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CIA Renegades By: Steven Plaut
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Left has long painted the CIA as a far-Right neofascist bogeyman, dominated by reactionary Dr. Strangeloves, and paranoid “neoncons.”  The reality, of course, has long been very different.  In fact, the CIA has long been dominated by liberal ideology and the left-leaning, blame-America mindset.  Those who are skeptical of this last assertion should read one of the most important books ever written about intelligence services: Informing Statecraft: Intelligence for a New Century by Angelo Codevilla.  In this book, to which I cannot do full justice here, he shows how the many failures of the CIA trace back to its kneejerk liberalism and politically correct delusions. (See a more detailed review here.)

The liberal mindset of the CIA has not only led to a long series of grave errors in judgment and gross misreadings of many international situations; it has also led it to hire large numbers of radicals into its ranks.  The extent of the damage done by such people can only be guessed, but a good idea of the dimensions can be gleaned from observing the behavior of the growing number of far-left ex-CIA employees running about in the anti-America movement today.

Leftists emerging from the shadows of the American intelligence community are of course nothing new.  The most famous postwar example was no doubt Daniel Ellsberg, who has spent his later years as a button man for the far Left.  Ellsberg, however, was never actually employed by the CIA, but by RAND.  Others, at least as radical as him, were.  Of those, the worst is arguably Philip Agee, who left the CIA and published the seditious Covert Action Information Bulletin, with the help of both the KGB and the Cuban DGI, a magazine dedicated to promoting "a worldwide campaign to destabilize the CIA through exposure of its operations and personnel."  Agee told Swiss journalist Peter Studer, “The CIA is plainly on the wrong side, that is, the capitalistic side. I approve KGB activities, communist activities in general. Between the overdone activities that the CIA initiates and the more modest activities of the KGB, there is absolutely no comparison.”  Today Agee runs a website from his home in Havana, Cubalinda.com, and is a dedicated communist.


In recent years, veterans of the CIA who were employed by the Agency have emerged as some of the most extremist bashers of America in the ”antiwar movement”.  One well-known example is Michael Scheuer, who anonymously penned Imperial Hubris, a book critical of the conduct of the war on terrorism since the mid-1990s.  Scheuer had been assigned to create a “bin Laden desk” at the CIA.  After resigning from the Agency, he went on a campaign against the US invasion of Iraq, warning that Moslems worldwide were growing to hate the US because of its “policies”, and in particular he blamed US support for Israel for anti-American terrorism.  He considers bin Laden to be a “great man”.


Former CIA agent Melvin Goodman holds roughly similar political opinions, claims the CIA is being used to recruit public opinion and undermine domestic opposition to Bush’s policies, and is similarly politically active and tied to leftist groups.  He denounces the CIA for its failure to predict the collapse of the Soviet Union, although gives no evidence that he had himself predicted any such collapse before it occurred.  Goodman also seems to endorse 9-11 conspiracy “theories”.  Appearing at Rep. Cynthia McKinney’s hearings, which featured panelists who posited theories on 9/11 ranging from the Twin Towers coming down as a result of a “controlled demolition” to the Pentagon being blown up deliberately and not partially destroyed by a hijacked aircraft, Goodman was quoted as saying about McKinney, “I hope someday her views will be considered conventional wisdom.”


Of those leftist ex-agents of the CIA who are publicly active in leftist policics, most are also openly anti-Semitic, with deep ties not only to radical leftist groups but also to neonazi and Holocaust Denial organizations and web sites; the most notable illustration is the husband-and-wife team of William and Kathleen Christison, to whom we will return shortly. 


Radical leftist ex-CIA employees are not as rare as one might suppose.  Several of them in fact have banded together to form the “Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity”.   This was founded by one Ray McGovern, who once worked in the CIA’s Russian desk before the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, and claims his group now contains 35 disgruntled ex-employees who left the Agency.   William (“Bill”) Christison was a member of its “steering committee”, and his wife Kathleen a rank and file member.  Another member, David MacMichael, has helped promote the urban myths about the CIA being involved in the drug trade.  When Danny Casolaro, a Washington D.C. freelance investigator, was found dead in a hotel room, evidently having committed suicide, MacMichael helped fabricate a “theory” that the CIA or FBI had murdered him, a theory that has naturally been “adopted” by dozens of conspiracist web sites. 


