Sojourners: In the build up toward the war in Iraq, the Bush administration made allegations that are proving more and more to be demonstrably false. Were they just misunderstandings of intelligence data, or were we being sold a bill of goods? Was it an honest mistake?
Ray McGovern: No, by no stretch of the imagination was it an honest mistake. We were able to tell very last fall that there was very little substance to the main charges with respect to weapons of mass destruction. Even the sanitized version of the National Intelligence Estimate that was put on the CIA Web site—if you looked at it closely with any experience in intelligence, you could see what a thin reed they were relying on, and that there was little possibility of substantiating Dick Cheney's claim that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. That, of course, is the mushroom cloud that scared Congress into ceding its power to wage war.
Sojourners: Why is that significant?
McGovern: In my experience—and that includes more than 40 years in this town watching these kinds of things very closely—it's the first time that I've seen such a long-term, orchestrated plan of deception by which one branch of our government deliberately misled the other on a matter of war and peace.
There have been a lot of indignities over the years, but here was a very calculated plan, proceeding from a "Mein Kampf" type of document. All one need do is consult the Project for the New American Century on the Web to see what the ideological and strategic underpinnings of this campaign were. The first objective was to deceive Congress into approving the plans. They succeeded masterfully. They had their war, and they thought that in the wake of the war, with Iraqis opening their arms to us, that no one would really care whether there were, in fact, weapons of mass destruction. They were absolutely quite wrong on that. People do care, as one by one our servicemen and women are killed in a war fought on false pretences.
David MacMichael: The use of deception to frighten Congress and secure its consent for the October resolution reflects the way our government has been functioning in the area of war and peace for more than half a century. Congress has effectively resigned its power in these areas to the Executive. This has been done over and over again, mostly notably in the case of Vietnam, of course, and the response of Congress has been nearly always to pass what is, by my definition, a plainly unconstitutional act, the War Powers Act.
It's not so much necessary to frighten or convince Congress, because Congress doesn't work that way. It is necessary to confuse and gain public acceptance for this. People who've dealt with propaganda will let you know this is a very great art, and it's becoming easier and easier. We now embed journalists in our national security forces to report "properly," and so forth.
Sojourners: There is a legal, constitutional, and, I'm sure, moral difference between intentionally misleading the public in the State of the Union address and intentionally deceiving Congress over matters of war. Do you think that those deceptions amount to high crimes and misdemeanors?
MacMichael: It's rather more serious than misleading about dalliances with interns.
McGovern: I have lost a whole bevy of progressive liberal friends by being strongly in favor of the impeachment of Bill Clinton. I was of that mind because he lied under oath. That's enough for me. When a president of the United States lies under oath, he should be impeached, in my view. Nixon, of course, was almost impeached. He lied. But it was about a "second rate burglary." With Clinton it was a sexual activity in the White House. Certainly deceiving Congress and the people of the United States into waging an unprovoked war is a matter of a different scale altogether.
One of the key aspects of this whole situation is that we have a domesticated press. The press is not where it should be, and even though they don't like to be lied to, the proof will be in the pudding as to whether the press will press this case with respect to weapons of mass destruction, deceiving us into war, and the whole array of things that came out over recent weeks.
MacMichael: As Gerald Ford famously said following the departure of Richard Nixon, a high crime and misdemeanor is anything a majority of Congress says it is at any given time. Which is effectively true, because the impeachment is a legislative process. It is not a legal process, per se.
Sojourners: Let's get to the issue of credibility. There's been a lot of finger pointing from very high levels of government.
MacMichael: As you know, the president is not a fact-checker.
Sojourners: Yes. But his staff members—National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, for example, and Vice President Cheney—claim to have no culpability, no knowledge of the fact that the allegations about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction were thoroughly discredited before they were made public. Are they telling the truth?
