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They have no idea what an Arab is. . .
February 5, 2006 2:57 PM   Subscribe

Seeing Only Evil: An Interview with Retired CIA Agent Robert Baer, Author of See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War Against Terrorism.
posted by exlotuseater (21 comments total)

 
Coral Cache version here.
posted by exlotuseater at 2:57 PM on February 5, 2006


That is a great interview. Thanks for the link.
posted by digaman at 3:14 PM on February 5, 2006


This is important:

"RB: ... [Israel is] sort of like if you took a Ku Klux Klan colony and placed it in Detroit and you paid for it. Look at the 9/11 commission. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind, said it's all about Israel. We have to pay attention.

LT: Osama Bin Laden, in a speech that was released in 2004, said that his soul directed him after Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982—

RB: And flattened Beirut. This is an irritant. Not an irritant—this is the cause. "
posted by soiled cowboy at 3:18 PM on February 5, 2006


Good interview.

I just finished his book. Excellent read, and surprisingly easy. about as uplifting as Syriana, too.
posted by Busithoth at 3:25 PM on February 5, 2006


You can tell at the end of See No Evil that he could have kept going for about another 200-250 pages, so see also his 2nd book, 'Sleeping with the Devil : How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude' which is also an excellent read.
posted by bhance at 3:50 PM on February 5, 2006


Great link, cheers.
posted by Rothko at 6:26 PM on February 5, 2006


Great interview. Refreshing to read Robert Baer criticizing everybody.

I liked Syriana, but I felt like I needed a cheat-sheet to understand everything that was happening.
posted by fandango_matt at 7:05 PM on February 5, 2006


Good link. Thanks, exlotuseater.
posted by homunculus at 7:39 PM on February 5, 2006


great link, thanks.

Syriana made me think of a William Gibson storyline. It was nice to see a movie so cold and calculating in its complexity--more movies should make me feel like I'm not paying enough attention.
posted by hototogisu at 8:09 PM on February 5, 2006


about as uplifting as Syriana, too

Really, really uplifting, right? 'Cause that would be swell.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:09 PM on February 5, 2006


Great interview. Thanks.
posted by photoslob at 8:29 PM on February 5, 2006


I deeply resent the characterization of Israel as "a Ku Klux Klan colony" placed in Detroit. Are we really meant to envision Israelis as white, privileged assholes who showed up to lynch the locals? Somehow I doubt he would've used this analogy in conversation with my grandfather, who washed up in Israel in 1950 after surviving Auschwitz and spending five years as a stateless no-man in Europe. This is especially ridiculous if you consider that Israel is home to 90,000 black Ethiopian Jews who were airlifted into the country and granted them citizenship, and that the Druze community insist on conscripting their young men to the IDF because they were brutally persecuted under Muslim rule. You could cite many more examples and still not have sufficiently illustrated the diversity of Israelis.

Meanwhile, new editions of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion are constantly reprinted in the Arab world. the wiki article has some recent covers, and mentions among other things that "translations of the Protocols are extremely popular in Iran" and quotes a state-owned Egyptian daily as using the Protocols as evidence that "All the evils that currently affect the world are the doings of Zionism."

soiled cowboy highlights these comments, as if to say: pay attention, guys, 9/11 is really the fault of Israelis. RB is careful not to allot blame, but the spirit of his words is obvious: if we want to be safe, we just have to dump the Israelis. If terrorists attacked Paris and cited the Danish cartoons as the catalyst for their actions, I wonder if you would call to abandon them, as well.

So what if Osama Bin Laden cites Israel as his inspiration? Mark David Chapman cited Catcher in the Rye, and when Marc Lépine murdered fourteen women at Montreal's Ecole Polytechnic, he did so because he blamed social and personal problems on feminists.

I don't really care what Bin Laden was watching on television when he decided to become a mass murderer. Why do you?
posted by ori at 12:40 AM on February 6, 2006


great post, thanks. Baer's not nearly as handsome as George Clooney, though.
posted by matteo at 12:42 AM on February 6, 2006


"RB is careful not to allot blame, but the spirit of his words is obvious: if we want to be safe, we just have to dump the Israelis. If terrorists attacked Paris and cited the Danish cartoons as the catalyst for their actions, I wonder if you would call to abandon them, as well."

I don't get what you are saying. Are you saying that if US taxpayers don't subsidize Israel with billions of dollars each year -- in addition to being a very major trading partner -- then we would be abandoning it, leaving it unable to take care of and defend itself? Isn't it enough that we regularly offer to sell Israel the world's most advanced weapons? I don't see us doing the same for the Iranians...

