Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. VI, No. 21      July 2 - 8, 2006      Quezon City, Philippines

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ĎAl-Qaeda Is a U.S.-sponsored Intelligence Assetí

Michel Chossudovsky, author of the international bestseller Americaís War on Terrorism, personally graced the jam-packed local launch of his latest book held at the Asian Center at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City last June 24. During the launch, he gave a lecture about the imminent danger of a U.S.-made nuclear catastrophe amid the Bush administrationís preparations for war with Iran.

BY JOEL GARDUCE
Contributed to Bulatlat

Michel Chossudovsky is the author of the international bestseller Americaís War on Terrorism, made locally available by IBON Books. An economics professor at the University of Ottawa in Canada, he personally graced the jam-packed local launch of his latest book held at the Asian Center at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City last June 24. During the launch, he gave a lecture about the imminent danger of a U.S.-made nuclear catastrophe amid the Bush administrationís preparations for war with Iran.

Joel Garduce of Center for Anti-Imperialist Studies (CAIS) caught up with the director of the Centre for Research in Globalization (CRG) during his short weekend stay in the Philippines and conducted the following interview.

Chossudovsky

JPG: How would you characterize your bookís contribution in giving a better understanding of the events surrounding 9/11?

MC: Well, there have been many books on 9/11. In fact, I would say that we had a lot of coverage of that event from many angles.

I have not centered on what had happened that particular day from the point of view of what happened to the buildings, and so on, which has been the subject of a lot of investigations.

What I have focused on is the role which the 9/11 events have played in justifying the invasion of Afghanistan almost a few weeks later after 9/11, and of course the invasion of Iraq.

And so Iíve tried to analyze the 9/11 events from geopolitics of war because essentially 9/11 is still the core event which justifies the war on terrorism. Without 9/11, there is no war pretext. That is why 9/11 is a very important landmark because it is being used extensively by the Bush administration to attempt to demonstrate that America is under attack, that these (wars on Afghanistan and Iraq)  are acts of self-defense, and consequently that they must make war on the terrorists, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

And so I think that has been my focus, I've looked more on the geopolitics of 9/11, the role of intelligence agencies. And Iíve also centered on the fact that these terrorist cells, namely al-Qaeda, are invariably linked to the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency). They have been consistently supported by U.S. intelligence, and so that this whole process of fabricating an enemy, namely, al-Qaeda, is in fact also an intelligence operation.

So it begs the question: if al-Qaeda were, according to the Bush administration, to have a role in 9/11, then we would have to investigate the relationship between al-Qaeda and the U.S. intelligence apparatus. I personally believe that the evidence supports it that al-Qaeda did not play a role in 9/11 in any way. But in fact, that that in itself is a red herring. Because al-Qaeda is a U.S.-sponsored intelligence asset.

JPG: Is it accurate to say that your research points to 9/11 looking more like an inside job?

MC: Well, I havenít made that statement. I never made a statement that itís an inside job.

What Iíve done is to show that the official narrative or explanation which was provided regarding 9/11 can be refuted, (that this official narrative) is a lie.

What the 9/11 Commission Report has submitted is an extensive narrative of what happened that day and what happened on the planes. And the evidence suggests that that reporting is a lie. Itís fabricated.

And I canít say unequivocally that this is an inside job but I can say unequivocally that the U.S. administration is attempting to cover up in terms of actually investigating whoís behind 9/11. And so they have to send in the picture of what happened which is to my mind totally fabricated.

JPG: Your research goes against the thesis of some thinkers like Noam Chomsky that 9/11 is principally a blowback operation. How would you look at these views?

MC: Those views are totally incorrect. The blowback assumes that the relationship between al-Qaeda and the U.S. government intelligence ceased in the wake of the Cold War. Because thatís what they say.

