President-elect's Queries to Briefers
By Ray McGovern
originally published November 7, 2008 in Consortiumnews.com
After a week lecturing at Kansas State University and then in Kansas City, Missouri, I could not shake the feeling that what Kansas and Missouri need most is the equivalent of Radio Free Europe, which was so effective in spreading truth around inside Eastern Europe during the Cold War.
(Truth in advertising: during the late Sixties, I served for two years as substantive liaison officer between the RFE and Washington.)
So I was amused while still in Kansas to get a call from Mike Caddell of “Radio Free Kansas” asking me for an interview. Broadcasting from rural northeastern Kansas, Caddell does his own part in spreading truth around.
Most of his fellow Kansans are malnourished by a steady diet of extreme right-wing media gruel that helps re-elect folks like see-no-evil Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, who did Bush’s bidding in “justifying” Bush’s attack on Iraq when Roberts headed the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Caddell called me on Thursday, expressing excitement at the beginning of daily intelligence briefings of President-elect Barack Obama by the CIA.
Aware that I helped prepare the President’s Daily Brief for Presidents Nixon and Ford, and that I conducted one-on-one PDB briefings of Reagan’s most senior advisers during the latter’s administration, Caddell wanted me to tape a telephone interview to run on his show this weekend.
He asked what I would tell President-elect Barack Obama if I were Mike Morell, the chief CIA analyst assigned to brief Obama daily.
What fun, I thought. On more sober reflection, it seemed more useful to prepare questions of the kind President-elect Obama might wish to ask Morell, since the briefings are supposed to be a two-way street.
Obama is no shrinking violet. Just the same, it may be useful to warn him not to succumb to the particular brand of “shock and awe” that can be induced by ostensibly sexy intelligence to color reactions of briefees, including presidents. I have seen it happen.
The president-elect needs to start asking hard questions. Now. Here are some he might want to select for his next briefing:
1. The lead story in Friday’s New York Times undercuts the claims of Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili that he was acting in self-defense when he ordered his troops to fire artillery and rockets at the city of Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia. The new information comes from international monitors of the highly respected Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and, oddly, is much closer to the Russian version of what happened.
Task: A two-page memo on who started the fighting and why? Deadline: Monday
2. A National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) produced last November concluded that Iran’s work on the nuclear-weapons part of its nuclear development program was suspended in mid-2003. National Intelligence Council director Thomas Fingar repeated that judgment publicly on Sept. 4, 2008.
I want to know how that squares — or doesn’t — with the claim by neoconservative icon Norman Podhoretz, just hours after the NIE’s key judgments were made public, that Iran is “hell-bent on developing nuclear weapons,” and why Podhoretz would go on to charge that the intelligence community was trying to “undermine George W. Bush.” I notice, incidentally, that Defense Secretary Robert Gates has parroted Podhoretz’s “hell-bent” phraseology, and that your boss, CIA Director Michael Hayden, has also publicly volunteered his “personal opinion” that this is so.
Task: A memo updating the judgments of the Nov. 07 NIE, as necessary. Deadline: Nov. 14
3. My aides have been telling me that, when speaking of the recent decrease in violence in Iraq, I have been mis-overestimating, so to speak, the success of the surge while mis-underestimating factors like the sectarian cleansing in Baghdad, the decision to pay Sunnis not to shoot at U.S. forces, and the decision of Muqtada al-Sadr to hold Shia fire pending the withdrawal of U.S. forces, which the Shia see as just a matter of time.
Task: A memo ranking the reasons for the downturn in violence in order of relative importance. It should address all these factors; it should also explain why the U.S. has several thousand more troops in Iraq now than were there before the surge came and went. Deadline: Nov. 19
4. Confusion reigns with respect to what is likely to happen when U. S. forces withdraw from Iraq. That administration officials and U.S. Army generals know better what to expect than the Iraqis themselves strains credulity. It has become increasingly clear that the Iraqi government and people believe they themselves can handle whatever comes once we depart, and that they consider the large U.S. troop presence part of the problem, not the solution.
