Target: Yugoslavia (A Look into the Future)

From the Archive: NATO’s 1999 war on Serbia showcased some of America’s then-cutting-edge strategies for waging electronic sabotage against an “enemy,” including hacking computers and controlling information, wrote Robert Parry in real time.

By Robert Parry (Originally published on May 4, 1999)

At center stage and behind the scenes, NATO’s war for Kosovo is pressing the edges of modern “information warfare.” Through the early phases of the conflict, NATO concentrated its attacks on command-and-control centers, power stations and even propaganda outlets. Those attacks included sophisticated electronic assaults on computers directing Serb air defenses and so-called “soft bombs” to short out electrical lines.

But there are new indications that President Bill Clinton might be opting for a far more expansive high-tech “info-war” assault to punish the Yugoslavian government, its leaders and the nation’s economy for atrocities in Kosovo.

In such an electronic offensive against Serbia, U.S. intelligence has the secret capability to go much further than sporadic battlefield computer hacking and causing black-outs. U.S. info-warriors have the capacity to plant viruses in civilian computer systems, alter bank records, and generally wreak havoc on Yugoslavia’s infrastructure, from disrupting electrical utilities to shutting down the phone system.

U.S. government hackers could target government bank accounts used for purchasing military supplies or the personal accounts of Yugoslav leaders. Funds could be deleted electronically to frustrate the prosecution of the war or to punish selected Yugoslav leaders for “ethnic cleansing” in Kosovo.

Intelligence sources say the U.S. forces in the Balkans were ill-prepared for this broader info-war when the NATO bombing started on March 24, 1999. One reason was the difficulty of gaining a NATO consensus for exotic tactics.

So initially, the info-war focused only on the battlefield. Time magazine caught a glimpse of the U.S. capability in its reporting on the Pentagon’s successes in “taking down the Serbian air defenses.” The Pentagon cited “attacks, jamming and corrupting data, which the allies have fed into Yugoslav computers through microwave transmissions.” [Time, April 26, 1999]

A Bag of Tricks

Later, expert teams were mobilized and tasked to the Yugoslav theater. Then, after NATO approved expanded operations, the U.S. military began pulling surprises out of its technological bag of tricks.

The first widely noted application of classified techno-warfare occurred on May 2, 1999. A “soft” bomb detonated over a Yugoslav electrical plant, spraying carbon filaments over the power lines and causing short-circuits that blacked out most of the country for seven hours.

“We have certain weapons we don’t talk about,” said Maj. Gen. Charles Wald. In line with info-war strategies, he noted that an electrical outage “confuses command and control, it disconnects and confuses computers.”

Government sources say that President Clinton now is poised to go further in using some of the Big Brother capabilities that are featured in Hollywood thrillers, such as “Enemy of the State,” though the techniques are rarely acknowledged officially.

The sources said Clinton has authorized secret intelligence operations against Yugoslavia, but those sources were unwilling to discuss any details about the high-tech strategies. Countries, such as Yugoslavia, with relatively primitive computers running their economy are considered especially vulnerable to info-war attacks, according to experts in these strategies.

Moral Issues

Some info-war advocates also argue that computer sabotage is a far more humane way to wage war than the current practice of dropping bombs and firing off missiles. These advocates note the obvious: that electronic attacks do not carry the immediate physical risk to civilians that explosives do.

But there are ethical concerns, too, about attacking a nation’s computer infrastructure and severely destabilizing its economy. Plus, there are fears that a computer virus or a similar tactic could backfire and infect computers far beyond Yugoslavia.

In a rare media report on the sensitive topic, The National Journal recently observed that “relatively modest questions [have been] raised here at home by the United States’ undoubted ability to wage offensive information warfare by hacking into foreign computers to pilfer secrets, move funds, corrupt data, and destroy software.

“When such activities are planned for a narrow, routine, peacetime spy operation, they are dubbed ‘special intelligence operations’ and must be approved by top officials, sometimes even by the president. But what if a more massive U.S. hacker attack was designed to wreck the computers that control an enemy’s banking system, electrical-power grid, or telephone network?” [National Journal, March 27, 1999]

While skirting clear confirmation of a U.S. offensive info-war capability, American officials occasionally do discuss info-war developments in the third person, as if the United States were not a participant in this new arms race.

