Ray McGovern on Intelligence Failures

Good commentary from former CIA analyst Ray McGovern:

The short answer to the second sentence is: Yes, it is inevitable that "certain plots will succeed."

A more helpful answer would address the question as to how we might best minimize their prospects for success. And to do this, sorry to say, there is no getting around the necessity to address the root causes of terrorism or, in the vernacular, "why they hate us."

If we don't go beyond self-exculpatory sloganeering in attempting to answer that key question, any "counter terrorism apparatus" is doomed to failure. Honest appraisals would tread on delicate territory, but any intelligence agency worth its salt must be willing/able to address it.

Delicate? Take, for example, what Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the "mastermind" of 9/11, said was his main motive. Here’s what the 9/11 Commission Report wrote on page 147. You will not find it reported in the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM):

"By his own account, KSM’s animus toward the United States stemmed…from his violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel."

This is not the entire picture, of course. Other key factors include the post-Gulf War stationing of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, widely seen as defiling the holy sites of Islam.

Add Washington’s propping up of dictatorial, repressive regimes in order to secure continuing access to oil and natural gas -- widely (and accurately) seen as one of the main reasons for the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Not to mention the Pentagon’s insatiable thirst for additional permanent (sorry, the term is now "enduring") military bases in that part of the world.

[...]

The most effective step would be to release the CIA Inspector General report on intelligence community performance prior to 9/11. That investigation was run by, and its report was prepared by an honest man, it turns out.

It was immediately suppressed by then-Acting DCI John McLaughlin -- another Tenet clone -- and McLaughin’s successors as director, Porter Goss, Michael Hayden, and now Leon Panetta.

Accountability is key. If there is no accountability, there is total freedom to screw up, and screw up royally, without any thought of possible personal consequences.

Not only is it certain that we will face more terrorist attacks, but the keystone-cops nature of recent intelligence operations ... whether in using cell phones in planning kidnappings in Italy, or in allowing suicide bombers access to CIA bases in Taliban-infested eastern Afghanistan ... will continue. Not to mention the screw-up in the case of Abdulmutallab.

Posted on January 15, 2010 at 7:22 AM • 53 Comments

Comments

yahyaJanuary 15, 2010 7:43 AM

Honest guy, who shares obvious things. I wish there were more such people in the senior management of the intel community.

A Telco Security DweebJanuary 15, 2010 8:12 AM

Yes, but any HONEST analysis of why Muslims hate America so much (e.g. "no questions asked" support of anything and everything that Israel does, support of Muslim dictatorships like Egypt and Saudi Arabia combined with transparently hypocritical denouncements of other ones like Syria, nonsense posturing like "rigged elections in Iran are 'bad' but rigged elections in our puppet government in Afghanistan are "good", illegal invasions and continuing, brutal occupations of both Iraq and Afghanistan, allowing Blackwater mercenaries to murder Muslim civilians with no consequences whatsoever, "rendition" of innocent Muslims to torture dungeons around the world, the Guantanamo Gulag, Abu Ghraib, a foreign policy largely targeted at endless supplies of oil so you can drive nice big SUVs, and cavalier disregard for the lives of Third World civilians like Afghans at wedding celebrations), is completely prohibited in the "echo chamber" of the self-congratulatory American mainstream media.

It is so bad that although I still watch ABC, CBS, NBC, etc., I have to watch the BBC to get any real news... the above kinds of subjects are quickly shut down by hysterical attacks on the part of the Cheney / Palin / Fox News crowd. The mainstream U.S. media is so intimidated that it dares not talk honestly about why there is an endless supply of Bin Ladens, Achmediniwhatsisnames and shoe bombers.

If you are to do an HONEST risk analysis you have to address "where is the risk coming from and how do I minimize that factor". If you are fundamentally unwilling to deal objectively with that factor you are making the entire idea of risk analysis, completely pointless.

Would fixing all these problems make America 100% safe from terrorism? No. Would it eliminate 90% of the threat? Yes. It's not that you can't do it. It's that you don't WANT to do it, because you want that cheap oil, so much more.

There are REASONS why Muslims hate America (not Switzerland -- despite the minaret issue) and why they are targeting the U.S., as opposed to, (say), New Zealand or Brazil. I have just given you a whole bunch, above, but your political class dares not talk about them.

BF SkinnerJanuary 15, 2010 8:35 AM

@A Telco Security Dweeb " dares not talk about them."

Not sure I agree here Dweeb. Yes our nation's international policies have gotten royally up Bin Laden's and his follwers collective nostril.

And our collective faces say things like "They hate our freedom" and other purile jingo.

They can be seen as discussing the same thing. Bin Laden wants us out of the middle east and Bush, Krugger et al feel our freedom IS our ability to penetrate markets and exploit other countries resources for the benefit of our companies.

What we are doing is what we've done for centuries. Manifest Destiny (like TIA) seems never to have left our minds.

(Just started reading Imperial Cruise. Recommend it)

SeanJanuary 15, 2010 8:49 AM

I think this is a highly under-appreciated aspect of security - at least making an attempt not to have enemies. It seems that some people go out of their way to piss people off.

roger987January 15, 2010 9:00 AM

I enjoy your blog, but I’m not sure Ray McGovern is a good representation of the type of material you usually have on it. I'm sure Ray obtained lots of security experience during his distinguished 27-year career at the CIA and other national intelligence posts, but he defines himself more by his political activism during the 20 years since he has retired from intelligence work. He may have real security concerns that should be addressed, but he seems to be no longer able to address national security concerns objectively, as evidenced, in part, by his signing the “9/11 truthers” Statement.

