CIA Legacy

Reading Notes /

Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes: the History of the CIA

Intelligence is secret action aimed at understanding or changing what goes on abroad. President Dwight D. Eisenhower called it “a distasteful but vital necessity.” A nation that wants to project its power beyond its borders needs to see over the horizon, to know what is coming, to prevent attacks against its people. It must anticipate surprise. Without a strong, smart, sharp intelligence service, presidents and generals alike can become blind and crippled. But throughout its history as a superpower, the United States has not had such a service.
The mission of the CIA, above all, was to keep the president forewarned against surprise attack, a second Pearl Harbor.
Where understanding failed, presidents ordered the CIA to change the course of history through covert action.

Like the American public, the agency dissented at its peril during the Vietnam War. Like the American press, it discovered that its reporting was rejected if it did not fit the preconceptions of presidents.

To survive as an institution in Washington, the agency above all had to have the president’s ear. But it soon learned that it was dangerous to tell him what he did not want to hear. The CIA’s analysts learned to march in lockstep, conforming to conventional wisdom.

Just starting to read this, very good so far, as the above citations illustrate.

I was trained to be a “Christian” before I was trained to be an “American.” Now I see that neither is a rational nor possible character: still I’m sentimentally attached to the absurdities of Christianity more than to the absurdities of American. I suspect the heart of modern errors lie in patriotism, in nationalism: ugly, destructive, uncharitable … ungodly and anti-rational. What right do Christians in a republic have to look over their borders? where is that in the Declaration of Independence? presuming we had the right to form a republic on land stolen by genocide and built by slavery in the first place.
The land was stolen before our time, slavery ended a century and a half ago: still, we go on stealing, we go on holding truthful reporting in contempt. This society repressed my offer of the Free Learning Exchange: now “social networking” is shoved up our noses. Networking is what I offered as a solution to Big Fed. Does wikipedia tell the truth about that? Does my alma mater? my friends? family? No. I don’t know anyone capable of truthfulness on that: or on many similar necessary fundamentals for honesty or intelligence. No, no: Big Fed foists Intelligence (CIA style) instead of intelligence (Augustine, Aquinas … Darwin, Feynman style). The CIA can’t be honest; it’s not in the charter. Just as a mercantile plutocratic Democracy can’t be democratic (and a democracy can’t be Christian: Christianity needs to be be obedient to God) (and God needs to be obedient to natural law!!!)
It doesn’t matter how many Germans voted for Hitler if Hitler is murdering Jews.
(Unless the Jews alone murdered God, in which case stopping Hitler was the evil.)

Can Nazis be Christian? ? The Nazis will tell you: they are Christian!

Pearl Harbor

If the thug robs me, or snatches the lady’s purse, or steals candy from the baby, he’s a thug, a thief, a crook, an outlaw. Go ahead, defend yourself, or the lady, or the kid, if you can. I won’t mention Jesus to you while you’re trying to get the thug to leave you alone. I might pop the thug one myself, trying to help out: without waiting to prove that the thug is the bad guy and you’re the good guy: maybe the lady snatched the purse from the thug, and he’s trying to get it back, maybe for his girl friend, appearances can be deceiving, maybe God will judge the situation differently from our snap judgment of the moment. Fine, that’s God’s business. And we can weep and knash our teeth.
If Hitler had bombed NY the way he bombed London I might agree that we should smite that son of a bitch.

In contrast: if you walk into the bar, see the pretty girl, never mind that she’s on someone else’s are, you lust for her … She is not yours, you just lust for her. Maybe you go up and give her your phone number, tell you you’ve got a great deal for her, maybe she says she’ll think about it, maybe she means to, maybe she’ll say anything to get rid of you … You do not own her! If somebody else squeezes her bottom, the violation is against her, not against you, you do not have a right to put him or her or anyone in custody.

When Japanese military planes bombed Pearl Harbor, that was in the Pacific, that was not in the United States. We had a military base there, but by what right? We were taunting Japan, blocking their access to resources, sabotaging their development, their trade.
I’m not saying that the Japanese had a right to bomb US military materiel in Hawaii; I’m saying that the Japanese did not bomb NY, or LA, or Chicago.
We had a right to take it seriously, we had no right to take in personally.

Ah, now 9/11 was different: but with lots of differences. WTC was not a naval base, not an army base, not property of the air force.
Note that word: what should Christians have to do with force?
We’re “Christian” in name only, the word not accurate. Turn the other cheek and nationalism, patriotism, greed devouring the earth, making law impossible … what a mix.

WTC was different with lots of differences. Just consider that much of its business connected, further consider that this Pentragon sourced internet was largely plagiarized from me, and from Jesus’ inspiration of me, and of Ivan Illich … It was kleptocrats who got hurt that time. Though the high-jackers weren’t acting for Jesus, Illich, or me.

Maybe we had a right to watch the beach at Jones Beach, for invasion, at Cape Cod, in Miami. Maybe we had the right to watch the beaches around LA, maybe we had the right to look a mile beyond the beach; but where did we get the right to look half-way across the Pacific?

Sure the modern world is interconnected, I’m all for connectedness. But what right does any nation have to “intelligence”? “secret action aimed at understanding or changing what goes on abroad.” I thought we were supposed to be an open society, not secret. What right do we have to anything covert? without completely redefining ourselves? away from charitable, fair …

Reading Notes

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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