Task: A memo addressing why the Iraqis are more relaxed about a U.S. troop withdrawal than most U.S. officials and pundits. Deadline: Nov. 21
5. No outsiders have been able to prevail in Afghanistan. What makes us think the U.S. can, no matter how many troops it chooses to recruit and insert?
Task: A formal National Intelligence Estimate on prospects for Afghanistan. Deadline: Jan. 9, 2009
6. Nuclear nonproliferation: The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently proposed a nuclear-free zone as the best way to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East. I want to know why this proposal never gets off the ground. What are the obstacles?
Task: A memo addressing this in historical perspective. Deadline: Nov. 26
7. Peak Oil: the juncture at which demand keeps growing sharply while supply stagnates/recedes. Some say we are already there. What does the intelligence community think? Related question: Is it likely that China, India and other key countries regard the invasion of Iraq as the first resource war of the 21st Century?
Task: A memorandum addressing these questions. Deadline: Dec. 1
8. My advisers tell me that senior intelligence officials, including the principal deputy to National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell, have been briefing the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a creature of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
Task: Please ask McConnell to let my staff know what other policy advocacy institutes his subordinates have briefed. Deadline: Nov. 10
9. Mike, one of my aides has read carefully through the memoir of your former boss, ex-CIA director George Tenet, who speaks very highly of you. The reader gets the clear impression you were one of his protégés; he appointed you personal briefer to President George W. Bush.
Now two questions for you, Mike:
(1) Tenet told his British counterpart, Sir Richard Dearlove, on July 20, 2002, that the “intelligence was being fixed around the policy” of invading Iraq to bring “regime change” there. (I refer, of course, to the so-called “Downing Street Minutes” of Dearlove’s briefing of British Prime Minister Tony Blair on July 23, 2002.) Did you know, Mike, the intelligence was being “fixed?”
(2) Tenet also says in his memoirs that you “coordinated the CIA review” of Colin Powell’s speech at the U.N. on Feb. 5, 2003. Your comment?
Nothing personal, Mike. But with all due respect, you will be able to understand why I would like to start with a fresh slate. Please inform your management that I would prefer a briefer untainted by the intelligence fiasco regarding Iraq. Add that I am offended that they would send me someone so closely associated with George Tenet, the consummate “fixer” of intelligence.
And please do not forget to pass along to your successor the requests I have made.
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, publications outreach of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. His career as a CIA analyst spanned seven administrations, and included responsibility for chairing NIEs. He is now a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
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What a great read! Those last two questions are real mind-blowers. They're so far removed from the typical pablum I see in the MSM. Imagine, actually learning from recent history in real-time; what a novel approach in Bush's Bizarro America.
Mr. McGovern, you mention something of very great concern to me, a Zen poet and (non-matriculating) grad student of research psychology (U. of Washington, 1989; Western Washington University, '89-95; Skagit Valley College, 2003 Phi Kappa Theta): "the particular brand of "shock and awe" that can be induced by ostensibly sexy intelligence to color reactions of briefees, including presidents. I have seen it happen."
Could you elaborate? Is this an "up close and personal" application of the Bush-APA Torture Doctrine of isolation and psycho-spiritual attacks?
Liddy Dole's infamous "godless" ad is a contemporary case in point. Namoi Klein revealed an earlier, prototypical example:
"And so, the Chicago Boys were born. And it was considered a success, and the Ford Foundation got in on the funding. And hundreds and hundreds of Latin American students, on full scholarships, came to the University of Chicago in the 1950s and '60s to study here to try to engage in what Juan Gabriel Valdes, Chile's foreign minister after the dictatorship finally ended, described as a project of deliberate ideological transfer, taking these extreme-right ideas, that were seen as marginal even in the United States, and transplanting them to Latin America. That was his phrase--that is his phrase."
