‘Libya: The Questions We Should Be Asking’ by Barry Lando

This article provides some context to the violence now erupting against USA in the Muslim world, where the actual film on YouTube is an opportunity for the Extreme Right to drum up mass hysteria.
Though US-NATO alliance must be confronted, it cannot bring much improvement in the lives of people if it is done on the basis of ‘avenging Islam’, that it is now being done.
We cannot support the Extreme Right, neither can we support the aggressive colonization of US-NATO alliance in the region. We must expose both for their profiteering, and their violent and abusive politics.

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September 15, 2012 “Information Clearing House” – – Apart from Mitt Romney’s ridiculous slur against President Obama after the slaying of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, Americans should focus on the state of affairs suggested by the following questions: When was the last time a Chinese diplomat was killed or even roughed up by an angry mob? When did you last hear about a Chinese embassy being burned down or pillaged?

From Morocco and Tunisia to Libya, Egypt, Yemen and Iraq, anti-American crowds have taken to the streets. The outpouring of hatred is symptomatic of the fact that across much of North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, American policy is in tatters—probably more than ever before. The region is strewn with the wreckage of failed U.S. ambitions and disastrous American plans.

Incredibly, even as the U.S. surveys the shambles that Libya has become, there are still American officials pushing for the United States to intervene in Syria’s bloody civil war. (In fact, for months now, the U.S. and some of its Arab allies have been clandestinely doing just that.) Even the prime minister of Israel, supposedly America’s most valuable ally in the region, makes political points by sticking his finger in President Obama’s eye.

We’ve heard for years that America is obsessed with this part of the world because its trade routes and resources are critical to U.S. interests. That may once have been true, but as things stand now, those trade routes and resources are more crucial to China than to America. China gets a greater percentage of its oil through the vital Strait of Hormuz—which the U.S. spends billions of dollars to patrol—than does the United States.

And although the U.S. has been lavishing hundreds of billions of dollars on military bases, the Chinese have been spending their considerable financial resources across Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, buying up mineral deposits, land, forests and petroleum, inking construction contracts for huge infrastructure projects as well as opening up vast new markets.

Where are the Chinese troops to protect all this? Where are the sprawling Chinese naval and air bases, their drones, killer teams and special forces? Not needed, thanks. The U.S. is handling security.

This makes for some sad ironies. For instance, the fact that Stevens spent months aiding the Libyan rebels during their uprising against Moammar Gadhafi while China was one of the last major allies to continue supporting the dictator. Yet the Chinese are back in Libya wheeling and dealing for construction contracts and oil.

Meanwhile, next door in Egypt, newly elected President Mohamed Morsi, whose country continues to receive more than $1 billion in aid from the United States, judged he had more to gain by joining in attacks against the U.S. than by cooling popular passions. And where was his first trip abroad after winning election? To China.

Yet China would seem a very appropriate target for Muslim anger. The U.S. may have invaded Muslim countries, but for decades China has been brutally persecuting and repressing millions of its own Muslim minorities, such as the Uighars in northwest China.

But how many furious crowds have taken to the streets in Muslim lands to protest the plight of the Uighars? How many people have even heard of them? How many of the Muslim leaders who are lambasting the United States because of an off-the-wall film that the U.S. government had absolutely nothing to do with have ever uttered a single word of protest against China in public?

That’s not to say the Chinese are beloved in the region. There have been violent, sometimes bloody, protests against their labor and trade practices but nothing that compares in scale and depth to the hatred and suspicion of the United States throughout the region.

The current outcry over a film insulting the Prophet Muhammad is just the tip of an emotional iceberg. Underneath it all are more than half a century of Western and American interventions in the region, as well as the U.S.’ continued support of Israel.

While the U.S. has spent huge sums trying to overthrow regimes, punish perceived enemies, prevent nuclear proliferation (except in Israel) and shape the impacts of the new political dynamics that are roiling the area, the Chinese have had their eyes fixed on one set of objectives only: getting hold of vital natural resources to fuel their ravenous economy and finding new markets for their products and mammoth projects for their construction companies.

Why can’t the U.S. do the same? That’s the kind of basic question Americans should ask in the wake of the killing of a U.S. ambassador, as they go about electing a new president. But don’t count on it.

This article was originally posted at TruthDig

From
Information Clearinghouse
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‘The Provocateurs Know Politics and Religion Don’t Mix’ by Robert Fisk

September 13, 2012
“The Independent”

So another internet clever-clogs sets the Middle East on fire: Prophet cartoons, then Koranic book-burning, now a video of robed “terrorists” and a fake desert. The Western-Christian perpetrators then go into hiding (an essential requisite for publicity) while the innocent are asphyxiated, beheaded and otherwise done to death – outrageous Muslim revenge thus “proving” the racist claims of the trash peddlers that Islam is a violent religion.

The provocateurs, of course, know that politics and religion don’t mix in the Middle East. They are the same. Christopher Stevens, his diplomat colleagues in Benghazi, priests in Turkey and Africa, UN personnel in Afghanistan; they have all paid the price for those ‘Christian priests’, ‘cartoonists’, ‘film-makers’ and ‘authors’ – the inverted commas are necessary to mark a thin line between illusionists and the real thing – who knowingly choose to provoke 1.6 billion Muslims.

When a Danish cartoon in a hitherto unknown newspaper drew a picture of the Prophet Mohamed with a bomb in his turban, the Danish embassy in Beirut went up in flames. When a Texas pastor decided to ‘sentence the Koran to death’, the knives came out in Afghanistan – we are leaving aside the little matter of the ‘accidental’ burning of Koranic pages by US personnel in Bagram. And now a deliberately abusive film provokes the murder of one of the State Department’s fairest diplomats.

In many ways, it’s familiar territory. In fifteenth century Spain, Christian cartoonists drew illustrations of the Prophet committing unspeakable acts. And – just so we don’t think we have clean claws today – when a Paris cinema showed a film in which Christ made love to a woman, the picture-house was burned-down, one cinema-goer was killed, and the killer turned out to be a Christian.

With the help of our wonderful new technology, however, it only needs a couple of loonies to kick off a miniature war in the Muslim world within seconds. I doubt if poor Christopher Stevens – a man who really understood the Arabs as many of his colleagues do not – had ever heard of the ‘film’ that unleashed the storming of the US consulate in Benghazi and his own death. It’s one thing to witlessly claim that the US would go on a “crusade” against al-Qaeda – thank you, George W. Bush – but another to insult, quite deliberately, an entire people. Racism of this kind stirs many a crazed heart.

And has Al-Qaeda – defeated by the Arab revolutionaries who demanded dignity rather than a Bin Laden Caliphate across the Middle East – now decided to cash in on populist grievances to advance their Islamist cause? Libya’s largely impotent government blames the Americans themselves for Stevens’ killing – since the consulate should have been evacuated – and suggests that a Gaddafi clique was behind the attack. This is ridiculous. If the armed militia in Benghazi, calling itself the ‘Islamic Law Supporters’, are more than telephone-gunmen, then al-Qaida involvement has to be suspected.

Ironically, there is room for a serious discussion among Muslims about, for example, a re-interpretation of the Koran; but Western provocation – and western, alas, it is – closes down such a narrative. Meanwhile, we beat our chests in favour of a ‘free press’. A New Zealand editor once proudly told me how his own newspaper had re-published the cartoon of the Prophet with a bomb-filled turban. But when I asked him if he planned to publish a cartoon of a Rabbi with a bomb on his head next time Israel invaded Lebanon, he hastily agreed with me that this would be anti-Semitic.

There’s the rub, of course. Some things are off limits, and rightly so. Others have no limits at all. Several radio presenters asked me yesterday if the unrest in Cairo and Benghazi may have been timed to “coincide with 9/11”. It simply never occurred to them to ask if the video-clip provocateurs had chosen their date-for-release to coincide with 9/11.

Robert Fisk is Middle East correspondent for The Independent newspaper.

© 2012 The Independent

From
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article32433.htm
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U.S. official killed in Libya protest over anti-Islam film – CBC

CBC.ca
Sept 11, 2012

Protesters angered over a film that ridiculed Islam’s Prophet Muhammad fired gunshots and burned down the U.S. consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, killing one American official, witnesses and the State Department said. In Egypt, protesters scaled the walls of the U.S. embassy in Cairo and replaced an American flag with an Islamic banner.

It was the first such assaults on U.S. diplomatic facilities in either country, at a time when both Libya and Egypt are struggling to overcome the turmoil following the ouster of their longtime leaders, Moammar Gadhafi and Hosni Mubarak in uprisings last year.

The protests in both countries were sparked by outrage over a film ridiculing Muhammad produced by an American in California and being promoted by an extreme anti-Muslim Egyptian Christian campaigner in the United States. Excerpts from the film dubbed into Arabic were posted on YouTube.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton confirmed that one State Department officer had been killed in the protest at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. She strongly condemned the attack and said she had called Libyan President Mohammed el-Megarif “to co-ordinate additional support to protect Americans in Libya.”

Continued…
http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2012/09/11/cairo-embassy-protest.html?cmp=rss
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Support Free Internet – Sign This Petition

Stop the Internet Blacklist!

The US Congress is considering a bill ‘Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act’ (COICA) that can seriously injure the freedom of the internet. View it here:
http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s111-3804

Sign This Petition Protect Our Freedoms

More about it:

‘COICA creates two blacklists of Internet domain names. Courts could add sites to the first list; the Attorney General would have control over the second. Internet service providers and others (everyone from Comcast to PayPal to Google AdSense) would be required to block any domains on the first list. They would also receive immunity (and presumably the good favor of the government) if they block domains on the second list.

‘The lists are for sites “dedicated to infringing activity,” but that’s defined very broadly — any domain name where counterfeit goods or copyrighted material are “central to the activity of the Internet site” could be blocked.

‘One example of what this means in practice: sites like YouTube could be censored in the US. Copyright holders like Viacom often argue copyrighted material is central to the activity of YouTube, but under current US law, YouTube is perfectly legal as long as they take down copyrighted material when they’re informed about it — which is why Viacom lost to YouTube in court.

‘But if COICA passes, Viacom wouldn’t even need to prove YouTube is doing anything illegal to get it shut down — as long as they can persuade the courts that enough other people are using it for copyright infringement, the whole site could be censored.

‘Perhaps even more disturbing: Even if Viacom couldn’t get a court to compel censorship of a YouTube or a similar site, the DOJ could put it on the second blacklist and encourage ISPs to block it even without a court order. (ISPs have ample reason to abide the will of the powerful DOJ, even if the law doesn’t formally require them to do so.)

‘COICA’s passage would be a tremendous blow to free speech on the Internet — and likely a first step towards much broader online censorship. Please help us fight back: The first step is signing our petition. We’ll give you the tools to share it with your friends and call your Senator.’

From David Segal and Aaron Swartz
Read it here

Sign the Petition
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Complete 911 Timeline: Media Criticism and Criticism of Media

From: http://www.historycommons.org/timeline.jsp?timeline=complete_911_timeline&the_post-9/11_world=media

September 9, 2001: New York Times Reports Bin Laden ‘Promises More Attacks’; Article Will Be Removed Shortly After 9/11

Just two days before 9/11, the New York Times publishes an article on their website examining the threat of an al-Qaeda attack on US interests. The article focuses on a videotape made by bin Laden which was released in June 2001 (see June 19, 2001). The article notes that “When the two-hour videotape surfaced last June, it attracted little attention, partly because much of it was spliced from previous bin Laden interviews and tapes. But since then the tape has proliferated on Islamic Web sites and in mosques and bazaars across the Muslim world.” It further notes that in the video, bin Laden “promises more attacks.” Referring to the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, he says, “The victory of Yemen will continue.” He promises to aid Palestinians fighting Israel, an important shift in emphasis from previous pronouncements. He also praises the Taliban, suggesting that previous reports of a split between bin Laden and the Taliban were a ruse. The article comments, “With his mockery of American power, Mr. bin Laden seems to be almost taunting the United States.” [New York Times, 9/9/2001] Curiously, shortly after 9/11, the New York Times will remove the article from their website archive and redirect all links from the article’s web address: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/09/international/asia/09OSAM.html, to the address of another article written by the same author shortly after 9/11, http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/12/international/12OSAM.html. (Note the dates contained within the addresses.)
Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaeda
Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline
Category Tags: Warning Signs, Media

September 11, 2001: Television News Footage of Gleeful Palestinians Shown out of Context

Television news coverage on 9/11 repeatedly shows images of Palestinians rejoicing over the 9/11 attack. According to Mark Crispin Miller, a professor of media studies at New York University who investigated the issue, the footage was filmed during the funeral of nine people killed the day before by Israeli authorities. He said, “To show it without explaining the background, and to show it over and over again is to make propaganda for the war machine and is irresponsible.” [Agence France-Presse, 9/18/2001; Australian, 9/27/2001]
Entity Tags: Mark Crispin Miller

September 12, 2001 and After: Account of 9/11 Hijackers Drinking Alcohol Changes over Time without Explanation

