I don’t know if all of you are familiar with Ray McGovern. McGovern is a former high level member of the Central Intelligence Agency, who has been a very vocal critic of the George W. Bush administration, and especially of the Iraq war. I cribbed the following from his official bio:

Ray McGovern’s 27-year career as a CIA analyst spanned administrations from John F. Kennedy to George H. W. Bush.

Ray’s duties at CIA included chairing National Intelligence Estimates and preparing the President’ Daily Brief (PDB). These, the most authoritative genres of intelligence reporting, have been the focus of press reporting on “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq and on what the president was told before 9/11. During the mid-eighties, Ray was one of the senior analysts conducting early morning briefings of the PDB one-on-one with the Vice President, the Secretaries of State and Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs.

Ray received his B.A., summa cum laude, from Fordham College and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Designated a Distinguished Military Graduate, he was commissioned upon graduation and served as an infantry/intelligence officer in the US Army from 1962-64. Ray holds an M.A. in Russian Studies from Fordham University and a certificate in Theological Studies from Georgetown University. He is also a graduate of the Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program.

At his retirement ceremony, Ray received the Intelligence Commendation Medal and a letter from then-president George H. W. Bush wishing him well in his transition to non-profit work in inner-city Washington.

Let me recap. McGovern started out at the CIA during the Kennedy administration, when the agency was going through its first crisis with the Bay of Pigs. He worked his way up until he was given the responsibility for explaining the daily presidential briefing, (the most closely guarded document in the whole government), to Vice-President Bush and the other high ranking people responsible for protecting our country from Soviet attack. When he retired he received a medal for his distinguished service, and a pat on the back from G.H.W. Bush. Does this sound like a man who is qualified to tell us what the leaked Blair memo is all about? Does he sound like a biased person with an ax to grind?

I didn’t think so, and that is why I found his interpretations so revealing.

Never in our wildest dreams did we think we would see those words in black and white – and beneath a SECRET stamp, no less. For three years now, we in Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) have been saying that the CIA and its British counterpart, MI-6, were ordered by their countries’ leaders to “fix facts” to “justify” an unprovoked war on Iraq. More often than not, we have been greeted with stares of incredulity.

It has been a hard learning – that folks tend to believe what they want to believe. As long as our evidence, however abundant and persuasive, remained circumstantial, it could not compel belief. It simply is much easier on the psyche to assent to the White House spin machine blaming the Iraq fiasco on bad intelligence than to entertain the notion that we were sold a bill of goods.

Well, you can forget circumstantial. Thanks to an unauthorized disclosure by a courageous whistleblower, the evidence now leaps from official documents – this time authentic, not forged.

The documents are actually the official minutes of a July 23, 2002 briefing given by Richard Dearlove. Deerlove was then head of MI6, so his position was equivalent to George Tenet’s.

Mr. Dearlove, carrying out a duty very similar to McGovern’s job in the Reagan administration, briefed Tony Blair and his top national security officials about what he learned on his recent trip to Washington.

In emotionless English, Dearlove tells Blair and the others that President Bush has decided to remove Saddam Hussein by launching a war that is to be “justified by the conjunction of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.” Period. What about the intelligence? Dearlove adds matter-of-factly, “The intelligence and facts are being fixed around the policy.” At this point, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw confirms that Bush has decided on war, but notes that stitching together a justification would be a challenge, since “the case was thin.” Straw noted that Saddam was not threatening his neighbors and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea, or Iran.In the following months, “the case” would be buttressed by a well-honed U.S.-UK intelligence-turned-propaganda-machine. The argument would be made “solid” enough to win endorsement from Congress and Parliament by conjuring up:

·Aluminum artillery tubes misdiagnosed as nuclear related;
·Forgeries alleging Iraqi attempts to obtain uranium in Africa;

·Tall tales from a drunken defector about mobile biological weapons laboratories;

·Bogus warnings that Iraqi forces could fire WMD-tipped missiles within 45 minutes of an order to do so;

·Dodgy dossiers fabricated in London; and

·A U.S. National Intelligence Estimate thrown in for good measure.

This is the fact that the American people need to understand. The stovepiping of information was not the fundamental problem with the intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Stovepiping didn’t send William Safire onto a war-path, or transform Charles Krauthammer into a conspiracy theorist. They got their marching orders, just as George Tenet, Colin Powell, Tony Blair, and Silvio Berlusconi got theirs. The intelligence was faked. It did not exist.

