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As July approaches, so too does the beginning of a withdrawal from Afghanistan. This has sparked some measure of debate in this country. Unfortunately, much of the debate around the future of our involvement in Afghanistan and the region is ill-informed. The most annoying debate is whether or not we should abandon counter-insurgency and embrace counter-terrorism. Allow me to simplify the effects of both strategies: The latter will result in prolonged war, while the former will bring about a negotiated settlement. But listening to the pundits, politicians, or reading the newspaper (or blog) writers, one would come away with the idea that counter-insurgency has failed and that counter-terrorism is the best strategy as we go forward. If we are to leave Afghanistan with some semblance of security, then we must continue the counter-insurgency strategy that has been in place for a year-and-a-half. Failing to do so will result in prolonged conflict.
Conventional wisdom says that the killing of Osama bin Laden has boosted the argument for pursuing a counter-terrorism strategy. The detailed account of helicopters swooping down on a compound, with armed commandos rappelling down onto unsuspecting terrorists, has captured the imagination of Americans everywhere. It seemed so effective; indeed, bin Laden has a bullet in his head and chest to attest to the effectiveness of SEAL Team 6. Unfortunately, this is not exactly how counter-terrorism works. And if it did, it would require much more energy and money.
Vice President Joe Biden is the White House’s biggest advocate of counter-terrorism. During the White House’s long internal discussion over what to do in Afghanistan, he pushed for a counter-terrorism strategy. In his view, a smaller footprint would yield better results, particularly if U.S. military forces went after Taliban and al Qaeda leaders. The larger footprint required by counter-insurgency would only create more terrorists, he argued. Biden also described counter-insurgency as nation-building. Throughout the internal debate, Biden sought to undermine the arguments of General David Petraeus and General Stanley McChrystal, the military brass. In the end, the President did not fully embrace the counter-terrorism strategy. He agreed to the strategy proposed by the military: counter-insurgency.
The military, during the internal debate, argued that the Taliban was effectively winning the war. The momentum was on their side. But, in their view, the Taliban had an ally in Hamid Karzai. Karzai was corrupt and did not have the trust of the Afghans. A lack of security was also driving factor in allowing the Taliban insurgency to flourish. The only way to improve security and governance, they argued, was to add more troops on the ground and adopt a counter-insurgency strategy. They hoped for 40,000 more troops, but the President only approved 30,000 troops. Believing that the military was trying to box him in, the President dictated five pages of memorandum that were meant to straightjacket the military. He feared that they were pushing him into the trap of mission creep.
Counter-terrorism sounds good on paper, which is why there were some vigorous supporters of CT in the White House. But the debate inside the White House (which is going on now in the public square) ignored the fact that insurgency is different from terrorism, and therefore require different approaches. This misunderstanding can be attributed to the Bush administration’s failure to accurately explain the post-9/11 challenge. By invading Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States created a power vacuum, which was the perfect environment for an insurgency. Salafist and takfiri Islamic militants were seeking to overthrow the governments established by the U.S. through the use of terrorism as a tactic. The Bush administration mislabeled the insurgents as “terrorists,” and that became the term everyone used to describe the enemies we faced in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are major differences between the two, which should inform our military strategy in Afghanistan.
When talking about terrorists, it is imperative to note that these are generally acts of violence that are committed by individuals with radical goals. They and their goals are not representative of their social group. They use terrorism as a means to shock both the public and government into accepting the demands of the terrorists. These are criminal acts of violence. Counter-terrorism is a form of law enforcement, whereby the terrorists are captured (or killed) and brought to justice. This is what recently happened to Osama bin Laden.
Insurgents are different in most respects, though terrorism is a popular tactic among insurgents. But here is the deeper issue: insurgents are representative of their social group, and their goals or grievances are widely shared within that social group. In other words, the insurgents are representative of deeply rooted problems in society. The way to counter an insurgency is through a whole-of-government approach that marginalizes the grievances through a compromise or reform. The Arab Spring is an example of a non-violent insurgency.
Now we come to the crux of the matter.
There is no way to kill our way out of Afghanistan or the region. We cannot simply capture or detain our way out either. These are the methods of counter-terrorism. Furthermore, the region is crippled by deeply rooted problems that have allowed militant Islamic fundamentalists to gain influence and threaten the stability of governments in the region. These are not simply terrorists that we can seek out and arrest or kill, as counter-terrorism would have us do. The way to defeat these insurgents is through a counter-insurgency strategy that protects the public, increases government responsiveness and transparency, and addresses the deeply rooted grievances of the public. This will undoubtedly require some sort of compromise with the Taliban. All of this will require time and patience, something the public lacks, which is why they are now hoping to pursue a CT strategy. If we are serious about getting out and leaving behind a secure Afghanistan that we will not have to re-invade some time in the future (I’m not talking about winning, mind you), then a COIN strategy is our only hope.
But I hate to leave the impression that we should do a purely COIN strategy. Certainly, that should be our guiding strategy in Afghanistan. However, there is a need for CT. We are doing that in some areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan right now with our have drones policing the skies. And obviously we just took out Osama bin Laden using CT. A hybrid strategy is useful. But this talk about ending COIN and adopting a purely CT approach is not only silly, it is irresponsible.
As General David Petraeus has said many times, we cannot win this war. There will never be a time when we can have a ticker-tape parade and see al Qaeda and the Taliban sign a document to end the war. We may never live in a world that is free of either organization. So, the goal is to ensure that the people of the region are satisfied with their government, have hope for their future, and feel secure… at least enough so that we can leave and the Afghan government can continue what we started. The Arab Spring is showing us that the people in this region are taking it upon themselves to bring about change. Let’s hope they succeed so that we do not have to pursue a COIN or CT strategy.
And just because it made me smile…
By Jose Rodriguez
Last week, the Obama administration released its much anticipated assessment of the war in Afghanistan.
After seven years of neglect, President Obama made Afghanistan a top foreign policy priority. By the end of 2009, a strategic policy for Afghanistan was decided, which resulted in a surge of 30,000 additional troops. However, it was not until summer 2010 when all of the troops were in the country, bringing the total number of American troops to 97,000. The counter-insurgency strategy, therefore, has had roughly three months to operate at full capacity, a point mostly neglected in the mainstream media.
Though President Obama agreed to 30,000 additional troops, it was still fewer than what the military had requested. General David Petraeus, Commander, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A), has therefore focused on a triage approach, which placed our forces in the major population centers, particularly in the Helmand and Kandahar provinces. These southern provinces have been the strongholds of the Taliban.
Many in the media, from liberals on MSNBC, to conservatives like Joe Scarsborough and George Will, predicted total and complete failure in Afghanistan. Following the release of the assessment, the media has basked in the glory of its cynicism. Headlines, like the following, are ubiquitous: “Obama’s Afghanistan Report: Progress and Challenges”, and “Afghanistan Report Finds Progress ‘Fragile,’ Offers Few Details”. Even the language in the report suggests that the Obama administration is not impressed with the progress made thus far.
The report highlights three areas of progress: disrupting and dismantling al Qaeda; Pakistan; and Afghanistan.
Al Qaeda’s senior leadership has been dwindled as a result of our attempts to hunt them down and kill them. Because of our intense efforts, they have been forced to find safe havens in more remote (and less secure) areas, making it more difficult for them to plan, prepare, and carry out acts of terrorism. Our efforts have been both in Afghanistan and Pakistan, especially since al Qaeda has been in hiding on the Pakistan side of the border. The report underscores our government’s concern that al Qaeda could threaten the stability of Pakistan, a nuclear armed nation.
Pakistan, in the last year, has been cooperating with US efforts to root out al Qaeda and Taliban leaders in the FATA region. These efforts have had deadly consequences for Pakistan’s civilians and military. Nonetheless, Pakistan has to do more to develop the FATA region, which will do more to bring stability to the region. This will do more to deny al Qaeda and the Taliban safe havens than military action.
Afghanistan is also an area where there has been progress. The report neglects any discussion of Hamid Karzai and accusations of corruption, which has earned the report criticism. Regardless, the report highlights efforts by the US to begin transitioning all responsibility to the Afghans. Though the US military will be out of Afghanistan by 2014, the US will be there to assist Afghanistan for years to come. The surge of civilian resources has also had the benefit of improving the competence of the Afghan government and government programs. They have also been monitoring progress in combating corruption and emphasizing accountability. The most important progress has been demonstrated in the provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, where US forces have displaced the Taliban.
For seven years, the Bush administration neglected Afghanistan. During that time, all the energy, focus, and resources were diverted to Iraq. Afghanistan was forgotten and assumed to be a complete success. The Taliban took advantage of our situation in Iraq, and they re-established themselves in many parts of the country. Indeed, they set-up secret governments, which, in many respects, were more responsive to the civilian population. Since President Obama’s surge, the Taliban’s gains have been reversed. As we approach July 2011, the US will be evaluating the ability of Afghan security forces to competently assume full control over areas cleared and held by American and coalition forces.
The report also makes it clear that, while these improvements are crucial, they are also fragile and reversible.
But amid all the back-patting of the media and critics of the Afghanistan war, the ability of US forces to clear and hold the south is an important indication that we are indeed turning the corner. In places like Marjah and Nawa, the Taliban, who were once the dominant presence, have been completely displaced. Bazaars, restaurants, and businesses are open. The people are no longer concerned about Taliban intimidation, since they know that US forces are there to protect them. The counter-insurgency strategy is working, albeit slowly, and it needs time.
Richard Holbrooke, a legendary diplomat, famous for his efforts to end the Bosnian war, died on December 13th. He was the Obama administration’s lead diplomat to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Liberal critics of the war, especially on the Huffington Post, have latched onto his final words: “End the war in Afghanistan.” However, for those who knew Holbrooke best, his final words were not a death-bed plea, but part of jovial banter between himself and his family. Ever the obsessed and driven man, he was focused on bringing about a solution to the Afghan war, even on his death bed. His family and the doctors around him were trying to get him to calm down and rest, and they asked him what they could do to calm him down. He responded, “Stop this war.”
In the final analysis, this war will not be ended through military force, a fact everyone (including Holbrooke) understands. But there, unfortunately, has to be force. In order for there to be a political resolution to this conflict, the Taliban has to be brought to its knees. If the Taliban feels as though they have the ability to succeed over American and ISAF forces, they will not negotiate. If we pull out now, as critics have urged, the Taliban will undoubtedly successfully bring down the fragile Afghan government. Needless to say, al Qaeda will, once again, have the freedom to organize, plan, and export terrorism, just as they did before 9/11.
The United States has abandoned Afghanistan twice.
The last time we abandoned Afghanistan was in the early lead up to the war in Iraq. We allowed the Taliban to become resurgent, the government to become corrupt, and lost our legitimacy with the Afghan people. This abandonment has caused made it difficult to regain the trust of the Afghan people.
