Thursday, March 4, 2010

Removing the 'I' From CIA

Robert Baer, "a former CIA field officer assigned to the Middle East" and "the author of See No Evil & The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower," sounds as though he'd be eminently qualified to opine on matters Mossad. And yet, after reading his Wall Street Journal feature Assassins forced from the shadows in yesterday's Australian, I can only conclude the opposite.

Baer's theme is that "technology has made the old-fashioned 'hit' all but impossible," and that poor old Mossad, hitherto able to practice its dark arts in the shadows, has now fallen victim to closed-circuit TV cameras: "Nearly the entire hit was recorded on CCTV cameras, from the time the team arrived at Dubai's airport to the time the assassins entered Mabhouh's rooms." (Ironically, in the same issue of The Australian, there's a piece from Haaretz by Zvi Bar'el, Welcome to the city of spies & spires, which celebrates Dubai as "a hotbed of espionage." It concludes: "Dubai is a wonderful place. It has no substitute. Ask Mossad, the CIA or the British Secret Intelligence Service." Go figure.)

Anyway, back to Baer. Assassins is typical of the rubbish that fills the opinion pages of the corporate (and particularly the Murdoch) press, exhibiting both a failure to do one's homework before putting pen to paper and an astonishing and unforgivable ignorance of the issues and forces that fuel conflict in today's Middle East:

"[T]he Mabhouh assassination had all the hallmarks of an Israeli hit: a large team and an almost flawless execution. If it had been a Russian hit, for instance, they would have used a pistol or a car bomb, indifferent to the chaos left behind."

Oh, I see, an almost flawless execution - such as Mossad's famous April 1973 attack on 3 Palestinian leaders in Beirut, which, in addition to the targets themselves, resulted in the deaths of the wife of one (when she got in the way), an Italian stewardess (by mistake) and 2 Lebanese police (simply doing their job). And that nonsense about pistols and car bombs, as if Mossad somehow subjects its numerous Palestinian targets to clean and painless deaths. To cite some other Mossad 'hits' from the 70s: 1) Ghasan Kanafani (and his niece) - murdered in Beirut when a remote-controlled bomb exploded in his car in July 1972; 2) Wael Zuaiter - gunned down in Rome in October 1972; 3) Basil Kubaisi - gunned down in Paris in April 1973' 4) Muhammad Boudia - murdered in Paris when a remote-controlled bomb exploded in his car in June 1973; 5) Amed Bouchikki (another mistake) - gunned downed in Lillehammer, Norway in July 1973.

"Why were identities stolen from people living in Israel?" Stolen or volunteered? Baer hasn't bothered reading Mossad whistleblower Victor Ostrovsky: "Many immigrants to Israel are also asked if they will give up their passports to save Jews. For instance, a person who had just moved to Israel from Argentina, probably wouldn't mind donating his Argentine passport. It would end up in a huge, library-like room, containing many thousands of passports divided by countries, cities, and even districts, with Jewish- and non-Jewish-sounding names, also coded by ages - and all data computerized." (By Way of Deception, 1990, p 75)

"When I first came into the CIA as a young field operative, there was endless debate about whether assassinations were worthwhile... In the mid 1970s the Church-Pike committees investigating the agency put an end to CIA assassinations... Post 9/11 the CIA got back into the assassination business, but in a form that looks more like classic war than the Hollywood-style hit. The CIA had fired an unknown number of Hellfire missiles at al-Qa'da and Taliban operatives in the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan... In addition to the intended targets, thousands of other people have been killed. What strikes me, and what makes these assassinations so different from... Dubai, is that they are obscured by the fog of war. Western TV cameras are not allowed in to film the collateral damage; besides, we're all but at war with Pakistan's Pashtuns, who live in these mountains*. But Israel is not at war with the Palestinians, or even really with Hamas. It is at war with Hamas militants, people who have shed Israeli blood. The Israelis know who they are, and as a matter of course send hit squads into Gaza and the West Bank to kill them. The Israelis call them 'targeted killings': assassinations by another name."

Israel is not at war with the Palestinian people? It's only at war with Hamas militants? Is Baer for real? Was Gaza, for example, only a war against Hamas militants? Is the moon made of green cheese? Where are the references to Israel's dispossession and occupation of the Palestinians? And what about the shedding of Palestinian blood? Why is the Israeli presumption - that every Palestinian murdered by its death squads deserves to die - unquestioned? And where is the acknowledgment that, with their so-called 'targeted assassinations' (properly called extra-judicial killings), the Israelis are playing judge, jury and executioner in one?

The CIA wasn't always so dumb. At least one of Baer's predecessors, Wilbur Crane Eveland, had a grasp of Middle East basics:

"The basic question is a simple one, involving nothing more than human rights: Can there be any justice in denying to 4 million Palestinians, now living under Israeli occupation or abroad, the same rights of citizenship and statehood enjoyed by 3 million Israelis and guaranteed (by Israel's Law of Return) to every Jew on the face of the earth?" (Ropes of Sand: America's Failure in the Middle East, 1980, p 343)

"In March 1979, Aharon Yarif, director of the Israeli Institute of Strategic Studies (and former head of Israeli intelligence) reported that in the past 14 years Israel had lost about 630 people to terrorism (adding, strangely, that 'this is what we lose each year to traffic accidents', and that the PLO 'have not disrupted normal life', 'stopped immigration', or 'stopped tourism'). In contrast to this, military action by Israel or its surrogates in Lebanon between April 1978 and September 1979 killed hundreds of innocent Lebanese men, women, and children; Israeli troops adopted a 'scorched earth' policy, plundered archaeological treasures, and shot those who opposed them rather than taking prisoners. Over 200,000 people have been forced to flee from devastated southern Lebanon (where over 100 homes were destroyed in a 24-hour period and, although the United States futilely protested, a State Department spokesman emphasized that the administration was not contemplating any reduction in the $2.7 billion in military aid already committed to Israel - a sovereign country in whose affairs we couldn't intervene. While this went on, new Israeli settlements proliferated in Israeli-occupied Jordan and Syria." (ibid, p 352)

Baer's Assassins is typical of the predictable, pro-USsrael pap which passes for comment in the pages of Murdoch fishwrap.

[*"Our study shows that the 114 reported drone strikes in northwest Pakistan... from 2004 to the present have killed approximately between 834 and 1,216 individuals, of whom around 549 to 849 were described as militants in reliable press accounts, about two-thirds of the total on average. Thus, the true civilian fatality rate since 2004 according to our analysis is approximately 32%." (The year of the drone, While having a shot at Russia's alleged indifference to the chaos left behind, Baer is typically indifferent to the chaos left behind by the US in Pakistan.]

No comments: