Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The wages of spin

Pakistan and the War Against Terror

By Arnaud de Borchgrave
The Washington Times
September 26, 2006

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's much-ballyhooed book "In The Line Of Fire," published yesterday, contains the standard "sensational disclosure," pre-pub publicity de rigueur in such tomes. He claims soon after the September 11 attacks on the Pentagon and Manhattan's Twin Towers, then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage threatened to "bomb Pakistan back to the Stone Age" unless Mr. Musharraf signed on immediately to President Bush's global war on terror.

Only problem with Mr. Musharraf's narrative is that Mr. Armitage didn't resort to Strangelovian Cold War language to get his point across. But Mr. Musharraf's intelligence chief did, hoping his boss would reject such a crude ultimatum.

Mr. Armitage's interlocutor Sept. 13, 2001, was Gen. Mahmoud Ahmad, the pro-Taliban chief of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. At the time of September 11, ISI had 1,500 agents distributed throughout Afghanistan. The Taliban regime was entirely dependent on the Pakistani lifeline. At all times, Gen. Ahmad knew exactly where Osama bin Laden was located.

His agents tracked his every move. ISI was also aware of the planning for September 11. Gen. Ahmad was even accused of authorizing British-born Pakistaniterrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh to make a $100,000 transfer to Mohamed Atta, the operational chief of the September 11 conspiracy, a charge that met vehement denials. "Sheikh Omar," as he became known, was tried and sentenced to death for the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl in 2002.

But his ISI links spared him the gallows. There was little doubt some elements of ISI knew the outlines of the aerial plot against the U.S. and the evidence was turned over to the September 11 Commission three days after its report had gone to press. It was never made public. Gen. Ahmad arranged to be in Washington the week of al Qaeda's big terrorist attack, presumably to take the Bush administration's pulse and gauge probable reactions.

After seeing Mr. Armitage, he called his boss Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad and translated the either-you're-with-us-against-the-terrorists-or-against-us-with-the-terrorists threat to mean Mr. Bush planned to "bomb Pakistan back to the Stone Age" unless Mr. Musharraf complied with Washington's wishes.

Afghanistan was in Mr. Bush's gunsights before day's end on September 11 and the U.S. wanted immediate access to Pakistan's air space. Also sought was permission to use air bases for fighter-bombers and transport aircraft, and to support Special Forces. By distorting Mr. Armitage's warning, Gen. Ahmad was clearly hoping his chief would refuse to buckle to U.S. demands, as he did not believe the U.S. would invade another nuclear power whose population was anti-American and pro-Taliban.

ISI's Gen. Ahmad clearly miscalculated. Not only did Mr. Musharraf acquiesce to U.S. demands, but also dispatched Gen. Ahmad to Kandahar with orders to get Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban leader, to cough up bin Laden. Gen. Ahmad's delegation was made up of six religious leaders and six ISI officers.

His gambling instincts failed him yet again. He ignored Mr. Musharraf's orders and advised Mullah Omar to hang tough and refuse to surrender bin Laden. Gen. Ahmad reported back to Mr. Musharraf Oct. 6, 2001 that his mission had failed to persuade the Taliban. The U.S. invasion began the next day, Oct. 7.

Five years later, Taliban guerrillas are on the comeback trail, using the tribal areas that straddle the mountain range, which demarcates an imaginary line drawn on a map in 1893 between then-British India and Afghanistan. Under U.S. pressure, Mr. Musharraf agreed to deploy over 80,000 troops in Federally Administered Tribal Areas, where they had been banned since independence in 1947.

After losing some 700 Pakistani troops killed and some 3,000 wounded, Mr. Musharraf's generals hadn't made a dent in tribal support for Taliban and al Qaeda. With some 12 million people from the same tribes on both sides of the non-existent border, Taliban and locals are indistinguishable.

Thoroughly frustrated by U.S. pressure and Afghan President Hamid Karzai's accusations that Pakistan was giving aid and comfort to the Taliban enemy, Mr. Musharraf decided to cut a deal -- with the tribal leaders that despise him and protect Taliban. Mr. Musharraf agreed to stand down the army. In return, the turbaned tribal chiefs agreed to keep Taliban fighters from staging cross-border raids up and down an unmarked line of jagged mountains and deep ravines.

Pakistan also agreed to release several hundred prisoners, many with known links to al Qaeda. Heated denials notwithstanding, Taliban and al Qaeda now have privileged sanctuaries in North and South Waziristan where they no longer have to duck when they see a Pakistani soldier.

Several thousand foreign guerrillas -- mostly Uzbeks, Tajiks and Arabs who made it out of the Tora Bora battle in Dec. 2001, or stayed on after the Soviets abandoned Afghanistan in 1989, and married local girls -- are also home free. A year ago, when this reporter was in Waziristan, a score of trainers in suicide and roadside bombing techniques had arrived from Iraq.

Today, suicide attacks in Afghanistan are almost as commonplace as in Iraq. Earlier this month, a suicide bomber killed Hakim Taniwal, the governor of Afghanistan's Paktia province. The very next day, at Taniwal's funeral, another suicide bomber killed five and wounded 30 mourners.

NATO commanders in Afghanistan say Mr. Musharraf's deal with Waziristan's tribal elders cannot possibly make a difference in Taliban infiltrations from Pakistan. NATO Supreme Commander James L. Jones says, "let's be patient and give it 30, 60 or 90 days to see if the border gets better, worse, the same, or whatever."

Winter snow shuts down mountain passes, which is when Taliban prepares its spring offensive from its Pakistani sanctuaries. Presidents Bush, Musharraf and Karzai will dine together tomorrow evening at the White House. The Pakistani will echo Gen. Jones. Be patient.

