Dancing With the Devil
If you think that our #1 enemy in the world is Saddam Hussein — heck, if you think our #1 enemy in the world is Osama bin Laden — this interview with Seymour Hersh from NOW with Bill Moyers on PBS should be educational for you. Hersh argues to interviewer Jane Wallace that our #1 enemy may in fact also be one of our #1 “allies” in the war on terrorism: General Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan.
Check out this exchange, for example:
JANE WALLACE: Let’s talk about Konduz. During the war with Afghanistan–
SY HERSH: Great story.
JANE WALLACE: — you reported that during a key battle our side in that battle had the enemy surrounded. There were a reported perhaps 8,000 enemy forces in there.
SY HERSH: Maybe even more. But certainly minimum that many.
JANE WALLACE: It’s your story, take it.
SY HERSH: Okay, the cream of the crop of Al Qaeda caught in a town called Konduz which is near … it’s one little village and it’s a couple hundred kilometers, 150 miles from the border of Pakistan. And I learned this story frankly– through very, very clandestine operatives we have in the Delta Force and other very…
We were operating very heavily with a small number of men, three, 400 really in the first days of the war. And suddenly one night when they had everybody cornered in Konduz– the special forces people were told there was a corridor that they could not fly in. There was a corridor sealed off to– the United States military sealed off a corridor. And it was nobody could shoot anybody in this little lane that went from Konduz into Pakistan. And that’s how I learned about it. I learned about it from a military guy who wanted to fly helicopters and kill people and couldn’t do it that day.
JANE WALLACE: So, we had the enemy surrounded, the special forces guys are helping surround this enemy.
SY HERSH: They’re whacking everybody they can whack that looks like a bad guy.
JANE WALLACE: And suddenly they’re told to back off–
SY HERSH: From a certain area–
JANE WALLACE: — and let planes fly out to Pakistan.
SY HERSH: There was about a three or four nights in which I can tell you maybe six, eight, 10, maybe 12 more– or more heavily weighted– Pakistani military planes flew out with an estimated– no less than 2,500 maybe 3,000, maybe mmore. I’ve heard as many as four or 5,000. They were not only– Al Qaeda but they were also– you see the Pakistani ISI was– the military advised us to the Taliban and Al Qaeda. There were dozens of senior Pakistani military officers including two generals who flew out.
And I also learned after I wrote this story that maybe even some of Bin Laden’s immediate family were flown out on the those evacuations. We allowed them to evacuate. We had an evacuation.
JANE WALLACE: How high up was that evacuation authorized?
SY HERSH: I am here to tell you it was authorized — Donald Rumsfeld who — we’ll talk about what he said later — it had to be authorized at the White House. But certainly at the Secretary of Defense level.
JANE WALLACE: The Department of Defense said to us that they were not involved and that they don’t have any knowledge of that operation.
SY HERSH: That’s what Rumsfeld said when they asked him but it. And he said, “Gee, really?” He said, “News to me.” Which is not a denial, it’s sort of interesting. You know,
JANE WALLACE: What did we do that? Why we would put our special forces guys on the ground, surround the enemy, and then– fly him out?
SY HERSH: With al Qaeda.
JANE WALLACE: With al Qaeda. Why would we do that, assuming your story is true?
SY HERSH: We did it because the ISI asked us to do so.
JANE WALLACE: Pakistani intelligence.
SY HERSH: Absolutely.
So, allow me to recap that for you: we had trapped thousands of the people who planned, supported and executed the 9/11 attacks, and then we let them go — all to prop up a corrupt military dictator! Musharraf was afraid that if those terrorists — I’ll say it again, the terrorists who planned 9/11 — were rounded up, he’d be under pressure from Islamists at home to confront the U.S. for their release. So he asked us to let them go, as a favor, and we did.
Gosh, aren’t we generous! Watch out, terrorists, we’re coming for you — unless you’re supported by Pakistan. Then you’re untouchable.
Want more? It gets better:
JANE WALLACE: You reported recently that not only do the Pakistanis have the nukes, the international community knew that. That’s why they were ostracized for many years, because they wouldn’t stop developing their own nuclear program. So they were blackballed by the rest of the world. Forget it, we’re not trading with them anymore.
They were in that position when 9/11 struck. Not only do they have these nuclear weapons, but then they go one further to put it in our face and start helping North Korea develop the same cheaper, more efficient warheads. What is that about? These are our new best friends?
SY HERSH: Well, this started before they became our new best friends. This isn’t– this started in ’97. What I did is I wrote about an intelligence report that the White House had for, what, eight months before it became known…
So here they are. North Korea’s– one of their great exports is missiles for cash and then they sell some missiles to the Paks. And the Paks come to the North Koreans in ’97 and they say, “Hey guys, we can’t pay. We got no money. We’re broke too. But we’ve got something in kind”… the Paks then start giving the fruits of their 10, 15 years, 20 years of nuclear labor to the North Koreans. And you have to understand, to start with a centrifuge and some designs and get to the point where you can actually make bomb-grade material is a 12, 15 year process…
The rationalization is that we can’t jeopardize Musharraf. We’ve gotta keep him going. Prop him up as much as possible.
JANE WALLACE: This is getting to be a very costly prop up.
SY HERSH: Absolutely. But you know, let me give you another– theory. Why do you think Pakistan has only helped North Korea with nuclear weapons? Why haven’t they helped other countries?
JANE WALLACE: I don’t know why.
SY HERSH: Well, the answer is, they probably have. They’re interested in spreading it to the Third World. How much control does Musharraf have?
That’s right — this same tinpot Mussolini who we gave up our chance to finish off al Qaeda to protect is the one who gave the bomb to North Korea, and potentially to anyone else who had money to spare as well.
Before you start sputtering about conspiracy theories, keep in mind that Seymour Hirsh is no fruitcake; he’s a widely respected journalist who’s broken some of the most important foreign relations stories of our time, including the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War. If he says our foreign policy is off the rails, I’m inclined to listen. And from what he told NOW it’s hard to come to any other conclusion.