[THS] !!!!!! Ray McGovern: A Neocon Preps US for War with Iran
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Sat Aug 14 13:07:38 CEST 2010
A Neocon Preps US for War with Iran
By Ray McGovern
August 13, 2010 "Information Clearing House" -- I guess I was naïve in thinking that
The Atlantic and its American-Israeli writer Jeffrey Goldberg might shy away from
arguing for yet another war this one with Iran while the cauldrons are still
boiling in Afghanistan and Iraq.
[see THS item yesterday
or at ICH:
Its worth remembering how Goldberg helped to make the case for the U.S. invasion
of Iraq. For instance, on Oct. 3, 2002, as Americas war fever was building, Goldberg
wrote in Slate, the online magazine:
The [Bush] administration is planning
to launch what many people would
undoubtedly call a short-sighted and inexcusable act of aggression. In five years,
however, I believe that the coming invasion of Iraq will be remembered as an act of
Looking back on Goldbergs commentaries at the time, its also a reminder of how
many U.S. publications that are considered centrist or even liberal were bending over
backward to get in line with that coming invasion.
Even earlier, on March 25, 2002, Goldberg filled the pages of The New Yorker with a
mammoth 17,000-word story hyping Iraqi leader Saddam Husseins ties to terrorism
and glossing over the ambiguities regarding the gassing of civilians in the Kurdish city
of Halabja during the Iran-Iraq war.
Goldbergs magnum opus, entitled The Great Terror, earned him high marks from
other neocons and essentially made Goldbergs career. The story was also made to
order, so to speak, for President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
Presenting Goldberg with an award for the article, the Overseas Press Club saw fit to
note that former CIA director James Woolsey described the story as a blockbuster.
Woolsey, the self-described "anchor of the Presbyterian wing of JINSA (The Jewish
Institute for National Security Affairs), has been a strong advocate for the use of
force against any and all perceived enemies of Israel.
Woolsey also was the prime manufacturer and a key disseminator of bogus
intelligence on the Saddam-al-Qaeda connection. In The New Yorker article, while
exaggerating Iraqs links to terrorism, Goldberg quotes Woolsey complaining about
the CIAs alleged aversion to learning about Saddams ties to al-Qaeda.
It is a safe bet that Goldbergs prose under the subhead The Al-Qaeda Link was
inspired by Woolsey. But it gets worse; the detail in that section came mostly from a
drug dealer in a Kurdish prison, whom a British journalist, following upon Goldbergs
reporting, quickly determined to be a liar.
A Friendly Reception
Yet, not surprisingly, Goldberg emerged from his work prepping the PR ground for
the U.S. invasion of Iraq as a well-respected "journalist," so much so that he was
afforded deferential treatment when he made a tour of the cable TV news programs
this week promoting his new case for a new war, this time with Iran.
Goldberg had just produced a new magnum opus for another prestige journal, The
Atlantic, entitled The Point of No Return, explaining Israels case for bombing Iran
and the reasons why the United States should join in.
On Wednesday, Goldberg swatted away softball questions from MSNBC anchor
Andrea Mitchell, who joined in a friendly chat about whether the U.S. or Israel or
both should opt for what Mitchell described as a military response to the Iranian
nuclear threat, and when.
Goldberg claimed that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu sees the challenge from Iran
as being on a par with the Holocaust, believing that Iran is bent on the destruction of
Israel with its 6 million people.
Are you persuaded that Israel would take action against Iran unilaterally? asked
Mitchell. Yes, I am; I am, Goldberg responded.
Goldberg added that he believes that President Barack Obama is not prepared to live
with a nuclear Iran but that it remains an open question whether he would take
military action to prevent that eventuality. Goldberg said Obama probably would
And that being the case, Goldberg thought Netanyahu would be inclined to unleash
Israeli forces unilaterally and absorb any damage this might do to bilateral relations
At the end of the Mitchell interview, she lofted what appeared to be a canned
question and, in response, Goldberg seemed downright eager to share what he
called a secret, as he put it.
Mitchell asked when Obama planned to visit Israel. Goldberg, however, expressed a
concern: The Israelis are worried about Obama coming; they dont want him to be
boo-ed wherever he goes; thats the last thing they need. Obama is not popular in
Israel in the way Bush and Clinton were.
The unmistakable message: An Obama tour of Israel could be an ugly affair.
Chatting with Wolf
Goldberg walked through a similar discussion on the merits of war when he appeared
on CNN, a guest of Wolf Blitzers The Situation Room.
Goldberg: The question is what can the Obama administration do to stop the
Iranians from pursuing the nuclear program
it seems unlikely to me at this point
that Iran is simply going to say, because President Obama asks, you know, were
going to end our nuclear program.
Blitzer: You have concluded that an Israeli air strike against Irans nuclear facilities is
in your word a near certainty?
Goldberg: Well, its a near certainty, in the long term, but even in the next year I
give it a 50 percent or better chance. Next year, meaning by next July.
