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Bosnia, Kosovo, and Now Libya:
The Human Costs of Washington’s On-Going Collusion with Terrorists
by Peter Dale Scott
The Asian-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 31 No 1
1 August 2011
Table Of Contents
Twice in the last two decades, significant cuts in U.S. and western military spending were foreseen: first after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and then in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. But both times military spending soon increased, and among the factors contributing to the increase were America’s interventions in new areas: the Balkans in the 1990s, and Libya today. Hidden from public view in both cases was the extent to which al-Qaeda was a covert U.S. ally in both interventions, rather than its foe.
U.S. interventions in the Balkans and then Libya were presented by the compliant U.S. and allied mainstream media as humanitarian. Indeed, some Washington interventionists may have sincerely believed this. But deeper motivations – from oil to geostrategic priorities – were also at work in both instances.
In virtually all the wars since 1989, America and Islamist factions have been battling to determine who will control the heartlands of Eurasia in the post-Soviet era. In some countries – Somalia in 1993, Afghanistan in 2001 – the conflict has been straightforward, with each side using the other’s excesses as an excuse for intervention.
But there have been other interventions in which Americans have used al-Qaeda as a resource to increase their influence, for example Azerbaijan in 1993. There a pro-Moscow president was ousted after large numbers of Arab and other foreign mujahedin veterans were secretly imported from Afghanistan, on an airline hastily organized by three former veterans of the CIA’s airline Air America. (The three, all once detailed from the Pentagon to the CIA, were Richard Secord, Harry Aderholt, and Ed Dearborn.) This was an ad hoc marriage of convenience: the mujahedin got to defend Muslims against Russian influence in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, while the Americans got a new president who opened up the oilfields of Baku to western oil companies.
The pattern of U.S. collaboration with Muslim fundamentalists against more secular enemies is not new. It dates back to at least 1953, when the CIA recruited right-wing mullahs to overthrow Prime Minister Mossadeq in Iran, and also began to cooperate with the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood. But in Libya in 2011 we see a more complex marriage of convenience between US and al-Qaeda elements: one which repeats a pattern seen in Bosnia in 1992-95, and Kosovo in 1997-98. In those countries America responded to a local conflict in the name of a humanitarian intervention to restrain the side committing atrocities. But in all three cases both sides committed atrocities, and American intervention in fact favored the side allied with al-Qaeda.
The cause of intervention was fostered in all three cases by blatant manipulation and falsification of the facts. What a historian has noted of the Bosnian conflict was true also of Kosovo and is being echoed today in Libya: though attacks were “perpetrated by Serbs and Muslims alike,” the pattern in western media was “that killings of Muslims were newsworthy, while the deaths of non-Muslims were not.” Reports of mass rapes in the thousands proved to be wildly exaggerated: a French journalist “uncovered only four women willing to back up the story.” Meanwhile in 1994 the French intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy (BHL) traveled to Bosnia and fervently endorsed the case for intervention in Bosnia; in 2011 February BHL traveled to Benghazi and reprised his interventionist role for Libya.
In all of the countries mentioned above, furthermore, there are signs that some American and/or western intelligence groups were collaborating with al-Qaeda elements from the outset of conflict, before the atrocities cited as a reason for intervention.. This suggests that there were deeper reasons for America’s interventions including the desire of western oil companies to exploit the petroleum reserves of Libya (as in Iraq) without having to deal with a troublesome and powerful strong man, or their desire to create a strategic oil pipeline across the Balkans (in Kosovo).
That the U.S. would support al-Qaeda in terrorist atrocities runs wholly counter to impressions created by the U.S. media. Yet this on-going unholy alliance resurrects and builds on the alliance underlying Zbigniew Brzezinski’s 1978-79 strategy of provocation in Afghanistan, at a time when he was President Carter’s National Security Adviser.
