Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Stoned Age

So we have ourselves a new foreign policy kerfuffle, a "contriversy" if you will (and you might). Seems that Good Buddy Numero Uno Pervez Musharraf thinks he got the arm put on him in the wake of 9/11, courtesy of cock-headed State Department toady and recently-admitted Plame fink Richard Armitage. That's awful convenient, doncha think?

Bush met at the White House with Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who assured the U.S. president of his desire to root out the Taliban and other extremists. The visit came amid controversy over Musharraf's claims in a forthcoming memoir that the Bush administration threatened to bomb Pakistan "to the Stone Age" if it failed to cooperate with the United States against al-Qaeda and the Taliban after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

As much as I've written about the perfidious nature of Pakistan's overall behavior in this regard, I actually do believe that Musharraf himself is doing his level best to help us where he can. The problem is that he presides over a fractious, virulently anti-Western citizenry and worse, an army and intel service infested with Muslim extremists.

(And yes, don't think I disregard our own homegrown extremist elements in the military, the General Boykin loons, the wingnuts forcibly converting everyone at the Air Force Academy, etc. It's gotta stop, on both sides. But right now we're talking diplomatic triage, and our kooks at least haven't tried to assassinate their leader for not being responsive enough to their theology. Musharraf has narrowly survived two assassination attempts so far.)

And for the record, I don't think there's anything terribly controversial -- or even wrong -- about strongarming Pakistan to get them on the right side of this. They shouldn't have been enabling the Taliban scum in the first place, and they're goddamned lucky they were given a second chance, because they were up to their eyeballs in this. So frankly, that part of the equation doesn't bother me in the slightest. I would have expected us to lean on them. Thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster that that's all it came to.

White House aides said a chunk of yesterday's hour-long meeting was devoted to Musharraf explaining to Bush the recent pact he reached with Islamic militants in Pakistan's border region. The pact requires foreign militants to leave the tribal area of North Waziristan or take up a peaceable life, and it forbids imposing draconian religious edicts. But it has been greeted skeptically by many human rights activists and regional experts as a concession to Islamic extremists that will be impossible to enforce.

Appearing with Bush at an East Room news conference after their session, Musharraf said he assured the U.S. president that the pact was intended to rein in extremist violence. "There will be no al-Qaeda activity in our tribal [area] or across the border in Afghanistan," Musharraf said. "There will be no Taliban activity. . . . There will be no Talibanization."

Bush said he was satisfied with those assurances. "When the president looks me in the eye and says the tribal deal is intended to reject the Talibanization of the people, and that there won't be a Taliban and won't be al-Qaeda, I believe him," he said.

Oh God, not another "he looked me in the eye and told me he loved me" moment. You'd think he'd have learned about that sort of fruity touchy-feely rhetoric after getting jilted by Pooty-Poot. But let's meet Mister Man halfway -- again, I can give Musharraf the benefit of the doubt and believe that he intends to resolve the issues in the tribal areas, but there are more reasons to doubt his ability to succeed than to mistake good intentions for even a partial success.

Now here's an interesting detail, which is inexplicably not fleshed out, even though it took two (2) professionally trained journamalists to slap this officially-sanctioned meeting recap together.

In the "60 Minutes" interview, Musharraf said that Armitage made the threat to Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, Pakistan's intelligence chief, the day after the Sept. 11 attacks by al-Qaeda. Pakistan was one of only three nations that maintained diplomatic relations with the Taliban government in Afghanistan, and al-Qaeda members were known to move freely in the mountainous border area between the two countries.

As was publicly reported shortly after their meeting, Armitage told Mahmood that Pakistan would have to choose sides between the Taliban and the United States, which wanted it to cut all ties with the Afghans and cooperate with planned retaliation for the attacks. Armitage described it yesterday as "a very straightforward conversation" held in his State Department office. "I told him that for Americans this was black or white, that Pakistan was either with us fully or not. It wasn't a matter of being able to negotiate it."

That's all the article has to say about Mahmood Ahmad's role in all this. It's an unacceptable and glaring omission of Ahmad's activities [link via Rigorous Intuition]. The entire timeline is well-sourced and damning, but here are a couple of choice excerpts:

October 12, 1999: General Musharraf Takes Control of Pakistan; Ousted ISI Leader Has Curious Finances

Gen. Pervez Musharraf becomes leader of Pakistan in a coup. One major reason for the coup is the ISI felt the previous ruler had to go “out of fear that he might buckle to American pressure and reverse Pakistan’s policy [of supporting] the Taliban.” [New York Times, 12/8/2001] Shortly thereafter Musharraf replaces the leader of the ISI, Brig Imtiaz, because of his close ties to the previous leader. Imtiaz is arrested and convicted of “having assets disproportionate to his known sources of income.” It comes out that he was keeping tens of millions of dollars earned from heroin smuggling in a Deutsche Bank account. This is interesting because insider trading just prior to 9/11 will later connect to a branch of Deutsche Bank recently run by “Buzzy” Krongard, now executive director of the CIA. [Financial Times, 8/10/2001] The new director of the ISI is Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, a close ally of Musharraf who is instrumental in the success of the coup. [Guardian, 10/9/2001]

So we have pre-existing fundamentalist ties between the Taliban and the leaders of the coup that installed Musharraf, especially one Mahmood Ahmad, who is practically Patient Zero for this bout of diplomatic Ebola. That seems pretty interesting. If I were a professional journamalist, I would probably want to do some digging and connect some dots, provide even a minimum of background as to what sort of character Ahmad is.

