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Bad Guys We Once Thought Good - the Full Text

Scott Burchill

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Department of Wayward Clients and Unsavoury Friends

Central Intelligence Agency

Langley Virginia

Status Report: January, 2004


To: George J. Tenet, Director of Central Intelligence
From: Head, Office of Villains and Nefarious Crimes



Below is the updated report you asked us to prepare with comments, in light of Saddam’s recent apprehension. Note that with the exception of Warren Anderson, we have omitted specific USA nationals (eg Kissinger) from the list.

There is some good news to report. In the careful management of opinion following Saddam’s capture, we have already received a lot of assistance from our friends in the Fourth Estate.

The British Tory historian John Keegan has helped to explain away our support for Saddam in the 1980s by declaring that “countries do not have moral characters. They only have interests” (The Age, 17 December, 2003). According to Keegan, supporting Saddam in the 1980s was in our interests because he acted as a counterweight to the greater threat, fundamentalist Iran. This ‘realist’ - my enemy’s enemy is my friend - argument is tried, tested, and echoed by a number of reliable conduits including Greg Sheridan (The Weekend Australian, 20 December, 2003). It should be the major thrust of our media strategy.

There are, however, three traps for the unwary. Both Keegan and Sheridan wisely omit the fact that our support for Saddam, including the supply of dual-use technologies for his WMD programs, continued for a couple of years after his war with Iran. Mentioning this fact undermines the “Saddam as counterweight” argument because by 1988 Iran was only a threat to itself.

Secondly, it is better not to mention our responsibility for the Iranian revolution in 1979. When we overthrew the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953 and reinstalled the Shah to power, we thwarted attempts to nationalise British-Persian Oil and helped ourselves to 40% of the industry. However, we also ushered in 25 years of brutal repression and corruption out of which the Mullahs and their support base ultimately sprung. Oops.

Thirdly, while states may “not have moral characters” their leaders certainly do. The moral culpability of Reagan, Bush the elder and Thatcher for their supply of WMD technologies to the Butcher of Baghdad when his worst crimes were being committed (and afterwards), is likely to be raised by our critics and Saddam at his trial unless we keep him drugged. This will be difficult to counter.

It needs to be stated that Rumsfeld, Cheney, Powell and others also had responsibilities to USA exporters in the 1980s and 1990s - a point often overlooked in this discussion. We must suppress, however, their support for the slaughter of the Shi’ites in 1991 because of the “strikingly unanimous view [that] whatever the sins of the Iraqi leader, he offered the West and the region a better hope for his country’s stability than did those who have suffered his repression” (Alan Cowell, New York Times, 11 April, 1991). Let’s hope the Shia have forgotten this.

Some of Sheridan’s techniques - claiming the Europeans were even worse than us, ignoring the Agency’s support for Saddam in 1959, exaggerating the threat posed by Iran, blaming bureaucratic infighting in Washington and citing non-existent USA protests against Saddam’s use of chemical weapons - may need to be more widely adopted.

We have also had a lot of success with the line that “if the opponents of the war had their way, Saddam would still be in power torturing and killing Iraqi citizens.” It’s been widely adopted by the Australian Prime Minister and supportive journalists such as Gerard Henderson (The Age, 16 December, 2003). Critics may refer to this argument as an ends justify the means morality (Raymond Gaita, The Age, 22 December, 2003), but this is not strictly true because we would rather no-one talked about the means at all.

Isolating Saddam’s capture from the consequences of his removal puts anti-war groups on the defensive. However, this strategy will only work if we remain silent about the impact of the invasion and occupation - probably well over 10,000 civilian deaths (though we are forbidden from counting them), the collapse of law and order, an explosion in street crime, mass unemployment, failing infrastructure and essential services. Not to mention the increase in terrorism and the proliferation of WMD, widely predicted beforehand.

Of course a couple of troublemakers (Dennis Halliday, Hans von Sponeck) have for many years suggested that if it hadn’t been for the sanctions regime imposed on Iraq - which killed thousands, devastated the social fabric, and drove the population to rely on Saddam for their very survival - the dictator probably would have gone the way of many favoured souls, lsuch as those listed below. As I said, troublemakers.

As you know, the desire to serve state power can sometimes be overwhelming for even our most loyal functionaries. Therefore, at the risk of making you blush and giggle, this comment by Sheridan is a fitting introduction to the main body of the memorandum. We have tried but cannot improve on it.

"The USA has had to deal with many dictators through many years, but it always urges them to reform, to moderate their excesses, to open up.” Mmm.



Deceased

Ferdinand Marcos (Philippines), Nicolae Ceausescu (Romania), Mobutu Sese Seko (Congo/Zaire), Pol Pot (Cambodia), Heydar Aliyev (Azerbaijan)

Comment: Good friends before most became liabilities. Marcos - greatly admired by Paul Wolfowitz - died soon after we got him to Hawaii, while Ceausescu passed on more suddenly than we expected after many years of loyal service. Pol Pot hung on far too long but had the decency to keep out of sight until the end. Aliyev was much appreciated for bringing dynastic succession and a pro-Western oil policy to Central Asia.


In Custody On Trial Or Awaiting Trial

Manuel Noriega (Panama), Slobodan Milosevic (fmr. Yugoslavia - The Hague), Saddam Hussein (Iraq)

Comment: We kidnapped Noriega in 1989 (in the process we were forced to kill several thousand Panamanians) and brought him to trial in Florida where he was prosecuted for crimes mostly committed when he was our friend (who will forget George Shultz flying to Panama in 1984 to congratulate old pineapple face after he stole the election with far more violence than anything that followed in the next 5 years?). We managed to gloss over the revelation that Noriega was on the CIA payroll under GWB’s father before jailing him.

