The Paranoid American
Three Letters: The Stain That Will Not Wash Clean.
I have never bought a "secret" history of the CIA, though there are plenty of books that make this selfsame dubious claim. It is a matter of faith as to whether or not such authors truly have privileged information or are actually conveying it to a readership. But then, I never took writing articles too seriously until I began to contribute to the illustrious Hub Pages. Ever since, I find myself from time to time hunting round for topics to elaborate upon. All this brings me to Dirty Wars, a film and movie, by a journalist who feels he is onto something that never quite defines itself. I have no real problem with limited military actions in the dead of night in foreign countries. At least till now I can honestly and comfortably make the assertion. But there are others who cannot sleep a wink not knowing something topical and hi-pri of which they presently have no knowledge. The CIA seems not to care much about that. Perhaps its headstrong attitude has played a part in the widespread feeling that this agency, more than any other, should be readily condemned, and scrapped. As I said, I prefer to mind my own business in all circumstances. The CIA is the last organization I would wish to tango with. However, I need writing material.
Whose Side is the CIA On?
As to who or what guides American policy on a number of explosive issues, again, I do not know. That we even have an established policy in the Middle East, for instance, not changing every forty-eight hours, boggles my own mind. But even without watching a film or reading a book, there are standard ideas about the CIA and other agencies that have formed, and now exist, suspended in the grapevine. For instance, it is supposed to be basically Christian, though it is hardly known for the practice of Christianity. The greater point is that it will on occasion lock horns with powerful interests, among which are powerful non-Christian entities. The FBI might function similarly, but does not have the same reputation. The CIA remains much more detached, as well as mysterious. How mysterious can be judged by the success of books written by former agents in a world that no longer reads much. What makes Scahill interesting is that he takes the position that the CIA is heatedly, militantly anti-Muslim, not just anti-terrorist. Not long ago, there were sore feelings in some circles that the CIA favored Muslims over Israelis. This is just a guess, but the idea of maintaining a delicate balance in the Middle East (if that is what is being done) at least keeps us from the next step, which would be to align our nation with Israel full throttle against everybody else in the region, allied with the Russian Federation. Bad idea.
This is just me and my own active imagination going into Scahill's Sundance documentary, Dirty Wars, based on his own research and journalistic writing. He has really delved into the subject in a big way. His book is voluminous and impressive. Yet I am often more interested in Scahill than his analysis. To reiterate, it does not alarm me that there are raids in multiple countries. These are not peaceful countries. They are also major exporters of terror. They have little innocence to protect. But Scahill is right, if I am representing him correctly, in questioning violent actions that do no generate reports, admissions, or acknowledgements. I still prefer what Donald Rumsfeld said on the subject of taking the war on terror to the terrorists, rather than waiting happy-go-luckily at home, double-daring another strike. But I confess, all at once, to having seen too many movies, in addition to visualizing what is going on in the Middle East as another Apocalypse Now in the making.
Who is/Was Anwar Al-Awlaki?
His father came from Yemen, but he grew up in New Mexico. He might have been, like his father, a Fulbright scholar, brilliant but overeducated. He becomes known, in the pages of Scahill's book, as a lecturer. There is speculation that he might become another Osama Bin Laden. In prison, he reads Dickens, Shakespeare, and Melville. He studies the Koran, encountering the commentary of another big brain, Sayyid Quth, from Egypt. He is also an American citizen, something easy to lose sight of. Scahill finds his name on a "kill list" before the execution takes place. Then his sixteen year old son is also killed. Father and son are killed -- relevant or irrelevant in a war that puts world religion through a meat grinder? Is Scahill being misled into seeing CIA agents everywhere? Are there not many other contributors to the mayhem in faraway Yemen? Is the President truly involved, as the author hints? Blacklists have been in the rumor mill during the last four Democratic administrations. Are any of them genuine?
Secrecy and Warfare
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Man v. Drone
Ours is truly a new day and age in terms of technology. According to Wikipedia, which may or may not be accurate, drones with Tomahawks killed both Awlaki and his son. Missiles! As an armchair war critic, I cannot help but notice how many times someone in the Middle East has been tracked down and killed, then later built up in the press. First there is the kill, easy enough from the sky, then the eternal grandiosity of the human ego. The murdered grow sordid, monstrous reputations after they are dead. Would Awlaki have become the second Bin Laden? Would he have been far worse than his predecessor? If I cannot get the answer from Scahill, it is doubtful I will ever know. As American citizens, our fallback position is always the same. We defer to DC and hope for the best. This might sound pitiful, but it is better than having to make the calls oneself, since the decision has long since been made to fight terror rather than allow it to fester unchecked.
But I like non-fiction books and documentaries. There is much to wonder about, Monday morning quarter-back style. The war is still only just beginning. Awlaki is/was expendable to them, and virtually meaningless to us. No one feels giddy-headed about assassinations that force Salem witches to roll over. It just seems that dispatching individuals/personas non grata is not a viable strategy in the long run. However, today's methods will probably undergo several revisions and change accordingly at a distant point in the future. I am probably not sharp. Scahill, on the other hand, probes without cessation. That is why I am reading him; he is not reading me. I am satisfied that something is being done. Eventually, the free world might actually triumph over these troublemakers. For now, terrorists at least know that they are being watched and targeted. With Awlaki's demise, terror cells within the United States might have second thoughts about hiding behind citizenships. But as to overkill, which has ramifications, thinking more of Awlaki's son than Awlaki pere, I am skeptical. This tendency could backfire.
Case in point in the documentary concerns "White Eyes", a warlord who kills al Qaeda operatives in Somalia without mercy, taking literally no prisoners. At one time, not too long ago, he killed for al Qaeda against the U.S. Now, it is the other way around. As long as the victims are al Qaeda, he simply walks. Does the U.S. really need him? Scahill deals effectively with the bravado of war. Not just White Eyes but JSOC, or Joint Special Ops Command. According to the narration, they "feel they can do anything, go anywhere, because the world is at war." But the whole world is not at war. Only parts of it. It is also legitimate to ask, "Are these provocative actions an attempt to stamp out terrorism or to rile up terrorists?" To get an enemy to fight back on a more expansive plane was an inflammatory tactic in clandestine operations suggested by Lions for Lambs. All in all, maybe being paranoid is just part of being American.
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