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

George Washington's picture

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:

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




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.


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.


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.


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in the region is hopelessly outdated, and no longer has meaning: As if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.

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.

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:

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:

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


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].


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


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:

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.

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.

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RockyRacoon's picture

There has always been a portion of the U. S. population who learn these things about their government, and care about it.   There is an even larger contingent of the people who never learn it, don't care, and wouldn't do anything even if it were explained to them.   The Boyz are counting on the latter group to prevail.

falak pema's picture

William Banzai rides again, like Hopalong ben Cassidy. 

gwar5's picture

To say the least, US foreign policy has been muddled and sent mixed messages.

Oil is always been a vital strategic resource, not just for the US, but for the world. No one but the US is capable of securing the resources, and if we didn't, somebody like the old Soviet Union would have. 

Drill here, drill now, develop all our energy resources, and stop the marxists and their global warming fraud and control. End the Fed, stop the wars, limit government, and promote individual freedom in our country and abroad.

Send memo to Zbigniew Bilderberginski to STFU, he's no different than the rest, and his advice to Carter on Iran and the Middle East sucked.

sushi's picture

What is needed is a million person march in America with everyone chanting "Change we can believe in!"


The brave people of Egypt and Tunisia have shown what can be achieved. We need our kleptocratic autocrats to be reminded that there are more people in America than the banksters, kochs, and plutocrat campaign donors. And many of the people of America face the same problems as those Egypt - a lack of jobs, rising prices and an ever greater share of the national income going to the top 10% of the population.

CEOoftheSOFA's picture

I was watching Fox & Friends and Glenn Beck was the guest to talk about the Egypt situation.  This illustrates the difference between real conservatives and neocons.
Beck said the exact same thing that Patrick Buchannan just said in yesterday's editorial.  That our $1 billion + of aid to Egypt is spent on the military for the purpose of restricting the freedoms of Egyptians who have been persecuted by Mubarek.  All the Arabs know this.  This is why they hate us.  They also know that our aid to Israel is used by the military to restrict the freedoms of the Palestinians.   
But the neocons on Fox were horrified by what Beck said.  They started shouting "But if they have elections then the Muslim Brotherhood will take over and they vowed to take over the entire world". 

This is what the neocons are afraid of.  That the Muslim Brotherhood will take over the entire world.  What are the odds of that?  Slim to none.  So the opinions of neocons like Hannity and O'Reilly are based on fear.  Fear of something that has a negligable chance of occurring. 
The Arabs aren't stupid.  They know that when idiots like President Bush say that the Muslims hate us because we are free, the real reason they hate us is because we are using our money to restrict their freedoms out of our fear. 
Soon our money will go bad.  The backlash by the Arabs will be well deserved.  

Cleve Meater's picture

...And like a well-oiled, hand-crafted, precision Swiss watch, the banker-led fear industry opportunists kick in to overdrive:

Officials Warn Wall Street About Possible Terror Attacks...

US issues terrorist warning for citizens worldwide

Jerry Brown cites Egypt unrest to make the case for tax increases

IMF Warns of War

anony's picture

Pure democracy is highly overrated. Representative democracy is eventually subject to debilitation, and the weak, with an equal vote to the self-determiners, the Ayn Randian achievers, will eventually overwhelm the system as has been occurring in nearly every 'first world' country.  

For the vast billions, true freedom is nothing more than an enormous burden.  Just ask the majority in Singapore what they think of their government.

There really should be a country (or several) where pure freedom reigns supreme.  The few million hearty souls who inhabit that country would provide a priceless petri dish of results that could be data-mined for knowledge, information and progress. 

topcallingtroll's picture

The enlightenment is finally coming to the middle east. They are talking about individual liberty and freedom in egypt. Moslems and Christians both supporting the revolution and each other. Yeah bad shit may happen but they dont seem to be against us just disappointed we dont live up to our ideals. Ataturk turned statesman and totally secular pro western in outlook. The enlightenment.endures!

freedmon's picture

First of all, the Enlightenment was a very small intellectual circle, not a mass movement.

But yes, we see quotes from "them", by which I take it you mean Egyptians who are taking part in the rallies. Most of these people are regular types who were not politically active before. They talk about "freedom" and "liberty" but without any clear political program. Asking your government for "liberty" won't get you anywhere. Asking for a reconstitution of the government with imposed term limits, a reform of the social welfare system, stronger anti-corruption laws, more public investment in infrastructure, etc. etc. These are all concrete political demands. Saying "we want freedom" makes them manipulable, since they will wait for someone else to tell them what freedom is.

falak pema's picture

WW3 when you are up to your necks in Afghanistan and losing ground every day to those in front... Its a tall order...Wars are expensive...Mustapha Mond is running a broken country...I don't see how one can sustain it over the years...Now that the name of War is...electronic ...invisible...faceless...nameless...around the corner bred...tribalised...its every man for himself...may the devil take the hindmost...Until the Middle Empire takes over the whole shooting match...I don't see the light at the end of this western tunnel...You can print the legend all you like...hope for the Fordian mantra...John Wayne comes riding back with a vengeance...only to reveal himself as ...Marion Morrison...the simple truth that remains...unprintable...We'll have to invent a new Avatar for this brave new world!

nevadan's picture

...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....

