CIA veteran blasts Bush over torture, Iraq and Iran

After 27 years as an analyst with the Central Intelligence Agency, Ray McGovern is now one of the most vocal critics of the government he once served. A founder member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, or VIPS, McGovern is highly critical of the way the Bush administration manipulated or fabricated intelligence to justify its war on Iraq.

McGovern spoke to PressTV's Chris Gelken, on a range of issues, including the recent scandal over waterboarding.

CG: You are on record as saying you had no desire to be associated, however remotely, with an organisation that engaged in torture. You say the agency bowed to political pressure, who was responsible in the administration and the agency for giving the go-ahead for torture?

RM: Well that's really no secret. If you look at Richard Clarke for example, the head of the counter terrorism operation at the White House. He wrote that on the very evening of 9/11 the President convened his top national security advisers in the bunker under the White House and said to them, "We're at war. There are no restrictions. We will need to do what we have to do, and there will be nothing in the way here."

And when someone objected and said there is international law that applies to attacking a country, for example like Iraq, the president turned on him and shouted, "I don't care what the international lawyers say, we're going to kick some ass."

That set the tone and the torture followed very quickly after. Actually the first person tortured was an American citizen, John Walker Lindh, who was captured in Afghanistan and was subjected to very harsh treatment.

CG: You have called for the impeachment of George Bush - on what grounds exactly, and what prospects to you see for impeachment in the final eleven months of his presidency?

RM: We are strong devotees of the Constitution of the United States. The people who drafted that document had a very foresighted view, given that human nature was at work here.

I think they would be surprised that it took 240 years before a President started acting like a King.

You see, they were used to the King experience in England, and they were hell-bent and determined that this would not happen here in this country. So they made a provision in this basic document that were a President to start acting like a King, were he to accrue powers that were not due him, were he to diss the Congress, then there would be an orderly process to remove that President and its called impeachment.

The clause that pertains here says that the President or the Vice President shall be removed from office upon impeachment for and conviction of high crimes and misdemeanours.

It would be hard for me in five minutes to detail all the high crimes and misdemeanours, but let's just take one, one that I feel very close to, and that is the deliberate falsification, the deliberate forgery, the deliberate manufacture of intelligence to "justify" an unjustifiable war of aggression.

That's what we had with respect to Iraq, and its very clear in retrospect that the President knew exactly what he was doing.

If you add to that the torture, the warrant less eavesdropping, and a whole string of other abuses you have quite enough to impeach the President and the Vice President.

The problem is there is a political season here and the opposition party, the Democrats, are reluctant to cause any waves. The President's polling numbers are very low, the Vice President's are even lower, and their political advisers are telling them don't make any waves now, just hang on there, don't do anything for eleven months now, and we'll have a sweeping victory in November, then we can do what we want.

That is not what the Constitution says, that is not what will get our troops out of Iraq, it is really a cave in to political manoeuvring rather than doing the proper thing in conscience. They should impeach the President, and they could easily do it.

They say there's not enough time, but you don't need a lot of time when you have the evidence that we have against President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Its a matter of political will and the people in charge now don't have that political will. They are more cowardly than determined to protect the Constitution.

CG: You have accused the Bush administration of manipulating or fabricating intelligence before the War in Iraq. Why didn't more people in the agency "come out" if you will and publicly denounce the administration for going to war - as you have said for oil, Israel and logistics - that is permanent bases in the middle east?

RM: It is very difficult to do that, and the tone set by the Director, George Tenet, was very mischievous. He was the worst example of an intelligence officer that I can imagine. He saw it as his duty to help the President do whatever the President wanted. And when you set that tone at the highest level its very difficult for people at lower levels to speak out and say "this isn't right, we shouldn't be doing it."

There still should be some who do that, but it didn't happen.

Now, the good news is, there have been at least four National Intelligence Estimates that have told the truth. They have been rather courageous in telling the truth. For example the most recent one which said that according to our analysts Iran stopped its nuclear weapons related program four years ago and as far as we can tell, has not restarted it.

Why is that courageous? Because Dick Cheney and George Bush himself were saying just the opposite in the months prior to the release of that estimate.

So there is a lot of hope that there are good people left in the intelligence community, and that not only are they inclined to tell the truth, but some of their superiors are making sure that the truth does get out.

CG: You've said Israel should not be considered an ally of the United States - and critical discussion of Israel comes with the risk of being tagged an anti-Semite. Just how strong is the Israeli lobby in the United States - and who is doing whose bidding?

RM: Well, it is very difficult to sort it all out, but it is very clear that the state of Israel has inordinate influence over our body politic. There is nothing that can happen in our country that is not conditioned by the worry about the reaction of the Israel lobby. This is just a fact of life here. It is a matter of courage to speak out and say that this doesn't make sense. It doesn't make sense for Israeli interests over the long term.

CG: Last August I believe you published an article that asked the pertinent question: Do we have the courage to stop a war with Iran? Well, does the American public and military have the courage?

RM: I think the National Intelligence Estimate that says that Iran does not have an active nuclear weapons program helps, but I count on the senior military, Admiral Fallon and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who have been responsible, so far, in my view in preventing the President and the Vice President from doing what they want to do, and actually what they have promised the state of Israeli they would do, and that is deal with the Iranian nuclear problem.

CG: Is George Bush losing control of the military, are they acting in a way to protect the best interests of the United States and not the Commander in Chief?

I think this time they have insisted on sitting down with the President and saying we can do this, but look what will happen on week one. look what will happen on month two, look what we can expect in terms of retaliation three months down the road. That is very scary because it is not like the situation in Iraq. And I think the President is chastened by his experience in Iraq and has had to listen to the senior military on this one and I hope he continues to listen.

* The above interview was conducted by the author and first broadcast on PressTV News on February 9, 2008.