They say we created al-Qaeda during the Soviet-Afghan war. We trained the mujahideen, we helped them in fighting the Soviet Union. And in the wake of the Cold War, al-Qaeda has gone against us. And thatís whatís called the blowback. Blowback is when an intelligence asset goes against its sponsors.

That viewpoint I say is incorrect because in the course of the 1990s thereís ample evidence of links between al-Qaeda and the U.S. administration, during the Clinton administration as well as the Bush administration, leading up in fact to 2001. Thereís evidence of active collaboration between al-Qaeda paramilitary groups in the Balkans and senior U.S. military advisers.

I think that that view is mistaken, whether it emanates from the Left or from other quarters. It is totally mistaken and it is very misleading because it really provides legitimacy to the war on terrorism. It essentially says yes, the war on terrorism is a legitimate objective of U.S. foreign policy. And either they are mistaken or they are involved in media disinformation.

9/11 and U.S. client states

JPG: Youíve cited the role of countries like Pakistan through its Inter-Services Intelligence agency or ISI. How would you reckon the role of other countries like Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and even Israel in the perpetration of 9/11?

MC: Well, weíre talking about intelligence agencies. Pakistan has played a very key role historically in supporting al-Qaeda right from the beginning under the helm of Gen. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, the military commander who was president of Pakistan in the early Ď80s. And it was under the auspices of Pakistanís Inter-Services Intelligence that the training camps, the madrassahs were established.

In turn, Saudi Arabia played a role because they provided funding through Islamic charities. So there is a connection between Saudi Arabia and al-Qaeda. And apparently thereís also a role played by Saudi intelligence.

Israel, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan have certainly played a role but I think that Pakistanís role was far more central in the institutional support provided to al-Qaeda, on behalf, always on behalf, of the (ISIís) counterpart, the CIA.

My research has centered much more on the role of Pakistanís ISI. Because Pakistanís ISI  also appeared to be involved in the conspiracy in the wake of 9/11, to wage the war on Afghanistan using 9/11 as the pretext.

Israel influence

JPG: There was a recent furor over the article by Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer entitled ďThe Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign PolicyĒ that saw print in the London Review of Books last March. Itís ruffled some U.S. circles about how the Israeli government exercises much influence over the U.S. government, specifically the Bush administration where many personalities identified with the Bush ruling clique are considered neoconservatives. How would you account the influence of the right-wing circles in Israel over the Bush administration and the conduct of the U.S. war on terrorism?

MC: I think that this relationship is far more complex than that. I donít believe that Israel overshadows U.S. foreign policy. I think that thereís in fact a coincidence as far as foreign policy perspectives are concerned.

And this is something that is not recent. It goes way back in fact to the creation of Israel.

But on the other hand, to say that Israel overshadows U.S. foreign policy is incorrect. Because I think that Israel is an instrument of U.S. foreign policy. And it is being used in this particular context in the pursuit of U.S. hegemony. Now, Israel has an agenda. So I would identify (the U.S. and Israel) as involved in a longstanding military alliance. The U.S. has extensive military aid to Israel for a long time.

But I donít share the viewpoint that somehow Israel is now hijacking U.S. foreign policy and manipulating it. That position is simply incorrect.

However, we also have to understand another dimension of this question. The Jewish lobby in the U.S. may in fact play a role (through) their U.S.-based organizations. These are not Israeli-based organizations. And they certainly play a role in shaping U.S. foreign policy and in sustaining a pro-Israeli position. That is probably true.

But that is an entirely different mechanism to that of a foreign country actually hijacking Americaís foreign policy. To the extent that American foreign policy would be different had it not been for Israel, I donít buy that. Because U.S. foreign policy in fact is quite consistent in its stance from the Truman Doctrine which was formulated by George Keenan in the mid- to late Ď40s, and early Ď50s to the present neoconservative agenda.

The other aspect, and itís very popular both among leftist analysts as well as the libertarian right-wing analysts is to say somehow the neoconservatives are really different from their predecessors. And they are putting forth the Democrats as a possible alternative to the neoconservatives when in fact, if you really look at whatís happening in the last ten to fifteen years, you see a continuum.

