Talk Nation Radio for November 13, 2009
Gareth Porter, the National Security State pushes for war, and Muhammad Khurshid in Peshawar on Bombing of Pakistani Intelligence Agency, ISI
Produced by, Dori Smith
Download at Pacifica's Audioport here or non members at Radio4all.net and Archive.org
We hear part two of our extended interview with Gareth Porter, conducted in October. And Muhammad Khurshid provides reaction to bombing of ISI in Pakistan.
In part two of our interview with Gareth Porter we look at way two opposing groups are pushing the Obama White House for military options versus diplomatic ones, on Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. We asked him if it had been US policy under Bush/Cheney to provoke Iran, and if that strategy were something that former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton and others who may still be powerful in Washington and the Pentagon...might wish to continue.
You can read his articles at Inter Press Service News.
Dr. Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist on U.S. national security policy who writes for Inter Press Service. He was a Vietnam specialist and anti-war activist during the Vietnam War and was the Co-Director of the Indochina Resource Center in Washington. Gareth Porter has taught international studies at City College of New York and American University and was the first Academic Director for Peace and Conflict Resolution in the Washington Semester program at American University.
We reached Muhammad Khurshid in Peshawar, Pakistan, where a blast ripped through the regional headquarters of the ISI, Pakistan's intelligence agency early Friday, November 12, 2009.
Muhammad Khurshid is a journalist, now working as a peace activist and we have been reading his messages on Facebook as he and his family struggle to cope. Muhammad Kurshid has four children but they had to separate the family for safety reasons.
See also: Muhammad Khurshid, Now Pakistan Is In A Real War October 21, 2009 and Facebook
Agence France Press story about Peshawar attack on ISI here.
The Daily Star has also reported on the attack that left 10 people dead at the ISI complex.
Another suicide bombing killed six in Peshawar at around the same time, bringing the death toll for the week at 50. The suicide car bomb attack at ISI on November 12th was the second attack on the spy agency in 2009. In May, a group attacked a police and ISI building in Lahore Pakistan with guns, grenades and explosives, killing 30 people.
In late October, a car bomb in a Peshawar market killed 112. This after militants were able to hit army headquarters on October 10th very close to the capital of Islamabad. Each of these incidents has also left dozens of people wounded. Muhammad Khurshid was close enough to hear the gigantic blast and he discusses the climate in Pakistan amid all the violence.
According to The Daily Star: 'Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, the ISI, has been involved in scores of covert operations in the northwest against al-Qaida targets since 2001, when many militant leaders crossed into the area following the U.S. led invasion of Afghanistan. The region is seen as a likely hiding place for Osama bin Laden'.
'Its offices in Peshawar are on the main road leading from the city to Afghanistan. The agency was instrumental in using CIA money to train jihadi groups to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Despite assisting in the fight against al-Qaida since then, some Western officials consider the agency an unreliable ally and allege it still maintains links with the militants'.
Transcript, Talk Nation Radio for November 2009
Transcript for Talk Nation Radio, November 13, 2009:
Gareth Porter, the National Security State pushes for war, and Muhammad Khurshid in Peshawar on Bombing of Pakistani Intelligence Agency, ISI
Dori Smith, introduction: We hear part two of our extended interview with Gareth Porter, conducted in late October. Then Muhammad Khurshid in Peshawar talking about the dangers after a blast hit the spy agency ISI.
Gareth Porter: "The people who have the greatest immediate power over policy are those people in the national security state itself".
Muhammad Khurshid: "I was staying in my room when I heard a huge blast".
Last time Gareth Porter talked about US policies toward the MidEast reminding us about Iran and the Bush administration's provocative strategies of using naval forces in a blockade. In October neoconservative voices made renewed calls for attacks on Iran despite ongoing negotiations between Iran, Russia, and other countries, including the U.S., on how nuclear materials could be managed jointly. We talked with Gareth Porter about division between groups advising the White House on MidEast policy and Reuters is now reporting that there is growing concern that Western Intelligence coordination on Iran's nuclear endeavors is ineffective and politicized.
