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Uncle Sam sins

How do you discover that your friend is, in fact, your enemy? Ask the CIA

Vijay Prashad 01 Nov 1998

If we get access to the archives at Langley (headquarters of the CIA), we would find one particular manual possibly written in the late 1940s. This manual would perhaps have been xeroxed many times, since it seems to have been used almost every few years by the unimaginative, but effective, CIA. Like other manuals, it will probably be bound in a bold colour with large black letters that say something like “Manual for Counter-Insurgency: How to Manufacture An Enemy Who Once Was An Asset.”

During the Reagan and Bush (1980–92) years, the CIA operatives and analysts kept that particular manual on their desks on the alert as they remade the lives of their former allies into newfound enemies. Manuel Noriega, for instance, was a valuable CIA asset inside the Panamanian military right upto the US invasion of that country in December 1989 in which the marines arrested the sovereign, but corrupt, leader and incarcerated him in the US. This was a preview of the Gulf War of 1991. 

After the Iranian revolution and the taking of US hostages by the Islamic republic, the US was bent upon vengeance against Iran.  With financial and military support, the US pressured Iraq to test its mettle against its neighbour, always clear, however, that Iraq must not be allowed to gain too much power in the region (hence, the tacit allowance given to Israel when it conducted its pre–emptive strike against the Osirak reactors in northern Iraq on 7 June 1981).  During the Iran-Iraq conflict, the US emerged as the main support for Saddam Hussein, who, incidentally, was closely allied with Kuwait. 

During these years, Hussein discharged the communist left and persecuted the Kurds, both events well-known to the Washington.  In fact, prior to Hussein, the Ba’athists entered Iraqi history “on an American train” (in the words of Ali Saleh Al-Sa’di, secretary general of the party in the 1960s) with a commitment to crush the popular and extensive Communist Party of Iraq.  Hussein relied upon the silent approval of the US when he told US envoy April Glaspie of his intent to invade Kuwait in 1990 (reported by the New York Times, September 23, 1991). 

He miscalculated, since the CIA already drew out our famous manual, partly to ensure that Iraq not challenge US–Israeli hegemony over the region and over oil, but also to ensure that the US President Bush (previously head of the CIA) coast into a second presidential term in 1992 (Bush, like Churchill, won the war, but lost the election).

Osama Bin Laden, a minor player in the world of Islamic fundamentalism, has now attained the stature of Noreiga and Hussein due to the 75 (misguided) cruise missiles that struck Afghanistan and Sudan.  Very quickly after the attack, the leading US papers reported that not only was Bin Laden a close associate of the CIA during the Afghan conflict, but the very bases used by Bin Laden (near Kunar in the Bakhtiar mountains) in that country had been built by the CIA as part of its assistance to the Mujahidin factions.

In the 1980s, the US spent about $6 billion on these commandos in its quest to wrest Afghanistan from both the left inside the nation and from the Soviet orbit. The US was joined in this anti–communist crusade by Zia–ul–Haq’s military regime (a man famous for his participation in the 1970 Black September massacre in Jordan) and the Saudi monarchy.  From the latter, the US was able to gain the fellowship of a young Saudi man, Bin Laden, who came from a wealthy family ($5 billion) with much zeal. The Saudi’s Rabitat al–Alam al–Islami (Muslim World League) provided tremendous resources towards the Mujahidin. Osama Bin Laden, through his Islamic Salvation Foundation, was able to bring monies and hardware into Afghanistan and he mobilized many young people, with CIA support, through his “Afghan International” (Washington Post, June 20, 1986). His net worth of $300 million is now committed to the removal of the US from West Asia, a goal set in motion by his disgust at the Gulf War. 

There is incidentally little firm proof that Bin Laden had anything to do with the acts of terror in East Africa.  If we believe the US experts who make this claim, then we may need to recall that most of them felt that the Oklahoma City bombing was conducted by an Arab: “I think as we sort through the evidence, in my judgement,” said Larry Johnson, a regular counter terrorism expert at the US State Department, “this has the hallmarks of Islamic ties” (CNN, April 20, 1995). The bombers, it turned out, were white supremacists. Also the CIA only recently claimed it knew nothing of India’s nuclear tests and yet, it can now claim to know exactly where its erstwhile asset resides in the mountainous Afghanistan!

There is little consideration of the production of these people by the amoral foreign policy of the US. 


