April 25, 2005
U.S. News and World Report

Hearts, Minds, and Dollars

In an unseen front in the war on terrorism, America is spending change the very face of Islam

by David E. Kaplan

. . . After repeated missteps since the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government has embarked on a campaign of political warfare unmatched since the height of the Cold War. From military psychological-operations teams and CIA covert operatives to openly funded media and think tanks, Washington is plowing tens of millions of dollars into a campaign to influence not only Muslim societies but Islam itself. The previously undisclosed effort was identified in the course of a four-month U.S. News investigation, based on more than 100 interviews and a review of a dozen internal reports and memorandums. Although U.S. officials say they are wary of being drawn into a theological battle, many have concluded that America can no longer sit on the sidelines as radicals and moderates fight over the future of a politicized religion with over a billion followers. The result has been an extraordinary--and growing--effort to influence what officials describe as an Islamic reformation.

Among the magazine's findings:

The White House has approved a classified new strategy, dubbed Muslim World Outreach, that for the first time states that the United States has a national security interest in influencing what happens within Islam. Because America is, as one official put it, "radioactive" in the Islamic world, the plan calls for working through third parties--moderate Muslim nations, foundations, and reform groups--to promote shared values of democracy, women's rights, and tolerance.

In at least two dozen countries, Washington has quietly funded Islamic radio and TV shows, coursework in Muslim schools, Muslim think tanks, political workshops, or other programs that promote moderate Islam. Federal aid is going to restore mosques, save ancient Korans, even build Islamic schools. This broad engagement with Islam has raised questions about whether the funding is legal, given the constitutional line between church and state.

The CIA is revitalizing programs of covert action that once helped win the Cold War, targeting Islamic media, religious leaders, and political parties. The agency is receiving "an exponential increase in money, people, and assets" to help it influence Muslim societies, says a senior intelligence official. Among the tactics: working with militants at odds with al Qaeda and waging secret campaigns to discredit the worst anti-American zealots. . . .

At the peak of the Cold War, the U.S. government fielded a worldwide network of propagandists, publicists, and payoff artists. The United States Information Agency (USIA) ran hundreds of information specialists abroad and produced enough films to rival Hollywood's top studios, all to sell the world on the goodness of America--and the evils of communism. There were USIA-run cultural centers and libraries in foreign capitals, Fulbright Scholarships and other exchange programs from the State Department, plus the broadcasts of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. The CIA's covert payoffs, for better or worse, bought the allegiance of entire political parties in Italy and Japan. Other funds went secretly to sympathetic journalists, scholars, and labor leaders.

Exposes of CIA funding and abuses took their toll starting in the late 1960s, curtailing many of the secret programs.

. . . because America is limited to what it can do in a religious struggle, the nation must rely on partners who share values like democracy, women's rights, and tolerance. Among those partners: allied Muslim states, private foundations, and nonprofit groups.

Approved by President Bush, the Muslim World Outreach strategy is now being implemented across the government. . . .

Officials credit publicly funded programs like the National Endowment for Democracy, which have poured millions into Ukraine and other democratizing nations. . . .

Intelligence operatives have set up bogus jihad websites . . .

Many of the shock troops for America's new war of ideas are coming not from the CIA, nor from the State Department, but from the low-profile U.S. Agency for International Development. . . .

In no country is the effort more pronounced than Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim nation, with 240 million people. . . .

"For us to be doing this is probably unconstitutional," says Herman Schwartz, a constitutional law professor at American University. In 1991, Schwartz and the American Civil Liberties Union won a case against USAID to stop it from funding 20 Catholic and Jewish schools overseas. . . .


Enver Masud, "Millions Spent Subverting 'Enemies', Stifling Dissent," The Wisdom Fund, February 15, 2001

[In the twilight of the Cold War, the United States spent millions of dollars to supply Afghan schoolchildren with textbooks filled with violent images and militant Islamic teachings, part of covert attempts to spur resistance to the Soviet occupation.

The primers, which were filled with talk of jihad and featured drawings of guns, bullets, soldiers and mines, have served since then as the Afghan school system's core curriculum. Even the Taliban used the American-produced books, though the radical movement scratched out human faces in keeping with its strict fundamentalist code.--Joe Stephens and David B. Ottaway, "From U.S., the ABC's of Jihad," Washington Post, March 23, 2002]

[This minuet of political marketing may play well in the west, but not in the Arab world, where the double standards and manipulation are all too plain to see. The Saudi Wahhabis are, after all, fanatics; Egypt's Hosni Mubarak is intolerant of dissent; and Jordan, the state closest to the western ideal, is a marginal player. These countries' appalling human rights records, lack of transparency and repression rank them among the world's least moderate.--Mai Yamani, "These moderates are in fact fanatics, torturers and killers," Guardian, February 6, 2007]

William J. Daugherty, "Executive Secrets: Covert Action And the Presidency," University Press of Kentucky; New Ed edition (May 2006)

["A is for Allah, J is for Jihad."--Mark Graham, "USAID in Afghanistan: Plunderers and Prey,", December 5, 2012]

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