Finally, we discussed US and NATO reliance on Afghan warlords for security. This, explained Gareth Porter, has reduced US credibility with Afghan civilians.
"From the beginning of the U.S. paying off of the war lords to provide their services on behalf of the CIA and Special Forces counter terrorism activity in Afghanistan it's always been the case that the U.S. visible support for the war lords, well known support for the war lords, has been a major factor in the politics of that country. And has caused the population of the country to question U.S. motives and to really be much more alienated from the U.S. and foreign military presence in Afghanistan than would otherwise be the case".
America's so-called surge strategy for Afghanistan then has amounted to big payoffs to war lords and power brokers who deal with opium traders and the Taliban as easily as they deal with the US supported Kharzi Government. And investigative journalist Aram Roston has added another dimension to this story with hisreport to the Nation Magazine about US payments to the Taliban. He said: "US military officials in Kabul estimate that a minimum of 10 percent of the Pentagon's logistics contracts--hundreds of millions of dollars--consists of payments to insurgents."
Meanwhile, America's top diplomat for Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, has been working to get the Obama administration to press the Kharzi government to end corruption. Eikenberry has also indicated that the US should pull back from a military strategy and shore up Afghanistan's civil society with improvements to the country's infrastructure. The stage would appear to be set for a reintroduction of Obama's original policy platforms of negotiated solutions to problems that had festered during the Bush years.
But in part two of our interview with Gareth Porter we hear a warning about America's national security state and how two opposing groups keep pushing the Obama White House for military options versus diplomatic ones, for Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq.
Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist. His most recent book is, "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam." You can read his articles at Inter Press Service News and other locations and we will link to them at our web site Talk Nation Radio.org and .com.
We asked Gareth Porter if U.S. policy under Bush/Cheney had involved provocations against Iran and if that strategy were something that former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton and others who may still be powerful in Washington and the Pentagon might want to continue:
Gareth Porter: Is it Bolton's agenda to provoke Iran into taking actions, which would then be a justification? I think absolutely yes and this is part and parcel of the strategy, which I think Bolton, and Vice President Dick Cheney and his staff also, were very much involved in trying to push for in the Bush administration. That was clearly at work in the effort by Dick Cheney and his staff to push the idea that the United States should attack across the border in response to this completely phony charge that Iran was behind attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and that the United States had every legal right and in fact should respond to that by attacking Iranian bases which they were arguing were somehow linked to this alleged Iranian effort to manipulate and authorize Shiite militias to attack U.S. forces. (See story of 2003 negotiation failure, Bush/Cheney)
This was what was going on in early to mid 2007 and again, it was Pentagon, it was the civilians in the Pentagon and the U.S. Military leadership who essentially said no to that. They blocked the effort by Cheney and his allies in his administration to try to get the White House to go along with the idea of seizing upon this phony argument that Iran was behind attacks on U.S. Military personnel in Iraq to try to start a war with Iran. It didn't work but definitely that was, the idea of trying to provoke Iran, was built in to that strategy in 2006, 2007.
Dori Smith: And to keep Iran from successfully having negotiations that would change the balance of power and authority in a way that the conservatives, neoconservatives didn't want?