(Vijay Prashad is assistant professor, International Studies, at Trinity College, Hartford, USA

Uncle Sam sins

How do you discover that your friend is, in fact, your enemy? Ask the CIA

If we get access to the archives at Langley (headquarters of the CIA), we would find one particular manual possibly written in the late 1940s. This manual would perhaps have been xeroxed many times, since it seems to have been used almost every few years by the unimaginative, but effective, CIA. Like other manuals, it will probably be bound in a bold colour with large black letters that say something like “Manual for Counter-Insurgency: How to Manufacture An Enemy Who Once Was An Asset.”

During the Reagan and Bush (1980–92) years, the CIA operatives and analysts kept that particular manual on their desks on the alert as they remade the lives of their former allies into newfound enemies. Manuel Noriega, for instance, was a valuable CIA asset inside the Panamanian military right upto the US invasion of that country in December 1989 in which the marines arrested the sovereign, but corrupt, leader and incarcerated him in the US. This was a preview of the Gulf War of 1991. 

After the Iranian revolution and the taking of US hostages by the Islamic republic, the US was bent upon vengeance against Iran.  With financial and military support, the US pressured Iraq to test its mettle against its neighbour, always clear, however, that Iraq must not be allowed to gain too much power in the region (hence, the tacit allowance given to Israel when it conducted its pre–emptive strike against the Osirak reactors in northern Iraq on 7 June 1981).  During the Iran-Iraq conflict, the US emerged as the main support for Saddam Hussein, who, incidentally, was closely allied with Kuwait. 

During these years, Hussein discharged the communist left and persecuted the Kurds, both events well-known to the Washington.  In fact, prior to Hussein, the Ba’athists entered Iraqi history “on an American train” (in the words of Ali Saleh Al-Sa’di, secretary general of the party in the 1960s) with a commitment to crush the popular and extensive Communist Party of Iraq.  Hussein relied upon the silent approval of the US when he told US envoy April Glaspie of his intent to invade Kuwait in 1990 (reported by the New York Times, September 23, 1991). 

He miscalculated, since the CIA already drew out our famous manual, partly to ensure that Iraq not challenge US–Israeli hegemony over the region and over oil, but also to ensure that the US President Bush (previously head of the CIA) coast into a second presidential term in 1992 (Bush, like Churchill, won the war, but lost the election).

Osama Bin Laden, a minor player in the world of Islamic fundamentalism, has now attained the stature of Noreiga and Hussein due to the 75 (misguided) cruise missiles that struck Afghanistan and Sudan.  Very quickly after the attack, the leading US papers reported that not only was Bin Laden a close associate of the CIA during the Afghan conflict, but the very bases used by Bin Laden (near Kunar in the Bakhtiar mountains) in that country had been built by the CIA as part of its assistance to the Mujahidin factions.

In the 1980s, the US spent about $6 billion on these commandos in its quest to wrest Afghanistan from both the left inside the nation and from the Soviet orbit. The US was joined in this anti–communist crusade by Zia–ul–Haq’s military regime (a man famous for his participation in the 1970 Black September massacre in Jordan) and the Saudi monarchy.  From the latter, the US was able to gain the fellowship of a young Saudi man, Bin Laden, who came from a wealthy family ($5 billion) with much zeal. The Saudi’s Rabitat al–Alam al–Islami (Muslim World League) provided tremendous resources towards the Mujahidin. Osama Bin Laden, through his Islamic Salvation Foundation, was able to bring monies and hardware into Afghanistan and he mobilized many young people, with CIA support, through his “Afghan International” (Washington Post, June 20, 1986). His net worth of $300 million is now committed to the removal of the US from West Asia, a goal set in motion by his disgust at the Gulf War. 

There is incidentally little firm proof that Bin Laden had anything to do with the acts of terror in East Africa.  If we believe the US experts who make this claim, then we may need to recall that most of them felt that the Oklahoma City bombing was conducted by an Arab: “I think as we sort through the evidence, in my judgement,” said Larry Johnson, a regular counter terrorism expert at the US State Department, “this has the hallmarks of Islamic ties” (CNN, April 20, 1995). The bombers, it turned out, were white supremacists. Also the CIA only recently claimed it knew nothing of India’s nuclear tests and yet, it can now claim to know exactly where its erstwhile asset resides in the mountainous Afghanistan!

There is little consideration of the production of these people by the amoral foreign policy of the US. 


(Vijay Prashad is assistant professor, International Studies, at Trinity College, Hartford, USA

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