Friday, August 20, 2004

Intelligence and terrorism

Juan Cole has a good posting on what we know about the disclosure of the name of alleged Pakistani double-agent Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan. While it makes sense that the Democrats should be using this incident to point out how the Republicans cynically manipulate the war on terror for their own political ends, and how incompetent they are in fighting that war, there is also something about this which bothers me. By making a big issue of the outing, opponents of Bush are playing right into the hands of the CIA cult of intelligence. The official story is that terrorism is being fought by electronic surveillance and the monitoring of 'chatter', the discovery of information in documents and laptops, and good intelligence obtained from interrogating people like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh (it is still not even clear that either of these guys is actually in American custody). Pakistan keeps claiming that it has captured more al Qaeda members, and apparently can produce them to order (they are all probably in the Pakistani government phone book!), so the American aid money keeps flowing. Every week, we hear that somewhere in the world another 'high-level' al Qaeda member has been detained or killed. Al Qaeda seems to have a limitless number of 'high level' members! The fact is that all this intelligence, and indeed the whole war on terror, is a pile of bullshit. Despite onerous security measures against normal law-abiding American citizens, the rapid degradation of American civil liberties, and a slew of silly terror warnings where Tom Ridge gets to make a fool of himself, there is absolutely no evidence that the war on terror has done anything to make the United States or the world a safer place. Will good intelligence save the day? Did American intelligence provide foreknowledge of the attack in Bali? Madrid? Tunisia? Casablanca? Istanbul? Mombassa? Jakarta? Karachi and elsewhere in Pakistan? The series of attacks in Saudi Arabia? What exactly was Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan supposed to reveal that was so critically important? I might be inclined to grant him some importance if even one alleged informant had produced one piece of usable information during this whole war on terror. I know the British are making a big thing out of it, but they invented the cult of intelligence, and share all the delusions of the Bush Administration. All the intelligence and warnings were ignored prior to 9-11, and with the Bush Administration mangling the economy and the Iraq war and everything else, the war on terror is all the Republicans have left to sell. Despite all the bullshit, Americans are in much more danger now from terrorist attacks than they were prior to Bush, largely because of the American government's attitude towards, and actions in, the Middle East. There has been not one shred of evidence that the war on terror has stopped even one incident of terrorism, and all Bush can rely on now is the hocus-pocus of the cult of intelligence. The cult of intelligence makes it look like Bush is actually doing something constructive, provides a way for Pakistan to continue to suck up American aid money, and spreads a lot of money around hiring people who would otherwise probably just be common criminals, but is essentially just a silly game for grown-up children. Terrorism is only going to stop when the root causes are addressed. Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan is just part of the smoke and mirrors used to avoid facing the real issues.