Location: Baltimore, Maryland, United States

Studied in Govt. College, Lahore, Punjab University,Peshawar University & Zagreb University(Croatia). Started writing when in 7th class. Wrote prose & poetry,Have published writings in almost every Pakistani Urdu & English magazine and newspaper,held important positions in many literary and professional organizations. worked as a teacher, research scientist and industrial management professional, In the words of Arthur Miller I have always felt as being temporary. That is why there was no significant achievement.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Book Review: CIA AT WAR


(Inside the Secret Campaign against Terror)

Author: Ronald Kessler

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press New York

Pages 362 Price: $ 27.95


Dr Afzal Mirza

There is a long list of CIA’s covert operations in various parts of the world since its creation in 1947 by President Truman. After the World War II a period of cold war started and America’s top priority became the containment of Soviet Russia’s growing influence in the third world. In his book Cultural Cold War written by Frances Stanar Saunders the author made use of the declassified material and made startling revelations how CIA engaged some of the celebrated writers of the world in a propaganda campaign against the Soviet Union. The long list included people like Andre Gide, George Orwell, Andre Malraux, Christopher Isherwood, Stephen Spender, Arthur Koestler, Robert Lowell and others. Many writers who unknowingly supported the CIA sponsored Forum for Cultural Freedom later on renounced their support because they were not aware that it was a CIA forum. They were Bertrand Russel, Jean Paul Sartre, W.H.Auden . Saunders also threw light on how CIA made use of this forum in denying Nobel Prize to Pablo Neruda in 1962 through enormous propaganda campaign. Neruda however bagged this prize much later in 1971. Again much came to light when the CIA’s secret papers seized by Iranians when they stormed CIA’s regional center in Tehran in 1979 were made public. In them one could find how CIA had informers every where in the region including Pakistan and how big officials of this country were passing information to CIA. Even their names were mentioned but surprisingly they continued to serve the government of Pakistan even after that exposure.

Kessler who has written a very readable book The CIA at War has not only made use of declassified material but also collected information after interviewing fifty current CIA officers as well as George Tenet who till recently was the director general of CIA. When Kessler talked to him he was still in service but he resigned after the report of 9/11 commission where much blame was also laid on the poor intelligence reports coming from CIA. The way Kessler has projected Tenet it appears that he was perhaps commissioned by the latter to do the job as he was under immense pressure after 9/11. Tenet son of a Greek immigrant and a graduate of Georgetown University and with a master’s from Columbia University was actually hired by Clinton administration and Bush made him continue in his job. Kessler himself is a former investigative reporter of Wall Street Journal and Washington Post and has written thirteen non-fiction books many of which are bestsellers. Before talking about CIA’s recent operations Kessler has described some of the earlier interesting projects. For instance in 1967 during the Kennedy administration Castro was the focus of CIA’s activity but Castro was outsmarting them. .Kessler writes,” The CIA plotted to humiliate Castro with his own people by trying to get his beard fall off –something that only someone whose level of maturity had not advanced beyond kindergarten could have dreamed up.’ He tells of a report by CIA inspector general of August 25, 1967, that” counted number of other bungled attempts to assassinate Castro or embarrass him with his people. Under one such plan CIA would spray the air of a radio station where Castro broadcast his speeches with hallucinogenic agent similar to LSD. Another scheme was designed to contaminate the cigars smoked by Castro with a chemical that would create’ temporary personality disorientation’. A third idea w as to introduce thallium salts into Castro’s shoes so his beard would fall out. This would destroy his public image.” The author writes that “the stupidest scheme was to enlist the aid of mafia in killing Castro.” A lethal pill containing botulinum toxin was produced that was to be administered to Castro in food. The gangsters couldn’t however carry out the plot.

The author further informs us that “ After fumbling in Cuba, the CIA went on to try to control elections in Chile. In 1964 the agency spent 2.6 million to support the elections of the Christian Democratic candidate Eduardi Frei to prevent Salvador Allende ‘s accession to the presidency. In 1970 the CIA tried to mount a military coup in Chile to prevent confirmation of Salavdor Allende ‘s victory in Chilean presidential election. It also spent $ 8 million to prevent his confirmation—all in vain.. The CIA also became involved in covert action and paramilitary actions in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Angola, Afghanistan and Nicaragua.” However Kessler is silent about the assassination of president Allende and bringing General Pinochet to power in Chile. He has also not mentioned a word about the murder of Patrice Lumumba. According to Kessler the CIA intervention in Afghanistan began in 1980 when they supplied money and weapons to Afghan mujahideen . He terms this intervention highly successful.The Soviets withdrew in 1989 that gave the biggest set back to Russia and brought the cold war to an end. Kessler thinks that as soon as Soviets withdrew America should not have withdrawn from Afghanistan and helped to create a stable government. Kessler quotes Richard Kerr a deputy Director CIA as saying,” If America had remained in Afghanistan after Soviet withdrawal it is less likely that Taliban would have come into existence.” Another writer Steve Cole also thinks on the same lines. He goes to the extent of saying that .”Had they allowed Hafizullah Amin to continue in Afghanistan there would be no Taliban and no Al Qaeda.”

