Newsweek magazine reported this week that two men interviewed by the magazine gave plausible accounts of having seen Osama bin Laden alive last winter, one as late as mid-February. One, who is described as a former Taliban official said bin Laden escaped Afghanistan on horseback last December under U.S. fire. This is just the latest in dozens of reports on the man George W Bush once vowed he would bring to justice "dead or alive." Since Bush’s frequent and public vows to kill or capture bin Laden, U.S. officials have backed off and now say they don’t know whether he is dead or alive. As the one year anniversary of September 11 approaches, serious questions have been raised about what some call the Bush administration’s failure to prevent the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
This comes as an explosive new book published originally in France has hit bookstores in America. The Book is called ??Forbidden Truth: US-Taliban Secret Oil Diplomacy and the Failed Hunt for Bin Laden. And it is revealing some extraordinary details of the extent to which US oil corporations influenced the Bush administration’s policies toward the Taliban regime prior to September 11th. It paints a detailed picture of the Bush administration’s secret negotiations with the Taliban government in the months and weeks before the attacks on the World Trade Center. It charges that under the influence of US oil companies the Bush administration blocked U.S. secret service investigations on terrorism. It tells the story of how the administration conducted secret negotiations with the Taliban to hand-over Osama bin Laden in exchange for political recognition and economic aid. The book says that Washington’s main aim in Afghanistan prior to September 11th was consolidating the Taliban regime, in order to obtain access to the oil and gas reserves in Central Asia.
The authors claim that before the September 11th attacks, Christina Rocca, the head of Asian Affairs in the US State Department, met the Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef in Islamabad on August 2. Rocca is a veteran of US involvement in Afghanistan. She was previously in charge of contacts with Islamist guerrilla groups at the CIA, where she oversaw the delivery of Stinger missiles to Afghan mujahideen fighting the Soviet occupation forces in the 1980s.
The book also reveals that the Taliban actually hired an American public relations’ expert for an image-making campaign in the US. What’s amazing is that the PR officer was a woman named Laila Helms, who is the niece of former CIA director Richard Helms. Helms is described as the Mata Hari of US-Taliban negotiations. The authors claim that she brought Sayed Rahmatullah Hashimi, an advisor to Mullah Omar, to Washington for five days in March 2001–after the Taliban had destroyed the ancient Buddhas of Bamiyan. Hashimi met the Directorate of Central Intelligence at the CIA, and the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the State Department.
The book also says that the Deputy Director of the FBI, John O’Neill, resigned in July in protest of the Bush administration’s obstruction of an investigation into alleged Taliban terrorist activities. O’Neill then became head of security at the World Trade Center. He died in the September 11th attacks.
In public, the Bush administration insists that Saudi Arabia is a trusted ally in the war against terrorism. But in private, the administration is hearing from critics who support radical changes in U.S. policy, including "liberating" the Saudi province that contains its oil fields.
Max Singer, a founder of the conservative Hudson Institute, said he suggested to Pentagon officials this week that the United States plan an independent "Muslim Republic of East Arabia" if the Saudi government does not stop funding schools that teach hatred of the United States.
A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Michael Humm, confirmed that Singer met with Andrew Marshall, a trusted adviser to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and director of the Office of Net Assessment, the Defense Department’s in-house think tank. But Humm said Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province was not discussed.
Analysts such as Singer are gaining a hearing because of administration concerns about some Saudi individuals’ support of terrorism and the Saudi government’s refusal to back a U.S. invasion of Iraq. The session with Singer followed a briefing to a Pentagon advisory board by a Rand Corp. analyst who identified Saudi Arabia as an enemy and suggested the seizure of Saudi oil fields and assets in the United States.
The Bush administration has already put troops and equipment in smaller Persian Gulf countries such as Qatar in the face of Saudi refusal to allow the 5,000 U.S. forces on its soil to attack Iraq. Analysts say the administration is also seeking to reduce the Saudi hold over world oil markets by encouraging more investment in Russia and envisioning Iraq after Saddam Hussein as a substitute "swing producer" — one that can adjust its production to stabilize world oil prices.
- Jean-Charles Brisard, who along with investigative journalist Guillaume Dasquie, is co-author of ??Forbidden Truth: US-Taliban Secret Oil Diplomacy And the Failed Hunt for Bin Laden. Prior to September 11th, he was hired by French Intelligence to investigate Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.