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Obama’s Imperative in Afghanistan

by RICHARD W. BEHAN

Mr. President, you cannot continue this wretched, dishonest, disastrous war. If you do, your legacy will be poisoned by its obscene history.

George W. Bush was planning and mobilizing his attack on Afghanistan as early as March of 2001, some six months prior to the horrors of 9/11. The Afghan war, consequently, has nothing remotely to do with counter-terrorism. It is not an act even of preemptive self defense, but one of utterly unprovoked military aggression. Expressly prohibited by the charter of the United Nations, George Bush’s incursion into Afghanistan is an international crime.

Nor was the capture of Osama bin Laden of the least importance to the Bush White House—before or after 9/11.

Waiting on his desk when George Bush took office on January 20, 2001 was an offer from the Taliban to surrender Osama bin Laden, an offer negotiated by the Clinton Administration after the al Qaeda attack on the U.S.S. Cole. But Mr. Bush turned it down. And twice more during the spring and summer of 2001 the Bush Administration refused the offer. Then on September 11 bin Laden struck again. Four days afterward the Taliban sweetened the offer: now they would also shut down bin Laden’s bases and training camps. Once again the White House refused the offer. Several weeks later the Taliban repeated the offer, again it was rejected, and on October 7, 2001, George Bush launched the war on Afghanistan he had been planning for months on end.

This is the war, President Obama, in which you apparently intend to “succeed.” With your dispatch of 21,000 additional American troops, you now command an American force in Afghanistan larger than the Russians deployed there. And General McChrystal is expected to ask for more troops—10,000-15,000 more will constitute a “high risk option,” 25,000 a “medium-risk option,” and 45,000 a “low-risk option.”

Mr. President, before you commit more young American lives to the tragedy, please confront the facts about George Bush’s invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Instead of expanding, you must choose to end immediately this hideous and illegal war—or be tarnished as a criminal accomplice.

It is a war of naked imperialism, undertaken for the geopolitical control of the immense hydrocarbon resources of the Caspian Basin: Afghanistan, lying directly between those resources and the world’s richest markets, uniquely offers pipeline routes of incalculable value.

By 1996 the Bridas Corporation of Argentina had a lock on the routes. With signed pipeline contracts from both General Dostum of the Northern Alliance and the Taliban, Bridas controlled the Caspian play.

To the Unocal Corporation of the U.S. (and subsequently to the Bush Administration) that was intolerable. To contest Bridas’ success, Unocal hired a number of consultants: Henry Kissinger, Hamid Karzai, Richard Armitage, and Zalmay Khalilzad. Armitage would later serve George W. Bush as Deputy Secretary of State, and Khalilzad would become a prominent diplomat. Both were enthusiastic members of the “PNAC,” the Project for a New American Century, a far-right group that asked President Clinton in January of 1998 to remove forcibly the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq. (Clinton ignored the request.)

In the late ‘90’s Unocal hosted Taliban leaders at its headquarters in Texas and in Washington D.C., seeking to have the Bridas contract voided. The Taliban refused. Finally, on February 12, 1998, Mr. John J. Maresca, a Vice President of Unocal, testified to the House Committee on International Relations. He asked to have the Taliban removed from power in Afghanistan, and for a “stable government” to be installed in its place.

The Clinton Administration, having rejected a month earlier the PNAC request to invade Iraq, was not any more interested in overthrowing the Taliban: President Clinton understood and chose to abide by the United Nations Charter. In August of 1998, however, Clinton launched a few cruise missiles into Afghanistan, retaliating for al Qaeda attacks on the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. And he signed an Executive Order prohibiting further trade negotiations with the Taliban.

Mr. Maresca was thus doubly disappointed. The Taliban would remain in power, and now Unocal could not even continue its private entreaties.

Unocal’s prospects declined even further on October 12, 2000. In yet another al Qaeda attack, the U.S.S. Cole was bombed, killing 17 sailors and injuring 39 more.
Some people in the Clinton Administration wanted immediately to “bomb the hell out of Afghanistan.” A few more cruise missiles wouldn’t do. But the State Department first dispatched Mr. Kabir Mohabbat, a U.S. citizen but a native Afghani, to arrange a negotiating meeting with the Taliban.

