Counter-Terrorism: April 29, 2005

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The CIA is quietly using money to attack Islamic radicals where they live, literally. In the Arab world, using cash as a weapon is an ancient custom. Subsidize people who oppose the same people you oppose. Sometimes its obvious, as in Saudi Arabia, where most clergy are on the state payroll, and are expected to adhere to government policy when they preach. When Saudi Arabian diplomats first came to the United States, and discovered lobbyists, they felt right at home. Arab countries have long been good customers of American public relations firms. For a long time, the United States did not send money in the other direction. Arab countries tend to control their local media rather strictly. Besides, in the past, America got what it wanted through diplomacy, and didnt bother with manipulating public opinion.

The war on terror changed all that. The Islamic radicals are a minority, but they are a loud minority. And once they became violent, especially outside their own countries, it became important to make Islamic moderates more powerful, and better able to drown out the Islamic radicals. A lot of the CIAs efforts are performed openly. Money is donated to repair mosques and other religious buildings. Help is provided to preserve religious documents and artifacts. Its difficult for the Islamic radicals to condemn this, and when they do, it makes the radicals look bad. American money is also going to support secular education. The success of madrassahs (religious schools) in inducing Moslem children to become terrorists is largely due to dropping practical subjects (reading, writing, math and science) in favor of more scripture study and lots of  indoctrination in the ways of terrorism. Traditionally, madrassahs were regular schools, that also taught religious subjects. But in many Moslem countries, schooling is not free, and parents are willing to send their kids to madrassahs run by Islamic radicals. When given an alternative, they will send the children to schools that prepare them for productive adulthood, not a short career as a terrorist. 

The CIA has also sent money to organizations that back economic and political reform in the Moslem world. The CIA also helps established Arab language websites that provide useful information on how to press for reform without getting arrested. Even NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) that send people to help locals learn about implementing democracy and more effective economies, have a hard time getting into many Moslem countries (where the current rulers are often violently opposed to any of these radical ideas.) 

The CIA also uses the web for more direct counter-terrorism efforts, like establishing web sites that appear to be pro-terrorist, but are only trying to collect information on those interested in becoming terrorists, or supporting them. These web sites also provide a useful way to gage how effective all their other efforts are. Chat rooms and message boards can be monitored. You can also monitor chat rooms and message boards in real terrorist web sites, but these are sometimes difficult to get into.

The CIA has long been accused, in the Moslem world, of using cash, bribes and false fronts to shift public opinion. Now they are doing it, so theres not much ruckus about it in the Arab media. Its old news, and all the lies of the past are providing the CIA with useful cover to do some effective counter-terrorism work.

 


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