Progressive Politics Research and Commentary by Janette Rainwater

"Terrorism" and Blowback

Part Three: "Terrorism," Blowback and US Foreign Policy during the Clinton Years

January 13, 1992    OIL: Bridas, an Argentinian oil and gas company, is awarded exploration rights in the Yashlar block in eastern Turkmenistan for a 50-50 split of production profits. This energy-rich but landlocked country is happy that a western country is willing to help them capitalize on their new independence from the USSR. [Bridas obtained a lease on the Keimir block in western Turkmenistan the following year, and the company spent US$ 400 million in exploration. Oil was exported from Keimir at the rate of 16,800 barrels a day by 1994, and massive gas reserves were discovered at Yashlar that were more than double the size of Pakistan's gas reserves. On March 16, 1995 Bridas signed an agreement with President Saparmurad Niyazov of Turkmenistan and Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan for a feasibility study of a pipeline through Afghanistan to supply energy-starved Pakistan. (Two years earlier Niyazov and his consultant, former US Secretary of State Alexander Haig, had tried unsuccessfully to soften Washington's prohibition of a much shorter and more practical pipeline route through Iran.) Rashid, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia (2000), pp. 157-162.]

March 1992    General Abdul Rashid Dostum defects from Najibullah's government, taking his Uzbek militia with him to join forces with Hekmatyar's mujaheddin. (Vijay Prashad dates this as the beginning of the Northern Alliance.) "Forward into the Past",

April 1992    The Mujaheddin enter Kabul. A cease-fire is achieved with Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani of the Jamait-i-Islami recognized as the head of the guerrilla coalition and of the country. Prashad, "Forward into the Past". For the first time in 300 years (with one brief exception) the Pashtuns are not the country's rulers. (Rabbani and his commander, Ahmad Shah Massoud, are Tajiks.) The mujaheddin close schools and health clinics. They stop women from working. (Up to this time women constituted 40% of the doctors in Kabul, 70% of the schoolteachers, 60% of Kabul University professors, and 50% of the university students.) Armed groups beat, rape and murder women. Richter, "Revolutionary Afghan Women",

August 1992    The civil war resumes as Hekmatyar and his Hezb-i-Islami fight the Rabbani regime with more civilian casualties. Prashad.

 December 29, 1992    First Blowback in Yemen:  Bombs explode outside the Mohur and Mövenpick hotels in Aden. An Austrian tourist, a hotel worker and several terrorists are killed in the blasts, but no Americans. [The hotels had been chosen as targets with the intent of killing US soldiers who had been staying there on their way to Somalia. (In this same period some Al Qaeda terrorists were apprehended as they were preparing to launch rockets at US planes at the Aden airport; within days the Pentagon eliminated Yemen as a support base for the Somalia operation. Osama gloated about this in his interview with CNN in 1997.)

Several suspects were arrested, but escaped from jail. The army sent a brigade to attempt to arrest the plot's leader, Tariq al-Fadhli, but his mountain fortress proved to be impregnable. Tariq was a sheik from one of the most prominent families of South Yemen whose properties and prosperous cotton business were confiscated when the Marxists came to power in 1967. Raised thereafter in Saudi Arabia, he went to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets, returning to Yemen with funds from bin Laden and instructions to overthrow the socialist government of South Yemen. During the civil war of 1994 he fought on the side of the victorious President Salih, had the family properties restored to him, and was given a seat on the consultative council of the new national unification government. His lieutenant in the bombings, another Afghan Arab, was Jamal al-Nahdi who is today a prosperous businessman and a high official in the country's ruling party. Bergen, Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden (2001), pp. 172-174; Reeve, The New Jackals, p. 182;;; Brian Whitaker, "Hostage to fortune and Yemeni guns," Guardian (UK), December 30, 1998.]

January 17, 1993    The Al Rashid Hotel in Baghdad, Iraq is struck by a missile as a conference of Islamic fundamentalist leaders from around the world is taking place. The Pentagon apologizes for the attack, saying it was an accident. [When the World Trade Center in New York was bombed a month later, a CIA analyst speculated that this could be an act of revenge for the Al Rashid attack and that the Vista Hotel (adjacent to the twin towers and heavily damaged in the bombing) could have been the real target. Simon Reeve, The New Jackals:Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden, and the Future of Terrorism (1999), p. 20.]

February 26, 1993    Blowback in USA: On this second anniversary of the encirclement and destruction of the Iraqi army, a Ryder rental van containing a sophisticated segmented bomb (nitroglycerine, urea pellets, sulphuric acid, bottled hydrogen, magnesium and aluminum compounds and possibly sodium cyanide) explodes in the sub-basement of the World Trade Center in New York City. Six people are killed and more than a thousand injured. [Fortunately the bomb was detonated at 12:17 PM--- lunchtime--- so many workers had left the building. It still took five hours to evacuate the buildings, and hundreds of firefighters battled for two hours to extinguish the flames. The building was severely damaged, but, as an FBI explosives expert said, "It was a miracle it wasn't destroyed…. If they had found the exact Achilles' heel, or if the bomb had been a little bigger, not much more, 500 pounds more, I think it would have brought her down." Ramzi Yousef had designed the bomb to topple the north tower into its southern twin, causing it also to fall. He anticipated there could be as many as 250,000 fatalities. Only lack of money prevented him from building the bigger bomb that he wanted. (The cost of his bomb was $3000; it caused damage of half a billion dollars. Bergen, p. 104.)

Initially the perpetrators were thought to be Serbian terrorists. Then an ATF inspector located the rubble of the van and on one fragment could read its VIN [vehicle identification number]. The van's renter, Mohammed Salameh, a not very bright 24-year-old Palestinian, was arrested on March 4th when he returned to the agency to collect the deposit on the van which Yousef had reported as stolen. (Salameh worshipped at the same El Salaam Mosque in Jersey City as El Sayyid Nosair where the blind sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman preached his inflammatory sermons.) Information gleaned from Salameh's pockets, his residence, and the storage facility where the bomb had been prepared led to the arrests of Ahmad Ajaj, Palestinian chemist Nidal Ayyad and Mahmud Abouhalima. (The latter was extradited from Egypt where he had been viciously tortured because of his connections with militants who were attacking Egyptian installations.) Their trial began in September and on May 24, 1994 the four were convicted of conspiracy to commit terrorism and sentenced to 240 years in prison and sent to the top-security US penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

Missing from the courtroom were Abdul Yasin who had fled to Iraq and the plot's mastermind, Ramzi Yousef, who became the object of an intensive two-year manhunt until his capture in Islamabad. He was convicted on September 11, 1996 for bombings committed in Asia during the manhunt. In 1997 a second trial found him guilty for the World Trade Center attack. He currently resides in "Supermax", the Florence Correctional Institute in Colorado, where he enjoys the highest level security status in the entire American prison system and an occasional hour's recreation with Unabomber Ted Kaczynski.Yousef's terrorist motivations were not those of a militant Muslim fundamentalist, according to Reeve, who describes him as an "evil genius." He seems to have been a playboy, a sadist and someone with a mammoth ego (which proved to be his undoing, as he could have hidden out in the tribal areas of Pakistan undiscovered by the authorities.) Reeve alleges that individuals within Pakistan's ISI may have provided him with the documents that enabled him to enter the United States. Reeve, The New Jackals, pp. 6-70,101-106,112-154, 239-243, 253; Village Voice, March 30, 1993; National Post, March 4, 1994.]