McGovern: The amazing thing was that the White House PR machine broke down when the president went to Africa. Ari Fleischer was retiring, and at the first mention of the forgery flap, Fleischer denied that there was anything new to it. When it became clear there was a lot new to it, the first thing he said was, "But the vice president didn't have anything to do with it. The vice president didn't know anything about it." And the reporter might have asked, "Well, I didn't ask you about the vice president." But you could see that this was pretty much the talking points that he remembered from the week or two weeks before. So it was very curious as to how the blame for the celebrated 16 words [in the State of the Union address] was to be apportioned.
In the course of all this controversy, it became something of a red herring, because the information not only was forged, but it was substantively implausible on its face. Namely, Iraq had no need for more yellow cake uranium from anywhere, and Niger, the country in Africa from which it was sought, could not possibly supply Iraq with this uranium. Why? Because it doesn't control it. It's controlled by an international consortium run by the French. And every ounce of that uranium is accounted for.
I go back to Yul Brynner's famous line in The King and I—"It's a false lie." How did they handle this false lie? They handled it by deflecting attention from the fact that the real sin with this false lie was committed back in September and early October of 2002, when that false lie was dragged out—knowing it to be false—and used it as the most persuasive evidence that Saddam Hussein was about to get nuclear weapons in his hands, that the first indication of trouble would be a mushroom crowd. They all used it. It was a PR masterpiece. That was where the damage was done. That's where the constitutional crisis comes in.
With respect to the 16 words in the State of the Union, Condoleezza Rice said, "I told my people, if they want an authoritative statement about Iraq and nuclear, they have to go to the most authoritative assessment available, and so drag out that one from October 1 and just cull from that." What she was saying was, "Use the National Intelligence Estimate." Now, in the ordinary course of events, it should be exquisitely appropriate to seek the estimate and to use it as the most authoritative statement. In this case, of course, the supreme irony is that the NIE had already been cooked to the recipe of Dick Cheney's speech on August 26 of last year, in which he claimed that Iraq was already embarked on a new reconstitution program for its nuclear weapons. The NIE had already been distorted and melded to the recipe of policy, and so Condoleezza Rice was within her rights in saying, "We took the language from the estimate." By any ordinary standards, she should be able to depend on the veracity of an estimate.
Why did the Director of Central Intelligence permit spurious information about this alleged attempt by Iraq to seek uranium in Niger, why did he let it get into the Estimate, is most authoritative product to the president? He allowed it, under great pressure from Dick Cheney and from others, to creep into the Estimate, and the Estimate, of course, is what they use as the basis to brief Congress in the crucial weeks before the vote on Oct. 11 to give the president permission to wage war.
Sojourners: In sum, the intelligence was being used to support policy, not to shape it?
McGovern: That's correct. That's the unpardonable sin for an intelligence analyst. That is a violation of our ethic. It's a violation of honesty, and it's a violation of the orderly progress of government. If a president cannot go to the CIA and say, "Look, I want the straight answer here. I don't care what the State Department says, what the Defense Department says. I want you to tell me what you really think." If he cannot do that, then the president is missing an essential weapon, essential tool, for the orderly conduct of foreign policy.
Sojourners: It appears in that formulation that the president honestly went for an honest assessment and didn't get it. Is that how you see the situation?
McGovern: Whether the president was aware of all the chicanery around him or whether he was not, I don't know—but I ask you, which would be worse?
Sojourners: Tell us about your journey. How did you get to where you are today?
MacMichael: I'm a Cold War kid. I graduated high school in 1946. We'd been brought up on the excitement of the second world war. Our older brothers had made the world safe for democracy, and our task was to go out and build the democratic world.
I took my doctorate in U.S. diplomatic history, and that was the beginning of the awakening. I wound up spending four years in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, most of that time working as a counterinsurgency specialist out of the U.S. embassy. I recall one of the reporters from The New York Times coming down from an interview with the then-ambassador in Thailand. He knew me from the Marine Corps, and disgustedly he threw his notebook on my desk and said, "Does that guy ever speak the truth?" I said, "To my knowledge, he does, but it's a sign of his unfamiliarity with the process."
