CVille Dem's picture


    Back when the Soviet Union was the Soviet Union, a friend of mine went there for a year (1976) as a doctor to accompany a group of American young people (all fluent in Russian) as they went from city to city to show how great America was, and to learn what they could about the USSR.  It was a USIA (United States Information Agency) project.  The reason he went was because in previous years people had died from such things as appendicitis, and other treatable medical problems.

    I won't go into the long story that I could, but suffice it to say, that another person would have died had my friend (and future, and ex-, husband) not been there.  It was at the height of the cold war, and they were in Siberia.  The guy got a serious case of food poisoning and ended up having a life-threatening tear of his esophagus.  The blood he got from locals was getting destroyed by his body, and the only solution was to get him evacuated asap.  Henry Kissinger intervened, and an American Air Force Plane was painted black so that there was only one visual on it.  It flew from Germany, and overflew the USSR all the way to their little outpost. The person affected responded immediately to the plasma that was brought on the plane and they flew on to Vladivostok, and I am happy to say that I had him and his wife as dinner guests years later.

    I got to know some of the kids that went over, and I even let one of them stay at my apartment in Arlington, Virginia, until I couldn't stand it any longer.  I bring this up to perhaps give myself some legitimacy for my comments:

    These 20-somethings KNEW that the USSR was done for!  This was before Afghanistan, and in spite of bloviating politicians.  The Soviets were hurting; they were skeptical; they knew they could not go on forever as it was.  

    One joke I heard was about an old man bumping into another old man at an intersection.  "Igor. my BROTHER!"  he shouted!  The other guy said,  "Oh, Misha, after these 50 years, how did you know it was me?"  and Misha answered:  "Your coat!  I recognize it!"

    Is everyone (or anyone?) wondering where I am going here?


    We have an enormous budget for intelligence.  

    1.  Why did we not predict the fall of the Soviet Union?

    2.  Why were we caught unawares as to Tiananmen Square?

    3.  Why did we ignore the warnings about airplanes as weapons before 911?

    4.  Why did we swallow completely FALSE INTELLIGENCE about yellow cake/Iraq?

    5.  Why did Al-Jazeera English completely scoop what happened in Tunisia while our news        outlets are clearly trying to just figure out where in the hell Tunisia IS?

    6.  Egypt?  Why was this a surprise?


    I won't go on, because you can all add things that are obvious.  We have replaced deep comprehension of events with ... gee ... I don't even know what to say.  We haven't replaced it with anything.  When I see the cable news talking heads scrambling for someone/anyone to say something smart, it makes it so obvious that we have been asleep at the switch.

    From what I have seen and heard I don't have an abundance of hope that anyone is waking up.


    Were there any Doritos in the former Soviet Union?


    Were there any in Tunisia? 

    Also, no.

    This removes the #1 reason for us to be paying attention to anything.

    {nom nom nom}

    Oh, I should have realized that. Maybe I should consult Valerie Plame. She would know.

    It was worse in the USSR than that for chrissakes.

    They had no Walt Disney.

    No Walt Disney for chrissakes and that meant no Mickey Mouse and no toilet cleansing agents.

    My god it smelled to high heaven in all those government projects and there were no cartoons for chrissakes.


    And if you wanted to be in the IN CROWD you had to bring a pair of Levis. You see, I know how it was.

    Willful Ignorance is what I call it. We have become intellectually lazy because it takes work to understand and be aware of what is going on in the world. It's work and disturbs our comfortable little view of things.

    I come across this more times that I care to count and in young as well as old. When I talk about something I think someone might be interested in I hear "I don't know anything about that." Said in away that conveys the message of "I don't want to know either."

    Reminds me of the first part of The Hobbit. Where Gandolf laments about finding someone to share an adventure and Bilbo replies "Not in theses parts. We are plane simple folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty, disturbing uncomfortable things. Makes you late for dinner. I can't see what anybody sees in them. Good morning."

