Sunni Awakening, both occurring in 2006 under the previous field commanders. And, Bush’s principal goal of the “surge” to create political space for a fuller Sunni-Shiite reconciliation was never accomplished. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Surge Myth’s Deadly Result.”]

And last, it is important to note that David Petraeus does not have a corner on the above-the-law attitudes and behavior of previous directors of the CIA. The kid-gloves treatment he has been accorded, however, will increase chances that future directors will feel they can misbehave seriously and suffer no serious personal consequence.

The virtual immunity enjoyed by the well connected even when they lie to the FBI or tell whoppers in sworn testimony to Congress (as Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has done) feeds the propensity to prioritize one’s own personal ambition and to delegate a back seat to legitimate national security concerns even basic things like giving required protection to properly classified information, including the identity of covert officers.

One might call this all-too-common syndrome Self-Aggrandizing Dismissiveness (SAD). Sadly, Petraeus is merely the latest exemplar of the SAD syndrome. The unbridled ambitions of some of his predecessors at CIA the arrogant John Deutch, for example have been equally noxious and destructive. But we’ll leave that for the next chapter.

[For more on Petraeus’s corruption and his close ties to self-interested neoconservatives, see “Neocons Guided Petraeus on Afghan War.”]

Full Disclosure: Petraeus has not yet answered McGovern’s letter of Feb. 3 regarding why McGovern was barred from a public speaking event by Petraeus in New York City on Oct. 30, 2014, and then was roughly arrested by police and jailed for the night. McGovern wonders if Petraeus failed to respond because he was pre-occupied working out his Plea Agreement.

Ray McGovern worked for a total of 27 years in all four of CIA’s main directorates. He served under seven Presidents and nine CIA Directors, and is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). He now works for Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington.




The West Snubs Russia over V-E Day

Exclusive: Last year’s U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine followed by violence and tensions has soured plans for the May 9 commemoration in Moscow of World War II’s V-E Day, the Allied defeat of Nazi Germany, a war which cost the Russian people nearly 27 million dead, as ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern describes.

By Ray McGovern

The controversy over alleged Russian “aggression” in Ukraine is already raining on the Kremlin parade with which Russia will mark the 70th anniversary of the Allies’ victory over Adolf Hitler and the Nazis on May 9. U.S. President Barack Obama set the tone by turning down the Kremlin’s invitation to take part in the celebration, and allies in Western Europe have been equally uncouth in saying No.

The fanfare on Red Square will be a “Last Hurrah” for most surviving World War II veterans, since few are likely to be able to be there for the 75th or 80th anniversaries. Though I was only five years old on V-E Day marking the victory in Europe I was delighted to receive an invitation to go to Russia this week for a smaller-scale celebration marking an equally important 70th anniversary April 25, 1945, the historic day on which U.S. and Russian troops met at the Elbe River.

On V-E Day, which came a couple of weeks later on May 9, 1945, I recall the thundering celebration as one of my most vivid early memories. So I find it a particular shame that for this year’s 70th anniversary the usual thunderclaps of applause will be muted.

Tragically divided once again by hate, greed, and power-lust, Europe lies in the shadow of war, as the violence percolating in Ukraine threatens to result in wider, more open military intervention from outside. Equally sad, responsibility for the turmoil in Ukraine lies mostly at the doorstep of Washington. Worse still for one who normally pretends to understand what drives foreign policy, how shall I explain to my hosts what lies behind U.S. actions in central Europe, when try as I may to come up with cogent explanations that make some sense the reasons elude me.

For those who may find my straightforward allocation of blame surprising, do not feel you must rely on me (although I have been watching what happens in Russia and Europe for half a lifetime). I strongly recommend the trenchant insights of John Mearsheimer, pre-eminent political science professor at the University of Chicago, and professor Stephen F. Cohen of Princeton and New York University, a distinguished Russianist who has been a Kremlin watcher even longer than I have.

Last fall, a year into the burgeoning troubles in Ukraine, Mearsheimer stunned those who had been misled by hate-Putin propaganda when he placed an article in the Very-Establishment journal Foreign Affairs entitled “Why the Ukraine Crisis is the West’s Fault,” and more recently followed up with a more recent op-ed entitled “Don’t Arm Ukraine.”

As for Professor Cohen, if you have not already done so, please take the time to read his recent “Why We Must Return to the US-Russian Parity Principle: the Choice is Either a New Détente or a More Perilous Cold War.” and his earlier “Patriotic Heresy vs. the New Cold War.”

You will emerge from that reading far better educated on the realities than those malnourished on the thin gruel of the co-opted corporate media, which unashamedly are well into a redux of their familiar drum-beating to send people from our poverty draft merrily off to war. And for extra credit, I highly recommend veteran journalist Patrick L. Smith’s recent interview of Professor Cohen, Part 1 of which Salon has published under the title “The New York Times Basically Rewrites Whatever the Kiev Authorities Say.”

