Water Man Spouts

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Bush's Tar Baby

{1} "A Pakistani diplomat I talked to at the time acknowledged that the situation was ‘explosive.’ Much of the concern stemmed from the Reagan Administration’s decision to finance many of today’s Taliban leaders in their successful war against the Soviet Union’s presence in Afghanistan. Pakistan was the main conduit for American support. ‘At one time, it was a three-way game,’ the diplomat said. ‘ The CIA, the ISI, and the mujahideen were creating these Frankensteins’ – the Taliban – ‘and now the CIA has pulled out, but you can’t totally destroy the Frankensteins’."
--Chain of Command; Seymour Hersch; page 288

In the hours after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, I was surprised by what I considered relatively accurate reporting by the corporate media. I had hoped that the democratic candidates for the presidential nomination would participate in and open and honest discussion of how the Bush administration’s policies in Afghanistan and Iraq, and how these have added to the instability in places such as Pakistan.

The differences between the democratic and republican parties has been best illustrated by comparing the insightful analysis of Senator Joseph Biden, with the bumbling nonsensical comments of Mike Huckabee.

The media is reporting that there is some controversy regarding the Pakistani government’s attempts to cover-up details of the assassination. Some of the lies are relatively crude attempts to deny the existence of forensic evidence – the bullets that were used in the assassination might be traced to a sensitive source. But more significant is the attempt of the Pakistani intelligence to blame al Qaeda. The truth is that the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and al Qaeda are, to a large extent, one and the same.

Let’s take a closer look at Pakistani politics, the ISI, and radical Islam.

{2} "In 1970 the first ever general election brought to power Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, leader of the Pakistani People’s Party, who introduced constitutional, social, and economic reforms. In 1977, he was deposed, and later executed. The regime of Zia ul-Haq (1977-88) committed Pakistan to an Islamic code of laws. With the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, over 3 million refugees entered Pakistan. Although martial law was lifted in 1986, with the promise of a return to democracy, Zia’s regime ended with his assassination. A general election in December 1988 brought back to power the Pakistan People’s Party, led by Bhutto’s daughter Benazir Bhutto, but her government was short-lived, collapsing in 1990 on charges of corruption. Bhutto’s successor Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif, leader of the Islamic Democratic Alliance, won an absolute majority in the Assembly. His government initiated a policy of further ;Islamization,’ but Sharif himself was criticized for his pro-Western position on the Gulf War. In 1993, Benazir Bhutto was returned to office to head a coalition government, which was again dismissed in 1996, on grounds of corruption. Sharif was re-elected President in 1997. In 1998 Pakistan carried out a series of underground nuclear tests in response to similar tests by India. The military overthrew Sharif’s government in 1999 and placed him under house arrest; General Pervez Musharraf became Chief Executive, then President in 2001."
--Oxford Encyclopedia of World History; 2006; page 482

In order to understand recent events in Pakistan, it is important to have at least a general knowledge of the relatively unstable back-and-forth efforts to grasp and then hold onto political power. It is equally important to recognize that, as noted on page 289 of Hersch’s book, the ISI has been "a parallel government of its own." It is very difficult to have a country with a bifurcated federal government, where there is a public branch that the public sees, and the privately run intelligence community, running a shadow government. In theory, those who advocate and attempt to institute democratic reforms in the public government run the risk of being "removed" from power by the shadow government. (Note: This phenomenon of political assassination is distinct from that of the "crazed lone gunman" – especially those who kept to themselves – who are, in fact, solid evidence of a healthy democracy.)

{3} "You are creating a Frankenstein" – Benazir Bhutto to George H. W. Bush in 1983; from "The Road to September 11"; Evan Thomas; Newsweek; 10-1-2001

It is widely known that the United States backed the Islamic resistance to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan during the Reagan-Bush1 administration. A valuable resource for information on this is the Cooperative Research History Commons (a project of the Center for Grassroots Oversight). Let’s look at just a sampling of the documentation found at that valuable sight.

Early in the Afghan war, the US intelligence advocated that Arab fighters be brought in to provide leadership to the factions in Afghanistan. The CIA, the ISI, and M16 provided training for over 100,000 Islamic militants in madrassas, primarily in Peshawar. Some of the leaders were trained in Virginia.

The ISI was responsible for the recruitment and most of the training. They coordinated efforts with the intelligence community of Saudi Arabia.

CIA director William Casey made a surprise visit to the Pakistani camps in the early 1980s. There, he unveiled a plan to teach the Islamic warriors offensive tactics, for infiltrating the Soviet Union, and bringing the war to that country.

Sources include: (1) What Good Friends Left Behind; John Pilger; Guardian; 9-20-03. (2) Anatomy of a Victory: the CIA’s Covert Afghan War; Steve Coll; Washington Post; 7-19-92. (3) How a Holy War Against the Soviets Turned on Us; Ahmed Rashid; Pittsburgh Post - Gazette; 9-23-01. (4) Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil, and Fundamentalism in Central Asia; Ahmid Rashid; Yale University Press; 2001.

