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by Alexander Cockburn And Jeffrey St. Clair

CounterPunch Vindicated!

We reported Friday on this site the exile of vice president Dick Cheney to Camp David. The White House line is that the threat of further terrorist assaults demand that the President and Vice President never been in same building. We cited a different interpretation: that the White House decided that Cheney’s commanding presence was undercutting Bush’s already frail stature as the Commander in Chief. Confirmation of our view came on Saturday with official White House pictures of Bush and Cheney sitting on the same couch in Camp. Or is the assumption of the Secret Service that Muslim kamikaze terrorists take the weekend off?

Alone of Either Sex!

CounterPunch Salutes US Representative Barbara Lee, a Democrat from Berkeley, the only one from any party in the House or Senate who voted against the resolution authorizing all necessary and appropriate military force.

Russian Colonel Remembers Afghanistan: “Don’t Try It!”

The White House huddles with the Pentagon, reviewing options and scenarios to requite the attacks of September 11. Top of the publicized options, an attack on Afghanistan, sanctuary of the supposed mastermind of the September 11 attacks, Osama bin Laden. Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, a seasoned blowhard of the right, has said that the US response would include “ending” states that support terrorism. If the US government persists in identifying bin Laden as the perp, this presumably heralds an attempt to overthrow the Taliban.

There’s a considerably irony here, since previous US governments did much to install the Taliban, just as the CIA underwrote bin Laden’s first trip to Afghanistan from Saudi Arabia. It was the CIA and the Pakistani intelligence organization, ISI, which nourished the Taliban’s growth, seeking to ensure that there would never be a modern-minded, reforming government in Afghanistan. Though the Taliban has a flouted a pledge to cut back the opium production that has made Afghanistan the world’s leading supplier of heroin and morphine, the present Bush administration recently sent the Taliban many millions in the name of the War on Drugs.

Now, it’s one thing to lob cruise missiles from a safe distance, or to attack water systems. Such tactics end up mostly killing innocent civilians, just as the dreadful assaults of September 11 ended up slaughtering thousands of blameless ordinary people and their would-be rescuers. It’s entirely a different matter to mount a full-scale invasion, particularly of a remote and geographically forbidding country like Afghanistan. Across the past 150 years powers such as Great Britain and the Soviet Union have seen agony and humiliation as the fruit of invasions in force.

The British disasters came in the nineteenth century, the Soviet ones in the 1980s. A Russian who remembers the campaigns vividly is Col. Yuri Shamanov, who spent five years as a regiment commander in the war again the CIA-financed Mujahiddeen. “If the Americans go to war,” he told a Reuters reporter last week, “I pity these boys and their mothers and sisters and brothers. It will be ten times worse than Vietnam. Vietnam will be a picnic by comparison. Here they will get it in the teeth. Oh. They will get it good. Rockets won’t save you: there’s nothing out there to shoot at. Blast away years’ worth of ammo. The mountains will survive anything. The Afghans will be ready to fight, no worse than they fought against us, and they fought very well against us. What will the US do there? Unless a narrow mission is set to destroy the camps and the most odious figures ? if they do only that then God bless them. Paratroopers can take the camps. But if you don’t send infantry, there is nothing for tanks and planes to do. If you don’t actually march through the territory, it will come back to life again. And there will be camps and the same bandits. You can get rid of bin Laden, then another will grow. You have to dig out this whole system by its roots.”

Bin Laden as Capitalist?

In the four trading days before the attack on September 11, the stocks of three of the world’s largest reinsurance companies, AXA in France, Swiss Re and Munich Re, all lost between 13 and 15 per cent of their value. At the time, these drops bewildered market analysts who said that the reinsurance business was booming and that premium payments were trending upwards. On many a desk on Tuesday morning would undoubtedly have been copies of that morning’s London Financial Times, giving a glowing assessment of the reinsurance business. The following morning, amid the ruins of the World Trade Center, an executive for Swiss Re said that the exposure of the reinsurance business, which spreads the possible risks in any insurance sector, were “completely inestimable”.

So how to account for the mysterious drop in value of the reinsurance companies before the planes struck on Tuesday? One answer is reported in the Corriere della Sera, one of Italy’s biggest newspapers. The paper says that investigators believe that associates of bin Laden may have been short- selling their shares in these reinsurance companies, making a bundle off the knowledge that even if one of the hijacked planes hit the Trade Center, values of the reinsurance companies would plummet. CP

CounterPunch’s Complete Coverage of the Attacks on the World Trade Center/Pentagon

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence (with JoAnn Wypijewski and Kevin Alexander Gray). He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net. Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

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