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London Telegraph: Is Manning's Sentence "Too Lenient?"

By Ray McGovern - Posted on 22 August 2013

Ray McGovern: Initial Comment on 35-yr Sentence for Bradley Manning

My London Telegraph interview yesterday, Skyped/taped right after the sentence was announced, ended up being “sanitized” to cut out unwelcome material – a reminder of why live interviews are always better.  It’s only six minutes, though, and perhaps worth a quick look.

I figured the Telegraph might try to set me up; here’s how the interview started:

“As Bradley Manning is jailed for 35 years for the biggest leak of classified documents in American intelligence history, the Telegraph's Tim Stanley debates with a Manning supporter about whether the sentence is too lenient.”

“Too lenient?”  Ray answered: “I suppose it might seem to you lenient, if you are comparing Bradley Manning with, say, David Kelly, who also spoke truth about Iraq and was ‘terminated with extreme prejudice.’  (That is the phrase commonly applied to such operations by those hired by CIA white-collar thugs and counterparts in Britain’s MI5 and MI6.)

Stanley:  “Oh, you mean the British intelligence scientist analyst on Iraq who committed suicide.".

McGovern:  “Who ALLEGEDLY committed suicide.”

Cutting Room Floor

Surprise, surprise. Even though this was the exchange that actually launched the “debate,” it somehow fell to the censors.  As did my words addressing the sad coincidence that the announcement of the Manning sentence comes exactly 46 years after the day in 1976 when I could have done on Vietnam what Bradley Manning did on Iraq.

Why did you not? Asked the interviewer.  Because I did not have the courage of Bradley Manning; he did the right thing, while six years younger than I was in 1967 when I didn’t.

This may be worth a few more sentences.  In 1967 the Washington Establishment and the Army command in Saigon, led by Gen. William Westmoreland and Gen. Creighton Abrams, were lying through their teeth in claiming “progress” in the Vietnam War.  (Sound familiar?)  One big lie involved the number of armed Vietnamese Communists facing our own troops in South Vietnam.

A belated, reluctant, but growing consensus among intelligence analysts in Washington held that our troops were facing 500,000 to 600,000 Vietnamese Communist under arms.  But Westmoreland and Abrams put an artificial limit on how many enemy there could be (!); i. e., no more than 299, 000.

Ordering Hanoi to Behave

Please don’t laugh, even though the situation bears the earmarks of a very sick joke.  It was as though Westmoreland sent a stern message to Ho Chi-Minh and Gen. Giap, “Don’t you dare go over 299,000!”

In 1967, my CIA analyst colleagues were preparing a National Intelligence Estimate and decided to tell the President and his chief advisers about the actual enemy strength, taking direct issue with Westmoreland and the other U.S. generals in Saigon.  Intelligence analysts in Washington, led by the CIA’s Sam Adams, were able to make a convincing case, based on a wealth of evidence dug up, collated, and analyzed during the immediately preceding years.  Still, they lacked a smoking gun.

One smoking gun that revealed the rank deceit by Westmoreland, Abrams, and those under their control, came in the form of a August 20, 1967 SECRET EYES ONLY cable from Gen. Abrams, who was in charge in Saigon while Westmoreland was temporarily out of Saigon.  Abrams put it in black and white.  The U.S. Command in Saigon, he said, would never accept the higher figures for enemy strength (500,000 to 600,000), because, in Abrams’s words, they:

“... were in sharp contrast to the current overall strength figures of about 299,000 given to the press. ... We have been projecting an image of success over recent months and all available caveats and explanations will not prevent the press from drawing an erroneous and gloomy conclusion.”

I told the Telegraph interviewer that I have had to live for more than four decades with the reality that I was too timid to do what Bradley Manning had the courage to do with respect to Iraq.  It is not as though I didn’t even think of going downtown to the Washington Bureau of the NY Times with a copy of the Abrams cable.  I did think of it but – have I already said this??? – I lacked the guts.

On Wednesday, I needed to educate the young Telegraph interviewer to the reality that in 1967 the NY Times was an independent newspaper, and would – likely as not – frontpage reports based on documents like the Abrams cable. (As is well known, the Times’s current modus operandi is to go first to the government to ask for permission.)

Forty-six years ago, however, it would not have been delusional to believe that the Times would have been eager to run this key inside information, giving the lie to the generals; and that, in turn, this might have put the pervasive deceit on Vietnam in bas relief and perhaps even contribute to ending that March of Folly years earlier than it finally did – with untold lives and bodies saved, both American and Vietnamese.



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