Fifteen years ago today, 19 al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four American planes, used them as guided missiles, brought down the World Trade Towers, severely damaged the Pentagon, and four terrorists were overpowered by Americans over a field in Pennsylvania. The suicide terrorist attacks killed 2,996, caused more than $100 billion in damages and stole America’s innocence.
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According to a new Pew Research Center poll, the 9/11 attacks continue to be a powerful memory for Americans: 91 percent of adults remember exactly where they were or what they were doing when they heard about the terrorist attacks.
So how has the 15–year “war on terror” changed America? Looking back and forward, can Americans really believe they are safer?
First a bit of history, the “war on terror” rightly started in the tribal nation of Afghanistan. Brand-new President George W. Bush summoned his top advisors to the Oval Office and chose Cofer Black, former CIA whiz, to implement a devastating retaliation for the nearly three thousand deaths. Black offered no mercy and told the rookie president that this effort required a few hundred specially trained military forces, 110 CIA officers, direct firepower, a bunch of money and his plan would end with what Black called – using an old Angola War expression – “when this is all over, the bad guys are going to have flies walking across their eyeballs.”
After 10 weeks, Black and his stealth-fighting machine proclaimed victory. All the Taliban cities, as well as their government, had been toppled.
In a 2013 Men’s Journal interview Black was asked if he briefed the Russians about the impending attack and how the Ruskies responded to his plan. They said, “You’re really going to get the hell kicked out of you.” Black replied, “We’re going to kill them – we’re going to put their heads on sticks… and you know what, the Russians loved it! After the meeting was over, two senior Russian officials, whom I will not name, said to me, ‘Mr. Black, finally America is acting like a superpower!’”
The follow through earned Black and the US the respect that had been sorely lacking.
The success should have ended there. But as we know, it didn’t. Bush ensnared the country into an ill-defined and ill-conceived “war on terror” that continues today.
Whether you agree with the “war on terror” or not, the consequences are very real and very alarming. With the advent of comprehensive counterinsurgency, COIN or nation-building, thanks General Petraeus, the taxpayers have spent trillions of dollars in a region made up of tribal nations.
Case in point, in a recent interview, Commander of Afghanistan US and NATO Forces, General John Nicholson told PBS the war’s progress is tedious. “We’re trying to build an airplane while in flight, OK? So they’re fighting a war while we’re trying to build an army. This is very hard,” he explained.
It must be said that the “war on terror” falls under the asymmetrical category. The sneaky “stateless” armies must be defeated with clear goals and end-state solutions. It’s here where the most powerful armed forces on the planet have stumbled.
In his book the Field of Fight, retired Army three-star General Mike Flynn describes the best way to defeat marauding radical Islamic terrorists. Flynn says to win the battle against radical Islam we must destroy the jihadi armies, kill or capture their leaders, discredit their ideology, create a 21st-century alliance and must hold countries, like Saudi Arabia, accountable for supporting terrorism.
“The best plan gives you the most options at the last possible minute. Right now we don’t have the best plan. A real strategic discussion about what it is that we are trying to achieve. Is it the defeat of radical Islam? It has to be beyond that and that’s where an alliance of nations has to get it together,” Flynn said.
It cost Osama bin-Laden roughly $500,000 to bring down the Twin Towers and Pentagon. In return, the US has suffered tens of thousands of casualties and flushed away trillions of dollars into the Middle East black hole. Plus, hundreds of thousands of Middle Easterners have died and more than 12 million of refugees are now stateless. Newt Gingrich said this week the US has failed so badly in the Middle East that we are giving the number one state sponsor of terrorism, Iran, $1.7 billion in cash, just like a drug cartel.
“So 15 years after 9/11, we’re not winning. We’re not winning in Afghanistan. We’re not winning in Iraq. We’re not winning in Syria. We’re not winning in Libya. We’re not winning in Yemen,” Gingrich emphasized (mimicking Donald Trump). He’s right.
One reason for the protracted war may be the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. American arms and technology companies export, firearms, fighter jets, tanks, as well as Patriot Missile batteries.
