The War on Terrorism Is Bogus
By Michael Meacher
Massive attention has now been given and rightly soto the reasons why Britain went to war against Iraq. But far too little attention has focused on why the U.S. went to war, and that throws light on British motives too. The conventional explanation is that after the Twin Towers were hit, retaliation against al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan was a natural first step in launching a global war against terrorism. Then, because Saddam Hussein was alleged by the U.S. and UK governments to retain weapons of mass destruction, the war could be extended to Iraq as well. However this theory does not fit all the facts. The truth may be a great deal murkier.
We now know that a blueprint for the creation of a global Pax Americana was drawn up for Dick Cheney (now vice-president), Donald Rumsfeld (defense secretary), Paul Wolfowitz (Rumsfelds deputy), Jeb Bush (George Bushs younger brother) and Lewis Libby (Cheneys chief of staff). The document, entitled Rebuilding Americas Defenses, was written in September 2000 by the neo-conservative think tank, Project for the New American Century (PNAC).
The plan shows Bushs cabinet intended to take military control of the Gulf region whether or not Saddam Hussein was in power. It says while the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.
The PNAC blueprint supports an earlier document attributed to Wolfowitz and Libby, which said the U.S. must discourage advanced industrial nations from challenging our leadership or even aspiring to a larger regional or global role. It refers to key allies such as the UK as the most effective and efficient means of exercising American global leadership. It describes peacekeeping missions as demanding American political leadership rather than that of the UN. It says even should Saddam pass from the scene, U.S. bases in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait will remain permanently... as Iran may well prove as large a threat to U.S. interests as Iraq has. It spotlights China for regime change, saying it is time to increase the presence of American forces in SE Asia.
The document also calls for the creation of U.S. space forces to dominate space, and the total control of cyberspace to prevent enemies using the internet against the US. It also hints that the U.S. may consider developing biological weapons that can target specific genotypes [and] may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool.
Finallywritten a year before 9/11it pinpoints North Korea, Syria and Iran as dangerous regimes, and says their existence justifies the creation of a worldwide command and control system. This is a blueprint for U.S. world domination. But before it is dismissed as an agenda for rightwing fantasists, it is clear it provides a much better explanation of what actually happened before, during and after 9/11 than the global war on terrorism thesis. This can be seen in several ways.
First, it is clear the U.S. authorities did little or nothing to pre-empt the events of 9/11. It is known that at least 11 countries provided advance warning to the U.S. of the 9/11 attacks. Two senior Mossad experts were sent to Washington in August 2001 to alert the CIA and FBI to a cell of 200 terrorists said to be preparing a big operation (Daily Telegraph, September 16, 2001). The list they provided included the names of four of the 9/11 hijackers, none of whom was arrested.
It had been known as early as 1996 that there were plans to hit Washington targets with airplanes. Then in 1999 a U.S. national intelligence council report noted that al-Qaida suicide bombers could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the CIA, or the White House.
Fifteen of the 9/11 hijackers obtained their visas in Saudi Arabia. Michael Springman, the former head of the American visa bureau in Jeddah, has stated that since 1987 the CIA had been illicitly issuing visas to unqualified applicants from the Middle East and bringing them to the U.S. for training in terrorism for the Afghan war in collaboration with Bin Laden (BBC, November 6, 2001). It seems this operation continued after the Afghan war for other purposes. It is also reported that five of the hijackers received training at secure U.S. military installations in the 1990s (Newsweek, September 15, 2001).
Instructive leads prior to 9/11 were not followed up. French Moroccan flight student Zacarias Moussaoui (now thought to be the 20th hijacker) was arrested in August 2001 after an instructor reported he showed a suspicious interest in learning how to steer large airliners. When U.S. agents learned from French intelligence he had radical Islamist ties, they sought a warrant to search his computer, which contained clues to the September 11 mission (Times, November 3, 2001). But they were turned down by the FBI. One agent wrote, a month before 9/11, that Moussaoui might be planning to crash into the Twin Towers (Newsweek, May 20, 2002).
All of this makes it all the more astonishingon the war on terrorism perspectivethat there was such slow reaction on September 11 itself. The first hijacking was suspected at not later than 8.20 am, and the last hijacked aircraft crashed in Pennsylvania at 10.06 am. Not a single fighter plane was scrambled to investigate from the U.S. Andrews air force base, just 10 miles from Washington DC, until after the third plane had hit the Pentagon at 9.38 am. Why not? There were standard FAA intercept procedures for hijacked aircraft before 9/11. Between September 2000 and June 2001 the U.S. military launched fighter aircraft on 67 occasions to chase suspicious aircraft (AP, August 13, 2002). It is a U.S. legal requirement that once an aircraft has moved significantly off its flight plan, fighter planes are sent up to investigate.
Was this inaction simply the result of key people disregarding, or being ignorant of, the evidence? Or could U.S. air security operations have been deliberately stood down on September 11? If so, why, and on whose authority? The former U.S. federal crimes prosecutor, John Loftus, has said: The information provided by European intelligence services prior to 9/11 was so extensive that it is no longer possible for either the CIA or FBI to assert a defense of incompetence.