The first time we abandoned Afghanistan was after the Soviets withdrew their forces. We had been secretly supporting, funding, and arming the mujahedeen’s efforts to expel the Soviets. Once that conflict drew to a close, we stood back as Afghanistan fell into a bloody civil war. Over 400,000 Afghans were killed as a result. Also, more importantly, the Taliban were able to grab control of Afghanistan.
If we abandon Afghanistan again, then we will have blood on our hands. To be sure, there are no good options. To be sure, this is not a war we can win. But what we can do is bring stability to Afghanistan and allow them an opportunity to take control of their own future. For that to happen, we have to continue our efforts against the Taliban, deny al Qaeda sanctuary, and improve governance in Afghanistan. This will require time and patience.
Both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars provide an excellent lesson for the American people: do not support foolish military ventures that will be difficult to get out of. As the saying goes, “You break it, you bought it.” And now the American people are feeling buyer’s remorse.
Be sure to read my first post on the Afghan war: https://dissentiscool.wordpress.com/2009/03/30/whats-the-deal-with-afghanistan/
Why They Hate Us
By Jose Rodriguez
The course of history was irrevocably altered by the tragic events of September 11, 2001. The horrific images of the World Trade Center towers replayed on television screens over and over again, like the recurrence of a frightening nightmare. The common refrain, in the following days, was the question, “Why do they hate us?” Those persons in power had a simple answer: these were evil people who hated American freedom and democracy. This explanation seemed to soothe the general populace, and placed the terrorist acts in a context that was black and white, and thus easier to comprehend. The true reasons are far more nuanced and complicated, and would force the American government to admit some level of guilt. The truth is that the attacks on 9/11 are a direct result of American foreign policy in the Middle East. It is the refusal to acknowledge these truths that has exacerbated anti-Americanism in the region and has led to an increase in terrorism around the world.
The concept of blowback is very controversial and it tends to cause heated debates. The idea that one’s own government is responsible for tragedy is abhorrent to many who would describe themselves as patriotic. However, the purpose of such discourse is not to say that America deserved the attacks, nor would any sane individual justify such attacks or apologize for them. Terrorism is reprehensible, regardless of the perpetrators, and regardless of the victims. In a society such as the United States, with the advantage of the freedom of speech, it is absolutely imperative to allow discussions, such as this, so that the root causes of anti-Americanism can be determined and solutions found. It is in this context of openness that the rest of this argument will be placed.
There really should not be any confusion about why we were attacked on 9/11. Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the attacks, laid out his grievances in his declaration of war on August 23, 1996 (Bergen, 164). In that declaration, he has three grievances: the occupation of the Holy Lands (Mecca and Medina), the US-led sanctions imposed on Iraq, and the United States’ unwavering support for Israel’s brutal military occupation of Palestinian territory. This declaration is not some fanatical religious tirade, nor does he express any rage or contempt for American democracy and freedom. What he lays out is a clear and rational criticism of US policy in the Middle East. One “effective weapon” against the United States, he argues, is the boycotting of American goods and services (Bergen, 165). He reiterated these points on May 26, 1998 at a news conference in eastern Afghanistan with Ayman al Zawahiri, and urged his followers to conduct acts of terrorism against the United States (Bergen, 202). Not more than two months later, Al Qaeda carried out terrorist attacks against two US embassies in Africa. In retaliation, President Clinton launched cruise missile attacks against Al Qaeda, but failed to kill bin Laden, which only served to elevate his status in the eyes of the Islamic terrorist groups (Bergen, 219). Although he is a radical terrorist, many of his grievances are shared by the Arab world and his defiance is respected across the region.
Osama bin Laden’s hatred for the United States can be traced back to the beginning of the Gulf War. Indeed, even before the Gulf War started, bin Laden was one of the many mujahideen in Afghanistan that benefited from the support of the United States. US support was welcomed by the mujahideen as they were in an armed struggle to expel the atheist Soviet Union from their country. After the war, with the success of the mujahideen over the Soviet forces, the US packed up and left the country to suffer a horrific civil war that resulted in the rise of the Taliban government. However, the return of the United States to the Middle East during the Gulf War enraged and offended Osama bin Laden.
In the years following 9/11, many people tried to connect Iraq with Al Qaeda in a belated attempt to justify the invasion of Iraq. In reality, Osama bin Laden and his followers have been fiercely anti-Saddam due to the late dictator’s secularization of Iraq during his brutal reign. Jamal al-Fadl, a former Al Qaeda agent, testified during the 1998 trial against the seven men accused of the African embassy bombings that bin Laden had been very critical of Hussein and warned that, “one day he going to take all of Gulf area [sic].” (Bergen, 111) Khaled Batarfi, a former friend of bin Laden’s, recalls that in the months before the Kuwait invasion bin Laden had said, “We should train our people, our young and increase our army and prepare for the day when we are eventually attacked This guy [Saddam] can never be trusted.” (Bergen, 111) The warnings were prophetic as Saddam invaded neighboring Kuwait in August 1990. Osama bin Laden went to Saudi intelligence officials and proposed that he be allowed to gather 100,000 mujahideen fighters, trained in the Afghan war, in order to defend itself from Hussein’s expansion (Bergen, 112; Abukhalil, 77).
The Saudi royal family turned down bin Laden’s offer and opted, instead, to allow US forces to defend Saudi Arabia. This was a crucial decision and was opposed not only by bin Laden, but also by Muslim clerics and the crown prince, who warned “that US troops may never leave Saudi territory once they (arrive)”. (Abukhalil, 73) According to the Wahhabiyyah clerics, the presence of non-Muslims, especially when they are soldiers from a predominantly Christian nation, are strictly prohibited from stepping foot on the Holy Lands of Mecca and Medina. Yet, President George H.W. Bush deployed the military to the Holy Lands anyways. Despite being there to defend Saudi land from Iraqi aggression, it was the Saudi military that was responsible for expelling Iraqi troops. The arrival of US forces marked the departure of bin Laden from Saudi Arabia, his homeland. Since then, he believes that the American presence has caused the moral decline of the Saudi royal family. Bin Laden also viewed the presence of US forces as an attempt to establish hegemony over a country rich in oil, oil that belongs to the Arabs.
Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait ended his country’s privilege of being a client state and entered them into the category of “Rogue State”. During the eighties, the United States was providing Saddam with military and diplomatic support as they waged war with Iran (also a former client state). The weapons of mass destruction that the United States harshly criticized Saddam for having, came from the United States to begin with. The mass killings of the northern Kurds was possible because of those weapons, and was later made possible by the refusal of the United States to acknowledge that the atrocities had even occurred (Chomsky, “Middle East Illusions” 201). It was only when the client state got out of control and decided to act without US consent that Iraq became a “Rogue State”. Iraq had to be punished.
The US led sanctions on Iraq fueled anti-Americanism in the region and served as a daily reminder of American hegemony. UNICEF estimates that 1.5 million people died as a direct result of the sanction imposed on Iraq; of those deaths were among children under five years of age (Chomsky, “Acts” 60). When confronted with these statistics on 60 Minutes in May of 1996, Madeline Albright said that, “We think the price is worth it,” when referring to civilian deaths. Iraqi hospitals were filled with people who were dying of illnesses that are perfectly curable, such as dysentery, and the flu. For those individuals with cancer, the only prospect was death. The sanctions prevented the importation of machines for hospital use, medicine, and ambulances (out of fear that they could be used as a troop transporter). Doctors in Iraq struggled to help the elderly, the children, and the chronically ill even without the basic tools they needed. It is difficult to imagine the frustration they felt as they watched, helplessly, as their patients died of completely curable diseases. With such poor conditions and limited tools, it is no wonder that so many people died in Iraqi hospitals.
The sanctions have also prevented Iraqi’s from having the basic necessities for life. Because of these sanctions, Iraqi’s are unable to have the tools or supplies (such as chlorine) necessary for purifying water, which has become filthy and disease-ridden. The conditions were so despicable that the UN’s Humanitarian co-coordinator in Baghdad, Dennis Halliday, resigned in protest, saying, “I don’t want to administer a programme that satisfies the definition of genocide.” (Chomsky, “Middle East Illusions” 200) His successor, Hans von Sponeck, also resigned in protest over the sanctions. The US, until after the US invaded Iraq in 2003, supported the sanctions, believing that they would weaken Saddam Hussein. On the contrary, all evidence suggests that the sanctions only strengthened Saddam’s control over the suffering Iraqi people. They argue that the sanctions are Saddam’s fault., yet the United States government persists in helping him devastate his own population (Chomsky, “Middle East Illusions” 201).
The central issue in the Arab region that inflames anti-Americanism, is the US’ unwavering support for Israel’s brutal military occupation of the Palestinian territories. The UN created the state of Israel as a Jewish homeland in 1948, creating some 1,380,000 Palestinian refugees (Reinhart, 7). These refugees, to this day, have not been allowed to return to their homeland, even though a UN Resolution demanded Israel do just that. This was the beginning of a pattern. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has yet to be resolved because of American intervention. In 1967, Israel expanded its border by seizing the Sinai, Gaza, the Golan heights, and the West Bank, which created another wave of about 250,000 refugees (Reinhart, 8). The United States, watching the situation unfold, took steps to ally itself with Israel. Israel, the logic went, would be a formidable ally in the region and could serve as a base of operations against the Soviet Union. A 1976 UN resolution calling for a Palestinian state was vetoed by the US, a move which signaled to the Arab world that the United States had no intention of allowing the creation of a Palestinian state (Chomsky, “Hegemony” 168). So, the military occupation of the Palestinian lands continued with the full diplomatic support of the United States.
Over the next 40 years, Israel continued its hostile attitude towards the Arab people. In 1982, for example, the Israeli army invaded and occupied southern Lebanon, which left roughly 20,000 Lebanese dead (Chomsky, “Hegemony” 167). However, hostilities actually began in 1976. The UN tried to stop Israeli aggression with a UN resolution, but it, too, was vetoed by the United States. According to Israeli sources, the purpose was to destroy the Palestinian Liberation Organization and to “persuade Palestinians to accept Israeli rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.” (Chomsky, “Hegemony” 168) However, in 1987 the Palestinian people organized themselves into an uprising (intifada) against the military occupation of Israel. With this uprising was a formal recognition of Israel’s right to exist in its pre-1967 borders and a call for a free and independent Palestinian state (Reinhart, 10). The first intifada came to an end as both sides came together for the Oslo Accords.
There was an aura of euphoria and excitement as it seemed that peace was at hand. There was rejoicing in the streets and many PLO militants put down their weapons in anticipation of what they believed to be an end to the conflict (Reinhart, 14). However, as the process got underway, it became clearer and clearer that the status quo was to stay the same. Israeli settlements continued unabated, and unemployment in the Palestinian territories increased. The promises made in the Oslo agreements by Israel were never met, nor did they really intend to meet those agreements.
