By David Swanson
Sam Provance exposed the torture in Abu Ghraib and as thanks had his career ruined, was threatened with prison, has had his wife leave him, and is now barely scraping by. He said Thursday evening that on a personal level his choice to speak out was not worth it. “But,” he said, “this is not about me.” And everyone in the auditorium where he was speaking knew exactly what he meant, because we had just heard Dan Ellsberg, Ann Wright, Larry Johnson, Coleen Rowley, Bob Parry, Akbar Ahmed, Peter Kuznick, Max Friedman, and Ray McGovern lay out the gravity of the situation this nation and the world are now in.
We’ll get videos of the whole thing posted ASAP at AfterDowningStreet.org, but I can’t resist conveying the flavor of it right now.
Thursday evening at American University in Washington, D.C., this group of outstanding academics and courageous truth tellers gathered on the stage of an auditorium packed to overflowing. People had to be turned away at the door.
The event was organized by Ray McGovern and the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity for the purpose of presenting an award. The nominating committee of Sam Adams Professionals for Integrity in Intelligence had chosen Sam Provance to receive this year’s award for Integrity in Intelligence
Peter Kuznick, Professor of History and Director, Nuclear Studies Institute, American University, moderated the first of two panels. The speeches went so long that there was no panel discussion. Kuznick simply introduced the first group of speakers.
Akbar Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University, and former Pakistani High Commissioner to Great Britain — The BBC described him as “the world’s leading authority on contemporary Islam — spoke of admirable US traditions and recent US crimes. He said that among Muslim nations, Pakistan is the greatest ally of the United States. Recently, he said, a member of the parliament in Pakistan advocated jihad against America. If that is in the government discourse in our closest Muslim ally, we might want to change course, he suggested. Muslims, he said, hate the United States and do not know its democratic past any more than Americans know Muslim history. There is a cultural gap that is increasingly dangerous, his talk suggested.
Max Friedman, history professor at American U, discussed the war lies. This was probably the most important and best composed speech to show to that 20 to 30 percent of Americans who still believe all the lies. I didn’t take notes, because it was all unpleasantly familiar to me.
Larry Johnson, former CIA analyst and operations officer and deputy director of the State Department Office of Counterterrorism, and consultant with U.S. military on terrorism-related matters, said getting a hold of the insurgencies would take 550,000 troops or so, which would require a draft and a couple of years. Therefore there is no military solution.
Referring to Petraeus’ counterinsurgency manual, Johnson said he’s talked to an Army Major at Leavenworth who helped draft it. Petreaus didn’t write it or read it. It’s not his.
The insurgency in Iraq, Johnson said, is multiple insurgencies, and they will not be defeated. And it’s not al Qaeda. And Iran has supported a lot less violence in Iraq than Saudi Arabia, Jordan, or Pakistan. Yet, Johnson says, we are now preparing to attack Iran. At the CIA the Iran task force has been greatly increased in size – same at State Dept and Pentagon. Positioning of naval vessels is also part of preparation for moment when case can be made for attacking Iran. Johnson said he saw the same thing with Panama. The US tried endless provocations against Noriega, and he repeatedly refused to take the bait.
The tours of duty for US troops in Iraq of over 15 months is unprecedented, Johnson said. A unit in Iraq has 60% with Purple Hearts (meaning wounded in combat) – and presumably that’s 60% of those left alive. There are now 24 and 36 month periods of combat for troops. Those in the administration who are pushing to attack Iran believe they’ll crush Iran. Johnson calls this “faith-based war planning”. He challenged men and women in the military to stand up and resign their commissions. Iran, if attacked, could shut down the US supply line through the south of Iraq.
