Al Qaeda and the US homeland
By Jerome Grossman
Only one day before the crucial vote in the U.S. Senate on the amendment sponsored by Democratic Senators Carl Levin of Michigan and Jack Reed of Rhode Island calling for a specific date of US force reduction in Iraq, the Bush administration issued a National Intelligence Estimate on Al Qaeda. It was clearly an attempt to influence the vote by exerting pressure on wavering Republican senators and to frighten the American public.
The Democrats worked hard on this legislation: holding a candlelight vigil in front of the Capitol, organizing an all-night “filibuster” at which more than fifty senators spoke on the Iraq war, encouraging public rallies all over the country, and approaching Republican senators in an attempt to reach the 60 vote threshold. With only a slim chance to win, they attained a majority, but not the supermajority.
The vote was 52 -- 47. Every Democrat voted yes except Johnson of South Dakota, who is ill, and Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, who seems to be following biblical instructions to kill all the Amalekites. Four Republicans voted with the Democrats, Collins and Snowe of Maine, Smith of Oregon, and Hagel of Nebraska; three are up for reelection in 2008, all are feeling constituent pressure on the unpopular and unsuccessful war in Iraq.
The NIE report is classified, but a declassified summary of the central findings on terrorism found that Al Qaeda had “protected or regenerated key elements of its homeland attack capability.” This raises sharp questions about the success of the administration's counterterrorism strategy as well as its judgment in making Iraq the focus of that effort.
The administration has told us that two thirds of the Al Qaeda leadership has been killed or captured since September 11. Now it says that it has reconstituted itself in the Wild West tribal areas of Pakistan, is stronger than any time in years and is actively plotting new attacks on the American homeland. However, we have been told that Al Qaeda can not use phones or electronic communications for fear of disclosing their location, that the leaders are living in caves, that bin Laden is sick or dead and has not been heard from for more than a year. US satellites regularly photograph the areas of Pakistan in question so that our subsidized ally, Pakistan, could use these pictures to snuff out any suspicious activity. Administration officials are now threatening to invade Pakistan to destroy the Al Qaeda base. That would increase to three the number of Muslim countries where US forces were fighting, increasing the credibility of those who call the invasions a resumption of the Crusades.
There are six million Muslims in the US, all of whom are probably wiretapped and mail-opened , yet no sleeper cells have been revealed. The few alleged conspirators arrested in the US, have been hopeless amateurs or senders of “charitable” donations to Middle East “causes” Only last week the head of the US Department of Homeland Security said that he had a “gut” feeling that the U.S. homeland would soon be attacked, hardly a serious warning.
Without seeing the entire NIE, it is impossible to make a complete evaluation, but the contradictions between the report and other government statements leads to a suspicion that this intelligence may be at least partially political. After all, we went to war in Iraq for false reasons, some on purpose, some perhaps inadvertent. It will take years before government intelligence will be wholly accepted by the public as totally objective and professional.