Winter is coming. He'll also tell Mr. Bush if he orders U.S. troops into Pakistani tribal areas to hunt bin Laden, sans Pakistani hunting license, extremists will score big. Gen. Jones appealed to NATO members for an additional 2,500 troops to reinforce the 20,000 NATO and 20,000 U.S. troops now on the ground in Afghanistan.

The Poles volunteered 1,000, but not before next February, and then not for duty in the southern provinces where the heaviest fighting is taking place. Even Serbia, the country NATO fought over Kosovo in 1999, was solicited. Belgrade volunteered five airport security and logistics officers. Britain, Canada and Romania ponied up another 1,000.

Allied armies are stretched thin with a wide variety of peacekeeping and peacemaking missions, most recently in Lebanon. Friendly governments fear the new Afghan war is unwinnable short of a major 10-year commitment.

But parliaments and national assemblies balk. Meanwhile, Afghans know from their centuries-old experience sooner or later foreign conquerors leave -- and in this case the indigenous Taliban stays, lavishly funded by its cut of the opium poppy bonanza.

Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.
Lincoln's Example

By Bruce Fein
The Washington Times
September 26, 2006

The nation needed Abraham Lincoln after September 11, but it got George W. Bush. The jihadist abominations arguably confronted President George W. Bush with the dilemma of choosing between the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the safety of the American people. He should have followed Abraham Lincoln's example during the Civil War in consulting Congress over suspending the writ of habeas corpus and promptly seeking a ratifying statute.

Instead, Mr. Bush concealed his evasion of FISA, asserted monarchical powers, and scorned congressional oversight. If Lincoln's statesmanship had been emulated, Mr. Bush could have avoided his current gladiatorial clashes with Congress over checks and balances in fighting international terrorism.

September 11, 2001 raised fears of hundreds of terrorist sleeper cells burrowed throughout the nation. The need for instant foreign intelligence to safeguard against a cascade of renewed terrorist attacks was urgent. President Bush might have thought it impossible to comply with FISA consistent national security.

The statute authorizes the National Security Agency to spy on American citizens on American without judicial warrants for 15 days after war commences. But the attorney general must first be presented with evidence of probable cause to believe each target is implicated in international terrorism or is otherwise acting as a foreign agent.

If Mr. Bush believed FISA was too sluggish for the crisis, he should have violated the law; brought the matter immediately to the attention of Congress; and, sought retroactive congressional approval of what he had done.

Lincoln set the standard for dealing with wartime emergencies after the opening shots of the Civil War. Congress was not in session. The Union itself was threatened. Lincoln made calls for volunteers to serve three years, unless sooner discharged, and large additions to the regular army and navy. He further authorized the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, i.e., the arrest and detention without judicial examination of persons deemed dangerous to the public safety.

Both presidential measures were constitutionally dubious.

Accordingly, on July 4, 1861, Lincoln convened Congress on an "extraordinary" occasion under Article II, section 3, to review his actions.

As regards the volunteers and regular armed forces, the president explained: "These measures, whether strictly legal or not, were ventured upon under what appeared to be a popular demand and a public necessity, trusting then, as now, that Congress would readily ratify them. It is believed that nothing has been done beyond the constitutional competency of Congress."

With respect to the suspension of habeas corpus without congressional authority, Lincoln elaborated: "The whole of the laws which were required to be faithfully executed were being resisted and failing of execution in nearly one-third of the States. Must they be allowed to finally fail of execution, even had it been perfectly clear that by use of the means necessary to their execution some single law... should to a very limited extent be violated?... But the Constitution itself is silent as to which [Congress or the Executive] is to exercise the [suspending] power; and as the provision was plainly made for a dangerous emergency, it cannot be believed the framers of the instrument intended that in every case the danger should run its course until Congress could be called together, the very assembling of which might be prevented, as was intended in this case, by the rebellion. ... whether there shall be any legislation upon this subject, and if any, what, is submitted entirely to the better judgment of Congress."

Congress retroactively ratified Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus in the Habeas Corpus Act of 1863. Mr. Bush flouted rather than followed Lincoln's Civil War instruction in the aftermath of September 11. He secretly instructed the NSA to target American citizens on American soil for electronic surveillance on his say-so alone in violation of FISA. In contrast to Lincoln, Mr. Bush did not bring his professed emergency measure to the attention of Congress.

Nor did he seek legislation authorizing the NSA's warrantless domestic surveillance, although Congress was present, willing and able to enact anything Mr. Bush proposed as indicated by the overwhelming approval of the Patriot Act. (Alerting Congress to the NSA's warrantless domestic spying would not have crippled its effectiveness. The program continued unchanged even after it was revealed by the New York Times last December). Mr. Bush concealed the NSA's illegal spying from Congress to evade legal and political accountability.

When a leak to the New York Times broke the secrecy, Mr. Bush preposterously claimed inherent constitutional authority to ignore FISA or any other statute constraining his ability to gather foreign intelligence, for example, laws prohibiting mail openings, breaking and entering homes, or torture. The White House tacitly conceded it was operating other secret spying programs that would never be shared with Congress.

Mr. Bush established military tribunals to try alleged war criminals without seeking congressional authorization. They were later held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006).

Mr. Bush similarly cold-shouldered Congress in creating Combatant Status Review Tribunals to determine whether Guantanamo Bay detainees are illegal combatants. Their constitutionality remains questionable. Lincoln unreluctantly sought to act within the rule of law and endorsed checks and balances.

Mr. Bush has turned Lincoln's example on its head, thereby endangering the constitutional order. When the nation needed longheaded statesmanship, Mr. Bush sallied forth with small-minded partisanship.

Bruce Fein is a constitutional lawyer and international consultant with Bruce Fein & Associates and The Lichfield Group.