A topic I’ve been reading up on lately is the history of U.S. government sponsorship of Islamist terror.
I highly recommend the Cooperative Research site’s pages on The use of Islamist militants by American and Israeli militarists. (See especially the more recent stuff on page 2.) One caveat: Some items here are well-sourced, others aren’t. However, even if one confines one’s attention to the better-sourced items, the picture that emerges is still quite disturbing.
As is well-known, the CIA backed Osama bin Laden’s “Afghan Arabs” in their fight against the Soviet Union back in the 1980’s. What’s less well-known is that the relationship continued since then. For example: 1992-1995: Pentagon Helps Bring Islamic Militants to Fight with Bosnians Against Serbs. Another example: May 21-July 7, 1994: North Yemen, Backed by US and Bin Laden, Wins Yemen Civil War.
Supposedly the U.S. government’s attitude toward Osama bin Laden changed in the early 1990’s, after Al-Qaeda started attacking U.S. targets. However, even in the late 1990’s, the U.S. backed the Kosovo Liberation Army, which had strong ties to Osama bin Laden. (See page 2 of the Cooperative Research site’s timeline on Al-Qaeda in the Balkans.)
Is it conceivable that high officials of the U.S. government could still regard militant Islamic fundamentalism as a useful tool, rather than an enemy, even after 9/11? Apparently so. See Late 2006: US Policy Shift in Iraq Aimed at Rolling Back Growing Iranian Influence:
Concerned that the balance of power in the Middle East has tilted in favor of Shiite-dominated Iran, the Bush administration implements a major shift in its policy toward the region. According to a number of current and former high-level government officials interviewed by reporter Seymour Hersh, the focus of the new policy is to roll back Iran’s growing influence in Iraq. The administration’s top concern is that the failure of its policy in Iraq has empowered Iran. To undermine Iranian influence, the Bush administration begins supporting clandestine operations in Lebanon, Iran, and Syria. The administration avoids disclosing these operations to Congress by skirting congressional reporting requirements and by running them through the Saudis. The White House is also turning a blind eye to Saudi support for religious schools and charities linked to Islamic extremists. “A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to al-Qaeda,” Hersh notes. One former senior intelligence official explains to Hersh, “We are in a program to enhance the Sunni capability to resist Shiite influence, and we’re spreading the money around as much as we can.” The official adds that the money “always gets in more pockets than you think it will. In this process, we’re financing a lot of bad guys with some serious potential unintended consequences. We don’t have the ability to determine and get pay vouchers signed by the people we like and avoid the people we don’t like.” Much of the money used to finance these activities became available as a result of the budgetary chaos in Iraq, where billions of dollars are unaccounted for. A Pentagon consultant tells Hersh, “There are many, many pots of black money, scattered in many places and used all over the world on a variety of missions.” Hersh reports that according to his sources, the US is providing large sums of cash to the Sunni government of Lebanon, which in turn is being funneled to emerging Sunni radical groups in northern Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, and around Palestinian refugee camps in the south. “These groups, though small, are seen as a buffer to Hezbollah; at the same time, their ideological ties are with al-Qaeda,” Hersh writes. Another group receiving support is the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Sunni group that is an avowed enemy of the US and Israel. The “Redirection” is reportedly being led by Vice President Dick Cheney, Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams, former Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, and Saudi Arabia National Security Adviser Prince Bandar bin Sultan. The clandestine activities are said to be guided by Cheney. Critics of the White House’s new policy compare it to other times Western state-powers have backed Islamic militants, such as when the CIA supported the mujahedeen against the Soviets in Afghanistan during the 1980s (see 1986-1992). The “blowback” from that policy included the creation of al-Qaeda. Vali Nasr, a senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations, notes another instance: “The last time Iran was a threat, the Saudis were able to mobilize the worst kinds of Islamic radicals. Once you get them out of the box, you can’t put them back.”
(Sources include, among others, Investigative Reporter Seymour Hersh: US Indirectly Funding Al-Qaeda Linked Sunni Groups in Move to Counter Iran by Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker, March 5, 2007, and The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism? on Democracy Now, February 28, 2007.)
Seymour Hersh writes as if the strengthening of Iran was an unexpected consequence of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Personally, I have a hard time believing that anyone in the U.S. foreign policy establishment could possibly have been so dumb as to have failed to realize that de-stabilizing Iraq would strengthen Iran. That should have been obvious to anyone who knows the difference between Sunni and Shi’ite. Personally, I suspect that the strengthening of Iran was a deliberately intended outcome, to generate a boogeyman (Iran) against whom the U.S. could then “protect” various other countries in the Middle East. Another possibie motive for strengthening Iran is simply to play balance-of-power politics in the Muslim world, playing off the Shi’ites against the Sunnis, which would require strengthening the Shi’ites because the Shi’ites are the less popular faction.
Anyhow, what is the relationship between Al Qaeda and the government of Saudi Arabia? Officially they are opposed to each other, but there are many reasons to doubt that official claim. See the Cooperative Research site’s page on Saudi Arabia.
Yet there are also a lot of cozy ties between various U.S. officials and the Saudi royal family. And, apparently, both the FBI and the CIA had an informal policy of not looking very closely at anything pertaining to Saudi Arabia. Why this coziness? Oil interests no doubt have a lot to do with this. There also seem to be personal friendships between the Bush family and members of both the Saudi royal family and the bin Laden family.
The important question is this: Have the Saudi royals been double-crossing their U.S. friends, or have high officials of the U.S. government been deliberately complicit in Al Qaeda terrorism, including even 9/11? If indeed the Saudi royals been double-crossing their U.S. friends for lo these many years, why doesn’t anyone in the Bush administration seem to realize this by now?
Furthermore, it seems to me that U.S. intelligence agencies had no good excuse not to be aware that a 9-11-like plot was brewing. (See Key Warnings on the Cooperative Research site.) So, it seems to me that at least a few high officials of the U.S. government are guilty of at least criminal negligence, and possibly worse.