Later I was invited to work in intelligence at the National Intelligence Council over at Langley in the analytic group. I was one of the two officers dealing with Western Hemisphere affairs. Our main task was the preparation of National Intelligence Estimates, and I had the dubious honor of heading the drafting of one or two of these. It was then that I became totally convinced that the Reagan administration was seriously misrepresenting the evidence used to justify its supposedly covert war on Nicaragua, that led eventually into the Iran-contra affair.
Sojourners: I believe we summarized it as "Ronald Reagan is lying about Nicaragua."
MacMichael: Well, he was. Later [volunteering with] the Witness for Peace group was my first real introduction, if you will, to a term that was almost totally foreign to my ear, which was "liberation theology."
Sojourners: How did you get from the CIA to volunteering for Witness for Peace?
MacMichael: I was very much convinced by my handling of documents that the statements being made by the administration were not supported by the evidence that passed across my desk. I traveled privately in Central America, particularly in Nicaragua, and looked over the situation on the ground. What I saw down there further convinced me. I then made contacts with the people in and around the Nicaraguan government, and further assured myself on a number of points. When I came back here, I wanted to find some way of trying to alter the on-going policy the government followed both in El Salvador and Nicaragua. I came across Bill Callahan [of the Quixote Center] and he introduced me to Yvonne Dilling [then-director of Witness for Peace]. I just helped out filing papers for a little while until I got some knowledge of who these people were and what they were about.
Sojourners: Doing some investigation of them, as it were.
MacMichael: Yes. Precisely. I mean, just because people put a cross on their door doesn't mean they're people I want to associate with, I can guarantee you that—present company excepted.
But once I had done that, I made a second trip down in Nicaragua. After several events down there, including the attacks on the airport, the mining of the harbors, and a few other things, I became quite convinced that we were in real danger of an open U.S. invasion of Nicaragua. I said, "Well, if I'm going to speak out, I'd better do it before the event instead of after it."
So I prudently contacted an excellent lawyer, and even more prudently read carefully my agreement of employment with the CIA regarding publication, and figured out what I felt I had to say. I submitted that for publication and clearance by the Publications Review Board.
Once I got the proper authorization, I went ahead and spoke my piece.
As far as a turning point in my life, I found those totally inspiring figures in Archbishop Oscar Romero and those around him and Father Miguel DeSoto in Nicaragua, whom I came to know well. If I required moral justification for what I was doing, it was my acquaintance with some of these people that helped me to believe that what I was doing was not only necessary but also right, and that has helped me sleep better at night.
Sojourners: Ray, was it conscience that led you to go public?
McGovern: I, too, am a Catholic, immensely grateful for the foundation in my faith that I got, partly under the tutelage of Jesuits. Dan McGuire, a theologian at Marquette University, spoke to me directly in 1984 at a major conference on religious education.
Sojourners: At that time you were at the CIA?
McGovern: I was. My career spanned the years from 1964 to 1990. What had attracted me to the Central Intelligence Agency was the notion that the graduate degree that I had in Russian studies could be well-used in the service of my country. I came down here under the impact of John F. Kennedy and his suggestion that we ask not so much what the country can do for us as what we can do for the country.
After raising five children and being distracted by overseas assignments, in the '80s I came back to the States and was an active participant in Sunday school at Holy Trinity Church in Georgetown, a Jesuit-run parish. There I had to refurbish my theological underpinnings. To make sure that I wasn't preaching heresy to the 7th and 8th graders in the school, they sent me off to Georgetown University to a certificate program in theological studies, which was a great blessing to me because I found out, number one, I wasn't preaching heresy, and number two, that the only thing this Yahweh of the Old Testament and Jesus of the New really cared about was that we do justice to one another. That was a terrific encouragement.
At the same time, the Catholic bishops in the United States came out with two very courageous statements, one on war and peace and the other on the economy, facing right into these delicate issues. So I began to call myself a Catholic again, not just a Christian, and felt rather proud of where our church was heading.
That, of course, was nipped in the bud by this current pope, but it was a great wellspring of hope in those days. The main conclusion from the economic pastoral was that no one is entitled to accumulate still more of what he or she doesn't need when there are so many out there that don't have the bare necessities of life. That's a gutsy thing to say, but that's how I saw it.
When I came back from overseas, I did a non-career-enhancing year at the Department of Health and Human Services, and that was very eye-opening for lots of reasons. I had wanted to sample that part of our government and perhaps transfer to it. When Ronald Reagan was elected president, the Department of Health and Human Services became a disaster area, and coincidentally I was called back to the Central Intelligence Agency to the best job ever, which involved preparing and briefing the president's daily brief, briefing one-on-one to the vice president, secretary of State and Defense, the assistant to the president for national security affairs, and the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
That was an attractive thing to come back to, particularly because my experience in CIA was that we on the analytic side of things were not only enjoined, but we were able to do what the scripture says on the entrance to the building, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." It's not always possible to know the truth, but it's always possible to gather the evidence, such as it is, and come up with your best guess without fear or favor, and that, by and large, is what we were able to do.
I remember Director William Colby sending me down to do battle with Henry Kissinger. Here I am, a GS-15, middle level bureaucrat, and he tells me, as I go out the door, "Look, Ray, don't sell my stock short." So I go down there to Henry Kissinger, and I get all bloodied about the head and shoulders. I come back and I tell Bill Colby about what happened. He says, "Ray, you did a good job. That's exactly what we have to do. We don't win them all, you know." Soon, of course, Bill Colby got fired by Henry Kissinger, but at least that was proud service.
One case had to do with Turkey. The Turks invaded Cyprus in the mid-'70s, and Congress cut off military aid to Turkey. This set Henry Kissinger into high dudgeon, and the whole government was pitted against these terrible members of Congress who had cut off aid to our major ally on the southern flank of NATO. I thought it was a pretty good idea. If you award military aid to countries, and then they go invading other countries expressly against the conditions of that military aid, we probably should do something. Maybe the Israelis would get a better idea of our adherence to principle on these things.
I offer that as a small but significant example of how you could operate in this kind of environment where you could say, "Yeah, I'm going to get at the truth here, and the truth maybe will make us free."
As I listened to the pastorals in the early '80s on the economy and on war and peace, and as I talked with the likes of Bill Callahan, it became clear to me that our church itself was guilty of a major injustice, and that was denying women the opportunity to preside at our services simply because they were women. The more I thought about that, the more outraged I became at that. I began to ask myself, "Well, does it suffice to be outraged, or do I need to do something?" I could come up with no better suggestion than to stand up where I used to sit—right in the fourth row of Holy Trinity Church—and quietly just stand up as a witness against the injustice that was happening every Sunday. If somebody asked me why I was standing up, I would tell them, but otherwise, I would just hold my piece. This emerged into a major brouhaha, an amazing cleavage in the parish, and after four-and-a-half years of standing, I left the parish over another issue, which had to do with the rightness or wrongness of spending $10 million on a pretty new chapel in a town where every other child goes to bed hungry.
Around that time I came to the Servant Leadership School, a ministry of the Church of the Saviour, with which I had been connected since the early '70s. There, too, the emphasis was on justice and I ended up teaching there.
I left the CIA in 1990. I qualified for early retirement, and besides that, my particular area of expertise, the Soviet Union, was no longer necessary, since it was falling apart. So I jocularly said, "mission accomplished" with respect to the Soviet Union, and left.
I was born 64 years ago at a time when the Weirmarcht in Germany was about to enter Poland and start World War II. I've always felt a perverse affinity for that period in German history. I lived in Germany for five years and have many German friends and acquaintances, and I never was able to get a satisfactory answer to the question, why did virtually no one speak out? Here you were—the most educated, the most cultured, the most advanced society on the face of the earth—and you were unable to speak out. You were unable to see the injustice for what it was and oppose this terrible thing.
What I saw happening in this country in February and March of this year was like a terrible flashback to August 1939, where I saw my fellow Americans unable to speak out with the power that was needed. Most certainly there were a lot of demonstrations, but the church, whom we look to for moral guidance, was riding shotgun for the system. That's a terrible thing to say, but it needs to be said. And few others in positions of responsibility were speaking out.
Toward the end of the war, there was a man named Albrechtsh. Albrechtsh was one of the few people who did speak out against the war, and he was imprisoned in Berlin. Just before his execution, he wrote a sonnet. The title is "Guilt." The people in charge of the German prison in Berlin were required to get an admission of guilt from a prisoner before he was executed. Albrechtsh had been reluctant to do so. Finally, just days before his death, he composed this sonnet which says, "Okay, I acknowledge I was guilty, but it is other than you think. I should have earlier recognized my duty. I should have more sharply called evil evil. My judgments I too long postponed, and so I accuse myself. My own heart, my own conscience, I too long betrayed. I lied to myself and others for too long, because I knew earlier what this whole course would lead to. I warned, but not hard enough and clear."
There is no comparative in German for "clear." Clear is clear. So "I warned, but not hard enough, not clear enough, and today I acknowledge what I was guilty of." I believe we are all guilty of that, even those of us who did warn. We didn't warn early enough and we didn't warn sharp enough and we didn't warn often enough and we didn't warn "klaar." That I see is our task now.
The Veteran Intelligence Officers for Sanity (VIPS), which we founded in early January as we recognized that intelligence would play an incredibly important role in how the war would be "justified," has issued nine papers since Colin Powell's U.N. speech of February 15. This movement is directed at speaking klaar—speaking clearly, speaking early enough, speaking definitively enough of our own experience in intelligence and from what we see going on so that our fellow citizens can make their own judgments with respect to the rectitude or deception attending this war.
Sojourners: For many of us, the CIA represents illegal assassinations, the overthrow of duly elected governments, and the like more than it does truth-telling. Do you think one can live a life of integrity while working inside the system?
MacMichael: There is an inherent seduction in being on the inside, the belief, which is sometimes justified, that you can have more influence if you are on the inside "speaking truth to power"—or at least maybe speaking half-truths to power. C.S. Lewis in the trilogy pointed out that that is a seduction, and almost always leads to failure.
Ray mentioned the case of Nazi Germany. If properly organized, a system need only have a very small minority of its officials involved directly in the apparent evil-doing. The others shuffle the papers and write the memoranda and don't have to go down into the torture chambers. No society in history that I know of has had any difficulty recruiting executioners, spies, torturers, and so forth. They line up to do it. We used to have a saying in the Marine Corps that a 5-percent unemployment rate was the best recruitment sergeant you can have.
In the most recent submission from VIPS, we challenged officers in the U.S. intelligence system who believe that the information derived through the intelligence system could be incorrectly represented in the public statements of the administration. Do they have an ethical duty to stand up and tell the general public, "This is wrong"? We know that several people in our foreign service have done this—there were three relatively high level resignations in recent months from the foreign service of people saying "no, I can't go along with this." Do we have an obligation to say, "This your ethical responsibility to do this. This is your professional responsibility to do this. This is your citizen's duty to do this"? I have a hard time answering that question.
Sojourners: But it has to be asked and grappled with.
MacMichael: It has to be asked.
Sojourners: Ray, you've mentioned a colleague named Sam Adams who wrestled with just these issues…
McGovern: Sam uncovered the fact that there were twice as many Vietnamese Communists under arms as the military in Saigon were willing to admit. Over lunch Sam told me of a cable from Gen. Creighton Abrams that said in effect, "We can't very well say that there are twice as many Vietcong as we thought there were. The press would have a field day about this." I said to myself, My God, that cable needs to be taken to The New York Times. I never suggested that to Sam. He never did do that. The Tet offensive just two months later demonstrated that Sam was right—at great human cost. And the war dragged on for seven more years.