The big winner in the Department of State’s 2017 budget includes $5.7 billion for Foreign Military Financing. The main recipients of the proposed budget will be Israel ($3.1 billion), Egypt ($1.3 billion), Jordan ($350 million), Pakistan ($265 million), and Iraq ($150 million).
While the Middle East tops the list, funding for Africa in 2017 will double from last year. Due to ISIS’ expansion into Africa, countries like Mali, Somalia, and Nigeria will see an influx of American weaponry. But why do American leaders want to militarize the African continent? Of course, the prominent argument is; “if the US doesn’t do something then other countries will do it.” However, no other country on the planet finances military sales like the US.
The US and its band of misfit coalition partners have implemented a massive military build-up on the Arabian Peninsula and Israel. Let’s take a look at the military arsenal provided to a few coalition partners, most of which are also classified as human rights violators according to the State Department (link to other FMS article).
For the last three years, the US has provided tens of billions of dollars in military weaponry through Foreign Military Sales (FMS) to the United Arab Emirates (UAE); population 5.6 million, Qatar; population 2.1 million, Kuwait; population 2.7 million and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA); population 27.3 million.
The US has also provided both offensive and defensive weapon systems – some are designed to protect against airborne missile retaliation and air attacks. For example, the US supplied Qatar ($9.9B), Kuwait ($4.2 billion), and UAE ($1.1B) with Patriot anti-missile systems and UAE also acquired a $6.5B theater anti-air defense (THAAD) system. This type of weaponry typically protects against missile attacks from such weapons as SCUDs and the MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket Systems) like the 880 launchers the Islamic Republic of Iran operates. The MLRS has a range of approximately 300 kilometers, making it easily capable of reaching any of the Gulf States of Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, and even KSA.
America also sold KSA $6.7 billion worth of KC-130 aerial refueling tankers, the UAE $4 billion and KSA $6.8 billion of munitions including “bunker buster bombs,” (typically used to attack harden targets like nuclear facilities); Qatar a $1.2 billion early warning radar suite; KSA $1.3 billion for 30 patrol boats for use in the Gulf of Hormuz; KSA $4 billion to upgrade its national guard; Qatar spent $3 billion on Apache Longbow attack helicopters used for special operations insertions. The list also includes the Globemaster long-range air transport planes, Javelin missiles, F-18’s and F-16’s, and Sidewinder anti-air missiles.
Also for last few years, the US has been quietly aiding the rebel insurgency in Syria trying to overthrow the Iranian-backed government of Bashir al-Assad. There have been multiple news reports, (including this report) that the US provided weapons collected from deposed Libyan Dictator Qaddafi and moved them through its CIA clearinghouse in Turkey to supply al-Qaeda-linked extremist groups opposing the Assad regime. It’s worth pointing out that both Qatar and KSA have been major supporters of the anti-Assad insurgency that evolved from a national rebellion and morphed into a major jihadi operation.
Details of this massive military build-up can be found on the Department of State (DoS) website. The DoS oversees Government-to-Government defense transfers through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program and is implemented through DoD’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
Interestingly, “(I)n addition to FMS, the Department of State also issues export licenses to US companies providing defense articles and services through our Direct Commercial Sales (DCS) efforts, usually after an intensive interagency review to ensure that exports further US foreign policy and national security interests,” a State Department official said. However, “Export license information is not disclosed by the Department due to restrictions under the Arms Export Control Act and International Traffic in Arms Regulations, but general information is released from DCS.”
According to the State Department, in the case of either FMS or DCS, the United States takes into account political, military, economic, arms control, and human rights conditions in making decisions on the provision of military equipment and the licensing of direct commercial sales to any country, in accordance with the Conventional Arms Transfer Policy, the Arms Export Control Act, and relevant international agreements
“Review and monitoring are an integral component of the process for US- origin defense articles delivered to any recipient nation. This is to make sure that those articles are being used in the manner intended and are consistent with our legal obligations, foreign policy goals, and values,” a Senior State Department official said.
And both State and Defense argue that Middle Eastern countries have agreed to work toward US security interests and abide by President Obama’s foreign policy doctrine.
However, looking at the current Middle East conflicts finds every country focused on sectarian protectionism, especially since the Obama administration has seemingly checked out. It is essential that this high-tech arsenal provided to foreign nations by US defense contractors be carefully monitored. The consequences of equipment falling into the wrong hands can be deadly, as it was for flight MH17 in Ukraine.
