by Jacob G. Hornberger
As the killing and destruction in Afghanistan have mounted over the past 10 years, and as they have expanded into Pakistan during the Obama administration, interventionists have tried to justify the massive death and destruction by claiming that the reason the U.S. government went to war against the Taliban was because the Taliban had supposedly been complicit in the 9/11 attacks.
Unfortunately for the interventionists, however, nothing could be further from the truth. The U.S. government went to war against Afghanistan for one reason and one reason alone: The Afghan government (i.e., the Taliban regime) refused to comply with President Bush’s unconditional demand for bin Laden’s extradition.
After receiving President Bush’s extradition demand, the Taliban asked to see the evidence establishing that bin Laden had in fact been involved in the 9/11 attacks. The Taliban also offered to deliver bin Laden to an independent third party for trial rather than to the United States.
The Bush administration refused. Its demand for bin Laden’s extradition was unconditional: Give us bin Laden or else suffer the consequences.
Was the Taliban’s refusal to comply with Bush’s unconditional demand unreasonable?
Well, consider the case of Jose Posada Carriles. He’s the former CIA operative who is widely suspected of planning the bombing of a Cuban airliner over Venezuelan skies. The plane went down 34 years ago this month, killing 73 people on board. Among the dead were 24 members of Cuba’s national youth fencing team.
Venezuela has repeatedly sought the extradition of Posada to stand trial for this heinous crime.
The U.S. government’s response? It has refused to comply with the extradition request. Its reason? It says that it fears that Posada will be tortured if he is returned to Venezuela.
But does that make any sense? The U.S. government supports torture for accused terrorists. That’s what it’s been doing ever since 9/11 — torturing accused terrorists. So, how come the sudden concern the possibility that accused terrorist Posada will be tortured in Venezuela?
The answer might lie in the fact that if Posada was responsible for planting the bomb on that Cuban airliner, it’s entirely possible that he was acting on behalf of the CIA. That is, even though the CIA claims that Posada was no longer an employee at the time of the bombing, that’s what the CIA would say if Posada was acting on behalf of the CIA.
Thus, if Posada were returned to Venezuela to stand trial and face justice, there is always the possibility that he would sing like a canary about his life in the CIA.
If the U.S. government’s refusal to comply with the Venezuelan extradition demand is genuine, then why wouldn’t the same apply to the Taliban’s refusal to comply with Bush’s extradition demand? After all, everyone would agree that bin Laden would definitely have been tortured in CIA custody.
I should point out that the U.S. government has indicted Posada, but not for the terrorist bombing of that Cuban airliner but rather for the relatively minor crime of making false statements on some immigration forms. In my opinion, the possibility that Posada will ever serve time for that offense is nil. In fact, given the repeated delays in the case, one might reasonably ask whether the entire proceeding is nothing more than a sophisticated sham to disguise the intentional harboring of an accused terrorist — i.e., the same thing that the U.S. government accused the Taliban regime of doing with bin Laden.
The irony is that there is actually a formal extradition treaty between Venezuela and the United States, a treaty that the U.S. government has chosen to intentionally violate. There was no extradition treaty with Afghanistan.
Thus, two separate questions arise with respect to Afghanistan: (1) Was it right for the United States to go to war against the Taliban based on its refusal to comply with Bush’s extradition demand? And (2) Was it right to use military means to bring bin Laden to justice?
Both questions must be answered in the negative.
The Taliban’s refusal to comply with Bush’s unconditional extradition demand was no different in principle than the U.S. government’s refusal to comply with Venezuela’s extradition demand. A refusal to comply with an extradition demand provides no just reason to go to war against another nation.
Using military means to bring bin Laden to justice has been a disaster. Not only has the military failed to capture bin Laden, it has become the biggest terrorist-producing machine in history. Every time it has killed or maimed people — people who had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks — it has added more people to ranks of those who hate the United States and seek vengeance.
Contrast how the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center was handled. Some three years after the attack, Ramzi Yousef was captured by the police in Pakistan. He was extradited to the United States, stood trial in federal district court, and given a life sentence.
Wasn’t that a better way to handle things than to invade, bomb, and occupy Pakistan and assassinate Pakistanis?
Another example: Mir Aimal Kasi, the man who shot CIA employees near CIA headquarters in Virginia. He too was a Pakistani. Four years after the attack, he was taken into custody in Pakistan, sent back to the United States, stood trial in federal district court, and given the death penalty.
Again, no invasions, occupations, or assassinations. Just patient police work and judicial processes.
After 10 years of invasion, occupation, torture, killings, incarcerations, renditions, assassinations, death, destruction, anger, hatred, and the constant threat of terrorist retaliation, it’s time to admit that the military invasion of Afghanistan, like that of Iraq, was horrible wrong. Not only did it fail to capture bin Laden, it killed and maimed countless innocent people in the process, placing Americans in constant jeopardy of retaliation.
There is also the possible financial bankruptcy of the U.S. government to consider as well.
It’s time to admit wrong and bring the troops home, immediately.
Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
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