A senior CIA official later made the mistake of jocularly asking Adams if he thought the Agency had "gone beyond the bounds of reasonable dishonesty." I had to restrain Sam, who had not only a keen sense of integrity but first-hand experience of what our troops were experiencing in the jungles of Vietnam. Adams himself became, in a very real sense, a casualty of Vietnam. He died of a heart attack at 55, with remorse he was unable to shake. You see, he decided to "go through channels." He allowed himself to be diddled for so many years that by the time he went public the war was mostly over—and the damage done.
The reason I didn't go public myself was because I had just been selected for a plum assignment in Munich. Rather than face into it, I equivocated. I said to myself, "This is a great career, and if you stay in here you may get to fight better battles and do even more good"—all these seductive, intoxicating pretexts for avoiding facing the issue and saying this is a major lie perpetrated by our country. I regret that very much. I failed.
Sojourners: Are we going to be seeing the same kinds of intelligence estimates about Iran's weapons of mass destruction and the peril thereof as we did last year about Iraq? Is Iran next?
MacMichaels: It's a matter of near certainty that the United States will apply diplomatic, public relations pressure on Iran, an already designated rogue state. But in terms of taking the type of military action that we took against Iraq, I don't anticipate that that will happen, if for no other reason that we have our military hands very full in Afghanistan and in Iraq, as well as the very substantial military and quasi-military activities that we're undertaking in Colombia, for example, and in the Philippines.
A lot of this has to do, quite legitimately, with questions of nuclear proliferation. Countries that are facing extraordinary threats from the major military power in the world—which has used nuclear weapons in the past, which has threatened to use them on numerous occasions, and which is, at present, very publicly developing new weapons designed to be used in the war against "rogue states" or "terrorist states"—might legitimately feel that their best means of deterrence is to develop a capability in that area themselves.
McGovern: One of the central factors here is the role of Israel. The war on Iraq was just as much prompted by the strategic objectives of the state of Israel as it was the strategic objectives of the United States of America. Indeed, the people running this war are people who have worked for the government of Israel in the past, people who have prepared position papers for former Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and others. These are people who are well attuned to Israel's objectives.
The authors of the Project for the New American Century have set out for the United States to become the dominant power in the world. And, Israel, for its own part, is hell bent on remaining the dominant power in the Middle East. The confluence of objectives is striking. Israel has as much to do with the war in Iraq as does the United States of America.
It doesn't seem likely, if only for military capability reasons, that we're going to be invading Iran soon. However, it is publicly known that Ariel Sharon, during his last visit here to Washington, raised the possibility that Israel might take out the nuclear facilities that are being constructed in Iran. This is exactly what they did, with respect to Iraq, in 1981. The Osirak nuclear facility was taken out by Israeli Mirage bombers. The United States and other nations unanimously condemned that act as an act of war at the U.N. Security Council. Not until Vice President Cheney spoke a year ago did any prominent U.S. spokesperson endorse that attack. Cheney thought it was a great idea, and cited it in his speech. We later learned that Cheney has a photograph of the destroyed Osirak reactor on the wall of his office. One can by no means rule out the possibility that Sharon, with the tacit encouragement of the Pentagon, would fly his Mirages right into Iran and take out their nuclear facility, with consequences that one can hardly imagine. I don't think the United States is going to attack Iran anytime soon. I would consider it a fair bet that Israel will.
Sojourners: You both have spoken a lot about conscience. You've given examples of individuals who have taken steps out of conscience, sometimes with pretty serious consequences. For many people, those kinds of actions are signs of hope in what seem like dark times. What do you see as signs of hope? What are some things that give you hope in the face of some real negative things going on?
MacMichaels: One thing is the endurance of organizations like Sojourners. Another is the fact that people like Ray McGovern can come out and organize VIPS in the face of this situation. Over the last 20 years, I worked with the Association of National Security Alumni Group, which was speaking on covert operations. It's actually a hopeful sign that we were able to speak out, and nobody wound up in jail. There's a lot of paranoia about this. I know of people who have suffered rather extreme consequences for speaking out, and some of us spent some time in jail for it. But if there's anything that makes me hopeful, it's we still have a relatively open society. Whether this in itself is a snare and a delusion, I don't know. If, in fact, you are merely being allowed to speak out because it's having no effect on the decision-making process, it's not so hopeful. I certainly hope for change, and we do have an election coming up next year. Maybe we'll see something then. But I'm not particularly hopeful about the path down which either the United States or the world is going. I see too many parallels with the Roman empire. Rome in the century between the last Punic war and the establishment of the empire under Augustus Caesar provides a great number of lessons. I recently saw a performance of Julius Caesar. One could barely restrain oneself grasping at the parallels.
