Archive for category al Qaeda
At this point, I think everyone has finally realized that following the al-Qaeda game plan post-9/11 didn’t turn out well. The aim of strategy is to force the enemy to conform to your will. Al-Qaeda had a strategy, and we really didn’t. The Bush administration sent our military to chase after who-knows-who in some 60 countries. When President Obama says, “we don’t have a strategy yet” to avoid spending more trillions and more American lives to give ISIS exactly what they want, he is stating a fact.
Tom Engelhardt (emphasis added):
Though the militants of ISIS would undoubtedly be horrified to think so, they are the spawn of Washington. Thirteen years of regional war, occupation, and intervention played a major role in clearing the ground for them. They may be our worst nightmare (thus far), but they are also our legacy — and not just because so many of their leaders came from the Iraqi army we disbanded, had their beliefs and skills honed in the prisons we set up (Camp Bucca seems to have been the West Point of Iraqi extremism), and gained experience facing U.S. counterterror operations in the “surge” years of the occupation. In fact, just about everything done in the war on terror has facilitated their rise. After all, we dismantled the Iraqi army and rebuilt one that would flee at the first signs of ISIS’s fighters, abandoning vast stores of Washington’s weaponry to them. We essentially destroyed the Iraqi state, while fostering a Shia leader who would oppress enough Sunnis in enough ways to create a situation in which ISIS would be welcomed or tolerated throughout significant areas of the country.
“Blowback” can’t even begin to describe a strategic failure of this magnitude. It would be nice to think that the Obama administration has the intelligence and fortitude to design a new strategy that goes beyond “don’t do stupid shit.” I don’t think that. Nobody in Washington is prepared to call the Global War on Terror an utter failure, or admit that ISIS could not have triumphed without our help. It’s reasonable to predict the USA will keep doing the same thing (if only for lack of a better idea), hoping for different results.
Ten years later, the facts are still coming out about the events of September 11, 2001. The first F-16s scrambled from Andrews Air Force Base were unarmed – the pilots knew the only way to stop a hijacked plane would be to crash into it. A little later, according to newly-released tapes, NORAD elected to ignore Vice President Cheney’s order to shoot down suspect aircraft.
The 9/11 Commission Report remains the best overall account of what happened during the attacks ten years ago. However, the vast majority of the 9/11 Commission’s investigative records remain sealed at the National Archives in Washington. About two-thirds of the material is still classified, years after the commission members wanted it released to the public. Included in the sealed archive is the complete transcript of the commission’s interview with President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
While some people refer to “the official story” of the 9/11 attacks, there actually isn’t one. The closest the Bush administration ever came to issuing an official account was former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice’s testimony before the commission in April 2004. This was when Rice claimed, incredibly, that no-one “could have predicted that they would try to use an airplane as a missile.” Condi’s testimony basically amounted to a plea of incompetence on behalf of the U.S. government.
Robert Scheer points out that the 9/11 Commission was never able to definitively answer some of the the most important questions regarding the origin and motives of the 9/11 attackers. The truth might lead to a re-examination of U.S. foreign policy, and possibly embarrassment for some powerful people associated with bad decisions — both overt and covert.
The history of the 9/11 attacks is still being written. There is plenty we still don’t know. What we DO know: the last decade of war has caused lots of death and destruction, and the cost to U.S. taxpayers so far is $6.6 trillion in war funding plus another $580 billion for the Department of Homeland Security. We are left with a shameful legacy of war crimes, assassinations and torture, plus the loss of some of our constitutional rights, privacy, and freedom.
UPDATE: Krugman is Right: We Should Be Ashamed of What Happened after 9/11
UPDATE: Jane Stillwater: Honoring 9-11: Time to audit the CIA’s incestuous relationship with Al Qaeda [Note: I think Jane is asking the right questions, but I don’t agree with all her answers]
UPDATE: Kevin Gosztola: Ten Years After 9/11, Aviation Security Still Hysterical. It’s a world ruled by fear and terror, we just live in it and have nothing to say.
UPDATE: U.S. Attack Threat Remains Uncorroborated. Or, “Osama bin Laden is dead, but you can’t have your rights back yet because we have some more fear mongering to do.”
UPDATE: Chris Hedges:
We do not grasp that Osama bin Laden’s twisted vision of a world of indiscriminate violence and terror has triumphed.
