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FTR #683 Interview (#3) with Elizabeth Gould and Paul Fitzgerald

[1]MP3 Side 1 [2] | Side 2 [3]

Introduction: Accessing information from the vitally important recent (in 2009) book Invisible History: Afghanistan’s [1]Untold Story [1], this interview with the book’s authors [4] sets forth covert history of the Cold War and the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. (Subsequent interviews with the authors will present more information from this landmark book, bringing the Afghan tragedy up to date, through the Soviet withdrawal, the birth of the Taliban [5] and Al Qaeda [6], the 9/11 attacks and the ongoing U.S. military involvement in that nation.) NB: this description features text excerpts that illustrate the major points the authors make in this interview. The text is not transcribed from the interview.

Beginning with an observation by the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan [7], the program sets forth the decisive role of officials of the current government of Afghanistan in the unparalleled narcotics traffic coming from that country. Under their stewardship, and with misuse of funds from the coalition nations, Afghanistan has “progressed” from a producer and exporter of raw opium to a producer and exporter of massive amounts of refined heroin.

Further developing the fundamental role of the narcotics traffic in the Afghan wars of the last several decades, the authors then highlight the pivotal position of the BCCI [8] in that country’s dope trade. They also set analyze the role of the BCCI [9] in the covert operations of the1980’s.

Among the points developed by the authors is the fact that Pakistan has its own imperial vision of extending its influence throughout Central Asia and the Middle East. The same Taliban that our fighting forces are combating in Afghanistan is the primary vehicle for this “Pakistani Imperialism!”

The program then turns to a notable event occurred in April of 2001. Ahmed Shah Massoud [10], leader of the Northern Alliance, warned the European Parliament that Al-Qaeda was planning a major terror incident. The Bush administration (obviously) took no effective notice.

The dire political and economic consequences of U.S. policy in Afghanistan have implications for the very survival of the United States itself. Note the many statements Mr. Emory has made in the past about the Bush administration being a front for what he calls the Underground Reich [11]. Recent events and those of years to come may well bear witness to the engineer intending to “wreck the train,” in many ways and with great, tragic success.

Program Highlights Include: Foreshadowing of the authors’ prescription of what they feel is necessary for the United States to survive–a turning away from this country’s manifestation of the concept of perpetual war; a comparison of America during the latter part of the second Bush II administration with the fall of the Roman Empire; an overview of the political dynamics of the Pashtun [12] tribe in the politics and history of Afghanistan and Pakistan. (Listeners interested in the authors’ work are encouraged to check out FTR #’s 678 [13], 680 [14], 685 [15].)

1. Beginning with an observation by the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, the program sets forth the decisive role of officials of the current government of Afghanistan in the unparalleled narcotics traffic coming from that country.

“. . . A July 2007 article in the Daily Mail by Britain’s former ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, explained how the West’s short-sighted favoritism for Northern Alliance warlords acts against the war’s stated objecties of rooting out terror, instead turning Afghanistan from a nere grower of opium into the biggest heroin exporter in the world: ‘It [Afghanistan] has succeeded in what our international aid efforts urge every developing country to do. Afghanistan has gone into manufacturing and ‘value-added’ operations. It now exports not opium, but heroin. Opium is converted into heroin on an industrial scale, not in kitchens but in factories. Millions of the gallons of the chemicals needed for this process are shiped into Afghanistan by tanker. The tankers and bulk opium lorries on the way to factories share roads, improved by American aid, with NATO troops.’

‘How could this have happened, on this scale?’ Murray asked. ‘The answer is simple. The four largest players in the heroin business are all senior members of the Afghan government. The government that our soldiers are fighting and dying to protect.’

Murray’s testimony might seem like a contradiction, given Britain and America’s much-publicized efforts to destroy Afghanistan’s opium crop. But a careful look at the operation reveals that the program targets largely Pashtun farmers in the South near Kandahar–stoking the flames of Pashtun anger–while inadvertently protecting northern warlords like Gen. Rashid Dostum, who as head of the Afghan armed forces operates around the interdiction without interference.

