A recent New York Times article examined how Arabs in the Middle East don't believe the official story of what happened on September 11, 2001 and are rather apt to think the U.S. government itself had a hand in the terrorist attacks. The title of the article dismisses the notion, reading "9/11 Rumors That Become Conventional Wisdom." But what the Times fails to recognize is that behind many myths often lies an element of truth.
The article begins, "Seven years later, it remains conventional wisdom here that Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda could not have been solely responsible for the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and that the United States and Israel had to have been involved in their planning, if not their execution, too."
This kind of thinking, the Times tells us "represents the first failure in the fight against terrorism - the inability to convince people here that the United States is, indeed, waging a campaign against terrorism, not a crusade against Muslims."No, the U.S. is not waging a crusade against Muslims. But neither is it waging a campaign against terrorism. No doubt, Ahmed Issab, the Syrian quoted above, could point out to the Times that this is one of the biggest myths of them all, as the case of Iraq clearly demonstrates.
Iraq has repeatedly been called "the central front in the war on terrorism" by President Bush and others. And it certainly became so, as was well predicted would occur – as a result of the U.S. invasion.To speak of myths that have become conventional wisdom, take the notion that there was an "intelligence failure" leading up to the war on Iraq. This is pure nonsense. There was no intelligence failure. The simple fact of the matter, easily demonstrable, is that U.S. government officials lied about, misled, spun, and exaggerated the "threat" posed by Iraq and it's alleged WMD and supposed ties to al Qaeda. To document the deceptions employed is beyond our purposes here; suffice to say that there never was any credible evidence that Iraq still possessed weapons of mass destruction, or that it had any sort of operational relationship with al Qaeda. Many people, myself included, were saying that for many months before the U.S. invaded, and time certainly confirmed the truth of what we were trying to warn others about.
How can one argue that the war against Iraq was waged to combat terrorism? What evidence is there of this? We have only the declarations of benevolent intent from the same people who engaged in a campaign of deception to convince the American public of the necessity of the war in the first place. Sure, they say it's a "war on terrorism." But statements of intent are not evidence. Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who terrorized his own people. But the U.S. didn't care about that. After all, our government supported Saddam during his most heinous crimes; including when he "gassed his own people," killing 5,000, in the village of Halabjah.
Moreover, it was well predicted by every competent analyst that invading Iraq would only cause more resentment towards the U.S. and hatred of its foreign policies. A war in Iraq would be a "poster" for al Qaeda, many experts noted, and recruitment at militant schools and terrorist training camps would only increase as a result. The world would become an even more dangerous place and acts of terrorism would only increase.
It would have been welcome had such dire predictions been wrong. But they weren't. Acts of terrorism worldwide have increased considerably since the "war on terrorism" began. A great many of these terrorist incidents have occurred in Iraq, a country where such heinous crimes were virtually unknown prior to the U.S. invasion.
And there's the even bigger fact that war itself is terrorism. In fact, the crime of aggression is even worse than state-sponsored international terrorism under international law. A war of aggression is "the supreme international crime," as defined at Nuremberg, "differing only from other crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."
But what about Afghanistan? It's "the good war," after all, we're told. Even many who opposed the invasion of Iraq were in favor of invading Afghanistan and overthrowing the Taliban. But there's an all-too-often missing context here, too, that should be considered when ultimately judging U.S. military intervention. And that is that the Taliban – and al Qaeda – is ultimately a creation of U.S. foreign policy.
The U.S. support for the Afghan mujahedeen is well known. But in the official history the myth is propagated – regarded as conventional wisdom – that this support for the radical militants President Reagan called "freedom fighters" was a response to the Soviet invasion. In fact, covert aid began under Carter six months prior to the Soviet invasion, and according to Carter's national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski himself, the purpose was to try to draw the Soviets in to a conflict – to give them "their Vietnam war," as he put it.
So the CIA financed, armed, and trained – acting through their intermediary, Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence agency (ISI) – the most radical militants they could find. One Gulbaddin Hekmatyar, for instance, was the principle recipient of U.S. aid. His name is still in the media from time to time – he is now one of the principle enemies fighting U.S. coalition forces in Afghanistan.
And, of course, the CIA's base of operations was in Peshawar, Pakistan. Religious schools, or madrassas, were established along Pakistan's northwest border regions, where recruits were trained and radicalized to fight the Soviets. In fact, it is from these madrassas that the movement known as the Taliban would later come – "Taliban" is the plural form of "Talib," Pashto for "student."
And another well known figure of the Soviet-Afghan war also set up his base of operations in Peshawar – Osama bin Laden. At the very least, the CIA was knowledgeable of and approved bin Laden's operations. In fact, the U.S. looked the other way while branches of his organization established bases of operation within the United States, and may have even actively supported his efforts with the mindset during the "Cold War" that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."
Before bin Laden's organization became known as "al Qaeda," or "the Base," it was known as Makhtab al-Khidamat. Either as an alias or subsidiary branch, it was also known as Al Kifah. The U.S. Department of the Treasury has this to say about it: "Makhtab al-Khidamat/Al Kifah (MK) is considered to be the pre-cursor organization to al Qaida and the basis for its infrastructure. MK was initially created by Usama bin Laden's (UBL) mentor, Shaykh Abdullah Azzam, who was also the spiritual founder of Hamas, as an organization to fund mujahideen in the Soviet-Afghan conflict. MK has helped funnel fighters and money to the Afghan resistance in Peshawar, Pakistan, and had established recruitment centers worldwide to fight the Soviets."
One of those recruitment centers was the Alkifah Refugee Center in Brooklyn, New York. One of the mosques from which a certain Omar Abdel Rahman, a.k.a. "the Blind Sheikh," preached was a few doors down from Alkifah. The Sheikh was good friends with Gulbaddin Hekmatyar, and had traveled to Peshawar to meet with the CIA's favored beneficiary. Despite being on the terrorist watch list, Sheikh Omar was allowed to enter the U.S. In fact, his visa was approved by the CIA. And in fact, the Sheikh travelled in and out of the country at will and it was the CIA itself which reviewed and approved his application on at least six separate occasions.
You read correctly. It was reported in the New York Times, in several separate stories, that the CIA had approved a known suspected terrorist, believed to have masterminded acts of terrorism in Egypt, including the assassination of President Anwar Sadat, and allowed him into the country, where he helped to recruit young Muslims through a cell in the organization that would eventually become known as al Qaeda. What's more, that same individual would later be named as one of the masterminds of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.