War on Iraq

Another Former Intelligence Official Blows the Whistle

After serving for 25 years in the military and Pentagon as a Middle East expert, Peter Molan is now a protester of the Bush administration's Iraq policy.

From Tuesday's edition of Democracy Now! with host Amy Goodman.

AMY GOODMAN: Veterans' groups are holding a vigil today outside Walter Reed Medical Center. Among them, vets of the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War and other wars and conflicts. Their protest comes as reports are emerging that several thousand U.S. soldiers have been wounded and are being treated at a single military hospital in Germany.

Peter Molan is on the line with us now. He was a Department of Defense Middle East analyst for 25 years. He began his military career with the U.S. Army in the Middle East during the 1967 Arab/Israeli war. He then left the military, but came back to work at the Pentagon until August, 2001, when he retired. After the 9-11 attacks, he was recalled to duty because he speaks fluent Arabic. He was one of the people working on the Bin Laden case for the Pentagon. But today he stands in front of Walter Reed Medical Center. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Peter Molan.

PETER MOLAN: Thank you very much, Amy. We're very pleased to be here, and I would like to just mention that the fine ladies that you just spoke to -- they are, I believe, all members of Military Families Speak Out, and we are in coalition with them, and they will be represented at our rally today. There will also be similar rallies throughout the country at other veterans' hospitals and facilities, so while we're here in Washington, we are celebrating Veterans Day across the country in protest for two reasons.

We would like to point out that we do honor and support our troops and that was one of the initial functions of Armistice Day in 1918, but there's another bylaw aspect to Veterans Day. As it was established in 1918, as it became an official U.S. government holiday in 1938, and as its name was changed in 1954 from Armistice Day to Veterans Day to honor veterans of all of our wars -- not just the first World War -- but in addition to honoring the veterans, there is also in each of the legislation acts that brought about this holiday, a requirement that we rededicate ourselves to world peace and justice, and we believe that the Bush Administration is dishonoring both the commitment that is required by today's holiday -- a legal holiday -- to the veterans and to concurrently serving GIs, as well as to that notion of international peace and justice.

AMY GOODMAN: Why to protest in front of Walter Reed Medical Center? Why, for example, not in front of the White House?
PETER MOLAN: We have chosen Walter Reed precisely because it is the medical center, the Army medical center through which all U.S. Army GIs pass on their way to other places here in the United States. You mentioned the 7,000 wounded GIs in Germany, but they will be coming through Dover and through Andrews Air Force Base. They'll be coming through Walter Reed, and then going on to their homes and . . . the veterans' facilities that will take care of them there. [They] will be passing through Walter Reed, and we felt that was a particularly appropriate place to express the views that we're having.

You may know that we did have the opportunity yesterday, Veterans for Peace had a delegation go in and visit with a number of the GIs who are currently recuperating from their wounds there, and we do want to recognize the splendid care they're getting there from the medical staff and the nursing staff in a state-of-the-art facility. But that, too, is part of the thing that we are concerned with and protesting. As you mentioned, the overcrowded conditions in Germany, [and] the situation at Ft. Stewart as the GIs are coming back . . . the medical facilities here are being overwhelmed. And of course, that is at a time when tremendous cutbacks are being made.

So, all the talk about 'support for the troops' that we hear from the White House is belied by the fact that facilities are being closed, charges are being placed on the veterans. We were hearing about them being charged $8 a day for their food while in the hospitals. This administration is not in support of these troops.

AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Peter Molan, Pentagon Middle East analyst for 25 years. We'll be outside Walter Reed Medical Center today with other veterans' groups protesting the invasion. You are in a unique position, Peter Molan, working for the Pentagon for more than 25 years. You retired in August, 2001, are recalled after the 9-11 attacks to work on the attacks. You're one of the people working on the Bin Laden case, who worked on the Bin Laden case for the Pentagon. Can you talk about what you know?

PETER MOLAN: Well, not in technical detail, of course. I'm still bound by commitments to classified information. But what I can tell you is that my involvement, my direct, immediate involvement, day-to-day involvement with Veterans for Peace arises precisely out of the subsequent decision by the Bush administration to go to war with Iraq.

The justifications for that war were completely counter to everything that I had learned in that 20-odd years of government service working on the Middle East, as you say. I was simply outraged by the twisting and turning of intelligence information that I had helped develop to what was clearly, to my mind, a preordained policy decision that I felt to be profoundly wrong.

Not -- nothing about this suggests that Saddam Hussein was anything but a brutal dictator. He was. But that's not why we went to war. Had we gone to the United Nations as Kofi Annan has -- the Secretary General has suggested that the United Nations must reorient its goals from preventing war between states to preventing the sort of things that we see in international terrorism, and the suppression of populations by their own government. The United Nations does have to be reordered towards that goal. Had we done that, I might have been supportive of what the administration is doing. But nothing but poison plants can grow from poison seeds, Amy, and this administration's goals and intentions and policies, which are quite clearly articulated in the Security Strategy Document and in the work of the Project for the New American Century, are completely at odds, radically at odds with America's now more than a century-old tradition of trying to build international institutions.