I mean, you had the First Gulf war, you had the war on Yugoslavia, you had the invasion of Afghanistan, then you had Gulf War II. And if you go back further in history, the wars in Afghanistan during the Cold War era to the present, thereís been a very consistent thread and it has been pursued both by the Republicans and the Democrats.

On the 9/11 truth movement

JPG: You have emerged as a leading resource speaker of what has been called the international 9/11 truth movement. Unfortunately, Filipinos are not yet familiar with that; there isnít much of an active 9/11 truth movement locally. Could you familiarize us with this movement?

MC: Iím not a member of the 9/11 truth movement as such. I have participated in some of their activities.

I have some reservations regarding this group because it has very contradictory elements within it. And there are various internal disputes also within the group.

Moreover, I do not believe that the analysis of 9/11 should be strictly limited to looking at what happened to the buildings and so on. Itís a much broader focus which is required. Itís the use of massive casualty-producing events to justify war.

And so we are simply not looking at 9/11. Weíre looking at 9/11, weíre looking at the London bombings, weíre looking at the Madrid bombings, weíre looking at the Bali bombings, and so on.

Weíre also looking at the various suicide attacks which have taken place in the Iraqi war theater. And we know that many of those suicide attacks in fact were instigated by the occupation forces.

So I think itís also important at least from my perspective to broaden this understanding of 9/11. And the 9/11 truth movement has done lots of good work. They tend to be much more specialized in focusing on Building 7 and the World Trade Center, and what happened to the planes going into the Pentagon, whether it was a plane or a missile. And all those things I think are very important. Iíve been following that literature very carefully.

I have not been involved in the direct investigation into that particular aspect of 9/11. I have done one piece of analysis which maybe is a bit in line with that literature, recently. Itís the issue of what happened on the planes. And I have a chapter in my book which focuses on that because it just struck me that there was a very important relationship which has not been well-analyzed, that none of those cellphone conversations could have taken place from cellphones at altitudes above 8,000 feet. And so I wanted to review that narrative in the 9/11 Commission Report. And identify very concretely that it is simply fabricated. It is impossible to make a telephone call from high altitude onboard a plane. And most of their descriptions rest on that. Not all of it, but most of it rests on telephone conversations between alleged passengers on one hand and family members on the other. And the industry is absolutely unequivocal on that. They say that you could not make a telephone conversation at 31,000 feet. You might be able to do it at 8,000 feet but the planes were flying at high altitude during the good part of the time when they were in the air.

The U.S. and fascism

JPG: How do you view claims that the U.S. government especially under the Bush administration has become a full-fledged fascist empire a la Nazi Germany?

MC: Thereís certainly evidence to suggest that the Bush administration is moving towards a police state. Thereís repeal of the rule of law because people can be arrested arbitrarily.

Thereís a military agenda to conquer foreign lands, and the pretext is fabricated. So, yes, there are certain features reminiscent of Nazi Germany.

But on the other hand one has to be very careful in making those comparisons.

Because one of the features of Nazi Germany was that Nazism was also a means for creating employment in the military-industrial complex, so that they were building up their military and they had expanded defense expenditures, infrastructures, so on, which created a lot of jobs in the course of the 1930s. And what characterizes the present regime in America is yes, movement towards martial law and the police state, militarization of civilian institutions, and also big contracts for the military and lots of military spending. (However) the type of weapons systems which currently prevails is such that these hardly create any jobs.

And so weíre today in a neoliberal context. Nazi Germany was not characterized by neoliberal reforms. And that was one of the reasons why there was more support for the Nazi programme in the middle to late Ď30s. Because there was a promise of jobs which ultimately was reached in the late Ď30s when the German military machine was in full swing.