First, Bush gave his axis-of-evil speech, which was basically a declaration of war on Iraq. It was obvious that we were not about to attack North Korea without the consent of South Korea. It was obvious that we would not attack Iran without first taking care of our ongoing disagreement with Iraq. As a reminder, this is what Bush said:

Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror. The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade. This is a regime that has already used poison gas to murder thousands of its own citizens — leaving the bodies of mothers huddled over their dead children. This is a regime that agreed to international inspections — then kicked out the inspectors. This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world.

States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic.

We will work closely with our coalition to deny terrorists and their state sponsors the materials, technology, and expertise to make and deliver weapons of mass destruction. We will develop and deploy effective missile defenses to protect America and our allies from sudden attack. (Applause.) And all nations should know: America will do what is necessary to ensure our nation’s security.

We’ll be deliberate, yet time is not on our side. I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons. (Applause.)

When we look back at January 2002, we remember that the country was still rattled. We were still worried that our mail was contaminated, we were afraid that new sleeper cells might be activated and cause enormous harm to the country. And we were still intensely angry. I remember looking to the President to give us some reassurance, to help calm our nerves, and to set out a series of policy proposals for fundamentally changing our foreign policy in the Middle East. But the President chose instead to make demonstrably untrue and unsupported allegations about Iraq, and to declare that he would not wait around to do something about them.

At the time, I was shocked by the bellicosity of his rhetoric. And I was also frightened by it. I didn’t doubt that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Why else would he kick out the inspectors? So he could do an even better job of disarming himself?

Now the President was stating that we were going to topple his regime, and yet no plans or preparations had been made to follow through on the threat. I knew it would be at least a year until we would be ready to invade and I doubted Saddam would fail to craft a deadly defense, or even attack us preemptively. I thought the President was recklessly endangering the country.

But it was worse than that. Saddam did use his time to craft a deadly defense, and one that caught our military completely by surprise. But he didn’t have the WMD necessary to deliver a preemptive attack. And our intelligence agencies understood that. Even then, “the intelligence and facts (were) being fixed around the policy.” Richard Clarke told us this, Paul O’Neill told us this, and now Mr. Dearlove and Mr. Straw have told us this.

But, to make matters even worse, as Saddam busily planned for his post-war insurgency, six months passed by and the Pentagon had still done almost no planning for a post-war reconstruction.

All this, as Dearlove notes dryly, despite the fact that “there was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.”

And most outrageous of all, is the clear meaning of the following:

Another nugget from Dearlove’s briefing is his bloodless comment that one of the U.S. military options under discussion involved “a continuous air campaign, initiated by an Iraqi casus belli” – the clear implication being that planners of the air campaign would also see to it that an appropriate casus belli was orchestrated.

What does “initiated by an Iraqi casus belli” mean?

It can have only one meaning. As McGovern points out, we were prepared to fabricate an event that would serve as a pretext to attack Iraq. Anyone who claims the same for the war in Afghanistan is considered a loon. And I’m not suggesting 9/11 was an ‘Afghani casus belli’. But it is blood-curdling to realize that the Brits considered such an event a likely pretext for our shared war against Iraq. Does everyone understand the full meaning of those words? Does Larry King give a shit?

McGovern explains what this cynical attitude means for our intelligence agents, and the country:

Actually, politicization is far too mild a word for what happened. The intelligence was not simply mistaken; it was manufactured, with the president of the United States awarding foreman George Tenet the Medal of Freedom for his role in helping supervise the deceit. The British documents make clear that this was not a mere case of “leaning forward” in analyzing the intelligence, but rather mass deception – an order of magnitude more serious. No other conclusion is now possible.

Small wonder, then, to learn from CIA insiders such as former case officer Lindsay Moran that Tenet’s malleable managers told their minions, “Let’s face it. The president wants us to go to war, and our job is to give him a reason to do it.”

Small wonder that, when the only U.S. analyst who met with the alcoholic Iraqi defector appropriately code-named “Curveball” raised strong doubts about Curveball’s reliability before then-Secretary of State Colin Powell used the fabrication about “mobile biological weapons trailers” before the United Nations, the analyst got this e-mail reply from his CIA supervisor:
“Let’s keep in mind the fact that this war’s going to happen regardless of what Curveball said or didn’t say, and the powers that be probably aren’t terribly interested in whether Curveball knows what he’s talking about.”

And McGovern sums it all up with appropriate disgust:

Seldom does one have documentary evidence that intelligence chiefs chose to cooperate in both fabricating and “sexing up” (as the British press puts it) intelligence to justify a prior decision for war. There is no word to describe the reaction of honest intelligence professionals to the corruption of our profession on a matter of such consequence. “Outrage” does not come close.

No, outrage does not even begin to describe the complete disregard for decency, for the truth, for peace, for America’s credibility, for the the emotions of scared Americans…

There are not even words to describe these crimes and this betrayal.

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