One of the first and most frequently told stories about the 9/11 hijackers is the visit of two hijackers to Shuckums, a sports bar in Hollywood, Florida, on September 7, 2001 (see September 7, 2001). What is particularly interesting about this story is how it changes over time. In the original story, first reported on September 12, 2001 [Associated Press, 9/12/2001] , hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi, and an unidentified man, came into the restaurant already drunk. “They were wasted,” says bartender Patricia Idrissi, who directed them to a nearby Chinese restaurant. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/13/2001] Later they returned and drank—Atta ordered five vodka and orange juices, while Alshehhi ordered five rum and Cokes. [Time, 9/24/2001] According to manager Tony Amos, “The guy Mohamed was drunk, his voice was slurred, and he had a thick accent.” Idrissi says they argued about the bill, and when she asked if there was a problem, “Mohamed said he worked for American Airlines and he could pay his bill.” [Associated Press, 9/12/2001] This story is widely reported through much of September. [New York Times, 9/13/2001; South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/15/2001; Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 9/16/2001; Miami Herald, 9/22/2001; Newsweek, 9/24/2001; Time, 9/24/2001] However, beginning on September 15, a second story appears. [Toronto Star, 9/15/2001] This story is similar to the first, except that here, Atta was playing video games and drinking cranberry juice instead of vodka, and Alshehhi was the one who argued over the bill and paid. After some coexistence, the second story becomes predominant in late September 2001. This new version makes no reference to the fact that alcohol had been mentioned in previous accounts of the incident. [Washington Post, 9/16/2001; Washington Post, 9/22/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/27/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 9/27/2001; Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 11/12/2001; Sunday Times (London), 2/3/2002]
Entity Tags: Marwan Alshehhi, Patricia Idrissi, Mohamed Atta, Tony Amos
Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline
Category Tags: Marwan Alshehhi, Mohamed Atta, Media

September 14, 2001 and After: Anticiapted Debate about Poor Fighter Response on 9/11 Never Occurs

The Miami Herald reports, “Forty-five minutes. That’s how long American Airlines Flight 77 meandered through the air headed for the White House, its flight plan abandoned, its radar beacon silent… Who was watching in those 45 minutes? ‘That’s a question that more and more people are going to ask,’ said one controller in Miami. ‘What the hell went on here? Was anyone doing anything about it? Just as a national defense thing, how are they able to fly around and no one go after them?’” [Miami Herald, 9/14/2001] In the year after this article and a similar one in the Village Voice [Village Voice, 9/13/2001] , there will be only one other US article questioning slow fighter response times, and that article notes the strange lack of articles on the topic. [Slate, 1/16/2002] The fighter response issue finally makes news in 9/11 Commission hearings in 2004.
Entity Tags: 9/11 Commission
Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline
Category Tags: Media, Other 9/11 Investigations, 9/11 Investigations

Mid-September 2001: President Bush’s Popularity Ratings Soar Over 90 Percent; Journalists Feel Reluctant to Criticize His Handling of 9/11

An average of major US polls ranking Bush’s popularity, from February 2001 to June 2007. [Source: Stuart Eugene Thiel] (click image to enlarge)Washington Post columnist Mary McGrory writes that since 9/11, “[T]he country has rallied to the president’s side. Even those who wished for a little more eloquence from him did not want to hear a word against him. Ask any journalist who raised questions about his initial handling of the crisis: They have been inundated with furious calls calling them a disgrace to their profession and even traitors. Congress is well aware that George Bush has become a colossus, surpassing his father’s 90 percent approval rating after the Persian Gulf War. .. Democratic consternation and misgivings have been expressed behind the scenes. When Bush requested blanket authority for retaliation, some remembered the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which they unwarily gave to Lyndon Johnson during Vietnam and came to regret. They said the president’s current powers give him all the authority he needed to punish the authors of the obscene attacks. But, as one Democrat said disconsolately, ‘No one wants to say no to Bush now.’” [Washington Post, 9/18/2001]
Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Mary McGrory
Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline, Domestic Propaganda
Category Tags: Media

September 16, 2001: Couple Reported as Killed on 9/11 Flight Turn up Alive

A man and his wife who were reported to have died on 9/11 in one of the aircraft that hit the World Trade Center are found to be still alive. [American Journalism Review, 11/2001] Reports stated that on September 11, Jude Larson, 31, and his pregnant wife Natalie, 24, had been en route to the University of California at Los Angeles, where Jude was a student. Some reports said they were on Flight 11, others said Flight 175. [Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 9/12/2001; Boston Globe, 9/19/2001] The alleged deaths were first reported in several newspapers in Hawaii, where Jude’s father, Curtis Larson, lives. [Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 9/13/2001; Newspaper Research Journal, 12/2003] The Associated Press, which has strict instructions to verify the names of victims independently, reported the deaths on its worldwide wires. The two names were then reported on passenger lists in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and on the websites of CNN and MSNBC. [Boston Globe, 9/19/2001] But on this day, Jude Larson—whose real name is in fact Jude Olson—contacts the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and notifies it that he and his wife are still alive. [Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 9/18/2001; Newspaper Research Journal, 12/2003] He is 30, not 31, his wife is not pregnant, and they live in Washington State, not California. His father had told the Maui News about his son and daughter-in-law’s deaths in an interview on September 11, in the hours after the attacks. [Maui News, 9/18/2001] But Curtis Larson will now say he has been the victim of a hoax. He says someone pretending to be his ex-wife called him on 9/11 to inform him of the deaths. Then someone claiming to be from one of the airlines called him with the same news. [Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 9/18/2001] But the American Journalism Review will accuse Larson of having “fabricated almost every detail of his story” about the two deaths. The Associated Press subsequently asks its members to remove the names of Jude and Natalie Larson from its victim list and delete any photographs of them. American newspapers will have corrections columns noting the error. [American Journalism Review, 11/2001]
Entity Tags: Natalie Larson, Jude Larson, Curtis Larson
Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline
Category Tags: Media

September 17-22, 2001: CBS News Anchor Dan Rather Says He Is Giving Bush Administration ‘Benefit of Any Doubt’ after 9/11

Dan Rather. [Source: CBS News]On September 17, 2001, CBS News anchor Dan Rather says in an interview, “George Bush is the president, he makes the decisions and you know, as just one American wherever he wants me to line up, just tell me where.” [PBS, 4/25/2007] On September 22, he is interviewed again, and says that journalists are reluctant to criticize the Bush administration for fear of a public backlash. He adds, “I am willing to give the government, the President, and the military the benefit of any doubt here in the beginning.… I’m going to do my job as a journalist, but at the same time I will give them the benefit of the doubt, whenever possible in this kind of crisis, emergency situation. Not because I am concerned about any backlash. I’m not. But because I want to be a patriotic American without apology.” [Artz and Kamalipour, 2005, pp. 69] Less than a year later, Rather will say in another interview that he has not been aggressive enough in reporting since 9/11 for fear of being seen as unpatriotic (see May 17, 2002).
Entity Tags: CBS News, Dan Rather
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Domestic Propaganda
Category Tags: Media

September 18, 2001: White House Staffers Pressure NBC Not to Broadcast Interview with President Clinton

On the same day NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw interviews former President Clinton, NBC executives receive phone calls from senior communications staffers at the White House about the interview. While these staffers do not explicitly ask NBC to refrain from showing the interview, they do complain that showing it will not be helpful to the war on terrorism. NBC shows the interview despite the calls. Ironically, in the interview Clinton merely says that he supports President Bush and urges the rest of the country to do so as well. [Salon, 9/27/2001]
Entity Tags: NBC, Tom Brokaw, White House, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Category Tags: Media

September 23, 2001-Present: 9/11 Skeptics Derided as Conspiracy Nuts

The first of many mainstream articles ridiculing 9/11 “conspiracy theories” is published. [Independent, 9/23/2001] Early articles of this type generally deride Middle Eastern views blaming Israel. [Associated Press, 10/3/2001; Washington Post, 10/13/2001; Dallas Morning News, 11/19/2001] Later articles mostly deride Western theories blaming President Bush, and criticize the Internet and Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney for spreading these ideas. [Chicago Sun-Times, 2/8/2002; ABC News, 4/17/2002; Orlando Sentinel, 5/18/2002; Toronto Sun, 5/19/2002] The title of one article, “Conspiracy Nuts Feed On Calamity,” expresses the general tone of these articles. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 5/22/2002] An Ottawa Citizen article mockingly includes a Do-It-Yourself Conspiracy Theory section, where you can fill in the blanks for your own personal 9/11 theory. The article calls 9/11 conspiracy theories “delirious,” “dangerous,” and “viruses,” while admitting, “[I]t’s true that some of the events surrounding the September 11 attacks are hard to explain.” [Ottawa Citizen, 9/1/2002] Another article attempts to discredit theories that oil was a motive for the US to attack Afghanistan by interspersing them with theories that space aliens were behind the 9/11 attacks. [Daily Telegraph, 9/5/2002]
Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Cynthia McKinney, Israel
Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline
Category Tags: Media, US Government and 9/11 Criticism

October 10, 2001: US Television Networks ‘Doing Too Much of the Government’s Bidding’

The Bush administration asks the major US television networks to refrain from showing unedited video messages taped by Osama bin Laden. They agree. A Newsweek article is critical of the decision, pointing out that “all but one [of these networks] are controlled by major conglomerates that have important pending business with the government.” The article openly questions if the media is “doing too much of the government’s bidding” in reporting on 9/11. Says one expert, “I’m not saying that everything is a horrible paranoid fantasy, but my sense is there’s an implicit quid pro quo here. The industry seems to be saying to the administration, ‘We’re patriotic, We’re supporting the war, we lost all of this advertising, now free us from [business] constraints.’” [Newsweek, 10/13/2001]
Entity Tags: Bush administration, Osama bin Laden
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, 9/11 Timeline, Domestic Propaganda
Category Tags: Media

November 10, 2001: Bush Dismisses 9/11 Conspiracy Theories

In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly, President Bush states, “We must speak the truth about terror. Let us never tolerate outrageous conspiracy theories concerning the attacks of September the 11th; malicious lies that attempt to shift the blame away from the terrorists, themselves, away from the guilty.” [US President, 11/19/2001]
Entity Tags: UN General Assembly, George W. Bush
Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline
Category Tags: Media, US Government and 9/11 Criticism

Late 2001 and After: CNN Limits Critical Reporting of Bush Administration Due to Pressure and Patriotic Fervor

Walter Isaacson. [Source: Aspen Institute]In 2007, Walter Isaacson, chairman and CEO of CNN in the early 2000s, will say: “There was a patriotic fervor and the Administration used it so that if you challenged anything you were made to feel that there was something wrong with that.… And there was even almost a patriotism police which, you know, they’d be up there on the internet sort of picking anything a Christiane Amanpour, or somebody else would say as if it were disloyal… Especially right after 9/11. Especially when the war in Afghanistan is going on. There was a real sense that you don’t get that critical of a government that’s leading us in war time.” When CNN starts showing footage of civilian casualties in Afghanistan, people in the Bush administration and “big people in corporations were calling up and saying, ‘You’re being anti-American here.’” [PBS, 4/25/2007] So in October 2001, Isaacson sends his staff a memo, which says, “It seems perverse to focus too much on the casualties or hardship in Afghanistan.” He orders CNN to balance such coverage with reminders of the 9/11 attacks. [Washington Post, 10/31/2001] Isaacson will add, “[W]e were caught between this patriotic fervor and a competitor [Fox News] who was using that to their advantage; they were pushing the fact that CNN was too liberal that we were sort of vaguely anti-American.” An anonymous CNN reporter will also later say, “Everybody on staff just sort of knew not to push too hard to do stories critical of the Bush Administration.” [PBS, 4/25/2007]
Entity Tags: Walter Isaacson, CNN, Christiane Amanpour
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Domestic Propaganda, War in Afghanistan
Category Tags: Media, Afghanistan

December 16, 2001: Fox News Removes Controversial Story from Website, but Story Nonetheless Makes an Impact

Fox News removes its series on the “art student spy ring” from its website after only two days, in response to pressure from The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) and others. CAMERA suggests the reporter “has something, personally, about Israel.… Maybe he’s very sympathetic to the Arab side.” [Salon, 5/7/2002] The head of the ADL calls the report “sinister dangerous innuendo which fuels anti-Semitism.” [Forward, 12/21/2001] Yet there does not appear to be any substance to these personal attacks (and Forward magazine later reverses its stance on the spy ring (see March 15, 2002)). Fox News also never makes a formal repudiation or correction about the series. The contents of the series continues to be generally ignored by the mainstream media, but it makes a big impact inside the US government: An internal DEA communiqué from December 18 mentions the Fox report by name, and warns of security breaches in telecommunications as described in the Fox report. [Salon, 5/7/2002]
Entity Tags: Fox News, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, Drug Enforcement Administration, “Israeli art students”, Anti-Defamation League, The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs
Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline
Category Tags: Media, Israel

February 6, 2002 and After: Western Media Largely Ignores Links between Saeed Sheikh, ISI, and 9/11