Was this also McCarthy's method? Wasn't this the McCain/Palin campaign's strategy? It was a series of attacks on Obama's patriotism and faith, all of them lies.
I call it myth-jacking, and I say it's our new and improved Goering method of manufacturing consent to jack to hell whole nations at a time--or just one voting bloc--and then stick them with the bill.
Psychology and advertising aka "Public Relations," aka the manufacture of consent, are a terrible twosome. We invented ways of jacking whole nations to hell--or just one voting bloc at a time--and then sticking them with the bill.
The most successful--and therefore, infamous--practitioners of this method were Paul Joseph Goebbels and his minions. "Goebbels was known for his zealous, energetic oratory, and venomous anti-Semitism; he is held responsible for Kristallnacht by many historians (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Goebbels). Hermann Goering announced it in 1934:
"The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country." http://www.democracynow.org/2008/3/25/body_of_war_new_doc_tells
German rocket science wasn't the only thing we imported after WWII. As I said, this was obviously Liddy Dole's and McCarthy's method. And, it's clear to me, it's Rove's method, too.
Am I seeing things, or is someone using black psy ops on us?
"We imported fascism," Gore Vidal says in a The Real News clip I found right here on this site (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZoLd7OLg53s).
So why doesn't anybody else point out this obvious fact? Why say things like Mr. Parry did, in his recent article (http://www.consortiumnews.com/2008/110208.html): "Since mid-summer, the McCain campaign has devolved into silly arguments mixed with guilt-by-association smears:...."?
Why not call it as it is: our new and improved method for manufacturing consent? And why not KEEP CALLING IT THAT?
Hasn't this been the MO of the far-right GOP since McCarthy? Were Democrats making use of the power of myth, too, with "Camelot on the Potomac"?
Joseph Campbell began lecturing at the State Department's Foreign Services Institute in 1957. He brags of it in a lecture (which I'm still trying to pin down) saying, "The State Department is an association of very learn-ed gentlemen. They Know What To Do."
Campbell later supported the Vietnam war. He had nothing but disdain for the anti-war movement. He uses many examples of the heroism of our servicemen (one of whom, on the USS Kitty Hawk, was my father; thankfully he came home alive, but not the same). I've never heard or read him saying the same of his opponents. He even made disdainful remarks about Rev. King, saying that his self-identification as a particular type of man, instead of a universal one, showed his immaturity.
(Lest anyone think this is a hit piece on him, I hasten to point out that, as a poet, I revere Campbell's works. I met his widow, Jean Erdman Campbell, 4 years ago, at the centennial celebration of his birth, held at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA, during the 3rd week in March, my natal week. at which time it had been his tradition to lecture there for almost 40 years. I consider myself a Campbellian when it comes to comparative mythology.)
Why don't more journalists call this method what it so obviously is? My hunch is, as Americans, we conflate Christianity with all religions, Strangely, American journalists avoid religion like the plague when discussing domestic politics, yet they rarely fail to point out the sectarian affiliations of others.
But religion is only a subordinate function of mythology. A religion, as I'm sure you know, functions like a country club. Some are run as dominions of white male supremacy; others, far more charitably.
This leaves us wide open to getting jacked by one myth after another. Back in the day, it was the myth of the Domino Theory (Nicaraguans are set to invade us, claimed Reagan). In this campaign, we've seen the attempt to jack the election with one myth after another. Is it all of a piece? The inhuman methods of our torturers in the Philippines, most notably water-boarding, made their way home; have the methods we used in Gitmo and Abu Ghraib?
I'm not implying that every such attack by every politician is necessarily a genuine black psy op.
But the Pentagon did indeed deploy its Message Force Multiplier Program. So I don't think I'm being conspiratorial or paranoid, just critical.
I also asked this of your colleague, Mr. Parry. I'd greatly appreciate it if either of you could relieve me of this deeply troubling perplexity.
Fri Nov 07, 04:41:00 PM 2008