The War on Terror Begins

When Bill Clinton, an unremarkable – except for the sheer number of dalliances with other women during his marriage to Hillary Rodham Clinton –  former governor of Arkansas, was elected President in 1992, it was due, in large part, to two factors: Texas businessman Ross Perot who, for no readily apparent reason, personally disliked George H.W. Bush, ran as an independent and garnered 19% of the vote, enough to cripple Bush’s chances; and Republican voters’ payback for Bush’s broken pledge, “…read, my lips, no new taxes” during the 1988 campaign.

Bush’s last budget contained his request for defense spending that totaled 5.3% of GDP (gross domestic product), a 22% reduction which reflected the drawdown in defense spending from the height of President Reagan’s final push to force the economic collapse of the Soviet Union – which was 6.8% of GDP. By the time Bill Clinton presented his final budget in 2000, he had reduced defense spending to only 3.4% of GDP – essentially cutting the defense budget in half from the final campaign of the Cold War. That was the Democrat’s “peace dividend”.

So, what did the Democrats – and America – get for this dividend? After the Cold War, leading Islamic radicals returned to their home countries – much like Jimmy Carter orchestrated the return of the Ayatollah Khomeini to Iran in 1979. Osama Bin Laden – known unto U.S intelligence, weak as it was, as a radical Islamic leader – left Afghanistan and went back to American ally, Saudi Arabia; Ayman Zawahiri, Bin Laden’s second-in-command of the radical Islamic group Al Qaeda, returned to Egypt.

“They focused on fighting their own rulers – what they termed the “near enemy” – in order to establish states under Islamic law to be run by their political arm, the “Muslim Brotherhood”. But in the mid-to-late 1990s, these radicals shifted strategy. They decided to stop fighting the near enemy and to attack the “far enemy,” what the worldwide leaders of Islamic radicalism in Iran called “the great Satan” – the United States of America.

The world’s sole superpower would seem to be much more formidable than local Muslim rulers such as Hosni Mubarak in Egypt or the Saudi royal family. Bin Laden argued however, that the far enemy was actually weaker (in spirit) and more vulnerable. He was confident that when kicked in their vital organs, Americans would pack up and run – just like in Vietnam; just like in Mogadishu – the infamous “Blackhawk Down” incident and just like in Lebanon after the Marine barracks bombing in 1983.

Bin Laden saw his theory of American weakness vindicated during the Bill Clinton presidency. In 1993, Islamic radicals ineptly bombed the World Trade Center in New York City. Six civilians died. The Clinton administration did little. In 1996, Muslim terrorists attacked the Khobar Towers barracks facility on a U.S. base in Saudi Arabia. Nineteen American service members died. There was no response from the Clinton administration. In 1998, Al Qaeda bombed two U.S. embassies in Africa. Clinton responded with a few perfunctory strikes in Sudan (on an aspirin factory) and Afghanistan (on an empty Al Qaeda training camp – failures due to inadequate or actionable human intelligence – thank you Frank Church).

These did no real harm to Al Qaeda and only strengthened the perception of American ineptitude. In 2000, Islamic radicals bombed the U.S. destroyer Cole in the port of Aden, Yemen. Seventeen American sailors died. Again, the Clinton team failed to act. By his own admission, Bin Laden concluded that his suspicion of American pusillanimity and weakness was correct. He became emboldened to plot the 9/11 attacks.

Still, the 2001 attacks might have been averted had the Clinton administration launched an effective strike against Bin Laden in the years leading up to them. Clinton has said he made every effort to get Bin Laden during his second term. Yet former CIA agent Michael Scheuer estimates that there were about 10 chances to capture or kill Bin Laden during this period and that the Clinton people failed to capitalize on any of them.

Between 1996 and mid-2000, Bin Laden was not in deep hiding. He gave sermons in Kandahar’s largest mosque. He talked openly on his satellite phone. He also granted several media interviews: in 1996, with author Robert Fisk; in 1997, with Peter Arnett of CNN; in 1998, with John Miller of ABC News; in 1999, with a journalist affiliated with Time magazine. Isn’t it strange that all these people could find Bin Laden but the Clinton administration couldn’t?

The lesson to be learned from Clinton’s inaction, is that the perception of weakness emboldens our enemies. If the Muslim insurgents and terrorists believe that the U.S. is divided and squeamish about winning the war on terror, they are likely to escalate their attacks on Americans abroad and at home. In this case, 9/11, where almost 3000 innocent lives were lost on American soil – eclipsing even Pearl Harbor.