In those years Brzezinski did not hesitate to play the terrorist card against the Soviet Union: he reinforced the efforts of the SAVAK (the Shah of Iran’s intelligence service) to work with the Islamist antecedents of al-Qaeda to destabilize Afghanistan, in a way which soon led to a Soviet invasion of that country. At the time, as he later boasted, Brzezinski told Carter, “We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War.”
CIA Director William Casey continued this strategy of using terrorists against the USSR in Afghanistan. At first the CIA channeled aid through the Pakistani ISI (Interservices Intelligence Service) to their client Afghan extremists like Gulbeddin Hekmatyar (today one of America’s enemies in Afghanistan). But in 1986, “Casey committed CIA support to a long-standing ISI initiative to recruit radical Muslims from around the world to come to Pakistan and fight with the Afghan Mujaheddin.” CIA aid now reached their support Office of Services in Peshawar, headed by a Palestinian, Abdullah Azzam, and by Osama bin Laden. The al-Kifah Center, a U.S. recruitment office for their so-called Arab-Afghan foreign legion (the future al Qaeda), was set up in the al-Farook mosque in Brooklyn.
It is important to recall Brzezinski’s and Casey’s use of terrorists today. For in Libya, as earlier in Kosovo and Bosnia, there are alarming signs that America has continued to underwrite Islamist terrorism as a means to dismantle socialist or quasi-socialist nations not previously in its orbit: first the USSR, then Yugoslavia, today Libya. As I have written elsewhere, Gaddafi was using the wealth of Libya, the only Mediterranean nation still armed by Russia and independent of the NATO orbit, to impose more and more difficult terms for western oil companies, and to make the whole of Africa more independent of Europe and America.
Support for the mujahedin included collusion in law-breaking, at a heavy cost. In the second part of this essay, I will show how government protection of key figures in the Brooklyn al-Kifah Center left some of them free, even after they were known to have committed crimes, to engage in further terrorist acts in the United States – such as the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993.
The U.S.-al-Qaeda Alliance in Libya
The NATO intervention in Libya has been presented as a humanitarian campaign. But it is not: both factions have been committing atrocities. Thanks in part to the efforts of the well-connected p.r. firm the Harbour Group, working on behalf of the Benghazi opposition’s National Transitional Council [NTC], Americans have heard many more press accounts of atrocities by pro-Gaddafi forces in Libya than by the Benghazi opposition. But in fact, as the London Daily Telegraph reported,
Thomas Mountain concurs that “Since the rebellion in Benghazi broke out several hundred Sudanese, Somali, Ethiopian and Eritrean guest workers have been robbed and murdered by racist rebel militias, a fact well hidden by the international media.” Such reports have continued. Recently, Human Rights Watch accused the rebels of killing Gaddafi supporters who were just civilians and looting, burning and ransacking pro-Gaddafi supporters' houses and areas.
Americans and Europeans are still less likely to learn from their media that among the groups in the Benghazi transitional coalition, certainly the most battle-seasoned, are veterans of the Al-Jama'a al-Islamiyyah al-Muqatilah bi-Libya (Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, or LIFG). The importance of the LIFG contingent in the TNC has been downplayed in a recent issue of the International Business Times:
It remains to be seen whether a victorious TNC would be able to contain the Islamist aspirations of the ruthless jihadist veterans in their ranks.
There are those who fear that, from their years of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, the battle-hardened LIFG, although probably not dominant in the Benghazi coalition today, will come to enjoy more influence if Benghazi ever gets to distribute the spoils of victory. In February 2004, then-Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee that “one of the most immediate threats [to U.S. security in Iraq] is from smaller international Sunni extremist groups that have benefited from al-Qaida links. They include ... the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.” In 2007 a West Point study reported on “the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group's (LIFG) increasingly cooperative relationship with al-Qaeda, which culminated in the LIFG officially joining al-Qaeda on November 3, 2007.” It is possible that the West Point study exaggerated the LIFG-Al Qaeda connection. What matters is that Britain and the US were well aware of the West Point assessment, yet their special forces nevertheless secretly backed the Benghazi TNC, even before the launch of NATO air support:
There are also reports that U.S. Special Forces were also sent into Libya on February 23 and 24, 2011, almost a month before the commencement of NATO bombing. UK support for the fundamentalist LIFG was in fact at least a decade old:
Even more ominous for the future than the nationalistic LIFG may be the fighters from the more internationalist Al Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) who have seized the opportunity presented by the war to enter the conflict, and equip themselves from Gaddafi’s looted armories. AQIM presents a special concern because of recent reports that, like other al Qaeda associates from Afghanistan to Kosovo, it is increasingly financed by payoffs from regional drug traffickers.
