Pakistan's foreign minister Qureshi said his government will block any foreign military operation in Pakistan [AFP]
Pakistan's foreign minister has ruled out allowing military personnel from the United States, or any other foreign country, in Pakistan to hunt for Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda. Mahmoud Qureshi said on Saturday that the country's new government had not permitted any such operation in the regions bordering Afghanistan and never would.
Bin Laden is widely believed to be hiding somewhere in the Afghan-Pakistan border region. "Our government's policy is that our troops, paramilitary forces and our regular forces are deployed in sufficient numbers. They are capable of taking action there. And any foreign intrusion would be counter-productive," Qureshi told the Associated Press news agency.
"People will not accept it. Questions of sovereignty come in." Qureshi acknowledged that "there are some infiltrations" still occurring, but he said no covert US military operations to catch al-Qaeda figures, Taliban members or any other suspected fighters, had been staged. "There are none," he said.
The new Pakistani government's pursuit of peace deals with tribal groups in the region has been highly criticised in Washington. However, Qureshi had reassured Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, at a meeting held on Friday that his government was doing everything it can to combat lawless tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. Pakistan and Afghanistan have regularly exchanged criticism of each others efforts in fighting armed groups operating along their long, remote, mountainous border. Qureshi described Pakistan's counterterrorism efforts as a "grassroots" approach.
Bin Laden Sitting In A Cave Laughing, while Pakistan blocks US hunt
By Evelyn Pringle
The war in Iraq is a miserable failure, any way you look at it. Retired General Anthony Zinni, former commander of the US Central Command, had it right when he said that by manufacturing a false rationale for war, abandoning traditional allies, propping up and trusting Iraqi exiles, and failing to plan for post-war Iraq, Bush has made the US less secure, instead of safer.
Osama himself could not have created the mess that Bush got us into, even if he had tried and he's probably sitting in his cave laughing his fool head off as we speak.
By launching a war against a country that posed no real threat to anyone, Bush not only sabotaged bin Laden's capture, he destroyed our credibility all over the world. As we recently witnessed with Katrina, by over-extending our forces, Bush has lessened our ability to respond to emergencies at home which means we can logically assume that he has lessened our ability to respond to an actual threat of terror should one arise.
How Did We End Up With Bush Anyways?
During the 2000 presidential campaign, the Republican platform contained the following statements:
* Sending our military on vague, aimless, and endless missions rapidly saps morale. Even the highest morale is eventually undermined by back-to-back deployments, poor pay, shortages of spare parts and equipment, inadequate training, and rapidly declining readiness.
* A comprehensive strategy for combating the new dangers posed by weapons of mass destruction must include a variety of other measures to contain and prevent the spread of such weapons. We need the cooperation of friends and allies."
* Nor should the intelligence community be made the scapegoat for political misjudgements.
The Republican prophets who wrote those comments should get a job in a circus because they were able to predict exactly what would happen in the Iraq war under the Bush administration, with its endless missions, back-to-back deployments, inadequate training, poor pay, shortage of equipment, no cooperation of friends and allies, and blaming the CIA for misjudgements, and on and on and on.
We were told us that Iraqis would welcome us and thank us for getting rid of Saddam. Immediately before the war, in a March 16, 2003, interview, Dick Cheney said, "I really do believe we will be greeted as liberators."
I am still waiting for someone to tell me why the Iraqis would thank us. Saddam may be gone, but innocent Iraqis have suffered the same human rights violations at the hands of the occupying forces that they did years ago under Saddam.
They live in fear of torture every day; in fact more so than when Saddam was in power. Incidents of rape, murder and kidnapping have skyrocketed since we arrived to "save" them. The number of violent deaths went from an average of 14 a month in 2002, to 357 a month in 2003, the year we went to "save" them.
Iraqis still do not even have the necessities that they had with Saddam in power. Water and electricity continue to operate at lower levels than they did before the war.
Joblessness is at a record high. Over half the workers in the country are either without a job or working for less than a living wage, due to the fact that the gang of profiteers made sure the reconstruction contracts went to US companies, rather than Iraqi firms.
Why would Iraqis thank us? Or the lucky ones that have managed to stay alive that is.
A Year Of Big Lies
In the months leading up to the war, Bush told the world, that the US had to wage a pre-emptive war against Iraq, not only due to the imminent threat of WMDs, but also because there were links between Saddam and bin Laden.