Murray writes, ‘Dostum is an Uzbek, and heroin passes over the Friendship Bridge from Afghanistan to Uzbekistan, where it is taken over by President Islam Karimov’s people. It is then shipped up the railway line, in bales of cotton, to St. Petersburg and Riga. The heroin Jeeps run from General Dostum to President Karimov. The UK, United States and Germany have all invested large sums in donating the most sophisticated detection and screening equipment to the Uzbek customs center at Termez to stop the heroin coming through. But the convoys of Jeeps running between Dostum and Karimov are simply waved around the side of the facility.'”

Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story by Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould; City Lights Books [SC]; Copyright 2009 by Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould; ISBN-13: 978-0-87286-494-8; pp. 295-296. [1]

2. Further developing the fundamental role of the narcotics traffic in the Afghan wars of the last several decades, the authors highlight the pivotal position of the BCCI in that country’s dope trade. They also set analyze the role of the BCCI in the covert operations of the 1980’s.

“. . . ‘If you want to move arms around, you don’t want your bankers to talk about it,’ journalist Peter Truell told filmmaker Samira Goetschel. ‘Yet, if you’re involved in those kinds of activities you need access to finance. You want to be unregulated and you’ve also got to make foreign exchange transactions and so on, and you want the people who are doing that for you to be complicit with you and not tell the authorieis anything and so on. And if you’re looking for that kind of Service, BCCI was pretty much top of the list.’

Following Ronald Reagan’s election in the fall of 1980, French intelligence chief Alexandre de Marenches had visited with an old friend from World War II, future CIA director William Casey, and suggested bringing the drug operation for Afghanistan inside the CIA. Code-naming it Operation Mosquito, to ‘sting’ the Russians, de Marenches suggested stimulating the narcotics trade near Soviet bases to addict Russian soldiers as the French had done in Indo-China during the colonial period, and the Vietcong had done to Americans during their war there. According to de Marehcnes’ biography, Casey like the plan but insisted that since it could never be accomplished in secret, the United States could not be directly involved.

Already privatized by independent, ad hoc intelligence groups, in order to avoid laws, and–in Brian Crozier’s words–‘recent legislation (as in the U.S.) or because political circumstances made such inquiries difficult or potentially embarrassing,’ within a year of initiating U.S. support for the war, Afghan heroin began flooding the markets of Europe and America. ‘Before 1979, Pakistan was not a major exporter of drugs. . . In 1984, it was estimated that 80 percent of all the heroin consumed in Britain and 30 percent of the American imports came from Pakistan. Financed through a little-known bank, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, BCCI acted as a go-between for Washington, Hong Kong, Peshawar, and Switzerland, laundering money for drugs and facilitating arms sales to Nicaraguan Contras and Afghan mujahideen groups. Although only a small part of the Iran-Contra hearings that found Reagan’s national security advisors Robert ‘Bud’ McFarlane, Admiral John Poindexter, and Colonel Oliver North guilty of illegal acts, its role as a financing tool for the Afghan mujahideen was never fully disclosed. But according to John K. Cooley, the CIA used BCCI as a paymaster, extensively financing mujahideden operations through its numerous branches throughout the world:

‘The CIA took the unusual step of flatly denying the media reports about CIA-BCCI links. The denial backfired. The British media and American investigative reporters for ABC News and others published a series of damaging revelations about CIA accounts in London branches of BCCI, chiefly the Cromwell Road branch. . . . The Financial Times reported that Pakistan’s finance minister had confirmed that the CIA used BCCI branches in Pakistan to channel money, presumably through the ISI, to the Afghan jihad. Further it disclosed the CIA and other agencies used ‘slush funds’ at BCCI branches to pay off Pakistani army officers and Afghan resistance leaders.’

Derided as the ‘Bank of Crooks and Criminals,’ BCCI was so successful at brokering the CIA’s off-the-books operation in Afghanistan that it created an entire new class of privatized international terrorist, capable of striking around the world at will. Jack Blum, former special counsel to the 1987 ‘Kerry’ Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics and International Relations, told filmmaker Samira Goetschel, ‘They did money laundering, they financed arms trading, financed smuggling operations, assisted various people in looting their countries. . . . The CIA used them, the Mosad used them, various Arab intelligence agencies used them, the Russians used them, the British used them, everybody used them. They were wonderful; sometimes they traded information from one intelligence agency to the other. If it wasn’t as serious and as deadly as it turned out to be, it would be damn comical.’