Does he have valid points he wants to raise about security in the US? I'm sure he does. Can you hear those points above his political axe-grinding? No.

HJohnJanuary 15, 2010 9:15 AM

We have to be careful to be fair.

On one hand we say terror attacks will succeed from time to time. This is true.

On the other we say people can screw up and screw up royally without accountability. This is also true.

However, we have to be careful how we relate those two truths. Not every successful terror attack indicates a screw up, just like not every unsuccessful terror attack indicates a shining success.

Too little accountability leads to too many screw ups and an erosion of freedoms. Excessive accountability (meaning, the "connect the dots" and "hindsight fingerpointers" etc.) is how we end up with CYA and , ironically an errosion of freedoms as well.

Unfortunately, the short term gains of political expediency often kill long term potential benefits and improvements.

CompugeekJanuary 15, 2010 9:34 AM

I disagree quite a bit. McGovern getting on board with the "9/11 truthers" is pretty clear evidence he lost his objectivity. Of course KSM blames his attacks on US support for Israel, the al Qaeda manuals long ago advised operatives to blame Israel, blame US oil interests, claim they were beaten, anything they can do to feed US domestic media's predeliction for blaming America first.

Two responses to this. First, the Arab world by and large still refuses to admit Israel has a right to exist. They will continue to attack until they either acknowledge and believe in Israel or until the Jews are pushed out (again).

Second, the Wahabists want to establish a new caliphate. They will continue with that struggle to make Sharia the dominating influence worldwide regardless of what we do with Israel. We could abandon Israel altogether, abandon petrochemicals altogether and they would still fight and attack.

The very fact we remonstrate so much over our own self-defense or retaliation just reinforces their view that we are paper tigers. In their view, they just have to up the death toll until we withdraw in paroxysms of fear and doubt.

Peter PearsonJanuary 15, 2010 9:37 AM

"Add Washington’s propping up of dictatorial, repressive regimes in order to secure continuing access to oil and natural gas -- widely (and accurately) seen as one of the main reasons for the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan."

When Person A purports to tell you Person B's motives, you're learning more about Person A than about Person B.

DavidJanuary 15, 2010 10:04 AM

@A Telco Security Dweeb: Everything you described could be gathered from US media, so the facts are not censored and you can get most of the information you need from it. The fault is not so much the journalism as the editorializing, and that you don't agree with the slant.

Further, it's not just a matter of cheap oil. If it was, we'd have dumped Israel long ago, since it's very clear that our problems with the Arabs are primarily about Israel. The other things you mention are largely a result of what we did about Arab hostility.

A Telco Security DweebJanuary 15, 2010 10:06 AM

Incidentally (to all the other commenters who have made the following point), I would be the last to deny that there are reasons (e.g. the Wahabi cult, the Sunni / Shia feud, religious fanaticism, the 'blame somebody else for my problems so I don't have to face up to them myself' syndrome, poverty, ignorance, etc.... the list goes on and on) that would motivate terrorists to attack (a) the United States and (b) much of the rest of the developed world, even if by some miracle the U.S. et. al. started to behave responsibly.

Nobody is saying that Muslims in the rest of the world are perfect (they're very far from it) or that they would necessarily react rationally to reasonable actions or policies on the part of the U.S. or other Western countries. (Indeed, the past history of the Israel / Palestinian situation - where you have acts of terrorism launched by Islamicist rejectionists, precisely to STOP the outbreak of meaningful compromise - shows how difficult the process is likely to be.)

All I am really suggesting is that in order to mitigate a risk, the first logical thing that one has to do, is, "not make it worse". We do this all the time, in everyday life; for example, if I don't want to be beaten up by a gang of {your favorite ethnic group here}, I refrain from running up and down a street in their neighborhood, yelling "YOU STUPID {name of ethnic group}".

Why, then, is it a good idea to go all over the rest of the world, needlessly antagonizing people and inducing them to attack me? I can't fathom what the U.S. thinks that it's accomplishing here.

"To avoid being eaten by a tiger, lesson #1 : 'stay out of its cage, and don't tweak its nose'."

HJohnJanuary 15, 2010 10:16 AM

@Peter Pearson
@David
_____

Good posts. The propaganda against the United States is often so contradictory and mutually exclusive that it blows my mind how otherwise intelligent and skeptical people absorb it.

Also, to "dweeb", regardless of one's opinion of Fox News, please explain to me how Fox, and Palin/Cheney as you state, shut them down? It's amusing to watch you accuse those you disagree with of hysterical attacks in your, well, hysterical rant (not to mention your off topic whoppers).

No one is ever going to agree 100% on intelligence, failures, successes, accountability, screening, countermeasures, etc. There has to be a bit of gray area and give, which is difficult in a political climate. (Sort of like how the general standard of minimum password length may be 8, but you can agree to disagree over 7 but not 3. It's a matter of proportion).

jayJanuary 15, 2010 10:41 AM

We have to keep a balance too regarding the oft used 'why do they hate us'.

Sometimes we can minimize the stirring up of conflict, and sometimes we cannot or should not.

Hostility to the west is a complex thing consisting of (among other things)

1) need for an enemy to rally support against.

2) awkward spots we get placed in by Isreal's political/military strategies.

3) Although as a libertarian I oppose the maintenance of a 'global military footprint', there are times when legitimate defensive postures may antagonize some groups. Sometimes that can't be helped.