In 1986 Regan administration gave more powers to CIA by creating a Counterterrorism Center “to allow CIA to identify terrorists who had committed crimes against Americans abroad and to help bring them to justice.” The first project of the Center was to deal with Abu Nidal organization. This organization was founded by Sabri Al-Banna in 1937 in Palestine. In 1970s and 1980s according to the author Abu Nidal organization killed or wounded nine hundred people in twenty countries. Their targets were Israel, Jews and moderate Arabs, Europeans and Americans. In 1974 Abu Nidal broke away from PLO accusing Yasser Arafat of abandoning its fight against Israel. Kessler tells us that before al Qaeda Abu Nidal was the number one terrorist threat. The CIA recruited a key source within the organization and prepared a comprehensive report on the organization and its financial backers and arms suppliers and called this as The Abu Nidal Hand Book. Kessler writes that the book was published and its publication had the desired effect. The governments in Europe squirmed and terminated their dealings with Abu Nidal. Abu Nidal became paranoid. “CIA fed his paranoia by sowing rumors who were in fact loyal to Abu Nidal. The result was a blood bath…Soon ANO vanquished.”

The modus operandi of CIA was recruiting agents, analyzing images from spy satellites and intercepting communications. But in some regions these agents couldn’t work ‘effectively’ He cites the example of Pakistan .”Even a Muslim CIA officer with native language abilities could do a little more in this environment than a blond, the blue-eyed all-American. Case officers cannot escape the embassies and consulates in which they serve. A US official overseas photographed and registered with the local intelligence and security services can’t travel much particularly in a police-rich country like Pakistan without the host services knowing about it.” The author has given details of the operation by which Aimal Kasi who had killed CIA employees in front of its office in Washington DC was caught.. The incident happened in 1994 but it took them several years to catch him. Ultimately what happened was that in 1997 several of Kasi’s bodyguards approached a State Department officer in Karachi who put them in touch with a CIA officer there.” They told her they could pinpoint Kasi’s location in return for the reward money then set at $2 million…Eventually the CIA agreed to increase the reward to $5million.The agency obtained support for the operation from the Pakistani government. For days with the help of Pakistani agents the local FBI agent and two members of the hostage rescue team conducted surveillance of the Shalimar Hotel in Dera Ghazi Khan in central Pakistan. … Kasi fought but was not armed. Kasi then 33 was staying there.” After several years of trial Kasi was sentenced to death by injecting drugs. At the time of his death in 2002 the author says “he held up two fingers. It was either a peace sign or a victory sign.”

The author thinks that when it came to bin Laden Tenet was not content to convey warnings. He wanted bin Laden and cohorts killed. That was the only way to deal with al Qaeda. But he is critical of Clinton saying “ Clinton a master of spin tended to look no further than the next day’s headlines.” “After 9/11 the new challenge was radical Islamists and an Arab world where the media were anti-American,.” Kessler thinks. He describes how in 2002 they apprehended Abu Zubaida from a villa in Faislabad . The CIA seized ten thousand documents and translated and analyzed them He tells how CIA restarted the practice of hiring non American journalists and mullahs.” Besides paying Mullahs CIA created fake Mullahs-- recruited agents proclaiming themselves as clerics who took a more moderate position about the non-believers,” he reveals. “ The CIA’s use of Islamic leaders was not without precedent: During the Iranian hostage crisis CIA paid Mullahs to issue fatwas stating that taking hostages was against Islam….In seizing key al Qaeda operatives in countries like Pakistan the CIA usually working with FBI pinpointed the locations of terrorists and informed the local security service. As an example the Inter Services Intelligence Directorate(ISID) of the Pakistan military might make the arrest. However aware that the Taliban had penetrated the ISI in the past, the CIA and FBI staked out the neighborhood where arrests were to take place often wearing disguises,” he writes.” The book carries many so-called achievements of CIA during the Tenet period. Winding up his story, Kessler emphasizes the need for strengthening CIA and giving it more funds and staff –something suggested by 9/11 commission report also. But all his efforts to build up the image of Tenet crashed as in view of the criticism against CIA in the 9/11Commission Report he decided to resign and was replaced by Portar Goss just a month before the 2004 elections.(End) .


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