Not that it probably would have mattered, but someone probably should have told
Andrea Mitchell and Wolf Blitzer that more skeptical observers have described
Goldbergs previous journalism in very unflattering terms.
One critic deemed Goldbergs pre-Iraq War reporting for The New Yorker as a
journalism-school nightmare: bad sources, compromised sources, unacknowledged
with alarmist rhetoric that is now either laughable or nauseating,
depending on your mood.
For instance, the fact that many civilians were gassed as Iraqi and Iranian forces
clashed on March 16, 1988, in the area of Halabja, just barely inside Iraqs border
with Iran, is beyond dispute.
However, what is not clear is the blockbuster charge that it was the Iraqis, rather
than the Iranians, who used the deadly chemical warfare agents. The U.S.
government has pointed the finger in both directions, often depending on which side
of the conflict Washington was tilting toward.
A joint CIA and Defense Intelligence assessment focused in on the blood agents
(cyanogen chloride) deemed responsible for most of the deaths in Halabja and
determined that the Iraqis had no history of using those particular agents, but that
the Iranians did.
That particular CIA-DIA report concluded that, despite the conventional wisdom, the
Iranians perpetrated this attack.
Dr. Stephen Pelletiere, a senior CIA analyst on Iraq during its war with Iran, told
Roger Trilling of the Village Voice that he is one among many who believe that
Goldbergs account of the killings at Halabja was wrong and that the issue was far
Pelletiere said: We say Saddam is a monster, a maniac who gassed his own people,
and the world shouldnt tolerate him. But why? Because thats the last argument the
U.S. has for going to war with Iraq.
It may well have been the most emotionally riveting argument, I suppose.
Debunking the Junk
But what about Iraqs alleged WMDs and supposed ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda?
Goldberg made an attempt to include those canards as well, focusing mostly on
chemical and biological warfare agents. (He left to the New York Times Judith Miller,
who was later fired, and Michael Gordon, who is still chief military correspondent, to
do the heavy lifting for the lies about Iraqs supposed nuclear weapons.)
A final story about Jeffrey Goldbergs pre-Iraq-invasion stories: Just a week before
Congress bowed to Bushs request for war authorization against Iraq, Goldberg was
writing in Slate about the dangers of aflatoxin, which he had cited 15 times in his
New Yorker article.
Aflatoxin does only one thing well, Goldberg wrote. It causes liver cancer. In fact,
it induces it particularly well in children.
However, Goldbergs obsession with aflatoxin didnt stand up too well after the
U.S.-led invasion found no evidence that Iraq still had bio-weapons stockpiles.
Regarding aflatoxin, Charles Duelfer, the Bush administrations chief weapons
inspector in Iraq, concluded that there was no evidence to link those tests [of
aflatoxin] with the development of biological weapons agents for military use.
Ken Silverstein of Harpers, among the more serious journalists who have had
macabre fun critiquing Goldbergs contribution to the Iraq War effort, wrote
Goldbergs War, one of the best critiques.
[ http://www.harpers.org/archive/2006/06/sb-goldbergs-war-1151687978 ]
Whatever Saddams regime intended to do with the aflatoxin
it did not involve
wholescale tot-slaughter. But it seems to me that Goldberg was out to prove that
Saddam was singularly evil a man who would kill kids using cancer, no doubt
cackling with glee as he watched them expire because the American public might
be less willing to support a war if he was merely an evil dictator, which are a dime a
But who is Jeffrey Goldberg and how did he achieve such influence, helping to create
the false conventional wisdom that sleep-walked the American people into war with
Iraq and is now pointing toward a new war with Iran.
For a 44-year-old writer, Goldberg surely has been around. He left college to move to
Israel where he served with the Israeli army as a prison guard at the Ketziot military
prison camp during the First Intifada; he also wrote for The Jerusalem Post.
Upon his return to the U.S., he worked for the Jewish daily Forward and eventually
got hired by The New Yorker. Now, hes a star writer for The Atlantic.
Pitching for War
Goldbergs mission this time? Pitching war with Iran.
This time, Goldberg and the Israelis want us to buy into a syllogism without a valid
major premise. Their argument presupposes that Iran has made the decision to
develop nuclear weapons and is hard at work on such a program, which is what they
want Americans to believe whether theres evidence or not.
The Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) and the neocons who brought us the war on
Iraq, and occasionally the President himself, speak as though Iran has restarted work
on the nuclear weapons part of their nuclear energy program.
This internal government debate (and the external propaganda) is a replay of three
years ago, when the FCM succeeded in convincing most Americans that Iran either
had nuclear weapons or was on the verge of getting them.
President Bush and Vice President Cheney were out in front hyping the danger,
whipping the American people into another war frenzy -- when an honest National
Intelligence Estimate stopped them in their tracks.
Two things saved the day: integrity and fear.
