Dear Admiral Fallon,
I have not been able to find out how to reach you directly, so I drafted this
letter in the hope it will be brought to your attention.
First, thank you for honoring the oath we commissioned officers take to protect
and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign
and domestic. At the same time, you have let it be known that you do not intend
to speak, on or off the record, about Iran.
But our oath has no expiration date. While you are acutely aware of the dangers
of attacking Iran, you seem to be allowing an inbred reluctance to challenge
the commander in chief to trump that oath, and to prevent you from letting
the American people know of the catastrophe about to befall us if, as seems
likely, our country attacks Iran.
Two years ago I lectured at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. I found it highly
disturbing that, when asked about the oath they took upon entering the academy,
several of the "Mids" thought it was to the commander in chief.
This brought to my mind the photos of German generals and admirals (as well
as top church leaders and jurists) swearing personal oaths to Hitler. Not our
tradition, and yet…
I was aghast that only the third Mid I called on got it right – that the oath
is to protect and defend the Constitution, not the president.
Attack Iran and Trash the Constitution
No doubt you are very clear that an attack on
Iran would be a flagrant violation of our Constitution, which stipulates that
treaties ratified by the Senate become the supreme law of the land; that the
United Nations Charter – which the Senate ratified on July 28, 1945, by a vote
of 89 to 2 – expressly forbids attacks on other countries unless they pose
an imminent danger; that there is no provision allowing some other kind of
"preemptive" or "preventive" attack against a nation that
poses no imminent danger; and that Iran poses no such danger to the United
States or its allies.
You may be forgiven for thinking: Isn't 41 years of service enough; isn't
resigning in order to remove myself from a chain of command that threatened
to make me a war criminal for attacking Iran; isn't making my active opposition
known by talking to journalists – isn't all that enough?
With respect, sir, no, that's not enough.
The stakes here are extremely high, and with the integrity you have shown
goes still further responsibility. Sadly, the vast majority of your general
officer colleagues have, for whatever reason, ducked that responsibility. You
are pretty much it.
In their lust for attacking Iran, administration officials will do their best
to marginalize you. And, as prominent a person as you are, the corporate media
will do the same.
Indeed, there are clear signs the media have been given their marching orders
to support attacking Iran.
At CIA I used to analyze the Soviet press, so you will understand when I refer
to the Washington Post and the New York Times as the White House's
Pravda and Izvestiya.
Sadly, it is as easy as during the days of the controlled Soviet press to
follow the U.S. government's evolving line with a daily reading. In a word,
our newspapers are revving up for war on Iran, and have been for some time.
In some respects the manipulation and suppression of information in the present
lead-up to an attack on Iran is even more flagrant and all encompassing than
in early 2003 before the invasion of Iraq.
It seems entirely possible that you are unaware of this, precisely because
the media has put the wraps on it, so let me adduce a striking example of what
is afoot here.
The example has to do with the studied, if disingenuous, effort over recent
months to blame all the troubles in southern Iraq on the "malignant"
influence of Iran.
But Not for Fiasco
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen
told reporters on April 25 that Gen. David Petraeus would be giving a briefing
"in the next couple of weeks" that would provide detailed evidence
of "just how far Iran is reaching into Iraq to foment instability."
Petraeus' staff alerted U.S. media to a major news event in which captured
Iranian arms in Karbala would be displayed and then destroyed.
Small problem. When American munitions experts went to Karbala to inspect
the alleged cache of Iranian weapons they found nothing that could be credibly
linked to Iran.
News to you? That's because this highly embarrassing episode went virtually
unreported in the media – like the proverbial tree falling in the forest with
no corporate media to hear it crash.
So Mullen and Petraeus live, uninhibited and unembarrassed, to keep searching
for Iranian weapons so the media can then tell a story more supportive to efforts
to blacken Iran. A fiasco is only a fiasco if folks know about it.
The suppression of this episode is the most significant aspect, in my view,
and a telling indicator of how difficult it is to get honest reporting on these
Meanwhile, it was announced that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had
formed his own Cabinet committee to investigate U.S. claims and attempt to
"find tangible information and not information based on speculation."
Dissing the Intelligence Estimate
Top officials from the president on down have
been dismissing the dramatically new conclusion of the National Intelligence
Estimate released on Dec. 3, 2007, a judgment concurred in by the 16 intelligence
units of our government, that Iran had stopped the weapons-related part of
its nuclear program in mid-2003.
Always willing to do his part, the malleable CIA chief, Michael Hayden, on
April 30 publicly offered his "personal opinion" that Iran is building
a nuclear weapon – the National Intelligence Estimate notwithstanding.
