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Correct Me If I'm Wrong...

...but I can't remember any current high-ranking member of the Bush Administration ever saying anything like what Richard Clarke said today:

Mr. Clarke began his testimony before the bipartisan, 10-member panel, formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, with an apology to relatives of the 3,000 people killed on Sept. 11, 2001.

"Your government failed you," he said, his voice close to breaking. "Those entrusted with protecting you failed you, and I failed you."

"We tried hard," Mr. Clarke went on, "but that doesn't matter, because we failed. And for that failure, I would ask -- once all the facts are out -- for your understanding and your forgiveness."

If the President, any member of his Cabinet, or any other high-ranking political appointee of his has apologized for allowing the 9/11 attacks to take place on their watch, I'd like to know about it.

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If you are in a quandry as to whether Richard Clarke or Condoleeza Rice (the Bushies) are telling the truth with respect to 9/11, consider this: The Bush Administration gave $43 million to the Taliban government of Afghanistan (protectors of al-Queda and Osama bin Laden) in May 2001, just 4 months before 9/11. It should be clear to all that the Bush administration did not hold terrorism as a top priority in the first few months of the new administration. They were busy with a Star Wars Agenda and in abandoning many international treaties that the Clinton administration had proposed or signed onto. You don't give $43 million to a country that you consider a terrorist country. But after 9/11, Bush stood tall. But Clarke seems to have his facts right about what occurred in the first 8 months.
U.S. gives $43 million to Afghanistan
May 17, 2001 Posted: 10:17 PM EDT (0217 GMT)


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By Elise Labott CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Warning that Afghanistan is "on the verge of a widespread famine," Secretary of State Colin Powell Thursday announced a $43 million package in humanitarian assistance for the Afghan people.

Powell also called on other nations to send aid to the Central Asian nation.

"If the international community does not take immediate action, countless deaths and terrible tragedy are certain to follow," Powell said.

The package includes $28 million worth of wheat from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, $5 million in food commodities and $10 million in "livelihood and food security" programs, both from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Powell called the crisis a "looming catastrophe," and said that he was working with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to press upon potential donors the need to respond to the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan "with energy and dispatch."

Almost 4 million at risk
A nation of 26 million, Afghanistan has been hit by three consecutive years of drought. The nation has also endured more than 20 years of civil strife. The Taliban religious militia, which imposes a harsh brand of Islam, captured Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, in 1996 and now controls an estimated 95 percent of the country.

The Thursday aid announcement follows the return of a U.S. delegation last month from a visit to Afghanistan, where it found the population on the verge of a famine due to a devastating drought.

Leonard Rogers, the deputy assistant administrator of USAID's Bureau for Humanitarian Response, estimated that Afghanistan is nearly 2 million tons short of what the country needs to feed its people, a deficit two times more than last year. According to U.N. figures, 3.8 million people in the country are at risk of famine.

Powell said the United States expects to announce additional assistance to Afghan refugees, and would continue to look for ways to provide more aid to Afghanistan, especially for farmers feeling the crunch from a ban on poppy cultivation, a decision by the ruling Taliban that the U.S. welcomes.

The United Nations estimates that the drought has forced more than 700,000 people to flee their homes, landing at camps for internally displaced citizens.

The team visiting Afghanistan found the conditions of the camps woefully inadequate, and said that the shelter facilities, water and sanitation was very poor.

Officials were especially concerned about refugees leaving Afghanistan for bordering countries, such as Pakistan and Iran, and expressed concern that those countries might send the refugees back to Afghanistan.

One "holding facility" on the Pakistani side of the border in Jalozai was described as inappropriate for holding refugees.

Alan Kreczko, acting assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Population, Refugee and Migration Affairs, said that while the United States "understands the frustration" felt by the border countries who have acted as "generous hosts," he cautioned "this is not the time" to send the refugees back.

