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Former CIA analyst McGovern confronts Rumsfeld
Ronda Hauben (netizen2)     Print Article 
Published 2006-05-09 04:04 (KST)   
The media coverage of a recent confrontation between the U.S. secretary of defense and a former CIA intelligence analyst sheds much light on the nature of a growing danger to democratic processes.

On Wednesday, May 4, 2006, Donald Rumsfeld gave a talk at the Southern Center for International Studies in Atlanta, Georgia. During the talk, which was presented in video clips on the evening television news on Wednesday, one saw three protesters who tried to object to the war in Iraq forcibly removed from the hall.

One of the protesters accused Rumsfeld of lying about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Rumsfeld responded by saying that an accusation that a government official is lying is "wrong" and "unfair" and "fundamentally destructive" of the trust necessary between the people and their government.

Another member of the audience was Ray McGovern. He spent 27 years as an intelligence analyst at the CIA and provided briefings to the current president's father. McGovern was one of those who lined up at the microphone during the question and answer period. When his turn came to ask his question, he responded to Rumsfeld's statement about government officials lying to citizens.

McGovern began with a statement not carried in most of the transcripts published in the U.S. mainstream corporate media describing the incident.1

He said:

"I'm Ray McGovern, a 27-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency and co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. (Light laughter.) I would like to compliment you on your observation that lies are fundamentally destructive of the trust that government needs to govern. A colleague of mine, Paul Pillar, who is the top agency analyst on the Middle East and on counter terrorism accused you and your colleagues of an organized campaign of manipulation, quote, 'I suppose by some definition' -- that's been called a lie."

Rumsfeld interrupted the question saying, "Could you get to your question, please?"

McGovern continued, quoting Rumsfeld:

"Atlanta, September 27th, 2002, Donald Rumsfeld said, and I quote, 'There is bullet-proof evidence of links between al Qaeda and the government of President Saddam Hussein'."

McGovern asked Rumsfeld:

"Was that a lie, Mr. Rumsfeld, or was that manufactured somewhere else, because all of my CIA colleagues disputed that and so did the 9/11 commission. And so I would like to ask you to be up front with the American people. Why did you lie to get us into a war that was not necessary and that has caused these kinds of casualties?"

The response from the audience, the transcript reports, was:

"AUDIENCE: (Booing.)"

Rumsfeld's response was that he hadn't lied. The audience applauded. Then Rumsfeld changed the subject to discuss Colin Powell's presentation to the UN.

The exchange continued for several minutes, when there was the effort to forcibly remove McGovern from the hall. Rumsfeld intervened and urged the guards to let McGovern remain for "one second -- just a second."

The mainstream press reported on the protest at Rumsfeld's talk and the interchange with McGovern. In general the press coverage referred to the protest as "heckling." The Associated Press, for example, characterized McGovern as a "heckler." Their headline was "Rumsfeld Heckled by Former CIA Analyst."

Discussion on the Internet, as on some blogs, however, presented the incident in a different light. For example, among those discussing the incident on one blog, were comments about why protesters had to be the ones who questioned government officials like Rumsfeld, while the mainstream corporate press rarely challenged such officials.2

Also in the video clips, several people in the audience are shown opposing the protesters and applauding Rumsfeld. Those discussing the situation on this blog, to the contrary, compared such treatment of protesters as akin to what one would expect in Nazi Germany rather than how protest is expected to be treated in a democracy.

One of the protesters reported that her back had been bruised by the rough way she was removed from the hall.3

The protesters, however, felt that their actions had helped to return the focus of public discussion about the Bush administration and the CIA to the fact that the intelligence about the Iraq was politicized, despite protest from within the CIA. The bogus intelligence was then used as a pretext to justify the invasion of Iraq, in opposition to the provisions of international law.

In online discussion, the argument was made that even if Saddam Hussein had had weapons of mass destruction, it still would have been contrary to international law to invade Iraq since there was no legitimate defensive purpose to justify such an action.

Such comments on a blog, and the comments by the protesters, help to shed light on the central problem. What can be done by people to stop acts they view as illegal by their government? What does one who is opposed to such illegal acts do when the government institutions that exist to provide a check against such unlawful or unconstitutional activity have collapsed?

Those commenting on the blog focused on the hostility to protest expressed by some in the audience at Rumsfeld's talk. The importance of finding a way to protect the right to protest, however, is one of the foundations and safeguards of democratic processes.

The coming to power of the Nazi party in Germany accompanied by the actions of thugs may have appeared to be events that would be corrected in time. Instead, the lesson from the Nazi period in German history is that citizens who are justly offended by such activities need to treat them with great seriousness and find effective means of opposition.

To the credit of some of the U.S. mainstream corporate news reports on Rumsfeld's talk, there was an effort to point out that indeed Rumsfeld had claimed he knew where there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Rumsfeld's denial to McGovern that he had stated he knew where such weapons were, was inaccurate. Instead of the Bush administration taking responsibility for the harm done to the Iraqi people and the people of the U.S. by such errors, it has defended Rumsfeld and even refused his offer to resign.

Such actions remind the world of the arrogant tactics the Nazis delighted in, instead of actions that demonstrate a respect for the rule of law and of constitutional authority.

One of those commenting on the blog wrote: "Well done, Mr McGovern, Rummy and the rest of the administration liars better get used to the truth, because it's a new era a coming!"

Others online have applauded the actions of the protesters and of Ray McGovern as providing a sorely needed challenge to illegitimate and illegal activity by U.S. government officials.4


1 Remarks by Secretary Rumsfeld at Southern Center for International Studies, Atlanta, Ga

2 The blog discussion referred to in this article took place on "Crooks and Liars." The discussion was in response to the post, "Rummy called out in Atlanta!" http://www.crooksandliars.com/2006/05/04.html#a8164

The url for the discussion is: http://www.haloscan.com/comments/crooks/8164

3 Matthew Cardinale, "Rumsfeld Protester Injured, Gives Insider Account," Atlanta Progressive News.

4 See for example "Rumsfeld's bad day in Atlanta," May 6, 2006, 08:28

©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Ronda Hauben

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