Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Ravages of Storm (Book Review) by Amer Rizwan

The Ravages of Storm

By: Amer Rizwan[*]

George Tenet’s At the Eye of the Storm
Harper-Collins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York. 2007
Pages 549

‘At the Eye of the Storm’ is a firsthand account of the inner-working of CIA. Primarily, a biography, the book also gives a peep into the decision-making process in the White House and the emulous relationship that exists between the two most powerful agencies of the world i.e. FBI and CIA.

The book unfolds with the story of elevation of the writer to the premier slot of the American intelligence realm. Director FBI, Louis Freeh worn him in to the office. Interestingly, later near the twilight of his career the Jersey Shore, when he was in hot water on account to the famous or infamous ‘sixteen words’, it was none other than the Louis Freeh who told the author that it was high time for him to quit. He also guided him as to how to go about it.

The author is full of praise for his wife Stephanie and his son Michael. He is also all respect and admirations for his parents who were Greek immigrants to the US and worked really hard for making their both ends meet initially. However, thanks to their hard-work and meticulous concentration on their businesses, they scored resounding successes. He feels himself lucky to be the son of such proud parents who tried their luck in the US, thousands of miles away from their ancestral land. His description of the resourcelessness and the organizational weaknesses of the organization when he took over, and his resolution to get the things right denote a stereotype pattern. Every new boss has the same pious intentions at the outset but the range of success he or she scores is often limited, at least, for as long as the broom is newer. The singular characteristic of George Tenet’s account, however, is that he approximates the same to the Theory of Management when he shares with us some very sound principles and secrets of being a good and successful boss.

He also provides some glimpses of how the people in the American administration reacted to the colossal tragedy of 9/11. At eight thirty on the night of the 9/11, the President addressed the nation and enunciated what was later known as the Bush Doctrine. The crux of his argument was that the US was going to lead, and everybody else was going to follow. “We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them”

“A day like 9/11, though, never really ends, except by the clock” How true are these words by the author as the world is still overshadowed by the ominous ramifications/implications of the events.

General Mahmud, the ISI Chief was having a meeting with Congressman Lindsay Graham and Representative Porter Goss when the first report of the planes hitting the World Trade Centre came. The writer reflected on the issue, and drawing inter alia the conclusion that the US had to make it clear to Pakistan and Afghanistan that the time of equivocation was over. He is clear on the fact of seeking Pakistan’s help in particular; that was a sine qua none; it is the country closest to Afghanistan, and the one with the most sway over it. Everyone in the administration was resolute that the time of talking with the Taliban had come and gone.

The failure of the author and the US to really convince Gen. Mahmood, the ISI Chief that the Taliban, far from being a strategic depth were in fact a threat to Pakistan itself. But in the wake of the colossal tragedy, and seeing the carnage of the attacks and the commitment of the bleeding ‘Leviathan’ to fight out the enemy to the end, the Head of the ISI was successfully brought about to the fact that Pakistan was to take a stern action against the Talibanised Afghanistan for harbouring Al Qaeda.

The author’s account of Gen. Mahmood Ahmad’s meeting with Richard Armitage is both interesting and revealing. He says that on September 13, Richard Armitage invited Maleeha Lodhi and Gen. Mahmood Ahmad………….over the State Department and dropped the hammer on them. Armitage told them that the time for fence-setting was over. There would be no more games. George Bush had said in his 9/11 address that he will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and terrorists that protected them. ‘Pakistan was either with us or against us.’ Specifically, Armitage demanded that Pakistan begin stopping Al-Qa’ida agents at its border, give the United States blanket over-flight and landing rights for all necessary military and intelligence operations, provide territorial access to American and allied intelligence agencies, and cut off all fuel shipments to the Taliban.

“Armitage is a bull of a man. Mahmood must have felt like he has been run over by a stampede by the time he left Rich’s office. I seriously doubt, however, that Rich actually threatened to ‘bomb Pakistan back to the stone age,’ as Gen. Mahmood repeatedly later told President Musharraf.”

Going to War in Afghanistan was a matter of compulsion, not that of choice. It was not a war of the Americans against Afghanistan but it was helping Afghans rid their own country of a foreign menace, al Qa’ida, and of the Taliban, who had allowed terrorists to hijack their country.

In the meanwhile in the author’s meetings with Mahmood, the former tried to persuade the latter if he could at least meet with Mullah Umar and make it crystal clear to him that the Taliban were to pay a terrible price if they continued their insistence on protecting Al-Qa’ida and Bin Ladin. Every call or message from the American Administration would harp on these and the related issues, but almost of them, would have Pakistan on the top of the list/agenda. As per the author, Gen. Mahmood was still trying to save the Taliban – but now he knew that if we did not get satisfaction, we were still coming after al-Qa’ida, no matter who objected or who tried to stand in the way. Gen. Mahmood did try to persuade the Mulla and sent a delegation of some Pakistani clerics to prevail upon him but to no avail. The deadlock only implied that the full might of the US military action was to be borne by the Taliban.
President Musharraf got the message clearly and within hours of Armitage’s ultimatum to Maleeha Lodhi and Gen. Mahmood, despite violent domestic opposition, Musharraf agreed to them. Pakistan’s volte-face had made it to be one of the most valuable allies of the US in the global war on terrorism. On October 8, as a final measure of showing his commitment to the US-led GWOT, Musharraf replaced Mahmood though the latter had been instrumental in Musharraf’s rise to power. Musharraf, like the high-ups in the US, would have concluded that in the new global reality, his Intelligence Chief was just too close to the enemy.
“I have always considered Musharraf’s reversal to be the most important post 9/11 strategic development after the takedown of the Afghan sanctuary itself”

Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfield, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, Scooter Libby are but a few of the gentlemen whom he usually finds himself at cross purposes with. Though he does not expressly use the term yet the coterie forms what is popularly known as the neocons.