4) Cultural threats. This is probably bigger than many people realize. The term 'they hate us for our freedom' is laughingly dismissed, but not altogether false. There is a centuries old social/religious culture in these areas that depends on unchanging cultural patterns, controlled from the top down. Hollywood, American tv, the liberation of women and gays etc deeply threaten the base of that existing social power structure. Those in power do not take this lightly. One thing that any established power structure, government, religious, social does is protect it's own existence first and foremost.

5) Consider the Mo-Toon's assaults and riots. Should the West back down and apologize because that takes offense? There comes a point where we need to stand up for our own values regardless of the offense... and realize some trouble may come of it.

BF SkinnerJanuary 15, 2010 10:44 AM

@peter pearson "When Person A purports to tell you Person B's motives, you're learning more about Person A than about Person B"

But what about when Person A purports to tell you Person A's motives? KSM said it was Israel, at first OBL said get the American's out of sacred Saudia Arabia...his motives grew over time.
OBL has been reported as being surprised by the US response to his (6) rather specific and consistent demands. Like the US didn't believe him and substituted "they want to destroy our freedoms by killing us because they hate our freedom".

I'm not sure you can take a villian at their word. Ted Bundy said it was pornography that drove him. Somehow, given the amount of porn consumed and the very low number of serial killers, I doubt his analysis.

subpatreJanuary 15, 2010 10:45 AM

A Telco Security Dweeb says, “To avoid being eaten by a tiger, lesson #1 : 'stay out of its cage, and don't tweak its nose'.”

Why did the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor? Well, they thought they could cripple America’s oceanic strength. They did a credible but insufficient job, and they suffered the consequence.

So why did the Islamic terrorists attack New York and the Pentagon? To cripple something? Get real, the attacks on 9//ll were never intended to critically weaken or damage anything. Those acts were —by their definition— tweaking. It was a giant ball of spit in the face.

Richard Reid, the 'sole man' of the Jihadis, was never going to damage America. Mr. Jen Ah'Talz Gobhyebhye of recent flaming underpants fame could never have damaged American power, he was tweaking. In analysis even attacks on the embassy in Kenya, the USS Cole, or the Lebanese barrakcs were never intended to cause serious damage. There has never been any attempt on American power by Islamic terrorists; not by brute force, not by foreign intercession, not by guile, and not by politics.

Your underlying premise is completely and irrevocably flawed.

JoeJanuary 15, 2010 11:08 AM

A Telco Security Dweeb:

Muslims don't just hate the US. In 1989 hundreds of them in the UK vowed to kill Salman Rushdie for writing a novel. Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Theo van Gogh didn't invade any muslim country. Bali has no soldiers based in Saudia Arabia, yet they were targeted. Thousands of people have been murdered by muslim terrorists in Thailand in the past 5 years. Throughout the world in non-muslim countries muslims are massively over-represented in prisons. They believe the world is promised to them, and they have a god-given duty to invade, kill and enslave. That's how islam spread from Medina across Africa, across the Middle East, and as far as Afghanistan.

Since you are so keen on learning more about the world, don't just stop at news.bbc.co.uk - try visiting www.thereligionofpeace.com to get a wider perspective on islam.

mcbJanuary 15, 2010 11:16 AM

@ Compugeek

"...the Wahabists want to establish a new caliphate. They will continue with that struggle to make Sharia the dominating influence worldwide regardless of what we do with Israel. We could abandon Israel altogether, abandon petrochemicals altogether and they would still fight and attack."

It certainly serves the interests of those invested in the current conflict to think so. The divisions within Islam have been there since its beginning. The Wahabis have been at it for a couple centuries, but until petrodollars and cold war geopolitics became part of the equation the factions primarily fought amongst themselves. With luck our grandchildren will see what happens when the House of Saud can no longer afford to fund the conflict (which serves their domestic interests) and the US refines its policy toward Israel (which is driven primarily by US domestic politics) and other repressive regimes in the region with whom we have chosen to align ourselves. Those invested in the GWOT will fight to preserve the "They hate us for our freedom" and the unfortunate equilibrium that it represents.

BobWJanuary 15, 2010 12:15 PM

1) Some of the "propping up dictators" Ray McGovern objects to is an aftereffect of the cold war. The West and the Soviet bloc were engaged in a struggle that could have gone nuclear. The Soviets tried to damage our economy. We resisted.

2) Some of the world's problems with the USA will never be solved until their economies grow to match ours. It's like sharing your home with an elephant. It doesn't matter how nice the elephant is. It doesn't matter how careful the elephant is. It doesn't matter that you actually like the elephant. You're still sharing your home with an elephant. It's annoying.

Some of these morons would rather try to tear us down than to build themselves up.

3) The rullers of Saudi Arabia support the Wahabists from a combination of real belief, buying off their consciences to make up for their own lavish lifestyles, and keeping the Wahabists off their backs.

4) The real reason terrorist organizations attack the west is to count coup. They are trying to increase their prestige and influence at home. Al Qaeda got a huge prestige boost from 9/11 and our hysterical reaction that has not yet faded away.

Bruce, I liked your earlier link about the (completely) pants bomber: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/01/08/mutallab_comment/print.html

People should also read his account of the suppository bomber in Saudi Arabia:
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/09/21/bum_bombing/print.html

I don't watch much TV, so maybe I've missed it, but why *aren't* we laughing? Why don't we take out ads in Al Jazeera making fun of Al Qaeda?

Brandioch ConnerJanuary 15, 2010 12:23 PM

Yeah, there's nothing like simple answers to complex issues.

And claiming that Issue X is not an issue because Group B has Issue Y but not Issue X ..... yeah, simple answers to complex issues.

Different groups are radicalized in different degrees on different issues. There isn't ONE solution.

And the over-simplification of the issues and outright ignorance of our people and elected officials does not help.

