Sunday, 1 November 2015

Leaders who were once spies.

Throughout the history of human civilization, one profession that never really got the respect it commanded, was that of intelligence gathering. Everyone saw the front end armies with their commanders in their distinct regalia. Everyone witnessed the prowess of the state leaders who ordered wars and plunged themselves. Moreover, even the coroners had a share of public space with POWs being sentenced to the noose and guillotine. However, a caucus of men, who surreptitiously and imperiled through the enemy lines, plodded through the reign of the enemy to get what could prove to be more vital than the most lethal weapon available - information; they decided the victors. Those who got it aplenty and got it first, won. Those who didn't, faded away in the pages of history. Gideon, the venerable out of the lore Jewish warrior, was the first one to send his spies to get nuggets of enemy strategy for drawing out plans for the first holy wars. And till date, nations that do it best are at the pinnacle of progress and integrity of sovereignty. And so powerful is the art of gathering intelligence, that those who knew how to do it well, went on to rule the world. 

Here's a few men, who at some point of time in their life were associated with some of the most indomitable intelligence agencies of the world. And boy, did they prove their mettle later on. 

Vladimir Putin, Soviet KGB 

Putin in KGB uniform
Oh yes, you've heard it right. The gallant Russian president with his suave spiels all over the world, and whose grip on his part of the world remains strong as ever, was a KGB agent and for very long! Post graduation, Putin was inducted into the lethal erstwhile Soviet union's zenith intelligence agency in 1975. He was considered inept and anomalous as per his initial assessment. In fact he assumed the role of a haberdasher of sorts. He had multiple appointments and transfers and he largely spent his time collecting piles and piles of information in Leningrad. He later on moved on to East German Soviet occupied territory where he became a more covert spy with a more discreet cover of being a translator at an embassy. His job was to coordinate with Statsi, the erstwhile soviet intelligence agency in East Germany in looking for new recruits. They were to be sent undercover to the US.


Post the collapse of the USSR, Putin kept pestering Moscow for his next orders after the Berlin wall was razed, and soviet supremacy mutilated. Putin was later on recalled to Leningrad, where he became a spy who would carry out top level espionage on college students with an eye on the outcome of the impending elections. KGB was history, and now Putin had a much more politically motivated espionage conquest to carry out. One that saw him get close enough to the rank and file of new Russia's political masters, in whose plenum he later sealed his position as the supreme soprano! 

George H W Bush, CIA

Need we say anything more

Out of thin air, one day this troubadour of 70's American politics, Mr. Bush was anointed the Director General of CIA, undoubtedly the world's most widespread intelligence phenomenon. Post that what transpired was pure revelation. Mr. Bush's presence at the helm of literally one of this world's most formidable powerhouses, was not very much welcome. And rightly so. Mr. Bush had assumed more political and diplomatic roles, and then there was this specious connection that till date remains in the twilight of dark American assassination rampage as an unsolved mystery. Mr Bush, some believed was closely related to JFK's tragic end. And then what ensued post Mr. Bush's term as the head of CIA, became a cornerstone for his surreal rise to the top. Some considered him sibylline and some a masterful manipulator. Of course he could be. He was CIA, after all!

Ariel Sharon, Mossad/Shin Bet

Sharon, the solider!
Israel's premiership has been quite a quizzical maze. Right from the wars of 48' to Benjamin Netanyahu, everyone seems to have been a part of the country's defining military coups and wars that can send down shrivels across the largest armies of the middle east. Ariel Sharon, the 11th prime minister of the Semitic occupancy on the holy lands, was no different. 

A man who had a pivotal role with his commands in the War of Jerusalem's freedom, the legendary 6 day war and the Yom Kippur war, Sharon was a veteran with an unmatched bravura and stupendous military excellence. On his day his platoon could humiliate one twice their size, and this was largely because of right and timely decision making, all owing to Sharon's construed view of human intelligence. 

Sharon has been a leading advocate of human intelligence and its role in decision making. While NSA and MI6 indulge in flabbergasting satellite surveillance, Sharon was hell bent on top notch human infiltration and that's how he led his brigades to victory in wars that rocked the middle east. In fact, Mr. Sharon was once deployed as an intelligence officer for central command. That was 1950, when Israel was finding its footing among a murky and baloney of a regime. In 1952, the world's deadliest intelligence service Mossad was formed, grabbing pieces of what people like Sharon had left behind in the wars that made the world what it is today!

Osama Bin Laden, CIA 


Okay. Unlike all other mentions in this stolid attempt to bring to the fore something I find rather startling, this one connection needs further perusal to be faithfully established. Nevertheless, keeping in line with the quintessential element of uncertainty, so pervasive in the grisly world of espionage, let's mention this anyhow. 

It is believed that Osama Bin Laden had once worked for the CIA as a partial point man in Afghanistan. This was apparently a part of America's desperate assault to dredge the soviets off the lands. It is further believed that as a part of America's long term strategy to promote the Mujahid by bestowing upon them unmatched armory from the US, Laden too was trained in weaponry and in both espionage and counterespionage to work under cover for the CIA, so that the US could get a tab on the Soviet preparation in the area, and to equip the local belligerents to knock them off. If any of this is true, then CIA in a way fostered the Goliath who later on become their biggest bete noire. 



The world outside is pretty clamorous and full of din. Countries engage in open affrays and regimes are toppled every now and then. Countries upbraid others on global pulpits and issue threats of nuke vengeance. But someone somewhere, silently ingratiates people of influence, and steers through the reek of global fracas, and finally fights their way back to homeland, to provide some really important decision maker with a make or break resource that can have a bearing on the lives of millions. So the next time you see someone surge to success overnight, do check if they ever served the murky world of intelligence sometime! 


We might have missed out on some significant names here. Dwight Eisenhower, the commander of the Allied forces, who went on to alleviate the world, was also involved in some primordial form of intelligence gathering. He served as the president later on. Pervez Musharraf too had coordinated with the ISI many a time and has been deeply involved in that domain. There could be many more and I'd be more than happy to accept additions to this list I want to see becoming more replete and consummated.