The CIA can start wars, it can start revoluThis book was written before Iran/Contra, before we missed 19 nutjobs using airliners as missiles, and before WMD's in Iraq were a "slam dunk." However, it's lessons are as fresh as today's headlines.
tions, it can give millions of dollars away with
out the American people and their elected
officials knowing a thing about it. The CIA is
doing all these things -- and much, much more.
In the eyes of posterity it will inevitably seemHaving a clandestine service is absolutely, without question an essential component of our national security requirements. By it's nature, it impossible for such an organization to retain transparent accountability usually associated with bureaucratic agencies in the traditional sense. And therein lies the rub. They get away with murder because that's what they are trained to do. It's their reason for existing.
that, in safeguarding our freedom, we destroyed
it; that the vast clandestine apparatus we built
up to probe our enemies' resources and inten
tions only served in the end to confuse our own
purposes; that the practice of deceiving others
for the good of the state led infallibly to our
deceiving ourselves; and that the vast army of
intelligence personnel built up to execute these
purposes were soon caught up in the web of
their own sick fantasies, with disastrous conse
quences to them and us.
"It is a multi-purpose, clandestine arm of power...more
than an intelligence or counterintelligence organization. It
is an instrument for subversion, manipulation, and violence,
for the secret intervention in the affairs of other countries."
Allen Dulles wrote those words about the KGB in 1963
so that Americans would better understand the nature of
the Soviet security service. His description was a correct
one, but he could -- just as accurately -- have used the same
terms to describe his own CIA. He did not, of course, be
cause the U.S. leaders of Dulles' generation generally tried
to impute the worst possible methods and motives to the
forces of international communism, while casting the "de
fensive actions of the free world" as honest and democratic.
Both sides, however, resorted to ruthless tactics. Neither
was reluctant to employ trickery, deceit, or, in Dulles'
phrase, "subversion, manipulation, and violence." They
both operated clandestinely, concealing their activities not
so much from the "opposition" (they couldn't) as from
their own peoples. Secrecy itself became a way of life, and
it could not be challenged without fear of a charge that
one was unpatriotic or unmindful of the "national security."
They got their director, George H.W. Bush, elected Vice President and then President. They got his son elected President. They've switched enemies from Soviet Communism to Islamic Terrorism without pause, declaring war against a metaphor, a tactic, against which their paranoia knows no bounds.
There are few cold-warriors who survived the disgrace of the Nixon administration, the purges of the Church Commission or the exposure of Iran/Contra. Two such survivors stand out. Their names are Donald Rumsfeld and Richard Cheney.
Crafty and ruthless, Rummy and Cheney have a different view of what it meas to be a patriotic American. Their loyalty has always been to the preservation and advancement of the United States position as the absolute leader in all the world, even at the expense of those quaint parchment documents preserved at the National Archives.
I understand and appreciate their position, but I and so many of my liberal ilk have loftier ambitions than raw power and military might as evidence of our position in the world. Not only are we a nation of laws, where the "rule of law" takes precedence, but a society based on ideas and ideals.
We're not just dreamers, naive ideologues ungrounded in the practicality of the real world. We believe that to truly be an American patriot, you have to have faith in the ideas and honor the ideals that puts justice and honor above simple expedience.
We're better than that because of what we do, not who we are, because what we do and what we allow to be done in our names defines who we are. We're better than that paranoid old man shouting at clouds we witnessed speaking at his wife's think tank Thursday; a man whose paranoid obsession with secrecy, faith in the manipulation and power of intelligence, and reliance on the nobility of his ends justifying any and all means required, legal or not, embodies the Cult of Intelligence that has dominated our national security apparatus your entire life.
Don't count them out, ever. In one form or another they will be back, even as one of their Grand Pubahs, Dick Cheney, retires to ignominious obscurity and disgrace.