Former Director of the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center: American Policy in the Middle East is Failing Because the U.S. Doesn't Believe in Democracy

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Robert Grenier - a 27-year veteran of the CIA’s Clandestine Service,
and Director of the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center from 2004 to 2006 -
writes today:

Events
in the Middle East have slipped away from us. Having long since opted
in favour of political stability over the risks and uncertainties of
democracy, having told ourselves that the people of the region are not
ready to shoulder the burdens of freedom, having stressed that the
necessary underpinnings of self-government go well beyond mere
elections, suddenly the US has nothing it can credibly say as people
take to the streets to try to seize control of their collective
destiny.

 

***

 

Our words betray us. US spokesmen stress
the protesters' desire for jobs and for economic opportunity, as though
that were the full extent of their aspirations. They entreat the
wobbling, repressive governments in the region to "respect civil
society", and the right of the people to protest peacefully, as though
these thoroughly discredited autocrats were actually capable of reform.

 

They
urge calm and restraint. One listens in vain, however, for a ringing
endorsement of freedom, or for a statement of encouragement to those
willing to risk everything to assert their rights and their human
dignity - values which the US nominally regards as universal.

 

***

 

There are two things which must be stressed in this regard.

 

The
first is the extent to which successive US administrations have
consistently betrayed a lack of faith in the efficacy of America's
democratic creed, the extent to which the US government has denied the
essentially moderating influence of democratic accountability to the
people, whether in Algeria in 1992 or in Palestine in 2006.

 

The
failure of the US to uphold its stated commitment to democratic values
therefore goes beyond a simple surface hypocrisy, beyond the exigencies
of great-power interests, to suggest a fundamental lack of belief in
democracy as a means of promoting enlightened, long-term US interests
in peace and stability.

 

***

 

The US's entire frame of reference
in the region is hopelessly outdated, and no longer has meaning: As if
the street protesters in Tunis and Cairo could possibly care what the
US thinks or says; as if the political and economic reform which
president Obama stubbornly urges on Mubarak while Cairo burns could
possibly satisfy those risking their lives to overcome nearly three
decades of his repression; as if the two-state solution in Palestine
for which the US has so thoroughly compromised itself, and for whose
support the US administration still praises Mubarak, has even the
slightest hope of realisation; as if the exercise in brutal and
demeaning collective punishment inflicted upon Gaza, and for whose
enforcement the US, again, still credits Mubarak could possibly produce a
decent or just outcome; as if the US refusal to deal with Hezbollah as
anything but a terrorist organisation bore any relation to current
political realities in the Levant.

 

Machiavelli once wrote that
princes should see to it that they are either respected or feared; what
they must avoid at all cost is to be despised. To have made itself
despised as irrelevant: That is the legacy of US faithlessness and
wilful blindness in the Middle East.

For background on the America's lack of belief in democracy, see this.

The
fact that the former head of counter-terrorism laments America's
failure to support democracy in the Middle East proves once again that
U.S. policy is not justified by terror concerns.

As
I've repeatedly pointed out, stopping terrorism has never been the
primary goal of America's policy towards the Middle East. For example,
as I noted last year:

Starting
right after 9/11 -- at the latest -- the goal has always been to
create "regime change" and instability in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya,
Sudan, Somalia, Lebanon and other countries. As American historian,
investigative journalist and policy analyst Gareth Porter writes in the Asia Times:

Three
weeks after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, former US defense
secretary Donald Rumsfeld established an official military objective of
not only removing the Saddam Hussein regime by force but overturning
the regime in Iran, as well as in Syria and four other countries in the
Middle East, according to a document quoted extensively in then-under
secretary of defense for policy Douglas Feith's recently published
account of the Iraq war decisions. Feith's account further indicates
that this aggressive aim of remaking the map of the Middle East by
military force and the threat of force was supported explicitly by the
country's top military leaders.

Feith's book, War and Decision, released last month, provides excerpts of the paper Rumsfeld sent to President George W Bush on September 30, 2001, calling
for the administration to focus not on taking down Osama bin Laden's
al-Qaeda network but on the aim of establishing "new regimes" in a
series of states
...

***

General
Wesley Clark, who commanded the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
bombing campaign in the Kosovo war, recalls in his 2003 book Winning Modern Wars
being told by a friend in the Pentagon in November 2001 that the list
of states that Rumsfeld and deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz
wanted to take down included Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan and
Somalia [and Lebanon].

***

When
this writer asked Feith . . . which of the six regimes on the Clark
list were included in the Rumsfeld paper, he replied, "All of them."

***

The
Defense Department guidance document made it clear that US military
aims in regard to those states would go well beyond any ties to
terrorism. The document said the Defense Department would also seek to
isolate and weaken those states and to "disrupt, damage or destroy"
their military capacities - not necessarily limited to weapons of mass
destruction (WMD).

Indeed, the goal seems to have more to do with being a superpower (i.e. an empire) than stopping terrorism.

As Porter writes:

After
the bombing of two US embassies in East Africa [in 1998] by al-Qaeda
operatives, State Department counter-terrorism official Michael Sheehan
proposed supporting the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance in Afghanistan
against bin Laden's sponsor, the Taliban regime. However, senior US
military leaders "refused to consider it", according to a 2004 account
by Richard H Shultz, Junior, a military specialist at Tufts University.

A
senior officer on the Joint Staff told State Department
counter-terrorism director Sheehan he had heard terrorist strikes
characterized more than once by colleagues as a "small price to pay for
being a superpower".

And recall that former U.S. National Security Adviser (and top foreign policy advisor) Zbigniew Brzezinski told the Senate that the war on terror is "a mythical historical narrative".Indeed,
one of the country's top counter-terrorism experts, former number 2
counter-terrorism expert at the State Department (Terry Arnold - who
I've interviewed twice), has repeatedly pointed out that bombing civilians in Afghanistan is creating many more terrorists than it is removing.

In fact, the top security experts - conservative hawks and liberal doves alike - agree that waging war in the Middle East weakens national security and increases terrorism. See this, this, this, this, this, this and this.

I guess Alan Greenspan, John McCain, George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, a high-level National Security Council officer and others must all have been joking when they said that the Iraq war was really about oil.

And see this.