Pakistani police publicly name Saeed Sheikh and a Islamic militant group he belongs to, Jaish-e-Mohammed, as those responsible for reporter Daniel Pearl’s murder. [Observer, 2/24/2002] In the next several months, at least 12 Western news articles mention Saeed’s links to al-Qaeda [ABC News, 2/7/2002; Boston Globe, 2/7/2002; Associated Press, 2/24/2002; Los Angeles Times, 3/15/2002] , including his financing of 9/11 [New York Daily News, 2/7/2002; CNN, 2/8/2002; Associated Press, 2/9/2002; Guardian, 2/9/2002; Independent, 2/10/2002; Time, 2/10/2002; New York Post, 2/10/2002; Evening Standard, 2/12/2002; Los Angeles Times, 2/13/2002; New York Post, 2/22/2002; Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 2/24/2002; USA Today, 3/8/2002] , and at least 16 articles mention his links to the ISI. [Cox News Service, 2/21/2002; Observer, 2/24/2002; Daily Telegraph, 2/24/2002; Newsweek, 2/25/2002; New York Times, 2/25/2002; USA Today, 2/25/2002; National Post, 2/26/2002; Boston Globe, 2/28/2002; Newsweek, 3/11/2002; Newsweek, 3/13/2002; Guardian, 4/5/2002; MSNBC, 4/5/2002] However, many other articles fail to mention either link. Only a few articles consider that Saeed could have been connected to both groups at the same time [London Times, 2/25/2002; Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/3/2002; London Times, 4/21/2002] , and apparently, only one of these mentions he could be involved in the ISI, al-Qaeda, and financing 9/11. [London Times, 4/21/2002] By the time Saeed is convicted of Pearl’s murder in July 2002, Saeed’s possible connections to al-Qaeda and/or the ISI are virtually unreported in US newspapers, while many British newspapers are still making one or the other connection.
Entity Tags: Daniel Pearl, Al-Qaeda, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Saeed Sheikh, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence
Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline
Category Tags: Pakistan and the ISI, Media, Saeed Sheikh, Pakistani ISI Links to 9/11

February 20, 2002: Pentagon Office Designed for Telling Lies Revealed; Declared Closed

The Pentagon announces the existence of the new Office of Strategic Influence (OSI), which “was quietly set up after September 11.” The role of this office is to plant false stories in the foreign press, phony e-mails from disguised addresses, and other covert activities to manipulate public opinion. The new office proves so controversial that it is declared closed six days later. [CNN, 2/20/2002; CNN, 2/26/2002] It is later reported that the “temporary” Office of Global Communications will be made permanent (it is unknown when this office began its work). This office seems to serve the same function as the earlier OSI, minus the covert manipulation. [Washington Post, 7/30/2002] Defense Secretary Rumsfeld later states that after the OSI was closed, “I went down that next day and said fine, if you want to savage this thing fine I’ll give you the corpse. There’s the name. You can have the name, but I’m gonna keep doing every single thing that needs to be done and I have.” [US Department of Defense, 11/18/2002]
Entity Tags: Pentagon, US Department of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, Office of Strategic Influence, Office of Global Communications
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, Domestic Propaganda
Category Tags: Media, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

March 6, 2002: US Officials Deny and Media Downplay Existence of Israeli Spy Ring

A Washington Post article, relying on US officials, denies the existence of any Israeli spy ring. A “wide array of US officials” supposedly deny it, and Justice Department spokeswoman Susan Dryden says: “This seems to be an urban myth that has been circulating for months. The department has no information at this time to substantiate these widespread reports about Israeli art students involved in espionage.” [Washington Post, 3/6/2002] The New York Times fails to cover the story at all, even months later. [Salon, 5/7/2002] By mid-March, Jane’s Intelligence Digest, the respected British intelligence and military analysis service, notes: “It is rather strange that the US media seems to be ignoring what may well be the most explosive story since the 11 September attacks—the alleged breakup of a major Israeli espionage operation in the USA.” [Jane’s Intelligence Digest, 3/15/2002]
Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Susan Dryden, “Israeli art students”
Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline
Category Tags: Israel, Media

May 17, 2002: Dan Rather Says Fear of Being Unpatriotic Affects Media Coverage After 9/11

CBS anchorman Dan Rather tells the BBC that he and other journalists haven’t been properly investigating since 9/11. He says, “There was a time in South Africa that people would put flaming tires around people’s necks if they dissented. And in some ways the fear is that you will be necklaced here, you will have a flaming tire of lack of patriotism put around your neck. Now it is that fear that keeps journalists from asking the toughest of the tough questions.” [Guardian, 5/17/2002]
Entity Tags: Dan Rather
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, 9/11 Timeline, Domestic Propaganda
Category Tags: Media

May 20-24, 2002: Flurry of Government Terrorist Warnings Given at Politically Suspicious Time

The Bush administration issues a remarkable series of terror warnings that many believe are politically motivated. Vice President Cheney warns it is “not a matter of if, but when” al-Qaeda will next attack the US. [CNN, 5/20/2002] Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge says the same thing. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld says terrorists will “inevitably” obtain weapons of mass destruction (see May 21, 2002). FBI Director Mueller says more suicide bombings are “inevitable.” [Washington Post, 5/22/2002] Authorities also issue separate warnings that al-Qaeda militants might target apartment buildings nationwide, banks, rail and transit systems, the Statue of Liberty, and the Brooklyn Bridge. USA Today titles an article, “Some Question Motives Behind Series of Alerts.” [USA Today, 5/24/2002] David Martin, CBS’s national security correspondent, says, “Right now they’re putting out all these warnings to change the subject from what was known prior to September 11 to what is known now.” It had been revealed the week before that Bush received a briefing in August 2001 entitled, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US” (see August 6, 2001). [Washington Post, 5/27/2002] Remarkably, even Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says the alerts were issued “as a result of all the controversy that took place last week.” [Washington Times, 5/22/2002; Village Voice, 5/23/2002] A retired CIA official reveals that the administration “made a political decision” to make any threat public, even those deemed to be hoaxes. In response to the alleged threat to New York, the former head of the FBI bureau there states that “there really isn’t any hard information.” [Rolling Stone, 9/21/2006 ] Time notes, “Though uncorroborated and vague, the terror alerts were a political godsend for an administration trying to fend off a bruising bipartisan inquiry into its handling of the terrorist chatter last summer. After the wave of warnings, the Democratic clamor for an investigation into the government’s mistakes subsided.” [Time, 5/27/2002]
Entity Tags: Robert S. Mueller III, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Tom Ridge, Ari Fleischer, Al-Qaeda, David Martin
Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline, Domestic Propaganda
Category Tags: Media, Terror Alerts, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, Internal US Security After 9/11

Summer 2002: Bush Advisor: We Say What Reality Is

Reporter and author Ron Suskind meets with a unnamed senior adviser to Bush, who complains to Suskind about an article he recently wrote in Esquire magazine about Bush’s communications director, Karen Hughes. In spite of his displeasure, the senior advisor says, boastfully: Guys like you are “in what we call the reality-based community”—people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality. That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors… and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” [New York Times Magazine, 10/17/2004]
Entity Tags: Ron Suskind, Karen Hughes
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Domestic Propaganda
Category Tags: Media

July 15, 2002: US Media Ignore ISI Link in Reports on Saeed Sheikh’s Conviction

Saeed Sheikh and three co-defendants are judged guilty for the murder of reporter Daniel Pearl. Saeed, the supposed mastermind of the murder, is sentenced to death by hanging, and the others are given 25-year terms. Saeed threatens the judge with retribution. As if to confirm that his death covers up unpleasant truths, in the stories of his sentencing every major US media story fails to report Saeed’s connections to 9/11 and even to the ISI. [Associated Press, 7/15/2002; Associated Press, 7/15/2002; CBS News, 7/15/2002; CNN, 7/15/2002; Los Angeles Times, 7/15/2002; MSNBC, 7/15/2002; New York Times, 7/15/2002; Reuters, 7/15/2002; Wall Street Journal, 7/15/2002; Washington Post, 7/15/2002; Daily Telegraph, 7/16/2002] In contrast, the British media connects Saeed to the ISI [Guardian, 7/16/2002; Guardian, 7/16/2002; Daily Mail, 7/16/2002] , al-Qaeda [Independent, 7/16/2002] , the 9/11 attacks [Scotsman, 7/16/2002] , or some combination of the three [London Times, 7/16/2002; Daily Mail, 7/16/2002; Daily Telegraph, 7/16/2002] (with one exception [BBC, 7/16/2002; BBC, 7/16/2002] ). The US and British governments both approve of the verdict. [Wall Street Journal, 7/15/2002; BBC, 7/15/2002] In the US, only the Washington Post questions the justice of the verdict. [Washington Post, 7/15/2002; Washington Post, 7/16/2002] By contrast, all British newspapers question the verdict, and subsequently raise additional questions about it (see July 16-21, 2002). Saeed has appealed the decision, but a second trial has yet to begin. [Associated Press, 8/18/2002]
Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Saeed Sheikh, Daniel Pearl
Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline
Category Tags: Pakistan and the ISI, Saeed Sheikh, Media, Pakistani ISI Links to 9/11

August 15, 2002: CNN General Manager Concedes Media Censored Itself

Rena Golden, the executive vice-president and general manager of CNN International, claims that the press has censored itself over 9/11 and the Afghanistan war. “Anyone who claims the US media didn’t censor itself is kidding you. It was not a matter of government pressure but a reluctance to criticize anything in a war that was obviously supported by the vast majority of the people. And this isn’t just a CNN issue—every journalist who was in any way involved in 9/11 is partly responsible.” [Press Gazette (London), 8/15/2002] These comments echo criticisms by Dan Rather in May 2002 (see May 17, 2002).
Entity Tags: Rena Golden
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, 9/11 Timeline, Domestic Propaganda
Category Tags: Media

September 11, 2002: Story of President Bush’s 9/11 Conduct Changes for 9/11 Anniversary

On the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the story of what President Bush did on that day is significantly rewritten. In actual fact, when Chief of Staff Andrew Card told Bush about the second plane crash into the WTC, Bush continued to sit in a Florida elementary school classroom and hear a story about a pet goat for at least seven more minutes (see (9:06 a.m.-9:16 a.m.) September 11, 2001; (9:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001), as video footage later broadcast in the 2004 movie Fahrenheit 9/11 shows. But one year later, Card claims that after he told Bush about the second WTC crash, “it was only a matter of seconds” before Bush “excused himself very politely to the teacher and to the students, and he left the Florida classroom.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/11/2002] In a different account, Card says, “Not that many seconds later the president excused himself from the classroom.” [Newsweek, 9/9/2002] An interview with the classroom teacher claims that Bush left the class even before the second WTC crash: “The president bolted right out of here and told me: ‘Take over.’” When the second WTC crash occurred, she claims her students are watching television in a nearby media room. [New York Post, 9/12/2002]
Entity Tags: Andrew Card, World Trade Center, George W. Bush
Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline, Domestic Propaganda
Category Tags: Media

September 12, 2002: Major Paper First to Give Room for 9/11 Skeptics

For the first time, a mainstream US newspaper looks at the people who believe there was government complicity or criminal incompetence in 9/11 and does not immediately dismiss them. The San Francisco Examiner quotes a number of 9/11 skeptics and lets them speak for themselves. “While different theorists focus on different aspects of the attacks, what they seem to have in common is they would like an independent investigation into 9/11.” [San Francisco Examiner, 9/12/2002]
Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline
Category Tags: Media, US Government and 9/11 Criticism

October 2002: State Department Restarts Propaganda Activities

The State Department’s propaganda office, closed in 1996, is reopened. Called the Counter-Disinformation/Misinformation Team, this office supposedly only aims its propaganda overseas to counter propaganda from other countries. [Associated Press, 3/10/2003]
Entity Tags: Counter-Disinformation/Misinformation Team, US Department of State
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Civil Liberties, Domestic Propaganda
Category Tags: Media

November 17, 2002: Toronto Newspaper Says President Bush Did Nothing to Stop 9/11 Attacks

A Toronto Star editorial entitled “Pursue the Truth About September 11” strongly criticizes the government and media regarding 9/11: “Getting the truth about 9/11 has seemed impossible. The evasions, the obfuscations, the contradictions and, let’s not put too fine a point on it, the lies have been overwhelming.… The questions are endless. But most are not being asked—still—by most of the media most of the time.… There are many people, and more by the minute, persuaded that, if the Bushies didn’t cause 9/11, they did nothing to stop it.” [Toronto Star, 11/17/2002]
Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline
Category Tags: Media, US Government and 9/11 Criticism

January 13, 2003: British Paper Criticizes US Media for Insufficiently Informing Public

The Guardian reports on the state of journalism in the US: “The worldwide turmoil caused by President Bush’s policies goes not exactly unreported, but entirely de-emphasized. Guardian writers are inundated by e-mails from Americans asking plaintively why their own papers never print what is in these columns… If there is a Watergate scandal lurking in [the Bush] administration, it is unlikely to be Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward or his colleagues who will tell us about it. If it emerges, it will probably come out on the web. That is a devastating indictment of the state of American newspapers.” [Guardian, 1/13/2003]
Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Bob Woodward
Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline, Domestic Propaganda
Category Tags: Media

January 15, 2003: US Has Gone Mad, Says Novelist

John le Carre. [Source: BBC]Famous spy novelist John le Carré, in an essay entitled, “The United States of America Has Gone Mad,” says “The reaction to 9/11 is beyond anything Osama bin Laden could have hoped for in his nastiest dreams. As in McCarthy times, the freedoms that have made America the envy of the world are being systematically eroded.” He also comments, “How Bush and his junta succeeded in deflecting America’s anger from bin Laden to Saddam Hussein is one of the great public relations conjuring tricks of history.” [London Times, 1/15/2003]
Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, John le Carre, Bush administration, Saddam Hussein
Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline
Category Tags: Media

September 6, 2003: British Cabinet Minister Hints US Government Knew of 9/11 in Advance