This is hardly new.  It goes back at least to the Eisenhower administration when the CIA was allowed to overthrow a parliamentary government in Iran that was perceived as possibly too close to the Soviets when in reality all it wanted was to be paid for the oil that the British were taking to fuel their navy.  My personal favorite example of America not living up to its ideals, as a young man who stood to face the draft in the early seventies (and thankfully saw it ended just in the nick of time), is Truman who refused to see Ho Chi Minh or grant his request that Viet Nam not be returned to the French after WWII.  This even after Minh had stated that he would condone a free press and other forms of democracy in Viet Nam.  It was only after Truman turn a blind eye that Minh went to the Chinese.  What a monumental mistake that turned out to be.

hangemhigh's picture

TO:  nevadan
on Tue, 02/01/2011 - 08:38


what you described was a cold war trade-off. at the time 'Indo-China/Vietnam' was a french colonial possession. we said no to Ho in exchange for continued french support in Europe/NATO.

( I can already hear the bang de ho jokes......bitchez)

nevadan's picture

Actually this began well before any cold war.  WWII was still a smoldering fact when Minh first petitioned Truman.

hangemhigh's picture
by nevadan
on Tue, 02/01/2011 - 10:21

Actually this began well before any cold war.  WWII was still a smoldering fact when Minh first petitioned Truman.

i thought the date of the letter was 1947 but stand corrected by the link. ho wrote in Feb '45 before WWII was even over.

the fact that the letter wasn't declassified until 1972, though, gives, i think, some credence to the cold war link.

the die for the us in se asia/indochina was cast with the french defeat at dien bien phu in 1953.  

having armed the french during that struggle, the us would later assume responsibility for the 'security issues' arising from the commie victory.  

nevadan's picture


My point is that by not living up to our ideals of liberty for all mankind and allowing the French to reassume control of the region, Truman betrayed our moral leadership.  This set the stage for the disaster that followed.  It was simply political cowardice on his part.  As an American it sickens me to see this behavior of "us vs. them" as the modus operandi of our leaders while touting our greatness as the leader of the free world.  The French were rewarded because they were our ally while the people of Viet Nam were sold short for the expediency of the situation.  Time and again this happens.  The evidence of this is manifold in many of our "great" leaders.  Corporate/state interests come first followed by lip service to the ideals that the average American believes in. 

I understand the argument that the cold war trade off was necessary and Ho Chi Minh certainly had associations with the communists in both Russia and China which were used to paint him in a bad light.  From what I have read I am forced to conclude that he was first and formost a Vietnamese patriot who wanted the best for his countrymen.  Hardly something that most would disagree with.  I really can't buy into the idea that it was necessary to side with the French, especially with our own history with a colonial oppressor.  The later developments that pulled the US into the war were avoidable in my opinion and 50,000 Americans and hundreds of thousands (millions?) of Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Laotions should now be watching their grandchildren grow intead of rotting in their graves, if only our ideals had guided our leaders.

GW's post points to a fatal shortcoming in US leadership and I couldn't agree more.  So the tangent I have led us off on is just the result of my personal experience.  Nothing clarifies the mind like the prospect of dying for no other reason than the machinations of the political elite.  Of course I didn't think of it in those terms when I was eighteen, but nonetheless it was clear to me from talking to my peers that were enough older to have been to Vietnam and could credibly report that there was no victory coming in SE Asia, that things weren't as my government wanted me to believe.  Now that I am older and have seen some of the arguments counter to the official version of events that I was nearly forced to participate in, it gives me pause when other opinions counter to what our leaders tell us is "truth" are disputed.  

Incidentally, the date in the previous link seems to be erronious, and is contradicted in the body of the letter.  It was actually the first part of 1946 that Ho wrote that letter. This is an exerpt from a better article.

"Between October 1945 and February 1946, Ho Chi Minh wrote eight letters to President Truman, reminding him of the self-determination promises of the Atlantic Charter. One of the letters was sent both to Truman and to the United Nations:

I wish to invite attention of your Excellency for strictly humanitarian reasons to following matter. Two million Vietnamese died of starvation during winter of 1944 and spring 1945 because of starvation policy of French who seized and stored until it rotted all available rice.... Three-fourths of cultivated land was flooded in summer 1945, which was followed by a severe drought; of normal harvest five-sixths was lost.... Many people are starving.... Unless great world powers and international relief organisations bring us immediate assistance we face imminent catastrophe....

Truman never replied"



hangemhigh's picture
TO:  nevadan
on Tue, 02/01/2011 - 11:53

"My point is that by not living up to our ideals of liberty for all mankind and allowing the French to reassume control of the region"

"GW's post points to a fatal shortcoming in US leadership and I couldn't agree more"

we have no general disagreements here other than one simple basic fact:  in terms of geopolitics, only one thing matters. power. and that power matters absolutely. 

to those who hunger for control, concepts like liberty and freedom have no meaning other than as handy catch phrases intended for mass consumption.  

this is not the way i want things to be, it is just the way they are.

until everyone wakes up, recognizes that fact, and  stops buying into the simple minded illusions peddled by the  current dysfunctional system, the disastrous mistakes at the core of our national decision making process will continue.   

wanting or believing is not enough.  it is action that matters.  until we the people demand that principles like freedom and liberty become meaningful priorities, they will remain little more than advertising slogans for wanna be thugs.  

nevadan's picture

No disagreement, but I still maintain that the cold war trade off is a sophistry placed in history as a diversion away from the facts.

topcallingtroll's picture

The ayatollahs of iran got rid of the military too. We radicalized them and.forced them to embrace military institutions by supporting saddam hussein when he attacked.the shat al.areb or.however you.spell it. Imagine! The ayatollahs saw the an instrument of oppression and didnt see the need for it. If we had just left them alone.

freedmon's picture

No, the point was not to leave them alone, but to destabilise them. The US could control the Shah, but once he was gone, they had to find some way to play those countries off against each other. The Iran-Iraq war was exactly what the CIA wanted, because they kept each other off balance, and furthermore they set each other's development back.

Moonrajah's picture

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.


Puh-lease. Before poking your fingers in the Middle East, how about supporting democracy in your own homeland? Yeah, I know, that's quite a novel concept, but still...

runforthehills's picture

interesting, read also this comment from the prestigious Chatham thinktank:

Weisbrot's picture

Democracy with out Liberty is a farce

mogul rider's picture

Something has always bothered me about the Bernank's Strategy of the

printing press. ANY person of any degree of smarts knows this is suicide

long term for any state. Yet he continues to do it.


Could it be?

That the strategy all along was to export destabilizing "flations" in concert

with the hawks in Washington.


Could it be that the Bernank is really just a bitch like the rest of them?

Could it be that what we perceive as an almighty financial oligarchy is

nothing more than a bunch of "ho's" bending over for generals?

If so, then WW3 clearly is the end game.


I wonder!

Pee Wee's picture

The bernank strategy is thug enrichment.  Nothing else.

Pee Wee's picture

Money talks and shit walks.  

falak pema's picture

Wow! When the CIA bites the hand that feeds it! But out there on the street of the Cairo Fairy world, the new generation hopes and prays... shouting out its belief in the 'western' way. Will the 'realpolitiks' of the all powerful army bring them back to reality with a big thump? The blood bath after the heady whiff of freedom? Its for the guys in Washington to decide. Which way the cooky crumbles. Brave new World! Brave New World!...

As Mustapha Mond and Lenina Crown define what the New Hatcheries of the Fertilising Room will ordain in the New World Order...motto : Community, Identity, Stability... Brave New World! Have they lost their hand in matters of World State...?

Time will tell...Meanwhile its 150/barrel if you invest in the local gold of Mesopotamia...

What a wild casino this is...are we into 'lumpenisation' on a global scale? Commodities UP! Populations UP! No a drop to drink...! Sounds like the Sahara is going to win after all!

Confused's picture

The line for years was we needed to fight to "stop the spread of communism." Now letting people take back their country is a bad thing? Does anyone buy anything that comes out of Washington? 

docj's picture

Well, of course we don't believe in democracy.  We've never had one, so why should we believe in it?

gold mining ceos are idiots's picture

The US wants countries like Egypt to remain in the hands of their puppet so they can steal resources.


benb's picture

That will be the day when I take the word of a 27-year veteran of the CIA’s Clandestine Service. This guy was, and almost certainly still is in the lying, cheating, and screwing over (the people of the U.S. and elsewhere) business. The article states Grenier was also Director of the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center from 2004 to 2006. He then should be well aware that the terrorists he refers to are the creations of MI6, CIA, and the U.S. Army. That’s why the controllers using our puppet government put the fluoride in the water and run the mind control on the TV… so people will be dumbed down and brainwashed enough to lap up their otherwise unbelievable propaganda.