On Feb. 2, 1999, for instance, CIA Director George Tenet stated that “several countries have or are developing the capability to attack an adversary’s computer systems.” He added that “developing a computer attack capability can be quite inexpensive and easily conceal-able: it requires little infrastructure, and the technology required is dual-use.”

Left unsaid in Tenet’s statement was that the U.S. government, with the world’s most powerful computers and the most sophisticated software designs, has led the way both in offensive info-war strategies and defensive countermeasures.

Other times, when info-war gets mentioned in the American news media, it is in the context of a real or potential threat from an “enemy” seeking to damage the United States and its allies.

On March 31, 1999, one week into NATO’s air war, NATO’s spokesman Jamie Shea prompted “info-war” alert headlines in U.S. newspapers when he complained that “some hackers in Belgrade” had caused “line saturation” at the official NATO Web site.

But NATO computer experts acknowledged that this low-grade harassment was more “spamming” than hacking and that no sensitive computer systems had been entered. [Washington Post, April 1, 1999]

Revolutionary Potential

The U.S. military demonstrated the revolutionary potential of information warfare during the Persian Gulf War in 1990-91. With air attacks and technical means, U.S. forces destroyed Saddam Hussein’s command-and-control structure even before concentrating on his tanks and troops.

Scattered journalistic reports at the time noted U.S. success in planting viruses in Iraqi military computer systems. Since the Gulf War, however, Washington apparently has applied info-war techniques sparingly.

Sources say covert info-war attacks have been limited to such national security concerns as disrupting the financial operations of some South American drug cartels.

In one case study of a CIA high-tech “dirty trick” from the mid-1990s, U.S. intelligence reportedly learned of a drug lord’s plans to bribe a South American government official. After the money was transferred, the spy agency accessed the bank records and remotely deleted the bribe.

Besides stopping the bribe, the money’s disappearance spread confusion within the cartel. The recriminations that followed — with the corrupt official and the drug lord complaining about the lost money — led eventually to the execution of a hapless bookkeeper, according to the story.

By the mid-1990s, the potential for info-war had become such a hot topic within the U.S. military that the Pentagon hired an outside consultant to summarize some of the important lessons in a chatty 13-page booklet called “Information Warfare for Dummies.”

The booklet was designed to clue in some of the Pentagon’s more unplugged officers “given our department’s unrelenting focus on the topic.” The booklet starts out by explaining the first objective for any lap-topped GI fighting a future Information War [IW]: “Destroy (or weaken) the bad guy’s system and protect your own.”

The manual separates the more traditional military methods from the new high-tech techniques. “Assault technologies for the Information Warrior can be divided into ‘hard kill,’ involving physical destruction, and ‘soft kill,’ where the goal is electronic or psychological disruption,” the primer states. “Their commonality lies in their emphatic focus on information — destroying it, corrupting it, and denying it.”

The primer notes that more traditional information warfare will target an enemy’s battlefield command-and-control structure to “decapitate” the fighters from their senior officers, thereby “causing panic and paralysis.” But the primer adds that “network penetrations” — or hacking — “represents a new and very high-tech form of warfighting.”

Indirectly, the booklet acknowledges secret U.S. capabilities in these areas. In an easy-to-read style, the manual describes these info-war tactics as “fairly ground-breaking stuff for our nation’s mud-sloggers. … Theft and the intentional manipulation of data are the product of devilish minds. … Pretty shady, those Army folks.”

Disruptive Strategies

The primer also gives some hints about the disruptive strategies in the U.S. arsenal. “Network penetrations” include “insertion of malicious code (viruses, worms, etc.), theft of information, manipulation of information, denial of service,” the primer says.

But the booklet also recognizes the taboo nature of the topic. “Due to the moral, ethical and legal questions raised by hacking, the military likes to keep a low profile on this issue,” the primer explains. “Specific DOD references to viral insertions are scarce” in public literature, the booklet observes.

The ethical questions include: “Is penetrating another nation’s computer system somehow ‘dirty’ and ‘wrong’ — something the U.S. military has no business doing? Are electronic attacks against a nation’s financial transaction computers too destabilizing and perhaps immoral?”

