Some sayings pop out of the mind at strange times. I was reading Coll’s Ghost Wars when suddenly the question "'What is truth?' asked jesting Pilate" came into my consciousness. The Sudanese authorities claimed American pressure to get rid of Bin Laden. The American deny this. Whom do you believe?
His book leaves me with a feeling of what a life of innocence I have led. I would like to think I live in a country of innocence but that’s probably not so. David Lange was concerned about electronic snooping. The Rainbow Warrior bombing shows Godzown can be subject to a terrorist attack.
The word ‘lie’ regularly appears in his account of espionage around the roof of Asia during the 1990s. Col claims Bhutto lied to Clinton, and the Pakistan Intelligence lied to her about support for the Taliban. Saudi sent money and men for the cause. In both cases the assumption was that once in power the Taliban would soften their fundamentalist stance. It was not to be. It’s leaders meant what they said. They were not your normal Afghan warlords.
Certainly with the Soviet gone the Clinton administration let CIA operations in Afghanistan wind down. There were no ears and eyes on the ground as the Taliban came to power. Talk of gas and oil pipelines across Afghanistan meant the Afghan people widely believed in a conspiracy that Coll claims did not exist. CIA involvement had stopped but nearly everyone considered it as ongoing.
At the beginning Clinton cut CIA funding and therefore its activities. All part of balancing the budget. The decision to switch to more technological surveillance while cheaper meant fewer personnel. (I think the same thing happened here with policing). It was not till half-way through his time that the rising terrorist threat at home and abroad meant a change of tack.
It could be described as a chapter of accidents. But it always is. For in the long run history is what happened. Over time, theory, hindsight, simplification and distance distort and shape the account. At the moment events occur, complexities, cross-currents, creeds, national and vested interests mix with human needs, vanities, desires and ideas, to shape them.
This morning’s paper, Pakistan military pounding Taliban positions in its NW frontier and Afghans upset over civilian casualties from an American air-strike makes me realise that my so-called state of innocence was mere ignorance and a rather naïve belief in human rationality and fair behaviour.
I do know that as you sow so shall you reap.