Saturday, December 31, 2011

Troops withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan!

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Over 560 ISAF troops die in Afghan war in 2011
Agence France-Presse
31 December 2011
KABUL — Foreign troops fighting in Afghanistan continue to pay a high toll, with more than 560 killed in 2011, the second highest number in the 10-year war against the Taliban-led insurgency.
Commanders from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) say violence is declining following the U.S. military surge which saw an extra 33,000 troops on the ground.
But the UN says violence is up, while recent mass casualty strikes by the Taliban on civilians and coalition troops have fuelled analyst predictions that more bloodshed is likely as NATO hands control for security to Afghan forces.
The death toll of coalition service personnel in 2011 was 565 and includes 417 from the U.S. and 45 from Britain, according to an AFP tally based on figures from independent website icasualties.org.
The number is down from a wartime high of 711 in 2010 after the start of the surge but up from 521 in 2009.
The fatality count has been worsened by several devastating attacks, including the car bombing of an ISAF convoy in Kabul in October which killed 17, and the shooting down of a helicopter in Wardak, south of the capital, in August in which 30 U.S. troops perished.
But it is Afghan civilians who have paid the highest price.
The deadliest attack saw at least 80 people killed in a shrine bombing in Kabul on the Shiite holy day of Ashura in early December.
The surge troops — ordered in by U.S. President Barack Obama two years ago to turn the tide in the war — have now begun to pull out, with 10,000 already gone and the rest leaving by next autumn.
Other foreign forces are also scaling down their missions ahead of a 2014 deadline for the withdrawal of all NATO combat forces. And one Western military official said some units have already been told not to carry out offensive operations.
Since the U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban from power in 2001, a total of 2,846 foreign troops have died in the conflict.
"We've seen a considerable reduction in enemy attacks (this year). That's a result of successes on the battle field and a reduction of their capability to attack us," said ISAF spokesman Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson.
While fewer ISAF troops on the ground in the coming years may mean fewer coalition deaths, the civilian toll will not necessarily fall.
The UN said the number of civilians killed in violence in Afghanistan rose by 15 per cent in the first six months of this year to 1,462. A full-year report is due out in mid-January.
Insurgents are blamed for 80 per cent of the deaths, which are mostly caused by homemade bombs or IEDs.
NATO, which says enemy attacks are down eight per cent, only includes "executed attacks" and not IED finds or instances where the Taliban intimidate local people.
Haroun Mir, an analyst at Afghanistan's Centre for Research and Policy Studies, said that while the Taliban were no longer engaging ISAF troops head-on, factions within the insurgency were intent on targeting civilians.
"The Taliban are deliberately targeting civilians to spread fear among the people. They want to show that despite the surge they are still active, that they have the capacity to disrupt life, especially in the cities," he said.
The international community is looking for a political solution to the war and moves have been made to establish a Taliban office, possibly in Qatar, to enable peace talks.
But Mir said although some members of the Taliban would be willing to negotiate, others, such as those based over the border in Pakistan, are likely to become increasingly isolated and unleash more violence.
"We expect more terrorist attacks and more political assassinations during the phase of transition. These radical groups will do everything possible, especially after 2014, to weaken the government," he said.
As security is handed over the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), which now number more than 300,000, can also expect to take on more casualties.
Since March 21, the beginning of the Afghan year, 1,400 police, 520 soldiers and 4,275 insurgents have been killed in the conflict, according to Afghan government figures.
However, there is some optimism that the reduction in the foreign presence may in itself lead to a fall in violence.
"The hope is that as foreign troops hand security to Afghan forces fewer local people will become radicalised," said Fabrizio Foschini of the Afghanistan Analysts Network.
"And the insurgents won't kill as many civilians collaterally by using highly destructive tactics to target foreigners," he said.
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Obama is Turning US Victories Into Defeat
By Dr. Laurie Roth
December 30, 2011
NewsWithViews.com
http://www.newswithviews.com/Roth/laurie304.htm
Obama has yanked our soldiers back out of Iran and Afghanistan, manipulating whatever ‘kiss up’ factor he can gain from the progressive left. Obama’s concerned leftists have been mad at him this whole time because he hasn’t stopped the war and brought our troops home. So, at the right, politically expedient, ‘Saul Alinsky’ moment, Obama yanked them home and in doing so has turned our sure victories into certain defeats, while ignoring General after General and simple common sense. Shame on him.
Now, we hear, thanks to www.france24.com, now that our troops are gone out of Iraq that top figures are warning of a push for dictatorship and civil war. Just like with Obama’s betrayal of Egypt, while Muslim Brotherhood swooped in and long time alley, Hosni Mubarak was thrown out, now radicals circle their wagons around Iraq. After all, America is gone….just as Obama would have it.
Another disaster looming, among coming disasters in Afghanistan is the pathetic lack of leadership regarding their first big oil contract. CNN money states that China got the deal, offering the best offer, giving Afghanistan 85% of the profit and giving China 15%. Also in the bidding were Britain, Australia and the US. How in God’s green earth did the US not win this bid and do an oil deal with Afghanistan when we have spent hundreds of billions to free them and rebuild their country??? What incredible lack of leadership in the Obama regime would dare to allow such a thing and not make sure the US offered the best deal and won? It is as if, sabotage reigns to destroy any political, economic and military advantage with us and Afghanistan after hundreds of billions have been spent to fight Islamic terror there, free the people and help them rebuild.
Obama continues to do whatever he can to promote radical Islamic leadership change throughout the Middle East. Obama is pressing Congress to release the remaining 147 million from the previous budget cycle, in which US aid to the Palestinians was to be $545.7 million. According to the AP lawmakers are pushing for Palestinian bid for UN membership and have now freed up 20% of 187 million for that goal.
Lets see what we have as 2012 approaches
Obama has long ago given Islamic radical and terrorist group HAMAS over 900 million dollars.