Even if we stopped doing X and Group A became moderates, we'd still have Issue Y and Group B to contend with.

And some people from Group A would join Group B and adopt Issue Y.

HJohnJanuary 15, 2010 12:25 PM

Good intelligence should also attempt to distinguish between "motives" and "excuses."

I think, for the most part, terrorists stated "motives" are little more than "excuses". And if intelligence fails to recognize this, we end up accomodating their stated motives, in which case they just find another excuse disguised as a motive.

HJohnJanuary 15, 2010 12:31 PM

@Brandioch Conner: "Yeah, there's nothing like simple answers to complex issues."
_________

Exactly. It's a complex swamp not easily addressed.

Neil in ChicagoJanuary 15, 2010 12:58 PM

. . . and Helen Thomas got completely frozen out trying to ask that exact critical question at a press conference several days ago . . .

JohnJanuary 15, 2010 1:02 PM

I find the comment on the Iraqi invasion amusing, actually. The fact that it's "Widely believed" that this was, as was so loudly repeated as if it was a secret, a "War for Oil" is ... redundant? As I recall, the public, DoD stated reasons for going into Iraq included (FIRST on the list I saw) securing continued access to oil; removing Saddam Hussein from power (specifically); performing "Humanitarian Services" for the Iraqi people; and locating and securing any WMDs. The media had some campaign of screaming about the WMD thing and saying that was a bullshit argument, crying that we're "secretly" just after oil, etc... but, yes, we did invade Iraq TO GET OIL.

That being said, I can understand how you might be a tad pissed if I walked into your country with an army. I can also understand how you might be a tad pissed at me for supplying military resources to a smaller state you're at war with, even if that country's mainly passive and you're the major aggressor.

Still, what do you suggest? We give the annoying, misbehaved children their way to shut them up? Disadvantage ourselves to duck under the radar? Look, my policy is if your country desperately needs invasion (supporting terrorists, treating your people like shit, etc), once we march an army in there we're keeping it. It baffles me that the US didn't invade Iraq and start setting up permanent military control, including mixing in a small but constantly growing supply of local soldiers until the military manpower was completely loyal to both the US and their home country -- i.e. until the military power of Iraq was basically a military territory of the United States. Instead, we seem to be making an effort to play "nice" while still preserving our interests. What more do you want?

mcbJanuary 15, 2010 1:10 PM

@ AppSec

"And what policy reform toward Israel must that be?"

For a start we might try balancing domestic political pressure with a sober (and secular) assessment of US interests in the region.

JohnJanuary 15, 2010 1:31 PM

All of you with religious arguments here are, frankly, dumb. Or ignorant, I guess is the technical term.

At one point, the Catholics also ran around stabbing people for not being Catholic.

Most Muslims are... okay, most Muslims are casual, have sex with their friends, and some even drink beer. Welcome to apathetic posturing. But, I know some orthodox Muslims; they're for the most part peaceful, as is the nature of well-raised, comfortable human beings. Their life is stable and they continue to support said stability.

There are many Muslim-owned businesses here. Go figure, they're everywhere in this area. They concentrate like rats... so do mexicans, asians, blacks, whites... as a people, we're good at citing our differences and grouping ourselves together, self-segregating.

In those extremist Muslim countries, Islam is the religion of choice. It just makes sense. We could make Hindu the religion of choice, if we could convince the Hindi people that they need to violently destroy everyone around them. It so happens that these countries were Islamic shitholes from the start; rather than convert them to Hindi shitholes, their power-hungry leaders just kept the Islam thing going and exploited the poor environment as best they could.

I can't deny that Islam is a violent religion bent on the destruction of the infidels and the forceful take-over of the world; Judaism and Catholicism also seem to be rather violent. It seems, however, that all three have many teachings which follow prophets who had espoused views of greater harmony, looking back to the roots of the religion and deciding that, yes, there was this idea of superiority, of entitlement, of whatever it was that calls men to violence; but perhaps all men are entitled to life, and we should focus more on our personal lives than on the general entitlement of ourselves "as a people." You're fine living in your house, on your land, not settled in the Promised Land; why bother, as you have an adequate and enjoyable life?

Buddhism seems a good philosophy to pair with Catholicism, or even Islam. It's not a religion, it's a system of philosophy about human interaction.

A Telco Security DweebJanuary 15, 2010 1:41 PM

@ John :

"...once we march an army in there {to your country, when we unilaterally decide that it 'needs invasion'} we're keeping it. It baffles me that the US didn't invade Iraq and start setting up permanent military control..."

The breathtaking "might makes right" arrogance of this statement nicely illustrates why much of the rest of the world hates Americans -- or, at least, the Cheney / Palin / Fox News variety of American.

What "baffles" me is how you can say things like this without asking yourself, "how would I feel, if someone was advocating the invasion, devastation and semi-permanent occupation of MY country, just because the occupier wanted cheap access to MY natural resources?" Why is it OK for the U.S. to routinely do this to other countries, but not the other way around?

The problem for all the rest of the people in the U.S. is that from an outside POV, because the United States is a sovereign nation, we cannot differentiate between "nice" Americans like Obama and "bad" Americans like Cheney : we have little choice but to hold ALL Americans accountable for the actions taken in their name, by their leaders.

And I would ask the other posters in this forum; do "John's" comments sound like "risk mitigation", to you?

With attitudes like the above proudly on display, Al-Qaeda hardly needs to print propaganda. All it needs to do is do a screen scrape.