Bob Parry, an investigative journalist who broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for AP and Newsweek in the 1980s, and who manages and writes for Consortiumnews.com, said that for many years now the neocons have targeted the press corps and the intelligence agencies, in a campaign of “perception management” aimed at “kicking the Vietnam syndrome.” Groups like AIM (Accuracy in Media) attacked specific reporters. Reporters tended to back off certain types of stories, and their editors and managers preferred that anyway. The AP broke the Iran Contra stories, Parry said, because the New York Times and the Washington Post had backed off. When Clinton came in, the media was set on attacking him in order to shed its image as liberal. Parry found a document from Al Haig written to Reagan suggesting that Carter had given Saddam Hussein approval to invade Iran, but nobody wanted the story. So, eventually, Parry started trying to use the internet to communicate traditional honest journalism.
Kuznick described the spin-off neocon group called Accuracy in Academia, which he said had attacked him frequently.
For the second series of speeches, Ray McGovern did the introductions. Ray is a former CIA analyst who prepared the President’s Daily Brief for Nixon and Reagan and gave morning briefings to Vice President Bush. He chaired National Intelligence Estimates. And he co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS): http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/vips
Daniel Ellsberg, the former Defense and State Department official who faced 115 years in prison for releasing the Pentagon Papers to the press in 1971, and the author of “Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers,” opened up by predicting that all the problems we are facing now we will not be able to do anything about until 2009. He said that our priority right now has got to be trying to thwart an attack on Iran. He also fears the establishment of a total police state in the United States if there is another 9-11. He sees the potential for this coming together with an attack on Iran.
Although Ellsberg has little hope for changing anything prior to 2009, he believes we are essentially doomed if we do not. He predicted that a President Hillary Clinton would not shut down illegal NSA spying programs or deprive herself of other abusive powers. Ellsberg urged impeachment of Bush because, he said, no past president has ever been what this one is: “a domestic enemy of the Constitution.” Ellsberg is confident that if we don’t act in a dramatic way to change things, we will see an attack on Iran in the next 15 months.
Coleen Rowley told her story briefly following Ellsberg’s speech. She was a special agent and staff attorney for the Minneapolis FBI when Zacarias Moussaoui came under suspicion there. In memoranda to FBI director Mueller, she decried Bureau ineptitude regarding 9/11 and warned of consequences of invading Iraq. She was one of three whistleblowers named Time Magazine’s Persons of the Year for 2002.
Ann Wright also spoke briefly. She is a former Acting Ambassador in Afghanistan who resigned from the Foreign Service the day the bombing began in Iraq to protest U.S. policy. She served 29 years in the Army before retiring as a colonel.
Wright and McGovern and Rowley presented Provance with the Corner Brightener Candlestick award, and Provance told his story, which was the most moving of the evening. He described his repeated attempts to see an honest investigation of Abu Ghraib, which he has not seen yet. Please watch the video of his speech at www.afterdowningstreet.org
Provance was presented with this citation: http://afterdowningstreet.org/node/27029
In this photo, Ann Wright is at left, and Sam Provance is being handed the candlestick by Coleen Rowley.
Following the presentation, Ray McGovern asked me if I would come up on stage and suggest to people a few things they could do about the problems they’d just heard described for three hours. I suggested four things:
1. Do not give up on forcing Congress to end the occupation, which requires only 41 Senators, not the 60 or 67 your television and newspaper pretend. Start by urging your Congress Member and both of your Senators to sign a letter that 81 Congress Members have already signed committing them to NOT vote for any bills that fund the occupation without ending it: http://www.pdamerica.org
2. We absolutely need impeachment, and Nancy Pelosi is the roadblock. Call her and then call your own Congress Member. Urge them to support Kucinich’s bill or a bill of their own or both: http://afterdowningstreet.org
3. Take part in the September 22-29 encampment in front of the US Capitol and especially the march on the 29th: http://www.troopsoutnow.org
4. If your fear of the catastrophes and total martial law Ellsberg and others warn of does not outweigh your fear of being teased for supporting a candidate whom CNN calls “non-viable” you’ve got a problem. If everyone who likes Dennis Kucinich but says he can’t win were to give him $100 or more, he would not only win, but it would impact Congress right away. Hillary Clinton’s influence on Pelosi is contributing to the destruction of our Constitution and must be diminished. Back Kucinich: http://www.kucinich.us