Rifts in the U.S. establishment

JPG: There had been revelations in U.S. media that point to the Pentagon under Rumsfeld getting more control over the covert operations than the CIA. and the U.S. State Department.  How do you regard these revelations? Do they indicate anything of value in terms of the changes being undergone by the U.S. state?

MC:  Thereís always sort of a rivalry between competing agencies of the U.S. government. I think that the Pentagon has been vying for some time to implement its own intelligence operations. In this particular case, they implement disinformation campaigns which consisted of planting news stories in the media. So yes, they are involved in intelligence. 

But on the other hand, I donít view this necessarily as a crucial issue. Itís a rivalry between bodies of the state apparatus. There can be very significant discrepancies.

Look at the person now whoís in charge of intelligence. Itís John Negroponte, who was involved in the dirty war in Central America, particularly in promoting the para-military death squads in Honduras and also his role in Nicaragua. 

I think in effect that these organizations are rivals but they also collaborate well. They always have joint committees, the Pentagon, the CIA., the NSA., and so on. I really donít think that any change in direction would occur as a result of these discrepancies. Theyíre normal within governmental structure.   

JPG: There have been a string of prominent Americans coming out against the Bush administration and its handling of the war in Iraq, of the U.S. war on terror. They include active and retired generals, some previous Cabinet secretaries and even some current members of the U.S. Congress. There seems to be emerging rifts within the U.S. ruling class. What do you think are the prospects of the anti-imperialist movement being able to make use of these rifts within the U.S. ruling class?

MC: I think there are people in the U.S., both Republicans and Democrats, who recognize that the course adopted by the Bush administration, particularly in Iraq, but also in relation to Iran, is going to lead essentially to a complete fiasco.

And itís not that they are against U.S. foreign policy as decided by the Bush administration, but they believe that it should be conducted differently, perhaps with a less militarist perspective.

So you have people like Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was a firm believer in the idea that America should extend its interests into Central Asia, for instance, and gain control over the Eurasian corridor, and the oil reserves of that region, but would probably favor a somewhat more negotiated policy, rather than all-out military conquest and war and so on and so forth.

So people like that are now more or less presenting (themselves as) voices of moderation. But it doesnít mean necessarily that they are in disagreement with the broader objectives of U.S. imperialism, which is really to colonize regions.

I see dissent from within the establishment but I donít see necessarily more articulate dissent against the project of global domination and militarization which the Bush administration has been putting forth.

JPG: So these emerging rifts within the U.S. ruling elite do not really indicate a departure from the imperial project that the U.S. has been conducting?

MC: I think that these differences in the current context could still play a very important role. Itís not to say that things donít change.

What Iím saying is that these differences of viewpoint is not some kind of big revolution in U.S. politics. Itís simply the fact that within the ruling elite, people think the Bush administration has taken on a course which is untenable and which ultimately will lead to disaster, and is not furthering the U.S. corporate agenda in a most effective way.

So these moderating views do not mean that the U.S. all of a sudden has become a peaceful nation. It simply means that they want to give a slightly more humane face to imperialism. Thatís really the whole issue.

Thereís a global military agenda, thereís a plan to conquer, the plan to dominate and impoverish. And that some people in America think that there are better ways of doing it. Thatís the way I see this critique. Because the people who were undertaking that critique are themselves the architects of this military agenda, including Brzezinski.

And the Democrats donít really have an alternative viewpoint to that of the Republicans. They probably would be a little bit less radical in pushing certain policies but I donít think that fundamentally they would do things that different.

You must remember that there are certain institutions which will be there all the timeóthe CIA, the Pentagon, and so on Ė irrespective of the team of people who are in power. And ultimately, to what extent do these people call the shots in consultation, letís say, with Lockheed Martin, the defense contractors, and the oil companies?

JPG: But what if itís possible that the war crimes committed by the Bush administration and those in the U.S. ruling elite are held to account? Donít you think the peopleís movement in the U.S. and the antiwar movement worldwide can benefit from holding to account the Bush administration and even the Democrats who approved of this war on terrorism?

