Tuesday, 14 August 2012

A Short History Lesson

The CIA assessment of Afghanistan.

Just over Iran’s eastern frontier lies the unstable nation of Afghanistan. Influence over the policy and actions of Afghanistan’s stuttering government throughout the twentieth century has been central to the pressurisation of Iran by nations with imperial ambitions. The time span of Robert McFarlane's strategic thinking would be later revealed by a CIA assessment of the outcome of the mid-nineteen-eighties expulsion of Soviet troops from Afghanistan by the CIA sponsored and armed Mujahedin. The data for this assessment was gathered during the summer of 1989 under the title, Afghanistan: The War in perspective[1] around the time that Dr Thomas Hayes was discovering and reporting on a "fragment of the Lockerbie bomb.” 
The CIA's calculation was that, despite their military withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Soviets would be expected to continue providing "massive aid" to their client regime, Afghanistan. The Afghan government would therefore be able to strongly resist the Mujahedin, and thus would remain a threat to Iran and American interests in the Persian Gulf and the Straits of Hormuz. Events were expected to continue on their confused and dangerous path for several years, perhaps as far ahead as 1995.[2]
How had the U.S. Administration carried out such policies in the mid 1980s and after? A fascinating revelation occurred in November 1995, with the publication of a formerly secret email written by a Vincent Cannistraro, the man who would in time be appointed head of the CIA team investigating the Lockerbie bombing.
Cannistraro was involved, with others, in the arming of the Afghanistan insurgents attempting to evict Russian troops from their nation. In a secret email Cannistraro wrote to his colleagues about a meeting with congressman “Charlie” Wilson, the Democratic Congressional representative for Texas, and a patriot devoted to the cause of destroying Russian ambitions in Afghanistan. To eject Russian troops from the prospectively oil-rich regions of Afghanistan and Uzbekistan was a major component of the energy-future strategy of recurring presidents. Thus, money was needed, and Charlie would find a way.
"I went to see Charlie Wilson at his request" wrote Cannistraro. "He wanted to discuss his efforts to insert money into the defense budget for weapons development, specifically for use of freedom fighters such as the Mujahedin. Wilson had just been briefed by the CIA which ....[three lines deleted for security reasons]. Wilson asked me to tell you that the program would need $300 million again in September as a Department of Defense re-programming. I assume the CIA will brief me on Friday when I go out for a program update in anticipation of the PGC on Afghanistan scheduled June 20th. Wilson said he had already cut his deal with Congressman David Obey to fence off the Afghan money from any DoD budget cuts."[3]
Cannistraro appears too as part of another aspect of the history of Iran and of Iran-Contra. The downing of a plane carrying a Eugene Hasenfus, a mercenary employed by Oliver North’s cohorts on the Nicaraguan supply routes, threatened to derail the entire Iran-Contra affair. In the words of Tom Blanton, author of the November 1995 disclosures White House Email, this was government in major denial. "This October 8th 1986 email gives the anatomy of the cover-up. It lists the lies decided on by the Restricted Agency Group (RIG) managing the contra war."
Cannistraro’s record of the meeting indicates confidence the American people will accept that there has been no U.S. Government involvement. There is too an indication of the ever-growing Orwellian control exerted by the White House over media enquiries. This account finely balances the advantage of claiming that the captured mercenaries are brave men against the tactic of ignoring the whole thing.
"[8th Oct. 1986] 16:08 To: JOHN M. POINDEXTER. SUBJECT: DOWNED PLANE. At RIG [Restricted Interagency Group] meeting with Elliott Abrams today the question of the captured Americans held by the Nicaraguans was discussed. Following decisions were made:
-- Demands for consular access would continue. Elliott thought Nics [Nicaraguans] would accede to our request today. (He later called me to say the Nics had still not responded and we should be prepared to escalate tomorrow if there is no movement. Believes we may have to make this a "hostage crisis" to exert leverage on Sandinistas.)
-- El Salvador will deny [claims of ] any facilitative support to contra flights. By secure phone to Embassy, we received notice Duarte agreed that GOES [Government of El Salvador] would deny everything. Salvador asked that U.S. Government not refer newsmen to El Salvador for follow-up.
-- Press Guidance was prepared which states no U.S.G. [U.S. Government] involvement or connection, but that we are generally aware of such support contracted by the Contras.
