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On July 12, 2000 a U.S. Congressional Committee held hearings that turned into a knockdown drag out fight over Washington's role in Afghanistan.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher accused the U.S. State
Department of treachery and hypocrisy. He presented
Below I have posted excerpts from that hearing. As you will see, the two U.S. State Department officials, Mr. Eastham and Mr. Sheehan, and their congressional supporters, never answered Rep. Rohrabacher's charges. Rohrabacher listed specific acts of treachery. Eastham, Sheehan and their supporters dodged and responded with noble generalities.
This is important stuff. By definition, when a government engages in covert support of terrorist forces it does so to hide its real policy, and so of course the real policy is hard to expose. As Rep. Rohrabacher commented at the end of the hearing.
Because he charged the U.S. State Department with pretending to oppose bin Laden and the Taliban while actually secretly supporting them, and because the State Department officials were manifestly unable to answer his charges, and because the whole thing was recorded and transcribed, Rohrabacher gave us a strong piece of documented evidence that during the 1990s, the actual U.S. policy was to support Islamist terrorism.
A note on Representative Rohrabacher: By posting this material we are not endorsing the Congressman or his current actions. In our opinion, Rep. Rohrabacher did the world the service of exposing State Department duplicity not because he opposed US interference in Afghanistan, during the 1980s and 1990s, but because he wanted the U.S. to meddle in a different way. While the U.S. was openly financing the worst Islamist terrorists, and, later, secretly supporting the Taliban, Rep. Rohrabacher was close to the former Afghan King. Now that his King has gained more influence, Rep. Rohrabacher has altered his criticisms of U.S. policy. He used to say the U.S. actively hurt Afghanistan. Now he says:
This is a complete change from the much more honest criticism you will find below: namely, that the U.S. actively fostered the rise of the Taliban and refused to go after bin Laden, even when the information regarding bin Laden and the Taliban came from Mr. Rohrabacher and his Afghan friends. Thus he charged Washington with having a policy of arrogant interference, treachery and hypocrisy. During the hearing, quoted below, Mr. Rohrabacher said: "The United States created that swamp in Afghanistan." A far cry from "We left them asleep in their own rubble and left them to suffer."
It appears that Dana Rohrabacher has made his peace with the State Department.
Note: I have included a few comments in brackets by way of connecting the excerpts. If you prefer to read the full text (rather than excerpts) it is posted at http://emperors-clothes.com/misc/rohrfull.htm
-- Jared Israel
July 12, 2000
Witnesses: Michael Sheehan, State Department Coordinator For Counterterrorism; Alan Eastham, Jr., Deputy Assistant Secretary Of State For South Asian Affairs
[Emperor's Clothes note: Shortly after the hearing started, Rep. Rohrabacher heated things up by attacking U.S. policy in Afghanistan, head on:]
REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R-CA): Mr. Chairman, thank you
very much, and thank you very much for holding this
REP. DAVID E. BONIOR (D-MI): On earlier occasions, the administration has expressed the importance of working with Pakistan in addressing terrorism in South Asia. I also believe that cooperation with Pakistan continues to be very much in our national interest. Combating and preventing global terrorism is one of the most serious challenges facing America's foreign policy in this new era.
It is my belief, Mr. Chairman, that Pakistan, as a long-standing ally of the United States, is committed to cooperating with the United States on terrorism. Its record shows that. Sanctioning Pakistan will serve no purpose other than to isolate them and aggravate the social and economic and political challenges in the region.
I also strongly believe that the Taliban support for terrorism, and its harboring of Osama bin Laden, must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. We must also respond to the threat, and I believe that is where Pakistan plays a very critical role. We must remember that it is not in Pakistan's interest to have the Taliban on its border. It is also not in Pakistan's interest to have terrorist groups operating within its borders. And it is clearly not in India's interest to have Pakistan isolated, thereby producing a greater threat to peace and stability in South Asia .
I know from my talks with General Musharraf, when I visited Pakistan and India in April, that he is committed to dealing with the Taliban. He has met with one leader of the Taliban and is prepared to meet with others in Afghanistan. Throughout my trip, I gained a new appreciation of the new challenges facing the region. I also came away, more convinced than ever, that the United States must play a proactive role in helping to meet those challenges.
There are serious challenges and threats, which exist in Pakistan. But I also know that General Musharraf and General Aziz (sp), in Pakistan, are well aware of what needs to be done.