AMY GOODMAN: Peter Molan, your thoughts about the polls that say that most Americans believe that Saddam Hussein was connected to 9-11.
PETER MOLAN: I am -- they take my breath away. They stun me. Even this administration, although it speaks out of both sides of its mouth, the -- just, what, several weeks ago, the President admitted publicly that there was no connection between 9-11 and Saddam Hussein, although he did then turn around . . . the very next day and suggest that there was. So, there are conflicting stories coming out of the administration, but still, even the administration admits that there was no such connection, and yet more than half of us believe that there is. I can only suggest that Chris Hedges' new book, "War Gives Us Meaning," speaks to the kind of psychological advantages that war gives to us. And that we are able to overcome all information to the contrary, all rational thought, in order to follow a war -- a lust for war.

AMY GOODMAN: Peter Molan.
AMY GOODMAN: Department of Defense Middle East analyst for 25 years. Let me ask you a little bit about Osama Bin Laden, and what the administration knew before 9-11 and what they understood afterwards. You have been there for a quarter of a century in the Pentagon.
PETER MOLAN: Well, of course, we did know that we had supported him in his involvement in the war -- the Afghan War against the Soviet Union, that he was hostile to the United States after the first Gulf War in 1991. We had had contact when he was in the Sudan with the Sudanese government. We didn't bother to take up their offer to hand him over to us, for some reason, it's not entirely clear. We knew that he was involved with the embassy bombings in East Africa. We were working, certainly, to -- by 9-11 -- to find out all that we could about him, but he had gone to ground by that time, and was protected by the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
We knew that he was quite hostile, but intelligence is a limited tool. We don't have many persons on the ground, as we know. There have been any number of reasons for that, not least of which are cutbacks in intelligence gathering capabilities. We knew he was hostile to us, and that he would try to harm us in any way that he could.
AMY GOODMAN: What about the story of John O'Neill, the man who worked in -- on the F.B.I. Counter Terrorism Unit, tried to investigate the "USS Cole," was stopped by the ambassador to -- the U.S. ambassador to Yemen. He tried to investigate links to Saudi Arabia, felt he was prevented from doing so by the Bush administration, and finally gave up, left the F.B.I., and ended up being head of security at the World Trade Center and died on September 11.

PETER MOLAN: Yeah. Well, of course, those things do happen. There are internal turf battles. In the case of Mr. O'Neill in Yemen, the ambassador was trying to maintain her relationships with the Yemeni government, and there's a great deal of conflict within the Middle East states. Again, the United States is not well thought of in the Arab world, because of its general policies towards the Middle East, and consequently, it's very hard to operate there.
AMY GOODMAN: Peter Molan, you were brought back after 9-11 to continue investigating because you speak fluent Arabic.
AMY GOODMAN: You have been monitoring all the Arab press, Al-Jazeera -- what do you look for specifically when you are inside the Pentagon listening to all of that, watching all of that, and what do you think of the difference between what we see here in the United States and what the rest of the world is seeing?
PETER MOLAN: Well, what do we think of the Arab view of us? It is hostile for a variety of reasons. Reasons that we are not able to address, I suppose, for . . . current domestic political reasons such that we are brought into direct conflict with both governments and popular wills. Now, that's, I suppose, the thing that we have to understand. Both the Arab governments and the Arab street, as it's called (that is, popular opinion), is very hostile to us. And we do a very bad job of trying to address those questions.
Charlotte Beers has been hired by the Bush administration, was hired shortly after 9-11 to carry out an increased program of public democracy -- public diplomacy, sorry, public diplomacy, trying to get our story out. But our story has been very hard sell in the Middle East. She has been as far as I can tell, absolutely unable to do much of anything.
AMY GOODMAN: Charlotte Beers, the P.R. specialist.
PETER MOLAN: I take it because she hasn't got the funding to do much. We have seen very little of American spokespersons getting out and getting their story into the Arab press.
AMY GOODMAN: You also went into internet chat rooms.
PETER MOLAN: Yes, I do that, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you do?
PETER MOLAN: I talk to people. I listen to them. I listen more than I talk. But I do attempt, by that means, since I'm not in the Middle East at the moment, to make contact with people who are not government officials, but -- but to get the kind of the view of the common person. I do not -- I do not do that and we are not able to do that, of course, in the Defense Department, per se. But that's something that I do now, and it's one of the sources that I try to use to get the views of the populous.

AMY GOODMAN: And what do you do? Do you actually pose as someone?
PETER MOLAN: No, no. I just -- I say who I am, an American who has been interested professionally for now 40 years. I -- you say 25 years in the military, and that's quite true. I was also an academic for a long time. But no, I don't try to hide my identity. I don't make it -- I don't publicize the fact that I was an intelligence officer, but I say who I am.
AMY GOODMAN: Do intelligence officers who are active now -- are they going into these internet chat rooms?
PETER MOLAN: Well, that is something that I would have to let you ask them. There's the situation that you are talking about with your earlier guests. The military, of course, is ordered not to speak to the press, to allow only public relations officers to speak to the press, and if you -- if you do anything else, you are in breach of orders.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Peter Molan, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Peter Molan will be outside of Walter Reed Medical Center with a number of veterans' groups today protesting the invasion of Iraq. The number again that has startled many, at least 7,000 U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraq. That does it for today's program. Peter Molan with the Department of Defense for more than a quarter of a century.

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