Executive Summary: Two members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff ‘dis America’s hyper-aggressive imperialism … Newly-leaked documents show that innocent people were thrown into Gitmo because they wore Casio watches or were Al Jazeera reporters … Al Qaeda assassin worked for MI6 … And – yes – the Iraq war was for oil.
Four stories from the last week confirm what many have been saying for years: the war on terror is a farce.
Military Brass Say Imperial Wars of Aggression are Hurting America
I’ve said for years that the war on terror is weakening America.
As I noted last year:
The very hawkish and pro-war Rand Corporation – released a study in 2008 called “How Terrorist Groups End: Lessons for Countering al Qa’ida“.
The report confirms that the war on terror is actually weakening national security. As a press release about the study states:
“Terrorists should be perceived and described as criminals, not holy warriors, and our analysis suggests that there is no battlefield solution to terrorism.”
Former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski told the Senate that the war on terror is “a mythical historical narrative”. And Newsweek has now admitted that the war on terror is wholly unnecessary.
As American reporter Gareth Porter writes in Asia Times:
Three weeks after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, former US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld established an official military objective of not only removing the Saddam Hussein regime by force but overturning the regime in Iran, as well as in Syria and four other countries in the Middle East, according to a document quoted extensively in then-under secretary of defense for policy Douglas Feith’s recently published account of the Iraq war decisions. Feith’s account further indicates that this aggressive aim of remaking the map of the Middle East by military force and the threat of force was supported explicitly by the country’s top military leaders.
Feith’s book, War and Decision, released last month, provides excerpts of the paper Rumsfeld sent to President George W Bush on September 30, 2001, calling for the administration to focus not on taking down Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network but on the aim of establishing “new regimes” in a series of states…
General Wesley Clark, who commanded the North Atlantic Treaty Organization bombing campaign in the Kosovo war, recalls in his 2003 book Winning Modern Wars being told by a friend in the Pentagon in November 2001 that the list of states that Rumsfeld and deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz wanted to take down included Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya [yes, Libya], Sudan and Somalia [and Lebanon].
When this writer asked Feith . . . which of the six regimes on the Clark list were included in the Rumsfeld paper, he replied, “All of them.”
The Defense Department guidance document made it clear that US military aims in regard to those states would go well beyond any ties to terrorism. The document said the Defense Department would also seek to isolate and weaken those states and to “disrupt, damage or destroy” their military capacities – not necessarily limited to weapons of mass destruction (WMD)…
Rumsfeld’s paper was given to the White House only two weeks after Bush had approved a US military operation in Afghanistan directed against bin Laden and the Taliban regime. Despite that decision, Rumsfeld’s proposal called explicitly for postponing indefinitely US airstrikes and the use of ground forces in support of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance in order to try to catch bin Laden.
Instead, the Rumsfeld paper argued that the US should target states that had supported anti-Israel forces such as Hezbollah and Hamas.
A senior officer on the Joint Staff told State Department counter-terrorism director Sheehan he had heard terrorist strikes characterized more than once by colleagues as a “small price to pay for being a superpower”.
And our top military and intelligence leaders – as well as Nobel prize winning economists – say that war is destroying our economy. The amount we’re spending is insane. For example, I’ve previously noted that the rational for a large-scale war in Afghanistan doesn’t make sense:
The U.S. admits there are only a small handful of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. As ABC notes:
U.S. intelligence officials have concluded there are only about 100 al Qaeda fighters in the entire country.
With 100,000 troops in Afghanistan at an estimated yearly cost of $30 billion, it means that for every one al Qaeda fighter, the U.S. will commit 1,000 troops and $300 million a year…
This week, two senior members of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff – Captain Wayne Porter of the U.S. Navy and Colonel Mark Mykleby of the Marine Corps – agreed that America is on the wrong track. As Fareed Zakaria summarized their report yesterday:
That the United States has embraced an entirely wrong set of priorities, particularly with regard to its federal budget. We have overreacted to Islamic extremism. We have pursued military solutions instead of political ones.
We are underinvesting in the real sources of national power – our youth, our infrastructure and our economy. The United States sees the world through the lens of threats, while failing to understand that influence, competitiveness and innovation are the key to advancing American interests in the modern world… Above all we must invest in our children. Only by educating them properly will we ensure our ability to compete in the future.
It’s likely that the essay had some official sanction, which means that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or perhaps even Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had seen it and did not stop its publication.
Washington needs to make sure that the United States does not fall into the imperial trap of every other superpower in history, spending greater and greater time and money and energy stabilizing disorderly parts of the world on the periphery, while at the core its own industrial and economic might is waning.