Whatever the true size of VIPS’ membership, the group has acted as little more than a far-left anti-American group, allied with some of the most extremist organizations in the “antiwar movement”, and having a special obsession with bashing Israel.  Its members have appeared in several far-leftist video “documentaries”, including “Uncovered: the Whole Truth About the Iraq War” (Robert Greenwald) and “Break the Silence: Truth and Lies in the War on Terror” (John Pilger).  In a rather typical statement in February 2003, the group blamed all of the problems in the Middle East on Israel.


VIPS’ Ray McGovern repeatedly blamed Israel for the 9-11 attacks, such as in a letter to the Christian Science Monitor just days after 9-11.  In an interview in the left-wing Sojourners magazine, he claimed, “The war on Iraq was just as much prompted by the strategic objectives of the state of Israel as it was the strategic objectives of the United States.”  He has repeated the claim that Israel is manipulating and controlling American foreign policy, and comes within inches of ranting about some grand Jewish cabal and conspiracy.  He has accused Bush of being “out of his mind”.  His articles appear on the pro-terror antiwar.com web site and in other similarly extremist web magazines.  He claims to believe that the US was planning to “plant” weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to justify the invasion, an assertion that long ago became part of the canon on conspiracist web magazines.  His evidence was to claim that American intelligence had lied during World War II and in other arenas of operations. Today he is involved in some leftist church group and he is a booster for Cindy Sheehan. 


“Bill” Christison’s bio claims that he joined the CIA in 1950 and served on the analysis side of the Agency for 28 years.  He later served as National Intelligence Officer in several areas in the Third World and as Director of the CIA's Office of Regional and Political Analysis. His main take on the 9-11 attacks on America was that they were the comeuppance the US deserved for its unjust foreign policies and especially for its criminal support of Israel’s determination not to be annihilated.  He opposes any American military action at all against Islamic terrorists, and instead suggests that they be dealt with by having their demands met.


The “Uruknet” web site of Iraqi Ba’athist pro-Saddam exiles has published at least five Christison articles.  There is little about Saddam Hussein that Bill does not like  and ditto for North Korea.  He has written: “Largely because North Korea already has a few nuclear weapons, the U.S. has been deterred from the kind of aggressive action it has employed against non-nuclear Iraq, and has been forced to rely on diplomacy. And that's a good thing. (emphasis added)”


VIPS' ex-member Kathleen Christison, wife of “Bill”,  was a CIA “political analyst”, which tells us volumes about why CIA analysis is so often wrong.  Incredibly, given what she now writes, she was evidently assigned to analyze developments among “Palestinians” while still at the Agency.  Kathleen Christison, quite simply, understands absolutely nothing about the Middle East.  Needless to say, neither Christison speaks Arabic or Hebrew, yet on the basis of their two-week travel junkets they claim to be “experts.”  A typical proclamation by Kathleen reads: “Before there was terrorism, there was the (Israeli) occupation. Before there was terrorism, there were (Israeli) settlements.”  Actually Arab anti-Jewish terror started decades before Israel “occupied” the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, and before there were any “settlements” constructed in those areas.  So how could such a person be a Middle East “analyst” for the intelligence service of the world’s only superpower?


Kathleen Christison says in her bio that she is today “preoccupied (her word)  by the issue of Palestine.”  She has published several “books” that are nothing more than anti-Israel pro-terror propaganda screeds, including Perceptions of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession, both published by the University of California Press, a publishing house that just can’t seem to find enough anti-Israel books to squeeze into its publication schedule.  Her “books” got rave reviews from the “Radio Islam” web site, which not only supports bin Laden,  but routinely reproduces neonazi and Holocaust Denial materials on its site, including the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”  While allied with the world’s most open racists, Kathleen rants that Zionism is a form of racism and that Israel is an apartheid country.  Arabs who blow up buses full of Jewish children are NOT racists and certainly not terrorists in the Christison point of view.

Kathleen Christison often crosses the line from merely demonizing Israel to smearing all Jews.  She claims that all Jews are “self-absorbed” and blames them for not coming out openly in support of destroying Israel.  She mocks and derides Jewish leftists who think that, in spite of its faults – real and imaginary, Israel has as much right to exist as other countries.  Kathleen will hear nothing of that!  Even one of Israel’s leading “post-Zionists” has publicly denounced the Christisons for their anti-Israel bias. 