[Emperor's Clothes note: Shortly after this, Michael Sheehan, the State Department Coordinator For Counterterrorism and Alan Eastham, Jr., the Deputy Assistant Secretary Of State For South Asian Affairs spoke. However, they also talked in generalities. Following there remarks REP. GEJDENSON spoke, ending with the following heated exchange:]
REP. GEJDENSON: One last thing. Are there any countries supplying weapons to the Taliban at this point?
MR. SHEEHAN [from State Dep't]: I think I'll have to go in closed session on that as well, Mr. Congressman. I'm not -- what I know about that is from classified sources. I'll be glad to talk to you about it after this.
REP. GEJDENSON: Thank you. You might check with Mr. Rohrabacher for any other information you need on Afghanistan -- (laughter). He seems to be very knowledgeable about the military situation there.
REP. GILMAN: Thank you, Mr. Gejdenson. Mr. Rohrabacher?
REP. ROHRABACHER: (Laughing.) This is a joke! I mean, you have to go to closed session to tell us where the weapons are coming from? Well, how about let's make a choice. There's Pakistan or Pakistan or Pakistan. (Laughs.) Where do you think the Taliban -- right as we speak -- I haven't read any classified documents. Everybody in the region knows that Pakistan is involved with a massive supply of military weapons and has been since the very beginning of the Taliban.
Let me just state for the record, here, before I get into my questions, that I think there's -- and it's not just you, Mr. Ambassador, but it is this administration and, perhaps, other administrations as well. I do not believe that terrorism flows from a lack of state control. A breakdown of state control, all of sudden you have terrorism. That's not what causes terrorism. What causes terrorism is a lack of freedom and democracy, a lack of a means to solve one's problems through a democratic process.
Afghanistan, from the very beginning, we have been -- when the Reagan administration was involved with helping the Afghans fight the Russians, which was engaged in trying to put a totalitarian government there -- because of Pakistan's insistence, a lion's share of our support went to a guy named Hekmatyar Gulbuddin, who had no democratic tendencies whatsoever. And since the Russians lost, we have not been supporting, the United States has not been supporting any type of somewhat free, somewhat democratic alternatives in Afghanistan, and there are such alternatives, and we all -- those of us who have been involved know that.
So there's no democracy or freedom in Afghanistan, where people who are good and decent and courageous people, have a chance to cleanse their society of the drug dealers and the fanatics that torture and repress, especially the women of Afghanistan. But the men of Afghanistan are not fanatics like the Taliban, either. They would like to have a different regime. Only the United States has given -- and I again make this charge -- the United States has been part and parcel to supporting the Taliban all along, and still is let me add. But you don't have any type of democracy in Afghanistan.
Let me note that, three years ago, I tried to arrange support, aid, humanitarian aid, to a non-Taliban-controlled section of Afghanistan, the Bamian area. Mr. Chairman, the State Department did everything they could to thwart these humanitarian medical supplies from going into Bamian. And we heard today that we are very proud that we are still giving aid to Afghanistan. Let me note; that aid has always gone to Taliban areas. So what message does that send to people of Afghanistan? We have been supporting the Taliban, because all our aid goes to the Taliban areas. And when people from the outside try to put aid into areas not controlled by the Taliban, they are thwarted by our own State Department.
And let me just note that that same area, Bamian, where I tried to help those people who are opposed to the Taliban; Bamian now is the headquarters of Mr. Bin Laden. Surprise, surprise! Everyone in this committee has heard me, time and again over the years, say, unless we did something, Afghanistan was going to become a base for terrorism and drug dealing. And, Mr. Chairman, how many times did you hear me say that this administration either ignored that or -- a part of the problem, rather than part of the solution?
Again, let me just -- I am sorry Mr. Inderfurth is not here to defend himself -- but let me state for the record: At a time when the Taliban were vulnerable, the top person of this administration, Mr. Inderfurth, and Bill Richardson, personally went to Afghanistan and convinced the anti-Taliban forces not to go on the offensive and, furthermore, convinced all of the anti-Taliban forces, their supporters, to disarm them and to cease their flow of support for the anti-Taliban forces. At that same moment, Pakistan initiated a major resupply effort, which eventually saw the defeat, and caused the defeat, of almost all of the anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan.
Now, with a history like that, it's very hard, Mr. Ambassador, for me to sit here and listen to someone say, "Our main goal is to drain the swamp" -- and the swamp is Afghanistan -- because the United States created that swamp in Afghanistan. And the United States' policies have undercut those efforts to create a freer and more open society in Afghanistan, which is consistent with the beliefs of the Afghan people.
REP. GILMAN: Did the panelists want to respond at all?
MR. SHEEHAN: I would, Mr. Congressman.
REP. GILMAN: Ambassador Sheehan.
MR. SHEEHAN: First of all, Mr. Congressman, I'm sorry that you think it's a joke that I won't respond on the issue of support for the arms for the Taliban, but the information that I have, which is -- I cannot respond by public source -- is based on intelligence methods, and I don't have the authority to speak about that in this session. But I'll be glad to talk to you or anybody else afterwards.
Secondly, regarding the responsibility the United States government has for Afghanistan and the situation there, I don't accept that conclusion at all. The United States did help participate in helping the mujaheddin reject the Soviet occupation in the mid-'80s, and that was a policy that I think was a correct one at that time. The situation in Afghanistan, the deterioration of that state since 1979, has primarily to do with the situation in Afghanistan. Certainly there were those responsible, whether it was the Soviet occupiers or those who were involved in a civil war that has waged there for 20 years. But the idea that the United States government is responsible for everything in Afghanistan I think is not true.
And the idea that we support the Taliban I also reject as well completely. I have spent 18 months in this job leading the effort within the United States government and around the world to bring pressure on the Taliban. After the bombing of the embassies in East Africa, when I got hired for this job, I have made it my sole effort, my primary effort in this job to bring pressure on that regime. And the United States government leads that effort in providing pressure on that regime. My office leads that effort within the United States government. We started with an executive order in August of 1999 that brought sanctions to bear on the Taliban. We've led the effort in the U.N. to bring international sanctions against them. We're also leading the effort internationally right now to look at further measures against the Taliban. It's the United States government that is leading that effort -- we're ahead of everybody else -- to bring pressure on the Taliban. And the Taliban knows it, and those other member states within the U.N. and other -- the other community knows our efforts to bring pressure to bear on that organization because of its support for state -- for terrorism.
REP. GILMAN: Thank you.
Mr. Eastham, did you want to comment?
MR. EASTHAM: Yes, sir, I would. I would be happy to defend Mr. Inderfurth, if you'd like, Mr. Rohrabacher, even if he's not here in person.
I would just note that I have spent nearly 15 years of my life working on this part of the world. I was with the mujaheddin in Peshar [Pakistan!] from 1984 to 1987. I was in the consulate in Peshar at that time. I've been back on this account now for -- I began my sixth year on the South Asia account this time, around this week. I was in Pakistan when you were trying your effort to put -- the airdrop assistance into Bamian. So I'm quite familiar with the history of the whole episode. And I can say that at no point -- at no point -- in the last six years has the United States of America offered its support to the Taliban.
This is why I think that despite the fact we've provided you nearly a thousand documents in response to the request of the chairman, that you haven't been able to find the support for the Taliban, because it isn't there.
REP. ROHRABACHER: That is incorrect, by the way. And I will say that for the record. That is incorrect. I have found several references. And documents have been kept from me indicating what our policy formation about the Taliban has been. So that is not accurate.
MR. EASTHAM: Well, we have a fundamental difference of opinion, then, about the record of what this administration has done with respect to the Taliban.
But I will say that we have -- that our goals with respect to the Taliban have shifted over the past two years, almost, since the East Africa bombings. When the Taliban first came into power in Afghanistan, we had an agenda which addressed terrorism, narcotics, human rights, including the rights of women, and bringing peace to Afghanistan. We tried to address all of those at the same time.
After the East Africa bombing, the terrorism problem became much more acute and a much higher priority in terms of our -- in terms of what we were doing. But we've been addressing all these issues since the first day the Taliban came into being, and particularly since they came to power in Kabul.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
[TENC note: Rohrabacher replied:]
REP. ROHRABACHER: All right.
Let me just say that, in your denials to the charges that I made, you were very good at general denials. But there was no denial of some specific charges, so I'd like to ask you about them now.
I charged that the aid that the United States has been giving has been going to the Taliban-controlled territories, especially during that time period when one-third of Afghanistan was being controlled by non- and anti-Taliban forces. Specifically, I used the example of the Bamian effort in which we tried to help the folks down there, who my sources said were in great deprivation and starving, and the State Department undermined that effort.