Never mind that the 40 million dollars is aiding a dangerous scheme by the left and Palestinians to force their way in as a voting member of the UN and be ‘deemed’ a country. Damn that this boldly increases the danger to Israel and that the ability for Palestine to attack Israel and get away with it from an international viewpoint. Bottom line….Damn Israel.
We have already been enlightened by Obama during Arab Spring when Obama and Hillary immediately betrayed long time alley Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and rallied behind Islamic terrorist group Muslim Brotherhood. It is as if Obama wanted radical Islamics to control Egypt and bring more danger to Israel, the West and Middle East.
All over the Middle East Obama has backed Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamic groups who continue to threaten, attack and murder Jews, Christians and anyone of difference.
Why would a REAL President of the US want to give Islamic radicals, like Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood, Palestinian leadership or any other name they hide behind, any support or money until they first show bold and verified signs to the US, UN and world that they will stop their threats and attacks on Israel, people of difference and the world? This will never happen with Obama at the helm because I believe he is aiding international Muslim and global elite take over.
A real President who loves America and freedom would harshly rebuke Islam and Sharia law until they stop the sound bites and really show American and the UN reforms. Perhaps the Saudis could start by changing their high school textbooks found for 10th graders that show in graphic detail how to cut off the hands and feet of a thief. While they are at it perhaps Islam. Through out their 57 countries can stop the part of Sharia law that allows beatings of wives, executions of gays, those who change faiths, cutting off limbs of thieves, stoning of rape victims without 4 witnesses and other violent brutality.
There is no middle ground. Islam must work our way or take the highway to hell and get out of our face! Join me and speak your mind at: www.rothrevolution.ning.com and listen in on my show at: www.therothshow.com.
Dr. Laurie Roth earned a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. In the late 90's, Laurie hosted and produced a successful PBS television show called "CD Highway" that aired nationally on 130 TV stations.
Tune in to The Roth Show, Weeknights from 7:00 to 10:00 pm PAC and find out for yourself! You can listen live on cable radio network (live on the internet) channel 6 or visit The Roth Show web site and click on "where to listen" www.therothshow.com Call the Roth Show at: 1-866-388-9093
E-Mail: Drljroth@aol.com
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Last US troops leave Iraq as war ends
By Rebecca Santana
AP
Sun, Dec 18, 2011
KHABARI CROSSING, Kuwait (AP) — The last U.S. soldiers rolled out of Iraq across the border into neighboring Kuwait at daybreak Sunday, whooping, fist bumping and hugging each other in a burst of joy and relief. Their convoy's exit marked the end of a bitterly divisive war that raged for nearly nine years and left Iraq shattered, with troubling questions lingering over whether the Arab nation will remain a steadfast U.S. ally.
The mission cost nearly 4,500 American and well more than 100,000 Iraqi lives and $800 billion from the U.S. Treasury. The question of whether it was worth it all is yet unanswered.
The last convoy of MRAPs, heavily armored personnel carriers, made a largely uneventful journey out except for a few equipment malfunctions along the way. It was dark and little was visible through the MRAP windows as they cruised through the southern Iraqi desert.
When the convoy crossed into Kuwait around 7:45 a.m. local time, the atmosphere was subdued inside one of the vehicles, with no shouting or yelling. Along the road, a small group of Iraqi soldiers waved to the departing American troops.
"My heart goes out to the Iraqis," said Warrant Officer John Jewell, acknowledging the challenges ahead. "The innocent always pay the bill."
Soldiers standing just inside the crossing on the Kuwaiti side of the border waved and snapped photos as the final trucks crossed over. Soldiers slid shut the gate behind the final truck.
"I'm pretty excited," said Sgt. Ashley Vorhees. "I'm out of Iraq. It's all smooth sailing from here."
The war that began in a blaze of aerial bombardment meant to shock and awe the dictator Saddam Hussein and his loyalists ended quietly and with minimal fanfare.
U.S. officials acknowledged the cost in blood and dollars was high, but tried to paint a picture of victory — for both the troops and the Iraqi people now freed of a dictator and on a path to democracy. But gnawing questions remain: Will Iraqis be able to forge their new government amid the still stubborn sectarian clashes. And will Iraq be able to defend itself and remain independent in a region fraught with turmoil and still steeped in insurgent threats.
Many Iraqis, however, are nervous and uncertain about the future. Their relief at the end of Saddam, who was hanged on the last day of 2006, was tempered by a long and vicious war that was launched to find nonexistent weapons of mass destruction and nearly plunged the nation into full-scale sectarian civil war.
Some criticized the Americans for leaving behind a destroyed country with thousands of widows and orphans, a people deeply divided along sectarian lines and without rebuilding the devastated infrastructure.
Some Iraqis celebrated the exit of what they called American occupiers, neither invited nor welcome in a proud country.
Others said that while grateful for U.S. help ousting Saddam, the war went on too long. A majority of Americans would agree, according to opinion polls.
The low-key exit stood in sharp contrast to the high octane start of the war, which began before dawn on March 20, 2003, with an airstrike in southern Baghdad where Saddam was believed to be hiding. U.S. and allied ground forces then stormed across the featureless Kuwaiti desert, accompanied by reporters, photographers and television crews embedded with the troops.
The final few thousand U.S. troops left Iraq in orderly caravans and tightly scheduled flights. They pulled out at night in hopes it would be more secure and got out in time for at least some of the troops to join families at home for the Christmas holidays.
"The biggest thing about going home is just that it's home," Staff Sgt. Daniel Gaumer, 37, from Ft. Hood, Texas said before the convoy left. "It's civilization as I know it, the Western world, not sand and dust and the occasional rain here and there. It's home."
Spc. Jesse Jones, a 23-year-old who volunteered to be on the last convoy, said: "It's just an honor to be able to serve your country and say that you helped close out the war in Iraq. ... Not a lot of people can say that they did huge things like that that will probably be in the history books."
