Thursday, July 31, 2008

Takeways from the Hamdan Trial

Not many bombshells so far, other than learning that even drivers for bin Laden know McDonalds fries don't taste good cold. Hey, Saddam liked Doritos, perhaps we should adjust our interrogation methods by withholding fast food. Or would that be called torture, too?

The only thing approaching a serious headline has been the already-known impressions bin Laden had about America (paper tiger). But this is an important point and something even relevant to decision 08.

Andrew McCarthy, the government prosecutor who tried the Blind Sheikh for planning the "Landmarks" plot in New York City in the mid 90s, has a new book called Willful Blindness that deals with exactly what Hamdan reportedly attributed to UBL. But does he remain blind on the blindness? Some think so.

McCarthy wasn't very kind to private researcher/writer Peter Lance and he hasn't been much nicer to another critic, former Clinton Iraq adviser and writer Laurie Mylroie. Her book review sparked the followed retort:
Sometime in 1993 or 1994, a briefing at the Manhattan district attorney’s office was arranged for me and a few other federal prosecutors involved in the World Trade Center bombing cases. The briefer was Mylroie, then (if memory serves) a professor at Harvard, where she’d earned her doctorate in government. She was spouting a theory that the attack had been the work of Saddam Hussein and that we ignoramuses were completely missing the boat by charging Islamic terrorists, notwithstanding the overwhelming evidence that they had carried out the atrocity.
He continues the same snarl throughout the piece but his overall rebuttal isn't nearly as biting.

Mylroie has long been known for asserting that 93 WTC bomber Ramzi Yousef was an Iraqi agent--McCarthy basically thinks she's a nut. She defends:
Indeed, as Judge Mukasey stated, there was "no evidence" any defendant knew Ramzi Yousef, the plot's mastermind, let alone joined him in bombing the building.
Yep, that's the same Mukasey. Anyway, McCarthy actually supports this line of thought by depicting Yousef and several others as mysterious people "called in" from the outside without going into much detail about who they were and why they came (Mylroie essentially claims that was because they were tied to state intelligence apparatuses).

He talks extensively about 93 WTC participant Mohammed Salameh but completely ignores the following:
In June 1992, Salameh's phone bill went through the roof, rising from $128.41 in May to $1,401.00 in June. Indeed, on June 10, Salameh made the first of forty-six calls to Iraq, before his phone service was cut-off on July 9 for non-payment.8 The vast majority of these calls to Iraq were to his maternal uncle, Kadri Abu Bakr. Abu Bakr had been number two in the "Western Sector," a terrorist unit established within the PLO after the 1967 war, when the PLO was based in Jordan. It operated in the area west of the Jordan River. Abu Bakr was arrested by Israeli authorities for terrorism in 1968 and sentenced to twenty years in prison. He was released in 1986 and deported from the West Bank, whence he made his way to Iraq, where he came to work at the PLO office in Baghdad.
Yousef was a known Palestinian sympathizer, as was Saddam. Personally I found these omissions a little puzzling when reading the book as well.

Perhaps McCarthy thinks Mylroie is insinuating he was a dupe for U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White (and ergo, the administration) to allow the Blind Sheikh to be set up as a bogeyman to divert public attention off any state sponsorship, specifically from Sudan. As a political appointee White could hardly go after Sudanese diplomats without coordination from the top. That never happened. Instead, a higher wall went up.

But in supporting his "willful blindness" theory McCarthy didn't shy away from tying the Sudanese government officials to the Landmarks plot, mentioning their former jihadi-loving leader Hassan al-Turabi as perhaps linked to an assassination plot against Egypt's Mubarak. Yet this actually brings Saddam and others into the picture since according to Yossef Bodansky, al-Turabi was working hard in the 90s to bring Arab countries together to give jihad a chance against the west. McCarthy seems of the opinion these jihadies were acting as cliques without much state help, at least without Iraq's help, while admitting Sudan's involvement. Keep in mind Iraq sent Farouk Hijazi to meet bin Laden in Sudan during 1993, where an office in Baghdad was apparently discussed.

We do know that after the Gulf War Saddam reduced his love for Mubarak and we know from the recent Joint Forces report on Iraq that he was dabbling with Zawahiri's Egyptian Islamic Jihad group (all largely ignored by the MSM). These things favor Mylroie's view of state involvement.

It's notable the FBI's agent provocateur inside the Brooklyn Cell, Egyptian Emad Salem, was once affiliated with Egyptian intelligence. Mubarak had previously persecuted Zawahiri and other Islamists. Saddam had issues with Mubarak and was dabbling with terrorists along the Nile. Perhaps an "enemy of my enemy" thing?

We know Bill Clinton sent cruise missiles to Iraq and Sudan during his tenure, the former officially in reaction to the aborted hit on Bush 41 in Kuwait and the latter on a presumed pharmaceutical plant thought to be making VX gas for bin Laden with help from Iraqi scientists (another fact never mentioned by the MSM). Was the Khartoum attack actually more about revenge for the failed Landmarks plot (along with a message to Saddam) than anything else? If so, it didn't work. Hamdan's paper tiger was in full force and the rest is history.

So if the Jihadists took the US military as dressed up foo-foo dogs with bark but no bite, what did the states think? Scooter Libby once opined on that back in 2001, as relayed by Bob Woodward in "Bush at War":
"If we say it's al Qaeda, a state sponsor may feel safe and then hit us thinking they will have a bye because we'll blame it on al Qaeda."
The 9/11 Commission would later call al Qaeda a bunch of "rootless, non-state actors" yet it's indisputable that a state sponsor was involved in the Landmarks plot in 1993, using proxy terrorists, who probably also thought we were toothless. This seems to be lost on McCarthy.

As Mylroie says, had Americans been fully aware of the state involvement in the Landmarks plot they'd have surely demanded a pound of flesh in retribution, forcing Clinton into a war if he had any hope of regaining the White House. Clearly he wanted to spend the "peace dividend" instead, gained only by downsizing the loathsome military--which is hard to do while at war. He didn't know 9/11 would come, though.

The history of diversion actually goes back even further. The FBI characterized Meir Kahane's murderer Sayyid Nossair as a "lone wolf" in 1990 while knowing of his involvement with the Brooklyn Cell. Bush 41 was in office at the time, so it seems Clinton simply took up the baton.

Bottom line, while Mylroie might be an obstinate debater and probably dead wrong about Ramzi Yousef's identity she's unequivocally correct on this:
When it comes to the Shiites, we recognize Iran's role, but we refuse to consider that Sunni extremists might also receive crucial assistance from states.
McCarthy's discomfort in acknowledging the level of involvement from states despite his knowledge of Sudan's involvement gives Mylroie a win by technical knockout regards the book fight. Meanwhile down in the trenches, Bush has been working for years to change America's tiger image, unleashing the military to prove the point, which is something McCain seems eager to continue and preserve. Obama? Well, he's got his team for change in place.

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