By Robert Parry
February 17, 2011
Sometimes the hypocrisy is just overwhelming. So, it probably shouldn’t surprise us that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would deliver a speech hailing the peaceful protests that changed Egypt while 71-year-old Ray McGovern was roughed up and dragged away for standing quietly in protest of her support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“So this is America,” said McGovern as he was hustled from the room by two security guards. “This is America.”
McGovern, a former Army intelligence officer and a 27-year veteran of the CIA, was wearing a “Veterans for Peace” t-shirt and, according to witnesses, was standing silently with his back to Secretary Clinton before he was set upon by the two agents who bruised, bloodied and handcuffed McGovern, a cancer survivor. [For video, see below.]
McGovern, who writes for Consortiumnews.com, has been detained at other events protesting both the illegality of U.S. wars and the hypocrisy of demanding accountability for others but not for senior U.S. officials implicated in war crimes, like the torture authorized by former President George W. Bush and ex-Vice President Dick Cheney.
For instance, last December, McGovern joined a Veterans for Peace protest at the White House, which he described in an article “Thoughts at the White House Fence.”
In the article, McGovern described thinking about “Casey Sheehan and 4,429 other U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq, and the 491 U.S. troops killed this year in Afghanistan (bringing that total to 1,438). And their mothers. And the mothers of all those others who have died in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan. Mothers don’t get to decide; only to mourn.
“A pure snow showered down as if to say blessed are the peacemakers. Tears kept my eyes hydrated against the cold.
“The hat my youngest daughter knit for me three years ago when I had no hair gave me an additional sense of being showered with love and affirmation. There was a palpable sense of rightness in our witness to the witless policies of the White House behind the fence.”
McGovern might easily have added the State Department to this point, given Secretary Clinton’s emergence as one of the Obama administration’s leading war hawks. She also supported Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 and remained a staunch backer until softening her stance during the Democratic primary campaign in 2007-08.
In comments after being jailed on Tuesday, McGovern explained the reason for his protest: “Hillary is the driving force, together with a few others, behind the war in Afghanistan. She’s one of the big hawks in Iran. When I look at her and her husband that they don’t know the first thing about war. I do and so do my fellow Veterans for Peace.
“I have to make clear that we Veterans for Peace think that her policies are an abomination to the nation, that they are at cross purposes to the country and not everybody should applaud and give her the idea that she’s doing the right thing.”
During the run-up to the Iraq invasion, McGovern said he passed on to then-Sen. Clinton articles about the likely devastating consequences, but she still made the “political calculation” to support the war.
“She knew from us that the unintended consequences would be catastrophic,”
McGovern said. “She knew all that and made that calculation.
“When people die because we have hypocrites at the top of our government, that compels me to make a statement in whatever way I can. It was not the theme of her speech that I was protesting. It was her war policies.”
Nevertheless, among the hypocrisies pervading Secretary Clinton’s speech on Tuesday was her supposed eagerness to invite dissent and discussion.
“Perhaps today in my remarks, we can begin a much more vigorous debate that will respond to the needs that we have been watching in real time on our television sets,” she said, as her security guards were closing in on McGovern as he stood silently.
Of course, McGovern is only one of thousands of Americans who have been arrested for protesting the invasion of Iraq and the war in Afghanistan, not to mention the untold number of Americans who have been subjected to high-tech spying by the U.S. government as part of the “war on terror.”
Over prior decades — indeed centuries — the U.S. government routinely has trampled on the rights of people in America and around the world, often crushing popular uprisings with the most brutal force.
Just last week, the United States wallowed in maudlin celebrations of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, which included sending weapons and money to help slaughter peasants, students and workers in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Ronald Reagan, Enabler of Atrocities.”]
Yet, Clinton whitewashed this bloody history as if the U.S. government has always been the great defender of people power resisting injustice.
“It is our values that cause these actions [in places like Egypt and Iran] to inspire or outrage us, our sense of human dignity, the rights that flow from it, and the principles that ground it,” Clinton said, without a word about America’s mixed record on these “values.”
Just minutes after McGovern had been dragged from the room and handcuffed, Clinton hailed the need for respecting different points of view and giving them space for their expression.
“The goal is not to tell people how to use the Internet any more than we ought to tell people how to use any public square, whether it’s Tahrir Square or Times Square,” Clinton said. “The value of these spaces derives from the variety of activities people can pursue in them, from holding a rally to selling their vegetables, to having a private conversation. …
“Together, the freedoms of expression, assembly, and association online comprise what I’ve called the freedom to connect. The United States supports this freedom for people everywhere, and we have called on other nations to do the same.”
Secretary Clinton also tried to square the circle of her enthusiasm for Internet freedom and the extraordinary steps the Obama administration is taking to find legal grounds to prosecute WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, along with suspected leaker Pvt. Bradley Manning, for posting classified U.S. documents on the Internet.
“I know that government confidentiality has been a topic of debate during the past few months because of WikiLeaks, but it’s been a false debate in many ways,” she said. “Fundamentally, the WikiLeaks incident began with an act of theft. Government documents were stolen, just the same as if they had been smuggled out in a briefcase.
“Some have suggested that this theft was justified because governments have a responsibility to conduct all of our work out in the open in the full view of our citizens. I respectfully disagree. … The fact that WikiLeaks used the Internet is not the reason we criticized its actions. [The case of] WikiLeaks does not challenge our commitment to Internet freedom.”
When I contacted Ray McGovern on Thursday, he said he was doing fine.
Video of the incident during Clinton’s speech: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-Vy8fFnz18)