Saturday, February 24, 2007

No WMD...Burning Bush doctrine not exactly working out...what about the war on terror?

The Bush administration and some Republicans in Congress keep telling us that Iraq is still the central front in the war on terror, that we are fighting the terrorists in Iraq so we don't have to fight them here, and that if we leave Iraq, the terrorists will follow us here.

Before the Iraq war, there was no meaningful connection between Iraq and terrorists that posed a threat to the U.S. There was no meaningful connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Before the Iraq war, Iraq was not the central front in the war on terror. If Iraq ever has been the central front in the war on terror, it became that only after and because of the Iraq war.

And now, the Bush administration can no longer even claim that Iraq is the central front in the war on terror.

There are terrorists who want to harm the U.S., but they are not based in Iraq, and yet Iraq is where our attention and resources are tied down. In fact, the evidence shows that the real threat is based in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Bush started to concede this fact in his press conference on February 15, 2007, where he spent a great deal of time talking about defeating terrorists in those countries. And a few days later, the New York Times ran an article entitled "Terror Officials See Al Qaeda Chiefs Regaining Power," which described what our government's officials have discovered.
Senior leaders of Al Qaeda operating from Pakistan have re-established significant control over their once-battered worldwide terror network and over the past year have set up a band of training camps in the tribal regions near the Afghan border, according to American intelligence and counterterrorism officials.

American officials said there was mounting evidence that Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, had been steadily building an operations hub in the mountainous Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan. Until recently, the Bush administration had described Mr. bin Laden and Mr. Zawahri as detached from their followers and cut off from operational control of Al Qaeda.
American officials say that the new intelligence is focused on Al Qaeda and points to the prospect that the terrorist network is gaining in strength despite more than five years of a sustained American-led campaign to weaken it.
On February 19, 2007, one of the guests on "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" was Michael Scheuer. Here's a brief bio (with links added by me):
Michael Scheuer served in the CIA for 22 years before resigning in 2004. He served as the Chief of the bin Laden Unit at the Counterterrorist Center from 1996 to 1999. He is the once anonymous author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror and Through Our Enemies' Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam, and the Future of America. Dr. Scheuer is a Senior Fellow with The Jamestown Foundation.
In other words, Scheuer has firsthand knowledge and experience. I have not read either of his books, but I have heard numerous interviews he has done since retiring from the CIA. In those interviews, he has been highly critical of both the Bush and Clinton administrations. What follows is the transcript of Olbermann's interview with Scheuer with some commentary.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s get the evaluation of the former head of the CIA‘s bin Laden unit, Michael Scheuer. Thank you for some of your time tonight, sir.


OLBERMANN: First of all, the substance of this [New York Times]report, does it sound accurate to you that al Qaeda has regrouped, regained strength, building new training camps in Pakistan?

SCHEUER: Sure. We‘ve always overestimated the damage we did to al Qaeda in Afghanistan, sir. We didn‘t close the borders there. We won the cities, but the Taliban and al Qaeda escaped basically intact, and they‘ve been rebuilding and reequipping over the past five years.

OLBERMANN: How did that happen? I mean, did this administration just sort of declare they it had done all it needed to do about al Qaeda? And last Halloween, the president was saying it was on the run. And now, as of Valentine‘s Day, they‘re back?

SCHEUER: Well, it‘s a—this is a very strange administration, sir, but we really don‘t take the transnational threat seriously, the terrorist threat. We‘re pretty good at nation-states, but on the—on al Qaeda, we still have a government that doesn‘t, as a whole, both parties, don‘t take this threat very seriously.

The idea that we‘re going to try to do with 40,000 troops in Afghanistan what the Soviets couldn‘t do with 150,000 troops is a bit of madness
(emphasis added). Stated differently, we did not finish the job in Afghanistan, and as a result, the Taliban and Al Qaeda survived. Not only that, but since the fall of the Taliban government we have not had enough troops and other resources in Afghanistan to get the job done. Remember, folks, that when the Soviets occupied Afghanistan, they had one of the most powerful militaries in the world and they completely controlled the government in Afghanistan. And yet, a bunch of rag-tag but devoted resistance fighters eventually wore down the Soviets. The mighty Soviet superpower could never defeat a supposedly vastly inferior opponent. The misadventure in Afghanistan contributed greatly to the fall of the Soviet Union. And now we are facing that same type of resistance--only this time they are better organized and trained and financed. Had we continued the job in Afghanistan after the Taliban was removed instead of then going after Iraq, maybe the Taliban and Al Qaeda could have been eliminated or weakened to the point of not being able to be resurgent.

