The following is an excellent excerpt from the book “THE UNTOLD HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES” by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick from Chapter 12 “THE COLD WAR ENDS: Squandered Opportunities” on page 486 and I quote: “Popular disdain for [Boris] Yeltsin fueled anti-Americanism. Russians also bristled over U.S. involvement in the energy-rich Caspian Basin region and expansion of NATO to include Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic—a move that ninety-two-year-old George Kennan called “an enormous and historic strategic error.” Russians condemned the U.S.-led NATO bombing of fellow Slavs in Yugoslavia in 1999. One survey reported that 96 percent of Russians considered the bombing a “crime against humanity.” In 2000, 81 percent saw U.S. policy as anti-Russian, most respondents believing that the United States was imposing a “reverse iron curtain” on Russia’s borders. Economically crippled, Russia placed greater reliance on its nuclear arsenal as its last line of defense, broadened the circumstances under which it would use nuclear weapons, and began modernizing its arsenal.
Dangerous incidents occurred. In 1995, soviet radar operators mistook a Norwegian rocket launch for an incoming ballistic missile. Yeltsin activated his nuclear football for the first time. He and his top military advisors debated whether to launch a nuclear counterattack against the United States until Russia’s nine early-warning satellites confirmed that Russia was not under attack and the crisis ended. By 2000, only two of those satellites were still operating, leaving Russia blind for much of each day.
Polls showed Russians preferring order over democracy, with growing numbers pining for the “good old days.” of Stalin. Though Clinton extolled Yeltsin as the architect of democracy, the Russian people deplored his illegal shutdown of and armed assault on the elected parliament, his launching of a bloody war against the breakaway republic of Chechnya in 1994, and his stewardship of the collapsing economy. Gorbachev denounced Yeltsin as a “liar” who had more privileges than the Russian tsars. Polling single-digit approval ratings, Yeltsin resigned on December 31, 1999, and was replaced by former KGB officer Vladmir Putin.
Once Afghanistan’s Russian-backed government fell in 1992, the United States lost interest in that distant, barren land, where life expectancy stood at forty-six years. A bloody civil war erupted between various Islamist factions and ethnic groups. One consisted largely of Afghan refugees recruited from madrassas—Saudi-sponsored religious schools in Pakistan. These fanatical religious students, or “talibs,” formed the Taliban—with help from the Pakistani intelligence service. Many had already received military training in CIA-financed camps. Most had studied textbooks developed by the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s (UNO) Center for Afghanistan Studies in a program funded by USAID to the tune of $51million between 1984 and 1994. Published in Dari and Pashtu, the dominant Afghan languages, the books were designed to stoke Islamic fanaticism and spur resistance to the Soviet invades. Page after page was filled with militant Islamic teachings and violent images. Children learned to count using pictures of missiles, tanks, land mines, Kalashnikovs, and dead Soviet soldiers. One leading Afghan educator said, “The pictures. . . are horrendous to school students, but the texts are even much worse.” One, for example, shows a soldier adorned with a bandolier and a Kalashnikov. Above him is a verse from the Koran. Below is a statement about the mujahideen, who, in obedience to Allah, willingly sacrifice their lives and fortunes to impose Sharia law on the government. Students learned to read by studying stories about jihad. When the Taliban seized Kabul in 1996, they continued using the same violent jihadist texts, simply removing the human images, which they considered blasphemous. Girls would be spared the indignity of seeing such texts, though; they were banned from school entirely. The Taliban subjected all Afghans to the most extreme Sharia law, banning visual images and instituting public amputations, beatings, and executions. Women lost all rights, including the rights to work, and to go out in public without a male escort.
Also in 1996, the Taliban welcomed a young Saudi named Osama bin Laden back to Afghanistan. He returned as head of Al-Quaeda (The Base), an extremist organization committed to driving the United States and its allies out of the Muslim world and reestablishing the caliphate. He had been part of the CIA netherworld, recruiting and training the foreign militants who flooded into Afghanistan to battle the Soviet infidels. Funding came largely from Saudi royal family members eager to spread their strict Wahhabist form of Islam. Bin Laden’s father was one of Saudi Arabia’s wealthiest men. Above all else, bin Laden decried the presence of the United States’ “infidel armies” in Saudi Arabia, Islam’s holiest land, and condemned U.S. support for Israel. Openly pledging to expunge U.S. allies in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and Palestine, he issued his first fatwa in 1992, calling for jihad against the Western occupation of Islamic lands.