MC: I think that at one level, thereís certainly an opportunity to push forward in terms of letís say the peopleís movement in the U.S. as a result of the faults of the Bush administration, letís say with regard to Iraq, with regard to the torture.

But we must not fall into the trap of thinking that if Bush is impeached or if thereís change in direction leading letís say to a new president who is a Democrat, that there will be fundamental change in America.

You see, the U.S. is also involved in what we call regime rotation. A regime rotation in America doesnít necessarily mean that thereís going to be real and meaningful changes in the way in which the country is moving nationally and internationally.

And thatís where the confusion emerges, because thereís a movement in the U.S. that says anything else but Bush. And they say yes, we must get rid of Bush.

Now that assumes first of all that Bush is actually making the decisions. Heís not. He himself is a puppet. He has limited understanding of U.S. foreign policy and acting on behalf of other interests.

Clearly yes, the advisory team is important but I would say we have to look at the role of U.S. intelligence, the military, the links between the military intelligence establishment and the oil companies and the defense contractors, and so on. And of course Wall Street which ultimately is really the basic pinnacle of financial power in America.

And so having come to the understanding that somehow if Bush is impeached or whether thereís a change in regime that thereís going to be fundamental change, I think is an illusion.

On the contrary, it might mean that it might demobilize people who would otherwise be more aware of the fact that you donít change a New World Order by simply changing a president. You need much more carefully thought out ways of waging the struggle. You have to target the defense contractors, the oil companies, the insidious role in pushing a military agenda, not to mention 9/11, the use of 9/11 as a pretext.

Thatís the way I see it. Iím not particularly impressed by that perspective that ultimately once you get rid of Bush you solve the problem. But I should say that an impeachment of Bush would be a very important achievement.

Itís ironic to say the least that there was an impeachment move against Clinton for his involvement with Monica Lewinsky but when extensive war crimes are revealed and when the U.S. president blatantly violates all the domestic and international norms of justice, and engages upon a criminal war with no justification whatsoever, that more or less he could continue exactly the way he wants, I think there we have a problem.

So yes the impeachment of President Bush is something that I would support. But I donít believe necessarily that it will resolve matters in the longer run, in the longer term.

JPG: Given the unprecedented belligerence of the U.S. under the aegis of the war on terror, what are the prospects of a schism developing within the imperialist camp similar to what developed during World War II where there were Allied Powers vis-ŗ-vis the Axis Powers?

MC: You mean, between the U.S. and UK on one hand, and France, Germany on the other?

JPG: Or say, Russia and China?

MC: Well, certainly, I wouldnít say that China and Russia are part of that imperialist design. Theyíre not countries which have imperial agenda as such. Iím not saying necessarily that they couldnít in the future. But historically the Soviet Union didnít really have an imperial agenda. And China has never had an imperial agenda. In its history, itís always remained within its borders.

I think what weíre looking at is the relationship which exists within the Western military alliance. That is really the crucial thing. And the fact that you have very significant divisions between U.S., Britain, on one hand, and France and Germany on the other. I think thatís very important.

And you have splits in the defense industry, the military-industrial complex. Britain is integrated into the United States. The British aerospace systems is actually producing for the U.S. Department of Defense as exactly the same privileges as the U.S. defense contractors. And it was an agreement that was signed in 1999.

And then you have the European defense industry which is really Franco-German. And so you have a split or divisions between what I call the Anglo-American alliance where you can add Australia, Canada, perhaps also Israel, and maybe a few other countries, who are part of this agenda. And then you have the Franco-German alliance.

But I should also mention that NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) is still an organization so firmly under U.S. control. And thatís why you see the fact that now with the buildup of the possible war with Iran, whatís happening is that you have also tacit support expressed by President Jacques Chirac of France. And so you donít have a situation in any way comparable to that prior to the war on Iraq. Bulatlat

 

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