This is one that’s been sitting on my bookshelf for way too long and I finally got around to reading it. I’m so glad I did!
See No Evil is Bob Baer’s account of his amazing career with the CIA and his perspective from the field on the triumphs and failings of the CIA intelligence program, U.S. and Middle East relations, and the issues that arise from dealing with Washington bureaucrats from thousands of miles away.
You might know the author, Robert “Bob” Baer, from CNN where he’s a regular contributor on subjects of terrorism, the Middle East, and the CIA. You would never guess from his humble demeanor on TV that this man really knows what he’s talking about! Baer was a CIA agent working in some of the most dangerous situations in the Middle East through the late 70s to mid 90s. He was in Beirut when the embassy was bombed; he was living with the Kurdish people in northern Iraq during their civil war; and he routinely sought out and visited the homes of terrorists to collect intelligence for the U.S.
Baer is one of the few Americans who have visited the Yaghnobi people in Tajikistan who are said to have produced Roxane, Alexander the Great’s wife (I would love to do this one day if it becomes safe enough!).
“Ever since I had arrived in Dushanbe, I’d heard rumors about the remnants of an ancient civilization tucked away in a valley high in the mountains. The people who lived there were said to be descendants of the ancient kingdom of Samarkand, which had produced Alexander the Great’s wife, Roxane. Although they now called themselves Yaghnobis, their language hadn’t changed significantly in the last twenty-five hundred years. It was very close to ancient Soghdian, an Indo-European tongue in the Iranian family. The Yaghnobis’ way of life apparently hadn’t changed, either. They lived without electricity or running water. And if the wild rumors were true, the Yaghnobis had even reverted to worshiping fire.”
Not only is this book a page turner and very easy to read (as in, you won’t want to put it down), but it’s a testament to the importance of having CIA operatives overseas, collecting intelligence and not sticking our heads in the sand as a nation. It has further convinced me the U.S. needs to strengthen its overseas intelligence gathering operations to prevent future terrorist attacks and also open communication between the U.S. and other nations that could be potential allies. While we may be “war weary” – and yes, war should be avoided if possible – extremists groups are still focused on wreaking havoc in the western world and intelligence gathering seems to be a smartest way to prevent future attacks.