As the impact of ISIS’ offensive continues to sink in, US intelligence officials contend ISIS did not just randomly explode on the scene in 2014, they claim to have been reporting to high-level government officials the rise as well as the expansion of ISIS since 2012. This murderous organization is largely fueled by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk testified before a Committee claiming, “The ISIS’ operations are calculated, coordinated and part of a strategic campaign led by its Syria-based leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.”
“This was a very clear case in which the US knew what was going on but followed a policy of deliberate neglect,” said Vali Nasr, the Dean of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies and a former State Department adviser for the Middle East. During its assault in the region, ISIS received protection from KSA and Qatar. Both nations warned the US not to interfere with ISIS’s march to conquer northwestern Iraq and its turn west toward Syria and Jordan. America obeyed and ISIS gobbled up the region and spoils of war that included American tanks, helicopters, and artillery.
Many military experts said the opportunity to strike ISIS came and went when the 7,500-man Islamic Army crossed the wide-open Damascus-Baghdad Highway.
Military generals said the terror group was vulnerable to air attack with minimal collateral damage concerns. In the end, ISIS got its free passage from Mosul to eastern Syria with US inaction, which was tantamount to acquiescence.
“We oppose all foreign intervention and interference. There must be no meddling in Iraq’s internal affairs, not by us or by the US, the UK or by any other government. This is Iraq’s problem and they must sort it out themselves,” Saudi Prince Mohammed told the UK Telegraph. Just in case that bad intel was on the horizon, the Saudis immediately moved 30,000 combat troops to protect its border with Iraq.
Many Middle East policy experts say the Sunni’s view of ISIS as an Iraqi Sunni revolution against their Shiite oppressors is myopic and portends a broader Islamic war between Sunnis and Shiites.
From the US perspective, the ISIS campaign presents a myriad of conflicts. Qatar and KSA are major recipients of billions of dollars worth of US weapons through FMS, yet their direct support of ISIS, a terrorist group, means Qatar and KSA meet the definition of state sponsors of terrorism and should be banned from participation in the military program. Nevertheless, the end user certificates and export licenses are routinely approved by the State and Defense Departments, including an $11 billion sale to Qatar. (The Pentagon has refused multiple efforts to release the end-user agreements to this reporter as requested under FOIA.)
Furthermore, Qatar, KSA, and Kuwait are listed as Tier 2WL (Watch List) and Tier 3 under U.S. anti-trafficking in humans reports, which require a waiver by President Obama stating the sale is in national security interests. To the outside world, the US ostensibly appears to be violating its own anti-terrorism and anti-trafficking laws to provide sophisticated weapons systems to these human rights violators.
The infusion of military-grade weapons in the region only portends much more war. The war between the Sunnis and Shiites has grown more contentious due to the dysfunction of the Sykes-Picot Agreement of May 1916. Essentially the Agreement drew a twentieth-century map that granted control of Syria, Lebanon and Turkish Cilicia to the French and Palestine, Jordan and areas around the Persian Gulf, Baghdad to the British. That was followed by the 1919 Paris Peace Conference that outlined a “Kurdistan” as an entity by Şerif Pasha, who represented the Society for the Ascension of Kurdistan (Kürdistan Teali Cemiyeti). That promise was never kept and it’s doubtful the Kurds, who are Caucasian or Indo-European and not Arab, will wait another 100 years to establish their own country, one that will control its destiny through its own oil and revenues from oil pipelines from the Caspian Sea.
The complexity of the middle east today reflects Winston Churchill’s description of Russia in October 1939: “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.” Perhaps Russia is the key to the Middle East today.
Neither agreement ever took into account the tribal nature of the region that will continue to dog the Middle East until new maps emerge, or complete Armageddon is achieved. Until that day, America will continue to find itself under the threat of attack from a region that really doesn’t offer the US much. So are we safer after 15 years of war? Stay tuned!
© Copyright 2016 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved
It’s like reading a who’s who in American politics, as WikiLeaks published more than 250,000 State Department documents mostly dealing with the two wars in the Middle East.