Also, the U.S. does not completely control the Afghan government. In fact, as recently as October 2006, some U.S. leaders were saying that the Taliban should be allowed back into the Afghan government! [SEE WTF? (What the Frist), WTF, Part 2, and WTF, Part 3.]

Scheuer is correct about our government being more concerned about nation-states than the stateless organizations such as Al Qaeda. We toppled the government that was running the nation of Afghanistan and then apparently thought that was all we needed to do to remove the terrorist threat. As Scheuer discussed later in the interview, that idea was and is wrong. After we toppled the Taliban, we turned all our attention to another nation state, Iraq, which had no connection to Al Qaeda, 9-11, or terrorists that posed any threat to the U.S. We did that instead of finishing off the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
OLBERMANN: Mr. Scheuer, given how often the Republicans said during the debate last week in the House that insurgents in Iraq would follow us home if we left Iraq, which battleground is actually more central to the war against terrorists? Is it al Qaeda starting to rebuild training camps that it had in Afghanistan or the Taliban rebuilding them in the neighboring nation of Pakistan? Or is this the central place still the civil war in Iraq?

SCHEUER: No, the central place in terms of an attack inside the United States is Afghanistan and Pakistan. When the next attack occurs in America, it will be planned and orchestrated out of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Al Qaeda values Iraq primarily for the entree it gives them into Jordan, into Syria, into the Arab peninsula, and into Turkey.

We‘ve really signed—for example, we‘ve signed Jordan‘s death warrant by the—through the war in Iraq. But actually, the people who will plan the next attack in the United States are those who are in Afghanistan and Pakistan, sir.

OLBERMANN: So does this emergence of evidence that bin Laden and Zawahiri are regaining strength, individually and collectively, does it diminish, in fact, the justification for the administration now looking over at Iran? I mean, should we be, should we be utterly shifting away from both of those countries and saying, No, al Qaeda, where they are, not where we want them to be, is where we need to look?

SCHEUER: Well, this administration, sir, seems to be afraid of almost anything that moves. And certainly Iraq was a containable country. The Iranians are no threat to the United States unless we provoke them. They may be a threat to the Israelis. They‘re not a threat to the United States.

The threat to the United States, inside the United States, comes from al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is in Afghanistan and Pakistan. If you want to address the threat to America, that‘s where it is
(emphasis added). So, while we are stuck in the complete mess that is Iraq, we do not have the troops and resources to apply to the area from which any attack on the homeland will come. In other words, Iraq is not the central front in the war on terror.
OLBERMANN: So is this a very deadly serious version of the old joke about the guy who loses his watch on a dark street, (INAUDIBLE) and he‘s seen under a spotlight looking for it, under a streetlight, and the guy, the other guy comes up to him and says, Where did you lose the watch? He said, Down in the dark. And he said, Well, why are you looking here under the lamp? Well, that‘s where the light is. Is that what we‘re doing?

SCHEUER: That‘s where we are, sir. That‘s where we have been for the past 15 years.
Isn't it about time we changed that?

So, can somebody explain why we invaded Iraq before finishing the job in Afghanistan? Can somebody explain why we are still in Iraq? I'm not saying that is no credible reason. What I am saying is that the reason is not to protect our homeland from terrorist attacks. What I am saying is that the Iraq war has not made our country safer, but has in fact kept us from truly doing something about a terrorist threat. I have been saying that for a long time--and there are many others who have been saying it. [Go to the Cosmic Wheel Index and check the links under the heading of "Afghanistan" and the Iraq subheading of "Effect on War on Terror."]

So what do we do now?


Blogger Storey Clayton said...

As a blogger against the Iraq War, we thought you would be interested in our new project, One Million Blogs for Peace.

The effort is aimed at signing up 1,000,000 blogs in opposition to the Iraq War during the war's fifth year.

You can see all the details at our website:

Storey Clayton

2/25/2007 12:43 PM  
Blogger WCharles said...

Thanks for the info, Storey.

While I am definitely against the Iraq war--and always have been--at this point I have not concluded that the immediate withdrawal of all combat troops from Iraq should happen (and I have recently stated that here on my blog). As a result, I cannot sign the pledge which is requisite to participating in your project. Nonetheless, I respect your dedication to standing up for what you believe.

I will continue to oppose the Iraq war, and I will keep apprised of your project.

2/25/2007 1:24 PM  

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