built orphanages, they built homes for widows of martyrs, and brought in, after
the war turned to the advantage of the mujahedeen, some ... 20 to 25 million
dollars a month. ... So in that regard, they played a very major role. Now,
part of your question is what about the combat role. Minimal. There were some
Arabs that fought with some mujahedeen groups, but not many. At any given
time, inside Afghanistan, [there were] maybe 2,000 Arabs. ... But the people of
Afghanistan fought that war, they bled, they died, they were driven out of
their country. To suggest that others were engaged in the combat activity to
any extent is just simply wrong. |
So, when we read about or hear about Osama bin Laden the war hero in
Afghanistan, this is not credible?
It is something that is a creation that has taken place post-Gulf War. When
Osama bin Laden came on all of our scopes, which was not until really after the
Gulf War, he had created by both the media, and now, I think the United States
Government, a personal history, that I would submit is just simply wrong.
You've talked about in this thing of the sheer and utter nonsense of bin
Laden's combat career or importance in Afghanistan as the creating of a new
North Star. What do you mean?
What I mean is there are two sides to what I think is a cultural clash here in
1999. You have on the one side essentially the United States and to a much,
much smaller degree the United Kingdom, on the other side you have, call it
fundamentalist Islam. Both sides are rallied behind what I am calling the
North Star, and that's Osama bin Laden. For the United States, he is public
enemy number one. We've got a $5 million reward out for his head. We've
blamed him for every horrible event in our history except the grassy knoll.
And now we have, with I'm not sure what evidence, linked him to all of the
terrorist acts of this year ... of this decade, perhaps. That's what he means
to us. That's why what I say he is our North Star. On the other side, we have
given fundamentalist Islam their North Star, a rallying point. If the enemy of
our enemy is our friend, then Osama bin Laden is the North Star to every
fundamentalist Muslim who goes to Friday prayers and hears a mullah condemn the
United States. So, it seems there's that common bond, the thing that brings us
together is the North Star, and we're just viewing it from different
... Who were the Afghan Arabs?
The Afghan Arabs were a mixture. In some cases, they were people of intense
belief in Islam and in the struggle of the Afghan people, who were drawn to
that struggle to provide some support to it, to the jihad, in the way of fund
raising and building hospitals, and all of the other good works that nobody
should complain about.
Basically Muslims from all over the world.
Muslims from all over the world: North Africa, Persian Gulf, but from all over
the world. Other than that, you had a rag tag bunch of Muslims that were taken
from one jail or another, whether it's in Cairo or in Algiers or any other
country in the Gulf, and put on an airplane and flown to go do the jihad with
the fondest hope that they not come back. They didn't die in great numbers.
They died in tiny numbers, and they did come back. And my bet is that even the
Saudis were terribly happy to see the son Osama bin Laden go off to war. And
some might have thought wouldn't it be nice if he didn't return. ...
How important was the Afghan war as an event for the Arabs and for the
In the most cosmic-sense it affected our cultures in a tremendous way.
But in very separate ways. In the first instance for the United States it was the last act of a 50-year
cold war that had cost us $13 trillion of our Treasury, maybe 100,000 of our
sons and daughters, counting Korea and Vietnam. It set in motion all of the
events of 1989 that brought you all of the events that culminated in 1991 with
the disappearance of the Soviet Union and the liberation of 300 million people
in Russia and East Central Europe. It's a very major event and will be
accepted as such. On the other hand, it was a small Islamic nation of 15 million people that
stood up to the Soviet Union with assistance from others--mainly the United
States and a covert coalition--and forced the Soviet Red Army to withdraw.
And that's a great victory. A [jihad]. It's the first of a great moment in
[resurgent] Islam. It's a very big deal.
They knocked off a super power.
