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
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
. . . 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," counterpunch.org, December 5,