Some Visitors to Moscow

U.S. leaders along with its foreign “vassals” as Russian President Vladimir Putin has called them have responded to the Kremlin’s invitations to the V-E celebration with “regrets.” Not so Chinese President Xi Jinping, whose plan to come for the anniversary observance was announced in January. The President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, will also take part.  Signs of the times.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has devised a compromise. So as not to appear to be breaking ranks with other “vassals,” she will shun the parade but will travel to Moscow on May 10 to lay a wreath at a war memorial. The U.S. will be represented by U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Tefft.

It may be difficult for history-starved Americans to understand why it should be that most Russians react so negatively to what they regard as something more serious than a mere gratuitous snub. From watching Russian media one gets the clear impression that veterans and most men/women-on-the-street view the boycott as more serious than a petulant slight but rather as a supreme indignity.

For example, during Putin’s four-hour TV tour de force Q&A with Russian citizens on April 16, one questioner said the world leaders who boycott the celebration “insult the memory of war veterans of the Red Army. … We liberated them out of that Nazi plague, or they would still be shouting ‘Heil!’”

And a retired colonel, who fought in the five-month-long, pivotal World War II battle of Stalingrad as a 19-year-old battery commander, had this to say: “In the first years of the war, the Red Army, our people, were fighting all of Europe singlehandedly. … Yes, we had allies, but they opened the second front too late.”

Putin replied with a mix of condescension and feigned understanding: “Some simply do not want to go, but some are not being allowed to go by the ‘Washington apparatchiks,’ who say, ‘No way.’ And they say, ‘We won’t go,’ although many would like to come.”

Putin then underscored what he sees as the importance of the anniversary observance: “We pay tribute to a generation of victors. We do this so that the present generation, both here and abroad, never forgets about this and never allows anything like this to happen again.”

But what about those aging Russian veterans claiming the lion’s share of credit for defeating Germany? Do they exaggerate?

The Facts

As journalist Martin Sieff keeps pointing out, the current crop of young Americans and Russians has grown up fairly ignorant of how crucially important the Grand Alliance of WWII was to the survival of both their great nations, but all serious Western historians recognize that the Russian people made the greatest sacrifices. The nearly 27 million total of Soviet military and civilian dead was more than twice the death toll of all Americans, Britons, Commonwealth citizens, French and even Germans killed in the war combined.

None other than British War Premier Winston Churchill publicly acknowledged, “It was the Red Army that tore the guts out of the Wehrmacht.” Over 80 percent of the German soldiers killed in World War II died fighting the Red Army.

These facts have been largely forgotten on both sides of the Atlantic, in the United States and Western Europe. At next month’s anniversary observance, pity the squandering of such an excellent opportunity to remind the world that there is strength in unity.

It is altogether understandable, of course, that at the end of WWII, many Europeans looked at their liberation by the Red Army with very mixed emotions. To begin with, in central Europe, liberation was followed by decades of Soviet occupation with harsh rule by Kremlin-installed satraps. So V-E has always been regarded there with considerable ambiguity.

In his extended Q & A on April 16, Putin made an unusual allusion to that dark period in addressing “the ugly nature of the Stalin regime” and the reaction that persists to this day. He conceded: “[It] “may not be very pleasant for us to admit. But in truth, we, or rather our predecessors, gave cause for this. Why? Because after World War II, we tried to impose our own development model on many Eastern European countries, and we did so by force.

“This has to be admitted. There is nothing good about this and we are feeling the consequences now. Incidentally, this is more or less what the Americans are doing today, as they try to impose their model on practically the entire world, and they will fail as well.”

More Recent History

The Ukraine crisis and other circumstances now clouding the May 9 celebration are perhaps the inevitable consequence of another lost opportunity, the chance for an enduring peace in Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. That hope was squandered by Western leaders who reneged on earlier promises to welcome a very new kind of Russia into European security arrangements, as the Soviet empire fell apart.

In sum, instead of President George H. W. Bush’s 1990-91 vision of a “Europe whole and free” from Portugal to the Ural mountains, the world got the “Wolfowitz doctrine” of 1992 embodied in the draft Defense Policy Guidance drafted by then-Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz: “Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union.”

While George H. W. Bush softened the rhetoric, the Wolfowitz approach did become the core principle of a “We-Won-the-Cold-War” triumphalist policy, with which Bush the Elder, Bill Clinton and Bush the Younger went back on the elder’s promise “not to take advantage” of the fall of the USSR and not to paint Russia as the big loser.

During an interview late last year, former Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev reminisced about what could have been: “I remember the Paris Summit in 1990. Europe offered an example of how to build … a new relationship. The Americans and Bush senior, talked about it. And I spoke about it. … And one wonders how people can object to their own decisions.

“It all began with the fact that the United States suddenly started talking about the creation of a ‘new empire.’ An over-empire, a super-empire. Alas, God and fate had put the task before them. Yes, they thought their moment had come.”

Despite promises by top U.S., German and NATO leaders not to move NATO to the east of a reunited Germany (which joined NATO in 1990), 12 new members all of them to the east subsequently joined, bringing total NATO membership to 28. Worse still from Moscow’s point of view, a NATO summit meeting in Bucharest declared on April 3, 2008:  “We agreed that these countries (Ukraine and Georgia) will become members of NATO.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had sternly warned U.S. Ambassador to Russia William Burns two months earlier that the Russians would say a loud NYET to that. They did. Accordingly, it should have come as no surprise that the Russians decided that the U.S.-arranged coup d’état of Feb. 22, 2014, in Kiev was one “regime change” too many.

