Four stories from the last week confirm what many have been saying for years: the war on terror is a bust.
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:
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...
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].
this writer asked Feith . . . which of the six regimes on the Clark
list were included in the Rumsfeld paper, he replied, "All of them."
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
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.
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...
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:
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
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
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
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:
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
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
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 mucky
around in Libya as well:
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:
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:
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:
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.
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:
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
Interrogators were told to regard links to any of these as an indication of terrorist or insurgent activity.
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
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.
were held because they led religious services or drove cabs in certain
geographic regions, or because they were Al Jazeera reporters:
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".
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".
also reveal that an al-Jazeera journalist was held at Guantánamo for six
years, partly in order to be interrogated about the Arabic news
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
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:
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
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