"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

My Photo
Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Ex-CIA Officer Blasts Premise for Iraq War

A Central Intelligence Agency veteran is traveling the country on a mission to explain what he calls "prostituted intelligence" crafted at the request of the Bush administration to induce Congress into approving the war in Iraq.

Ray McGovern, 65, who served under seven presidents and retired in 1990 as a CIA senior analyst, spoke to University of Missouri-Columbia students.
"I am here because of dangerous signs that the intelligence process is corrupted," McGovern told a foreign policy class yesterday.

A soft-spoken connoisseur of Russian poetry, McGovern resembles an art professor. People often tell him he doesn’t look like a spy. Yet he prepared daily CIA briefings for the president and oversaw work on the so-called national intelligence estimates.

McGovern describes himself as a conservative but is a harsh critic of the Bush administration.

"These people are dangerous ideologues," McGovern said. He likened the White House top staffers to "the terrible, impractical people" of the Soviet era with a narrow-minded view of the world. "If there is no more four years for them, whoever comes in, it couldn’t possibly be any worse," he said.

Drawing on statements by members of the Bush administration in 2001 and 2002 as well as conversations with intelligence colleagues, McGovern said war in Iraq was predetermined with George W. Bush’s entry to office.

McGovern cited a February 2001 speech by Secretary of State Colin Powell, who said then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction. Five months later, Condoleezza Rice, national security advisor, also said Iraq’s military capability had not been rebuilt.

So in 2002, when Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction came up as a major threat, "we were shocked," said McGovern, who is a member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, a not-for-profit group of former intelligence workers. "We smelled something very fishy."

Until the administration needed to convince Congress to vote for the war, McGovern said, there was no national intelligence estimate on whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The conclusions had already been reached when then-CIA Director George Tenet assigned his staff to do the analysis, he said.

"In my days," if the director told staff members at the CIA to prepare a study with certain conclusions, "we would have laughed and said, ‘You’re kidding,’ " McGovern said. "This is an unforgivable sin in intelligence."

McGovern describes the U.S. justification for war in Iraq with the acronym OIL - oil, Israel and logistics.

America needs more oil, McGovern said, and instead of focusing on alternative energy, the administration chose to invade Iraq, which has the second-largest proven oil reserves in the world.

The Iraq occupation also was meant to make Israel safer, McGovern said, and some members of the Bush administration tend to confuse U.S. strategic interests with those of Israel.

That’s partly why war is bound to continue, he said. If America withdraws its troops, there would be a major terrorist threat to the area.

As for logistics, McGovern cites the administration’s plans to have a long-term presence in the Middle East, specifically, 14 military bases in Iraq.

Despite Bush’s insistence that a draft will not be revived and a recent congressional vote against reinstating a draft, McGovern believes a successful occupation of Iraq is bound to require hundreds of thousands of troops. "My grandson will be 18 the 15th of June, and I fear what he might be subjected to," he said.

Alex Yalen, a 22-year-old journalism senior who heard McGovern’s lecture, described it as "typical socialist garbage" and said he didn’t believe the former CIA analyst is indeed a conservative.

"I didn’t hear anything I didn’t expect to hear," said Yalen, who nevertheless said he is opposed to the war in Iraq and cannot stand Bush. His sore point was the inclusion of Israel in McGovern’s war acronym.

Yalen, who is Jewish, said politicians for decades have been blaming "the nearest minority, specifically Jews."

McGovern said he is not anti-Semitic but the tensions in the Middle East and the role of Israel need an honest discussion. He told the Tribune such a discussion has been ongoing in the Israeli press but remains stymied here.

Another student, who said he serves in the military and declined to give his name, said the class was "a really good lecture" and asked McGovern about becoming a CIA employee.

McGovern faced a number of critical questions yesterday in class. Assistant professor of political science Joseph Hewitt said his students are evenly divided along political lines. They benefited not only from interacting "with a person with intimate knowledge of the intelligence process," Hewitt said, but from hearing "reasonable criticism of the way the Bush administration proceeded to war."

MIGLENA STERNADORI of the Tribune’s staff
Published Saturday, October 16, 2004

The War on Affordable Housing

Ideologues in the Bush administration would like to dismantle Section 8, the most successful public-and-private housing partnership in the history of the United States. That's the only way to explain the destructive policies emanating from the Housing and Urban Development Department, which has been hammering at Section 8 all year. The conflicting signals and general aura of hostility have convinced housing authorities around the country that they need to defend themselves by avoiding new commitments and cutting back on their old ones.

Even worse, the developers who have counted on Section 8 money to build affordable housing for the poor, the elderly and the disabled now think that they can no longer trust this program. Republican lawmakers whose districts are being hurt have kept quiet in the name of party solidarity. But this posture of loyal complicity will be difficult to maintain as the housing crisis deepens, which it surely will if HUD continues along its current course.

A landmark program, Section 8 has produced affordable housing for needy Americans since the Nixon years. It works this way: instead of doing the construction itself, the government guarantees subsidies for rents in the private market. Families, most of them at or below the poverty level, pay 30 percent of their incomes toward rent, and Section 8 vouchers pay the rest. At the moment, the program covers about two million people, a majority of them elderly or in families with children. Developers building affordable housing have come to depend on Section 8 guarantees for financial backing.

Things are getting worse by the day, thanks to ideologues in the Bush administration who prefer a laissez-faire approach, regardless of the social costs. Unable to dismember the Section 8 program directly, HUD has chosen to destabilize it with a series of rule changes and budget maneuvers that are being felt from coast to coast. The current HUD secretary, Alphonso Jackson, has settled on a particularly destructive strategy involving misdirection and sleight of hand. He releases poorly explained policies that include hidden, but draconian, cuts. After an outcry from Congress, he retreats to lesser cuts that leave the program diminished, housing authorities confused and the general public mistakenly believing that the status quo has been regained.

The latest incident, laid out by The Times's David Chen, came after HUD released a vaguely worded and irrational proposal that involved reducing the value of housing vouchers for poor residents in some of the most expensive housing markets in the country. The proposed change was widely thought to have been rescinded after housing advocates and lawmakers raised a fuss. But a close look at the data shows that HUD still seems to be planning to enforce a part of the plan that would make it more difficult for large families to find larger apartments. The landlords have been quick to react. Faced with the prospect of Section 8 vouchers that pay less than fair-market rents, they have made it clear that they will simply refuse to deal with the program, especially in tight markets where they can pick and choose tenants. That will be a disaster for poor families with several children.

The insanity of this ideologically driven attack on Section 8 is underscored in a bipartisan book - written by two Republicans and two Democrats - just out from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard. The authors include two former housing secretaries: Jack Kemp, a Republican, and Henry Cisneros, a Democrat. The authors argue convincingly that the country is sacrificing both families and neighborhoods by hacking away at the most successful housing program in history.

The book, "Opportunity and Progress," calls for restoring the sane bipartisan effort that produced the federal housing program in the first place. Most significantly, the authors urge Congress to insulate the housing program from partisan sniping by creating a national trust fund. Modeled on similar programs that work well at state and local levels, that national fund would be used to build, rehabilitate and preserve 1.5 million affordable apartments.

The proposal resembles one already pending in Congress, where a trust fund bill is bottled up in committee even though it has more than 200 sponsors. The bill, as originally introduced, would finance itself by redirecting a small portion of the profits from the Federal Housing Administration's mortgage insurance fund.

This page is generally suspicious of dedicated funds, but, given the national housing crisis, it makes good sense to direct money earned from housing back into housing. The bill would certainly have wide support, if only the Republican leadership allowed it to be brought to the floor.


Search for a New World Order

The US is fast becoming a totalitarian, militaristic society, increasingly intolerant of different economic and political systems. Washington’s policy of pursuing the elusive goal of absolute national security is in fact making both America and the world more and more unstable and dangerous.

What does the United States want? It wants a world without enemies, without threats, without risks. Therefore it is bent upon eliminating all enemies, all threats, all risks and wants to crush any opposition.

It wants a world which will look up to the United States, adulating the American model, adhering to its principles and values, obeying its rules.

It wants a totally Americanised world, without any diversity, without any dissidence. In short the United States is gearing towards a totalitarian design which is the greatest possible threat to a decent existence for people around the globe in the decades ahead.

The Quest for Absolute Security

The quest of the Americans for absolute, total security may lead to, may even be bound to lead to, absolute, total insecurity. The absolutistic American approach to the world may incite it to look for absolute, definitive solutions. Its Manichean view leaves no place for nuances.