In 2000, President Clinton convened the Camp David meetings in an ostensible attempt to bring about a peace agreement. However, the what the Israeli’s offered Yaser Arafat was nothing more than control over municipal affairs. The Palestinian lands were divided up into cantons that were surrounded on all sides by Israeli territory. In other words, the food, electricity, water, and freedom of movement would still be controlled by Israel. The offer was not acceptable to Arafat. Had he accepted it, he would have been renounced all across the Arab world as a traitor. The failure of Israel to offer anything substantial, the failure of the US to pressure Israel to comply with the Oslo accords of 1993,and Ariel Sharon’s provocative visit to the Temple Mount, led to the second Intifada.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be resolved quickly and easily, but there is no desire to do this. The United States has vetoed and rejected symbolic resolutions and treaties that might affect Israel. For instance, in 1987 the UN put forth a resolution condemning terrorism, but the US effectively vetoed the condemnation because it include a clause that gave the right of self-determination and the right to armed struggle against an occupying force. The General Assembly overwhelmingly supported the resolution, with only two votes against it: the US and Israel. Another similar vetoed occurred when the US rejected a Human Rights treaty made in Vienna that included a sentence declaring that, “foreign occupation is a human rights violation.” (Chomsky, “Middle East Illusions” 187) The tanks that roll through the streets of the occupied territories, and the helicopters that rain missiles upon the homes of civilians, are all provided by the United States. The victims and their families all know this. The United States could withhold its economic and military aid (which is the most given to any nation in the world) from Israel until it agrees to the creation of a Palestinian state. This is unthinkable in Washington and would never happen.
The claims by some that the motivations behind the 9/11 attacks are religiously based miss the point entirely. Yes, the people use religious imagery and language, but so too does every other religious nation. The reasons for the attacks are clear. Bin Laden stated clearly that his grievances are with US forces on the Holy Lands, the Iraqi Sanctions, and the support of Israel in its occupation of Palestinian territory. These views are not unique to him, but are shared by virtually all of the Arab world. The only way to combat terrorism is to recognize the root causes of anti-Americanism and then find ways to solve those issues. Violence and the continued support of state terror is not going to end these feelings of resentment, but will only inflame them further. Instead of asking, “Why do they hate us?” we should be asking, “What can we do to help?”
Abukhalil, As’ad. Bin Laden, Islam, and America’s New “War on Terrorism”. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2002.
Bergen, Peter. The Osama bin Laden I Know. New York: Free Press, 2006.
Carter, Jimmy. Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. New York: Simon and Shuster, 2006.
Chomsky, Noam. 9-11. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2001.
— Acts of Aggression: Policing “Rogue States”. New York: Open Media, 1999.
— Hegemony or Survival. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2003.
— Middle East Illusions. New York: Rowan and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2003.
— The Umbrella of US Power. New York: Open Media, 1999.
— Power and Terror. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2003.
Reinhart, Tanya. Israel/ Palestine: How to End the War of 1948. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2002.
Zinn, Howard. Terrorism and War. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2002.
The King of torture, the Sultan of Secrets, Dick Cheney, is suddenly silent. He’s been as garrulous as a gaggle of geese since he left office, but he has yet to respond to a New York Times article that brings to light a secret counter-terrorism program– so secret that he ordered the CIA to keep it secret from Congress. The program is still classified, which has also kept former-CIA Director George Tenet from commenting, but the program’s existence came to light when Leon Panetta, the current Director, testified in late June before House intelligence committees. Leon Panetta stepped into the Pelosi-Waterboarding scandal when he denied that the CIA misleads members of Congress. He recently stood by that comment, saying that it was “not the policy of the CIA to mislead Congress.” It may not be the policy, but his revelation proves that it does indeed occur. He also added: “It is vital to keep the Congress fully and currently informed.” Panetta also testified that he ended the program when he first learned about it, which was on June 23.
This revelation follows a 38 page report from “inspectors general of the nation’s top intelligence agencies, the Pentagon and the Justice Department,” which had been initiated by Congress. The report concludes that the secret warrantless-wiretapping program that was started within a few weeks after 9/11 was based on “factually flawed” legal interpretations from a single attorney at the Deprtment of Justice– John Yoo. Yoo is also responsible for the legal basis for the U.S.’s heinous torture program. The report quotes his superior, former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, who describes Yoo as “the White House’s guy.” In a blast to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca8), the report found that she and other members of Congress had been briefed on the illegal program 17 times, and no one objected to the program. Tsk-tsk Pelosi. Where was your outrage then?
On July 9, the CIA reported that they were beginning an internal review of how they brief Congress on secret and classified programs and operations. Leon Panetta undertook this review in order “to take a look at what happened and to explore what the C.I.A. can do to improve its reporting to Congress.” This review comes amid Congressional squabbling over Pelosi’s assertion that the CIA mislead her and other members of Congress about their waterboarding program. The agency and Leon Panetta have insisted that they did not mislead her, or anyone else, essentially calling Pelosi a liar. However, the internal review suggests that Panetta is starting to back away from his earlier statements. Representative Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), in an interview with NPR, flat-out accussed the CIA of not providing Congress “full and complete information,” and, at times, of lying to members of Congress. Asked if the CIA violated the National Security Act, Reyes resoinded, “In my opinion, numerous times.”
The program was kept a secret for 8 years, per former-Vice President Dick Cheney’s orders, but now that its existence is known several lawmakers, including Reyes, are demanding an investigation. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Il), a House Intelligence subcommittee chairwoman, is one of those demanding an investigation. Her criticism did not extend to the current Director of the CIA, who, according to her, was “stunned” by the revelaton, which came five months into his tenure. He immediately shut down the program and the next day he informed Congress. Panetta, in Schakowsky’s opinion, is changing the agency for the better. Her criticism, instead, is directed at the Bush administration, who held Congress in “contempt” and behaved as though it was “an annoyance to them to have to come to us and answer our questions. There was an impatience and a contempt for the Congress.” In addition to the internal review, the revelations have also encourged members of Congress to push for a bill that would allow more members of Congress– rather than the “Gang of Eight“– to be included in CIA briefings about covert operations. President Obama has indicated that he will issue a veto if the bill is passed.
The report also includes some discussion about the role of Dick Cheney in the creation of the surveillance program, and the withholding of the program’s existence from Congress. A one point, as described on page 22 of the report, Dick Cheney suggested that President Bush reauthorize the program without legal consent from the Department of Justice. At the time, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft was hospitalized and was therefore incapable of signing the authorization. According to former FBI Director Rubert Mueller’s notes of the meeting, Mueller expressed his discomfort with the suggestion: “I could have a problem with that… [the FBI would] have to review legality of continued participation in the program.” When others expressed similar discomfort, according to the report, Cheney described the program as “critically important” and accused the acting Attorney General, James Comey, of risking “thousands” of lives. The report underscores the Vice President’s attempts to limit the number of people privy to the program’s existence, going so far as to require the personal approval of the Vice President’s legal advisor David Addington before disclosing the program to any individual. It also underscored his attempts to widen the scope of the program’s powers.
Michigan Rep. Peter Hoekstra, the House Intelligence Committee’s senior Republican, has portrayed Democrats’ outrage as political maneuvering. He criticized the Democrats’ recent letter to CIA Director Leon Panetta as “one of the most bizarre episodes in politics that I’ve seen in my time here in Washington.” It is not surprising that there is much opposition to the current talk– it was their President and Vice President who oversaw broad and secretive programs in order to spy on the American public. They would much rather focus their efforts on accusing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of crossing the line when she asserted that the CIA was lying about its waterboarding program. As events unfold, it becomes increasingly apparent that Pelosi was telling the truth.
One can only hope that Leon Panetta and the Obama administration will be more transparent and honest than their predecessors.
The Israeli/Palestinian conflict is the most misunderstood issue in modern times, yet it arguably evokes far more passionate and visceral emotions than most other issues. Misconceptions abound, but the claim that this is an ancient conflict is the most commonly heard. Most cite the Bible when they make the assertion: “When Yahweh, your God, has led you into the land you are entering to make it your own, many nations will fall before you… nations greater and stronger than you.” (Jerusalem Bible, Deuteronomy 7.1) Despite this rousing pronouncement (and similar ones found in the Old Testament), the conflict between Israel and the stateless Palestinians is a modern conflict, born out of renewed interest in Zionism at the turn of the twentieth century, exacerbated by confused policies and promises made by British imperialists, and intensified by the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.
The Zionists, who promoted the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, argued that they had historical ties to the land, which gave them the right to pursue statehood. They cited the Hebrew people, a pastoral people on-the-go, who were the descendents of Abraham (of Mesopotamia) and eventually settled on the land of Canaan (later known as Palestine). These were not a people who appeared to be of European descent—these were people with a dark complexion, a natural defense against the intense heat of the region. Around 1250 BCE, the Hebrews found a leader in Moses, who freed them from their enslavement by the Egyptians and guided them through the desert to the Sinai Peninsula (Ralph, 76). Yahweh spoke to Moses at the top of Mount Sinai, where Moses was told that the Hebrews would be Yahweh’s “chosen people” – so long as they obeyed him (Jerusalem Bible, Exodus 19.5). As Moses and his followers waited in Moab, after their arduous journey, Yahweh renewed his promise to the Hebrews that they would be victorious over the people of Canaan, and that the land they were promised would be “fertile” enough so that they would “never go hungry or ever be in need.” (Jerusalem Bible, Deuteronomy 8.7-10) Whether it was through God’s grace or the Hebrews’ diligence, they eventually conquered the land of Canaan and began to establish a Hebrew nation under the leadership of Saul, who was their King (Ralph, 76). Under Saul, the Hebrews were able to fight back the Philistines, but it was under King David, Saul’s successor in 1005 BCE, who made the greatest progress, eventually reducing them to a small area southwest of Canaan. After King David unified Canaan under his rule, he began constructing a grand capital at Jerusalem, a capital worthy of its people. That project would be completed under the reign of his son Solomon, who used slave labor from their northern neighbor Phoenicia. Though Solomon’s people tolerated his rule while he was alive, they immediately broke away from the unified Hebrew nation after his death and created their own kingdom (Ralph, 78). The formerly unified state then consisted of two separate kingdoms: the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah. Their split weakened the Hebrews and left them vulnerable to outside attacks; in 722 BCE, the Assyrians captured the Kingdom of Israel and laid waste to every major city; the Kingdom of Judah, though they fared better only nominally, eventually was captured by the Babylonians in 586 BCE (Ralph, 78). Despite these setbacks, the Judeans (henceforth referred to as the Jewish people) would return to the land.