Michael Meacher. [Source: Global Free Press]British government minister Michael Meacher publishes an essay entitled, “The War on Terrorism is Bogus.” Meacher is a long time British Member of Parliament, and served as Environmental Minister for six years until three months before releasing this essay. The Guardian, which publishes the essay, states that Meacher claims “the war on terrorism is a smoke screen and that the US knew in advance about the September 11 attack on New York but, for strategic reasons, chose not to act on the warnings. He says the US goal is ‘world hegemony, built around securing by force command over the oil supplies’ and that this Pax Americana ‘provides a much better explanation of what actually happened before, during and after 9/11 than the global war on terrorism thesis.’ Mr. Meacher adds that the US has made ‘no serious attempt’ to catch the al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden.” [Guardian, 9/6/2003] Meacher provides no personal anecdotes based on his years in Tony Blair’s cabinet, but he cites numerous mainstream media accounts to support his thesis. He emphasizes the Project for the New American Century 2000 report (see September 2000) as a “blueprint” for a mythical “global war on terrorism,” “propagated to pave the way for a wholly different agenda—the US goal of world hegemony, built around securing by force command over the oil supplies” in Afghanistan and Iraq. [Guardian, 9/6/2003] Meacher’s stand causes a controversial debate in Britain, but the story is almost completely ignored by the mainstream US media.
Entity Tags: Michael Meacher, Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden
Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline
Category Tags: Media, US Government and 9/11 Criticism

September 7, 2003: ’Propaganda’ Docudrama of 9/11 Airs, Portrays Bush as ‘Action-Movie Superhero’

The video sleeve for ‘DC 9/11.’ [Source: Internet Movie Database (.com)]Showtime broadcasts a “docudrama” about the 9/11 attacks and the White House’s response, entitled DC 9/11: Time of Crisis. According to New York Times author and media critic Frank Rich, the film drastically rewrites history to portray President Bush as “an unironic action-movie superhero.” In the movie, Bush—portrayed by actor Timothy Bottoms, who played Bush in Comedy Central’s satiric That’s My Bush!—is shown overruling his Secret Service detail and ordering Air Force One to return to Washington immediately, an event which never happened (see 10:32 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (4:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). “If some tinhorn terrorist wants me, tell him to come and get me!” the movie Bush shouts. “I’ll be at home, waiting for the b_stard!” The movie Bush has other lines that establish his desire to get back to Washington, including, “The American people want to know where their damn president is!” and “People can’t have an AWOL president!” In one scene, a Secret Service agent questions Bush’s demand to return to Washington by saying, “But Mr. President—” only to be cut off by Bush, who snaps, “Try ‘Commander in Chief.’ Whose present command is: Take the president home!” In reality, most of the orders on 9/11 were given by Vice President Dick Cheney and counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, but in the movie, Bush is the man in charge. “Hike military alert status to Delta,” he orders Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. “That’s the military, the CIA, foreign, domestic, everything,” he explains. “And if you haven’t gone to Defcon 3, you oughtta.” To Cheney, he barks: “Vice? We are at war.” The White House team are, in Rich’s words, “portrayed as the very model of efficiency and derring-do.” [Washington Post, 6/19/2003; New York Times, 9/5/2003; Rich, 2006, pp. 25-26] New York Times reviewer Alessandra Stanley notes that Bush is the unquestioned hero of the film, with British Prime Minister Tony Blair portrayed as “not very eloquent” and Cheney depicted as “a kowtowing yes-man.” [New York Times, 9/5/2003]
Conservative Pundits Influenced Script – The movie is produced by Lionel Chetwynd, whom Rich calls “the go-to conservative in B-list Hollywood.” For the movie script, Chetwynd was given unprecedently broad access to top White House officials, including Bush. He also received the assistance of conservative Washington pundits Charles Krauthammer, Morton Kondracke, and Fred Barnes, who cover the Bush White House for such media outlets as Fox News, the Weekly Standard, and the Washington Post. Rich later writes that much of the film seems based on Bob Woodward’s “hagiographic [book] Bush at War (see November 25, 2002).” [Washington Post, 6/19/2003; Rich, 2006, pp. 25-26]
Propaganda Effort? – Before the movie airs, Toronto Sun columnist Linda McQuaig called the film an attempt to mythologize Bush in a fashion similar to Hollywood’s re-creation of the Wild West’s Wyatt Earp, and wrote that the film “is sure to help the White House further its two-pronged reelection strategy: Keep Americans terrified of terrorism and make Bush look like the guy best able to defend them.” Texas radio commentator Jim Hightower added that the movie would present Bush as “a combination of Harrison Ford and Arnold Schwarzenegger.… Instead of the doe-eyed, uncertain, worried figure that he was that day, Bush-on-film is transformed into an infallible, John Wayne-ish, Patton-type leader, barking orders to the Secret Service and demanding that the pilots return him immediately to the White House.” Chetwynd himself has acknowledged that he is a “great admirer” of Bush, and has close ties to the White House. In late 2001, Bush appointed him to the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. “This isn’t propaganda,” Chetwynd insisted during the shooting of the movie, adding: “Everything in the movie is [based on] two or three sources. I’m not reinventing the wheel here.… I don’t think it’s possible to do a revision of this particular bit of history. Every scholar who has looked at this has come to the same place that this film does. There’s nothing here that Bob Woodward would disagree with.… It’s a straightforward docudrama. I would hope what’s presented is a fully colored and nuanced picture of a human being in a difficult situation.” [Washington Post, 6/19/2003] Rich will later write that the film is “unmistakably a propaganda effort on behalf of a sitting administration.” [Rich, 2006, pp. 25-26]
Blaming the Clinton Administration – Perhaps most questionably, Stanley writes, the film “rarely misses a chance to suggest that the Clinton administration’s weakness was to blame for the disaster.” Bush, she notes, is portrayed as a more decisive leader than his predecessor: in the film, he tells Blair over the telephone: “I want to inflict pain [on the attackers]. Bring enough damage so they understand there is a new team here, a fundamental change in our policy.” [New York Times, 9/5/2003]
9/11 Widow Unhappy with Film – Kristen Breitweiser, who lost her husband in the attack on the World Trade Center, calls the film “a mind-numbingly boring, revisionist, two-hour-long wish list of how 9/11 might have gone if we had real leaders in the current administration.” She adds: “It is understandable that so little time is actually devoted to the president’s true actions on the morning of 9/11. Because to show the entire 23 minutes from 9:03 to 9:25 a.m., when President Bush, in reality, remained seated and listening to ‘second grade story-hour’ while people like my husband were burning alive inside the World Trade Center towers, would run counter to Karl Rove’s art direction and grand vision.” Breitweiser questions numerous aspects of the film: “Miscellaneous things that surprised me included the fact that the film perpetuates the big fat lie that Air Force One was a target. Forgive me, but I thought the White House admitted at the end of September 2001 that Air Force One was never a target, that no code words were spoken and that it was all a lie (see 10:32 a.m. September 11, 2001 and September 12, 2001). So what gives?… Not surprisingly, there is no mention of accountability. Not once does anyone say, ‘How the hell did this happen? Heads will roll!’ I was hoping that, at least behind closed doors, there were words like, ‘Look, we really screwed up! Let’s make sure we find out what went wrong and that it never happens again!’ Nope, no such luck.” [Salon, 9/8/2003]
Entity Tags: Charles Krauthammer, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Richard A. Clarke, Showtime, Alessandra Stanley, Tony Blair, Bob Woodward, Morton Kondracke, Lionel Chetwynd, Timothy Bottoms, Kristen Breitweiser, Donald Rumsfeld, Clinton administration, Fred Barnes,

Provided by Ijaz Syed: syedi@sbcglobal.net
.

‘GETTING BIN LADEN’ by Nicholas Schmidle

For information only.

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/08/08/110808fa_fact_schmidle?currentPage=all
A REPORTER AT LARGE
GETTING BIN LADEN
What happened that night in Abbottabad.
By Nicholas Schmidle
AUGUST 8, 2011

Shortly after eleven o’clock on the night of May 1st, two MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters lifted off from Jalalabad Air Field, in eastern Afghanistan, and embarked on a covert mission into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden. Inside the aircraft were twenty-three Navy SEALs from Team Six, which is officially known as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DEVGRU. A Pakistani-American translator, whom I will call Ahmed, and a dog named Cairo—a Belgian Malinois—were also aboard. It was a moonless evening, and the helicopters’ pilots, wearing night-vision goggles, flew without lights over mountains that straddle the border with Pakistan. Radio communications were kept to a minimum, and an eerie calm settled inside the aircraft.

Fifteen minutes later, the helicopters ducked into an alpine valley and slipped, undetected, into Pakistani airspace. For more than sixty years, Pakistan’s military has maintained a state of high alert against its eastern neighbor, India. Because of this obsession, Pakistan’s “principal air defenses are all pointing east,” Shuja Nawaz, an expert on the Pakistani Army and the author of “Crossed Swords: Pakistan, Its Army, and the Wars Within,” told me. Senior defense and Administration officials concur with this assessment, but a Pakistani senior military official, whom I reached at his office, in Rawalpindi, disagreed. “No one leaves their borders unattended,” he said. Though he declined to elaborate on the location or orientation of Pakistan’s radars—“It’s not where the radars are or aren’t”—he said that the American infiltration was the result of “technological gaps we have vis-à-vis the U.S.” The Black Hawks, each of which had two pilots and a crewman from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, or the Night Stalkers, had been modified to mask heat, noise, and movement; the copters’ exteriors had sharp, flat angles and were covered with radar-dampening “skin.”

The SEALs’ destination was a house in the small city of Abbottabad, which is about a hundred and twenty miles across the Pakistan border. Situated north of Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, Abbottabad is in the foothills of the Pir Panjal Range, and is popular in the summertime with families seeking relief from the blistering heat farther south. Founded in 1853 by a British major named James Abbott, the city became the home of a prestigious military academy after the creation of Pakistan, in 1947. According to information gathered by the Central Intelligence Agency, bin Laden was holed up on the third floor of a house in a one-acre compound just off Kakul Road in Bilal Town, a middle-class neighborhood less than a mile from the entrance to the academy. If all went according to plan, the SEALs would drop from the helicopters into the compound, overpower bin Laden’s guards, shoot and kill him at close range, and then take the corpse back to Afghanistan.

The helicopters traversed Mohmand, one of Pakistan’s seven tribal areas, skirted the north of Peshawar, and continued due east. The commander of DEVGRU’s Red Squadron, whom I will call James, sat on the floor, squeezed among ten other SEALs, Ahmed, and Cairo. (The names of all the covert operators mentioned in this story have been changed.) James, a broad-chested man in his late thirties, does not have the lithe swimmer’s frame that one might expect of a SEAL—he is built more like a discus thrower. That night, he wore a shirt and trousers in Desert Digital Camouflage, and carried a silenced Sig Sauer P226 pistol, along with extra ammunition; a CamelBak, for hydration; and gel shots, for endurance. He held a short-barrel, silenced M4 rifle. (Others SEALs had chosen the Heckler & Koch MP7.) A “blowout kit,” for treating field trauma, was tucked into the small of James’s back. Stuffed into one of his pockets was a laminated gridded map of the compound. In another pocket was a booklet with photographs and physical descriptions of the people suspected of being inside. He wore a noise-cancelling headset, which blocked out nearly everything besides his heartbeat.

During the ninety-minute helicopter flight, James and his teammates rehearsed the operation in their heads. Since the autumn of 2001, they had rotated through Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and the Horn of Africa, at a brutal pace. At least three of the SEALs had participated in the sniper operation off the coast of Somalia, in April, 2009, that freed Richard Phillips, the captain of the Maersk Alabama, and left three pirates dead. In October, 2010, a DEVGRU team attempted to rescue Linda Norgrove, a Scottish aid worker who had been kidnapped in eastern Afghanistan by the Taliban. During a raid of a Taliban hideout, a SEAL tossed a grenade at an insurgent, not realizing that Norgrove was nearby. She died from the blast. The mistake haunted the SEALs who had been involved; three of them were subsequently expelled from DEVGRU.

The Abbottabad raid was not DEVGRU’s maiden venture into Pakistan, either. The team had surreptitiously entered the country on ten to twelve previous occasions, according to a special-operations officer who is deeply familiar with the bin Laden raid. Most of those missions were forays into North and South Waziristan, where many military and intelligence analysts had thought that bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders were hiding. (Only one such operation—the September, 2008, raid of Angoor Ada, a village in South Waziristan—has been widely reported.) Abbottabad was, by far, the farthest that DEVGRU had ventured into Pakistani territory. It also represented the team’s first serious attempt since late 2001 at killing “Crankshaft”—the target name that the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, had given bin Laden. Since escaping that winter during a battle in the Tora Bora region of eastern Afghanistan, bin Laden had defied American efforts to trace him. Indeed, it remains unclear how he ended up living in Abbottabad.

Forty-five minutes after the Black Hawks departed, four MH-47 Chinooks launched from the same runway in Jalalabad. Two of them flew to the border, staying on the Afghan side; the other two proceeded into Pakistan. Deploying four Chinooks was a last-minute decision made after President Barack Obama said he wanted to feel assured that the Americans could “fight their way out of Pakistan.” Twenty-five additional SEALs from DEVGRU, pulled from a squadron stationed in Afghanistan, sat in the Chinooks that remained at the border; this “quick-reaction force” would be called into action only if the mission went seriously wrong. The third and fourth Chinooks were each outfitted with a pair of M134 Miniguns. They followed the Black Hawks’ initial flight path but landed at a predetermined point on a dry riverbed in a wide, unpopulated valley in northwest Pakistan. The nearest house was half a mile away. On the ground, the copters’ rotors were kept whirring while operatives monitored the surrounding hills for encroaching Pakistani helicopters or fighter jets. One of the Chinooks was carrying fuel bladders, in case the other aircraft needed to refill their tanks.
Meanwhile, the two Black Hawks were quickly approaching Abbottabad from the northwest, hiding behind the mountains on the northernmost edge of the city. Then the pilots banked right and went south along a ridge that marks Abbottabad’s eastern perimeter. When those hills tapered off, the pilots curled right again, toward the city center, and made their final approach.

