http://www.consortiumnews.com/2008/060308b.html Editor’s Note: Even into the sixth
year of war in Iraq – even as ex-White House press secretary Scott
McClellan admits the deceptions used to justify the invasion – the U.S.
news media still averts its eyes from the full ugliness of what
happened in 2002-03.
this story, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern notes the far greater
candor occurring in Australia -- and cites the earlier whistle-blowing
by members of the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS),
which he helped found:
Matilda is walzing home from Iraq, and the Australians are lucky but chastened.
for having lost not one soldier in combat of the 2,000 sent to join the
“coalition of the willing” attack on Iraq in March 2003.
because Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is now pulling no punches
in decrying the subservience of his predecessor, John Howard, to
withdrawal of the 550 Australian troops still in Iraq on Monday, Rudd
echoed recent charges by former White House spokesman Scott McClellan
about the Bush administration’s “shading” of intelligence to “justify”
an unnecessary war.
Parliament he was most concerned by “the manner in which the decision
to go to war was made; the abuse of intelligence information, a failure
to disclose to the Australian people the qualified nature of that
intelligence”; and the government’s silence on “the pre-war warning
that an attack on Iraq would increase the terrorist threat, not
government does not believe that our alliance with the United States
mandates automatic compliance with every element of the United States’
Rudd’s candor, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino fell back on the
canard that “the entire world” agreed on the threat posed by Saddam
Hussein. As President Lyndon Johnson would have put it, That dog won’t
If all agreed, why then
was President George W. Bush unable to secure the approval of the U.N.
Security Council, without which an armed attack on another country is
illegal under international and U.S. law?
“coalition of the willing” leaders not named Bush, only the faith-based
former British Prime Minister Tony Blair hangs on pathetically to the
notion that “everyone” believed Saddam Hussein had WMD.
is particularly odd since Blair acknowledges the authenticity of the
(in)famous Downing Street Memos. Perhaps his conversion to Catholicism
will prompt him to confess that he lied – a reality long beyond dispute.
The Downing Street Truth
some will recall, Blair sent his intelligence chief off to Washington
in summer 2002 to confer with his opposite number, and Bush intimate,
CIA Director George Tenet.
the spring of 2005, a patriotic truth-teller leaked to British media
the minutes of a summit meeting of UK national security officials
convened on July 23, 2002 at 10 Downing Street. (The minutes, which
became known as the Downing Street Memos, were composed that same day
by one of those officials and sent to the other participants.)
minutes revealed that at CIA headquarters on July 20, 2002, Tenet
informed his British counterpart that President Bush had decided to
attack Iraq for regime change; that the war would be justified by the
“conjunction” of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism; and that
“the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”
we did not really need Scott McClellan’s recent revelations to
understand that the intelligence was “fixed,” even though our country’s
fawning corporate media (FCM) made a Herculean effort to suppress this
key evidence – in part by ignoring and disparaging the Downing Street
Memos when they surfaced three years ago.
the saddest aspects of this whole affair, at least for those who have
been in the intelligence profession, is that no one within the U.S.
intelligence establishment saw fit to go public and disclose the
deception that was being used to “justify” a war of aggression. No one.
only seasoned officials with the courage to speak out were three
Foreign Service Officers – Brady Kiesling, Ann Wright and John H. Brown
– each of whom resigned before the war since it was clear to them, even
without access to the most sensitive intelligence, that the war could
not be justified.
As for intelligence officials outside the United States, there were several profiles in courage.
Gun, a translator in the British equivalent of our National Security
Agency, did successfully leak a very damaging Jan. 31, 2003, memorandum
from NSA revealing that the U.S. and U.K. were pulling out all stops to
sell the war, even intercepting messages to UN delegations in New York
It was all part of a last-ditch attempt to
pressure non-aligned members of the UN Security Council into
acquiescing to the U.S./U.K. desire to strike Iraq. Gun thought she
might succeed in slowing or even stopping an attack on Iraq, if the
world learned the lengths to which Bush and Blair were going to have
Gun’s explosive document, carried by the London Observer on March 2,
2003 – just two and a half weeks before the attack on Iraq – was
suppressed or trivialized by the FCM (fawning corporate media) in the
who acknowledged leaking the document, was fired and charged under the
Official Secrets Act. But the case collapsed when the British
government balked at providing evidence that might have disclosed some
government law experts had concluded that the Iraq invasion was
illegal. Gun is now a member of VIPS/West.)
after the war began, Danish Army Intelligence Major Frank Grevil gave
the Danish media documents showing that Danish intelligence had
reported to its government that the U.S. public rationale for war was
not supported by authentic intelligence.