    But intelligence is the one job these people have! During the cold war it was all about justifying our expenditures...nothing about the mess that was the USSR. We swallowed their hubris because it was easier than taking a stand that might be wrong.

    It's OK if you are wrong and we go to war, but it's NOT OK if you are wrong and we are attacked.

    So, what does this say about our intelligence community? The only risk is vigilance? The only sure way is war?

    I shall refrain from stating that the words Intelligence and Community do not necessarily go together.

    Agree, but how does everything in the world that is important manage to pass them by??? It is a mystery, no? I mean, why do we bother?

    For one thing it's very political with in as well as with out. For another it's very bureaucratic as well. To quote a passage from a book I like. "Everything gets stamped secret or top secret or cosmic or something and the only people who dare declassify anything are the big wigs at the top."

    OK, But my point is, why does our vaulted intelligence community never seem to be able to predict anything?

    And why does your State Dept. churn out policies that are uniformly ineffective or counterproductive? Because those recruited come in with a standard American mindset, and nobody ever tells them, "Virtually everything you think about the world is wrong."

    There are so many things I disagree with about your complaint that I don't know where to start.I

    I guess I should start with

    CLUE, BIG CLUE, from one of those elite think tank types over at Foreign Policy that it's popular to disparage on blogs like this one, January 7, that I posted here at DagBlog:

    Obama's 'Arab Spring'?

    All those foreign policy think tank eggheads that are so often disparaged and "don't have a clue"? I've been reading a lot of them for a long time. They follow the daily news in their areas of expertise, the little stories, the stories in the local language. And then they see patterns and they write that up on egghead websites and stuff. But nobody wants to read it except the people over at the State Dept.

    I believe most find it more worthwhile to keep up with and discuss what Glen Beck and Sarah Palin say every day. That's fine. But don't say nobody isn't writing and predicting on this stuff.

    Don't blame them if they're publishing the stuff and nobody but government geeks are reading it.

    Now on the equivalence you make with the cold war and these stories, I totally disagree it is the same thing. The cold war consisted of purposeful misleading on both sides by two great powers with a lot of will, power and resources to mislead,  with the USSR a very extreme case of a closed society. It was a miracle spies from either side got anything right once in a while.

    That is not at all the same thing as watching developments in the current world except in the few societies that are as closed as the former USSR was. People are watching and they are predicting and you no longer have to pay $$$ for special foreign policy journals to read their stuff, it's free on the web.

    Now on that Al Jazeera thing. They are an ARAB news organization and they speak and report in Arabic first, English second. Hence they tend to cover things in the Arabic and Islamic world more heavily, give them more resources,  than like the mayor's race in Chicago. And the English speaking media tend to do vice versa.

    Al Jazeera did NOT predict the Tunisian revolution. They merely covered it more heavily than western media did as it happened. Because it's in their 'hood.

    And they definitely did NOT predict the Egyptian protests. They were totally blindsided by those. They introduced their big hot leak story "The Palestine Papers" on the day those started, and had to see their big story sidelined by Egypt. If they had known, I am sure they would have held the Palestine Papers for a later date. Their readership is passing by all their hard work on the Palestine papers for all the hot news on Egypt.

    BUT a really good newspaper, if you read one, and look through the whole thing, and don't just rely on Daily Kos or TPM for your news, will still try to cover everything of import going on in the world (true they will not put a lot of resources to reporting on and discussing what Glen Beck and Sarah Palin said every day):

    You didn't need Al Jazeera to be informed about what was going on in Tunisia almost as well as an average daily Al Jazeera  reader. You just needed to be reading the newspaper:


    JAN. 10

    Tunisia Police Kill 14 Civilians During Protests

    The violence was the deadliest in a wave of unrest that has lasted nearly a month.

    A version of this article appeared in print on January 10, 2011, on page A8 of the New York edition.

    JAN. 11

    Tunisia Closes Schools and Universities as Riots Continue

    The country’s leader promised to create more jobs but also quell the riots over poverty and unemployment.

