"Everyone is entitled to my opinion!" could be the motto of Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA's bin Laden unit. Regularly showing up on American television, Scheuer is good as a talkative churl spewing calumnies on whatever political figure in the war on terror news hosts want defamed, always enthusiastically addressing the person being spoken to as "Sir!"
Scheuer's "Sir!" is all purpose. It's used as a sign of courtesy or disdain. On news shows, where the hosts always treat Scheuer well, it's polite. In front of a sometimes vaguely hostile Congressional panel, recent transcripts indicate it sometimes comes out as a mock.
We've screwed up in Afghanistan. "I think Afghanistan is over for us," Scheuer has said recently. "The only thing we'll be able to do really is get out of there without it looking like Saigon."
Another recent Scheuer message is that a nuclear hit is a sure thing. "These people [al Qaeda] are going to detonate a nuclear device inside the United States, and we‘re going to have absolutely nothing to respond against," Scheuer said in one widely republished news segment.
More interesting, however, is Scheuer popping off to Congressmen before a couple of subcommittee's on human rights and government oversight in April of this year. It is contained in the transcript of "Extraordinary Rendition in US Counterterrorism Policy: The Impact on Transatlantic Relations," distributed to the Internet, most notably by Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists' Secrecy Project and Cryptome.Org.
While some relative nobody from the Center for Strategic and International Studies' European program was also asked to contribute, Scheuer is the primary witness as the man who created and ran the CIA's extraordinary rendition program from 1995 to 1999. One can read the transcript for his views on it - Scheuer supports it wholeheartedly, doesn't think torture is effective but doesn't care if terrorists are tortured because they're not American and they're enemies.
However, the transcript is long and invites a condensation which accumulates Scheuer (FAS' Aftergood describes him as "volatile" in a recent bulletin. which is a gentlemanly description) for its hilarity.
Since Congress is about theatre as much as or more than it is about political oversight, alert readers will want to know that during the hearing, which addressed the impression in Europe that the US is a torturer, Dana Rohrabacher, a reactionary Republican from Orange County, California, became obsessed with being called "Adolph Eichmann."
"Today, I have been called Adolph Eichmann," complained Rohrabacher. "I am the Adolph Eichmann, of course. And my father who went out to fight World War II and save our European friends, I guess he was part of the Eichmann brigade."
When Rohrabacher uses "European friends" what he really means is "European milksops," this being a common trope from the less well-informed shires of our great nation, like Orange County, California. The hearing, ostensibly to discuss how the US's image in Europe has been damaged by extraordinary rendition and how to fix it, actually carried a strong stink of defensive anti-Europeanism.
"Our European friends have something against the death penalty for mass murderers, even for the Eichmanns of the world. I have been called Eichmann today...," continued Rohrabacher until interrupted by the committee chairman, a Democrat, who informs him the person who'd snuck into the peanut gallery to name-call the politician had been ejected.
During the hearing, Scheuer gives his opinion on Europe following a short discussion that the US is finding it has to go it alone in the war on terror due to - duh - image problems. "The Europeans always have seem to have to wait for us to take the tough stand..." opines Rohrabacher stoically, leading Scheuer to indicate he believes we can win the so-called GWOT all by ourselves.
A Democrat asks why.
"Yes sir. Americans can do anything," replies Scheuer.
"Europe is a declining continent," he continues. "Its demographics are going over the edge. There are two popular and permitted bigotries in Europe, anti-Americanism and and anti-Roman Catholicism." ("You are very reasonable, and you are catholic," a Democrat says to Scheuer, at one point. "I am much that way myself," he adds.)
"Indeed, it is passing strange that European leaders are here today about a very successful and security-enhancing US counterterrorist operation when their European Union presides over the single largest terrorist safe haven... The EU's policy of easily obtainable political asylum and its prohibition against deporting wanted or convicted terrorists to a country with a death penalty have made Europe a major, consistent and invulnerable source of terrorist threat to the United States," reads another Scheuer rant.
The extraordinary rendition program should not be destroyed because of "venal and prize hungry reporters," "grandstanding politicians" and "sanctimonious Europeans," said Scheuer, censoring his prepared remarks ever-so-slightly from the original and more piquant "effete sanctimonious Europeans."
After attacking Bill Clinton and Richard Clarke, Scheuer turns to the newsmedia for its reporting on rendition.
"Very interesting," says the Democratic chairman. "And the media - the media is aiding and abetting."
"Without question, sir" replies Scheuer.
A gratuitous Scheuer slur is also reserved for former FBI counterror chief John O'Neill, who died in the WTC on 9/11: "I think I said the only good thing that happened to America on 11 September was that the building fell on him, sir."
Near the end of the hearing, Syria is brought up in connection with Maher Arar, a man who was rendered to that country and "tortured without due process" according to the transcript. (Arar was apologized to by the Canadian government which was complicit in the action, and was paid $10 million after Canada found he was not linked to terrorism.)
Syria was sanctioned by the Bush administration and, according to Scheuer, released Arar "to stick their finger into the eye of the United States."
"Why did we sanction Syria?" asks a Democrat.
"They are the world's greatest enemy I understand from my childhood." ®
George Smith is a Senior Fellow at GlobalSecurity.org, a defense affairs think tank and public information group. At Dick Destiny, he blogs his way through chemical, biological and nuclear terror hysteria, often by way of the contents of neighborhood hardware stores.