Meeting Minutes from inSPIRE Social on February 25, 2006

We had our second social event of 2006 at Adrienne and Jim s house in beautiful Phinney Ridge. We had a good turnout, with over 25 people attending. Special thanks to Jim and Adrienne for being such gracious hosts! And thanks to all other attendees for bringing such a great array of potluck dishes!

Guest Speaker Tony Arvish
We were honored to have former CIA officer Tony Arvish as our guest speaker. Knowing of Tony s CIA background in the Middle East, I asked Tony to share with us his insights on the Iraq war, including a close look at the Bush Administration s marketing of the need for war vs. other alternatives. Tony served as an Operations officer in the CIA from 1987-2000, with service throughout the Middle East from 1990-2000. His overseas assignments included Cairo, Egypt, Damascus, Syria and Rabat, Morocco. Tony is a graduate of the US Department of State Foreign Service Institute for Middle Eastern and Arabic Language Studies for a program in Arabic language studies. In 1995, he was stationed in northern Iraq for nine weeks as part of a CIA Northern Iraq Liaison Element (NILE) team working with Iraqi opposition groups against the regime of Saddam Hussein. As an Arabic speaker, he spent a considerable amount of time, particularly from 1998-2000, working on the issue of Islamic-based terrorism. His efforts during that period included extensive participation in counter-terrorism operations. Tony has spoken at multiple conferences on the topic of Business Continuity in a time of terrorism.

Tony began his talk by laying out four important points learned from his experience in Iraq which lead to Tony being outraged by the Bush Administration s claims of the need for war in Iraq:

1. Saddam s regime was truly horrible. Meeting with Iraqi military defectors that had crossed the northern line in Iraq, he saw the impact of Saddam s tactics of torture and abuse first hand. Soldiers that had defected from Saddam s army showed severe scars from their military service. Example a mentally handicapped teenage soldier that had his ear cut off for going AWOL.

2. Tony learned from these defectors just how much they hated Saddam. But he also learned that they hated the USA just as much. Reasons for this hatred were not all based in reality, but Tony stressed how perception is reality . Example: many blamed the USA for forcing Iraqi citizens to live in absolute poverty due to the sanctions we placed upon them, while the evil Saddam lived in palaces. They blamed the USA for this.

3. Tony helped an Iraqi scientist to defect in 1998. This man, in his debriefing, knew of nothing to indicate Saddam had a WMD program still going. There was a hint , but no substance.

4. Tony spent a lot of time debriefing defectors. He spent much time working on terrorism. Never in these efforts did Tony hear of a link between Saddam and his supposed support of terrorism. Saddam was considered to be a heretic by most al Qaeda types, who are fundamentalist Muslims. They hated him. They were at odds with him. Tony saw no evidence of their working together.

Tony talked of how the Bush Administrations claims for going to war did not hold water. Their claim that Saddam had WMDs didn t fit reality. Their claim that September 11th changed everything thus demanded war did ring true. It didn t fit with our policy towards other potentially dangerous countries, such as Iran, which has a much more advance nuclear program and has direct support for terrorists, with funding and sanctuaries.

Tony described his understanding of the Bush Administrations theory of what would transpire with a US invasion of Iraq. First, we attack. Then democracy will spread. Clearly they will love us for freeing them. With luck, maybe even many will become Christians. Cheney had swore that he had meetings with Iraqi dissidents that promised parades would be held in our honor. Tony described these ideas as pixy-dust that just exploded in the face of reality.

Where does that leave us today? We have an Iraq strategy that is based on a flawed sense of reality, i.e., based on fiction. In the meantime, we are losing people with the death of our soldiers, and losing hundreds of billions of dollars, while Iraq devolves into a state of civil war. This is a tragedy.

Tony has recently proposed (unsolicited) an exit strategy to both Washington Senators Murray and Cantwell. Due to these current dire circumstances resulting from this absurd Bush Administration strategy, Tony proposed the following: immediately declare a victory for the USA! Although this will likely ring hollow to much of the world, there is a basis for this claim. We have verified that there are no WMDs in Iraq, which is great news. We have disarmed Saddam. We have established a democracy with multiple elections. Now, it is up to the Iraqis to move forward. But our window to do this is rapidly closing as Iraq descends into civil war. Soon there may well be such chaos there that this declaration of victory will ring hollow everywhere, even among those that want to believe it.

Sadly, the Bush Administration is unable to have a serious, realistic discussion on this. They are unable to change their hold the course mindset. The next likely opportunity for a public change of strategy will likely be the 2008 elections, which may very well be too late.

So, what can we do? Tony suggests we keep doing what many of us are currently doing, and stay vocal on this issue. Don t let up or give in.

After this highly engaging talk, Tony took questions for more than an hour. Below is a sampling of these.

Q Where is the best source of accurate information on what is actually going on with the war and in the Middle East?
A The foreign press, including the BBC, the European press, and Middle Eastern press. All press will likely contain some bias that s normal. But going to different sources will give one more perspective on issues. Tony also suggested we visit the Egyptian press and to visit for a multitude of news sources. Ah ram how the Middle East thinks. Also, listen to Al-Jazirah for a different perspective. You don t have to agree, but it s interesting to see what others are really thinking.

Q Why do many Iraqi s hate Americans?
A It s a long list. Examples include the US support of Israel. Again, truth doesn t necessarily matter; perception does.

Q Is the Bush Administration scrubbing intelligence to only hear what they want to hear?
A Seems that way. There was lots of intelligence. They picked the items they wanted. Example: al Qaeda is fundamentalist. They hate the heretic Saddam for he s a non-believer. Although Tony has met former CIA Director George Tenet he has no idea why he would tell Bush this was a slam dunk .

Q What would happen if the USA left Iraq now?
A Tony thinks Iraqi nationals would take care of the foreign fighters in their own way . It would be bloody. It would be bumpy. But it now seems unavoidable.

Q What about the possibility of a separate Kurdish state?
A The problem is that there are large Kurdish populations in Turkey, Syria and Iran. They also want their own states. There is no evidence that they would leave their current homes to come to a new Iraqi Kurdish state. This problem will not easily be solved.

Q What about the 14 or so permanent US military bases under construction in Iraq? It doesn t seem like we have any intention of leaving.
A Yes, it is not hard to believe that we plan on staying in Iraq.

Q Was this war really about oil?
A Tony is not convinced on this. However, what has since happened with Libya s capitulation to the US since we invaded Iraq shows that oil may likely have played a role. Libya has huge resources of light sweet grade crude oil, and now we have access to it.

Q What about the issue of nukes in Iran?
A The problem that the people of Iran face is really from their own clerics, not the USA. The clerics constantly inspire anger in the Iran population by sighting US anti-Iranian actions, etc. They use the USA as an excuse. This helps them to stay in power. It would likely be smart for the USA to engage in quiet diplomacy to avoid this. Without the USA to blame, the people of Iran may realize it s their own clerics that are really causing the grief in Iran.

Q Did Israel play the US on this war
A Maybe. Tony believes the key folks in Israel believed that the Bush Administration were gullible and inexperienced, and easy to persuade.

Q What really happened in America to allow 9/11 to occur?
A It really came down to a lack of creativity . For multiple reasons, including those common in any large bureaucracy, the CIA and other US agencies missed their chances to avoid this. This type of stuff is what inspired Tony to leave the CIA. Tony suggested people do a Google search on the United Cultural Institute in Milan, Italy for an example of a missed opportunity.

Many other questions were asked and answered, but, alas, your humble note taker once again got caught up in the discussion and failed to write it all down. In summary, this was an amazingly interesting and enlightening discussion, and a great opportunity to hear rare insight as to what really was going on in Iraq and associated areas in the lead up to the war, as well to understand the bigger picture as to what has gone so wrong with the Bush Administrations international policies in general, as well as their war philosophies in particular.

Our many thanks go out to Tony for his time, energy and patience with 90 minutes of questioning!

Current Activism Efforts by inSPIRE Members

Yes on I-937! Dave Gamrath is volunteering to help gather signatures to get I-937 on the ballot in Washington this fall. This initiative will help the state s economy, environment, and rural communities by assuring electric utilities implement energy efficiency measure and purchase 15% of their power from clean and renewable resources by 2020. About twenty other states have passed similar measures, and now it s time for Washington! Dave is looking for other inSPIRE members to team up with to help gather signatures at events and in public locations. Could this be you? We ll have a blast while doing a great thing!! Please contact Dave if you want to help gather signatures, or to officially sign up and to obtain more information, please contact:

Washingtonians for Energy Security
150 Nickerson Ave #109, Seattle, WA 98109
(206) 283-3335, Fax: (206) 283-3336,

Linde Knighton for State Rep. Position #1 in the 43rd Linde Knighton came to her first inSPIRE meeting. She is a member of the Progressive Party of Washington State. Linde talked about her campaign for state representative.

inSPIRE Book Club! We will be discussing Robert F. Kennedy, Jr s book Crimes Against Nature, an insightful read about the Bush Administration's war on our environment.


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