    JAN. 12

    Tunisians Document Protests Online

    JAN. 13

    Tunisian Protests Spread to Capital

    Troops fired tear gas as the first major protest hit the capital since rioting over poverty and unemployment began three weeks ago.

    JAN. 13

    Fresh Video of Tunisian Protests

    JAN. 14

    Tunisia Leader Shaken as Riots Hit Hamlet of Hammamet

    The riches of Tunisia’s president have fueled an uprising by Tunisians who blame corruption among the elite for the joblessness afflicting their country.

    JAN. 14

    Arab Bloggers Cheer on Tunisia’s Revolution

    JAN. 15

    Joy as Tunisian President Flees Offers Lesson to Arab Leaders

    The fall of Tunisia’s president marks the first time that protests have overthrown an Arab leader.

    JAN. 15

    President of Tunisia Flees; Premier Takes His Place

    President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali has left the country amid protests, diplomats say, and the prime minister went on state television to say he is in charge.

    JAN. 16

    Power in Tunisia Changes Hands 2 Times in 24 Hours

    The swift turnabout raised new questions about what kind of government might emerge from the chaos engulfing the country.

    JAN. 17

    Tunisia’s Military Throws Support Behind New Leaders

    New battle lines appeared to take shape in Tunisia as the military backed the nascent interim government.

    JAN. 17

    Qaddafi Sees WikiLeaks Plot in Tunisia

    JAN. 18

    Self-Immolation Protests Spread Across North Africa

    Government opponents in North Africa have set themselves on fire in recent days in hopes that their protests will lead to the type of demonstrations that toppled the president of Tunisia.

    JAN. 18

    The Arab Gdansk

    The West must stand up for Tunisian democracy — Islamists and all.

    JAN. 18

    Tunisia Unity Government Feels Force of Protests

    Six North Africans have set themselves on fire since the self-immolation that set off the uprising in Tunisia.

    JAN. 18

    Tunisian Blogger Joins Government

    JAN. 19

    A Night in Tunisia

    Standing guard as my country is jolted into a new future.

    JAN. 19

    Resignations Put Tunisia’s Unity Government on the Brink

    A wave of resignations by ministers from opposition parties weakened the interim government.

    JAN. 20

    Tunisia Opposition Parties Weigh Power Shuffle

    Leaders of Tunisia’s tiny legal opposition parties prepared a push to reshuffle the nascent unity government.

    JAN. 21

    Opposition in Tunisia Finds Chance for Rebirth

    The next moves of the Islamists, the only credible opposition movement in Tunisia, are a significant variable in the country’s post-revolutionary future.
    January 21, 2011

    JAN. 21

    Tunisian Dominoes?

    There's more than a touch of "We're all Tunisians now" among misruled Arabs.

    JAN. 21

    Slap to a Man’s Pride Set Off Tumult in Tunisia

    Mohamed Bouazizi, the fruit vendor who died after setting himself on fire, has become a symbol of defiance in Tunisia.

    JAN. 21

    Tunisian Protesters Say Ruling Party Must Go

    The powerful Tunisian trade union squared off against the interim government on Friday in the biggest protests since the ones that pushed out the country’s dictator, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

    JAN. 21

    Where Were the Tunisian Islamists?

    The Tunis protesters are not Islamists. They are calling for democracy and elections.

    JAN. 22

    Video That Set Off Tunisia’s Uprising

    JAN. 22

    One Small Revolution

    Tunisian democracy has a chance, but won’t likely spread.

    JAN. 22

    In Mideast Activism, New Tilt Away From Ideology

    Analysts say the forces that are exciting passions are more fundamental: concrete demands to end corruption, institute the rule of law and ease economic suffering.
    January 22, 2011

    JAN. 22

    Tunisia’s Inner Workings Emerge on Twitter

    The culture minister’s Twitter commentary has provided a singular narrative of a still-evolving revolution.

    JAN. 24

    Facebook and Arab Dignity

    How a spat over pears in the middle of nowhere morphed into a Tunisian revolution.

