Sunday, March 25, 2012

Karl Rove and the Truth about the Hunt for Bin Laden 1/2

By Nomad
Karl Rove Nomadic Politics
In a Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal op-ed article, former Bush strategy advisor Karl Rove recently wrote:   
As for the killing of Osama bin Laden, Mr. Obama did what virtually any commander in chief would have done in the same situation. ..For this to be portrayed as the epic achievement of the first term tells you how bare the White House cupboards are.
It is interesting that Rove would even dare to remind the American people how completely inept the Bush administration was. Interesting, but not particularly surprising. This is Karl Rove- a man who has never felt any great need to be honest to the American people.

Still the record of history defies Rove’s attempt to undermine the President’s achievement. Perhaps it is time to take a closer look at the Bush administration's pursuit of the world's top terrorist. 
To put the events in the proper perspective we have to go to the day of September 11 2001.

The Hunt Begins
Hours after the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, President George Bush called together his top security advisers to a bunker under the White House. There, he told them,"We have made the decision to punish whoever harbors terrorists, not just the perpetrators."
It fell to the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to oversee the military response. Bush told Rumsfeld, "The ball will be in your court."
One week after the 9/11 attacks, President Bush, regarding Osama bin Laden, told reporters at a meeting at the Pentagon:
"I want justice, And there's an old poster out West that says, 'Wanted: Dead or Alive. All I want and America wants is to see them brought to justice. That's what we want."
Assassination as a means of conducting foreign policy is something that no president should take lightly. Even Bush seemed to hesitate for a moment, dimly aware that a policy of annihilation of your enemies is a slippery slope.

On September 20, 2001, President George W. Bush said “whether we bring our enemies to justice or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done.”

In October of 2001, U.S. Special Forces began the ground phase of America's war against terrorism in Afghanistan, operating in small numbers in southern Afghanistan in support of the CIA's effort in the Taliban heartland. The task of that small force was to hunt down and kill the leader of al-Qaida and with two months, they nearly succeeded.

In December of 2001, tough-talking Bush told reporters:

(Incidentally, please note the Fox and Friends use of the word “we” and the seemingly irrelevance of the phrase, “nine and a half years later:”)
Even as Bush spoke those words, the CIA and a small DELTA force along with a contingent of Afghan fighters were closing in on bin Laden in a place called Tora Bora.

A Head on Ice

According to transcripts released by the Pentagon. EC-130 "Commando Solo" psychological operations aircraft gave instructions to civilians to follow when U.S. troops arrived: 
"Attention! People of Afghanistan, United States forces will be moving through your area. We are here for Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda and those who protect them! Please, for your own safety, stay off bridges and roadways, and do not interfere with our troops or military operations. If you do this, you will not be harmed." 
By December 2001, within four months of the attacks, the ground forces had closed in on bin Laden’s hideout in Tora Bora. But then, against all odds, Bin Laden slipped through the dragnet, and most likely, crossed into Pakistan via an easterly route through snow covered mountains to the area of Parachinar
But how did this happen? How did President Bush or Donald Rumsfeld fumble the ball?

In his 2005 book Jawbreaker, Gary Bernsten, a former CIA officer who led the team of on the hunt for bin Laden in Tora Bora in December, 2001, claims that he and his team had, in fact, located of Osama bin Laden’s position. and that bin Laden could have been captured if United States Central Command had committed the troops that Berntsen had requested.

Another former CIA officer Gary Schroen backs up that view. He was assigned the mission to find and kill bin Laden. In a interview on Meet the Press, Schroen described the details of his mission: 
MR. SCHROEN: The mission was to--the first part of it was to go in and link up with the Northern Alliance, formerly headed by Ahmed Al-Massoud, and to win their confidence and their agreement to cooperate militarily with us. They were the only armed force on the ground in Afghanistan opposing the Taliban. The second part of it was, once the Taliban were broken, to attack the al-Qaeda organization, find bin Laden and his senior lieutenants and kill them.

MR. RUSSERT: Kill them?

MR. SCHROEN: Kill them.

MR. RUSSERT: Wasn't it illegal for us to kill foreign leaders?

MR. SCHROEN: I don't think at that point that the--I think the administration had gotten to the point where bin Laden and his guys were fair game.

MR. RUSSERT: As part of war?

MR. SCHROEN: As part of war.

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Black [Cofer Black, the head of counterterrorism for the CIA] gave you specific instructions on what he wanted you to bring home.

