I had a chance to read a little of the 9/11 Commission Report very early this morning and was struck immediately by its studied ignorance of embarrassing facts. It seems to seek ways around identifying the United States’ (and, by extension, the administrations of presidents since 1980) in creating the monster that attacked us on September 11, 2001.
Let’s take one single example, but the most important one: How did Osama bin Laden rise to power? Well, he helped “win” a war against one great Satan, the Soviet Union, in Afghanistan. How did he do it? With direct or indirect U.S. funding. Here’s the passage that deals specifically with this time in history, which appears on page 56 of the printed text:
The international environment for Bin Ladin’s efforts was ideal. Saudi Arabia and the United States supplied billions of dollars worth of secret assistance to rebel groups in Afghanistan fighting the Soviet occupation. This assistance was funneled through Pakistan: the Pakinstani military intelligence service (Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, or ISID), helped train the rebels and distribute the arms. But Bin Ladin and his comrades had their own sources of support and training, and they received little or no assistance from the United States. [Emphasis added.]
Okay, that’s a pretty extraordinary claim, that out of billions of dollars of funding floating around Osama bin Laden received “little or no assistance” from the United States and Saudi Arabia. He was, after all, a scion of one of the wealthiest families in Saudi Arabia and it is doubtful that no money from that country was directed through him; if Saudi used him, so did the United States, because we were relying on the Saudi as our middlemen and guides to the region.
Did the Commission review records of the period for this statement? Presumably, there are records at the Central Intelligence Agency and elsewhere about where billions of dollars and arms were distributed in Afghanistan. If they checked those records, I’d be prepared to accept they could find nothing. But that is not what they did. There is a footnote at the end of this paragraph, so let’s turn to it:
In his memoir, Ayman al Zawahiri [bin Laden’s right-hand commander — ed.] contemptuously rejects claims that the Arab mujahideen were financed (even “one penny”) or trained by the United States. See Zawahiri, “Knights Under the Prophet’s Banner,” Al Sharq al Awsat, Dec. 2, 2001. CIA officials involved in aiding the Afghan resistance regard Bin Ladin and his “Arab Afghans” as having been militarily insignificant in the war and recall having little to do with him. Gary Schroen interview (Mar. 3, 2003).
Hold on…. Osama bin Laden’s second-in-command is the source for the statement that the United States was not funding bin Laden in Afghanistan. Of course Zawahiri would say that, because Arab culture places a high value on loyalty to those who distribute aid in support of Muslim power against infidels, which is exactly what the U.S. was doing in its war conducted through the mujahideen against the Soviets. It would be very bad form for Zahawiri to acknowledge his organization was founded with the help of the Americans.
Gary Schroen, who was CIA station chief in Islamabad, Pakistan, between 1996 and 2000, is the other source, but offers only a non-denial denial, that the CIA “recalls having little to do with him.” Why didn’t the Commission demand to see records, since, as Thomas Kean put it during the press conference yesterday, the Commission looked at every piece of paper related to the attacks?
We should remember that the wars by proxy fought with the Soviets gave us most of the worst characters we have had to deal with, from bin Laden to Noriega and a ration of African psychopaths. It was a bad policy, yet it is what we are beginning to do, again, in Iraq, as we use the newly installed Iraqi government to threaten Iran.
We’re not learning, folks.