The American President George W Bush states:

"We want total victory in Iraq; we will get total victory." "You are either with us or against us."

This approach makes any opponent a total opponent, foe and enemy. But it signifies also a self-inflicted predicament and dilemma: everything less than total victory is resented by the Americans as total defeat. Victory has to be definitive, once and for all and cannot be provisional. What Bush and his ideologues lack completely is a sense of the precariousness, shakiness, frailty of any human endeavour.

The history of the United States is a history of the search for total security and whatever derives from it, above all a quest for total invulnerability. The corollary of this quest is total vulnerability of all the others. It also implies or engenders the relentless search for secure borders, the expansion of those borders, in other words imperialism. This is also why the United States wants to erect an impenetrable shield (SDI, NMD, etc.). With this goes the search for total immunity, immunity of America, American citizens, soldiers, etc.

Self-righteousness and bigotry form the psychological basis of the American attitude. Solutions are to be absolute, evil has to be eradicated totally. America has no trust in anybody, not in international agreements, norms, rules, arrangements, nor in international law. The rest of the world is perceived as being bad and can therefore by definition not be trusted. The United States is the elected nation, the beacon of the world. American purity and exceptionalism is contrasted with European depravity and decadence. The United States sees itself as the saviour of mankind. Its attitude is:

Listen, obey and follow and the future will be of peace, harmony, freedom, democracy, prosperity and happiness forever.

If you don’t follow we have to force you, show you the way, put you on the right track and bring you the happiness you are unable to provide for yourselves.

The American way of thinking, its basic convictions and ideology are the greatest threat to the freedom, the diversity, the dignity and the self-esteem of people worldwide. This attitude has put the United States on an authoritarian path that may lead to a totalitarian, fascistic paradigm.

In America itself the Bush administration has cut down dramatically the basic civil rights and liberties, creating in the wake of 9/11 an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. Towards the outside world its behaviour has become more and more reckless, bullying suspected opponents as well as traditional friends and allies who may have the courage to voice the slightest criticism. Between these dimensions lies Guantanamo Bay. The Bush administration has created a grey, hybrid zone outside of the US territory, outside of international law and inter-national practice, an island of arbitrariness ruled by brutality and psychological terror, a concentration camp where prisoners are deprived of their elementary human needs, psychologically broken and slowly rendered mad. Guantanamo Bay highlights American despotism, ruthlessness, cruelty and profound contempt for anything that Western civilisation supposedly stands for. The most frightening thing about all this is that there is almost no opposition in the United States, no public outcry, no large popular groups venting their concerns. Where are the traditional civil rights movements at a time when those rights are threatened more acutely than ever in the history of the United States? Not much more than a decade after the breakdown of the Soviet Union the world is confronted by a totalitarian temptation that in some respects is more dangerous than the Soviet one ever was. It is a totalitarian design that comes in the garb of democracy, freedom and peace.

The American neo-conservatives are not aware of the security dilemma nor do they want to be aware of it. They do not want to acknowledge that whatever enhances the security of the United States may strengthen the feeling of insecurity of the others. They have an egotistic, autistic and solipsistic view of the world. They believe that whatever is good for America is good for the world. In fact they do not care about the world. The only thing they care about is that the world does not cause America any trouble and keeps buying American products. Their attitude is characterised by a total lack of empathy. They neither care about the sensitivities of other people nor take their concerns seriously. The United States is the city on the hill, all the others living in the valley have to look up to it.

What the United States has done and is doing in Iraq and to Iraq, earlier in Afghanistan and to Afghanistan, is to be a model to be applied worldwide: crush the resistance of any country, government or regime that is not obedient to the American political will, replace the existing regime with a compliant one that will respond to American political wishes and economic diktats. This kind of policy has been pursued before by the United States, above all in Latin America. It has sometimes succeeded and more often failed. The overall purpose of this policy is to show the world that it does not make sense to resist the United States.

Fear of Islam

One of the major, if not the major, driving forces behind American international behaviour is fear. The United States is afraid of the world, of anything foreign or different. It does not understand that which is different, does not even try to understand otherness. Anything that does not adhere to the American creed, to American beliefs, to American values is perceived as a threat that must be eliminated. Only a world where nobody will dare to challenge American pre-eminence and superiority is regarded as a safe world. The greater the difference is with the other, the more this "other" is perceived as an imminent danger for the United States.