RoxanneJanuary 15, 2010 2:55 PM

Work on the root causes? Heh. A friend related a story about visiting Austria not too long ago. Mostly he was well received (especially since he'd taken German in high school). The exception was in the area around the still-active US air base, where he got a lot of grief. I think there's a clue there: Americans will be liked a lot better elsewhere if we bring our military home and keep it here. But I think that too many politicians in too many countries get personal wealth from us being there, so it will never end.

Well, until the Chinese repossess us, anyway. "Who needs to beat them, when you can just buy them?"

HJohnJanuary 15, 2010 2:56 PM

Dweeb, you really need to get your facts straight. Terrorism was a problem before the terrorists even knew who Cheney and Palin even were.

In fact, one of the "reasons" they give for planning 9/11 was Clinton's impeachment day bombing of al Queda. Which, most of us, left and right, see that "reason" for what it really is: an excuse.

Giving excuse for terrorism is counterproductive for many reasons. One is obvious: justification. Another is is less so: it brings credibility to their cause.

There is another intelligence failure right there: the failure to distinguish between reason and excuse. Terrorists readily admit their real motives to each other, but aren't going to be honest about it to us. They tell each other "we want a Theocracy" and "I want to die killing infidels so I can go to heaven with 72 virgins" or "we want another holocaust." No, they cook up some excuse to say we deserved it. It's like rapists who twist themselves into pretzels to blame their victims.

HJohnJanuary 15, 2010 3:02 PM

@Roxanne at January 15, 2010 2:55 PM

The U.S.A. (the greedy, war mongering source of all the world's problems) is the first country that gets asked for help when there is a disaster or when a bully shows up. Somehow, our detractors know they can count on us when they need us, otherwise....

Just watch in Haiti. The U.S will be by far the biggest source of charity and response efforts, both in terms of pure relief and in terms of relief per citizen. `

We're just awful, aren't we?

Victor RiboflavinJanuary 15, 2010 8:19 PM

Google is rumored to have hired an ex-nsa spooks to work for it. No doubt Windows 7 was made to the intelligence community specs [backdoors]

The thought occurred to me that what if norton and/or symantec have a backroom deal with the nsa with trojan software on all antivirus - you load the latest and get the latest backdoors from the nsa/cia

Facebook is being allowed to grow to became the visual equivalent of fincen
Lot easier to track people down who use it.

operation carnivore, then dcs-1000 - now it's all archived: voice, data, sat, cell communications and stored in warehouses the size of walmart. I know because a dish network tech told me he used to svc the equipment on one of these storage facilities.

The web is pretty wide now

StephanieJanuary 15, 2010 10:49 PM

"No meaningful fixes are possible without accountability for mistakes or wrongdoing."

I don't see politics in that statement, I see a call for integrity and the rule of law in it. If you don't hold people accountable, you put them above the law. If they are above the law and have power over others in a surveillance or some other way, it can easily degenerate into abuses of power, hate group activity (domestic surveillances) and losing sight of the actual mission. How can there be any serious fidelity to an oath or a mission if there are no consequences for misconduct and fraud?

another joeJanuary 16, 2010 4:52 AM

It seems a lot of political stuff, with very little real insights from the ex-CIA guy.
maybe we should look elsewhere for an explanation. if you look at history you can see a pattern. humans are prone to becoming violent and cruel, until a major catastrophe strikes. then they usually return to sanity. it happened in europe where 2 world wars and a lot of misery made them sane. it happened in japan, where 2 atom bombs made them sane. the part of the world that needs to return to sanity is ... (a wild guess here).

Jonadab the Unsightly OneJanuary 16, 2010 5:56 AM

> there is no getting around the necessity to
> address the root causes of terrorism or, in
> the vernacular, "why they hate us."
...
> "By his own account, KSM’s animus toward
> the United States stemmed…from his violent
> disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring
> Israel."

Now wait just a minute. Tell me he's not seriously suggesting we should allow terrorists to dictate our foreign policy. Because I've got a couple of suggestions for where he can *put* that idea.

Jonadab the Unsightly OneJanuary 16, 2010 6:52 AM

> The divisions within Islam have
> been there since its beginning.

This is absolutely true.

> The Wahabis have been at
> it for a couple centuries,

And attempts in general to unite the Muslim world are, of course, older than that.

> but until petrodollars and cold war
> geopolitics became part of the equation the
> factions primarily fought amongst themselves.

There has always been, and still is, a great deal of infighting in the Muslim world, but there also always has been, and still is, a significant amount of desire to attack outward as well. This is not a recent phenomenon and certainly was not caused by cold war geopolitics or dutch disease. Has the Islamic world been _influenced_ by these things? Certainly. How could they not be?

But their hostility toward Israel is older than Islam and older than recorded history (and even older than Israel, according to Genesis), and their desire to attack Westerners and conquer their territory is much older than the United States. Perhaps you've heard of Charles Martel? Eighth century, and definitely not an isolated incident.

Little has changed, in the big picture.

Sure, the US is new, but our *role* isn't new; other nations were the great western enemy before us.

The importance of petroleum is new, but there were other valuable economic resources in the Middle East before, not least trade goods from the far east. So the underlying dynamic isn't new at all.

Really the major new element is the existence of Israel as a sovereign nation. Even that is only new in the modern era. When Israel was a sovereign nation before (prior to the rise of Rome), there was significant hostility between the surrounding nations and Israel. Edom, Philistia, Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Syria (especially under the Seleucid dynasty), they all hated and/or attacked and/or conquered Israel. There's nothing new here.

A Telco Security DweebJanuary 16, 2010 9:34 AM

One of the most depressing thing about these types of discussions is how members of the American ideological Right (you know who you are), love to attack a "straw man" caricature of someone else's postings, as an unconvincing way of refusing to address or debate the real issues.

