Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern discusses the dangerous anti-Russia hysteria in the media with David Swanson of Talk Nation Radio, and how it serves the aims of the neoconservatives and escalates the threat of war.
Ray McGovern was a CIA analyst for 27 years, from the administration of John F. Kennedy to that of George H. W. Bush. Ray’s duties included chairing National Intelligence Estimates and preparing the President’s Daily Brief, which he briefed one-on-one to President Ronald Reagan’s five most senior national security advisers from 1981 to 1985. In January 2003, Ray co-created Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) to expose how intelligence was being falsified to “justify” war on Iraq. His website is RayMcGovern.com.
David Swanson: Ray McGovern, welcome back to Talk Nation Radio.
Ray McGovern: Thank you, David.
DS: It’s great to have you back. You’ve been writing about lots of topics, one of them being arms control, or the lack thereof, and, of course, U.S.-Russian relations. What should people know that CNN isn’t telling them?
RM: How much time do we have, David?
DS: We’ve got 28 minutes.
RM: I’m joshing, of course. There’s a lot that people don’t know who depend on The New York Times and CNN, or even progressive websites now, who get foreign affairs wrong. I won’t name them, but the initials would be Democracy Now!
Let me just start with Putin’s major address. Okay, this is the State of the Nation Address on the 1st of March. It was really something. Not only did he advertise a whole new generation of strategic weaponry, which he claimed, and no one has disproved, would render the billions of dollars that we have wasted on antiballistic missile defenses useless. They’re useless to begin with, most scientists and engineers say, but these new weapons that he advertised, and some of which he said are operational, would upend that. Now, that’s what caught all the attention. But he also said, Now, we tried to get you to listen to us. You wouldn’t listen to us. Now, hopefully, you will listen to us. Let’s get together at the appropriate time with experts and figure out how we address these problems, in other words, talks on arms control. Oh. Now, that escaped most people’s attention, but that was [2:56 inaudible].
Now, a couple days later he’s talking about the strategic relationship and somebody says, Now, Mr. Putin—this is in an interview; it’s March the 7th now, so six days later—somebody says, Hey, listen, Mr. Putin, why would you destroy the whole world? If there were a first strike on Russia, would you really respond? It would be too late to save Russia. You know what he says? Look, He says, yes, this would be a global catastrophe, but “as a citizen of Russia and as the head of the Russian state, I ask, What need will we have for a world if there was no Russia?” So he’s saying, Look, you’ve got to take this stuff seriously. Yes, we would retaliate, even if it meant that the rest of the world would be blown up as well as Russia.
Two days later, four senior senators, okay, three Democrats—let’s see if I can remember them—Feinstein, Wyden, the fellow up there in Massachusetts, and Bernie Sanders—they issue a call, a letter to then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Look, this is really getting out of hand. We don’t like the fact that Putin is brandishing these weapons that we really haven’t ever heard of before, but he’s calling for arms control talks, so let’s talk. Let’s talk. Guess what? That appeal appeared on all those four senators’ websites but was totally—totally—ignored by what passes for the mainstream media. So one suspects that this is an unwelcome subject, and there is proof positive.
The last thing I’ll mention, we were talking about four senior senators appealing for arms control talks on their websites but it never getting past their websites, no publicity for it. I’m thinking that Chuck Schumer said, No, no. Arms control, no, no. We’re making the devil incarnate Vladimir Putin. Don’t mention arms control talks. So that’s the reality in the mainstream media. When Trump had the audacity to say, You know, Putin won the election, he’s going to be around for six more years. Probably I’ll send him a congratulatory telegram [5:51 inaudible]. His staff says, No, no, no, don’t congratulate him. No, no, no, don’t congratulate him. Well, he not only congratulates him but he says, You know, the situation is such that we ought to get together sooner rather than later, and we ought to talk about arms control.
For those of your audience who listen to The New York Times website or read what’s in The New York Times, they are totally oblivious to that, because the Times cut out—they did a lede, a title or a headline, saying “Trump calls for arms control talks.” Now, that lasted 2 hours. What I’m trying to say here is that the only conclusion here is the old, hackneyed military-industrial-Congressional-intelligence-media complex. You ran a conference on the fiftieth anniversary of Eisenhower’s speech on the military-industrial complex. Well, it’s gotten worse, astronomically worse. And the people who make the arms, the people who sell arms, the people that Pope Francis, to his credit, before Congress two and a half years ago called “the blood-drenched arms traders,” those are the people that are running the show. And Putin and his folks are sitting back in Moscow and they’re saying, Whoa, we thought the military-industrial complex had a hold on Obama, and we were right. Now it looks even worse.
