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July 14, 2004

I Demand You Love Robert Parry

One of the best national security reporters in America is Robert Parry. He broke many of the original stories about Iran-contra, and has done an enormous amount of great work on other subjects as well.

Sadly, he's paid a significant price for this in terms of his career. After all, why would the Washington Post or New York Times want a hardworking, honest, knowledgeable reporter? That's just too much trouble. If you were his editor, his reporting might get you disinvited from fancy Washington dinner parties where you could sit between Andrea Mitchell and Richard Perle. Doesn't that sound like fun? Well, no it doesn't. I myself would do a lot to get out of going to such parties, including killing myself. But many people seem to like them.

So most of Parry's current writing now appears on his own website, Consortium News. One of his current pieces, about the politicization of the CIA since the Reagan administration, is particularly interesting. Personally I'd say he's way overestimating the professionalism of the CIA pre-Reagan, but what do I know? You should read the whole thing.

I noticed three things in particular:

1. Just as I've always suspected, Alexander Haig and Bill Casey were towering geniuses.

“The day after Reagan's inauguration, Secretary of State Alexander Haig, believing that Moscow had tried to assassinate him in Europe where he served as Supreme Allied Commander, linked the Soviet Union to all acts of international terrorism,” wrote Melvin Goodman, then-chief of the CIA’s office for Soviet analysis. “There was no evidence to support such a charge but Casey had read … Claire Sterling's The Terror Network and, like Haig, was convinced that a Soviet conspiracy was behind global terrorism.” [Foreign Policy, Summer 1997]

CIA analysts had a secret reason for doubting Sterling’s theories, however. “Specialists at CIA dismissed the book, knowing that much of it was based on CIA ‘black propaganda,’ anticommunist allegations planted in the European press,” Goodman wrote. “But Casey contemptuously told CIA analysts that he had learned more from Sterling than from all of them.”

This is a good example of what an Austrian journalist named Karl Wiegand said after World War I:

"How are nations ruled and led into war? Politicians lie to journalists and then believe those lies when they see them in print."

2. As I've noted before, a good rule of thumb is that whenever someone is called a "traitor," it means they are "telling the truth." Parry's article contains another example of this:

In a scalding assessment of the CIA’s Soviet analysis, the [Reagan] transition team accused the DI [Directorate of Intelligence] of “an abject failure” to foresee a supposedly massive Soviet buildup of strategic weapons and “the wholesale failure” to comprehend the sophistication of Soviet propaganda.

The transition report even questioned the patriotism of the career analysts who supposedly had underestimated the Soviet commitment to world domination. "These failures are of such enormity," the transition report said, "that they cannot help but suggest to any objective observer that the agency itself is compromised to an unprecedented extent and that its paralysis is attributable to causes more sinister than incompetence."

This brings to mind Hannah Arendt's famous essay "Truth and Politics." It's mostly about totalitarian states, but it rings alarmingly true for America, too:

The main effort of both the deceived group and the deceivers themselves is likely to be directed towards keeping the propaganda image intact, and this image is threatened less by the enemy and by real hostile interests than by those inside the group itself who have managed to escape its spell and insist on talking about facts or events that do not fit the image. Contemporary history is full of instances in which tellers of factual truth were felt to be more dangerous, and even more hostile, than the real opponents.

3. Parry quotes Richard Gates, Bill Casey's protege, as saying that Casey got angry when CIA analysts' work "was naïve about the real world."

This illustrates another good rule of thumb: politicians who talk about being tough-minded realists -- as contrasted with their woolyheaded, naive opponents -- always themselves live in a bizarre fantasy world. It never fails. See: Cheney, Dick.

Posted at July 14, 2004 05:49 PM | TrackBack

This is my favorite blog in the universe. John Schwarz should have his own television show called "Primetime with John Schwarz." He'd probably have to wear a turtleneck, though.

I also often take John's opinions and research and pretend they are my own. So please, no one who knows John be friends with me.

Posted by: matt fogel at July 15, 2004 10:01 PM


Thank you for your kind comments. They are appreciated. However, I would like to point out that:

1. I already wear a turtleneck constantly. The only exception is when I take a shower. Then I wear two.

2. I do not know anyone, so the field's pretty open for you to meet people.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at July 18, 2004 07:28 PM