Today I watched PBS Frontline’s episode “The Dark Side”, which you’ll be able to watch online by the time you read this.
It starts with 9/11 and then details how the CIA took charge and kicked ass early on in Afghanistan, cornering bin Laden. But then Cheney and Rumsfeld leveraged their well-connected offices to start the Iraq drum beat, dragging their feet on sending big Army into the region and then retracting forces away that were already there. The CIA had a plan and knew about bin Laden in advance — everyone else was reeling. I found it interesting that my unit was the only Army unit in Afghanistan. It makes me proud to be in what I consider the most influential unit in the military right now by virtue of it always being the first ones in.
The episode confirms what I’d thought, that the CIA was co-opted. It was confusing to me why the CIA got blamed for Iraq but now it makes more sense after watching. George Tenet, then the head of the CIA, became friends with Bush and basically decided to take the Administration’s side and push their agenda instead of sticking with the CIA, who disagreed with the “slam-dunkness” of the intel. Tenet took the fall and with his resignation the CIA was gutted in favor of Cheney/Rumsfeld’s military forces.
Interestingly, a lot of top people from the CIA resigned because they knew it was all bullshit. A lot of intel guys now feel guilty about rolling over or not speaking out now. And now the CIA is headed by a military man (Hayden) and no longer has the role of chief of national intelligence (run by the Administration’s man).
Interesting points about the episode:
One, they don’t make it clear why Iraq became the focus so quickly. The CIA needed help securing the border and got none of it. When bin Laden disappeared at Tora Bora, they knew it was all slipping away. All the sudden the Administration just wanted to talk about Iraq and find any connection it could between Iraq and Al-Qaeda.
Second, there’s this badass CIA guy they interview, Gary Berntsen, an operator who was one of the first ones to hit the ground in Afghanistan. This guy is the kind of cat you want to work with in the military. He was all about going to Afghanistan and killing some fucking Taliban and terrorists. Within no time he was already swindling and convincing his way into a victory. Read his interview. Fucking awesome shit.
Another CIA guy says that he wants the American people to know that the CIA promised to kick ass in Afghanistan and that they delivered. I believe them. When I enlisted, that’s the sort of attitude I wanted to be around. Attitudes and operational experience like that were why I wanted to go into special ops and why I was so excited to deploy. I wanted to go work with people who knew their shit about the region, knew how to organize and train foreigners, and how to get at people who can’t be gotten to. Now that I see a lot of that edge is never used, I’m far less motivated.
But in watching the episode, I got that feeling again. Too bad the CIA has been castrated and the military won’t be aggressive like it should be.
Next, all the investigative research seemed to be done by the NYTimes and Washington Post. They both put out all the big stories. They asked a lot of tough questions and interviewed the right people. They took the issue on. Did anyone else? God no. There were no big stories from FOXNews or The Atlantic Monthly or any other right-wing journalistic source.
Granted, the NYTimes has shot itself in the foot with plagiarism among other things. It’s become a favorite target of the right and has lost credibility. But that should not detract from the excellent reporting it did on the war and politics. WaPo has retained its reputation but is suffering financially — it is a target of right-wing bloggers.
I highly recommend this Frontline episode for everyone. It provides a lot of background if you haven’t read some of the sources’ books on the subject. Sadly it’s a story that will not become the preferred one in history.
My buddy MonkeyPope wrote me an e-mail about how what we should do is form the third party that is beginning to galvanize, since we embody everything that it would need to stand for: realistic liberals in his words. It’s an interesting idea. I AM pretty pissed that it seems like everyone’s involved in the same incumbency game and that everything’s been co-opted. And that no one seems to be speaking for us.
One point I noticed while watching FOXNews while confined to the prison that is the office…
The letter recovered from the site of Zarqawi’s death might be used by the right to reinforce the idea that we somehow have the terrorists on the ropes. Yeah, what a crock!
Read the text of the letter here. One of the talking heads on FOXNews said that we know we are succeeding in Iraq because this letter talks about how the US military is making it tougher for terrorists to kill Americans. That opinion is flatly wrong.
The letter is clearly a strategic assessment that lists possible courses of action based on probable outcomes. It doesn’t say the terrorists are losing. This is the sort of assessment you would read in any company’s 401k as it discusses possible threats or windfalls for profits in the upcoming quarters.
If anything it shows how easily the Administration’s policies fit into what terrorists want. I don’t think people understand yet that bin Laden wanted the U.S. to go to war after 9/11. He wanted to pull us out from our borders. So that we could fight his war, not ours.
None of these fucking idiots know what’s going on. It makes me pretty fucking pissed. You should be pissed too.