Israel act like a U.S. ally?
is a retired CIA officer who holds an
M.A. in Russian Studies from Fordham University, a
certificate in Theological Studies from Georgetown
University, and who is a graduate of Harvard Business
School’s Advanced Management Program.
McGovern was a CIA analyst from 1963
In the 1980s
he chaired National Intelligence
Estimates and prepared the President's Daily Brief. He
received the Intelligence Commendation Medal at his
McGovern's current work
includes commentating on intelligence issues and in 2003
co-founding Veteran Intelligence Professionals for
As I look
out at this room, I see a lot of gutsy people but no
more gutsy than Medea Benjamin who's with us here. Medea,
are you in the house? It's sort of painful for Medea to
stand up because she, they dislocated her shoulder for
her, and I know how painful that is. Welcome back, Medea.
Wright -- are the others still camped out on the tarmac
there at Cairo Airport, or have they been able to get
BENJAMIN FROM AUDIENCE: The ones in the airport have all been deported.
Ann Wright is one of the few that actually got into
Cairo, and she is still there but not able to go to
MCGOVERN: Not able to go to Gaza. You're going to Gaza
for International Women's Day, correct?
MCGOVERN: So there are a lots of people that give me a
lot of courage, you know. Really. I see a lot right out
here. And I wear this bracelet that Rachel Corrie's dad
gave me all the time. So I'd like to say Rachel Corrie
presente, presente. And all it says is Rachel Corrie,
April 10, 1979 - March 16, 2003.
any significance to March 16, 2003? When was that?
Right, two days before the war started. Why do you
suppose they did it then? Why do you suppose the Israeli
bulldozer was given the go ahead to run over Rachel and
then the instruction to back over her to make sure that
her back was broken? Because they knew that war was
brewing, the headlines would be dominated by the war,
and that if Rachel Corrie's assassination or her murder
made the back pages, they were lucky. And, of course,
they were right. A very cynical calculation.
person that I would simply call attention to is
Weir who has faced her own bulldozers, figuratively
speaking, so far at least. And there are a lot of people
facing bulldozers out there. They give me a lot of
courage. And when I look at this bracelet, I say, well,
if Rachel Corrie can do that, I can do whatever I feel
called to do.
Is Israel really a U.S. ally? Well, if you look at the
dictionary, there's a definition for ally, and it says
an ally is a country with whom your country has a mutual
defense treaty. Oh, wow. Is that too literal?
Well, I was speaking to a bunch of congressmen one time,
congress people, and I said, hey, these are lawmakers,
they should probably know that Israel is not our ally
and for them to keep talking about our ally Israel, our
ally, well, you know, juridically speaking, without a mutual defense treaty,
that's not quite right. That's not quite right. Now,
that's the first point.
The other point is simply that after the 1973 war where
the Arabs did attack Israel, there were all kinds of
plans as to how to prevent this from happening again.
And some of my former colleagues were involved in taking
soundings among high Arab leaders and so forth, and the
idea was maybe we'll offer Israel a mutual defense
treaty and then, you know, nobody will try that again.
So we broached it to the Israelis. This is not widely
known. And the Israelis said, "Well, you know, that's
really sweet. Thank you very much, but no thanks." Now,
why do you suppose a country would turn down a mutual
defense treaty with the strongest nation in the world?
Well, treaties require mutually
internationally-recognized borders, you know, and that's
kind of a sticky wicket there, you know.
The other thing is that treaties usually require, as
Paul said, you know, sort of a modicum of sharing of
information. If you're going to attack another country,
you should really let your ally know, oh, by the way,
next week, we're going to attack Syria or next week
we're going to, you know, and the Israelis didn't want
to, didn't want to bother with that because it's far
easier for them, in their view, to ask for forgiveness
rather than permission.
You probably have heard the old saw that some people
wanted to make Israel the 51st state. And Likud objected
vehemently saying, no, that would mean we'd only have
Now, I had an old Russian teacher who used to say this
point, "Why [What] are you laughing? Who are you laughing? This
is nothing to laugh," okay? She couldn't get it, you
know, that laugh was not really a transitive verb in
English. But this is really nothing to laugh.
Is Israel a U.S. ally? Well, I had a chance to raise
this issue directly on C-SPAN. It happened in June of
2005. The scene was John Conyers' room that they gave
him for a briefing on the Downing Street Memo. Now, the
Downing Street Memo was published in The London Times,
no left-wing rag, The London Times. It was a literal
rendition of what Sir Richard Dearlove brought home to
London after he talked with George Tenet, the head of
the CIA, and was told, A, the president had decided to
attack Iraq; 2, it would be justified by the conjunction
of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction
(translation: we're going to say that Saddam Hussein has
all manner of weapons of mass destruction and he's going
to give them to terrorists); and then the crowning
sentence, the one that intelligence analysts or
investigators, you know, sort of pine after, lust after,
"And the facts and the intelligence are being fixed
around the policy." Hello? Genuine document,
acknowledged as authentic by Tony Blair and others.
And so there it was. Guess what? The media really
didn't, they missed it. The American media missed it.
And by the time Conyers got this little briefing, he
couldn't call it a hearing because he wasn't in the
majority, in the bottom of the Capitol, that was six
weeks after the publication by The London Times.
So, finally, the day before the meeting, Conyers and I
were on Amy Goodman. And, luckily, I had a chance to
look at that morning, and, sure
enough, they broke their silence, and what they said
was, "What's this big deal about the Downing Street
Memo? We knew all that stuff all along." I couldn't
believe it, you know? They knew all that stuff all along
and, yet, they were cheering for the war.
Well, during the course of that briefing, I had a chance
to answer some questions. Since there were no weapons of
mass destruction and since there were no ties between
Iraq and Al-Qaeda, the congress people who kept coming
in, there were about enough seats for 10 or 12 of them,
they were all democrats, they kept coming in and
switching around for, you know, people could stay for
five or ten minutes.
One of them, Jim Moran of Alexandria, finally said, you
know, "Could somebody help me out here? I mean, it
wasn't weapons of mass destruction, it wasn't terror, so
what was it?" I mean, hello? What was going on here? And
so I looked around and saw that nobody else was, none of
the other panelists were really interested in answering
that, so I said, "Well, I've been lecturing around to
the universities, and I use an acronym, OIL." And the
congress people looked at me, and I said, "O for oil, I
for Israel," (inaudible). The congress people, you know,
a lot of progressives there, all froze up. And I said,
"Well, that's interesting," and I said, "L for
logistics," logistics for the permanent milit-- well, we
don't say permanent anymore. Please. What do we say?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Enduring.
MR. MCGOVERN: Right. Believe me for all those enduring
young military bases. Give me a break. What's the
difference between enduring and permanent? You know,
enduring sounds more endearing, I guess. Anyhow, we were
already on to that. They've got to be enduring, they
can't be permanent, okay?
So I went through that, and then I thought, wow, you
know, these people are really objecting to what I said
about Israel. So I simply said, "Well, you know, it's
well known that the U.S. and Israel is determined to
dominate that part of the world." And they're looking at
me like this, and it was really (inaudible). And I said,
you know, I'm thinking, wow, you know, here's this
C-SPAN cameras and, you know, I'm an intelligence
analyst and I'm not running for anything and I don't
need any money and I tell it like it is. That's my whole
profession. So I said, "You know, you ought to realize
that not only is Israel not our ally, but General
Scowcroft has just got finished telling The Financial
News that Ariel Sharon has our president wrapped around
his little finger and that he's got our president
So I said, well, okay, now I'll maybe cease or desist,
but it was really, really quite a exhibition of how
delicate, how explosive this issue was. And I was
violating the, you know, all the rules of what you say
when the cameras are on.
Jon Stewart, by the way, my children told me Jon Stewart
referred to all this three days later and said, "That
McGovern, that McGovern, he's violating the rules for
acronyms. You can't have an acronym that spells out the
word that you really mean. OIL, oh, that's wrong," and
he ranted for about five minute, and I was just
delighted. There was the O-I-L right there.
So, now, the military permanent or enduring military
bases, well, we didn't get them, did we? So that one
sort of -- oil? I don't think anybody in this room, I
hope not anyway, will argue that if Iraq didn't sit on
all that oil that we would have gone in there anyway. I
don't think that's . . .
So what about the Israeli thing? Well, my experience, I
think, was worth a thousand words. When I got finished,
I had got a little telephone call to be on Lehrer, and
I'm walking across the mall, and one of the
correspondents that was covering us in this little room
in the Capitol puppy-dogged after me asking why I was
anti-Semitic, why was I anti-Semitic, why was I
anti-Semitic? And I said, "I'm not anti-Semitic," you
know, "I'm from the Bronx. My father has an honorary
degree from Yeshiva University." "What do you mean?
Well, the next day, the press, of course, rang several
changes on this theme what I had said was anti-Semitic,
and, sure enough, three hours, three hours after I had
finished testifying, the three representatives from New
York City and thereabouts issued a statement and said,
"This is terrible. What McGovern said was anti-Semitic.
Who's trying to dominate this part of the Middle East?
Of course not us," and that he should be upbraided for
what he said.
So that was the tenor of the reaction. And I guess I
shouldn't have been surprised and I was glad that I
wasn't running for office or that I didn't need any
So then what happened was really interesting. Howard
Dean, Howard Dean, head of the DNC at the time, he
issued a statement, the same statement as came out of
the congress people from New York, who, incidentally,
said, "If we were in the room, we would have
(inaudible)." But they were in the room and they didn't
say anything. They were just too shocked.
So Howard Dean did the same thing, you know, saying,
well, that's odd, you know. Here's Howard Dean. He blew
his chance just because the media did a job on him. He,
at one point, made a point of saying, well, you know, we
might be just a little bit, maybe not really evenhanded
but a little more evenhanded on the Israeli -- and so
they did a job on him and now he's criticizing me for
days later, a friend of mine called from Dallas, and
she's very high in the Democratic Party there. And she
said, "Ray, I was just with Howard Dean. He's doing a
fundraiser out here. It was amazing. I said, ‘Hey, what
did you think about that Downing Street Memo hearing?
and he said, ‘It was awful, it was terrible." She said,
"What do you mean? They had the goods on Tony Blair and
Bush. He said, ‘no no no that anti-Semitic guy.’" She
says, "You mean Ray McGovern?" "Yes, I think
(inaudible)." She said, "He's a good friend of mine."
"Well, he may be a friend of yours, but he caused me all
kinds of problems. I had to come back in, interrupt
dinner, come back in, answer phone calls from all the
usual suspects. And, look, these people are the real
deal, okay? Not little punk, you know, a million dollars
here, a million dollars, like in Dallas. These are the
real deal. This is Foxman and everybody else. So, look,
he gave me all kinds of problems. You know. He's a real
Now, what was my reaction to that? Well, I know Howard
Dean. I used to caddy, I used to caddy for his parents,
and I watched him as a little twerp with his madras
shorts and his alligator shirt on trying to learn how to
play golf, you know.
Now, the thing is that this was at a very exclusive golf
course on the dunes of the Atlantic in East Hampton,
Long Island, okay? What does that mean? Well, for those
of you not from New York, maybe you don't know what
exclusive is, all right? Well, all right, maybe you do.
Okay. That means that Howard Dean couldn't take his wife
to lunch at the Maidstone club, and I'm going, oh, you
know. It doesn't help to be Irish when you get angry.
Luckily, people reined me in and told me, "Look, they're
trying to make it about your anti-Semitism, Ray. Don't
let them do that to you."
What's the point here? Well, the point I guess is that
one has to expect this kind of thing and one has to
persist. And what I'd like to do is just go from the
general to the particular just for another minute. I'm
running a little -- well, I'm doing all right, I guess.
MR. GIRALDI: We're running out of time.
MR. MCGOVERN: Are we? Okay, all right. All I want to say
is that if you run from general to the specific, I had a
conversation with Dahr Jamail this week. I saw him on
Amy Goodman on Tuesday. He was talking about Fallujah.
And Fallujah, my friends, is America's shame. America's
shame. Depleted uranium, white phosphorus, all kinds of
The point I just want to make is who knows how Fallujah
started? Oh, everybody thinks Blackwater guys, right?
Yes. It wasn't the Blackwater guys. It was the
assassination of Sheikh Yassin, a blind, old, crippled
cleric in Gaza, well, he was a spiritual leader of Gaza,
by the Israelis on the 22nd of March, 2004. That's a
week before those Blackwater guys got misdirected, and
two days later they were killed and then dragged through
the streets, okay? And then three days later, the U.S.
started what the UN representative called reprisal raids
on Fallujah. That's what happens when people identify
the United States with the kind of assassination
techniques that the Israelis are doing.
I want to close now and simply refer to one of my
favorite prophets, who was mentioned before, Rabbi
Abraham Heschel, who said, "When injustice takes place,
few are guilty but all are responsible." He added,
"Indifference to evil is more insidious than evil
itself." Indifference to evil more insidious than evil
itself. So if Barack Obama and John Kerry are
indifferent to evil, we can't just say, oh, (yawns),
you know. It's really up to us, folks. It's really up to
And there's nothing in the Hebrew or the Christian
scriptures that urges us to use the imperative, the
imperative voice in addressing God. It seems to me that
she's very offended when we use the imperative mood. I
think it's idolatry. And so let's do it this way: God
bless Palestine, God bless Israel, God bless the rest of
the world, no exceptions. And then God bless us, too.
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