However, the administration has since said that it never claimed that Saddam posed an "imminent" threat, and therefore, Bush cannot be accused of misleading anyone.
How soon they forget. First of all, many officials did use the word “imminent” and others used words that had the exact same meaning, like "mortal," "urgent," "immediate", "serious and mounting," and "unique." They even went so far as to say that Iraq was actively seeking to "strike the United States with weapons of mass destruction."
Yet during a press conference a few months after the war began, when reporters started to question why we were in Iraq, White House spokesman, Scott McClellan said, "Some in the media have chosen to use the word 'imminent'. Those were not words we used."
Could that be true? Am I a poor listener? No. It means that either Scott lied, or he has a poor memory, because on February 10, 2003, Scott himself used the "I" word and said, "This is about imminent threat."
He apparently also forgot about the statement made by then, Bush Communications Director, Dan Bartlett, on January 26, 2003, when he said, "Well, of course he is," in response to a reporter's question, "is Saddam an imminent threat to US interests, either in that part of the world or to Americans right here at home?"
Hands down, it is Scott who is the poor listener because he even forgot the comment made by his old boss on May 7, 2003. When then Press Secretary, Ari Fleischer, was asked whether or not Iraq was an “imminent threat,” he responded, “Absolutely.”
Lets review some of the lies told in speeches and press conferences and cable news shows, to convince Americans and Congress that we had to go to war, beginning with the most masterful liar of all time, Dick Cheney, who said 3 times over a period of only 2 days:
Iraq is "a serious threat to our country, to our friends and to our allies." 1/31/03.
Iraq poses "terrible threats to the civilized world." 1/30/03.
Iraq "threatens the United States of America." 1/30/03
Before that, on August 29, 2002, Cheney elaborated fully: "Iraq is busy enhancing its capabilities in the field of chemical and biological agents, and they continue to pursue an aggressive nuclear weapons program," he said.
"These are offensive weapons for the purpose of inflicting death on a massive scale, developed," Cheney advised, "so that Saddam Hussein can hold the threat over the head of any one he chooses."
"What we must not do in the face of this mortal threat," he warned, "is to give in to wishful thinking or to wilful blindness."
According my computer's Thesaurus, "mortal" means "deadly." Is that kinda like "imminent?"
Let’s move on to the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, whose comments were always over the top. On November 14, 2002, Rummy used the ever present fear over 9/11 to sell the war:
"I would look you in the eye and I would say, go back before September 11 and ask yourself this question: Was the attack that took place on September 11 an imminent threat the month before or two months before or three months before or six months before?" he asked. "When did the attack on September 11 become an imminent threat?"
"Now," Rummy said, "transport yourself forward a year, two years or a week or a month ... So the question is, when is it such an immediate threat that you must do something?" he asked reporters.
Here’s where Rumsfeld used the nuclear mantra, complete with the now infamous line about Saddam seeking uranium from Africa:
"Iraq poses a serious and mounting threat to our country. His regime has the design for a nuclear weapon, was working on several different methods of enriching uranium, and recently was discovered seeking significant quantities of uranium from Africa," Rumsfeld claimed on January 1, 2003.
"Some have argued that the nuclear threat from Iraq is not imminent - that Saddam is at least 5-7 years away from having nuclear weapons," Rumsfeld said, "I would not be so certain."
There's that pesky "imminent" word again.
"And we should be just as concerned about the immediate threat from biological weapons," Rummy warned on September 18, 2002. "Iraq has these weapons," he added.
Here’s where he claims Saddam is the worst threat on earth. "No terrorist state poses a greater or more immediate threat to the security of our people and the stability of the world than the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq," he said on September 19, 2002.
Colin Powell Plays The Starring Role
While we're at it, lets take some time to review the many statements made by Colin Powell when he landed the starring role on the world stage, with his speech at the UN. Colin knew it would be no easy sell, so he brought photographs along to show where the WMD sites were, and informed the world that he had "human sources," to back up all of his assertions.
“My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions," he stated. "What we're giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence."
Colin went on to say, "I will cite some examples, and these are from human sources."
He then introduced the pictures and said, “We also have satellite photos that indicate that banned materials have recently been moved from a number of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction facilities."
Next he proceeded to hone in on specific photos and explained what each one showed.
“Let's look at one," Colin said, "This one is about a weapons munitions facility, a facility that holds ammunition at a place called Taji."
Of another, he said, "This is one of about 65 such facilities in Iraq. We know that this one has housed chemical munitions." In fact, Colin told the audience, "this is where the Iraqis recently came up with the additional four chemical weapon shells."
“Here, you see 15 munitions bunkers in yellow and red outlines," he said of another. "The four that are in red squares represent active chemical munitions bunkers," he added.
For some reason, everyone always seems to want to give Colin Powell a pass on whatever he does. I don't.
By now, I would say this to Mr. Powell: here’s your chance to redeem yourself. For starters, let’s see those photos again, and then explain exactly what happened to those yellow and red bunkers you pointed out in the pictures. After that, I want to meet the photographers who claimed to have taken the pictures.
And one more thing, I would request that Colin list the names and whereabouts of each and every one of those solid "human" sources he kept referring to.
In his speech, Colin described the relationships between Al Qaida, Osama and Saddam, that according to his account had been strong for many years.
"Early Al Qaida ties were forged by secret, high-level intelligence service contacts with Al Qaida, secret Iraqi intelligence high-level contacts with Al Qaida," he told the audience.
“Going back to the early and mid-1990s, when bin Laden was based in Sudan," Colin said, "an Al Qaida source tells us that Saddam and bin Laden reached an understanding that Al Qaida would no longer support activities against Baghdad."
Colin said, "an Al Qaida source tells us that Saddam and bin Laden reached an understanding that Al Qaida would no longer support activities against Baghdad."
“We know members of both organizations met repeatedly," he said. In fact, Colin claimed to know that they "have met at least eight times at very senior levels since the early 1990s."
"In 1996," Colin continued, "a foreign security service, tell us, that bin Laden met with a senior Iraqi intelligence official in Khartoum, and later met the director of the Iraqi intelligence service."
He obviously was trying to convince the world that Saddam was ecstatic about all of the terrorist attacks against the US, when he said, “Saddam became more interested as he saw Al Qaida's appalling attacks."
"A detained Al Qaida member tells us that Saddam was more willing to assist Al Qaida after the 1998 bombings of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania," Colin said. "Saddam was also impressed by Al Qaida's attacks on the USS Cole in Yemen in October 2000," he added.
I say its time for Congress to instruct Powell to produce this “detained" Al Qaida member who gave the administration all of this valuable information. That should be easy enough if the guy is "detained."
Later in his speech, Colin made it sound like the Iraqis, Al Qaida, Saddam and Osama were the best of buddies, even houseguests of one another, backed up no less, by another "human source."
“Iraqis continued to visit bin Laden in his new home in Afghanistan," Colin said.
So if true, this means that the Iraqis got to visit Osama's "new home" but the world's superpower couldn't find a damn cave. Osama must have really had a good laugh when he heard that line.
But in hindsight, it was even more comical when Colin said, "A senior defector, one of Saddam's former intelligence chiefs in Europe, says Saddam sent his agents to Afghanistan sometime in the mid-1990s to provide training to Al Qaida members on document forgery."
Think about that, a forgery college in Afghanistan. Funny thing, the only forgeries I've ever heard about were the ones used by the Bush administration to convince Americans we had to go to war.
What were those again? A college student's term paper from many years ago and the documents purporting to show that Saddam was seeking uranium from Africa? As I recall, all were easily identified as fake, but we still have never learned who exactly forged the Africa-uranium documents or why they ended up at the White House.
When the truth finally comes out, I suspect that a few members of the Bush gang may wish that they had attended the "forgery training" college in Afghanistan.
Next, Colin held up a photo and told the audience that it showed a poison and explosive training camp, located in north-eastern Iraq.
“You see a picture of this camp," he said, "The network is teaching its operatives how to produce ricin and other poisons."
Colin then proceeded to give the world a chemistry lesson, complete with hand gestures, and said: "Let me remind you how ricin works. Less than a pinch--image a pinch of salt--less than a pinch of ricin, eating just this amount in your food, would cause shock followed by circulatory failure," he explained.
He followed up with the dire warning: "Death comes within 72 hours and there is no antidote, there is no cure," he said, "It is fatal.”
