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Peter van Buren spent 20+ years at the State Department, and became a whistleblower after his book exposed hijinks in Iraq reconstruction. Today, he blows the whistle on emotional overreaction to the Friday the 13th attacks in Paris.Van Buren’s first book, We Meant Well, chronicled his year in Iraq, squandering US taxpayer dollars on misguided reconstruction projects in Iraq. His novel, Ghosts of Tom Joad, is a compelling account of Americans impoverished by wealth and income inequality.
The day after the Paris attacks, he published this important commentary, which is the basis for our conversation. He argues that the policies the US engaged after 9/11–surveillance, torture, invasions–have utterly failed, and warns that France is following in our errant footsteps.
We talk about the reflex of the intelligence community to exploit the Paris attacks in demanding even more police powers and less accountability, as CIA director Brennan whines that “hand-wringing”, courts and Ed Snowden have restricted the spooks’ efforts to stop terrorist plots. We discuss the American hawks who are urging a major military escalation, and Obama’s weak efforts to resist their calls for action, when it’s clear that such action will only make matters worse.
We also note that France’s reaction advances the strategies of IS, to provoke the West into deeper involvement on Islamic soil while destroying the “grayzone” to depict Muslims in extreme terms, either with IS or against it. We comment on Andrew Bacevich’s op-ed, that this is a war the West cannot win. The “grayzone” frame is from an op-ed by Harleen Gambhir.