I have watched many government overthrows oops, sorry, the present term of art is “regime change” but the way this coup was advertised in advance, for me, that was a first. The key U.S. dramatis personae Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. ambassador in Kiev Geoffrey Pyatt had been overheard plotting the coup more than two weeks before Feb. 22 in an intercepted telephone conversation that was posted on YouTube. George Friedman, head of the well-connected STRATFOR think tank, has said, “It truly was the most blatant coup in history.”

Annexation of Crimea

What prompted the Kremlin’s strong reaction? Was it the coup d’état on Moscow’s doorstep or the prospect of Ukraine joining NATO or the risk of losing Russia’s only warm-water naval port to NATO or was it concern over U.S. plans for missile defense? The correct answer, of course, is all-of-the-above; indeed, they are inextricably linked.

Putin has been very upfront about what moved him to action on Feb. 23, 2014, the day AFTER the putsch in Kiev. By the way, there is not one scintilla of evidence that either Putin or any other Russian leader planned to annex Crimea BEFORE the Feb. 22, 2014 coup.

After the Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to be rejoined to Russia, Putin permitted himself a somewhat jocular passage following a serious one, in addressing this very serious missile issue in a speech on March 18, 2014. to the Russian Duma and other officials at the Kremlin:

“Let me note too that we have already heard declarations from Kiev about Ukraine soon joining NATO. What would this have meant for Crimea and [the naval base at] Sevastopol in the future? It would have meant that NATO’s navy would be right there in this city of Russia’s military glory, and this would create not an illusory but a perfectly real threat to the whole of southern Russia. These are things that could have become reality were it not for the choice the Crimean people made, and I want to say thank you to them for this.

“NATO remains a military alliance, and we are against having a military alliance making itself at home right in our backyard or in our historic territory. I simply cannot imagine that we would travel to Sevastopol to visit NATO sailors. Of course, most of them are wonderful guys, but it would be better to have them come and visit us, be our guests, rather than the other way round.”

Putin has not disguised Moscow’s motives regarding the annexing of Crimea. This, for example, is what he said on April 17, 2014, during last year’s marathon Q & A on live TV:

“I’ll use this opportunity to say a few words about our talks on missile defense. This issue is no less, and probably even more important, than NATO’s eastward expansion. Incidentally, our decision on Crimea was partially prompted by this.” (emphasis added)

Clear enough? In Putin’s eyes, missile defense systems in European countries near Russia and in adjacent waters would pose an existential threat to the forces upon which Russia relies as a deterrent. In recent weeks, several top Russian national security officials have weighed in strongly on this issue.

This is not only a mark of their genuine strategic concern; Russian leaders also see it as increasingly difficult, in present circumstances, for the U.S. to justify a European missile defense system by using the same paper-thin rationale that such is needed to defend against missile attack from Iran.

During an interview on April 18, Putin again drew attention to George W. Bush’s unilateral withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty of 1972 a key anchor for deterrence. Putin listed it high on the list of serious problems with the U.S.

(On Dec. 13, 2001, President George W. Bush gave Russia notice of the U.S. withdrawal from the treaty, in accordance with the clause that required six months’ notice before terminating the pact. This was the first time in recent history that the United States has withdrawn from a major international arms treaty.)

Speaking the day before at an International Security Conference in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov insisted on the need for “joint efforts based on respect for the legitimate interests of all partners,” if peace is to be preserved. He, too, focused on the U.S. missile defense programs as the primary cause of concern:

“Ground-based missile defense systems will be deployed in Romania this year and in Poland by 2018. More ships with missile defense systems are being deployed. We perceive all this as part of a global project that is creating risks for Russia’s strategic deterrence forces and upsetting regional security balances.

“If the global missile defense program continues to be implemented without any adjustments, even as talks on the Iranian nuclear program are making headway, … then the specific motives for establishing the European missile defense system will become obvious for everyone.”

Lavrov was more soft-spoken than the official statement issued by his own ministry a week before on April 10. That statement quoted President Obama’s public assurance in a speech in Prague in April 2009 about how the elimination of the “Iranian threat” would also eliminate the main reason for the deployment of a missile defense system in Europe.

The Russian Foreign Ministry statement adds: “Against this background, the statements that ‘the missile defense program is not directed against Russia’ look even less convincing.”

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. During his 27-year career as a CIA analyst, he served as chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch, and was in Moscow for the signing of the ABM Treaty and other agreements concluded in May 1972. He is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

 




Russia Impinges on Israeli ‘Right’ to Bomb Iran

Exclusive: American neocons are in a lather over Russia’s decision to go ahead with the sale of anti-aircraft missiles to Iran. The apparent outrage is that Iran thinks it has a right to protect its citizens from Israel’s right to launch airstrikes into Iran’s territory, as ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern explains.