If he wants to clear his name, Colin needs to hold a televised press conference and explain to the world exactly what happened to the training camp in that photo, with its pinches of deadly ricin, because it has apparently vanished off the face of the planet.
Or being that I'm just a lowly taxpayer funding this disaster, would that be too much to ask?
The Puppet In The White House
Last but certainly not least (except IQ-wise), lets review a few statements made by the puppet orchestrating the scheme, President Bush himself Here are a few of the lines that he threw out there to us in the run-up to the war:
"The Iraqi regime is a threat to any American. ... Iraq is a threat, a real threat." 1/3/03
"Saddam Hussein is a threat to America." 11/3/02
"I see a significant threat to the security of the United States in Iraq." 11/1/02.
"There is real threat, in my judgment, a real and dangerous threat to America in Iraq in the form of Saddam Hussein." 10/28/02
"There are many dangers in the world; the threat from Iraq stands alone because it gathers the most serious dangers of our age in one place. Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists." 10/7/02
"The Iraqi regime is a threat of unique urgency." 10/2/02
"There's a grave threat in Iraq. There just is." 10/2/02
"This man poses a much graver threat than anybody could have possibly imagined." 9/26/02
Looking at the above comments with 20/20 hindsight, they may have provided a sign that Bush was back on the bottle. As anyone who has spent time around a drunk knows, drunks have a habit of repeating themselves over and over and over. And that goes double for all that Cheney said, because even after two drunk driving tickets, he remained on the sauce, bad ticker and all.
Four months into the war, on July 2, 2003, Bush showed signs of being drunk again now that I think about it, when he stated: "Saddam Hussein is no longer a threat to the United States because we removed him, but he was a threat," and then said, "He was a threat. He's not a threat now."
This from a guy who swears who he's been on the wagon since age 40.
Tax Payers Left Holding The Bag
In the months leading up to the war, we were told that Iraqi oil would pay for the country's reconstruction after we destroyed it. A March 2003, report by the White House Office of Management and Budget said: "Iraq will not require sustained aid."
In testimony before Congress on March 27, 2003, Paul Wolfowitz said Iraq "can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon."
As a taxpayer, I demand to know when "relatively soon" is going to get here.
On April 23, 2003, Andrew Natsios, head of the US Agency for International Development, gave a televised interview and outlined the costs of rebuilding Iraq to the taxpayers, "the American part of this will be $1.7 billion," he said. "We have no plans for any further-on funding for this."
Within 5 months of Natsios' assessment, Bush was back asking Congress for another $20 billion.
And being that he has probably never had to balance a checkbook in his life, Bush obviously has never heard the term "in the red." But then again, why should he care, its only our money.
Never mind that Bush has not received a single flower or thank-you note from the Iraqis, the good-hearted fellow that he's known to be, he just keeps telling Congress to go ahead and write out another check to fund a war which he now says is for "freedom."
In February 2003, Rumsfeld predicted that the war “could last six days, six weeks," but "I doubt six months," he said. Well here we sit, 31 months into the war, with an endless stream of casualties day after day, and our country headed towards bankruptcy, and there is no end in sight.
On October, 2002, the day the senate voted on the resolution, John Kerry took to the floor of the senate and during a speech, gave the nation a prophetic forecast of what would happen if Bush attacked Iraq without good cause and without other countries.
"If we go it alone without reason," Kerry warned, "we risk inflaming an entire region, breeding a new generation of terrorists, a new cadre of anti-American zealots, and we will be less secure, not more secure, at the end of the day, even with Saddam Hussein disarmed."
In closing, Kerry stated: "When I vote to give ... the authority to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam, it is because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a threat, and a grave threat, to our security and that of our allies in the Persian Gulf region."
The fact is, there was no arsenal of weapons and Saddam was no threat, imminent or otherwise. Bush and his band of chicken hawks lied to Kerry, to other members of Congress, to taxpayers, and the world, in order to pull off their grand profiteering scheme.
Now that we know the truth, the whole damn bunch should be tried as war criminals, and once they are convicted and sent to prison, they should be treated every bit as well as they have treated prisoners jailed under their watch over the past 5 years.
(Evelyn Pringle is a columnist for Independent Media TV and an investigative journalist focused on exposing corruption in government)