The big question in the media today is, “Will Afghanistan again become a ‘breeding ground’ for terrorists who may again attack America?” It’s the wrong question.
We’ve all heard that question asked, in a dozen variations, probably a hundred times in the past few months in the media. And it’s not just the wrong question: it strengthens the GOP frame that lets George W. Bush off the hook for many of his worst failures and crimes.
Afghanistan had little to nothing to do with 9/11.
It’s time to put this tired and deceptive canard to bed. The 9/11 attacks were not planned, hatched, developed, funded, practiced, expanded, worked out or otherwise devised in Afghanistan. That country and its leadership in 2001, in fact, had pretty much nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11.
But wasn’t Bin Laden running a “terror training camp” in Afghanistan? Yes, he was, but, again, it had little to nothing to do specifically with 9/11. It was more like the backwoods training camps that various US rightwing militias run, teaching low-level soldier-wannabee grunts (with the money to pay) how to use weapons and get into physical shape.
But an operation as detailed, well-funded and sophisticated as 9/11 had nothing to do with those yahoos. Bin Laden, who we generously funded during the Reagan administration to help evict the Soviets from Afghanistan, was running Al Qaeda at the time, and while he wrote the checks to pay for 9/11, the actual planning and management of the operation was done out of Pakistan and Germany by Khalid Sheik Mohammed.
Even the 9/11 Commission Report notes that one of the German plotters, Zakariya Essabar, became the courier to update Bin Laden that the attack was imminent. “Shortly before the 9/11 attacks, he would travel [from Germany] to Afghanistan to communicate the dates for the attacks to al Qaeda leadership” notes the Commission report on page 165.
From Germany, the plotters moved to Florida, where they organized the final plans and Mohammed Ata and others trained and received their pilots’ licenses. Of the 19 hijackers, 15 were Saudi citizens, 2 were citizens of the UAE (that funded Jared Kushner), and one each were from Egypt and Lebanon. None were Afghans.
Further, none of the money came from the government of Afghanistan or Afghan nationals; Bin Laden had a substantial family fortune, and the Reagan administration had given him additional millions of dollars. And, increasingly, it appears that some of the funding may have come from Bin Laden’s native Saudi Arabia. Afghanistan had nothing to do with it.
But doesn’t Afghanistan hate America?
But, the “Afghan connection” press will ask, didn’t “they” hit us on 9/11 because the Taliban hated American “values”?
First, the Taliban had nothing to do with 9/11 other than tolerating Bin Laden’s presence in their country, something for which some corrupt officials were apparently well compensated. They really didn’t care much at all about “American values” as long as we stayed the hell away from their country.
They’d just driven out the Soviets, and done so to the British, Greeks, Mongols and Persians in the centuries before that. They just wanted to be left alone. (This is the big battle between the Taliban and ISIS-K right now: the former wants to run Afghanistan while the latter wants to become a regional/international caliphate.)
It was all about sacred Saudi soil!
Bin Laden, though, was upset with the United States in September of 2001; it was because we were defiling the holy land of his home country, Saudi Arabia, a leftover from pappy Bush’s “little war” in Iraq.
GHW Bush had put US soldiers on the ground in Saudi Arabia for the first time in generations to stage the invasion of Iraq, and those soldiers stayed long after pappy Bush’s 3-day war was long over.
That infidel men, US soldiers who were Christian or Jewish were watching porn and drinking alcohol on holy Saudi soil was intolerable to Bin Laden and his fellow fundamentalists. And the fact that “loose” American women were also there, showing their elbows and driving cars in clear violation of Saudi law and customs, was doubly infuriating.
As early as 1998, Bin Laden threatened to strike America if we didn’t withdraw Bush’s troops and stop “defiling” Bin Laden’s native holy land, Saudi Arabia. On September 2, 1996, he publicly threatened to “launch a guerrilla war against American forces and expel the infidels from the Arabian Peninsula.”
As he told a reporter for The Guardian in 1998: “We believe that we are men, Muslim men, committed to defend the grandest house in the universe. The Holy [Saudi] Kaaba [land] is an honour to die and defend. So this is our aim — to liberate the lands of Islam from the sinners.”
In a “letter to America,” Bin Laden wrote: “Your forces occupy our countries; you spread your military bases throughout them; you corrupt our lands, and you besiege our sanctities, to protect the security of the Jews and to ensure the continuity of your pillage of our treasures.”
This was, he said repeatedly, the reason why he ordered America struck in what we now refer to as the 9/11 attacks. He wanted us to remove daddy Bush’s troops from the Bin Sultan Air Force Base in Saudi Arabia.
George W. Bush gave Bin Laden what he wanted.
As a result, Bush Jr. withdrew US those troops soon after 9/11: he was no dummy. Again, it had nothing to do with Afghanistan.
George W. Bush was warned multiple times that 9/11 was coming. Richard Clark told me, live on the air, that he told Condi Rice; he also said that he knew Al Gore had told Cheney and Bill Clinton had told Bush that Bin Laden was coming after us if we didn’t pull out of Saudi Arabia.
Bush put Cheney in charge of a task force to follow up on the warnings, but Cheney was so busy planning his attack on Iraq and dividing up its oil fields among international buyers in anticipation of that 2003 invasion and oil-well-theft that his Al Qaeda task force never met until late August of 2001 — and then did nothing.
But after 9/11 Bush and Cheney had to do something!
America had suffered a big bloody nose, an attack even more audacious than Pearl Harbor, and admitting that they’d ignored the intelligence warnings — particularly at a time a majority of Americans had doubts about the legitimacy of Bush’s Supreme Court-appointed presidency itself — would have been politically disastrous.
And Bush and Cheney were seriously interested in getting re-elected in 2004, and Bush had told his biographer, Mickey Herskowitz, back in 1999 that being a wartime president with an active war going on at the time was the very, very best way to get re-elected.
Afghanistan was, at that time, the second poorest country in the world, with an average per-person income of around $2 per day. Their entire GDP was less than $2 billion a year. Their army was a joke, their air force almost non-existent, and their alliances were frazzled; in short, they were a sitting duck for a US president looking to make a name for himself on the cheap.
Which is exactly what Bush did. He sold us the fiction that 9/11 was planned and executed out of Afghanistan (much easier than attacking Hamburg, Germany or Venice, Florida), lied that it was funded by Afghans (much easier than biting the Saudi hand that fed the Bush family and Al Qaeda), and said that a revenge strike there by the world’s largest military force would satisfy America’s need for “closure.”
Bush and Cheney ignored (indeed, they actively ridiculed) the threat Bin Laden presented to the US; then, after 9/11, they directed blame away from their friends in Saudi Arabia and toward the dysfunctional Taliban government of Afghanistan.
That Afghan Taliban government, hit hard with our initial bombing, then offered to arrest Bin Laden and turn him over to a third country for prosecution but, as The Washington Post’s 9/15 headline noted, “Bush Rejects Taliban Offer On Bin Laden.”
George W. Bush and Dick Cheney wanted a war and they got it.
For Bush it ended speculation about his Supreme Court-assisted illegitimate claim to the White House. For Cheney it meant hundreds of billions in no-bid contracts for his failing Haliburton company, which he had formerly led and was heavily invested in.
The war was over in less than three weeks when the Kabul government fell, and then began a 20+ year occupation that’s just now coming to an end, another important distinction almost never mentioned in the media.
It’s time to end the fiction that poverty-ridden failed states run by throwbacks to Bronze Age versions of modern religions were or are the source of well-funded and sophisticated attacks on fully developed countries like the United States.
It all goes back to Pappy Bush’s “Gulf War”
Had George HW Bush not lied us into the first Gulf War as a failed 1992 re-election stunt (there were no babies being thrown from incubators: that was a lie told to Congress by a daughter of the Kuwaiti royal family at the suggestion of a US PR firm) and stationed US troops in Saudi Arabia to prosecute his “little war” (much like Reagan’s “little war” in Grenada) Bin Laden never would have had the least concern with us.
It’s said that nations that don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
We should have learned from LBJ lying us into Vietnam that false wars and long occupations never work out well. Hell, we should have learned that from the Mexican American War and the Spanish American War, both also conflicts American presidents lied us into.
But we hadn’t learned any of that as of 9/11, and news coverage today suggests we still haven’t learned the clear lessons of our own history.
As a result, the reputations of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are enjoying a revival and those two and their defense contractor friends are laughing all the way to the bank.
Our media need to start asking the right questions:
+ How did Bush and Cheney get away with lying us into a war and 20-year occupation with Afghanistan — and nearly that long in Iraq — without political or historic consequences?
+ Why did the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations, all knowing these occupations were a lost cause and a waste of American blood and treasure, not get us out before now?
+ And what can we do in the Middle East and elsewhere around the world, if that is our goal, to promote peace, modernity and democratic values without using warplanes, drones, soldiers and bombs?