…We could have gone another route. We could have built on the profound sympathy and empathy that swept through the world following the attacks. The revulsion over the crimes that took place 10 years ago, including in the Muslim world, where I was working in the weeks and months after 9/11, was nearly universal. The attacks, if we had turned them over to intelligence agencies and diplomats, might have opened possibilities not of war and death but ultimately reconciliation and communication, of redressing the wrongs that we commit in the Middle East and that are committed by Israel with our blessing. It was a moment we squandered. Our brutality and triumphalism, the byproducts of nationalism and our infantile pride, revived the jihadist movement. We became the radical Islamist movement’s most effective recruiting tool. We descended to its barbarity. We became terrorists too. The sad legacy of 9/11 is that the assholes, on each side, won.
UPDATE: Former Senator Bob Graham Urges Obama to Reopen Investigation into Saudi Role in 9/11 Attacks (Note: Bob Graham is also peddling a novel).
UPDATE: Russ Baker: Newly-revealed evidence links the Saudi royal family to Saudis in South Florida, who reportedly had contact with the 9/11 hijackers before fleeing the US prior to the attacks.
[T]he FBI, for reasons unknown, failed to provide the information to Congressional 9/11 investigators or to the …9/11 Commission, and thus it has remained a secret for the past decade.
…The 9/11 Commission report “found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials” financed Al Qaeda. But this carefully worded statement does not foreclose the possibility that members of the Saudi royal family personally provided financing, or that senior officials funded companies or outsiders that in turn provided financing.
UPDATE: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says that as an engineer he’s sure the twin towers were not brought down by jetliners.
Today’s breaking news was of the arrest of Adam Gadahn, born Adam Pearlman in Oregon and raised on a farm in California. In 2006, Gadahn achieved the dubious distinction of being the first American indicted for treason since World War II. Gadahn claimed to be a spokesman for al-Qaeda, and since 2004 has routinely posted lengthy videos on Islamist online forums. He renounced his U.S. citizenship in 2008.
A senior Pakistani official told CNN that Gadahn was arrested today in Karachi, Pakistan.
In a video that appeared around the time of his arrest, Gadahn praised the Fort Hood shooter and urged Muslims to go to war.
“It is rapidly becoming clear that this already hot global battle is about to get even hotter… This is a war which knows no international borders and no single battleground, and that’s why I am calling on every honest and vigilant Muslim in the countries of the Zionist-Crusader alliance in general and America, Britain and Israel in particular to prepare to play his due role in responding to and repelling the aggression of the enemies of Islam.”
Josh Marshall reminds us that treason is a crime set forth in the U.S. Constitution, and that the Constitution specifies a trial “in open Court.” It will be interesting to hear what various right-wing opinionators are going to say about this constitutional requirement. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: OK, sorry about this post. I ought to have remembered the rule that first reports from the front lines are seldom correct. The guy nabbed in Karachi was not Adam Gadahn. Senior U.S. officials told the New York Times that Pakistani security forces actually caught Abu Yahya Mujahdeen al-Adam, allegedly a Pennsylvania native linked to Al Qaeda’s Afghan combat operations.
This morning on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” I watched a war of words between former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen and Lawrence O’Donnell. O’Donnell won.
In the course of arguing that Obama, by ending torture, has dismantled the most successful interrogation system in the history of the world, Thiessen made an interesting assertion:
“You gotta think back to the period after 9/11. We didn’t even know who hit us. We didn’t know that Khalid Sheik Mohammad was the mastermind of 9/11 or the operational commander of Al Qaeda. And then we started rounding up these terrorists…”
Lawrence O’Donnell heatedly disputed this assertion, pointing out that the Bush administration had been warned before 9/11 that a Bin Laden attack might be coming:
“Isn’t it true that the President you worked for invited the first attack by having no idea what was going on with Al Qaeda?…You just said, `We didn’t know who hit us.’ You were told who was going to hit you before 9/11. And your administration invited the first attack, for which you should live in shame.”
Oh, and torture never produced any actionable intelligence about al-Qaeda. Thiessen lied about that. The Bush Administration never publicly documented a single case in which torture produced intelligence that saved a single life.
UPDATE: Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) wants the U.S. government to punish the perpetrators of torture and detainee abuse… in Iran.
