Rooting for the Company
The Washington Post also has an interesting article by Dana Priest on why the 300 CIA case officers in Iraq haven’t been able to prevent events like that on Tuesday. As someone who cares about the welfare of my Shiite and other Iraqi friends, I have to say I wish the CIA could in fact succeed in tracking down the perpetrators and in preventing further such attacks. In the post-9/11 world, the agency is on the front lines in the struggle against terrorism. It is a shame that it is taking the fall for the bad intelligence about Iraqi WMD, since it was much more cautious than the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans or Cheney’s foreign affairs advisors, who between them purveyed the most rotten intel.
In my youth I was ambivalent about the CIA because of its unwise covert operations against Mosaddegh and Allende, and its interventions in places like Lebanon (where it helped provoke the 1958 civil war by backing the far rightwing Chamoun in elections). The Agency seemed to see Communists under every bed and to over-react to mere Third World nationalists (Mosaddegh and Iraq’s Abdul Karim Qasim) as somehow Communist proxies. I fear I think it did an enormous amount of damage that way, harming several potential democracies. Imagine what the Middle East would be like now if Iran had continued along the relatively democratic path of the period 1941-1953, instead of veering off into royal dictatorship under the shah, which in turn made the US and the CIA hated in that country. The CIA’s fostering of the Mujahidin and probably of the predecessors of al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the war against the Soviets was also extremely unwise in my view. I know there is a lot of dislike of the Agency on the American left for these reasons, and I understand.
But the fact is that with the rise of al-Qaeda and kindred organizations, we all need the CIA to protect us from them. No matter what caused al-Qaeda (and Brezhnev’s Soviet adventurism is the main culprit), it is a deadly threat to American society. If Bin Laden and Zarqawi could destroy us, they would do it in a second; and these troglodytes are really fascists. The American left is as much in their sights as the rest of the US, and, despite the small size of al-Qaeda, because of its excellence in asymmetrical tactics, we on the left haven’t faced such an enemy since Franco, Mussolini and Hitler. Al-Qaeda and even less radical fundamentalism are movements of the far right, and they are focused on taking over governments. They’ve tried in Algeria and Egypt and had succeeded in Afghanistan, and hitting the US was part of a long-term strategy for pushing it out of the region so they could take it over. It won’t be the last such attack at least attempted against the US, which they paint as a purveyor of decadent liberal individualism. If Kerry is elected, I hope he will revamp the agency to emphasis human intelligence gathering, and reverse the Bush/Cheney policy of misusing the Department of Defense and the US military for intelligence tasks that the Agency is much better suited to. (And, of course, abolish the Office of Special Plans, which Doug Feith set up to purvey dubious stories to the American people).
So, I’m hoping our men and women in Baghdad get Zarqawi and his like ASAP. Good luck guys, and stay safe out there.