The two Christisons are today a husband and wife SWAT team for both the anti-Semitic Far Left and Neonazi Right, although they despise Christian pro-Zionists almost as much as Jews.  They are so extremist that even the pro-terror Kroc Institute at Notre Dame University, which tried to sponsor Tariq Ramadan in the US, cut its ties with the duo.  Both are regular columnists for Alexander Cockburn’s Counterpunch web magazine.  They claim the US is seeking “global hegemony”.  They have written that the Bush Administration is governed by “dual loyalties”, that old smear-term applied to Jews, because Israel supposedly controls American foreign policy.  They use the term “neocon” as interchangeable with “Jew”.  In writing about Jews, the Christisons sound like typical commentators on Holocaust Denial neonazi web magazines:


The issue we are dealing with in the Bush administration is dual loyalties-the double allegiance of those myriad officials at high and middle levels who cannot distinguish U.S. interests from Israeli interests, who baldly promote the supposed identity of interests between the United States and Israel, who spent their early careers giving policy advice to right-wing Israeli governments and now give the identical advice to a right-wing U.S. government, and who, one suspects, are so wrapped up in their concern for the fate of Israel that they honestly do not know whether their own passion about advancing the U.S. imperium is motivated primarily by America-first patriotism or is governed first and foremost by a desire to secure Israel's safety and predominance in the Middle East through the advancement of the U.S. imperium.  "Dual loyalties" has always been one of those red flags posted around the subject of Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict, something that induces horrified gasps and rapid heartbeats because of its implication of Jewish disloyalty.


The Christison pair claim to have resigned from VIPS in 2003, a cosmic development that they ceremoniously announced in an article in Counterpunch.  Their resignation was, in their own words, explained thus: “We share the disgust of other VIPS members at the aggressive policy direction of this administration and particularly at its distortion and politicization of intelligence. Our disagreement is over methods, not principles….We continue to respect the VIPS organization itself and its purposes.”  They claim they were upset by the VIPS call for Cheney to resign, but a far more credible explanation would seem to be be that the Christisons just resented being outshined and upstaged by VIPS’ Ray McGovern.


The Christison pair devote themselves to demonizing Israel from their home in Santa Fe and they seem to do little else.  They paint Israel as an apartheid state mistreating Arabs, and one would never know from their writings that Arabs in Israel are treated a thousand times better than are Arabs are in Arab countries.  They repeat anti-Semitic conspiracy nonsense about how a cabal of Jews has seized control of the United States.  They denounced the 9-11 Commission report because it failed to blame the 9-11 attacks on the Jews. 


Kathleen Christison has turned justifying Palestinian terrorism into an art form.  Her “expertise” on Palestinians is based upon having taken a couple of short tours through the region over the years.  She constantly plays Orwellian games with words like “terror” and “violence”, so that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip count as “terrorism,” but Palestinians blowing up buses full of Israeli children do not. 


She is a master of the Orwellian inversion: Israeli retaliations cause Palestinian terror attacks and not the other way around; Israelis run around murdering Palestinian civilians for the heck of it, while Hamas terrorists are merely protesting occupation.   It is Israel that is seeking to perpetrateethnocide against a powerless people,” and not the other way around.  Kathleen insists that Palestinians have the right to use terror because THEIR weapons are mere suicide bombs, whereas Israel loses its right to defend itself because IT actually uses helicopters against the terrorists.  Her definition of “terrorism” is flexible, and is constantly adjusted so that Arab and Islamic terror is always legitimized, whereas the only permissible form of self-defense for Israel is to capitulate to terrorist demands.


Kathleen claims the PLO has long ago recognized Israel’s right to exist, something that will no doubt surprise the PLO, and that the Palestinian Authority has even supposedly purged all those anti-Semitic images from the Palestinian textbooks that the Christisons are unwilling and incapable of reading.  Here is a typical example of Christison “fact checking”: “The ISM (International Solidarity Movement, to which Rachel Corrie belonged) has (never) been associated with terrorism of any sort.”  The only Israelis whose right to exist she recognizes are Israel’s extremist far-leftist anti-Zionists, Israel’s equivalents to Noam Chomsky and Ward Churchill.  When it comes to smearing Israel, Christison feels not even the tiniest need to stick to facts.  And she is incapable of parsing statements she hears from Arab propagandists:


“Palestinians in both Palestine and Amman made a point of telling us that Arabs like and respect the American people, have always loved what America stands for, but now hate the U.S. government and its policies. We heard this so often that the message almost became a ritual. It's a sincere message nonetheless.”


