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Special Reports

US intelligence and propaganda bodies re-targeted at Muslims

M.S. Ahmed

Two recent low-key reports, which appear to have been largely ignored by the international media, despite their importance, indicate that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Voice of America (VOA) are to be reorganised. The purpose of this reorganisation is to deny Muslims access to sophisticated weapons technology, and to recast Uncle Sam’s deteriorating image in Arab countries by targeting young VOA listeners. The CIA will have a brand-new IT-based department dealing exclusively with non-proliferation programmes as well as ‘international terrorism’, and the VOA will expand and refocus its Arabic broadcasts, while curtailing services in ten other languages in order to fund the expansion.

It has been the long-established policy of successive US administrations to deny Muslim countries access to weapons-technology and non-conventional arms by the exertion of diverse forms of pressure on states that do have them. This pressure has increased dramatically in recent years as result of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the collapse of the Soviet Union and Pakistan’s acquisition of the atom bomb: a first for any Muslim country. Washington is afraid that the vast nuclear arsenal of the former Soviet Union might be sold to what it is pleased to call “rogue states”, such as Iran and Iraq, or stolen by ‘Islamic terrorists’. It also dreads the prospect of the many now-unemployed nuclear scientists of the former Soviet Union being hired by those states or ‘terrorists’. There is the additional fear that China and North Korea might be tempted to sell their weapons and expertise, while Pakistan might decide to share its new capability with fellow Muslim countries.

Washington has resorted to several types of pressure to prevent all this from happening. They include threats and bribery in the case of potential suppliers of nuclear weapons technology, and ‘containment’ and demonisation as far as prospective recipients are concerned. Washington, for instance, spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year on joint programmes with Russia, in order to prevent former Soviet nuclear, biological and chemical weapons from falling into the ‘wrong hands’, while publicly warning Moscow not to sell nuclear technology to Iran or Iraq even for civilian purposes, or else. Similar tactics are adopted against China, which is bribed with trading opportunities with the US and membership of the WTO not to pass on such technology, missiles and rockets to ‘rogue states’ such as Iraq, Iran and Libya, which are demonised as supporters of ‘international terrorism’ and are subject to economic sanctions.

North Korea is treated with less respect by Washington, which nevertheless tempts it with the prospect of an end to its isolation. The Americans have even encouraged South Korea to open reconciliation-talks with the communist northerners, who have been a sworn enemy for decades. In return North Korea is expected not to sell nuclear, biological or chemical weapons to ‘rogue states’, and also to refrain from helping Pakistan to develop its new nuclear technology. Russia and China are also urged not to give similar assistance to Pakistan, which is constantly warned by Washington not to carry out further tests to develop its technology.

The determination of the US to keep Muslims disarmed is shown by the enormous amounts of money that it spends each year to prevent former Soviet non-conventional weapons and technology from falling into Muslims’ hands. According to a report in the International Herald Tribune on March 30, Washington “spends more than $760 million a year trying to dismantle former Soviet biological and chemical complexes and prevent unconventional weapons and hazardous materials from being either sold to rogue states and terrorist groups or stolen by them.” Washington’s readiness to see millions of Iraqis die before it agrees to the end of UN sanctions is another example of that determination. The US wants Iraq to agree to the inspection of its arsenals by UN inspectors before it agrees to lift the sanctions.

But despite this determination Washington cannot hope to succeed in its mission — partly carried out in Israel’s interests — unless it has the intelligence capability not only to track down the shipment of weapons or transfer of technology, but also to anticipate contacts and negotiations before they can lead to deals. It must also be able to to assess the arsenals of the suspected suppliers and their reasons for parting with them in the first place. This is where the reorganisation of the CIA comes in. US official announcements and media reports naturally do not give details, but it is clear that a new department, equipped with the latest information technology and dealing exclusively with non-proliferation and ‘anti-terrorism’ programmes, is to be established.

Intelligence capability is not, however, enough in itself, and the US propaganda machine is also being overhauled to supplement the CIA mission by presenting Uncle Sam as a friend of Muslims, instead of the arrogant enemy he is perceived in Muslim countries at the moment to be. Washington’s effort to demonise Islamic groups as terrorists and Muslim countries as rogue states has clearly backfired: it is the US that is now seen to be the terrorist and rogue state, especially because of its crimes against the Iraqi people and its unqualified support for Israel against the Palestinians.

The VOA, the world’s second-largest external broadcaster after the BBC, is expanding its Arabic-language broadcasts under a plan awaiting approval by the independent board that regulates US government radio outlets. According to a newspaper report on April 4, “VOA will broadcast round the clock throughout the Arab world, targeting much of its programming to the under-30 crowd that is most likely to blame the US for the region’s ills.” At present VOA broadcasts for only seven hours of Arabic-language programmes a day, and has managed to attract a small number of Arab listeners. To generate the necessary funds, VOA plans to cut down its broadcasts in ten other languages. Nearly $4 million of the $5.5 million saved so are to be used to finance the restructuring of the Arabic-language programme.

The US state department will also intensify its propaganda effort, particularly in relation to the exploitation of ‘human rights’ and ‘democratic values’ to demonise foreign governments that it does not approve of, according to Colin Powell, US secretary of state. In a speech to the National Newspaper Association in Washington at the beginning of April, he vowed to “fight for worldwide press freedom”. He praised the state department’s annual Human Rights Report for its role “not long ago” in exposing violations in Cuba, Iraq, Libya and the Sudan. He then took a swipe at Iran, where, he said, “dozens of newspaper offices were closed in the past year, and a number of Iran’s most prominent journalists and editors were harassed.”

Powell finally promised that the state department would act vigorously when other countries (mostly Muslim, no doubt) violated “the universal standards of freedom and individual liberty that God has given to every man, woman and child on the face of the earth.” It is surely not too rude to remind Powell that it is the US, not the Muslim countries which he is raring to fight, that is violating the “universal standards of freedom and individual liberty” of every Black American man, woman and child, and that he should therefore join the civil-rights movement there. After all, George W. Bush, in whose name Powell has vowed to defend human rights, made a habit, when he was governor of Texas, of endorsing the execution of Black men who were often later found not to have committed the crimes of which they had been convicted.

Article from

Crescent International Vol. 30, No. 4

Muharram 22, 14222001-04-16

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