OpinionMeister

Monday, April 11, 2005

Steyn on the CIA

Mark Steyn is very unhappy with the CIA, and for good reason. Link.
When you're trying to make sense of the bewildering array of Iraqi politicians who prospered in the January elections, a good rule of thumb is: Chances are they're guys who've been stiffed by the CIA.

President-to-be Talabani fell out with them a decade ago, when they pulled the plug on a U.S.-backed insurrection at 48 hours' notice and failed to pay the late cancellation fee. (...)

The CIA, as I wrote a couple of years back, now functions in the same relation to President Bush as Pakistan's ISI does to General Musharraf. In both cases, before the chief executive makes a routine request of his intelligence agency, he has to figure out whether they're going to use it as an opportunity to set him up, and if so how. For Musharraf, the problem is the significant faction in the ISI that would like to kill him. Fortunately for Bush, if anyone at the CIA launched a plot to kill him, they'd probably take out G. W. Bush, who runs a feed store in Idaho.

Consider, for example, the case of Ahmed Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress. In the early '90s, the CIA set up the INC with Chalabi at the helm. Then they fell out with him and decided they preferred a rival group, the Iraqi National Accord, set up by Britain's MI6 and headed by an ex-Saddamite general whose plan to ''liberate'' Iraq involved getting rid of the big guy but then keeping the Baathist state pretty much intact. Well, fair enough. We're all entitled to change our minds, and it's just about conceivable the CIA ''analysts'' genuinely thought the Saddamite-coup approach had the better chance of success. But what's harder to excuse is the energy they devoted — for the best part of the subsequent decade — to trashing their own creation. Hardly a week went by without assiduous feeding of anti-INC stories to the press. (...)

(Y)ou'd think they might have been sufficiently chastened by the events of Sept. 11 to moderate at least their worst instincts. Instead, the CIA simply carried on business as usual — of which their ever more deranged Chalabi-bashing is merely the most obvious example. As we now know, it is not true to say ''Ahmed Chalabi Has Virtually No Backing.'' He came out pretty near the top in the January elections and he's a big player in Iraqi politics. But the CIA version — that he's some snake-oil salesman who pulled the wool over the Bush administration's eyes even though he has no support inside his own country — is now unshakeable. (...)

How about (...) they bulldozed Langley, and gave the CIA director 20,000 bucks to put all his agency's global ''analysis'' up on a blog — spook.com — and invite comments from readers around the world? It couldn't possibly be less informed than the CIA's decades-long record of incompetence in the Middle East.


The two largest failures of the Bush administration are (1) the failure to veto any spending bills, which led to run-away spending, and (2) the failure to fire anybody responsible after 9/11. The lousy job that the FBI did could be excused by Jamie Garelic's "Wall of Separation" that forbade the sharing of any information. However, the failure at the CIA was so typical of the organization that no excuses are possible. Not just the director should have been fired, but also everyone in the upper echelons who had anything to do with it, no matter how remote. We needed new people in there who were concerned with gathering and analyzing intelligence, not with bureaucratic turf wars, the only kind of war that the CIA appears capable of supporting.

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