Nor is the U.S. response after 9/11 any better. No serious attempt has ever been made to catch Bin Laden. In late September and early October 2001, leaders of Pakistans two Islamist parties negotiated Bin Ladens extradition to Pakistan to stand trial for 9/11. However, a U.S. official said, significantly, that casting our objectives too narrowly risked a premature collapse of the international effort if by some lucky chance Mr. Bin Laden was captured. The U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Myers, went so far as to say that the goal has never been to get Bin Laden (AP, April 5, 2002). The whistle-blowing FBI agent Robert Wright told ABC News (December 19, 2002) that FBI headquarters wanted no arrests. And in November 2001 the U.S. air force complained it had had al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders in its sights as many as 10 times over the previous six weeks, but had been unable to attack because they did not receive permission quickly enough (Time Magazine, May 13, 2002). None of this assembled evidence, all of which comes from sources already in the public domain, is compatible with the idea of a real, determined war on terrorism.
The catalogue of evidence does, however, fall into place when set against the PNAC blueprint. From this it seems that the so-called war on terrorism is being used largely as bogus cover for achieving wider U.S. strategic geopolitical objectives. Indeed Tony Blair himself hinted at this when he said to the Commons liaison committee: To be truthful about it, there was no way we could have got the public consent to have suddenly launched a campaign on Afghanistan but for what happened on September 11 (Times, July 17, 2002). Similarly, Rumsfeld was so determined to obtain a rationale for an attack on Iraq that on 10 separate occasions he asked the CIA to find evidence linking Iraq to 9/11; the CIA repeatedly came back empty-handed (Time Magazine, May 13, 2002).
In fact, 9/11 offered an extremely convenient pretext to put the PNAC plan into action. The evidence again is quite clear that plans for military action against Afghanistan and Iraq were in hand well before 9/11. A report prepared for the U.S. government from the Baker Institute of Public Policy stated in April 2001 that the U.S. remains a prisoner of its energy dilemma. Iraq remains a destabilizing influence to... the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East. Submitted to Vice-President Cheneys energy task group, the report recommended that because this was an unacceptable risk to the U.S., military intervention was necessary (Sunday Herald, October 6, 2002).
Similar evidence exists in regard to Afghanistan. The BBC reported (September 18, 2001) that Niaz Niak, a former Pakistan foreign secretary, was told by senior American officials at a meeting in Berlin in mid-July 2001 that military action against Afghanistan would go ahead by the middle of October. Until July 2001 the U.S. government saw the Taliban regime as a source of stability in Central Asia that would enable the construction of hydrocarbon pipelines from the oil and gas fields in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, through Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the Indian Ocean. But, confronted with the Talibans refusal to accept U.S. conditions, the U.S. representatives told them either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs (Inter Press Service, November 15, 2001).
Given this background, it is not surprising that some have seen the U.S. failure to avert the 9/11 attacks as creating an invaluable pretext for attacking Afghanistan in a war that had clearly already been well planned in advance. There is a possible precedent for this. The U.S. national archives reveal that President Roosevelt used exactly this approach in relation to Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Some advance warning of the attacks was received, but the information never reached the U.S. fleet. The ensuing national outrage persuaded a reluctant U.S. public to join the Second World War. Similarly, the PNAC blueprint of September 2000 states that the process of transforming the U.S. into tomorrows dominant force is likely to be a long one in the absence of some catastrophic and catalyzing eventlike a new Pearl Harbor. The 9/11 attacks allowed the U.S. to press the go button for a strategy in accordance with the PNAC agenda, which it would otherwise have been politically impossible to implement.
The overriding motivation for this political smokescreen is that the U.S. and the UK are beginning to run out of secure hydrocarbon energy supplies. By 2010 the Muslim world will control as much as 60 percent of the worlds oil production and, even more importantly, 95 percent of remaining global oil export capacity. As demand is increasing, so supply is decreasing, continually since the 1960s.
This is leading to increasing dependence on foreign oil supplies for both the U.S. and the UK. The U.S., which in 1990 produced domestically 57 percent of its total energy demand, is predicted to produce only 39 percent of its needs by 2010. A DTI minister has admitted that the UK could be facing severe gas shortages by 2005. The UK government has confirmed that 70 percent of our electricity will come from gas by 2020, and 90 percent of that will be imported. In that context it should be noted that Iraq has 110 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves in addition to its oil.
A report from the commission on Americas national interests in July 2000 noted that the most promising new source of world supplies was the Caspian region, and this would relieve U.S. dependence on Saudi Arabia. To diversify supply routes from the Caspian, one pipeline would run westward via Azerbaijan and Georgia to the Turkish port of Ceyhan. Another would extend eastwards through Afghanistan and Pakistan and terminate near the Indian border. This would rescue Enrons beleaguered power plant at Dabhol on Indias west coast, in which Enron had sunk $3bn investment and whose economic survival was dependent on access to cheap gas.
Nor has the UK been disinterested in this scramble for the remaining world supplies of hydrocarbons, and this may partly explain British participation in U.S. military actions. Lord Browne, chief executive of BP, warned Washington not to carve up Iraq for its own oil companies in the aftermath of war (Guardian, October 30, 2002). And when a British foreign minister met Gadaffi in his desert tent in August 2002, it was said that the UK does not want to lose out to other European nations already jostling for advantage when it comes to potentially lucrative oil contracts with Libya (BBC Online, August 10, 2002).
The conclusion of all this analysis must surely be that the global war on terrorism has the hallmarks of a political myth propagated to pave the way for a wholly different agendathe U.S. goal of world hegemony, built around securing by force command over the oil supplies required to drive the whole project. Is collusion in this myth and junior participation in this project really a proper aspiration for British foreign policy? If there was ever need to justify a more objective British stance, driven by our own independent goals, this whole depressing saga surely provides all the evidence needed for a radical change of course.
Michael Meacher is a member of the British parliament and was environment minister from May 1997 to June 2003.
The Guardian, September 6, 2003