Sunday, March 29, 2009

Time to Talk of CIA Regime Change in Sudan?

Time to Talk of CIA Regime Change in Sudan?

No less than Mr. Axis-of Evil himself, Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, is advocating “a thoughtful strategy that leads, step by step, to a government in Sudan that values the people of Darfur. . . .”

“This does not necessarily mean regime change,” Gerson wrote in his March 25 Washington Post column, “but it probably requires Bashir change — the emergence of a Sudanese leadership willing to start anew.”

Decapitation is the term of art. Since military intervention is out of the question (for too many reasons to list here), I guess that means calling in the CIA. You can’t use the Peace Corps for this.

Something like the Iran op in 1953, I guess he’s thinking. It was relatively bloodless. The CIA worked so fast in the overthrow of the socialist Mohammed Mossadeq the shah hardly had time to pin the medals on his jacket. Iran’s oil was safely back in our hands, for about 25 years. Nothing last forever.

“I’m a great believer in covert action,” says a veteran CIA station chief who retired a few years ago (and never lets me use his name). “By that I don’t mean sending military people in there and killing everybody. Something more subtle . . . Doing things that weaken the dictatorship’s control of the media is good.”

You fabricate unflattering articles for the newspapers and radio stations. At its best, people begin to laugh at the dictator. He’s toast.

But you need somebody to replace him. (Tyrants are so 20th century) Someone like Lech Walesa, the Solidarity union leader in Poland. The roughly handsome, mustachioed shipyard worker was a poster boy for democracy.

Walesas are rare.

“The problem is finding a guy the State Department approves of,” says the former station chief. “They always want a ‘moderate.’ They complained that the guys we used to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan were bad guys, and we should use ‘moderates.’ Well, we said, ‘Great, but the problem with moderates is that they don’t fight, and they can’t run the country.’ You end up with guys like [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai or Ahmad Chalabi [the neocon-backed Iraqi exile who fed phony intelligence to the White House and news media].

“They picked those guys and look what’s happened,” he said. “They want some guy in Florida who speaks English, has a beard and wears a turban and wants to go home.”

Coups usually have bad, long-term consequences, argues Haviland Smith, who was involved with Iran and spent a career working against the Soviet Union.

“Try to find any example of a covert op (regime change) that ultimately ended up favorable to the USA,” Smith said in an e-mail Friday. He pointed me to a piece he just published in American Diplomacy on the same subject.