Lets cut to the chase. The U.S. is gone. No matter how many of these Clinton, Bush, Rumsfeld, Obama, Cheney, Pelosi, Harry Reid, Newt Gingrich, Brzezinski, Kissinger, David Petraeus, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronnie ‘Rainbow’ Reagen, NWO trained and/or bought off actors they install to manage us the gig is up. When congressional representatives receive input of 99% against the ‘Bailout’ and they vote for it anyway…when Henry Kissinger’s boot lick office boy, Robert Gates tells us it doesn’t matter that 78% of Americans are against, that the wars will continue anyway, then it is obvious we no longer have a representative form of government.

 I don’t know how the Eqypt thing is going to play out (Not that I don’t wish them the best)  but in the scheme of the Global Takeover I think it may be just be a diversion. Remember, It’s all theater.

Cleve Meater's picture

No question... The Daily Telegraph has already reported the Wikileaks revelations that the State Department brought Egyptian anti-Mubarak activists to the U.S. in 2008 and that they'd been planning the overthrow of Mubarak for 3 years.  These guys are masters of the cynical hedge... They are on both sides of every trade.

What no one's reported until right now is this: 

The U.S. brought Egyptian activists to the U.S. to attend a 2008 event in NYC put on by a group called the "Alliance for Youth Movements".  What is AYM?  It's a joint corporate/State Department initiative to push for youth political movements globally (yeah right) using social networking tools -- Twitter, Facebook, Google, etc.  Corporate America is paying big bucks to participate in AYM.

It was started by by a State Department wunderkind named Jared Cohen, a Bush appointee and Obama holdover who is also an adjunct fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.  The other founders were three ex-Google employees.  Remember that Google has very close relationships with the U.S. intelligence-industrial complex -- they purchased Google Earth from In-Q-Tel, the CIA's venture capital arm; they are investing jointly with In-Q-Tel in new web search functionality that builds public dossiers on people; and they just got a huge secret government contract with the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency to do who knows what.

Eric Schmidt and Google execs have done numerous junkets to the middle East with Cohen and the State Department.  Schmidt in fact was at a private dinner with Hillary Clinton at her home a mere days before Google announced they'd been hacked by the Chinese.

Cohen left the State Department to join a new Google initiative called "Google Ideas" late last year -- essentially a private global initiative that "applies technology solutions to problems faced by the developing world."  Oh, and where has Jared Cohen been since the protests in Egypt began?.... Egypt... of course. (



hangemhigh's picture

TO:  Cleve Meater
on Tue, 02/01/2011 - 08:06


cleve, i don't question your take on this subject nor the underlying intel interests that support all of the social networking media.

what i would say is this.  hosni mubarak is 80+ years old and due to be replaced.  in the realm of power politics, the absolutely worst thing that can happen is that your corrupt, junk yard dog passes away and there is no safe, acceptable replacement ready to carry on.

given the way the power structure works, you would have to expect that they would be grooming new talent far in advance of the real need. 

you need look no further than yomamma to see how that works.

hosni's son was his chosen successor. apparently no one who mattered was on board with that particular succession.  some part of what's occurring is certainly due to that fact.

there is an outlier at work here though and that is the imploding empire  and the WTC 7-like, slow motion collapse, of the global economy.  

the resulting destitution and poverty constitute the wild cards, the power vaccuum, driving this particular passion play   

Boiling Frogs's picture

there is an outlier at work here though and that is the imploding empire  and the WTC 7-like, slow motion collapse, of the global economy.  

I'll take liberty with your implication that perhaps the collapse of WTC-7 was a controled demolition. If that is the case, then I disagree that the collapse of the global economy and implosion of the empire is any sort of outlier. Perhaps this has all by and large been planned.

Bringin It's picture

Oh, and where has Jared Cohen been since the protests in Egypt began?.... Egypt... of course. (

Nice Cleve.  Thanks for exposing the back story.  This reads like 'The Quiet American'.  The American agent-provocateur in the Graham Greene story is setting off bombs at political protests to create chaos. 

Benb - No matter how many of these ... NWO trained and/or bought off actors they install to manage us the gig is up.

Man, I hope so.

Did anybody tweet Jared to see what he's up to?

freedmon's picture

I think you're right. It's convenient that his explanation neatly separates the US from the uprisings, as if it had nothing else to do. The CIA itself has run these kinds of "people power" revolutions before. 

This is all about creating instability in the middle east. What better way to do that than change the governments every couple of decades? The last thing that the US wants is cooperation between the various ME countries.

Comrade de Chaos's picture

Somewhat agree, it is very democratic to force the democracy upon someone else;

and of cause, our dictators are not really dictators... they are transition leaders. : )





Gubbmint Cheese's picture

I guess if they make fun of it on Family Guy, it shouldn't really be considered a 'secret'..