With BCCI secretly tasked with facilitating the resources to the CIA’s covert arms program, by 1987, the amount of drugs reaching the world from their operations would stagger the world’s law enforcement agencies. According to Blum, ‘The amounts of heroin were staggering; the amounts of money involved were staggering. There was a seizure of a ship off the coast of Turkey that had come from the Makran coast of Pakistan, that had twelve tons–metric tons–of heroin and heroin derivatives on it. That is such a startingly large number, it’s sort of like the world’s supply for a year.'”

Ibid.; pp. 199-201. [1]

3. Among the points set forth by the authors is the fact that Pakistan has its own imperial vision of extending its influence throughout Central Asia and the Middle East. The same Taliban that our fighting forces are combating in Afghanistan is the primary vehicle for this “Pakistani Imperialism!”

“. . . As documented by noted Afghan expert Selig Harrison, ‘General Zia spoke to me about expanding Pakistan’s sphere of influence to control Afghanistan, then Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and then Iran and Turkey.’ Never the indigenous, Afghan fighting force that they claimed to be, by 2001 they had metamorphosized into a well-financed, agenda-driven vanguard of the Pakistani military. Never just ‘recruits’ from the madrassas (Muslim theological schools), from the beginning the Taliban were on the payroll of the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence, the intelligence wing of the Pakistani government) and ‘making a living our of terrorism.'”

Ibid.; p. 308. [1]

4. A notable event occurred in April of 2001. Ahmed Shah Massoud, leader of the Northern Alliance, warned the European Parliament that Al-Qaeda was planning a major terror incident. The Bush administration took no effective notice.

“. . . In April, Massoud addressed the European Parliament and warned that Al Qaeda was planning an important terrorist attack. . . .”

Ibid.; p.244. [1]

5. The dire political and economic consequences of U.S. policy in Afghanistan have implications for the very survival of the United States itself. Note the many statements Mr. Emory has made in the past about the Bush administration being a front for what he calls the Underground Reich. Recent events and those of years to come may well bear witness to the engineer intending to “wreck the train,” in many ways and with great, tragic success.

“. . . If President Obama is to safe Afghanistan and the United States itself from the impending tipping point, it would be wise to follow the advice of David Walker, comptroller general of the United States. Warning that the United States government was paralleling the decline and fall of the Roman empire, Walker described the country in an August 2007 interview with the Financial Times as being on a ”burning platform,’ of unsustainable policies and practices with fiscal deficits, chronic healthcare under-funding, immigration and overseas commitments threatening a crisis if action is not taken soon.'”

Ibid.; p. 325. [1]

6. Foreshadowing the fourth and final interview in this series, the authors indicate what they think is needed at a fundamental level in order to turn the U.S. around.

“. . . Finally, reopen the national debate on U.S. identity and its future, a debate that was silenced on December 7. 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Resumption of this debate was overruled by the creation of the Cold War and the national security state and edited out of the script by the events of 9/11. If we are to restore our nation to health, this debate must begin now. Enlist the people from within the institutions of government who best understand this to be the problem. There are many who have the courage to help. Milt Bearden said, ‘We better at some point feel it’s not unpatriotic or weak to say why did these guys do it? That debate or dalogue has not yet begun in this country. We’re just having a war against terrorism whether it takes us to AFghanistan or it takes to Iraq rather than saying ‘time out–why did those guys do it? . . . If we proceed on a straight line from where we are today [we’ll] wind up fighting the birthrate of the Islamic world.’ Andrew Bacevich, former West Pointer, now professor of international relations at Boston University, has said, ‘If you’re like me and you’re quite skeptical about this imperial project, the stresses imposed on the military and the obvious limits of our power simply serve to emphasize the imperative of rethinking our role in the world so we can back away from this unsustainable notion of global hegemony.

The United States is in a fight for its life–not because of what happened on that September 11, 2001, but because of the way America responded to it. That response was at once wildly exaggerated, dangerouslly reckless and, in the end, ineffective, putting more control into the hands of the very same people who had allowed it to happen. . .”

Ibid.; p. 326. [1]