Gareth Porter: Yes, certainly the neoconservatives wanted to avoid serious diplomatic engagement with Iran. And that was certainly part of their strategy. Dick Cheney, if you go back to 2005, 2006, 2007, Cheney was more or less openly, at least through his staff, talking with some people in the news media, was basically just biding their time on the assumption that the U.S. negotiators and the European negotiators had such a short leash; they had no authority to really offer Iran anything of substance in the talks that had been going on in 2005, and therefore the Cheney people believed that those talks would ultimately break down and the Iranians would then return to enrichment, the Bush administration then could justify going back to the military option and that's exactly what Cheney tried to do then in 2007. (See What Really Prompted Iran to build the Qom Enrichment Facility? 10-23-09, 10-25-09)
Dori Smith: The U.S. has long argued that the 'war on terror' is about U.S. security, other security of countries in the Middle East, Israel among them, but if we look at some of the analysis over the last decade or so of security matters we don't see a decrease as of the Bush administration's tenure in the White House. (See: CBS, Iraq War made Terror Worse) Certainly, there were a lot of people pointing to an increase in the threat posed by terrorism and in the power of those who would engage in it so where do you think we are heading right now as the Obama administration starts to try to work its way through the mine field of all of these policy decisions? Are we looking at an increased sort of threat that both the U.S. Military and others in the region of the Middle East are facing or how have things changed if at all?
Gareth Porter: I don't think things have changed fundamentally and I think we are up against the same problem that we had during the Bush administration which is that we have a national security state which has a bureaucratic vested interest, political vested interest, in maintaining the status quo in terms of their programs which are now justified on the basis of counter-terrorism. For example, I would offer as a sort of a key example of this, the drone attack program in Pakistan which was of course started under Bush, accelerated under Bush in the final months before, final year I should say, of the second Bush administration. And in fact Bush gave explicit authorization for a complete changing of the rules which allowed the Central Intelligence Agency to carry out a much larger number of drone attacks in Pakistan based on much less information, much less certainty about who the target was, and thus insure that there would be a higher level of civilian casualties because there would be more drone attacks on targets that had been fully identified and which would be simply civilians rather than high level al-Qaeda at all.
First, you have Obama coming into power in January of 2009 and being sold a bill of goods by the very people whose interests lie in continuing this program. That is to say the covert operations arm of the CIA. These are the people who, you know it’s their program, their the ones whose money, whose budget, whose manpower and prestige within the government, depends on continuation of the program. And they were the ones who were talking about how wonderful this program was and how many high level al-Qaeda people are being eliminated, and of course they don’t talk at all about how many civilians are being killed in the process. And of course the way they sell this program is to suppress any information that could be used, not only by the news media or by critics outside of the government, but by other officials within the administration as well who might be skeptical about this program but who can’t do anything about it because they have no information.
You know I’m pointing to a dynamic here whereby the very bureaucrats who have their own personal and institutional interests at stake in continuing a program are able to sell the program to the White House because nobody else is in a position to offer concrete information to oppose it because the bureaucrats who own it also control the information. And I think this is a kind of template for understanding the whole so-called ‘global war on terror’ or whatever it’s now being called because I don’t think they use that terminology any more. But basically what we are talking about is a group of programs that all of which have civilian or military managers who have a vested interest in continuing the status quo. And that’s what this is all about. It’s all about these people and these institutions continuing to maintain their own interests at the expense of the security of the American people. There is no relationship between the two. There can’t be any relationship between the two and I would argue in the strongest terms that only when the American people understand this complete disjuncture between the interests of the national security bureaucracy on the one hand and the interests of the American people and their security. Will they be able to do anything about this problem? Until they understand that they will be the victims of a bureaucracy that is out of control.
Dori Smith: Is there a comparison to be made here with insurance companies and their power to pull things their own way in Washington versus the power of the American citizen.
Gareth Porter: I mean I may be alone in the anti-war and anti-militarism movement in embracing this position but I would caution against an easy making of an analogy between the politics of health care and other domestic political issues which do clearly involve an overweening corporate interest and power in controlling the issue; and the issue that we’ve been discussing of U.S. war in Afghanistan, the drone attacks in Pakistan and other programs involving covert operations and other Military and civilian programs that have to do with the U.S. presence in the Middle East. I think that those programs are overwhelmingly driven, not by corporate interests, but by the interests of the national security bureaucracy itself. I think we must accept, we must understand, the autonomy of the national security state as a political actor and as an economic actor.