During the next four minutes, the interior of the Black Hawks rustled alive with the metallic cough of rounds being chambered. Mark, a master chief petty officer and the ranking noncommissioned officer on the operation, crouched on one knee beside the open door of the lead helicopter. He and the eleven other SEALs on “helo one,” who were wearing gloves and had on night-vision goggles, were preparing to fast-rope into bin Laden’s yard. They waited for the crew chief to give the signal to throw the rope. But, as the pilot passed over the compound, pulled into a high hover, and began lowering the aircraft, he felt the Black Hawk getting away from him. He sensed that they were going to crash.

One month before the 2008 Presidential election, Obama, then a senator from Illinois, squared off in a debate against John McCain in an arena at Belmont University, in Nashville. A woman in the audience asked Obama if he would be willing to pursue Al Qaeda leaders inside Pakistan, even if that meant invading an ally nation. He replied, “If we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable, or unwilling, to take them out, then I think that we have to act and we will take them out. We will kill bin Laden. We will crush Al Qaeda. That has to be our biggest national-security priority.” McCain, who often criticized Obama for his naïveté on foreign-policy matters, characterized the promise as foolish, saying, “I’m not going to telegraph my punches.”

Four months after Obama entered the White House, Leon Panetta, the director of the C.I.A., briefed the President on the agency’s latest programs and initiatives for tracking bin Laden. Obama was unimpressed. In June, 2009, he drafted a memo instructing Panetta to create a “detailed operation plan” for finding the Al Qaeda leader and to “ensure that we have expended every effort.” Most notably, the President intensified the C.I.A.’s classified drone program; there were more missile strikes inside Pakistan during Obama’s first year in office than in George W. Bush’s eight. The terrorists swiftly registered the impact: that July, CBS reported that a recent Al Qaeda communiqué had referred to “brave commanders” who had been “snatched away” and to “so many hidden homes [which] have been levelled.” The document blamed the “very grave” situation on spies who had “spread throughout the land like locusts.” Nevertheless, bin Laden’s trail remained cold.

In August, 2010, Panetta returned to the White House with better news. C.I.A. analysts believed that they had pinpointed bin Laden’s courier, a man in his early thirties named Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti. Kuwaiti drove a white S.U.V. whose spare-tire cover was emblazoned with an image of a white rhino. The C.I.A. began tracking the vehicle. One day, a satellite captured images of the S.U.V. pulling into a large concrete compound in Abbottabad. Agents, determining that Kuwaiti was living there, used aerial surveillance to keep watch on the compound, which consisted of a three-story main house, a guesthouse, and a few outbuildings. They observed that residents of the compound burned their trash, instead of putting it out for collection, and concluded that the compound lacked a phone or an Internet connection. Kuwaiti and his brother came and went, but another man, living on the third floor, never left. When this third individual did venture outside, he stayed behind the compound’s walls. Some analysts speculated that the third man was bin Laden, and the agency dubbed him the Pacer.

Obama, though excited, was not yet prepared to order military action. John Brennan, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, told me that the President’s advisers began an “interrogation of the data, to see if, by that interrogation, you’re going to disprove the theory that bin Laden was there.” The C.I.A. intensified its intelligence-collection efforts, and, according to a recent report in the Guardian, a physician working for the agency conducted an immunization drive in Abbottabad, in the hope of acquiring DNA samples from bin Laden’s children. (No one in the compound ultimately received any immunizations.)

In late 2010, Obama ordered Panetta to begin exploring options for a military strike on the compound. Panetta contacted Vice-Admiral Bill McRaven, the SEAL in charge of JSOC. Traditionally, the Army has dominated the special-operations community, but in recent years the SEALs have become a more prominent presence; McRaven’s boss at the time of the raid, Eric Olson—the head of Special Operations Command, or SOCOM—is a Navy admiral who used to be a commander of DEVGRU. In January, 2011, McRaven asked a JSOC official named Brian, who had previously been a DEVGRU deputy commander, to present a raid plan. The next month, Brian, who has the all-American look of a high-school quarterback, moved into an unmarked office on the first floor of the C.I.A.’s printing plant, in Langley, Virginia. Brian covered the walls of the office with topographical maps and satellite images of the Abbottabad compound. He and half a dozen JSOC officers were formally attached to the Pakistan/Afghanistan department of the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorism Center, but in practice they operated on their own. A senior counterterrorism official who visited the JSOC redoubt described it as an enclave of unusual secrecy and discretion. “Everything they were working on was closely held,” the official said.

The relationship between special-operations units and the C.I.A. dates back to the Vietnam War. But the line between the two communities has increasingly blurred as C.I.A. officers and military personnel have encountered one another on multiple tours of Iraq and Afghanistan. “These people grew up together,” a senior Defense Department official told me. “We are in each other’s systems, we speak each other’s languages.” (Exemplifying this trend, General David H. Petraeus, the former commanding general in Iraq and Afghanistan, is now the incoming head of the C.I.A., and Panetta has taken over the Department of Defense.) The bin Laden mission—plotted at C.I.A. headquarters and authorized under C.I.A. legal statutes but conducted by Navy DEVGRU operators—brought the coöperation between the agency and the Pentagon to an even higher level. John Radsan, a former assistant general counsel at the C.I.A., said that the Abbottabad raid amounted to “a complete incorporation of JSOC into a C.I.A. operation.”

On March 14th, Obama called his national-security advisers into the White House Situation Room and reviewed a spreadsheet listing possible courses of action against the Abbottabad compound. Most were variations of either a JSOC raid or an airstrike. Some versions included coöperating with the Pakistani military; some did not. Obama decided against informing or working with Pakistan. “There was a real lack of confidence that the Pakistanis could keep this secret for more than a nanosecond,” a senior adviser to the President told me. At the end of the meeting, Obama instructed McRaven to proceed with planning the raid.

Brian invited James, the commander of DEVGRU’s Red Squadron, and Mark, the master chief petty officer, to join him at C.I.A. headquarters. They spent the next two and a half weeks considering ways to get inside bin Laden’s house. One option entailed flying helicopters to a spot outside Abbottabad and letting the team sneak into the city on foot. The risk of detection was high, however, and the SEALs would be tired by a long run to the compound. The planners had contemplated tunnelling in—or, at least, the possibility that bin Laden might tunnel out. But images provided by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency showed that there was standing water in the vicinity, suggesting that the compound sat in a flood basin. The water table was probably just below the surface, making tunnels highly unlikely. Eventually, the planners agreed that it made the most sense to fly directly into the compound. “Special operations is about doing what’s not expected, and probably the least expected thing here was that a helicopter would come in, drop guys on the roof, and land in the yard,” the special-operations officer said.
On March 29th, McRaven brought the plan to Obama. The President’s military advisers were divided. Some supported a raid, some an airstrike, and others wanted to hold off until the intelligence improved. Robert Gates, the Secretary of Defense, was one of the most outspoken opponents of a helicopter assault. Gates reminded his colleagues that he had been in the Situation Room of the Carter White House when military officials presented Eagle Claw—the 1980 Delta Force operation that aimed at rescuing American hostages in Tehran but resulted in a disastrous collision in the Iranian desert, killing eight American soldiers. “They said that was a pretty good idea, too,” Gates warned. He and General James Cartwright, the vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs, favored an airstrike by B-2 Spirit bombers. That option would avoid the risk of having American boots on the ground in Pakistan. But the Air Force then calculated that a payload of thirty-two smart bombs, each weighing two thousand pounds, would be required to penetrate thirty feet below ground, insuring that any bunkers would collapse. “That much ordnance going off would be the equivalent of an earthquake,” Cartwright told me. The prospect of flattening a Pakistani city made Obama pause. He shelved the B-2 option and directed McRaven to start rehearsing the raid.

Brian, James, and Mark selected a team of two dozen SEALs from Red Squadron and told them to report to a densely forested site in North Carolina for a training exercise on April 10th. (Red Squadron is one of four squadrons in DEVGRU, which has about three hundred operators in all.) None of the SEALs, besides James and Mark, were aware of the C.I.A. intelligence on bin Laden’s compound until a lieutenant commander walked into an office at the site. He found a two-star Army general from JSOC headquarters seated at a conference table with Brian, James, Mark, and several analysts from the C.I.A. This obviously wasn’t a training exercise. The lieutenant commander was promptly “read in.” A replica of the compound had been built at the site, with walls and chain-link fencing marking the layout of the compound. The team spent the next five days practicing maneuvers.
On April 18th, the DEVGRU squad flew to Nevada for another week of rehearsals. The practice site was a large government-owned stretch of desert with an elevation equivalent to the area surrounding Abbottabad. An extant building served as bin Laden’s house. Aircrews plotted out a path that paralleled the flight from Jalalabad to Abbottabad. Each night after sundown, drills commenced. Twelve SEALs, including Mark, boarded helo one. Eleven SEALs, Ahmed, and Cairo boarded helo two. The pilots flew in the dark, arrived at the simulated compound, and settled into a hover while the SEALs fast-roped down. Not everyone on the team was accustomed to helicopter assaults. Ahmed had been pulled from a desk job for the mission and had never descended a fast rope. He quickly learned the technique.
The assault plan was now honed. Helo one was to hover over the yard, drop two fast ropes, and let all twelve SEALs slide down into the yard. Helo two would fly to the northeast corner of the compound and let out Ahmed, Cairo, and four SEALs, who would monitor the perimeter of the building. The copter would then hover over the house, and James and the remaining six SEALs would shimmy down to the roof. As long as everything was cordial, Ahmed would hold curious neighbors at bay. The SEALs and the dog could assist more aggressively, if needed. Then, if bin Laden was proving difficult to find, Cairo could be sent into the house to search for false walls or hidden doors. “This wasn’t a hard op,” the special-operations officer told me. “It would be like hitting a target in McLean”—the upscale Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C.

A planeload of guests arrived on the night of April 21st. Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, along with Olson and McRaven, sat with C.I.A. personnel in a hangar as Brian, James, Mark, and the pilots presented a brief on the raid, which had been named Operation Neptune’s Spear. Despite JSOC’s lead role in Neptune’s Spear, the mission officially remained a C.I.A. covert operation. The covert approach allowed the White House to hide its involvement, if necessary. As the counterterrorism official put it recently, “If you land and everybody is out on a milk run, then you get the hell out and no one knows.” After describing the operation, the briefers fielded questions: What if a mob surrounded the compound? Were the SEALs prepared to shoot civilians? Olson, who received the Silver Star for valor during the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” episode, in Mogadishu, Somalia, worried that it could be politically catastrophic if a U.S. helicopter were shot down inside Pakistani territory. After an hour or so of questioning, the senior officers and intelligence analysts returned to Washington. Two days later, theSEALs flew back to Dam Neck, their base in Virginia.

On the night of Tuesday, April 26th, the SEAL team boarded a Boeing C-17 Globemaster at Naval Air Station Oceana, a few miles from Dam Neck. After a refuelling stop at Ramstein Air Base, in Germany, the C-17 continued to Bagram Airfield, north of Kabul. The SEALs spent a night in Bagram and moved to Jalalabad on Wednesday.

That day in Washington, Panetta convened more than a dozen senior C.I.A. officials and analysts for a final preparatory meeting. Panetta asked the participants, one by one, to declare how confident they were that bin Laden was inside the Abbottabad compound. The counterterrorism official told me that the percentages “ranged from forty per cent to ninety or ninety-five per cent,” and added, “This was a circumstantial case.”

Panetta was mindful of the analysts’ doubts, but he believed that the intelligence was better than anything that the C.I.A. had gathered on bin Laden since his flight from Tora Bora. Late on Thursday afternoon, Panetta and the rest of the national-security team met with the President. For the next few nights, there would be virtually no moonlight over Abbottabad—the ideal condition for a raid. After that, it would be another month until the lunar cycle was in its darkest phase. Several analysts from the National Counterterrorism Center were invited to critique the C.I.A.’s analysis; their confidence in the intelligence ranged between forty and sixty per cent. The center’s director, Michael Leiter, said that it would be preferable to wait for stronger confirmation of bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad. Yet, as Ben Rhodes, a deputy national-security adviser, put it to me recently, the longer things dragged on, the greater the risk of a leak, “which would have upended the thing.” Obama adjourned the meeting just after 7 P.M. and said that he would sleep on it.

The next morning, the President met in the Map Room with Tom Donilon, his national-security adviser, Denis McDonough, a deputy adviser, and Brennan. Obama had decided to go with a DEVGRU assault, with McRaven choosing the night. It was too late for a Friday attack, and on Saturday there was excessive cloud cover. On Saturday afternoon, McRaven and Obama spoke on the phone, and McRaven said that the raid would occur on Sunday night. “Godspeed to you and your forces,” Obama told him. “Please pass on to them my personal thanks for their service and the message that I personally will be following this mission very closely.”

On the morning of Sunday, May 1st, White House officials cancelled scheduled visits, ordered sandwich platters from Costco, and transformed the Situation Room into a war room. At eleven o’clock, Obama’s top advisers began gathering around a large conference table. A video link connected them to Panetta, at C.I.A. headquarters, and McRaven, in Afghanistan. (There were at least two other command centers, one inside the Pentagon and one inside the American Embassy in Islamabad.)

