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Posted on Feb 13, 2013
:mrMark: (CC BY 2.0)

By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch

(Page 2)

One more bit of information: Brennan, the president’s right-hand counterterrorism guy, who oversaw Obama’s drone assassination program from an office in the White House basement (you can’t take anything away from Washington when it comes to symbolism) and who is clearly going to be approved by the Senate as our the new CIA director, was himself a former CIA station chief in Riyadh. The Post reports that he worked closely with the Saudis to “gain approval” for the base. So spread the credit around for this one. And note as well that there hasn’t been a CIA director with such close ties to a president since William Casey ran the outfit for President Ronald Reagan, and he was the man who got this whole ball of wax rolling by supporting, funding, and arming any Islamic fundamentalist in sight—the more extreme the better—to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Chalmers Johnson used to refer to the CIA as “the president’s private army.” Now, run by this president’s most trusted aide, it once again truly will be so.

Okay, maybe it’s time to put this secret drone base in a bit of historical context. (Think of this as my contribution to a leave-no-administration-behind policy.) In fact, that Afghan War Casey funded might be a good place to start. Keep in mind that I’m not talking about the present Afghan War, still ongoing after a mere 11-plus years, but our long forgotten First Afghan War. That was the one where we referred to those Muslim extremists we were arming as “freedom fighters” and our president spoke of them as “the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers.”

It was launched to give the Soviets a bloody nose and meant as payback for our bitter defeat in Vietnam less than a decade earlier. And what a bloody nose it would be! Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev would dub the Soviet disaster there “the bleeding wound,” and two years after it ended, the Soviet Union would be gone. I’m talking about the war that, years later, President Jimmy Carter’s former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski summed up this way: “What is more important in world history? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some agitated Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”

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That’s all ancient history and painful to recall now that “agitated Muslims” are a dime a dozen and we are (as Washington loves to say) in a perpetual global “war” with a “metastasizing” al-Qaeda, an organization that emerged from among our allies in the First Afghan War, as did so many of the extremists now fighting us in Afghanistan.

So how about moving on to a shining moment a decade later: our triumph in the “100 Hour War” in which Washington ignominiously ejected its former ally (and later Hitler-substitute) Saddam Hussein and his invading Iraqi army from oil-rich Kuwait?  Those first 100 hours were, in every sense, a blast. The problems only began to multiply with all the 100-hour periods that followed for the next decade, the 80,000th, all of which were ever less fun, what with eternal no-fly zones to patrol and an Iraqi dictator who wouldn’t leave the scene.

The Worldwide Attack Matrix and a Global War on Terror

Maybe, like Washington, we do best to skip that episode, too.  Let’s focus instead on the moment when, in preparation for that war, U.S. troops first landed in Saudi Arabia, that fabulously fundamentalist giant oil reserve; when those 100 hours were over (and Saddam wasn’t), they never left. Instead, they moved into bases and hunkered down for the long haul.

By now, I’m sure some of this is coming back to you: how disturbed, for instance, the rich young Saudi royal and Afghan war veteran Osama bin Laden and his young organization al-Qaeda were on seeing those “infidels” based in (or, as they saw it, occupying) the country that held Islam’s holiest shrines and pilgrimage sites.  I’m sure you can trace al-Qaeda’s brief grim history from there: its major operations every couple of years against U.S. targets to back up its demand that those troops depart the kingdom, including the Khobar Towers attack in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. airmen in 1996, the destruction of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998, and the blowing up of the USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden in 2000.  Finally, of course, there was al-Qaeda’s extraordinary stroke of dumb luck (and good planning), those attacks of September 11, 2001, which managed—to the reported shock of at least one al-Qaeda figure—to create an apocalyptic-looking landscape of destruction in downtown New York City.


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