We have to recognize that fixing America’s fiscal problems – paring back the budget busters like entitlements and also defense spending – making the economy competitive, dealing with immigration and outlining a serious plan for energy use are the best strategies to stay a superpower, not going around killing a few tribal leaders in the remote valleys and hills of Afghanistan.
Iraq: A War for … Oil?
Former CIA director George Tenet said that the White House wanted to invade Iraq long before 9/11, and inserted “crap” in its justifications for invading Iraq. Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill also says that Bush planned the Iraq war before 9/11. (The government apparently planned the Afghanistan war before 9/11 as well. See this and this).
The Independent confirmed last week:
Plans to exploit Iraq’s oil reserves were discussed by government ministers and the world’s largest oil companies the year before Britain took a leading role in invading Iraq, government documents show.
The minutes of a series of meetings between ministers and senior oil executives are at odds with the public denials of self-interest from oil companies and Western governments at the time.
Minutes of a meeting with BP, Shell and BG (formerly British Gas) on 31 October 2002 read: “Baroness Symons agreed that it would be difficult to justify British companies losing out in Iraq in that way if the UK had itself been a conspicuous supporter of the US government throughout the crisis.”
The minister then promised to “report back to the companies before Christmas” on her lobbying efforts.
The Foreign Office invited BP in on 6 November 2002 to talk about opportunities in Iraq “post regime change”. Its minutes state: “Iraq is the big oil prospect. BP is desperate to get in there and anxious that political deals should not deny them the opportunity.”
After another meeting, this one in October 2002, the Foreign Office’s Middle East director at the time, Edward Chaplin, noted: “Shell and BP could not afford not to have a stake in [Iraq] for the sake of their long-term future… We were determined to get a fair slice of the action for UK companies in a post-Saddam Iraq.”
Whereas BP was insisting in public that it had “no strategic interest” in Iraq, in private it told the Foreign Office that Iraq was “more important than anything we’ve seen for a long time”.
BP was concerned that if Washington allowed TotalFinaElf’s existing contact with Saddam Hussein to stand after the invasion it would make the French conglomerate the world’s leading oil company. BP told the Government it was willing to take “big risks” to get a share of the Iraqi reserves, the second largest in the world.
Over 1,000 documents were obtained under Freedom of Information over five years by the oil campaigner Greg Muttitt. They reveal that at least five meetings were held between civil servants, ministers and BP and Shell in late 2002.
The 20-year contracts signed in the wake of the invasion were the largest in the history of the oil industry. They covered half of Iraq’s reserves – 60 billion barrels of oil …
The Independent also notes that one of the main movers and shakers for the Iraq oil shenanigans has been mucking around in Libya as well:
Lady Symons, 59, later took up an advisory post with a UK merchant bank that cashed in on post-war Iraq reconstruction contracts. Last month she severed links as an unpaid adviser to Libya’s National Economic Development Board after Colonel Gaddafi started firing on protesters …
Imprisoning Innocents at Gitmo
As I noted in 2009:
One of the main excuses used to justify torture is that the people being tortured were bloodthirsty terrorists, who would do far worse to us if we didn’t stop them.
Is that true?
Judge for yourself:
- The number two man at the State Department under Colin Powell, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, says that many of those being held at Guantanamo Bay were innocent, and that top Bush administration officials knew that they were innocent. Moreover, he said:
“This philosophy held that it did not matter if a detainee were innocent. Indeed, because he lived in Afghanistan and was captured on or near the battle area, he must know something of importance (this general philosophy, in an even cruder form, prevailed in Iraq as well, helping to produce the nightmare at Abu Ghraib). All that was necessary was to extract everything possible from him and others like him, assemble it all in a computer program, and then look for cross-connections and serendipitous incidentals–in short, to have sufficient information about a village, a region, or a group of individuals, that dots could be connected and terrorists or their plots could be identified.
Thus, as many people as possible had to be kept in detention for as long as possible to allow this philosophy of intelligence gathering to work. The detainees’ innocence was inconsequential. After all, they were ignorant peasants for the most part and mostly Muslim to boot.”
(see this and this). Indeed, Wilkerson signed a declaration under penalty of perjury stating that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld covered up the fact that hundreds of innocent men were sent to Guantanamo because they feared that releasing them would harm the push for the war in Iraq and the broader war on terror.
- Many others also state that those tortured were mainly innocent farmers, villagers, or those against whom neighbors held a grudge. Indeed, people received a nice cash reward from the U.S. government for turning people in as “suspected terrorists” (and see this movie)
- The commander of the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Janis Karpinski, estimates that 90% of detainees in the prison were innocent
This has been confirmed by the recent release of U.S. military files. As the Guardian reported yesterday:
The US military dossiers, obtained by the New York Times and the Guardian, reveal how … many prisoners were flown to the Guantánamo cages and held captive for years on the flimsiest grounds, or on the basis of lurid confessions extracted by maltreatment.