For good measure, Hayden added: "It is my opinion, it is the policy of
the Iranian government, approved to the highest level of that government, to
facilitate the killing of Americans in Iraq. … Just make sure there's clarity
I don't need to tell you about the Haydens and other smartly saluting generals
Let me suggest that you have a serious conversation with Gen. Anthony Zinni,
one of your predecessor Centcom commanders (1997 to 2000).
As you know better than I, this Marine general is also an officer with unusual
integrity. But placed into circumstances virtually identical to those you now
face, he could not find his voice.
He missed his chance to interrupt the juggernaut to war in Iraq; you might
ask him how he feels about that now, and what he would advise in current circumstances.
Zinni happened to be one of the honorees at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention
on Aug. 26, 2002, at which Vice President Dick Cheney delivered the exceedingly
alarmist speech, unsupported by our best intelligence, about the nuclear threat
and other perils awaiting us at the hands of Saddam Hussein.
That speech not only launched the seven-month public campaign against Iraq
leading up to the war, but set the terms of reference for the Oct. 1, 2002,
National Intelligence Estimate fabricated – yes, fabricated – to convince Congress
to approve war on Iraq.
Gen. Zinni later shared publicly that, as he listened to Cheney, he was shocked
to hear a depiction of intelligence that did not square with what he knew.
Although Zinni had retired two years earlier, his role as consultant had required
him to stay up to date on intelligence relating to the Middle East.
One Sunday morning three and a half years after Cheney's speech, Zinni told
Meet the Press: "There was no solid proof that Saddam had weapons
of mass destruction. … I heard a case being made to go to war."
Gen. Zinni had as good a chance as anyone to stop an unnecessary war – not
a "preemptive war," since there was nothing to preempt – and Zinni
knew it. No, what he and any likeminded officials could have stopped was a
war of aggression, defined at the post-WWII Nuremberg Tribunal as the "supreme
Sure, Zinni would have had to stick his neck out. He may have had to speak
out alone, since most senior officials, like then-CIA Director George Tenet,
lacked courage and integrity.
In his memoir published a year ago, Tenet says Cheney did not follow the usual
practice of clearing his Aug. 26, 2002, speech with the CIA; that much of what
Cheney said took him completely by surprise; and that Tenet "had the impression
that the president wasn't any more aware of what his number-two was going to
say to the VFW until he said it."
It is a bit difficult to believe that Cheney's shameless speech took Tenet
completely by surprise.
We know from the Downing Street Minutes, vouched for by the UK as authentic,
that Tenet told his British counterpart on July 20, 2002, that the president
had decided to make war on Iraq for regime change and that "the intelligence
and facts were being fixed around the policy"
Admiral Fallon, you know that to be the case
also with respect to the "intelligence" being conjured up to "justify"
war with Iran. And no one knows better than you that your departure from the
chain of command has turned it over completely to the smartly saluting sycophants.
No doubt you have long since taken the measure, for example, of Defense Secretary
Robert Gates. So have I.
I was one of his first branch chiefs when he was a young, disruptively ambitious
CIA analyst. When Ronald Reagan's CIA Director William Casey sought someone
to shape CIA analysis to accord with his own conviction that the Soviet Union
would never change, Gates leaped at the chance.
After Casey died, Gates admitted to the Washington Post's Walter Pincus
that he (Gates) watched Casey on "issue after issue sit in meetings and
present intelligence framed in terms of the policy he wanted pursued."
Gates' entire subsequent career showed that he learned well at Casey's knee.
So it should come as no surprise that, despite the unanimous judgment of the
16 U.S. intelligence agencies that Iran stopped the weapons related aspects
of its nuclear program, Gates is now saying that Iran is hell-bent on acquiring
Some of his earlier statements were more ambiguous, but Gates recently took
advantage of the opportunity to bend with the prevailing winds and leave no
doubt as to his loyalty.
In an interview on events in the Middle East with a New York Times
reporter on April 11, Gates was asked whether he was on the same page as the
president. Gates replied, "Same line, same word."
I imagine you are no more surprised than I. Bottom line: Gates will salute
smartly if Cheney persuades the president to let the Air Force and Navy loose
You know the probable consequences; you need to let the rest of the American
A Gutsy Precedent
Can you, Admiral Fallon, be completely alone?
Can it be that you are the only general officer to resign on principle?
And, of equal importance, is there no other general officer, active or retired,
who has taken the risk of speaking out in an attempt to inform Americans about
President George W. Bush's bellicose fixation with Iran? Thankfully, there
Gen. Brent Scowcroft, who was national security adviser to President George
H.W. Bush, took the prestigious job of chairman of the President's Foreign
Intelligence Advisory Board when asked to by the younger Bush.