The author takes pains in elaborating that the agency had already warned the administration of the impending danger, and also about scoring some successes vis-à-vis Al-Qaeda. The author argues that it was wrong that the agency couldn’t properly evaluate that the Al Qaeda has morphed into something dangerously solid and that it could really strike at the heart of the US.

His appointment to break the statement in the Middle East, and his efforts to work on the PLO, Israel and later Libya.

The author faced an enormous challenge at Wye Plantation Conference Centre at the Eastern Shore of Maryland held in mid-October 1998. Yasser Arafat and Bibi Netanyahu led their respective delegations to the Summit meeting. The Palestinian delegation was brought round concede some points courtesy the successful diplomacy of the US brokers. However, the Israelis put a strange conditionality i.e. to tie the release of Jonathan Pollard to the Israelis’ concession. The latter was convicted in 1986 on the count of passing top-secret material to Israelis while working as a Navy intelligence analyst. The author took a tough stand on the issue and even braved President Clinton who was otherwise amenable to Israeli demand by telling him that he would rather quit as DCI than accepting anything like the release of Pollard. At last the truth triumphed and the Israeli had to ink the agreement without compelling the Americans to release Pollard as a quid pro quo for doing the same.

His description of Yasser Arafat is simply immaculate. He says that he was among the last senior officials who saw Arafat alive at Ramallah in 2002. The author wonders if Yasser Arafat was a Moses or Bin Gurion who could lead his people to the Promised Land. After the tragic demise of Arafat, Tenet concludes that he was none.

Aimal Kasi was booby trapped and arrested in DG Khan. On January 25, 1993, Aimal Kasi, a lone Pakistani gunman armed with AK-47, walked up to the main entrance to CIA Headquarters and shot five people waiting to enter the compound. Later, he was lured to DG Khan to buy some Russian goods in Afghanistan and sell them at the premium price across the border in Pakistan. While he waited for the deal to go through, the CIA apprehended him. After his capture, Kasi told the investigators that he had conducted the shootout because he was upset by the US policy in the Middle East and Iraq. In a letter sent from his jail to a reporter, he said that his hope was to kill the Director CIA. (At that time Tom Woolsey or his predecessor Bob Gates might have been the targets)

The author prevailed upon the visiting Pakistani president to take action against Dr. A Q Khan and his network. He discusses his dealing with the issue of Umma Tamir-i-Nau and the retired scientists of Pakistani nuclear programme involved in the project. UTN had been established to carry out social projects in Afghanistan. Sultan Bashirudin Mahmood(former Director for Nuclear Power in the Pakistan Atomic Energy Agency), Chaudhry Abdul Majeed were some its founding members. The author had to reach Pakistan in the middle of the night. The author didn’t have to show any extra-ordinary diplomatic or persuasive skills to prompt the President to take A Q Khan to task and make a thorough inquiry into his nuclear inventory. President Musharraf, as per the author, was true to his words. Under his command, Pakistani agencies worked on the leads provided by the US and investigated the activities of the UTN high ups and eventually got confessions from them that led to the unearthing of new details. Bashirudin Mahmood confirmed all what we have heard about the August 2001 meeting with UBL, and even provided a hand-drawn rough bomb design that he had shared with Al-Qa’ida leaders. As per the author, their intelligence suggested that the UTN had a measure of support within Pakistani establishment and that it had a meeting with Al Qa’ida top leadership, including UBL and Al Zwaihiri in August 2001.

The exploitation by the journalist Bob Woodward the term ‘Slame Dunk’ used by the author over the issue of the WMD in Iraq. The Question of right leadership and that of bringing about the right type of democracy in Iraq. Ahmad Chalabi, a Westernized Iraqi, was a wrong choice to lead the interim Iraqi set up by any standard; it only aggravated the situation.

An excursion to Sun Valley Idaho and being haunted by the slame dunk episode.

The Confidence shown by President Bush in the author and in telling him that the administration still needed the services of the seasoned campaigner. “I really need you to stay”. And as per the author, he could not say ‘no’ to the President as the issues of war in Iraq, Afghanistan and GWOT were still unresolved.

“The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussain recently sought significant quantities of Uranium from Africa” These sixteen words ultimately brought about the end of his career because initially the Administration didn’t accept the responsibility of incorporating them into the President’s speech. However, his view is that the aides of President Bush should have shared an equal responsibility for the lapse. “Perhaps, I was just the collateral damage”, he said. page. 481.

A very interesting aspect of this book is evaluating and judging the foreign dignitaries by the author. The actual yardstick is the cooperation with the US. President Musharraf, Late King Hussain of Jordon, the latter’s successor King Abdullah were the real heroes for they proved to be pawns in the US game or the GWOT. More than often he describes King Hussain to be enormously helpful in the Middle East Peace Process. He admires him for his humility and courtesy. However as a peace broker, he fails to evaluate the pulse of the region. Far from justifying his credentials of hailing from a country that espouses the cause of democracy and liberty, the author chooses to be associated with the forces of status quo and conservativism.

[*] Ph-D Scholar, Department of International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad. Pakistan.

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