Early in their investigation the FBI had gone to Yasin's apartment in the same building in Jersey City as Yousef and taken him in for questioning. Since he seemed to be cooperating (and showed them the location of the apartment where the chemicals had been mixed), they let him go despite a chemical burn on his leg that suggested he could have been more than a nosy neighbor. Yasin then hopped onto a plane for Iraq. He was picked up by the Iraqi police a year later and has been held without a charge placed against him. On "60 Minutes" Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz told Leslie Stahl that Iraq has twice offered to deliver him to the United States, but only upon written receipt that Iraq had given him up… "like a receipt for a FedEx package" but that the US had rejected the offer. Aziz said Iraq was fearful that the FBI had let Yasin go free in 1993 to set up a sting operation to implicate Iraq in the WTC attack. Their second offer (in October 2001) further required a statement that the US acknowledge that Yasin had been incarcerated in Iraq on September 11th. In Yasin's prison interview with Leslie Stahl he said Iraq was not involved in the 1993 attack, admitted his guilt in helping mix chemicals and in scouting possible bomb sites (including Hasidic-populated Crown Heights in Brooklyn) and expressed remorse. He has been on the FBI "most Wanted" list with a $25 million reward offered. CBS, Sixty Minutes, "The Man Who Got Away", June 3, 2002; New York Times-Reuters, "Report: Iraq Offered to Hand Over Terror Suspect", June 2, 2002.

March 1993    In the Islamabad Accord Rabbani continues as president of Afghanistan; Hekmatyar will be prime minister. [However, the terror continued with Hekmatyar shifting allegiance between Dostum / Ahmed Shah Massoud and Rabbani. In the background was a growing coalition of mullahs and students from madrassas (religious schools) who were deeply appalled by the massive violence of the warring mujaheddin factions and their departure from the original religious purity of the jihad against the Russians. They became known as the Taliban (plural for talib, or student of Islam). Their leader was Mullah Mohammed Omar, described by Rashid as "a poor village mullah with no scholarly learning and no tribal pedigree," who had been chosen for his especial piety rather than any leadership ability.

By the time the civil war ended, 45,000 civilians had been killed and 300,000 had sought refuge in Pakistan. So that initially the Taliban, when they entered Kabul in September 1996, were welcomed with relief by a devastated citizenry. Prashad; Rashid, pp. 19-26, 42, 199.]

March 12-19, 1993    Blowback in India: A series of bombings in Calcutta and Bombay kill over 300 people and injure more than 1200. Targets include the Bombay Stock Exchange, Air India offices and other financial symbols selected to avenge the earlier destruction of the Babri mosque at Ayodhya by Hindu extremists. [The perpetrators were Kashmiri fundamentalist Muslims who had fought in the Russo-Afghan war, using weapons diverted from the CIA-ISI pipeline. Many had been trained at the Afghani Zawar camp by Hekmatyar (who also was instrumental in smuggling the weapons into Kashmir.) The bombings were supported by the ISI and the bin Laden organization in what was described during the 1994 trial as a "proxy war, terrorism sponsored by a neighboring hostile country." Cooley, pp. 228-23. Ahmed Rashid notes that India came close to persuading the United States to declare Pakistan a "state sponsor of terrorism" for these and previous terrorist acts of the Kashmiri mujaheddin. Pakistan's response was to move their bases out of Pakistan and into eastern Afghanistan. The Jahalabad mullahs and the Taliban were reimbursed for the support and training of the militants; private Islamic parties such as Osama bin Laden were encouraged to contribute. Support of the Taliban was a big policy shift for Pakistan whose relations with the power structure in Kabul had been semi-hostile in earlier times. Relations had been severed in 1955 and again in 1962 over Afghanistan's push for a "Greater Pashtunistan." Rashid, p. 186. ]

June 23, 1993    Terrorist Plot Aborted:  The FBI surrounds a warehouse in Jamaica, Queens and arrests twelve men who are mixing chemicals for bombs to be used in a simultaneous bombing of seven New York City landmarks. The men belong to a terrorist cell headed by Sudanese Siddig Ibrahim Siddig Ali; all are worshippers at the mosque of Sheikh Omar. [The FBI had been tipped off by their informant, Emad Salem, a former lieutenant in the Egyptian army who had unsuccessfully attempted to warn the FBI of Yousef's forthcoming attack on the World Trade Center. Slated for destruction were the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, the George Washington bridge, the UN building (with some help from the Sudanese delegation), the Statue of Liberty, the huge government building at 26 Federal Plaza, and the diamond district, workplace of many Hasidic Jews. On July 2nd Sheikh Omar was arrested following political pressure on Attorney General Janet Reno. 

In the 1999 trial Siddig Ali pleaded guilty to all charges (including a plot to assassinate Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak), testified against the others, and so received a sentence of only eleven years. The others were sentenced to life imprisonment. (Sheikh Omar was already incarcerated for his October, 1995 conviction in the World Trade Center bombing. For that he had been sentenced in January, 1996 to life imprisonment without parole.) Reeve, The New Jackals, pp. 61-62; CNN News, January 17, 1996;]

Late July, 1993    Ramzi Yousef is injured when the detonator of a bomb that he is attempting to place opposite Benazir Bhutto's home explodes. [Yousef was by this time quite famous and much in demand in certain circles for his superior bomb-making skills, and thus had been commissioned to assassinate the secular candidate for Prime Minister of Pakistan before the October elections. A second attempt, this time with a rifle, also failed. Reeve, pp. 50-54.]

October 3, 1993    American Deaths in Somalia:  In the largest single firefight involving US troops since the Vietnam War, a gun battle between US "peacekeepers" and the forces of indicted General Muhammad Farah Aydid leaves 18 US soldiers and around 500 Somalis dead. A US helicopter pilot is captured alive.  [There had been near-constant civil war in Somalia ever since independence from Britain and Italy in 1960. In 1991 drought and famine escalated the death toll with thousands dying every month. Food was sent by international food airlifts and then by ships to the four ports. In December 1992 President Bush offered to send in US ground troops (ultimately 28,000) ostensibly to protect the food shipments and the relief workers, an offer that was accepted by UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. Colin Powell, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called the invasion a "paid political advertisement" for the Pentagon. (At this time, right after the end of the Cold War, the Pentagon was resisting pressure to cut the $300 billion Pentagon budget in favor of expenditures for jobs, education, health care, etc.) The humanitarian food deliveries soon turned into bombing raids of heavily populated neighborhoods. Africa Rights described UNOSCOM as "an army of occupation" and reported that troops "have engaged in abuses of human rights, including killing of civilians, physical abuse, theft. Many UNOSCOM soldiers have also displayed unacceptable levels of racism toward Somalis." In June 1993 General Aydid's troops ambushed a group of UN Pakistani soldiers, killing 24. The UN ordered the arrest of General Aydid, and the "peace keeping" morphed into guerrilla warfare between US-UN soldiers and the general. Soon after this humiliating defeat President Clinton withdrew all American troops from Somalia. Osama bin Laden would later claim credit for having trained and inspired the guerrillas.; Rakiya Omaar and Alex de Waal, Somalia: human rights abuses by United Nations forces (1993).]

March 10, 1994    Silvan Becker and his wife, two German secret agents who are surveilling terrorists in North Africa for the counter-espionage Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, are assassinated near Surt, Libya. [Although the Libyan government immediately suspected Bin Laden, it was not until March 1998 that Libya filed a warrant for the arrest of Osama bin Laden and three accomplices. Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquié, Ben Laden: La vérité interdite (2002), pp. 137-138.]

April 7, 1994    King Fahd of Saudi Arabia announces that Osama bin Laden has been deprived of his Saudi citizenship for behavior that "contradicts the Kingdom's interests and risks harming its relations with fraternal countries."  [Pressure had been put on the king by Egyptian President Mubarak, Yemen and Interpol. Also about this time bin Laden was supposedly disowned by his extensive and influential family in Saudi Arabia. Bergen, p. 89; Cooley, Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism, p. 123. The Saudi government also froze his assets within the country. However, it is clear that he continued to receive funds from his share of the vast family fortune. He seems to have had some temporary cash-flow problems in the 1994-1998 period, but after the East Africa bombings and the sympathy engendered by Clinton's retaliatory strike, funds for financing his terrorist ventures were no longer a problem. In 1999 Khalid bin Mahfouz was placed under house arrest in Saudi Arabia for allegedly transferring funds from the family's bank to charities that front for bin Laden. Bergen, Holy War, Inc., pp. 101-104.]

October 12, 1994    The Pakistani transport and smuggling mafia essentially hire the Taliban to wrest control of the crucial border town of Spin Baldak from Hekmatyar and his bandits who are charging exorbitant tolls. The Taliban are successful, losing only one soldier out of the 200-man contingent. Part of their booty is a large munitions depot containing 18,000 Kalashnikovs and several vehicles. Rashid, pp. 27-28.

November 4, 1994    The Taliban emerge as a significant military and political force after they rescue a Pakistani convoy that has been captured by warlords in the Kandahar area who are demanding a large ransom, a share of the convoy's profits, and Pakistan's pledge to stop support of the Taliban.  [With the loss of only a dozen men the Taliban routed the warlords, hanged the commander from the barrel of his tank and proceeded on to capture Kandahar, Afghanistan's second largest city. Then they cleared the chains from all the toll roads, making it safe for Pakistani commerce and smuggling.

By December, 1994 ten thousand Afghani and Pakistani Pashtuns who had been studying in madrassas rushed to Kandahar to join the Taliban. The majority were very young, between 14 and 24. As described by Ahmed Rashid, they were the displaced youth of the war who had grown up in refugee camps with their only education being that of the madrassa where they studied the Koran "as interpreted by their barely literate teachers [who had no] formal grounding in maths, science, history or geography. Many of these young warriors did not even know the history of their own country or the story of the jihad against the Soviets.... They had no memories of their tribes, their elders, their neighbours nor the complex ethnic mix of peoples that often made up their villages and their homeland.... They were literally the orphans of the war, the rootless and the restless, the jobless and the economically deprived with little self-knowledge. They admired war because it was the only occupation they could possibly adapt to. Their simple belief in messianic, puritan Islam which had been drummed into them by simple village mullahs was the only prop they could hold on to and which gave their lives some meaning. Untrained for anything, even the traditional occupations of their forefathers such as farming, herding or the making of handicrafts, they were what Karl Marx would have termed Afghanistan's lumpen proletariat." Rashid, pp. 28-29, 31-32.]

December 11, 1994    The Bojinka Plot, Phase One: Two hours after Philippines Air Lines Flight # 34 leaves Cebu City in the Philippines en route to Tokyo a small bomb explodes under seat 26K. The unfortunate occupant of the seat is killed instantly, and six other passengers are wounded. The blast blows a small hole in the floor and damages the cables that control the flaps. The Captain dumps fuel and only through consummate skill manages to turn the plane and effect an emergency landing in Okinawa. [The previous occupant of seat 26K on the Manila-Cebu segment had been Ramzi Yousef. He had smuggled two nine-volt batteries hidden in his shoes (and thus below the reach of the airport metal detectors) onto the plane, then in the wash room assembled the tiny bomb of liquid nitroglycerine with a Casio watch for a timer, secreted the finished product in the life vest beneath his seat, and left the plane in Cebu to return to Manila. He telephoned the AP in Manila, giving the Abu Sayyaf group the credit for the explosion. The Japanese investigators released the details of their findings to the US Federal Aviation Administration which sent out a high-level security alert to all US airliners operating in Asia. Yousef had been progressively refining the architecture of his miniature bombs and, with financing provided by Osama bin Laden, had spent several weeks on Basilan island, teaching his bomb-making skills to members of Abu Sayyaf. Reeve, The New Jackals, pp. 74-81.]

December 24, 1994    Four terrorists from the Armed Islamic group of Algeria (GIA) hijack an Air France Airbus in Algiers bound for Paris. Before the plane lands at Marseilles for refueling, they kill three passengers. None of the hijackers knows how to fly a plane; instead they hold a gun at the pilot's head and issue orders. They plan to crash the plane into the Eiffel Tower. However at the refueling stop, French counter-terrorist forces storm the plane and kill all the hijackers. [Shortly thereafter the GIA killed four Catholic priests in Algeria to retaliate for the deaths of the hijackers. Algeria, more than any other country, has suffered from blowback from the "Afghan Arabs" who were trained in Afghanistan and converted to the Taliban version of Islam. It is estimated that 100,000 civilians have died 1991-2001 in the efforts of GIA and its offshoots to change Algeria into a fundamentalist Muslim country. "Defending Islam. Denouncing Muslim Extremists," International Review Summer, 1995; "Algeria valuable in hunt for terrorists," Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, November 18, 2001.]

January 6, 1995    The Bojinka Plot, Phase Two: Ramzi Yousef's grandiose plans come to a flaming halt when the chemicals that he and Abdul Hakim Murad are mixing in Yousef's Manila apartment catch fire and they are forced to leave the apartment. Murad is arrested when he returns to recover Yousef's laptop and manuals. Yousef escapes capture (but only for a month.) [The laptop revealed details of a massive and ingenious terrorist scheme that Yousef had named the Bojinka Plot: Five code-named terrorists (Yousef, Murad and three others) would board the first segments of flights going in different directions, leaving bombs to explode on the second segment, then board a second flight, leaving a second bomb for another explosion. In all eleven flights on American-owned airlines were scheduled to explode about the same time over the Pacific Ocean en route to San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Honolulu and Los Angeles. (One man, probably Yousef, would have to do a triple.) His plan would insure that the American airline industry would be severely damaged and there would be many American passengers among the estimated 4000 fatalities.

A second plan allowed for two of the airplanes to crash into important buildings in the United States, including the World Trade Center in New York, The Sears Tower in Chicago, the Transamerica Building in San Francisco, and the White House and the Pentagon in Washington. (Murad admitted that members of the group had taken flying lessons in the Philippines in preparation for Bojinka. The investigators also found plans for the aborted assassination of President Clinton (commissioned by bin Laden for the president's visit to the Philippines the previous November), electronic and chemical reference books stolen from the Swansea (UK) library, and diagrams for the construction of his miniature bombs. There were maps of the Pope's route during his forthcoming visit to Manila, priests' robes and Bibles in preparation for an attempt to assassinate the Pope. And Yousef, despite all his careful planning, had left a partial fingerprint. Now the man hunt for him went into high gear with a reward offered of $2 million and Yousef's picture featured in Newsweek. Reeve, The New Jackals, pp. 76-78, 84-96; World Tribune, September 19, 2001.

The Filipino police shared all of this information with the FBI including details of Murad attending flying schools in four American states and his great desire to dive-bomb a hijacked plane into CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. He got a commercial pilot's license in North Carolina. "Clues Before Sept. 11 Were Plentiful," Associated Press, New York Times, May 16, 2002.]

February 7, 1995    Thanks to the cooperation of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Ramzi Yousef is captured in Islamabad, Pakistan by a team of FBI special agents and Pakistani Special Forces. [He had been betrayed by Ishtiaque Parker, a young South African Muslim student whom he had dragooned into helping him purchase supplies and make trial runs on airplane flights. Parker was given the $2 million plus sanctuary in the United States for himself and his family. The New Jackals, pp. 97-107.]

October 21, 1995    OIL: Bridas officials are stunned when they witness Turkmenistan's President Niyazov sign an agreement with Unocal and its partner, Delta Oil Company (owned by Saudi Arabia) to build a pipeline through Afghanistan, thus essentially abrogating Turkmenistan's earlier contract with Bridas. [Also present at the New York meeting was Henry Kissinger, a consultant for Unocal and another former Secretary of State. Unocal had become interested when Bridas offered the company a share in the pipeline consortium. Niyazov saw Unocal as a wedge for involving the United States in his country's development (and as an old Soviet apparachnik he had no compunctions about breaking contracts.) The US saw the Afghanistan route as a way to prevent Turkmenistan from becoming dependent on Iran and also to bar Iran from access to the potentially valuable Southeast Asia energy market.

In the Spring of 1996 the United States pressured Prime Minister Bhutto to change her allegiance from Bridas to Unocal. Her failure to comply was "one of the factors" in her downfall, according to the Herald of Pakistan. The gas price finalized by Pakistan and Unocal under Bhutto's successor, Nawaz Sharif, was ridiculously low, so low as to prohibit competition. However, the Taliban was not included in the negotiation. The transit fee of fifteen cents per cubic meter was not acceptable to them and they continued to favor the Argentinians. Bridas, although banned by Turkmenistan from exporting oil from its leases, continued with plans for the pipeline and concluded an exclusive agreement with the Rabbani government.

Bridas sued Unocal in federal court for US$ 15 billion in damages and began international arbitration against Turkmenistan for breach of contract. The Texas district court dismissed the case in 1998, saying the dispute should be adjudicated by Turkmenistan and Afghanistan rather than the US. The International Court of Arbitration in Paris awarded Bridas US$47 million. In December, 1998, following the US bombardment of Afghanistan and the anti-Taliban campaign of the Feminist Majority that was directed against Unocal, the company withdrew from the pipeline consortium. Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal: "How can women be safe anywhere if some governments can carry out gender apartheid with impunity?" Rashid, pp. 160-180; Herald (Pakistan), June, 1997.]

November 13, 1995:    Blowback against USA in Saudi Arabia: A joint US-Saudi military facility in Riyadh is blown up by a truck bomb, killing three US civilians and two soldiers and injuring 60 others including civilian passersby. [The Saudis arrested and beheaded four Saudi men before they could be interrogated by the Americans. Three of the men had fought with the mujaheddin in Afghanistan; all four admired and supported Osama bin Laden. Rashid and Reeve believe the government acted so swiftly to avert knowledge of bin Laden's involvement and his links to important Saudis. Shortly thereafter, the Saudis gave Osama bin Laden a warning: four Yemeni mercenaries opened fire with their AK-47s on his house in Khartoum. Bin Laden was not touched, but two of his guards and three of the mercenaries were killed in the gunfight.] Cooley, p. 220; Rashid, pp. 183-184; Reeve, pp. 184-185; Bergen, p. 87.

January, 1996    A special "bin Laden task force" is established within the CIA's Counterterrorist Center. This includes personnel from operations, intelligence and science/technology directorates. [They investigated his links with other militants and interfaced with counterterrorist colleagues in Britain, Germany, Israel, Italy and France. In their analysis of the sources of his funding, they concluded that "large sums were still flowing into bin Laden's accounts from businessmen and senior politicians in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar." Reeve, pp. 184-185.].

May, 1996    Osama bin Laden, his wives and about 150 supporters leave Khartoum and fly to Jalalabad, Afghanistan on a chartered C-130 plane. [Following a second unsuccesful attempt on his life Saudi officials flew to Sudan to threaten Sudanese President Hassan al-Turabi if he continued to harbor Osama bin Laden. The Saudis were joined by the US and Egypt. Turabi was unwilling to give up Osama even though Sudan had handed over Carlos the Jackal to the French two years before. Instead, Turabi asked bin Laden to leave. It took awhile for CIA analysts to realize what a mistake they had made, as Afghanistan would offer a much more impregnable base of operations. (The Shah of Iran had made a similar mistake when he pressured Iraq to expel Ayatollah Khomeini in October, 1978; France gave the cleric a much better base for preaching his sermons and distributing his audiotapes.) Rashid, pp. 185-187; William Shawcross, The Shah's Last Ride, p. 116.]

