War, Criticism & Censorship

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The
United States is losing the war on terrorism, according to “Anonymous,”
the author of “Imperial Hubris.” The new book recently outranked
Molly Ivins and Maureen Dowd on The New York Times Best Sellers
list and was closing in on Bill Clinton.

The
“anonymous” part didn’t last long. Outed by the media, the author
is Michael Scheuer, a CIA officer. He explained in an Atlantic Monthly
interview why his name isn’t on the book’s cover: “It was at the
insistence of my employer that I not reveal my name or my agency
of affiliation.”

As
it’s turned out, the CIA isn’t too happy about the attention Scheuer
is receiving. Clamping down, the agency has issued a gag order banning
Scheuer from speaking publicly about intelligence matters. It requires
him to give the CIA five days’ notice of all interview questions
and his proposed answers.

Ironically,
the muzzle the CIA now wishes to place on the debate is a perfect
example of what Scheuer says in his book is wrong with U.S. intelligence
and our efforts to defeat Osama bin Laden and militant Islam. “Intelligence-community
careers were made by ensuring Congress heard no evil,” writes Scheuer.
“We ignored realities because – in general – U.S. government foreign-policy
agencies hold expertise and experience in low esteem, perhaps even
contempt. Expertise is a career killer.”

Hearing
nothing from “reality-prone experts,” our elected leaders get their
information from “the glib but clueless,” says Scheuer, those “conversant
in many topics, expert in none,” the generalists who are more interested
in their fast-track careers than in any frank debate about the current
mind-set that holds that America does not need to re-evaluate, let
alone change, its policies. “And so,” says Scheuer, “we have disasters
in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Scheuer
offers no shortage of U.S. policy positions and assumptions that
call for re-evaluation if we are to avoid defeat at the hands of
al-Qaida and kindred groups. He argues we must recognize that a
worldwide Islamic insurgency is waging war against the United States
because of our actions, not because of our values. To paint
ourselves as innocents who are simply being attacked by religious
madmen who “hate freedom” might be a good morale booster during
wartime, but that frame of mind only masks the fact that many millions
of Muslims see U.S. foreign policy as nothing less than a long-running
assault on their faith, lands and resources.

Scheuer
points to our “relentless support for tyrannical and corrupt Muslim
regimes that are systematically dissipating the Muslim world’s energy
resources for family fun and profit while imprisoning, torturing
and executing domestic dissenters.” In earlier times, the case in
point would be our backing of the Shah and his brutal secret police,
Savak, formed under the guidance of the CIA, or the contemporary
joint ventures of the United States with the corrupt, repressive
rule of the Saudi royals.

“For
cheap, easily accessible oil,” Scheuer says, Washington has forged
an “iron tie to Arab tyrants.” Rather than giving priority to alternative-energy
development, we took the path of developing a sordid half-century
record of creating and safeguarding brutal tyrannies in order to
satisfy our unrelenting appetite for Persian Gulf oil. The result:
more dependence and more deaths.

Scheuer
puts forth the questions needing debate. How many lives are we willing
to pay per thousand barrels of oil? While preaching about democracy,
can we even admit that our control over the resources of Muslim
lands is needed to ensure our survival? Isn’t Washington’s talk
of spreading freedom and democracy while practicing the support
of despotism a case of pure hypocrisy? And if we now change our
course and decide to support democracy over tyranny, do we even
have the moral right to aggressively install secular, democratic
systems in countries that give no hint of wanting them?

Scheuer
sees a world in which U.S. leaders and elites are all but blind
to the counterproductive nature of our policies, blind to how our
actions have become a powerful force-multiplier for bin Laden and
al-Qaida. Put more simply, “The U.S. invasion of Iraq is Osama bin
Laden’s gift from America.”

And
the answer from the CIA? Stop the interviews.

September
6, 2004

Ralph
R. Reiland [send him mail]
is a
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist and the B. Kenneth Simon
Professor of Free Enterprise at Robert Morris University.

Ralph
R. Reiland Archives

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