They knocked off a super power. Okay. So in the cosmic sense, of course there
are consequences of that. Now, what happened is after 1989 and the withdrawal
of the Soviet Union, the United States and the West dropped Afghanistan like a
hot potato. Not because we are uncaring and cynical. But because the events
beginning with the Hungarians cutting the wire with Austria and the Poles
bringing in that electrician from [Gdansk] and throwing out all those old
Communist bosses and the people of East Germany going out on the streets ... [in] a few tens of thousands and then in the million, until
November 9 of that same very year the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan, the
Berlin wall is breached and 329 days later, Germany is reunified, the Warsaw
pact is dead. It's over. That's a very big event for the Bush administration.
And nobody turned back. Somebody caught up with the senior administration
official at that time and said something about Afghanistan and the word was,"Is that thing still going on?" Afghanistan by 1990 is going through its own
tribal resolution and the Arabs are still over there. It's a totally failed
state. People are still milling about.
These are the Afghan Arabs?
The Afghan Arabs are all--you know, they couldn't go home. The ones that were
sent over there, by their own governments, from Egypt and Algeria and the Gulf
states, couldn't really go back. They were filled with something. This thing
that you point out. They knocked off a superpower. But they were most
interested in changing problems at home.
And most of these governments today will say, "Well, it was CIA and the United
States government that gave these guys all these bad ideas," and I would say,
"Well, let's not go too quickly with that one." Then it was CIA and the Afghan
war that brought about the assassination of Anwar Sadat? Except the
chronology gets a little shaky. Of course there were problems and these guys
couldn't go home. So they hang out.
And then, some of them came here with [Osama bin Laden] and there's still
problems. And then we pick up on this thing and things start happening.
There's the Gulf War. There's terrorism in Saudi Arabia. The suspects in the
Riyadh bombing in 1995 and their confessions[where they said] they were inspired by
[bin Laden] and then they're execut[ed], we don't know what that means.
We've heard from people in the Muslim community that the fact that the
Muslim world, mostly the Afghanis, was able to defeat the Soviet Union, gave
them a sense of confidence that they could do things when they went back home.
... And that when they look at these regimes [at home] when they are
rigid or in power, they see that their good friend is the United States. So
therefore, that's what justifies attacking us.
That's part of it. I'm sure that's part of it. But, who else are you going to
attack? Who else do you lash out at in 1999? I mean, certainly not the Soviet
Union. To a very, very tiny extent the United Kingdom. But it's going to be
the United States. Particularly, if the case can be made, and I'm not sure how
fair the case is, that we're supporting all of these regimes that are found so
obnoxious to so many of these veterans of the jihad. ...
Let me switch to the Sudan. The national security advisor calls the Sudan a
"terrorist state," "harbors terrorism," "fosters terrorism," "is involved in
the production of chemical weapons," "starves its own people." All around bad
place. That's why we bombed them.
... The accusation is they were implicated in the assassination attempt
against President Mubarak in Ethiopia in 1995. ... [It's said that] it's a safe
haven for terrorists. [But] the Sudanese at our request kicked bin Laden out
of Sudan, he went to Afghanistan. They handed Carlos [the Jackal] over to the
French. ... They restricted the activities [of] Hamas ... . And they have
openly invited the United States to come and say, "Let's work together on this
terrorist thing that you say is a problem here, a vipers nest of terrorism.
Let's work. We'll listen." I can't get a better list than that from anybody
who's in the position to know what the Sudan could possibly be doing that would
warrant this. Now, on the attack against Al Shifa, I'm just not sure that
that's going to withstand long term scrutiny as having been an act that was
[You mean the assertion] that Al Shifa was producing chemical weapons, or
involved in the production.
Mr. Berger and others have said, "Rest assured we have intelligence, it's
"Trust us" ... I'm not attacking the administration, I'm not suggesting
anything other than, share the intelligence with us...
So what was your initial reaction to the missile strike at Al Shifa?
I spent thirty years as a public servant working for the United States
government. Very, very proud of it and have had a terrific career doing that.
So instinctively, my reaction is, "Dear God, what do they know? What is this
about?" Not at that time saying, "What nonsense."
But that instinct has changed rather rapidly. And with the early statements
from the administration, almost all of which turned out to be non-operative
within 24-hours, I was moved to write an Op Ed piece for the New York
Times within a week of the strike against [Al Shifa Pharmaceutical plant]
wherein I suggested to the government, "Look, if you've got intelligence
sources that matters to protect, don't worry about it. Bite the bullet, lay
the intelligence on the table. If you've got to move somebody up for safety,
do that, but lay it on the table now. Let us see it. This is not going to go
away. The doubts are not just lingering, they're growing." And I believe that
to this day. That didn't happen.
The doubts about?
The doubts about what this is about. Why did we strike? Why did we commit an
act of war against the sovereign state with whom we have diplomatic relations.
Commit such an act without a single warning ahead of time? You know, a nation
state like the United States can do those things. But you must have your
reasons and you must share those good reasons with your people.
Well the reasons given are Sudan is a terrorist state. Osama bin Laden
used it as a base of operations...not good enough?
Probably not ... I would ask, rhetorically, give me three examples of what
terrorist activities the Sudanese have been engaged in that in any way
threatened US interests? I mean, interests in the broad, broad sense.
[Osama bin Laden] was resident here. That is absolutely known until we
approach the Sudanese off-line in 1995, '96 and said get him out. They said okay. They told the Saudis, do you want him? The Saudis said no. Send him
anywhere but Somalia, get him out. So off he goes to Afghanistan, which I
comment is probably the best move since the Germans put [Ilyich Lenin] in a box
cart and sent him to St. Petersburg in 1970.
You mean, by letting him leave. Or forcing him to leave you
By forcing him to leave ... where perhaps we could have controlled or monitored
him more closely and then see what he was doing. This is a very flat,
easy-to-monitor space on the earth, here in Sudan, but not to debate that.
Your other points, [regarding the bombed plant in the Sudan] that's disputed.
I don't dispute it because I'm not a chemist. The people who built this plant
dispute it. Others dispute it and the sense in Washington is that it was a
third country ... So we're back to where I was on the 21st of
August saying,"Put it on the table. Let us, you know, please share it with
us." That's not yet "forthcoming."
Assistant Secretary of State Pickering said to us on the [issue of the
Sudanese inviting the US to come inspect ] "They're not serious, we've asked
them to sign the chemical weapons treaty. They said they would. They didn't.
We don't need to inspect on their invitation. We know what's going on.' ...
[He] was dismissive of these claims by the Sudanese that they're willing to
open their doors and be cooperative. That the United States knows through its
own intelligence gathering that, in fact, they are up to all these different
things, and the fact that they're not willing to sign this treaty means that
they are unwilling to have knowledgeable people on the ground actually look for
chemical weapons or make sure that they're complying to any kind of
international order of behavior.
Well, I'd have to look and see what other countries haven't signed the chemical
weapons convention before one could just single the Sudan out on that one. I'd
have trouble with the suggestion that it's ever good to be collecting
intelligence on a country as a denied area where you're not actually able to
collect on the ground and with an official presence, and also to deal with the
local authorities. I find that situation always produces an inferior level of
intelligence. And if you base the [decision to] attack or not to attack
military operations on intelligence that's collected through third hand, you're
always going to have at least very serious challenge to your actions. ...
The national security advisor in reaction to our questioning the bombing of the
pharmaceutical plant, [said] "What would you do if we haven't done this and
chemical weapons were to show up on our New York subway? You're second
guessing us, when all we're trying to do is protect the American people."...
He's saying that Sudan is a terrorist country which is harboring all kinds of
bad people, it's engaged its military industrial corporation in the manufacture
of chemical weapons, this factory through that military industrial corporation
is somehow linked together. The factory has evidence of chemical weapons
production. It's not clear right now, if it is production, or mixing or
storage. Therefore, we decided to take this threat out before the chemicals
wind up on the New York subway.
Fair. What I'm saying is, all of those justifications for the attack on Al
Shifa could be debated by honest people. I would say there are honest,
respected people that are saying the science on the collection of the single
soil sample, is [bad]. It's no secret in Washington or any other capital in
the world. All of the other intelligence that was used in the day after the
bombing to reinforce the propriety of the strike has fallen by the wayside.
Simply not there anymore. The other accusations that Sudan is a safe haven for
terrorism have got to be supported. Now, I would say, stop making these broad
statements, inflammatory statements and say that Abu Nidal lives in Khartoum
North ... start listing these people and laying some information on the table.
American people are very honest and open. And if you explain some things to
them, they are liable to accept your rationale.
From your visit to the Sudan, and obviously your study of this, what was Osama
bin Laden up to [when he was there]?
He probably found it, at that time when he left Afghanistan and after he left
Pakistan after the Gulf War period and floated into Sudan, as a reassembled
"safe haven," in quotes, for him. The established links between Saudi
industrial concerns and his own father's company and Sudan were well
established. ... It's not unusual to go across the Red Sea from your home in
Saudi Arabia and set up in the Sudan. That has been back and forth, a two-way
street for many, many years. In the early years of the Bashir regime, it
[would] also [have] been easy to do this because at that time, no visa
requirements were on the books for Arab business men that had just come to
Sudan. I would say it was a benign atmosphere [when] he came there. And then
in 1995, the United States and Saudi Arabia started making very, very specific
[demands] to the Sudan saying, "Look, this is not working. bin Laden is a
problem to us. Your open visa policy is also a problem for us." Well, the
Sudanese kicked out Osama bin Laden, sent him to Afghanistan and changed the
visa [policy]. ...
The US Government is saying that when Osama bin Laden was in the Sudan, they
have now been able to link him to everything from the World Trade Center
bombing in terms of supporting various people ... to apparently the Riyadh
bombing as well as the Khobar bombing. That he was an active terrorist on the
ground, in Khartoum, being allowed to operate openly by the government of the
... Nothing I have said suggested Osama bin Laden is not a component in
international terrorism. What I am saying is that I challenge the fact that
Sudan [is] always assumed to be a component in all of the current international
terrorism. I think any of those statements that you made should have been
trumped at about the time the Sudanese said, "Okay, this is a bad guy, we'll
kick him out." And they took that step which was very visible, absolutely
documentable, and they did it. ...
You're not saying Osama bin Laden is not a terrorist or is not an enemy of the
Osama bin Laden has chosen to make himself an enemy of the United States. He
has issued these disputable fatwahs, these Islamic proclamations, to kill all
... Americans and Jews. Therefore, he's made himself a component, and I think
that the United States is absolutely justified in taking out Osama bin Laden.
But to oversimplify it by linking him to every known terrorist act in the last
decade is an insult to most Americans. And it certainly doesn't encourage our
allies in this to take us very seriously. Osama bin Laden is a legitimate
target for the United States, period. But then, to completely reinforce it
with all of these insupportable accusations, I think is a disservice and an
And you think that we're a target just simply because we're a superpower.
Partly, but we're also a superpower who insists on being perceived by the
least fortunate of the Islamic world as being somehow against them. It is not
missed in Friday prayers that we sent 75 million dollars worth of missiles
flying against the two poorest Islamic countries in the world, Afghanistan and
Sudan. I spent too many years living in the shadow of one mosque or another
not to take what happens at Friday prayers seriously. And that's what's going
Because so much of what we hear about Osama bin Laden comes out of his
Afghanistan experience, I'm trying to get this straight, he was mostly a
philanthropist and a financial contributor, and a minor combat figure, who
happened to dabble in combat?
... I can possibly give him credit for having been present and accounted for at
one major battle in ... Baktia Province in 1987. Beyond that, I simply cannot
say that there is any war record at all. What I can say is that the hype that
surrounds Osama bin Laden--most of it generated by the US media and backed up
by statements that verge on hyperbole from the United States government--that
this man was literally swinging through the valleys of the Hindu Kush with a
dagger in his teeth and single-handedly driving out the Soviet army, this did
not happen. The Afghan people did that. The Arab role in the combat situation
on the ground was minimal to nonexistent, period. And to suggest otherwise is
simply to either gloss over history or to create history for your own
I can imagine someone out there watching saying. "This is the CIA talking."
You're not going to admit that you created the most dangerous public enemy in
You bet I would. If I could look you in the eye and say, "Trust me, Osama bin
Laden was my guy. If it wasn't for the CIA he wouldn't be anything then, he
wouldn't be anything today," if I could say that with a straight face, I think
that would speed up the process of removing Mr. bin Laden as a source of great,
great concern for the United States. I can't say that because it's simply not
true. You can find nobody who is familiar with the situation in Pakistan and
Afghanistan in those years that would say bin Laden played any role other than
the fund-raiser. ...
We've talked to people that say not only was bin Laden in combat, but there are
photographs of him with a helmet on, a rifle, commanding troops.
... Afghanistan, the jihad, was one terrific photo op for a lot of people. I
will give you that he possibly was engaged in a battle in 1987 where the Saudi
contingent and the Gulf Arab group carried off their role reasonably well. I
have said that. ... But to carry that beyond ... that series of battles, I
simply won't go along with [that] regardless of how many pictures someone can
cough up showing bin Laden with a walkie talkie or bin Laden with a
Kalishnakov. Anybody that goes in can get a photo op in Afghanistan in those
So, really what we're looking at is some fact but a lot of fiction.
There's a lot of fiction in there. But we like that. It's the whole Osama bin
Laden mythology. It's almost part entertainment. We don't have a national
enemy. We haven't had a national enemy since the evil empire slipped beneath
the waves in 1991. And I think we kind of like this way. We like this whole
international terrorist thing oddly enough at a time when it probably is
changing its character dramatically.
Incidents are down. Casualties are down.
State sponsorship of terrorism is just about done for. We try to continue to
keep this alive. ... [Of the seven countries the US has classified as
terrorist nations], we're in a kabuki dance with Iran. Sudan, I don't think is
involved in the state sponsorship of terrorism. Cuba is on the list, but
that's Florida electoral politics. North Korea, we're in a strange
relationship there. We're trying to provide a nuclear reactor and to nurse
them through their current nightmare. Syria is always part of the peace
process. So, we have that strange relationship there. Iraq, well, we're
bombing them everyday. So we can certainly count on state sponsorship of
terrorism from Iraq ... And Libya is possibly ready to cough up the suspects on
Pan Am 103. If that happens, that will change the character of Libya to a fair
degree. So, there is a transformation in the world of international terrorism,
at least on state sponsored terrorism. And finally, we've just declared that's
our major problem.
So, how do you make sense of this? ... The president of the United States just
announced new initiatives on biochem warfare because it's possible that Osama
bin Laden and various people will get their hands on it. The deputy national
security advisor has apparently begun to talk about the United States as having
a new policy of retaliation against any country that harbors "terrorists."
That national security advisor tell us that terrorism, even though he agrees
the numbers are decreasing, potentially is going to be [a] major problem in
the future. Then, you sit here and say the state sponsors of terrorism are
wilting. Other people have told us that the casualties are lower than ever.
What's going on?
There's some of this driven by the budget realities of Washington. ... I won't
discount the possibility that there will be a significant terrorist incident in
this country or somewhere else. ... But what I think can and must be done is to
take the seven countries that we have left on our list, and see what we can do
with each one of them to draw that wilting list down to one or two. What I
mean by that is, I think we could deny the would-be terrorists of the world
safe havens by dealing, for example, with the Sudan to the point that it no
longer makes sense as a safe haven to any of them. ... Working with Iran, which
I support, I think is a smart thing to do, at this point in history, to start
that dialogue could take care of a major element that has been there for a
decade or more ... . And Iraq is Iraq. So, if you ended up with Abu Nidal and
Osama bin Laden and every other bad actor in Baghdad, that's all right. At
least you've got people where you want them.
The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union really did
deny international terrorists any place to go. ... Sudan was the end of the bus
line, the last stop. I think we can deny the would-be terrorists, the aging,
slightly besotted, slightly befatted terrorists of today all their safe
One of the people we spoke with said the other problem is the failed states
that exist: Afghanistan, Somalia, to a certain extent Sudan. That these are
countries where is no central government really controlling what's going on.
Afghanistan would be classified as a failed state. We turned our back by the
spring of 1989 after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan. The United States
went on to other matters. And they went on to the stunning events that were
rolling across East Central Europe and all the way into the Soviet Union that
resulted in the Berlin Wall going and the Soviet Union collapsing. And we
didn't look back, and there was no after care. ... So, there was partly a
responsibility that has not yet been fulfilled there. And I think we could
talk to them. But it's not politic to talk to them, not because of terrorism,
but because of other policies that the Taliban hold dear to themselves. Sudan,
when we can't list the causes of terrorism, we go into the civil war, then we
go into slavery, and we go into other accusations against the Sudan, all of
which could be dealt with if we had a dialogue with Sudan. I'm convinced. So,
we could say there is a state that is just this side of a failed state. ...
You had a long career in the CIA, director of operations. You were involved,
let's say, as a cowboy cold warrior in some people's minds from the Sudan to
Afghanistan. ... Now, you sound like a peacenik.
Not a peacenik. I never did anything in a thirty year career in intelligence
that I didn't think fit into some more cosmic national policy ... . It wasn't a
cowboy operation to be chief of the Soviet East European division and the
director of operations for the last three years of the existence of the Soviet
Union. The things that were being conducted out of there were related to an
overall policy ... . The covert action that supported the Afghan resistance was
part of a larger concept. ... Helping the Afghans wasn't in the abstract. It
was also pulling one leg of a three legged stool out from under the Soviet
Politburo, the Red Army, the Party, and the KGB. But what I'm saying now, what
I'm speaking to you about here are things that don't seem to make sense ... a
world where it's no longer a bipolar contest. It's just us that lays claim to
being the sole remaining superpower. And I think that our behavior doesn't
match up to that. ...
I'm suggesting that the main item that we're discussing here is this clash
between the United States and fundamentalist Islam. And down to the specifics
of the missile attack against the pharmaceutical factory in the Sudan. What
I'm saying is, these acts don't necessarily fit in to the continuum of what the
United States has been about for the last half century. And it's just simply
time to maybe address that seriously.
Are you saying that in the cold war, you had a sense of the United States in
sort of a historical process and you were working within that context in any
specific thing that you did, but that now, it looks like there is no real
strategy, there is no real sense of the United States in the world? It's
really just almost smoke and mirrors?
Well, that's not to point a finger or even to shake a finger at the United
States Government or the current administration. The set piece of the fifty
year cold war was pretty simple. It was us and them. The shirts and the skins,
all the way from Churchill's speech in Fulton, Missouri to the bringing down of
the Hammer and Sickle above the Kremlin in Christmas of 1991. ... That wasn't
something terribly hard to deal with. It was something that two or three
generations of Americans who came through this city of Washington were able to
understand and say, "This is easy to deal with." After 1991, then we've got
this world out there that's been described by directors of Central Intelligence
as no longer one big dragon in front of his lair, but we have a rain forest
full of vipers. Well, we've been at that now long enough to where I think we
should stop for a moment and say, "What is it?" "Where do we want to go?" Do
we want to have what is being proclaimed by fundamentalist Islam as a great
clash of the Judeo-Christian world against Islam? That's not a goal of ours.
It cannot be a goal of ours. But there are an awful lot of people out there
that think it is. So, everything we do now, has consequences that are
infinitely heavier. ...