In short, the NATO campaign in Libya is in support of a coalition in which the future status of present and former al-Qaeda allies is likely to be strengthened. And western forces have been secretly supporting them from the outset.
The U.S.-al-Qaeda Alliance in Bosnia
Similarly, Clinton’s interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo were presented as humanitarian. But both sides had committed atrocities in those conflicts; Like the western media, Washington downplayed the Muslim atrocities because of its other interests.
Most Americans are aware that Clinton dispatched U.S. forces to Bosnia to enforce the Dayton peace accords after a well-publicized Serbian atrocity: the massacre of thousands of Muslims at Srebrenica. Thanks to a vigorous campaign by the p.r. firm Ruder Finn, Americans heard a great deal about the Srebrenica massacre, but far less about the beheadings and other atrocities by Muslims that preceded and helped account for it.
A major reason for the Serb attack on Srebrenica was to deal with the armed attacks mounted from that base on nearby villages: “intelligence sources said it was that harassment which precipitated the Serb attack on the 1,500 Muslim defenders inside the enclave.” General Philippe Morillon, commander of the UN troops in Bosnia from 1992 to 1993, testified to the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia) that Muslim forces based in Srebrenica had “engaged in attacks during Orthodox holidays and destroyed villages, massacring all the inhabitants. This created a degree of hatred that was quite extraordinary in the region” According to Prof. John Schindler,
Former U.S. ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith later admitted in an interview that the U.S. administration was aware of “small numbers of atrocities” being committed by the foreign mujahedin in Bosnia, but dismissed the atrocities as “in the scheme of things not a big issue.”
Other sources reveal that Washington gave a tacit green light to Croatia’s arming and augmentation of the Muslim presence in Srebrenica. Soon C-130 Hercules planes. some but not all of them Iranian, were dropping arms to the Muslims, in violation of the international arms embargo which the U.S. officially respected. More Arab-Afghan mujahedin arrived as well. Many of the airdrops and some of the mujahedin were at Tuzla, 70 kilometers from Srebrenica.
According to The Spectator (London), the Pentagon was using other countries such as Turkey and Iran in this flow of arms and warriors:
Cees Wiebes’ detailed account, based on years of research, documents both the case for American responsibility and the vigorous American denials of it:
Wiebes reports the possibility that the C-130s, some of which were said to have taken off from a US Air Force base in Germany, were actually controlled by Turkish authorities. But U.S. involvement was detected in the elaborate cover-up, from the fact that US AWACS aircraft, which should have provided a record of the secret flights, were either withdrawn from duty at the relevant times, or manned with US crews.
A summary of Wiebes’ exhaustive report was published in the Guardian:
Meanwhile the Al-Kifah Center in Brooklyn, which in the 1980s had supported the “Arab-Afghans” fighting in Afghanistan, turned its attentions to Bosnia.
One of the trainers at al-Kifah, Rodney Hampton-El, assisted in this support program, recruiting warriors from U.S. Army bases like Fort Belvoir, and also training them to be fighters in New Jersey. In 1995 Hampton-El was tried and convicted for his role (along with al-Kifah leader Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman) in the plot to blow up New York landmarks. At the trial Hampton-El testified how he was personally given thousands of dollars for this project by Saudi Crown Prince Faisal in the Washington Saudi Embassy.