By Ray McGovern

The front page of the neocon flagship Washington Post on Tuesday warned that the Russians have decided, despite U.S. objections, “to send an advanced air-defense system to Iran … potentially altering the strategic balance in the Middle East.”

So, at least, says the lede of an article entitled “Putin lifts 5-year hold on missile sale to Iran” by Karoun Demirjian, whose editors apparently took it upon themselves to sex up the first paragraph, which was not at all supported by the rest of her story which was factual and fair balanced, even.

Not only did Demirjian include much of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s explanation of Moscow’s decision to end its self-imposed restriction on the delivery of S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran, but she mentioned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s umpteenth warning on Monday about “the prospect of airstrikes to destroy or hinder Tehran’s nuclear program.”

Lavrov noted that United Nations resolutions “did not impose any restrictions on providing air defense weapons to Iran” and described the “separate Russian free-will embargo” as “irrelevant” in the light of the “meaningful progress” achieved by the negotiated framework deal of April 2 in which Iran accepted unprecedented constraints on its nuclear program to show that it was intended for peaceful purposes only.

The Russian Foreign Minister emphasized that the S-300 is a “completely defensive weapon [that] will not endanger the security of any state in the region, certainly including Israel.” Pointing to “the extremely tense situation in the region around Iran, he said modern air-defense systems are vitally important for that country.” Lavrov added that by freezing the S-300 contract for five years, Russia also had lost a lot of money. (The deal is said to be worth $800 million.)

Predictably, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton told Fox News that the air-defense system would be a “game-changer” for Israel regarding air strikes. According to Bolton, once the system is in place, only stealth bombers would be able to penetrate Iranian space, and only the U.S. has those and was not likely to use them.

The U.S. media also highlighted comments by popular go-to retired Air Force three-star General David A. Deptula, who served as Air Force deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance until he retired in 2010 to make some real money. Deptula called delivering the S-300 system to Iran “significant, as it complicates the calculus for planning any military action involving air strikes.”

It strikes me as a bit strange that the media likes to feature retired generals like Deptula, whose reputation for integrity are not the best. Deptula has been temporarily barred from doing business with the government after what Air Force Deputy General Counsel Randy Grandon described as “particularly egregious” breaches of post-employment rules. He remains, however, a media favorite.

Adding to his woes, Deptula was also caught with 125 classified documents on his personal laptop including 10 labeled “Secret,” 14 labeled “Top Secret” and one with the high protection of “Secret, Compartmented Information.” Deptula pleaded ignorance and was let off further proof that different standards apply to generals like Deptula and David Petraeus.

A More Subdued Tone

The S-300 announcement hit as Secretary of State John Kerry was testifying on Capitol Hill about the framework deal on Iran’s nuclear program. Speaking later to Fox News, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, professed shock that Kerry did not seem more upset. According to Kinzinger, Kerry actually said, “You have to understand Iran’s perspective.”

And in keeping with Kerry’s tone of sang-froid, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf, referring to the S-300 deal, said, “We see this as separate from the negotiations [regarding Iran’s nuclear program], and we don’t think this will have an impact on our unity.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest took the S-300 announcement with his customary, studied earnestness. Referring not only to the decision to deliver the S-300s but also to reports of a $20 billion barter deal that would involve Russia buying 500,000 barrels of oil a day in return for Russian grain, equipment and construction materials, Earnest referred to “potential sanctions concerns” and said the U.S. would “evaluate these two proposals moving forward,” adding that the U.S. has been in direct touch with Russia to make sure the Russians understand and they do the potential concerns that we have.”

With respect to the various sanctions against Iran, I believe this nonchalant tone can be seen largely as whistling in the dark. With the S-300 and the barter deals, Russia is putting a huge dent in the sanctions regimes. From now on, money is likely to call the shots, as competitors vie for various slices of the Iranian and the Russian pie. Whether or not there is a final agreement by the end of June on the Iranian nuclear issue, Washington is not likely to be able to hold the line on sanctions and will become even more isolated if it persists in trying.

Worse still for the neocons and others who favor using sanctions to punish Russia over Ukraine, the lifting of sanctions against Iran may have a cascading effect. If, for example, the Ukrainian ceasefire holds more or less over the next months, it is possible that the $1.5 billion sale of two French-built Mistral-Class helicopter carrier ships to Russia, concluded four years ago, will go through.

The contract does not expire for two months and Russia’s state arms exporter is trying to work out a compromise before taking France to court. Russian officials are expressing hope that a compromise can be reached within the time left.

And, regarding the outrage among neocons over the audacious idea that Iran should be allowed to defend itself against airstrikes, there is the “exceptional” argument that Israel, United States and their allies should have the unchallenged right to bomb Iran or any other country as they see fit and that the targeted country should have no right to protect its people, indeed that trying to defend itself is some kind of unacceptable provocation.

There is also the hypocrisy regarding how the neocons like to differentiate between “defensive” and “offensive” weapons when the question is about giving U.S.-backed governments weapons that have dual purposes, that can be used offensively as well as defensively.