Hopefully we can do the same to Saddam, though USA and UK support for him during the 1980s could prove very embarrassing in court. Ditto for Chirac and the Russians. It was a big mistake taking him alive. Footage of Rumsfeld shaking hands with the Ace of Spades in 1983 and not mentioning WMD looks bad, though most networks (especially Fox) can be trusted to show restraint despite the 20th anniversary of this unfortunate meeting.


Faking Illness To Avoid Trial

Augusto Pinochet (Chile), Suharto (Indonesia)

Comment: Pinochet is senile and, thanks to the Brits, at little further legal risk.

Suharto has the worst human rights record of all and would be easy to nab from Jakarta, though opposition from admirers like Wolfowitz and friends in Canberra should be expected. Too much detail about our support for his 1965 massacres has already leaked out, as unfortunately did our assessment that “in terms of the numbers killed the anti-PKI massacres in Indonesia rank as one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century, along with the Soviet purges of the 1930s, the Nazi mass murders during the Second World War and the Maoist bloodbaths of the 1950s.” True enough but who leaked this report?

Suharto has enough knowledge and residual military support to buy immunity and a quiet suburban death on his own terms.


On the Run

Osama bin Laden (Saudi Arabia)

Comment: Bill Casey’s secrecy and missing receipts means it is still unclear how much money and arms we actually gave OBL to fight the Sovs in Afghanistan. Certainly he is the worst case of blowback in the Agency’s history. Now protected by Islamists in the Pakistan military and assorted Taliban, he will be difficult to apprehend without losing Musharraf in the process. The priority here remains control of the Islamic bomb.


Free

Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvallier (Haiti - in France), Jean-B?del Bokassa (Central African Republic), Hector Gramajo (fmr Defence Minister, Guatemala - in Guatemala)

Comment: Hopefully forgotten (we are trying).


New Friends (undemocratic)

Pervaiz Musharraf (Pakistan), Islam Karimov (Uzbekistan), Saparmurat Niyazov (Turkmenistan), Teodoro Obiang (Equatorial Guinea), Abdelaziz Bouteflika (Algeria)

Comment: A measure of our new commitment to spreading democratic politics. Two have oil, one is a Stalinist and all have corruption and our support. None have democracy. Like old friends in the Gulf, they have been advised not to take GWB’s freedom and democracy speeches seriously.


Given sanctuary by USA

Orlando Bosch (fmr Cuban - now in Florida)

Comment: Has the most extensive terrorist CV of all. Charged with 30 acts of terrorism by the FBI dating back to 1968, and regarded as a threat to USA security by the Justice Department under George Bush 1 which also supported his deportation. Most notoriously blew up a Cubana de Aviacion passenger plane in October 1976, resulting the deaths of all 73 passengers - though this is only one of many crimes he is responsible for. Received a presidential pardon from George Bush 1 at the request of his son, Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

Jose Guillermo Garcia (fmr head of El Salvador armed forces, 1980s - Florida), Cuban and Haitian exiles (Florida), South Vietnamese army officers (California)

Comment: The FBI now believes there are more terrorists per square kilometre in Florida than any other place on earth - all with safe haven. In the Agency we call it the Gaza strip. Most of the unsavouries are from the abattoir states of Central America under Reagan and Cuba since Kennedy. It’s a battle to keep them away from snooping journalists when they slip their Company minders. Just as well GWB’s dictum about countries which provide sanctuary to terrorists doesn’t apply to Miami.


Refusing to Extradite

Emmanuel Constant (leader of paramilitary group FRAPH in Haiti who murdered thousands in the 1990s - in NYC)

Comment: Haiti has repeatedly requested Constant’s extradition, but we don’t respond to their applications. It is therefore important to avoid comparisons with the Taliban’s refusal to extradite Osama after 9/11, which was the pretext for the subsequent war. Haiti is unlikely to bomb the East Coast.

Warren Anderson (Chairman of Union Carbide (now Dow Chemical), responsible for the 1984 Bhopal gas leak in India which killed 16,000 people - Long Island, NY)

Comment: They are only Indians after all. Even Delhi is reluctant to compensate the victims and 120,000 survivors. Unlikely to ever face charges of homicide, he will need to be protected from harassment by extremist groups such as Greenpeace and Human Rights Watch.


Unindicted

Ariel Sharon (Israel)

Comment: He has a long record of brutality stretching back at least to the Qibya massacre in 1953 (approximately 18,000 killed), most notably his invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and the killings in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. Rebadged “man of peace” by GWB in the Orwellian sense. Court action by left wing magistrates means European travel may become difficult.

Turkish Leaders

Comment: We are no longer so well disposed to Ankara after they failed to help us out in Iraq. The army even refused Wolfowitz’s order to defy the government and back the invasion. It is important not to refer to Turkey’s attacks on its Kurdish population as “terrorism” given we supplied them with the means to do it, our support peaking while we distracted everyone with Kosovo in 1999. As with Colombia, our money officially goes to the guys in the white hats - or in this case - the white fezs. Unofficially they are the black caps.


Published Tuesday, December 30th, 2003 - 04:16pm GMT

Scott Burchill lectures in international relations at Deakin University, Australia. He can be reached at burchill@deakin.edu.au

An original publication for the World Crisis Web.

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