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An alliance of the countries of Serbia, Bulgaria, and Montenegro, later to include Greece, demands that the Ottomans immediately grant autonomy to Christians. Serbia then invades Kosova and crosses northern Albania to the coast, Montenegro invades the same region, and Bulgaria invades Macedonia and part of eastern Albania. According to author Paulin Kola, the war is based on a policy called Nacertanije (meaning “draft”), created in the mid-1800s by Serbian foreign minister Ilija Garasanin. Nacertanije advocates annexing Kosova and northern Albania to Greater Serbia, connecting Serbia to the Adriatic. A Serb soldier describes a speech by his commander once they reached Kosova: “‘Brothers, my children, my sons!’ His voice breaks. ‘This place on which we stand is the graveyard of our glory. We bow to the shadows of fallen ancestors and pray God for the salvation of their souls.’ His voice gives out and tears steam down his cheeks and gray beard and fall to the ground. He actually shakes from some kind on inner pain and excitement.… We are the generation which will realize the centuries-old dream of the whole nation: that we with the sword will regain the freedom that was lost with the sword.” The war results in a heavy toll among Kosovar civilians. About 25,000 Albanians are killed, and only three survive the war in the town of Ferizaj. Subsequently, an international commission established by the Carnegie Endowment will say in 1914 that the civilian toll was an intentional policy. Before the war, Serbia denied that Albanians could be independent and dehumanized them, according to Kola. Former Prime Minister Vladan Djordjevic said Albanians were thin, short, and that their Roma and Phoenician traits made him think of primates who slept hanging in trees. After occupation, there are cases of Muslims being forced to convert to Orthodox Christianity, and in one case 500 Albanians are shot for their refusal. [Kola, 2003, pp. 11-12]
The outbreak of World War I leads to the formation of a new Albanian government backed by Serbia. After Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, Serbia conquered Kosova and much of Albania from Austrian and German forces, as Albanian ruler Wilhelm zu Wied refused Austria-Hungary’s request that Albania join the war on the side of the Central Powers. Wied keeps Albania neutral, but leaves, without abdicating, in September when Austria-Hungary ends his remuneration. Therefore, the Serbs make former Albanian minister Esad Pasha Toptani the ruler of Albania. Following the revolt that spring, Esad lost his ministerial post for an alleged conspiracy and went to Italy and then the Serb capital at Nis. He makes a lone pact with Serb prime minister Nikola Pasic to create a pro-Serbia Albania. Their plan is to establish a customs union, joint military efforts, and joint diplomacy. Funds were given to Esad so influential Albanians could assemble to form an Albanian government, which would then give Serbia rights to create a rail link through Albania to the Adriatic. Allegedly Esad keeps the money for himself. [Kola, 2003, pp. 16-17]
A secret treaty is signed in London between the Entente—comprising Britain, France, and Russia—and Italy, giving Italy the port of Vlora, the nearby island of Sazan (Saseno), and whatever area Italy deems necessary to hold them. If Italy captures Trentin, Istria, Trieste, Dalmatia, and some islands in the Adriatic, France, Russia, and Britain’s plan to split Albania between Greece, Montenegro, and Serbia will go ahead. The border between Greece and Serbia would be west of Lake Ohri. Part of Albania would remain, but its foreign policy would be under Italy’s control. The four signatories are the same ambassadors who signed the treaty that created the Albanian state in 1913. The treaty will be made public by the Bolsheviks in 1917. [Vickers, 1998, pp. 89; Kola, 2003, pp. 17]
Italy decides to support Albania after all, since there is already an Albanian state under Austria-Hungary, France declares the southern city of Korca autonomous, and Greece demands that Korca be given to it. Giacinto Ferrero, commanding Italy’s forces in Albania, proclaims Italian support for an independent Albania in a document that will later become known as the Gjirokastra Proclamation. Just a few weeks later, Italian Foreign Minister Baron Sidney Sonnino will advocate this policy in the Italian parliament. On the contrary, Austria-Hungary wants to unite Kosova and Albania and give southern Albania to Greece. [Kola, 2003, pp. 17-18]
Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Bulgaria are pushed out of Albania following an invasion by the Entente powers. Italy occupies most of Albania as well as Prizren, France takes Pristina, and the Serb army takes Kosova and moves north to liberate Serbia. [Kola, 2003, pp. 18]
With Yugoslav support, Mirdita, a predominantly Catholic area northeast of Tirana, declares independence under Mark Gjoni. Under an agreement with Yugoslavia, Yugoslavia would represent the Republic of Mirdita diplomatically. The Mirditans attempt to occupy part of northern Albania with Yugoslav help, but are defeated by Albanian Minister of the Interior Ahmet Zog. [Kola, 2003, pp. 19]
Three years after Britain declared victory in Iraq (see 1917), their occupational forces are locked in fierce fighting with an Iraqi insurgency that had grown up in the Iraqi city of Fallujah. The British begin a campaign of aerial bombing against Fallujah and Baghdad, and heavy urban assaults in Samarra. [Kolb, 2007, pp. 94]
Vaso Cubrilovic, a historian at Belgrade University and member of Belgrade’s Serbian Cultural Club, and participant in the terrorist Black Hand group in 1914, writes a memorandum, “The Expulsion of the Arnauts” (an archaic word for Albanian in Turkish), building on the Nacertanje plan. He sees Yugoslavia’s Albanians as a strategic threat, dividing Slavic areas and controlling key river routes, “which, to a large degree, determines the fate of the central Balkans.” Cubrilovic’s proposal is justified because of the risk that “a world conflict or a social revolution” in the near future could cause Yugoslavia to lose its Albanian majority areas and because, despite earlier colonization programs, Montenegro is still overpopulated for its hardscrabble farmlands. He says that, given the current world situation, “the shifting of a few hundred thousand Albanians will not lead to the outbreak of a world war.” He foresees opposition from Italy and Albania, but says Italy is preoccupied in Africa, while Zog’s government could be bought off with money. France and the UK are also potential opponents, but he says they should be told expelling Albanians will benefit them. Cubrilovic contrasts prior “Western methods” with his preferred strategy, under which occupation “confers the right to the lives and property of the subject inhabitants.” Cubrilovic believes slow transfer of deeds impeded the prior program. Paulin Kola will later describe the memorandum as “a fuller platform for the colonization of Kosova.” Cubrilovic calls for a range of measures, from enforcing “the law to the letter so as to make staying intolerable,” such as punishments for owning wandering dogs and smuggling, and “any other measures that an experienced police force can contrive,” denying professional permits, rejecting deeds, desecrating graves, and burning villages and neighborhoods, without revealing state involvement. He says clerics and influential Kosovar Albanians should be bribed or coerced to support transfer. He proposes that the new program be implemented by the Army General Staff, a new Institute of Colonization, and a multi-ministry inspectorate. These methods would lead to the deportation and migration of Albanians to Turkey and other countries. Then Montenegrins, who Cubrilovic describes as “arrogant, irascible, and merciless people” who “will drive the remaining Albanians away with their behavior,” would be settled in Kosova. Ethnic conflict would be fanned, to “be bloodily suppressed with the most effective means” by Montenegrin settlers and Chetniks. Yugoslavia’s parliament considers the memorandum on March 7, 1937. Once Turkey agrees to accept deported Yugoslav Albanians, Albanians are limited to an untenable 0.16 hectares for each member of a family, unless their ownership is proven to the satisfaction of the authorities. Two hundred thousand to 300,000 people leave Yugoslavia during this period. Officially, 19,279 Albanians emigrate to Turkey and 4,322 emigrate to Albania between 1927 and 1939, and a few go to Arab countries, while 30,000 Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes emigrate each year. Cubrilovic remains influential in Yugoslavia through World War II. [Vickers, 1998, pp. 116-120; Kola, 2003, pp. 21, 100-104]