For instance, in regard to Ukraine earlier this year, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland counseled U.S. officials to portray the delivery of sophisticated U.S. military hardware to the coup regime in Kiev as “defensive,” even though the weapons had an offensive capacity, such as targeting ethnic Russian rebels firing artillery or mortars at Ukrainian troops attacking eastern Ukraine.

According to the German newspaper, Bild, which published an intercepted conversation between Nuland and U.S. officials in Munich, Germany, she said, “I’d strongly urge you to use the phrase ‘defensive systems’ that we would deliver to oppose Putin’s ‘offensive systems.’”

However, NATO Commander and Air Force General Philip Breedlove left little doubt that these “defensive” weapons would help the Ukrainian government pursue its military objectives by enabling more effective concentration of fire. “Russian artillery is by far what kills most Ukrainian soldiers, so a system is needed that can localize the source of fire and repress it,” Breedlove reportedly said.

So, when “defensive” weapons help a U.S.-backed regime kill its opponents, that’s fine. However, if some truly defensive weapons, such as anti-aircraft missiles to protect a country’s cities, go to a nation that Israel might want to bomb, then that is unacceptable.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. During his earlier, 27-year career as a CIA analyst, he led the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and prepared and briefed the President’s Daily Brief.  He now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).




Neocon ‘Chaos Promotion’ in the Mideast

Exclusive: After the Persian Gulf War in 1991, America’s neocons thought no country could stand up to the high-tech U.S. military, and they realized the Soviet Union was no longer around to limit U.S. actions. So, the “regime change” strategy was born and many have died, writes ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

By Ray McGovern

Former Washington insider and four-star General Wesley Clark spilled the beans several years ago on how Paul Wolfowitz and his neoconservative co-conspirators implemented their sweeping plan to destabilize key Middle Eastern countries once it became clear that post-Soviet Russia “won’t stop us.”

As I recently reviewed a YouTube eight-minute clip of General Clark’s October 2007 speech, what leaped out at me was that the neocons had been enabled by their assessment that after the collapse of the Soviet Union Russia had become neutralized and posed no deterrent to U.S. military action in the Middle East.

While Clark’s public exposé largely escaped attention in the neocon-friendly “mainstream media” (surprise, surprise!), he recounted being told by a senior general at the Pentagon shortly after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 about the Donald Rumsfeld/Paul Wolfowitz-led plan for “regime change” in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.

This was startling enough, I grant you, since officially the United States presents itself as a nation that respects international law, frowns upon other powerful nations overthrowing the governments of weaker states, and in the aftermath of World War II condemned past aggressions by Nazi Germany and decried Soviet “subversion” of pro-U.S. nations.

But what caught my eye this time was the significance of Clark’s depiction of Wolfowitz in 1992 gloating over what he judged to be a major lesson learned from the Desert Storm attack on Iraq in 1991; namely, “the Soviets won’t stop us.”

That remark directly addresses a question that has troubled me since March 2003 when George W. Bush attacked Iraq. Would the neocons widely known as “the crazies” at least among the remaining sane people of Washington have been crazy enough to opt for war to re-arrange the Middle East if the Soviet Union had not fallen apart in 1991?

The question is not an idle one. Despite the debacle in Iraq and elsewhere, the neocon “crazies” still exercise huge influence in Establishment Washington. Thus, the question now becomes whether, with Russia far more stable and much stronger, the “crazies” are prepared to risk military escalation with Russia over Ukraine, what retired U.S. diplomat William R. Polk deemed a potentially dangerous nuclear confrontation, a “Cuban Missile Crisis in reverse.”

Putin’s Comment

The geopolitical vacuum that enabled the neocons to try out their “regime change” scheme in the Middle East may have been what Russian President Vladimir Putin was referring to in his state-of-the-nation address on April 25, 2005, when he called the collapse of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [past] century.” Putin’s comment has been a favorite meme of those who seek to demonize Putin by portraying him as lusting to re-establish a powerful USSR through aggression in Europe.

But, commenting two years after the Iraq invasion, Putin seemed correct at least in how the neocons exploited the absence of the Russian counterweight to over-extend American power in ways that were harmful to the world, devastating to the people at the receiving end of the neocon interventions, and even detrimental to the United States.

If one takes a step back and attempts an unbiased look at the spread of violence in the Middle East over the past quarter-century, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Putin’s comment was on the mark. With Russia a much-weakened military power in the 1990s and early 2000s, there was nothing to deter U.S. policymakers from the kind of adventurism at Russia’s soft underbelly that, in earlier years, would have carried considerable risk of armed U.S.-USSR confrontation.

I lived in the USSR during the 1970s and would not wish that kind of restrictive regime on anyone. Until it fell apart, though, it was militarily strong enough to deter Wolfowitz-style adventurism. And I will say that for the millions of people now dead, injured or displaced by U.S. military action in the Middle East over the past dozen years the collapse of the Soviet Union as a deterrent to U.S. war-making was not only a “geopolitical catastrophe” but an unmitigated disaster.