Names like President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and General Petraeus are on the country’s heavy hitter list and latest targets of intelligence documents released by the new “go to” sensational website WikiLeaks. http://cablegate.wikileaks.org/
Major news organizations like the New York Times and Britain’s Guardian have already posted stories highlighting many classified State Department cables- some the Obama Administration claim will endanger current and past government officials and diplomats.
As a result the White House released a statement following the latest WikiLeaks document dump. “President Obama supports responsible, accountable, and open government at home and around the world, but this reckless and dangerous action runs counter to that goal.” It continued to articulate that, “By releasing stolen and classified documents, WikiLeaks has put at risk not only the cause of human rights but also the lives and work of these individuals.”
Some of the notable communiqué’s include;
* Corruption with the Afghanistan government, including reports of a senior official found carrying more than $50 million in cash on an overseas trip; also a cable reveals that President Karzai’s brother involvement with illicit drugs and said he “demonstrated that he will dissemble when it suits his needs. He appears not to understand the level of our knowledge of his activities. We will need to monitor his activity closely and deliver a recurring, transparent message to him about the limits of American tolerance.”
* It appears there was substantial bargaining to vacate Guantanamo Bay prison. The cable even shows the Obama Administration telling Slovenian diplomats to take a freed prisoner if they expected a meeting with President Obama.
* The Bush Administration was caught warning Germany in 2007 not to enforce arrest warrants for Central Intelligence Agency employees.
* Cables displayed Iran’s efforts to adapt North Korean long-range missiles.
* Another cable reveals Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telling U.S. officials to spy on the UN’s leadership.
* Perhaps most unnerving is the extremely close relationship between Russian Prime Minister Putin and his Italian counterpart Berlusconi and the fact the Italian leader was promoting Putin’s policies.
* The leaks also alleged a number of links between the Russian government and organized crime.
* Surprisingly WikiLeaks reveals Yemen’s president talking to then U.S. Middle East Commander General Petraeus about attacks on al-Qaeda bases in Yemen and quoting; “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours.”
* The leaks also reveal the failure of the U.S. to stop Syria from supplying arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
* Allowing the “business as usual” methods in the fight against terrorism took center stage by allowing Saudi donors to remain the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups like al Qaeda and Qatar. Both countries have been good hosts to the American military, but WikiLeaks cables allude to the fact they were the “worst in the region” in counterterrorism efforts.
* WikiLeaks contends that Qatar’s security service was “hesitant to act against known terrorists out of concern for appearing to be aligned with the U.S. and provoking reprisals.”
* The U.S. ambassador to Eritrea said last year “Eritrean officials are ignorant or lying” in denying that they were supporting the al-Shabaab, a militant-wing Islamist group in Somalia. There have been several recent arrests in San Diego of al-Shabaab sympathizers sending money to the North African terrorist organization.
Most of the documents released from WikiLeaks were unclassified and they claim none of the memos were marked “top secret,” which is the U.S. government’s secure category. However WikiLeaks admits some of the leaked documents were classified as “secret.”
Another 9,000 cables were labeled “noforn,” which is shorthand for material that is too delicate to mutually share with foreign governments.
As information begins to circulate and the war-time leaks make the international rounds, the State Department, Pentagon and White House will most likely have a lot of explaining to do- not something a battered Obama Administration looks forward to defending.
© Copyright 2010Kimberly Dvorak all rights reserved
America is great. Old Glory in all her splendor ripples in the wind during war and peace and through it all America is able to turn to its heroes to exemplify honor, valor, courage and to protect the homeland from the evil that seeks her destruction.
This is their day, the heroes, the military brethren that wake up each day and wear the country’s uniform. Most go about their day doing whatever they are asked, some are simple tasks that may go unnoticed, but collectively they are the Armed Forces of the United States and without the little things the entire process could not work effectively.
America has been relatively lucky when it comes to combat on her soil with the exception of Pearl Harbor and 9/11-war has been waged overseas in faraway lands. But with this foreign battlefield comes complacency and a growing number of Americans have lost touch with the Middle East War on Terror.
