Saturday, August 18

Al Qaeda the dope dealer, and say whatever happened to Julie Sirrs?

Qaeda's propaganda has been so effective that legions of Western opinion experts believe the organization can't fail to drive the US out of the Middle East. I didn't realize how entrenched the belief had become until I received a note from Dave Schuler, which in effect compares Qaeda's mission to Gandhi's mission to eject the British from India.

Qaeda cannot be compared in any way with India's independence movement. The Indians were fighting for their homeland. Qaeda is fighting to survive dope wars.

Qaeda's fortunes started to wane when De Beers put a lid on trading in blood diamonds. Today Qaeda depends on the dope trade to keep them afloat. This is running them afoul of kingpins in the Pakistan narco-state and Afghanistan, and pitting them against dope gangs throughout Central Asia and the Middle East.

Now they're trying to make inroads in Latin America's dope trade, but the same pattern of running up against the locals will repeat there.

Qaeda's membership includes many nationalities, but anyone who hangs with the organization long enough realizes the top echelon belongs to Saudis and Egyptians. The rest are, well, highly expendable; they figure that out fast enough, if they're not doped out of their skull. Why do they stay on, then? Money; the drug trade is lucrative.

Al Qaeda is a rootless organization surviving on dope deals, and people who learn to think in rootless fashion find betrayal as easy as breathing. Qaeda has ended up fighting every government that aided them. But most people can't think in rootless fashion for long, or can't learn the knack.

So while al Qaeda may look like a big oak tree with many branches, it's sawdust inside. A few stiff winds will knock it over. The US is just one wind; a sense of betrayal from inside will be the strongest.

As for driving the US out of the Middle East -- China is racing to develop a blue water navy to rival the US one. The PLA wants to serve as an alternative to US protection for the Arab gulf oil producers. But one way or another, foreign security forces from non-Muslim nations will be hanging around the Middle East, at invitation from the Gulf states. This will keep on until the wells run dry or a real alternative to petroleum is found.

Every one of those Gulf states believes that given an opening, Qaeda will overthrow their government and that Qaeda is always trying. Qaeda has a well-worn tradition of wearing out their welcome, in every nation where they've been given refuge -- even Sudan.

As for attacking the dope trade as a means of getting at Qaeda: if you can manage to read through this timeline on the evolution of al Qaeda's involvement in the drug trade, without wanting to throw up at any point on the timeline, I'd like to hear your plan of attack.

By the way, every title in the timeline is linked to masses of additional data, but I won't hold you to the links. Just try to get through the blurbs without looking for a barf bag. This is the one that made Pundita's stomach turn; I hadn't followed the story when it first came out:
October 1998: Julie Sirrs, a military analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), travels to Afghanistan. Fluent in local languages and knowledgeable about the culture, she had made a previous undercover trip there in October 1997. She is surprised that the CIA was not interested in sending in agents after the failed missile attack on bin Laden in August 1998, so she returns at this time. Traveling undercover, she meets with Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud. She sees a terrorist training center in Taliban-controlled territory.

Sirrs claims, “The Taliban’s brutal regime was being kept in power significantly by bin Laden’s money, plus the narcotics trade, while [Massoud’s] resistance was surviving on a shoestring. With even a little aid to the Afghan resistance, we could have pushed the Taliban out of power. But there was great reluctance by the State Department and the CIA to undertake that.”

She partly blames the interest of the US government and the oil company Unocal to see the Taliban achieve political stability to enable a trans-Afghanistan pipeline (see May 1996) (see September 27, 1996).

She claims, “Massoud told me he had proof that Unocal had provided money that helped the Taliban take Kabul.” She also states, “The State Department didn’t want to have anything to do with Afghan resistance, or even, politically, to reveal that there was any viable option to the Taliban.”

After two weeks, she returns with a treasure trove of maps, photographs, and interviews. [ABC News, 2/18/2002; New York Observer, 3/11/2004]

By interviewing captured al-Qaeda operatives, she learns that the official Afghanistan airline, Ariana Airlines, is being used to ferry weapons and drugs, and learns that bin Laden goes hunting with “rich Saudis and top Taliban officials” (see Mid-1996-October 2001) (see 1995-2001). [Los Angeles Times, 11/18/2001]

When she returns from Afghanistan, her material is confiscated and she is accused of being a spy. Says one senior colleague, “She had gotten the proper clearances to go, and she came back with valuable information,” but high level officials “were so intent on getting rid of her, the last thing they wanted to pay attention to was any information she had.”

She is cleared of wrongdoing, but her security clearance is pulled. She eventually quits the DIA in frustration in 1999. [ABC News, 2/18/2002; New York Observer, 3/11/2004] Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R) will later claim that the main DIA official behind the punishment of Sirrs is Lt. Gen. Patrick Hughes, who later becomes “one of the top officials running the Department of Homeland Security.” [Dana Rohrabacher, 6/21/2004]
Have a nice day.

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