Visiting Wolfowitz

In his 2007 speech, General Clark related how in early 1991 he dropped in on Paul Wolfowitz, then Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (and later, from 2001 to 2005, Deputy Secretary of Defense). It was just after a major Shia uprising in Iraq in March 1991. President George H.W. Bush’s administration had provoked it, but then did nothing to rescue the Shia from brutal retaliation by Saddam Hussein, who had just survived his Persian Gulf defeat.

According to Clark, Wolfowitz said: “We should have gotten rid of Saddam Hussein. The truth is, one thing we did learn is that we can use our military in the Middle East and the Soviets won’t stop us. We’ve got about five or 10 years to clean up those old Soviet client regimes Syria, Iran (sic), Iraq before the next great superpower comes on to challenge us.”

It’s now been more than 10 years, of course. But do not be deceived into thinking Wolfowitz and his neocon colleagues believe they have failed in any major way. The unrest they initiated keeps mounting in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Lebanon not to mention fresh violence now in full swing in Yemen and the crisis in Ukraine. Yet, the Teflon coating painted on the neocons continues to cover and protect them in the “mainstream media.”

True, one neocon disappointment is Iran. It is more stable and less isolated than before; it is playing a sophisticated role in Iraq; and it is on the verge of concluding a major nuclear agreement with the West barring the throwing of a neocon/Israeli monkey wrench into the works to thwart it, as has been done in the past.

An earlier setback for the neocons came at the end of August 2013 when President Barack Obama decided not to let himself be mouse-trapped by the neocons into ordering U.S. forces to attack Syria. Wolfowitz et al. were on the threshold of having the U.S. formally join the war against Bashar al-Assad’s government of Syria when there was the proverbial slip between cup and lip. With the aid of the neocons’ new devil-incarnate Vladimir Putin, Obama faced them down and avoided war.

A week after it became clear that the neocons were not going to get their war in Syria, I found myself at the main CNN studio in Washington together with Paul Wolfowitz and former Sen. Joe Lieberman, another important neocon. As I reported in “How War on Syria Lost Its Way,” the scene was surreal funereal, even, with both Wolfowitz and Lieberman very much down-in-the-mouth, behaving as though they had just watched their favorite team lose the Super Bowl.

Israeli/Neocon Preferences

But the neocons are nothing if not resilient. Despite their grotesque disasters, like the Iraq War, and their disappointments, like not getting their war on Syria, they neither learn lessons nor change goals. They just readjust their aim, shooting now at Putin over Ukraine as a way to clear the path again for “regime change” in Syria and Iran. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Why Neocons Seek to Destabilize Russia.”]

The neocons also can take some solace from their “success” at enflaming the Middle East with Shia and Sunni now at each other’s throats — a bad thing for many people of the world and certainly for the many innocent victims in the region, but not so bad for the neocons. After all, it is the view of Israeli leaders and their neocon bedfellows (and women) that the internecine wars among Muslims provide at least some short-term advantages for Israel as it consolidates control over the Palestinian West Bank.

In a Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity memorandum for President Obama on Sept. 6, 2013, we called attention to an uncommonly candid report about Israeli/neocon motivation, written by none other than the Israel-friendly New York Times Bureau Chief in Jerusalem Jodi Rudoren on Sept. 2, 2013, just two days after Obama took advantage of Putin’s success in persuading the Syrians to allow their chemical weapons to be destroyed and called off the planned attack on Syria, causing consternation among neocons in Washington.

Rudoren can perhaps be excused for her naive lack of “political correctness.” She had been barely a year on the job, had very little prior experience with reporting on the Middle East, and in the excitement about the almost-attack on Syria she apparently forgot the strictures normally imposed on the Times’ reporting from Jerusalem. In any case, Israel’s priorities became crystal clear in what Rudoren wrote.

In her article, entitled “Israel Backs Limited Strike Against Syria,” Rudoren noted that the Israelis were arguing, quietly, that the best outcome for Syria’s (then) 2 ½-year-old civil war, at least for the moment, was no outcome:

“For Jerusalem, the status quo, horrific as it may be from a humanitarian perspective, seems preferable to either a victory by Mr. Assad’s government and his Iranian backers or a strengthening of rebel groups, increasingly dominated by Sunni jihadis.

“‘This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don’t want one to win, we’ll settle for a tie,’ said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York. ‘Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here. As long as this lingers, there’s no real threat from Syria.’”

Clear enough? If this is the way Israel’s leaders continue to regard the situation in Syria, then they look on deeper U.S. involvement overt or covert as likely to ensure that there is no early resolution of the conflict there. The longer Sunni and Shia are killing each other, not only in Syria but also across the region as a whole, the safer Tel Aviv’s leaders calculate Israel is.

Favoring Jihadis

But Israeli leaders have also made clear that if one side must win, they would prefer the Sunni side, despite its bloody extremists from Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. In September 2013, shortly after Rudoren’s article, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, then a close adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told the Jerusalem Post that Israel favored the Sunni extremists over Assad.

“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren said in an interview. “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” He said this was the case even if the “bad guys” were affiliated with Al-Qaeda.

