Dr. Melvin Goodman. DR.
Mohsen Abdelmoumen: In your must-read book “Whistleblower at the CIA: An Insider’s Account of the Politics of Intelligence”, you make a historical testimony about the internal functioning of the American intelligence community. What was the impact of your report on the world of intelligence? Since the publication of your book, do you think there have been positive changes in the intelligence services or, on the contrary, do the same practices that you denounce continue?
Dr. Melvin Goodman: Since my congressional testimony in 1991, there has been a greater recognition of the problem of politicization of intelligence. But my books in 2008 and 2017 on the CIA have not received sufficient attention in my opinion. Moreover, the so-called intelligence « reform » after 9/11 only made matters worse by expanding the militarization of intelligence. Also, the appointments of such CIA directors as Gina Haspel, Mike Pompeo, Gen. Petraeus, and Leon Panetta indicate that we need a president who understands the need for an independent and tough-minded CIA director. Under these leaders, the CIA has become too much of a para-military organization.
Reading your book “Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA“, can we say that the CIA failed in its role and do you not think that the intelligence community needs to be reformed?
The CIA has indeed failed to strengthen the capability to conduct strategic intelligence. Genuine reform will deemphasize the role of covert action and clandestine activity and expand the role of intelligence analysis and long-term intelligence.
You are familiar with the intelligence issues as a CIA veteran, what do you think of the appointment to the CIA head of Gina Haspel, nicknamed Bloody Gina because of her practice of torture, and Mike Pompey as Secretary of State?
The appointments of Haspel to CIA and Pompeo to State bring the Trump administration closer to a « war cabinet » that could reinstitute torture and abuse as well as greater use of military force. Neither one is qualified for the positions for which they have been nominated. Both will try criticism in the confirmation process, and Haspel may even be rejected by the Senate. Naming John Bolton the national security adviser only worsens the entire situation.
In your book “National Insecurity, The Cost of American Militarism“, you call for the demilitarization of American politics. I see your book as a manifesto against the military-industrial lobby. What do you think?
President Eisenhower warned against the military-intelligence lobby in 1961 and the problem has become much greater in recent years. The large military-industrial corporations have too much control over the military budget, and the military budget is much too large. The misuse of military power has only worsened in view of U.S. failures in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 17 years. We obviously learned nothing from the loss in Vietnam forty years ago.
You have a look both relevant and very critical of the current Trump administration. Can you explain why?
My major concern about the Trump administration is the lack of qualifications of the president and virtually all of his appointments. Most of the cabinet officials lack any understanding of the departments and agencies they have been appointed to lead. And the ones that are qualified, such as Pruitt at EPA and Zinke at Interior, are committed to a stewardship that will compromise the role of the departments. The lack of a moral compass for the entire administration is worrisome, and the selection of so many general officers would have the Founding Fathers turning over in their graves.
In the escalation between Westerners and Russia on the Syrian issue, do you think there is a risk of nuclear conflict?
I see no risk of a nuclear conflict, although the current president of the United States fails to understand the lethal nature of nuclear forces and lacks the tools of critical inquiry in order to even understand critical military and diplomatic issues. Therefore, Syria remains a concern for U.S.-Russian conflict as well as wider conflict involving outside powers such as Iran and Israel. The current chaotic situation in Syria is the « perfect storm » for an accidental exchange or accidental conflict. No one in his right mind would see anything to gain in Syria, but the introduction of non-Arab states (e.g., Russia, U.S., Israel, Turkey, and Iran) has created a difficult situation at a time when there are no obvious statesmen to create order or stability. Trump’s « war cabinet » is a particular problem in this regard.
You are a specialist in defense and intelligence matters, why, in your view, do the Westerners, led by the United States, have no real will to fight terrorism?
How in the world can you even ask that the US lacks the will to fight terrorism. Since 9/11, the US has engaged in two losing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of the Global War on Terror. We have lost trillions of dollars and thousands of lives. We have gained nothing as a result of this loss of blood and treasure. Sadly, the lack of will is in the Arab community in the Middle East, not in the West. You can apply some of this language to Question 15, which contradicts your Question 11.
Do you think the Cold War is really over, especially when we see the permanent low-intensity conflict between Westerners and Russia? What is your opinion on the Skripal case?
The return of the Cold War is a source of sadness. The United States had a great opportunity to create a new strategic environment in 1991 when the Soviet Union dissolved. Instead, we expanded NATO (a terrible idea); abrogated the ABM Treaty (another terrible idea); and deployed a missile defense in Poland and Romania in order to counter a possible Iranian attack on Eastern Europe (such nonsense). It is time for a serious Russian-American dialogue, but the United States has abandoned diplomacy and Vladimir Putin went too far in trying to exploit the 2016 presidential election.
Interview realized by Mohsen Abdelmoumen
Who is Melvin Goodman?
Dr. Melvin A. Goodman is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy in Washington, DC, and an adjunct professor of international relations at Johns Hopkins University. His 42-year government career included tours at the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense’s National War College, where he was a professor of international security.
His books on international security include “A Whistleblower at the CIA: The Path of Dissent;” “National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism;” “Bush League Diplomacy: How the Neoconservatives are Putting the World at Risk;” “The Wars of Eduard Shevardnadze;” “The Phantom Defense: America’s Pursuit of the Star Wars Illusion;” “The End of Superpower Conflict in the Third World,” and “Gorbachev’s Retreat: The Third World.”
He has written numerous articles and opeds that have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, Foreign Policy, Harper’s Magazine, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and the Foreign Service Journal. His TV appearances include the PBS Newshour; the Amy Goodman Show; NBC; and CBS. He has lectured at college campuses all over the country as well as to numerous chapters of the World Affairs Council, the Council on Foreign Relations, and various veteran organizations. In 1991, he testified before the Senate intelligence committee in order to block the confirmation of Robert M. Gates as director of the CIA.
Published in American Herald Tribune, April 15, 2018: https://ahtribune.com/us/trump-at-war/2227-we-obviously-learned-nothing-from-war.html
In French in Palestine Solidarité: http://www.palestine-solidarite.org/analyses.mohsen_abdelmoumen.170418.htm