Brigadier General Marshall Webb, an assistant commander of JSOC, took a seat at the end of a lacquered table in a small adjoining office and turned on his laptop. He opened multiple chat windows that kept him, and the White House, connected with the other command teams. The office where Webb sat had the only video feed in the White House showing real-time footage of the target, which was being shot by an unarmed RQ 170 drone flying more than fifteen thousand feet above Abbottabad. The JSOC planners, determined to keep the operation as secret as possible, had decided against using additional fighters or bombers. “It just wasn’t worth it,” the special-operations officer told me. The SEALs were on their own.

Obama returned to the White House at two o’clock, after playing nine holes of golf at Andrews Air Force Base. The Black Hawks departed from Jalalabad thirty minutes later. Just before four o’clock, Panetta announced to the group in the Situation Room that the helicopters were approaching Abbottabad. Obama stood up. “I need to watch this,” he said, stepping across the hall into the small office and taking a seat alongside Webb. Vice-President Joseph Biden, Secretary Gates, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton followed him, as did anyone else who could fit into the office. On the office’s modestly sized LCD screen, helo one—grainy and black-and-white—appeared above the compound, then promptly ran into trouble.
When the helicopter began getting away from the pilot, he pulled back on the cyclic, which controls the pitch of the rotor blades, only to find the aircraft unresponsive. The high walls of the compound and the warm temperatures had caused the Black Hawk to descend inside its own rotor wash—a hazardous aerodynamic situation known as “settling with power.” In North Carolina, this potential problem had not become apparent, because the chain-link fencing used in rehearsals had allowed air to flow freely. A former helicopter pilot with extensive special-operations experience said of the pilot’s situation, “It’s pretty spooky—I’ve been in it myself. The only way to get out of it is to push the cyclic forward and fly out of this vertical silo you’re dropping through. That solution requires altitude. If you’re settling with power at two thousand feet, you’ve got plenty of time to recover. If you’re settling with power at fifty feet, you’re going to hit the ground.”

The pilot scrapped the plan to fast-rope and focussed on getting the aircraft down. He aimed for an animal pen in the western section of the compound. The SEALs on board braced themselves as the tail rotor swung around, scraping the security wall. The pilot jammed the nose forward to drive it into the dirt and prevent his aircraft from rolling onto its side. Cows, chickens, and rabbits scurried. With the Black Hawk pitched at a forty-five-degree angle astride the wall, the crew sent a distress call to the idling Chinooks.

James and the SEALs in helo two watched all this while hovering over the compound’s northeast corner. The second pilot, unsure whether his colleagues were taking fire or experiencing mechanical problems, ditched his plan to hover over the roof. Instead, he landed in a grassy field across the street from the house.

No American was yet inside the residential part of the compound. Mark and his team were inside a downed helicopter at one corner, while James and his team were at the opposite end. The teams had barely been on target for a minute, and the mission was already veering off course.

“Eternity is defined as the time be tween when you see something go awry and that first voice report,” the special-operations officer said. The officials in Washington viewed the aerial footage and waited anxiously to hear a military communication. The senior adviser to the President compared the experience to watching “the climax of a movie.”

After a few minutes, the twelve SEALs inside helo one recovered their bearings and calmly relayed on the radio that they were proceeding with the raid. They had conducted so many operations over the past nine years that few things caught them off guard. In the months after the raid, the media have frequently suggested that the Abbottabad operation was as challenging as Operation Eagle Claw and the “Black Hawk Down” incident, but the senior Defense Department official told me that “this was not one of three missions. This was one of almost two thousand missions that have been conducted over the last couple of years, night after night.” He likened the routine of evening raids to “mowing the lawn.” On the night of May 1st alone, special-operations forces based in Afghanistan conducted twelve other missions; according to the official, those operations captured or killed between fifteen and twenty targets. “Most of the missions take off and go left,” he said. “This one took off and went right.”

Minutes after hitting the ground, Mark and the other team members began streaming out the side doors of helo one. Mud sucked at their boots as they ran alongside a ten-foot-high wall that enclosed the animal pen. A three-man demolition unit hustled ahead to the pen’s closed metal gate, reached into bags containing explosives, and placed C-4 charges on the hinges. After a loud bang, the door fell open. The nine other SEALs rushed forward, ending up in an alleylike driveway with their backs to the house’s main entrance. They moved down the alley, silenced rifles pressed against their shoulders. Mark hung toward the rear as he established radio communications with the other team. At the end of the driveway, the Americans blew through yet another locked gate and stepped into a courtyard facing the guesthouse, where Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, bin Laden’s courier, lived with his wife and four children.

Three SEALs in front broke off to clear the guesthouse as the remaining nine blasted through another gate and entered an inner courtyard, which faced the main house. When the smaller unit rounded the corner to face the doors of the guesthouse, they spotted Kuwaiti running inside to warn his wife and children. The Americans’ night-vision goggles cast the scene in pixellated shades of emerald green. Kuwaiti, wearing a white shalwar kameez, had grabbed a weapon and was coming back outside when the SEALs opened fire and killed him.
The nine other SEALs, including Mark, formed three-man units for clearing the inner courtyard. The Americans suspected that several more men were in the house: Kuwaiti’s thirty-three-year-old brother, Abrar; bin Laden’s sons Hamza and Khalid; and bin Laden himself. One SEAL unit had no sooner trod on the paved patio at the house’s front entrance when Abrar—a stocky, mustachioed man in a cream-colored shalwar kameez—appeared with an AK-47. He was shot in the chest and killed, as was his wife, Bushra, who was standing, unarmed, beside him.

Outside the compound’s walls, Ahmed, the translator, patrolled the dirt road in front of bin Laden’s house, as if he were a plainclothes Pakistani police officer. He looked the part, wearing a shalwar kameez atop a flak jacket. He, the dog Cairo, and four SEALs were responsible for closing off the perimeter of the house while James and six other SEALs—the contingent that was supposed to have dropped onto the roof—moved inside. For the team patrolling the perimeter, the first fifteen minutes passed without incident. Neighbors undoubtedly heard the low-flying helicopters, the sound of one crashing, and the sporadic explosions and gunfire that ensued, but nobody came outside. One local took note of the tumult in a Twitter post: “Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1 AM (is a rare event).”

Eventually, a few curious Pakistanis approached to inquire about the commotion on the other side of the wall. “Go back to your houses,” Ahmed said, in Pashto, as Cairo stood watch. “There is a security operation under way.” The locals went home, none of them suspecting that they had talked to an American. When journalists descended on Bilal Town in the coming days, one resident told a reporter, “I saw soldiers emerging from the helicopters and advancing toward the house. Some of them instructed us in chaste Pashto to turn off the lights and stay inside.”

Meanwhile, James, the squadron commander, had breached one wall, crossed a section of the yard covered with trellises, breached a second wall, and joined up with the SEALs from helo one, who were entering the ground floor of the house. What happened next is not precisely clear. “I can tell you that there was a time period of almost twenty to twenty-five minutes where we really didn’t know just exactly what was going on,” Panetta said later, on “PBS NewsHour.”
Until this moment, the operation had been monitored by dozens of defense, intelligence, and Administration officials watching the drone’s video feed. The SEALs were not wearing helmet cams, contrary to a widely cited report by CBS. None of them had any previous knowledge of the house’s floor plan, and they were further jostled by the awareness that they were possibly minutes away from ending the costliest manhunt in American history; as a result, some of their recollections—on which this account is based—may be imprecise and, thus, subject to dispute.

As Abrar’s children ran for cover, the SEALs began clearing the first floor of the main house, room by room. Though the Americans had thought that the house might be booby-trapped, the presence of kids at the compound suggested otherwise. “You can only be hyper-vigilant for so long,” the special-operations officer said. “Did bin Laden go to sleep every night thinking, The next night they’re coming? Of course not. Maybe for the first year or two. But not now.” Nevertheless, security precautions were in place. A locked metal gate blocked the base of the staircase leading to the second floor, making the downstairs room feel like a cage.

After blasting through the gate with C-4 charges, three SEALs marched up the stairs. Midway up, they saw bin Laden’s twenty-three-year-old son, Khalid, craning his neck around the corner. He then appeared at the top of the staircase with an AK-47. Khalid, who wore a white T-shirt with an overstretched neckline and had short hair and a clipped beard, fired down at the Americans. (The counterterrorism official claims that Khalid was unarmed, though still a threat worth taking seriously. “You have an adult male, late at night, in the dark, coming down the stairs at you in an Al Qaeda house—your assumption is that you’re encountering a hostile.”) At least two of the SEALs shot back and killed Khalid. According to the booklets that the SEALs carried, up to five adult males were living inside the compound. Three of them were now dead; the fourth, bin Laden’s son Hamza, was not on the premises. The final person was bin Laden.

Before the mission commenced, the SEALs had created a checklist of code words that had a Native American theme. Each code word represented a different stage of the mission: leaving Jalalabad, entering Pakistan, approaching the compound, and so on. “Geronimo” was to signify that bin Laden had been found.

Three SEALs shuttled past Khalid’s body and blew open another metal cage, which obstructed the staircase leading to the third floor. Bounding up the unlit stairs, they scanned the railed landing. On the top stair, the lead SEAL swivelled right; with his night-vision goggles, he discerned that a tall, rangy man with a fist-length beard was peeking out from behind a bedroom door, ten feet away. The SEAL instantly sensed that it was Crankshaft. (The counterterrorism official asserts that the SEAL first saw bin Laden on the landing, and fired but missed.)

The Americans hurried toward the bedroom door. The first SEAL pushed it open. Two of bin Laden’s wives had placed themselves in front of him. Amal al-Fatah, bin Laden’s fifth wife, was screaming in Arabic. She motioned as if she were going to charge; the SEAL lowered his sights and shot her once, in the calf. Fearing that one or both women were wearing suicide jackets, he stepped forward, wrapped them in a bear hug, and drove them aside. He would almost certainly have been killed had they blown themselves up, but by blanketing them he would have absorbed some of the blast and potentially saved the two SEALs behind him. In the end, neither woman was wearing an explosive vest.
A second SEAL stepped into the room and trained the infrared laser of his M4 on bin Laden’s chest. The Al Qaeda chief, who was wearing a tan shalwar kameez and a prayer cap on his head, froze; he was unarmed. “There was never any question of detaining or capturing him—it wasn’t a split-second decision. No one wanted detainees,” the special-operations officer told me. (The Administration maintains that had bin Laden immediately surrendered he could have been taken alive.) Nine years, seven months, and twenty days after September 11th, an American was a trigger pull from ending bin Laden’s life. The first round, a 5.56-mm. bullet, struck bin Laden in the chest. As he fell backward, the SEAL fired a second round into his head, just above his left eye. On his radio, he reported, “For God and country—Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo.” After a pause, he added, “Geronimo E.K.I.A.”—“enemy killed in action.”

Hearing this at the White House, Obama pursed his lips, and said solemnly, to no one in particular, “We got him.”

Relaxing his hold on bin Laden’s two wives, the first SEAL placed the women in flex cuffs and led them downstairs. Two of his colleagues, meanwhile, ran upstairs with a nylon body bag. They unfurled it, knelt down on either side of bin Laden, and placed the body inside the bag. Eighteen minutes had elapsed since the DEVGRU team landed. For the next twenty minutes, the mission shifted to an intelligence-gathering operation.

Four men scoured the second floor, plastic bags in hand, collecting flash drives, CDs, DVDs, and computer hardware from the room, which had served, in part, as bin Laden’s makeshift media studio. In the coming weeks, a C.I.A.-led task force examined the files and determined that bin Laden had remained far more involved in the operational activities of Al Qaeda than many American officials had thought. He had been developing plans to assassinate Obama and Petraeus, to pull off an extravagant September 11th anniversary attack, and to attack American trains. The SEALs also found an archive of digital pornography. “We find it on all these guys, whether they’re in Somalia, Iraq, or Afghanistan,” the special-operations officer said. Bin Laden’s gold-threaded robes, worn during his video addresses, hung behind a curtain in the media room.
Outside, the Americans corralled the women and children—each of them bound in flex cuffs—and had them sit against an exterior wall that faced the second, undamaged Black Hawk. The lone fluent Arabic speaker on the assault team questioned them. Nearly all the children were under the age of ten. They seemed to have no idea about the tenant upstairs, other than that he was “an old guy.” None of the women confirmed that the man was bin Laden, though one of them kept referring to him as “the sheikh.” When the rescue Chinook eventually arrived, a medic stepped out and knelt over the corpse. He injected a needle into bin Laden’s body and extracted two bone-marrow samples. More DNA was taken with swabs. One of the bone-marrow samples went into the Black Hawk. The other went into the Chinook, along with bin Laden’s body.

Next, the SEALs needed to destroy the damaged Black Hawk. The pilot, armed with a hammer that he kept for such situations, smashed the instrument panel, the radio, and the other classified fixtures inside the cockpit. Then the demolition unit took over. They placed explosives near the avionics system, the communications gear, the engine, and the rotor head. “You’re not going to hide the fact that it’s a helicopter,” the special-operations officer said. “But you want to make it unusable.” The SEALs placed extra C-4 charges under the carriage, rolled thermite grenades inside the copter’s body, and then backed up. Helo one burst into flames while the demolition team boarded the Chinook. The women and children, who were being left behind for the Pakistani authorities, looked puzzled, scared, and shocked as they watched the SEALs board the helicopters. Amal, bin Laden’s wife, continued her harangue. Then, as a giant fire burned inside the compound walls, the Americans flew away.

