Belaboring the Obvious

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Vampire's Cry....

Michael Chertoff, our Transylvanian chief of Homeland Security, first says he has a "feeling in his gut" that we're going to experience a terrorist attack this summer. Then, predictably, we get Holy Joe Lieberman's amendment requiring all of Congress and the White House to rag on Iran. Then we get a new declassified NIE on al-Qaeda, which, rather contradictorily, says that the group formerly led by the one-legged (or sometimes two-legged) al-Zarqawi, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, is taking orders directly from Osama bin Laden, while the Washington Post reports that selected intelligence analysts say, no, it's not taking direct orders from Osama bin Laden, but is sympathetic to al-Qaeda's aims. Is there some point to the timing of this release, given that Republicans in the Senate were, Tuesday, being forced to engage in the first actual talking filibuster of a bill since 1964, on an amendment concerning troop withdrawal from Iraq? Then, there's Francis Fragos Townsend's statement this week that bin Laden's al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda in Iraq are, in fact, "the same organization." (Funny that the statement changed somewhat when someone asked for a bit of proof.)

It's almost impossible to deconstruct any of this and make sense of it--if one's intent is glean something useful from the NIE. There's the cry-wolf aspect of 6-1/2 years of Bush mendacity. There's the problem of this NIE on al-Qaeda being assembled under the direction of a new DNI, Michael McConnell, whose political independence is suspect. There's the internal contradictions in the report itself--suggesting that there's a battle going on behind the scenes between the DoD/White House stovepipers and the INR analysts at State. Then, there're the occasional reminders that Iran and al-Qaeda are both acting to destabilize Afghanistan--meant to suggest that the two entities are acting in concert--even though that defies common sense.

There's no question that the assessment in the NIE of increasing strength and organization of al-Qaeda in Pakistan is correct. After all, bin Laden and his group have been virtually unmolested in Waziristan, and Musharraf's truce with Islamist radicals furthered that rebuilding. However, there is nothing in the NIE to suggest the source of the funding which makes this rebuilding possible. In fact, the NIE summary released offers nothing on the efficacy of U.S. and international operations to shut off the money supply to terrorist groups.

Curiously, too--even though the report was supposed to be about al-Qaeda--Hizbollah is mentioned on the second page. This is surely not accidental, and is probably designed to conflate the two groups in the public and Congressional minds. Moreover, the report also cites Hizbollah as engaging in "anti-US" activity "outside the United States." This is surely a veiled reference to either the capture of CIA operatives in Lebanon over twenty years ago (often attributed to demands for the release of the al-Dawa 17, but were also undoubtedly prompted by the perception that the CIA and Mossad were in league with each other in Lebanon), or the involvement of one former Hizbollah fighter in the Khobar Towers bombing (to my knowledge, it's not been definitively established that this person was involved as Hizbollah, or was acting as a freelancer--the action otherwise was clearly motivated by radical Sunni objections to US troops on Saudi soil).

What further defines the summary as suspect is that there's not a single shred of evidence in it. It is entirely composed of assessments which, on first reading, seem inordinately reductive. Yes, there are radical Islamist groups wishing the United States harm, but there's no recognition in the NIE that recruitment by those groups has been enhanced because of the US occupation of Iraq, that significant funding for those groups is coming from a US ally, Saudi Arabia, and that US interference in the wider region is in part responsible for the extremism. This NIE is not concerned with root causes.

Given the language and the absence of evidence, the conclusion I draw is that it's a political document, not an intelligence estimate. Mention of "violent" individuals captured and prosecuted after 9/11 leaves me wondering to which cases the NIE refers. The Lackawanna Six? The evidence there was more than thin, and there was zero evidence that any of the individuals prosecuted acted violently or had a history of violence. The crazy guy who was going to dismantle the Brooklyn Bridge with hand tools and a cutting torch? Gotta be kidding me. The individuals in the Seattle and Denver areas pleading guilty after being threatened with designation as unlawful combatants and an indefinite tour in Gitmo? Moussaoui? He was detained before 9/11, and his trial showed, without much doubt, that he was nuts and that al-Qaeda didn't want to have anything to do with him.

Here's the raw assessment of this assessment: it states the obvious in terms most advantageous to Bush and Cheney. We get the worst possible news shaded by political considerations. It's nearly six years since 9/11, and almost nine years since bin Laden was found complicit in the East African U.S. embassy bombings, and he's still wandering around Pakistan with his buddy, Ayman al-Zawahiri. That's not bad news as far as the Bushies are concerned--it's yet another reason to continue a military war against a tactic.

The U.S. has given Musharraf of Pakistan hundreds of millions of dollars for his "help" in the war on terror, but we still don't have bin Laden in custody (it's of little doubt that if Musharraf had control of the ISI, there'd be no Taliban in Afghanistan, nor would there be any al-Qaeda in Pakistan). But, Musharraf doesn't have control of the ISI, nor does he have any control over the money flowing to them, which is funding precisely the sort of extremism Bush says his "war on terror" is determined to eradicate, but has only served to fuel such extremism (that such money is partly coming from wealthy extremists in Saudi Arabia, the intelligence assessment takes predictable care not to mention).

Muslim terrorism directed at this country began at precisely the time that Bush's father set up his buddies in Saudi Arabia in the early days of the first Gulf War preparations to accept U.S. troops on Muslim holy ground. That finagle set off the string of terrorist attacks we've experienced for the last fourteen years, and still it goes on. All this started at exactly the time when the Soviet Union was coming apart at the seams, when every expectation, here and elsewhere, was that the United States could stop being cops of the world and reap a few peace dividends. It was not to be, because Bush pere and fil decided it was not to be.

The U.S. literally created al-Qaeda in Iraq because of our invasion and occupation, and so, we're happy to legitimize their presence there as an excuse for continuing the occupation. We create enemies whose anger we can exploit for domestic political gain and to increase the profits of our ever more risk-averse multinational corporations which use our military at their pleasure--with the aid of the right wing of this country.

This latest intelligence assessment is just more advertising for what was begun almost twenty years ago, for what will go on until the United States and its system of laws are destroyed by emergencies borne of corrupt ambition, or until sanity prevails, whichever comes first. Chertoff's gut feelings--and the latest NIE--are nothing more than projections of an inevitability of our own making and design.


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