In June 2014, Oren then speaking as a former ambassador said Israel would even prefer a victory by the Islamic State, which was massacring captured Iraqi soldiers and beheading Westerners, than the continuation of the Iranian-backed Assad in Syria. “From Israel’s perspective, if there’s got to be an evil that’s got to prevail, let the Sunni evil prevail,” Oren said.

Netanyahu sounded a similar theme in his March 3, 2015 speech to the U.S. Congress in which he trivialized the threat from the Islamic State with its “butcher knives, captured weapons and YouTube” when compared to Iran, which he accused of “gobbling up the nations” of the Middle East.

That Syria’s main ally is Iran with which it has a mutual defense treaty plays a role in Israeli calculations. Accordingly, while some Western leaders would like to achieve a realistic if imperfect settlement of the Syrian civil war, others who enjoy considerable influence in Washington would just as soon see the Assad government and the entire region bleed out.

As cynical and cruel as this strategy is, it isn’t all that hard to understand. Yet, it seems to be one of those complicated, politically charged situations well above the pay-grade of the sophomores advising President Obama who, sad to say, are no match for the neocons in the Washington Establishment. Not to mention the Netanyahu-mesmerized Congress.

Corker Uncorked

Speaking of Congress, a year after Rudoren’s report, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, who now chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, divulged some details about the military attack that had been planned against Syria, while lamenting that it was canceled.

In doing so, Corker called Obama’s abrupt change on Aug. 31, 2013, in opting for negotiations over open war on Syria, “the worst moment in U.S. foreign policy since I’ve been here.” Following the neocon script, Corker blasted the deal (since fully implemented) with Putin and the Syrians to rid Syria of its chemical weapons.

Corker complained, “In essence I’m sorry to be slightly rhetorical we jumped into Putin’s lap.” A big No-No, of course especially in Congress to “jump into Putin’s lap” even though Obama was able to achieve the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons without the United States jumping into another Middle East war.

It would have been nice, of course, if General Clark had thought to share his inside-Pentagon information earlier with the rest of us. In no way should he be seen as a whistleblower.

At the time of his September 2007 speech, he was deep into his quixotic attempt to win the Democratic nomination for president in 2008. In other words, Clark broke the omerta code of silence observed by virtually all U.S. generals, even post-retirement, merely to put some distance between himself and the debacle in Iraq and win some favor among anti-war Democrats. It didn’t work, so he endorsed Hillary Clinton; that didn’t work, so he endorsed Barack Obama.

Wolfowitz, typically, has landed on his feet. He is now presidential hopeful Jeb Bush’s foreign policy/defense adviser, no doubt outlining his preferred approach to the Middle East chessboard to his new boss. Does anyone know the plural of “bedlam?”

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




The Nasty Blowback from America’s Wars

Exclusive: There are historical warnings to countries that inflict violence abroad, that the imperial impulse will blow back on the domestic society with suppression of public debate and repression of common citizens, that the war will come home — as is happening in the United States, says ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

By Ray McGovern

Brutality thrives in American police treatment of common citizens reflecting an ethos of violence that has flourished over the past dozen years with almost no one in authority held accountable. Much of this behavior can be traced back to U.S. wars of choice and it is not as though we were not warned of the inevitable blowback.

On Feb. 26, 2003, three weeks before the U.S./UK attack on Iraq, Coleen Rowley, then division counsel and special agent at the FBI office in Minneapolis, had the prescience and the guts to send a letter to then FBI Director Robert Mueller.  The New York Times published it a week later.

Rowley warned Mueller that launching unjustified war would prove counterproductive in various ways. One blowback she highlighted was that the rationale being applied to allow preemptive strikes abroad could migrate back home, “fostering a more permissive attitude toward shootings by law enforcement officers in this country.” Tragically, the recent spate of murders by police has proved Rowley right.

And not only killing. Police brutality toward the citizenry, some of it by former soldiers who themselves were brutalized by war, has soared. Yet, the dark side of what was done by U.S. troops abroad as well as the damage that was done to their psyches and sense of morality is rarely shown in the U.S. mainstream media, which prefers to veer between romanticizing the adventure of war and lamenting the physical harm done to America’s maimed warriors.

One has to go to foreign media for real-life examples of the brutalization of, as well as by, the young soldiers we send off to battle. (See, for example, this segment from Germany’s “60 Minutes”-type TV program, Panorama.)

The glib, implicit approval of violence (embedded, for instance, in the customary “Thank you for your service”) simply adds to the widespread acceptance of brutality as somehow okay.

Gratuitous Beatings

Cases of police beating citizens who are detained or taken into custody have multiplied, with police offenders frequently held to the same unconscionable let’s-not-look-back “accountability” that has let George W. Bush and Dick Cheney walk free so far for launching the “war of aggression” on Iraq.

The post-World War II Nuremberg Tribunal carefully defined such a war as “the supreme international crime, differing from other war crimes only in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” Accumulated evil? Having just emerged from the nightmare of world conflagration, the jurists on the Tribunal understood that it was the unleashing of the dogs of war launching an aggressive war that also loosed all the other atrocities and barbarities associated with warfare.