Over the next six hundred years, the land of Palestine, inhabited by Jews, was to be ruled by foreign powers. The Babylonians allowed the Jews to return to Palestine, where they enjoyed limited self-rule. However, the Babylonians soon lost that territory to the brash, albeit genius, King Alexander the Great of Greece; however, Alexander died at an early age. He was succeeded by several generations of Greeks, including Antiochus Epiphanes. In 168 BCE, Antiochus began a campaign of destruction, intended to wipe out the Jewish religion. However, the Jews defended their land and their faith by gaining control over Palestine, which they shortly lost in 63 BCE to Rome (Ralph, 80). Their efforts at revolt only succeeded in angering the Romans. After destroying Jerusalem and burning the Temple to the ground, the Romans gained total control over Palestine (Ralph, 80). Thus began the period of Diaspora for the Jewish people.
However, both Arabs and Jews share a history that goes back to their Semitic roots in Mesopotamia. It should not be forgotten, as our nation is engaged in two conflicts in the Middle-East, that civilization was born out of Mesopotamia, or modern day Iraq. Out of this fledgling civilization came the invention of the wheel, the lunar calendar, a written language, documented history, and literature (Ralph, 30-31). It was out of this civilization that Abraham was born. As mentioned earlier, people of the Jewish faith claim to be descended from Abraham, a native of Mesopotamia from a region known as Sumer. However, Arabs also consider themselves to be descended from Abraham, because he fathered Ishmael; Ishmael, likewise, is believed by Arabs to be the father of Arabia. Nonetheless, both people originated from the same land, from the same people, and from a similar culture. To argue that these people were in conflict over the land and shared a hatred of one another denies the fact that they were both people living in times of great conflict. Nations were constantly in battle with one another for dominance and control, as evidenced by the number of times Palestine was conquered by various powers, as mentioned earlier. During the period of time that Palestine was under the thumb of Rome, for example, monotheism was required. Many were forced to embraced either Judaism or Christianity, further tightening their shared history in the region.
After the death of Muhammad in 632 AD, Islam began to flower and spread across the Arabian Peninsula. As a military force, they conquered most of North Africa, parts of Spain, and most of the Old Roman Empire within a century’s time. In 638, Jerusalem also came under their control. Jews, who had previously been barred from entering Jerusalem, were allowed to return. The empires the Muslims defeated, such as the Byzantine and Persian empires, were exhausted from perpetual wars. Their populations, too, were tired of their old masters, and for the most part welcomed the fledgling Islamic empire (Ralph, 382). The new subjects of the Islamic empire, despite their religion, were treated with a fair amount of tolerance, especially compared to the way they were treated by their former masters. Accusations that the Muslim conquerors forced conversions are simply false; for the most part, many subjects converted voluntarily, but Islam was also a religion held dear to the Arab people, who were not eager to share it with non-Arabs. Other issues, such as taxation and local infrastructure, were favored by the subjects who felt overburdened by previous conquerors (Cleveland, 15). It would not be until 1453, when the Ottoman Empire captured the Byzantine capital Constantinople and renamed it Istanbul, that the Islamic empire would be recognized as a world power. The span of Islamic control over the Palestine lasted from 638 until 1922 (with exception to the brief period of time the Crusaders controlled Jerusalem from 1099-1187) (Ralph, 457). In short, the Arabs could also claim that they had long, historical ties to the land of Palestine.
World War 1 saw the end of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of Arab nationalism in Palestine. The Ottoman Empire spanned three continents at the height of its power and it succeeded in advancing civilization for hundreds of years. However, the decline of the Ottomans represented the culmination of European economic dominance and control over the Ottoman raw materials and markets, which undermined their economy and military strength (Cleveland, 49). However, external influences were not entirely to blame: the Ottoman’s had suffered under incompetent leadership for quite some time, which left them unable to fend off European influence in their markets (Cleveland, 58). They also lost their ability to maintain a military advantage in technology over their opponents, but the most damaging loss was the insubordination and self-interest of the Janissaries, the Ottoman army (Cleveland, 57). That the Ottomans were able to fight throughout the war came as a surprise to European powers, however, their demise was all but certain, which is evidenced by the Sykes-Picot agreement made between 1915 and 1916. Britain and France planned to divide up the Middle-East, but they did not expect to encounter the passions of Arab nationalism, nor pressure from Zionists looking to re-establish themselves in Palestine.
Ever since the Jews left Palestine, following the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, the Jewish people maintained the desire to return to their “Promised Land”. Theodore Herzl, with his publication of The Jewish State in 1896, launched the creation of political Zionism, which had the stated goal of creating a wholly distinct Jewish state. Herzl argued, quite forcefully, that anti-Semitism was so ingrained throughout the world that no law could undo the discrimination of governments and people against the Jewish people. So, Herzl demanded that “sovereignty be granted us over a portion of the globe large enough to satisfy the rightful requirements of a nation; the rest we shall manage for ourselves.” (Laqueur, 9) His zeal and passion galvanized the Jewish people in support of Zionism, which led to the first Zionist Congress in Basel (1897) where they adopted the goal of creating “a home in Palestine secured by public law.” (Laqueur, 10) However, Herzl died in 1904. His cause was continued by Chaim Weizmann, however, who was able to persuade many in the British government that a Jewish state in the Middle-East would benefit their long-term strategic interests in the region (Cleveland, 244). In 1917, Lord Rothschild received a letter from Arthur Balfour (Britain’s foreign secretary) which declared that the British government was in favor of the “establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people.” (Laqueur, 16) However, this pledge contained one caveat: that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” (Laqueur, 16) This mixed message was but the first in a series of confused policies that would lead to conflict between the Jewish settlers and the native Arab population in Palestine.
During World War 1, Britain and France (vis-à-vis a correspondence between Sir Mark Sykes and Charles Georges-Picot) planned to divide the Middle-East, while Britain was in simultaneous contact with Sherif Hussein (the Amir of Mecca) to allow the Arabs an independent state in exchange for their military support against the Ottoman Turks. Sherif Hussein, in a letter dated July 14, 1915, expressed the desire of Arabs to exercise their right to self-governance and independence, and he laid out several propositions, including: a proclamation from Great Britain acknowledging the creation of an Arab state, the right of Britain to have preference in economic enterprises, a military alliance, and a sunset provision for the agreement. While McMahon’s initial response was tepid, due to ongoing negotiations with the French, in a subsequent letter McMahon did promise to support the “independence of the Arabs in all regions within the limits demanded by the Sherif of Mecca [Hussein].” (Laqueur, 22) Without question, the boundaries for the promised Arab state included Palestine. McMahon also promised in the letter to support the Arab state militarily and to “recognize their inviolability.” (Laqueur, 22) The British government clearly supported the rights of the Arab people to construct their own state, but, as aforementioned, within two years of that promise they also recognized the right of Zionists to create a Jewish state. Unfortunately, both the Arabs and the Zionists wanted the same land to be the site of their future state, and both had been guaranteed statehood on that land by the British government. It should be mentioned that the promise was first given to Hussein, on behalf of the Arab people living in Palestine.
Shortly after the end of World War 1, Amir Feisal met with Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann to “(work) out the consummation of their national aspirations.” (Laqueur, 17) They agreed that the boundaries of an eventual Arab and Jewish state would be worked out by a Commission, and they also agreed that Jewish immigration into Palestine ought to be continued “on a large scale”, so long as it did not have a negative impact on the indigent Arab population. Religious freedom was another point of agreement between the two parties. In the event that they could not work out an agreement, they did, however, agree to refer the problem to Great Britain (Laqueur, 18). Amir Feisal concluded that the Zionists did not have designs on taking the whole of Palestine, and he reiterated that the Arabs and the Jews were “cousins in race” and as such they ought to be able to live as neighbors in “mutual goodwill.” (Laqueur, 19) Likewise, Felix Frankfurter, on behalf of the Zionists, acknowledged that the aspirations of the Arab people and the Jewish people “were parallel” and he welcomed the support of the Arab people. He also made a point of mentioning the great difficulty represented by their aspirations, but conceded that they could not “but live side by side as friends.” (Laqueur, 20) Though these words seem to convey optimism and partnership between the two communities, they were in for a reality check.
As Jewish immigration into Palestine increased, the Arab population grew increasingly hostile to their presence and feared that they would lose their right to establish an Arab state in Palestine. Their concerns were based on the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which the Zionists pointed to as evidence that the British government supported turning all of Palestine into a Jewish state. To allay those concerns, Winston Churchill issued the 1922 White Paper, which rejected the notion that the British government intended to make “Palestine… ‘as Jewish as England is English’”. (Laqueur, 46) Churchill argued that all of Palestine should not belong to the Zionists, only that their national homeland should “be in Palestine” and that all the people in Palestine would share citizenship as Palestinians (Laqueur, 46). The Jewish people, he argued, already constituted a nation and as such had a right to exist in the land that they were historically bound to. Therefore, the immigration of Jews into Palestine ought to continue unfettered, in his view. Churchill went on, to the dismay of the Arabs, to deny that the Arabs were ever promised an independent Palestinian state, which is nothing short of a lie, since it is clear in the McMahon-Hussein correspondence that the military efforts of the Arabs would be exchanged for a guarantee of gradual statehood. In the final analysis, the White Paper was a confusing and convoluted document that attempted to sort out the various promises made to both the Arabs and Zionists, but it only succeeded in adding to the confusion.
In 1920, the League of Nations assigned Britain control over Palestine through a Mandate, despite protests from the General Syrian Congress. The Mandate, which went into effect in September of 1923, outlined the rights of the British government in the administration of Palestine, while guiding the eventual self-determination of the Jewish people in Palestine. Article 11 outlined the rights of the Jews and the British government to “develop any of the natural resources of the country” for the benefit of the community (Laqueur, 33). It never mentioned that the Arabs should have an independent state, but it did lay out protections for freedom of religious exercise and from ethnic discrimination (Laqueur, 34). The General Syrian Congress in Damascus argued, before the Mandate was created, that they were ready for statehood, and therefore rejected the notion that they should exist under a mandatory power. This did not suit the imperialistic greed of the victorious nations following the war, so their complaint fell on deaf ears. They also, for the first time, rejected the ambitions of the Zionists, who clearly had every intention of creating a “commonwealth… (in) Palestine” and represented a “grave peril to (their) people from the national, economical, and political points of view.” (Laqueur, 29) From this Congress, the Arabs, who “shed so much blood in the cause of… liberty and independence,” posed a challenge to democratic nations to prove “their sincerity and noble sympathy with the aspiration of the weaker nations in general and (the) Arab people in particular.” (Laqueur, 29) This opposition should not have come as a surprise to Britain since the King-Crane Commission, which was established by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919, reported these sentiments of opposition and hostility to the Zionist movement and to Jewish immigration. The commission, upon meeting with Zionist leaders, discovered that the Jewish immigrants looked forward to “complete dispossession of the present non-Jewish communities in Palestine”. (Laqueur, 26) This admission, coupled with the near unanimous opposition to Jewish immigration among the Arabs, lead the commission to conclude that the goal of creating a Jewish commonwealth “should be given up” and that to create such a commonwealth would require a “force of arms… of not less than fifty thousand soldiers.” (Laqueur, 26-27) The commission also rejected the claim that the Jews had a “‘right’ to Palestine based on an occupation two thousand years ago.” (Laqueur, 27) Irregardless of the warnings, Britain went ahead with its Mandate to create a Jewish National Homeland.
