While Conrad has been referred to in the very aftermath of 9/11 to draw attention to the parallels with Russian Anarchism that his writings (especially The Secret Agent (1907)) reflect, there is still a lack of thorough examination of the way Conrad’s novel reflects those links. General statements in articles or newspapers usually state the existence and the validity of this connection, but do not provide corresponding and necessary analysis of the novel and the way it can be read in light of the post-Cold War and 9/11 periods. Yet, the very fact that there are passing references to the relation between The Secret Agent and contemporary terrorism works as a relevant and necessary foundation for the analysis that concerns Conrad’s narratives and the pre-9/11 period.
Jean Baudrillard in his article “L’Esprit du Terrorisme” argues that ‘by keeping for itself all the cards, it has forced the Other to change the rules of the game.’ The United States has forced into being a power that it would later have to face, precisely because of its greed in establishing a new world order that came into existence. Yet it actually created these same entities which threaten that exact same power. Conrad, in The Secret Agent, delves into the complex entities behind state sponsored terrorism through constructing a narrative based on the Russian infiltration of an anarchist group in London, with the aim of pressuring the British authorities to adopt stricter and severe regulations against the anarchist movement that it believed threatened the position and power of the Russian state. The central story, the assemblage of the plot and the authorial omniscient point of view that constitute The Secret Agent enables its adaptability with contemporary terrorism – and state terrorism in particular.
Cedric Watts formulates the resilience of the narrative in terms of overt and covert plots. He suggests that, in addition to the elements which make up the ensemble of the main story (the overt plot), there are other obscure and ambiguous foundations of the text ‘which at first may have seemed odd or anomalous, obscure or redundant and the whole text is in various ways transformed.’ Bearing in mind Watts’ conception of the covert plot as being a puzzling component of the novel, Conrad’s The Secret Agent is mystifying in that it is its covert plot which can directly spark contemporary analysis in relation to state terrorism. This is voiced in the narrative as archetypal of the CIA covert mission in Afghanistan. Even though this covert plot, as Watts explains it, is a sequence of the novel that is constructed by the author and hidden from the reader (or else constructed by one character and ignored by the others), it rises above the borders of the story to create a larger sense of events. The Secret Agent’s first level of covert plot would be the Russian secret infiltration of the anarchist network in London without the actual knowledge of either the anarchists themselves or the British authorities, along with the absence of awareness about their motivation for doing so. Yet at another level, the covert hidden plot is mirrored in the secret covert mission of the Carter and Reagan administrations in Afghanistan. The intervention was presented as a legitimate assistance provided to the Afghan jihad in their fight against the Soviet intruders. However, the hidden dimension is that the mission was a plot against the USSR’s expansion of its geopolitical hegemony.
In Ghost Wars, Steve Coll presents detailed research on the origins of Al Qaeda and in which he dives into the modes of operation of state terrorism, and echoes Watts’s notion of the covert plot as a narrative technique. Attributing the adjective of ‘ghost’ to state sponsored terrorism suggests that it functions in a covert way through creating an invisible and deceiving shield that diverts the attention of the media as well as the public opinion. In the same way, Conrad uses the story of Verloc the Secret Agent as a way of concealing the more complex narrative about indirect Russian sponsorship of terrorism. Watts maintains that the covert plot is not visible to all – most readers would not even notice the hidden story, purely because it is hidden. Similarly, the fact that state terrorism is almost absent from field is due to its spectral nature.
At one level of the covert plot of The Secret Agent, there is the Russian secret agency involvement in anarchist terror that was solely for their own profit. Vladimir, Mr. Verloc and London’s secret policing agency needed stringent immigration policies to prevent any terrorist conspiracy in a foreign country. They regarded England as an absurd country with ‘sentimental regard for individual liberty.’ Hence their aim was not to vindicate and deliver London streets from terrorist networks, but instead to protect and maintain Russian autocracy and supremacy through eliminating the anarchist network. After many US observers concluded that the ‘global balance of power had shifted in favour of the Soviet Union’ after Afghanistan became ‘a pawn on the Kremlin’s chessboard,’ President Carter and other US policy makers as well as Ronald Reagan approved military intervention in Afghanistan, as they all agreed that the USSR would have control over the Asian subcontinent if it was not obstructed. The parallel between Anarchism and Contemporary terrorism is not only reflected through the covert plots themselves, the US mission and the Russian secret agency in London, but also through the secrecy that is necessary for their operation.
The pornography shop that Verloc owns similarly functions as a covert to his work as a secret agent. Conrad constructs a whole situation around the character of Verloc as a way of indeed covering his plot about state terrorism. In the same way, the US covert operation was never a mission of supporting an Afghan national cause of driving out the Soviet occupation, it was purely a political and geopolitical strategy of preventing any Soviet expansion in the region that would disrupt American interests that served as a cover for their real aims behind their intervention. Both Conrad and the CIA followed the same modus operandi. They both created a surface situation that concealed the deep and complex state of affairs. The CIA directors claimed that their intervention in Afghanistan was in the aim of assisting the Afghan jihad halt the Russian expansion, while it was a cover to the real aims of preventing the USSR from expanding any further and therefore preserve its own power.
 Jean Baudrillard, Michel Valentin, ‘L’esprit du Terrorisme’, The South Atlantic Quarterly, 101 (Spring 2002), pp. 403-415. (p. 405).
 Cedric Watts, The Deceptive Text: An Introduction to Covert Plots (Sussex: The Harvester Press, 1984), p. 30.
 Steve Coll, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden, From the Soviet Invasion to September 10,2001 (London: Penguin Books, 2004).
 Cedric Watts, The Deceptive Text: An Introduction to Covert Plots (Sussex: The Harvester Press, 1984), pp. 30-31.
 Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale (London: Penguin Group, 1984), p. 64.
 Steve Galster, ‘Afghanistan: The Making of the U.S. Policy 1973-1990’, The September 11th Sourcebooks, The National Security Archive (October 9, 2001). http://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB57/essay.html [last accessed 12/10/1027].
 Steve Coll, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden, From the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 (London: Penguin Books, 2004), p. 147.
 Ibid., p. 147.