Editor's Note: Two humpback whales find themselves lost and in grave danger, having wandered as much as 90 miles up the Sacramento River in California and showing little indication they grasp the desperate need to reverse course.

In this guest essay, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern sees parallels between the two whales and America's leadership in Iraq:

I know not everyone believes in God. But I do; and I’m really struck by the ways she chooses to penetrate our thick skulls.

So often we just don’t get it. To help us understand, allegory or parable is chosen—and sometimes leviathans.

Two wrong-way whales, a mother and her calf, are literally up the river—the Sacramento River. They are injured, and apparently almost deaf as well. The gurgles, chirps, whistles and banging on metal pipes by us humans are not enticing them to reverse course and escape.

Scientists report that attempts to save misguided whales with such sounds fail 90 percent of the time. This time, they add, the whales are so far up the river that scientists and whales alike are in uncharted territory. “We can’t have very high expectations of a positive outcome,” one of them said...one of the scientists, that is.

Mother and young moved in circles near the Sacramento River bridge, while boat crews banged on pipes to get their attention and persuade them to cut and run for the Pacific some 70 miles away. Scientists theorized that vibrations from the bridge were upsetting the whales.

The pipe-bangers tried to bang carefully, so as not to stress them further. Brian Gorman, a spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned, “Stressing even a healthy whale is not good; stressing an injured whale is worse.”

From the parable of the whales draw this lesson:

The wrong-way mother and calf are our injured vice president and president respectively, who are up the Tigris and Euphrates without a paddle—with no ears to hear the noises of those trying to save them from themselves. No gurgles, chirps, whistles, or banging seems able to get through.

Like the copious white matter in whale-brains, theirs is impervious to all suggestion as to how they could extract themselves from an otherwise fatal situation.

Good-sense-and-otherwise-sensory-deprived, only their olfactory faculty is working. Their very instinct for survival has been overcome by a pungent smell.

The only sounds that do break through the din of banging pipes and warnings of disaster are those of corporate sirens up-river. The sirens are singing enticing songs from lily pads stuck together by a pungent, oily substance that holds irresistible attraction for our metaphoric leviathans.

It may be a bit dangerous to stress them further, but the alternative is sure disaster—and not only for them.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. His responsibilities during his 27-year service as a CIA analyst included chairing National Intelligence Estimates and preparing the President’s Daily Brief. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). (An ealier version of this story appeared at AfterDowningStreet.org.)

To comment at Consortiumblog, click here. To comment to us by e-mail, click here. To donate so we can continue reporting and publishing stories like the one you just read, click here.  

Back to Home Page