I don't recall us offering similar large sums of money to the Parisians... are you saying that we should? Who else is worthy of such largesse as we grant Israel? Should we skimp on how much we spend on reconstructing New Orleans, or go into further national debt in order to support Israel?
posted by insomnia_lj at 4:14 AM on February 6, 2006


Baer is no doubt an intelligent and talented intelligence operative, but he is a soldier with a soldier's point of view. He may have quite a lot more insight into the "on the ground" practicalities of getting things done in the mideast, but I don't know that he has much of a sense of the larger drivers at work here, such as the grab for energy and the effect of Peak Oil. I also think that Israel is a bit of sideshow in the whole mess. It may give the Islamic fundies something they can sink their teeth into, but the power dynamics in the region are only partly due to religion and are about something else entirely.
posted by psmealey at 4:17 AM on February 6, 2006


Having said, that, I did read his book, and I think he's dead on right about how ops should be run in the MidEast, that the only real intellgence is HUMINT and not technological, and the Bush 1, Clinton and Bush II administrations really missed the boat on how to react to (and prevent) this grave and gathering threat.

I think he's also right that if we we leave Iraq precipitously, there will be a Sunni/Shia sectarian bloodbath that will make Bosnia look like a family squabble. This was something that I also said prior to the Iraq invasion, and was a principle reason for not invading Iraq: that we would not be able to control the monster that we'd unleash by removing Saddam.

But, I also think Baer is being (I'm certain intentionally) naive. He knows why we invaded Iraq, and he knows it has nothing to do with Democracy, human rights or Saddam. He also knows that Bush knows that we will need to maintain a military presence there for a 100 years (if the country lasts that long), and that he'll never say it. Neither will the next Administration, democrat or republican.

I just thought he was being a bit disingenuous about avoiding talking about what this military intervention/occupation is really about.
posted by psmealey at 7:25 AM on February 6, 2006


I don't get what you are saying. Are you saying that if US taxpayers don't subsidize Israel with billions of dollars each year -- in addition to being a very major trading partner -- then we would be abandoning it, leaving it unable to take care of and defend itself?

insomnia_lj, you're right, of course, and I think the massive and unconditional support Israel enjoys from the US is ultimately harmful to both countries. At the same time, don't you think it's a bit much to imply that 9/11 was caused by Israel, or to compare it to a Ku Klux Klan outpost? You are right, tho, I should have clarified what I meant by abandonment: I meant to say that you don't ditch your friends just because the resident bully takes issue with them.

Since I've made my original comment, tho, angry Afghanis sought to enter a US airbase in Afghanistan in anger over the Danish cartoons. It is not entirely unlikely that a young Osama bin Laden is being 'inspired' as we speak by his religion being publicly humiliated. But I don't think we would reconsider our friendship with Denmark or blame them if it lead to some terrorist attack in the future.
posted by ori at 11:46 AM on February 6, 2006


ori, you're being disingenious. the KKK example was just that, an example of a highly flammable situation. putting Jews in a disputed land, surrounded by millions of Arabs who hate them is just that, a flammable situation. if you want to believe that Baer is antisemite, go ahead. but it's laughable, and I suspect you know that.

and yeah, the US-Israel relationship seems to be massively slanted in favor of one side. math tells you that, unless math is antisemitical, too.

But I don't think we would reconsider our friendship with Denmark or blame them if it lead to some terrorist attack in the future.

fuck, the Danes cost the USA more than a trillion dollars since 1967 and keep getting truckloads of American cash, every year, from several federal budgets?
posted by matteo at 12:03 PM on February 6, 2006


matteo, I didn't call antisemitism, and I didn't suspect antisemitism, and it's a bit dishonest of you to argue as tho I did. Maybe you see the KKK analogy as a neutral example of a "highly flammable situation", but we can agree to disagree, no? I think his choice of words--that is, likening Israel to one of the most morally reprehensible organizations in the history of America--is not incidental, and you're not going to convince me otherwise.
posted by ori at 7:21 PM on February 6, 2006


His point about Gaza doesn't hold water either, imho. I'm sympathetic to the Gazans who want to enter Israel for it's superior medical care, but aren't these the same Gazans who dream of an independent Palestinian state? Aren't these the same Gazans who apparently have the support of Arab brotherhood throughout the world? Why is it the responsibility of Israel to jeopardize its own national security to provide services for a population a great percentage of whom would like to kill Jews whenever and wherever possible?

In no way am I advocating settlements or the squalid conditions of Gaza. But, speaking of disingenuous, if the Arab world cares so much about the Palestinians, and if the Palestinians want an independent state, they can depend less on Israel to get things done (eg, medical care, jobs, services, etc.). Surely the resources exist in the Arab world to dramatically improve the conditions in Gaza.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 9:27 PM on February 6, 2006


RB: I oppose not being able to pay my medical bills when I'm 70 years old because all my retirement has gone into the building of the Iraqi nation.

Oh well.
posted by homunculus at 11:12 PM on February 6, 2006


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