Entity Tags: France, Black Hand, Italy, Chetniks, Paulin Kola, Turkey, Belgrade University, Ahmet Zog I, Serbian Cultural Club, Yugoslavia, United Kingdom, Vaso Cubrilovic, Albania
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
Addressing the House of Commons, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain says that the UK has “no direct interests” in Albania. Later, Albanian leader Enver Hoxha will say this statement “gave Mussolini a free hand to carry out his plans towards our country.” The next day, Italy will invade Albania (see April 7, 1939). [Hoxha, 1974, pp. 488; Kola, 2003, pp. 22]
In accord with the Vienna pact, Germany takes Trepca for its mines, as well as the Lab, Vucitrn, and Dezevo (Novi Pazar) districts, creating a territory called the Kosovo Department. Security forces composed of, and led by, Albanians are formed—a gendarmerie of about 1,000 and about 1,000 irregulars, called the Vulnetara. Bulgaria annexes the Gnjilane, Kacanik, and Vitin districts. Italy takes much of Kosovo and the towns of Debar, Tetovo, Gostivar, and Struga, about 11,780 square kilometers and 820,000 people. In May this area is merged with Albania, occupied by Italy on April 7, 1939. Albanian forces are raised by the Italian army, Albanian is spoken in government and education for the first time, and the Albanian flag flies in Italian Kosovo. Albanians are able to freely travel through Albanian areas. Serbs and Montenegrins are imprisoned, deported for forced labor, or killed by occupation forces. Many are deported to Pristina and Mitrovica to labor in the mines of Trepca, or to Albania for construction. According to Serbs, Albanian attacks, generally against settlers, force about 10,000 Slavic families to leave Kosovo. Collaboration and resistance groups form throughout the occupied Balkans. [Vickers, 1998, pp. 121-122; Kola, 2003, pp. 22-23]
The Kingdom of Yugoslavia and Greece sign an agreement to coordinate their foreign policy, defense, and economies after World War II. Britain supports the plan, and Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden advocates including Albania and Bulgaria. Britain will oppose the plan by late 1944, because of the success of communist-led partisan armies in the region. [Kola, 2003, pp. 83-84]
The Balli Kombetar (National Front) party is created under Mit’hat Frasheri and advocates a united Albania, including the Kosovars. A British representative to Albania during WWII, Julian Amery, will say the Ballists are “for ideological reasons, inclined towards the Western democracies, but their enthusiasm for the allied cause was severely constrained both by hatred of communism and by fears that an allied victory might once again deprive them of Kosovo as well as their southern provinces.” The Balli Kombetar includes former government members, and the Communist Party of Albania will later accuse it of being a cover for the parliamentarians who had agreed to offer Albania to Italy’s Emmanuel III after it was invaded, among other charges. [Kola, 2003, pp. 29-31]
In an article, “The National Question in Yugoslavia in the Light of the National Liberation Struggle,” published in the newspaper Proleter, communist partisan leader Josip Broz Tito writes: “The question of Macedonia, the question of Kosovo and Metohija, the question of Montenegro, the question of Croatia, the question of Bosnia-Herzegovina will easily be solved to the general satisfaction of all only if resolved by the people themselves, and this right each people will win gun in hand, in the present national liberation struggle.… The words ‘National Liberation Struggle’ would be a mere phrase, or even a deception, if they did not, in addition to the all-Yugoslav meaning, have a national significance for each people separately.” This contrasts with Tito’s developing view that Yugoslavia’s territorial integrity should be preserved after the war, instead of allowing self-determination for each nationality. [Kola, 2003, pp. 47-48]
Through communist leader Miladin Popovic, the Communist Party of Albania (CPA) tells the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPY) that it has a mistaken policy in Kosova and the Dukagjin Plateau and needs to allow the region to have “its own leadership, emerged from the war, of which the majority must at all costs consist of Albanians; they should have their own national liberation council, the composition of which should not be dictated.” The CPA also says Kosova should have its own partisan organization, under the Yugoslav General Staff. Also, the CPA wants the CPY to “clearly and frankly” tell Kosovars that, after the occupiers are driven out, “they, like the others, will enjoy the complete and undeniable right to self-determination up the secession.” The CPY refuses to change its position and communist leader Josip Broz Tito says the proposals “would in fact gratify the enemies of the Marxist-Leninist struggle in Yugoslavia and all the reactionary and fascist cliques, which are wanting to wrest piece by piece from the democratic movement of the peoples of Yugoslavia by bringing to the foreground not the question of fighting the enemy but delimitation, national antagonisms, etc.” [Kola, 2003, pp. 50-51]
The Communist Party of Yugoslavia advocates national independence in the anti-fascist struggle, and puts off questions of unification until peace is established. Scholar Branka Magas will later analyze this decision as reflecting British opposition to a Balkan union and concerns that the Allies might land and try to divide Yugoslavia into a communist west and capitalist east. [Kola, 2003, pp. 84]
Following an initial meeting on July 23 in Zall i Herrit, representatives of the National Liberation Council meet with the Balli Kombetar leadership at Mukje, Kruja district, on August 1 and 2. CPA Political Bureau member Ymer Dishnica leads a 12-member delegation, including non-communists Abaz Kupi and Myslim Peza. The Ballist delegation includes their chair, Mit-hat Frasheri. According to Enver Hoxha, the NLC delegation is told that unity must be based on the Balli Kombetar fighting the occupation and not continuing to fight the NLC’s forces or the CPA, then there could be “a broad conference to lay on the table and discuss many problems concerning unity.” Hoxha’s goal is to persuade the Balli Kombetar to fight the Italians and join the NLC, at the same time preventing it from being a rival military and political force. The result of the meeting is a plan to create a Committee for the Salvation of Albania, with each side having six representatives, by August 8. The Committee is to lead the guerrilla war until an independent, democratic, and “ethnic Albania” (including Albanian areas left out of the 1913 borders) is established. The Committee plans to dissolve when a provisional government is established. An election with universal suffrage is planned, to establish a constitutional assembly to determine Albania’s post-liberation government. During this time, Mussolini’s government loses power in Italy, so the delegates also call for a declaration of independence. Each side signs, with final approval pending from their organizations, and a proclamation signed by the Committee and the Ballists, and not mentioning the NLC or fascism, is released. The NLC rejects the agreement. Hoxha later says “Our comrades [at Mukje] did not know how to defend the line of the National Liberation Front, but fell right into the lap of the ‘Balli Kombetar‘… what they talked about there was ‘independent Albania’ and ‘ethnic Albania,’ and the war of today was forgotten.” He sees the proclamation of independence as a Ballist grab for credit and a way to “blot out April 12, 1939, because three quarters of the Ballists had recognized the Accord of the Crown [giving it to Italy], while we had never recognized it.” Yugoslav sources claim Hoxha tries to prevent open armed struggle with the Balli Kombetar. Miladin Popovic reportedly says: “[T]his union [with the Ballists] cannot be accepted. We are being strengthened with each passing day.… Then, this ethnic Albania! Impossible!” Dishnica claims that he acts at Mukje on directives from the CPA leadership. Subsequently, Abaz Kupi abandons the NLC and creates the Legaliteti, arguing that Zog is Albania’s legitimate leader. [Hoxha, 1974, pp. 172-189; Kola, 2003, pp. 41-44]
Entity Tags: Enver Hoxha, Albanian National Liberation Council, Ahmet Zog I, Abaz Kupi, Balli Kombetar, Committee for the Salvation of Albania, Legaliteti, Myslim Peza, Italy, Party of Labor of Albania, Mit’hat Frasheri, Miladin Popovic, Ymer Dishnica
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
A second Albanian National Liberation Conference is held and publicly states that the Mukje agreement (see August 1-2, 1943) is “an act that violated the fundamental principles of the Peza Conference and ran counter to the interests of the war and the unity of the Albanian people.” It also decides “to take a clear stand against [the pro-western Balli Kombetar], to expose its anti-national and anti-people policy.” The Ballists are accused of undermining the National Liberation Movement by calling it “a Communist movement,” fanning chauvinism by saying Serbia and Greece are threats, and obstructing the national liberation war. They allow the possibility of cooperation, as long as the Ballists “participate in the uncompromising and relentless war against the invaders” and agree that the national liberation councils are “the sole people’s power.” The Conference states that the way to self-determination for Kosova and Cameria, an Albanian-inhabited region in Greece, is through the national liberation war. The Conference also increases the General Council from the seven representatives elected at Peza to 62, creates rules with the goal of making the NLC into Albania’s legitimate government, and integrates new anti-fascist organizations, such as the Anti-fascist Youth Union. [PLA, 1971, pp. 169-172; Kola, 2003, pp. 57]
Italy surrenders to the Allies, but the Italian commander in Albania tells his forces to surrender to the German military. About 15,000 surrender to the Albanians, and about 1,500 are organized into the “Antonio Gramsci” Battalion of the 1st Storm Brigade of the Albanian National Liberation Army. Meanwhile, about 70,000 German soldiers invade Albania. According to the official PLA history, the Germans say they are liberating Albania from Italy and that they will protect Albanian independence in exchange for Albania joining their anti-communist war. [PLA, 1971, pp. 173-174]
Communist leader Fadil Hoxha proposes that the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPY) use the name Dukagjin Plateau instead of Metohija for the western part of Kosovo, that Partisan operations in the region be split between a Kosova committee under Serb leadership and a Dukagjin Plateau committee under Albanian leadership, and that a conference be held to elect a Kosova and Dukagjin Plateau national liberation council. The Regional Committee of the CPY for Kosova approves the plan, but the CPY leadership rejects it. They say the region “is not a separate, compact region,” so it does not need a “provincial committee,” and they want “to avoid strife over ‘all sorts of demarcations.’” [Kola, 2003, pp. 51-52]
Yugoslav historian Vaso Cubrilovic writes another memorandum, The Problem of Minorities in the New Yugoslavia, and says that, to establish peace, Yugoslavia must be “ethnically pure,” because the issue of minorities creates conflicts with neighboring countries. Cubrilovic calls for the removal of Yugoslav Germans, Hungarians, Albanians, Italians, and Romanians, who “deserved to lose their civil rights in this country.” He says the military should be used to remove national minorities “from those territories which we desire to populate with our own national element in a planned and merciless way,” including denial of rights, taking of property, and internment, especially targeting intellectuals and the rich. Subsequently, Cubrilovic is given a post in the Yugoslav government. The Yugoslav government sponsored previous studies. In 1939 well-known Yugoslav writer Ivo Andric, at the time a diplomat, and Ivan Vukotic proposed that Albania be divided with Italy, so Yugoslav Albanians would not have a national state to focus on. In 1941, lawyer Stevan Moljevic released Homogeneous Serbia, calling for another round of deportations of Yugoslav Albanians to Turkey or Albania. Subsequently, from the 1950s to the 1970s, Yugoslav Albanians will be encouraged to identify as Turkish, through the establishment of Turkish language schools and media. The Albanian population will also be intimidated by the security forces. An agreement will be concluded with Turkey in 1953 under which Turkey will accept deported Yugoslav Albanians. [Kola, 2003, pp. 103-105]
Communist leader Josip Broz Tito places the Partisan general staff of the Kosova region under the Serb general staff. Author Paulin Kola will later call this “the clearest indication yet of his plans to incorporate postwar Kosova into Serbia.” [Kola, 2003, pp. 56]
For most of the war, Britain ignores Albania, and does not recognize a government in exile under Ahmet Zog. Albanian communist leader Enver Hoxha will later say that Greece would have considered such a move a hostile act by the British. By 1942 at the latest, the British expected a Balkan Federation of Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, and Yugoslavia to be formed after liberation. The War Office sends a memo to an office in Bari, Italy, in 1944 admitting that Britain cannot stop the partisans from winning political power and seeking Soviet assistance, so, “We must therefore aim at strengthening our position with partisans now in order that after the war we may be able to influence the partisan government.” By this point, envoys from the Special Operations Executive division, as well as some American envoys, are with the major Albanian political groups and they are receiving British aid. The envoys to the Partisans accept the War Office’s decision, but those with other groups believe more should have been done, up to a British or American landing in the fall of 1944 as happened in Greece. British army officer Julian Amery will later write: “Firstly, it was wrong to abandon the Albanians to Hoxha’s evil regime and Stalin’s imperial designs. Secondly, [Vlora] and [Sazan Island] control the Strait of Otranto, the entrance to the Adriatic, an important naval gateway.” [Kola, 2003, pp. 67-70]
Communist official Velimir Stoinic arrives to lead the Yugoslav military mission to Albania’s general staff and to represent the Communist Party of Yugoslavia. He immediately recalls Miladin Popovic back to Yugoslavia. Popovic is blamed for alleged mistakes by the Communist Party of Albania (CPA), such as the Mukje agreement with the Balli Kombetar and statements that Yugoslavia will allow Kosova to determine its future. He also says the CPA’s policies are wrong and that the leadership must change. The CPA will later accuse Stoinic of conspiring with a pro-Yugoslav faction against leading Albanian communist Enver Hoxha so Yugoslavia can take control of Albania. [PLA, 1971, pp. 227; Kola, 2003, pp. 58]
Following the liberation of Yugoslavia, the Community Party of Yugoslavia resumes support for a Balkan federation, excluding Greece, which is in Britain’s sphere of influence. The Soviet Union pushes Yugoslav-Bulgarian coordination as the first step, which some see as an attempt to increase Soviet influence over Yugoslavia through more pro-Soviet Bulgaria. Yugoslavia sends Eduard Kardelj to Bulgaria in November, but Velimir Stoinic also brings up unification at the Second Plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Albania this month in the southern Albanian town of Berat. [Kola, 2003, pp. 84]
The Third and Fifth Divisions of the Albanian National Liberation Army pursue German forces into Yugoslavia, in coordination with Yugoslav forces. Author Peter Prifti will later say around 15,000 Albanians fight in Yugoslavia and 350 or more die there. They fight in Kosova (including Pristina and Novi Pazar), Montenegro, western Macedonia, a portion of Serbia, and the Sandjak region in southern Bosnia-Herzegovina, going as far as Visegrad, almost 80 miles away from Albania. Albania is alone among the European socialist states in liberating itself with only its own forces in World War II, which Front, a Yugoslav military magazine, will admit in the early 70s, breaking decades of unacknowledgment. [Prifti, 1978, pp. 197-198]
The British envoys to the Partisans oppose the fighting between the Partisans and other groups, and threaten to cut off military aid to the Partisans. A circular from the Central Committee of the CPA to local groups says “the British mission is attempting to revive and reinforce the reactionary movement against the national liberation movement,” and “they should in no way be regarded as arbiters” and will be deported if they interfere in internal affairs. Rumors begin to circulate as early as September that an Allied army will land in Albania, and local communists are told to make sure any Allied force finds the National Liberation Council and Army “as the sole state power.” There are also fears of a government in exile or a government created after a landing. In response, the British and American envoys are watched and not allowed to roam at large. [PLA, 1971, pp. 181 -182; Hoxha, 1974, pp. 193 - 195; Kola, 2003, pp. 69-70]
The Central Committee of the CPA convenes at Berat for its Second Plenum, along with CPY representative Velimir Stoinic. Sejfulla Maleshova and Pandi Kristo become CC members just before the meeting, apparently in a way that violates party rules. Along with organizational secretary Koci Xoxe, they are later accused of conspiring with Stoinic to attack the CPA. Some charges are that the CPA is not communist and that it acts both sectarian and opportunist. Liri Gega is removed from the Central Committee “for sectarianism and pronounced adventurism,” and those individual charges are said to come from the entire party’s policy. Maleshova says the CPA is becoming a terrorist “band of criminals,” for actions like the execution of Mustafa Gjinishi, one of the CPA’s representatives at the Mukje meeting. Xoxe says “a gang of four,” starting with Miladin Popovic, lead the CPA. Stoinic also criticizes the CPA and says: “You are small, a good bite for imperialism. You can’t hold power without Yugoslavia, especially present-day Yugoslavia.” Therefore, the two countries should have close links: “Their exact shape cannot be revealed at this conference, but let the link be confederal or closer than that. This is your perspective, this is what you should inculcate in people’s minds.” This is the first time the CPY’s wish to join the two countries is mentioned in public. Stoinic also says Tito should be praised more. Relying on documents published after capitalism is restored in Albania, Paulin Kola will later say that Hoxha and the rest of the CPA completely accepted the criticisms, and that Hoxha also blamed Popovic and Dusan Mugosa of the CPY, but Hoxha’s memoirs say that he rejected the charges against the CPA. The Central Committee is also enlarged by 18 at the Berat Plenum. [PLA, 1971, pp. 227-231; Kola, 2003, pp. 58-61]
Entity Tags: Enver Hoxha, Dusan Mugosa, Albania, Koci Xoxe, Velimir Stoinic, League of Communists of Yugoslavia, Yugoslavia, Sejfulla Maleshova, Miladin Popovic, Paulin Kola, Pandi Kristo, Party of Labor of Albania, Mustafa Gjinishi
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
Albania and Yugoslavia sign a 20-year Treaty of Cooperation and Mutual Aid, to protect their independence and territorial integrity, and promising a joint defense if either country is attacked. Albanian communist leader Enver Hoxha and Stanoje Simic, Yugoslavia’s foreign minister, are the signers. [Kola, 2003, pp. 77-78]
Albania is allowed to participate in the Paris Peace Conference, regarding the post-war settlements between the Allies and Italy, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and Finland, but is not a full participant, instead being classed with Austria. The Albanian government argues that it was a full member of the Allied effort, fielding 70,000 Albanian Partisans, including 6,000 women, against around 100,000 Italians and 70,000 Germans. It says Italy and Germany suffered 53,639 casualties and prisoners and lost 100 armored vehicles, 1,334 artillery pieces, 1,934 trucks, and 2,855 machine guns destroyed or taken in Albania. Out of its population of one million, Albania says 28,000 were killed, 12,600 wounded, 10,000 were political prisoners, and 35,000 were made to do forced labor. Albania says 850 out of 2,500 of its communities were destroyed by the war.
Disputed by Greece - To oppose Albania’s demands, Greece argues that Albania is at war with it. Greece also claims Gjirokastra and Korca, south of the Shkumbin River, and there is some fighting along the border. By 11 votes to seven, with two abstentions, the conference votes to discuss Greece’s territorial claims. Italian King Victor Emmanuel III blames Albania for the invasion of Greece, and Greece points to a declaration of war by the Albanian occupation government after Daut Hoxha was found murdered at the border in summer 1940.
Hoxha's Address - Enver Hoxha addresses the conference. He points to hundreds of Albanians conscripted by Italy who deserted or joined the Greeks, who then treated them as POWs. Many were later sent to Crete and joined British forces who landed there. Others joined the Albanian Partisans or were captured by Italy, court-martialed for “high treason,” and imprisoned in the Shijak concentration camp. There are other cases of attacks on Italian forces by Albanian soldiers. Hoxha also mentions attacks on Albania by Greeks, such as the over 50 homes in Konispol burned by German soldiers guided by a captain under Greek collaborationist General Napoleon Zervas on September 8, 1943. His forces also joined German forces in their winter 1943-44 Albanian offensive. They invaded and burned again in June 1944. Hoxha refutes Greek claims that Albania is treading on the rights of the Greek minority, which Albania numbers at 35,000. There are 79 schools using Greek, one secondary school, autonomous Greek local government, and Greeks in the government and military. Between 1913 and 1923, Hoxha claims there were 60,000 Albanians in Greece, 35,000 of whom were classified as Turks and deported to Turkey in exchange for Turkish Greeks. In June 1944 and March 1945 Zervas’ forces attacked Greek Albanians, and at least 20,000 fled to Albania. Hoxha will later say that what Albania terms the “monarcho-fascist” Greek government commits 683 military provocations against Albania from its founding to October 15, 1948. Hoxha claims the Greek prime minister tells a Yugoslav official at the Peace Conference that he is open to dividing Albania with Yugoslavia, but Yugoslavia refuses. Hoxha tells the conference, “We solemnly declare that within our present borders there is not one square inch of foreign soil, and we will never permit anyone to encroach upon them, for to us they are sacred.” Italy is accused of harboring Albanian and Italian war criminals, including “fascists” who assassinated an Albanian sergeant at the Allied Mediterranean High Command in Bari in March. The Italian politicians are accused of threatening Albania during recent elections. In conclusion, Hoxha asks that the Peace Conference further limit Italy’s post-war military, claims Italy committed 3,544,232,626 gold francs worth of damage in Albania, and Albania wants to be classified as an “associated power.”
US, British Opposition - These requests are opposed by the UK and US. Albania afterward considers its share of the reparations to be too low. The UK and US will later oppose Albanian participation in the Moscow conference on peace with Germany, held in March-April 1947. An American delegate will say: “We are of the opinion that, first, Albania is not a neighbor of Germany, and second, it did not take part in the war against Germany. Only some individual Albanians, perhaps, took part in this war, but apart from this there were also Albanians who fought side by side with the Germans.” [PLA, 1971, pp. 258; Hoxha, 1974, pp. 539-542, 593-614; Hoxha, 1975, pp. 90-91, 99]
Entity Tags: Turkey, Greece, Germany, Enver Hoxha, Daut Hoxha, Albanian Partisans, Albania, Italy, Napoleon Zervas, Victor Emmanuel III, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Yugoslavia, United States of America, United Kingdom
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
Yugoslav fighter planes land in Tirana, apparently without permission. Albanian communist leader Enver Hoxha brings this complaint up with Stalin at their meeting on July 16, and says that Yugoslavia admits it was a mistake to violate Albanian airspace. According to Hoxha, Stalin replies in part, “It is a very good thing that you have friendly Yugoslavia on your border, because Albania is a small country and as such needs strong support from its friends,” and Hoxha agrees generally. However, Yugoslav official Vladimir Dedijer will claim in 1949 that the fighters are requested by the Albanian General Staff and that Hoxha visited central Albania accompanied by the fighters, at his request. [Hoxha, 1979, pp. 73; Kola, 2003, pp. 88]
Immunologist Sir Macfarlane Burnet, Nobel prize winner and first winner of the ‘Australian of the Year’ award, urges the Australian government to develop biological and chemical weapons to use against Indonesia and other countries of Southeast Asia. In 1998, Canberra historian Philip Dorling will obtaim a declassified 1947 report from the Australian National Archives which reveals that in his advisory role on biological warfare, Burnet had recommended development of biological and chemical weapons to target food crops and spread infectious diseases in the “overpopulated” tropical countries of Southeast Asia. “Specifically to the Australian situation, the most effective counter-offensive to threatened invasion by overpopulated Asiatic countries would be directed towards the destruction by biological or chemical means of tropical food crops and the dissemination of infectious disease capable of spreading in tropical but not under Australian conditions,” Burnet writes. [Age (Melbourne), 3/10/2002]
After World War II, military cooperation between Albania and Yugoslavia continues. Yugoslavia helps Albania support 42,000 military personnel in 1947. In April, the Deputy Political Director of the military’s Political Directorate, Pellumb Dishnica, writes a memorandum on the need to coordinate defense with Yugoslavia and create air force, tank, and naval units on a joint basis, because Albania is a small country. In his Memorandum on the Albanian Armed Forces in the Post-War Period, Dishnica notes that Armed Forces Chief of Staff Mehmet Shehu is against the plan, arguing that Albania could lose military independence, Albanian communist leader Enver Hoxha could lose his position as commander in chief, and the Soviet Union might cut off support. [Kola, 2003, pp. 79-80]
Yugoslavia’s General Staff says Greece plans to attack Albania and therefore requests a base in the Korca region for an air force fighter division and an anti-aircraft missile division. An Albanian envoy will be sent to Belgrade regarding the request. Yugoslav communist leader Josip Broz Tito will then send a high-ranking military envoy in early 1948 to deliver a letter reiterating the request to Albanian communist leader Enver Hoxha. [Kola, 2003, pp. 87]
After World War II, both the Albanians and the Yugoslavs seek military aid from the USSR. Later, Hoxha says military regulations are changed too frequently, allegedly a Yugoslav effort to weaken the Albanian military. Therefore Hoxha supports the appointment of Mehmet Shehu, who led a division during the War and is studying in the USSR, as Chief of the General Staff. Nako Spiru recommends him and Koci Xoxe and Pandi Kristo do not oppose the appointment. (Decades later, when he recounts this, Hoxha states that Shehu was part of a multiple foreign plot to assassinate him.) Soviet advisers are brought in, and Hoxha says the Yugoslavs try to cause friction between the Albanians and Soviets. At a meeting in Belgrade, Svetozar Vukmanovic-Tempo, Political Director of the Yugoslav military, tells Mehmet Shehu and Kristo Themelko, Director of the Political Directory of the Albanian military, that only Yugoslav military doctrine is relevant in the Balkans and Europe. In July Vukmanovic-Tempo and Koca Popovic, Chief of the Yugoslav General Staff, come to Albania and, according to Themelko, say that their two militaries should be unified, as the economies are being unified, and that Yugoslavia will fund the Albanian military. Shehu tells Hoxha that he did not hear these comments. Hoxha says he is “shocked” to hear this and disagrees. Hoxha says that Savo Zlatic confirms in November 1947 that the Yugoslavs do want military unification. [Hoxha, 1982, pp. 427 - 435]
Entity Tags: Koci Xoxe, Albania, Koca Popovic, Kristo Themelko, Enver Hoxha, Mehmet Shehu, Pandi Kristo, Nako Spiru, Yugoslavia, Savo Zlatic, Svetozar Vukmanovic-Tempo
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
In a letter dated January 26, 1948, and delivered by Yugoslav General Milan Kupresanin, Tito tells Albanian leader Enver Hoxha that Greece, aided by the British and Americans, is about to invade Albania, so Yugoslavia wants to quietly station a division and supporting soldiers in the Korca region. Academic Paulin Kola will later claim that Albania proposes that the Albanian and Yugoslav soldiers should be under a unified command, as a step towards military unification. In his memoir, The Titoites, Hoxha will say that he tells Kupresanin that the request has to be discussed by the leadership and that he personally is against it. Kristo Themelko and Chief of the Albanian General Staff Beqir Balluku, who replaced Hoxha ally Mehmet Shehu, previously met with Tito and said Albania would accept the military assistance. Kupresanin comes with a team to survey the area. Hoxha replies that Albania can defend itself, the Greek government forces are wrapped up in an offensive against the Greek Democratic Army, the plan should not be hidden from the Albanian public, and that hosting the division would destabilize the region. Hoxha says to Kupresanin that “the worst thing would be if, from such a precipitate action, enemies or friends were to accuse us that Albania has been occupied by the Yugoslav troops!” and says Kupresanin briefly blanched. Xoci Xoxe is also at the meeting and supports the Yugoslav request, and says action should be taken quickly. Kupresanin is insulted when Hoxha says Yugoslavia should reinforce its own border with Greece if war is so imminent. Privately, Hoxha believes that “the urgent dispatch of Yugoslav to our territory would serve as an open blackmail to ensure that matters in the [Eighth] Plenum would go in the way that suited the Yugoslavs.” In a report to the Tirana party organization on October 4, 1948, Hoxha will say Yugoslavia was seeking to create “a phobia of imminent war” and divide Albania from the Soviets by “the stationing of a Yugoslav division in Korca and the dispatch of other divisions.” Since he cannot stop the Plenum from being held in February, he tries to stop the division from being approved, by requesting advice from the Soviets. The Soviet government subsequently says it does not expect a Greek invasion and that it agrees with Hoxha. In With Stalin, Hoxha will say that Stalin will tell him in spring 1949 that the USSR was not aware of the situation, though Yugoslavia claimed to be acting with Soviet approval.
Yugoslav Accounts - Subsequent memoirs by Yugoslav leaders Milovan Djilas, Edvard Kardelj, and Vladimir Dedjier will say that Albania was already hosting a Yugoslav air force regiment, and that Yugoslavia wanted to station two army divisions, at Albania’s request. Dedjier says that Stalin wanted Hoxha to make the request, and Jon Holliday will later outline several interpretations, based on the various possibly inaccurate accounts.
The Yugoslav Reaction - According to Hoxha’s report to the Tirana party organization, after Albania rejects the division, the Yugoslav envoy, presumably Kupresanin, calls for reorganization of the Albanian military, new roads and bridges to accommodate Yugoslav tanks, stringing new telegraph wires, and the mobilization of 10,000 soldiers and mules for transport, over two to three months. The Yugoslav also says Albania should tell the Soviets that it wants the Yugoslav division and ask why the Soviets oppose it. He asserts that Albania would only be able to defend itself for 10 days, while it would take 15 days for Yugoslav forces to reach southern Albania, and the UN would get involved, preventing Yugoslav intervention, which would be Hoxha’s fault. Albania agrees to make improvements and mobilize the soldiers and mules, on Yugoslav credits. Hoxha says the Yugoslavs are working through Kristo Themelko, who two or three times tells the Political Bureau that Albania needs to unify with Yugoslavia to carry out these measures. After March 30, Yugoslavia will reduce its involvement with Albania after a critical letter from the Central Committee of the CPSU(B) to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia. [Hoxha, 1974, pp. 763 - 767; Hoxha, 1979, pp. 92-93; Hoxha, 1982, pp. 439-446; Halliday and Hoxha, 1986, pp. 106-108; Kola, 2003, pp. 93]
Entity Tags: Milovan Djilas, Paulin Kola, Greece, Milan Kupresanin, Mehmet Shehu, League of Communists of Yugoslavia, Soviet Communist Party, Josip Broz Tito, Kristo Themelko, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United Kingdom, United Nations, Albania, Beqir Balluku, Eduard Kardelj, Enver Hoxha, Yugoslavia, Jon Halliday, United States of America, Vladimir Dedijer, Greek Democratic Army
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
At the Eighth Plenum of the Communist Party of Albania’s Central Committee, Yugoslavia’s criticism of the CPA and the Yugoslav plan to accelerate unification are endorsed. Koci Xoxe, as interior minister and the CPA’s organizational secretary, uses his power to threaten, remove, or arrest people. Mehmet Shehu is barred from the meeting. In an unusual turn, there is no report to the Plenum, other than what Prime Minister and CPA General Secretary Enver Hoxha will call “a so-called conclusion of a meeting of the Political Bureau,” presented by Xoxe. According to Hoxha, Xoxe conspires with Xhoxhi Blushi, Nesti Kerenxhi, Pellumb Dishnica, Tahir Kadare, Gjin Marku, and others, who turn the meeting from questions of substance to reviewing alleged misconduct by the recently deceased Economy Minister Nako Spiru and others. Hoxha does accept some of the criticisms of Spiru, Liri Belishova (Spiru’s wife), and Shehu; many years later Belishova and later Shehu will be charged with treason. At the Plenum, it is implied that Hoxha allowed Spiru to act. Xoxe and Pandi Kristo urge the Plenum to expand its criticism of the leadership, but Hoxha will later say his clean record prevented attack, and he makes few comments. According to Hoxha, Xoxe comes close to accusing him of leading a faction with Spiru. Nonetheless, Hoxha later says that he thinks the majority in the CPA and Albania do not approve of the Plenum’s conclusions. The Political Bureau is enlarged. A committee is formed to draft a resolution to be approved at a later Plenum.
Results of the Plenum - According to the official party history, Xoxe uses intimidation and surveillance to control the party and plans to execute opponents, weakens mass organizations such as the unions, and wants to abolish the Communist Youth Organization, formerly headed by Spiru. Yugoslav advisers become unquestionable. The Co-ordination Commission becomes “almost a second government,” and joint companies come under Yugoslav control. Fraternization is encouraged to make unification look like a popular demand. Hoxha prevents Xoxe from expelling all Soviet advisers, merging the Albanian military with the Yugoslav military, and unifying the countries. Subsequently Savo Zlatic, Xoxe, Kristo, and Themelko will say the Soviet advisers are generally no longer needed, but Hoxha, Hysni Kapo, and Gogo Nushi are able to keep them in the country. Yugoslavia wants Albania to request unification, and the Political Bureau decides to ask for clarification from Yugoslavia and the USSR leadership.
Varying Accounts - According to Albanian academic Paulin Kola, Hoxha will endorse federation at a Political Bureau meeting on March 14 and say that was the plan from the beginning, and is ready for formal announcement. Kola will portray both Hoxha and Xoxe as pro-Yugoslav and pro-Soviet. [PLA, 1971, pp. 314-317; Hoxha, 1982, pp. 446-469; Kola, 2003, pp. 92]
Entity Tags: Nako Spiru, Nesti Kerenxhi, Enver Hoxha, Mehmet Shehu, Liri Belishova, Kristo Themelko, Pandi Kristo, Hysni Kapo, Koci Xoxe, Party of Labor of Albania, Paulin Kola, Pellumb Dishnica, Yugoslavia, Albania, Albanian Communist Youth Organization, Xhoxhi Blushi, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Gogo Nushi, Savo Zlatic, Tahir Kadare, Gjin Marku
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
Yugoslav envoy to Albania Savo Zlatic demands a meeting with representatives of the Albanian government, and Albanian communist Prime Minister Enver Hoxha sends Interior Minister Koci Xoxe and Political Bureau member Hysni Kapo. Zlatic says the private screening in Tirana of a Soviet documentary being made about Albania is an anti-Yugoslav insult, because more Soviets were invited than Yugoslavs. Hoxha will later describe the gathering as “a social evening quite without protocol.” Military cooperation has ended between Yugoslavia and Albania and Zlatic says all agreements will be reviewed, “because your friendship with Yugoslavia has no foundation,” as relations are deteriorating, because of Hoxha. Hoxha says Albania has done nothing and has been very forgiving of Yugoslav actions. The Albanians send out another letter about the situation, on April 20, to Yugovlav communist Prime Minister Josip Broz Tito. [Hoxha, 1982, pp. 492 - 496]
Yugoslav communist leader Josip Broz Tito says Albania does not have enough “faith” in Yugoslav opinions about Albania, Yugoslavia cannot make sacrifices for Albania while relations do not improve, and Albania needs to increase cooperation if it wants to improve relations. Tito adds that Albania is squandering Yugoslav aid, according to Albanian scholar Paulin Kola. Therefore, Yugoslavia backs off from Yugoslav-Albanian military unification and decides to review its relationship with Albania. Albania will reply on May 23, saying that the deterioration is the Yugoslav communists’ fault, and that the mistake of the Communist Party of Albania [CPA] was “with great belief and trust in the CPY [Communist Party of Yugoslavia], hav[ing] more than once accepted harsh criticisms made verbally by the [Central Committee] of the CPY against our party, against its leadership, and members of the party,” thus violating Marxism-Leninism. Kola says Albanian Prime Minister and CPA General Secretary Enver Hoxha writes the letter, with a conciliatory tone. The CPY will reply on May 27, with a letter signed by high Yugoslav official Milovan Djilas, saying relations will improve only if Albania sends a delegation to “examine all the questions and conclude protocols about our economic relations on the basis of our former proposals.” [Hoxha, 1982, pp. 496 - 498; Kola, 2003, pp. 94]
Greek forces enter Albania before being pushed back across the border. The Albanian government views the invasion as an attempt to claim southern Albania. A few days afterward the UN special committee on the Greek civil war will excuse the action, saying that Greece cannot allow a neighbor to try to overthrow its government. Previously, the committee had accused Albania of giving the most aid to the Greek communist army of any country bordering Greece. [Kola, 2003, pp. 97-98]
A press conference in Paris announces the formation of a National Unity Committee, which includes the Balli Kombetar (National Front), represented by Mit’hat Frasheri, the Legaliteti (Legality), represented by Abaz Kupi, and former King Zog. There is more counter-revolutionary guerilla activity in Yugoslavia than in Albania, which the Yugoslavs attribute to Ballists. After Albania’s break with Yugoslavia the year before, the British and American governments decide to focus on Albania in their plans to use nationalism to end Soviet influence in eastern Europe. They want to do this without revealing their involvement and avoiding another Greek invasion of Albania. Therefore they deny involvement in the formation of the National Unity Committee and the US government says the National Unity Committee is a subcommittee of the Committee for Free Europe. [Kola, 2003, pp. 97-99]
Entity Tags: Committee for Free Europe, Abaz Kupi, Balli Kombetar, Greece, Ahmet Zog I, Legaliteti, National Unity Committee, Yugoslavia, Mit’hat Frasheri, United States of America, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United Kingdom
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
On April 24, President Nixon orders US and South Vietnamese troops to secretly invade the “Parrot’s Beak” region of Cambodia, thought to be a Viet Cong stronghold. The decision is controversial. Nixon knows that many senior military officials, as well as his Secretary of Defense, Melvin Laird, will oppose the operation, so he carefully keeps Laird ignorant of the invasion plans. National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger privately alerts Laird to some of the less controversial elements of the operation (but not the use of US forces in the invasion), and Laird recommends advising Congress of the imminent military action. Kissinger says Nixon will handle that himself. (Nixon only tells one Congressman, Senator John Stennis (D-MS), the hawkish chairman of the Armed Services Committee.) As the evening wears on, Nixon repeatedly calls Kissinger’s office, barking out contradictory orders and hanging up, as he flip-flops on whether to actually go through with the plan. “Our peerless leader has flipped out,” Kissinger tells his staff. Nixon calls Kissinger with further orders and tells him, in a slurred, perhaps inebriated voice, “Wait a minute, Bebe has something to say to you.” Charles “Bebe” Rebozo, Nixon’s longtime friend and millionaire political and personal financier (who has been thoroughly informed of the operation when many senior government and officials have not), takes the phone and says, “The president wants you to know that if this doesn’t work, Henry, it’s your ass.”
Staffers Resign - Kissinger, who has himself kept his staff ignorant of the invasion, tells one staffer, William Watts, to coordinate the National Security Council’s work on the invasion. But Watts, outraged at the secret invasion of a neutral nation, refuses. “Your views represent the cowardice of the Eastern establishment,” Kissinger snaps. Watts comes towards Kissinger as if to strike him, then turns and walks out of the office. Watts resigns his position minutes later. Kissinger’s military aide, Alexander Haig: tells Watts: “You can’t resign.… You’ve just had an order from your commander in chief.” Watts retorts, “F_ck you, Al, I just did.” Two other Kissinger staffers, Anthony Lake and Roger Morris, also resign over the invasion.
Others Informed - The plans are finalized by Nixon and Kissinger, with Rebozo sitting in on the discussion. Only on the evening of April 26 do Laird, Secretary of State William Rogers, and other Cabinet officials learn of the plans to invade Cambodia. Rogers is horrified; Laird is ambivalent, but furious that he was left out of the decision-making process. The invasion takes place on April 28. Congress and the press learn of the invasion on April 30. [Reeves, 2001, pp. 199-206]
Entity Tags: Melvin Laird, Anthony Lake, Alexander M. Haig, Jr., Charles ‘Bebe’ Rebozo, John Stennis, Roger Morris, William Watts, National Security Council, Richard M. Nixon, Henry A. Kissinger, William P. Rogers
Timeline Tags: Nixon and Watergate
In 1973 Israeli military authorities in charge of the West Bank and Gaza allow Sheikh Ahmed Yassin to establish the Islamic Center, an Islamic fundamentalist organization. With Israel’s support, Yassin’s organization soon gains control of hundreds of mosques, charities, and schools which serve as recruiting centers for militant Islamic fundamentalism. In 1976 Yassin creates another organization called the Islamic Association that forms hundreds of branches in Gaza. In 1978 the Islamic Association is licensed by the government of Menachem Begin over the objections of moderate Palesinians including the Commissioner of the Muslim Waqf in the Gaza Strip, Rafat Abu Shaban. Yassin also recieves funding from business leaders in Saudi Arabia who are also hostile to the secular PLO for religious reasons. The Saudi government, however, steps in and attempts to halt the private funds going to Yassin, because they view him as a tool of Israel. [United Press International, 2/24/2001; CounterPunch, 1/18/2003; Dreyfuss, 2005, pp. 195 - 197] Yassin will go on to form Hamas in the 1980s, which is created with the help of Israeli intelligence (see 1987).
Senator J. William Fulbright (D-AR) of the Foreign Relations Committee warns of further turmoil in the Middle East due to dependence of foreign oil and the US stance on Israel. He states his assertion that forcible acquisition of Middle East oil rights and supplies is imminent given the current course he sees. He proceeds to outline a vision for a political solution amenable to all sides recognizing Israel’s security interests, the need for stability in the region to guarantee oil exports, as well as recognizing Arab state economies. Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson (D-WA) immediately replies to Fulbright’s statements, calling them “irresponsible” and goes to support Israel in the debate. Fulbright responds with his plan for keeping a calm Middle East, but also warns of the possibility of terrorist actions perpetrated by Middle Eastern powers and individuals stemming from current policy stances taken by the US and Israel. He also cautions on the possibility of an oil embargo should the current policy proceed unabated. [New York Times, 5/22/1973, pp. 5]
Map of the Cambodian coast showing the island of Koh Tang. [Source: American Merchant Marine at War]A US cargo ship, the SS Mayaguez, is seized by the Cambodian navy in the Gulf of Siam. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger urges retaliatory action to punish the Cambodians and retake the ship, arguing that the US must let the Communist forces in Southeast Asia know that, even though the US has withdrawn from South Vietnam, the US would defend itself and its interests. President Ford agrees. Without asking or even consulting Congress, Ford, calling the capture of the Mayaguez an “act of piracy,” orders US Marines to attack Cambodian warships and storm the island of Koh Tang (sometimes spelled Kaoh Tang) where the crew of the Mayaguez is believed to be held prisoner. On May 15, some 180 Marines storm the island in a helicopter assault, with light air support. [American Merchant Marine at War, 6/5/2000; Savage, 2007, pp. 31-33]
Violation of Constitution, Law - Ford briefs Congressional leaders after the fact; the leaders agree that the attack is the right decision, but sharply disagree with how Ford carried out the decision. A 1971 law prohibits the use of ground forces in Cambodia, and the 1973 War Powers Resolution requires advance consultation with Congress “in every possible instance.” Speaker of the House Carl Albert (D-OK) reminds Ford, “There are charges on the floor [of the House] that you have violated the law.” And Senate Majority Whip Robert Byrd (D-WV) asks why Ford did not inform Congressional leaders before ordering the attacks, saying, “I’m for getting the ship back, but I think you should have given them a chance to urge caution.” Ford replies: “It is my constitutional responsibility to command the forces and to protect Americans.… We have a separation of powers. The president is the commander in chief so long as he is within the law. I exercised my power under the law and I complied with the law. I would never forgive myself if the Marines had been attacked.”