DS: Ray McGovern, it seems to me like if indeed they are two separate things, the sort of tag-team efforts of the Russiagate promoters and the weapons promoters and those who have intentionally exaggerated the Russian threat since before the administration of President Kennedy have a couple of big victories in recent days, one being Trump’s missiles into Damascus, but the other being getting Putin to crow about new, dangerous weapons. This has got to be great news from the perspective of people trying to stir up hostility with Russia and sell weapons, right?
RM: Yeah. You know, it cuts both ways. For Putin to see what’s going on in Washington, namely, that the President of the United States really doesn’t seem to be his own man, not only that, but that he has a certifiably insane national security adviser—and I can prove that. He was among the people called “the crazies” when I was working with President, then CIA director and later Vice President, George H.W. Bush. I had a note from him. I tried to warn him. I said, “Mr. President”—we had a little correspondence well after he left the presidency and I left the Agency. We were—well, we had a decent relationship, a personal one. We were friends.
So I said to him two months before the attack on Iraq, “Mr. President, please. You know why you kept ‘the crazies’ at bay, that you didn’t let them occupy positions of influence where they could start a war or do really stupid things. Would you please”—this is the 11th of January, 2003—“Would you please tell your son why it was that we all called these people ‘the crazies’ and why you kept them at arm’s length, because it looks like he’s going to start a war under the influence of these guys.” You know, there were Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, all these people. “Would you please tell him.” Well, on the 22nd of January, in the [10:04 inaudible] he wrote back, a little note, handwritten note, and he said, you know, “Ray, thanks for your letter. I too was wondering. It was going around about that my son would be under the influence of ‘the crazies,’ but I don’t think it’s true now. Relax, okay?” This is two months before the attack on Iraq.
What I’m trying to say is that everyone—everyone—in the ’70s, ’80s, halfway through the ’90s referred to these guys as “the crazies.” And here is John Bolton, who was crazy enough to advise the younger Bush to get out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which had been the bedrock, had been the cornerstone of strategic stability since 1972. And I was there in Moscow when that was signed. It was introduced—yeah, sure, it was a kind of a strange phenomenon, where you had a balance of terror when you thought that you could get away with a first strike, but that was a heck of a lot better than an unbalance without any strategic disincentive to start a first strike.
This is all coming to roost now. And John Bolton—if you ask me, why was it that early in the morning President Trump wrote this ridiculous Tweet saying, Aha, yeah, the Russians say they can shoot down our missiles, haha. Well, we’ll see about that. We have smart missiles, we have new missiles. We’re going to show the Russians.” Who wrote that? As odd as Trump is, Bolton is the first one to see him in the morning and the last one to see him at night. My bet is that Bolton wrote that, and then the President was committed to doing something. What he did was a feckless sort of thing, thanks to the fact that his military advisers put the brakes on it and made darned sure that he didn’t hit any Russians or any Iranians. So Bolton is right there.
And what I’m trying to say is, Putin’s looking at all this. He knows who “the crazies” are and he knows that Bolton has a lot of influence. So this is a very destabilizing thing, because when the Russians keep telling us, Look, we’ve got these new weapons, well, you know, the press says, Ah, they’re faking it, they’re probably faking it. You know, I don’t know if they’re faking it or not. But, my God, if we knew about all this, why is it not in the annual intelligence briefing that is given to both the House and to the Senate early each year? It’s missing. All we get is rhetoric about how bad the Russians are, just as if they were the old Soviet Union, ideologically determined to bury us.
DS: Do you believe, Ray, the claims that none of those missiles were shot down or the claims that three-quarters of them were shot down? Who do you believe?
RM: It’s not a matter of belief; it’s a matter of evidence.
RM: We have people on the scene, okay. And we know that of the 105 or 103 missiles shot down, three-quarters of them—I mean shot toward Syria, three-quarters were shot down. We know that.
DS: Who is “we”? Whose evidence?
RM: Some of us Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity come out of a military environment, with the respect of people on the ground. Those people on the ground are not reluctant to let us know what’s going on, despite all the rhetoric coming out of Washington.