MR. SCHROEN: That's true. He did ask that once we got bin Laden and killed him, that we send his head back in a cardboard box on dry ice so that he could take it down and show the president.
Later in the interview, Schroen reveals the causes for the failure to capture the arch-terrorist.
MR. RUSSERT: Should we have had more U.S. troops in Afghanistan circling Tora Bora to prevent his escape?

MR. SCHROEN: In hindsight that would have been ideal. We fought a special operations war. It was CIA and Army Green Berets on the ground directing the bombing campaign. It was only late in the campaign that U.S. ground forces came in, and the evolution, I think, simply we didn't take it far enough. If we'd have had one more battle after Tora Bora, we probably would have gotten it right.

MR. RUSSERT: Again, in October of 2004, in the presidential campaign, after John Kerry made those charges, General Tommy Franks offered this observation. "We don't know to this day whether Mr. bin Laden was at Tora Bora in December 2001. ...Mr. bin Laden was never within our grasp."

You just disagree with that?

MR. SCHROEN: I absolutely do, yes.

MR. RUSSERT: And President Bush and Vice President Cheney all quoted General Franks, saying: "We don't know if bin Laden was at Tora Bora." You have no doubt.

MR. SCHROEN: I have no doubt that he was there.
If this is true (and Mr. Schroen has no reason to lie), the only conclusion is that the everybody from General Franks, to Rumsfeld to Cheney and finally to Bush, simply lied to the American publc about that failed mission to capture bin Laden. Mistakes were made and none of them had the courage to admit it. 

It all seemed so certain but there had been a problem with logistics. Most notably, there were too few boots on the ground. 
MR. SCHROEN: We are still shorthanded as far as CIA officers on the ground in those border areas. Again, the demand on personnel, both special operations and military, and CIA in Iraq are huge and it makes staffing there difficult.
According to an excellent piece on Sixty Minutes, the Afghan tribal bands that had accompanied the special forces unexpectedly betrayed the American forces and gave bin Laden enough time to escape. Here are excerpts from that report:

Had enough American forces been committed to the mission, the Afghans might not have been so eager to turn the tables on the DELTA force. Had there been a greater understanding of the mentality- how much awe the Afghans had for bin Laden- the outcome most likely would have been very different. It was, if these charges are true, not the DELTA force commander who failed. His mission was designed to fail. The danger of a small but elite team paired up with a larger but undependable local force is clear. (Of course, this reliance on untrustworthy allies would be played out again and again in the hunt for bin Laden.) 

And, in the hunt for bin Laden, our naive dependence of untrustworthy allies in the region would compromise any further effort to detain the fugitive.
With bin Laden across that border and in Pakistan, the problem of capturing or killing bin Laden became next to impossible. From that point on, America and the Coalition had to rely on Pakistan’s undependable cooperation. And we know the result of that. For the remainder of Bush’s time in office, bin Laden was able to hide under the very noses of the Pakistani military, in Abbottabad, Pakistan, home of the Pakistan Military Academy

Donald Rumsfeld Nomadic Politics
Years later a report by the Senate foreign relations committee would point the finger of blame at Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, stating that as a result of allowing the al-Qaeda leader to flee from his Tora Bora stronghold into Pakistan, Americans were left more vulnerable to terrorism, and the foundations were laid for today's protracted Afghan insurgency. 

Although the administration was noticeably unwilling to discuss the details of the operations (and reasons for its failure) the Senate committee, after looking at the available evidence,correctly understood that there was no question that bin Laden and around 1,500 of his al-Qaida fighters and bodyguards in Tora Bora and had managed to escape. The report concludes:
"Osama bin Laden's demise would not have erased the worldwide threat from extremists," it concludes. "But the failure to kill or capture him has allowed Bin Laden to exert a malign influence over events in the region."
Back to the timeline.

On January 18 2002, to the Republican National Committee winter meeting, Karl Rove announced, "We can go to the country on this issue because they trust the Republican party to do a better job of protecting and strengthening America's military might and thereby protecting the America."

With this statement he implied that the war on terrorism - whether genuine or imagined- would always work to the advantage of the Republicans. By that time, the matter of finding bin Laden was taking a backseat to different part of the Bush agenda. 

In any event, as we shall see in the second part of this post, bin Laden was much more useful as a free but essentially ineffectual terrorist leader.
And following the failure at Tora Bora, President Bush seemed to have lost his ambition to find and bring bin Laden to justice. It simply was no longer a top priority for him. Less than six months after the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, the man that was considered the nation's enemy was suddenly not that important. 

To Continue to Part Two
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