The parties met November 2, 2000 in the Sheraton hotel in Frankfurt, Germany. Frantic to avoid the retaliatory bombing, the Taliban offered the surrender of Osama bin Laden.

As the details of the handover were being worked out, however, the stalemated election of 2000 was awarded to George W. Bush. The surrender of Osama bin Laden would be handled by the incoming Administration.

But the new Administration demurred. In letter to the Taliban the Bush White House asked to postpone the handover of bin Laden until February; the Administration was still “settling in.” Kabir Mohabbat, however, was retained as a consultant to the National Security Council.

Unocal’s fortunes then improved dramatically. In direct repudiation of Clinton’s Executive Order, the Bush Administration itself resumed pipeline negotiations with the Taliban in February of 2001. (At one meeting, a Taliban official presented President Bush with an expensive Afghan carpet.)

The Administration offered a tempting package of foreign aid in exchange for secure and exclusive access to the Caspian Basin for American companies. (The Enron Corporation also was eyeing a pipeline, to feed its proposed power plant in India.) The Bridas contract might still be voided. The Administration met with Taliban officials three times: in Washington, Berlin, and Islamabad. Still the Taliban refused.

But the Bush Administration meant to prevail, by force if necessary. As early as March 15, 2001, when Jane’s, the British international security journal disclosed the fact, the Administration was engaged in a “concerted front against Afghanistan’s Taliban regime.” Confirming the Administration’s intended violence, George Arney of BBC News wrote a story published September 18, 2001: “U.S. Planned Attack on Taliban.” In mid-July of 2001 a “senior American official” told Mr. Niaz Naik, a former Pakistani Foreign Secretary that “…military action against Afghanistan would go ahead by the middle of October.”

Finally, on August 2 of 2001, the last pipeline negotiation with the Taliban ended with a terse statement by Christina Rocca of the State Department: “Accept our offer of a carpet of gold or we bury you under a carpet of bombs.” Shortly afterward, President Bush informed India and Pakistan the U.S. would launch a military mission into Afghanistan “before the end of October.”

This was five weeks before the events of 9/11.

Twice during the spring and summer of 2001 Mr. Kabir Mohabbat was sent to discuss the still pending surrender of Osama bin Laden. At both meetings Mr. Mohabbat could only apologize. The Bush Administration was not yet ready to accept the handover.
Then on September 11 Osama bin Laden struck once more.

With the Trade Towers in rubble and the Pentagon smoking, the Bush Administration seized immediately on the stupendous opportunity to disguise its intended attack on Afghanistan. It would be recast as a “Global War on Terror,” and bringing Osama bin Laden to justice would be its initial, prime objective.

The Taliban asked quickly for another meeting. Once again Kabir Mohabbat was dispatched to arrange it. On September 15, Taliban officials were flown in Air Force C-130 aircraft to the Pakistani city of Quetta, to negotiate with the State Department. Once again desperate to avoid a catastrophic bombing, the Taliban sweetened the deal: now they would also shut down bin Laden’s bases and training camps.

The offer was rejected by the White House. The geopolitical need to proceed with the invasion was intractable, but with bin Laden in custody, the argument for the “War on Terror” smokescreen would collapse. Osama bin Laden simply had to remain at large.

Several weeks later the Taliban’s offer was repeated. And so was the White House rejection.

On October 7, 2001, the carpet of bombs was unleashed over Afghanistan.
Then, with the Taliban removed from power, Mr. Hamid Karzai, the former Unocal consultant, was installed by the U.S. as head of an interim government.

The first U.S. envoy to Afghanistan was Mr. John J. Maresca, a former Vice President of the Unocal Corporation.

The next Ambassador to Afghanistan was Mr. Zalmay Khalilzad, also a former Unocal consultant.

On February 8, 2002, four months after the carpet of bombs, Presidents Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and Perves Musharraf of Pakistan signed a new agreement for a pipeline. The Bridas contract was now moot. The way was open for American companies—Unocal and Enron—to proceed.