About this time, Ayman al-Zawahiri, today the leader of al Qaeda, came to America to raise funds in Silicon Valley, where he was hosted by Ali Mohamed, a U.S. double agent and veteran of U.S. Army Special Forces who had been the top trainer at the Al-Kifah mosque. Almost certainly al-Zawahiri’s fund-raising was in support of the mujahedin in Bosnia, reportedly his chief concern at the time. (“The Asian edition of the Wall Street Journal reported that, in 1993, Mr. bin Laden had appointed Sheik Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the al-Qaeda's second-in-command, to direct his operations in the Balkans.”)
Wiebes’ detailed report and the news stories based on it corroborated earlier charges made in 1997 by Sir Alfred Sherman, top adviser to Margaret Thatcher and co-founder of the influential rightwing nationalist Centre for Policy Studies, that “The U.S. encouraged and facilitated the dispatch of arms to the Moslems via Iran and Eastern Europe – a fact which was denied in Washington at the time in face of overwhelming evidence.” This was part of his case that
Specifically, Sherman charged that in 1992 Acting Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger had instructed Warren Zimmerman, U.S. Ambassador in Belgrade, to persuade Bosnian President Izetbegovic to renege on his agreement to preserve Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian unity, and instead accept American aid for an independent Bosnian state.
The U.S.-al-Qaeda Alliance in Kosovo
This raises the disturbing question: were some Americans willing to ignore the atrocities of the al-Kifah mujahideen in Bosnia in exchange for mujahideen assistance in NATO’s successive wars dismantling Yugoslavia, the last surviving socialist republic in Europe? One thing is clear: Sir Alfred Sherman’s prediction in 1997 that America “intends to continue the war in the near future” soon proved accurate, when in 1999 American support for al-Qaeda’s allies in Kosovo, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), led to a controversial NATO bombing campaign.
As was widely reported at the time, the KLA was supported both by the networks of bin Laden and al-Zawahiri, and also by the traffic in Afghan heroin:
According to former DEA agent Michael Levine, the decision of Clinton to back the KLA dismayed his DEA contacts who knew it to be a major drug-trafficking organization. As Ralf Mutschke of Interpol testified to Congress,
According to the London Sunday Times, the KLA’s background did not deter the US from training and strengthening it:
According to former U.S. Army Captain David Hackworth, later Newsweek's contributing editor for defense, former US military officers in the private U.S. military contractor MPRI (Military Professional Resources Incorporated) not only trained KLA personnel, but even fought alongside them. This reinforced earlier reports that MPRI personnel had also been involved in training Croatians at the time of the illicit Croatian arms pipeline to Bosnia.
After Kosovo, Sherman repeated his warnings against “expanding American hegemony”,
Others suspected that America’s involvement was motivated by its desire to see a new Trans-Balkan pipeline and a new U.S. military base in the Balkans to defend it. Although such critics were initially ridiculed, both predictions soon proved true. The U.S.-registered AMBO corporation, headed by former BP executive Ted Ferguson, began construction of a pipeline from Albania to Macedonia in 2007. And nearby is a semi-permanent U.S. Army base, Camp Bondsteel, that can hold up to 7000 soldiers.
In 2007, President George W. Bush created a new United States Africa Command, U.S. AFRICOM. But its HQ at present is in Stuttgart, Germany. This has led to speculation on the Internet that America has its eyes on Libya’s international airport, which the U.S. Air Force had operated as Wheelus Air Force Base until its ouster in 1970.
II. From the First WTC Bombing to 9/11: The Domestic U.S. Fallout from Collusion with Terrorists
The fact that Americans have had repeated recourse to al-Qaeda Islamists as assets in their expansive projects does not constitute proof that there is any long-term systematic strategy to do so, still less that there is a secret alliance.
I believe rather that America is suffering from a malignant condition of military power run amok – power which, like a malignant cancer, tends to reproduce itself at times in ways counterproductive to larger goals. Those who are appointed to manage this vast power become inured to using any available assets, in order to sustain a sociodynamic of global intervention that they are, ironically, powerless to challenge or turn around. The few dissenters who try to do so are predictably sidelined or even ejected from the heights of power, as not being “on the team.”
Those in Washington who decided to assist terrorists and drug traffickers seem not to have considered such “externalities” as the domestic consequences from official dealings with criminal terrorist networks that are global in scope. Yet the consequences were and are real, for the Islamist terrorists that were protected by the US in their subversion of order in Kosovo and other countries were soon being protected inside the US as well. As former DEA agent Michael Levine reported of the KLA-linked drug networks, “These guys have a network that's active on the streets of this country.... They're the worst elements of society that you can imagine, and now, according to my sources in drug enforcement, they're politically protected.”
In other words, Kosovars were now enjoying the de facto protection in their U.S. drug trafficking that had earlier been enjoyed by the CIA’s Chinese, Cuban, Italian, Thai, and other ethnic assets dating from the 1940s.
Mother Jones reported in 2000, after the NATO bombing in support of the KLA that Afghan heroin, much of it distributed by Kosovar Albanians, now accounted for almost 20 percent of the heroin seized in America – nearly double the percentage taken four years earlier. Meanwhile in Europe, it was estimated that “Kosovo Albanians control 40% of Europe’s heroin.” In addition there is a near universal consensus that the outcome of the war in Bosnia left al-Qaeda’s jihadists much more strongly entrenched in the Balkans than they had been earlier. In the words of Professor John Schindler, Bosnia, “the most pro-Western society in the umma [Muslim world],” was “converted into a Jihadistan through domestic deceit, violent conflict, and misguided international intervention.”
It is too soon to predict with confidence what will be the domestic fallout or “blowback” from NATO’s empowerment of Islamists by creating chaos in Libya. But the domestic consequences of similar U.S. interventions in the past are indisputable, and have contributed to major acts of terrorism in this country.
American protection for the Al-Kifah mujahedin support base in Brooklyn led to interference in domestic U.S. law enforcement. This enabled mujahedin recruits at al-Kifah to plot and/or engage in a number of domestic and foreign terrorist attacks on America. These attacks include the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, the so-called “New York landmarks plot” of 1995, and the Embassy attacks of 1998 in Kenya and Tanzania. Involved in all of these events were terrorists who should have been rounded up earlier because of crimes already committed, but were allowed to stay free.
Central to all of these attacks was the role of Ali Mohamed, the former U.S. Special Forces double agent at al-Kifah, and his trainees. Ali Mohamed, despite being on a State Department Watch List, had come to America around 1984, on what an FBI consultant has called “a visa program controlled by the CIA.” So did the “blind Sheik” Omar Abdel Rahman, the leader of al-Kifah; Rahman was issued two visas, one of them “by a CIA officer working undercover in the consular section of the American embassy in Sudan.”
Ali Mohamed trained al-Kifah recruits in guerrilla tactics near Brooklyn. This operation was considered so sensitive that the New York police and the FBI later protected two of the recruits from arrest, when they murdered the Jewish extremist Meir Kahane. Instead, the New York Police called the third assassin (El Sayyid Nosair) a “lone deranged gunman,” and released the other two (Mahmoud Abouhalima and Mohammed Salameh) from detention. This enabled Abouhalima and Salameh, along with another Ali Mohamed trainee (Nidal Ayyad) to take part three years later in the first (1993) bombing of the World Trade Center.
Prosecutors protected Ali Mohamed again in the 1994-95 “Landmarks” trial, when Omar Abdul Rahman and some of Mohamed’s trainees were convicted of conspiring to blow up New York buildings. In that case the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, named Ali Mohamed as an unindicted co-conspirator, yet allowed him to remain free. When the defense issued a subpoena for Mohamed to appear in court, the prosecutor intervened to avoid Mohamed’s having to testify.
