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Bush, oil and the Taliban

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  • robalini
    Please send as far and wide as possible. Thanks, Robert Sterling Editor, The Konformist http://www.konformist.com Bush, oil and the Taliban Two French authors
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 13, 2002
      Please send as far and wide as possible.


      Robert Sterling
      Editor, The Konformist

      Bush, oil and the Taliban
      Two French authors allege that before Sept. 11, the White House put
      oil interests ahead of national security.

      - - - - - - - - - - - -
      By Nina Burleigh

      Feb. 8, 2002 | PARIS -- In a new book, "Bin Laden: The Forbidden
      Truth," two French intelligence analysts allege the Clinton and Bush
      administrations put diplomacy before law enforcement in dealing with
      the al-Qaida threat before Sept. 11, in order to maintain smooth
      relations with Saudi Arabia and to avoid disrupting the oil market.
      The book, which has become a bestseller in France but has received
      little press attention here, also alleges that the Bush
      administration was bargaining with the Taliban, over a Central Asian
      oil pipeline and Osama bin Laden, just five weeks before the
      September attacks. The authors, Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume
      Dasquie, see a link between the negotiations and Vice President Dick
      Cheney's energy policy task force, with its conclusions that Central
      Asian oil was going to become critical to the U.S. economy. Brisard
      and Dasquie also claim former FBI deputy director John O'Neill (who
      died in the attack on the World Trade Center, where he was the chief
      of security) resigned in July to protest the policy of giving U.S.
      oil interests a higher priority than bringing al-Qaida leaders to
      justice. Brisard claims O'Neill told him that "the main obstacles to
      investigating Islamic terrorism were U.S. oil corporate interests and
      the role played by Saudi Arabia."

      The authors also allege that the Sept. 11 attacks were a calculated
      response to Western pressure on the Taliban to hand over bin Laden
      and permit the return of the long-exiled Afghan leader, King Shah.
      They say the terror attacks were aimed at sparking a widespread war
      in Central Asia and thereby reinforcing the Islamic extremists' grip
      on power.

      Brisard, a private intelligence analyst who once worked for the
      French conglomerate Vivendi, compiled a report in 1997 on the
      financing behind the al-Qaida network. Dasquie is a journalist and
      editor of Intelligence Online. The authors are negotiating with
      American publishers now to get the book translated and published in
      England. They recently discussed their book with Salon.

      How did you meet John O'Neill, and how often and where? Did you ever
      tape your discussions with him?

      Brisard: I met him twice. The first time was in Paris in June 2001
      and then in July in New York. I met him because I wrote some years
      ago a report about the bin Laden family and its financial connections
      with Osama bin Laden. Our meeting was in the process of the French
      sharing information with the FBI. He wanted to meet me again a month
      after our first meeting to discuss the points of my report, and so we
      met at the end of July 2001. I never taped him and that's why I only
      quote him directly three or four times. That's all I have and the
      rest is paraphrase. The discussion of O'Neill is only 10 pages in the
      book. It is the first 10 pages of the book. What he said is a
      synthesis of what we say in the book, and that's why we decided to
      put it on the first pages. That is, the role of Saudi Arabia, the
      role of oil and the way the investigation worked in the United States
      before Sept. 11.

      Did O'Neill indicate that the FBI expected more attacks on the United

      Brisard: No. Not even implicitly. We didn't talk about the threat
      itself. We focused on the sources and roots of the problems and the
      way to deter further action.

      How much did Mr. O'Neill know about al-Qaida that the public didn't
      know until after Sept. 11, such as the extent of the training, the
      network and the hatred?

      Brisard: John O'Neill clearly knew extensively about the threat of
      Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. He told me the FBI had identified for
      years the financial supports of bin Laden. For instance, in the Yemen
      investigation [of the terrorist bombing of the USS Cole], he said
      everything pointed at Osama bin Laden but there was an unwillingness
      among U.S. diplomats to act and to put any kind of pressure against
      the governments. His investigation was made difficult because of this
      unwillingness, and in his mind it was especially because of the
      economic interests of the United States. I quote him saying that
      everything about bin Laden and al-Qaida can be explainable through
      Saudi Arabia. And when I asked why the U.S. was unwilling to go after
      the states that host bin Laden, he said because of oil.

      In what sense was Saudia Arabia supporting bin Laden? He had been

      Brisard: Yes, the official stance is he was banned in 1994 and his
      assets were frozen. This is the official position of the Saudi
      government. But we prove in our book that until 1998 he was able to
      use economic and financial structures in Saudi Arabia. He could have
      linked working bank accounts in Sudan with companies registered in
      Saudi. He had various contacts with Saudi officials. And remember,
      the Saudis were supporting the Taliban regime, which was hosting him.
      In Saudi Arabia, the left hand ignores the right hand. And the FBI
      was fully aware of the situation.

      Other than the U.S. ambassador in Yemen sending O'Neill home because
      of his alleged insensitivity to the culture, exactly how did the
      State Department hinder the FBI investigation?

      Brisard: O'Neill said the State Department has had an overwhelming
      role on these investigations. He was explicitly blocked in Yemen from
      further investigation. We now know from different files that the FBI
      was starting investigations on different aspects of Saudi Arabian
      support [of bin Laden], and those investigations were all stopped,
      even under Clinton. What John O'Neill said is that for him, there was
      a clear [conflict] between the FBI's goal, which was to go fast and
      to implicate members of the networks and eventually to implicate
      states that gave them support, and the State Department's goal, which
      was to move in a more diplomatic way to negotiate with those states
      and to some extent accommodate them. And what he said was that the
      diplomatic way was chosen over the security or law enforcement
      policy, and of course he was very angry about what happened to him in

      In your book, you allege that the Bush administration was negotiating
      with the Taliban last year over a proposed Central Asian oil pipeline
      through Afghanistan. Which Bush official conducted those talks?

      Brisard: [Assistant Secretary of State] Christina Rocca, in August
      2001 in Pakistan, explicitly discussed the oil interest, not the

      Did you ever speak with Rocca?

      Dasquie: I tried to, but when you are a foreign journalist you must
      ask the U.S. embassy in France before an interview. My correspondent
      in Washington also made requests. Since March or April 2001 we had
      tracked this story, because just after the United Nations' decision
      against the Taliban, it was crazy to see Taliban leaders coming into
      Washington and having meetings. Christina Rocca arrived at the State
      Department in June, and we knew her background at the CIA; she had
      managed all the relations between the agency and Islamic groups in
      Central Asia. Since around June I have been focused on Rocca. We made
      requests. The embassy said it was impossible. With no explanation.

      Do you allege that she mentioned oil explicitly?

      Dasquie: Madeleine Albright was the first to refuse to negotiate with
      the Taliban in 1997. Before that, from 1994 to '97, Clinton did
      negotiate with the Taliban. We describe the meeting of Rocca and some
      Taliban leaders in Islamabad in August 2001. There are documents to
      support it. And at the same time in Washington there are lots of
      meetings of the energy policy task force and lots of oil company
      representatives around Dick Cheney. The task force's conclusion is
      that Central Asia oil is a very important goal. And at the same time
      people are negotiating with the Taliban for the first time since

      Brisard: We believe that when [Rocca] went to Pakistan in 2001 she
      was there to speak about oil, and unfortunately the Osama bin Laden
      case was just a technical part of the negotiations. I'm not sure
      about the pipeline specifically, but we make it clear she was there
      to speak about oil. There are witnesses, including the Pakistani
      foreign minister.

      Are you saying that the Central Asian oil and pipelines were not an
      issue under Clinton, or just more of an issue for the Bush
      administration? And what are you basing that on?

      Brisard: Oil was also an issue for the Clinton administration, but
      the difference between Clinton and Bush is, under Bush the economic
      argument became predominant and the U.S. thought they could pursue
      the Taliban to accept a deal on economics.

      Dasquie: The area was of enormous strategic concern to many nations.
      The U.N. "six plus two" group [made up of the six countries that
      border Afghanistan, plus the United States and Russia] had tried to
      persuade the Taliban to take back the Afghan king in exchange for
      recognition. The biggest mistake of the U.N. and the U.S. was to
      consider the Taliban as independent and able to negotiate. Nobody saw
      the reality of the relationship between Osama bin Laden and Mullah
      Omar. So when the U.N.'s six-plus-two group and the U.S. said accept
      the king and give us Osama, it was incredible; it was like asking
      them to kill themselves. It was the very wrong way to negotiate.
      People say the only reason 9-11 happened is that Osama is a bad boy
      and the Muslims hate the U.S., but that is not enough. It is a pity
      to see that all our policies are built on that. It is very, very much
      more complex. They knew that if they did nothing they would lose.
      Everyone wanted to give power to the former king. When you think you
      are going to lose, the easy reaction is to be the first to attack. So
      9-11 was not just a mad act, it was a political act meant to create a
      good ground for a big war in all Central Asia. Mullah Omar and bin
      Laden wanted to rally Muslims in Central Asia. In the last 10 years,
      the focal point of Islamists has taken off from the Middle East and
      gone into Central Asia.

      The first President Bush has lots of connections with the Saudis and
      has made visits there as a private businessman with the merchant
      banking firm the Carlyle Group. Did you find any trace of the Carlyle
      Group on the financial trail?

      Brisard: No. Carlyle has connections to the bin Laden family. Also,
      [Saudi banker and alleged terrorist financer] Khaleed bin Mahfooz
      financed the Bush oil companies in Texas in the late '70s and we
      discovered that he is also the primary financial support of Osama bin
      Laden. For years he was the personal banker of King Fahd, but now
      Mahfooz is under house arrest in Saudi Arabia for allegedly financing
      terrorist groups. He was arrested in 1999, but he is still a
      shareholder of the Saudi Bank National Commercial. He had charities
      around the world and one of them, International Development
      Foundation in London, has just been banned by the charity commission
      in London because of our book. We also make lots of connections with
      BCCI [Bank of Credit and Commerce International, the foreign bank
      closed 10 years ago after a huge scandal connected it to fraud,
      secret weapons deals, money laundering and the financing of terrorist
      groups]. We say the system financing bin Laden was more or less the
      revival of the BCCI. Even the associates of the BCCI are now involved
      in those networks. And bin Mahfooz was the operational director of

      Exactly how have the Saudis promoted Islamic terrorism?

      Brisard: It's a political question for them. They have to support
      those religious fundamentalists because they are a large part of the
      regime of the kingdom and they need them to survive politically.
      Wahhabism, the Saudi form of Islam, is one of the harshest forms, and
      bin Laden is a product of his country.

      Is there anything in the American press about your book you would
      like to correct?

      Brisard: The main error is to say that the U.S. preferred oil to
      fighting against al-Qaida. That oversimplifies it. And it is also
      wrong to say John O'Neill told me that George Bush blocked inquiries
      into al-Qaida because of oil. It was not personally Bush [that
      O'Neill complained about]; it was a policy of putting diplomacy ahead
      of law enforcement going back to Clinton.

      Why is the book so popular in France?

      Brisard: Because there have been a lot of books about Sept. 11 and
      what happened and bios of bin Laden, but it's the first time that two
      investigators put facts on the table, documents, interviews and
      nothing else. We don't say it could have been stopped. If any
      government had known what was going to happen it wouldn't have
      happened. But we point out the role of the Western countries that led
      to Sept.11 -- back to 50 years ago, when we agreed to make an
      alliance with Saudi Arabia, and then by closing our eyes to the
      support they were giving fundamentalists around the world for the
      last 20 years.

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