Welcome to Vietnam, Mr. President

From the Archives: As President Trump faces opposition from his generals to pull U.S. troops from Syria, here’s a look back to a similar fix another new president had gotten himself into, as Ray McGovern reported on March 28, 2009.


I was wrong. I had been saying that it would be naïve to take too seriously presidential candidate Barack Obama’s rhetoric regarding the need to escalate the war in Afghanistan.

And surely he would be fully briefed on the stupidity and deceit that left 58,000 U.S. troops – not to mention 2 million to 3 million Vietnamese – dead in Vietnam. I kept thinking to myself that when he got briefed on the history of Afghanistan and the oft-proven ability of Afghan “militants” to drive out foreign invaders – from Alexander the Great, to the Persians, the Mongolians, Indians, British, Russians – he would be sure to understand why they call mountainous Afghanistan the “graveyard of empires.”

John Kennedy became President the year Obama was born. One cannot expect toddler-to-teenager Barack to remember much about the war in Vietnam, and it was probably too early for that searing, controversial experience to have found its way into the history texts as he was growing up.

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Ray McGovern says Putin Claims Strategic Parity, Respect

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s State-of-the-Nation speech Thursday represents a liminal event in the East-West strategic balance – and an ominous one.

That the strategic equation is precarious today comes through clearly in Putin’s words. The U.S. and Russia have walked backwards over the threshold of sanity first crossed in the right direction by their predecessors in 1972 with the signing of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

Amid the “balance of terror” that reigned pre-1972, sensible statesmen on both sides concluded and implemented the ABM treaty which, in effect, guaranteed “mutual assured destruction” – the (altogether fitting) acronym was MAD – if either side attempted a nuclear attack on the other. MAD might not sound much better than “balance of terror,” but the ABM treaty introduced a significant degree of stability for 30 years.

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Ray McGovern’s First Day as CIA Director

Now that I have been nominated again – this time by author Paul Craig Roberts – to be CIA director, I am preparing to hit the ground running.

Last time my name was offered in nomination for the position – by The Nation publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel – I did not hold my breath waiting for a call from the White House. Her nomination came in the afterglow of my fortuitous, four-minute debate with then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, when I confronted him on his lies about the attack on Iraq, on May 4, 2006 on national TV. Since it was abundantly clear that Rumsfeld and I would not get along, I felt confident I had royally disqualified myself.

This time around, on the off-chance I do get the nod, I have taken the time to prepare the agenda for my first few days as CIA director. Here’s how Day One looks so far:

Get former National Security Agency Technical Director William Binney back to CIA to join me and the “handpicked” CIA analysts who, with other “handpicked” analysts (as described by former National Intelligence Director James Clapper on May 8, 2017) from the FBI and NSA, prepared the so-called Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) of Jan. 6, 2017. That evidence-impoverished assessment argued the case that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his minions “to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton.”

When my predecessor, CIA Director Mike Pompeo invited Binney to his office on Oct. 24, 2017 to discuss cyber-attacks, he told Pompeo that he had been fed a pack of lies on “Russian hacking” and that he could prove it. Why Pompeo left that hanging is puzzling, but I believe this is the kind of low-hanging fruit we should pick pronto.

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Nunes: FBI and DOJ Perps Could Be Put on Trial

Throwing down the gauntlet on alleged abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) by the Department of Justice and the FBI, House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) stated that there could be legal consequences for officials who may have misled the FISA court. “If they need to be put on trial, we will put them on trial,” he said. “The reason Congress exists is to oversee these agencies that we created.”

Nunes took this highly unusual, no-holds-barred stance during an interview with Emmy-award winning investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson, which aired on Sunday.

Attkisson said she had invited both Nunes and House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) but that only Nunes agreed. She asked him about Schiff’s charge that Nunes’ goal was “to put the FBI and DOJ on trial.” What followed was very atypical bluntness – candor normally considered quite unacceptable in polite circles of the Washington Establishment.

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Nunes Memo Reports Crimes at Top of FBI and DOJ

The long-awaited House Intelligence Committee report made public today identifies current and former top officials of the FBI and the Department of Justice as guilty of the felony of misrepresenting evidence required to obtain a court warrant before surveilling American citizens. The target was candidate Donald Trump’s adviser Carter Page.

The main points of what is widely known as the “Nunes Memo,” after the House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), have been nicely summarized by blogger Publius Tacitus, who noted that the following very senior officials are now liable for contempt-of-court charges; namely, the current and former members of the FBI and the Department of Justice who signed off on fraudulent applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court: James Comey, Andy McCabe, Sally Yates, Dana Boente and Rob Rosenstein. The following is Publius Tacitus’s summary of the main points:

  • The dubious but celebrated Steele Dossier played a critical role in obtaining approval from the FISA court to carry out surveillance of Carter Page according to former FBI Deputy Director Andy McCabe.
  • Christopher Steele was getting paid by the DNC and the FBI for the same information.
  • No one at the FBI or the DOJ disclosed to the court that the Steele dossier was paid for by an opposition political campaign.
  • The first FISA warrant was obtained on October 21, 2016 based on a story written by Michael Isikoff for Yahoo News based on information he received directly from Christopher Steele – the FBI did not disclose in the FISA application that Steele was the original source of the information.
  • Christopher Steele was a long-standing FBI “source” but was terminated as a source after telling Mother Jones reporter David Corn that he had a relationship with the FBI.
  • The FBI signers of the FISA applications/renewals were James Comey (three times) and Andrew McCabe.
  • The DOJ signers of the FISA applications/renewals were Sally Yates, Dana Boente and Rod Rosenstein.
  • Even after Steele was terminated by the FBI, he remained in contact with Deputy Attorney General Bruce Our, whose wife worked for FUSION GPS, a contractor that was deeply involved with the Steele dossier.

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Video: Gilbert Doctorow Talks Russia Issues at the National Press Club

On December 7, 2017 I moderated an event at the NPC in which Gilbert Doctorow addressed the wider, Russia-related issues in his new book, Does America Have a Future? Gil is an American historian of Russia, whose academic and business credentials simply won’t quit. Gil asked me not only to moderate but also to chime in at will. I found it difficult to avoid abusing the privilege; it all made for a lively Q&A.