PARIS — On Sept., 20, 2001, shortly after 15 Saudi Arabian nationals and four other Middle Eastern terrorists had committed their now-infamous acts of mass murder on U.S. soil, then-President George W. Bush announced the beginning of the War on Terror. At the time, Bush said of the Taliban in Afghanistan harboring 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden: “Give the United States full access to terrorist training camps, so we can make sure they are no longer operating. These demands are not open to negotiation or discussion.”
Fast-forward nearly 20 years. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted last weekend: “Met with coalition partners following the signing of our agreement with the Taliban, which brings us all closer to our goal of peace in Afghanistan.”
Are you confused about when and why the U.S. started negotiating with the Taliban — the group previously used as a pretext for nearly two decades of U.S. military engagement in Afghanistan? The answers to why the U.S. started the war in Afghanistan and why it now appears to be ending that war can only be understood in political terms. If the war was really about national security, the U.S. would have bombed its beloved ally, Saudi Arabia, instead. The Saudis were directly responsible for Osama bin Laden, nearly all of the 9/11 terrorists and an extremist ideology wreaking havoc all over the world.
The war in Afghanistan was really just an opening salvo for something else — a gateway to a larger strategy. Retired four-star U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark, the former commander of NATO allied operations, said in a 2007 speech at the Commonwealth Club of California that the U.S. reaction to 9/11 was a “a policy coup” in which “some hard-nosed people took over the direction of American policy, and they never bothered to inform the rest of us.”
Clark said that in the wake of 9/11, an officer from the Pentagon conveyed to him the contents of a memo from then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s office that indicated the U.S. was “going to attack and destroy the governments in seven countries in five years.” Those countries, Clark said, were Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.
According to Clark, since at least 1991, certain neoconservative war hawks have considered those countries client nations of Russia. Clark said there was a rush to bring them under U.S. control.
Afghanistan was always just a strategic gateway that could be opened or closed on a whim without any threat to the U.S. homeland. The Taliban were never officially classified as terrorists by the U.S. government. Signing a deal with them — whether or not violence continues in Afghanistan — is a pretext to finally bring home U.S. troops and declare a political victory.
The U.S. has proclaimed that it’s agreed to a “peace deal” with the Taliban. It can now leave the Afghan government, which wasn’t invited to the negotiating table, to duke it out with the Taliban. The U.S. could have achieved exactly the same result 20 years ago by never invading Afghanistan in the first place — or by bailing out a lot earlier.
Another nation Clark mentioned as a Russian-allied target of U.S.-backed regime change is Syria. A few days ago, Pompeo expressed support for Turkey, the NATO ally currently doing America’s bidding in Syria. “We send our condolences to Turkey for the deaths of their soldiers in Idlib,” Pompeo tweeted.
But what are Turkish soldiers doing in Idlib? They aren’t performing humanitarian acts or protecting Syrian civilians. They’re protecting jihadists who are trying to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — a goal articulated to me last week by former Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis.
Yakis didn’t mince words: “Turkey’s position has changed since the start of the crisis. At first, Turkey did not intend to fight on Syrian soil against Syrian soldiers, but Turkey has committed itself a little too much in Idlib and to protect the Salafist fighters. Now, Turkey does not want to drop them and keeps protecting them.”
And who would replace Assad? According to Yakis, it would be some of the more “moderate” members of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group recently considered for designation as a terrorist group by the U.S. Congress and already considered as such by Russia.
U.S. intervention under humanitarian or security pretext, followed by sponsorship of jihadist fighters, followed by replacement of the country’s leadership by someone more sympathetic to the U.S. — it’s a replay of what happened in Libya, yet another country on Gen. Clark’s list.
Take another look at that list. Commit it to memory. And the next time someone in charge beats the drums of war for any reason — particularly terrorism or humanitarianism — consider the possibility that they’re trying to manipulate you.
Rachel Marsden is a columnist, political strategist and host of an independently produced French-language program that airs on Sputnik France. Her website can be found at www.rachelmarsden.com.
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