May 12, 1996    On "60 Minutes" Leslie Stahl discusses the sanctions against Iraq with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Stahl asks, "We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. Is the price worth it?" Albright replies, "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price— we think the price is worth it." Most Americans are unaware of this quote (or if they watched the program, have forgotten it.) But you can bet your bottom dollar that every Muslim in the Middle East over the age of 15, literate or not, has heard it. And that it was used in the bin Laden-Taliban recruitment pitch.

June 25, 1996    Further Blowback against USA in Saudi Arabia: A 5000-pound truck bomb explodes at the Khobar Towers, a housing complex for the US military in Dhahran, destroying the entire front of the building, killing 19 American servicemen and wounding about 400.The blast was so powerful that it was felt twenty miles away in Bahrain. [Telephone calls were intercepted by the NSA from Ayman al-Zawahiri and others congratulating Osama bin Laden, who later expressed his feelings in a 1997 interview with Hamid Mir: "Only Americans were killed in the explosions. No Saudi suffered any injury. When I got the news about these blasts, I was very happy….I would like to say to the Saudi people that they should adopt every tactic to throw the Americans out of Saudi territory." (He was angry that the Saudis had admitted American troops to the country during the Gulf War and incensed that they still remained there, despite promises made to him to the contrary.) The Saudis blamed the attack on Iran or Iranian-financed Shi'ites from the eastern part of Arabia. (Bergen writes that their arrest of six hundred Afghan Arabs suggests that they suspected bin Laden was responsible.) On June 21, 2001--- just before the expiration date for indictments on attempted murder and conspiracy charges--- the US indicted fourteen members of Hezbollah (thirteen Saudis and one Lebanese) for the Khobar bombing. No Iranian officials were named in the indictment, although the indictment indicated that "elements of the [then] Iranian government inspired, supported and supervised members of Saudi Hezbollah." FBI Director Louis Freeh refused to say how many suspects were in custody or in what country. One suspect, Hani Sayegh, the Saudi suspected of blinking his car lights for the "all clear" signal to the bomb truck, was in US custody for two years, 1997-1999, before being sent to Saudi Arabia where he has been held incommunicado. Amnesty International has protested his treatment, fearing he will be tortured and beheaded after an unfair trial. Bergen, p. 88;;

As with the previous attack, the FBI was not allowed to interview any of the suspects, thus escalating the suspicon about Saudi support for Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden..The US changed the air base for the flights to Iraq from Dhahran to the more distant desert base of al-Kharj. A few weeks later the FBI and Mary Jo White, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York initiated the grand jury investigation of bin Laden which would led to his indictment for international terrorism. Reeve, p. 187; Cooley, pp. 220, 224.]

September 26, 1996    Final Victory for the Taliban: The Taliban, supported by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, enter Kabul a few hours after the army chief, Ahmad Shah Massoud, gives orders for a withdrawal from the city. [The Clinton administration had quietly favored the Taliban over the Rabbani regime because the Taliban were virulently anti-Iran and therefore more likely to cooperate in an oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea that would bypass Iran. Within hours of Kabul's capture the US Department of State announced that that it would establish diplomatic relations with the new Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, a statement that was quickly retracted. State Department spokesman Glyn Davis said, however, that the US found "nothing objectionable" in the Taliban's imposition of Islamic law--- they were just "anti-modern" and not "anti-western." A Unocal executive told the wire services that the pipeline project would be easier to implement with the Taliban in power.] Rashid, pp. 44-49, 166.

September 27, 1996    In one of the first acts of the victorious Taliban, ex-president Najibullah and his aides are dragged from the UN compound where they have had asylum for four years. Najibullah and his brother are tortured, publicly executed, and left hanging in front of the palace for over a day to the horror of the world.  [Under the Taliban there is "peace," but at what a price. Women are even more restricted, required to wear an all-covering burqa, forbidden to work, and isolated in their homes. Only three countries recognize the regime— Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.]

September 28, 1997     Emma Bonino, the European Community Commissioner for humanitarian affairs, arrives in Afghanistan accompanied by journalists and officials of NGOs. During their visit they are arrested and held at gun point for four hours for having taken photographs of female health workers. [Although the Taliban foreign minister later apologized for this "incident," the press reports and Bonino's statement on the miserable state of women, education and public liberties caused the final revulsion of the world against the new regime in Kabul. The Taliban's opposition, however, was winning few supporters: ten thousand people had been killed in the May to August offensive against Mazar-e-Sharif led by General Rashid Dostum and there had been numerous reports of torture. Brisard et Dasquié, pp. 50-51; Agence France-Presse, September 29, 1997;]

November 17, 1997:    Blowback in Egypt: A tourist bus unloads passengers— Swiss, Japanese, British, German, etc.— in front of the temple to Queen Hatshepsut on the banks of the Nile River in Luxor, Upper Egypt. Six black-clothed members of the major Egyptian Islamic group, al-Gama'a al-Islamiya, shoot the two policemen taking tickets and then proceed to an hour-long slaughter of the tourists, spraying them with bullets, then stabbing them with knives and daggers. They shoot tourists who are attempting to flee through the bazaars, corner others who are hiding behind columns, and rake a bus of arriving tourists with automatic gunfire before running to the hills where they are tracked down and killed. They leave behind them 58 dead and 17 wounded. [Their leader was Medhat Muhamad Abdel Rahman who had been trained in the Afghan guerrilla camps. The Independent's Robert Fisk remarked that details of the massacre were reminiscent of the throat-cutting and disemboweling that took place in the Afghan war and were unlike tactics previously used in Egyptian uprisings by the more moderate Muslim Brotherhood. In the previous two years the Islamic Group had bombed cinemas and killed many policemen and at least 150 unarmed civilians, including tourists. They were demanding an Egyptian return to Sharia (Islamic law), outlawed by Nasser in 1952, and the release of blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman from his prison cell in Missouri. They hoped to achieve their goals by the destruction of tourism, Egypt's #1 industry worth $3 billion a year. Cooley, pp. 183-185.]

February 1998    Osama bin Laden meets with senior fundamental Muslim leaders from Egypt, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Arab North Africa. They set up an "Islamic Struggle Front" dedicated to fighting "the Jews" (meaning Israel and its friends and allies.) They issue a fatwa declaring it to be legitimate to kill any American, military or civilian. Cooley, p. 224.