Another global actor also challenged the Clinton “peace dividend” administration – North Korea. In March 1993, after years of talks on North Korea’s program to develop nuclear power under the International Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty guidelines, North Korea threatened to withdraw from the NPT.

Facing heavy domestic pressure from Republicans who opposed negotiations involving concessions with the untrustworthy and unpredictable North Korea, President  Clinton appointed Robert Gallucci to start a new round of negotiations. After 89 days, North Korea announces it has suspended its withdrawal. (The NPT requires 90 days notice before a country can withdraw.) In December, the International Atomic Energy Administration (IAEA) Director-General Hans Blix announced that the agency could no longer provide “any meaningful assurances” that North Korea was not producing nuclear weapons.

On October 12, 1994, the United States and North Korea signed the “Agreed Framework”: North Korea agreed to freeze its plutonium production program in exchange for fuel oil, economic cooperation, and the construction of two modern light-water nuclear power plants. Eventually, North Korea’s existing nuclear facilities were to be dismantled, and the spent reactor fuel taken out of the country.

On October 26, 1994, IAEA Chairman Blix told the British House of Commons’ Foreign Affairs Select Committeethe IAEA is “not very happy” with the Agreed Framework because it gives North Korea too much time to begin complying with the inspections regime.

Then, on October 9, 2006, after 12 years of fruitless negotiations over their nuclear program under Democrat Bill Clinton’s “framework”, North Korea announced that it had performed its first-ever nuclear weapons test. They continue to this day – along with a program to develop the ballistic missiles with which to deliver them to Western aligned nations in the Pacific region.

The lesson to be learned from Clinton’s naïve approach to negotiations is that sovereign nations will ALWAYS act in what they perceive to be their nation’s best interests – so trusting in compliance, without ironclad, comprehensive, aggressive, unhindered and invasive verification, as we have learned – is folly.

Incidentally, on May 28, 1998, a few weeks after India’s second nuclear test (Operation Shakti), American ally Pakistan, surprisingly detonated five nuclear devices in the Ras Koh Hills in the remote Chagai district of Baluchistan. There were now seven (going on eight) nuclear armed nations in Bill Clinton’s world.

So again, what did the Democrats get for their “peace dividend” during the first decade after the end of the Cold War? A nuclear armed India and Pakistan; a framework that would allow an irrational leadership in North Korea to also develop a nuclear weapon capability, a direct route to the September 11, 2001 attack on the U.S. homeland by Iranian inspired radical Islamic terrorists leading to two major military operations involving hundreds of thousands of American troops and resulting in nearly 7000 American combat deaths and a blueprint for this same irrational radical Islamist regime to achieve their own nuclear weapons program. It was a fourth (WW I, WW II, Vietnam, Cold War) sobering condemnation of a national strategy of peace-through-weakness. Unfortunately, another one would come – this time under yet another Democrat president – Barack Hussein Obama, who would abandon the field in Iraq before the mission was accomplished and thereby allow the creation of a barbaric, 7th Century radical Islamic horde known as ISIS. Rather than a dividend, the American people have paid a terrible premium.

When President Obama took office in January 2009, the United States was involved in hostilities with state sponsored radical Islamic terrorists in two theaters – Afghanistan and Iraq. Without controversy, Afghanistan had been invaded under the direction of President George W. Bush by U.S. led forces from 43 countries on October 7, 2001 in direct response to the 9/11 attack, which had been planned and coordinated by Osama Bib Laden from his headquarters in that Taliban controlled, radical Islamic country. On May 2, 2011, United States Navy’s SEAL TEAM 6 killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan where he had been in hiding for years with the full knowledge of the government of Pakistan. 

In October 2001, when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, it marked the beginning of its Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). One year later the Congress and the Senate passed a law authorizing the use of armed force against Iraq. This resolution empowered the President to declare war without obtaining U.N. Security Council authorization – an unacceptable restriction on any nation’s sovereignty.

Introduced in Congress on October 2, 2002, in conjunction with the Administration’s proposals, H.J.Res. 114 passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 296-133 (69% approval), and passed the Senate by a vote of 77-23 (including one Hillary Clinton). It was signed into law as Pub.L. 107-243 by President Bush on October 16, 2002.

