Dear Sen. McCain: No, the Taliban Prisoners didn’t Carry out 9/11; but you Supported Muslim Radicals

By Juan Cole

Sen. John McCain on Sunday maintained that President Obama, in releasing the five officials who had served in the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in the 1990s and until 2001, had released people who were “hard core al-Qaeda who were responsible for 9/11.”

I am shocked and dismayed that the knowledgeable Sen. McCain should confuse the Taliban and al-Qaeda and should blame Afghans for 9/11. The Taliban regime did host al-Qaeda and they were allies within Afghanistan against the Northern Alliance. The Taliban did also allow al-Qaeda to train fighters at training camps, who were known to have an interest in carrying out attacks in Indian Kashmir, Uzbekistan, etc.

However, I know of no documentary evidence that the officials of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan helped plan, or even knew about, the 9/11 attacks on the US until they occurred. No Afghans were directly involved in those attacks or in the money trail for funding them. Taliban officials maintain that they were already disturbed by Bin Laden’s actions before 9/11 and made contacts with the US to find a way of surrendering him. That allegation may go too far, but that there were tensions between the Afghans and the Arabs in Afghanistan is well known, and that a country with a return address would not want to be involved in a direct attack on the US is perfectly plausible.

Not only is McCain making assertions of a serious sort for which there is no evidence, he is covering up his own past as a supporter of Muslim radicals in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the 1980s, radicals allied with al-Qaeda.

I wrote some time ago of McCain’s record in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the 1980s:

“McCain appears never to have met a rightwing dictator he didn’t like. McCain defends the dictator. Here is what McCain said about Musharraf late last December:

“Prior to Musharraf, Pakistan was a failed state,” McCain said. “They had corrupt governments and they would rotate back and forth and there was corruption, and Musharraf basically restored order. So you’re going to hear a lot of criticism about Musharraf that he hasn’t done everything we wanted him to do, but he did agree to step down as head of the military and he did get the elections.”

So in the building confrontation between democratic parties and the military dictator who trashed the rule of law, which would McCain support? What kind of relations will a president McCain have with the new prime minister of Pakistan if McCain is on record supporting the dictatorship that preceded?

The potted history McCain offers is wrong, and it points to the deep problems of authoritarianism and admiration for dictatorship in McCain’s political philosophy. Pakistan was not a failed state before 1999, and in fact most of its political problems derived from repeated military coups such as the one spearheaded by Musharraf, as well as from the US government giving the Pakistani military gobs of money and enormous stockpiles of weapons, and winking at its nuclear program. In fact by “US government” above, we really could just substitute “Senator John McCain.”

Pakistan’s constitution prescribes a parliamentary government. When the military has allowed Pakistanis to go to the polls, they have elected moderate, centrist political parties such as the Pakistan People’s Party and the Muslim League. Those parties have longstanding grass roots, cadres, canvassers, and loyal constituencies.

Bhutto was elected in 1971 as head of the PPP.

The PPP was overthrown in 1977 by Gen. Zia ul-Haq, a fundamentalist general who had his boss, PM Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto hanged on trumped-up charges in 1979 and who kept promising new elections that never came. Gen. Zia sponsored the Muslim fundamentalist Mujahidin that Ronald Reagan called “freedom fighters,” and which included the early al-Qaeda. He also put enormous resources into making an atomic bomb. Nowadays a leader of that description would be part of Bush’s axis of evil. But Reagan cozied up to Zia like a cat to catnip.

And McCain went out to cozy up to the military dictator himself, in February of 1984. McCain supported the Reagan jihad, cynically deploying radical Muslim extremists like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar against leftist secularists in Afghanistan.

Here is what McCain was up to when the radical Muslim extremist Gen. Zia was in power in Pakistan, according to UPI, Feb. 17, 1984:

‘Senator John Tower, R-Texas, and Rep. John McCain, R-Ariz., arrived in the Pakistani capital Friday evening for the start of a three-day visit.

During their stay, the legislators will meet Pakistan’s military president, General Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, and other top officials. . .

While in Pakistan, they will also visit an Afghan refugee tent village on the outskirts of Peshawar, near the border with Soviet-occupied Afghanistan.

On arrival at Islamabad airport, they were received by U.S. Ambassador Deane Hinton and Pakistani Defense Secretary Aftab Ahmad Khan.’