Nobody - least of all myself - is trying to argue that the world's Muslims are all rational, sophisticated people who you'd like to invite to your auntie's tea party. Nor are we advocating "giving in to terrorism" (or capitulating to every demand, reasonable or otherwise, that Muslims or any other Third World group, advocates).

There ARE small groups of fanatically committed Islamicist jihadists in various places who, indeed, cannot be reasoned with. But they are a tiny minority of the larger Muslim community. Judging all Muslims, anywhere, everywhere, by the actions of groups like Al-Qaeda is a crude form of ethnic prejudice that frankly bewilders me.

It is also ridiculous hyperbole to suggest that Muslims don't have ANY legitimate grievances against the West, or that the West's past treatment of them has been so 100% perfect, so kind, wonderful and indulgent, that the ONLY reason that (a tiny number) of Muslims engage in acts of terrorism, is, "they're just crazy, dreaming of 72 houris and all the wine you can drink, the second after they set off that belt of C-4".

This is the kind of self-serving rationalization of one's own actions, that I would have expected to hear coming from (say) a Bosnian Serb, not someone in a supposedly sophisticated democracy like the United States.

If I am to understand some of the other posters correctly, they are basically saying that the West can (and should) do anything it wants to Muslim countries (or to Muslim minorities in places like Palestine), and then should simply dismiss any complaints forthcoming from that as from "a bunch of terrorists who can't be reasoned with, ever".

By this logic, the U.S. should (presumably) bomb and invade Iran and maybe Pakistan, Egypt, Somalia and Yemen as well, simply ignoring any whining on the part of the natives, who "deserve to be invaded". Then, if something "bad" happens later, just tell the world that "all this terrorism has nothing to do with our track record, it's just Muslims who wake up every morning and resolve to hate America, for no reaso whatsoever other than they're 'fanatics'".

(Note to self : Isn't the U.S. Army already a bit short of soldiers, as it is? Cruise missiles and Predator drones can't occupy territory or pump it dry of oil, you know.)

Well, go on thinking like that, mate, and see what you get. Just do the rest of us a favor, make sure you tell the heathens that you're over there, representing only yourself.

A Telco Security DweebJanuary 16, 2010 12:20 PM

Postscript : We all know about, and deplore, Islam-inspired terrorism.

Go to cnn.com and search for "Islamic relief for Haiti".

Within every religion and ethnic group, a tiny few are dangerous, violent fanatics; a substantial number are good people who really want to make a positive contribution to the world, and a much larger number who can be influenced to do good or evil, depending on the strength of the case presented to them.

Does it make sense to abandon hope in the third group, just because you're enraged at the actions of the first? That doesn't seem to me, to be an intelligent way of reducing your risk.

subpatreJanuary 16, 2010 3:12 PM

Way off topic, but Russell Coker asks: "Can you cite a reference for the amount of US contributions to international aid vs other countries?"

"No developed country approaches American giving. For example, in 1995 (the most recent year for which data are available), Americans gave, per capita, three and a half times as much to causes and charities as the French, seven times as much as the Germans, and 14 times as much as the Italians. Similarly, in 1998, Americans were 15 percent more likely to volunteer their time than the Dutch, 21 percent more likely than the Swiss, and 32 percent more likely than the Germans. These differences are not attributable to demographic characteristics..." —Arthur C. Brooks, 2008

As of yesterday, the United States government has pledged more for Haitian relief than the rest of the world governments combined. Private donations —Americans donate almost $300 BILLION a year— will dwarf that amount. By no means the only generous people in the world, but American undeniably fosters a culture of benevolence.

Spain is sending three planeloads of aid to Haiti, donating $4.35 million, and coordinating the Europeans response; for that Haitians (and all benevolant people) are truly grateful. Samaritans Purse —one of many US charities— is sending 3 to 4 flights PER DAY using their own planes, including a C-130.

http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/americas/01/13/haiti.aid.response/index.html

HJohnJanuary 16, 2010 4:04 PM

@subpatre: "No developed country approaches American giving. For example, in 1995 (the most recent year for which data are available), Americans gave, per capita, three and a half times as much to causes and charities as the French, seven times as much as the Germans, and 14 times as much as the Italians. Similarly, in 1998, Americans were 15 percent more likely to volunteer their time than the Dutch, 21 percent more likely than the Swiss, and 32 percent more likely than the Germans. These differences are not attributable to demographic characteristics..." —Arthur C. Brooks, 2008
As of yesterday, the United States government has pledged more for Haitian relief than the rest of the world governments combined. Private donations —Americans donate almost $300 BILLION a year— will dwarf that amount. By no means the only generous people in the world, but American undeniably fosters a culture of benevolence.
_________________

Thank you, subpatre. I had not been able to look up the precise stats, but I knew how they would turn out... It has been so for years. God bless the U.S.A.

Clive RobinsonJanuary 16, 2010 11:34 PM

@ another joe,

"if you look at history you can see a pattern. humans are prone to becoming violent and cruel, until a major catastrophe strikes. then they usually return to sanity."

It's called the "King Game". And it's usualy cruelty followed by violence, as people try to redress the balance.

The ideal in life is that we all contribute for "social" things (roads, infrestructure, education, defence etc) as this "lifts every bodies boat". We all get "equal oportunities" etc etc thus the idea of the "comman good".

But there is no agrement on what these "comman goods" are. Thus there is always going to be a group of people that disagree, hence argument etc etc. Thus for everybodies sake somebody has to be incharge and make the choices etc so things get done.

Even in a "true" as oposed to "representational" democracy (ie one where everybody does vote on issues not for monkeys in a suit) somebody has to decide what issues are to be voted on, and importantly how the question to vote on should be phrased (and laterly interpreted).

Thus somebody will always have an unequal share of power.

As has been so often observer "power corrupts absolute power corrupts absolutly".

Even if you could find one totaly honest and fair person they would be hamstrung by peoples opinions and self interests (squeaky wheels) and little or nothing gets done by trying to reason with them thus pay them to go away...

Thus any compleatly "fair" system that is tried appears to be enevitably doomed to failure (hence Winston Churchill's comment about democracy).

Thus the idea of the expediant choice "to get a job needing to be done, done" appears to have merit.

Importantly though if done in the right way then people see a strong and capable leader, if done the wrong way people see a dictator.

Thus eventualy those in charge start to think you have "to protect the people from themselves" thus they cast themselves in a paternalistic light or "children father knows best" atitude...

The result of this disagrement in views leads invariably to spin and iron fist control.

Thus over time a grip on power is taken by those in charge and they divert resources to stay in charge and in order to protect their loved ones in old age they wish to pass the right to be incharge onto one of their nearest and dearest, so you get the idea of heriditary power...

The important thing to remember is that on mass humans can be seen to be self interested and lazy. Thus it is argued and frequently is they can not be bothered to take on their "social responsabilities". Which is why some parts of the world have compulsory voting.

Well most people at some level are self interested we will fight to breath, eat etc and in some respects we are lazy in that we would like to spend the time we are not working putting bread on the table doing something we like to do.

And that attitude to some is "So not right" and they want to change things (beware those of charitable view because they can be extreamly insistant you accept not just their charity but their view of your place in the world).

Thus we have people putting us in our places for our own good, that believe they have a divine right to do so and thus we should not question them.

Eventualy those in charge realise that, on mass we don't care as long as things don't hurt (to much). And they can do just about anything they want if they spin it up.

But at some point the pain for somebody will make them disagree, thus those who do not acept the "Dear leader and Father to the Nation's" view point are an affront not just to the "Dear leader's view point but their authority as well...

Thus those that dare to disagree are discenters from the (/ir) world view and need to be put back "on message" in whatever way is required.

This induces more pain in that there is always a "rooting out phase".

Eventualy descent gets to the point of "civil unrest" people start to speak out about "Not in our name" etc.

The incompetant leader rather than addressing the issue of their wrong view point decides the "carrot" is not working thus it is time for the "stick". And true to form civil unrest will escalate and society will colapse in on it's self.

Some inept leaders start wars as a "Patriotic" thing to do hoping to rally the nation around the flag and thus them...

As we have seen playing with fire can be dangerous if you do not know what you are doing (and almost by definition the inept do not know what they are doing).

Hence we end up with conflict either at home (civil unrest through to violent revolution) or abroad.

Neither path works and one type of conflict generaly leads onto another and another...

However as has been seen by the likes of the Orange Revolution change can happen without violence. But unless the "people" of the nation realy change then it will be lost as the nation slips back into old habits and around the wheel goes again.

However a truely clever leader is one who does not lead but guides, they do not have national calamities as their foresight enables them to address the issue before the rest of us even realise there is an issue to be addressed. Those that can see what this sort of leader does say "they have a light touch" and those that don't think the leader is lazy and self indulgent...

I guess though that "people will always be people, warts and all", which atleast makes life moderatly interesting.

And why the Chinese have such a truely terrorable curse of,

"May you live in interesting times..."

Oh and with regards,

"until a major catastrophe strikes"

Haiti has the potential to become a major problem not just as a natural disaster.

Think back to it's past problems and how they have not realy gone away. It has a very real possability of being made into a rod to beat a back with. And it could easily be the USA that gets the flogging for years to come. It is a very real threat to US National Security so sending aid etc to stop the problem spreading is an absolute minimum that needs to be done now.

Solid state hard drivesJanuary 18, 2010 5:26 AM

The securocrats have fucked up so many times now, there are those who believe they are responsible for the Iraq War. Why would anyone listen to any of these boneheads, past or present?

GordonSJanuary 18, 2010 6:41 AM

@Jonadab the Unsightly One

"Now wait just a minute. Tell me he's not seriously suggesting we should allow terrorists to dictate our foreign policy"

I hardly think it's just extremists that have an issue with US foreign policy!

GordonSJanuary 18, 2010 6:45 AM

@HJohn

"Thank you, subpatre. I had not been able to look up the precise stats, but I knew how they would turn out... It has been so for years. God bless the U.S.A."

So it's OK to kill lots of people if I save some others? I don't really see giving foreign aid as vindicating US actions in Iraq, Iran, etc

GregWJanuary 18, 2010 8:40 AM

I found Ray McGovern's analysis regarding the CIA failing in its mission of being the "central" repository for intelligence post-PearlHarbor and passing the buck to a new agency-- rather than admitting their failure-- to be interesting.

I noticed a similar irony back during the post-9/11 timeframe; the Department of "Defense" under Rumsfeld apparently didn't want to be charged with the responsibility for Defense so seemed to be in favor of creating a whole new agency, "Homeland Security" to take up the mission inherent in the DoD title.

The Department of Defense wanted to stick, basically, with doing "Offense".

Orwell would have been proud, eh? Or more charitably, I guess the "Department of Best-Defense-Is-A-Good-Offense", or "Department of Overseas Defense" just don't have the same ring to it, does it? At least with the latter you could keep the same acronym...

