February 26th, 2008

reading, activism, writing

Book #8: State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, by James Risen

The CIA has assisted with the assassinations of the leaders of foreign governments, disseminated disinformation to disrupt progressive organizing, turned vulnerable government workers into spies, and carried out thousands of acts, that if known, would be considered abhorrent by most people in the US. And that was when the agency was "working"!

James Risen's book State of War vividly describes how the CIA was used as a tool for the Bush administration's brutal and tragic folly in Iraq. Not only did the spy agency allow vice president Cheney to bully them into producing false intelligence to convince the public about the war, they've engaged in renditions (moving prisoners from one country to another and into a secret prison system where torture is practiced), and stood on the sidelines as defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld moved the spy business into the extremely partisan Pentagon.

The book fully exposes the massive domestic spy program carried out by the NSA (National Security Administration) that has access to billions of emails and phone conversations by average citizens who have nothing to do with terrorism.

While it's important to read about the failings of the CIA and the ascendancy of the Pentagon in presidential decision making, it's also important to take a huge step back and look at the goals of US foreign policy.

The goal cannot be protecting the US from terrorist attack, the Bush administration has done little toward stabilizing Afghanistan or destroying al Qaeda. Instead they focused their efforts on Iraq, a formally stable country that is now engulfed in violence.

Controlling the Middle East has been a long-term project of successive US administrations, most fervently since the breakup of the Ottoman empire after World War One. Alexander Haig has been reported to have said: "Israel is the largest American aircraft carrier in the world that cannot be sunk, does not carry even one American soldier, and is located in a critical region for American national security."

It's not that the US needs the oil, they do, but that's not the only thing. It's that the oil under those countries is a strategic resource that can be used to dominate Europe and Asia.

So while the CIA may indeed be broken, as Risen asserts, do we really want to fix it? Is global domination by the US a supportable goal? Hasn't this general policy lead to the deaths of millions of people already? Isn't there a better way?

I asked in a blog post about The Looming Tower "...but what conditions exist to make the conspiracy (like al Qaeda) popular and have widespread support?"

You won't find the answer in State of War but you will find plenty to be alarmed and angry about.