Grevil (another VIPS member) was sentenced to four months in prison for his efforts to tell the truth.
Andrew Wilkie: Rising to the Challenge
he quit nine days before the attack on Iraq, Andrew Wilkie was a senior
analyst in Australia’s premier intelligence agency, the Office of
National Assessments (ONA).
all the Australian, British and Americ
an all-source intelligence
analysts with direct knowledge of how intelligence was abused in the
run-up to the war – Wilkie was the only one to resign in protest and
speak truth to power.
who dismiss such efforts as an exercise in futility should know that on
Oct. 7, 2003, the Australian Senate, in a rare move, censured
then-Prime Minister Howard for misleading the public in justifying
sending Australian troops off to war.
Senate statement of censure noted that Howard had produced no evidence
to justify his claims in March 2003 that Iraq had stockpiles of
biological and chemical weapons, and castigated him for suppressing
Australian intelligence warnings that war with Iraq would increase the
likelihood of terrorist attacks.
One senator accused Howard of “unprecedented deceit.”
Ask the American FCM why they ignored that story.
to Wilkie’s courage and determination , many Australians were able to
come to an early understanding that the reasons adduced for war on Iraq
were cooked in Washington and served up by Australian leaders all too
willing to give unquestioning support to the Bush administration.
Those Australian leaders are now being held accountable.
invited Andrew Wilkie to Washington in July 2003 to speak at a briefing
arranged by Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, in the House Rayburn Building.
There were 14 TV cameras in that room, but not one minute of TV
coverage that afternoon or evening.
his presentation, we strongly encouraged Wilkie to keep throwing light
on this dark chapter of history; he was pleased to join VIPS/East.
expressed our hope that U.S. intelligence analysts who also watched the
deceit close-up would soon join him in speaking out. With a wan smile,
Wilkie shook his head and pointed to the cost – including the character
assassination to which he had already been subjected at the hands of
One VIPS Testifies
Aug. 22, 2003, Wilkie had an opportunity not yet afforded any VIPS of
the American, British or Danish chapters. He laid out his case before
parliament in Canberra, testifying that the attack on Iraq had little
to do with WMD or terrorism. One particularly telling part of his
the Government was also receiving detailed assessments on the U.S. in
which it was made very clear the U.S. was intent on invading Iraq for
more important reasons than WMD and terrorism. Hence all this talk
about WMD and terrorism was hollow. Much more likely is the proposition
the Government deliberately exaggerated the Iraq WMD threat so as to
stay in step with the U.S.”
the wake of Wilkie’s testimony, Australian pundits became more critical
of the Howard government and its persistent refusal to acknowledge
that, as one journalist put it, they were “conned by master
manipulators masquerading as purveyors of objective intelligence.”
a little like Scott McClellan, no? But, thanks to the FCM, most
Americans hear it for the first time only five years later.
candor of Wilkie’s Aug. 22, 2003 testimony to the Australian parliament
helps to dispel the myths and canards still wafting around about –
among other things – how “the entire world” believed Saddam Hussein was
a dangerous threat.
Accordingly, we include some of the more telling Wilkie excerpts below. (Emphasis added in bold.)
Remarks to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Security
Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the Australian Secret Intelligence
Service (ASIS), and the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD)
22 August 2003
“Mr. Chairman, thank you for inviting me to appear before the Committee.
would be well aware that I resigned from the Office of National
Assessments, before the Iraq war, because I assessed that invading Iraq
would not be the most sensible and ethical way to resolve the Iraq
issue. I chose resignation, specifically, because compromise or seeking
to create change from within ONA were not realistic options.
the time I resigned I put on the public record three fundamental
concerns. Firstly, that Iraq did not pose a serious enough security
threat to justify a war. Secondly, that too many things could go wrong.
