It's not every day that a CIA veteran addresses an audience of social activists and does not repudiate his past.
When these guys come out, they usually sound contrite. Take Philip Agee, the ex-spook who denounced RIT's dalliance with Langley. Agee wrote a delicious book on the CIA's international crime spree; ultimately he rejected the whole US political and economic establishment.
But ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern is cut from different cloth.
When McGovern spoke here October 19 at the Metro Justice annual dinner, he stressed that he spent 27 good years as a CIA analyst. The agency's statutory job, he said, is to collate intelligence from many sources and report to the president.
While he's aware of the agency's rap sheet, he seems proud of the job he did.
So why has McGovern gone on the talk circuit? Basically, he thinks things are now so bad that intelligence professionals have a moral duty to come forward. In a piece for CounterPunch early this year, he quoted an unnamed intelligence pro: "Have we gone beyond the bounds of reasonable dishonesty?"
You already know what McGovern is talking about. The official lies are as plain as the lengthening noses on Bush and the US media alike.
There's the administration's "flawed intelligence," exploited to demonize Saddam Hussein's Iraq. (Not "flawed," but fictitious, and contrary to what honest intelligence sources were saying.)
It's the tall tale about Iraq's intent to purchase uranium from Niger. (A tale told by an idiot, based on a forged document and a purposeful misunderstanding of Niger's uranium industry, which is controlled not by the Niger government but by a consortium under French authority.)
It's the whopper that Iraq posed an "imminent threat" to the US. (Ever since Iraq ceased being a de facto US ally, the threat has been the other way around.)
And above all, it's the Big Lie --- insinuated by high officials and believed by two-thirds of Americans --- that Iraq had something to do with 9/11.
McGovern didn't just review this dismal record.
In response to questions from the Metro Justice audience, he broached some political questions that Americans don't want to hear. For example, he explained some of the mystery of George W. Bush's Iraq policies simply by noting they're consistent with Ariel Sharon's.
But McGovern didn't get into how the war on terror has been brought home.
I thought it was remarkable to see --- two days after the Metro Justice dinner --- a shot of Senator Chuck Schumer on the Democrat & Chronicle's front page, getting a warm hug from a retired Marine staff sergeant. The sergeant was grateful for the senator's efforts to keep the Canandaigua VA Medical Center from closing. (I put Schumer and other local politicians way up for this. It would be criminal to pull the rug out from under local vets. Whatever the nature of the wars they served in, they deserve care in return for their sacrifices.)
But last October, Schumer, like Senator Hillary Clinton, voted to give Bush the power to wage war against Iraq. In doing so, he committed the nation not just to future war crimes but also to huge expenditures that will drain vital programs, including those for vets. The $166 billion already being spent is a mere down payment on the Iraq war --- will it hit a half-trillion dollars? --- not to mention wars sure to come. US military spending, excluding money for Iraq, soars above $400 billion per year.
From these figures, it's easy to understand why it seems every state and municipal budget throughout the homeland is in the tank.
Yes, the numbers are being driven by the recession, radical tax cuts, corporate globalization, and the like. But it's clear Washington could do a lot more to help America's communities. For that to happen, though, the right-wing fanatics in Washington who've seized the White House and other institutions will have to be sent packing.
This, too, was part of Ray McGovern's message: Dump Bush in 2004. How? Start by exposing all the lies tabulated above. It's working elsewhere: The British are giving Tony Blair a healthy whack or two on this score. And as McGovern pointed out, the Australians are going to town, as well. Earlier this month, Prime Minister John Howard was formally censured for playing the Bush game with "intelligence" on Iraq.
Paging Crocodile Dundee: We've got our own malefactor who must be called to account.