[Essay written for Fall 2014 ENG 102 course at Bluegrass Community and Technical College]
Over the past few decades, the United States of America has been fighting foreign terrorists – both on American soil and abroad. Our basic news media and textbooks have repeatedly explained to citizens of the United States that these terrorists are born and raised to hate America and what it stands for – democracy (Loewen: 265). However, it seems as though communication between our government and these terrorists can be quite simple. At the same time, our government continues to fail to capture these same men and women when they allegedly try. This seems illogical. Are there connections between our own government and foreign terrorist operatives that American citizens are unaware of? Has the United States’ own government been in contact, and possibly cooperation, with the same terrorists they fight every day?
Certain publications support the idea that the United States government is not entirely honest with its citizens. Some documentation shows solid connections between the leaders of America and our enemies - connections that are not adversarial, but beneficial for leaders of various branches of the government (“Sleeping With the Devil”). Are there connections between foreign terrorists, such as Osama bin Laden, and the United States that are shielded from public knowledge? Has the United States played a hand in training the very people that pose a viable threat to the country’s national safety?
In Lies My Teacher Told Me, author James Loewen opens the door to curiosity concerning issues such as these. The book has a chapter on September 11th – a topic on which there is a wealth of information concerning possible ties between the United States, bin Laden, and Al Qaeda – and why our government was ill prepared for such a massive attack when they received information, from multiple sources, warning of the possibility of an attack (Loewen: 270-271). Loewen notes that the CIA received notice from the German government concerning terrorist “plan(s) to hijack commercial aircraft to use as weapons to attack important symbols of American culture” yet failed to “relay these warnings to airline companies” (Loewen: 270), (Reidel, 38-41). The leaders at the FBI also took no action when they got a hold of this information (Loewen, 270). Why would the government take such specific warnings so lightly and fail to take action to even look into the matter or warn those who may be affected?
Osama bin Laden and the terrorist group Al Qaeda have received the blunt of the blame for the attacks on September 11th, 2001. However, there is a certain piece of information most Americans do not know about Mr. bin Laden. In the 1970s he was recruited, and trained, by the CIA to perform covert operations to aid the United States in their involvement in the Cold War (“Sleeping With the Devil”). Tim Osman, the operative name he was given by the Agency, reportedly visited United States military bases, the White House, and was even taught the tactics he used in terrorist attacks while on American soil (“Sleeping With the Devil”).
Tim Osman was not the only foreign recruit taken in by the CIA. Sources note that bin Laden, among several other Muslim recruits, “were sent to Camp Peary, the CIA’s spy training camp in Virginia, where young Afghans, Arabs from Egypt and Jordan, and even some African-American ‘black Muslims’ were taught ‘sabotage skills’” (Dixon). One notable man is Ali Mohammed. British Independent reports that Mohammed, who is thought to be connected with US embassy bombings in 1998 in Tanzania and Kenya, was, in fact, a member of the Green Berets – an elite section of the United States Army. The report contends that Mohammed recruited operatives who were “given paramilitary training in the New York Area” – and later connected to Osama bin Laden/Tim Osman – and escorted them abroad with “US assistance” to Afghanistan to engage in certain “Washington-approved” operations (Dixon).
It has been documented that the United States has used bin Laden and other recruits to “help” with foreign issues. The world is a complicated place – sometimes it helps to have a little help from the outside when dealing with certain situations. “There are times when any nation must hold its nose and shake hands with the devil for the long-term good of the planet” (Moran). Is that the reasoning behind choosing an “heir to a Saudi construction fortune” to be a highly secretive asset and given extraordinary military training? (Moran) Or, is the reasoning to help promote military and political agendas by getting help from the inside of the heart of the enemy? (Martineau).
So, it is true – the government of the United States does, in fact, have intimate ties to at least a few of the most notorious people of recent time. Why is this so unknown to most Americans? The answer could be any number of things. Blowback, by definition, is “the term to describe an agent, an operative, or an operation that has turned on its creators” (Moran). Is Tim Osman, former covert foreign CIA operative, a blowback? Many of his attacks on America have been reportedly funded by the Saudi construction fortune he sits on (Moran). This could be indicative of a falling out between bin Laden and his trainers. Reports state that bin Laden had a falling out with the United States during “Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait” when the country sided with Saudi Arabia, a country that had him stripped of his citizenry and had his in-country assets frozen (Dixon). Differences in opinion led to bin Laden becoming a “‘terrorist’ in US eyes” with a simultaneous call from bin Laden to overthrow any regimes backed by the United States and its allies (Dixon). If this were the case, this would certainly be information the government would not want to take credit for.
On the other hand, bin Laden may not be a blowback - at least not in the traditional sense of the term. Yes, there are consequences for training a known killer – both on American soil and abroad (Bergen and Reynolds). However, there are connections between bin Laden and current and former political leaders in America (“Sleeping With the Devil”). There are documented relationships between the terrorists we fight in the name of “Democracy” and the American government to this day (Sunjata; FBI, CIA Lied to 9/11 Commission on Bin Laden Ties). If bin Laden is a true CIA blowback would these relations still exist?
Proof that this was a blowback situation started to spring up for the United States beginning with attacks on American soil. In 1993, Afghan accomplices bombed the World Trade Center. The “participants” in the bombing were “linked to a Brooklyn-based- fund raising organ for the Afghan jihad” which was determined to be “al Qaeda’s de facto U.S. headquarters” (Bergen and Reynolds). Al Qaeda, as we have been told, is the organization headed up by Osama bin Laden. From this time on, bin Laden became public enemy number one, in a sense. Al Qaeda grew and began to expand their range, forces, and territory. It has been credited with some of the most atrocious terrorist attacks and treatment of mankind in recent history. Most notably, al Qaeda and their leader have been told to be the ones to blame for the undeniably horrific events that occurred in New York City, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. on the morning of September 11, 2001.
There are, however, interesting gaps in information we are given about September 11th and the events that led up to it. There has been an outcry from some about these gaps – some of which concern Mr. Bin Laden himself and contact he may or may not have had with the United States leading up to – and during – the hijackings and murder of thousands of innocent people. There is a report stating the CIA visited bin Laden in Dubai hospital two months prior to the attacks (Sampson). If bin Laden is our public enemy number one, why would he be in contact with the very country he so hated with such a passion? (Dixon). Was this an untraditional blowback situation? Was it a blowback situation at all? Information regarding this issue is all over the place and each piece of contradicts the next (FBI, CIA Lied to 9/11 Commission on Bin Laden Ties).
It is interesting to note that not only was the FBI reported to have received important information regarding September 11th prior to the attacks, but that important information regarding the 1993 World Trade Center attacks –also attributed to one of their own trainees – was in their hands prior to the disaster, as well (“Sleeping With the Devil”). According to former Congressman Peter Deutsch in a CNN special report, “Pro-western afghan officials…officially warned the U.S. government about [the attack] no fewer than four times. The last warning delivered just days before the  Trade Center attack.” (“Sleeping With the Devil”). If the information regarding the attacks – and the names of the actual attackers – were in the hands of government officials, why was nothing done to thwart the attacks on American soil? This is a question that may not be answered for years to come.
The United States military has been deployed overseas to fight terrorism for decades. An interesting fact is that we are fighting some of the very creatures we created. Our government heavily recruited Afghani and Arab militants to help in the war against the Soviet Union (Bergen and Reynolds). They armed these men with the weapons –physically, monetarily, and mentally – to help the American agenda knowing that there could be a potential issue with these recruits down the line (Dixon). The question is – do we still work with some of these men and women? Are we entrenched in a war we helped to create and subsequently (and continually) fund? The answer is simple: yes. There are ties between high-ranking terrorists that our soldiers die fighting each and every day and the government that sent those same men and women overseas to fight for “freedom” (Gane-McCalla; Sunjata).
The American public, however, is given a prettier picture than the truth – one that leaves out facts that do not make the leaders out to be such great guys, after all. Helping the “enemy” while lying straight to the men and women of America they supposedly represent – would be quite the “blowback” for the government. If American citizens knew, for example, that the CIA and other government organizations “poured at least US $6 billion (some estimates range as high as $20 billion) worth of arms, training, and funds to prop up [bin Laden’s] factions” they would probably be enraged and demand to know why taxpayer money was going to support a man and regime that went on to attack American soil and take tens of thousands of innocent American lives (Dixon).
This prettier picture known to most is masterfully crafted by the American government and mainstream media. It is an art to help promote counterterrorism in the United States – and make the government look good while doing so. The government will not voluntarily offer to share its dirty work, but would rather lay focus on the wrongdoings of its ally or former ally – at this point this is hard to tell where these organizations stand. As one journal notes, “if done well” this focus can “further induce friction and discredit the [Al-Qaeda] brand” (Byman). This can help to “throw sand in the gears” of any organization or person trying to tie America to the origin of foreign threats (Byman).
Bergen, Peter, and Alec Reynolds. "Blowback Revisited." Foreign Affairs (November/December 2005)
Byman, Daniel. "Buddies or Burdens? Understanding the Al Qaeda Relationship with Its Affiliate Organizations." Security Studies 23.3 (Summer 2014): 431-70.
Dixon, Norm. “How the CIA Created Osama Bin Laden” Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal (September 19, 2001).
“FBI, CIA Lied to 9/11 Commission on Bin Laden Ties.” World Socialist Web Site (March 1, 2014).
Gane-McCalla, Casey. "How The CIA Helped Create Osama Bin Laden." News One: For Black America (May 2, 2011)
Loewen, James W. Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. New York: New, 2008.
Martineau, Jean. “The CIA’s ‘Founding’ of Al Qaeda Documented.” Veterans Today (Originally published Jan 1998: reposted April 20, 2013).
Moran, Michael. "Bin Laden's, CIA Roots. How We Created Our Own Terror." Information Clearing House (Originally published by MSNBC on August 24, 1998).
Riedel, Bruce. "How We Enabled Al Qaeda." Newsweek 158.11 (September 12, 2011): 38-41.
Sunjata, Daniel. Loose Change 9/11. Microcinema International, 2009. DVD.
"Sleeping With the Devil: How U.S. and Saudi Backing of Al Qaeda Led to 9/11." Washington's Blog (September 5, 2012)