The files depict a system often focused less on containing dangerous terrorists or enemy fighters, than on extracting intelligence. Among inmates who proved harmless were an 89-year-old Afghan villager, suffering from senile dementia, and a 14-year-old boy who had been an innocent kidnap victim.
Anyone who was affiliated with Pakistan’s national intelligence service, or that had been held as a prisoner in a Taliban jail, or that wore a certain type of watch, was considered a terrorist:
US authorities listed the main Pakistani intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), as a terrorist organisation alongside groups such as al-Qaida, Hamas, Hezbollah and Iranian intelligence.
Interrogators were told to regard links to any of these as an indication of terrorist or insurgent activity.
A number of British nationals and residents were held for years even though US authorities knew they were not Taliban or al-Qaida members. One Briton … was rendered to Guantánamo simply because he had been held in a Taliban prison and was thought to have knowledge of their interrogation techniques.
Another 17-page file, titled “GTMO matrix of threat indicators for enemy combatants”, advises interrogators to look out for signs of terrorist activity ranging from links to a number of mosques around the world, including two in London, to ownership of a particular model of Casio watch.
“The Casio was known to be given to the students at al-Qaida bombmaking training courses in Afghanistan,” it states.
Others were held because they led religious services or drove cabs in certain geographic regions, or because they were Al Jazeera reporters:
One man was transferred to the facility “because he was a mullah, who led prayers at Manu mosque in Kandahar province, Afghanistan … which placed him in a position to have special knowledge of the Taliban”.
Another prisoner was shipped to the base “because of his general knowledge of activities in the areas of Khowst and Kabul based as a result of his frequent travels through the region as a taxi driver”.
The files also reveal that an al-Jazeera journalist was held at Guantánamo for six years, partly in order to be interrogated about the Arabic news network.
His dossier states that one of the reasons was “to provide information on … the al-Jazeera news network’s training programme, telecommunications equipment, and newsgathering operations in Chechnya, Kosovo and Afghanistan, including the network’s acquisition of a video of UBL [Osama bin Laden] and a subsequent interview with UBL”.
Al Qaeda Assassin and … Green Beret?
The Guardian points out today that U.S. military reports indicate that an Al Qaeda assassin worked for the Britain’s MI6 intelligence agency.
You decide whether this connotes hanky panky or incompetence by Western intelligence services.
As I’ve previously noted, a former Pakistani president alleged that another prominent Al Qaeda terrorist also worked for MI6.
I’ve also noted:
- The FBI had penetrated the cell which carried out the 1993 world trade center bombing, but had — at the last minute — canceled the plan to have its FBI infiltrator substitute fake powder for real explosives, against the infiltrator’s strong wishes (summary version is free; full version is pay-per-view)? See also this TV news report
- The Congressional Joint Inquiry into 9/11 discovered that an FBI informant had hosted and rented a room to two hijackers in 2000 and that, when the Inquiry sought to interview the informant, the FBI refused outright, and then hid him in an unknown location, and that a high-level FBI official stated these blocking maneuvers were undertaken under orders from the White House (confirmed here by the Co-Chair of the Joint Inquiry and former Head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Bob Graham; and see this Newsweek article)
- One of al-Qaeda’s top trainers in terrorism and how to hijack airplanes, who was a very close associate of Bin Laden, was an American citizen who was an operative for the FBI, the CIA, and the Army, and a green beret (see this article from the San Francisco Chronicle and this article from the Globe and Mail). Indeed, while he was acting as an FBI informant, he smuggled Bin Laden in and out of Afghanistan, helped plan the attacks on US embassies in Africa, and apparently played a pivotal role in planning 9/11.
Given a visa waiver under a “little known visa waiver program that allows the CIA and other security agencies to bring valuable agents into the country, bypassing the usual immigration formalities.” While perhaps “little known,” this authority was granted to the Director of National Intelligence by the Central Intelligence Agency Act of 1949 and codified in 50 U.S.C. §403h, which states that if “the admission of a particular alien into the United States for permanent residence is in the interest of national security or essential to the furtherance of the national intelligence mission, such alien and his immediate family shall be admitted to the United States for permanent residence without regard to their inadmissibility under the immigration or any other laws and regulations….”
Even assuming that such shenanigans are due to sheer incompetence only reaffirms that the war on terror has been one of the biggest farces in history.