I just finished reading lars Bronworth’s Lost To The West. Bronworth’s subtitle, The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization, describes his central thesis - that the Eastern Roman Empire, usually called the Byzantine Empire, stood as a bulwark between the ravages of various Middle Eastern invaders and Western Europe.
Bronworth’s history doesn’t have the magisterial thoroughness of John Jules Norwich’s three volume history of Byzantium – which I highly recommend if you have the time. Nor does it have the tight focus as some other histories of Byzantium, but it is a good overview. A surprising pattern emerges as Bronworth describes the various Byzantine wars – against the Persians, the Huns, the Bulgars, the various Caliphs and Muslim generals; time and again, the emperors followed a similar strategies – engage in diplomacy as long as you can, try to turn enemies against each other, enlist allies to fight for you, bribe invaders and only if and when all that fails do you resort to actual war.
Time and again, against overwhelming odds and a variety of enemies who stagger the imagination, the Byzantines were successful. Read the rest of this entry »
Air-launched cruise missile
Is the United States engaged in an unacknowledged (but hardly secret) war in Yemen?
Since 2001, the U.S. and its allies and proxies (e.g. Israel) have attacked Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Pakistan, Somalia and the Gaza Strip. U.S. Army Special Forces have also been involved in an offensive against the Abu Sayyaf rebels on the Sulu Archipelago, Philippines. That makes Yemen the ninth country where our forces or close allies have killed Muslims in recent years. Inevitably, many of these people have been noncombatants, women and children.
On December 17, President Obama ordered two cruise missile strikes on a suspected al-Qaeda training site in northern Yemen and a reported gathering of al-Qaeda leaders in Abyan Province in southern Yemen. The Yemeni military also conducted three ground assaults, killing an estimated 120 people.
On Christmas Eve, either the U.S. or the Yemeni air force launched air strikes on targets in Shabwa Province, killing the now-standard “30 suspected militants” that practically every air strike kills.
Sifting through news reports, all we know for sure is that anonymous U.S. government sources are doing their very best to make propaganda out of whatever it is we’re doing in Yemen. For the first set of strikes, one target was described as a location where “an imminent attack against a U.S. asset was being planned.” It was leaked that the attack was intended to kill “the presumed leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, Qaaim al-Raymi,” although it turned out he was not among the dead.
In the Christmas Eve attacks, anonymous U.S. government officials said that the target was the home of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born radical cleric. Al-Awlaki reportedly corresponded by e-mail with Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who is charged with killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, on November 5. A day later, reports from Yemen indicated that Al-Awlaki was alive and well. There was also a claim that Nasir al Wuhayshi, the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and his deputy Said al Shihri may have been killed. Wuhayshi is thought to have survived.
Glenn Greenwald (emphasis added):
Each time the U.S. bombs a new location in the Muslim world, the same pattern emerges. First, officials from the U.S. or allied governments run to their favorite media outlet to claim — anonymously — that some big, bad, notorious, “top” Al Qaeda leader “may have been” or “likely was” killed in the strike, and this constitutes a “stinging” or “devastating” blow against the Terrorist group. These compliant media outlets then sensationalistically trumpet that claim as the dominant theme of their “reporting” on the attack, drowning out every other issue.
As a result, and by design, there is never any debate or discussion over the propriety or wisdom of these strikes. …Having the story shaped this way also ensures that there is virtually no attention paid to the resulting civilian casualties (i.e., the slaughter of innocent people); most Americans, especially journalists, have been trained to ignore such deaths as nothing more than justifiable “collateral damage,” especially when a murderous, top Al Qaeda fighter was killed by the bombs.
…Yet over and over and over, it turns out that these anonymous government assertions — trumpeted by our mindless media — are completely false. The Big Bad Guy allegedly killed in the strike ends up nowhere near the bombs and missiles.
UPDATE: Tonight’s ABC News broadcast described Yemen as (1) “a breeding ground for terrorism,” (2) “a hornets’ nest,” and (3) “a largely lawless country.” Did ABC’s alleged journalists interview anyone who has ever set foot in Yemen? No, with one exception. They did interview Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who said: “Iraq was yesterday’s war. Afghanistan is today’s war. If we don’t act preemptively, Yemen will be tomorrow’s war.” Lieberman visited Sana’a last August (probably the only time he’s been there).
Given that there are 308 million people in the USA and only 23 million in Yemen, I’d bet more terrorists live in our country than in Yemen. Just saying.