One curious thing. Yesterday, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov was having an interview and he’s saying, You know, it’s really hard to know who is in charge in Washington, because when the President is described as calling somebody and says “Did all our missiles make it?” and the answer is “Yes, sir, they sure did,” that’s not the way that it works in Russia. In Russia, the chief of the armed services calls Mr. Putin and lets him know on a minute-by-minute basis what’s going on. So who is this guy? Who is this fellow that reassured Trump, “Yeah, yeah, they all made it.” So my guess is—and it’s a pretty good guess, I think—that it’s this same John Bolton who is appropriately described as “crazy.”
DS: But the people that you rely on, do they have any photographs, any video, anything I can see?
RM: Yeah, they do. But maybe you will understand that they are not in a position to actually share that stuff. What I can tell you is that this is the same evidence that we had to show that other false flags, particularly the one at Khan Shaykhun in Idlib province of Syria on the 4th of April of last year was a hoax. So I can tell you that these people are monitoring these things minute by minute and that they have the sense, the integrity to say, “This is not right. They’ve been lying about this.” One hundred five missiles did not make it all the way. Seventy-one, I think is the figure that sticks in my mind, were shot down.
D.S: Speaking of Lavrov, Ray McGovern, he’s been claiming in recent days that the supposed evidence of this chemical weapons attack in London was sent to a lab in Switzerland that showed that in fact it couldn’t have come from Russia, it must have come from the United Kingdom or the United States. But it seems the Russian Foreign Minister is the only person who has seen this evidence. Has anyone else seen it? What’s your assessment of that chemical weapons claim?
RM: David, I didn’t see that in The New York Times, and so it can’t be true. I josh, of course. But this is as bad as it is. That is an independent, well-respected outfit in Switzerland that analyzed those things. That whole poisoning in London was the epitome of what in the Bronx we call a crock. It was a sham sort of thing.
And even, to their credit, the scientists and engineers upon whom the government in London depends—I mean, the folks that man the Porton Down biological and chemical laboratory—they were unwilling to support what Theresa May and Boris Johnson had already said, namely, that “We know it was Russia.” What did Porton Down do? They got a sample of this thing and they said, Well, you can’t say it was from Russia. What do you mean, we can’t say it was from Russia? They said, You can’t say that, because we can’t verify that. All we can say is that it was of a sort, of a type that was developed by Russia, but we never were able to prove that Russia made any of it. What we do know is that 20 other countries could make it, it could be made in a university laboratory. So, no, we can’t say it was from Russia. If you watched the earlier editions of their statements, they backed off. They always said it was “of a type developed by Russia,” because that’s all the experts would let them do. And Craig Murray, the ambassador that we were in touch with, who is part of our group, and who has really good contacts with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and also with Porton Down scientists, finished off one of his blogs to me and he said, “Look, Ray, I think now”—listen carefully for the irony—“I think I might now have a vodka, of a type developed by Russia but made in Warrington, a lovely little town.” So it’s “of a type.” It’s really terrible, really awful.
But the British do this all the time. They did it with the dodgy CI before Iraq. I recall my grandfather telling me, “Raymond, do ye know why the sun never sets on the British Empire?” I said, “Yeah.” “No, you don’t know. Sit ye down and I’ll tell ye. The sun never sets on the British Empire because the good Lord would never trust the British in the dark.”
DS: He would be right in that.
The other thing I noticed, Ray, in President Putin’s concerns, among the lunacies that are afloat here, is he’s afraid of cyberattacks being treated as war. So not just chemical attacks, murders in London, and other justifications for war, but something that happens on somebody’s computer and you get bombed for having started a war. I heard Senator Tim Kaine here at the University of Virginia last week tell me that acts of cyberwar, including Russia’s having stolen a U.S. election, are at the level—we can’t say exactly what level it should be, but they far exceed it—to count as war, meaning that in the view of Senator Kaine the United States ought to be now at actual war with Russia because Russia started a war with the United States.
RM: Yeah. Well, let me just say, because we have so little time left, that the Russian hack is a hoax. There is no proof of a Russian hack. As a matter of fact, we in the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, a group that includes two former technical directors of the National Security Agency, have forensic evidence to prove that there was no Russian attack on the celebrated day on which we have metadata. That’s number one. It’s very distressing that a formerly intelligent person like Tim Kaine, who was—
DS: When was that?
