CIA Analyst Assails War on Terrorism
New Book Says U.S. Has Misjudged Muslims' Concerns and Intentions
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 26, 2004; Page A13
A new book by a senior CIA analyst who headed the agency's task force on Osama bin Laden sharply attacks the Bush administration's approach to Islamic terrorists, sternly criticizes the decision to invade Iraq and chides officials for trying to create a Western-style democracy in Afghanistan.
The author, who writes under the name "Anonymous," argues it is not dislike of freedom, democracy and Western culture that led bin Laden to wage war against America, but rather his disdain for U.S. policies and actions in the Muslim world, particularly America's relationship with Israel.
Senior U.S. leaders, the book argues, mistakenly urge Americans to believe that the Islamic world is offended by the nation's philosophical emphasis on personal rights and liberties, and "that Muslims hate and attack us for what we are and think, rather than for what we do."
"The focused and lethal threat posed to U.S. national security arises not from Muslims being offended by what America is, but rather from their plausible perception that the things they most love and value -- God, Islam, their brethren and Muslim lands -- are being attacked by America," he writes in "Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror," which was just published by Brassey's.
The book contends that bin Laden has rallied support among Muslims by convincing them that Islam is under attack from the United States and that it is their responsibility to defend their faith: "Once Islam is attacked, each Muslim knows his personal duty is to fight."
The author's solution to the problem and forecast for the future are grim, based partly on his view that training camps have turned out not thousands of terrorists but perhaps "a hundred thousand or more insurgents."
"As long as unchanged U.S. policies motivate Muslims to become insurgents," he writes, the United States will have to "kill many thousands of these fighters in what is a barely started war."
The book's author is a 22-year veteran of the CIA who occupies a senior position in counterterrorism. He did not publish the book under his name because of his role at the agency, and has asked news organizations not to reveal his name for security reasons.
He served as chief of the bin Laden station from 1996 to 1999, a time when, he complains, senior leaders "downplayed intelligence" and "ignored repeated warnings" about the dangers approaching from Islamic terrorists.
U.S. intelligence officials are not pleased with the tone and conclusions of the book, and have watched with surprise as sales have risen. Yesterday, it was the 13th-best seller at Amazon.com, up from 325th last week.
The CIA reviewed the book before publication and determined that it did not contain classified information. "That does not mean we are happy with it," a senior intelligence official said yesterday. "We would prefer officers keep their personal views personal, but we are not in position to prevent him from expressing his personal views in writing done on his own time."
The official added that if the agency stopped employees expressing views that appear contrary to administration policy, they would also have to halt those who want to write in support of policy.
The author condemns the decision to invade Iraq in 2003, saying that "preemptive actions" were needed, but against the "imminent threat of bin Laden, al Qaeda and their allies," not Saddam Hussein.
He describes the invasion of Iraq as "an avaricious, pre-meditated, unprovoked war against a foe who posed no immediate threat but whose defeat did offer economic advantages." He compared it to the 1846 U.S. war against Mexico.
Oil, the author contends, is at the core of U.S. interests in Muslim countries, leading the United States to support "the Muslim tyrannies bin Laden and other Islamists seek to destroy."
The Bush administration's policy on Afghanistan is described as a failure because it hinges on producing a Western-style democracy with religious tolerance and women's rights -- all of which he characterizes as an "anathema to Afghan political and tribal culture and none of which has more than a small, unarmed constituency."
"We are succeeding only in fooling ourselves" in Afghanistan, he argues. The current insurgency by the Taliban "gradually will increase in intensity, lethality and popular support and ultimately force Washington to massively escalate its military presence or evacuate," he writes. Neither the United States nor its Afghan surrogates "have built anything political or economic that will long outlast the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces," he predicted.
In a broader critique, he said, "U.S. leaders refuse to accept the obvious: we are fighting a worldwide Islamic insurgency -- not criminality or terrorism -- and our policy and procedures have failed to make more than a modest dent in enemy forces."
© 2004 The Washington Post Company