March 16, 1998    First Arrest Warrant for Osama bin Laden:  Libya issues an international arrest warrant for Osama bin Laden and three accomplices, accusing them of the murder of two German nationals and the possession of illegal firearms. [The warrant was not issued internationally by Interpol until April 15th and then with date and description of the crimes omitted. Brisard and Dasquié speculate that this warrant was virtually ignored thanks to the hostility of Great Britain and MI6 toward Muammar Qaddafi for his overthrow (September 1, 1969) of the government of their protegé, King Idriss, and the subsequent nationalization of the properties of British Petroleum. Some failed attempts to overthrow Qaddafi (with some close associates of Bin Laden!) left MI6 with considerable egg on the face. Brisard and Dasquié , pp. 135-143; Stephen Dorril, MI6 (2000), pp. 735-738; Irish Times, November 19, 2001.]

May 28, 1998    ABC interviews Osama bin Laden in "Talking with Terror's Banker." Bin Laden calls for the murder of all Jews and all Americans, wherever they may be. Americans, he says, are the biggest thieves and worst terrorists in the world. He vows to destroy the Saudi family and drive them from the "land of the two holy places" in retaliation for their desecration of the land by admitting the American military into the country and allowing them the use of bases from which to bomb other Muslims. He praises and halfway admits responsibility for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and the uprising against the American forces in Somalia in 1993-1994. Cooley, p. 116.

May 26, 1998    Osama bin Laden holds a press conference in Afghanistan in which he announces that there will be "good news in the coming weeks." [In an interview on ABC News two days later he predicted a "black day for America." He called for the deaths of all Americans: "We do not differentiate between those dressed in military uniforms and civilians: they are all targets." On June 12 the State Department issued a warning: "We take those threats seriously and the United States is increasing security at many U.S. government facilities in the Middle East and Asia." No mention of Africa, although Ambassador Prudence Bushnell had twice warned the State Department of the extreme vulnerability of her Nairobi embassy to terrorism and to crime, thanks to its location at a busy downtown intersection with no setback from the street. Bergen, Holy War, Inc., pp. 105-107, 109.]

May 30, 1998    An earthquake registering 6.9 on the Richter scale devastates an area of northern Afghanistan near the border with Tajikistan. Over 4000 are killed and many thousands more injured and made homeless. An earlier 6.1 quake in the same area (February 4) had killed 2500, injured nearly a thousand and left over 8000 homeless. This only adds to the misery of the two decades of warfare and the year-old drought.

End of July, 1998   The Taliban force the non-governmental organizations to leave Afghanistan. Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquié, Ben Laden: La vérité interdite, p. 54.

August 7, 1998    Blowback in East Africa--- Operation Holy Kaaba and Operation al-Aqsa:  Truck bombs are exploded almost simultaneously at the American embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. The timing is considerately set for 10:30 to 11 AM, a time when observant Muslims would be in their mosques praying and off the streets. [In Nairobi 247 people died, in Dar-es-Salaam, 20. Over 5000 people were severely wounded; some were blinded, some suffered severed arms or legs. With the synchronicity of the suicide bombings, the Osama bin Laden network was immediately suspected. And indeed the plan had been organized by Mohammed Sadeek Odeh, a Palestinian from Jordan who had been installed in Mombasa, Kenya as a "sleeper" since 1994 and whose prosperous fishing business had been financed by Al Qaeda. One of the Nairobi suicide bombers, Mohamed Rashed Daoud al-'Owhali escaped the blast, but his injuries enabled hospital doctors to identify him. His subsequent confession led to the arrest of 18 others, including men who were supposed to carry out even more devastating bombings in Kampala, Uganda at the same time. (Al-'Owhali also told US investigators that bin Laden's next operation would be an American warship in Yemen. Bergen, p. 183.) Odeh was arrested in the Karachi airport by an alert immigration official; he subsequently confessed details about the operations and was deported to the United States to stand trial. The master mind of the operation, Haroun Fazil from the Comoros islands, remains at large. (He is described as being fluent in Swahili, Arabic, French and English and "very good" with computers.) Fazil, Odeh and the other senior members of the plots all left Africa before the actual explosions. Of the five men indicted for the Tanzania bombing, only Khalfan Khamis Mohamed is in US custody. Bergen, Holy War, Inc., pp. 105-114; Reeve, The New Jackals, pp. 198-201; Cooley, pp. 7, 215-216.]

August 8, 1998:    Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing: Hundreds of civilians are among those killed when Taliban forces capture the city of Mazar-e-Sharif in northwestern Afghanistan, the only major city still controlled by the Northern Alliance. [In the days that followed there were house-to-house searches for men and boys who were Hazaras, Tajiks or Uzbeks. Amnesty International estimated that at least 8000 civilians were summarily executed either as they were being taken from their homes or while in transport to the jail. Many women and girls were raped and abducted. The Hazaras were especially singled out, as they are Shi'ites and considered infidels by the super-orthodox Sunni Taliban. Ten officials at the Iranian embassy and an Iranian jounalist were also slain. "The Massacre in Mazar-i Sharif," Human Rights Report, Vol. 10, No. 7, November 1998; Amnesty International, September 3, 1998; Brisard and Dasquié, p. 55.  Historical Note: There was no "tut-tut" forthcoming from the US government on these atrocities of the Taliban, yet the US would go to war against Serbia a year later for far less grievous acts alleged against their Kosovar citizens.

August 20, 1998:    Retribution in Afghanistan and Sudan: In "Operation Infinite Reach" President Bill Clinton orders as many as 75 Tomahawk missiles fired from US Navy ships onto three of Osama bin Laden's training camps located near Khost and Jalalabad, Afghanistan. (One of the "smart" missiles lands in Pakistan!) He also orders the demolition of Al-Shifa in Khartoum, Sudan's major pharmaceutical factory, on the mistaken assumption that the plant is owned by bin Laden and is manufacturing nerve gas. [When pressed, the administration cannot offer credible evidence that the factory was indeed making chemicals for biological warfare. And the government was surprised that the Islamic world would demand proof of bin Laden's culpability for the 9-11-2001 attacks?  In this period Clinton was under fire for his affair with Monica Lewinsky and skeptics believed these bombings were as much for "Wag the Dog" as for retribution against bin Laden. Osama was not killed in the operation. He had been warned just hours before the strike, allegedly by someone within the Pakistani ISI, that the CIA was tracking him by his phone calls, so he went incommunicado and was hundreds of miles to the north when the missiles hit. (Also the evacuation of American personnel from Kabul and Pakistan in the days preceding tipped him off.) Later he was heard to broadcast on the radio, "By the grace of Allah, I am still alive." Twenty or so men (of five different nationalities) died. The complex was flattened, but was rebuilt within two weeks. The next day Mullah Omar, the spiritual and political head of the Taliban, condemned the attacks and announced that he was giving kind and friendly refuge to Osama (héberge avec bienveillance).There were two important unintended consequences of these strikes:

  • Two or three of the missiles failed to explode. At least one was sold to China for to be reverse-engineered.
  • Osama bin Laden, previously a relatively unknown personality, became a hero of mythical proportions throughout the Muslim world.
    Bergen, Holy War, Inc., pp. 117-126; Reeve, The New Jackals, pp. 201-203; Brisard and Dasquié, p. 55.]