The final troops completed the massive logistical challenge of shuttering hundreds of bases and combat outposts, and methodically moving more than 50,000 U.S. troops and their equipment out of Iraq over the last year — while still conducting training, security assistance and counterterrorism battles.
As of Thursday, there were two U.S. bases and less than 4,000 U.S. troops in Iraq — a dramatic drop from the roughly 500 military installations and as many as 170,000 troops during the surge ordered by President George W. Bush in 2007, when violence and raging sectarianism gripped the country. All U.S. troops were slated to be out of Iraq by the end of the year, but officials are likely to meet that goal a bit before then.
The total U.S. departure is a bit earlier than initially planned, and military leaders worry that it is a bit premature for the still maturing Iraqi security forces, who face continuing struggles to develop the logistics, air operations, surveillance and intelligence-sharing capabilities they will need in what has long been a difficult region.
Despite President Barack Obama's earlier contention that all American troops would be home for Christmas, at least 4,000 forces will remain in Kuwait for some months. The troops will be able to help finalize the move out of Iraq, but could also be used as a quick reaction force if needed.
Obama stopped short of calling the U.S. effort in Iraq a victory in an interview taped Thursday with ABC News' Barbara Walters.
"I would describe our troops as having succeeded in the mission of giving to the Iraqis their country in a way that gives them a chance for a successful future," Obama said.
The Iraq Body Count website says more than 100,000 Iraqis have been killed since the U.S. invasion. The vast majority were civilians.
The U.S. plans to keep a robust diplomatic presence in Iraq, foster a deep and lasting relationship with the nation and maintain a strong military force in the region.
U.S. officials were unable to reach an agreement with the Iraqis on legal issues and troop immunity that would have allowed a small training and counterterrorism force to remain. U.S. defense officials said they expect there will be no movement on that issue until sometime next year.
Obama met in Washington with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki last week, vowing to remain committed to Iraq as the two countries struggle to define their new relationship. Ending the war was an early goal of the Obama administration, and Thursday's ceremony will allow the president to fulfill a crucial campaign promise during a politically opportune time. The 2012 presidential race is roiling and Republicans are in a ferocious battle to determine who will face off against Obama in the election.
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Drones and Assassinations: Our Ghost War in Afghanistan Is Not Real War
Once our soldiers leave the theater, all that will remain is a clinical and codified policy of assassination writ large
D.B. Grady
Oct 21 2011
On Wednesday, the New York Times reported that Pakistani officials, eyeing President Obama's spurious timeline for withdrawal from Afghanistan, are "watching as the war, in their view, goes badly and are waiting for their share of the Afghan spoils." The report added that Pakistan's generals and spymasters "appear to have little incentive to bargain away their demands or to modify their side of the ledger," confident that the president lacks the political will to see the war through. In December, U.S. forces will begin withdrawing from Afghanistan. Those combat troops deployed as part of the surge will come home in September 2012. If there is a strategic military reason for that particular date, David Petraeus is unaware of it. David Axelrod might have a keener insight on the matter.
Last month, Stanley McChrystal told the Council on Foreign Relations that we're just over the 50 percent mark in Afghanistan. The retired general noted that where we're providing security, "The change has been stunning. The ability to move crops around, the ability to apply governance and whatnot, has been good." But that requires boots on the ground and men with rifles. Where the Coalition footprint is light, meanwhile, the Taliban "campaign of assassination is terrifying to people, because it makes everyone feel under threat." During his recent confirmation hearings to take the helm at CIA, General Petraeus called the president's withdrawal plan "a more aggressive formulation, if you will, in terms of the timeline than what we had recommended." In Petraeus-speak, this was the equivalent of banging his shoe on the table.
Ten years ago, who would have thought that victory in Afghanistan meant luring the Taliban to the bargaining table? And who would have been surprised when the Taliban then assassinated our proxy negotiator? (There's no need to reach back ten years; in 2010, the Taliban said point blank that they intended to kill members of the High Peace Council.) With the military security option all but exhausted (and thus unavailable to support the remarkable work of civil affairs teams), and diplomacy a hopeless endeavor, the United States and Afghanistan can now look forward to an eternity of Predator drones primed with Hellfire missiles.
It would be hard to improve on essays by Jane Mayer and Conor Friedersdorf on the immorality of drone warfare. But drone warfare is what we're left with. Sherman famously said, "There's many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory but it is all hell." Small communities know that hell and reel when their sons become men, become infantrymen, and never return from third world wastelands. Military spouses know that hell when chaplains in Class A uniforms knock at the door, hats in hand. Combat veterans know that hell better than anyone. And collectively -- oftentimes tragically -- the results of war inform our culture and serve as society's most effective moderating influence. There are many good reasons to go to war, but when we don't, it's often because we know how terrible a thing it is.
Humanity can be found and understood in the best and worst of war. But drones change the equation. It's the worst kind of war, a frightening new enterprise that we've embraced, celebrate, and laugh about. But there's something dishonorable about it. It's the aerial equivalent of roadside IEDs. It's the only kind of war America seems willing to fight anymore, and that is what we're leaving behind in Afghanistan. To be clear, "fairness" should never be an objective of war. But almost by definition, this is not war. Once our soldiers leave the theater, all that will remain is a clinical and codified policy of assassination writ large, with virtually no public scrutiny. It won't be front-page news when drones vaporize innocents, and it won't be front-page news when drones vaporize al-Qaeda operatives, because we've got no skin in the game. It's just robots hunting ghosts.
How long will Afghans agree to that? Are we even asking? Or will this silent non-war be negotiated with our man in Kabul, who, until he was convenient to this administration, was deemed corrupt and incompetent? And how long will Pakistan allow missiles to materialize from nowhere and leave behind craters and corpses? How about the next government, and what are we prepared to do if they say no? The White House has established a precedent that borders are just fine for the people at Rand McNally, but meaningless in the context of drone warfare. Consent of the Congress is a quaint relic; as proven in Libya, the president doesn't need authorization so long as we get a nice snuff film at the end.