About a year later in the British trade journal Alexander’s Gas and Oil Connections dated March 20, 2003, the truth about the Afghan war is laid bare. The article describes the readiness of three U.S. Federal agencies in the Bush Administration to fund the pipeline project: the U.S. Import/Export Bank, the Trade and Development Agency, and the Overseas Private Insurance Corporation. The article continues: “…some recent reports …indicated …the United States was willing to police the pipeline infrastructure through permanent stationing of its troops in the region.”

It didn’t take long for that to occur. At the website of GlobalSecurity.org, a report entitled “Operation Enduring Freedom Facilities” tells what happened:
“Since the 11 September 2001 attacks, the U.S. military has deployed to 13 locations in nine countries [in addition to] Afghanistan. More then 2,000 civil engineers deployed to the region building and maintaining bases. Including additional deployments in Bulgaria, Turkey, and Kuwait, by early 2002 over 60,000 U.S. troops were deployed at these forward bases, and hundreds of aircraft were flying from expeditionary airfields.”

Superimposing the base-locations over maps of the pipelines, the Bush Administration’s design is unmistakable. U.S. bases in Afghanistan proper—there are now 15 altogether—precisely straddle the prospective pipeline routes.

Much has changed since President Bush launched his premeditated war of energy imperialism. The warlords, the poppy growers, and the Taliban dominate Afghanistan once more. A “stable government” is nowhere to be seen. The Bridas Corporation was bought by British Petroleum, Unocal is now part of Chevron/Texaco, and the war in Afghanistan has a new Commander In Chief.

Yes, President Obama, this is your war now. This war of naked imperialism is yours. This international crime is yours.

The nation, the world, and the judgment of history await your next decision about the war: what can you justifiably do, for God’s sake, but end it?

RICHARD W. BEHAN lives and writes on Lopez Island, off the northwest coast of Washington state. He has published on various websites over two dozen articles exposing and criticizing the criminal wars of the Bush Administration. The work is summarized in an electronic book, The Fraudulent War, available in PDF format at http://coldtype.net/Assets.08/pdfs/

He can be reached at rwbehan@rockisland.com.

Author’s note: to avoid cluttering the text with parenthetical references or footnotes, here are my sources, not otherwise cited, in sequence of relevance:

Bedi, Rahul, “India Joins Anti-Taliban Coalition,” Jane’s Security News, March 15, 2001.
Clarke, Richard, Against All Enemies; Inside America’s War on Terror, The Free Press, 2004.

Ames, Mark, “Obama Is Leading the U.S. Into a Hellish Quagmire,” posted on Alternet, September 3, 2009

Baker, Peter, and Elisabeth Bumiller, “Advisers to Obama Divided on Size of Afghan Force,” The New York Times, September 3, 2009.

U.S. Department of Defense, “DoD News Briefing with Secretary Gates and Adm. Mullen from the Pentagon,” dated September 3, 2009.

Sperry, Paul, Crude Politics: How Bush’s Oil Cronies Hijacked the War on Terrorism, WND Books, 2003.

Chin, Larry, “Players on a Rigged Chessboard: Bridas, Unocal, and the Afghanistan Pipeline.” Online Journal, March 2002.

Madsen, Wayne, “Afghanistan, the Taliban, and the Bush Oil Team.” Counterpunch, November 1, 2004.

Martin, Patrick, “US Planned War in Afghanistan Long Before September 11.” World Socialist Website, November 20, 2001.

“Afghanistan: A Timeline of Oil and Violence,” on the website ringnebula.com

Buncombe, Andrew, “Bush Rejects Taliban Offer to Surrender bin Laden,” U.K. Guardian, October 15, 2001.

Pizzey, Allen, “On the Scene: Taliban Talks,” posted on the CBS website, September 25, 2001.

ABC News, “Taliban Told US It Would Give Up Osama: Report,” June, 2004.

Cockburn, Alexander, and St. Clair, Jeffrey, “How Bush Was Offered bin Laden and Blew It,” Counterpunch, November 1, 2004.

RICHARD W. BEHAN lives and writes on Lopez Island, off the northwest coast of Washington state. He has published on various websites some three dozen articles exposing and criticizing the criminal wars of the Bush Administration. The work is summarized in an electronic book, The Fraudulent War, available in PDF format at http://coldtype.net/Assets.08/pdfs/0308The%20Fraudulent%20War.pdf He can be reached at rwbehan@rockisland.com.