Now McCain is the big expert on problem solving in Pakistan. McCain is the Pied Piper of Hamelin; he’ll be glad to get rid of your rat problem, but at the price of making your children disappear.

So lest we take any holidays from history, I have some questions for John McCain. Did you or did you not know about Gen. Zia’s nuclear weapons program? Did you wink at it? If so doesn’t that make you a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction to a radical Muslim extremist regime?

And what about this AP article from 1985:

‘ Rep. Tom Loeffler, R-Tex., presented the “Freedom Fighter of the Year” award to Afghan resistance leader Wali Khan on behalf of the U.S. Council for World Freedom on Oct. 3.

Loeffler called on Congress and the American people to “broaden support” for freedom fighters in Afghanistan, reminding listeners of America’s own fight for freedom.

Congress has agreed to give $15 million in covert assistance to the Afghan cause, the first time the legislators have “stepped forward” with aid since the beginning of the conflict, according to Loeffler. . .

Accepting the award on behalf of Khan was Pir Syed Ahmed Gailani, head of the National Islamic Front of Afghanistan, for which Khan commands 20,000 resistance fighters.

Other congressmen who joined Loeffler included Rep. Eldon Rudd and Rep. John McCain, both Arizona Republicans. ‘

So how much support did John McCain give to the precursors of the Taliban in Afghanistan? To the budding al-Qaeda?

Despite what McCain says about military rule bringing stability, the opposite is the case. Never mind the dirty war in Afghanistan that led to the displacement abroad of 5 million Afghans, 3 million of them to Pakistan, and which helped destabilize Pakistan. Never mind the filling of Pakistan with machine guns and drug smuggling to support McCain’s al-Qaeda “freedom fighters,” which created a million heroin addicts in Pakistan. Karachi spiralled into virtual civil war in the mid to late 1980s under Zia. There were massive Shiite demonstrations against unfair Sunni fundamentalist policies of Zia. A Movement for the Restoration of Democracy began mobilizing political parties. Zia put Benazir Bhutto of the Pakistan People’s Party under arbitrary house arrest.

Gen. Zia finally exited the scene in a summer, 1988, airplane crash. But he left behind 16 martial law amendments, among them a provision for the president, who is not popularly elected, to arbitrarily dismiss parliament and the prime minister. . . “

15 Responses

    • “Professor Cole, more Americans should hear this.” Indeed. Perhaps by writing a few letters to Editors of major newspapers, etc. And to the Senator himself.

  1. John McCain is the U. S. Senate’s equivalent of political commentator Bill Kristol–he’s never correct about anything and has the memory of a goldfish.

  2. You can see why Prof. Cole is not invited as a guest on any of the Sunday Morning talk shows. I would like to have seen McCain’s facial expression as Juan point by point exposed little Johnny’s usual tirade against anything Obama, the man who soundly kicked his a##, does.

    McCian’s comment is so typical of the warmongers who invoke the deadliest day in American history to inflame their rhetoric.

    • He is also a chip off the old block, which explains a lot – Israel’s Attack on the Liberty, Revisited
      by Jeffrey St. Clair “The inquiry was headed by Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd. Kidd didn’t have a free hand. He’d been instructed by Vice-Admiral McCain to limit the damage to the Pentagon and to protect the reputation of Israel.” link to

  3. I wonder, John McCain was held in capivity for 7 year in Vietnam. I would love to know what or how many North Vietnamese soldiers was traded for his release.

  4. Some U.S. politicians seem to have short memories. The Taliban was mainly created by Pakistan, with full U.S. support. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States had her eye on oil and gas resources in Central Asian republics and was determined to get to them through Afghanistan, thus bypassing both Iran and Russia. In October 1994, Pakistani Interior Minister General Naseerullah Babar, trying to show that Pakistan was a potential outlet for Central Asian trade and the export of its gas and oil deposits, made a highly publicized trip across Afghanistan, via Kandahar and Heart, and then organized a trade convoy to cover the same route. This convoy was protected by the Taliban, and it was the first time the world heard about the Taliban, which was armed and trained by Pakistan’s ISI, with massive Saudi financial support.

    On 27 September 1996, the Taliban conquered Kabul. As soon as they reached Kabul, they dragged the former President Najibullah and his brother Shahpur Ahmadzai from the UN headquarters and hanged them in public view without any trial. Some 50,000 people fled Kabul after the city fell to the Taliban. Three days before the fall of Kabul, a Taliban aircraft was hijacked by its own crew and flown to an Afghan airfield. The pilot allegedly said that he was defecting to draw attention to Pakistan’s involvement in Afghan affairs. Seven Pakistani officers were on the aircraft. They were captured by the government in Kabul and were put on public view in front of the international media.

    On October 2, 1996, shortly after the Taliban came to power, the American Oil Company UNOCOL in a statement said that it regarded the Taliban’s new dominance in Afghanistan as a ‘positive development.’ It argued that a single government there would bring stability and improve the prospects of proceeding with plans to build oil and gas pipelines through Afghanistan. In July 1997, a two billion-dollar agreement was reached between UNOCOL, Delta Oil of Saudi Arabia and the Pakistani and Turkmen governments, which provided for the construction of a gas pipeline connecting Turkmenistan to Pakistan, through Afghanistan, to commence at the end of 1998.

    On April 17, 1998, the US ambassador to the United Nations, Bill Richardson, visited Kabul at the head of a delegation, including the US ambassador in Pakistan, and met with the chairman of the Caretaker Council, Alhaj Mola Mohammad Rabbani. Richardson was quoted by the Taliban’s Bakhtar Information Agency, as saying: “The US considers Afghanistan as its friend and respects Islam and Islamic values and wants to have close relations with Islam. The US completely defends peace, the independence and territorial integrity of Afghanistan and wants to resolve all issues related to America peacefully, and the US has never spared any efforts in this.” Senator McCain seems to have forgotten all these details about U.S.’s good old friends, the Taliban.

    • “Some U.S. politicians seem to have short memories.”

      More likely, they know they are lying but are counting on the notoriously short memories of the American public. That is, assuming they knew anything of the topic in the first place.

  5. Let’s remember another April Foolishness by that a___ole, here’s a link to some nice pix of McCain taking his Sunday stroll through a market area of Baghdad on April 1, 2007, with some commentary on his assertion that the area was so “secure” that you could just stroll and shop. At least if you had a brigade of GIs with armored equipment and air cover and your own personally fitted body armor and point and trail and flank troops and snipers on the rooftops on your route. And you could get the shop owners to, you know, “give” you stuff, little souvenirs like rugs and what have you, for “free.” link to

    And there’s this: link to

    And this: link to

    Then there’s this other episode of palling around with actual terrorists, lampooned by Jon Stewart: link to

    “Mission Effing Accomplished,” eh, McCain?

    From observing people I have known, there’s a kind of divide one can cross, where once you do some bad stuff and get away with it, you are freed from those sad constraints of decency and honest that burden most of the rest of us. A wonderfully and terribly liberating feeling, apparently. So many of our rulers, probably including The Only President We’ve Currently Got, have experienced it…

  6. “I am shocked and dismayed that the KNOWLEDGEABLE Sen. McCain should confuse the Taliban and al-Qaeda and should blame Afghans for 9/11.”

    McCain isn’t confused, he’s LYING.

    McCain is also very knowledgeable about Georgia.

    August, 2008…”I know I speak for every American when I say TODAY WE ARE ALL GEORGIANS.” McCain knew the State Dept had warned his “Misha” not to fall into Putin’s trap by attacking. Afterward, McCain blamed Putin even though he was just reacting to Georgia’s aggression.

  7. I’ve given up on Sen. McCain. Actually, I’ve never gotten over the fact we are both Vietnam veterans. Though I was just a medical corpsman, an significant cog in the vast , well-oiled machinery of war. Have you seen Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times? That scene in which he becomes entangled in the gears and then circles up, down and around the gears and then the machine spits him out? That’s my tour of duty. And having been a POW who finally won release after behind-the-scenes negotiations, one would think he would have at least a bit of compassion for Bowe Bergdahl, his mother and father and their ordeal. If you’ve been a civilian all your life and find Sen. McCain rather bizarre, well, you are just reacting normally in my opinion. What’s really odd about him is that he’s still trying to be very hardcore and it’s my way or the highway when it comes to this swap deal, but he’s just another victim of war to me.

    • “What’s really odd about him is that he’s still trying to be very hardcore and it’s my way or the highway when it comes to this swap deal, but he’s just another victim of war to me.”

      That is the life-style he was born into and raised to conform to. It will be his modus operandum for the rest of his life.

Comments are closed.