Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I Blame Tom Clancy

"Ahh. my bed linens! And on your head, too! Thank you." Another cultural faux pas by the CIA.

Ever since the mythical weapons of mass destruction failed to appear in Iraq it has been fashionable for the Bushies and the neo-cons to both mutter sotto voce and yell out loud that there were failures of intelligence that contributed to the rush to war in 2002-03. No doubt the CIA brass bolstered the case the administration tried to make (such as when George Tenet described the WMD case as a "slam dunk") but I really don't think a war of opportunity like Iraq that appears to have been White House option one since at least 9/12/2001 can be laid at Langley's door.

However railroaded and scapegoated the CIA might have been in the case of Iraq, I don't think that they should have carte blanche in other areas of their operations. They are still the CIA after all, not some mythical white knight riding expertly to the rescue of western civilisation. Sometimes the basic lack of knowledge by their employees is as breathtaking as it is disturbing, as detailed in this excerpt from a review of the ponderously titled Jawbreaker: The Attack on Bin Laden and Al Qaeda—A Personal Account by the CIA's Key Field Commander (by Gary Berntsen and Ralph Pezzullo) in The Economist:

"Mr Berntsen.... seems to have done a remarkable and risky job pushing CIA air-strike controllers high into Tora Bora at a time when the army— though it had not lost a single soldier to enemy fire— refused to send even special forces troops there. Less acceptable is the self-love and ignorance Mr Berntsen exhibits throughout this important yet awful book. His description of Nairobi, to which CIA officers flocked after a 1998 al-Qaeda attack, is erroneous. Bantu denotes an African linguistic group, not a tribe; the language of Afghanistan's biggest group is Pushtu, not Pashtun; Wahhabism, not Wahhanism, is an extremist Islamic movement."

Come on! I knew those, and I work in the non-profit community service area, not as a CIA paramilitary field commander! Jesus. Such ignorance so high up the chain of command certainly makes the rocky escapades of Britain's James Bonds and their Boris-watching boulder seem quite charming.


Listmaker said...

i'm sorry, did you say something? i can't really pay attention to anything after being reminded of the brilliance of fletch.

weasel said...

I thought it was Spies Like Us. Oh well.

Listmaker said...

that is how much i love fletch!

Gruntfuttock the Terrible said...

I'm glad you got the "l" and the "e" the right way round and remembered to include the "t" otherwise that would have sounded rude.