Friday, March 21, 2008

Short Term Memory Loss: Mukasey Surprised by Terror Threats

It seems that Attorney General Michael Mukasey is not particularly well-read on the subject of American foreign policy in the 20th and early 21st centuries. He has recently come out and said that he was surprised how varied and geographically spread out the terror threats that the United States receives are. He then declined to talk about the nature of the terror attacks and then declined to say whether there was any increased risk for the country. So why even bring it up? Beyond reinforcing the constant paranoia about Islamic radicalism (he specifically pointed out fatwas) that the current administration would like us to live under, he used this opportunity to push his agenda: he urged Congress to pass the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Nothing like a little fear mongering to try to push legislation through our elected bodies.

Looking beyond the hypocrisy of the top lawman in the country's plea for immunity of telephone companies who broke the law, it was Mukasey's quote at the bottom of the CNN article that really struck me. When queried about Bin Laden (who has recently put out two tapes denouncing everything but Islam), he said, "Am I alarmed? I am alarmed, I guess. I wish he weren't in a position to issue them." I'm going to take this statement as "I wish Osama bin Laden were not in a position of power from which he is able to issue messages to the world."

For those who choose to remember, I would like to visit one of the last showdowns of the Cold War between the US and the Soviets: the Soviet-Afghan War. I'm currently reading Steve Coll's "Ghost Wars" which is an in-depth look at the US's involvement in the Middle East (specifically Afghanistan and Pakistan) from 1979 to September 10, 2001 and that is where a lot of the following information comes from. One of the reasons that Osama bin Laden has such a position in world affairs today can be attributed to Langley, Virginia. The CIA was pumping hundreds of millions of dollars to the mujahadin freedom fighters who were resisting Soviet influence in Afghanistan. However, through a deal with Pakistan, all money had to go through their secret intelligence force the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which was more corrupt than America's CIA. Saudi Arabian money also flowed into Afghanistan from that country's General Intelligence Directorate (GID). The CIA, both through the ISI and secretly behind the ISI's back, trained mujahadin fighters on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border to fight the Soviets. America also supplied the Islamic rebels with numerous weapons and materials. While not dealing with Bin Laden directly (as far as we know), there is little doubt that both the ISI and the GID had relations with Bin Laden (keep in mind that the CIA worked closely with both these agencies). The CIA also backed the anti-Communist Taliban (who had a mutually beneficial relationship with Bin Laden) and also printed Qur'ans for mujahadin fighters in order to stir up Islamic nationalism in the region to fight the Soviets. The CIA was well aware of the anti-American and pro-radical Islamic tendencies of these fighters and rebel groups, but foresight is not a CIA characteristic and the higher ups in the Reagan Administration felt that communism was the bigger enemy. It should come as no surprise to anyone, Michael Mukasey included, that there are strong rebel groups in the Middle East who are well-armed and well-trained who want to hurt America because we are the ones who enabled them. That's like giving an alcoholic a truckload of booze and being shocked when he gets shitfaced.

But in addition to all of this, the nearly 7 year hunt for Bin Laden after 9/11 has proven to be a massive embarrassment for the Bush Administration and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, not to mention the CIA. We had a chance to capture or kill Bin Laden. We essentially had him cornered in Tora Bora in late 2001 and he literally walked right by us. The military thought that the best way to try to capture or kill the most wanted man in the world would be to have General Tommy Franks call the shots - from Tampa, Florida. The military also denied a general's request to commit a large amount of ground troops to the area to capture Bin Laden, something that the Bush Administration has admitted was "the gravest error of the war." Instead of admitting mistakes in our past foreign policies, those in the upper echelons of our government choose to blame Islam, Arabs, and those who oppose unconstitutional "security" measures (who, through this opposition, are labeled as siding with the terrorists).

Of course, when Mukasey says that he is surprised by the geographical diversity of the origins of all of these threats, one may assume that the Middle East is not the only region in the world from which these threats are coming from. A brief look at American foreign policy might yield some answers as to where this country's image is not tip-top. Nicaragua (and subsequently most of the countries in the surrounding area), the Philipines, Bolivia, and the Congo are a few. This government need not blame others for discontent with America in other regions of the world, as the CIA (which was run by our current Secretary of Defense during George H. W. Bush's second term) has done more than enough to piss people off.

In conclusion, it is slightly worrisome that our current Attorney General Michael Mukasey is surprised that there are factions within the world's population that strongly dislike America as a country and as a society. Obviously I'm sure there are groups out there who are batshit crazy and have no legitimate reasons to hate our country. But while there are groups like that, I'm sure that there are more groups who, though their tactics should certainly be reevaluated, have legitimate gripes with America due to foreign policy blunders that this country has made. To ignore American history abroad inevitably leads to grave misunderstanding (one of the reasons that we are still in Iraq). If Mukasey wants a little background information on what's going on in the world today I'll lend him my copy of Coll's book when I'm done with it. Peace.

Photos - Attorney General Michael Mukasey (, Osama bin Laden (, The CIA shield (, CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia (

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