Paradoxically, the more Americanised the world is, the more those shrinking parts that appear to refuse the American way of life are perceived as threatening. So quite naturally, in the eyes of the neo-conservative analysts Islam is the biggest challenge to American cultural exclusivity which explains the almost obsessive focus on so-called Islamic fundamentalism, the attempt to equate Islam with terrorism, the way Islamic–Arab, so-called terrorist networks are highlighted, inflated, the attack on the Taliban, the alliance with Musharraf, the support of the corrupt Saudi regime, the backing of those who seem to challenge the ruling regime in Iran. In this respect Islam has replaced communism as the major challenge.

Beyond the genuine fear there is also the vague awareness that it may not be good for America to be without an enemy, a fear of the slackening of national spirit, of the patriotic fervour, a fear of losing national cohesion, of a weakening of the "American project for the twenty-first century".

America needs somebody against whom to mobilise its energies. Islam is an ideal challenge and challenger. It is rather weak economically, socially and militarily, and is fragmented, radical in parts of the discourse, weak in possibilities of action, however, not too weak for a country which has throughout its history only intervened, and acted when the odds were overwhelmingly in its favour. The United States is too afraid of losing to take any real risks.

The United States likes weak enemies: Haiti, Graneda, Panama were optimal, but Lebanon or Somalia proved to be too much. Iraq was, militarily speaking, a good target since it was economically broken after 12 years of Western sanctions.

The neo-conservatives thought Iraq represented a unique chance to show the world and above all the Middle East the superiority of the United States. It wanted to demonstrate its resolve to gain a major foothold in a critical geopolitical area, to test its military capabilities, to confront the Europeans with their weakness and divisions, to demonstrate to them-selves and to the world the impotence of all the other potentially major actors — the European Union, Russia, and China — while closing the ranks with those allies they needed — above all in the Pacific and Asia, such as Japan and South Korea.

Prospects for the Future

What are the prospects for the future? One may envisage several possible scenarios. One scenario and perhaps the most likely one is that the United States will stay on the present track, that Bush will get re-elected in November 2004, that there will be new major "terrorist" threats and acts against the United States and its allies, that the United States will "react forcefully" to those threats and acts, that is, there will be escalation in violence and counter-violence; basic liberties will be further cut back worldwide; a climate of fear and repression will largely determine international life.

Another possible scenario is that the United States will suffer major setbacks not just militarily, but also on the economic–financial and the moral–psychological level, that the public mood in the United States will drastically change and the United States will turn towards a more isolationist policy and be tempted to withdraw from the world; that is, we will watch a cyclical movement and a classical American reflex regarding its role in world politics. But is what has been valid in the past still true? Can one really compare the American reaction after the First World War and even to a point after the Second World War to the present situation? Is the United States not becoming eventually a prisoner of its own homemade logic? Is it possible that something has dramatically, profoundly changed in the inner self of the United States, in its basic collective, psychological being?

What Can and Should the Rest of the World Do?

What can and should the rest of the world do in front of this general American onslaught? How can the world protect itself against the United States and how can the United States be protected against itself, against the demons it has been unleashing in the last two years?

Where is the potential balancer? Europe is too divided, too weak politically and even more so militarily to be able to become a true challenger in a short-term as well as in a long-term perspective. Russia after its collapse is struggling to regain a minimum of decency and status at home and abroad. China, though rising, is focused almost exclusively on its domestic economic and social development.

Should countries which feel threatened by the imperialistic ambitions of the United States try to come up with a strategy of containment of US power by forming a coalition of the reasonable and mentally balanced?

Should they endeavour to tie down the United States with innumerable small chains as was done to Gulliver?

Should the rest of the world perhaps let the United States overstretch or implode (or explode)?

But how would this enormous power come to an end? With a whimper or with a devastating bang affecting the rest of the world?

Or should the world even adopt a strategy of a million pinpricks to drive the monster mad? But the question would then be: would a mad monster going down not be likely to take the world with it?

These are some of the questions the world has to address and answer in order to find suitable solutions for the containment of the United States.

Armand Clesse is Director of the Luxembourg Institute for European and International Studies
Copyright: Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) at www.globalresearch.ca .