The Mandate period was marked by conflicting policies regarding Jewish immigration and spikes of violence, all of which forced the British to give up their interests in the region. Every policy change regarding Jewish immigration was met with Jewish disapproval, and was followed with British assurances that they did not intend to halt immigration, altogether. One of these assurances came from James Ramsay MacDonald, who wrote to Chaim Weizmann in order to “remove certain misconceptions and misunderstandings” about “his Majesty’s Government(‘s)” stance toward Palestine. MacDonald, a Zionist sympathizer, promised Weizmann that Jewish immigration and procurement of land should continue, so long as it did not create a burden for the non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine, as stated in the Balfour Declaration (Laqueur, 54). By 1936, opposition to the Zionists had become so violent that the British government appointed a commission, headed by Lord Peel, to investigate the root causes of the violence. They found that the “forcible conversion of Palestine into a Jewish State against the will of the Arabs” was the underlying cause of the Arab riots. The Peel Commission, therefore, suggested a partition plan, since neither Jew nor Arab would have “any sense of service to a single state.” (Laqueur, 58) This conclusion received condemnations from the Arab and Jewish communities, as well as a subsequent commission set-up to determine the viability of a partition plan. This commission (created in 1938) found that it was “impractical” to determine boundaries for either an Arab or Jewish homeland, therefore, they argued, “the surest foundation for peace and progress in Palestine would be an understanding between the Arabs and the Jews,” which could be expedited by a meeting of Arab and Jews in London, where they could come to an agreement over future policies in Palestine (Laqueur, 63). Because these negotiations failed, and because the British government was more concerned with Nazi Germany, the White Paper of 1939 was issued. This White Paper conceded to the Arabs on a number of issues, such as immigration. The British government also conceded that much of the unrest in Palestine was a result of the ambiguities contained in previous policies and pronouncements (Laqueur, 65). The White Paper stated, unequivocally, that all of Palestine was not to be reserved for a Jewish Homeland; instead, that all of Palestine should be a state “in which the two peoples in Palestine, Arabs and Jews, share authority in government in such a way that the essential interests of each are secured.” (Laqueur, 68) This goal, they believed, could be met within ten years. The White Paper also contained provisions concerning religious freedom, protection of Holy sites, and it also restricted Jewish immigration to five years, allowing 15,000 Jews per year. This Paper met with fierce Jewish opposition and accusations that the British government had caved in to terrorism (Laqueur, 76). The Jewish agency threatened violence against “British policy” in defense of their “Jewish home and Jewish freedom.” (Laqueur, 77) This policy came at a time when Jews were fleeing Hitler’s grasp in Eastern Europe and were finding a safe haven in Palestine. Ben-Gurion famously declared, “We shall fight with Great Britain in this war as though there was no White Paper, and we shall fight the White Paper as though there was no war.” (Cleveland, 260) As Britain engaged itself in World War 2, the Middle-East conflict took a backseat to the Empire’s struggle to survive.
True to their word, the Jews in Palestine fought against the Axis powers, but many also began to undermine the British Mandate in Palestine through violence and by forming an alliance with another powerful nation. In 1942, the United States endorsed the Biltmore program, which called for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine and chastised the British government for limiting Jewish immigration, effectively rejecting the White Paper of 1939. This largely came about through the efforts of David Ben-Gurion, who was looking to the U.S. to fulfill their hopes of statehood. In Palestine, however, many Jewish volunteers were gaining invaluable military experience by fighting in Europe alongside British troops; the Haganah, Jewish paramilitary forces in Palestine, was gaining experience and arms as the British were preparing to use them in defense of Palestine in the event of an invasion (Cleveland, 262). The Irgun, right-wing militants lead by Menachim Begin, used terrorism against British forces in Palestine, most notably the bombing of the King David Hotel in 1946, killing 91 people and injuring 46 others. The other group engaging in terrorism at the time was the Lehi, which was not as effective as the Irgun, but it was successful in assassinating the British minister of state for the Middle-East, Lord Moyne (Cleveland, 263). The Jewish community in Palestine was prepared, at the close of World War 2, to engage the British in open war in order to realize their dream of a Jewish Homeland. Fortunately, for them, the British government lost all interest in its Mandate and “referred the matter to the UN.” (Cleveland, 263)
The destruction of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem
Having been granted oversight of the Palestine Mandate, the UN immediately began to look for the underlying causes of the unrest. Its first step was to assign a commission, as though there had not been enough commissions and studies over the previous 30 years. They concluded that the best solution was to partition Palestine into an Arab state, a Jewish state, with an international zone in Jerusalem. Each state would have to have an approved constitution and declare that they would establish an “economic union of Palestine.” (Laqueur, 110) The UN General Assembly set a date for withdrawal of British forces—August 1, 1948—after which the Jews and Arabs would be able to proclaim their independence. The UN laid out, in great detail, the form of government that each state would be required to have, which included democratic provisions and rights for minorities. Also, as a subtext to the UN’s role, there was a tremendous amount of sympathy for the Jewish people, who had suffered horrendously during the Holocaust. In many ways, the powerful nations had feelings of guilt for either indifference or failing to understand the extent of Hitler’s destruction (Gendzier, 13). Nonetheless, the UN had done what the British Mandate had failed to do by creating conditions in which the Arab and Jewish communities could realize their aspirations for statehood. Unfortunately, the conflict was not over, by any means. By spring 1948, 400,000 Palestinians had fled the country after hearing news of the massacre of Dayr Yassin. The Irgun had massacred 250 Arab civilians (Cleveland, 266). This would trigger a series of retaliatory strikes, which would continue until present time.
David Ben-Gurion proclaims the state of Israel
On May 14, 1948, the state of Israel was proclaimed, and the next day they were invaded by neighboring Arab forces. That was also the day that the Arabs proclaimed their own independence, however, they also rejected the UN’s authority and they failed to recognize the right of Israel to exist. The Arab nations of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Transjordan, and Iraq fought against the Jewish forces until December 1948. Not only did the Arab nations suffer a devastating defeat, but they watched as the new state of Israel expanded its boundaries (Cleveland, 266). The Arab invaders could not compete with the military superiority of Israel; the Israeli forces not only had military experience from their participation in the war, but they also continued to possess arms and technology they had stolen from British forces. By comparison, the Arabs were unorganized and their weaponry was primitive. Adding to that, Israel forces also seriously outnumbered the Arab forces, which were also under poor leadership. The facts of the war, often blurred by time and myth-building, do not support the claim that Israel was a David fighting the Arab Goliath; in reality, the opposite was true. By the end of the war, the Haganah began the process of forcibly removing Arabs from their villages, known as Plan D (Cleveland, 268). The massive flight of Arabs from Israel finally allowed for the existence of a Jewish majority, but it also created a burden on the neighboring Arab states who had taken in the Arab refugees. The Zionist dream had been realized, as the King-Crane commission predicted, through force of arms and at the expense of the Arabs’ dream of statehood. An article by Irene Gendzier quotes Yehoshofat Harkabi (former Israeli chief of military intelligence) as saying, in reference to the creation of the current strife between Israel and the Palestinians: “Because we took the land, this gives us the image of being bad, of being aggressive. The Jews always considered that the land belonged to them, but in fact it belonged to the Arabs. I would go farther: I would say the original source of this conflict lies with Israel, with the Jews—and you can quote me. But our attachment to this land is too powerful. The big problem, then, is not to start at the beginning but [to] find out ‘Where do we go from here?’.”
This is not an ancient conflict, but an all too modern conflict that is the direct result of the British government’s failure to bring a solution to the Palestine question. As detailed at the outset, both Jews and Arabs have historical ties to the land of Palestine; even more importantly, they share ethnic origins in Mesopotamia. However, while the Jewish people went into Diaspora, following the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, the Arab people remained and eventually, under the fledgling Islamic empire and throughout the Ottoman Empire, controlled Palestine for nearly 1,400 years. As the Feisal-Weizmann agreement demonstrates, the Arabs were willing to live side-by-side with the Jewish settlers in “mutual goodwill”. However, it became increasingly apparent to the Arabs that the Jewish settlers intended to take all of Palestine and make it “as Jewish as England is English.” The Arabs were vocal and clear in their opposition to this ambition, while supporting their own ambitions for statehood. In the end, the inability of the British to uphold the will of the majority and the subsequent failure of the UN to help create an Arab state or to solve the refugee problem, resulted in a perpetual and violent struggle for Palestinians to realize self-determination. Now that the world is in a post-9/11 mindset, and we face Islamic extremists who cite the Arab struggle against Israel as their primary motivation for hatred against the U.S., it is even more urgent that this conflict be resolved, not only for our own security, but for the very fact that this conflict represents the failure of democratic societies to facilitate self-determination for all people who desire it. There is no reason why these two people cannot co-exist peaceably on the land they both consider home.
Cleveland, William L. A History of the Modern Middle East. 3rd ed. Boulder, 2004.
Gendzier, Irene. “Palestine and Israel: The Bi-National Idea.” Journal of Palestine Winter 1975: 12-35.
Jones, Alexander. The Jerusalem Bible: Reader’s Edition. New York: Doubleday, 1999.
Laqueur, Walter and Barry Rubin, eds. The Israel-Arab Reader. New York: Penguin Books, 1968.
Ralph, Phillip Lee, et al. World Civilizations. 9th ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997.
John McCain is a sore loser.
Ever since President Barack Obama took office, McCain has griped and complained about all of the President’s proposals and has only endorsed policies that reflect the Bush-era way of running the country. Well, George W. Bush is no longer President, and neither are the Republicans. Democrats are now in charge, and John McCain and the GOP can’t stand it. Jon Stewart put it best when he said: “It’s supposed to taste like a shit taco.”
Instead of being an opposition party with constructive ideas and criticisms, they have embraced obstructionism and outright demagoguery, in hopes of regaining seat during the mid-term elections. Their pseudo-populism makes me vomit a little bit.
