But this weekend he'll be in North Carolina speaking against the war in Iraq. And part of the former White House insider's message will be: George W. Bush is taking the United States toward fascism, and he must be stopped.
Impeachment will be a big part of McGovern's theme when he's the featured speaker at Saturday's anti-war march and rally in Fayetteville. He then speaks Sunday at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh.
"My general effort lately has been to challenge people to wake up and watch what's happening," McGovern said in a telephone interview.
McGovern, a father of five and grandfather of six, spent 27 years (John F. Kennedy to George H.W. Bush) as a CIA analyst. He spent part of the summer of 1960 at Ft. Bragg as an ROTC cadet.
He likens the United States today to pre-World War II Germany, where people remained silent as the Nazis moved the country toward fascism. The German people for the most part, many out of fear, stayed neutral as more and more people were oppressed and murdered.
McGovern says Americans cannot remain neutral as Bush continues to wage an illegal war, allows the torture of prisoners and runs roughshod over the Constitution.
"My guess is that Americans are still in denial ... that their president could possibly have either deliberately [started], or been misled by Cheney and the others into starting, a war of aggression," he says. "Now who wants to think that your president has been guilty of starting a war of aggression like Hitler did?
After evidence emerged in 2003 that pre-war intelligence analysis "was being corrupted by political pressure to justify an unprovoked attack on Iraq," McGovern and a handful of former intelligence officials created Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, which now includes more than 50 former professionals from the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Department of State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Army Intelligence, the FBI, the National Security Agency and other U.S. and allied intelligence agencies. The group often issues critiques of U.S. foreign policy activities.
"What we have is a president who is scoffing at the law, and we need to hold him accountable and the way to do that is impeachment," he says. "And I think as the crimes mount, as the young men and women come back in wooden boxes, people will begin to realize that this is really crazy."
McGovern says this November "will be the time when American people are going to be braced with the challenge of understanding what's been going on and voting whether to allow it to continue or voting their conscience."
Had Bush bothered to listen to his own intelligence officials, McGovern says, he would have known the Iraq war was unwinnable.
"The true story is that the war is unwinnable," he says. "Anyone who is familiar with Vietnam knows that. What we have here is a war where an occupier is trying to contend with 24 million people. What we have here is a confrontation with Muslims, who constitute 1.3 billion--I repeat, billion--people in this world. The borders of Iraq are porous. Iran is right next door. There's no way that the troops available from the United States can stem the tide and, quote, 'defeat the insurgency.' It's not an insurgency. It's a resistance. It's a resistance to occupation, and we cannot win it.
"The soldiers need to know what they're really being asked to do. The war is completely illegal. It's a war for purposes other than the way it was sold to us.... No one knows exactly what'll happen when we leave. But we do know is that if we stay--well, we've done that and it's called Vietnam and it's getting worse every month.x
Ray McGovern speaks Sunday at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh (3313 Wade Ave.) at 7:30 p.m. Info, 828-3499 or 942-2535.