February 1

Michael Scheuer's head

Michael Scheuer, the man known for so long as the bold Anonymous, is in reality an extremely soft-spoken bearded man who almost hides behind the podium from the rather empty crowd. Scheuer, author of Imperial Hubris, was a CIA agent, a dedicated man who seems to have tried his best to learn the facts without ideological preconceptions.

His speech is a little convoluted but at base simple: politicians are wrong when they say “they hate us because we’re free”, bin Laden has explained why he’s attacking America, some of his requests are actually good policy, if you really want to increase our safety you’d follow them.

Osama has been “extraordinarily consistent” — “he stays on message terrifically well” — in requesting our government stop supporting oppressive regimes against Muslims around the world, especially Arab tyrannies.

But our country is burying its head in the sand. Our leaders, “either lacking in knowledge or willfully dishonest”, claim there’s just an irrational hatred towards us from around the world (how can we be hated with all this immigration?, Scheuer asks). And when, recently, a publisher announced they’d put out a “bin Laden Reader”, public outcry tried to force them to back down! Shouldn’t we at least try to understand what he thinks?

We certainly want the Arab world to hear what we think — almost exclusively, in fact. But a combination of bin Laden and satellite TV has destroyed our ability to get our message out… not that we have a message.

Scheuer says we shouldn’t be in the business of imposing our secular church-state separated government overseas. Our democracy was meant to be an example, not something to impose. The CIA had “universal confidence” that Iraq wouldn’t work — in fact, that it would undermine all their work since 1996. And that’s been borne out. As an example, look at how suicide car continue to go up week after week. It’s hard to see how things will get any better.

On WMDs: Tradition was that the most expert CIA agent, even if he was the lowest-level guy in the bureaucracy, would brief the President. But CIA Director George Tenet and his predecessor took over this job for themselves. A real CIA officer would never say the WMDs were a “slam dunk”, as Bob Woodward reported Tenet did, instead they describe the quality of the intelligence,. Did Tenet lay out that WMD info came from opposition groups trying to get us to invade? We learned you can’t depend on those kinds of groups under Reagan. Scheuer’s afraid that this information never got to the President.

Even so, it’s not clear more accurate briefings would have changed things. The CIA basically felt that the intelligence didn’t matter to the administration, invading Iraq was simply a question of when. It’s the same thing now with Iran.

Changing things depends on us. Take Israel-Palestine. When he joined the CIA it was ignored by the rest of the world. Afghans couldn’t find Palestine on the map. Now it’s a gut issue in all Islamic communities. After Israel killed a Hamas leader, there were protests everywhere. We need to create a space for moderates in America, so that opposing bin Laden doesn’t look like support for Israel. We can change that.

In the questions section, Scheuer has no time for terms like “appeasement”. The fact is, he says, these aren’t terrorists, they’re insurgents. They’re not doing it out of hate, but out of love. Calling it terrorism is politically convenient, but it’s not accurate. It’s not appeasement, it’s protecting out interests. We don’t need to support Putin’s genocide or ignore alternative energy. Both choices help us while removing motivators for attacking us. It’s a bad thing that one word like appeasement can close off debate.

After 9/11, bin Laden was told that he didn’t meet the proper religious requirements. He didn’t warn us and give us a chance to convert to Islam. So he fixed that: he sent 4 messages to America (sadly, only one of them was translated) warning us. He didn’t have religious approval to kill civilians. So he went and got a decree saying he could kill millions of civilians, even use nuclear weapons if he wanted. He’s shoring up his support and this is a warning we’ve ignored.

He closes by recommending we see Robert Fisk, who he says is “very worthwhile” despite his “anti-Americanism”.

posted March 26, 2005 05:13 PM (Education) (5 comments) #


Stanford: Meeting the President
Stanford: Caught Red-Handed
Lessons in Capitalism #2: Management
Jeff Hawkins Update
Stanford: Another Post You Don’t Have to Read
Michael Scheuer on Imperial Hubris
Stanford: Unscripted
Stanford; Home Alone
Stanford: Private Meeting
Stanford: My So-Called Terrorist Life
Stanford: Schoolwork


What’s wrong with Israel targeting Hamas leaders? Last time I checked, Hamas is an organization whose mission statement is to utterly destroy the state of Israel.

posted by Ben at March 28, 2005 03:50 AM #

Last time I checked, Israel is an organization whose mission statement is to utterly destroy the state of Palestine. Do you think it’s OK for Palestinians to kill Israeli leaders? If not, why not?

posted by Aaron Swartz at March 28, 2005 12:23 PM #

There is no state of Palestine. There should be, but that’s not the argument. Israel is a vibrant democracy with a broad political spectrum, whereas Hamas is a terrorist organization. There is room for two states, and Israeli society is receptive to the idea of compromise. But Hamas is not; the Hamas Covenant of 1988 explicity states that the organization’s goal is to obliterate the enemy.

You can facetiously say that “Israel is an organization whose mission statement is to utterly destroy the state of Palestine.” That would be a broad exaggeration and not very well stated. But there’s absolutely no arguing that the goal of Hamas is to destroy Israel.

To that end, I absolutely do not agree with the killing of Israeli leaders. The targeting of Hamas leaders is a measured response to suicide attacks on civilians in buses and cafes and discos. The killing of Israeli leaders cannot be justified as long as they are willing to negotiate. Remember that it is the Palestinians who have repeatedly walked away from the bargaining table.

posted by Ben Moskowitz at March 28, 2005 05:10 PM #

“As an example, look at how suicide car continue to go up week after week.” Iraq Coalition Casualties Count shows that the death rate for coalition forces after the Iraqi elections is lower than for any other period since the war started.

posted by James at April 5, 2005 01:27 PM #

Ben Moskowitz said: “Israel is receptive to compromise”… and Israeli leaders “are willing to negotiate”. ???? After the Oslo agreement Israel kept building settlements whilst Palestians kept from attacks as agreed. Even now after some sort of agreement toward peace, the construction on the West Bank goes on. When Palestinians are upset about forever losing more of their land, can we say Israel is GENUINELY “willing to negotiate” if it obviously keeps taking more land whenever they have agreed to “peace”?

posted by Jan at April 13, 2005 02:56 AM #

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