-- UNO [United Nicaraguan Opposition] to be asked to assume responsibility for flight and to assist families of Americans involved. Elliott will follow up with Ollie [North] to facilitate this.
-- ARA [U.S. State Department Inter-American Bureau] will attempt to identify appropriate legal counsel and ask UNO to engage him. Lawyer will be asked to donate services pro bono. Alternatively, private money can be found, according to Elliott.
-- HPSCI [House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence] and SSCI [Senate Select Committee on Intelligence] have been briefed and there were no problems.
--Elliott said he would continue to tell the press these were brave men and brave deeds. We recommended he not do this because it contributes to perception [that the] U.S. Government inspired and encouraged private lethal aid effort."
The November 1995 NSA publication White House Email was only a brief selection from the four thousand available. And the four thousand were themselves only part of ten thousand originally existing in 1986 in the basement of the White House. When Iran-Contra was exposed, the leader of the conspiracy Colonel Oliver North, and an aide of White House chief Admiral John Poindexter descended to the basement of the White House and commenced the deletion of all secret files concerning Iran-Contra and associated matters.
Over the previous three years an estimated seventy thousand Central American civilians and officials had been murdered, and leaders of several Central American states threatened, bribed or blackmailed. The White House emails and telexes contained the entire brutal history. North and the Poindexter aide deleted some six thousand before they were discovered. The US courts then stepped in to halt all further deletions. What was in the six thousand deleted may never be known.
One surviving email shines light on a particularly dark aspect of the “group think” of the White House team. Naval Officer James Stark worked directly for Poindexter. In an email dated 30th January 1986 Stark put an interesting proposal to Poindexter and National Security Committee co-director Howard Teicher, a working colleague of Cannistraro. Stark looked at opportunities that had arisen to undermine the government of the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY), thus offering America a means of extending her control and influence in the region. The subject of the memo was "PDRY Opportunities".
If straight propaganda was not appropriate, then the US should run a “carefully managed disinformation campaign to convince PDRY's neighbours that the Soviets knew of and promoted the rebels from the beginning. This could be combined with indications of similar ominous Soviet activities in each of the target states”. Stark added: "Given the nature of the Soviets, we ought to be able to find a great deal of actual evidence, which can be artfully exploited, and may thus completely avoid the more dangerous course of altering or manufacturing evidence." Thus the reality of how America achieved some of its intelligence objectives. If the only way to succeed was to manufacture evidence, then America would do it. [4]
Then the final touch: "Howard, are you aware of any effort by State [the State Department], USIA [US Intelligence Agency] or CIA to focus on this? If not, I think JMP [John Poindexter] ought to raise it at a family group luncheon." (Our brackets and emphasis).
No record exists of the discussion at that family group luncheon, nor is it known who was present. We must presume that it lay among the six thousand documents deleted by Oliver North. The gathering of the Poindexter family was but a brief phase of a history which America would never allow to be revealed to the Lockerbie court.


[1] Afghanistan: The War in Perspective.(Key Judgements Only) Director of Central Intelligence, November 1989. Published in At Cold War's End: U.S. Intelligence on the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, 1989-91. Benjamin B. Fischer, ed. (Washington D.C: Central Intelligence Agency)
[2] Only in 2010 did the full implications of American strategy for the region become clear. Iraq is now effectively an occupied nation with a government kept in power by American forces, and Afghanistan is moving towards a similar status. Both nations are strategically positioned in relation to Caspian Sea oil and gas, and the surrounding “-stan” nations.
[3] White House Emails, National Security Archive of United States. 1995. Page 97. Note Cannistraro’s depiction of the Afghanistan insurgency as “Freedom fighters”.

[4] 30th January 1986. White House Email. 1995. Published by National Security Archive of America, Ed. Tom Blanton.

1 comment:

  1. It's almost too tough to believe that the CIA would ever sponsor mujahedin. It honestly makes images of rebels running around in ray-bans and custom suits pop into my imagination.

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