Friday, 4 February 2011


The mass media and blogs have all sorts of serious and sensational stories about the CIA's role in connection with the recent uprisings in the Arab world. Stories range from CIA complicity in the uprisings against the authoritarian regimes to CIA working to undermine the uprisings, to CIA failure to provide adequate intelligence. Both Obama and a number of senators, including Diane Feinstein, have started blaming the intelligence community for the popular uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East.

In a predictably opportunistic manner, both the White House and Senate are washing their hands clean of any policy decisions and laying fault at the doorstep of the CIA as though the agency is at fault for: a) policy making; b) having a crystal ball to predict when people will hit the streets; and c) had failed to provide good intel, despite sharing with the White House all it knew about the situation in December 2010, as CIA official Stephanie O'Sullivan testified. Published reports indicate that the CIA warned about simmering social unrest that could spread throughout the Arab world, but policymakers simply ignored the reports, as they probably warn many such reports that outline possible scenarios in various parts of the world where stability may be at issue.

Is the CIA to blame for failing to provide adequate intelligence to the Obama administration and the Senate Intelligence Committee about the Arab uprisings in January-February 2011? From the Bay of Pigs to Vietnam, from the Iranian and Nicaraguan Revolutions to the 'phantom Iraqi nuke program' for which the CIA was doing all it could both to provide honest intelligence and at the same time go along with Bush policy, politicians in Washington have always blamed the CIA because they do not want to accept responsibility for policy decisions. The agency may as well hang a sign in its Langley headquarters that reads: "We will always credit the administration when something goes as planned, but when something goes wrong with US foreign policy, we are here to take the fall for elected officials."

This may sound very strange coming from me, a critic of the agency's operations since Truman created it. However, it is important to understand that CIA, which does everything from compiling important stats on countries to engaging in counter-insurgency operations, is only executing government orders and acts to implement aspects of policy. The CIA cannot be blamed if social unrest or revolutions erupt, any more than the army can be blamed for doing its job (with all its flaws that are expected under war conditions) in the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan. Naturally, the desire of politicians is understandable to demand that the CIA should have 'guided' or manipulated the social unrest in Egypt so that the Muslim Brotherhood does not benefit politically in the aftermath. However, that is an utterly unrealistic demand that the agency could not possibly carry out even it had the blessing of the prophet Muhammad on its side.

The other criticism is that the CIA focused mainly on the 'terrorism nexus' - Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan - while ignoring 'safe pro-US satellites Tunisia and Egypt'. But why is it the CIA's fault that both Bush and Obama asked the agency to focus on the 'terrorism nexus', rather than the 'pro-West' authoritarian regimes? And can the politicians blame the CIA for placing their trust in pro-US authoritarian regimes, when that too was policy and the Pentagon did the same?

On February 3, 2011, Sen. John McCain told FOX news that the 'virus of mass uprisings behind which are radical organizations is spreading throughout the Middle East. McCain reflects broad sentiments of US politicians and pundits who strongly disapprove of the popular uprisings in the Arab world, and by implication grass roots democratic uprisings, largely because such events jeopardize US, westerns and Israeli interests. In sharp contrast to McCain and politicians and pundits who lament the popular Arab uprisings, Robert Grenier, former CIA Director of Counter-Terrorism Center from 2004 to 2006, CIA’s Clandestine Service director,  argues that the US opted for political stability instead of risking backing democratic reform. 

"Suddenly the US has nothing it can credibly say as people take to the streets to try to seize control of their collective destiny. Our words betray us. US spokesmen stress the protesters' desire for jobs and for economic opportunity, as though that were the full extent of their aspirations. They entreat the wobbling, repressive governments in the region to "respect civil society", and the right of the people to protest peacefully, as though these thoroughly discredited autocrats were actually capable of reform. They urge calm and restraint. One listens in vain, however, for a ringing endorsement of freedom, or for a statement of encouragement to those willing to risk everything to assert their rights and their human dignity - values which the US nominally regards as universal. ... The failure of the US to uphold its stated commitment to democratic values therefore goes beyond a simple surface hypocrisy, beyond the exigencies of great-power interests, to suggest a fundamental lack of belief in democracy as a means of promoting enlightened, long-term US interests in peace and stability."

