Not some crazed lefty. The man who demanded that Rumsfeld answer the questions we all want to have answered turns out to be the man who gave former president George H. W. Bush his daily intelligence briefing. And he was right in the exchange; and Rummy was factually wrong. Yep: Rumsfeld lied. Quelle surprise.
No not some crazed lefty. The man was Ray McGovern, who Sweetness and Light noticed was part of Daniel Ellsberg's Truth Telling Project. Here's the relevant blog entry from the Belmont archives:
Sweetness and Light has noticed that the press has quoted two former counterterrorism experts in defense of Mary McCarthy but omitted one interesting detail, which may or may not be relevant. Here's ABC News report quoting the first expert, Ray McGovern to the effect that McCarthy had a higher duty to "defend the constitution".
To supporters, McCarthy is a woman of conviction who exposed actions she believed were against the law.
"This a matter of principle," said Ray McGovern, a former fellow CIA analyst, "where she said my oath, my promise not to reveal secrets is superceded by my oath to defend the constitution of the U.S." ...
Then Sweetness and Light notices that both Ray McGovern and Larry Johnson are associated with Daniel Ellsberg's The Truth-Telling Project. For those who are unfamiliar with the name Daniel Ellsberg, here's the Wikipedia entry.
Daniel Ellsberg (born April 7, 1931) is a former American military analyst who precipitated a national uproar in 1971 when he released the Pentagon Papers, the US military's account of activities during the Vietnam War, to The New York Times. His release of the Pentagon Papers succeeded in substantially eroding public support for the war.
Ray McGovern's role is described on this Truth-Telling Project web page.
The Truth-Telling Coalition, comprised of high-level national security truth-tellers, as well as non-profit whistleblower organizations, provides a personal and legal support network for each other and for government insiders considering becoming truth-tellers. Current coalition members include Sibel Edmonds, Daniel Ellsberg, Frank Grevil, Katharine Gun, Ray McGovern, Coleen Rowley, the Project on Government Oversight, and the ACLU. (Bios and info on members will be available on the Truth-Telling Coalition Website, currently under construction.) To see press coverage of the Truth-Telling Coalition, see the Press Coverage page.
Watching the video I fully expected Rummy to be massacred inside of McGovern's kill-zone since McGovern had the ability to choose the very specific ground on which to challenge Rumsfeld. The verbatim transcript of the exchange is below.
QUESTION: So I would like to ask you to be up front with the American people, why did you lie to get us into a war that was not necessary, that has caused these kinds of casualties? why?
RUMSFELD: Well, first of all, I haven’t lied. I did not lie then. Colin Powell didn’t lie. He spent weeks and weeks with the Central Intelligence Agency people and prepared a presentation that I know he believed was accurate, and he presented that to the United Nations. the president spent weeks and weeks with the central intelligence people and he went to the american people and made a presentation. i’m not in the intelligence business. they gave the world their honest opinion. it appears that there were not weapons of mass destruction there.
QUESTION: You said you knew where they were.
RUMSFELD: I did not. I said I knew where suspect sites were and –
QUESTION: You said you knew where they were Tikrit, Baghdad, northeast, south, west of there. Those are your words.
RUMSFELD: My words — my words were that — no, no, wait a minute, wait a minute. Let him stay one second. Just a second.
QUESTION: This is America.
RUMSFELD: You’re getting plenty of play, sir.
QUESTION: I’d just like an honest answer.
RUMSFELD: I’m giving it to you.
QUESTION: Well we’re talking about lies and your allegation there was bulletproof evidence of ties between al Qaeda and Iraq.
RUMSFELD: Zarqawi was in Baghdad during the prewar period. That is a fact.
QUESTION: Zarqawi? He was in the north of Iraq in a place where Saddam Hussein had no rule. That’s also…
RUMSFELD: He was also in Baghdad.
QUESTION: Yes, when he needed to go to the hospital.
Come on, these people aren’t idiots. They know the story.
RUMSFELD: Let me give you an example.
It’s easy for you to make a charge, but why do you think that the men and women in uniform every day, when they came out of Kuwait and went into Iraq, put on chemical weapon protective suits? Because they liked the style?
They honestly believed that there were chemical weapons.
Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons on his own people previously. He’d used them on his neighbor (AUDIO GAP) the Iranians, and they believed he had those weapons.
We believed he had those weapons.
QUESTION: That’s what we call a non sequitur. It doesn’t matter what the troops believe; it matters what you believe.
MODERATOR: I think, Mr. Secretary, the debate is over. We have other questions, courtesy to the audience.
The counterfactual which proves Rumsfeld "lied" is this cited exchange from a DOD briefing:
STEPHANOPOULOS: And is it curious to you that given how much control U.S. and coalition forces now have in the country, they haven’t found any weapons of mass destruction?
SEC. RUMSFELD: …We know where they are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.
But the citation is not complete. If you read the full exchange, which took place at a briefing on March 30,2003 it will be abundantly clear Rumsfeld made these statements when neither Tikrit and Baghdad were in Coalition hands. Baghdad fell on April 8, 2003, more than a week after this exchange between Rumsfeld and Stephanopoulos. Tikrit fell even later. The verbatim exchange is given below..
SEC. RUMSFELD: Yeah. Do it. His circumstance is not a happy one. We're within 49 miles of Baghdad. He's being closed on from the north, south, and there's so many people running around hyper-ventilating that things aren't going well. This plan is working.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, weapons of mass destruction. Key goal of the military campaign is finding those weapons of mass destruction. None have been found yet. There was a raid on the Answar Al-Islam Camp up in the north last night. A lot of people expected to find ricin there. None was found. How big of a problem is that? And is it curious to you that given how much control U.S. and coalition forces now have in the country, they haven't found any weapons of mass destruction?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Not at all. If you think -- let me take that, both pieces -- the area in the south and the west and the north that coalition forces control is substantial. It happens not to be the area where weapons of mass destruction were dispersed. We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.
Second, the [audio glitch] facilities, there are dozens of them, it's a large geographic area. It is the -- Answar Al-Islam group has killed a lot of Kurds. They are tough. And our forces are currently in there with the Kurdish forces, cleaning the area out, tracking them down, killing them or capturing them and they will then begin the site exploitation. The idea, from your question, that you can attack that place and exploit it and find out what's there in fifteen minutes.
I would also add, we saw from the air that there were dozens of trucks that went into that facility after the existence of it became public in the press and they moved things out. They dispersed them and took them away. So there may be nothing left. I don't know that. But it's way too soon to know. The exploitation is just starting.
So now if we compare the statements of Ray McGovern and Donald Rumsfeld side by side, here is what we get:
|Ray McGovern||Donald Rumsfeld|
|QUESTION: You said you knew where they were.||RUMSFELD: I did not. I said I knew where suspect sites were and –|
|QUESTION: You said you knew where they were Tikrit, Baghdad, northeast, south, west of there. Those are your words.||RUMSFELD: My words — my words were that — no, no, wait a minute, wait a minute. Let him stay one second. Just a second.|
Ray McGovern had plenty of time to examine the transcript above. It's abundantly clear from the transcript that Rumsfeld had only intelligence indications that the WMD were "in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat". It was clearly a statement of belief that the WMDs would be found there. He also categorically warned Stephanopoulous the WMDs might not be found at all. "I would also add, we saw from the air that there were dozens of trucks that went into that facility after the existence of it became public in the press and they moved things out. They dispersed them and took them away. So there may be nothing left. I don't know that. But it's way too soon to know. The exploitation is just starting."
None of this means the points which Ray McGovern raised were invalid. But it is not obviously the case that Rumsfeld knew for a fact the WMDs would not be found in Tikrit, Baghdad, etc ... and lied about it. Rumsfield may have lied, but the proof is not to be found in the exchange above. What would be more convincing is some kind of document which indicated intelligence believed they would not be found in Tikrit, Baghdad and other suspect places and that Rumsfeld maintained the contrary. But the exchange above actually supports Rumsfeld's assertion that he maintained they were "suspect sites" rather than sites in which he had definite knowledge of their location. I think the assertion that McGovern "proved" that Rumsfeld lied is simply an assertion. And no, Ray McGovern was not some "crazed lefty". He was the best the Left had to prove that Rumsfeld lied fighting on his chosen ground. And he didn't prove anything.