a Ronald Thomas West assessment
CIA veteran Melvin Goodman on David Ignatius: “The mainstream media’s apologist for the Central Intelligence Agency”
Glenn Greenwald on David Ignatius: “The CIA’s spokesman at The Washington Post”
Body of Lies
I’d been perusing titles at ‘Books in Berlin’ (an English language bookstore) somewhat absent-mindedly, but noticing quite a few titles dedicated to international intrigue. I suppose that should come as no surprise, there are many CIA and other English fluent ‘spooks’ in town, as well they must have quite a few local acquaintances and it is reasonable to assume they’d be interested in ‘shop-craft’ reading.
I had no particular interest in the fiction side of the game, it is difficult enough to sort through the propaganda and disinformation rife in non-fiction titles, but then a book I happened to glance inside the front cover caught my eye.
“Body of Lies is fiction but reads like fact. CIA officers admire [author David] Ignatius because more than any other writer he understands the nuances of their trade – fascinating” -George Tenent, former CIA director.
‘Well then, why not’ was my thought and I purchased the used paperback Body of Lies.
If George Tenent was accurate in his assessment of the book, and there is no reason to expect otherwise, he’d have done the agency a favor to have kept his mouth shut.
But first, the author. It has been a very long time since quality fiction has been appreciated, and David Ignatius adds to the thought. Though not as cheesy as, say, The Da Vinci Code (a profound disappointment) the quality is far short of classic American literature. It is not so much a phenomena of dearth of quality writers in modern American literature, so much as it seems there is a dearth of readers who can appreciate quality, which sadly is no longer seen in best selling works, we have not seen a Washington Irving in quite some time. David Ignatius is no Washington Irving and Body of Lies is no ‘Astoria’ .. but is better (not by much) than Dan Brown’s cheese that passes for literature.
If Body of Lies accurately depicts CIA covert operatives and actions, as Tenent claims, I should recommend the book as a lesson in why CIA is about as useful to my nation as the folk proverb ‘tits on a boar.’ Other than revealing his taste for crass literary shallowness, Tenent also should have kept his mouth shut because what he authenticates has endorsed:
1) Cowboy culture and mentality. Throughout, there is a hackneyed and simplistic theme of ‘if we kill first, they won’t kill us’ coupled with the idea ‘what the politicians don’t know (breaking laws, committing murders), won’t hurt them (or us)’ leading to:
2) CIA operations officers who are culturally so self-centered, narcissistic and vain, there is no qualm felt whatsoever at sending repentant jihadists, even innocents into intrigues, as pawns in circumstance that more often than not gets them killed, to further any objective, no matter how minimal or trivial the gain; attended by the thinking 2 wrongs or 10 wrongs or 100 wrongs can add up to make something ‘right’ for the American people (by a virtually lawless CIA.)
One gets a sense the author/book deliberately cheats certain social realities to promote a fantasy ideology, and one gets this is how a ‘body of lies’ so to speak, is fed to the agency’s fans who worship this author.
The simplistic protagonist is a CIA officer with a ‘conscience’ who falls for the books heroine who does charity work in refugee camps, with plot set in the radicalized Islamic world of the ‘war on terror.’ She works on his head with a principled demand he cannot be CIA and have a future with her because someone has to be the ‘good American face’ with a demonstrable commitment to social justice for the Palestinians. But this aspect of the plot altogether fails to convince because the author hammers on a theme of ‘they all want to kill us’ [Americans] without any delving AT ALL into the WHY.
There is zero honest history presented (zero history in fact, as though it were too embarrassing to present to the reader) of the long time habit of the CIA and other western intelligence agencies manipulation and exploitation of the Islamic world on behalf of western economic models (corporate boards) with deceits, corruption and violence.
In this novel, Murder Inc (CIA) happily runs amok murdering with patriotic spin, while going after Murder Inc Jr (Al Qaida) with no end in sight and no honest attending story line of how we had arrived in this circumstance.
Our CIA operational officer protagonist dutifully follows orders he knows will get people killed without cause, rhyme or reason, repeatedly, and demonstrates little conscience in this regard, if only it might lead to one more ‘tip’ and in fact it is obvious he (or the author) only is capable of caring when it comes to the woman he thinks he wants to fuck, a portrait in actuality of a sociopath (at odds with any suggestion the man has real feelings.) Her character is developed almost entirely on chauvinist habit of perception, what a great lay she should be, and no aspect of her ‘caring’ in the purported Palestinian social cause is developed, bringing across the idea the author (and his fans) are in fact incapable of any depth in this regard.
The sympathy for Islam set in the book is mainly based in admiration for duplicity, and emphasizes the idea Islamic culture is based on a principle of ‘dissembling’, and there is no ‘ordinary’ Muslim character developed in any depth or sense of a sympathetic human understanding (other than admired as a fellow killer in the trade.) In fact the books ‘happily ever after’ ending strongly sends the message there is none, and cannot ever be, any American with Muslim heritage accepted as a patriot or trusted to work honestly for CIA.
Body of Lies would be excellent reading for the ideologically driven intelligence agent who wished to keep his or her head in the sand and promote killing without conscience, all the while maintaining the self-deceit a worthwhile action and patriotic goal is pursuit of western economic domination (modern corporate board colonialism.)
In fact the novel, Body of Lies, is at its heart Islamophobic. It is small wonder the neo-conservative criminal George Tenent has endorsed what amounts to a shallow and ignorant work serving as a propaganda tool as much as anything, if there were to be any useful description of this novel, subsequently made into a movie. The book appeals to a visceral chauvinism, excusing every criminal excess in a guise of patriotism. That David Ignatius is considered to be a responsible reporter on intelligence issues generally, and CIA particularly, points to how widespread ‘information operations’ have been turned loose on the American public, essentially proselytizing naked aggression far beyond buying reporters, as well proselytizing agency personnel:
“The emails also show that the CIA asked the Post‘s Ignatius to speak at a May 2012 off-the-record conference, “Political Islam’s Future: Challenges, Choices, and Uncertainties,” for U.S. government intelligence analysts and policymakers. The invitation was extended in an email from the press office, which said that the conference organizers “would like you to draw upon the insight from your field experience, reporting, and broad network of contacts during the lead up to the Arab Spring to share how journalists sense that major political, social, or religious changes are in the making.””
The tripe Ignatius writes for CIA is clearly ‘institutional’ propaganda-