McGovern vs. Scheuer on the Panetta CIA Nomination

Last night’s PBS NewsHour featured a debate on the nomination of Leon Panetta to be CIA Director.

The participants were two Antiwar.com contributors: former CIA analyst Ray McGovern and former CIA official Michael Scheuer. Judy Woodruff was the interviewer.

I found myself much more in agreement with Mr. McGovern.

22 thoughts on “McGovern vs. Scheuer on the Panetta CIA Nomination”

  1. I must say I found it disturbing that Scheuer openly defended the CIA rendition program right at the end of the interview.

  2. I’ve long had doubts about Scheuer on a number of things. I recall that he flatly denied to Scott Horton once that the Clinton administration orchestrated the importation of radical Islamist terrorists to Bosnia in the 1990s. It’s pretty well documented now that that was the case (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2007/jul/06/thebosnianconnection), yet Scheuer just flat out refused to acknowledge the truth of it. I should note that he was head of the CIA’s Osama bin Laden Unit under Clinton in the ’90s.

    1. I should note that [Scheuer] was head of the CIA’s Osama bin Laden Unit under Clinton in the ’90s.

      That pretty much says it all. Small wonder that his credentials as a “reformer” have always been questionable at best.

  3. Hear hear, Jeff. Another thing that troubles me about Mike is his (I won’t say masochistic) approach to “rooting out the terrorists.” He is too “balls-out” I’m afraid — not so non-interventionist.

  4. “Half the things Mike Scheuer says I agree with, the other half gives me heart burn” was a quote I remember someone saying on Scott Horton’s show one time. I agree with that.

  5. I agree with the sentiments of both Jeff and Dan but with some caveats. Despite the fact that I disagree with his stance on rendition and other issues I am an admirer of Dr. Scheuer and read everything of his I can get my hands on. After having read much of what he has written I’ve come to the conclusion that he feels the “gloves off” approach when defending American lives is acceptable and believes that once a war has started all measures should by taken to win it – as was done in World War 2, whether you agree with those measures or not. Basically he feels that if war is already taking place then absolute brutality should be used to win it – therefore making the war as short as possible and not the wars of attrition we are seeing now.

    He does advocate a non-interventionist foreign policy and has said he believes it is the surest way to prevent these wars in the first place. I am not trying to downplay your criticisms because I agree with them. I think the torture and rendition programs are morally and strategically indefensible, but I do understand where Scheuer is coming from. It is because of the nature of war itself – sheer brutality, but sheer brutality with an endpoint – that we should only go to war when absolutely necessary (i.e. for self-defense). What we are seeing with our wars today is brutality with no endpoint anywhere in sight. Obviously neither scenario is desirable and that is why a non-interventionist foreign policy is so vital. The goal must be to stop wars before they occur so its brutality is not unleashed in any way, shape, or form.

    This, of course, is just one man’s opinion and I am sure there will be many who disagree.

    1. Matt, Michael Scheuer’s attempts to legitimize actions that constitute violations of International Law, arguing that ‘anything goes’ in warfare, fails to recognize the consequences if all parties embrace this concept.

      The argument that moral restraint (adherence to International Law) is an obstacle to military objectives ignores the logical outcome of unrestrained conflict. The result is state sanctioned criminal actions on all sides. Without boundaries, the consequences of unrestrained conflict are obvious and horrendous.

      If we accept the notion that in times of war “all measures should by taken to win it – as was done in World War 2”, we have to recognize that the atomic bombing of two Japanese cities (and firebombing of numerous others) was used to justify an early cessation to the conflict. Do you believe that the resort to atomic/nuclear warfare is legitimate? What if the use of such methods becomes recognized as legitimate forms of warfare?

      Michael Scheuer’s premise that anything goes in conflicts is the foundation of operations of the CIA. What he fails to realize is that hostile covert acts of aggression against other states can constitute acts of war. Intelligence gathering is legitimate. Covert acts against other states risk being interpreted as acts of war. For example, war between India and Pakistan is likely as India has accused Pakistan of covert involvement in the Mumbai attacks. Covert wars can easily transform into direct conflicts.

      Michael Scheuer fails to realize the implications of abandoning boundaries defined by International Law.

      1. A.C. (last name isn’t Slater, is it? – cheesy joke, I know)

        I’m not going to disagree with a single thing you have to say because, quite frankly, I’m with you on nearly all of those points. What I am trying to convey is what I believe Scheuer’s POV is and what I’ve learned from reading him. I disagree with many of his views on how warfare should be conducted, but I do understand where he is coming from (I mean the man is an admirer of Lincoln and Reagan, I didn’t think he would get much sympathy on this blog – myself included). I do, though, appreciate the analysis he gives on terrorism and I understand why he holds the positions he does on these issues.

        I think the fundamental that brings many of us who frequent Antiwar.com, and other sites like it, is a belief in a non-interventionist (or at least very limited interventionist, in some cases) foreign policy as the surest way to avoid war and maintain individual liberty. Even though we will all continue to disagree on many principles and policies, working together to achieve a “Foreign Policy of Peace and Freedom” – to borrow from Ron Paul – is a good starting point as we continue to mull over and argue the issues on which we disagree.

