Paul Greenberg

Dana Priest of The Washington Post sounds shocked - shocked! - to discover that George W. Bush ordered a complete remobilization and reinvigoration of the CIA immediately after September 11th:

"The effort President Bush authorized shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, to fight al-Qaida has grown into the largest CIA covert-action program since the height of the Cold War, expanding in size and ambition despite a growing outcry at home and abroad over clandestine tactics . . . ."

This is news? Isn't this just what W. told the country he would do in the aftermath of September 11th?

"Ours will be a broad campaign, fought on many fronts. It's a campaign that will be waged by day and by night, in the light and in the shadow, in battles that you will see and battles you won't see. It's a campaign waged by soldiers and sailors, marines and airmen; and also by FBI agents and law-enforcement officials and diplomats and intelligence officers. . . . Our campaign will be difficult, and it will take time. But I can promise you this: It will be waged with determination, and it will be waged until we win. We will do whatever it takes to protect our country." - George W. Bush, Oct. 17, 2001.

Apparently W. meant it. According to the Post's Ms. Priest, the president signed an order six days after September 11th empowering American intelligence agencies in a way not seen since the Second World War.

Gosh, just as if we had suffered a surprise attack and thousands of our people had been killed in a second Pearl Harbor.

Do you think maybe the president decided to fight this like a world war because, far ahead of his critics, he realized we were in one? The result: A moribund CIA was suddenly brought to life, just as the FBI and OSS were during the last great world war.

To quote Ms. Priest: "The CIA faced the day after the attacks with few al-Qaida informants, a tiny paramilitary division and no interrogators, much less a system for transporting suspected terrorists and keeping them hidden for interrogation."

A lot has changed since then. The CIA proved instrumental, if not decisive, in winning a war in Afghanistan. It is helping to win another in Iraq. It has made covert alliances with foreign intelligence services across the globe, has been given billions of dollars to set up counter-terrorism operations in two dozen countries, and is reported to have set up secret prisons - excuse me, ahem, detainment centers - in at least eight other friendly countries. And inevitably, to borrow a phrase Ronald Reagan used a couple of decades ago, Mistakes Were Made. Just as they are in every war.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.


 

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