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Unsolicited Advice on Terrorism to UVa Basketball Player Austin Katstra

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Dear Mr. Katstra,

First of all, thanks for your terrific work on the greatest team ever which I think we are all safe in assuming would have repeated last year's championship this year if the season hadn't been shut down. Maybe I'm biased. The point is I'm a fan and an alumnus who found very disturbing an article titled "Virginia's Austin Katstra lays the foundation for a career in counterterrorism."

That article reported: "Austin Katstra's interest in counterterrorism began on May 2, 2011. That's the day U.S. forces killed Osama Bin Laden. Katstra didn't know much about the terrorist nearly a decade ago, so the then-middle schooler researched Bin Laden and started to learn about how the U.S. responded to Bin Laden's acts of terrorism. With a former marine as a step-grandfather, Katstra already had some interest in helping his country, but the interest spiked when learning more about counterterrorism."

I often speak to college and high school classes about war and peace and discover that many students are unaware of basic facts. I also talk with veterans of and active duty members of the U.S. military (and the CIA and other agencies) and they tell me that had they known some basic facts they wouldn't have joined up. Of course, you may be far better informed than any of them. UVa is a great school, after all. But, because it's so important, and I mean no offense, may I just briefly ask a few questions that you can skip right over if they're old news to you?

Are you aware that the U.S. government repeatedly turned down offers to hand Bin Laden over to a third nation to be put on trial, preferring instead a war that would go on for almost 19 years so far?

Have you come into contact with the understanding that "if the CIA had not spent over a billion dollars arming Islamist militants in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War, empowering jihadist godfathers like Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden in the process, the 9/11 attacks would have almost certainly not taken place"?

Are you familiar with the U.S. plans for war on Afghanistan that pre-dated September 11, 2001?

Have you seen the predictable excuses that Bin Laden gave for his murderous crimes? They each involve revenge for other crimes committed by the U.S. military.

Are you aware that war is a crime under, among other laws, the United Nations Charter?

Are you aware that al Qaeda planned September 11th in numerous nations and U.S. states that, unlike Afghanistan, the United States chose not to bomb?

Are you familiar with the gross failures of the CIA and FBI leading up to 9/11, but also with the warnings they gave to the White House that went unheeded?

Are you aware of the evidence of the role played by Saudi Arabia, close U.S. ally, oil dealer, weapons customer, and partner in the war on Yemen?

Did you know that British Prime Minister Tony Blair agreed to the future war on Iraq as long as Afghanistan were attacked first?

Did you know that the U.S. government relied on help from Charlottesville to launch the war on Iraq? It's true. When the experts at the Department of Energy refused to say that aluminum tubes in Iraq were for nuclear facilities, because they knew they could not possibly be and were almost certainly for rockets, and when the State Department's people also refused to reach the "correct" conclusion, a couple of guys at the National Ground Intelligence Center were happy to oblige. Their names were George Norris and Robert Campus, and they received "performance awards" (cash) for the service. Secretary of State Colin Powell used Norris' and Campus' claims in his U.N. speech despite the warning of his own staff that they weren't true.

Are you aware that the Taliban had practically eradicated opium prior to the war, but that the war made opium one of the Taliban's top two sources of funding, the other being, according to an investigation by the U.S. Congress, the U.S. military?

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David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War," "War Is A Lie" and "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union." He blogs at and and works for the online (more...)
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