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Democracy at the Point of a Gun/: CIA Analyst Ray McGovern
"I’m visualizing Osama bin Laden in his cave, rubbing his hands in delight at the success of his strategy,” Ray McGovern says.

For 27 years — from JFK to George H.W. Bush — McGovern worked as a CIA analyst, chairing National Intelligence Estimates and preparing the president’s Daily Brief. He’s now co-director of Servant Leadership School in Washington, D.C., an inner-city school that provides training and other support for the poor, and a member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, a group of 35 former professionals from the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Army Intelligence, the FBI, and the National Security Agency.

“Osama wanted what he considered to be the arch imperialistic country — the United States — to invade a Muslim country for demonstrably economic reasons, namely oil,” McGovern continued. “The scenario was entirely predictable: The US would set up military bases there. After a while, the invasion would be reduced to house-to-house fighting in major cities. This is what has happened. Now, there is no convenient way out for America. Osama couldn’t have done better if he had planned it exactly this way.”

Osama must have known the character of his adversary — that the U.S. military's overt presence in a Muslim country would eventually lead to protests. He must have been satisfied on April 28, 2003, when U.S. soldiers fired on Iraqis at a pro-Saddam demonstration outside an elementary school in Fallujah, killing 15 people and wounded 75 others.

“That was handled cruelly,” McGovern says. “That didn’t help the equation. It was only a matter of time before the Iraqis — and there are 25 million of them, mind you — would take up arms literally… and now many of them have. It really is the worst possible mess that you can imagine. With the war in Iraq, the attention is diverted from bin Laden and the terrorism that he and his pals orchestrate.”

Osama’s got cover, thanks to Bush. He’s got his holy war, thanks to Bush. And he’s celebrating, thanks to Bush.

I download reports out of Fallujah while McGovern awaits my next question. Mike Kaspar and I phoned him from KUCI where our Weekly Signals radio show originates.

Military patrols enter the Fallujah’s outer suburbs on reconnaissance missions. There’s fire. Return fire.

Bush continues to insist that June 30 is the transition date for US occupation to self-rule in Iraq. That’s less than 3 months away. Will the administration hold to that deadline?

“There are some signs of slippage,” McGovern says. “Senator Lugar and others are suggesting the date be moved ahead. Of course, the date is entirely artificial. It has NOTHING to do with what’s going on in Iraq. It has EVERYTHING to do with the US presidential election in November. Bush clearly wanted to be out of Iraq before then. His advisors told him that our troops would be greeted by the Iraqis with cut flowers and open arms. It didn’t turn out that way. At that point, the administration thought they could force something. That didn’t work out, either."

As McGovern speaks, hundreds of US and Iraqi troops in tanks and armored vehicles surround Fallujah. There’s rioting. It looks like Osama’s going to be very happy again.

“We’re at a very crucial juncture here,” McGovern says. “We have people calling for an increase in troops. The question is whether the Bush administration will sink down into the Vietnam Morass Syndrome.”

According to McGovern, the first stage of Vietnam Morass Syndrome (VMS) is the deploying of just a few more troops so we can surround cities. Stage two: We bomb. Patients with full blown VMS are convinced that destroying all opposition is the best way to preserve a chance for democracy.

“It’s a slippery spiral and there doesn’t seem to be anyone around in a position of power and influence who was around for Vietnam. It’s so, so similar and the consequences are just as dire,” McGovern says.

While Osama must have learned from the Vietnam War, it’s apparent the Bush administration didn’t. 58,000 American troops returned home from Vietnam in body bags and 3 million Vietnamese perished. You would think that a FUBAR operation of that magnitude would leave a lasting impression. Alas, no. And Osama knew it. He counted on the upper-class arrogance of the Bush family for his success. But what about Bush’s advisors? Didn’t they see that they were playing into Osama’s hand?

“The bottom line is that the Perle’s and the Wolfowitz’s and the Rumsfeld’s and Feith’s who are responsible for this mess didn’t have a clue as to what they would do right after the war. They knew that initially we could prevail militarily. They thought that would be enough. Now, they don’t have a clue as to how to repair the damage. We need to get rid of these amateurs and get in some people who know about the Middle East.”

Is there a chance that free elections in Iraq will allow the Bush administration to recover?

Pat Roberts, the Republican senator from Kansas and head of the Senate Intelligence Committee made a very revealing statement two weeks ago. He said, ‘We can’t just let the Shiites run away with these elections.’ He said that in public. There’s the mindset.”

Osama must have had a good laugh at that one. What a hoot! To protect Iraq from a democratically elected Shiite, Bush could send Karl Rove to Baghdad to manage the campaign. If the election was too close to call, they could always rely on an Iraqi Supreme Court to appoint the president. I wonder, is there any way the Bush administration could persuade the Iraqis to vote for a candidate that would please Pat Roberts?

“The transition government has little credibility with the people at large in Iraq,” McGovern said. “That’s the supreme irony. Anything that was put together by the Americans will be ipso facto anathema once the transfer of power is done.”

Let’s turn back the clock to pre-shock and awe times. What could we have done differently to bring democracy to Iraq?

“Iraq was the most secular country in the Middle East. If the US had been a little more patient and waited for Saddam to fall under his own weight, Iraq would have been ripe for democracy. But democracy doesn’t come in on the point of a gun.”

It seems like the best way to stop Osama from celebrating is to defeat Bush at the polls in November. Then the Perle’s and the Wolfowitz’s and the Rumsfeld’s and the Feith’s would have to find work elsewhere. Is there a chance that the major media outlets will bring some sanity to the debate on this so-called War on Terror?

“The sea change in the body politic since Vietnam is the media,” McGovern says. “The media is now controlled by a PR machine in the White House that is, I would say, diabolically clever. The challenge is, are WE not clever enough? Are WE not up to it? Are WE not able to figure out imaginative ways to use the Internet and everything else at our disposal to get the truth out? I’m sure we are.”

— Nathan Callahan, April 8, 2004


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