Sure it is.  She insists that the near-suicidal offer from Israel’s leftist Prime Minister Ehud Barak to the PLO at Camp David in 2000 was not a generous offer at all, I guess because it did not involve the immediate annihilation of Israel.


Kathleen ran a column devoted to serious discussion of a “report” (meaning a rumor) she heard from an Israeli far-leftist extremist reporter, one who has already been convicted in a court for fabrication (Amira Hass, who is also on record calling for Israel’s elimination), about an Israeli supposedly defecating on a Palestinian photocopying machine.  Forget 9-11, folks, the Christisons have discovered a REAL human rights atrocity!  This alleged morning dump proves that Israel is an immoral society, opines the same columnist who has never denounced a single Palestinian atrocity against Jewish civilians. 


Here is her conclusions from this alleged potty incident (one which no other media outfit reported, by the way):

“Is it anti-Semitic to wonder what happened to the moral compass of a society that spawns a group of young men who will intermingle their own religious and national symbols with feces and urine, as if the drawings and the excrement both constitute valued autographs? Do they think Israeli shit is cleaner, holier than anyone else's? Why are my taxes paying for this army?  How can Palestinians ever make peace in the face of filth and disrespect like this?”

Is it anti-Semitic to conclude that Israel must be destroyed simply because of a rumor that someone crapped on a photocopy machine?  You bet it is! 


The Christisons continue their obsessive interest in the potty functions of Jews, in their newest “Number Two “ commentary in Counterpunch, “Polluting Palestine: The Settlements and their Sewage”.  (You can see that the Christisons have not spent much time touring the Middle East if the only pollution they can locate comes from Israelis.)


And destruction of Israel, with the inevitable accompanying second Holocaust, is openly what the Christison’s advocate.  They do so on Palestinian pro-terror propaganda web sites, where they urge people to think “beyond the existence of Israel as a Jewish state.”   They insist there is no room for people claiming they are “neutral” in the Middle East conflict, supporting the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians.  The only permissible position is one requiring that Israel be annihilated.  Israel is the ONLY country on earth that the Christisons seem to think needs annihilation, although it would not surprise us if one day they were to come out in favor of the elimination of the United States as well.   Singling out Israel, of course, should not make anyone suspect that THEY are anti-Semitic, they reiterate while goosestepping their way through the web.


Kathleen Christison claims that “Palestinians” were historically denied the attention of American statesmen, no doubt due to Jewish influence, going all the way back to Woodrow Wilson.  The great irony of course is that the term “Palestinian” referred to Jews living in the Land of Israel down until 1948, and “Palestinian” Arabs were never regarded by the Arab world as a separate people at all until 1967, when they were Sudetenized and defining them as a “people” turned out to be such a wonderful propaganda bludgeon against Israel. 


The Institute for Historical Review (IHR) is one of the largest neonazi web sites on earth, and proudly calls itself a site of Holocaust Deniers.  Besides serving as cheerleader for deported Canadian nazi Ernst Zundel, it routinely praises and reproduces the work of the Christisons, including their articles denouncing the Jewish “neocons”.  IHR routinely dismisses the Holocaust as a myth, denies that German Nazis ever used gas chambers to commit mass-murder, and insists that Auschwitz was never used for mass execution of Jews.  It has run Christison articles on the exact same pages calling for demonstrations against the Simon Wiesenthal Center.  And IHR is not the only neonazi web site that regular publishes the Christisons.  Others include “Liberty Forum”, Stormfront (white supremacists), and web sites claiming that the Jews actually were behind the 9-11 attacks on the US.


This month, the lead article on the IHR site is a reprint of the Christisons’ article “Travels in Palestine”.  The Christisons do not seem to be bothered by the fact that they are so popular on neonazi web sites, and Alexander Cockburn does not seem to mind sharing so many of his columnists with Holocaust Denial web sites.  (Needless to say, the Chistisons are NOT the ONLY Counterpunch regulars with ties to neonazi web sites and organizations.)  Both Christisons regularly contribute articles not only to Counterpunch, but also to the anti-Jewish and anti-American books edited by Cockburn, which Counterpunch publishes.

Christison has declared US intelligence policy to be a “monstrous mess”.  The very fact that characters like the Christisons and the other extremists once drew their salaries from intelligence services proves better than anything else possibly could what a mess it really is.

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Steven Plaut is a professor at the Graduate School of the Business Administration at the University of Haifa and is a columnist for the Jewish Press. A collection of his commentaries on the current events in Israel can be found on his "blog" at www.stevenplaut.blogspot.com.

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