Extremely Quiet Americans

Jeff Stein, a CQ reporter who used to be an intelligence officer in Vietnam, recounts how back during that war he had a daily routine to see if his spy had new information for him: “I’d drive by a soccer stadium in Danang, the large coastal city where I lived, and I’d look for a particular mark on the wall. If it was there, I’d go to a prearranged place at a set time for a clandestine meeting with a go-between.” Danang wasn’t the capital of South Vietnam, and “The war was raging in the jungles and rice paddies less than 10 miles away, and communist agents were everywhere in the city,” nevertheless “security was good enough that they weren’t likely to risk exposing themselves by kidnapping or killing me.” Even under those conditions, however, the US government never really got a grip on the situation and, of course, the American military effort was doomed to failure.

In Iraq, our intelligence is fantastically worse than that and “according to several well informed intelligence sources, hundreds of CIA operatives have become virtual prisoners in the Green Zone, the sprawling American enclave whose high walls and guards separate the U.S. embassy, military command and related civilian agencies from the raging sectarian violence in Baghdad’s streets.” Stein quotes a former CIA Operations official as saying Agency personnel in Baghdad “spend their days playing cards and watching DVDs” because the insecurity makes it impossible for them to do their jobs. But, obviously, the military can’t provide security without intelligence. Nevertheless, soldiers and spies alike keep being sent to Iraq to, in essence, wander in circles. Except they’re wandering in circles in potentially lethal situations, dying and being gravely injured, inflicting serious wounds on others and destroying their property in attempts to defend themselves — killing and dying for a clearly hopeless mission.

Via Henly who has further remarks.