        1. This is America. I thought we were supposed to be better than advocating for torture. I understand that you are merely pointing out that you understand his POV, but his POV sucks ass and is un-American. He ought to be shunned and ostracized, now that his POV is understood for what it is.

          BTW, Ron Paul is also a fervent admirer of Reagan, for reasons which I’m still failing to grasp.

    2. I wonder if Scheuer ever puts America on the receiving end when he advocates lawless brutality against an opponent. Would he then justify al-Qaida’s attack on 9/11/01, or a nuclear detonation in America? Or is it only America who gets to mete out the parameterless punishment?

      1. From reading his books I think that is his larger point about interventionism – the idea being that we do need to see things from an outside perspective and see what the consequences of our policies are. Not knowing the man personally, I believe that if you asked him to choose between America “met[ing] out the parameterless punishment” or another country, he would undoubtedly say America. But that is also a false choice. That is why, in my opinion, reexamining our foreign policies – and making the requisite changes – is of the utmost importance. Again, I’m not here to defend any particular stance he is taking, but, from reading him and hearing him speaking, I think his advocacy of a non-interventionist foreign policy gets lost in his often bellicose rhetoric.

      2. I think the obvious answers to the three questions you ask are “of course not” for the first two and “yes” for the last. This, again, makes Scheuer ultimately no different in substance from the lawless neocon warmongers from whom he is attempting to separate himself.

  6. I recall Scheur outright denying that the CIA engaged in torture. But his book imperial hubris certainly was good.

  7. “We are going to have to leave it there. Much more to be said on all of this.”

    But we ain’t going to say it because it’s surely time for another commercial. How long did they spend talking about this huge issue in total? About 3 or 4 minutes? Well that’s probably enough.

    The Ray McGoverns of this world will one day have to stand up and say, “Look, I’ll only be on your program if you do the issue justice”. Because otherwise, it’s just pandering to the non-seriousness of public debate. Unfortunately.

    1. I don’t call it the Lehrer Snooze Hour for nothing. Guests of all political stripes go on that show to spew their unfiltered propaganda without fear of being cut-off for saying stupid shit. I guess the hosts are trying to remain dispassionate and detached from the rhetoric that is constantly spewed across their debate table but it all amounts to a wankfest where horribly idiotic ideas go unquestioned and unchallenged. It is the most mentally discomfiting debate program on television.

  8. If you go by some of the comments of Scheur, then why go with formalities, just nuke our enemies right off the bat. That will make for a fine and loving world!!

  9. Michael Scheuer’s reasonings and justifactions ilustrates clearly the concept of American Exceptionalism where whatever the US does is right , good,and excused.While the same actions by others are evil.

  10. Whereas I used to respect Scheuer, I’ve become increasingly dismayed with his writings as time has gone on. He is increasingly becoming more irrational in his thought, whereas before he was able to lucidly see the bigger picture.

    I’ve come to admire and respect McGovern deeply. I was especially impressed when he confronted Rumsfeld about the fabricated WMD evidence in Iraq.

    Whatever McGovern advocates, I’m for that. The man has honesty and integrity, rare attributes in this day and age.

  11. Ray McGovern is a HERO to me….. He is not afraid to stick his neck out AND he has his

    PRIORITIES in an enlightened order……….. As for Scheurer WTF I like him BUT THIS…

    “We have had a good director now in General Hayden, who has inspired the workforce to be proud of itself. He has supported the expansion of clandestine operations. And, more importantly, he has defended the agency publicly.”

    HUH??? Kinda reminds me of Rodney Dangerfield…..Poor CIA can’t get NO RESPECT ??? Yeah..

    BUT Were they sodomizing children in FRONT of their MOTHERS to get them to give up the

    WHEREABOUTS of their Husbands ?? Gotta B reel PROUD o DAT !!….????????????????

    I AND wasn’t Hayden head of NSA on 911 ?? YOO… He HEARS no EVIL B4 911 ?? JUST the

    type for a Shrub promotion.. Seems like all the CLUELESS INCOMPETENTS [or worse COMPLICIT]

    BOZOZ got PROMOTED under Shrub regime……… ARE these GUYs the onez ya wanna keep in a

    new ADMINISTRATION ?? A new ADMINISTRATION might want to keep its EYES and EARS OPEN!!

    I think Hayden is DIRTY with 911 BLOOD on hiz HANDS !!! Didn’t Shrub promote HEAD of NORAD

    too ?? “If you are a WORLD CLASS F*CK UP weez gonna PROMOTE you to the TOP JOB…” The

    Shrub “DOCTRINE”

    I agree with Michael Scheuer often and his understanding of many of the international players is excellent….. But HAYDEN ?? KINDA MAKES ME WONDER…..

    I wouldn’t leave my DOG at his house….. and for ME…incompetence… I’m NOT buying it…

    I think that Michael Hayden is a player or willfully BLIND to 911 CONSPIRACY…. All those

    HUNDREDS of BILLIONS on equipment, personel and NADA ??? Come-on It’s a JOKE…. Yaa RIGHT…..??

  12. Just for a while, imagine the whole world without education and knowledge. Imagine if there is no school, collage, university and no educational institution in order to train people for the better world. This kind of behavior lead to no difference between animal and human beings.

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