    JAN. 24

    Top Tunisian General Pledges Support for Revolution

    Gen. Rachid Ammar told protesters the military would keep stability until the interim government had elections.

    Really, it's ridiculous to say this wasn't covered in the west. It was. A lot. The political blogosphere just ignored it.

    I guess you have such disdain for blogs like this one you didn't bother to read mine. Although I did MENTION poor coverage of this news, the main point of what I wrote was different. The intelligence community doesn't seem to help our policy people anticipate or prepare for the very things they are in place to advise them about. I stand by the examples I gave.

    Really, aa, if you want a discussion, you probably should not write such insulting things in your rebuttal as: "BUT a really good newspaper, if you read one"...(the rest of your sentence was even more insulting, but I'll spare you the embarrassment of quoting you)

    I hope you dismount easily, I'd hate to hear that you fell off your high horse.

    All excellent questions.  I suspect it's because our vaunted intelligence agencies aren't really in the business of forecasting events for the benefit of the American public.  Why was it a slam dunk that Saddam had WMD?  Because that's what the White House demanded.  I'm not saying there aren't people doing good, honest work.  But it's too often twisted by the agendas of policymakers.  So far as 9-11 goes, the intelligence community did unearth some very useful information.  But policymakers had other priorities.


    I think you are spot on here, Destor. There is an implied belief that we spend all this money on the CIA and analysis and whatnot for purposes of understanding geo-political situations and for promoting/protecting peace and democracy throughout the world and at home.

    The reality is a little bit more sanguine. We look to our CIA and other "security agencies" to identify and support strategic objectives that have little to do with peace, democracy, or any other honorable enterprise. We are a big part of the story of Mubarek and his thirty year reign of terror in Egypt. And it's not a very honorable role we have played, either. The Egyptians understand this, just as the Iranians did before them, and just as millions of repressed peoples throughout the world have known throughout our sordid history of "foreign affairs.".

    We reap what we sow. And, yes, we should have seen this coming, but it was simply too convenient to play out the string with Mubarek for so long as it lasted. 

    "sanguine" optimistic, or "sanguine" bloody? Never mind, it works either way, sorta'.

    I think you're being a bit hard on the intelligence people. Imho, the fall of the USSR wasn't foreseeable - it was a decision on the part of Gorbachev to let it fall, and people who claim they knew he'd do that were ... lying.

    As for Egypt, who says it was a surprise to anyone? I think they saw it coming but when you want to support Mubarak and don't want to be SEEN supporting Mubarak, you have no good options when overwhelmed by a popular uprising. Given its preference for the asshole-we-know, what should the administration have done exactly, given they did see the coming deluge...?

    Maybe we should have gotten out of the way in the region?  Maybe 911 wouldn't have occurred.

    Maybe our defense budget would be less?

    I suppose when we finally mop up the mess in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, we can help save Egypt from the dreaded proponents of the Greater Ottoman Empire at war with the Anglo-American World empire.

    Re:Afghan mopping up. You have reversed subject and object. Pashtuns mop up invaders. Not vice-versa.

    Jolly you are correct; except  that's not what we'll hear in America, It would destroy our exceptionalism  

    I thought the skinny, malnourished guys in the black pajamas and flip flops put a stake through that one, along w/55,000 names on a granite slab. The funny thing is, the thumpers (chest, not the rabbit from Bambi) do have one thing right...It really does turn on who has the bigger balls. Alas, studies show, it' s them not us

    75 cents?

    In Arizona the hottet ticket going is folks tryng to get a MJ dispensary certification.

    But seriously, what the heck did we think, messing around in some elses turf.

    Are we protecting the Russians from the Chechnyan Rebels or China from the Uighurs,or maybe we're defending India?

    Do we the people get reimbursed, or do they just buy our bonds only if we protect them.

    Are we the saps?   