Despite the Pentagon’s nervousness about these tactics, the booklet notes that they do have advantages over other military operations. “The intrusions can be carried out remotely, transcending the boundaries of time and space,” the manual states. “They also offer the prospect of ‘plausible deniability’ or repudiation.”

The booklet indicates that U.S. intelligence has found it relatively easy to cover its tracks. “Due to the difficulty of tracing a network penetration to its source, it’s difficult for the adversary to prove that you are the one responsible for corrupting their system,” the primer says. “In fact, viral infections can be so subtle and insidious that the adversary may not even know that their systems have been attacked.”

The primer outlines other Buck-Rogers-type info-war weapons, such as electromagnetic pulse [EMP] bombs. “The high-energy pulse emitted by an EMP bomb can temporarily or permanently disable all electronics systems, including computers, for a radius of several kilometers,” the manual says.

“Put simply, EMP weaponry fries electronic circuitry. EMP weapons can be launched by airborne platforms or detonated inside information centers (banks, corporate headquarters, telephone exchanges, military command posts). The explosion needed to trigger the electromagnetic pulse apparently is minor compared to a conventional blast, theoretically resulting in fewer human casualties.”

The manual stresses, too, info-war’s potential for high-quality “psyops and deception” to confuse and demoralize a targeted population. “Future applications of psyops may include realistic computer simulations and ‘morphed’ imagery broadcasts of bogus news events,” the booklet explains.

Though deception has always been part of warfare, the booklet argues that “it is the sheer qualitative differences offered by today’s information technologies that makes IW potentially revolutionary.”

Some military theoreticians call the info-war capabilities “a Military-Techonogical Revolution,” a phrase reserved for major breakthroughs such as the discovery of gun powder or the development of strategic bombing.

But the manual observes some dangers. The info-war attacks, especially viral infections, could backfire and harm U.S. interests.

Recruiting Hackers

The manual wonders, too, whether the Army will have success in recruiting “hacker-types and ‘nerds’.” Then, there is “the $64 question: will the hackers ‘go bad’ and given the fighter-jock mentality of the U.S. military, will the ‘nerd track’ be a career killer?”

More recent internal papers indicate that in the past year, the Pentagon has begun concentrating on how to maintain its dominance in the info-war field.

Rand’s National Defense Research Institute drafted a report entitled “Strategic Information Warfare Rising” and suggested to the Pentagon several scenarios for managing and sharing “strategic information warfare” [SIW] capabilities with allies.

One scenario holds that the United States “overwhelmingly dominates the SIW warfare” with “the world’s best offensive SIW tools and techniques, capable of penetrating any other country’s SIW defenses.” The United States could then pick which allies would come under its defensive umbrella.

Another scenario foresees the United States leading five to 10 countries with advanced SIW capabilities, but with other nations lacking the technical skills to break into “the exclusivity of the club.”

Other scenarios stress defensive rather than offensive capacities. But an underlying theme of the report is the unquestioned dominance of the United States in these fields. [Intelligence Newsletter, Jan. 28, 1999]

Other insights into U.S. info-war capabilities can be found in papers of military intelligence specialists from other nations. In articles in China’s Liberation Army Daily, Cols. Wang Baocun and Li Fei expressed alarm about the West’s impressive lead in sophisticated information warfare.

In an apparent reference to the U.S. military and its allies, the authors wrote, “some countries are now considering the organization and establishment of computer virus warfare platoons.” [Liberation Army Daily, June 13 & 20, 1995]

It is not clear whether such “platoons” formally exist in the U.S. Army — though obviously the specialty does. It also is too early to tell whether such information warriors will play a significant role in the war for Kosovo.

But, depending how aggressive President Clinton chooses to be, the Balkan war could turn into an important testing ground for these new offensive tactics — the conflict could become what the president might call a warfare bridge to the 21st Century.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

 




Television Wars (Crossing a Line in Serbia)

From the Archive: President Bill Clinton’s bombardment of Serbia in 1999 marked a grim turn in the practice of “information warfare,” with a lethal NATO attack targeting a Serb TV station which criticized the war, observed war correspondent Don North.

