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CIA and Iraq


John Simkin
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The New York Times has published a classified CIA report on Islamic terrorists in Iraq. The report points out that the American occupation of Iraq is creating a new breed of Islamic terrorist that is likely to go on to destabilize other countries in the region. The CIA especially concerned about the impact it will have on Saudi Arabia. A large number of the terrorists come from this country and are getting valuable experience that they hope they will eventually be able to use in Saudi Arabia. The CIA is worried by the urban warfare skills they are developing in Iraq.

This comes as no surprise. The CIA and MI6 both warned that this would happened in reports given to the US and UK governments when the idea of invading Iraq was suggested during President Clinton time in office. Clinton understandably rejected calls by the New Cons to invade Iraq. Bush presumably was given the same advice in 2002 (Blair definitely was but he preferred to listen to Bush).

The latest polls show that an increasing number of Americans do not want to stay in Iraq (the policy is only supported by 39%). However, the truth is that there is no way out. Blair and Bush do not have an exit strategy. In many ways, the situation is even worse than the one faced by the Americans in Vietnam. At least the communists were guaranteed a quick victory when the Americans withdrew from Vietnam. If the occupation forces left Iraq it would be followed by a long-drawn out civil war that would probably spill over to neighbouring countries.

Bush went into Iraq to reduce the price of oil. This policy has been a complete failure with oil prices going up rather than down. I wonder what will happen to the price of oil when the trained terrorists return to Saudi Arabia.

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On June 21, network news reported that the Pentagon had claimed that 47 enemy operatives had been killed in Operation Spear in western Iraq. Last month, the Pentagon declared 125 had been killed in Operation Matador, near the Syrian border. "We don't do body counts on other people," Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defence, stated in November 2003.

On January 29 this year, the day before the Iraqi election, President Bush announced that it was the "turning point". On May 2 2003, he stood on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln behind a banner saying "Mission Accomplished" and the next day proclaimed that the "mission is completed". On June 2 this year, he declared: "Our mission is clear there, as well, and that is to train the Iraqis so they can do the fighting."

Last week, Bush retreated to his ultimate justification, that Iraq was invaded because Saddam Hussein was involved with the terrorists behind the September 11 attacks, a notion believed by a majority of those who voted for him in 2004: "We went to war because we were attacked ..."

On March 16 2003, Dick Cheney, the vice-president, prophesied: "We will, in fact, be greeted as liberators ... I think it will go relatively quickly." Only last month Cheney assured us that the insurgency in Iraq is in "the last throes". On June 18, General William Webster, the US commander in Baghdad, said: "Certainly saying anything about 'breaking the back' or 'about to reach the end of the line' or those kinds of things do not apply to the insurgency at this point."

The war has reached a tipping point - not in Iraq, but in the US. Every announcement of a "turning point" heightens the rising tide of public disillusionment. Every reference to September 11 strains the administration's credibility. Every revelation of how "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" for war, as in the Downing Street memo, shatters even Republicans' previously implacable faith.

On June 21, a Gallup poll reported that Bush's approval rating was collapsing along with support for the war. Only 39% of Americans support it. "The decline in support for the war is found among Republicans and independents, with little change among Democrats." (Since March, Republican support has fallen 11 points to 70%.)

"They're starting to talk numbers again," Pat Lang remarked to me about the return of body counts. Lang is the former chief at the Defence Intelligence Agency for the Middle East, south Asia and counter-terrorism. "They were determined not to do that. But they can't provide a measurement to tell themselves they're doing well. As you know, it means nothing."

Lang, who served as an intelligence officer in Vietnam, observes: "For almost all of the war, Vietnam was a better situation than Iraq. During the conduct of the war the security situation was far better than this." The Iraqi elections are "irrelevant to the outcome of the war because the people who voted were the people who stood to gain".

Iran is the long-term winner. "Iran intends to pull the Shia state of Iraq into its orbit. You can be sure that Iranian revolutionary guards are honeycombed throughout Iraq's intelligence to make sure things don't get out of hand." About the "euphoria" after the election, especially echoed by the press corps, Lang simply says: "Laughable, comical, pathetic."

Bush's Iraq syndrome is a reinvention of Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam syndrome. In December 1967, Walt Rostow, LBJ's national security adviser, famously declared about the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese: "Their casualties are going up at a rate they cannot sustain ... I see light at the end of the tunnel." The official invitation to the New Year's Eve party at the US embassy in Saigon read: "Come see the light at the end of the tunnel." The Tet offensive struck a month later.

