by Berry Friesen (March 28, 2017)

Imagine a man who combines the charm of an Irish storyteller, the hard realism of a 37-year veteran of the CIA and the compassionate heart of a Jesus-follower.  That’s Ray McGovern.

He’s an itinerant witness for Church of the Saviour in Washington D.C., speaking about issues of war and peace on major media outlets, within the corridors of power and in nondescript church basements, wherever there is an audience open to political commentary cleansed of imperial propaganda.

He’s a co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, a private organization that has produced 47 memos on national security for presidents Bush, Obama and now Trump.  And he has a very engaging website (raymcgovern.com) dedicated to current events.

A couple of local peace groups—1040 for Peace and Peace Action Network—brought Ray to Lancaster County PA this past Sunday for two public gatherings.  He spoke at a church in the morning about the Israeli occupation of Palestine and at a pub in the afternoon about perpetual war. 

This post doesn’t do justice to Ray’s presentations, but provides a few highlights.

Why is the USA always at war?

First, Ray quoted George Kennan, appointed in 1947 as the first Director of Policy Planning in the US State Department and widely regarded as the architect of post-WW2 US foreign policy.

“We have about 50 per cent of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3 per cent of its population .  .  . Our real task in the coming period is to maintain this position of disparity . . . To do so we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming .  .  . We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford the luxury of altruism .  .  .We should cease to talk about vague, unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we will have to deal in straight power concepts.”

Second, Ray reminded us of the Vietnam War, which caused the deaths of 3 million Vietnamese.  He played a clip from Hearts and Minds, a documentary of the war, in which US General William Westmoreland is asked about the astonishing loss of life. Westmoreland’s response:  “The Oriental doesn’t put the same high price on life as does a Westerner. Life is plentiful. Life is cheap in the Orient.” 

Ray simply added this: “It’s racism, folks!”

Next, Ray reminded us of how US leaders love to speak of the USA as “the world’s indispensable nation.”  So other nations are then dispensable, right?  That’s the message US leaders have been giving the world, both by their rhetoric and their policies.

Last, Ray reminded us that war is good for business.  He quoted Pope Francis speaking to the US Congress in September, 2015:

“We have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.”

What about Russia?

While with the CIA, Ray was a Soviet specialist; he speaks Russian fluently.  Over the course of his professional career, it was his job to follow closely Soviet events and monitor related diplomatic correspondence.  Here is some of what Ray wanted us to know.

The decisive role in defeating Nazi Germany was played by the Soviet Union, not the Western allies.  At least 25 million Russians died in World War 2; the death toll for the USA was 420,000.

To his credit, President George H.W. Bush reached out to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev as the Soviet Union began to fall apart.  In February, 1990, Secretary of State James Baker and Gorbachev reached general agreement on two items:  (a) Germany would be re-united and aligned with the West; and (b) the US would not expand the European military alliance (NATO) toward Russia’s borders. (You can read about that hereand here.)

The US has broken the spirit of that understanding repeatedly.  In 1990 twelve European nations were part of NATO; today there are 28.  It has been moving ever-eastward.

Moreover, the US engineered the election of the highly unpopular Boris Yeltsin to be president of Russia in 1996 (see here and here and here).  During Yeltsin’s government, Russian and US oligarchs plundered Russia’s wealth. 

The February, 2014 change in the Ukrainian government was an American-planned coup. Fascist elements played a major role in the coup and in the illegal regime that followed. We don’t hear reporting about this in the Western media.  Instead, we hear about Russia’s annexation of the Crimea, where over 90 percent of the population voted in a public referendum to stay with Russia.  Not a single life was lost in the change of government in the Crimea.

Sure, Russian intelligence hacks US computer networks; every nation hacks these days. But there is not a scintilla of evidence that the Russians provided WikiLeaks with the information it published about Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee, or the Clinton fraud that resulted in the defeat of Bernie Sanders.

Regarding refugees:

The refugee crisis is fueled by recent wars in Iraq, Libya and Syria.  The US has played a major role in all three.

Consider Syria: why did President Obama and candidate Clinton say “President Assad must go?”  Syria never has threatened this country. But Israel doesn’t like Assad because he is independent of outside control and because he permits Iran to transport weapons across Syria to Hezbollah.  And Israel drives US foreign policy in the Middle East. 

Regarding the Israeli occupation of Palestine:

End the occupation!  Is that so complex, so hard to understand?  It’s gone on 50 years already, longer than the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe.  It must end—now!

And let’s not forget:  the ’67 war that led to the Israeli occupation of Palestine was started by Israel, not by any of its neighbors.  Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin was clear about this:  “The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.”

If we support ending the occupation, we also should be supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign aimed at organizations that are part of the occupation.

Regarding US politics:

The Germans are right about our last presidential election here in the US:  it gave us a choice between the plague and cholera, between Clinton-induced war with Russia and Trump-induced environmental disaster.  

President Donald Trump is like a broken clock—right twice each day.  To be specific:

   –A good relationship with Russia is achievable and should be a US priority.

   –Digital surveillance is everywhere now; no one is excluded. *

Ray said that the single biggest change in America since he began his career in 1963 is this:  we no longer have a strong, independent press.  That’s a huge loss; a strong, free press is what prevents tyranny.

No, we shouldn’t stop reading the New York Times and the Washington Post; it’s important to understand what we’re being told to believe.  But be sure to read alternative media, such as ConsortiumNews.com.

What should peace-loving people be doing?

First, refuse to look away from those suffering from war. 

Ray vividly reminded us of the death of Alan Kurdi, the 3-year-old Kurdish child who drowned in August, 2015 while attempting a boat crossing from Turkey to Greece.   We all saw the image of his lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach.  As the line from Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman famously said: “He’s a human being and a terrible thing is happening to him. Attention must be paid.”

Second, organize small action-and-accountability groups focused on ending perpetual war.  “You’ll have better ideas together than you’ll ever have alone,” said Ray.  “You’ll be stronger together than you’ll ever be alone.  And together, you’ll be much better at following through on your commitments than you ever will be yourself.”

Thank you, Ray!
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*  (4:30 PM addition:  See this ConsortiumNews article from Ray McGovern and Bill Binney for the latest on government surveillance.)