In the Situation Room, Obama said, “I’m not going to be happy until those guys get out safe.” After thirty-eight minutes inside the compound, the two SEAL teams had to make the long flight back to Afghanistan. The Black Hawk was low on gas, and needed to rendezvous with the Chinook at the refuelling point that was near the Afghan border—but still inside Pakistan. Filling the gas tank took twenty-five minutes. At one point, Biden, who had been fingering a rosary, turned to Mullen, the Joint Chiefs chairman. “We should all go to Mass tonight,” he said.

The helicopters landed back in Jalalabad around 3 A.M.; McRaven and the C.I.A. station chief met the team on the tarmac. A pair of SEALs unloaded the body bag and unzipped it so that McRaven and the C.I.A. officer could see bin Laden’s corpse with their own eyes. Photographs were taken of bin Laden’s face and then of his outstretched body. Bin Laden was believed to be about six feet four, but no one had a tape measure to confirm the body’s length. So one SEAL, who was six feet tall, lay beside the corpse: it measured roughly four inches longer than the American. Minutes later, McRaven appeared on the teleconference screen in the Situation Room and confirmed that bin Laden’s body was in the bag. The corpse was sent to Bagram.

All along, the SEALs had planned to dump bin Laden’s corpse into the sea—a blunt way of ending the bin Laden myth. They had successfully pulled off a similar scheme before. During a DEVGRU helicopter raid inside Somalia in September, 2009, SEALs had killed Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, one of East Africa’s top Al Qaeda leaders; Nabhan’s corpse was then flown to a ship in the Indian Ocean, given proper Muslim rites, and thrown overboard. Before taking that step for bin Laden, however, John Brennan made a call. Brennan, who had been a C.I.A. station chief in Riyadh, phoned a former counterpart in Saudi intelligence. Brennan told the man what had occurred in Abbottabad and informed him of the plan to deposit bin Laden’s remains at sea. As Brennan knew, bin Laden’s relatives were still a prominent family in the Kingdom, and Osama had once been a Saudi citizen. Did the Saudi government have any interest in taking the body? “Your plan sounds like a good one,” the Saudi replied.

At dawn, bin Laden was loaded into the belly of a flip-wing V-22 Osprey, accompanied by a JSOC liaison officer and a security detail of military police. The Osprey flew south, destined for the deck of the U.S.S. Carl Vinson—a thousand-foot-long nuclear-powered aircraft carrier sailing in the Arabian Sea, off the Pakistani coast. The Americans, yet again, were about to traverse Pakistani airspace without permission. Some officials worried that the Pakistanis, stung by the humiliation of the unilateral raid in Abbottabad, might restrict the Osprey’s access. The airplane ultimately landed on the Vinson without incident.

Bin Laden’s body was washed, wrapped in a white burial shroud, weighted, and then slipped inside a bag. The process was done “in strict conformance with Islamic precepts and practices,” Brennan later told reporters. The JSOC liaison, the military-police contingent, and several sailors placed the shrouded body on an open-air elevator, and rode down with it to the lower level, which functions as a hangar for airplanes. From a height of between twenty and twenty-five feet above the waves, they heaved the corpse into the water.

Back in Abbottabad, residents of Bilal Town and dozens of journalists converged on bin Laden’s compound, and the morning light clarified some of the confusion from the previous night. Black soot from the detonated Black Hawk charred the wall of the animal pen. Part of the tail hung over the wall. It was clear that a military raid had taken place there. “I’m glad no one was hurt in the crash, but, on the other hand, I’m sort of glad we left the helicopter there,” the special-operations officer said. “It quiets the conspiracy mongers out there and instantly lends credibility. You believe everything else instantly, because there’s a helicopter sitting there.”
After the raid, Pakistan’s political leadership engaged in frantic damage control. In the Washington Post, President Asif Ali Zardari wrote that bin Laden “was not anywhere we had anticipated he would be, but now he is gone,” adding that “a decade of cooperation and partnership between the United States and Pakistan led up to the elimination of Osama bin Laden.”

Pakistani military officials reacted more cynically. They arrested at least five Pakistanis for helping the C.I.A., including the physician who ran the immunization drive in Abbottabad. And several Pakistani media outlets, including the Nation—a jingoistic English-language newspaper that is considered a mouthpiece for Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or I.S.I.—published what they claimed was the name of the C.I.A.’s station chief in Islamabad. (Shireen Mazari, a former editor of the Nation, once told me, “Our interests and the Americans’ interests don’t coincide.”) The published name was incorrect, and the C.I.A. officer opted to stay.

The proximity of bin Laden’s house to the Pakistan Military Academy raised the possibility that the military, or the I.S.I., had helped protect bin Laden. How could Al Qaeda’s chief live so close to the academy without at least some officers knowing about it? Suspicion grew after theTimes reported that at least one cell phone recovered from bin Laden’s house contained contacts for senior militants belonging to Harakat-ul-Mujahideen, a jihadi group that has had close ties to the I.S.I. Although American officials have stated that Pakistani officials must have helped bin Laden hide in Abbottabad, definitive evidence has not yet been presented.

Bin Laden’s death provided the White House with the symbolic victory it needed to begin phasing troops out of Afghanistan. Seven weeks later, Obama announced a timetable for withdrawal. Even so, U.S. counterterrorism activities inside Pakistan—that is, covert operations conducted by the C.I.A. and JSOC—are not expected to diminish anytime soon. Since May 2nd, there have been more than twenty drone strikes in North and South Waziristan, including one that allegedly killed Ilyas Kashmiri, a top Al Qaeda leader, while he was sipping tea in an apple orchard.

The success of the bin Laden raid has sparked a conversation inside military and intelligence circles: Are there other terrorists worth the risk of another helicopter assault in a Pakistani city? “There are people out there that, if we could find them, we would go after them,” Cartwright told me. He mentioned Ayman al-Zawahiri, the new leader of Al Qaeda, who is believed to be in Pakistan, and Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric in Yemen. Cartwright emphasized that “going after them” didn’t necessarily mean another DEVGRU raid. The special-operations officer spoke more boldly. He believes that a precedent has been set for more unilateral raids in the future. “Folks now realize we can weather it,” he said. The senior adviser to the President said that “penetrating other countries’ sovereign airspace covertly is something that’s always available for the right mission and the right gain.” Brennan told me, “The confidence we have in the capabilities of the U.S. military is, without a doubt, even stronger after this operation.”

On May 6th, Al Qaeda confirmed bin Laden’s death and released a statement congratulating “the Islamic nation” on “the martyrdom of its good son Osama.” The authors promised Americans that “their joy will turn to sorrow and their tears will mix with blood.” That day, President Obama travelled to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where the 160th is based, to meet the DEVGRU unit and the pilots who pulled off the raid. The SEALs, who had returned home from Afghanistan earlier in the week, flew in from Virginia. Biden, Tom Donilon, and a dozen other national-security advisers came along.

McRaven greeted Obama on the tarmac. (They had met at the White House a few days earlier—the President had presented McRaven with a tape measure.) McRaven led the President and his team into a one-story building on the other side of the base. They walked into a windowless room with shabby carpets, fluorescent lights, and three rows of metal folding chairs. McRaven, Brian, the pilots from the 160th, and James took turns briefing the President. They had set up a three-dimensional model of bin Laden’s compound on the floor and, waving a red laser pointer, traced their maneuvers inside. A satellite image of the compound was displayed on a wall, along with a map showing the flight routes into and out of Pakistan. The briefing lasted about thirty-five minutes. Obama wanted to know how Ahmed had kept locals at bay; he also inquired about the fallen Black Hawk and whether above-average temperatures in Abbottabad had contributed to the crash. (The Pentagon is conducting a formal investigation of the accident.)

When James, the squadron commander, spoke, he started by citing all the forward operating bases in eastern Afghanistan that had been named for SEALs killed in combat. “Everything we have done for the last ten years prepared us for this,” he told Obama. The President was “in awe of these guys,” Ben Rhodes, the deputy national-security adviser, who travelled with Obama, said. “It was an extraordinary base visit,” he added. “They knew he had staked his Presidency on this. He knew they staked their lives on it.”

As James talked about the raid, he mentioned Cairo’s role. “There was a dog?” Obama interrupted. James nodded and said that Cairo was in an adjoining room, muzzled, at the request of the Secret Service.
“I want to meet that dog,” Obama said.
“If you want to meet the dog, Mr. President, I advise you to bring treats,” James joked. Obama went over to pet Cairo, but the dog’s muzzle was left on.
Afterward, Obama and his advisers went into a second room, down the hall, where others involved in the raid—including logisticians, crew chiefs, and SEAL alternates—had assembled. Obama presented the team with a Presidential Unit Citation and said, “Our intelligence professionals did some amazing work. I had fifty-fifty confidence that bin Laden was there, but I had one-hundred-per-cent confidence in you guys. You are, literally, the finest small-fighting force that has ever existed in the world.” The raiding team then presented the President with an American flag that had been on board the rescue Chinook. Measuring three feet by five, the flag had been stretched, ironed, and framed. The SEALs and the pilots had signed it on the back; an inscription on the front read, “From the Joint Task Force Operation Neptune’s Spear, 01 May 2011: ‘For God and country. Geronimo.’ ” Obama promised to put the gift “somewhere private and meaningful to me.” Before the President returned to Washington, he posed for photographs with each team member and spoke with many of them, but he left one thing unsaid. He never asked who fired the kill shot, and the SEALs never volunteered to tell him.

Information pointed to by ijaz Syed
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Bin Laden sets alarm bells ringing

By Syed Saleem Shahzad

ISLAMABAD – After a prolonged lull, the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has launched a series of covert operations in the rugged Hindu Kush mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan following strong tip-offs that al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has been criss-crossing the area in the past few weeks for high-profile meetings in militant redoubts.

The US has been on Bin Laden’s trail ever since he fled Afghanistan when the US invaded the country in 2001 to oust the Taliban, but the 54-year-old with a US$50 million reward on his head has always remained several steps in front.

Asia Times Online has learned that decision-makers have put a lot of weight on the information on Bin Laden’s movements as it
has come from multiple intelligence agencies, in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. For at least two years, little credible news has emerged of Bin Laden’s movements and motives. Now, intelligence officials believe they have top-grade accounts as they come from the inner circles of militant camps.

Officials are said to be “stunned” by the visibility of Bin Laden’s movements, and their frequency, in a matter of a few weeks in the outlawed terrain of Pakistan and Afghanistan, the most unprecedented reports about him since he evaded the US in the Tora Bora mountains in Afghanistan in 2001.

The development has fueled speculation in intelligence circles that al-Qaeda could be planning another major attack along the lines of the September 11, 2001, assault on New York and Washington, and the July 2007 foiled bomb attack in London.

However, extensive investigations by Asia Times Online, including exchanges within al-Qaeda’s camps, point in another direction: given the nature of Bin Laden’s meetings, this appears to be the beginning of a new era for a broader struggle in which al-Qaeda, through its Laskhar al-Zil (Shadow Army), will try to capitalize on the Arab revolts and the Palestinian struggle and also revitalize and redefine its role in Afghanistan.

A meeting in Bajaur
Several weeks ago, Bin Laden is reported to have met with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the legendary Afghan mujahid and founder and leader of the Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) political party and paramilitary group, in a militant camp in thick jungle on the fringes of Kunar and Bajaur provinces in Afghanistan. The encounter was publicized by leaks from the HIA’s inner circle and the news was circulated within militant camps in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal area via top-level Pakistani militant commanders in Bajaur.

Despite him being an ally in the war in Afghanistan, the Taliban led by Mullah Omar have always been skeptical about Hekmatyar’s intentions, while Bin Laden and some other al-Qaeda leaders view him differently. Hekmatyar’s representatives of the HIA have been in direct active negotiations with the Americans and have also brokered limited ceasefire agreements with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces in Afghanistan.

Bin Laden fought alongside Hekmatyar in the jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s and they remained in contact during Bin Laden’s days in Sudan, where he had settled in 1992. When Bin Laden returned to Afghanistan in the mid-1990s, he stayed in regions that were controlled by warlords loyal to Hekmatyar.

Intelligence sources privy to the meeting in Bajaur said Bin Laden could not afford to meet Hekmatyar simply for a dinner party, which was hosted by a Pakistani militant commander of Salafi tendencies and who was a member of the HIA during the Soviet jihad.

“The talks appeared to discuss some grand strategy and Osama bin Laden aims to take Gulbuddin Hekmatyar on board, especially as Hekmatyar’s commanders have brokered ceasefire agreements with NATO forces in Afghanistan and Hekmatyar’s representatives have been negotiating a truce with the Americans,” an intelligence source told Asia Times Online.

Beyond terror operations
Adding to the view of the importance of Bin Laden’s meeting with Hekmatyar is that it took place when the interest of the CIA and its special forces had already been piqued by reports of the al-Qaeda leader’s movements in Kunar and Nuristan for meetings with various militant commanders and al-Qaeda bigwigs. Bin Laden would have been aware of the dangers and was obviously prepared to take the risk.

While intelligence agencies might be involved in a guessing game about Bin Laden’s plans and a possible grand al-Qaeda operation, his movements can be read in the perspective of recent discourse in al-Qaeda circles and a major shift in its policies.

