Ken Silverstein over at Harper's blog is doing a three-part series of expert opinions on the possible role of Iran in the Iraq conflict, and the prospects for a widening war. In today's second edition, he runs the views of two anonymous former CIA officials.
Too often, when current or former officials take a controversial stand, they're punished severely in the loss of income potential and job opportunities. Many former officials have gone into a private sector beholden to government contracts. I have heard more than one story of job offers being rescinded after a particular firm got a phone call from "a major client" informing them that their prospective employee would not be a politically-palatable choice for the opening. (Sorry I can't share any more details.)
The truly free exercise of speech can have the effect of making one the victim of a longterm vendetta--at least until 2008 for those currently suffering. I've actually had discussions with a soon-to-be-former CIA official about writing a book, and his main hesitation results from having seen the punishment meted out against former colleagues.
It's a shame since he has 20+ years of experience, deep knowledge of U.S. successes and failures in the war on terror, and a viewpoint that deserves to be heard.
Public discourse generated by the expert opinion of such knowledgable authorities, even if they criticize the reigning powers, can only be good for a nation constantly striving to achieve the Jeffersonian ideal of democracy.
Sorry, that took a long time to justify why I was citing the anonymous opinions of two former CIA officials, but here are two of their most pointed comments. The rest deserves to be read at Washington Babylon.
Former CIA official, stationed in the Persian Gulf during the first Gulf War and in Iraq after the 2003 invasion:
"I don't think the administration is about to carry out military action. The military does not want to do this. We will lose planes if there is a massive air strike over Iran, we'll have pilots killed and captured. Iran has a lot of ways to hurt us. If they decide to come after uniformed personnel in Iraq, or more easily, civilians and contractors, things could quickly get out of hand. You could have kidnappings or a mass casualty attack—they drove us out of Lebanon in the 1980s; a mass casualty attack like the Marine barracks bombing would likely be the end in Iraq."
Former senior CIA official with broad experience in the Middle East:
"Despite differences between Shiites and Sunnis, a U.S. attack on Iran would be viewed in the region as the fifth in a series of American wars against Islam—after Afghanistan, Iraq, Hamas, and Hezbollah. Iran and its supporters will seek to respond, including through attacks on Israel. An American strike poses a huge threat to Israel, which I'm not sure the administration has thought through. It will also destabilize pro-American regimes in the region, solidify the jihadists in Iraq, and unify Iranians around their government."