Former CIA officer Philip Giraldi discusses the limited resources the US government ought to be using in the war on terrorism; Hamid Karzai’s increasingly tenuous grip on power in Afghanistan as US troops withdraw; and Obama’s responsibility for the Al Qaeda-affiliated rebels fighting in Syria.

Transcript:

06.02.14 – Phil Giraldi

Hi y’all welcome to the show, The Scott Horton Show, I’m Scott Horton and next up is our friend Phil Giraldi, he is formerly CIA and DIA and now he’s the director of the Council for the National Interest www.councilforthenationalinterest.org, they’ve got an America first foreign policy they push over there, you might want to find out all about it. Of course also he writes for the American Conservative Magazine www.unz.com and you can find some at Al Jazeera America as well. Welcome back to the show, how are you doing Phil?

PG: I’m fine Scott, how are you?

SH: I’m doing good, appreciate you joining us on the show again. Hey, listen so, lately I’ve been getting paranoid, and we talked about this recently too, in fact there was the new State Department report that came out, there was some analysis by Jonathan Landay, McClatchy and all that, and the administration are really wishy washy on all of this stuff because they are backing the terrorists in a lot of these instances and so they’re not being completely honest and so it seems like, y’know, you’ve been saying on this show for years that look, ‘the real number of actual dangerous terrorists in the world is somewhere around a couple of thousand, so don’t panic’, but now I’m wondering if that number is quite a bit higher because of the Bush Administrations foreign policy in Iraq and the Obama Administrations foreign policy in Libya and especially in Syria.

Y’know Landay who is no doe on this stuff, I don’t know if that is a phrase, I mean like doe eyed naive person, he knows a lot about this stuff and he was saying, ‘hey man these guys have statelets basically on the ground in Syria where they are raising tax money and they are building kind of mini states and this is the most Al Qaeda anything ever, and I just wonder whether maybe right now we’re in the equivalent of 1999 or 2000, and maybe there’s another shoe to drop here as the next phase of blow back from America’s foreign policy kicks in?
I wonder whether for example if you can trust the FBI who are too busy entrapping retarded kids into saying they love Osama into a microphone or something, to stop the Boston Attack or the Times Square attack or the Detroit airliner attack or anything else, or whether we can depend on this Government to protect at us at all from the Governments that they’ve created for us?

That was a lot of talking, you go ahead

SH: I think everything that you’ve said is true, and everything he said was true too – about this becoming a more serious issue, but nevertheless, the bottom line in all of this is that we’re looking at Syria like it’s everywhere and it’s not everywhere, it’s Syria.
We’ve created a situation in Syria that has become a breeding ground for a certain kind of itinerant terrorist who has been pretty much in existence ever since before 9/11 and has essentially gone from fight, to fight, to fight. These people are very dangerous there is no question about that, and if they also combine European nationality which it did in the case of the most recent shooting in Brussels, well then there is another a security issue wrapped up in it and we have to consider; what is the security situation that has been created by largely unassimilated Muslims in Europe and what does it mean?

But the bottom line is still; are we Americans threatened by all this, I mean is there a serious threat that requires us to be spending one trillion dollars a year, that requires us to be using military forces in addition to intelligence resources and police resources? My answer is no.

SH: Alright, what if you trusted them? What if all of a sudden the Bush’s, Obamas’s, and Clinton’s were gone and you had some competent adults, I don’t know, your former best friend at CIA became the new guy in charge, someone whose judgement you really rely on and he said, ‘listen, I don’t want anything to do with world empire, we’re not pivoting to Africa, or to China or to dismember Russia, but we are going to hunt down and kill Al Qaeda guys from now on until they’re gone. Would you support that? Or even that is still counter-productive?

PG: I absolutely would support an intelligence and law enforcement effort against terrorists but it has to be done with the full cooperation of the local governments in all these places where the have a terrorism problem. The whole idea that the United States can go in and fix things is a fiction because we don’t know the situation on the ground, we don’t know what the hell we’re doing and you basically have to work with these people and even Obama last week at West Point as one of the smarter things he said, you know ‘other people have to take the lead and we really have to work with them’, now if you’re limiting that to using intelligence resources, law enforcement resources to deal with terrorism I think that’s the right approach.
SH: What about drone wars?

PG: Well a drone is a tool, but using drones to kill people I am opposed to in principle. I think that if you use a drone as an intelligence device, and using it to locate people to identify possible targets that you then go after using again intelligence and law enforcement resources on the ground I think that is a perfectly legitimate use of drones – as long as they’re not crashing into civilian airliners.
SH: Yeah, which a couple of close calls there so far.{laughs} We’re just getting started on that.

Alright lets go back to the beginning of the Arab Spring here because it seems like Assad, if the Americans had just stayed out of the Syria thing altogether, then Assad would have finished defeating the rebels a long time ago and maybe that would have been bad from the decent people who were among those fighting them, but it seems like there are a lot of prison be-header/suicide bomber/Ayman Al Zawahiri loving crazies among them too. My guess is the war would have been over a long time ago, not that the Americans have helped the Jihadists to come anywhere near winning it, but they’ve just got 150 000 or so people killed.

PG: That is exactly what has happened. The thing is when you get into these what-if situations it’s not necessarily true that Assad might not have moved towards greater democratization if he didn’t feel it was being done at gun-point so you have to kind of put yourself in the heads of these other people. By all accounts Basher is not a crazy, and there are a number of options that he might have pursued if we had not pursued the military option by arming these people, by funding them and sending them in there.
SH: This is problematic too, because Bush’s approach to Syria was he outsourced most of this to the local guys, that’s part of what got us into this mess in the first place, and the stories of all the torture- Bush paying Assad to torture Al Qaeda guys for the United States ended up helping to recruit a lot of new Al Qaeda guys into the fight in Iraq for example, many of whom came across the border from Syria to fight there and now are back again. It seems like we’re sort of damned either way y’know, we outsourced this whole thing to Mubarak he ends up torturing Ayman Al Zawahiri creating Al Qaeda in the first place.

PG: That’s unfortunately the way it works. the thing is if you’re constantly feeding the cancer it’s going to grow and we’ve been doing that for a number of years. We’ve seen that invading Afghanistan just really pushed the terrorist situation into neighboring Pakistan and from Pakistan it’s moved by our invasion of Iraq creating a vacuum there has moved into Iraq and from Iraq it’s moved int Syria. The whole point is that the United States has never figured out that military intervention doesn’t fix anything.

The only thing that can ultimately fix anything in a country, is the people in the country themselves coming together for one reason or another and essentially deciding this is what we want, this is what we’re going to do. Unfortunately we’ve never seen these other countries as real partners. I mean look at the situation over the weekend with Bowe Bergdahl being released. We didn’t even tell the Afghan Government that this was going on. How incredible is that? We’ve got 30 000 plus troops in the country, they’ve got an elected Government that we have been kind of propping up for so many years and we don’t even tell the guys that we’re doing this.

SH: Alright, we got to stop and take this break, we’ll be back with Phil Giraldi on Americas terror war.
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SH: Alright you guys welcome back to the show, I’m Scott Horton this is my show The Scott Horton show, I’m talking with Phil Giraldi. He’s at The Council for the National Interest -www.councilforthenationalinterest.org, the American Conservative Magazine, www.unz.com, and www.america.aljazeera.com as well.

So, I guess we can pick this up. We were talking about how after all this time this Government that America has installed into power and fought for all this time in the Afghan war, they don’t even include them in on these highest level negotiations with the Taliban – their enemy – on the release of Bowe Bergdahl and now apparently they’re getting some of their very highest level leaders of the 1990s era back in exchange, or at least they’re going to Qatar, I don’t know if they’ll be back to Afghanistan but if I guess if I had to bet I’d bet they’d be bet in Afghanistan before too long now that they’re out of Guantanamo.

What do you think the future of the war over there is going to be because the whole point of the surge was to not really defeat the Taliban but to hurt them bad enough that they would come to the table whimpering and make some kind of compromise, that hasn’t happened and yet the war is ending anyway more or less I think, you know, going down to 10 000 troops so I just wonder what you think about the relative strength of the Karzai regime plus the 10 000 US Army troops and airpower compared to the Taliban.
How do you think the next couple of years are going to play out there?

