UQ Wire: The Perfect Alibi (Part II)
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Unanswered Questions : Thinking for ourselves.
The Perfect Alibi (PART
... and why the administration isn't using
See Also: UQ Wire: The Perfect Alibi
Planning Afghanistan, I:
The administration's planning for the war against Afghanistan actually started (at the latest) in March, 2001 (per Janes Defense Weekly (subscription required)), a full six months before 9-11 and less than two months after taking power. At least one more report to this effect occurred prior to September 11th, that being a report in a Pakistani newspaper which specified a surprisingly accurate start date for the war in Afghanistan. A third report of pre-9-11 efforts against Afghanistan appeared in the BBC News just one day after Bush actually signed NSPD-9, this being of a clandestine meeting in Germany between U.S. and Taliban representatives during which the U.S. representatives delivered a "go along and get along" message to the Taliban representatives present. It was not exactly stated like this however. The Taliban was told that they could either accept "a carpet of gold of a carpet of bombs". But what exactly was the Taliban to go along with in order to receive this "carpet of gold"?
Clearly then, the Bush administration was preparing quite early for a war in Afghanistan, so why did they pick a document (NSPD-9) dated only on September 4th to advance their case? Certainly there are some documents from well before this date that could be declassified, documents that would show far better the administration's earlier intent to address the problem in Afghanistan. Why not offer those instead and completely silence Clarke's criticism?
In fact, the war plan as executed against Afghanistan confirms quite well that it was a long time in planning. Special forces would be air-lifted into Afghanistan where they would provide logistical and intelligence support for the "Northern Alliance" while directing close air support for a new offensive against the Taliban. A reasonable plan, and it clearly worked. The Taliban was defeated.
The problem comes with the details. Special forces cannot be just dropped in somewhere and say, "No problem. Let us run the show." This takes a long period of building a bond and gaining a trust between the local leadership and the Special Forces who are coming in to help. Yet, between 9-11 and the start of U.S. bombing in Afghanistan, we are only looking at 20 days. Even with the September 4th date, we are only up to 27, and the conversations necessary to build that trust could hardly be accomplished during that timeframe. This simply could not happen. It had to take far longer.
So again, why choose NSPD-9 to partially declassify when clearly other documents would confirm much earlier efforts? There-in lies the problem.
The Caspian Sea Basin:
As early as 1993 (perhaps earlier), the Caspian Sea basin was identified as having an estimated 200 billion barrels of untapped oil. This was the largest undeveloped oil reserve in the world, and is expected to be the last major oil find of anything close to this magnitude. With the fall of the Soviet Union and the creation of the independent Turkmenistan, this oil was now up for grabs. Companies that could tap this oil would reap huge profits, and competition for a chance at these profits was immense. In a world that was reaching "Peak Oil", access to these reserves was critical for any corporation that wished to remain a major player in the oil industry. The big problem however was location; getting this oil out of the ground was simply a matter of applying existing technology, but delivering the oil to ports with access to the world's consumers was a different story. Long pipelines would be required to move this oil from the basin to these eventual consumers, and the various routes that these pipelines might take all involved significant questions. The most reasonable and financially feasible route was through Iran, but of course, this created a problem for U.S. oil companies, the situation between the U.S. and Iran being what it was then and continues to be.
More difficult was a pipeline through the war-torn Afghanistan, but at least this offered a more reasonable route politically for U.S. oil companies. It was with this in mind that UNOCAL entered the competition in 1995, wishing to participate in building a pipeline through Afghanistan. There would be a second beneficiary if UNOCAL succeeded in securing a part contract; Haliburton would actually construct the pipeline, if only the Taliban could be convinced to select UNOCAL. Then Haliburton CEO Dick Cheney himself expressed optimism about the prospects of Caspian Sea oil in 1998.
At this point, stories vary. Some of them report that UNOCAL dropped out after the Clinton administration bombed al Qeada training camps in Afghanistan; others suggest that UNOCAL was never really comfortable with the security situation in Afghanistan, and that other competitors were simply more willing to deal with it as it was. Whichever the case (or perhaps both are true), UNOCAL lost out on the Afghanistan pipeline contract, and with that loss, U.S. oil companies had effectively lost any significant market share in the movement of this oil from the Caspian Sea basin to its eventual consumers.