RM: What’s that?
DS: When was that?
RM: I remember when he was governor, he wasn’t so bad. He was certainly a little better than what the other governor had been.
DS: That’s a low bar, the Virginia governor standard.
RM: What he’s saying is what John McCain said right away: “This is an act of war.” What did John Bolton say? “It is a true act of war.” And what happened? The head of the FBI deliberately avoided seizing the computers of the Democratic National Committee to see how it was that the “Russians intruded” and perpetrated this act of war. It was a hoax. It was rubbish. There is no proof that the Russians hacked.
And the business about WikiLeaks, well, you know, WikiLeaks only puts out documentary evidence. So they’re really angry at WikiLeaks because of the release of those Democratic National Committee emails three days before the convention in 2016, the Democratic National Convention, which showed without any doubt that Hillary and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and that whole crew had tilted the primaries and the rest of the preparation for the Democratic National Convention in such a way that Bernie had no chance to win it. That’s the real bottom line there.
So if you’re going to blame anyone, you have to blame anyone for Donald Trump—and I hold no brief for Donald Trump, I believe he’s the worst president we’ve ever had, okay—but if you’re going to blame anybody for him, you should blame Hillary Clinton for the way she fooled around and tilted the nomination so that she would win it instead of Bernie Sanders. I am morally certain that had that not happened, we would have Senator Bernie Sanders as president right now. That is one big deal. And it’s all provable by looking at the way the election came out. And who to blame for that? Well, it couldn’t possibly be a candidate who nobody trusted or didn’t campaign in the right states? No, no, no, it had to be something else. And the Russians were the ones that took the blame. So the whole thing is so strange. And to see people like Tim Kaine not only buying this stuff but also promoting legislation that would give the President even more—even more—leeway to start wars, I don’t know what’s going on. It must be something in the water here in Washington.
DS: He credits the Miller Center here in Virginia for having written every word of his and John’s McCain’s proposal to strip away the War Powers Act.
RM: That would be no surprise to me. Believe it or not, the Miller Center has never asked me to come down and talk to them.
DS: They’ve never asked anyone to speak about peace, ever. War, plenty of times.
With just a few minutes left, among the 18-some-odd parties I would blame for Donald Trump in addition to Hillary Clinton and the DNC would be the corporate media and the incredibly disproportionate coverage it gave to him, with the CEO of CBS saying, “He may be bad for the country, but he’s good for our ratings.” And yet, as you already mentioned, the so-called independent media, Democracy Now! included, seems to be dropping the ball. Not only that they don’t create their own stories, they just do the other stories a little bit better, but Democracy Now! has been having on all these people in recent days who want to overthrow the government of Syria, which I should have thought that the corporate media could more than handle that perspective. What’s going on with the media? And what do we need to do about it?
RM: David, I have to start out with a little song. “Once in love with Amy, Not always in love with Amy.” I tell you, it’s one of my major disappointments. I have to say that her coverage of national events is outstanding. The coverage—especially since Hillary lost, her coverage of foreign affairs is terrible. She’s giving the White Helmets, for God’s sake, the PR outfit that works for al-Qaeda and al-Nusra, she’s giving them plaudits, giving them credibility. And she doesn’t let any of us on. I haven’t been on there for a couple of years.
I think what I describe as the virus that came into New York and Washington right after the election in 2016, it’s the HWHW virus, and that stands for Hillary Would Have Won. What does that mean? That was PTSD. Everyone knew that Hillary was going to win. These people have not recovered. I do understand. Especially women, people in my own family, they hate Trump. And there is good reason for their hatred. Look at, my God, the way he treats women. I can understand that. I may not feel it as deeply, but I can understand it. But, my God, can’t they see this whole manufactured an excuse, namely, it was the Russians, it was the Russians, it was the Russians? Well, we’ll see in the next days, because documents have been provided from the FBI and the Department of Justice to the House Intelligence Committee. We’ll see what was really going on there in terms of using Russia to blacken Trump. It didn’t work, and so they’re doubly angry about how it all came out.
DS: We will be watching, and we will hope to have you back on in the future. Ray McGovern, his website is RayMcGovern.com. Check it out. Ray, thank you again very much for coming on Talk Nation Radio.
RM: You’re most welcome, David.
This interview was originally published at DavidSwanson.org on April 24, 2018.