UPDATE: “Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” has claimed the failed underpants bomber was acting in retaliation for U.S. strikes on Yemeni soil. Whether true or not, the claim of responsibility is clearly intended to provoke more American attacks on Yemen. Of course, the commentators on CNN totally miss that obvious point.
UPDATE: New York Times headlines Yemen as “a Qaeda bastion,” and hints at recently expanded covert CIA and special operations forces activities there.
See the continuation of this post for a timeline of violent events in Yemen.
Read the rest of this entry »
Old City, Sana’a, Yemen
Back in 1990 and 1991 I had the privilege of living and working in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, for the United Nations Development Program. Sana’a is a World Heritage City that has been continuously inhabited for more than 2,500 years, and the number of residents has doubled from one to two million since I was there. Yemen is a conservative Muslim country (slightly less so than Saudi Arabia), but there was wide acceptance of foreigners. I learned a few stock Arabic phrases, and found that basic politeness went a long way. With a local driver’s license and a rented car, I drove around the country to see the awesome scenery and ruins of ancient cities that existed before the Roman Empire.
Yemen was a kingdom not unlike Saudi Arabia, until the last ruling Imam was deposed by revolutionaries in 1962. Many Yemeni men still wear the traditional jambiya dagger on an elaborately embroidered waist belt.
Yemen once had a monopoly on the sale of exotic incense to the Romans, which was transported through the desert by camel caravans. A Roman army attempted to conquer Yemen (then known as Arabia Felix, or “Happy Arabia” because of its irrigation agriculture) in 24 B.C., but discovered that the mountainous terrain was too great an obstacle. From the 15th century until the 17th century, Yemen was the only source of coffee (“mocha” is actually the name of a Red Sea port, Al Mokha, that exported coffee beans). Today Yemen is a provider of petroleum for U.S. and European oil companies.
The USA has maintained low-key, long-term military cooperation with the Yemeni government — especially in the last twenty years, since the unification of North and South Yemen opened up large areas to oil exploration. Military aid was recently upped to $70 million a year. Although it has democratic institutions such as an elected parliament, Yemen is ruled for the most part via a loosely organized oligarchy of prominent families who receive oil money disbursed by the President, Ali Abdullah Saleh. Oil provides the bulk of the government’s revenues, however production peaked in 2004 and has been declining in recent years. The country’s rapidly growing population has now exceeded 23 million.
Osama bin Laden was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, but his family originated from Yemen. The country’s proximity to Saudi Arabia and lack of government control in many remote areas has made Yemen a useful hiding place for a number of al-Qaeda members.
In Part 2, I’ll try and piece together what has been reported about recent violence in Yemen, particularly three U.S. (or U.S.-supported) air attacks this month.
Night air assault
From an article by Pakistan correspondent Declan Walsh inThe Guardian:
An unnamed former NATO officer says that the only acknowledged U.S. Special Operations Forces raid into Pakistan, in September 2008, was in fact the fourth such cross-border air assault since 2003.
Two of the others targeted Taliban and al-Qaeda “high-value targets” near the border, while the third was to rescue a crashed Predator drone. [The source] said that one of the capture raids succeeded, the other failed and the US sent elite soldiers to the downed Predator because they did not trust Pakistani forces. “People were afraid they would take the parts and reverse- engineer its components,” he said.
Walsh speculates on the possibility that the Obama administration is about to launch more such operations in Pakistan.
Disrupting the Taliban safe haven inside Pakistan is the unspoken part of Barack Obama’s “surge” announced this month. Although 30,000 troops will be deployed to Afghanistan by next summer, the Taliban and al-Qaida leadership is believed to be sheltering on the Pakistani side of the 1,600-mile border.
In recent weeks Washington has sent a stream of senior officials to Islamabad seeking Pakistani action on at least two fronts: attacks on Sirajuddin Haqqani, a warlord with strong al-Qaida ties based in North Waziristan, and an expansion of the CIA-led drone strikes into the western province of Balochistan.
“This is crunch time,” said a senior Pakistani official. “The tone of the Obama administration is growing more ominous. The message is ‘you do it, or we will’.”
If President Obama seriously wants to wage war against al-Qaeda, then that war will be in Pakistan. Stay tuned.
Related One Utah post:
Did We Just Invade Pakistan? (September 4, 2008)