By Don North (Originally published on May 4, 1999)

On April 23, 1999, at 2:06 a.m. Belgrade time, as NATO was preparing for its 50th anniversary celebration in Washington D.C., two cruise missiles struck the Radio Televizija Srbija (SRT) headquarters in Belgrade.

About 150 civilian journalists, producers, technicians and janitors were working the nightshift when the missiles hit with what NATO called “surgical precision.”

The building’s four stories collapsed to the ground, sandwiching offices, television equipment, transmitters and people into a pile of smoldering rubble only 15 feet high.

TV screens throughout Serbia went blank in the middle of a Houston, Texas, TV station’s interview with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Firemen rushed to the scene to remove the injured. One technician trapped by tons of concrete could be extracted only by the amputation of both legs.

As the smoke and dust settled, at least 16 people were confirmed dead, another 19 injured and others were missing and feared buried in the rubble. But NATO’s premeditated attack on a civilian media target did little to drive SRT off the air.

By daylight, alternate transmitters had been activated and Serb TV was back on the air again. That morning, a blond woman was reading the morning news and calmly placed the devastation of SRT several minutes down the lineup of top news stories.

Few foreign journalists had believed that NATO actually would bomb SRT. But the Serbs did — and were prepared.

The Clinton administration and NATO made no apologies for the civilian dead. “Serb TV is as much a part of Milosevic’s murder machine as his military,” said Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon. “The media is one of the pillars of Milosevic’s power machine. It is right up there with security forces and the military.”

A Quiet Acceptance

The reaction to the SRT bombing was muted within many U.S. news organizations. Elsewhere, however, journalists and humanitarian organizations, including Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders, condemned the strike against SRT.

Notable was a terse letter to NATO’s Secretary General Javier Solana from the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists: “NATO’s decision to target civilian broadcast facilities not only increases the danger for reporters now working in Yugoslavia but permanently jeopardizes all journalists as noncombatants in international conflicts as provided for in the Geneva Conventions. It represents an apparent change in NATO policy only days after your spokesman Jamie Shea offered assurances that civilian targets would be avoided.”

From Belgrade, the Association of Independent Electronic Media in Yugoslavia, a leading voice of Serbian anti-Milosevic sentiment, also condemned the attack. “History has shown that no form of repression, particularly the organized and premeditated murder of journalists, can prevent the flow of information, nor can it prevent the public from choosing its own sources of information,” the groups said.

The New York Times quoted a senior Serb journalist saying he thought NATO had crossed an ambiguous moral line: “The people who were there were just doing their jobs. They have no influence on the content or on Milosevic. I hate Serb television. [But] we can differentiate between big lies and little ones.” [NYT, April 24, 1999]

Yugoslav officials said NATO was trying to destroy the free marketplace of ideas and insure that just one side’s “propaganda” could be disseminated.

Offending NATO

There is no doubt that SRT was a propaganda organ for Milosevic and his regime. Since the NATO bombing campaign began on March 24, 1999, SRT also had deeply offended NATO’s sensibilities with its graphics.

The NATO symbol was regularly shown turning into a Nazi swastika and Madeleine Albright grew Dracula teeth in front of burning buildings.

While highlighting the suffering from NATO air attacks, SRT ignored the tens of thousands of Albanian refugees fleeing Kosovo with their tales of rape and execution. SRT repeatedly showed video clips of old scenes: Milosevic meeting Serbian church leaders, Russian envoys and the Kosovo Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova.

But the station also broadcast to the world dramatic images of destruction caused by the NATO bombing and gave credible estimates of civilian casualties. SRT scooped the world press when it disclosed that a NATO aircraft had killed scores of Kosovar refugees in a bombing attack.

After SRT broadcast the scenes of the civilian carnage, NATO flip-flopped through the next 24-hour news cycle. NATO’s first response was: “We didn’t do it, the Serbs did it.” That changed to “we did bomb the column, but the Serbs killed the refugees.” Finally, NATO accepted fault and apologized.

Still, NATO’s glib cockney spokesman, Jamie Shea, pushed the edges of Orwellian doublespeak when he declared that the pilot had “dropped his bombs in good faith.”