"Even when what happened was really more positive than it seemed to be - the Tet offensive in 1968 was a military disaster for the Vietcong and North Vietnamese army - no one believed it because there was no light at the end of tunnel," Harry McPherson, who was President Johnson's counsel in the White House, told me. For a modern instance, McPherson cited the statement this week by Chuck Hagel, a Republican senator from Nebraska: "The White House is completely disconnected from reality. It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq."

Bush's light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel vision can only accelerate the cycle of disillusionment. His instinctive triumphalism inevitably has a counter-productive effect. His refusal to insist on responsibility for blunders - indeed, rewarding and honouring their perpetrators - enshrines impunity and hubris.

His doctrine of presidential infallibility, the election being his only "moment of accountability", can no longer be sustained by reference to September 11. His defence of the abuse and torture of detainees at Guantánamo and other prisons in violation of laws formerly upheld by the US blots out his attempts to explain the purity of his motives.

In The Quiet American, Graham Greene's 1955 novel on the wages of naive arrogance in Vietnam, the world-weary British journalist Fowler remarks to Pyle, the US agent, with the best of intentions: "Oh, I know your motives are good, they always are ... I wish sometimes you had a few bad motives, you might understand a little more about human beings. And that applies to your country too, Pyle."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,...1512334,00.html

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  • 1 month later...

Since Vietnam the CIA got out of the interrogation business. They weren’t very good at it. They didn’t have much experience at it. When I was in the CIA they trained us in counter-interrogation techniques. If you were captured, they prepared you for what you would face, the whole gamut, from psychological tricks to actual torture.

The CIA changed after 9/11. As I understand it, there’s a lot of franchising stuff out. Syria is a country, like Iraq, where they torture people. They use electrodes, water torture. They take torture to the point of death, like the Egyptians. The way you get around involving Americans in torture, is to get someone else to do it.

Psychological abuse. Sleep deprivation, lights on 24 hours a day, controlling all news, the good guy bad guy technique. You read about this stuff in fiction. It works with some people, and others it doesn’t. For the hard core, you would send them to Syria or some place like that. These countries on the front of terrorism aren’t playing around. You still have a lot of problems with the information from these interrogations. You’ve got a problem in the US. There is the misuse of information by the government. The CIA is not giving information to FBI, even after 9/11.

The attitude is they will break these people, one way or another. The interrogation is changing because they are franchising it. Franchising out assassinations, the collection of intelligence and franchising out torture to Egypt and Syria. If you have a problem with someone who’s not talking and you have suspicions that they could give you something, you send them to Syria for a start. Syrians have a bunch of people in jail being interrogated and the information is being sent to US government.

It’s schizophrenic, of course. The CIA’s out looking for allies and the neo conservatives in the White House are looking for new targets. Now God knows what we are getting from the Syrians. They are not very good intelligence collectors, they are not very objective, they have their own agenda and they are probably trying to implicate another country in terrorism, for example Jordan. So we don’t know what we are getting from these guys but if you’re going to torture someone you give it to the professionals.

The Syrians are hoping for is to get immunity, not to be attacked, they want to help on terrorism, they want the US to lift their pressure on Lebanon, Hamas, Palestinians' Islamic Jihad, so by helping the US with the Syrian Muslim brotherhood, Al Qaeda giving us information, torturing people ,they hope to get some recognition from Washington.

The CIA is full of professional intelligence officers that want to get to the bottom of 9/11 but the White House is looking to mine data for talking points for its policies. They are looking for political talking points. Let’s say they need to indict another country before the next election, not attack it, but indict it, say we’ve got a problem. So what they will do is they go through the intelligence reports until they find something that would suggest that Iran is causing the problem internally in Iraq. If they admit that it’s the Iraqis that are killing people,that the Iraqis are against the US and are unhappy and are in opposition, they’ve lost. So they go through the intelligence selectively picking out things.

And trust me, when you’re being tortured, you turn in everyone - your mother, your friends, anything to get the pain to stop. So the information is generally unreliable.

It’s totally unconstitutional. It’s not the United States I know. Keeping American citizens without access to a lawyer, with questionable evidence against them and holding them indefinitely is totally against our traditions. It’s totally unnecessary.

The CIA is full of professional intelligence officers that want to get to the bottom of 9/11 but the White House is looking to mine data for talking points for its policies. They are looking for political talking points. Let’s say they need to indict another country before the next election, not attack it, but indict it, say we’ve got a problem. So what they will do is they go through the intelligence reports until they find something that would suggest that Iran is causing the problem internally in Iraq. If they admit that it’s the Iraqis that are killing people,that the Iraqis are against the US and are unhappy and are in opposition, they’ve lost. So they go through the intelligence selectively picking out things.

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