John McCain put his madness on display last tuesday after a recent Department of Homeland Security report, which warned that right-wing extremist groups have been trying to recruit disillusioned veterans. After the report’s release, John McCain demanded an apology from the White House for “insulting” veterans. But John McCain wasn’t the only one filled with self-righteous anger: Pat Robertson was also hysterical, as he made a complete fool of himself (which he does often) on his show. Robertson was clearly agitated as he complained that the DHS was conducting a witch-hunt against veterans, pro-life groups, gun rights groups, and groups opposed to illegal immigration. Robertson complained that the Obama administration was attempting to take away their basic constitutional rights to free speech. Both McCain and Robertson have intentionally mischaracterized the report.
The cries from the right (and some from within the Democratic party) have grown so loud that DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano has been forced to apologize on several occasions for the wording in the report, which others have construed to be offensive. There have even been demands that she resign and face a congressional hearing. Jeez! Republicans are so eager to burn Napolitano at the stake for an accurate security assessment, but they are wholly opposed to any form of congressional hearings or investigative panels into the wrongdoings of the Bush administration. As far as I’m concerned, the DHS report doesn’t even come close to being as offensive as the use of torture during interrogations, which was enthusiastically endorsed by Bush, Cheney, and the whole administration. I don’t recall John McCain demanding a White House apology for that. I don’t recall Pat Robertson being outraged over Bush-era counter-terrorism policies that clearly violated our constitutional rights. Despite the fact that Napolitano did succumb to pressure to apologize, she insists that she will not resign.
But what exactly did the report say that has everyone so riled up? If you’re interested, I suggest you read the report yourself. The report itself is only nine pages long, and it is fairly uncontroversial. It begins, roughly, by asserting that a Democratic administration, with the first African American President, has given new vigor to radical right-wing extremist groups, who “may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emergent issues… [such as] real estate foreclosures, unemployment, and an inability to obtain credit.” The resurgence of radicalized right-wing groups parallels the rapid growth of right-wing extremist groups during the 1990’s, when Bill Clinton was President.
The obvious consequence was the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995 carried out by Timothy McVeigh. McVeigh was a Gulf War veteran who was radicalized by right-wing extremist propaganda, such as the fear of a New World Order, a single global currency, a single global police force, and the belief that the government planned to take out every gun owner so that the UN could easily take over the country. He collected large quantities of guns and ammo, and one of his favorite books was The Turner Diaries. He also believed that the government had implanted a computer chip in his butt. McVeigh had returned home from war a hero, but he became disillusioned with his country and the military, and he found it difficult to find employment. In an angry letter to the Lockport Union Sun & Journal, published on February 11, 1992, McVeigh wrote:
…Taxes are a joke. Regardless of what a political candidate “promises” they will increase. They mess up we suffer…Racism on the rise? You had better believe it… No one is seeing the “big” picture… What is it going to take to open the eyes of our elected officials? America is in serious decline. We have no proverbial tea to dump. Should we instead sink a ship full of Japanese imports? Is a civil war imminent? Do we have to shed blood to reform the current system? I hope it doesn’t come to that, but it might.
Clearly, for McVeigh, he felt that the broken system required the shedding of blood. Many of his gripes and concerns can be heard to this day. Believe me: I attended a TEA party rally!
All of this made him easy prey for radicals such as Terry Nichols (also a Gulf War veteran) and James Nichols. The group practiced making bombs, collected right-wing extremist propaganda, and collected guns. The Waco and Ruby Ridge incidents were all the proof they needed to see to understand that the government was waging war against people like them. As McVeigh’s hatred intensified, he began wearing a shirt with a picture of President Lincoln on the front– with the words SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS— THUS EVER TO TYRANTS. On the back was a picture of a bleeding tree with the words of President Jefferson: THE TREE OF LIBERTY MUST BE REFRESHED FROM TIME TO TIME WITH THE BLOOD OF PATRIOTS. It was only a matter of time before McVeigh and the Nichols brothers would plan and execute the deadly Oklahoma City bombing, which took the lives of 168 people– 19 of whom were children.
Notice his shirt
The report cites an even more recent case, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where “three police officers” were shot to death, “on 4 April 2009. The alleged gunman’s reaction reportedly was influenced by his racist ideology and belief in antigovernment conspiracy theories related to gun confiscations, citizen detention camps, and a Jewish-controlled ‘one world government.’” These beliefs are eerily similar to the ones held by McVeigh, and these people are not alone. Many of these people are online, where they can exchange more of these racist anti-government ideologies and can potentially plot domestic acts of terrorism.
The critics (McCain, Robertson, et al.) complain that the report targets conservatives who disagree with the “leftist” policies of the Obama administration. This is clearly not so. The report clearly indicates that their focus is on radical and extremist groups who are prone to commit violence. The report does not focus on everyday Americans exercising their right to free speech. Those people on the right who have their panties all in a bunch are having a hard time differentiating themselves from the radicals, which seems weird to me. Let me put it this way: a protester outside of Planned Parenthood to commemorate the anniversary of Roe V. Wade is not who the report is talking about– it’s the loon who commemorates the occasion by blowing up an abortion clinic. It’s not the asinine religious zealot with a religious “news” network who has to worry– it’s the asinine anti-semite who shoots up a synagogue that we should worry about. Of course, in both examples, the damage is already done before the offender’s extremism is fully realized. We live in a free country where people can pretty much say and do whatever they want. The consequence, as events have shown, is that people take advantage of our freedom to commit horrible acts of violence. Should we limit freedom to stop these people? Bush and his ilk would say, “YES!” However, I say, “No.” If we want to live in a free society, we have to understand that that freedom can have violent consequences. What we can do, all of us, is be aware of our friends and family members who take their grievances to the extremes. I’m not talking about the sort of snitching the government encouraged during the red scare of the 1950’s. Timothy McVeigh’s friends all remembered him talking about committing acts of violence, but they never reported it or even found it strange. Of course, after the Oklahoma City bombing it made sense, but hindsight is 20/20, right?
Illegal immigration is another issue that is a rallying call for extremist groups. White supremacists, especially perturbed by the election of an African American President, are especially concerned by the influx of Mexican immigrants into our country. There already has been an increase in the number of crimes committed against Hispanics. The report cites two instances: “In April 2007, six militia members were arrested for various weapons and explosives violations. Open source reporting alleged that those arrested had
discussed and conducted surveillance for a machine gun attack on Hispanics. A militia member in Wyoming was arrested in February 2007 after communicating his plans to travel to the Mexican border to kill immigrants crossing into the United States.” This is not language protected under the First Amendment. If you’re as ignorant as Pat Robertson, maybe this is acceptable language, but for society (and the LAW) this is not acceptable language: indeed, this is quite illegal.
The section of the report that has stirred up the most controversy is the section titled “Disgruntled Military Veterans.” Notice that it doesn’t say Military Veterans. It specifically uses the term “disgruntled” so as to avoid confusion. In our heavily politicized country, the McCains and Robertsons of the country have deliberately mischaracterized the report in order to score political points, or to bring down the President’s poll numbers. Disgruntled veterans, such as Timothy McVeigh, return home from war with anti-government sentiments. They possess training and skills that radical right-wing groups would love to take advantage of. True, as McCain points out, McVeigh never built a bomb during his time in Iraq and Kuwait, but he certainly regarded his mission to destroy the Murrah building in Oklahoma City in military terms. This, for him, was the full use of his powers to strike back at a corrupt political system, draw a substantial amount of blood, and gain national attention to his cause for reform. As the report makes clear, there were a number of Gulf War veterans who joined the ranks of radical right-wing groups during the 1990’s.
The DHS report actually cites the FBI, which “noted in a 2008 report on the white supremacist movement that some returning military veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have joined extremist groups.” This report, mind you, was written in 2008 under the Bush administration, yet it did not elicit calls from McCain for an apology or calls of resignation from Republicans. The hypocrisy is vast and sickening. These people are now trying to paint themselves as targets of the Obama administration, targeted only because they have political differences. That’s just bullshit. They neglect to mention, of course, that on January 26th, the DHS also issued a report regarding left-wing extremists. Using their “logic,” Obama’s targeting everyone.
The report says the following:
[It] assesses that lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent rightwing
extremist ideology are the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States. Information from law enforcement and nongovernmental organizations indicates lone wolves and small terrorist cells have shown intent—and, in some cases, the capability—to commit violent acts.
— (U//LES) DHS/I&A has concluded that white supremacist lone wolves pose the most
significant domestic terrorist threat because of their low profile and autonomy—separate fromany formalized group—which hampers warning efforts.
— (U//FOUO) Similarly, recent state and municipal law enforcement reporting has warned of the dangers of rightwing extremists embracing the tactics of “leaderless resistance” and of lone wolves carrying out acts of violence.
— (U//FOUO) Arrests in the past several years of radical militia members in Alabama, Arkansas, and Pennsylvania on firearms, explosives, and other related violations indicates the emergence of small, well-armed extremist groups in some rural areas.
The report concludes that the political climate (i.e., African American President and a Democrat controlled government), technological advances, and the downward spiral of the economy, are all factors in the resurgence of right-wing extremist groups.
The report in no way concludes that all veterans are susceptible to these extremists groups, nor does it conclude that citizens with conservative “values” are potential terrorists. The report is very clear about drawing a line between people with honest policy differences (as protected by our constitution) and those who are potential domestic terrorists.
John McCain, you owe the American people an apology. You have deliberately mischaracterized and misinterpreted the DHS report for political gain. You are a disgrace and you should be ashamed of yourself. You have proven to be just as underhanded and deceitful as you were during the 2008 election. Please go away.
Again, the report is very short and I encourage people to read it.
Here it is.
Barack Obama and Joe Biden have set-up a website called change.gov. This is the first step in “building an open and transparent government and seeking input from all Americans.” So, being the opinionated bastard that I am, I put in my own two cents:
I am a supporter of President-elect Barack Obama. I also support his call for change. However, I do not see change in your middle-east policy. You must understand that all the anger and resentment in the region stems from the failure to reconcile the Isareli-Palestinian conflict– it also stems from our unflinching and unconditional suuport for Israel. By resolving this long conflict, and bringing statehood to the Palestinians, we not only bring greater security to Israel, who will be in goodstanding with its neighbors, but it will also bring the US much greater security.
Your plan for the middle-east will fail even more miserably than President Bush’s– which is a sad, sad statement. You not only supported Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, but you also reject any notion that Jerusalem should be divided. I also have not heard you condemn the illegal settlements in the West Bank. You even went as far as to demand that Palestinians recognize Israel’s right to exist, even though the PLO have done just that many times over the last few decades. Israel has never recognized the Palestinians right to exist.
If you want change, as you so often say, start in the middle-east. Listen to your friend Rashid Khalidi, he knows what he’s talking about. Also, I would recommend not appointing Dennis Ross as your middle-east peace envoy. Not only is he very biased towards Israel, but he is also condescending towards the Palestinians, believing they suffer delusions of entitlement. He will not get the job done. You should appoint Dan Kurtzer. He knows the stakes and he understands that an evenhanded policy in the region will be successful.