Afghanistan is a war worth seeing through. Last week, I spoke with Michael Yon, a writer who's spent four years, cumulatively, in Iraq and Afghanistan -- three of those in combat. According to Yon, as withdrawal moves from concept to reality, "Many troops see their actions will be for naught. They've done their parts and have succeeded when properly resourced, but they see the presidential decisions for what they are. The unit that I last embedded with, 4-4 Cav, was clearly making progress and they know it, but they also see the light at the end of the tunnel is turned off, and that's due to politics. We waited a long time to get serious here, and never got totally serious."
At any rate, says Yon, "The war is largely forgotten. Soldiers who have been going back on leave and are shocked when many Americans don't realize that there is a no-kidding war going on here. I've done my best to highlight some of them." He adds, "The trajectory of the war favors the enemies. If the president precipitously reduces our footprint, the war will be lost. The good news (for somebody) is that most Americans don't seem to realize that we are still in a war, so they won't realize that we lost."
But at least we fought a war that could be forgotten. As America turns to drone technology, more than ever we will be fighting wars we never knew about in the first place.
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The War in Afghanistan Is Over
Stephen Spain
Oct 19, 2010
In simpler times, our wars had clearly defined endings. WWII ended with a bang—two, really, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There were obvious winners and losers, too. The winners redrew world maps, while the losers tried to find creative uses for rubble. It doesn’t work that way anymore.
The war in Afghanistan is over. The Taliban know it, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai does, too. Pakistan knows. With their endorsement of talks with the Taliban, even President Obama and his generals have acknowledged it. Don’t expect any ticker-tape parades for returning soldiers, though. They’re not coming home anytime soon.
In case you were keeping score, everyone lost. The Taliban’s dream of a 12th-century theocracy has been washed away by a flood of cellphone networks, television and radio stations, computers, and a powerful class of “businessmen” who are happy to use the Taliban as protection but have no interest in their vision of the past as future.
Karzai and his cadre of corrupt cronies are losers, too. The smart ones will leave quickly and quietly with as much of their ill-gotten gains as possible. Those who hang around will eventually end up, well, hanging around—from trees, traffic signals, and makeshift gallows.
Pakistan is finally experiencing “creator’s remorse” for the Taliban, who, with their al-Qaeda allies, now pose a greater threat to Pakistan than to Afghanistan. Pakistan has things worth taking: nuclear weapons, an army and air force, and a semi-functioning infrastructure. The millions of angry, poor, and ignorant Pakistanis are tinder for the Taliban’s purifying fire. Pakistan loses, too.
The US and NATO lost. Shortly after we leave, Afghanistan will be the same unstable terrorist Petri dish that it was when we arrived. Our thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars will have accomplished nothing, except to give Afghans another would-be conqueror to hate. It almost goes without saying that the Afghans lost. What’s left after you destroy rubble? While Afghanistan’s record of never having lost a war is well known, it is also true that it's never won one.
So why continue to spend American lives and treasure if the war is over? Afghanistan offers a launch point for a military strike in Pakistan, when it falls to fundamentalists, or Iran, if it succeeds in developing nuclear weapons. The much-hyped summer offensives in Helmand and Kandahar Provinces, along with increasing drone attacks and special forces missions against Taliban “leaders,” have nothing to do with turning the tide in Afghanistan—they are simply on-the-job training for the coming wars in Pakistan and Iran.
It’s not hard to see why Obama and his neo-Kissingerian advisers are worried. Pakistan is one free and fair election (or military coup) away from being run by fundamentalists. Iran’s leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, believes that the “hidden Imam,” a Messianic figure in Shia Islam, is due to return any day now and usher in Armageddon—and he behaves with the abandon of a man who knows the end of the world is near. The threats are real. Unfortunately, our response to them will make them more likely to occur, not less. Our military presence in Afghanistan is driving Pakistan further into the arms of the fundamentalists and turbo-charging Ahmadinejad’s delusions.
Meet the new war, same as the old war.
Stephen Spain spent five years in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the 1990s, working for the United Nations and Save the Children in Herat, Islamabad, Jalabad, Kandahar and Quetta.
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From Afghanistan to Iraq: Connecting the Dots with Oil
An in-depth look at the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the events leading up to them, and the players who made them possible.
By Richard W. Behan
February 5, 2007
In the Caspian Basin and beneath the deserts of Iraq, as many as 783 billion barrels of oil are waiting to be pumped. Anyone controlling that much oil stands a good chance of breaking OPEC's stranglehold overnight, and any nation seeking to dominate the world would have to go after it.
The long-held suspicions about George Bush's wars are well-placed. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were not prompted by the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. They were not waged to spread democracy in the Middle East or enhance security at home. They were conceived and planned in secret long before September 11, 2001 and they were undertaken to control petroleum resources.
The "global war on terror" began as a fraud and a smokescreen and remains so today, a product of the Bush Administration's deliberate and successful distortion of public perception. The fragmented accounts in the mainstream media reflect this warping of reality, but another more accurate version of recent history is available in contemporary books and the vast information pool of the Internet. When told start to finish, the story becomes clear, the dots easier to connect.
Both appalling and masterful, the lies that led us into war and keep us there today show the people of the Bush Administration to be devious, dangerous and far from stupid.
The following is an in-depth look at the oil wars, the events leading up to them, and the players who made them possible.
Iraq
The Project for a New American Century, a D.C.-based political think tank funded by archconservative philanthropies and founded in 1997, is the source of the Bush Administration's imperialistic urge for the U.S. to dominate the world. Our nation should seek to achieve a "...benevolent global hegemony," according to William Kristol, PNAC's chairman. The group advocates the novel and startling concept of "pre-emptive war" as a means of doing so.