    6 afghanis, when they were 8 to a dollar. I know he laughed his 12 yr old ass off w/his friends that night 'bout sucker Mricans. The Uigher thing is extra crazy-remember those 2 guys from gitmo who ended up in some Carribean paradise after 4 years of solitary, etc.?

    I'm mulling the idea; that if the US wasn't in the region, disrupting the DRUG/ARMS relationship, these bordering countries would have to devote more of their own financial resources in defending their own borders.

     Instead they can build up their infrastructure, their middle class, on our defense dime  

    They get a defense shield, at the cheap price of buying our bonds, and the American people will pay interest besides.

    Sucker Miricans indeed

    Do we disrupt or enable? Walid Karzai is the poppy potentate and an acknowledged CIA "asset" (gotta love that usage) He remains untouchable, and not in the Eliot Ness way...If we wanted to bring the Taliban to it's knees, we would simply legalize drugs and let Walmart eat their lunch.

    Corruption, Is the C in CIA

    Interesting that you wrote this in 2009,

    Yeah, well, that was when I still had all that "hopey, changey" shit goin' on. What a putz! (me, not Prez...well, him too.)

    all that "hopey, changey" shit goin' on

    it's all over our shoes now.

    In your reply to sleepin, I'm thinking I can't see my ankles

    One-eyed Ellen from TPM (a cynic's cynic) said "VOTE OBAMA IN 2008! BE DISAPPOINTED BY SOMEONE NEW" There's a bumper sticker...

    I always liked Ellen the cynic.

    Is she still at TPM?

    Anyways, I've got to go Jolly,

    Be safe,

    Stay away from Africa

    Tunisia, Egypt, Now Uganda  WTF? Win the future ?

    What'll be left, to want to win

    Comments there from time to time. Has her own site. google webofdebt. I should sleep mysoelf, but,..y'know "Better living through chemistry...

    Interesting blog CVille, I was especially intrigued by your Russia story, how interesting, I'd love to hear the whole story. Here is what I think, I believe finally our government has learned a few things from our past experiences, and that is when nations are about to change their governments we don't take sides. When Iran had it's uprising, our biggest mistake was in taking the side of the Shah, which certainly didn't help our relationship with Iran. So finally, after all this time we've learned a lesson that seemingly wasn't easily learned. In the long run this will help us maintain a relationship with Egypt no matter who is in power, this wouldn't have happened with a Republican President. Nice blog, and good morning!

    When Iran had it's uprising, our biggest mistake was in taking the side of the Shah, which certainly didn't help our relationship with Iran.

    You do have the gift of understatement, TMC. We, that is to say the US CIA, installed the Sha and his brutal government a the request of the UK. So they hated US for this.

    I fear TMC couples naivetee w/understatement if she truly thinks we have "learned" not to take sidea when our toadies topple. They are scrambling at Langley, trust me.

    The writer's faith in the gumint's ability to "learn" in this case seems somehow akin to those who thought that Bush43's regime "knew' what they were doing when they invaded Iraq.  {{{{rewind}}}}

    Perfectly apt analogy! Bravo!

    "Freedom's on th' march, fer sure""fool me, fool you...or sompin'"

    Read: Inside Russian Medicine, by William Knaus (it's been out of print for years, and so is available at used book sites, such as Abe Books for almost nothing.  Hope you get it an enjoy it.)  [ps - check out the dedication!]

    "...this wouldn't have happened with a Republican President."

    I think that your bias is showing, and it's certainly not based on facts.  Leaving aside Obama/Biden/Clinton's early fumbling and stated intentions to support 'the stable Mubarek government', here's the comparison that should be the measurement.  As they say, "Follow the money'.

    "But when it comes to backing up the president's rhetoric since that speech [in Cairo]  in June 2009, the administration has a decidedly mixed record and has disappointed many Egyptians, foreign policy experts tell The Huffington Post. Though Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has championed human rights around the world and American diplomats have quietly encouraged political and legal reforms in Egypt, when it comes to promoting democracy in the riot-torn country, efforts have generally been less aggressive than the Bush administration's. On Friday, amidst violent protests, longtime leader Hosni Mubarak announced the resignation of Egypt's government.

