In many books that I have read, as I am sure you have too, whether they are novels or historical accounts, they confirmed how Spies were always an integral part of any government be it the Greek, Roman, Persian, Arab, Ottoman or all the other Empires, and that they were mainly used for infiltrating the “enemy,” whomever that happened to be. Twenty-one centuries into our existence on this planet and it is still the same. This should not be surprising since we humans have not altered neither our basic behavior, nor the way we conduct our affairs. Simply put, we have replaced etching on cave walls with typing on keyboards; and we replaced sending out smoke signals and drumbeats to warn of enemy activity with Spies of all kinds: drones, satellites, bots, cameras, humans and what have you. Yes, indeed, we are using modern gizmos instead of stone-age tools to achieve a similar objective. Clichéd: The more things change, the more they are the same, aren’t they?
Estelle Getty, Sophia, on the funny television series: Golden Girls, used to say: “Let me tell you a story. Sicily 1912. Picture this.” So, I’m going to adopt her words today and say: Let me tell you a story. Beirut in the fifties and sixties. Picture this . . . American CIA operatives (almost always known in little Beirut where there was nothing really covert) languishing at the St. George Beach Club (and many of Beirut’s bars), living “la vida loca,” drinking and frolicking around, talking to their “informants” who were mostly unscrupulous journalists, petty businessmen and corrupt politicians . . . and at the end of the day typing their reports to their bosses in Washington, DC who formulated some of their policies, assassinations, revolutions and wars based on these flimsy, superficial interpretations of regional politics. Do we wonder why then the Middle East (other than Communism, Oil and Israel) is in a shambles?! And, after the Civil War devastated that comfortable oasis in Lebanon, the Spies just packed up and moved to another sanctuary in Dubai!
The CIA has always solicited informants to learn things and to counter their eternal nemesis: “Soviet sponsored messaging and propaganda.” This Soviet messaging doesn’t seem to have been very successful, though, since we’re not all Communists, right?? Perhaps we merely get off on creating a threat, whatever that is, in order to be in a state of perpetual war? Anyway, Writers and Activists were a very good source for “The Company.” Gloria Steinem, one of the icons of the Women’s Liberation Movement, was once one of their informants who, after she quit, said that the CIA during her time was “liberal, non-violent and honorable.” I do not doubt that many, if not most, of the CIA (FBI, police, security etc. etc.) agents and employees are honest, patriotic people with integrity and honor. However, there are also some – mainly in the upper echelons – who have been overtaken by hubris and lust for power, and who are besmirching “The Company” and causing many of the American people, as well as the international community, to believe that they have become just another corrupt tool of the US Government. Hubris is dangerous! Always has been!
Some of the well-known Spies that we are aware of: Ian Fleming, who caused us to fall in love with that suave Spy, James Bond; Roald Dahl, who it is said, slept his way to gathering information from numerous women; Ernest Hemingway, who, it is said, also spied for the Russians; Frederick Forsyth; Graham Greene; John le Carre; Noel Coward and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. These guys, like their counterparts on Beirut’s beaches, seem to have lived – in retrospect, of course – those dashing, romantic, café-dwelling, bar-hopping, womanizing days of Spydom!
Should we be so naïve as to think that our CIA and our FBI do not solicit Writers and Activists anymore? That they don’t have agents working in all venues of our media? That they have not infiltrated organizations and activist associations? That human beings remain one of their most important “assets?” No, for not much has changed since the fifties and sixties!
All sorts of espionage and counter-espionage are going on in our world, and all the major world players are playing this creepy game and following the same basic script. The US is not the only country to have ever done this. However, the US believes that It, and only It, is allowed to do this. So we get mortified when we find out that we do not hold any exclusive rights to this enterprise of suspicion, intrigue and secrets. How naïve and arrogant is that?
In today’s world, when we go on social media, in any of its forms, we are being spied upon by numerous sources, whether they are advertisers, our surveillance industry, or foreign spy agencies et al. Here, in the US, government spying is being executed in collaboration with the head honchos of the social media corporations. However, when we agree to the “Terms and Conditions” of all these companies, we have automatically agreed to be spied upon, because somewhere unobtrusive and written in slick legalese language, is our permission for them to do so.
Moreover, nowadays, Spydom, as well as other organizations, also use/subsidize Hollywood and television movie creations. These productions generally demonstrate how efficiently and conscientiously these organizations operate; how heroic, ethical and moral they are. And there is no doubt in my mind that they largely execute their work ethically, while their successes and achievements mostly go unnoticed, and the corrupt individuals and behaviors in their ranks get the most notoriety. This is, of course, very unfair. However, it also proves that because all such enterprises are made up of ordinary members from our society there are bound to be those amongst them who are rotten, racist, corrupt and driven by their ideology, greed and/or personal gratification just the same as it is amongst the regular population.
There are also those amongst us, the ordinary population, who take great pleasure in undermining law enforcement across the board. This is hysteria, for I do not even want to imagine a world where there is no law enforcement, and believe me, you wouldn’t want to either if you have ever been in a Civil War! However, I do not want a law enforcement that shoots unarmed black kids and men because of racism; or a law enforcement that silences protests and protesters; nor one that hauls people off to jail for no reason and just because they are in cahoots with the corporate for-profit jails that we have. The recent Cop Corruption case in Baltimore is just one example of how our police can become abusers and law-breakers. The same is said about the cops in Chicago, as well as in San Francisco. That is truly unacceptable, because what we want, and need, is a law enforcement that is based on democratic law, whether it is our cops, the CIA, FBI, or any other governmental agency. So how do we stop law enforcement from becoming a corrupt and oppressive tool?
The primary cure for eradicating corruption on all levels rests, mainly, on our shoulders and behaviors as human beings, and one way to express our discontent is to voice it out loudly, to participate in our communities in whatever capacity, to be really aware, and to vote for honest people to represent us in government. In order to do that, we have to remove our blinders and stop being “sheeple” who can be swayed this way, or that, or the other. This is not as easy as it sounds because we are all emotional beings, and I am as guilty as the next person of sometimes making bad judgments.
Meanwhile: Picture this. A World waking up and deciding that all Wars, Terror and the Promotion of Violence have to come to an end, and that Justice, Transparency, Negotiations and Compromises must become what shapes our existence and destiny. Judging from the view across this sorry planet, it does not seem as if we are all calming down, lowering the heat and letting the steam out off the pressure cooker that is our stressed world! Ah, Maturity, Wisdom and Reason! You have sadly been replaced by more war-mongering, hate, scandals, suspicion, tribalism and more Spies! To what sordid end? Only for more malfeasance and unnecessary tragedy.
1 thought on “Spies”
OMG! Roald Dahl??!! I had no idea..I’ve got some research to do.
A book you might enjoy: “Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Ernest Hemingway’s Secret Adventures, 1935-1961” The author is local and practices yoga at the studio where I go.
Jeez, with all the security cameras in every inch of the world, you’d think spying has become irrelevant!