From that catbird seat, Scowcroft could watch the unfolding of U.S. policy
in the Middle East. Over decades dealing with the press, Scowcroft had honed
a reputation of quintessential discretion. All the more striking what he decided
he had to do.
In an interview with London's Financial Times in mid-October 2004 Scowcroft
was harshly critical of the president, charging that Bush had been "mesmerized"
by then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
"Sharon just has him wrapped around his little finger," Scowcroft
said. "He has been nothing but trouble."
Needless to say, Scowcroft was given his walking papers and told never to
darken the White House doorstep again.
There is ample evidence that Sharon's successors believe they have a commitment
from President Bush to "take care of Iran" before he leaves office,
and that the president has done nothing to disabuse them of that notion – no
matter the consequences.
On May 18, speaking at the World Economic Forum at Sharm el-Sheikh, Bush threw
in a gratuitous reference to "Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions."
"To allow the world's leading sponsor of terror to gain the world's
deadliest weapon would be an unforgivable betrayal of future generations. For
the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon."
Pre-briefing the press, Bush's National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley identified
Iran as one of the dominant themes of the trip, adding repeatedly that Iran
"is very much behind" all the woes afflicting the Middle East, from
Lebanon to Gaza to Iraq to Afghanistan.
The Rhetoric Is Ripening
In the coming weeks, at least until U.S. forces
can find some real Iranian weapons in Iraq, the rhetoric is likely to focus
on what I call the Big Lie – the claim that Iran's president has threatened
to "wipe Israel off the map."
In that controversial speech in 2005, Ahmadinejad was actually quoting from
something the Ayatollah Khomeini had said in the early 1980s. Khomeini was
expressing a hope that a regime treating the Palestinians so unjustly would
be replaced by another more equitable one.
A distinction without a difference? I think not. Words matter.
As you may already know (but the American people don't), the literal translation
from Farsi of what Ahmadinejad said is, "The regime occupying Jerusalem
must vanish from the pages of time."
Contrary to what the administration would have us all believe, the Iranian
president was not threatening to nuke Israel, push it into the sea, or wipe
it off the map.
President Bush is way out in front on this issue, and this comes through with
particular clarity when he ad-libs answers to questions.
On Oct. 17, 2007, long after he had been briefed on the key intelligence finding
that Iran had stopped the nuclear weapons-related part of its nuclear development
program, the president spoke as though, well, "mesmerized." He said:
"But this – we got a leader in Iran who has announced he wants to
destroy Israel. So I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World
War III, it seems you ought to be interested in preventing them from have [sic]
the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon. I take the threat of Iran
with a nuclear weapon very seriously."
Some contend that Bush does not really believe his rhetoric. I rather think
he does, for the Israelis seem to have his good ear, with the tin one aimed
at U.S. intelligence he has repeatedly disparaged.
But, frankly, which would be worse: that Bush believes Iran to be an existential
threat to Israel and thus requires U.S. military action? Or that it's just
rhetoric to "justify" U.S. action to "take care of" Iran
What you can do, Admiral Fallon, is speak authoritatively about what is likely
to happen – to U.S. forces in Iraq, for example – if Bush orders your successors
to begin bombing and missile attacks on Iran.
And you could readily update Scowcroft's remarks, by drawing on what you observed
of the Keystone Cops efforts of White House ideologues, like Iran-Contra convict
Elliot Abrams, to overturn by force the ascendancy of Hamas in 2006-07 and
Hezbollah more recently. (Abrams pled guilty to two misdemeanor counts of misleading
Congress, but was pardoned by President George H.W. Bush on Dec. 24, 1992.)
It is easy to understand why no professional military officer would wish to
be in the position of taking orders originating from the likes of Abrams.
If you weigh in as your (non-expiring) oath to protect and defend the Constitution
dictates, you might conceivably prompt other sober heads to speak out.
And, in the end, if profound ignorance and ideology – supported by the corporate
press and by both political parties intimidated by the Israel lobby – lead
to an attack on Iran, and the Iranians enter southern Iraq and take thousands
of our troops hostage, you will be able to look in the mirror and say at least
You will not have to live with the remorse of not knowing what might have
been, had you been able to shake your reluctance to speak out.
There is a large Tar Baby out there – Iran. You may remember that as Brer
Rabbit got more and more stuck, Brer Fox, he lay low.
A "Fox" Fallon, still pledged to defend the Constitution of the
United States, cannot lie low – not now.
Ray McGovern; Steering Group; Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity