A Detailed History: Part Three of Four: (Part Two can be found here .)
Early in December of 2016 CODEPINK conducted “The People’s Tribunal on the Iraq War.” Two days of testimony and documentation disclosed the indisputable truth: Afghanistan and Iraq were invaded to gain control of hydrocarbon resources. Combating terrorism was irrelevant, a concocted deception.
The detailed history below is adapted from a powerpoint presentation, The Fraudulent War, included in the Tribunal’s record.
Within ten days of taking office in January of 2001, the Bush Administration declared its intent to invade Iraq, and in August the President notified India and Pakistan “…the U.S. would launch a military mission into Afghanistan before the end of October.”(1) 9/11 was still five weeks in the future.
Early preparations for both wars were underway—Cheney’s “Energy Task Force” and the State Department’s “Future of Iraq Project.” But President Bush faced two immense obstacles. Under the Constitution only Congress can declare war. And the charter of the United Nations is unequivocal: unprovoked invasions are prohibited. In August of 2001 both obstacles appeared formidable.
Nine months had elapsed since President Bush first refused to accept custody of Osama bin Laden or to signal the Taliban to assassinate him. But bin Laden had done nothing more since he bombed the USS Cole in October of 2000. Perhaps he was no longer a serious threat.
If Mr. Bush thought so, his judgment was corrected on September 11, 2001 when bin Laden unleashed his attacks in Washington and New York.
The Administration claimed it was taken by surprise. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said, “I don’t think anyone could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center.” Press Secretary Ari Fleischer asserted, “The President did not receive information about the use of airplanes as missiles by suicide bombers. This was a new type of attack that was not foreseen.” President Bush issued a written document, stating he had no prior indication that “…terrorists would hijack jets and deliberately crash them.”(2)
This consensual message was wildly dishonest. For years U.S. intelligence reports had been warning of bin Laden’s intent to strike targets in the U.S., one report mentioning New York and Washington explicitly.(3) The President’s daily briefing of December 4, 1998 was entitled, “Bin Laden Preparing to Hijack U.S. Aircraft and Other Attacks.”
In January of 2001 the Direction Generale Securite Exterieure, the French intelligence agency, delivered a 5-page memo to Mr. Bill Murray of the CIA’s Paris bureau; its title was, “Aircraft hijack plan by radical Islamists.”(4)
In early June of 2001 Mr. Kabir Mohabbat, the National Security Council consultant with personal contacts among the Taliban, took a telephone call from one of his contacts:
“We don’t know what it is, but something big is about to happen somewhere in the United States. We can’t decode the message, but please tell the Americans that something big could happen. It is something so great that no one will be able to repair the damage.”
Mohabbat would write later in his memoir, “They asked me to inform the U.S. Government immediately. I had taped the conversation. When I met with Jack [his security agent contact] I gave him a copy of the tape. He immediately informed Washington.”(5) (Italics added.)
Mohabbat’s message evidently worked its way upward, eventually to the Commander in Chief.
“Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” was the title of the President’s Daily Briefing Mr. Bush received on August 6. His response to the CIA briefer has become immortalized: “You’ve covered your ass now,” he said, and then spent the rest of the day fishing.(6)
On August 18, two weeks after the briefing, the Bush State Department sent Kabir Mohabbat to Islamabad to talk with the Taliban once more. He expected to receive upon his arrival a message from Washington accepting the Taliban’s offer to surrender or assassinate Osama bin Laden. Here, from his memoir, is his description of what took place:(7)
On August 18, 2001, I landed in Islamabad and went to meet with the U.S. officials. When I got to the Embassy, Ron [a CIA agent, instructed to withhold his last name] handed me the same old tragic response. “Kabir, we are sorry. We don’t have orders yet.”
“The people in Washington told me to go—that they were ready to go,” I pleaded.
“Yes, we did want you to come. Please just go one more time to Kabul…and meet with the Taliban and tell them that we need another month.”
……I flew out of Islamabad on September 2, 2001…..in Kabul the Taliban were excited to see me. I told them that I was really sorry but there were still no orders about what to do with bin Laden. The Americans needed another month.
Jalil [one of Mohabbat’s Taliban contacts] started laughing and said, “Mr. Mohabbat, that’s okay. However much time they want to take, they can take it. But we did warn them. We have warned them!”
Nine days later bin Laden hammered the Pentagon and the Trade Towers.
The violence of September 11 was not a surprise to the Bush Administration. That is beyond dispute. The Administration was planning to attack Afghanistan and Iraq, but lacked Congressional authorization; that is beyond dispute. Three times in the previous nine months the Administration had rejected custody or the assassination of Osama bin Laden, and that is beyond dispute.
These facts may explain why the President misled the nation in his evening speech on September 11. He characterized bin Laden’s criminal act of terrorism as malevolent warfare, something equivalent to the attack on Pearl Harbor. “Today our way of life, our very freedom came under attack…These acts…were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat.”
Criminal acts of terrorism are typically handled by police action, international police action if necessary, to bring criminals to justice. And this was an act of terrorism, not a new Pearl Harbor. The hijacked airliners were not the vanguard of a naval armada, an air force, and a standing army committed to full scale war, which Pearl Harbor represented in 1941.
Police action was called for, but police action was not on George Bush’s mind.
To secure Afghan pipelines and Iraqi oilfields, he needed military might—armed invasion and occupation—and in his evening speech he laid out his ingenious subterfuge. “We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them,” he said. In the chaos of the day’s events the President’s clever conflation was overlooked, but by its logic the U.S. could obliterate Italy for harboring the Mafia. Mr. Bush continued, “…America and our allies…stand together to win the war against terrorism.” (9) (Italics added.)
The Bush Administration’s “Global War on Terrorism” had been declared. In one dazzling sentence in a speech to the nation President Bush transformed into a noble cause his long-intended invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Now he needed the Congressional authority to proceed, and he wasted no time seeking it. The next morning, September 12, the White House submitted to Congress a draft Joint Resolution to authorize military action. It asked the Congress to resolve(10):
That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, harbored, committed, or aided in the planning or commission of the attacks against the United States that occurred on September 11, 2001…
That would authorize an attack on Afghanistan, putting the pipelines within reach. But what about the “…capture of new and existing oil and gas fields” in Iraq? There was nothing to suggest Iraq’s complicity, so the final clause of the Administration’s draft asked for carte blanche. The President would be authorized also “…to deter and pre-empt any future acts of terrorism or aggression against the United States.” (Italics added.) Mr. Bush could target any “aggressive” nation at will. That would suffice.
President Bush lobbied hard for the package. In a speech that day he said, “They were acts of war…freedom and democracy are under attack…[we will use] all of our resources to conquer this enemy.”(11)
With the nation in shock Congress passed P.L. 107-40, the Authorization for the Use of Military Force—but wisely struck the carte blanche clause. The Bush Administration could use military force in Afghanistan, but pre-emptive war elsewhere was denied. That problem would be addressed later.
Sustaining the Threat
The fraudulent “Global War on Terror” had been authorized by Congress, but the physical deployment of military force remained in grave peril. George Bush had made Osama bin Laden’s existence and behavior the equivalent of war; if bin Laden were to be killed or taken into custody there would be little if any credible reason for attacking Afghanistan.
Osama bin Laden must at all costs remain at large.
Four days after September 11 the State Department asked Kabir Mohabbat to arrange yet another meeting with the Taliban. He did, and a Taliban entourage was flown to Quetta, Pakistan in two Air Force C-130s. Mohabbat describes the meeting at great length in his memoir.(12)
The head U.S. negotiator was Ron again, the CIA Station Chief. For nine hours the history of the Taliban’s offer and the Bush Administration’s three rejections was retraced. The senior Taliban official, a man named “Osami,” finally said the offer was still open, and delivering bin Laden could be done within a week.
Had there been a police action underway, Osama bin Laden could have been in U.S. custody and awaiting trial in late September, 2001. But this was George Bush’s war on terror. Ron the CIA agent replied, “Sir, I don’t have a week. You must hand Osama over to me now! Once I leave Quetta, it’s all over…..Now! Within 24 hours!”
The U.S. delegation to a person must have known that was abjectly impossible. Bin Laden was buried deep in the mountains of Afghanistan with a sizable army shielding him. Insisting on the impossible was the de facto final rejection of the Taliban’s offer. Osama bin Laden would in fact remain at large.
Another of the Afghanis saw this for what it was, and snapped at Ron,
“You don’t really want Osama. You’ve had eleven months to get him. Your intention is to destroy the Taliban, and I can assure you if you drop one bomb on Afghanistan you will never find Osama, and if you are thinking of invading Afghanistan you will face the same results as the British and the Soviets.”
The meeting ended on that note.
A few days later Mohabbat met with David Donahue, the U.S. consulate general in Islamabad to relay a final plea he’d just received from the Taliban: in spite of the acrimonious meeting in Quetta, the offer still stood for the unconditional surrender of bid Laden. Donahue’s response was chilling: “I will convey your message, but I am afraid the train has already left the station.” (13)
On October 7, 2001 a carpet of bombs fell on Afghanistan. The Taliban was defeated before the end of December.
The Bush Administration installed Mr. Hamid Karzai as the “Interim Administrator” of Afghanistan. Mr. Karzai had been a Unocal consultant.
The first U.S. envoy to Afghanistan was Mr. John J. Maresca. Mr. Maresca had been a vice president of the Unocal Corporation.(14)
He was succeeded by a formal ambassador, Mr. Zalmay Khalilzad. Mr. Khalilzad had been a Unocal consultant as well.
On February 9, 2002, four months after the carpet of bombs, Presidents Karzai of Afghanistan and Perves Musharraf of Pakistan signed an agreement to cooperate on the pipeline project.(15) Finally the Bridas contract with the Taliban was moot; the way was open for Unocal.
The purpose of the war was apparent to the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv; it had this to say five days later:
“If one looks at the map of the big American bases created [in Afghanistan], one is struck by the fact they are completely identical to the route of the projected oil pipeline to the Indian Ocean.”(16)
A later article in the German trade journal Alexander’s Gas and Oil Connections confirmed the Israelis’ observation:
“…some recent reports…indicated…the United States was willing to police the pipeline infrastructure through permanent stationing of its troops in the region.(17)
Meanwhile the Bush Administration had been busy with more mundane arrangements. The Alexander’s article catalogued three U.S. federal agencies: the U.S. Import/Export Bank, the Trade and Development Agency, and the Overseas Private Insurance Corporation. It said the consortium was standing by, prepared to fund the pipeline project.
The Afghanistan element of the “Global War on Terror” was progressing so nicely the Bush Administration could now indulge in candor. On March 13, 2002, the President was asked in a press conference why he so rarely mentioned Osama bin Laden. “I don’t know where he is,” Mr. Bush replied. “I truly am not that concerned about him.”(18)
Now the Administration could turn to a thornier issue—gaining control of the immense oil reserves in Iraq.
Richard W. Behan
Coming in Part Four: a brilliant campaign of propaganda; the invasion and occupation of Iraq; the “capture of new and existing oil and gas fields.”
(1) See anon., “About the reason for US war with Afghanistan,” in Alexander’s Gas and Oil Connections, April 8, 2008. The story is confirmed in Larry Chin,“The Bush Administration’s Afghan Carpet,” Online Journal, March, 2002.
(2) See, Larry Chin, “Bush Administration had foreknowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks,” Online Journal, May 19, 2002.
(4) See Joshua Holland, “CIA warned of possible attacks by French intelligence before 9/11,” Alternet, April 16, 2007. This source has disappeared from the web, but its information is repeated at an apparently abandoned website: https://www.wearemichigan.com/911/index.html. See also Chin, in (2) above.
(5) See, M. Kabir Mohabbat and L.R. McInnis, Delivering Osama, p. 173. A privately printed book, it can be read on the websites of Google Books and Goodreads. The Taliban had been handsomely supported by the U.S. in fighting off the Soviet occupation. They were very grateful for that, and wanted to retain an amicable relationship. For this reason also, after the Cole bombing, the Taliban was anxious to be rid of Osama bin Laden.
(6) Recorded in numerous places, but here from the Timeline segment https://www.historycommons.org/context.jsp?item=a080601coveredyourass cited above.
(7) Mohabbat and McInnis, Delivering Osama, pp. 185-186
(8) Quoted in Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor / Hiroshima / 9-11 / Iraq by John W. Dower, Free Press, 2011.
(9) This text of the President’s speech was found on the CNN website. It was posted there at 11:14 PM, September 11, 2001.
(10) Richard F. Grimmett, “Authorization For Use of Military Force in Response to the 9/11 Attacks (P.L. 107-40): Legislative History, Congressional Research Service, Order Code RS22357, updated January 16, 2007.
(11) Presidential remarks of September 12, 2001, Public Papers of the Presidents, George W. Bush, 2001, II, U.S. Government Printing Office, 2003, p. 1100.
(12) The description to follow is distilled from Delivering Osama, cited above.
(13) See “Kabir Mohabbat” in Wikipedia. See also, Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, “How Bush Was Offered bin Laden and Blew It,” in Counterpunch, November 1, 2004.
(14) See, John Pilger, “The Betrayal of Afghanistan,” The Guardian, September 20, 2003.
(15) See, “Afghanistan: Our Alpine Quagmire,” Los Angeles Indymedia, October 9, 2009. See also, “Trans-Afghan Pipeline Project for Turkmen Gas Back on the Table,” The Monitor, Volume 8, Issue 51, March 13, 2002, The Jamestown Foundation.
(16) See, “About the reason for US war with Afghanistan,” Alexander’s Oil and Gas Connections, April 8, 2008.
(17) See, “India urged to join trans-Afghanistan pipeline project,” Alexander’s Oil and Gas Connections, February 23, 2003
(18) The transcript of the press conference is available at: https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2002/03/20020313-8.html
Richard Behan lives in Corvallis, Oregon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org