After Vietnam the U.S. did away with the draft and as such more Americans have no attachment to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom battles. But for those who continue to serve in the Armed Forces danger lurks daily as they train, fight and win the battle abroad. It’s quietly expected of them.
Along with the implied expectation of honor, service members are asked to carry the burden of war, remember lost soldiers but always think and move forward.
One only needs to visit Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D.C. to see the heroism. On a recent trip to the hospital, I found service members of all ranks and military background displaying honor and valor. Most injured soldiers wanted to get back to their units in the warzone as soon as possible.
The attitude of these brave soldiers was the opposite of what I expected. I remember my first visit vividly. I told myself to stay brave; the soldiers will be in bad shape. However, what I found was an extraordinary group of Americans who opened up to me, reassuring me that everything was going to be okay. They were strong. They were proud. They were American soldiers.
“Some people work an entire lifetime and wonder if they ever made a difference to the world. But the Marines don’t have that problem,” former 40th President Ronald Reagan said. These words lingered in the air that day at Walter Reed Hospital.
America’s young soldiers hold the key to the country’s success or failure. In a modernistic, 24/7 internet, television frenzied society kids are hit with a barrage of explicit, forward-thinking lifestyles that hold no moral values. The “me generation” has arrived in all its un-glory.
Rock stars, actors, actresses and athletes are rewarded with outrageous sums of money in the form of lucrative contracts. Drunk driving, drug possession and usage, bar fights, domestic violence are just a few of the charges that litter their permanent records. These are the “faux heroes” our young kids grow up admiring- again not the right direction for a country in the midst of two wars.
The heroes our young people should be emulating are the nameless soldiers who leave their families for months at a time, fighting an enemy on foreign shores, living in extreme conditions and standing guard- all for very little money.
These soldiers are proud, strong, skilled and unwavering in their faith for America.
I know it seems like a cliché to shake the hand of a service member and thank them for their service, but it really is appreciated.
A recent conversation with a few Navy Seals shed a lot of light on why they do- what they do. It’s certainly not for the money. It definitely wasn’t because they had no other options in life (A big misnomer of the military is filled with poor kids looking for a chance in the military. The majority are kids hail from solid middleclass families who take pride in serving their country).
The Special Forces take pride in their training and their readiness for just about any mission America throws their way. They quietly leave to serve in the most dangerous parts of the world, complete their mission and return home without tickertape parades. These brave soldiers put their lives on the line and do it without any recognition. They are heroes.
Their only request of me, the dreaded media, was to let Americans know they put their heart and souls into protecting this country. They don’t expect money or fame, but admit it would be nice if average Americans didn’t think they were doing this because they had no other choices in life. In fact, it’s the opposite. Many do go to college and the one’s I’ve been lucky enough to meet are well-spoken, smart and have an incredible sense of humor.
These soldiers point to America’s fascination with movie stars and athletes as a sad state of affairs with society and a loss of Patriotism.
On one hand you have Tiger Woods, a billionaire, who misuses prescription drugs and sleeps with anyone and everyone while married, and continues to be touted as the best.
On the other hand you have a young Marine who is on track to be the first living recipient of the Medal of Honor since Vietnam. Dakota Meyer, 22, of Kentucky braved an intense fire fight in Eastern Afghanistan to retrieve four fallen soldiers from the enemy in September of 2009.
The military has only given out one Medal of Honor in the Iraq/Afghanistan War. Marine, Cpl. Jason Dunham received the Armed Services highest award after he threw himself on a grenade in Karabilah, Iraq in 2004 that ultimately took his life, but saved the lives of his unit.
Rear Admiral J.R. Stark, of the U.S. Navy had bold words for the Marines. “Marines I see as two breeds, Rottweilers or Dobermans, because Marines come in two varieties, big and mean, or skinny and mean. They’re aggressive on the attack and tenacious on defense. They’ve got really short hair and they always go for the throat.”
Today is Veteran’s Day- a day to stop and remember those who paid the ultimate price for America’s freedom. It’s a day to be proud to be American and a day to honor the nameless heroes who get up every morning to do their part to keep America safe. Our safety is in their hands.
Lucky for us civilians, America’s soldiers are the best and the brightest in this country and we can all sleep well knowing they are always watching over America- ensuring her liberty and freedom forever.