America’s Alliance With bin Laden

The latest Seymour Hersh piece has a lot of new information, some of it shocking, some of it not at all surprising to readers of Antiwar.com and observers of this space. An example of the latter:

"The administration is now examining a wave of new intelligence on Iran’s weapons programs. Current and former American officials told me that the intelligence, which came from Israeli agents operating in Iran, includes a claim that Iran has developed a three-stage solid-fueled intercontinental missile capable of delivering several small warheads – each with limited accuracy – inside Europe. The validity of this human intelligence is still being debated."

We can thank Scooter Libby and the vice president of the United States for having blinded American intelligence to Iranian WMD programs – Valerie Plame was reportedly the CIA’s resident expert on Iranian WMD, and her outfit, Brewster-Jennings "consulting," was the U.S. government’s regional eyes and ears on nuclear proliferation issues. I guess that’s why we have to depend on the Israelis.

The Mossad has been quite busy, not only in Kurdistan but also in Iran. Although the Iranians indignantly deny it, the Israeli presence in Iran may have been responsible for the recent "accidental" death of a top Iranian nuclear scientist. In any case, the Israelis, according to an earlier report by Hersh, have thoroughly penetrated Kurdistan, where they train the peshmerga. Using the Kurdish rebels in Iran, known as Pejak, they have launched sorties into Iranian territory.

What is less clear – although I’ve touched on the subject recently – is the extent to which clandestine activities are being carried out by the U.S. in Iran, and, according to Hersh, Lebanon.

The policymakers are taking a new turn, says Hersh, supposedly necessitated by the consequences of the Iraq war. The U.S. invasion turned Iraq over to a Shi’ite coalition of pro-Iranian parties, and now we’re playing the Sunni card. Hersh cites "a former senior intelligence official" as saying

"We are in a program to enhance the Sunni capability to resist Shi’ite influence, and we’re spreading the money around as much as we can…. In this process, we’re financing a lot of bad guys with some serious potential unintended consequences. We don’t have the ability to determine and get pay vouchers signed by the people we like and avoid the people we don’t like. It’s a very high-risk venture."

Doesn’t anyone ever learn from history? U.S. aid to the Afghan "freedom fighters" in the 1980s consolidated the core of what was to become al-Qaeda – a Frankenstein’s monster that turned on its creator. Now the U.S. is repeating that blunder, only this time on a much wider scale – with consequences we can only begin to imagine in our darkest, most sweat-soaked nightmares.

Once again we are in league with the Saudis, who were instrumental in setting up the Afghan networks that morphed into al-Qaeda. Bin Laden is their errant son, come back to haunt them – and us. The Kingdom is the worst tyranny in the entire region, steeped in a fanatic version of Islam that is, by regional standards, barbaric. Ruled over by a sclerotic aristocracy more decadent and deserving of overthrow than even the haughty Bourbons or the crazed Romanovs, it is precisely our association with these royal kleptocrats that has generated anti-Americanism and killed the possibility of a genuine liberal movement.

The Saudis are backing the Siniora government against Shi’ite Hezbollah and its Christian allies, and the U.S. is funneling covert aid that is allowed to "end up in the hands of emerging Sunni radical groups in northern Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, and around Palestinian refugee camps in the south," writes Hersh. "These groups, though small, are seen as a buffer to Hezbollah; at the same time, their ideological ties are with al-Qaeda."

So let’s get this straight: U.S. taxpayer dollars are subsidizing al-Qaeda’s emerging Lebanese affiliate. Remember that as you fill out your income tax forms this year.

The "war on terrorism" sparked by al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attack has ended with the U.S. in alliance with bin Laden’s boys against a supposedly emerging Shi’ite threat. Now how bitter is that ironic twist?

Forget al-Qaeda: nobody is even trying to capture bin Laden, and no wonder. He’s our ally now. That’s what Michael Scheuer has always said, but now I see it’s official. Bin Laden was yesterday’s villain: today’s hate figure is President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran.

Although the Iranians insist their nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes, i.e., power generation, a full-court propaganda campaign has been ongoing to convince us the mullahs aim to nuke New York. It’s the same old scenario we saw played out in the run-up to war with Iraq: as a conflict with Tehran looms closer, the War Party hopes images of mushroom clouds and mad mullahs will be enough to scare the American public into going along with it. Iran is the enemy of the moment – after all, Ahmadinejad has said Israel should be wiped off the map (or perhaps not). In any case, the Lobby is hard at work, whipping up war hysteria and inventing yet more "evidence" of Iranian perfidy in Iraq. And shadowy groups, including Sunni extremists with connections to al-Qaeda, are being used in U.S.-sponsored covert operations – including terrorist attacks.

In Lebanon, the tinderbox of a volatile region, the Siniora government and the Americans are getting in bed with Fatah al-Islam, a radical Palestinian faction. This murky grouplet, which seceded from a pro-Syrian parent group, is supposedly the holder of the al-Qaeda franchise for Lebanon, but Hersh’s reportage sheds new light on where the money is coming from. Former MI6 official Alastair Crooke tells Hersh,

"I was told that within twenty-four hours [of the split] they were being offered weapons and money by people presenting themselves as representatives of the Lebanese government’s interests – presumably to take on Hezbollah."

We are also apparently in league with Asbat al-Ansar, a Salafist terrorist outfit that has been described by some experts as "ineffectual" – and doesn’t it just figure that Uncle Sam would line up with these losers? I guess there weren’t too many bids for this particular government contract. So far, all they’ve managed to do is bomb a few churches, take out some casinos, and hit other minor targets deemed "un-Islamic." Flush with U.S. cash, no doubt in the future they’ll be carrying out some spectacular terrorist acts.

Having handed the Middle East to Tehran on a silver platter, we are mobilizing all available forces in a single-minded effort to snatch it from them. More surrealist than Orwellian, this self-defeating rat-on-a-treadmill policy guarantees one thing: perpetual war. It is just the sort of overly "clever" Machiavellian move that is bound to backfire, and badly. One shudders to imagine the sort of "blowback" playing the Sunni card will entail. The last time we sided with Sunni radicals, we got bin Laden – and 9/11. This time, it’s entirely possible we’ll reap an even harsher whirlwind.

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Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com, and a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and writes a monthly column for Chronicles. He is the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].