Don Williams
Photo by Justin Williams

Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, blogger, fiction writer, sometime TV commentator, and is the founder and editor emeritus of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan, a Golden Presscard Award from Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists, a best Commentary Award from SDC, Best Feature Writing from the Associated Press Tennessee Managing Editors, the Malcolm Law Journalism Prize from the Associated Press, Best Non-Deadline Reporting from the United Press International, Best Novel Excerpt from the Knoxville Writers Guild, a Peacemaker Award from the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, five Writer of the Month Awards from the Scripps Howard Newspaper chain, and many others. In 2011 he was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame. His 2005 book of journalism, Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes is under revision for a second printing, and he is at work on a novel and a book of journalism. His columns appear at and have been featured at many other well-known websites. To run his column, gratis, at your website, post this link to a dedicated spot: Need a speaker, panelist, tv commentator or teacher for your group or to lead a writing workshop, in your town? Email

Insights navigation:

[ Insights ]

RSS feed

Don Williams comments

Gates cast long dark shadows at CIA
(Copyright by Don Williams, All rights reserved   11/17/2006)

He's the darkness reaching out for the darkness, someone said of Richard Nixon. And looking back, it's hard to argue. Secrecy, absence of light, was his default position. But suppose you're another president of similar dispositions. A man well connected to those who stand in the shadows and manipulate others. In that case, you might reach out to former CIA Director, author and professor, Robert Gates, “the ultimate insider,” in his own words, to become your new secretary of defense.

In another age, tapping a CIA chief to head up the military might've been a major controversy. In the post 9/11 world it hardly raises a brow. He's a realist say supporters, and no puppet of Neocons. He'll play it smart.

Yes, Gates will play it shrewdly, cleverly. He's a very wily man. But smart? Please permit dissent from the heartland. Gates helped create the very enemies he'll be empowered to fight. Consider the fiascos he had a hand in.

* U.S. military aid for Saddam Hussein. "Gates was in charge of the directorate that prepared the intelligence information that was passed on to Iraq,” during the Iran-Iraq War, said Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin during Gates' confirmation hearings for CIA Director on Nov. 7, 1991. “The secret intelligence sharing operation with Iraq was not only a highly questionable and possibly illegal operation, but also may have jeopardized American lives and our national interests. The photo reconnaissance, highly sensitive electronic eavesdropping, and narrative texts provided to Saddam may not only have helped him in Iraq's war against Iran, but also in the recent Gulf War." In other words, Gates had a central role in turning Iraq into a regional power under Saddam. Take away Gates' aid to Saddam and two U.S.-Iraqi wars are possibly avoided.

* Iran-Contra. According to the Nov. 20 issue of Newsweek, Gates lied to Congress about this fiasco, which brought shame to the Reagan administration. During the Iran-Contra operation, America sold anti-aircraft weaponry to Iran at the same time that Gates was giving aerial targeting maps and other intelligence to Iraq. Could anything be more cynical during an Iran-Iraq War that resulted in a million casualties? But that's not all. With money gained from such sales, our government empowered the Contra “freedom fighters,” as some liked to call them, in Nicaragua, but they were terrorists by any definition of the word. This in direct violation of laws passed by Congress.

* Empowering the Taliban and al-Qaida. Gates' role in this is unclear. What is clear is that Gates at least cheered on the arming and training of fundamentalist Muslims who later resurfaced as movers and shakers inside the Taliban and al-Qaida. In his book “From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War,” Gates outlines how we began infiltrating Afghanistan with special forces during the Carter Administration. It was a self-conscious effort to lure the Soviet Union into invading Afghanistan in an effort “to give the Soviets their Vietnam.” Then, under Presidents Reagan and Bush 41, we trained, armed and otherwise empowered radical fundamentalist Muslims to initiate a jihad against the Soviet Union and throw them out. The mission was successful, the Soviet Union left, but the Taliban and al-Qaida filled the vacuum and soon set their sights on us, even as we finagled for rights to build energy pipelines across their country.

* Gates headed up the Soviet Division of the CIA, and all through the 1980s, the CIA was clueless about the economic collapse of the Soviet Union. Had the CIA reported how close the Soviet Union was to economic ruin, our shadow-government might not have deemed it necessary to empower fundamentalist Muslims in Afghanistan. In short, our current miseries might've been avoided had Gates been wiser and less clever. Many other questions have been raised about him. Does he have a stake in voting machine companies, as some allege? What was his role in “the October surprise” which allegedly delayed the release of all those American hostages in Iran until after the 1980 elections?

Make no mistake. When it comes to assessing the value of human life, Gates casts a cold eye. Maybe such a perspective saves lives. Is it a defensible position to say we should be changing sides, manipulating events, undermining governments, deciding who lives, who dies? Before you answer, ask yourself this:

How many innocent people have died as a direct or indirect result of Gates' and others' manipulations? Millions in Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq? Hundreds of thousands in Central America? Thousands more in Kuwait?

How many women have gone back under the veil in Afghanistan and Iraq? How many were beheaded for sexual indiscretions? How many treasures of world art were smashed to smithereens? Did you count the bombed out hotels in Bali? Attacks on our embassies in Africa? The London subway attacks? The Cole? Don't forget 3000, killed on 9/11.

Yes, we must oppose treacherous terrorists who threaten us, but in planning for the future we should remember just who set our enemies up in the first place. Such people should not be rewarded.