Both the economics and the politics of this are focused on the overweening power of those national security bureaucrats both military and civilian but overwhelmingly the Military has the upper hand in regard to control over resources. And so I would argue very strongly that we must not avert our eyes from the central reality, which is that the people who have the greatest immediate stake, and the people who have the greatest immediate power, over policy, are those people in the national security state itself.
I’m not arguing that there are not corporate interests behind them, particularly certainly on the Military Budget, obviously that’s a huge interest, but the distance between for example the drone attacks in Pakistan and corporate interests is fairly considerable. I think there you have the clearest example of how bureaucracy is really the driving force, not corporate interests. And I think that is the case for U.S. policy toward Iraq in 2009 as well as in Afghanistan 2009 and I think in Pakistan the same thing is true. We have to take on the Military-civilian national security bureaucracy as the first problem, the primary problem, the overweening problem, not corporate interests.
Dori Smith: So you are talking about civilians, and the Military, what about the State Department? Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to Pakistan and said she supported the drone attacks as part of the ‘war on terror’ and using that language.
Gareth Porter: I think that’s a good question. Hillary Clinton fits into this overall perspective in two ways. One as a political figure who aspired to be President and obviously ran for that office, she aligned herself with the national security state in very important ways. She was very consciously adjusting her positions over the last few years to make herself acceptable to the Military leadership and the civilian leadership in the Pentagon and in other national security institutions. This is very clear from her record. She never said anything that she didn’t feel would be acceptable to those bureaucratic interests. At the same time of course she was also insuring that her positions were not only acceptable but were enthusiastically received by the Israel lobby in Washington. And that is a very important part of her perspective on the Middle East and I think continues to be a serious influence on her thinking.
Dori Smith: Gareth Porter where can we learn more about this group of people that you are speaking about now? How can we identify who these people are and what might be done to take them on and change things around a little?
Gareth Porter: This is not a simple question. You’ve taking on a tough intellectual issue in a sense if you really want to do this systematically but I would say to simplify it you begin with the military services and understand that they have their own political, economic, bureaucratic interests which are to maximize their budgets, their manpower, their military programs, their weapons systems, their roles and missions. And those are the biggest single items in the economy, the political economy, of the national security state. You are talking about hundreds of billions, trillions of dollars, at stake here. And that gives them a degree of power that transcends any other institution, the national security state. And you have other institutions that really almost revolve around them like satellites. And I would include there, for example; the National Security Council staff, the State Department National Security element, those who deal with Military Affairs, those who deal with International Security, all of those officials in the State Department whose issues affect the Pentagon, are going to be within the orbit of the Military leadership and the civilians in the Pentagon, I should have mentioned as part of that orbit as well, then you have the Covert Operations bureaucracy of the Central Intelligence Agency who are also a very important part, they have their own sort of independent interests apart from the U.S. Military and there can be very important conflicts between the covert operations bureaucracy and the Military but very often they also work hand in hand and even cooperate on many programs. So those would be very briefly I think the key elements of this national security bureaucracy. Its got a bureaucracy, each of which has its own interests, but which also form an overall set of interests that tend to cohere and that tend to move forward in the same direction.
Dori Smith: Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist, author of several books. His most recent book was, "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam." Out in paperback in 2006. Gareth Porter any clues in that book as to the kind of portrait you are drawing here in modern times?
Gareth Porter: That’s right, this book is really what caused me to, for the first time, to understand that the national security bureaucracy is really the problem in terms of U.S. National Security. It is the enemy in a very meaningful sense by which I mean it is the source of insecurity for the American people because the national security bureaucracy must have conflict, and not only must have conflict but must use force, must deploy force abroad, and must do so in a way that inevitably is going to provoke both state interests and non-state actors to respond in various ways which then will of course be used by the national security bureaucracy as evidence that we must do more. And so it is involved inevitably in a dynamic that drives violent conflict ever higher, particularly in the Middle East, but not only there, and therefore, we have to understand that the national security bureaucracy is what drives the policies of one administration after another towards war and toward the preparation for war. And that was what I’d discovered was the problem in the case of Vietnam. That under Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson, it was the national security bureaucracy, particularly the Military, which was proposing that the United States use military force in Vietnam and that the White House was very reluctant to do that but succumbed, certainly after Eisenhower left the White House, succumbed to the pressure emanating from the national security bureaucracy to become involved increasingly militarily in Vietnam. And so it is in a way the template for what I see happening today in Afghanistan as well as in Pakistan and certainly elsewhere in the Middle East and throughout the globe.