September 20-21, 1998    Ahmad Shah Massoud's United Front forces fire a series of rockets into the northern part of Kabul, killing over 100 people. One hits a crowded night market. The International Committee of the Red Cross calls the attacks "indiscriminate"; Massoud denies targeting civilians. Human Rights Watch, October 2001.

February 1, 1999    Under Secretary of State Strobe Talbott meets with several representatives of the Taliban in Islamabad, Pakistan. He brings proofs of bin Laden's complicity in the East African embassy attacks and an official demand for his extradition to the United States. After this, he hints, the US may recognize the Taliban government. Brisard and Dasquié, pp. 57-58.

July 19, 1999    The first meeting of the UN-sponsored "6 + 2" meetings convenes in Tashkent, Uzbekistan to discuss the future of Afghanistan. [This had been arranged by Lakhdar Brahimi after considerable visits to heads of state worldwide. The six neighbors of Afghanistan---Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tadjikistan, China, and Pakistan--- sent representatives; Russia and the United States were the other two countries. Taliban representatives were there as observers; the month before the FBI had placed Osama bin Laden on its "ten most wanted" criminals list. Brisard and Dasquié, pp. 58-60.]

October 5, 1999    Pakistani General Khawaja Ziauldine meets with Mullah Omar to ask for the extradition of Osama bin Laden and finds that Omar is "ready to cooperate." [This effort from Pakistan was the result of the July 4th meeting in Washington of President Clinton with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in which Clinton arranged for a delay of several weeks in the removal of the Pakistani military from Kashmir who were advising the Islamist groups there. Brisard and Dasquié, pp. 60-61.]

October 12, 1999    The government of Prime Minister Sharif is overthrown by a military coup in response to Sharif's order to the ISI on the 7th to close all the fundamentalist Muslim training camps in Pakistan, especially those in the frontier tribal zone close to the border with Afghanistan. The new head of state is General Pervez Musharaf. Brisard and Dasquié, p. 61.

October 15, 1999    The UN Security Council votes Resolution # 1267 enjoining the Taliban to extradite bin Laden and "foreseeing" very heavy sanctions in case of non-compliance. Brisard and Dasquié, p. 62.

December 14, 1999    Millennium Bomb Plot Aborted: An alert Customs agent at the Canada-US ferry crossing in Port Angeles, Washington arrests Algerian Ahmed Ressam when his rental car is found to be loaded with explosives. [Ressam was part of a GIA-Al Qaeda operation that was planning to blow up the Los Angeles airport during peak holiday traffic at New Years. Two of his accomplices were quickly arrested in Montreal and New York City, Mokhtar Haouari and Abdelghani Meskini. A third, Abdelmajid Doumane, escaped to Algeria. In April, 2001 Ahmed Ressam was convicted in US District Court in Los Angeles on nine counts which could entail a maximum of 130 years in prison. Hoping for a sentence reduced to possibly 27 years, Ressam turned state's evidence and testified against Haouari whom he had recruited into the plot after other conspirators had failed to enter the United States. He was due to be sentenced on September 14, 2001, but after 9-11 his sentencing was postponed several times (currently it is for March 13, 2003) in hopes of gaining further cooperation from him--- knowledge of the Al Qaeda network and testimony at further trials, possibly those of Richard Reid and Zacarias Moussaoui. Definitely at the trial of Dr. Haydar Abu Doha, one of the principal leaders of GIA (and the man who was Ressam's mentor.) Doha is alleged to have met with Osama bin Laden in December 1998 to discuss coordination between their two groups. Algeria has been a major battlefield for the returned Afghan Arabs. Since the government cancelled the 1992 election which the fundamentalists were predicted to win, more than 65,000 civilians have died in terrorist attacks led by different groups of which GIA (Armed Islamic Group) is probably the most radical. PBS Frontline, "Ahmed Ressam's Millenium Plot;" Cnews, March 22, 2002; Los Angles Times, August 29, 2001; "Y2K bomber still talking, sentence delayed,", April 1, 2002; Reeve, The New Jackals, pp. 3-4.

January, 2000    Al Qaeda Summit Meeting in Malaysia: A dozen of the top leaders of Al Qaeda, posing as tourists, meet at a condominium in suburban Kuala Lumpur presumably to discuss strategy and make future plans. [The CIA learned of the meeting in December and secured the cooperation of the Malaysian Special Branch to track and photograph the terrorists who went sightseeing and visited cybercafes. Two of the suspects, Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar (later alleged to have been among the hijackers of the flight that hit the Pentagon), were known to have entered the United States soon after the meeting. Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman, "The Hijackers We let Escape," Newsweek, June 10, 2002.]

January 20, 2000    Karl Inderfurth, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Asia, journeys to Islamabad where he meets with the new Prime Minister Musharaf, Taliban Minister of Information Amir Khan Muttaqi and Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan, Saeed Mohammed Muttaqi, to discuss the extradition of Osama bin Laden and the normalization of relations between the international community and the Taliban government. [Two days earlier UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, had named a new person responsible for Taliban affairs, Fransesc Vendrell, with the title of Special Representative of the Secretary General for Afghanistan, in the expectation of increased activity for the "6+ 2" group. The White House in this same period disbursed $114 million for humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. Brisard and Dasquié, pp. 63-64.]

September 24, 2000   Iraq Will No Longer Accept Dollars for Oil, Only Euros is the announcement to the world after a routine cabinet meeting with president Saddam Hussein. This is a response to the "daily American-Zionist aggression," meaning the US insistence on the continuation of the UN sanctions against Iraq. [Iraq profited financially from this payment change in the oil-for-food program as the euro appeciated by 30%; however, in Washington angry oil men and pro-Israeli hawks started calling for a "regime change" in Iraq.]

September 27, 2000    An aide for the Taliban Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdur Rahmin Zahid, meets with representatives of the State Department at the Middle East Institute in Washington. He confides that the religious authorities have created a special commission to investigate Osama bin Laden's responsibility for the embassy bombing; he is optimistic about his eventual extradition. [In this same period counter-terrorism chief Michael Sheehan met with a Taliban delegate, Abdul Hakim Mudjahid. A month later, on October 18th, Under Secretary of State Thomas Pickering acknowledged the work of the "6 + 2" group and also the continuing negotiations with the Taliban. On November 2nd Fransesc Vendrell was able to announce to his superiors that the Taliban and the Northern Alliance were working on a peace plan under the aegis of the "6 + 2" group. People were confident that a coalition government with "moderate" Taliban was truly possible and that bin Laden would be extradited and Afghanistan stabilized. But---- after the débacle of the American election, the diplomatic climate changed mysteriously. No more negotiations, no further discussions under the guidance of the "6 + 2" group. "En moins d'un mois, l'équilibre diplomatique entre les taliban et les Occidentaux s'est rompu….pour on ne sait quelle raison." Brisard and Dasquié, pp. 65-68.]