International Islamic militancy that had its roots in the decade-long war against the Soviets in the 1980s was broadly divided into two main schools of thought; both considered themselves righteous despite embodying contradictory themes. These were doctrines of armed struggle espoused by Palestinian Sunni Islamic scholar and theologian Dr Abdullah Azzam, and Egyptian ideologue and Bin Laden’s deputy, Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Azzam preached in favor of defensive jihad by Muslims to help the Afghan mujahideen against the Soviets. He firmly believed in a broader Muslim bloc including Muslim ruling establishments and never supported revolt against Muslim regimes. Despite being Palestinian with Jordanian nationality and a background in the Muslim Brotherhood, Azzam kept himself aloof from the Palestinian revolt against the Jordanian monarchy in September 1970 (called Black September).

Azzam was very close to the Saudi Arabian royal family and considered it essential to lobby it for support of Islamic armed movements like the Afghan resistance against the Soviets and the Palestinian resistance against Israel. He struggled to achieve unity among Muslim rulers and Islamists to resist Western hegemony. He was less dogmatic than others in his strategic purview.

After Azzam’s assassination in Pakistan in 1989, Zawahiri emerged as the main ideologue of Islamic armed opposition. Coming from the same ideological background of the Muslim Brotherhood as Azzam, Zawahiri faced an entirely different world after the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s when, under American instructions, Muslim regimes were intolerant of Islamic militancy.

Zawahiri therefore promoted the idea of ideological divides within the Muslim world, and encouraged revolts and terrorism to polarize societies to such a point of chaos that they would be unmanageable and amenable to Western intervention. It was believed that such intervention would open the gates for a battle between the West and the Muslim world.

Like Azzam, Zawahiri is not too dogmatic, but he encouraged narrow ideological views in resistance movements as a strategy to boost revolts against Muslim-majority states.

Of the two schools of thought, Azzam’s has never been criticized and is respected by all while Zawahiri’s has come under heavy fire from mainstream Muslim scholars and intelligentsia. Zawahiri’s adherents had no argument in his defense other than him operating under the law of necessity.

A recent ideological discourse within al-Qaeda’s ranks shot down Zawahiri’s arguments. This was sparked by key al-Qaeda ideologues and commanders such as Sulaiman Abu al-Gaith (see Broadside fired at al-Qaeda leaders Asia Times Online, December 10, 2010) and Saif al-Adel.

Adel emphasized that while polarization within the Muslim world was essential after 9/11 to gather strength behind al-Qaeda, nowadays, especially in light of the great Arab revolt, there was a need to switch to Azzam’s viewpoint that sees no need for polarization within Muslim-majority states viz-a-viz the Muslim world’s confrontation against Western hegemony.

After this, al-Qaeda began a new phase with the Muslim Brotherhood and Palestinian groups to revive its old contacts and establish a new nexus for a joint struggle against Western interests in the Muslim world.

Bin Laden’s meeting with Hekmatyar and other militant commanders in the Hindu Kush can be seen as a part of this new war in which al-Qaeda aims to involve the whole Muslim nation.

Hekmatyar’s HIA has been a part of al-Qaeda’s Laskhar al-Zil, which comprises elite guerrillas. Possibly, al-Qaeda aims to revitalize its operations in Afghanistan, and throughout the world, along with mainstream resistance groups (sons of the soil or Ibnul Balad) and in addition to Islamic political parties.

While fears attached to Bin Laden’s unprecedented visibility and movement for a grand al-Qaeda operation cannot completely be dismissed, it is more possible that al-Qaeda will undertake both worldwide terror operations and join forces with mainstream Muslim groups.

From http://www.atimes.com/

Information provided by
Ijaz Syed
.

Broadside fired at al-Qaeda leaders

By Syed Saleem Shahzad

ISLAMABAD – A number of senior al-Qaeda members who had earlier opposed the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and some of whom were recently released from detention in Iran, have produced an electronic book critical of al-Qaeda’s leadership vision and strategy.

The book, the first of its kind to publicly show collective dissent within al-Qaeda, was released last month. It urges the self-acclaimed global Muslim resistance against Western hegemony to open itself to the Muslim intelligentsia for advice and to harmonize its strategy with mainstream Islamic movements.

Analysts who spoke to Asia Times Online said that on face value the book did not indicate a spilt, rather an academic and “polite” review of al-Qaeda’s policies. However, at a later stage, such
discussion could lead to a division within al-Qaeda’s ranks in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region where the top leadership is stationed.

Twenty questions
Three of the top al-Qaeda decision-makers who opposed the 9/11 attacks plotted by Khalid Sheikh Mohammad were Egyptian Saiful Adil (Saif al-Adel), an important military planner; Abu Hafs al-Mauritani, once the chief of al-Qaeda’s religious committee that reviews all decisions; Suleman Abu al-Gaith, who was al-Qaeda’s chief spokesperson.

All three moved to Iran where they lived under limited restrictions until being released along with more than a dozen others earlier this year. (See How Iran and al-Qaeda made a deal Asia Times Online, April 30, 2010.) They then settled in the rugged Pakistani tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan that is home to the Pakistani Taliban, al-Qaeda and related militant groups.

On November 15, some members of this group released Twenty Guidelines for Jihad on the Internet site www.mafa.asia. The author is cited as Suleman, saying he was “al-Qaeda’s official spokesperson in 2001,” indicating a distancing from al-Qaeda’s organizational structure.

The preface of the Arabic-language book was written by Mehfuz bin Waleed (as Abu Hafs al-Mauritani is also known). He was the chief of al-Qaeda’s religious committee before 9/11, after which he was sent to Iran as al-Qaeda’s envoy in that country. He struck a deal with the government to allow the free movement of Arab families from Afghanistan to the Arab world via the province of Zahedan.

He was later joined by other al-Qaeda members, in addition to some family members of Osama bin Laden. They were all kept in guest houses in a designated colony, but were not allowed to leave Iran.

The website on which the book was released is owned and operated by Abu Waleed al-Misri, also known as Mustafa Hamid. He was a close aide of Bin Laden but fled to Iran before 9/11. He has written 11 books on Arab-Afghans. His latest book, Cross in the Skies of Kandahar, criticizes the al-Qaeda leader in particular and al-Qaeda in general, holding them responsible for the collapse of the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan (Taliban regime), which fell in late 2001 following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in retaliation for 9/11.

Hamid’s main criticism of Bin Laden is that he is authoritarian and refuses to take advice. He alleges that Bin Laden has placed himself as a superior to Taliban leader Mullah Omar, whom all Arab-Afghans recognize as their ameer or chief. Hamid narrates that while Bin Laden has pledged his allegiance to Mullah Omar, he does not follow his instructions and therefore deserves punishment.

Al-Qaeda at a crossroad
Gaith’s electronic book is ostensibly for tarbait (guidance) and is not written to directly malign al-Qaeda’s leaders – indeed, it does not name any of them. It is critical though, for example Gaith takes to task leaders who do not take advice. “They took decisions in haste that resulted in a big defeat.”

“They think that they are right all the time and they are encircled by a bunch of advisers who do not qualify to give advice. Ironically, this situation stands in the way of jihad, which belongs to the ummah [Muslim world] and their decisions affect the whole Muslim world. This is such a delicate matter as strategy is supposed to be consulted with all Muslim groups, scholars and the Muslim intelligentsia in general.”

This could be taken as an explicit criticism of al-Qaeda deputy Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri, who has condemned Islamic movements like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas in Palestine and severed all ties with them.

“It means isolation of yourself and the mujahideen from the mainstream Islamic movements and from the Muslim world. It makes the task easier for the enemy to isolate you and target you,” Gaith writes.

He stresses that the feelings of the ummah should be taken into account before any grand operation is carried out. “Your arsenal is supposed to be used against combatants only, not against innocent people. You mishandled operations and oppressed common men, while our role is supposed to be that of liberators against zulm [oppression].”

This is the first book by a member of al-Qaeda that cites early modern Islamic movement ideologues like Hasan al-Banna (founder of the Muslim Brotherhood), Muhammad al-Ghazali (Muslim Brotherhood Egypt), Syed Abul Ala Maududi (founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami in South Asia), and Gaith urges al-Qaeda leaders to follow the advice of these ideologues.

Gaith does not endorse the adherence to democratic systems adopted by some contemporary Islamic movements, and also condemns their relations with Muslim ruling regimes, but he stresses in the book that they still have a lot of merits and those merits should be appreciated.

“Definitely, we will fail if our leadership does not follow and practice the characters of good leaders and ideologues and if our leaders continue to believe that they are right all the time.”

Without naming Mullah Omar, Gaith underlined a necessity to obey his directives as a single central command. “All jihadi groups should be under one leadership, which must consult with experts and scholars from the whole ummah. They [leaders] are silent against some declared enemies of Islam while they openly mock and criticize Islamic groups.”

Potential split?
During the 1990s, at least 17 Arab groups operated in Afghanistan and while they were influenced by al-Qaeda, they operated separately. By the time of 9/11, the majority had merged into al-Qaeda, with exceptions such as al-Gama Islamiya al-Muqatilal (GIM), Jamaatul Toheed Wal Jihad (led by Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi who joined al-Qaeda very late after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003), beside hundreds of Arabs who independently joined the cause of jihad with the powerful Jalaluddin Haqqani.

After 9/11, even these independent operators had little choice but to operate with al-Qaeda as in the “war on terror”, all Arab-Afghans were seen as al-Qaeda. Many were arrested in Pakistan and abroad simply because they lived in Afghanistan. In a quest for a safe haven, they went to the Pakistani tribal areas and stayed in al-Qaeda’s camps because it was the only potent Arab organization left in the region that could provide them shelter. Many Arab-Afghans were opposed to al-Qaeda’s strategies, but they had no room to question them.

Now, with top al-Qaeda operators openly expressing criticism, such views could gain momentum. This could lead to reform of the most violent self-acclaimed global Muslim resistance movement against Western hegemony, or it might allow dissenters to side with mainstream Afghan-Taliban leaders and break with al-Qaeda.

Renowned Arab journalist Jamal Ismail, author of Bin Laden, al-Jazeera and Me who has met Bin Laden and interviewed Zawahiri, commented to Asia Times Online, “It is not a spilt [at this point], but a review. However, at a later stage, it might lead to a spilt if the advice [in the book] is not listened to, as well as other opinions from inside and outside of al-Qaeda.”

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online’s Pakistan Bureau Chief and author of upcoming book Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban 9/11 and Beyond published by Pluto Press, UK. He can be reached at saleem_shahzad2002@yahoo.com

From http://www.atimes.com/

Information provided by
IJAZ SYED
.

Shock and Awe 2: US, France and Britain Pound Libya

France fired the first shots in the new war with Libya, but the Obama Administration was close behind, with US warships firing upwards of 120 Tomahawk missiles at targets inside Libya. The strikes came largely overnight, and exactly what they hit is largely unknown.

The reports however, suggest that at least some of the missiles hit civilian areas, and initial reports are that the attacks have killed at least 48 civilians and wounded 150 others.

Obama termed the attacks a “limited military action” officially, but the massive series of strikes suggests the administration is already going far beyond the “no-fly zone” mandate and is well on its way to demanding Iraq-style regime change.

Even Obama’s comments came with additional comments calling for Gadhafi to leave office, though he so far seems not to be explicitly linking to two. It seems incredible that, only days ago the administration was non-committal on the notion of a no-fly zone, and now is on board for full scale war.

The Gadhafi regime, for its part, appears to be preparing a defensive effort in Tripoli, with reports of thousands of civilians forming human shields around the Gadhafi compound in the capital. Officials have also suggested they intend to arm the West Libyan populace to resist any possible ground invasion.

Indeed, the footage on the evening of March 19, 2011 was eerily similar to the footage of March 19, 2003, when US forces were launching massive air strikes against targets inside Iraq as part of its “shock and awe strategy.”

Most unsettlingly, while praising the war in his appearance on CNN, retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honore (best known for his daring conquest of New Orleans in 2005) described the attacks in the same glowing terms pundits did that evening eight years ago, insisting that the show of overwhelming force would prove to Gadhafi that resistance was futile.

Posted: 19 Mar 2011 06:05 PM PDT
At: news.antiwar.com
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Petraeus Accuses Afghan Parents of Burning Kids to Make US Look Bad

Posted: 21 Feb 2011 07:07 PM PST

One would think that the effort to downplay the killings of as many as 64 civilians, including a large number of children, would be enough to spark considerable anti-US outrage, but apparently Gen. David Petraeus saw an opportunity to make things even worse, and took it.

In a closed door meeting aimed at explaining why they had killed so many civilians, Gen. Petraeus actually accused parents in the region of burning their own children in an attempt to raise the death count and make the US look bad.

Of course if there is one thing the occupation forces don’t need any help with, it’s looking bad, and the shocking accusation sparked considerable anger amongst the Karzai government. It was quickly dismissed by provincial officials, of course, but did immeasurable damage to US credibility on the matter of the rising civilian toll.

The US has a long history of making up ridiculous hypotheticals that might explain away massive civilian death tolls, including the May 2009 Farah Province massacre, in which the US initially claimed the Taliban had “pre-killed” a large number of civilians and stored them in buildings before tricking the US into bombing them, scattering the bodies. They later admitted the claim was entirely made up.

The US has also regularly accused Afghan civilians of “making up” stories of dead relatives in an effort to claim the paltry reparations that the military offers for accidently killing a civilian. This appears, however, to be the first time they actually accused parents of killing their children just to make the US occupation look bad.

antiwar.com
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