Imperial Hubris IV
The early press coverage of the forthcoming Imperial Hubris continues, with a second NYT mention in as many days, this one a full feature.
A new book by the senior Central Intelligence Agency officer who headed a special office to track Osama bin Laden and his followers warns that the United States is losing the war against radical Islam and that the invasion of Iraq has only played into the enemy’s hands. In the book, “Imperial Hubris,” the author is identified only as “Anonymous,” but former intelligence officials identified him as a 22-year veteran of the C.I.A. who is still serving in a senior counterterrorism post at the agency and headed the bin Laden station from 1996 to 1999. The 309-page book, obtained by The New York Times, provides an unusual glimpse into a school of thought inside the C.I.A., and includes harsh criticism of both the Clinton and Bush administrations.
“U.S. leaders refuse to accept the obvious,” the officer writes. “We are fighting a worldwide Islamic insurgency ? not criminality or terrorism ? and our policy and procedures have failed to make more than a modest dent in enemy forces.” The author says the threat is rooted in opposition not to American values, but to policies and actions, particularly in the Islamic world.
While I agree that we are fighting a worldwide Islamic insurgency, it is one using criminal and terrorist tactics. These are not mutually exclusive phenomena. Much of the insurgency is funded by narcotics, especially heroin, trafficking and the laundering of money through bogus Islamic charities. And, certainly, the intentional targetting of civilians and other targets used by al Qaeda and its allies qualify as terrorism.
And, as noted yesterday, while it’s certainly true that US policies have triggered the latest wave of this jihad, it is clear from reading Anonymous’ first book that they do indeed hate our values. Our non-Muslim, secular, free lifestyle is a major target of the propaganda machine that helps recruit more terrorists for the insurgency.
The piece also confirms my rebuttal of the Guardian piece that initiated the media attention of this book:
It is rare for a C.I.A. officer to publish a book while still serving at the agency and highly unusual for the book to focus on such a politically explosive topic. Under C.I.A. rules, the book had to be cleared by the agency before it could be published. It was approved for release on condition that the author and his internal agency not be identified.
The book itself identifies “Anonymous” only as “a senior U.S. intelligence official with nearly two decades of experience in national security issues related to Afghanistan and South Asia.” It identifies a previous book, “Through Our Enemies’ Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam, and the Future of America,” as being written by the same author. Former intelligence officials identified the officer to The Times and noted that he was an overt employee of the C.I.A., but an intelligence official asked that his full name not be published because it could make him a target of Al Qaeda. The senior intelligence official said the book had been vetted to insure that it not include classified information. “We still have freedom of speech,” the official said. “It doesn’t mean that we endorse the book, but employees are free to express their opinions.”
In a report issued in March, the staff of the Sept. 11 commission described the bin Laden unit as a place where a “sense of alarm about bin Laden was not widely shared or understood within the intelligence and policy communities.” Another new book, “Ghost Wars,” by Steve Coll of The Washington Post, was based in part on interviews with the officer, identified by his first name, Mike. Mr. Coll reported that the White House sometimes complained to George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, that the officer was “too myopic” in his approach to manage the bin Laden group.
In the book, the author denounced the American invasion of Iraq as “an avaricious, premeditated unprovoked war against a foe who posed no immediate threat,” and said it would fuel the anti-American sentiments on which Mr. bin Laden and his followers draw. “There is nothing that bin Laden could have hoped for more than the American invasion and occupation of Iraq,” he writes.
I would note, too, that the author said that the invasion of Aghanistan was exactly what UBL wanted, too. I’m sure a significant number of Anonymous’ CIA colleagues share his assessment.
There are, however, good reasons that neither intelligence nor military officers are put in direct control of our foreign policy. There is a reflexive reaction on the part of some that we should “leave war to the professionals” and “get politicians out of it.” That’s exactly wrong. War is fought to achieve political objectives. Generals and intelligence officers–like any other bureaucrats–are necessarily myopic. Many of them are brilliant and they’re certainly better educated and more knowledgeable, on the main, than their civilian bosses. But we elect presidents and legislatures to look at the bigger picture and represent the wishes of the people. Doing the thing that makes the most sense from the perspective of the national security apparatus may often not coincide with the best interests of the citizenry.
Other OTB posts relating to Anonymous and his books:
- Imperial Hubris
- Imperial Hubris II
- Imperial Hubris III
- Iraqis Worked With al Qaeda
- Imperial Hubris Author ‘Anonymous’ No More