    In its first year, the Obama administration cut funding for democracy and governance programming in Egypt by more than half, from $50 million in 2008 to $20 million in 2009 (Congress later appropriated another $5 million). The level of funding for civil society programs and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) was cut disproportionately, from $32 million to only $7 million. Though funding levels for 2010 are not yet available, they are expected to show an increase to $14 million, says Stephen McInerny, the director of advocacy at the Project on Middle East Democracy. He notes that the Bush administration slashed economic aid to Egypt in the 2009 budget but kept the funding for democracy and governance programs constant, while Obama cut funding to those programs in an effort to make the cuts more proportional and under pressure from the American embassy in Cairo.

    The White House and the State Department did not return emails for comment."

    Shorter: Democracy is fine if 'the people' elect dictators you heart. It's good to see that since events have overtaken the administration, they are beginning to sing a different tune.

    Wolf Blitzer has apparently been on CNN singing the praises of spy chief Omar Suleiman, lauding the man who ran the program 'dealing with' the prisoners our government sent there under renditions programs.  Hope the administration doesn't want HIM to head the government, don't you?

    Mubarek shut down Al Jazeera's Cairo desk.  Protestors are protecting the museums, and say that looters are plain-clothes police.

    He'll, don't put it past these geniuses to install Wolf as the new Pharaoh. He's probably standing by at Langley as we speak. ;0)

    Bah. Until I read who you were responding to, I thought "Wolf" was short for Wolfrum (as in WKW). Now, he'd make a great Pharoah.

    In the Iranian revolution we didn't just  " :take the side of the Shah " .  Kermit Roosevelt  was the sine qua non.of  Mossadech's overthrow. See :All the Shah's Men by William(?) Kinzler.

    Even MORE accurate:

    We didn't "Take the side of the Shah," we installed him after overthrowing the democratically elected person we didn't like.  

    Maybe it's time for an HONESTY INTERVENTION.  I am not so naive as to presume that we should always say what we think...but maybe every now and then we should say, and stand by what we (supposedly) believe.




    O? How so?

    Odd, coming from someone who goes back & forth from inciteful posts to quoting myths. Resistance, you have so much potential...will you be satisfied for that to be your epitaph?

    Was not directed to you personally Cville.. It is what the Government is telling the people

    That was the line from the movie with Jack Nnicholson "A FEW GOOD MEN"

    Also heres another good site for contemporary usage

    @ 2:12  # 67

    Go to # 81 another good line @2:43


    The inevitable result of equating the accumulation of money with intellect/effectiveness. If someone's rich they MUST be the best person to put in charge, right?

    I'd bet the USSR had their own despotic formula which promoted dullard offspring of the powerful while generally suppressing the children of unmonied intellect.

    CVille, here's a bit of fuel for your fire. I've been wondering when and where to bring it up.

    Last Saturday, I think (or maybe the previous Saturday), I tuned in to CNN for an update on Haiti. The pretty newsface that evening was Don Lemon, reporting on the return of Baby Doc Duvalier to the island. He said something that went something like this:

    "The former President returned to Haiti today. Baby Doc Duvalier left the island in the 1980s and has not been back since. The reason for his return is unknown at this time. Apparently, his father was once the president. His father was... I think he was called... was it Dad Doc? Which may be why his is called Baby Doc. Anyway... " 

    Well, you know how it is, Red Planet. All them dictators (and their progeny) all look alike, anyway. ;O)

    So much for fulfilling his basic function of informing the public.  I guess we have come a long way if even some guys think all they have to do is sit there and look pretty.




    He was called PaPa Doc.

    Oh, geez!  That is really bad!  But did anyone other than the French Airport officials know he was coming back?  

    DAD DOC?  Really?

    Of course, these are the same people who refer to the person who murders her young children as their "Mom."  [ I always thought of "Mom" as a term of endearment]  What can you expect?

    Latest Comments