News

Online Exclusive: Former CIA director comes to U of C

Publication YearIssue Date 

Who is the real James R. Woolsey? The benign looking man whom most of the audience didn't even recognize as he passed through the throng? Or the man who didn't wobble as he stood at the lectern on Thur., Sept. 14 and spoke convincingly about the world war the West has been mired in against the Middle East since 1979?

As Director of the CIA during the Clinton administration, Woolsey was the third most powerful man in the United States, in position to help direct a new world symphony after the end of the Cold War. But Woolsey was director at one of the worst moments for the CIA and he resigned after just two years as head of intelligence, when former CIA counter-intelligence officer Aldrich Ames was convicted of spying for the Soviet Union.

Woolsey has remained active in Washington in both the public and private service. He spoke at the University of Calgary about the Long War and energy security last Thursday.

In his speech on Islamist terrorism, Woolsey argued that America should "insulate" itself by devreasing oil consumption.

"Given this energy infrastructure that we've built over the years, we are especially vulnerable to terrorism and highly vulnerable even to accidental interference," he said.

He said "smart and sophisticated" terrorists can take advantage of this weakness and can dictate the prices of oil as they have in the past, economically crippling the country.

Woolsey spoke from the American perspective, highlighting the need to focus on renewable energy alternatives in a country that imports its oil. He pointed out that other than Norway and Canada, all oil exporters are dictatorships and kingdoms and cutting oil consumption would ensure people in the West aren't paying for these totalitarian states.

"That's enough to make a Wahhabi frown," Woolsey joked, referring to the Sunni fundamentalist Islamic movement. He added that his hybrid car bears a bumper sticker that reads: "Osama Bin Ladin would hate this car."

"Well, Canada has a very creative science like ours," Woolsey said. "And Canada will be working on alternative fuels as well."

Woolsey noted that Alberta's vast oil sands do not mean the province is totally independent.

"I would imagine there will be a huge market [for oil] for a long time," said Woolsey. I think Canadian oil production, especially from the tar sands, could be protected against the Saudis dropping the bottom out of the oil market as they did in the mid-80s and late 90s. I don't think people are going to be stemming back on the need for tar sands anytime in the near future, but it will, over time, create a situation where Canada is more dependant on the inventiveness of these alternative fuels and new technologies."

"But, Canada is well suited to do that," he added.

Turning his attention south of the border, Woolsey said the American government has comitted to the alternative fuel business in a "big way."

"Personally, I would like to see more involvement in helping to kickstart production of things like cellulosic ethanol, but in terms of research and development and creating a favourable climate, the situation is a lot better than it was just a few years ago," he said. "Terrorists create more difficulty for our economy than natural occurrences, such as a tree falling on a power line, create for us."

He said Iran's apoplectic rulers Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini not only have genocidal aims like wiping Israel off the map, but their ideologies spell out a desire to hurry the end of the world.

As former chairman of Freedom House, a research institute that promotes liberal democracy, Woolsey found that 80 per cent of mosques in the U.S. are funded by Wahhabi extremists from Saudi Arabia.

"Hideous genocidal hate literature invades American mosques," Woolsey said.

He was quick to note he beleives that Islam is not a violent religion, stating that America is at war with "theocratic, totalitarian, genocidal Middle East," but said that most Muslims aren't fascist.

"The ideology of the Wahhabis is the same as al-Qaeda's," Woolsey said. "They loathe each other, kill each other, but effectively believe in the same thing. They have bastardized real Islamic teachings and are genocidal against apostates, Jews, homosexuals, and Shiites."

Woolsey pointed out that Islamic president Mahmoud Ahmadinejadis even more radical than Sunni Muslims.

"Ahmadinejad has an even darker view," Woolsey said. "The Sunnis want an Islamic caliphate but at least people get to live. He believes that if he can get enough people killed, they can get back the Mahdi and have the end of the world. These are not circumstances that we want," Woolsey said.

Woolsey presented a softer stance than he has in previous lectures over the past few years. Much of his lecture explained the concept of the long war and emphasized the need for creative energy alternatives to make America resilient. He said an international problem is likely as China and India demand oil and the Middle Eastern and Persian gulf fields peak.

But, Woolsey didn't elaborate on how cutting dependency on fossil fuels can be strategic in the war against terrorism and what path America will take when it is "free." In 1999, he wrote in the journal Foreign Affairs that depending on oil from the Middle East forced America to make foreign policy compromises.

Woolsey wanted America to intervene in Iraq with large-scale military action at least as far back as 1998. In December 2001 at a CATO Institute policy debate, Woolsey reiterated his argument to attack Iraq. Woolsey was convinced Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction to terrorize its neighbors. He said it was clearly demonstrable that Saddam Hussein had been engaged in terrorism against the West for the last 10 years.

"There is so much evidence with respect to his development of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles [that] I consider this point really beyond dispute," he said five years ago.

Despite his stance on Iraq, Woolsey's words haven't become hooks that dragged his career down. Instead, after his lecture at the U of C when a reporter pointed out that as CIA director he must have known Saddam didn't have WMDs and wasn't allied with al-Qaeda, Woolsey gave an answer unlike the unwavering one he had opined so many years ago.

"My reason for wanting to move against Iraq was the same reason I wanted to move against [former Serbian president] Milosevic," Woolsey said. He said president Clinton had waited too long into his administration to take action against Milosevic in spite of the terrible nature of the Serb's human rights violations.

"Saddam had killed, over the thirty years he'd been in power, approximately ten times as many people as Milosevic," Woolsey continued. "He killed about 60,000 people a year and my reason for signing that letter [to President Clinton urging him to attack Iraq] wasn't to do with WMDs or al-Qaeda, it had everything to do with human rights violations."

"We are the enemy of totalitarianism," said Woolsey, stating he views the recent scuffles in the Middle East as fronts of the fourth world war. He said the Long War began in 1979 in Iran, when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's proxies held 66 Americans hostage for 14 months.

Woolsey didn't predict an endpoint for the war against terrorism, but President Bush has called it a multigenerational conflict, saying the present is just a nanosecond in the war timeline.

"I think the Islamist movements of the Middle East have really been at odds with us," said Woolsey. "And certainly on the Sunni side beginning at least in the 80s."

He recounted an anecdote where he had a conversation with a black Washington D.C. cab driver. The cab driver's impressions of the Long War sum up Woolsey's analysis of why the West is in this war with Islamist extremists.

"These people don't hate us for what we've done wrong," Woolsey repeated the driver's words. "They hate us for what we do right."

And for Woolsey, energy security is a right action that is extremely important in the war against terrorism, both strategically and economically.

"Change is looming," he said. "[Switching to renewable energy is] part and parcel of our being able to avoid not only natural accidents but also vulnerability to terrorism."

Section: 

Issue: