However, I would be even happier if Operation Geronimo had been carried out just a tad earlier so as not to distract press attention from the arraignment of one Tahawwur Hussain Rana.
I know, I know; so little time, so many terrorist names to keep straight. But you remember my April 22 post about Rana and Admiral Michael Mullen; right? Rana is the terrorist who from all indications is planning on singing in a U.S. criminal court about his involvement with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI).
If Rana is not somehow persuaded to keep his mouth shut at his trial, which starts May 16, this is going to be extremely embarrassing to the White House, U.S. Congress, CIA, State Department, Pentagon and in particular highest-ranking U.S. military officers, such as Mullen, who have been covering for the ISI and Pakistani military.
Some indication of just how embarrassing things might get can be gleaned from counterterrorism expert B. Raman's description of U.S. machinations to head off Rana in court. From Raman's April 28 paper titled Incriminating Spotlight on ISI in the US:
1. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate has come under incriminating spotlight in the US as a result of the ongoing judicial proceedings in a Chicago court against Tahawwur Hussain Rana of the Chicago cell of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) in connection with the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai and certain leaked WikiLeaks cables relating to the interrogation of Al Qaeda suspects detained at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre in Cuba.Raman tactfully avoids mentioning for emphasis that if Americans don't want to properly investigate the ISI connection to the 9/11 attacks and a host of other terrorist attacks on Americans, we're sure as heck not going to lose sleep about the ISI connection to the massacre in Mumbai.
5. In a supplementary indictment to the main indictment against Rana filed before the Chicago court on April 25, 2011, the FBI has for the time given the identifying particulars of LET members A, B, C and D, but not Person A. They have been sought to be prosecuted along with Rana for their role in the 26/11 terrorist strikes. By combining the trial of these four persons with the trial of Rana, the FBI seems to be trying to highlight the role of the LET and to undercut the expected defence of Rana that he had helped the ISI and not the LET.
[See this April 27 Sify report for the names mentioned in the indictment].
6. One has strong grounds for suspecting that the belated decision of the FBI to disclose the identities of these four persons and try them along with Rana is meant to help the ISI in avoiding any embarrassment due to its role in the 26/11 terrorist strikes.
The US intelligence [establishment] may have many differences with the ISI because of its perceived non-cooperation against Al Qaeda, the Jallaludin Haqqani network and the Afghan Taliban, but it is not prepared to initiate any action against the ISI for its role in the 26/11 terrorist strikes.
But just to review and reflect on the proximity of the May 1 U.S. operation against bin Laden, who'd been lounging around for years right under the nose of Pakistan's military, to the May 4 arraignment of Rana, how about if we take a walk together down memory lane? I know this will be a boring exercise for readers with encyclopedic knowledge of the war on terror but bear with me.
Let's start in the Philippines. In his May 2 report for GMA website titled, United by plot: John Paul II rises, Bin Laden falls on same day, J.M. Tuazon points out that Pope John Paul's beatification and bin Laden's death happened on the same day, then he goes on to review the history of al Qaeda-linked terrorist plots to assassinate the pope and al Qaeda's activities in the Philippines.
Tuazon doesn't specify motivation for the plots against the pope but he doesn't have to; the facts speak for themselves. Pope John Paul was targeted for one reason and one reason only: he was the world's most visible symbol of Christendom:
On two separate occasions, Osama bin Laden’s international terrorist network, al Qaeda, was linked to plots to assassinate the late Pope John Paul II, hatched in the Philippines no less.The Times report, published in November 2002, mentioned that news of the 1999 plot against the pope had been suppressed, presumably on orders from the Vatican, until after the 9/11 attacks.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one of Bin Laden's lieutenants, had planned to kill the late pope during the pontiff’s 1995 World Youth Day visit to Manila.
The plot called for planting a pipe bomb at the altar in Luneta Park, where the Pope was set to celebrate Mass, and have al Qaeda snipers deployed around the area to “shoot randomly at those fleeing the carnage."
The 1995 plot, however, was foiled after a fire gutted the Josefa Apartments along Quirino Avenue in Manila, where he and nephew Ramzi Yousef had taken quarters. [The fire was started by Yousef when he accidentally detonated a bomb he was making in his apartment.]
Their next plot was an extraordinary and historic success.
Mohammed and Yousef were instrumental in carrying out the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, as they hatched the idea of using aircraft and flying them into the twin towers of New York City.
Mohammed’s conspiracy of a second attempt at assassinating the pope, meanwhile, was hatched in 1999 but was also thwarted following the cancellation of the pontiff’s trip to Manila for health reasons.
“Documents found in a block of flats in Karachi, Pakistan, used as a hideout by Mohammed show that he visited the Philippines on a number of occasions to finalize details for the assassination attempt," [a London Times report] said.
There has been quite a bit of suppression of facts relating to al Qaeda's activities; Tuazon's trip down memory lane, coupled with a 2006 investigation launched by a U.S. House of Representatives committee, underscores this. In his January 2, 2007 report on the investigation Robert Longley, writing for About's Guide to U.S. government news, notes:
Foreign terrorists, including al-Qaeda operative Ramzi Yousef, may have played a role in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, according to an oversight investigation [PDF] by the House International Relations Committee.Rohrabacher wasn't the only one who found fault with the DOJ, and more fault can surely be found somewhere in that mishmash of agencies that were subsumed after 9/11 into a behemoth called the Department of Homeland Security. The dust had barely settled on the Murrah building explosion when credible links to al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were uncovered by independent investigators, links that were never fully explored by the FBI and other U.S. security agencies.
In his report The Oklahoma City Bombing: Was There A Foreign Connection? International Relations Committee chairman Dana Rohrabacher (R - California), presents evidence suggesting that Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols may have been assisted in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building by "Middle Easterners" and "a German national living at an extremist compound in eastern Oklahoma."
The bomb exploded in front of the Murrah Building on April 19, 1995, killed 168 people, including 19 children, and injured countless others. To date, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols remain the only persons convicted of the crime. McVeigh was executed by lethal injection on June 11, 2001. Nichols is now serving a life sentence in a Florence, Colorado supermax prison.
Throughout his trial and appeals, McVeigh contended the FBI had concealed evidence that he and Nichols had actually acted as part of a larger group of conspirators.
Rohrabacher's committee presents extensive, "yet in some cases circumstantial," evidence establishing a relationship between Terry Nichols and Ramzi Yousef, the al-Qaeda terrorist convicted of carrying out the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Rohrabacher also finds fault with the Justice Department for both its failures in the initial investigation of the Oklahoma City bombing and for what the committee call its current "lack of willingness" to examine the many question raised in the committee's report.
All that says nothing about the U.S. failure to properly investigate the links between the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and Pakistan's military, between Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the same military, and between the same military and the 9/11 attack on the United States. And it says nothing about the laxity of successive U.S. administration in clearly establishing the Pakistani military's connection to its fig-leaf called the ISI.
Yet in July 2004, in a strongly-worded editorial published in the (U.K.) Guardian, British Labor MP Michael Meacher called out the U.S. government for its reluctance to thoroughly investigate Pakistan's role in the 9/11 attack and Pearl's murder in Pakistan while Pearl was investigating ISI links to 9/11.
Meacher observed that to a great extent the ISI was a creation of U.S. aid money and noted:
Another person who must know a great deal about what led up to 9/11 is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, allegedly arrested in Rawalpindi [the Pakistani garrison city] on March 1 2003.By gum it turned out Mohammed will indeed never appear in a U.S. criminal court. And even though he'll be greatly hampered by what he can say before a U.S. military tribunal the U.S. government is still dragging its feet about allowing him a day in court.
A joint Senate-House intelligence select committee inquiry in July 2003 stated: "KSM appears to be one of Bin Laden's most trusted lieutenants and was active in recruiting people to travel outside Afghanistan, including to the US, on behalf of Bin Laden."
According to the report, the clear implication was that they would be engaged in planning terrorist-related activities.
The report was sent from the CIA to the FBI, but neither agency apparently recognised the significance of a Bin Laden lieutenant sending terrorists to the US and asking them to establish contacts with colleagues already there.
Yet the New York Times has since noted that "American officials said that KSM, once al-Qaida's top operational commander, personally executed Daniel Pearl ... but he was unlikely to be accused of the crime in an American criminal court because of the risk of divulging classified information".
Indeed, he may never be brought to trial.
So I wouldn't hold my breath waiting to learn whether the U.S. Congress will cut off aid to Pakistan's military if investigation turns up that the military was knowingly harboring Osama bin Laden. It's already been made crystal clear that no such cut-off will occur. From a report today by the Associated Press:
[...] "For those who want to cut off aid to Pakistan, I understand your frustration," said [Republican] Senator Lindsey Graham.Thank you for feeling our pain, Senator Graham. But a relationship in which a governments pays another military to massacre the government's own troops is best not characterized as "important;" I'd call it an evil unparalleled in the history of warfare, but that's just me.
"But at the end of the day, if you want to create a failed state in Pakistan, one of the best things to do is sever relationships. It is not in our national security interest to let this one event destroy what is a difficult partnership but a partnership nonetheless."
The Obama administration pushed back on talk of punishing Pakistan.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday that the U.S. is committed to cooperating with Pakistan despite questions about who in the Islamabad government may have known that bin Laden was in hiding in his compound in Abbottabad.
"We don't know who if anybody in the government was aware that bin Laden or a high-value target was living in the compound. It's logical to assume he had a supporting network. What constituted that network remains to be seen," Carney said. "It's a big country and a big government and we have to be very focused and careful about how we do this because it is an important relationship." [...]
Moving along, see B. Raman's post about John Brennan's May 2 presser about Operation Geronimo; Raman pulls out exchanges that pertain specifically to the implications of bin Laden living in a garrison town.
If the U.S. government doesn't want to come out and say that Yousef and KSM were Pakistani military assets until they were no longer useful, I will say it. A great many others have said the same; indeed, one can't claim even a passing familiarity with the U.S. war on terror without drawing the same conclusion.
So let's get down to brass tacks, shall we? The mess did not start with 9/11. It started in the late 1940s, at the inception of Pakistan as a sovereign nation. Since that time the U.S. government has been so deeply involved in the machinations of Pakistani's military that there are offices in the Greater Washington, DC region where you don't dare open a closet if you don't want a pile of skeletons falling on you.
B. Raman's May 3 post nails it:
Pak Perfidy will have no enduring impact on its ties with USIf any of this pampering was tactically necessary for the U.S. effort in Afghanistan one might scrape up a rationale for it. But as the U.S. operation against OBL demonstrated, it's not.
7. There is already an exercise on in the US State Department to respect the sensitivities of Pakistan, to spare it of any undue embarrassment and to avoid any punitive action against it.
8. Yes, tough questions are being asked. They will continue to be asked. Pakistan is embarrassed, but not unduly worried over these tough questions because it knows from the long history of its relationship with the US that tough questions are rarely followed by tough action against the State of Pakistan.
9. Yes. Some actions were taken in the past against some individual officers on the insistence of the US. As against Lt.Gen. Javed Nasir, the Director-General of the ISI, in 1993, who was sacked because of his alleged collusion with the Afghan Mujahideen. As against Lt. Gen.Mahmood Ahmed, another DG of the ISI, in 2001 because of his suspected collusion with the Afghan Taliban. Nasir was sacked by Nawaz Sharif, the then Prime Minister. Ahmed was shifted out of the ISI by Gen.Pervez Musharraf.
10. That is all. Once action was taken against senior officers of the ISI, US-Pakistan relations were back to their normal state of pampering.
11. History is going to repeat itself now after the death of OBL at Abbotabad. One or two senior officers of the Army and the ISI will be identified by the US as responsible for the collusion. The US will ask for their heads. Pakistan will happily offer their heads.
12. The State-to-State relations will be back to their sickening normalcy. The pampering of Pakistan will resume. The exercise to feed and fatten the Pakistani Army and intelligence will resume.