In short, I would recommend an imposed two-state settlement. Its the only way to resolve this 60 year old conflict that threatens to send the world into even greater chaos. Every President before you has failed to be fair, and thus they have failed in bringing peace. You can change. You can bring peace and security to Israel, the middl-east, and America.
I doubt he’ll read it, or that anybody will show it to him, but it’s nice to be able to vent.
With Ariel Sharon
Dan Kurtzer was President Clinton’s ambassador to Egypt and he was George W. Bush’s ambassador to Israel between 2001 and 2005. He was instrumental in the U.S.’s recognition of the PLO and he is a leading proponent of “even-handedness” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, something that has been lacking in our efforts in the region. He also understands that there is unjustice on both sides of the issue: Israeli aggression and Palestinian terrorism. He is also an advocate for the creation of the Palestinian state. He, unlike Dennis Ross, has sympathy for the Palestinians and their aspirations. What really got me to appreciate Kurtzer was his recognition that Camp David 2 was more the failure of Ross, Clinton, Barak, than Arafat’s. He He blamed Ross for being too pro-Israel and he criticized Clinton “for acceding to Barak’s request to blame Arafat for the failure of Camp David“. Kurtzer isn’t perfect, but who in Washington is? But he’s the closest to perfect as we can get in these critical times.
Dennis Ross with Ehud Barak
I’ll be posting more on this later.
Happy Holiday’s everyone!
Some fun with Hillary Clinton!
And on to some depressing crap about Barack Obama…
Someone created a video and posted it on youtube.com that was really insulting to Barack Obama because it questioned his patriotism. This “someone” is conservative Lee Habeeb, a former producer of the Laura Ingraham Show and is currently the director of strategic content at Salem Radio Network, the conservative talk radio powerhouse. What a bastard. Here’s the video:
1) I find the Reverend’s remarks very incendiary and very divisive. There was no talk of forgiveness or unity, only hate. He would not have been my Pastor.
2) There is a well of anger and resentment that still exists within the black community.There is no way that African-Americans can possibly overcome the centuries old oppression in a mere 44 years. Poverty, jut like wealth, is inherited, as is desperation. Just because they were given equal rights in ’64, did not mean that they were suddenly on par with whites. Whites are miles ahead of blacks still, to this day. There is still racism on both sides of the racial divide, as the reverend’s remarks make absolutely clear. It will take more time to heal the wounds and to level the playing field. This country needs to talk honestly about race, but I think we’re not ready yet. People, on both sides, are too immature and sensitive to hold an honest and open discussion.
3) As for Patriotism, I do not question either Obama’s or Clinton’s patriotism. They are both serving as civil servants, which is a noble and altruistic sacrifice. However, I do think, as far as politics go, that Barack Obama would be better off if he would wear the pin and salute the flag. I don’t really care either way, but there are millions of other people who do. Common sense should have told him to wear the stupid pin and salute the flag, if only for appearances sake.
4) As for “the chickens are coming home to roost,” what about that is not factually correct? Again, his presentation is very abrasive and divisive, but his basic point is right on: America has committed a number of atrocities (including Nagasaki and Hiroshima) but they are viewed by Americans to be okay. They do not view American foreign policy as aggressive or hostile, but benevolent and peaceful. The terrorists are at war with us because of our policies in the middle-east, not because they hate us for being Christian or because we have freedom and democracy. They hate that we support Israel’s brutal military occupation of Palestine; we imposed sanctions on Iraq that were devastating the Iraqi people and resulted in the deaths of 1.5 million Iraqi civilians; and because we had troops on the Holy Lands of Mecca and Medina. Those are the reasons Usama bin Laden gave when he declared war on the United States in 1996, not religious reasons. So, whether people agree that the policies are wrong or not is a completely different argument, but the fact remains that the terrorists perceive them as being negative and harmful, so they have to fight us. That’s the truth. It’s called “blowback.” One might say that the “chickens are coming home to roost.”
5) And finally, I think Obama’s handling of the situation has been sub-par, which is par for his course of dealing with negative attention. People can celebrate and jump for joy over his speech, but he really has not adequately distanced himself from the remarks nor the pastor, which is what’s really bothering people. The “god damn America” part, coupled with the pin and salute and his wife’s remarks, really paint an unflattering portrait of Obama’s patriotism. This is a republican’s wet dream. They’re all about patriotism over there. They don’t have to make any other arguments than the patriotism argument and that will be enough to sway that block of voters. Obama’s problem all along is that he really doesn’t know how to strike back. Hillary is great at that. He can talk all he wants to about unity and change and bi-partisanship, but if he becomes President the republicans aren’t going to give up and say, “Oh, okay! We’ll work together now! Yay!” They are going to kick and scream and yell their way to defeating anything he wants to do, particularly with the war and health care. We need someone who can work with republicans when neccessary, but kick in some skulls when something needs to get done. I don’t think, judging from how he has thus far handled crises, that he is the man for the job.
And another thing, I hate to admit it, but watching CNN is like watching an orgy for Obama. I’m so sickened by this that I watch Fox News (which is equally sickening, but at least they’re not ejaculating over everthing Obama says or does). Everything about Obama is positve, or when they deal with something negative they’re always defensive. With Hillary it’s always negative and hateful. Just today, they were going after her because she finally made a statement about the Reverend Wright scandal. She did not go out of her way to bring up the subject– she was asked a question and she gave her answer. They make her seem like a vindictive bitch. If they’re butt-hurt over her comments, then they’re going to get a rude awakening when the Election gets underway and the republicans really start their attacks.
I fuckin hate Bill O’Reilly, so imagine my headache when I actually agreed with him!
I always hear things that really irritate me, but there are several that bug me more than most. Of these things that I hear, the most irritating is the one that says President Bill Clinton dropped the ball when he failed to accept a Sudanese deal to hand over Osama bin Laden. It simply is not true, is based on zero fact, and is refuted by US Intelligence Agencies. Yet, talk radio (particularly Sean Hannity) and their conservative listeners constantly refer to it as though it is fact, conventional wisdom, even. Well, it isn’t. Here’s why…
We can start with Richard Clarke’s testimony to the 9/11 Commission. In his prepared statement, which he read publicly on March 24, 2004, he makes a point of not only disputing the claim, but he also makes the point that President Clinton really made counter-terrorism one of his top priorities.
While bin Ladin was in Sudan, he was hosted by its leader, Hasan Turabi.
Under Turabi, Sudan had become a safe haven for many terrorist groups, but bin Ladin had special status. He funded many development programs such as roads and dined often with Turabi and his family. Turabi and bin Ladin were ideological brethren. Following the assassination attempt on Egyptian President Mubarek, the US and Egypt successfully proposed UN sanctions on Sudan because of its support of terrorism. Because of the growing economic damage to Sudan due to its support of terrorism, bin Ladin offered to move to Afghanistan. Sudan at no time detained him, nor was there ever a credible offer by Sudan to arrest and render him.
He goes on…
CIA and FBI did not report the existence of an organization named al Qida until the mid-1990s, seven years after it was apparently created… The White House urged CIA in 1994 to place greater focus on what the Agency called “the terrorist financier, Osama bin Ladin.” After the creation of a “virtual station” to examine bin Ladin, CIA identified a multi-national network of cells and of affiliated terrorist organizations. That network was attempting to wage “jihad” in Bosnia and planned to have a significant role in a new Bosnian government. US and Allied actions halted the war in Bosnia and caused most of the al Qida related jihadists to leave. The White House asked CIA and DOD to develop plans for operating against al Qida in Sudan, the country of its headquarters. Neither department was able successfully to develop a plan to do so. Immediately following Osama bin Ladin’s move to Afghanistan, the White House requested that plans be developed to operate against al Qida there. CIA developed ties to a group which reported on al Qida activity, but which was unable to mount successful operations against al Qida in Afghanistan. CIA opposed using its own personnel to do so.
Former CIA Director George Tenet testified before an Inquiry Committee on October 17, 2002. Here is part of what he had to say…
Beginning in January 1996, we began to receive reports that Bin Ladin planned to move from Sudan. Confirming these reports was especially difficult because of the closure in February of the US Embassy as well as the CIA station in Khartoum for security reasons. We have read the allegations that, around this time, the Sudanese Government offered to surrender Bin Ladin to American custody.
Mr. Chairman, CIA has no knowledge of such an offer.
The 9/11 Commission concluded…
In late 1995, when Bin Ladin was still in Sudan, the State Department and the CIA learned that Sudanese officials were discussing with the Saudi gov-ernment the possibility of expelling Bin Ladin. U.S.Ambassador Timothy Carney encouraged the Sudanese to pursue this course. The Saudis, however, did not want Bin Ladin, giving as their reason their revocation of his citizenship. Sudan’s minister of defense, Fatih Erwa, has claimed that Sudan offered to hand Bin Ladin over to the United States. The Commission has found no credible evidence that this was so. Ambassador Carney had instructions only to push the Sudanese to expel Bin Ladin. Ambassador Carney had no legal basis to ask for more from the Sudanese since, at the time, there was no indictment outstanding.
So, there was an actual meeting between the US and Sudanese officials, held on March 8, 1996. Here is a memo, obtained by the Washington Post, about what the US wanted from Sudan. Notice, there is no desire to have Sudan render bin Laden…
MEASURES SUDAN CAN TAKE TO IMPROVE RELATIONS WITH THE UNITED STATES1. Provide us with informaton (names, business associations and results of your investigation) on the owners and operators on specific dates noted of the following Sudanese license plates used in cars that surveilled US Embassy officers. Two incidents are described below:• . . . [From] 1-18 July 1995, a white Toyota pick-up truck, license number “1392,” was engaged in a coordinated surveillance operation against an Embassy officer’s residence in the al-Riyadh section of Khartoum. The Toyota coordinated the surveillance activities with a static surveillant posted nearby. During the same period, motorcycles without license plates regularly followed this officer from his residence to the Embassy.• On 26 March 1995, an Embassy officer left the Embassy and while driving north on Hariyah Street was surveilled by two light skinned males with thick beards and no hats driving south on Hiriyah street in a 1993 or 1994 four door Isuzu pick-up truck with plate number “KHA” or “LAM” 792 or 793. [Made a] . . . u-turn and took up a surveillance position approximately 100 meters to the rear of the Embassy officer’s car. [Didn’t stop until] . . . a demarche to your government protesting this activity2. Provide us with names, dates of arrival, departure and destination and passport data on mujahedin that Osama Bin Laden has brought into Sudan.
• Since mid-1994 your government has allowed more than 200 of Bin Laden’s operatives into Sudan
3. Provide information (names, numbers, photos) on passports/visas used by Egyptian Gama’at al-Islamiyya, Algerian Islamic Jihad, Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS) and Palestinian Islamic Jihad entering and leaving Sudan.
