US ‘Deep State’ Sold Out Counter-Terrorism to Keep Itself in Business
Since 2001, senior Pentagon and CIA officials have sacrificed American interests in weakening al-Qaeda to pursue their own interests
Yemenis gather around a burnt car after it was targeted by a drone strike, killing three suspected al-Qaeda militants on 26 January 2015 between the Marib and Chabwa provinces, a desert area east of Sanaa. The drone strike saw an unmanned aircraft, which only the United States operates in the region, fire four missiles at a vehicle killing the three suspected militants, a day after Washington vowed to continue its campaign against the jihadist group, despite the Arabian Peninsula country’s ongoing political crisis (Photo: AFP)
New York Times columnist Tom Friedman outraged many readers when he wrote an opinion piece on 12 April calling on President Trump to “back off fighting territorial ISIS in Syria”. The reason he gave for that recommendation was not that US wars in the Middle East are inevitably self-defeating and endless, but that it would reduce the “pressure on Assad, Iran, Russia and Hezbollah”.
That suggestion that the US sell out its interest in counter-terrorism in the Middle East to gain some advantage in power competition with its adversaries was rightly attacked as cynical.
But, in fact, the national security bureaucracies of the US – which many have come to call the “Deep State” – have been selling out their interests in counter-terrorism in order to pursue various adventures in the region ever since George W Bush declared a “Global War on Terrorism” in late 2001.
The whole war on terrorism has been, in effect, a bait-and-switch operation from the beginning. The idea that US military operations were somehow going to make America safer after the 9/11 attacks was the bait. What has actually happened ever since then, however, is that senior officials at the Pentagon and the CIA have been sacrificing the interest of American people in weakening al-Qaeda in order to pursue their own institutional interests.
‘The only game in town’
It all began, of course, with the invasion of Iraq. Counter-terrorism specialists in the US government knew perfectly well that US regime change in Iraq through military force would give a powerful boost to Osama bin Laden’s organisation and to anti-American terrorism generally. Rand Beers, then senior director for counter-terrorism on the National Security Council staff, told his predecessor Richard Clarke in late 2002, “Do you know how much it will strengthen al-Qaeda and groups like that if we occupy Iraq?”
After it quickly became clear that the US war in Iraq was already motivating young men across the Middle East to wage jihad against the US in Iraq, the chief architect of the occupation of Iraq, Paul Wolfowitz, came up with the patently false rationalisation that Iraq would be a “flytrap” for jihadists.
But in January 2005, after a year of research, the CIA issued a major intelligence assessment warning that the war was breeding more al-Qaeda extremist militants from all over the Middle East and even giving them combat experience that they would eventually be able to use back home. In a 2006 National Intelligence Estimate, the intelligence community warned that the number of people identifying themselves as jihadists was growing and was becoming more widespread geographically and even the predicted growing terrorist threats from “self-radicalized cells” both in the US and abroad.
The war managers continued to claim that their wars were making Americans safer. CIA director Michael Hayden not only sought to sell the flypaper argument on Iraq, but also bragged to the Washington Post in 2008 that the CIA was making great progress against al-Qaeda, based mainly on its burgeoning drone war in Pakistan.
But Hayden and the CIA had a huge bureaucratic interest in that war. He had lobbied Bush in 2007 to loosen restraints on drone strikes in Pakistan and let the CIA launch lethal attacks on the mere suspicion that a group of males were al-Qaeda.
It soon became clear that it wasn’t really weakening the al-Qaeda in the northwest Pakistan at all. Even drone operators themselves began privately criticising the drone attacks for making many more young Pakistanis hate the United States and support al-Qaeda. The only thing Leon Panetta, Hayden’s successor as CIA director, could say in defence of the programme was that it was “the only game in town”.
Barack Obama wanted out of a big war in Iraq. But CENTCOM Commander Gen David Petraeus and Joint Staff director Gen Stanley A McChyrstal talked Obama into approving a whole new series of covert wars using CIA drone strikes and special operations commando raids against al-Qaeda and other jihadist organisations in a dozen countries in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia. At the top of their list of covert wars was Yemen, where al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) had just been formed.
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Source: US ‘Deep State’ Sold Out Counter-Terrorism to Keep Itself in Business | By Gareth Porter | Common Dreams