Ray McGovern Calls Out Robert Gates as a "Consummate [Political] Windsock"
Retired CIA analyst and peace activist Ray McGovern in a recent article entitled “How to Read Gates’s Shift on the Wars” explains his strong and angry reaction to a statement made by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in a West Point address last Friday. Gates:
“But in my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General [Douglas] MacArthur so delicately put it.”
... those of us who have known Gates for many years, including some of us old colleagues from his CIA days, couldn’t help but wonder what he was up to, what was the ulterior motive behind his decision to put distance between himself and these two misbegotten wars.
The Bob Gates we knew was a bright and brightly ambitious careerist whose greatest skill might have been to sense quickly where the prevailing winds of power were blowing and position himself accordingly. He was the consummate windsock.
So, having overseen the two wars for more than four years now, was Gates signaling that he knew the conflicts would come to no good end and thus was he creating a public record for himself as something of a war skeptic
McGovern does acknowledge a possibility, a miniscule one, that Gates may have become a wiser but sadder military leader, having humanely considered the lives lost in both wars. But McGovern finds it far more likely Gates is responding to the unpopularity of the wars, heeding the polls which, according to McGovern, reveal 86% of Democrats and 61% of Republicans want a speedier U.S. pullout from Afghanistan.
Gates has announced he will retire in the coming months. By abandoning his post on the bridge of the sinking pro-war ship now, Gates will let the next secretary of defense take the blame when the U.S. does not “prevail” in Afghanistan. Gates can point to his echoing of MacArthur’s warning.
Gates is neck-deep in both wars but is counting apparently on a country deserving of the Gore Vidal label, "The United States of Amnesia."
In his first months at the Pentagon, Gates certainly didn’t seem like a hesitant skeptic about the war policies. He played a key role in helping President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney escalate the war in Iraq and thus make their escape into the sunset without having lost a war on their watch.
That was 90 percent of what the celebrated “surge” of troops into Iraq was about, staving off an obvious defeat, even if it cost the lives of an additional 1,000 or so U.S. soldiers and many more Iraqis. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Afghan Lessons from the Iraq War.”]
Then, after he was kept on by Obama, Gates supported a similar “surge” in Afghanistan, pushing for a 40,000-troop increase in late 2009. Obama groused that Gates and the generals wouldn’t provide a meaningful set of alternative options to the escalation, but Obama finally relented and sent 30,000 more troops.
So, it would seem an odd swing for Gates to suggest now that psychiatric care is in order for anyone loony enough to commit U.S. ground forces to places like Iraq and Afghanistan. After all, that was pretty much what Gates had done.
Clearly there is little love lost between Gates and McGovern. McGovern shares a CIA history with Gates and spells out the intelligence/political history of Robert Gates, even in the 1970s, when McGovern had "supervisory responsibilities" for Gates. McGovern declares Gates’s “overweening careerist ambitions” were disruptive to the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch of the CIA.
McGovern reports that Gates found a mentor in Reagan’s “Cold War hardliner,” CIA Director William Casey. Casey needed a “pliable” Soviet analyst to coincide with his and Reagan’s hawkish perspectives. Gates “cooked up" the desired results and stifled the dissent of his compatriots. McGovern asserts:
The cooking was consequential, too. It facilitated not only illegal capers like the Iran-Contra Affair but also budget-breaking military spending against an exaggerated Soviet threat that, in reality, had long since passed its peak.
Talk to anyone who was there at the time (except the sycophants Gates co-opted) and they will explain that Gates’s meteoric career had mostly to do with his uncanny ability to see a Russian under every rock turned over by Casey.
One consequence was that the CIA as an institution missed the implosion of the Soviet Union — no small matter. Another was a complete loss of confidence in CIA analysis on the part of then-Secretary of State George Shultz and others who smelled the cooking of the intelligence.
Then, in the mid 1980s, Gates accommodated Reagan’s selling of arms to Iran. McGovern:
Also in 1985, Gates commissioned and warped a National Intelligence Estimate suggesting that Soviet influence in Iran could soon grow and pose a danger to U.S. interests. This gave additional cover for the illegal arms sales to Iran.
More serious still was Gates’s denial of any awareness of Oliver North’s illegal activities in support of the Contra attacks in Nicaragua, despite the fact that senior CIA officials testified that they had informed Gates that they suspected North had diverted funds from the Iranian arms sales for the benefit of the Contras.
The Iran-Contra scandal temporarily sidelined Gates. But in 1987 President George H.W. Bush made Gates deputy national security adviser. In 1991, with the victory of the Persian Gulf War, Bush senior made Gates CIA director. The appointment created an outcry from Gates's former fellow CIA analysts who had witnessed Gates’s “penchant for cooking intelligence.” McGovern accuses Gates of being “one of the officials most responsible for institutionalizing the politicitization of intelligence analysis." Tom Polgar, a former CIA station chief, McGovern cites as one of the many CIA analysts who testified against the Gates appointment and declared at the time:
“His proposed appointment as director also raises moral issues. What kind of signal does his re-nomination send to the [CIA] troops? Live long enough, your sins will be forgotten? Serve faithfully the boss of the moment, never mind integrity?
“Feel free to mislead the Senate — senators forget easily? Keep your mouth shut — if the Special Counsel does not get you, promotion will come your way?”
Incredibly, despite the intensity and number of the protests, McGovern discloses the “fix” was in. The Senate Intelligence Committee under David Boren, D-Oklahoma, and his staff director, George Tenet, managed to rally enough votes for Gates. However, McGovern points out, Gates almost got as many nays as yeas.
President Bill Clinton replaced Gates. A grateful Bush family hastened to help Gates land a job at Texas A&M. Gates eventually rose to the presidency there. He also remained a favorite of the Washington Establishment with what McGovern calls his "Eagle Scout demeanor.” In 2006 he was asked to particpate in an Iraq Study Group by President George Bush. When George Bush finally became ready to "dump" Rumsfeld he asked Gates to take his place. The Senate held a brief hearing, ignoring Gates’s history re the Iran-Contra affair and his politicizing CIA intelligence.
McGovern disagrees with David Ignatius of the Washington Post who attributes Gates’s “meteoric rise at the CIA” to meritocracy. McGovern clearly sees Gates as an amoral pragmatist who is now setting himself up for a next, highly reputed role in style-over-substance Washington. McGovern darkly concludes,
Now, the savvy Gates appears to have made a new calculation, that it is the right time to join the rats leaving the sinking ship of the Iraq and Afghan war policies.
In accountability-free Obama-world (the Continuer-in-Chief as Chris Floyd calls him), Gates will soon be charming us in a new role as wise and learned guest commentator on Meet the Press, CNN, Fox, etc., and the corporate media will very likely and obligingly ignore his entire troubling history. Style over substance, indeed. Look at Alan Greenspan. His fingerprints are all over the present economic crisis as much as Gates's are on these illegal and tragic wars. Greenspan's responsibility in reality hasn’t stopped the groveling of an obtuse corporate press. Expect the same obtuseness re Gates. Also, expect similar and further "teflon" shamelessness from Robert Gates.