Grenier is correct that Arab protesters across North Africa and the Middle East could care less of what the US thinks or says now. Arabs know only too well, as Grenier notes, that the US permitted brutal collective punishment in Gaza, it refused to seek a solution in Lebanon by hiding behind the think veil of not negotiating with Hezbollah because it is a 'terrorist organization'. That Grenier has come out so strongly in condemnation of US foreign policy and the shameless hypocrisy of the government in Washington amid the Arab uprisings means a great deal more than all of the world's academics combined making the exact same point.

I enthusiastically applaud Grenier's courageous and honest appraisal of the situation and I am delighted that he is offering this subtle analysis instead of the shallow hypocritical political rhetoric about the Arab world. The CIA needs more such voices to surface in protest of policymakers pointing the finger at the agency for the policy failures of the White House and congress; for shamelessly using the agency to carry out daily operations that politicians disavow when the truth surfaces about their questionable legality, while defaulting all blame to the agency when something goes wrong. Is there anything more cowardly than the perfidious than a politician using the loyal soldier as shield in such shameful manner?

The CIA has much for which to answer throughout its history, and there is no shortage of critics from all sorts of perspectives and all sorts of issues from operational - allowing agency infiltration by double-agents to taking part in torture and assassinations in the name of democracy - to management and inter-agency coordination that may or may not best serve the government in the manner carried out. But why is it the agency's fault that the US and the IMF-World Bank member countries approved IMF austerity policy recommendations that contributed to the uprisings across the Arab world? Is it not true that the IMF has a long history of introducing austerity measures that invariably result in social unrest?

With its board-members' approval, the IMF recommended to the countries currently in revolt to abolish state food subsidies thereby exacerbating simmering social unrest. Pundits and politicians - yes, of course always after the fact because before the same pundits and politicians were on the other side - are now asking why didn't the IMF provide emergency lending to the Arab nations now under turmoil, while the IMF is defending its policies and rejects the suggestion that austerity contributed to social unrest!

It should surprise no one that the level of political hypocrisy prevents Washington from seeing that the same growing socioeconomic inequality and anti-democratic regimes that finally drove thousands of Arabs into the streets to demand change exist in the US. Accord to the CIA, the GINI coefficient that measures distribution of inequality is actually worse for the US than it is for Yemen, Egypt and Tunisia. Perhaps the US political parties ought to drop the hollow rhetoric about spreading freedom and democracy in other countries and try to get their own house in order by strengthening the working class and the middle class. America as a whole is far better off than any country in the Middle East, but income inequality has been worse than it has been in more than a century and it is expected to become more pronounced. If social unrest hits the streets of New York or Detroit, and it may if the socioeconomic gap continues to widen and if the prospects for upward mobility (realization of the American Dream) appear unrealistic, what agency will policymakers blame for failing to do its job?

1 comment:

Rick Parsley said...

These current tragedies are definite and concrete proof that Wrath is being distributed among our masses. Willful and obstinate ideas and religious concepts and a refusal to accept the genuine truth as layed down in our Bible is the cause. If we would only obey the Gospel according as it was given in the original manuscript, not these versions that have come about in the last years since the Messiah's death, burial and ressurection! Adding our oppinions to the True Gospel has brought all of us to the brinks of total and universal destruction. Although I know that many will not agree with this observation, no one can successfully refute or deny that our Bible confirms these tragidies and no people, with there eyes open, can successfully dispute what our eyes have witnessed and continues to occur through out history. Our only Hope is in the teaching of the Original Gospel, as spelled out in our Bible! Yahshua (True and original name of our Saviour as proven by the Masoretic text)is pouring out His Wrath upon the world! We All are being given space to turn from our concepts and theories and accept His Word! Not a man's. Let Yahweh (God) be true and every man a liar! Search the scriptures. Believe in the True Saviour! Not a man's (including me) words. All of our concepts are the same. Misguided and unproven (unless we have researched and found proof for our selves) causing us to be marked as the proverbial - blind leading the blind.