Sojourners: Given the parallels with the Roman empire, what's the responsibility of Christians to the empire?
MacMichaels: The process of establishing the imperial mechanism took place without any significant Christian population existing. Three centuries later, when it did, one of the arguable historical scandals of Christianity was the successful recruitment of this whole religion that originally spoke to the poor and the dispossessed into the chambers of power. That has had enormous historical consequences for the last couple of millenniums.
McGovern: I have five grandchildren, so I don't have any option but to be optimistic. It's based mostly on the basic goodness of the American people. I think when the American people learn what has been going on, they will rise to the occasion. I think folks like Sojourners, Catholic Workers, and other people who often seem like they're crying in the wilderness do have an impact.
Then there's the hope of the Internet. There's the hope of communications which are no longer national but international. In the 1980s and '90s, this succeeded in causing, in large measure, the fall of the Soviet Union empire and other things. You can't hermetically even the American people off from what's going on in the world. That is a cause for great hope.
If the American people can't rise to the occasion based on these rather idealistic considerations, then there are two more mundane things that I see at work here. One is that our sons and daughters are getting killed in Iraq almost every day. The other one is the economic factor. People are going to realize that, for every billion spent in Iraq, that billion could be spent on education, could be spent on taking children out of poverty, could be spent in many more constructive ways. That's going to become clearer to more of the American people.
There might be even a chance that the churches will come forward. I don't see the institutional churches doing that. I see folks who are more flexible, more informal, more ecumenical coming forward and speaking out in a prophetic way. We need to be followers of Jesus. If you look at the unvarnished Jesus, you'll see what he would have done in these circumstances. Indeed, you could see what he did do in these circumstances in which the vast majority of people were oppressed and there were very few people to speak out on their behalf.
Will we be successful? Victor Hugo said success is an ugly term, because, all too often, people confuse it with merit.
Sojourners: After 9/11, we saw this great blossom in television shows about the CIA. What do you think of shows like The Agency, Alias, and the others?
MacMichaels: Over the years, most of the shows based on the CIA, per se, have not survived the first few screenings on national television. The literary draw of secret operations is exemplified, of course, in the James Bond phenomenon. It's there in big time movies, now complete with martial arts representations. They didn't study martial arts when you went to the school, did they, Ray?
McGovern: There is now a very large Hollywood effort on the part of the Agency. There is a senior officer whose sole job is to link with Hollywood. He comes out of martial arts and counter-terrorism, and he's credibly presentable. He is largely responsible for not only the films, but these television shows. This started happening back in the late '80s.
One of the concerns I have is the kind of persons those kinds of things attract. Do they attract people who are interested in the substance of intelligence? Do they attract operatives? If that's all you're attracting, if you're not attracting people from academe or from elsewhere who are interested in writing and analyzing, then that's a real problem. The analytic ranks have been depleted of those who are interested in telling truth to power. The folks that were promoted under Bill Casey and his protégé, Bobby Gates, are folks, generally speaking, who could smell the way the wind was blowing on the seventh floor and trim their sails accordingly. They are the ones in leadership positions, the ones who—when told the estimate needs to come out with these conclusions—will say, yes, sir, we'll do it. That is the major tragedy, in my view.
MacMichaels: The fact that an individual who came up through the ranks of oversight, as a staff member in the oversight committees, becomes the Director of Central Intelligence raises a question, Is the fox in the hen house, or is the hen in the foxes den? That's a very serious problem; it gets back to questions about the role of Congress in this. Are they monitoring the process or are they complicit in it?