Democrats supported it with a 40% affirmation in the House and 58% in the Senate; Republicans supported it almost unanimously – by 98% in the Senate and 96.4% in the House. Overall, more than 70% of Congress voted to take the U.S. to war with Iraq – even more than the 67% required to pass an amendment to the Constitution.

Saddam Hussein knew that the U.S. wanted him ousted from power, which was made clear in the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate and signed into law by then U.S. President Bill Clinton. Saddam Hussein and his regime had not been challenged in any serious manner, despite violating numerous U.N. resolutions – including the use of poisonous gas on his own people. Based on the precedence established during the 7 years since the end of the first Gulf War, Saddam Hussein could have been given the false impression that the U.S. was unwilling to confront him militarily.

The official U.S. policy from 1998 forward was to remove Saddam Hussein and his regime from power. After September 11, 2001, U.S. focus was first and foremost to secure the physical well-being of the American people. Since Iraq was believed to possess – and to have actually used – weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which include chemical, biological and nuclear weapons – the removal of these became the top priority for the U.S. government. By and large, the United States was operating with two simultaneous goals: the elimination of both the (known and alleged) WMD and the Iraqi Regime.

The United States did obtain acceptance from the United Nations for its own foreign policy as exemplified by the passing of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 on November 8, 2002. In this document the Security Council recognized ‘the threat that Iraq’s non-compliance with Council resolutions and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles poses to international peace and security’, and Iraq was warned that ‘it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations’.

By the end of November, the U.N. weapons inspector, Hans Blix, told the U.N. Security Council that Iraq had not fully accounted for its stocks of chemical and biological weapons and had not fully accepted its obligation to disarm under 1441. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, on February 5, 2003, presented evidence apparently showing that the Hussein regime was pursuing the development of nuclear weapons. (More on this later.)

Citing the possibility of the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to the U.N. Security Council, the U.S. had already deployed thousands of soldiers to the Gulf region. As early as in January, 2003, U.S. Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, had signed deployment orders for 62,000 U.S. troops to the region, in addition to the 43,000 already in place.

President Bush delivered an ultimatum on March 17, 2003 demanding that Saddam Hussein and two of his sons leave Iraq within 48 hours. Saddam refused. On March 20, 2003, coalition forces attacked Iraq in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Iraq war, sometimes known as the Third Gulf War, began early on March 20, 2003 with the invasion of Iraq by an alliance of 48 nations led by the United States against the Baath Party of Saddam Hussein. The invasion led to the rapid and overwhelming defeat of the Iraqi army and the capture and eventual execution of Saddam Hussein. President George W. Bush officially declared its military mission complete on May 1, 2003, after the fall of the government met the essential mission objective assigned to American military forces.

The President made his comments on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln under a banner that read “Mission Accomplished” displayed during a televised  address May 1, 2003 and, stoked by the hostile progressive/liberal press/media (hostile because Bush had somehow “stolen” the 2000 presidential election from media darling and Democrat, Al Gore), controversy soon followed.

Bush, a former Air Force fighter-pilot, became the first sitting President to arrive via an arrested landing in a fixed-wing aircraft on an aircraft carrier when he arrived at the Lincoln – having returned from ten months of combat operations in the Persian Gulf in a Lockeed S-3 Viking aircraft, dubbed Navy One. As Commander-in-Chief, he had wanted to see a carrier landing the way naval aviators see it. He popularly posed for photographs with pilots and members of the ship’s crew while wearing a flight suit.

A few hours later, he gave a speech on the flight deck announcing the end of major combat operations in the Iraq War. Far above him was the warship’s banner stating “Mission Accomplished.” The general impression created by the image of Bush under the banner was criticized by progressive/liberal/Democrat opponents as premature, especially later as the guerrilla war began while the Army struggled to rebuild Iraq.

Although Bush stated at the time “Our mission continues” and “We have difficult work to do in Iraq,” he also stated that it was the end to [planned] major combat operations in Iraq – which, in fact, it was – until the nation-building mission, thrust upon the American military, became bogged down in guerilla warfare in 2006.

The banner stating “Mission Accomplished” was used as a backdrop to the President’s speech yet it was requested by the crew and referred specifically to the aircraft carrier’s 10-month deployment and not the war itself. Bush’s speech noted:

“Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.” “We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We are bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous.” “Our mission continues…The War on Terror continues, yet it is not endless. We do not know the day of final victory, but we have seen the turning of the tide.”

