2.25.2007

amateur hour

I can't say I've been following the details of the United States' impending invasion of Iran. I hope it isn't too ignorant to say I feel I understand about as much as I need to know.

The US continues on its endless war, using one pretext after the next to gain control of a scarce and precious resource, and to install governments friendly to US corporate interests. The American public isn't part of the equation, except inasmuch as they provide the funding and the bodies with which to wage war. If they don't buy the propaganda, they are ignored, and occasionally silenced. What passes for political opposition is either a pantomime or utterly ineffectual.

However... when I do try to understand the situation in any depth, I trust Seymour Hersh to know the score. For my money, Hersh is the most important investigative journalist of our time.

Here's a tidbit from his latest wrap-up. What lessons did the Cheney regime learn from one of its predecessors?
The Bush Administration's reliance on clandestine operations that have not been reported to Congress and its dealings with intermediaries with questionable agendas have recalled, for some in Washington, an earlier chapter in history. Two decades ago, the Reagan Administration attempted to fund the Nicaraguan contras illegally, with the help of secret arms sales to Iran. Saudi money was involved in what became known as the Iran-Contra scandal, and a few of the players back then — notably Prince Bandar and Elliott Abrams — are involved in today's dealings.

Iran-Contra was the subject of an informal "lessons learned" discussion two years ago among veterans of the scandal. Abrams led the discussion. One conclusion was that even though the program was eventually exposed, it had been possible to execute it without telling Congress. As to what the experience taught them, in terms of future covert operations, the participants found: "One, you can't trust our friends. Two, the C.I.A. has got to be totally out of it. Three, you can't trust the uniformed military, and four, it's got to be run out of the Vice-President's office" — a reference to Cheney's role, the former senior intelligence official said.

I was subsequently told by the two government consultants and the former senior intelligence official that the echoes of Iran-Contra were a factor in Negroponte’s decision to resign from the National Intelligence directorship and accept a sub-Cabinet position of Deputy Secretary of State. (Negroponte declined to comment.)

The former senior intelligence official also told me that Negroponte did not want a repeat of his experience in the Reagan Administration, when he served as Ambassador to Honduras. "Negroponte said, 'No way. I'm not going down that road again, with the N.S.C. running operations off the books, with no finding.'" (In the case of covert C.I.A. operations, the President must issue a written finding and inform Congress.) Negroponte stayed on as Deputy Secretary of State, he added, because "he believes he can influence the government in a positive way."

The government consultant said that Negroponte shared the White House's policy goals but "wanted to do it by the book." The Pentagon consultant also told me that "there was a sense at the senior-ranks level that he wasn't fully on board with the more adventurous clandestine initiatives." It was also true, he said, that Negroponte "had problems with this Rube Goldberg policy contraption for fixing the Middle East."

The Pentagon consultant added that one difficulty, in terms of oversight, was accounting for covert funds. "There are many, many pots of black money, scattered in many places and used all over the world on a variety of missions," he said. The budgetary chaos in Iraq, where billions of dollars are unaccounted for, has made it a vehicle for such transactions, according to the former senior intelligence official and the retired four-star general.

"This goes back to Iran-Contra," a former National Security Council aide told me. "And much of what they’re doing is to keep the agency out of it." He said that Congress was not being briefed on the full extent of the U.S.-Saudi operations. And, he said, "The C.I.A. is asking, 'What's going on?' They’re concerned, because they think it's amateur hour."

4 comments:

zed said...

Alas, these guys are not amateurs. They know what they are doing.

The reference to "amateurs" rubs me the wrong way the same as do phrases like "mistakes made" in Iraq. As if we are to believe that they literally though US forces would be greeted as liberators and that a man who had spent most of his life in exile would form the post-invasion government. Cheney, Abrams, Negroponte, and company may be evil, but they are not stupid.

Their now-discredited claims of how easy it would all be were just ways to sell the war to a gullible, uninformed public.

These people are revolutionaries. Take them at their word that they intend to "transform" the Middle East (just like they, in their telling, transformed and "saved" Central America).

Like all revolutionaries, they thrive on instability and chaos. At creating instability and chaos they are genuine professionals.

L-girl said...

Alas, these guys are not amateurs. They know what they are doing.

The reference to "amateurs" rubs me the wrong way the same as do phrases like "mistakes made" in Iraq.


I agree completely. In fact, you sound just like me.

But I don't think the term amateur is being used that way here. It's the CIA talking. It has a pretty specific meaning, I think.

The only thing you've said that I disagree with is calling this regime revolutionaries. They have radical ideas and are extremists, but they are not revolutionaries. They are extending and maintaining a status quo, American hegemony. Nothing revolutionary about empire building.

Rositta said...

I have a link to a girl blogger from Bagdad worth reading. She blogs under Bagdad Burning...ciao

L-girl said...

I have a link to a girl blogger from Bagdad worth reading. She blogs under Bagdad Burning

That's a very famous blog - it's also been published as a book. (A girl blogger? That's just called "a blogger".)

Rositta, I replied to your comment in the earlier thread, with a question of my own. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.