PG: I think the question that since the 10000 troops are to a certain extent going to be combat troops and there is going to be as you pointed out, air support, basically the regime in Kabul will be able to sustain itself, the real question becomes what happens after US support is completely gone, in the following years, in 2016?

I think the obvious answer to that is that the regime had better start cutting a deal with the Taliban because there is now military victory in sight. They’re going to have to come to a political solution, which is probably what they should have tried to do ten years ago.

You can’t point to a single example of a military intervention by the US certainly since 9/11 anywhere that has actually come out with a good result and that really is the argument to use against the neo-cons and everybody else who seems to think that the US has to keep asserting itself to validate itself as a world power. The fact is the only thing that is invalidating the US is that so many of the things we have done have turned out badly.

SH: I talked with Micael Scheuer the former chief of the CIA’s Bin Laden Unit back last Friday, and one of the things that he is really concerned about is America validating itself to Al Qaeda and that if we leave after quote ‘only 13 years’ to them that makes us the biggest joke in the whole wide world – we’re supposed the worlds preeminent super power and yet they can chase us away with AK-47s and land mines and so why not finish us off or do whatever they want with us at this point if we’re really that thin of a paper tiger?

I mean obviously there has got to be some truth to the idea that they would have that impression despite all the brutality of the last decade, is that going to be a problem do you think?

PG: No, I don’t think so, I think that is kind of inverting the problem or inverting the issue. The fact is that for a long time now, for 20 years the US has been kind of a recruiting poster child for Al Qaeda and similar groups – let’s not forget that Al Qaeda is not unique – because of basically what the US does around the world, so that’s a given and I think Michael is correct in saying that in a way the US empowers Al Qaeda.

But they fact is anybody who is following the situation in Afghanistan knows that the enemy is not Al Qaeda, it’s the Taliban and the Taliban and Al Qaeda are two distinct organizations. So if the questions becomes the US withdrawal from Afghanistan is going to empower anybody, it will be the Taliban. I don’t necessarily see the connection with Al Qaeda.

SH: It seems like if they’d wanted to make a deal a long time ago they could have said, ‘alright you guys do whatever you want except keep these guys out or else’, again, that kind of thing, they could have had that negotiation in the spring of 02 or something right?

PG: Yeah exactly and this concept that Al Qaeda and the Taliban are identical has never been true. The Afghan Government back in 2001 provided training camps for Al Qaeda because they had similar objectives, or at least they thought they did but the fact is that the Taliban as you know I’m sure, that back at that time was willing to cut a deal with the United States to expel Al Qaeda but the US was required to make a case to prove that they hadn’t been behind terrorist acts and this kind of thing and they were either unable, or since it was George Bush at that time, unwilling to do so.

SH: Right. That was something that Scheuer confirmed as well – that they were willing to turn him over on the slightest of evidence, you know, ‘just hand me a piece of paper that says he did it on it’ or something, ‘give me an excuse to get rid of this guy please’, they were begging but anyway I guess that’s not good enough, not for a Bush.

We surrender and runaway is never good enough for a Bush, like Bill Hicks likes to say.

PG: Yeah, well we may have another one coming so {laughs} – the thought of a choice between a Bush and a Clinton is one of those existential moments where you want to move to the planet Zark in the fifth galaxy ..

SH: How about just Mexico, you know anything….{laughs} I’ll learn Spanish I don’t give a damn – immersion, that’s how you learn it, just get right in there man, I love Mexican food as it is, you know as long as it’s east coast Mexican food – Tex-Mexish you know, the west coast stuff has got cilantro in it …sucks

So let’s talk a little bit more about these Jihadi’s in Syria. You’re right, they’re not all sworn to Ayman Al Zawahiri, just the leaders of the Al-Nusra front and the so-called Islamic front now, ISIS is no longer sworn to Ayman Al Zawahiri but all these guys are suicide bomber/prisoner be-header/Bin Laden-ites in ideology and in method apparently, so what I really want to know from you Phil is, if you could help explain to us just how much America has supported them directly or indirectly, y’know plausible deniability having the Saudi’s and the Qataris do it, how much that has changed?

Of course we have found out from Hersh that they called off the ratline from Libya to Syria after the Benghazi attack of 2012, so there’s been some hiccups and some different things but they keep saying, ‘oh you know, Obama’s just dragging his feet and doesn’t want to back them’, and yet it seems like he’s been backing them all this time and it’s even at one of these prominent pro-war blogs - talked about how the tow missiles are already in the hands of the Al-Nusra front, they got them from the Islamic front that got them from the whatever they calling FSA nowadays, something like that.

I just wonder how much responsibility can really be hung on the President and his foreign policy for you know Al-Nusra, ISIS, the different groups there over time and however you like to explain it.

PG: I think you have to give them responsibility for prolonging a severe humanitarian crisis. This, as you pointed out in the beginning would have been over a long time ago but for the fact that the United States has been supporting what they thought was the ‘good rebels’ or maybe they didn’t even think that. It’s not clear.

But the fact is that weapons and money and logistical support is fungible if you give it to somebody, I’m not really sure whom they are, it’s almost inevitably by Murphy’s Law that it’ll wind up in the hands of the guy that you didn’t want to give it to, and then of course there were other players in the game too: Qatar was a player, Saudi Arabia has been a player, and Hezbollah and the other side has been a player, there is like a devils brew going on there and I think you have to lay at the feet of the United States a lot of really bad policy which has produced a really bad result.

Admittedly Obama would like to probably just walk away from it but he knows that he can’t, not anymore. He would get hung by his petard by the republicans if he tried to do that during an election year. So we have the usual dilemma of American politics.

SH: Well it’s amazing too the unreality of the discussion where….oh man damn clock, the unreality of this discussion where the whole debate is backing them some or being complicit with the Saudi’s backing them or at least providing these fungible items, weapons and money especially and the entire attack is that it’s not enough support for them even while everyone does recognize and I’m talking TV pundits and mainstream newspaper and website pundits – everyone recognizes that there are Bin Laden-ites among the rebels there and yet it’s like these two truths don’t ever show up in the same sentence anywhere except this show and the moon of Alabama blog or something …it’s always like, ‘Well you know there is a lot of Bin Laden-ites there and also, yeah Obama is not doing enough to back the rebels’, who are never mind whether that’s the very same Bin Laden-ites that we’re talking about or not.

In fact just the other day I saw Chuck Todd on the morning show on MSNBC say, ‘Wow Al Qaeda is on the same side as us in this one’. It’s like well wait a minute, you’re talking about how we’re not in it yet and we’re just deciding to get in it, so how the hell are they on our side?
When we’re the ones backing them in their war going on over there, what in the hell?

PG: Yeah well it is the usual cognitive dissonance that takes place where the Government and these people and the media clearly can’t accommodate two conflicting thoughts at the same time.

You’re absolutely right, basically the whole premise is wrong and yet they think that there is another issue that somehow sits in a box by itself on the side that you don’t have to think in terms of how it is interacting with your first issue. It’s incredible, I mean these people are supposed to be smart, and some of theme are, but people in Government don’t necessarily get ahead because they’re smart, they get ahead because they work well with others, if you know what I mean.{laughs}

SH: Yeah exactly, I studied this in junior college ….
PG: Exactly ….
SH: The economics of what you say you’re about right? That’s what it all is.

PG: Exactly
SH: Alright I’m a little bit less scared than I was after talking to Michael Scheuer about this but I guess the ineptitude of what, the Turks are going to hold all these guys back, that’s really the question like how much of a threat this poses to Western Europe and/or America?

You know what was great about Mohamed Atta and Ramzi Bin Al Saeed to Osama Bin Laden was, ‘You guys have German passports, cool, I wonder if you can get into America?’ y’know ..

PG: Right, well those are the only ones we really should be worrying about – people that can actually get over here that are motivated, that have access, that have the brains to do those things. But you know that is a handful of people and to create a whole foreign policy around that kind of threat is just crazy and that’s why we’ve made the problem bigger – because we don’t recognize that there is a big dysfunction there in terms of the way we look at everything.

SH: Alright, very well said, thank you so much for your time Phil, as always

PG: Okay Scott, take care, bye

SH: That’s Phil Giraldi everyone.

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