Looking back on the last decade, think of crimes like kidnapping, black prisons and torture as well as the slaughter of so many civilians as the Bush/Cheney war of choice has spread violence and death now in the form of the brutal Islamic State and America’s endless “drone wars” across almost the entire Middle East.

But part of that accumulated evil is also playing out at home on the streets of American cities and in even in our deserts. On April 9, San Bernardino’s “sheriff’s deputies” were caught on video viciously brutalizing a man who had already prostrated himself on the desert floor with his hands behind his back.

Warning: Watching this video may make you ill or cry. If so, take heart. For this would merely show that, because you still have a conscience, you are sickened by what you see, and that you can still “cry our beloved country.”

Conscience is a good thing, for it often brings the courage to speak out and confront the banality of evil that always flows and inevitably blows back from wars of aggression. Indifference to human suffering is another one of those accumulated evils of the whole.

We need to summon the kind of courage Coleen Rowley showed three weeks before the United States launched the “supreme international crime.” We need to monitor closely what happens after the unconscionable abuse by police of the helpless man in San Bernardino, after the recent police shootings of unarmed black men, and after the excessive brutality that America’s over-militarized police now regularly inflict on citizens during routine arrests.

“If you see something, say something” we are constantly told. If we see this video coverage, watch this sort of brutality, and do nothing, I fear for what will become of our country.

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 infantry/intelligence officer, and then as a CIA analyst for a total of 30 years.




In Case You Missed…

Some of our special stories in March focused on the nuclear-war dangers implicit in the Ukraine crisis, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s U.S. intervention to kill talks on Iran’s nuclear program, the role of propaganda past and present, and the way the national-security state influences public debate.

Playing Chicken with Nuclear War” by Robert Parry, Mar. 2, 2015

The Rise of a ‘Democratic’ Fascism” by John Pilger, Mar. 2, 2015

Neocons Want ‘Regime Change’ in Iran” Jonathan Marshall, Mar. 2, 2015

Congress Cheers Netanyahu’s Hatred of Iran” by Robert Parry, Mar. 3, 2015

Netanyahu’s False Narrative” by Marjorie Cohn, Mar. 4, 2015

Curbs on Surveillance State Urged” by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, Mar. 5, 2015

Gen. Petraeus: Too Big to Jail” by Ray McGovern, Mar. 5, 2015

US Intel Vets Oppose Brennan’s CIA Plan” Mar. 9, 2015

ACLU’s Strange Fight for ‘Redskin’ Trademark” by Nat Parry, Mar. 9, 2015

Official Washington’s Delusions on Delusions” by Robert Parry, Mar. 10, 2015

Ben Bradlee’s Not Such ‘A Good Life’ – Part 1” by James DiEugenio, Mar. 10, 2015

Ben Bradlee’s Not Such ‘A Good Life’ – Part 2” by James DiEugenio, Mar. 10, 2015

Nuland’s Mastery of Ukraine Propaganda” by Robert Parry, Mar. 11, 2015

Treading a Delicate Line on Israel” by Lawrence Davidson, Mar. 11, 2015

The Secret Saudi Ties to Terrorism” by Daniel Lazare, Mar. 11, 2015

How ‘Free Markets’ Defame ‘Democracy’” by Robert Parry, Mar. 12, 2015

In Venezuela, Who’s Threatening Whom?” by Ted Snider, Mar. 14, 2015

Guiding Obama into Global Make-Believe” by Ray McGovern, Mar. 14, 2015

US Intel Stands Pat on MH-17 Shoot-down” by Robert Parry, Mar. 14, 2015

The Not So Land of the Free” by Kathy Kelly, Mar. 16, 2015

A Neocon Admits the Plan to Bomb Iran” by Robert Parry, Mar. 16, 2015

Netanyahu Unmasks Israel” by Robert Parry, Mar. 18, 2015

America’s Dead-End in the Middle East” by Daniel Lazare, Mar. 19, 2015

Ukraine’s Poison Pill for Peace Talks” by Robert Parry, Mar. 19, 2015

A Family Business of Perpetual War” by Robert Parry, Mar. 20, 2015

Reinforcing the Mindset of War” by Nicolas J S Davies, Mar. 21, 2015

Crimeans Keep Saying No to Ukraine” by Robert Parry, Mar. 22, 2015

Analyzing the Israeli Election” by Lawrence Davidson, Mar. 23, 2015

Ukraine’s Oligarchs Turn on Each Other” by Robert Parry, Mar. 24, 2015

The Road Ahead for Israel” by Alon Ben-Meir, Mar. 25, 2015

Neocons: the Echo of German Fascism” by Todd E. Pierce, Mar. 27, 2015

Distorting Putin’s Favorite Philosophers” by Paul R. Grenier, Mar. 27, 2015

NYT Publishes Call to Bomb Iran” by Robert Parry, Mar. 28, 2015

Letting a Warmonger Rant” by Lawrence Davidson, Mar. 30, 2015

Deciphering the Mideast Chaos” by Robert Parry, Mar. 30, 2015

Obama’s Secrecy Obsession” by Robert Parry, Mar. 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”).