October 7, 2001: ISI Director Replaced at US Urging; Role in Funding 9/11 Plot Is One Explanation

ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed is replaced in the face of US pressure after links are discovered between him, Saeed Sheikh, and the funding of the 9/11 attacks. Mahmood instructed Saeed to transfer $100,000 into hijacker Mohamed Atta’s bank account prior to 9/11. This is according to Indian intelligence, which claims the FBI has privately confirmed the story. [Press Trust of India, 10/8/2001; Times of India, 10/9/2001; India Today, 10/15/2001; Daily Excelsior (Jammu), 10/18/2001] The story is not widely reported in Western countries, though it makes the Wall Street Journal. [Australian, 10/10/2001; Agence France-Presse, 10/10/2001; Wall Street Journal, 10/10/2001] It is reported in Pakistan as well. [Dawn (Karachi), 10/8/2001] The Northern Alliance also repeats the claim in late October. [Federal News Service, 10/31/2001] In Western countries, the usual explanation is that Mahmood is fired for being too close to the Taliban. [London Times, 10/9/2001; Guardian, 10/9/2001] The Times of India reports that Indian intelligence helped the FBI discover the link, and says, “A direct link between the ISI and the WTC attack could have enormous repercussions. The US cannot but suspect whether or not there were other senior Pakistani Army commanders who were in the know of things. Evidence of a larger conspiracy could shake US confidence in Pakistan’s ability to participate in the anti-terrorism coalition.” [Times of India, 10/9/2001] There is evidence some ISI officers may have known of a plan to destroy the WTC as early as July 1999. Two other ISI leaders, Lt. Gen. Mohammed Aziz Khan and Lt. Gen. Muzaffar Usmani, are sidelined on the same day as Mahmood. [Fox News, 10/8/2001] Saeed had been working under Khan. The firings are said to have purged the ISI of its fundamentalists. However, according to one diplomat, “To remove the top two or three doesn’t matter at all. The philosophy remains. ... [The ISI is] a parallel government of its own. If you go through the officer list, almost all of the ISI regulars would say, of the Taliban, ‘They are my boys.’” [New Yorker, 10/29/2001] It is believed Mahmood has been living under virtual house arrest in Pakistan (which would seem to imply more than just a difference of opinion over the Taliban), but no charges have been brought against him, and there is no evidence the US has asked to question him. [Asia Times, 1/5/2002] He also has refused to speak to reporters since being fired [Associated Press, 2/21/2002] , and outside India and Pakistan, the story has only been mentioned infrequently in the media since. [Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 2/24/2002; London Times, 4/21/2002] He will reemerge as a businessman in 2003, but still will not speak to the media (see July 2003).

So, since the Washington Post apparently does not see fit to flesh out exactly who Mahmood Ahmad is and what he represents in this ongoing saga, we vituperative, foul-mouthed bloggers will have to it for them. Again. Can't wait for the next round of stoic midwestern harrumphing from Dean Wormer about the failure of "extremists" on "both sides", and how the "resurgent" "independents" will set things aright. Give me a fucking break.

Oh, and if you're wondering just how poor ol' Mahmood ended up, well, you'll be plenty happy to know that he landed on his feet with a little help from his friends, and a little selective blindness from us.

July 2003: Fired ISI Director Resurfaces as Businessman

Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, who lost his position as ISI Director one month after 9/11 (see October 7, 2001), resurfaces in Pakistan as the head of a subsidiary of a prominent business consortium. The New Yorker notes that it is “a position that require[s] government backing.” Ahmed was considered close to the Taliban, and according to some media accounts, ordered money to hijacker Mohamed Atta. He still apparently has not given any media interviews or been interviewed by US intelligence since his firing. [New Yorker, 7/28/2003]

As they say, oil's well that ends well.

I think it would be interesting if for once, the media did their fucking jobs and made a small effort to inform the American people about the decisions and policies being made in their names with their money. I think Americans would be interested to know the backstory behind Musharraf's not-terribly-outrageous claim, that it was conveyed from a recently-disgraced lackey who has longstanding ties to South Asian intel agencies, through a Pakistani intel director who breakfasted with two of our intel bigwigs at the very moment the World Trade Center towers came crashing down, and who was quietly fired just three weeks later, only to resurface two years later in a euphemistically- titled government sinecure. I think if the American people were informed of those facts as often as they hear about celebrities diddling each other and (gasp!) having children, fergodsake, they might be able to process just how much their own government, and by association the supposedly free press, is withholding from them.

Then again, maybe that's what the media's job really is to begin with, at this point, to conceal, rather than reveal. That explains a lot.


jon said...

"There is evidence some ISI officers may have known of a plan to destroy the WTC as early as July 1999."

isn't this is (untold) story that daniel pearl went looking for?

Heywood J. said...

Yes, and there's long been speculation -- but of course, as it's Pakistan, no substantial proof -- that some of the fundie hardcases in the ISI actually murdered Pearl.