A Link, and a Book
Here’s a fun and exciting link (sorry, it’s in Arabic): The Iraqi Legal Database.
This website is phase one of an ambitious project to put all of Iraq’s history of law-making (1917-present) on a searchable and user-friendly online database that is open and free for all. It shall be complemented at a later date with things like court decisions and legal briefs.
This is an invaluable resource for lawyers, parliamentarians, researchers and the general public. The United Nations paid for it, and really this is about the only good thing the UN has done for Iraq. But being a UN enterprise, one finds all sorts of glitches—the Saddam-era anti-Baha’i laws are filed under laws regulating prostitution, for example—that I hope will get rectified over time.
Before people can demand their rights, they must know of their rights, and this is a great place to start.
I’m about to finish a terrific book detailing what it means to work for something as institutionally dysfunctional as the Central Intelligence Agency: The Human Factor, by Ishmael Jones (Encounter Books, 2008).
This book had to be written, and the author (who uses a pseudonym) has done his former organization and his country a great service, probably greater than all the espionage work that he’s performed over a span of two decades.
As someone who, whether I’m being paranoid or not, felt victimized, and continues to be a victim, of the CIA’s petty vindictiveness, reading this delicious book tasted like the sweetest revenge I could have imagined against my shadowy tormenters.
This should be an instant classic for the spy world, and I’ve never seen anything like it that authentically strips away the fake cosmetic glamour of that archaically bureaucratic world.
Okay, so it’s not the best writing sample you’ll come across, and the editing is a bit spotty, but my oh my, the stories! The stories that Mr. Jones tells! Truth to power, baby!
Valerie Plame is in there, as is Georgie Tenet’s manipulation of the media who served as willing dupes in passing the blame buck from the laps of the CIA’s managers onto the White House.
Jones makes some great insights into the CIA station in Baghdad, which, for me at least, illuminated a weird pattern that I never understood. Many of the CIA guys in Baghdad were young, and good. Really good. I was jealous and worried by how good they were; they were rivals serving an institution that my colleagues and I had battled with. But every few months, whenever they built institutional momentum, and seemed about to take off, something would happen and their output would turn poor and sloppy. I had hoped that these new CIA guys, forged in the furnace of Baghdad, would one day rise through the ranks and transform the agency. This hope is echoed in Jones’ book, but in reality, the system is gamed to favor the bureaucracy, which has grown even more corrupt than the olden days as Congress throws more money its way.
I fear that CIA will follow the model of British intelligence, especially in regards to the Middle East: they will turn into mercenaries working on the tab of the Gulf’s super-rich, rather than furthering US policy and interests. And who will hold them accountable? Congress? The media? Obama? Yeah, right.
No, they will get away with it, as they’ve been doing for decades. The good officers will resign, or fall into career-ruining bureaucratic traps. If 911 wasn’t enough to shake things up, then nothing will.