Later, NATO played an audio-tape supposedly of the pilot in question. But it turned out that the recorded pilot was involved in a completely different operation. The real tape was withheld.

The SRT bombing, however, was no mistake. Internally, NATO had been debating for weeks whether or not to destroy Serb television.

Shea even suggested that the network might be spared if it would begin broadcasting at least six hours of Western news reports reflecting NATO’s views. Ironically, SRT had been broadcasting many of NATO’s pronouncements, albeit focusing on the misstatements and contradictions.

Still, though the bombing of SRT may have been aimed at the Milosevic propaganda machine, it also set back American and other foreign TV efforts to document the siege of Belgrade. Most of the video broadcast on international TV showing the results of bombing raids was obtained from SRT.

Controlling Information

Even before the SRT attack, NATO’s struggle to control the information flow had riled many leading Western media outlets.

On April 9, 1999, editors and executives of seven major U.S. news organizations — including The New York TimesThe Washington Post and CNN — protested to Defense Secretary William Cohen and urged him to loosen controls on information about the air strikes.

“Detailed information about the allied operation is vital to an informed public discussion of this matter of national interest,” the letter said. “On many days, the state-controlled Yugoslav media has been more specific about NATO targets than the United States or NATO.”

Historically, of course, the U.S. military has always been uncomfortable with American journalists reporting from behind enemy lines. Many senior U.S. officers are veterans of the Vietnam War and believe that American journalists should tailor their reporting to support the cause.

In that vein, Harrison Salisbury, the famous war correspondent for The New York Times was hailed for his reporting from the siege of Leningrad in World War II, when the Soviet Union was allied with the United States.

But when Salisbury became the first correspondent from a major U.S. newspaper to report from Hanoi during the Vietnam War, he was denounced as disloyal. In December 1966, Salisbury wrote, “Whatever the explanation, one can see United States planes are dropping an enormous weight of explosives on purely civilian targets.” His work earned him the nickname “Ho Chi Salisbury” at the Pentagon.

CNN’s Peter Arnett smuggled a satellite phone into Baghdad and reported live during the Persian Gulf War. His stories included moving first-person accounts of civilian targets destroyed by U.S. air attacks. In Washington, Arnett was subjected to insults as traitorous “Baghdad Pete.”

Sparing Americans

Some similar tensions — though not as severe — have surfaced in the current war for Kosovo. In the case of the SRT attack, however, U.S. officials were careful not to worsen relations with the American news media by accidentally killing U.S. correspondents.

In mid-April, about a week before the cruise missiles were launched, the White House reportedly tipped off the CNN brass about the impending attack of SRT headquarters. CNN bosses called Belgrade and ordered CNN’s people out of the SRT building where they had been preparing TV reports for a month.

Other reporters, however, did not get the word, or chose not to believe it. The London Independent’s Robert Fisk, an intrepid Western reporter, said he was invited to the doomed building for coffee and orange juice by Goran Matic, a Serb government official. Matic was convinced that the TV studios were next on NATO’s target list.

“Yet, oddly, we didn’t take him seriously,” Fisk reported. “Even when the air raid siren sounded, I stayed for another coffee. … Surely NATO wouldn’t waste its bombs on this tiresome station with its third-rate propaganda and old movies, let alone kill its staff. Once you kill people because you don’t like what they say, you change the rules of war.”

The content of SRT broadcasts also was more complicated than NATO has asserted.

Besides serving as a Serb government voice, SRT was a center of cultural identity for the Serb nation. With the destruction of SRT headquarters, thousands of tapes and films have now been crushed to rubble, videos that once helped tell the Serbs and their children who they are — and provide some small comfort in their difficult lives.

Among the tapes smashed and burned was a program that I produced called “Servus, Adieu, Shalom,” a documentary tracing the long history of Viennese Jews, their persecution, their suffering in the Holocaust and their community’s resurgence in recent years.

The film was my donation to the UNESCO video bank. It was translated into the Serb language and distributed by UNESCO to SRT and other Balkan TV stations strapped for funds to buy quality programs.

My tape was being used in Belgrade as part of international efforts to encourage the region’s ethnic groups to overcome their historic hatreds.