Planning Afghanistan, II:
A very striking conclusion can be drawn from NSDP-9, dated as it is on September 4th, 2001. However much 9-11 can be viewed as justification for the war against Afghanistan, 9-11 was not the the reason for that war since 9-11 had not yet occurred when NSPD-9 was drafted. Whatever that reason was, it had occurred before 9-11, and probably well before 9-11. This is problematical because this war was sold to the American public as a response to 9-11, they of course being an eager buyer at that time. It was not sold however as a response to the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, nor was it sold as a response to the embassy bombings, nor was it sold as a response the first World Trade Center bombing. These could have been included, but they simply were not. The war against Afghanistan was simply sold as a response to 9-11, and yet it wasn't.
This being the case, assume for a moment that 9-11 had never occurred. We know from NSPD-9 that the war against Afghanistan still happens, almost certainly using the same plan of attack and during the same timeframe. It is informative then to speculate about what this war would have looked like to the American public. A number of things most certainly would have changed.
First, the war would have begun without being "pre-sold" in any fashion. Second, there would have been very little press attention, Afghanistan being far from the American consciousness during this planning stage. What we are left with then is a Special Forces operation in an obscure war in a far away land. One can only imagine reports of this, buried perhaps on page 14 of your newspaper:
U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan began last week to provide logistical and intelligence support to the "Northern Alliance", a group attempting to overthrow the Taliban government of that country. In conjunction with this operation, the U.S. government is also providing limited air support for a new offensive by the Northern Alliance.
The Taliban government provides refuge for the training camps of the Osama bin Laden-sponsored al Qeada terrorist organization. bin Laden has been linked to the World Trade Center bombing, the bombing of U.S. embassies, and the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole. It is hoped that this offensive will also end these al Qeada operations.
Short and sweet. Fiction, of course, but if the Northern Alliance was going to help us with the al Qaeda problem, why wouldn't we provide such support? What is important to note however is that this was how this war was planned to appear.
One often hears the phrase, "9-11 changed everything!" Perhaps for many it did, but it did change one thing for everyone: The war against Afghanistan was now on the front page.
The Perfect Alibi:
All of this of course brings us back to the basic question: If the administration de-classified portions of NSPD-9 to show that they were doing something about terrorism before 9-11, that document is weak proof that they were doing much any earlier than that. Indeed, this is Richard Clarke's conclusion. Yet Clarke's assertions would fall completely if instead the administration had instead selected a single document to partially declassify from perhaps late Spring or early Summer of 2001. This would provide the administration with "the perfect alibi". So why not just do this?
The problem lies with Richard Clarke himself. If Clarke was the administration's terrorism czar, and if the administration was planning a war against Afghanistan, why wasn't Clarke (who had been instrumental in developing the original plan) "in the loop"? The conclusion is unmistakable: Clarke wasn't in the loop because for all of those months, the war planning for Afghanistan had nothing to do with terrorism. And in fact, there is only one other interest that the U.S. had in Afghanistan back then. The UNOCAL pipeline.
If the administration did in fact declassify an earlier document, Clarke himself would "connect the dots": Afghanistan was our first oil war. And they don't want you to know that.
On December 22, 2001, Hamid Karzai was installed by the U.S. as the interim President of Afghanistan, a position he retains to this date. On Dec. 31, 2001, President Bush appointed Zalmay Khalilzad as his Special Envoy to Afghanistan. Both Khalilzad, a former member of PNAC, and Karzai were former top advisors to UNOCAL.
On March 18, 2002, the Chicago Tribune reported that U.S. military bases in Afghanistan had been largely positioned along the proposed route for the pipeline through that country. Widely reported in the foreign press, it was a mere footnote in the American press.
In December of 2002 with the nation largely consumed by the news regarding the run-up to the upcoming Iraq war, a little noticed article appeared in the Business sections of several newspapers. UNOCAL had gotten its Afghanistan pipeline contract, holding a 36.4% share of that.
It is a pipeline that will never be built.
Osama bin Laden remains at large.