• Provide us . . . Gama’at members Mustafa Hamza, Izzat Abu Yassin and Husayn Ahmad Shahid Ali (AKA Muhammad Sirajl) – the three terrorists implicated in the attack against President Mubarak. (Your government claims that the three have left Sudan. We are convinced that, if true, your government has information that substantiates where they have gone and when.)
4. Bulldoze the Merkhiyat Military Camp located at the geographic coordinates 15-43-30N 32-24-07E, west of Omdurman. In the US demarche to your government in September 1994 it was noted that the US had specific evidence that this camp has been used to train HAMAS and other terrorist elements.
• Provide evidence that this camp has been torn down, such as allowing US officials to inspect the camp
5. Provide a presence list of all official and unofficial Iranians, including the 200 IRGC members publicly identified by senior Iranian officials in Sudan.
6. Reorient the Pan-Arab Islamic Conference away from its present role [as] a forum for meeting of various Islamic extremist groups engaged in terrorism.
In fact, as President Clinton’s National Security Advisor pointed out, they had no legal right to hold bin Laden even if he were offered by Sudan. An indictment was not bought against Osama bin Laden until 1998. President Clinton started bombing sites in Afghanistan in an attempt to kill bin Laden, but missed him by a couple of hours. His Republican critics in Congress accused him of using a “Wag the Dog” trick in order to distract the public from the Monica Lewinsky scandal. These are the same people who now say he didn’t do enough while he was President to kill bin Laden. Many people who are now beating the war drum criticized President Clinton’s focus on anti-terrorism. Here is an article from Salon.com dated Aug. 27, 1998, by Loren Jenkins, that makes my point even clearer…
“Our target was terror. Our mission was clear.”
— President Clinton, Aug. 20, 1998
To the litany of terrorist acts that President Clinton laid at the feet of renegade Saudi millionaire Osama bin Laden in justification of his cruise missile attacks on Afghanistan and the Sudan last week, the administration has now alleged a murky plot to assassinate the president as well.
The alleged plot against Clinton was to have taken place when he was to have visited Pakistan. The anonymous intelligence sources that have made such an industry in bin Laden revelations this week acknowledge that the plot never went beyond the coffee-shop talking stage. But the charge helped to reinforce the president’s claims that bin Laden is “perhaps the preeminent organizer and financier of international terrorism in the world today,” and that there was “compelling” — if unrevealable — evidence that a network of terrorist groups he controlled was planning “further attacks against Americans and other freedom-loving groups.” At a time when presidential veracity is at an all-time low, one might have wished that the president and his national security advisors had laid out in detail just what was the “compelling evidence” that led the United States to launch some 75 missiles at two sovereign nations.
As it is, the public, both here in the United States and in the more critical world at large, is being asked to take a giant Kierkegaardian leap of faith in the president’s claims. Given Clinton’s recent track record in the “trust me” department, this is a lot to demand.
For while there is little doubt that bin Laden is a sworn enemy of the United States with the financial means to put some teeth in that enmity, his exact role in anti-American terrorism is unclear. The administration’s claims are based more on conjecture — mostly bin Laden’s own braggadocio and the bad company he apparently keeps — than hard and convincing evidence.
Clinton and his security staff have now blamed bin Laden for being behind almost every terrorist act in the past decade — from plotting the assassinations of the pope and the president of Egypt to the planned bombing of six U.S. jumbo jets over the Pacific, with massacres of German tourists at Luxor and the killings of U.S. troops in Somalia, fatal car bombings of U.S. military personnel in Saudi Arabia and this month’s truck bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam thrown in. Not since the ’70s heyday of the terrorist Carlos has there been such a Prince of Darkness, if the allegations are to be believed.
But so far, for all of the accusations, no government, not even that of the United States, has established enough credible evidence against bin Laden to conclusively prove his direct participation in, much less leadership of, any of the ugly plots and acts he stands accused of. To date no formal request for his extradition has ever been made, either to the Sudanese government that once housed him or to his current hosts, Afghanistan’s Taliban leaders.
Though it was suddenly leaked this week that a federal grand jury’s continuing investigation into the World Trade Center bombing in New York City in 1993 had belatedly handed up a sealed indictment against bin Laden in June, the indictment is understood to be only for “sedition,” that is, incitement to violence, not the violence itself. That is the same charge under which the Unites States previously convicted Egyptian cleric Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the Trade Center bomber’s spiritual leader.
The only link between bin Laden and the World Trade Center bombing seems to be the fact that the mastermind of the bombing, Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, was eventually detained by U.S. agents while living in a guest house in Pakistan reportedly rented by bin Laden. The Saudi was also implicated in a failed 1994 plan to blow up American jumbo jets over the Pacific because the plot mastermind, Wali Khan Amin Shah, reportedly was a “close friend” of bin Laden’s.
If bin Laden’s fingerprints were to be found on any terrorist acts of the last decade, they should have been on the two attacks against U.S. military personnel carried out in the years when he was still living in his Saudi Arabian homeland. Bin Laden, a wealthy Saudi engineering graduate who became a radical Muslim after joining the war against Russia’s occupation of Afghanistan in 1979, became virulently anti-American after U.S. troops were stationed in Saudi Arabia during the 1991 Gulf War.
To him the American presence in Saudi Arabia, home of the holy Islamic sites Mecca and Medina, is a sacrilege he has vowed to reverse, along with toppling the “corrupt” Saudi royal family that has allowed it. Thus, when a car bomb exploded at a Saudi National Guard office in Riyadh in 1995, killing five Americans, and another blew up at the Khobar Towers Barracks in Dhahran a year later, killing another 19, bin Laden seemed the most likely suspect.
But neither the FBI, the CIA nor the Saudi intelligence services has ever been able to establish bin Laden’s links to those crimes after years of trying. What evidence that has emerged from those ongoing investigations points the finger at dissident Saudi Shiites, perhaps with the logistic support of the Lebanese Hezbollah organization, or even Iran.
Though much has been made of the fact that from his safe-houses in Afghanistan bin Laden has forged a loose alliance with perhaps a dozen different Islamic groups in the Muslim world from Algeria to Bangladesh, he seems to be more of a spiritual leader and financier than the sort of terrorist mastermind being alleged.
“Bin Laden is a true believer and a funder of Islamic causes, rather than a planner and active participant,” says Professor Shibley Telhani, a Middle East scholar from the University of Maryland who has followed his career. “His real influence is not as a mastermind of terrorism but as a person who is using a personal fortune to encourage others to wage war against the American interests in the Middle East he finds so objectionable.”
Indeed the sealed federal indictment just handed up, it would appear, is not based on any evidence directly linking him to either of those plots or others. Instead, it seems to have been motivated by a public call to arms against Americans that bin Laden published in the London Arabic newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi last February. Issued as an Islamic Fatwa, or holy order, even though bin Laden has no religious authority whatsoever, the broadside by bin Laden and other signers from various Islamic groups called for Muslims to “kill Americans and their allies, civilians and military” wherever they find them.
These are strong words indeed. But they are words, not deeds. And though it is all too likely that those words have inspired others to such actions as the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam last month, bin Laden himself is unlikely to have personally ordered those bombings or carried them out.
Unless the Clinton administration can come up with some hard evidence that bin Laden is in fact calling the shots of a vast new anti-American terrorist network, all the present allegations and faceless intelligence-source leaks claiming facts too secret and explosive to be revealed should be taken with a grain of salt.
Bin Laden may be a dangerous anti-American zealot with a mouth as big as his bankroll. But the evidence so far does not support him being a cerebral Islamic Dr. No moving an army of terrorist troops on a vast world chessboard to checkmate the United States.
What the fuck people? What the fuck? I guess we needed two burning buildings in New York to prove President Clinton was right. There is a lot of revisionism going on, mostly by Clinton-haters on the right, who want to paint President Clinton as a failure and coward, but the facts simply do not substantiate those claims. These Whig historians look at that meeting on March 8, 1996 and pass judgement on it, knowing what they know now about the threat from bin Laden. In other words, hindsight is 20/20. What they fail to acknowledge, is that Clinton was prescient in his drive to fight terrorism, meanwhile the Republican party was obsessed with him getting a blow job from an intern and were hell-bent on impeaching him. They accused him of trying to distract from the Lewinsky scandal, but what he was trying to do was stop someone he believed was a major threat. Did he succeed? No. But he tried a lot harder to kill bin Laden than the Bush administration. Richard Clarke, the former Terrorism Czar, said in an interview with 60 Minutes that he, “wrote a memo to Condoleezza Rice asking for, urgently — underlined urgently — a Cabinet-level meeting to deal with the impending al Qaeda attack. And that urgent memo– wasn’t acted on.” He also said, “We had a terrorist organization that was going after us! Al Qaeda. That should have been the first item on the agenda. And it was pushed back and back and back for months.” When he finally had his meeting, it was in April with Paul Wolfowitz, then Deputy Secretary of Defense, who had little to no patience for the idea that a small band of Arab Muslims could ever harm America. “I began saying, ‘We have to deal with bin Laden; we have to deal with al Qaeda.’ Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, said, ‘No, no, no. We don’t have to deal with al Qaeda. Why are we talking about that little guy? We have to talk about Iraqi terrorism against the United States.’ And I said, ‘Paul, there hasn’t been any Iraqi terrorism against the United States in eight years!‘ And I turned to the deputy director of the CIA and said, ‘Isn’t that right?‘ And he said, ‘Yeah, that’s right. There is no Iraqi terrorism against the United States.'”
There was no Cabinet level meeting (in other words, with the President) until one week before 9/11. At the meeting, Clarke suggested that President Bush bomb sites in Afghanistan where bin Laden might be hiding. Following 9/11, Clarke says that he was asked by Bush to find a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. “The president dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut the door, and said, ‘I want you to find whether Iraq did this.‘ Now he never said, ‘Make it up.’ But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this. I said, ‘Mr. President. We’ve done this before. We have been looking at this. We looked at it with an open mind. There’s no connection.‘ He came back at me and said, ‘Iraq! Saddam! Find out if there’s a connection.‘ And in a very intimidating way. I mean that we should come back with that answer. We wrote a report.”
The FBI and CIA both looked into the possibility and wrote a report concluding that there was no connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq. “It was a serious look. We got together all the FBI experts, all the CIA experts. We wrote the report. We sent the report out to CIA and found FBI and said, ‘Will you sign this report?‘ They all cleared the report. And we sent it up to the president and it got bounced by the National Security Advisor or Deputy. It got bounced and sent back saying, ‘Wrong answer. … Do it again.’”
In the final analysis, Clinton did his damndest to kill bin Laden. Bush failed to act because he was surrounded by Cold War relics who did not want to continue a Clinton policy of counter-terrorism. I think after Bush leaves office, more people will come forward from his administration to admit these failures in judgement.
Six months after 9/11…