There is also the question whether NATO’s briefings, aired live by CNN and other Western all-news networks, constitute propaganda as dubious as what appeared on SRT. On April 20, 1999, for instance, Shea reported that ethnic Albanian boys were forced to give blood for Serb casualties.

Though highly inflammatory, the allegation was made without attribution and without verifiable details. On April 22, Serbian Health Minister Leposava Milicevic denied Shea’s report, and Shea did not respond.

The mix of NATO propaganda and the selection of Serb targets also may represent a broader psychological warfare campaign against the Serb people. Gen. Wesley Clark, the American NATO commander, announced that NATO was seeking targets to “see to it that the morale of the people in Serbia continues to erode.”

Since the April 23 bombing, SRT transmissions have jumped from one site to another in hopes of avoiding the next bombs. Now, high on NATO’s target list is Politico Television, another outlet of Milosevic’s power structure in downtown Belgrade.

The London Guardian interviewed a 29-year-old tape editor, Vena Ducic, who was working the nightshift there along with about 100 other employees. “I am terrified,” Ducic said. “But I have two boys, so if I give up my job what do we do tomorrow?”

Beyond breaking the Serbs’ will, however, the attack on SRT was a blow to the world’s ability to view unfettered information, even when it is interspersed with propaganda.

Paul Scott Mowrer, a correspondent for the Chicago Daily News during World War I, understood the need for a maximum flow of news at a time when human lives are in the balance. He wrote: “In this nation of ours, the final political decisions rest with the people. And the people, so that they may make up their minds, must be given the facts, even in time of war, or perhaps, especially in time of war.”

Don North is a veteran war correspondent who covered the Vietnam War and many other conflicts around the world. He is the author of a new book, Inappropriate Conduct,  the story of a World War II correspondent whose career was crushed by the intrigue he uncovered.




Which Side of the ‘War on Terror’?

Many Americans scratched their heads at the prospect of going to war in Syria when U.S. intervention might tip the balance in favor of jihadists with links to al-Qaeda. But it would not be the first time that U.S. military meddling has advanced the interests of radical Islamists, recalls William Blum.

By William Blum

On Sept. 26, the Washington Post reported, “U.S. hopes of winning more influence over Syria’s divided rebel movement faded Wednesday after 11 of the biggest armed factions repudiated the Western-backed political opposition coalition and announced the formation of an alliance dedicated to creating an Islamist state. The al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, designated a terrorist organization by the United States, is the lead signatory of the new group.”

Pity the poor American who wants to be a good citizen, wants to understand the world and his country’s role in it, wants to believe in the War on Terrorism, wants to believe that his government seeks to do good What is he to make of all this?

For about two years, his dear American government has been supporting the same anti-government side as the jihadists in the Syrian civil war; not total, all-out support, but enough military hardware, logistics support, intelligence information, international political, diplomatic and propaganda assistance (including the crucial alleged-chemical-weapons story), to keep the jihadists in the ball game.

Washington and its main Mideast allies in the conflict Turkey, Jordan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have not impeded the movement to Syria of jihadists coming to join the rebels, recruited from the ranks of Sunni extremist veterans of the wars in Chechnya, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, while Qatar and the Saudis have supplied the rebels with weapons, most likely bought in large measure from the United States, as well as lots of what they have lots of money.

This widespread international support has been provided despite the many atrocities carried out by the jihadists truck and car suicide bombings (with numerous civilian casualties), planting roadside bombs à la Iraq, gruesome massacres of Christians and Kurds, grotesque beheadings and other dissections of victims’ bodies (most charming of all: a Youtube video of a rebel leader cutting out an organ from the chest of a victim and biting into it as it drips with blood).

All this barbarity piled on top of a greater absurdity these Western-backed, anti-government forces are often engaged in battle with other Western-backed, anti-government forces, non-jihadist. It has become increasingly difficult to sell this war to the American public as one of pro-democracy “moderates” locked in a good-guy-versus-bad-guy struggle with an evil dictator, although in actuality the United States has fought on the same side as al-Qaeda on repeated occasions before Syria. Here’s a brief survey:

Afghanistan, 1980-early 1990s: In support of the Islamic Moujahedeen (“holy warriors”), the CIA orchestrated a war against the Afghan government and their Soviet allies, pouring in several billions of dollars of arms and extensive military training; hitting up Middle-Eastern countries for donations, notably Saudi Arabia which gave hundreds of millions of dollars in aid each year; pressuring and bribing Pakistan to rent out its country as a military staging area and sanctuary.

It worked. And out of the victorious Moujahedeen came al-Qaeda.

Bosnia, 1992-5: On Nov. 1, 2001, less than two months after the 9/11 attacks, the Wall Street Journal declared:

“It is safe to say that the birth of al-Qaeda as a force on the world stage can be traced directly back to 1992, when the Bosnian Muslim government of Alija Izetbegovic issued a passport in their Vienna embassy to Osama bin Laden. For the past 10 years, the most senior leaders of al-Qaeda have visited the Balkans, including bin Laden himself on three occasions between 1994 and 1996. The Egyptian surgeon turned terrorist leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri has operated terrorist training camps, weapons of mass destruction factories and money-laundering and drug-trading networks throughout Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Turkey and Bosnia. This has gone on for a decade.”

A few months later, The Guardian reported on “the full story of the secret alliance between the Pentagon and radical Islamist groups from the Middle East designed to assist the Bosnian Muslims some of the same groups that the Pentagon is now fighting in ‘the war against terrorism’.”

In 1994 and 1995 US/NATO forces carried out bombing campaigns over Bosnia aimed at damaging the military capability of the Serbs and enhancing that of the Bosnian Muslims. In the decade-long civil wars in the Balkans, the Serbs, regarded by Washington as the “the last communist government in Europe,” were always the main enemy.

Kosovo, 1998-99: Kosovo, overwhelmingly Muslim, was a province of Serbia, the main republic of the former Yugoslavia. In 1998, Kosovo separatists The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) began an armed conflict with Belgrade to split Kosovo from Serbia. The KLA was considered a terrorist organization by the U.S., the UK and France for years, with numerous reports of the KLA having contact with al-Qaeda, getting arms from them, having its militants trained in al-Qaeda camps in Pakistan, and even having members of al-Qaeda in KLA ranks fighting against the Serbs. [RT TV (Moscow), May 4, 2012]

However, when U.S.-NATO forces began military action against the Serbs the KLA was taken off the U.S. terrorist list, it “received official US-NATO arms and training support” [Wall Street Journal, Nov. 1, 2001], and the 1999 U.S.-NATO bombing campaign eventually focused on driving Serbian forces from Kosovo.

In 2008 Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia, an independence so illegitimate and artificial that the majority of the world’s nations still have not recognized it. But the United States was the first to do so, the very next day, thus affirming the unilateral declaration of independence of a part of another country’s territory.

The KLA have been known for their trafficking in women, heroin, and human body parts (sic). The United States has naturally been pushing for Kosovo’s membership in NATO and the European Union.

Nota bene: In 1992 the Bosnian Muslims, Croats, and Serbs reached agreement in Lisbon for a unified state. The continuation of a peaceful multi-ethnic Bosnia seemed assured. But the United States sabotaged the agreement. [New York Times, June 17, 1993, buried at the very end of the article on an inside page]

Libya, 2011: The U.S. and NATO to the rescue again. For more than six months, almost daily missile attacks against the government and forces of Muammar Gaddafi as assorted Middle East jihadists assembled in Libya and battled the government on the ground. The predictable outcome came to be the jihadists now in control of parts of the country and fighting for the remaining parts.

The wartime allies showed their gratitude to Washington by assassinating the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, presumably CIA, in the city of Benghazi.

Caucasus (Russia), mid-2000s to present: The National Endowment for Democracy and Freedom House have for many years been the leading American “non-government” institutions tasked with destabilizing, if not overthrowing, foreign governments which refuse to be subservient to the desires of U.S. foreign policy.

Both NGOs have backed militants in the Russian Caucasus area, one that has seen more than its share of terror stretching back to the Chechnyan actions of the 1990s. [Sibel Edmonds’ Boiling Frogs Post, “Barbarians at the Gate: Terrorism, the US, and the Subversion of Russia”, Aug. 30, 2012]

William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others. [This article originally appeared at the Anti-Empire Report,  http://williamblum.org/ .]