Part I of Our Interview with Michael Scheuer
Posted by Joshua Price on September 4, 2007
Price: We are joined by Michael Scheuer, a 22 year veteran of the CIA, former chief of the CIA’s Bin Laden Unit, and New York Times bestselling author of Imperial Hubris and Through Our Enemies’ Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam, and the Future of America.
Mr. Scheuer thank you for taking time to visit with The Conservative Beacon. I want to begin by asking where you believe bin Laden is at the moment. Do you believe he is on the Pakistani side of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border?
Schuerer: Well first of all, I think Americans have a mistaken idea of what that border is. There is no border. It is a fairly homogeneous tribal area. It was a border that was drawn by the British in, I think, 1890. And there is no government control on the border-either from Pakistan or from Afghanistan. And so he is in that area, whether he is on the Pakistan or Afghanistan side, I don’t think it makes much difference. No one can reach in there to get him at the moment, so I really think we have a poor impression of how easy it is to get him.
Price: I’m very interested in the position General Musharraf appears to be in inside Pakistan. What type of position is he in there?
Scheuer: He is in a very awkward position. First, because almost nothing he’s done since 9/11 has been in the national interest of Pakistan. He had no trouble with the Taliban. In fact, Pakistan was far better off when the Taliban was in power. He had no real quarrel with Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda. And most everything he’s done since 9/11 to help us-and it has been substantial-he has allowed us to increase our presence in his country; he’s given us overflight rights; he has helped us arrest a score of senior al-Qaeda people in his cities; and for the first time in the history of Pakistan, he sent his conventional military into the border area on three different occasions over the last three years. He brought the country to the brink of civil war last year, and basically his army got beaten three times. So, Musharraf, really, I don’t think we have a better ally in the War on Terrorism than Musharraf. He’s done more for us than we had any right to expect.
The problem for us really, is that so many of our leaders still operate as if this is the Cold War; That American national interests are the national interests of every country worldwide. And that happens not to be the case in terms of Pakistan. And at the same time, as Musharraf is helping us, our military forces are exercising with the Indians-who are Pakistan’s mortal enemy-we’re assisting the Indians in nuclear technology and development, and now we’re trying to re-insert the clepto-maniacal Mrs. Bhutto back in the name of democracy into Pakistan. So I really think the leader-Musharraf-must really wonder every morning whose side the Americans are really on.
Price: Do you believe he (Musharraf) is doing enough in what he has control over in Pakistan to help us?
Scheuer: I think he is. I think he’s doing all he can. I also think he’s probably decided in his own mind, and the generals around him, that the Americans are not serious about Afghanistan. They’re not going to press it to victory, and he’s got to prepare for the time after we’re gone, which means eventually having some kind of an Islamist government back in Kabul.
Ultimately, at the end of the day, we can complain about our allies and proxies all we want, but 9/11 was an attack on the United States; it wasn’t an attack on Western Civilization or the survival of Israel, or anything else like that. It was an act of war against America. And what we’ve proven so far is that we’re not serious about defending ourselves.
Price: I heard you say something on The Savage Nation recently that struck me as being absolutely true. You said, and I’m paraphrasing, that we have not gone into Afghanistan with enough force-that we have not fought the bloodiest war necessary to win. Could you elaborate on that?
Scheuer: Yeah, I believe that somehow we have-probably because we’ve been subject to liberal governments in this country for most of the period since the end of the Cold War, at least in the Congress-we have really forgotten how to fight wars. With our concern for collateral damage, we are, in the world today, an anomaly. And historically we’re an anomaly. War, at the end of the day, comes down to killing the other side until they decide they’ve had enough, or there’s none of them left.
In Afghanistan, we surely should have put in four or five hundred thousand men and closed the borders, and then ransacked that country until we had eliminated the enemy-no matter what the cost was to the enemy or to us-and then come home. Ralph Peters, in his work, talks often about “punitive expedition,” and I think that’s exactly what we should have done in Afghanistan. What we wanted to have people say, “Geez, these Americans are a little crazy if you stir them up.” Unfortunately we didn’t do that.
We also ignored history. The only intervention in Afghanistan that has ever worked was just that kind of “punitive expedition”. The British went in 1878 I think, and went from Kabul to Kandahar and laid waist, and then left the country. And Afghanistan was peaceful for about 30 years. But the British, the Soviets when they tried to occupy the country-as far back as Alexander in the fourth century before Christ-they were all defeated when they tried to occupy Afghanistan, and I’m afraid that’s what’s happening to us.
Price: What do you say to those who believe we didn’t send in a large number of troops because we were trying to learn from the failure of the Soviets in the 1980s?
Scheuer: Well the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in an attempt to subjugate it without being provoked. To me it’s a completely opposite occasion. They were the invaders; they were the conquerors. The Afghans had not bothered the Soviet Union; the Soviets waged a war of aggression. We were fighting in response to what we experienced from our bases in Afghanistan.
I think the first George Bush really set the tenor for the madness we’re involved in with the ballet of international politics. Why people believed the Afghans would be less offended by a few thousand Americans than a few hundred thousand Americans is really just a construct of intellectuals playing with reality. The Afghans are xenophobic; they dislike foreigners-and besides, who cares what they like?
At the end of the day, we lost three thousand people, untold billions of dollars, and hundreds of thousands of jobs, and we were attacked on our own soil: Who the hell cares what the Afghans like? What we needed to do was teach them that if they supported the kind of people that attacked us again, it would probably be a very damaging decision for them to make.
Price: You touched on something earlier that I want to go back to. There is a fundamental misunderstanding of why we are under attack by radical Islam. It’s not the fact that we were are a freedom loving people, or our democratic form of government. It’s really about our positions in Arab countries, specifically Saudi Arabia. Could you expand this misperception?
Scheuer: Sure. I think one of the greatest hoaxes that most American politicians have been able to pull over on their citizens in the past twenty-five years, especially since Bin Laden declared war on us in 1996, is two-fold:
First, they continue to say that the motivation for these people is hatred for our women in the workplace, or primary elections, or liberty and personal freedoms, for democracy. There’s absolutely no evidence of that. Most polling around the Muslim world shows that Muslims admire the way we live. Even when you read al-Qaeda’s statements they don’t like our system, but they’re not out to destroy it. It’s foolish guys like Steve Emerson and Daniel Pipes, and the rest of them, who raise this boogeyman-and the neocons-who raise this boogeyman of them wanting to wipe out Western Civilization and the way we live. There’s no support for that in the Muslim world-very, very little. Virtually no one is going to blow themselves up because Iowans vote early for president every four years.
On the other hand, the motivation of our enemy really derives from the fact that we are intervening, or our foreign policy is being viewed as intervention, in the Islamic world.
Please check back on Wednesday for Part II of our interview with 22 year CIA veteran, former chief of the Bin Laden Unit, and New York Times bestseller Michael Scheuer.