Bush also offered a “Mission Accomplished” message to the troops in Afghanistan at Camp As Sayliyah on June 5, 2003 – about a month after the aircraft carrier speech:

“America sent you on a mission to remove a grave threat and to liberate an oppressed people, and that mission has been accomplished.”

 For critics of the war [mainly the progressive/liberal/Democrats who never forgave Bush for daring to defend his electoral victory over Al Gore in 2000, all the way to the Supreme Court], the photo-op became their symbol of what they would claim were the Bush administration’s unrealistic goals and perceptions of the conflict. Anti-war activists typically questioned the integrity and realism of Bush’s “major combat” statement – willfully ignoring all context, as is their standard policy. 

After the fall of Baghdad in late April 2003, the coalition mission became “mission-creep” – one of nation-building. The coalition forces occupied Iraq and attempted to establish a new government and build a democratic society. However, local violence against the alliance forces by both Sunni and Shiite militias, some supported by al-Qaida operatives, rapidly led to an asymmetrical war between insurgents, the coalition military, and the new Shiite dominated Iraqi government.

The rationale for the invasion of Iraq were several: First, the “fight against radical Islamist terrorism”: Iraq was a state, supporting (a stateless) al-Qaida, responsible for, among other things, the attack against the warship USS Cole, attacks against several U.S. embassies in Africa, and the attacks of September 11, 2001 – although no direct links to the Iraqi government, suitable for a court of law, have come to light. Second, the elimination of weapons of mass destruction that all of the West’s intelligence agencies agreed were supposed to be held by Iraq. (Recall that America’s intelligence capabilities were the worst of all because of Democrat Senator Frank Church and, that the report of Iraq’s nuclear program came from the vaunted British intelligence agency, MI-6.) Third, the possession of long range missiles, capable of delivering WMD’s into Israel, and their proliferation, was demonstrated in the 1990s. Fourth, the arrest of the brutal dictator Saddam Hussein, who would pay the families of successful Islamic homicide bombers in Israel, and the abolishment of his regime – which would introduce some semblance of self-determination and peace to the region.

The CIA, in its October 2002 report entitled “Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs” is very clear on the subject: “ … since the end of inspections in 1998 and in violation of resolutions of the United Nations, Iraq has maintained its chemical weapons project, has continued development and production of missiles and has invested more in biological weapons.” Most specialists considered that Iraq had re-formed its nuclear weapons program. The Iraqis, who had tried to obtain “yellow-cake” uranium tubes from Niger in the 1990s, resumed production of chemical agents as well as the development of long range missiles. However, this was apparently not the opinion of everyone.

Joseph Wilson, a -secret Democrat- operative and appointee and former diplomat working on the issue of Iraq who, at the official suggestion of his wife, one Valerie Plame, a CIA administrator (and a classic example of a member of the Progressive/Liberal/Democrat Cabal), in February 2002, was assigned an investigation into the Niger uranium that Saddam could have used in his nuclear program. His report was clear: he reportedly found nothing (more on this below).

In 2002, UN inspectors summarized what they found in Iraq, in a written report by the analyst Kenneth Katzman. Between 1991 and 1994, inspectors had discovered forty secret nuclear research laboratories and three clandestine programs to enrich uranium. On January 27, 2003, Hans Blix, a Swedish diplomat whose ethics and morality has never been questioned by anyone, said in his report that the UN inspectors had discovered in late 2002 that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was producing the nerve gas VX and the mustard gas, thiodiglycol, as well as tactical ballistic missiles with which to deliver them in weapons form – presumably, to Israel.

“On September 24, 2002, Niger’s uranium was mentioned in a British intelligence report. This report indicated that Iraq was attempting to obtain uranium in African countries. Moreover, in January 2003, George W. Bush relied on the British report to argue to the United Nations that Iraq recovered its nuclear program.

As for the missiles, one category are missiles named “Al Samuda”, derived from the “air defense” missile, a Soviet SA-2 “Guideline” missile, which were designed, developed, and manufactured by the Iraqis. The UNSCOM inspectors believed in 1998 that these missiles’ real significance was a range of about 100 miles, in accordance with UN Resolution 687 which established about 100-mile maximum range of missiles that could be held, developed or manufactured in Iraq.”

The restrictions seem to have been eased after 1998, which would have given the production models a range of up to about 150 miles depending on the version. A dozen were destroyed a few weeks before the invasion and a dozen were captured in July 21, 2003 by U.S. forces.