Ali Mohamed was well aware of his protected status, and used it in early 1993 to obtain his release when detained by the RCMP at Vancouver Airport. As this episode has been so ignored in the US press, I will quote the account of it in Canada’s premier newspaper, the Toronto Globe and Mail:
The Globe and Mail story makes it clear that in 1993 Mohamed already had a handler at the FBI, to whom the RCMP deferred. Patrick Fitzgerald, in his statement to the 9/11 Commission, gave a quite different story: that Mohamed, after returning from Nairobi in 1994, applied for a job “as an FBI translator.” The difference is vital: because the FBI told the RCMP to release Mohamed, he was then able to travel to Nairobi and plan for bombing the U.S. Embassy there.
According to author Peter Lance, by 2007 Fitzgerald had enough evidence to arrest and indict Mohamed, but did not. Instead he interviewed Mohamed in California, along with an FBI agent, Jack Cloonan. After the interview Fitzgerald chose not to arrest Mohamed, but instead to tap his phone and bug his computer. Lance asks a very relevant question: did Fitzgerald fear that ”any indictment of al Qaeda’s chief spy would rip the lid off years of gross negligence by three of America’s top intelligence agencies”?
One month after the Embassy bombings, Ali Mohamed was finally arrested, on September 10, 1998. Yet when Fitzgerald handed down thirteen indictments two months later, Mohamed’s name was not among them. Instead Fitzgerald again allowed him to avoid cross-examination in court by accepting a plea bargain, the terms of which are still partly unknown. Specifically we do not know the term of Mohamed’s sentence: that page of his court appearance transcript (p. 17) is filed under seal.
As part of the plea bargain, Mohamed told the court that at the personal request of bin Laden, he did surveillance on the U.S. Embassy in Kenya, “took pictures, drew diagrams, and wrote a report” which he personally delivered to bin Laden in the Sudan. Patrick Fitzgerald, the prosecutor who negotiated the plea bargain, testified at length about Mohamed to the 9/11 Commission, who concluded in their Report (p. 68) that Mohamed “led” the embassy bombing operation. Ironically, the Embassy bombing is the official reason today why Zawahiri (like bin Laden before him) is wanted by the FBI, with a $25 million bounty on his head.
But the American public has been denied the right to learn about Ali Mohamed’s involvement in other terrorist events. Particularly relevant would be his involvement in 9/11. As his FBI handler Cloonan later reported, Mohamed explained to him that he personally trained the accused hijackers in how to seize planes:
At present America is in the midst of an unprecedented budget crisis, brought on in large part by its multiple wars. Nevertheless it is also on the point of several further interventions: in Yemen, Somalia, possibly Syria or Iran (where the CIA is said to be in contact with the drug-trafficking al-Qaeda offshoot Jundallah), and most assuredly in Libya.
Only the American public can stop them. But in order for the people to rise up and cry Stop! there must first be a better understanding of the dark alliances underlying America’s alleged humanitarian interventions.
This awareness may increase when Americans finally realize that there is domestic blowback from assisting terrorists as well. The long elaborate dance between Mohamed and his Justice Department overseers makes it clear that the handling of terrorists for corrupt purposes corrupts the handlers as well as the terrorists. Eventually both the handlers and the handled become in effect co-conspirators, with secrets about their collusion both parties need to conceal.
Until the public takes notice, that concealment of collusion will continue. And as long as it continues, we will continue to be denied the truth about what collusions underlay 9/11.
Worse, we are likely to see more terrorist attacks, at home as well as abroad, along with more illegal, costly, and unnecessary wars.
Peter Dale Scott, a former Canadian diplomat and English Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, is the author of Drugs Oil and War (2003), The Road to 9/11 (2007), and The War Conspiracy: JFK, 9/11, and the Deep Politics of War (1972, 2008). His most recent book is American War Machine: Deep Politics, the CIA Global Drug Connection and the Road to Afghanistan (2010). His website, which contains a wealth of his writings, is at peterdalescott.net.
Recommended citation: Peter Dale Scott, "Bosnia, Kosovo, and Now Libya: The Human Costs of Washington’s On-Going Collusion with Terrorists," The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 31 No 1, August 1, 2011.
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Copyright © 2011 Peter Dale Scott