The daisy cutter and cluster bombs now raining down on people in Afghanistan would be coming down regardless of whether the Sept. 11 attacks had happened.
For weeks now, articles indicating that the U.S. has been planning military action in Afghanistan since the spring of 2001 have circulated among left-wing circles on the Internet almost all of them are from credible mainstream news sources.
A Nov. 18 article in The Washington Post by Bob Woodward reported that super-secret CIA units known as the Special Activities Division have been operating in Afghanistan on and off since 1997. “For the last 18 months, the CIA has been working with tribes and warlords in southern Afghanistan, and the division”s units have helped create a significant new network in the region of the Taliban”s greatest strength” wrote Woodward. An Oct. 3 Post article even describes a CIA plot to have 60 Pakistani commandos sneak into Afghanistan to kill or capture Osama bin Laden.
Interestingly, even months before Sept. 11, it was no secret among people “in the know” that a U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was imminent. On March 15, 2001, an article by Rahul Bedi in the prestigious but fairly obscure Jane”s Intelligence Review reported that “India is believed to have joined Russia, the USA and Iran in a concerted front against Afghanistan”s Taliban regime Intelligence sources in Delhi said that while India, Russia and Iran were leading the anti-Taliban campaign on the ground, Washington was giving the Northern Alliance information and logistic support.” However, a June 6 special report on indiareacts.com, an Indian public affairs web-zine, indicates that the U.S. was planning to provide actual troops in a coordinated attack on Taliban targets with Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
The indiareacts.com report was validated by a Sept. 18 report by the BBC, which was in turn validated by a Sept. 22 article in the British newspaper The Guardian. It turns out that at a meeting of senior American, Russian, Iranian and Pakistani diplomats in Berlin in mid-July of 2001, three American officials said that a U.S.-led coalition would take military action against the Taliban by mid-October if Osama bin Laden was not turned over soon. Former Pakistani foreign secretary Niaz Naik, who was present at the meeting and who told BBC and Guardian reporters what happened, “said it was doubtful that Washington would drop its plan even if bin Laden were to be surrendered immediately by the Taliban,” said the BBC report. Naik also said that he related the U.S. threat to the Taliban (and thus, we may presume, bin Laden) via the Pakistani government.
Such strong evidence that it was widely known among elites that a U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was imminent ought to cause us to ask some serious questions about what the government may have been expecting prior to Sept. 11. If bin Laden knew the U.S. was hell-bent on finishing him off (especially if he knew military actions would begin in mid-October), it is more than likely he might have considered a preemptive strike against the U.S. or U.S. interests overseas.
On Sunday, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported that after Zacarias Moussaoui (the “20th hijacker”) was arrested by the FBI in August “bureau lawyers in Washington repeatedly declined requests from Minneapolis agents to seek a special warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act authorizing a search of Moussaoui”s laptop computer After the Sept. 11 attacks, when authorities did search Moussaoui”s computer, they found evidence that would have heightened suspicions he was a terrorist.”
What can explain the Moussaoui debacle and other pre-Sept. 11 screw-ups? Gross negligence the government”s official excuse is one explanation. The other possibility is that certain high-ranking government officials actually expected some sort of terrorist attack and worked actively to not prevent it so as to have a pretext to start a war with the Taliban that many feared would result in massive U.S. casualties.
It”s always a good idea to be sceptical of conspiracy theories, but not so sceptical as to simply ignore evidence pointing to an uncomfortable conclusion.
Pre-Sept. 11, it would probably have been hard for officials to convince Washington elites that a risky military incursion into Afghanistan was worth it. Prior to the attacks, many leading conservative thinkers were advocating that the Bush administration take a softer-line against the Taliban so as to give U.S. companies better access to Central Asian oil (see my Oct. 31 column). In fact, former Reagan national security adviser Robert McFarlane wrote about his attempts to convince CIA officials to actively back anti-Taliban guerillas in Feb. 2001, in a Nov. 2 piece in the Wall Street Journal. “In one astonishing exchange we were told, to paraphrase, “We don”t have our marching orders concerning U.S. policy it may be that we will end up dealing with the Taliban.””
The evidence for this theory is by no means conclusive, but given the U.S. government”s insatiable tendency to lie (Iran-Contra anyone?) there is good reason to take it seriously.
Nick Woomer can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.