Ray McGovern, a retired CIA officer turned political activist, discusses how the US intelligence community helped prevent military intervention in Syria; John Kerry’s repeated lies about the Sarin gas attack and an “unbelievably short war” scenario; Obama’s surprising resolve to defy the neoconservatives and the Israel lobby; and why the rift with Russia shouldn’t nix an Iran nuclear deal.
We move on to our next guest, it’s the great Ray McGovern, for 27 years he was a CIA analyst and now he is the co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals For Sanity, he writes atÂ www.raymcgovern.com, and atÂ www.consortiumnews.comÂ and he will give a talk to your church group or whoever it is about why they need to be peaceniks and that kind of thing, look him up atÂ www.raymcgovern.com.
Welcome back the show, how are you doing Ray?
RM: Thanks Scott, I’m doing well.
SH: Very happy to have you back on the show, I know you’ve seen this brand new piece byÂ Seymour Hersh, it’s called The Red Line And The Rat Line, I just talked with him for about 20 something minutes about it, something like that and, well, I’ll give you wide open berth here, you just tell us what you think you want us to know about this story, what you think of it, whatever details and then I’ll try to follow up from there, does that sound alright?
RM: Sure, first Scott I’d like to wax poetic if I may and borrow from Sir Walter Scott here who started out saying “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive, but once we’ve practiced for a while we markedly improve our style“, I have composed that verse for John Kerry, John Brennan and Turkish Prime MinisterÂ ErdoÄŸan, who really are exemplars, have been practicing for a while. They markedly improved their style in lying and now they have been exposed for the liars that they are and got us one inch, maybe half an inch away from war with Syria on the 1st of September last year.
It is quite a story, Hersh has got chapter and verse and I’m really, really glad to hear that he gave you 20 minutes just now.
SH: Yeah me too, he’s really great and there were only a couple of questions I didn’t really get to. I guess first of all what could be said about this is that it’s a circumstantial case. I guess maybe the first part of the circumstantial case is something he saved to the end, which is, the US intelligence agencies, they just never really believed it at all, I mean this old news on this show. We’ve talked about from the very beginning, from your work and from Gareth Porters work about how they didn’t even release a CIA assessment, they released a government assessment that was written by the White House and was made to sound like a CIA assessment and then Phil Giraldi wrote in The American Conservative why exactly that was and that was the threat of a full scale revolt by the CIA analysts, they were going to all quit en masse in a way that couldn’t be publicly denied at least, if they were made to go along with pushing this story.
So we have known that there were major problems with this all along, maybe if you want to elaborate on that or get into the other parts of the circumstantial case here that it was not al-Assad and may well have been the Turks in cooperation with the al-Nusra front who after all have sworn their loyalty toÂ Ayman al-Zawahiri and Al Qaeda.
RM: Yeah, well you know that’s the good news Scott. I mean after my former profession of intelligenceÂ analysis was, well it’s not too strong of a word, was prostituted for the express purpose of deceiving our congress out of its constitutionalÂ prerogativeÂ to declare or otherwise authorize war on Iraq. That is as bad as it gets. After that debacle they got a couple of honest people in to run the analysis, Tom Finger did a very good national intelligence estimate on Iran and helped prevent a war against Iran, and now we see the analysts who are still kind of diverted to telling the truth believe it or not, rising up in arms and saying to the president and saying to General Dempsey, “look, we’re not going to do another Iraq”, you know and besides, John Kerry, you know he might have done good steering boats up the Mekong but he doesn’t he know anything about war. Otherwise he would never speak of quote, “an unbelievably short war” end quote in the middle-east. There ain’t no such thing.
So Mr President, Mr General Dempsey, be aware that the intelligence analysts and our British counterparts won’t stand for this anymore and I don’t care what John Brennan the head of the CIA says, you’re going to hear from us if you perpetrate another war based on fraudulent, I’m not talking mistaken, based on fraudulent intelligence, that’s really good news.
Of course Sy (Hersh) has a lot of that story but the even better news from the point of view of our movement which we call Veteran Intelligence Professionals For Sanity, is that several of the insiders had enough trust in us, to share with us what was going on. So, even before the president got bailed out by Vladimir Putin of all people, and when he seemed to still be going for a vote in congress which likely he would have won despite the growing opposition, we served up a memo to him in which we warned that this is what we’re hearing from our insiders, and that there was all kinds of other evidence out there indicating that someone other than the Bashar al-Assad government was doing this and that in any case we could tell him categorically that the secretary of state John Kerry was, well how shall I say this, was saying untruthful things when he said 35 times on the 30th of August, “we know, we know, we know it was Bashar al-Assad that ordered those chemical attacks”, he didn’t know, he doesn’t know now and I don’t have to take it easy on this evidence, Sy is very judicious and he’ll probably say “yes it’s still all circumstantial'”, but it’s a slam dunk for me if only because the only people that have any incentive to start a chemical attack two days after the UN inspectors arrived in Damascus and with the red line that Barack Obama had foolishly drawn, the only people that had an incentive to cross that red line and get the US involved militarily were the rebels who happened to be losing, to be losing very bad at that point in time.
SH: Right well and I mean the fact that his article could be Ray McGoverns reporting confirmed or something like that, this is what you already said was going on and now he’s coming in with more information, different information, but backing up what your sources inside the CIA were telling you last fall.
RM: Yes, Scott, it’s the way it works beautifully really. Even when were in the analysis division of the CIA weÂ had current intelligence reporters which was what I did, glorified journalists, you know, we would have to do this every day and we did it with all the information we could gather including very sensitive information.
But you know we depended largely on researchers as well. And when you get one of the few investigative journalists left in this country, well another prominent one of course is Bob Parry for whom I write atÂ www.consortiumnews.com. When you get a guy like Si Hersh who reveals the CIA secrets of the 50’s and 60’s who revealed My Lai, who revealed Abu Ghraib, I mean when you get a guy doing the homework and sure it took him two months longer than it took us but, you know, ours was, we were sticking our necks out, we didn’t really know chapter and verse, now we do and it’s one of those rare situations where we feel very lucky, but also very convicted, that it is still our job, to warn the person, or to warn anyone else who will listen, that he was being mouse trapped, and really really badly mouse trapped, and this business about an ‘unbelievably short war’ out of Kerry’s mouth was not only impossible but it was a fraud, because as Sy points out there was big stuff ready, there were the B52s, when the military does anything like this they do it real big okay?
And we know from the reporting that we had even then, that the warehouses were being emptied, it was just going to be a sort of a mopping up campaign by the rebels to get rid of Bashar al-Assad after the US had done, not an unbelievably short war, but really done to Syria what we did to Iraq in March of 2003.
SH: You know in that case it wasn’t as obvious at least to many, although Coleen Rowley and others had called it out, I’m sure you’d talked about this, but in the case of the Syria war last summer, this was outright asÂ Dennis Kucinich called it, would have been America acting as Al Qaedas air force, I mean when every rebel group on the ground is sworn loyal to Ayman al-Zawahiri they just can’t decide you know the order of rank on the ground in Syria, and who’s more loyal to him maybe between the so-called Islamic Front, ISIS and al-Nusra, all of these guys, as Patrick Cockburn says on this show repeatedly, has said for years now, there’s no real distinction between how Bin Laden-ite these forces are – they all are 100%. The only question is you know, “I’m not taking orders from you pal”, on the ground. But otherwise that would be who’s inheriting Damascus if America B52’d them out of power, that would be who wins the regime change – the suicide bombers.
RM: Well, it would be up for grabs for a while and you know the real people, cui bono, who is this really supposed to benefit? Well, let me put it this way, Jodi Rudoren who writes for The New York Times had an article just at about this time and she asked a very senior Israeli official, “What’s your preferred outcome of Syria?” and he said, “Oh that’s easy, no outcome”, and she said, ” I beg your pardon” and he said, “Yeah no outcome, now we got the Sunni and the Shia at each others throats not only in Syria but throughout the whole area to the degree that they’re killing off each other, we’re relatively safe, so, no outcome please”, now why do I mention that?
I mention that because Bashar al-Assads forces were starting to win. They drove the rebels out of chief rebel territory in July and August of last year and so there was a lot of incentive for the neoconservatives in our country, Kerry among them who really have trouble distinguishing between the strategic needs of Israel as Israel sees it, and the strategic needs of the United States. They saw a big incentive to get in there with both feet militarily so Bashar al-Assad wouldn’t continue to win and the thing would go on forever.