September 28, 2000    Provocation in Jerusalem: Ariel Sharon, the leader of Israel's right-wing Likud party, visits the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, the third most holy place in Islam. He is accompanied by several Knesset members and an escort of 1000 to "demonstrate Israel's sovereignty" over the compound. [Tensions were further raised when Prime Minister Ehud Barak sent a large police delegation to the area the following day, a Friday. As the worshipers left the mosque, there were immediate confrontations that killed 7 Palestinians and wounded over 200. This was the start of what has been called the "Al-Aqsa intifada" which has been much bloodier, with many car and suicide bombings, than the stone-throwing intifada of the late '80s. But far more than the insult to their holy site inflamed the Palestinians for this intifada.

According to the prestigious Ha'aretz, "Israel has security and administrative control" of most of the West Bank and 20% of the Gaza Strip. It has been able "to double the number of settlers in 10 years, to enlarge the settlements, to continue its discriminatory policy of cutting back water quotas for three million Palestinians, to prevent Palestinian development in most of the area of the West Bank, and to seal an entire nation into restricted areas, imprisoned in a network of bypass roads meant for Jews only. During these days of strict internal restriction of movement in the West Bank, one can see how carefully each road was planned: So that 200,000 Jews have freedom of movement, about three million Palestinians are locked into their Bantustans until they submit to Israeli demands. The bloodbath that has been going on for three weeks is the natural outcome of seven years of lying and deception (the Declaration of Principles of September, 1993), just as the first Intifada was the natural outcome of direct Israeli occupation." Ha'aretz, October 18, 2000.

A week after the inception of the intifada, the US agreed to supply Israel with 35 Blackhawk helicopters and spare parts for a cost of $525 million. (This, of course, was peanuts compared to the $81 billion to $90 billion total US aid to Israel whom Charley Reese calls "the most expensive 'ally' in the history of the human race." Swomley, Facts for Action # 264, October 2001.)  Noam Chomsky, "Al-Aqsa Intifada", ]

October 12, 2000    Further Blowback in Yemen: Sailors aboard the USS Cole, in the magnificent harbor of Aden for a brief refueling stop, return the waves of the occupants of the small fishing boat minutes before it pulls alongside and explodes, its load of C-4 blasting a 40 x 60 foot hole in the reinforced steel hull of the Cole. [Seventeen sailors were killed, thirty-nine were wounded, and the damage inflicted would cost the Pentagon $240 million. The contract with Yemen for refueling privileges had been signed in December, 1998 a few months after the warning from al-'Owhali that Osama bin Laden was planning to bomb a warship in Yemen. Peter Bergen indicates that there were two reasons--- the Navy didn't have enough oilers and so needed a port and the State Department hoped to woo Yemen, an ally of Iraq, into its "war against terrorism." The mastermind for the plot was a bin Laden deputy, Mohammed Omar al-Harzi who, like the intellectual authors of previous terrorist plots, fled the vicinity before the actual event. The Yemeni authorities were only minimally more cooperative with the FBI than the Saudis had been, much to the frustration of FBI agents such as John O'Neill. Yemen arrested six or so men who were directly involved with the Cole attack, but understandably refused the FBI's request to investigate and interview certain members of the government and an army general related to President Salih. According to a Yemeni newspaper, "It was clear from the start that the accessories to the attack would be tried and executed, but the people inside Yemen who financed it, and used their power to facilitate it, would never be brought to book." Bergen, Holy War, Inc., pp. 167-169, 184-193.]

December 12, 2000    Addressing the Judiciary Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives, Michael Sheehan denounces the Taliban, accusing them of supporting terrorism and calling on the international community to apply new sanctions against Kabul. [On the 19th the UN Security Council obliged with a reinforcement of economic sanctions against Afghanistan and a freeze on part of their financial assets. Brisard and Dasquié, p. 68.]

December 20, 2000    Plan Completed to "Roll Back" al-Qaeda Counter-terrorism chief, Richard Clarke presents his finished plan to roll back al-Qaeda, the suspected and all-but-proven perpetrators of the deadly attack on the USS Cole. [The plan called for the freezing of al-Qaeda assets, a systematic attack on its sources of funding, and the closing of all fake "charities" that were sending money to the Islamic fighters. There would be a "dramatic increase" in covert action in Afghanistan to "eliminate the sanctuary" where al-Qaeda training camps operated with the blessing of the Taliban, and special-ops forces sent on specific search-and-destroy missions targeting bin Laden. The Tajik leader of the Northern Alliance, Ahmed Shah Massoud, would be given the resources for which he had been pleading in Washington and European capitals to offer a strong resistance to the Taliban (and thus keep al-Qaeda fighters engaged who might otherwise leave Afghanistan to do mischief elsewhere.) The improved Predator drone, which had made a real-time identification of bin Laden in September, would be sent back aloft after repairs were finished from an October accident. The two submarines in the north Arabian Sea would remain on station (as they had been for all of 2000) ready to attack with missiles should bin Laden's coordinates become known. Al-Qaeda cells elsewhere would be broken up and their members arrested.

The plan was ready to go, but not put into action because of the transition to a new administration. However, Richard Clarke fully detailed the plan during a series of ten briefings that Sandy Berger, the outgoing National Security Advisor, held with Condoleeza Rice and other national security officials of the incoming Bush administration during the first week of January, 2001. Berger told Rice, "I believe the Bush administration will spend more time on terrorism generally, and on al-Qaeda specifically, than any other subject."

The plan would languish while various committees examined it, priority was given to Bush's national missile defense system, and turf warfare ensued over whether or not Predator (still on the ground) should be armed or not and what department should pay for it, despite the anxiety in June and July 2001 about the possibility of a major terrorist attack. Richard Clarke kept pushing his plan, despite increasing ridicule. According to one counter-terrorism official, he cried "wolf" and he had been in the job too long. (Since the first Bush administration, actually.) "The guy was reading way too many fiction novels. He turned into a Chicken Little. The sky was always falling for Dick Clarke. We had our strings jerked by him so many times, he was simply not taken seriously." However the plan finally put on Bush's desk on September 6, 2001 bore a striking resemblance to the original, as did the actions taken after 9-11. The Bush people, however, would deny that the administration had ever been handed a formal plan for an attack on al-Qaeda and National Security Advisor Rice claims never to have met with Berger at any of the briefings.] Michael Elliott, "Could 9/11 Have Been Prevented?" Time, August 4, 2002,

Last updated January 15, 2003.


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