HJohnJanuary 18, 2010 10:02 AM

@GordonS: "So it's OK to kill lots of people if I save some others? I don't really see giving foreign aid as vindicating US actions in Iraq, Iran, etc"
___________

I'll just make the following points:
1) It isn't that simple.
2) There is a flip side: sitting on the sidelines allowing lots of people to get killed to avoid the risk you may kill someone.

War is hell. Even a just war (I'm talking general, not any particular war). Which can make intelligence failures even more difficult: act and risk lives, don't act and risk lives.

But to answer your question directly, honorable people can disagree about Iraq, but I don't think anyone thinks foreign aid would absolve anyone of anything. It's simply the right thing to do today.

subpatreJanuary 18, 2010 11:05 AM

GordonS says “So it's OK to kill lots of people if I save some others? I don't really see giving foreign aid as vindicating US actions in Iraq, Iran, etc”

That wasn’t anyone’s claim, you created a strawman so you could knock it over. Bravo.

But GordonS did introduce equivocation, and contrary to his implication, it is NOT acceptable to spit on innocent victims of natural disasters merely because of a conflict or war with third parties.

Brandioch ConnerJanuary 18, 2010 12:01 PM

@GordonS
"I don't really see giving foreign aid as vindicating US actions in Iraq, Iran, etc"

Neither do I. But you will see lots of people here trying to confuse the two different issues.

GordonSJanuary 19, 2010 3:40 AM

@subpatre

"But GordonS did introduce equivocation, and contrary to his implication, it is NOT acceptable to spit on innocent victims..."

Eh, I don't recall implying that? Who's creating a strawman now?!

My point was that the giving of foreign aid and the various 'aggressive' actions of the US in foreign countries are two completely separate issues; one does not excuse the other.

mcbJanuary 19, 2010 10:29 AM

@ Jonadab the Unsightly One

"But their hostility toward Israel is older than Islam and older than recorded history (and even older than Israel, according to Genesis), and their desire to attack Westerners and conquer their territory is much older than the United States."

Are you saying it's an Arab thing, not a Muslim thing? As for appeals to The Book, only a couple parts of the Torah (the really boring ones) are histories, Genesis is not one of them. As for aggression toward neighboring kingdoms, or the occupants of territories one covets, the Jewish narrative (whether historical or not) proclaims the Israelite's engaged in ethnic cleansing, sexual slavery, and genocide. It's time the US stopped using traditions based on Bronze Age squabbles over premium grazing land in the eastern Mediterranean to justify a 21st century foreign policy.

us aidJanuary 19, 2010 11:57 AM

@subpatre
"It's no wonder that most Americans think they live in an extremely generous nation: Media reports often quote government officials pointing out that their country is the largest overall aid donor, and the biggest donor of humanitarian aid. But what reporters too often fail to explain is how big the U.S. economy is-more than twice the size of Japan's, the second largest, and about as big as economies number 3-10 combined. Considered as a portion of the nation's economy, or of its federal expenditures, the U.S. is actually among the smallest donors of international aid among the world's developed countries."

http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Foreign_Policy/Most_Generous_Misers.html

that's without going into the very important difference between amount promised and amount delivered. the USA is VERY bad at actually paying what it promises.

subpatreJanuary 19, 2010 10:52 PM

GordonS protests, “My point was that the giving of foreign aid and the various 'aggressive' actions of the US in foreign countries are two completely separate issues; one does not excuse the other.”

That wasn’t what you said, you said “So it's OK to kill lots of people if I save some others?”

It was GordonS who introduced this outrageous equivocacy; NOBODY made any such claim —not even remotely— before you brought it up. It is outrageous. You ought to man-up and admit you were wrong, but trying to twist, turn, and weasel out of it just makes it worse.

subpatreJanuary 20, 2010 7:49 AM

Under the alias of ‘us aid’, someone posted a screed about how the US was not a generous nation, or more accurately, how BUSH was not generous. Nice rag except:

1) The article mixes —and fails to identify— maintenance, discretionary, directed, emergency aid, etcetera or even loans. It deliberately conflates American yearly foreign aid with 2004 tsunami relief funds.
2) It ignores the ‘conditional’ in conditional aid (the Iranian government violated conditions) to claim America doesn’t fulfill aid promises; unsaid is all Europeans stopped also.
3) The article depends on ‘adjusting’ US government aid by dividing by national GDP, per-capita GDP, or by world population proportion.
4) With 1/3 the world economy, the US government contributed to 29% of total tsunami aid.
5) Calculating tsunami relief —the centerpiece of the article— the author mysteriously forgot to include US military costs of $2 million per day, while other nations’ military are included. Oops!
6) The author uses government plus private for all nations except America
7) The author confuses the American government and Americans
8) Americans’ benevolence for tsunami relief was triple US government aid, ~$2.8 billion.
9) Private benevolence figures are delivered amounts, not future promises.
10) Private giving figures exclude religious giving, over half of America’s $300 billion per year charitable giving. Oops!

The article is a deliberate, intentional lie; a hit piece supposed to make Bush look bad. The poster knew this, because A) the article is blatantly, stridently biased, and B) he was responding to a post that documented how a single American (religious) organization was already contributing more assistance to Haiti than a European nation had promised.

As of today, that organization has —past tense— delivered that amount, and will continue to deliver to these people who need so much. It doesn’t matter who is president, America is a benevolent nation, primarily via individuals who donate where their beliefs direct them.

GordonSJanuary 21, 2010 5:05 AM

@subpatre

"GordonS protests..."

No I don't. The original post you refer to contains something called 'sarcasm'.

That is the last I will say on this.

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