The Independent, from 22 October 1995:
For decades in art circles it was either a rumour or a joke, but now it is confirmed as a fact. The Central Intelligence Agency used American modern art - including the works of such artists as Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko - as a weapon in the Cold War. In the manner of a Renaissance prince - except that it acted secretly - the CIA fostered and promoted American Abstract Expressionist painting around the world for more than 20 years.
The connection is improbable. This was a period, in the 1950s and 1960s, when the great majority of Americans disliked or even despised modern art - President Truman summed up the popular view when he said: “If that’s art, then I’m a Hottentot.” As for the artists themselves, many were ex-communists barely acceptable in the America of the McCarthyite era, and certainly not the sort of people normally likely to receive US government backing.
Why did the CIA support them? Because in the propaganda war with the Soviet Union, this new artistic movement could be held up as proof of the creativity, the intellectual freedom, and the cultural power of the US. Russian art, strapped into the communist ideological straitjacket, could not compete.
Initially, more open attempts were made to support the new American art. In 1947 the State Department organised and paid for a touring international exhibition entitled “Advancing American Art”, with the aim of rebutting Soviet suggestions that America was a cultural desert. But the show caused outrage at home, prompting Truman to make his Hottentot remark and one bitter congressman to declare: “I am just a dumb American who pays taxes for this kind of trash.” The tour had to be cancelled.
The US government now faced a dilemma. This philistinism, combined with Joseph McCarthy’s hysterical denunciations of all that was avant-garde or unorthodox, was deeply embarrassing. It discredited the idea that America was a sophisticated, culturally rich democracy. It also prevented the US government from consolidating the shift in cultural supremacy from Paris to New York since the 1930s. To resolve this dilemma, the CIA was brought in.
The connection is not quite as odd as it might appear. At this time the new agency, staffed mainly by Yale and Harvard graduates, many of whom collected art and wrote novels in their spare time, was a haven of liberalism when compared with a political world dominated by McCarthy or with J Edgar Hoover’s FBI. If any official institution was in a position to celebrate the collection of Leninists, Trotskyites and heavy drinkers that made up the New York School, it was the CIA.
While the killing of Osama bin Laden may help protect the U.S. from terrorism, as much or more credit should go to the Obama administration’s decision to shut down the Bush-era CIA interrogation program. Under this secret program, the details of which are still not fully disclosed, the U.S. abandoned the rule of law and embraced a system of detention and interrogation that was not only illegal and immoral, but severely damaged U.S. national security.
In fact, each time the U.S. has strayed from core values there have been national security consequences. Senior military officials report that foreign fighters joined the war in Iraq following the release of the Abu Ghraib abuse photos, and the continued existence of Guantanamo has been used as a recruiting tool for al Qaeda. Earlier this year when a detainee died at Guantanamo of apparently natural causes, the fact that it happened at Guantanamo made it a major focal point for anti-U.S. and militant propaganda. The Taliban issued a statement condemning the U.S. for violating international law and thousands attended his funeral in Afghanistan.
We will never know how much information the U.S. lost because it failed to use time-tested, effective, and humane methods of interrogation. We will never know how many years earlier bin Laden could have been captured and how many lives spared if, instead of whisking them off to a prison outside the law, the U.S. had instead charged Mohammed and al Libi in federal courts and treated them properly and in accordance with due process. We do know that bin Laden’s death does not end the threat terrorists pose to the U.S. and other nations. But we also know that the best way to guard against future attack is by rejecting the use of torture outright and staying faithful to the rule of law and basic tenets of decency. This is true not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it works."
Prasow is a senior counsel in Human Rights Watch’s Terrorism and Counterterrorism Program and previously served as defense attorney with the Office of Military Commissions and assistant counsel for Salim Hamdan in the only contested military commission trial to date.
Media outlets publish incorrect name of the station head as relations worsen between spy agencies
Fresh tension has erupted between the CIA and Pakistani intelligence after several Pakistani media outlets published the alleged name of the CIA station chief in Islamabad.
Two senior Pakistani officials said the name published, Mark Carlton, was incorrect, but one said it was similar to the real one.
Despite the inaccuracy, publication of the name was seen as a sign of worsening relations between the two spy agencies a week after the death of Osama bin Laden in a garrison town north of Islamabad.
The CIA chief, Leon Panetta, said last week that he did not warnPakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) about the raid because he feared the information could leak in advance, prompting furious ISI denials of complicity.
Publication of an American spy’s name caused friction between the two agencies six months ago.
The previous station chief, Jonathan Banks, was identified in court papers and the media in December, causing him to leave Pakistan immediately. Some US officials blamed the ISI for the leak.
This time, the name was published by the private television station Ary One on Friday, then reprinted in the rightwing Nation newspaper on Saturday.
According to reports, “Mark Carlton” was given an angry reprimand by the ISI chief, General Shuja Pasha, over the operation to kill Bin Laden.
The published name sounded similar to the real one, a senior Pakistani official said, suggesting the leak had come from a lower-level ISI source rather from than the top.
“It sounds similar. Mike can be misheard as Mark,” he said. “It sounds like something someone misheard in the corridor, perhaps someone who is ideological or not very well educated.”
The official declined to give the real name. US media did not report the incorrect name, saying that the information remained classified under US law.
A senior ISI official said the agency did not release the name. “If you’re asking, no we didn’t,” he said. Asked about the state of relations with the CIA, he declined to comment.
Dans le Tea Party on veut qu’on nous foute la paix, qu’on nous laisse vivre comme avant, quand tout allait bien, quand l’Amérique vivait sous le status quo anglo-saxon, lorsque le Taliban était à la solde de la CIA, et que ni les Chinois ni Al Qaeda ne s’opposaient à l’hégémonie de l’oncle Sam. Dans le Tea Party on est typiquement blanc, et ok financièrement, du coup on panique un peu lorsque le monde change comme ces temps-ci. Par contre on ne se préoccupe pas trop du climat, car comment concevoir que l’homme puisse avoir en son pouvoir de défaire ce que Dieu a créé.
[In the Tea Party, they wish to be left alone, to live as before when everything was going well, when America embodied the Anglo-Saxon status quo, when the Taliban were on the CIA payroll, and when neither the Chinese nor al Qaeda opposed the hegemony of Uncle Sam. Those in the Tea Party are typically white, and ‘ok’ financially and hence in something of a panic ever since the world began to change as the times changed. They don’t worry about climate change, because they cannot imagine how mankind could have in its power to mess up what God created.]
Le Monde on the Tea Party