Now once the US is in Scott, as much as the rebels are ultimately opposed to the United States well, we can always churn up you know special forces squads and all, and can keep this thing going for years and I think that is what the Israeli’s and the neoconservatives, including John Kerry were aiming for pure and simple.
SH: And then so now let’s go back to your reporting, the VIPS reporting here, Obama Warned On Syrian Intel atÂ www.consortiumnews.com, from last September the 6th (2013), where you talk about plotting going on inside Turkey. Now one thing that you have in here that Seymour Hersh certainly doesn’t write about is Americans I think you say John Brennan’s men, in Turkey as part of this conspiracy or to what degree as part of this conspiracy to arm up al-Nusra with sarin?
RM: Well Scott you always have to keep in touch with people, no matter how reprobate they are and that’s the CIA operatives’ job. So the notion that there were CIA operatives with the folks among the rebels, the various rebel groups, and that they were aware that this was going to happen and actually were in some kind of control of the warehouses where all these weapons were stored doesn’t surprise me in the least.
They’re taking orders from John Brennan. John Brennan was in with John Kerry like two peas in a pod in trying to launch this war. We know that because our friends within the CIA told us that. So these people are keeping a watchful eye on what is going on. They’re reporting back to Brennan okay and they think they’re making him happy.
It was the people on the other side of the CIA, the analysis division who came through and said, “No, we’re not going to do this stuff anymore, we’re not going to dove tail the evidence, we’re not even going to do a statement for you because we’ll never satisfy you”, and that’s why, as you’ve correctly pointed out, we had sui generis, a new genre of report that was not an intelligence assessment, it was a quote ‘government assessment’ end quote, and we smelled a rat right away.
SH: Right, yeah, I mean I’m surprised they even tried that one really. I guess they had to come up with something in a hurry and it would be good enough for MSNBC and FOX so why not I guess?
RM: Sure, and Kerry was dead-set in doing this. I have to say that next week I mark my 52nd year in Washington, I’ve seen a lot of change but I had never seen a situation set up this way, where Kerry 35 times at the state department on the afternoon of August 30 last year (2013) says, “we know it was Bashar al-Assad, we know” okay, and “we know that this president has a red line and so we know we are going to have to retaliate” and everyone is talking about these cruise missile ships that we have in theÂ Mediterranean and within 22 hours the president gets up in the rose garden and says “the chairman of the joint chiefs has told me that we’re in position to strike Syria, but we don’t have to do it today, we don’t have toÂ Â do it tomorrow or next week or next month and so I’m going to ask for congressional authorization to do this”.
Wow. I was outside the White House at the time, we were shouting “Hands off Syria” right. We were incredibly surprised and reall,y really happy about that. Now why did that happen? Because General Dempsey was in receipt of this honest assessment from the British that that Sarin was not from Syrian government stocks okay.
And our guys in the CIA were protesting that they weren’t going to fool around with the intelligence anymore and there would be hell to pay if they started a war, and our analysts decided to seek an opportunity to tell the real story.
So the president, to his credit I suppose changed his mind within 22 hours. Now, what did that mean? That meant that he had to call the Israeli’s, or have somebody call them and say, “look we’re not going to do it, you can relax your defenses” and then he had to call the french, you know, “turn off the engines on your fighter bombers that you have on the tarmac, we’re not going to do it”, now that took a lot of guts and who helped him out on that? Did John Kerry? No way.
John Kerry is in Europe and he’s coming back and somebody asked him at a press conference, “now secretary Kerry, is there nothing at all the Bashar al-Assad can do to avoid being hit militarily by the United States forces”? and Kerry says, “Well, he can give up all his chemical weapons but that’s not going to happen, he’s not going to do that” (laughs). Two hours later when Kerry’s in a plane going back to Washington Lavrov, Sergay Lavrov the RussianÂ foreign minister gets up and says,“I think the Syrians are willing to destroy all their chemical weapons” and sure enough the Syrian foreign minister gets up two hours later and said “yeah we’ll do that”, who bails the president out? Vladimir Putin.
And its clear, and I see that Si includes this, that Putin and Obama had been talking about all this behind Kerry’s back trying to work this thing out with the chemical weapons, and by the time they made this agreement they had working groups already working on it and so it was concluded in record time – within 3 days they had this agreement and then you know the rest of the story: no war, the chemical weapons destroyed, Putin saving the president.
Now as you probably remember Scott, I come from the Bronx and we used to watch Gene Autry movies all the time right? And you know he would get in trouble with the Indians, they used to have real, the terrible things they do to Gene Autry, and one time this commentator was sayin, ” you know here’s another film and these Indians they hate Gene Autry so muchÂ they hate him from another picture, they hate him from the movie last year” (laughter).
That is how the neocons hate Vladimir Putin. He bailed out our president. They didn’t get their war. And that explains in large measure why they want to create this distrust, this animosity between Moscow and Washington which we haven’t seen the like of for many decades, that is why, even as they failed in Ukraine which they did, as a consolation prize is this enmity that they have sown between Putin and everybody else. Putin “no shirt on bad, bad Putin, no shirt, rides horseback, bad bad Putin” (laughter) It’s ridiculous.
SH: Here is the thing, I just take itÂ for granted actually at this point that that could really hamper and will probably really hamper any effort of the Americans to work with the Russians to try to end the violence, like you said they don’t really want that anyway and if the pressure was ever on them to do it this could really help sabotage it, I’d put money on it, that the war in Syria, that America and Russia will not see eye to eye on Syria and really resolve the fighting there any time soon and partially because of this.
So my real question then is what about the Iran nuclear deal? I mean the center most at leastÂ to the majority of the American establishment, they were really behind Obama on this and they really do want to have a final nuclear deal, and it ain’t the Russians making the Iranians do this anyway right? And so do you think that this will really be a problem with the upcoming nuclear deal?
RM: I don’t Scott. I don’t see Russian interest diverging very much from American interests on this. Okay it might be the first time but Obama is showing some backbone on this one y’know, so let’s give him a break and say well ‘maybe he has got enough backbone to see this thing through’, he certainly has pretty adroitly arranged the forces in Washington so that congress isn’t breathing down his neck too much on sabotaging these things, but their potential for sabotage is great and so is the Israeli potential for sabotage on this and the first time this was all going to be worked out at the end of Obama’s first year in office – October 2009, there was an attack on revolutionary guard generals in southern Iran, killed five of them okay?
By what group? Well it was a group called Jundallah who has been sort of set up financed by the Israeli’s, by the US, and how did they get that expert intelligence to kill five revolutionary guards generals in this outpost? Well I don’t know how they got it, but they screwed up the talks.
Those talks were supposed to start the next day in Vienna and the revolutionary guard guys went to the supreme leader to whom they report and said, Hey, you’re going to deal with these perfidious Americans when they and their friends the Israelis just took out five of our generals?’ …and that but the kibosh on that thing for a whole year until it was resurrected by the Brazilians and the Turks and they had a deal and that was scuttled by Hilary Clinton …
SH: Well we came to find out later that it was Jundallah at least that time around, if not back in the Bush years, at least that time around, Jundallah had been hired by Massad posing as CIA, or did you ever confirm that story fromÂ www.foreignpolicy.com?
RM: Well, I don’t have, I didn’t take the trouble to try and confirm that with my friends but it is entirely plausible.
SH: Yeah that was …
RM: So, all I’m saying here is that there are all kinds of ways to derail this thing, I think Putin is not going to be the guy to derail it.
SH: It’s funny that those of us who know that Iran’s nuclear program is nothing to worry about are the ones most obsessed with getting this nuclear deal. Just because we want this red herring out of the way and hopefully start forging a peaceful relationship, but I hate to make it sound like it is really an emergency but something needs to be done ….
RM: Yeah, on its face Scott, what we’re saying is, “We’re not going to deal with you Iranians until you stop working on that nuclear weapons program that we know you stopped working on ten years ago, so you better stop it” (laughs), oh my God you know?
SH: The one that as Gareth Porter has shown in his book never existed ten years ago or twenty either.
RM: Yeah, that’s a great book The Manufactured Crisis and it’s an incredibly apt title – purely manufactured, it’s quite remarkable how if you read The New York Times and The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, you never ever see the notion that the US intelligence committee at the end of 2007 said that Iran stopped working on a nuclear weapon at the end of 2003, and if my arithmetic is correct that’s more than ten years ago.
SH: Yeah, that’s the worst case scenario. That they haven’t worked on it since then. Alright, you know what, we’re already pretty much out of time, I know you have to go a little bit early so I’ll let you go and thank you very much for your time on the show today Ray.
RM: You’re most welcome Scott.