Integrity on the part of analysts who, after the corruption before the Iraq War, were
able to revert to the tell-it-like-it-is-without-fear-or-favor ethos that obtained during
my 27 years as a CIA analyst; and fear on the part of the senior U.S. military that
Cheney and Bush were about to order them to commit U.S. forces to war with Iran.
The integrity played out during work on a congressionally mandated National
Intelligence Estimate that it took almost all of 2007 to complete. Most of those
intelligence officials who had fixed the intelligence on Iraq had been given the
New leadership was installed under the direction of a non-corruptible Director of the
National Intelligence Council, Tom Fingar, from the State Department.
Under Fingar, intelligence analysts rose to the occasion on the delicate issue of Irans
nuclear development program by performing a bottom-up assessment. There would
be no fixing of intelligence around the policy. Main question: Had Iran decided to
go for the bomb?
The NIEs first sentence conveyed the unanimous conclusion of all 16 U.S.
intelligence agencies: We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran
halted its nuclear weapons program; we also assess with moderate-to-high
confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear
Fearing Another War
Fear now came into play and, for once, played a salutary role. Fear is simply a by-
product of a sane appraisal of what war with Iran would mean. The senior U.S.
military had enough good sense to be afraid and saw the NIE as an opportunity to
stop the juggernaut toward war.
And so, they and those in Congress who had commissioned the NIE insisted that its
key judgments be declassified and made public, despite reluctance on the part of the
Director of National Intelligence to do so.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and CENTCOM commander William Fox
Fallon had been living in fear of a Cheney-inspired order to commit U.S. forces to war
with Iran. Fallon actually had told retired Col. Patrick Lang, a few months before
Fallon was cashiered, We are not going to do Iran on my watch.
Fear? Yes, fear an altogether sensible reaction. No commander worth his salt looks
with equanimity at the prospect of being on the receiving end of an order that could
decimate his troops and lead to a wider war for which his forces would not be
On a more personal basis, no commander wants to be faced with a choice between
having to resign on principle on the one hand and carrying out an order he knows to
be fatefully misguided on the other.
Good sense prevailed, over Cheneys strong objections and Bush sent Mullen to Israel
in June 2008 with instructions to warn the Israelis in no uncertain terms not to
provoke war with Iran with any expectation that the U.S. would pull their chestnuts
out of the fire.
Fast forward to the present. Where is Iran now in its nuclear program?
When an important National Intelligence Estimate needs updating, the art form often
chosen is what is called a Memorandum to Holders in the case at hand, holders
of the original NIE of November 2007.
Such a paper need not repeat the bottom-up research and analysis completed
immediately prior to November 2007; it simply requires a close look at evidence
acquired from the end of 2007 to the present to determine whether there is reason
to change the key judgments of three years ago.
Pressure to Rewrite?
We hear nothing from our sources about any substantial change over the past three
years. That is not what the Goldbergs and other neocons of this world want to hear,
and this presumably is why the Memorandum to Holders has been held up for
months and months. Not a good sign.
Authoritative statements for the record have been sparse but reassuring, inasmuch
as they seem to confirm the 2007 NIE's key judgments. Congressional testimony in
February by then-Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, and in April by the
Defense Intelligence Agency and the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs revealed no
Moreover, Blair consistently hewed to the 2007 judgment that Iran's eventual decision
on whether or not to build a nuclear weapon can still be influenced by "the
Scattered statements by other high officials, including President Obama, sometimes
convey a sense that Iran is again working toward a nuclear weapon, and the FCM
has been leaving hints left and right that this is the case.
Folks like Jeffrey Goldberg refer casually, but intentionally, to Irans pursuit of
The neocons seem to be as strong now as under George W. Bush, with their Real-
Men-Go-to-Tehran-type macho undiminished.
Can integrity trump macho this time? Without a strong man at the helm in the
intelligence community, it will be very difficult. And the administration let drop
months ago that this time the key judgments of the Memorandum to Holders will not
be made public.
Meanwhile, Goldberg and his neocon colleague flaks are trying to create as much
pressure as they can on Obama to produce a scarier Estimate
or to delay the one
in progress sine die.
The outlook would seem even bleaker were it not for the availability of WikiLeaks and
other non-FCM news outlets that would be ready and willing to publish documents
about what is actually going on behind the scenes.
It would seem a safe bet that there are enough folks with access to the
Memorandum to Holders drafts to recognize swiftly any attempt to corrupt honest
Some government officials will probably be able to recognize their own conscience,
their integrity and their oath to protect and defend the Constitution against all
enemies, foreign and domestic, as values that properly supersede other promises
like the promise not to release classified information that is a condition of
Those who are tempted to exaggerate the threat from Iran will, at least, have to take
into account how relatively easy it has become to evade the FCMs gatekeepers and
expose government dishonesty to the people.
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical
Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. During his 27-year career as a CIA
analyst, he chaired National Intelligence Estimates and prepared/briefed the
Presidents Daily Brief. He now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence
Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
This item was first published at ConsortiumNews.com
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