Dori Smith: Gareth Porter thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us.
Gareth Porter: My pleasure thanks Dori.
Dori Smith: Gareth Porter writes for Inter Press Service, he was co-director of the Indo China Resource Center in Washington, D.C.
We turn now to Muhammad Khurshid in Peshawar, Pakistan, where a blast has ripped through the regional headquarters of the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency. Muhammad Khurshid is a journalist now working as a peace activist and we’ve been reading his Facebook messages as he and his family have struggled to cope. The Daily Star reported ten people dead at the ISI complex. Another suicide bombing killed six people in Peshawar at around the same time bringing the death toll for the week to 50. The attack at ISI headquarters November 12th 2009 was the second on the spy agency this year. In May, a group attacked a police and ISI building in Lahore Pakistan, with guns, grenades and explosives killing 30 people. In late October a car bomb hit a Peshawar market killing 112 people, this after militants were able to hit Army headquarters October 10th very close to the capital of Islamabad. And each of these incidents has left dozens wounded. Muhammad Khurshid just tell us how close you were to this bombing and what the climate is in Pakistan amid all of this violence:
Muhammad Khurshid: The blast was here the attack was carried out it was just two kilometers away from me. I was staying in my room when I heard a huge blast.. It was so huge it was heard by millions of people in Peshawar, the whole Peshawar city where the population is more than ...ten million. So the blast was very very huge.
Dori Smith: These initial reports in the middle of the night in here in America of course, say that it was the ISI, Pakistan's Intelligence Agency, that was the target.
Muhammad Khurshid: Actually the target was office of the ISI. There are reports of very heavy casualties. At the moment I think all the roads are closed, the army has been called out. So the death toll is unknown at the moment but there is more than thirty or forty at the last count, casualties, and the target was the ISI office.
Dori Smith: Now I know you expressed concern about your safety in October after blasts then and you thought about leaving Pakistan. Can you just speak to the issue of what it's like there right now?
Muhammad Khurshid:I think at the moment the lives of millions of people are in danger. Here, the system has been collapsed completely. I have lots of, personally I have suffered a lot, because my family has been living in Bajaur Agency which is the center of violence at the moment. The Army has been carrying out a big operation but still there is increasing violence, there is increasing death and destruction and there is no hope, the people are losing hope. My family is living on the (unclear) side, they have been dislodged from their house. My wife is in Bajaur Agency, my children are in Bajaur Agency which is the center of violent terrorism, and today I heard there is actually a lot of violence in that area. At the moment we are not living normal lives. We are just running, running for saving ourselves because there is great risk everywhere. The Army is also killing the innocent people. Terrorists are also killing the innocent people. I think the ruler of Pakistan has lost direction. Now they are direction-less. They have no planning. The army is operating without any planning.
Dori Smith: What do people think about the US. With America tied so closely to Pakistan's leaders at the moment do people blame both for this lack of security?
Muhammad Khurshid: I think now that people have been looking to the United States because now at the moment the United States can play a role to bring peace and stability to this area, and this is because of the violent terrorism and that the system has been collapsed. So now the people have the expectation and now this is the, and this will be their duty naturally. If you destroy a system then you rebuild that system. So the system has been destroyed and now the people have been looking to the United States, they have been looking to the U.S. Army even, to actually come and eliminate all of these criminals. Because who are doing this are the criminals. They are nothing else.