U.N. to distribute aid
While U.S. officials cited the drought as the major factor for the deepening humanitarian crisis, the members of the delegation said that Afghanistan's ruling Taliban's regime and the security problems it presents, hinders access and contributed to the situation.

The U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions against the Taliban in an effort to pressure the militia to hand over Saudi exile Osama bin Laden, who is accused of bombing two U.S. embassies in Africa. Humanitarian aid is allowed.

Powell said the U.S. aid is administered by the United Nations and non-governmental organizations, and bypasses the Taliban, "who have done little to alleviate the suffering of the Afghan people, and indeed have done much to exacerbate it."


How Washington Funded the Taliban
by Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter is vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute and is the author or editor of 14 books on international affairs including the forthcoming "Bad Neighbor Policy: Washington's Futile War on Drugs in Latin America" (Palgrave/ St. Martin's).

The United States has made common cause with an assortment of dubious regimes around the world to wage the war on drugs. Perhaps the most shocking example was Washington's decision in May 2001 to financially reward Afghanistan's infamous Taliban government for its edict ordering a halt to the cultivation of opium poppies.

When the Taliban implemented a ban on opium cultivation in early 2001, U.S. officials were most complimentary. James P. Callahan, director of Asian Affairs for the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, uncritically relayed the alleged accounts of Afghan farmers that "the Taliban used a system of consensus-building" to develop and carry out the edict. That characterization was more than a little suspect because the Taliban was not known for pursuing consensus in other aspects of its rule. Columnist Robert Scheer was justifiably scathing in his criticism of the U.S. response. "That a totalitarian country can effectively crack down on its farmers is not surprising," Sheer noted, but he considered it "grotesque" for a U.S. official to describe the drug-crop crackdown in such benign terms.

Yet the Bush administration did more than praise the Taliban's proclaimed ban of opium cultivation. In mid-May, 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell announced a $43 million grant to Afghanistan in addition to the humanitarian aid the United States had long been providing to agencies assisting Afghan refugees. Given Callahan's comment, there was little doubt that the new stipend was a reward for Kabul's anti-drug efforts. That $43 million grant needs to be placed in context. Afghanistan's estimated gross domestic product was a mere $2 billion. The equivalent financial impact on the U.S. economy would have required an infusion of $215 billion. In other words, $43 million was very serious money to Afghanistan's theocratic masters.

To make matters worse, U.S. officials were naive to take the Taliban edict at face value. The much-touted crackdown on opium poppy cultivation appears to have been little more than an illusion. Despite U.S. and UN reports that the Taliban had virtually wiped out the poppy crop in 2000-2001, authorities in neighboring Tajikistan reported that the amounts coming across the border were actually increasing. In reality, the Taliban gave its order to halt cultivation merely to drive up the price of opium the regime had already stockpiled.

Even if the Taliban had tried to stem cultivation for honest reasons, U.S. cooperation with that regime should have been morally repugnant. Among other outrages, the Taliban government prohibited the education of girls, tortured and executed political critics, and required non-Muslims to wear distinctive clothing--a practice eerily reminiscent of Nazi Germany's requirement that Jews display the Star of David on their clothing. Yet U.S. officials deemed none of that to be a bar to cooperation with the Taliban on drug policy.

Even if the Bush administration had not been dissuaded by moral considerations, it should have been by purely pragmatic concerns. There was already ample evidence in the spring of 2001 that the Taliban was giving sanctuary to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network that had bombed two U.S. embassies in East Africa. For the State Department to ignore that connection and agree to subsidize the Taliban was inexcusably obtuse. Scheer was on the mark when he concluded, "The war on drugs has become our own fanatics' obsession and easily trumps all other concerns."

Washington's approach came to an especially calamitous end in September 2001 when the Taliban regime was linked to bin Laden's terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that killed some 3,000 people. Moreover, evidence quickly emerged that the Taliban all along had been collecting millions of dollars in profits from the illicit drug trade, with much of that money going into the coffers of the terrorists. Rarely is there such graphic evidence of the bankruptcy of U.S. drug policy.

Bush's Faustian Deal With the Taliban
By Robert Scheer
Published May 22, 2001 in the Los Angeles Times


Enslave your girls and women, harbor anti-U.S. terrorists, destroy every vestige of civilization in your homeland, and the Bush administration will embrace you. All that matters is that you line up as an ally in the drug war, the only international cause that this nation still takes seriously.

That's the message sent with the recent gift of $43 million to the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan, the most virulent anti-American violators of human rights in the world today. The gift, announced last Thursday by Secretary of State Colin Powell, in addition to other recent aid, makes the U.S. the main sponsor of the Taliban and rewards that "rogue regime" for declaring that opium growing is against the will of God. So, too, by the Taliban's estimation, are most human activities, but it's the ban on drugs that catches this administration's attention.

Never mind that Osama bin Laden still operates the leading anti-American terror operation from his base in Afghanistan, from which, among other crimes, he launched two bloody attacks on American embassies in Africa in 1998.

Sadly, the Bush administration is cozying up to the Taliban regime at a time when the United Nations, at U.S. insistence, imposes sanctions on Afghanistan because the Kabul government will not turn over Bin Laden.

The war on drugs has become our own fanatics' obsession and easily trumps all other concerns. How else could we come to reward the Taliban, who has subjected the female half of the Afghan population to a continual reign of terror in a country once considered enlightened in its treatment of women?

At no point in modern history have women and girls been more systematically abused than in Afghanistan where, in the name of madness masquerading as Islam, the government in Kabul obliterates their fundamental human rights. Women may not appear in public without being covered from head to toe with the oppressive shroud called the burkha , and they may not leave the house without being accompanied by a male family member. They've not been permitted to attend school or be treated by male doctors, yet women have been banned from practicing medicine or any profession for that matter.

The lot of males is better if they blindly accept the laws of an extreme religious theocracy that prescribes strict rules governing all behavior, from a ban on shaving to what crops may be grown. It is this last power that has captured the enthusiasm of the Bush White House.

The Taliban fanatics, economically and diplomatically isolated, are at the breaking point, and so, in return for a pittance of legitimacy and cash from the Bush administration, they have been willing to appear to reverse themselves on the growing of opium. That a totalitarian country can effectively crack down on its farmers is not surprising. But it is grotesque for a U.S. official, James P. Callahan, director of the State Department's Asian anti-drug program, to describe the Taliban's special methods in the language of representative democracy: "The Taliban used a system of consensus-building," Callahan said after a visit with the Taliban, adding that the Taliban justified the ban on drugs "in very religious terms."

Of course, Callahan also reported, those who didn't obey the theocratic edict would be sent to prison.

In a country where those who break minor rules are simply beaten on the spot by religious police and others are stoned to death, it's understandable that the government's "religious" argument might be compelling. Even if it means, as Callahan concedes, that most of the farmers who grew the poppies will now confront starvation. That's because the Afghan economy has been ruined by the religious extremism of the Taliban, making the attraction of opium as a previously tolerated quick cash crop overwhelming.

For that reason, the opium ban will not last unless the U.S. is willing to pour far larger amounts of money into underwriting the Afghan economy.

As the Drug Enforcement Administration's Steven Casteel admitted, "The bad side of the ban is that it's bringing their country--or certain regions of their country--to economic ruin." Nor did he hold out much hope for Afghan farmers growing other crops such as wheat, which require a vast infrastructure to supply water and fertilizer that no longer exists in that devastated country. There's little doubt that the Taliban will turn once again to the easily taxed cash crop of opium in order to stay in power.

The Taliban may suddenly be the dream regime of our own war drug war zealots, but in the end this alliance will prove a costly failure. Our long sad history of signing up dictators in the war on drugs demonstrates the futility of building a foreign policy on a domestic obsession.

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