{4} "We did spawn a monster. Once the Soviets were gone, they were looking around for other targets, and Osama bin Laden settled on the United States as the source of all evil. Irony? Irony is all over the place." – Richard Murphy, assistant Secretary of State for Near East and South Asia; from "US Next Superpower Foe for Terrorist Leader"; AP; 8-23-98.

During the Clinton administration, US intelligence documented numerous on-going operational links between ISI and the Taliban and al Qaeda. One of the most significant, in terms of current events, is their support of the rebels/terrorists in Kashmir, as this is an area central to the dispute between Pakistan and India.

The Clinton administration had the CIA attempt to coordinate efforts to capture Usama bin Laden in the late 1990s. It is known that President Clinton felt that the ISI was not cooperating in a meaningful way.

Information on these events can be found in several sources, including: (1) Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden, from the Soviet; Steve Coll; Penguin; 2004 (see pages 439-478); (2) US Foiled Multiple Times in Effort to Capture bin Laden or Have Him Killed; Barton Gellman; Washington Post; 10-3-01; and (3) Pakistani Intelligence Had Links to al Qaeda; James Risen & Judith Miller; NY Times; 10-29-01 (I recognize that Miller is a flawed source).

{5} "Bin Laden also might have used money to influence Pakistani politics. In this realm, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto – herself a reputed past master of corruption – has accused deposed Prime Minister Sharif of using funds from bin Laden to try to defeat her government. Bhutto claimed that bin Laden sent Sharif money in the 1980s ‘to buy parlimentary deputies for an unsuccessful no-confidence vote to oust her as Pakistani prime minister.’ This claim was amplified in July 1999 when Islamabad paper Al-Akhbar claimed, ‘before the elections in 1990, Osama bin Laden’s friends and relatives gave Nawaz Sharif one billion rupees.’ While there is no definitive proof for the claims by Bhutto and Al-Akhbar, they are interesting. And it is true, at least from bin Laden’s perspective, that Sharif ‘always played an exemplary role in the Afghan jihad,’ while Benazir trimmed and tacked as warrented by her political fortunes and the demands of her close American friends."
--Through Our Enemies’ Eyes; Michael Scheuer; page 176.

In his book "The Osama bin Laden I Know," Peter Bergen has a section where he quotes Jamal Ismail: "Abdullah Azzam was assassinated on the 24th November 1989. Osama was forced to leave Pakistan in the month before that. There was a no-confidence motion [on November 2, 1989] in the Pakistan National Assembly against the government of Benazir Bhutto ….[The money that was used] to purchase the votes of some members of the National Assembly was given by Osama. Benazir came to know before the no-confidence motion that was raised in parliment that they were trying to purchase some votes from her party members. ….When she came to know about Osama’s role, she called King Fahd [of Saudi Arabia] and told him that either you call your man from here or we have to arrest him and interrogate him. And we have free media. They will talk and speculate many things about Saudi interference in our internal affairs. Osama went back for some consultation. When he went back, his passport was snatched by Saudi officials and they banned him from traveling." (pages 97-98)

Yossef Bodansky’s 1999 book "Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America" has over a dozen pages about Benazir Bhutta. This includes a section about her attempt to purge the ISI of high-ranking officials who were closely connected to the radical Islamic forces that had been trained by ISI, the CIA, and M16.

In a May 1996 article in the Atlantic Monthly, ("Blowback …") Mary Anne Weaver wrote about how Bhutta had approached Egyptian President Mubarak in 1993. She told him that Pashawar was under the control of the militants, and requested military support to regain control of the city. He turned down the request.

{6} "Afghanistan is our tar baby and we are stuck fast. Too bad the policy-makers who put our soldiers at risk didn’t brush up on their Brit/Soviet/Afghan History 101 beforehand." – No Light in Afghan Tunnel; David H. Hackworth; DefenseWatch; 5-13-03.

Call it Frankenstein’s monster or a tar baby, the truth is that the United States is dealing with forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan that are well beyond our control. The Bush administration sent Benazir Bhutto to try to exert some influence. The forces in question killed her, and now the Pakistani government officials are saying it was al Qaeda. The Bush administration cannot tell the truth, though they know that the ISI/shadow government and the al Qaeda forces involved are a single entity.

President Bill Clinton made an effort to deal with this problem. His efforts were sidetracked when the republican congress was tasked with character assassination. As we approach 2008, our country’s best bet is to elect a democratic president, and a larger democratic majority in both houses of congress.

In order for us to do that, the democratic leadership will need to put their cards on the table, and tell the country what type of Frankenstein we face.


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