Dori Smith: But is it political organizations Muhammad or criminals taking advantage of a lack of police or security?
Muhammad Khurshid: Actually the Pakistani leadership and United States leadership has been carrying out the Army operations. But the Army operation is a very temporary solution, it's not a permanent solution. The permanent solution is building a system, actually our system in Pakistan is very corrupt so this is the reason that the system has been collapsed and there is complete more than complete anarchy and panic, the system has been collapsed. So it should be rebuilt.
Dori Smith: Muhammad Khurshid, I know you have been trying to reach out to the world, you've issued a lot of calls for peace online. What is your message really?
Muhammad Khurshid: I think the American leadership the American leaders who are coming to Pakistan and because at the moment the Americans are guiding the leadership in Pakistan, but the main mistake which is being committed by the Obama administration is they are still supporting these corrupt leaders. The Americans can do the best if they start supporting the real leadership who can deliver, who can know, actually at the moment now we are being ruled by rulers who know nothing, I think they have no idea, they know nothing. The United States can do the best by supporting a real leadership instead of these corrupt people.
Dori Smith: Just to confirm, Muhammad you are in Peshawar right now?
Muhammad Khurshid: At the moment I am in Peshawar. But my family, my wife and my children, are in Bajaur Agency. At the moment I am in the Peshawar Press Club just trying to get some attention and do something for the people.
Dori Smith: What do you think Pakistanis need the most?:
Muhammad Khurshid: The people just need honest leadership and I think they are needing, there are a lot of needs, because the United States and the United Nations have been giving a lot of money to the rulers of Pakistan but that money never went to the people. They are just delivered in the Midwest, so I think the United States should fund directly, directly and take control, and I think they could play a good role at the moment.
Dori Smith: Reports on this bombing in Peshawar are saying that the ISI has been tied to US covert operations against Al-Qaeda, they are blaming that.
Muhammad Khurshid: Actually the ISI has played a very dirty role in the past. They have created these people, they have guard these people in the tribal area. I think the CIA and the Army of the United States (unclear) but they are ignoring justice, they have no idea of justice, but they have played a role in the creation of these people but now after the pressure now they are eliminating these people, so the military, the militants and you can regard here as Mujaheddin, they are against, they went against the ISI, now these attackers want to kill the ISI.
Dori Smith: So you're blaming the Mujaheddin for this attack?
Muhammad Khurshid: Yeah.
Just talk about the Mujaheddin for a second here. I mean how do you see this group that America did train and fund back in the 1980s to fight Russia in Afghanistan?
Muhammad Khurshid: At the moment it is very complex. The United States in the past played a role in the creation of these people regarding the (unclear) they are the leader of these people but after 9/11 the security has been changed so the Pakistan, the ISI, and all of these agencies which have the blessings of the CIA they have created these people but now they are against these people.
Dori Smith: So are you calling on the CIA to do more or not?
Muhammad Khurshid: Actually the Pakistani Intelligence Agency, the ISI, they are fearing the CIA, they are just giving the wrong information, they are just giving the wrong information to the, on the ground reality is totally different. On the ground the reality is that the people are very very poor, they are just suppressed, they have been victimized; they have no rights they are living like slaves. But the information, which has been given to the CIA, is that these people were presented, the people of the tribal area, they were presented as militants, they were presented as terrorists. The real terrorists are the rulers of Pakistan. This is my point of view. And restoring the order or bringing peace to this area I think that people would welcome them. This would be a positive role.
Dori Smith: Muhammad Khurshid in Peshawar, it's too dangerous now for his family to be with him. A journalist, he has been devoting his time to trying to find ways to promote peace in Pakistan. Muhammad Kurshid thank you so much for joining us.
Muhammad Khurshid: Thank you, thank you are welcome.
Transcribed by DS, 11-18-09, this transcript may contain some errors. Questions: email@example.com
Of interest story here