Bin Laden delivered on his threats. A 1995 Al-Quaeda bombing of a U.S. military base in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, killed five U.S. airmen and wounded thirty-four. The following June, a powerful truck bomb destroyed a building in the Khobar Towers complex in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 U.S. airmen and wounding 372. The Saudi government, given its close ties to the bin Laden family, steered the US. Investigation toward Saudi Shiites tied to Iran. FBI Director Louis Freeh met repeatedly with Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who convinced him that Iran was involved, despite bin Laden’s brazen claims of responsibility for both bombings. Bin Laden experts in the FBI and CIA were handcuffed in their investigations.
But the Saudi bombing, that year’s bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City by right wing domestic terrorists, and the sarin gas in a Tokyo subway by Aum Shinrikyo caught the attention of some administration officials. In January 1996, the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center opened a new office. Its sole responsibility was to track Osama bin Laden, who was setting up terrorist training camps in Afghanistan.
While barely acknowledging the Al-Quaeda threat, Clinton administration officials were alert to investment possibilities in the region. Clinton pushed for building pipelines to ship the oil and gas from former Soviet republics in Central Asia along routes that bypassed Iran and Russian. Studies placed the total value of Central Asian oil and gas reserves at between $3 trillion and $6 trillion. The administration supported efforts by the U.S. oil company Unocal to build a $2 billion pipeline to transport natural gas from Turkmenistan to Pakistan and India. “By Unocal prevailing,” noted a State Department official, “our influence will be solidified, the Russians will be weakened and we can keep Iran from benefiting.” Counting on the Taliban to stabilize the war-torn country, Unocal celebrated the Taliban’s seizure of Kabul. It was a “very positive” development, said Unocal’s executive vice president. Neocon Zalmay Khalilzad, a Unocal consultant who had worked in the State Department under Wolfowitz and in the Defense Department under Cheney, agreed. Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid explained that some U.S. diplomats “saw them as messianic do-gooders—like born-again Christians from the American Bible Belt.”
Unocal pulled out all the stops to win approval of its pipeline. It hired the University of Nebraska’s Center for Afghanistan Studies to help it create good-will and do some needed vocation training. The Center was to teach fourteen basic skills, at least nine of which would be of direct use in building the pipeline. To make this happen, the Center needed to be in the good graces of both of the major rival factions in Afghanistan: the Northern Alliance and the Taliban. The “Omaha World-Herald” reported that the Northern Alliance “has been criticized by the U.S. State Department, the United Nations and human-rights groups for terrorism, rape, kidnapping of women and children, torture of prisoners and indiscriminate killing of civilians during battles.’” And they, by most standards, were the good guys. The Taliban, which then controlled about 75 percent of the country, including the stretches where the pipeline was to run, were accused by Amnesty International of “gender apartheid” and of facilitating the growth of nearly half of the world’s opium supply. When asked why an academic institution would accept such a role, aside from the substantial sum Unocal was paying, the Center’s director Thomas Gouttierre replied, “I don’t assume a private corporation is evil.” Nor did he have much of an issue with the Taliban, whom he described as “the same sort of people who spawned William Jennings Bryan. They’re populists. . . . They are not out there oppressing people.”
The victims of Al-Quaeda’s 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Naroba, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, were not so certain about the Taliban or their guests. The bombs detonated ten minutes apart, killing more than two hundred people. Two years later, Al-Quaeda struck again with a suicide attack against the USS Cole. Clinton then gave the okay to kill bin Laden at his base camp in Afghanistan. After the bombings, Unocal pulled out of the pipeline deal, but others remained interested. Enron, whose chief executive Ken Lay was a major backer of George W. Bush, envisioned building a pipeline that could supply cheap natural gas to Enron’s faltering Dabhol power plant in India. Dick Cheney, who had become CEO of Halliburton, also set his sights on oil reserves. He told a 1998 gathering of oil industry executives, “I can’t think of a time when we’ve had a region emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the Caspian.”
Although the United States faced no clear threat from hostile nations, the Clinton administration squandered the promised peace dividend in a new wave of military spending. In January 2000, it added $115 billion to the Pentagon’s projected Five Year Defense Plan, bringing the total to $1.6 trillion and proving that Democrats were even more tough-minded on defense than their Republican adversaries. It continued spending profusely on missile defense, even though experts warned that the costly system would never function as envisioned and enemies and allies alike feared that its pursuit indicated that the United States was striving to achieve a dangerous first-strike capability. Clinton also refused to sign the Ottawa land mines treaty and oversaw an increase in U.S. arms sales from 32 percent of the world market in 1987 to 43 percent a decade later, the lion’s share going to countries with deplorable human rights records.