On January 26, 1998, the PNAC, sent a letter to President William Clinton urging the military overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. The dictator, the letter alleged, was a destabilizing force in the Middle East, and posed a mortal threat to "...the safety of American troops in the region, of our friends and allies like Israel and the moderate Arab states, and a significant portion of the world's oil supply..." The subjugation of Iraq would be the first application of "pre-emptive war."
The unprovoked, full-scale invasion and occupation of another country, however, would be an unequivocal example of "the use of armed force by a state against the sovereignty, territorial integrity, or political independence of another state." That is the formal United Nations definition of military aggression, and a nation can choose to launch it only in self-defense. Otherwise it is an international crime.
President Clinton did not honor the PNAC's request.
But sixteen members of the Project for a New American Century would soon assume prominent positions in the Administration of George W. Bush, including Dick Cheney, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Armitage and John Bolton.
The "significant portion of the world's oil supply" was of immediate concern, because of the commanding influence of the oil industry in the Bush Administration. Beside the president and vice president, eight cabinet secretaries and the national security advisor had direct ties to the industry, and so did 32 others in the departments of Defense, State, Energy, Agriculture, Interior, and the Office of Management and Budget.
Within days of taking office, President Bush appointed Vice President Cheney to chair a National Energy Policy Development Group. Cheney's "Energy Task Force" was composed of the relevant federal officials and dozens of energy industry executives and lobbyists, and it operated in tight secrecy. (The full membership has never been revealed, but Enron's Kenneth Lay is known to have participated, and the Washington Post reported that Exxon-Mobil, Conoco, Shell, and BP America did, too.)
During his second week in office, President Bush convened the first meeting of his National Security Council. It was a triumph for the PNAC. In just one hour-long meeting, the new Bush Administration turned upside down the long-standing focus of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Over Secretary of State Colin Powell's objections, the goal of reconciling the Israel-Palestine conflict was abandoned, and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was set as the new priority. Ron Suskind's book, The Price of Loyalty, describes the meeting in detail.
The Energy Task Force wasted no time, either. Within three weeks of its creation, the group was poring over maps of the Iraqi oilfields, pipelines, tanker terminals, and oil exploration blocks. It studied an inventory of "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts" -- dozens of oil companies from 30 different countries, in various stages of negotiations for exploring and developing Iraqi crude.
Not a single U.S. oil company was among the "suitors," and that was intolerable, given a foreign policy bent on global hegemony. The National Energy Policy document, released May 17, 2001 concluded this: "By any estimation, Middle East oil producers will remain central to world security. The Gulf will be a primary focus of U.S. international energy policy."
That rather innocuous statement can be clarified by a top-secret memo dated February 3, 2001 to the staff of the National Security Council. Cheney's group, the memo said, was "melding" two apparently unrelated areas of policy: "the review of operational policies toward rogue states," such as Iraq, and "actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields." The memo directed the National Security Council staff to cooperate fully with the Energy Task Force as the "melding" continued. National security policy and international energy policy would be developed as a coordinated whole. This would prove convenient on September 11, 2001, still seven months in the future.
The Bush Administration was drawing a bead on Iraqi oil long before the "global war on terror" was invented. But how could the "capture of new and existing oil fields" be made to seem less aggressive, less arbitrary, less overt?
During April of 2002, almost a full year before the invasion, the State Department launched a policy-development initiative called "The Future of Iraq Project" to accomplish this. The "Oil and Energy Working Group" provided the disguise for "capturing" Iraqi oil. Iraq, it said in its final report, "should be opened to international oil companies as quickly as possible after the war ... the country should establish a conducive business environment to attract investment in oil and gas resources."
Capture would take the form of investment, and the vehicle for doing so would be the "production sharing agreement."
Under production sharing agreements, or PSAs, oil companies are granted ownership of a "share" of the oil produced, in exchange for investing in development costs, and the contracts are binding for up to 30 years. What would happen, though, if the companies' investments were only minimal, but their shares of the production were obscenely, disproportionately large?
This is hardwired. According to a UK Platform article titled "Crude Designs," production sharing agreements have now been drafted in Baghdad covering 75 percent of the undeveloped Iraqi fields, and the oil companies, waiting to sign the contracts, will earn as much 162 percent on their investments. And the "foreign suitors" are not quite so foreign now: The players on the inside tracks are Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, Conoco-Phillips, BP-Amoco and Royal Dutch-Shell.
The use of PSAs will cost the Iraqi people hundreds of billions of dollars in just the first few years of the "investment" program. They would be far better off keeping in place the structure Iraq has relied upon since 1972: a nationalized oil industry leasing pumping rights to the oil companies, who then pay royalties to the central government. That is how it is done today in Saudi Arabia and the other OPEC countries.
Production sharing agreements, heavily favored by the oil companies, were specified by George Bush's State Department. Paul Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority drafted an oil law privatizing the oil sector, and American oil interests have lobbied in Baghdad ever since then for the PSAs. Apparently successfully: The Oil Committee headed by Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih is said currently to be "leaning" toward them.
With the capture of Iraqi oil resources prospectively disguised, the Halliburton company was then hired, secretly, to design a fire suppression strategy for the Iraqi oil fields. If oil wells were to be torched during the upcoming war (as Saddam did in Kuwait in 1991), the Bush Administration would be prepared to extinguish them rapidly. The contract with Halliburton was signed in the fall of 2002. Congress had yet to authorize the use of force in Iraq.
So a line of dots begins to point at Iraq, though nothing illegal or unconstitutional has yet taken place. We are still in the policy-formulation stage, but two "seemingly unrelated areas of policy" -- national security policy and international energy policy -- have become indistinguishable.
Afghanistan
The strategic location of Afghanistan can scarcely be overstated. The Caspian Basin contains up to $16 trillion worth of oil and gas resources, and the most direct pipeline route to the richest markets is through Afghanistan.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the first western oil company to take action in the Basin was the Bridas Corporation of Argentina. It acquired production leases and exploration contracts in the region, and by November of 1996 had signed an agreement with General Dostum of the Northern Alliance and with the Taliban to build a pipeline across Afghanistan.
Not to be outdone, the American company Unocal (aided by an Arabian company, Delta Oil) fought Bridas at every turn. Unocal wanted exclusive control of the trans-Afghan pipeline and hired a number of consultants in its conflict with Bridas: Henry Kissinger, Richard Armitage (now Deputy Secretary of State in the Bush Administration), Zalmay Khalilzad (a signer of the PNAC letter to President Clinton) and Hamid Karzai.
Unocal wooed Taliban leaders at its headquarters in Texas, and hosted them in meetings with federal officials in Washington, D.C.
Unocal and the Clinton Administration hoped to have the Taliban cancel the Bridas contract, but were getting nowhere. Finally, Mr. John J. Maresca, a Unocal Vice President, testified to a House Committee of International Relations on February 12, 1998, asking politely to have the Taliban removed and a stable government inserted. His discomfort was well placed.
Six months later terrorists linked to Osama bin Laden bombed the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and two weeks after that President Clinton launched a cruise missile attack into Afghanistan. Clinton issued an executive order on July 4, 1999, freezing the Taliban's U.S.-held assets and prohibiting further trade transactions with the Taliban.
Mr. Maresca could count that as progress. More would follow.
Immediately upon taking office, the new Bush Administration actively took up negotiating with the Taliban once more, seeking still to have the Bridas contract vacated, in exchange for a tidy package of foreign aid. The parties met three times, in Washington, Berlin, and Islamablad, but the Taliban wouldn't budge.
Behind the negotiations, however, planning was underway to take military action if necessary. In the spring of 2001 the State Department sought and gained concurrence from both India and Pakistan to do so, and in July of 2001, American officials met with Pakistani and Russian intelligence agents to inform them of planned military strikes against Afghanistan the following October. A British newspaper told of the U.S. threatening both the Taliban and Osama bin Laden -- two months before 9/11 -- with military strikes.
According to an article in the UK Guardian, State Department official Christina Rocca told the Taliban at their last pipeline negotiation in August of 2001, just five weeks before 9/11, "Accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs."
The Great Game and Its Players
The geostrategic imperative of reliable oil supplies has a long history, arguably beginning with the British Navy in World War I. First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill repowered the British fleet -- from coal (abundant in the UK) to oil (absent in the UK), and thus began the Great Game: jockeying by the world powers for the strategic control of petroleum. (Churchill did this to replace with oil pumps the men needed to shovel coal -- a large share of the crew -- so they could man topside battle stations instead.) Iraq today is a British creation, formed almost a century ago to supply the British fleet with fuel, and it is still a focal point of the Game.
The players have changed as national supremacy has changed, as oil companies have morphed over time, and as powerful men have lived out their destinies.
Among the major players today are the Royal family of Saudi Arabia and the Bush family of the state of Maine (more recently of Texas). And they are closely and intimately related. The relationship goes back several generations, but it was particularly poignant in the first Gulf War in 1990-91, when the U.S. and British armed forces stopped Saddam Hussein in Kuwait, before his drive reached the Arabian oil fields. Prime Minister John Major of the UK, and President George H.W. Bush became the much esteemed champions of the Arabian monarchy, and James Baker, Bush's Secretary of State, was well regarded, too. (Years earlier, Mr. Baker and a friend of the royal family's had been business partners, in building a skyscraper bank building in Houston.)
The Carlyle Group: Where the Players Meet to Profit
After President Bush, Secretary Baker, and Prime Minister Major left office, they all became active participants and investors in the Carlyle Group, a global private equity investment firm comprised of dozens of former world leaders, international business executives (including the family of Osama bin Laden); former diplomats, and high-profile political operatives from four U.S. Administrations. For years, Carlyle would serve as the icon of the Bush/Saudi relationship.
Carlyle, with its headquarters just six blocks from the White House, invests heavily in all the industries involved in the Great Game: the defense, security, and energy industries, and it profits enormously from the Afghan and Iraqi wars.
In the late 1980s, Carlyle's personal networking brought together George W. Bush, the future 43rd U.S. president, and $50,000 of financial backing for his Texas oil company, Arbusto Energy. The investor was Salem bin Laden (half-brother of Osama bin Laden) who managed the Carlyle investments of the Saudi bin Laden Group. (After the tragedy of 9/11, by mutual consent, the bin Laden family and Carlyle terminated their business dealings.) George Bush left Carlyle in 1992 to run for governor of Texas.
Ex-President Bush, Ex-Prime Minister Major, and Ex Secretary Baker, in the 1990's, were Carlyle's advance team, scouring the world for profitable investments and investors. In Saudi Arabia they met with the royal family, and with the two wealthiest, non-royal families -- the bin Ladens and the bin Mahfouzes.
Khalid bin Mahfouz was prominent in Delta Oil, Unocal's associate in the Afghan pipeline conflict. He was later accused of financing al Qaeda, and named in a trillion dollar lawsuit brought by the families of 9/11 victims. (It was Mr. bin Mahfouz who had been Mr. Baker's business associate in Houston.)
Carlyle retained James Baker's Houston law firm, Baker-Botts, and Baker himself served as Carlyle Senior Counselor from 1993 until 2005. (Other clients of Baker-Botts: Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, Texaco, Shell, Amoco, Conoco-Phillips, Halliburton, and Enron.)
Mr. Baker has long been willing to put foremost the financial advantage of himself, his firm, and his friends, often at the expense of patriotism and public service. As President Reagan's Secretary of the Treasury, he presided over the savings-and-loan scandal, in which S&L executives like Charles Keating and the current President's brother Neil Bush handed the American taxpayers a bill to pay, over a 40-year period, of $1.2 trillion. His law firm willingly took on the defense of Prince Sultan bin Abdul Azis, the Saudi Defense Minister sued by the families of 9/11 victims for complicity in the attacks.
We will encounter Mr. Baker again soon.
September 11, 2001
In September of 2000, the Project for a New American Century published a report, "Rebuilding America's Defenses." It advocated pre-emptive war once again, but noted its acceptance would be difficult in the absence of "some catastrophic and catalyzing event, like a new Pearl Harbor."
President Bush formally established the PNAC's prescription for pre-emptive, premeditated war as U.S. policy when he signed a document entitled "The National Security Strategy of the United States of America" early in his first term.
Still nothing illegal or unconstitutional had been done.
But the rationale and the planning for attacking both Afghanistan and Iraq were in place. The preparations had all been done secretly, wholly within the executive branch. The Congress was not informed until the endgame, when President Bush, making his dishonest case for the "war on terror" asked for and was granted the discretion to use military force. The American people were equally uninformed and misled. Probably never before in our history was such a drastic and momentous action undertaken with so little public knowledge or Congressional oversight: the dispatch of America's armed forces into four years of violence, at horrendous costs in life and treasure.
Then a catastrophic event took place. A hijacked airliner probably en route to the White House crashes in Pennsylvania, the Pentagon was afire, and the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were rubble.
In the first hours of frenetic response, fully aware of al Qaeda's culpability, both President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld sought frantically to link Saddam Hussein to the attacks, as we know from Richard Clarke's book, Against All Enemies. They anxiously waited to proceed with their planned invasion of Iraq.
If the Bush Administration needed a reason to proceed with their invasions, they could not have been handed a more fortuitous and spectacular excuse, and they played their hand brilliantly.
9/11 was a shocking event of unprecedented scale, but it was simply not an invasion of national security. It was a localized criminal act of terrorism, and to compare it, as the Bush Administration immediately did, to Pearl Harbor was ludicrous: The hijacked airliners were not the vanguard of a formidable naval armada, an air force, and a standing army ready to engage in all out war, as the Japanese were prepared to do and did in 1941.
By equating a criminal act of terrorism with a military threat of invasion, the Bush Administration consciously adopted fear mongering as a mode of governance. It was an extreme violation of the public trust, but it served perfectly their need to justify warfare.
As not a few disinterested observers noted at the time, international criminal terrorism is best countered by international police action, which Israel and other nations have proven many times over to be effective. Military mobilization is irrelevant. It has proven to be counterproductive.
Why, then, was a "war" declared on "terrorists and states that harbor terrorists?"
The pre-planned attack on Afghanistan, as we have seen, was meant to nullify the contract between the Taliban and the Bridas Corporation. It was a matter of international energy policy. It had nothing to do, as designed, with apprehending Osama bin Laden -- a matter of security policy.
But the two "seemingly unrelated areas of policy" had been "melded," so here was an epic opportunity to bait-and-switch. Conjoining the terrorists and the states that harbored them made "war" plausible, and the Global War on Terror was born: It would be necessary to overthrow the Taliban as well as to bring Osama bin Laden to justice.
(In retrospect, the monumental fraud of the "war on terror" is crystal clear. In Afghanistan the Taliban was overthrown instead of bringing the terrorist Osama bin Laden to justice, and in Iraq there were no terrorists at all. But Afghanistan and Iraq are dotted today with permanent military bases guarding the seized petroleum assets.)
On October 7, 2001 the carpet of bombs is unleashed over Afghanistan. Hamid Karzai, the former Unocal consultant, is installed as head of an interim government. Subsequently he is elected President of Afghanistan, and welcomes the first U.S. envoy -- Mr. John J. Maresca, the Vice President of the Unocal Corporation who had implored Congress to have the Taliban overthrown. Mr. Maresca was succeeded by Mr. Zalmay Khalilzad -- also a former Unocal consultant. (Mr. Khalilzad has since become Ambassador to Iraq, and has now been nominated to replace John Bolton, his PNAC colleague, as the ambassador to the UN.)
With the Taliban banished and the Bridas contract moot, Presidents Karzai of Afghanistan and Musharraf of Pakistan meet on February 8, 2002, sign an agreement for a new pipeline, and the way forward is open for Unocal/Delta once more.
The Bridas contract was breached by U.S. military force, but behind the combat was Unocal. Bridas sued Unocal in the U.S. courts for contract interference and won, overcoming Richard Ben Veniste's law firm in 2004. That firm had multibillion-dollar interests in the Caspian Basin and shared an office in Uzbekistan with the Enron Corporation. In 2004, Mr. Ben Veniste was serving as a 9/11 Commissioner.
About a year after the Karzai/Musharraf agreement was signed, an article in the trade journal "Alexander's Gas and Oil Connections" described the readiness of three US federal agencies to finance the prospective pipeline: the U.S. Export/Import Bank, the Trade and Development Agency, and the Overseas Private Insurance Corporation. The article continued, "...some recent reports ... indicated ... the United States was willing to police the pipeline infrastructure through permanent stationing of its troops in the region." The article appeared on February 23, 2003.
The objective of the first premeditated war was now achieved. The Bush Administration stood ready with financing to build the pipeline across Afghanistan, and with a permanent military presence to protect it.
Within two months President Bush sent the armed might of America sweeping into Iraq.
Then came the smokescreen of carefully crafted deceptions. The staging of the Jessica Lynch rescue. The toppling of the statue in Baghdad. Mission accomplished. The orchestrated capture, kangaroo court trial, and hurried execution of Saddam Hussein. Nascent "democracy" in Iraq. All were scripted to burnish the image of George Bush's fraudulent war.
