I think I woke him up. That would be the spirit of my late friend James Jesus Angleton, former chief of CIA Counterintelligence, literary editor, aficionado of James Joyce, and interrogator of Ezra Pound. I’d invested a small fortune getting my ouija board in good working order, and it was working beautifully. Angleton, on the other hand, was clearing his throat and coughing, as you might expect from a man who was never without a cigarette. But I was hoping to get some guidance from him on the Syrian-war-about-to-happen, and his time zone was always unclear…
ML: Sorry, sorry, shall I try again later?
JJA: (Voice even more gravelly than usual.) Just give me a second. Where’s the water? Ah, there (drinks, then two deep breaths). Better. You want to talk about Assad I imagine?
ML: The whole thing. Assad, Obama, Khamenei, Rouhani…
JJA: Oh good. How can I help?
ML: Do you think the Syrian regime used chemical weapons against the “opposition”?
JJA: Yes. Or maybe the Iranians, or the two together. It all comes to same thing. And not just this incident, but many times.
ML: Dexter Filkins, who’s a good reporter and an honest man, tells us that the opposition groups have claimed up to thirty-five chemical attacks.
JJA: Yes, and I tend to believe our intel guys when they say the opposition doesn’t have such weapons.
ML: Do you think we’re going to bomb Syria?
JJA: Haven’t the vaguest. I don’t think the president does, either. He’ll be getting plenty of advice to the contrary.
ML: Valerie Jarrett, as usual?
JJA: Lots of folks, including allies. Do you see Cameron as the reincarnation of Blair? Do you think the Brits really want to attack Damascus? I think the French are more likely to push for action.
JJA: Have you already forgotten about Mali? That was France…
ML: Fair enough.
JJA: The Brits will publicly support whatever Obama says, but remember that their lawyers told Blair, back when, that he needed a clear UN resolution to attack Iraq, or he risked being prosecuted for war crimes. Cameron doesn’t have Blair’s resolve, so far as I can tell, and I’ll bet he’s trying to get Obama to let the UN decide whether to attack.
ML: Clearly, Obama doesn’t want to do anything serious.
JJA:: I haven’t ever seen so many trial balloons coming out of an administration.
ML: And none of them is floating, so far as I can tell.
JJA: Nope. Obama hasn’t made the case for action, and he doesn’t seem able to design anything like an effective strategy. Do we want Assad gone? Dead? Chastened? What?
ML: Most everyone insists there’s no good outcome in Syria.
JJA: Yes, they say that. But then, they forget the covert option…
JJA: Remember the first hours of the Iraq War? When the CIA claimed to have bombed Saddam in his bunker?
ML: Do I ever! I wrote a little piece saying, “I bet Tenet went to W and said that we don’t have to invade, we’ll kill Saddam with a smart weapon, and we’ve got an excellent colonel primed to take over and play nicely.”
JJA: Good memory!
ML: It’s the vitamins, the B12…I owe it all to my pal Jarroll.
ML: Jarroll Rogovin. He makes the pills…
JJA: Well, we don’t need pills here, heh (coughing; he always coughs when he chuckles). But my point is that CIA always has a colonel ready to go in these cases. It’s one of their basic methods.
ML: You talking about a coup?
JJA: Well, suppose we had an asset at a high level of the Syrian military. Lots of those guys have been defecting, right? So there are channels.
ML: So it’s Baghdad again?
JJA: I don’t know anything, but I’d be surprised if someone hasn’t whispered to the president, “Maybe we can coordinate a deadly strike on Assad’s bunker with a seizure of power by our guy.”
ML: It didn’t work in Baghdad, why should it work in Damascus?
JJA: Just because it didn’t work in 2003 doesn’t mean it couldn’t have worked. Nor does it mean it couldn’t work in 2013…
ML: Spell it out a little more, it’s interesting.
JJA: We find out Assad’s location and we kill him and his brother, and then our colonel proclaims that the beast is dead, that the military is now in charge, that they are prepared to call a cease-fire and will negotiate in good faith with legitimate opposition forces. … He asks for a peacekeeping force right away, and for the immediate departure of “foreign forces” from Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, as well as al-Qaeda and their crowd.
ML: And what do the Iranians and Russians do?
JJA: They spit.
No sooner were the words pronounced than the ouija board emitted a tremendous blast of static, and it was over.
You have to admit that those spooks have great imaginations, huh?