The greatest pressure for increased military spending came from a single-minded group of neoconservatives, spearheaded by William Kristol and Robert Kagan, who, in 1997, formed the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). The PNAC harked back to Henry Luce’s vision of unchallenged U.S. global hegemony. The group’s founding statement of principles deplored the fact that the United States had lost its way under Clinton and called for return to “a Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity.” The founders claimed a direct lineage from Scoop Jackson’s bunker to Team B to the Committee on the Present Danger, with a few minor detours along the way. They were a far cry from Carter’s Trilateralists. The original signers included Elliot Abrams, William Bennett, Jeb Bush, Dick Cheney, Eliot Cohen, Midge Decter, businessman Steve Forbes, Francis Fukuyama, Frank Gaffney, Fred Ikle, historian Donald Kagan, Zalmay Khalilzad, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Norman Podhoretz, former vice President Dan Quayle, Henry Rowen, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz. They and other members and collaborators, including Richard Perle, Kenneth Adelman, Richard Allen, Richard Armitage, John Bolton, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Charles Krauthammer, Daniel Pipes, and former Director of Central Intelligence James Woolsey, would dominate political discourse and policy making during the George W. Bush administration as completely as the Trilateralists had dominated Carter’s. The consequences would prove even more damaging for humanity—far more damaging, in fact—than the misguided policies implemented by the Brzezinski-dominated Carter administration.
PNACers laid out their program in a series of reports, letters, and statements. They demanded increased defense spending, completion of the United States’ domination of space, and deployment of a sweeping missile defense system. They insisted that the United States be able to “fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars” and police “critical regions,” especially the oil-rich Middle East. Their first order of business was toppling Saddam Hussein and establishing a new government under the aegis of Ahmmed Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress. In January 1998, PNACers urged Clinton to circumvent the UN Security Council and take unilateral military action. But Saddam hadn’t provided sufficient provocation.
Since the Gulf War, UN weapons inspectors had been overseeing destruction of Iraq’s WMD. U.S.-and British-enforced no-fly zones and harsh UN sanctions had caused immense suffering. In an interview with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Lesley Stahl noted, “We have heard that a half million children have died. . . . that’s more children than died in Hiroshima,” and asked, “is the price worth it?” Albright replied, “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price—we think the price is worth it.”
Experts would debate the precise number of Iraqi children who died as a result of the sanctions. In December 1995, two UN-affiliated researchers, writing in the British medical journal ”The Lancet,” placed the number at 567,000 but later lowered that estimate. In 2003, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, speaking at a joint press conference with George Bush, said, “Over the past five years, 400,000 Iraqi children under the age of five died of malnutrition and disease,” using that as an excuse to justify an invasion that would add tens of thousands more to that total.
Though Clinton resisted the pressure to invade, he and his secretary of state laid the rhetorical groundwork for Bush and Cheney. Albright warned, “Iraq is a long way from [the United States], but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risks that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face.” On another occasion, Albright had the audacity to declare, “If we have to use force, it is because we are America; we are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future.’”
(IN THIS SEGMENT, BIN LADEN, AFTER HE BEAT THE RUSSIANS, TURNED HIS ATTACKS AGAINST THE U.S. WITH BOMBINGS OF THE U.S. MILITARY BASE IN RIYAHD, SAUDI ARABIA AND ALSO THE KHOBAR TOWERS, IN SAUDI ARABIA THAT HOUSED U.S. AIRMEN. AFTER PRESIDENT CLINTON BEAT PRESIDENT GEORGE HW BUSH, SOME REPUBLICANS HEADED BY BILL KRISTOL AND ROBERT KAGAN, FORMED A GROUP TITLED “PROJECT FOR A NEW AMERICAN CENTURY” [PNAC] TO KEEP THE REPUBLICAN RIGHT-WING MESSAGE OUT FRONT. HERE ARE SOME OF THE NAMES THAT SIGNED ON, ELLIOT ABRAMS, JEB BUSH, DICK CHENEY, STEVE FORBES, I. LEWIS “SCOOTER” LIBBY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT DAN QUAYLE, DONALD RUMSFELD, PAUL WOLFOWITZ AND OTHERS. IT’S CLEAR, WHILE PRESIDENT CLINTON WANTED TO STEER A CENTRIST VIEW, THE REPUBLICANS WANTED TO GO EVEN FURTHER TO THE RIGHT AND MOVE TO MORE WARS, JUST LIKE EVENTUALLY HAPPENED WHEN BUSH-CHENEY, GOT ELECTED TO OFFICE IN 2000 AND EVENTUALLY LED TO THE INVASION OF IRAQ WHICH PROVED TO BE DISASTROUS BECAUSE THE 9/11 ATTACK WAS CAUSED BY MOST LY PEOPLE FROM SAUDI ARABIA AND LED BY BIN LADEN, WHO WAS IN AFGHANISTAN AT THE TIME…
LaVern Isely, Progressive, Overtaxed, Independent Middle Class Taxpayer and Public Citizen and AARP Members