The smokescreen includes the cover-up of 9/11. Initially and fiercely resisting any inquiry at all, President Bush finally appoints a 10-person "9/11 Commission."
The breathtaking exemptions accorded President Bush and Vice President Cheney in the inquiry rendered the entire enterprise a farce: They were "interviewed" together, no transcription of the conversation was allowed, and they were not under oath. The Commission report finally places the blame on "faulty intelligence."
Many of the 10 commissioners, moreover, were burdened with stunning conflicts of interest -- Mr. Ben Veniste, for example -- mostly by their connections to the oil and defense industries. The Carlyle Group contributed to Commissioner Tim Roemer's political campaigns. Commission Chairman Thomas Kean was a Director of Amerada Hess, which had formed a partnership with Delta Oil, the Arabian company of Khalid bin Mahfouz, and that company was teamed with Unocal in the Afghan pipeline project. Vice-Chairman Lee Hamilton serves on the board of Stonebridge International consulting group, which is advising Gulfsands Petroleum and Devon Energy Corporation about Iraqi oil opportunities.
The apparent manipulation of pre-war intelligence is not addressed by the 9/11 Commission, the veracity of the Administration's lies and distortions is assumed without question, and the troubling incongruities of 9/11 are ignored: The theories of controlled demolition, the prior short-selling of airline stock, the whole cottage industry of skepticism.
The doubters and critics of 9/11 are often dismissed as conspiracy crazies, but you needn't claim conspiracy to be skeptical. Why did both President Bush and Vice President Cheney pressure Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to forego any investigation at all? Failing in that, why did the President then use "Executive Privilege" so often to withhold and censor documents? Why did the White House refuse to testify under oath? Why the insistence on the loopy and unrecorded Oval Office interview of Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney simultaneously?
There is much we don't know about 9/11.
The Iraq Study Group
Viewing the carnage in Iraq, and seeking desperately to find a way out of it, the U.S. Congress appointed on March 15, 2006 the Iraq Study Group. It was also called the Baker-Hamilton Commission after its co-chairmen, the peripatetic problem-solvers James Baker and Lee Hamilton. It was charged with assessing the situation in Iraq and making policy recommendations.
The Commission assessed the situation as "grave and deteriorating" and recommended substantive changes in handling it: draw down the troop levels and negotiate with Syria and Iran. These recommendations were rejected out of hand by the Bush Administration, but those about the oil sector could hardly have been more pleasing.
The Commission's report urged Iraqi leaders to "... reorganize the national industry as a commercial enterprise." That sounds like code for privatizing the industry (which had been nationalized in 1972.) In case that wasn't clear enough, the Commission encouraged "...investment in Iraq's oil sector by the international energy companies." That sounds like code for Exxon/Mobil, Chevron/Texaco, Conoco/Phillips, BP/Amoco and Royal Dutch Shell. The Commission urged support for the World Bank's efforts to "ensure that best practices are used in contracting." And that sounds like code for Production Sharing Agreements.
Mr. Baker is a clever and relentless man. He will endorse pages and pages of changes in strategy and tactics -- but leave firmly in place the one inviolable purpose of the conflict in Iraq: capturing the oil.
A Colossus of Failure
The objectives of the oil wars may be non-negotiable, but that doesn't guarantee their successful achievement.
The evidence suggests the contrary.
As recently as January of 2005, the Associated Press expected construction of the Trans Afghan Pipeline to begin in 2006. So did News Central Asia. But by October of 2006, NCA was talking about construction "... as soon as there is stability in Afghanistan."
As the Taliban, the warlords, and the poppy growers reclaim control of the country, clearly there is no stability in Afghanistan, and none can be expected soon.
Unocal has been bought up by the Chevron Corporation. The Bridas Corporation is now part of BP/Amoco. Searching the companies' websites for "Afghanistan pipeline" yields, in both cases, zero results. Nothing is to be found on the sites of the prospective funding agencies. The pipeline project appears to be dead.
The Production Sharing Agreements for Iraq's oil fields cannot be signed until the country's oil policies are codified in statute. That was supposed to be done by December of 2006, but Iraq is in a state of chaotic violence. The "hydrocarbon law" is struggling along -- one report suggests it may be in place by March -- so the signing of the PSA's will be delayed at least that long.
The U.S. and British companies that stand to gain so much -- Exxon/Mobil, Chevron/Texaco, Concoco/Phillips, BP/Amoco and Royal Dutch Shell -- will stand a while longer. They may well have to stand down.
On October 31, 2006 the newspaper China Daily reported on the visit to China by Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein Shahristani. Mr. Shahristani, the story said, "welcomed Chinese oil companies to participate in the reconstruction of the Iraqi oil industry." That was alarming, but understated.
Stratfor, the American investment research service, was more directly to the point, in a report dated September 27, 2006 (a month before Minister Shahristani's visit, so it used the future tense). The Minister "... will talk to the Chinese about honoring contracts from the Saddam Hussein era. ... This announcement could change the face of energy development in the country and leave U.S. firms completely out in the cold."
The oil wars are abject failures. The Project for a New American Century wanted, in a fantasy of retrograde imperialism, to remove Saddam Hussein from power. President George Bush launched an overt act of military aggression to do so, at a cost of more than 3,000 American lives, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, and half a trillion dollars. In the process he has exacerbated the threats from international terrorism, ravaged the Iraqi culture, ruined their economy and their public services, sent thousands of Iraqis fleeing their country as refugees, created a maelstrom of sectarian violence, dangerously destabilized the Middle East, demolished the global prestige of the United States, and defamed the American people.
Richard W. Behan lives and writes on Lopez Island, off the northwest coast of Washington state. He is working on a new book, To Provide Against Invasions: Corporate Dominion and America's Derelict Democracy. He can be reached at rwbehan@rockisland.com. (This essay is deliberately not copyrighted: It may be reproduced without restriction.)
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