And, thirdly, that war was still totally unnecessary because options
short of war were yet to be exhausted.
first concern is especially relevant today. It was based on my
assessment that Iraq’s conventional armed forces were weak, that Iraq’s
Weapons of Mass Destruction programme was disjointed and contained, and
that there was no hard evidence of any active cooperation between Iraq
and al Qaida.
government has claimed repeatedly I was not close enough to the Iraq
issue to know what I’m talking about. Such statements have misled the
public and have been exceptionally hurtful to me.
was a Senior Analyst with a top secret positive vet security clearance.
I’d been awarded a Superior rating in my last performance appraisal,
and not long before I resigned I’d been informed by the Deputy
Director-General that thought was being given to my being promoted.
of my military background (I had been a regular army infantry
Lieutenant Colonel), I was required to be familiar with war-related
issues…and was on standby to cover Iraq once the war began…
in fairness to Australian and Allied intelligence agencies, Iraq was a
tough target. From time to time there were shortages of human
intelligence on the country. At other times the preponderance of
anti-Saddam sources desperate for US intervention ensured a flood of
disinformation. Collecting technical intelligence was equally
A problem for
Australian agencies was their reliance on Allies. We had virtually no
influence on foreign intelligence collection planning, and the raw
intelligence seldom arrived with adequate notes on sources or
reliability. More problematic was the way in which Australia’s tiny
agencies needed to rely on the sometimes weak and skewed views
contained in the assessments prepared in Washington.
few problems were inevitable. For instance, intelligence gaps were
sometimes back-filled with the disinformation. Worst-case sometimes
took primacy over most-likely. The threat was sometimes
overestimated as a result of the fairy tales coming out of the US. And
sometimes Government pressure, as well as politically correct
intelligence officers themselves, resulted in its own bias.
overall, Australian agencies did, I believe, an acceptable job
reporting on the existence of, the capacity and willingness to use, and
immediacy of the threat, posed by Iraq. Assessments were okay, not least because they were always heavily qualified to reflect the ambiguous intelligence picture.
then to explain the big gap between the Government’s pre-war claims
about Iraq possessing a massive arsenal of WMD and cooperating actively
with al Qaida and the reality that no arsenal of weapons or evidence of
substantive links have yet been found?
most often the Government deliberately skewed the truth by taking the
ambiguity out of the issue. Key intelligence assessment qualifications
like ‘probably’, ‘could’ and ‘uncorroborated evidence suggests’ were
frequently dropped. Much more useful words like ‘massive’ and ‘mammoth’
were included, even though such words had not been offered to the
government by the intelligence agencies. Before we knew it,
the Government had created a mythical Iraq, one where every factory was
up to no good and weaponisation was continuing apace.
misleading was the way in which the Government misrepresented the
truth. For example, when the Government spoke of Iraq having form
(being up to no good), it cited pre-1991 Gulf War examples, like the
use of chemical weapons against Iran and the Kurds. Mind you,
the Government needed to be creative, because 12 years of sanctions,
inspections and air strikes had virtually disarmed modern Iraq….
The Government even went so far as to fabricate the truth. The
claims about Iraq cooperating actively with al Qaida were obviously
nonsense. As was the Government’s reference to Iraq seeking uranium in
Africa, despite the fact that ONA, the Department of Defence, and the
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, all knew the Niger story was
fraudulent. This was critical information. It beggars belief that ONA
knew it was discredited but didn’t advise the Prime Minister, Defence
knew but didn’t tell the Defence Minister, and Foreign Affairs knew but
didn’t tell the Foreign Minister. …
closing, I wish to make it clear that I do not apologise for, or
withdraw from, my accusation that the Howard government misled the
Australian public over Iraq, both through its own public statements, as
well as through its endorsement of Allied statements.
government lied every time it said or implied that I was not senior
enough or appropriately placed in ONA to know what I was talking about.
And the government lied every time it skewed, misrepresented, used
selectively and fabricated the Iraq story.
these examples are just the tip of the iceberg. For instance, the
government lied when the Prime Minister’s Office told the media I was
mentally unstable. The government lied when it associated Iraq with the
Bali bombing. And the government lied every time it linked Iraq to the
War on Terror.
Minister and the Foreign Minister in particular have a lot to answer
for. After all, they were the chief cheerleaders for the invasion of
another country, without UN endorsement, for reasons that have now been
McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical
Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army
infantry/intelligence officer and, for 27 years, a CIA analyst. He is
on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity