Friday, April 20, 2012

Once an Eagle

It's said that in history events repeat themselves; the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.
So I have absolutely no fucking idea what else to call this; this is the "Welcome Message" from the bipartisan "Unmanned Systems Caucus".,
The wonderful thing about this is all the RightSpeak we're seeing here; "We are this industry's voice on Capitol Hill" (After all, constituents are last week...), and - my personal favorite - "This is an exciting and existing technology that will...improve our lives as public acceptance progresses."
Now don't get me wrong; I've been where I wanted me some CAS, and RPVs, UAVs, drones - call 'em what you will - are a hell of a cheap, affordable way to put airframes overhead most quick smart. I'll never say a bad word about 'em...
EXCEPT where a bunch of damn Congresscritters turn on their knees to become industry shills, for a technology that is, no matter how much ancillary use people like Mapquest and the U.S. Forest Service Service get out of it, highly susceptible to misuse as a surveillance device and a way of waging aerial war on everyone from muj to Mexicans. Eisenhower once warned us about the unholy axis of military and industry - but he was warned not to include in his text the most crucial and venal axle in that "complex" - the damn Congress. And yet, here it is, in it's most ugly form. Sweet Jesus.
But as public acceptance progresses...meaning that as we get more and more accustomed to people watching us - whether from aerial platforms or from everywhere else - and we become more comfortable with a "security state"...will we care? Or will we simply be too cautious to care out loud, lest something overhead overhear us..?
So in the Libyan fable it is told That once an eagle, stricken with a dart, Said, when he saw the fashion of the shaft, "With our own feathers, not by others' hands, Are we now smitten." ~ Aeschylus


  1. "We are this industry's voice on Capitol Hill"

    Thank you US Supreme Count and Citizens United for granting corporations personhood.

  2. THAT's the thing that infuriates me about this, Al. The UAV/RPV issue is a whole 'nother thing; we as a nation should really be discussing the degree to which we want to entrench the use of surveillance platforms in setting other than foreign wars, and how we employ them even there.

    But the whole business of setting up a joint commission in Congress to openly advocate for an industry? I mean, I know that Congresscritters are bought and sold like Colombian whores, but it used to reassure me that between the end of the Gilded Age and recently they at least seemed embarrassed enough about it to pretend they weren't. This suggests that they either don't care enough to hide anymore or really believe that there's enough "public acceptance" of Congressional whoring that they can stop hiding.

    We know that executive and judicial types; soldiers, cops, drug warriors, judges, and presidents all love these platforms for what they provide in terms of military, intelligence, and law-enforcement information. They cannot be counted on to seriously question the trade-off between those capabilities and civil liberties. The Congress as the elected representatives of the People are the last real repository of skepticism against these increasing "security" measures. If this commission succeeds in its mission, it will have powerful implications on the fate of those pesky things like rights of privacy and freedom from random searches...

  3. Chief-

    When we moved here, the local pharmacist was scandalized that TRICARE only reimbursed me 75%. He said he would give me a larger bill. I told him that such was illegal, to which he replied, "Bush won't send the Army to arrest me. Paros has no oil!" Of course, he was kidding and bills me the published price for my meds.

    One of the reasons I like living on Paros is the lack of oil. Idiots like the drone lobby won't spy on me.

    That said, I weep for my country and the path it is traipsing down. Both in terms of corporatism and invasion of privacy. The "We" in "We, the People" has become the corporations and folks with big money. We are getting the best Congress Criters money can buy. Let the Market prevail!

  4. "Sweet Jesus" . . .

    Amen brother!

    Just in case ya'll haven't read it . . .

  5. Sorry Chief,

    I read the part about the congressional unmanned caucus and thought it was a fine idea. Then I thought about how hard it was to listen to congress critters even without high pitched voices and reconsidered.

  6. Ael: Like I said in the post - for me this isn't about UAVs. As a grunt I loves me some UAVs - they offer me the probability that I can get CAS without worrying that some adrenaline-hyped jet jockey will pickle off 500 kilos of HE on top of me because he's too busy negotiating the terrain to check our relative positions. The things are terrific for both military and intelligence operations.

    So I WANT my soldiers, cops, and spooks to be enthusiastic about them and figuring out ways to use them to make life difficult for various badmashes, both foreign and domestic.

    BUT - I also want someone on the civilian side there to push back; to ask the hard questions of the tradeoffs between safety and liberty, between "security" and civil rights. If it has no other job, that SHOULD be the work of the Congress.

    And this commission is just another reminder how far circa 2012 that institution has moved from being the advocate and defender of the civil, economic, and political liberties of those of us not part of the two-yacht stratum or party to the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex.

    I have NO fear that the UAV/RPV manufacturers, dealers, parts suppliers, and conractors won't "be heard" on Capitol Hill. What I fear - and what this commission slaps me in the face with - is that their voices will be so loud, and so insistent, that they will drown out almost everyone else. And any debater can tell you - when one of the parties is allowed unlimited time and volume to shout, the outcome is nearly always a poor one.

  7. Looking at the list of Congressional Caucuses (PDF File), it seems like this one is in good company. There is, for example, a "Congressional C-130 Modernization Caucus" and one for "long-range strike" and, actually, one for every major weapons program, plus all the major business interests.

    My own representative, Rep. Bill Posey, is the chair for the "Congressional Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus" as well as the "Motorsports Caucus." Not sure what the difference is and it's kind of strange since motorsports isn't big in this area and Daytona is a district north of here.

    I'm a bit disappointed that there's a bourbon and wine caucus, but no beer caucus. At least there is a brewers caucus, that's close enough I suppose.

    My favorite, though, has to be the "Fix Congress Now" caucus. I honestly wish them the best of luck.


    That Rolling Stone piece is the latest in a long line of bizarre articles on UAV's. I don't really have the time or inclination for a point-by-point breakdown, but fortunately someone's already done a lot of the heavy lifting.

    I'll just add that the title of the article and this line is astoundingly contrary to reality:

    The immediacy and secrecy of drones make it easier than ever for leaders to unleash America's military might – and harder than ever to evaluate the consequences of such clandestine attacks.

    That's a narrative I hear often, but to me it's plainly false. What, for instance, is clandestine or secret about the CIA drone attacks? They are usually reported in the press within a day or two of the strike along with details like who was killed and who the target was. That's not even covert.

    And it's not like you can get plausible deniability with drones like you can with other methods of killing someone. Car bombs are hard to attribute with certainty - drones are easily attributable. With a drone strike, there is no question who is doing the killing and therefore who is responsible. If the method used to kill the target so plainly points to one particular nation, how is that clandestine? So, the idea that drones let the US go to war in secret is laughable.

    The second claim is just as specious. It's harder than ever to evaluate the consequences of these "clandestine" attacks? Maybe Mr. Hastings missed all the articles, analysis and debate on the al Awlaki killing, who knows. I anyone who was interested in the topic had plenty of opportunity to evaluate the consequences - certainly much more opportunity than one would get with an actual clandestine operation.

    So, I really don't understand the continued hyperventilation about drones, especially by members of the media who ought to know better. Most articles give an exaggerated idea of what drones might do in ideal circumstances against dumb adversaries and yet fail to provide much information on limitations. I don't get why the reporting is so consistently wrong in one particular direction. Oh well, don't really care that much to get too upset about it.

  8. Andy-

    I thought the RS piece brought up a lot of interesting questions.

    As to your link, the author starts on the wrong track early:

    "Of course, I’m not going to deny that there are a myriad of legal issues surrounding the use of targeted killings abroad, particularly targeted killings against American citizens. But these are legal issues that have virtually nothing to do with the method of killing employed . . ."

    Well, how are these American citizens in fact meeting their maker? Through drone strikes. Why? Because the nature of the weapon system and how it is employed allows the government to argue that there is no other way to terminate these "dangerous elements". Even though no case has ever been presented against al Awlaki, let alone his teenage son. All that remains highly classified national security information . . .

    The problem is the policy, not the weapon system, which as I have argued before fits into roughly the same category of the gunboat and submarine. Hastings clearly understands this. So the more information we have about the policy and its obvious drawbacks the better for an informed discussion. To me this all goes back to the simple fact that we grossly overestimate the utility and scope of organized violence to achieve coherent strategic goals, in fact our actions only make our strategic situation worse.

    As to "hyperventilating", that has been going on in Washington since 9/11, it's called the Global War on Terror or whatever new label Obama has stuck on that monstrosity.

  9. Seydlitz,

    Well, how are these American citizens in fact meeting their maker? Through drone strikes. Why? Because the nature of the weapon system and how it is employed allows the government to argue that there is no other way to terminate these "dangerous elements".

    Are drones so unique and powerful that in their absence the US would not engage in a policy of trying to kill AQ leaders, American or otherwise? Well, we tried to kill UBL before we had armed drones. We actually did kill UBL with commandos. We killed Zarqawi in Iraq with an F-16. We've killed AQ leaders in Somalia with AC-130's and Helicopters and commandos and drones. Clearly it's possible to have a policy of assassinating enemy terrorist leaders that don't require drone technology.

    Even though no case has ever been presented against al Awlaki, let alone his teenage son. All that remains highly classified national security information . . .

    Ok, but what does that have to do with drones?

    The problem is the policy, not the weapon system, which as I have argued before fits into roughly the same category of the gunboat and submarine. Hastings clearly understands this.

    It doesn't seem like Hastings understands it to me. He implies that the policy of targeted assassination is the result of drone capabilities - that drones give policymakers power they didn't have before. He also says they give policymakers the power "to wage war while claiming we're not at war." Again, the history of CIA covert action shows this is not the case. Regardless, policymakers aren't claiming we're not at war - quite the opposite (it's called the GWOT after all) - they're claiming we are at war and are using that to justify these extrajudicial killings. Hastings has it completely wrong.

    To me this all goes back to the simple fact that we grossly overestimate the utility and scope of organized violence to achieve coherent strategic goals, in fact our actions only make our strategic situation worse.

    No disagreement. It doesn't help that Hastings and others "sex-up" the capabilities of drones and wrongly argue that drones give unique power to Policymakers. Worse, the focus on drones distracts from the important policy issues.

    As to "hyperventilating", that has been going on in Washington since 9/11

    No disagreement there either, though adding drone hyperventilation doesn't exactly help matters. Not that any of this is new. The same things were being said about cruise missiles, "smart" bombs and stealth aircraft 20 years ago.

  10. Andy-

    Thanks for your thoughtful response. It's always a pleasure.

    "Are drones so unique and powerful that in their absence the US would not engage in a policy of trying to kill AQ leaders, American or otherwise?"

    You'd have to ask President Obama that question. They're definitely "sexy" and easy to sell to the various political interests involved, which warrants the level of IO towards the public. You're right, there's stuff on drones everywhere, but what's the image-based narrative? How are drones seen by the public, as just another weapon to kill "AQ leaders"?

    Is this the same "AQ" as the one whose aims we're promoting in Syria at present? Have promoted in Iraq in the past?

    Hastings is a journalist, and by today's standards a fairly good one, exemplary even . . . He knows this is mostly about politics which is what he's reporting about. His history's off, but then so is most people's, mostly those with nothing to say.

    What did you think about Col Lang's comments as to the Taliban being ready to turn over OBL in 2001? Interesting eh?

  11. Seydlitz,

    The article wasn't all bad, but it's the kind of stuff I pointed out that annoys me. I don't know much about Hastings, but I don't like the passages that read like quippy sound bites out of a Clancy novel. It just so happens those are the passages that get quoted a lot and are the passages that have the most accuracy problems. Maybe it's a Rolling Stone stylistic thing, I don't know.

    Regarding the Taliban, Col Lang said this:

    I know several of the people they [The Taliban] contacted.

    and then,

    The State Department negotiated for years when there was nothing much to be lost by the Taliban for protecting UBL. When it was clear that we were coming, the offer from OFFICIAL America was gone. The men who were contacted were the men who had hel[p]ed the Afghan Mujagideen ( not the Taliban) defeat the USSR.

    Obviously I don't know, but I see no reason not to take him at his word that an offer was made through the channels described. The problem is, a lot of offers were made that turned out to be bullshit. So, the critical question, it seems to me, is not whether the Taliban actually made an offer, but whether or not the offer was genuine and not more of the same old BS. Given the Taliban's history of deception I think few would simply take a Taliban offer at face value. So, the Taliban would have to do something to show that this time, things were different. But what? I'm skeptical it was a confirmed, genuine offer because I'm not sure how the Taliban could demonstrate they were serious this time without actually, you know, delivering UBL or at least one of his cronies. What, if anything, did the Taliban do to show their sincerity? I'm trying to think of something that's consistent with the historical public record and I'm coming up empty. Any ideas? Absent something, the simple reality is that after lying to someone for years it becomes very hard to convince them that you're actually telling the truth this time.

  12. Andy: I think what caught my eye was the offhand little thing about how these platforms will "improve our lives as public acceptance progresses."

    That seems like a pretty piss-poor position to start from. I doubt that the Congressional brewers caucus' mission statement includes anything about "expanding the number and diversity of beer drinkers as public acceptance for imbibing progresses.", and I doubt that a little extra lager will be particularly useful for domestic surveillance, other than is getting certain individuals to talk more freely about their mis-steps.

    The overall "problem" here is, I think, pretty much what you and seydlitz have talked it down to - that these devices are particularly useful for applying force at a very-much-below-the-horizon level of public involvement. Say what you will about how these are reported, they are NOT reported the same way as they would be if live U.S. troopers were involved, whether pilots or SF teams. So to a greater extent than a manned platform, they allow for cabinet war to be prosecuted further and farther than otherwise...

    Add to that the issues regarding target identification and the consequent troubles with dead civilians (which add up to interfering with the wider geopolitical objective of "stability" in the places we're employing them) and it seems that actively questioning wider employment, as well as the means and methods for their use, would be a more useful task for these Congresscritters than shilling for more of them with broader capabilities...

    But, then, the entire notion of questioning the utility of ANY sort of lethal force, anywhere, by anyone, seems to be so passe'...

  13. Chief,

    When I read this post my first thought was, well I wonder what other crazy caucus' there are and it turns out there are quite a few.

    Not sure what is meant exactly by the "public acceptance part" but I think it likely has to do with aviation safety concerns. Currently, unmanned aircraft are generally not allowed in FAA controlled airspace because they are considered, with some justification, to be safety hazards. I think that will change over time as the technology improves.

    So to a greater extent than a manned platform, they allow for cabinet war to be prosecuted further and farther than otherwise...

    That might be the case eventually, but it's not now. Current drones are slow, vulnerable against all but the most backward adversaries, can't fly in all weather, etc. The imagery sensor is kinda of like looking through a soda straw, so they usually require other assets or intel to know where to look. Of course there is also the obvious limitations of any aerial surveillance platform.

    The main advantages they have over manned platforms are a long loiter time and the simple fact they aren't manned.

    Over time, though, they will get better and more capable.

    Add to that the issues regarding target identification and the consequent troubles with dead civilians

    That's not a problem unique to drones, unfortunately.

    As for Congress, I guess I'm cynical, but nothing much seems to surprise me anymore.

  14. I believe I have a certain fondess for Code Pink.

    A well-known peace group, CODEPINK, the legal advocacy organizations, Reprieve and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and others will be gathering in Washington, DC, this weekend for the first international summit on drones. The summit will bring together lawyers, journalists, activists, human rights advocates and robotics technology experts, who will all be speaking about several issues that stem from the development, evolution and proliferation of drone technology. Personal stories from Pakistani drone strike victims are also going to be shared.

    The summit, taking place at Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church, will happen over two days. Ethical and political issues of drone use and targeted killings, legality and transparency of drone use and targeted killings, victims, compensation and accountability, domestic drones, surveillance and privacy concerns and an international convention on drone use will be discussed. On Saturday, Nation journalist Jeremy Scahill will speak during the closing session. In the opening session, Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK, Clive Stafford Smith, the director of Reprieve and Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer who sued the US on behalf of drone strike victims, will speak.

    The State Department originally refused to grant Akbar a visa to attend the conference. Like numerous scholars and scientists that had been blocked from entering the United States by the Bush administration, it appeared he was going to be kept from coming to the US because of his political views on US drone attacks. He had submitted a visa request to attend a Columbia Law conference just over a year ago and received no response on whether he was approved or not. At the last minute, on Monday, a meeting was held with US Embassy officials, the US government relented and a visa was granted.

    New president, same old president. I thought crap like denying entrance into the country to people having something to say about US foreign policy was done away with under the new improved Obama.

    Silly me.


  15. Andy-

    I think you miss Col. Lang's point. The Taliban were offering because they were up against the wall, the context made the offer very credible. But just as in Iraq, Bush couldn't take yes for an answer. Besides, as I have argued before the Afghan war was necessary to setup what followed. It all goes back to the impulse to see violence as the means to all ends, but the problem is that ends are by nature unlimited, especially when they involve "security", so the means will never be enough to attain them.

    It used to be that US policy makers understood the limits of violence, but that no longer seems to be the case. The "sexiness" of using drones by policy makers is just another indication of that . . .

  16. Spencer Ackerman on Drones, Drone Warfare and "Switchblades". Maybe Andy can tell us more about Switchblades?


  17. Seydlitz,

    Thanks for your response. Let's look again at what happened in the weeks after 9/11.

    After 9/11 but before the bombing started in October 7th the administration demanded that UBL and his lieutenants be turned over to the US and that AQ bases closed. The Taliban refused. About the time the first bombs were dropping the Taliban offered to try UBL in Afghanistan. About two weeks into the bombing campaign, the Taliban said they would be willing to negotiate handing him over to a neutral third country if the bombing stopped and if the US provided evidence of his guilt. At that point it's doubtful the Taliban had any kind of control over UBL.

    In my view the Taliban were given an opportunity to demonstrate some measure of good faith or at least willingness to consider handing UBL over in the weeks before the war started. IMO that was their time to be "up against the wall" while still able extricate themselves from a situation of their own making - not late October when they were beginning to rout.

    They couldn't or wouldn't. The Taliban and opportunity to do something, anything, to indicate that this time they were the US wasn't going to fuck around with cruise missile strikes. Did they not realize the situation they were in? Even if they didn't comply with the administration's demands to turn over UBL they could have at least tried to partly meet at least some portion of the spirit of the demands, if for no other reason than to cause political division in the US. But they did nothing. Could the Taliban not see what was coming? Did the Taliban really think that after the 1998 bombings and the Cole and finally 9/11 that this time would be different?

    "Bush couldn't take yes for an answer." That line makes no sense to me in the context of what happened at the time. Yes to what, exactly?


    Spencer was doing pretty good until he said,

    "It's an undeclared war that you don't read about."

    Most of the rest is pretty good though.

    Switchblade is something that blurs the lines a little bit, but I'd consider it a guided munition and not a drone. It's like a Javelin that can be used non-line of sight. Google for more info.

  18. Ugh, something happened to that comment and lost part of it. Hopefully it's clear enough.

  19. Andy: As to "hyperventilating", that has been going on in Washington since 9/11, it's called the Global War on Terror or whatever new label Obama has stuck on that monstrosity.

    What leaves me ill at ease is their objective to promote drone surveillance domestically. Couple that with the current lengthy detention based on "suspicion of terrorist involvement", and I see the potential of significant abuse. Tell me that millions will be spent on drones and there will not be pressure to show "RESULTS", and I have a bridge in Brooklyn I can sell you at a great discount. The NYPD has targeted the Muslim population inside and outside their jurisdiction for surveillance in the name of "counter-terrorism". Drones can target the population at large. But I expect that "public acceptance" will be generated by making it look as if the drones will only target "bad guys", because they are so high-tech.

  20. Andy-

    Col. Lang didn't provide a date for the Taliban offer. When "they knew we were coming" could have been when we started bombing, which would have been 7 October.

    As the report indicates, the Taliban did make various offers, that is contrary to your view that they failed "to partly meet at least some portion of the spirit of the demands, if for no other reason than to cause political division in the US. But they did nothing."

    Bush made the demand, refused any compromise and simply barreled ahead, overthrowing the Taliban government and taking on this open-ended commitment which we are still dealing with. OBL got away, much due to our own incompetence, and Bush quickly shifted his entire focus to Iraq which had nothing to do with 9/11 . . .

    But the precedent had been set, we had overthrown a foreign state and taken on an open-ended commitment to which we were ill-suited, ill-prepared and our leadership disinterested . . .

  21. Seydlitz,

    As the report indicates, the Taliban did make various offers, that is contrary to your view

    Well, I did say they made offers. The problem is that the offers were ones they made before and not followed through on. The offers were also pretty weak considering the circumstances. If your back is against the wall, do you recycle previous offers? You criticize Bush for "refusing" to compromise but that assumes there was a reasonable offer that he should have taken. What was that offer? You previously said that Bush couldn't take yes for an answer. Yes to what exactly?

    I don't understand why you seem to give the Taliban the benefit of the doubt on this or why you think it's unreasonable to demand that another government turn over a person who was under criminal indictment, the subject to a UNSC resolution demanding same and responsible for the deaths of thousands of people.

    Also, consider Pakistan's response to 9/11 as an alternative. They understood the situation and, from what I gather, tried to convince the Taliban to get on board to no avail.

    I don't really have more to say on this point, so I think we'll have to just agree to disagree.

    However, I do agree with you about the open-ended commitment. This is one of the things you all on this forum helped change my mind on.

  22. Just listened to an NPR interview with Peter Bergen on his new book, "Manhunt." I bought the book and will hopefully read it soon.

    He said some interesting things in the interview. First, he said that UBL and the Taliban didn't believe the US would actually invade. They expected cruise missiles or, at most, air strikes. That may explain why the Taliban acted the way they did.

    The other interesting thing is that he suggested UBL didn't flee Tora Bora as generally reported. Instead, he said that UBL swung around from Tora Bora, headed back toward Jalalabad, then up to Kunar province and then east to Pakistan.

    It will be interesting to see what evidence he presents for these two scenarios.

  23. Andy-

    I don't think Bush wanted to negotiate, I think he wanted a quick and relatively cheap military success to help set the stage for his coming war with Iraq. Richard Clarke was amazed how in September 2001 the focus shifted quickly from bin Laden in Afghanistan to Saddam in Iraq. What was the big hurry exactly? Why didn't we deal with this as something other than an "act of war" since Al Qaida represented no political community? Why was it seen as necessary to overthrown the Taliban government?

    This view puts it nicely:

    "The Rumsfeld doctrine, in military terms, stresses reliance on high technology and air power and downplays large ground forces. Its corollaries are that America operates best when unencumbered by international institutions, that state-building is a distraction, and that force can accomplish political objectives with few long-term repercussions.

    Afghanistan was the laboratory for this new notion of warfare and national power. Rumsfeld's Pentagon wanted to demonstrate that small groups of ground forces combined with overwhelming air power could win wars – in theory, a useful approach because it limits American casualties and costs. . ."

    As to Pakistan, do you really think they are a good example of how to deal with bin Laden and the Taliban?

  24. Seydlitz,

    I didn't say Pakistan was a good example of how to deal with bin Laden and the Taliban. I pointed out (or tried to point out) that Pakistan did a 180, albeit temporarily, on a number of fronts. They realized that 9/11 had changed the game and reacted accordingly. They had a choice between continued support for the Taliban or support for the US. The Taliban had the same choice. The difference is that Taliban behavior didn't change at all, even as they were beginning to rout.

  25. Andy-

    Did Pakistan really do a 180? Or did they lead us to believe that they had in order to make the best of a bad situation?

    Our interests and theirs in Afghanistan and through out the region seem to be quite different. The US seems to think it can essentially have an alliance with both India and Pakistan at the same time, but I don't see how that will work. The Taliban are seemingly on their way back to power and Pakistan will help them along the way.

    This may be of interest . . .

  26. Seydlitz,

    Temporarily, yes, I think they did do a 180. They directly supported the Taliban and then after 9/11 they let us use their bases to get a foothold in Afghanistan in order to destroy the Taliban. They didn't want to let the Taliban go but they realized The Taliban had gone too far and continued support was untenable.

    I agree that our interests and those of Pakistan don't mesh and that's been a long term problem. But the Pakistani's could see after 9/11 that business as usual was going to change. And they made big changes in the short term while trying to preserve their interests over the long term. By contrast, what did the Taliban do?

  27. Andy-

    The Taliban held on, remained players in Afghan politics. In 2002, who would have predicted their return to power?

    No American would have . . .

    And yet, now, at present . . . ?

  28. Seydlitz,

    I'm part-way through Bergen's book and he has some new things to say on this topic.

    First, he says the Massoud assassination a few days before 9/11 was intended to "inoculate" UBL against angering Mullah Omar for the 9/11 attacks. He knows they will cause trouble for the Taliban so he essentially gave them Massoud's head - a guy the Taliban had been trying to get for a long time.

    Second, there were additional attempts to strike a deal that I wasn't aware of. I can't quote the whole passage here, but to summarize, Robert Grenier, the CIA station chief in Pakistan at the time, met with the Taliban #2, Mullah Osmani, in Quetta Pakistan. In the first meeting, in late September, Grenier told Mullah Osmani, "The Americans are coming. You need to do something to dodge this bullet." Osmani replied, "I agree. We have to do something. What's your idea?" In reply, Grenier asked that the Taliban give UBL's location and essentially look the other way and let American forces snatch UBL. Grenier said, "It doesn't get any more simple. You just give us what we need to do it. Step aside; the man disappears. You could claim complete ignorance." Mullah Osmani said he would go back to Mullah Omar and discuss it. The offer was apparently rejected.

    Osmani and Grenier met again October 2nd and Grenier presented another proposal, this one quite a bit different. Essentially, he offered to help Osmani to stage a coup and overthrow Mullah Omar with the quid pro quo that he would hand UBL over afterward. Grenier suggested an announcement along the lines of: "We are taking necessary action to save the Taliban movement because the Arabs have failed to meet their obligations as good guest and have perpetrated violence. The Arabs are no longer welcome and should immediately depart the country."

    In the end Osmani decided against it. It sounds a bit crazy, but the book describes some of the background and the CIA was trying to exploit fissures within the Taliban and between the Taliban and AQ.

    There's also more information on UBL's movements and actions before he arrived at Tora Bora. He fled Kandahar for Kabul shortly after the air campaign started and stayed there almost until Kabul fell. He wrote letters to Mullah Omar, and met with Taliban military leaders to discuss strategy. At some point he made the video in which he denied responsibility for the 9/11 attacks. This lie was to protect Mullah Omar and the Taliban who were still publicly claiming there was no evidence that UBL was involved. Meanwhile UBL was writing letters to Mullah Omar bragging about the effects of the attack on the US.

    All in all Bergen paints a picture where UBL is the Taliban's cliche' crazy uncle - a definite liability and even embarrassment at times, but someone they had no intention of selling out to anyone....

  29. Andy-

    Interesting in terms of details, but had not the really important decisions already been made? The Rumsfeld Doctrine needed a success to help set the stage for what was to follow . . .

  30. Seydlitz,

    Bergen doesn't really address that in the book - at least so far (I'm at the point where UBL is heading to Tora Bora).

    It may be true that Bush was bound and determined to invade no matter what - I don't really know one way or the other and I haven't seen anything that would definitely decide the issue.

    My point in all this, however, is simply to dispute the claim that the Taliban were ready to turn UBL over and that this was an opportunity the Bush administration missed. I still think there is very little to support the claim that the Taliban were willing to do anything of the sort.

    And the thing is, I don't think that's incompatible with your view about Bush's intentions. It's entirely possible that Bush was set on invasion no matter what while the Taliban were set on never giving up UBL.