Ray McGovern in Denton
This past Friday Ray McGovern came here to Denton, about 35 miles north of Dallas, to give a lecture about torture and the politicization of the CIA. As you may already know he was in Dallas(Richardson) the day before, and discussed his planning on speaking there in Counterpunch last Thursday. McGovern is a retired CIA analyst who first came to wider prominence when he publicly confronted Donald Rumsfeld a few years ago about his inconsistent statements regarding the likelihood that Saddam had WMDs.
McGovern seems like a nice enough person, but implicit in his spiel, if I'm reading it right , is that Gitmo and Bush II should be regarded as aberrations. He also said that Obama was heroic for releasing the torture memos(!), and that he regarded McNamara as a tragic figure(!!). To his credit he did criticize Panetta for not being sufficiently forthcoming, and noted that the US hasn't stopped torturing post GWB. It may be that he was being diplomatic in praising Obama, per reading his audience on Friday night as party-line rank-and-file dems who couldn't otherwise be reached unless you avoid criticizing Obama. I don't know enough about McGovern to judge. There is no video of the speech he gave here in Denton, but it was very similar to the video of the full speech he gave in Seattle in March(about 56:00, link here) which is what the 7 minute excerpt above is drawn from. At around the 8 minute mark he says "on January 20th we got rid of the Nazis" which he didn't say in Denton but seems in keeping with the tenor of the speech I heard. A goodly portion of his speech, both in the 56 minute link and last week, was about fighting the good fight, etc, etc, and the importance of resistance irrespective of the likelihood of success.
To me, fighting the good fight irrespective of the odds of success in 2008 would've meant, at the very least, voting for a third party candidate like Cynthia McKinney or Nader in order to register discontent with the corrupt prevailing political order. But my sense, sitting in the small crowd of 30-35 or so people who attended, was I surrounded by democratic party faithful, most of whom would have a hard time doing that, even here in solidly red Texas.
My sense also was that McGovern wasn't about to suggest such a strategy to the gathered group. In the brief Q and A at the end of his talk, one lady asked, "what can we do, to show our friends and neighbors who are so preoccupied with religion and believe whatever their preachers tell them about republicans and the war, how they're misguided and show them the...more enlightened view?"
Mine is a very rough paraphrase and I don't know if I'm adequately capturing her sentiment. I wanted to say, "have you tried not voting for pro-war democrats?" but felt that since I was not a regular attendee and hadn't been to one of Peace/Action/Denton's events in several years that it would have been rude. Besides, strictly speaking I don't know how the crowd that was present voted, or even that voting actually matters. Like Ray McGovern I felt they were nice people, even if they may be part of the problem. And if they are, who am I to decide that, let alone tell them?
McNamara, on the other hand, I feel more comfortable rejecting as a "tragic figure". Stephen Walt recently wrote this about him:
Some commentators see McNamara as a tragic figure; a talented, driven, and dedicated public servant who mishandled a foolish war and spent the remainder of his life trying to atone for it. The obituary in today's New York Times takes this line, describing him as having "spent the rest of his life wrestling with the war's moral consequences," and as someone who "wore the expression of a haunted man."
I see his fate differently. Unlike the American soldiers who fought in Indochina, or the millions of Indochinese who died there, McNamara did not suffer significant hardship as a result of his decisions. He lived a long and comfortable life, and he remained a respected member of the foreign policy establishment. He had no trouble getting his ideas into print, or getting the media to pay attention to his pronouncements. Not much tragedy there.
But I agree with McGovern about what he calls the "fawning corporate media", and I note that he encouraged everyone gathered to read the torture memos now that they are available, so here is the address for the ACLU's downloadable PDF of those memos.
cross-posted at Hugo Zoom.