And we mentioned earlier there is an aid program going on to Afghanistan. Ten percent of Afghanistan is still controlled by anti- Taliban forces. Is any of the aid that we are giving going to this anti-Taliban area?
MR. EASTHAM: The answer to the question is, yes, there is aid flowing to all areas in Afghanistan. That is a function, however, of accessibility, of how you get it to them. There is assistance, which flows through the United Nations who are the implementers of the program, into the North, via Tajikistan, and also through the Chitral area of Pakistan --
REP. ROHRABACHER: Okay. Okay. So --
MR. EASTHAM: -- as well as to the 80 percent of the country.
REP. ROHRABACHER: -- okay. So your answer is yes, that currently that one area in the Panjshir Valley, now controlled by Commander Massoud, that does -- they do receive humanitarian supplies?
MR. EASTHAM: I can't take you specifically to the Panjshir Valley because access to the Panjshir Valley is blocked from the south by the Taliban.
REP. ROHRABACHER: But of course, it's not blocked from Tajikistan, right?
MR. EASTHAM: Yeah. But there is assistance, which flows into all areas of Afghanistan, through these U.N. programs.
REP. ROHRABACHER: All right. Okay. So you're on the record. Thank you very much.
MR. EASTHAM: Okay. But --
REP. ROHRABACHER: That's not what my sources say.
MR. EASTHAM: -- with respect to Bamian, I want to take you back to the period two, three years ago that you are referring to. In fact, I have -- at around that same time, I made a trip myself from Pakistan to Kandahar, to talk to the Taliban about the blockade, which they had imposed at the time, upon assistance to Bamian, because at the time Bamian was controlled by non-Taliban forces, from the Hazara people, there.
One of the main effects of the trip by Mr. Richardson and Mr. Inderfurth that you have so criticized was to attempt to persuade the Taliban in fact to lift that very blockade of Bamian, which was -- and we followed it up with discussions in Islamabad, in which the Taliban did, in fact, agree to a partial lifting to enable foodstuffs to go into Bamian.
REP. ROHRABACHER: So we traded off with the Taliban that they were going to lift their blockade and we were going to disarm all of their opponents.
MR. EASTHAM: No, sir, that's not the case.
REP. ROHRABACHER: Okay. Well, let's go back -- go to disarming the Taliban's opponents. And by the way, this has been reconfirmed in everything that I've read, both official and unofficial. Are you trying to tell us now that the State Department's policy was not, at that crucial moment when the Taliban was vulnerable, to disarm the Taliban's opponents? Did not Mr. Inderfurth and the State Department contact all of the support groups that were helping the anti-Taliban forces and ask them to cease their flow of military supplies to the anti-Taliban forces?
MR. EASTHAM: At that time we were trying to -- we were trying to construct a coalition which would cut off support for all forces in Afghanistan from the outside.
REP. ROHRABACHER: Oh, and I take it --- so I take it that's a yes to my question. But the --
MR. EASTHAM: No, sir; you've left out the cutting off the Taliban part.
REP. ROHRABACHER: -- but the Taliban were -- but the Taliban were included; except what happened right after all of those other support systems that had been dismantled because of Mr. Inderfurth's and Mr. Richardson's appeal, and the State Department's appeal? What happened immediately -- not only immediately after, even while you were making that appeal, what happened in Pakistan? Was there an airlift of supplies, military supplies, between Pakistan and Kabul and the forward elements of the Taliban forces?
(Pause.) REP. ROHRABACHER: The answer is yes. I know.
MR. EASTHAM: The answer is --
REP. ROHRABACHER: You can't tell me because --
MR. EASTHMAM: The answer is --
REP. ROHRABACHER: -- it's secret information.
MR. EASTHAM: The answer is closed session, if you would like to dredge up that record.
REP. ROHRABACHER: Right. Okay.
MR. EASTHAM: That would be fine.
REP. ROHRABACHER: Well, I don't have to go into closed session because I didn't get that information from any classified document. That information is available to anybody watching the scene up there. They know exactly what happened. Mr. Inderfurth, Mr. Bill Richardson, a good friend of mine, doing the bidding of this administration, basically convinced the anti-Talibans' mentors to quit providing them the weapons they needed, with some scheme that the Taliban were then going to lay down their arms. And immediately thereafter, Pakistan started a massive shift of military supplies which resulted in the total defeat of the anti-Taliban forces.
This is -- now, this is either collusion or incompetence on the part of the State Department, as far as this congressman is concerned
Why haven't I been provided any documents about State Department analysis of -- during the formation period of the Taliban, about whether or not the Taliban was a good force or a bad force? Why have none of those documents reached my desk after two years?
MR. EASTHAM: Congressman, we were responding to a specific request dealing with a specific time period, which I believe the commencing period of the request for documents was after the time period you're talking about. We were asked to provide documents, by the chairman of this committee, from 1996 to 1999.
REP. ROHRABACHER: I see. You found a loophole in the chairman's wording --
MR. EASTHAM: No, sir. We were responding to the chairman's request.
REP. ROHRABACHER: You found a loophole in the chairman's wording of his request as to not to provide me those documents.
You know, I am the only one here. I am not the chairman of the committee. I would never get the opportunity to have a back and forth with you, except in times like this.
The State Department has taken full advantage of its use of words in order not to get this information out. I am looking forward to more documents. I will say this, I have spent hours overlooking those documents, and there's been nothing in those documents to persuade me that my charges that this administration has been covertly supporting the Taliban is not accurate.
Feel free to respond to that.
MR. EASTHAM: It's not true.
REP. ROHRABACHER: Okay.
MR. EASTHAM: I have to negate the whole thesis that you're operating under, sir.
REP. ROHRABACHER: All right. Then -- okay, the other option is the State Department is so incompetent that we have done things that helped the Taliban and have put them in a position of having hundreds of millions of dollars of drug money, and had power in Afghanistan, and undercutting the anti-Taliban forces. This is just -- this isn't intent, this is just incompetence?
MR. EASTHAM: That's a judgment you can make.
REP. ROHRABACHER: All right.
MR. EASTHAM: And if you want to make that judgment, that's up to you, Congressman.
REP. ROHRABACHER: Okay.
MR. EASTHAM: I would just observe that it's considerably more complex than that to deal with people over whom we have so little influence as with Taliban. I have spent -- I have been myself, by my count, six times into Afghanistan on both the northern side and the southern side. I have met innumerable times with Taliban officials to attempt to achieve U.S. objectives, and I have to tell you that it's a tough job.
REP. ROHRABACHER: I believe it is a tough job --
MR. EASTHAM: I'd like to introduce you to some of them sometime.
REP. ROHRABACHER: Oh, I've met many Taliban, thank you. And as you are aware, I have met many Taliban and talked to them. Especially when you disarm their opponents, and you participate in an effort to disarm their opponents at a time when they're being supplied -- resupplied militarily, I guess it is very hard for them to take us seriously when we say we're going to get tough with them.
MR. EASTHAM: You keep saying that, but it's not true.
REP. ROHRABACHER: Well -- oh --
MR. EASTHAM: The effort --
REP. ROHRABACHER: You're just saying -- no, you're just --
MR. EASTHAM: The effort was to stop the support for all the factions.
REP. ROHRABACHER: That's correct. You didn't deny that we disarmed their opponents, you just said we were doing it with the Taliban as well. But as I pointed out, which you did not deny, the Taliban were immediately resupplied. Which means that we are part and parcel to disarming a victim against this hostile, totalitarian, anti- Western, drug-dealing force in their society, and we were part and parcel of disarming the victim, thinking that the aggressor was going to be disarmed as well, but it just didn't work out -- at the moment when Pakistan was arming them, I might add.
Copyright 2000 Federal News Service, Inc. Reprinted for Fair Use Only
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Full text of hearing can
be read at
1) "Why Does Washington Want Afghanistan?" by Jared Israel, Rick Rozoff and Nico Varkevisser. Can be read at http://emperors-clothes.com/analysis/afghan.htm
2) Is Washington sincere
about fighting terrorism? Then why has it coddled the
terrorist armies in the Balkans? See '"TERRORISM AGAINST SERBIA IS NO CRIME' at
3) In the course of one week Osama bin laden switched from saying he opposed the 9-11 destruction to saying he rejoiced in it. Emperor's Clothes found this change a bit too convenient. See "'Osama bin laden, Terrorist Monster,' TAKE TWO!" by Jared Israel, at http://emperors-clothes.com/articles/jared/taketwo.htm
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