September 19, 2014

Secret CIA Document: Americans Are “Coarse,” “Emotional” and Lack Civility

The upper class in every country always believes the commoners are appallingly crass, irrational and impolite. (For instance, here’s a column by George Will called ”Civility and Civilization.”) Meanwhile from the commoners’ perspective, it’s pretty crass, irrational and impolite of the upper class to keep shooting them in the face.

The CIA has just declassified an article from its in-house magazine "Studies in Intelligence” embodying this dynamic. The article describes the CIA’s response to Gary Webb's 1996 San Jose Mercury News series "Dark Alliance" about the CIA’s protection of Nicaraguan contras whom the CIA knew were smuggling cocaine into the U.S.

Webb’s reporting was accurate and, we now know (partly thanks to an internal CIA investigation triggered by the series) arguably conservative. But from the perspective of "Studies in Intelligence," the problem wasn’t the CIA's alliance with drug dealers; it was that stupid, crude Americans believed this scurrilously accurate nonsense:

…ultimately the CIA-drug story says a lot more about American society on the eve of the millennium than it does about either CIA or the media. We live in somewhat coarse and emotional times—when large numbers of Americans do not adhere to the same standards of logic, evidence, or even civil discourse as those practiced by members of the CIA community.

Hilariously, the sentence about “civil discourse” is footnoted, but if you look at the end of the article, the source attesting to the CIA’s standards of civil discourse is redacted.

Even funnier, this article was declassified as the result of a lawsuit against the CIA by a former employee, Jeffrey Scudder. Scudder had pointed out that the CIA was refusing to release hundreds of decades-old documents that, according to the law, could no longer be kept secret. In response, the CIA very logically and civilly destroyed his career.

—Jon Schwarz

Posted at 10:17 AM | Comments (9)

September 11, 2014

"Something Like 100 Years" — Christopher Hitchens in 1991 at Beginning of First Gulf War on How Long U.S. War With Iraq Would Last

On February 4th, 1991, as the U.S. bombed Iraq during the initial phase of the first Gulf War, Christopher Hitchens appeared on C-Span with Morton Kondracke. This was Hitchens' prediction of how long the U.S. war with Iraq would last:

BRIAN LAMB: Warren Strobel, who writes for the Washington Times, was here on Friday, and he has a piece in Monday’s paper that starts off by saying, “Pressures are beginning to mount for the United States to bring the eighteen day war against Iraq to a quick end, creating a political timetable that conflicts with the military’s best judgement." In other words, maybe a ground war?

HITCHENS: I think it’s appalling in a way that people talk about deadlines in terms of days, weeks and months, especially if they’re talking the political deadline. The political engagement the United States has made is one of appointing itself the arbiter of inter-Arab border disputes and of the middle east region as a whole—uninvited, in effect, and without proper debate. When people ask me how long this is going to go on, I'd say, “Something like 100 years.” And it’s not begun to sink in yet.

Thank you to Sam Husseini for telling me about this. Sam wrote about his experiences with Hitchens, and this prediction by Hitchens, here.

—Jon Schwarz

Posted at 06:00 PM | Comments (45)

Today Is the 13th Anniversary of an Enormous Opportunity

Today, September 11th, 2014, is a good time for a short quiz.

1. What is this?


What did you answer? Did you say "That's the last moments of the lives of thousands of people"? Or "That's a vile act of mass murder"? Or "That's the beginning of a lifetime of suffering for everyone who loved someone who died at the World Trade Center"?

Wrong! The right answer is: that is an OPPORTUNITY, an ENORMOUS OPPORTUNITY:

"Through my tears I see opportunity." – George Bush, September 20, 2001

"If the collapse of the Soviet Union and 9/11 bookend a major shift in international politics, then this is a period not just of grave danger, but of enormous opportunity. Before the clay is dry again, America and our friends and our allies must move decisively to take advantage of these new opportunities." – Condoleezza Rice, April 29, 2002

2. What is this?


This question is a little harder. Some people might answer, "That's the result of an Al Qaeda bombing of a hotel in Mombasa, Kenya on November 28, 2002 aimed at Israeli tourists." Others might say, "It's the place where terrorists murdered 13 people, including ten Kenyans and Israeli brothers Noy and Dvir Anter, ages 12 and 13." Or, "That's the place where, CNN reported, 'screaming children covered in blood searched desperately for their parents amid the wreckage.'"

They would also be wrong. The correct answer is, that is a GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY:

"Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meeting with ministry staff in the aftermath of the Kenya attacks, said that the incidents had presented Israel with a 'golden opportunity' to strengthen its strategic ties with the United States and other Western countries."

3. What is this?


Some might guess, "That's a five-year-old Iraqi girl covered in the blood of her parents, who'd just been murdered by U.S. soldiers." Or, “That’s something that every American should be atoning for until the day we die."

But again, that would be wrong. The right answer is, that's yet another GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY:

"Targeting America in Iraq in terms of economy and losses in life is a golden and unique opportunity. Do not waste it only to regret it later." – Osama bin Laden, December, 2004

Probably the point here is clear. But I'll go ahead and spell it out.

For normal people, it's an unmitigated tragedy when their fellow citizens are killed in terrorist attacks or wars. Normal people cry, become afraid, and think of children who now have no parents and parents who now have no children.

For our would-be "leaders," however – in every country – the situation is different. Of course, they pretend to feel the same as normal people. They give teary-eyed speeches about sorrow and suffering.

And yet, behind their tears, there seems to be something else. When they think no one is looking, you glimpse another expression flitting across their face. You think it couldn't be. But – yes, incredibly enough, they're smiling. Because before the bodies are cold, before the mothers have stopped shrieking, our leaders are thinking:


And for them it is. It's an opportunity for them to do whatever they wanted to do before, but couldn't get away with. It's an opportunity for them to smear anyone who criticizes them as disloyal. It's an opportunity for them to become much more powerful than they ever could be in peacetime. Leaders love war. That's why there's so much of it.

It's understandably hard for normal people to come to terms with this. It's scary to believe your leaders may secretly be, uh, not so sad if you die. But all you have to do is listen to them, and they'll tell you.

Can we change this? Maybe. But the first step in changing reality is facing it, no matter how ugly and frightening it is.

Happy September 11th.

—Jon Schwarz

Posted at 02:26 PM | Comments (24)