The location of Iraq’s known chemical weapons is another animal altogether. None of their stockpiles were discovered immediately after the coalition invasion. The subsequent use of “similar” chemical weapons by the government of Syria during their civil war may provide some clues as to their fate.

“Romanian intelligence defector Ion Mihai Pacepa alleged that an operation for the removal of chemical weapons was prepared by the Soviet Union for Syria, and that he was told over thirty years ago by Romanian President Nicolae Ceausecu, KGB chairman Yuri Andropov, and later, Yevgeny Primakov, about the existence of a similar plan for Iraq. It is “perfectly obvious”, wrote Pacepa, that the Russian  GRU agency helped Saddam Hussein to destroy, hide, or transfer his chemical weapons prior to the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. “After all, Russia helped Saddam get his hands on them in the first place.”

John Loftus, director of “The Intelligence Summit”, said in the November 16, 2007 issue of Frontpage Magazine that many documents from Iraq point to WMD being transferred to other countries such as Syria: “As stated in more detail in my full report, the British, Ukrainian and American secret services all believed that the Russians had organized a last minute evacuation of CW and BW stockpiles from Baghdad to Syria.” His researchers allegedly found a document ordering the concealment of nuclear weapons equipment in storage facilities under the Euphrates River a few weeks before the invasion.

Former Iraqi general Georges Sada claimed that in late 2002, Saddam had ordered all his stockpiles to be moved to Syria. He appeared on Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes in January 2006 to discuss his book, Saddam’s Secrets: How an Iraqi General Defied and Survived Saddam Hussein.

Anticipating the arrival of weapon inspectors on November 1, Sada said Saddam took advantage of the June 4 Zeyzoun Dam disaster in Syria by forming an “air bridge”, loading the stockpiles onto cargo aircraft and flying them out of the country under the guise of humanitarian aid for Syria. They were moved by air and by ground, 56 sorties by jumbo, Boeing 747, to Syria.

In January 2004, Nizar Nayuf, a Syrian journalist who moved to Western Europe, said in a letter to the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf that he knows the three sites where Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction [were] kept inside Syria. According to Nayuf’s witness, described as a senior source inside Syrian military intelligence he had known for two years, Iraq’s WMD are in tunnels dug under the town of al-Baida near the city of Hama in northern Syria, in the village of Tal Snan, north of the town of Salamija, where there is a big Syrian Air Force camp, and in the city of Sjinsjar on the Syrian border with the Lebanon, south of Homs city.” 

“After only 19 days of combat and the price of a few firefights, the U.S. military pushed easily, to the south and east of Baghdad, units of the Republican Guard, composed entirely of professional Iraqi soldiers, mostly, or almost exclusively Sunni, mainly equipped with medium tanks, few troop transport vehicles, a few wheeled combat vehicles of infantry that never exceeded a volume equivalent to a squadron of armored forces of the allies.

These Iraqi units were fighting in total isolation and apparently poorly controlled under the command of the Republican Guard, in particular, those who were fighting in such areas as of Baghdad, Tikrit, Baquba, and Kut. The U.S. military then entered Baghdad, executing attacks against buildings representing the Iraqi government. The U.S. military took control of the capital with a series of reinforced attacks to annihilate the Republican Guard responsible for protecting presidential palaces and various terrorist groups. The Pentagon had planned to reach 50 miles from the capital after 47 days. [Mission accomplished!]

Notwithstanding, there was shooting of Iraqi ballistic missiles that in most cases were opposed by the Patriot anti-aircraft missile batteries or who fell out of area, but one of them achieved a hit on the headquarters of a U.S. brigade. The regime of Saddam Hussein fell in the following days. The last compartments of armed resistance were also quick to fall. The allies’ troops then sought senior Iraqi government officials.

While some were arrested quickly, several important Iraqi officials evaded capture for several months, especially two of Saddam Hussein’s adult sons, Udai and Qusai, who were later run to ground and killed in July 22, 2003. By February 2004, fifty-five of the highest VIPs of the Saddam’s regime were either captured or murdered, leaving only eleven that were not located by the US troops. Saddam Hussein had been [captured] in a “spider-hole” [a simple hole in the ground] by U.S. soldiers in Tikrit on December 14, 2003, with the support of the Kurds. He was then condemned by the Iraqi Special Tribunal and hanged the next day on December 30, 2006 with several of his henchmen.”

Next time: Nation-building???

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