'Nerve and Steel' - The Mayaguez and her crew are recovered, and Ford’s decision is hailed by media outlets such as Newsweek as a “daring show of nerve and steel,” a “classic show of gunboat diplomacy,” and “a four star political and diplomatic victory.… It was swift and tough—and it worked.” [Savage, 2007, pp. 31-33]
Facts Far Different from Initial Reporting - But subsequent information shows that the initial reports of the US military action were false. The government will claim that one Marine died and 13 were wounded in the invasion of the Cambodian island. In reality, 40 soldiers die—15 in the initial assault (13 Marines and two Air Force soldiers), 23 Marines in a helicopter crash, and three Marines who are inadvertently left behind, captured by the Cambodians, and executed. Forty-four Marines and six Air Force soldiers are wounded. The US expected maybe two dozen Cambodian soldiers on the island, but in actuality well over 200 heavily armed and entrenched Cambodian soldiers were in place. The crew of the Mayaguez had never been on the island; the Cambodians had taken them to the mainland. And the Cambodian government had already publicly announced it was releasing the vessel and the crew before the attack began—Ford had not yet received the message when he authorized the Marine assault. Marines had stormed the Mayaguez and found no one on board; the crew was at sea in a fishing boat when the Marines launched their attack. It is never completely clear why the ruling Khmer Rouge releases the crew so quickly; some speculate intervention by China or Israel. But the facts of the incident, and the unexpectedly large number of deaths and injuries, are submerged in a wave of patriotic fervor that sweeps the country. A Ford administration official will later admit to Newsweek that the operation had been “the sheerest sort of jingoism,” but, he will argue, it worked to perfection, “and nobody challenges success.” Overwhelmed by the outpouring of public support for Ford and the “rescue” of the Mayaguez, Congress quickly shelves its objections to Ford’s usurpation of Constitutional principles. In 2007, reporter and author Charlie Savage will write, “The Mayaguez incident revealed just how difficult it would be for Congress to rein in a president once troops were committed.” [American Merchant Marine at War, 6/5/2000; Savage, 2007, pp. 31-33]
In the wake of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (see December 8, 1979), President Carter declares in his annual State of the Union address, “An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.” This will become known as the Carter Doctrine. [Scott, 2007, pp. 69, 303] The US immediately follows up with a massive build up of military forces in the region. New military arrangements are made with Kenya, Oman, Somalia, Egypt, and Pakistan. In March 1980, a Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force is created, which will be renamed US Central Command (or Centcom) several years later. [Scott, 2007, pp. 78-79, 308-309]
The US begins launching what the Pentagon calls “psychological operations,” or PSYOPS, against the USSR. The operations consist in part of military exercises designed to agitate and frighten the USSR into believing the US might be preparing for a military assault. Few outside of the White House and the Pentagon’s top officials—and Soviet officials, of course—know about the series of provocative exercises. Undersecretary of Defense Fred Ikle will later recall: “It was very sensitive. Nothing was written down about it, so there would be no paper trail.” The idea behind the operations is to keep the Soviets off-balance about what, if anything, the US might do. It also is designed to probe for gaps and vulnerabilities in the Soviets’ early warning intelligence system. General Jack Chain, a Strategic Air Command (SAC) commander, will later recall: “Sometimes we would send bombers over the North Pole and their radars would click on. Other times fighter-bombers would probe their Asian or European periphery.” Sometimes the operations send out several probes in a week, coming at irregular intervals to make the effect that much more unsettling. Then the probes stop, only to begin again several weeks later. Undersecretary of State for Military Assistance and Technology Dr. William Schneider will later recall: “It really got to them. They didn’t know what it all meant. A squadron would fly straight at Soviet airspace, and other radars would light up and units would go on alert. Then at the last minute the squadron would peel off and return home.” The operations include naval incursions as well as aerial missions, with US aircraft carrier groups regularly conducting exercises alarmingly close to Soviet military and industrial sites, often without being detected until the groups are already in place. Some exercises simulate surprise attacks on Soviet targets, sometimes simulating air assaults on Soviet fighter units. The naval pressure is particularly intense in the area of the North Atlantic called the “Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom (GIUK) gap.” [Fischer, 3/19/2007]
Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, begins its program to recruit Arab fundamentalists fighters from across the Arab world to fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan. [Rashid, 2001, pp. 129]
The Pentagon releases its tightly classified five-year plan for the US’s military policy, the Fiscal Year 1984-1988 Defense Guidance. A central element of the plan is its acceptance of the winnability of a “protracted nuclear war” with the Soviet Union. Although such an idea is publicly repudiated by President Reagan (see March-April 1982), the idea is set into policy by the White House’s National Security Decision Directive 32, which mandates the modernization of US nuclear forces with regard to “developing a capability to sustain protracted nuclear conflict” (see May 20, 1982). The Defense Guidance document mandates that during a lengthy nuclear conflict, US forces “must prevail and be able to force the Soviet Union to seek earliest termination of hostilities on terms favorable to the United States.” The Defense Guidance document is leaked to the New York Times, which reports its existence in an article entitled “Pentagon Draws Up First Strategy for Fighting a Long Nuclear War.” [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 127; Air Force Magazine, 3/2008] In 2008, J. Peter Scoblic will write that the Reagan administration’s position is not, at first glance, markedly different from that of its predecessors; since the Kennedy administration, the government’s various agencies and departments have worked to provide some sort of viable “nuclear flexibility” that would give the US a nuclear option besides an all-out nuclear strike—a “war orgasm,” in nuclear war scholar Herman Kahn’s terminology. But Scoblic will note that those other administrations recognized the likelihood of any limited nuclear exchange quickly escalating into an all-out barrage by both nations. The Reagan administration does not accept this as a likelihood, Scoblic will observe. No other administration had made specific plans for a nuclear war that would last six months, with, as Scoblic will write, “pauses for reloading silos and firing fresh volleys of missiles.” The Pentagon plan provides for what it calls “a reserve of nuclear forces sufficient for trans- and post-attack protection and coercion,” or, in Scoblic’s words, “having enough weapons to win one war… and immediately be ready to deter or fight another.” [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 128]
Air Force General David Jones, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says that the idea of winning a protracted nuclear war, as espoused by the Pentagon (see March 1982), is not tenable. “I don’t see much of a chance of nuclear war being limited or protracted,” he says. “I see great difficulty in keeping any kind of exchange between the US and the Soviets from escalating.” He adds: “If you try to do everything to fight a protracted nuclear war, then you end up with the potential of a bottomless pit.… We can’t do everything. I personally would not spend a lot of money on a protracted nuclear war.” [Air Force Magazine, 3/2008]
Test firing of a US Pershing II IRBM. [Source: US Army / Public domain]The US and its NATO allies carry out a military exercise called “Able Archer,” or “Able Archer 83,” designed to simulate the use of nuclear weapons in an assault against the Soviet Union, and to test command and control procedures. The military exercise comes perilously close to touching off a real nuclear exchange with the USSR. The exercise—not the first of its kind, but the most expansive—is huge, spanning Europe from Turkey to Scandinavia; it involves the heads of state of countries like Great Britain and Germany; and, perhaps most alarmingly for the Soviets, involves NATO forces escalating their military alert levels to DEFCON-1, at which point NATO nuclear weapons have their safeguards disabled and are ready for launch. The Soviet’s VRYAN program to detect a possible assault (see May 1981) is extremely active. On November 8, Moscow sends high-priority telegrams to its KGB stations in Western Europe demanding information about a possible surprise first attack on the USSR. Though little actual evidence exists, some sources erroneously tell Moscow that NATO ground forces are mobilizing. The KGB concludes that “Able Archer” is a cover for a real military assault; Warsaw Pact fighter units armed with nuclear weapons are put on alert in East Germany and Poland. [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 134-135; Cardiff Western News, 11/10/2008]
'Frighteningly Close' to Nuclear War, Says Soviet Intelligence Official - Oleg Gordievsky, the intelligence chief of the Soviet embassy in London and a British double agent, warns the British that the West is entering what he calls a “danger zone.” The Daily Telegraph will later write, “It was on Nov. 8-9 that the Kremlin had pressed what came close to a panic button.” [Washington Post, 10/16/1988] In his memoirs, Gordievsky will write: “In the tense atmosphere generated by the crises and rhetoric of the past few months, the KGB concluded that American forces had been placed on alert—and might even have begun the countdown to war.… [D]uring ABLE ARCHER 83 it had, without realizing it, come frighteningly close—certainly closer than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.” [Fischer, 3/19/2007]
Reagan 'Shocked' at Soviet Reaction - The exercise ends without incident, but National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane will later admit, “The situation was very grave.” Secretary of State George Shultz terms the exercise “a close call” and “quite sobering.” In early 1984, when the CIA reports that the Soviets had been convinced that the US was readying a nuclear strike, President Reagan will be, in author J. Peter Scoblic’s words, “shocked” to realize that he and his administration “had nearly started a nuclear war.” Reagan, in McFarlane’s recollection, will show “genuine anxiety” and begin talking about the concept of Armageddon—the Biblical end times—with his advisers. [Fischer, 3/19/2007; Scoblic, 2008, pp. 134-135]
Following a March 1985 directive signed by President Reagan that sharply escalates US covert action in Afghanistan, the Pakistani ISI begins training Afghans to launch strikes directly into Soviet territory. Apparently the idea originated with CIA Director William Casey who first proposed harassing Soviet territory in 1984 (see October 1984). According to Graham Fuller, a senior US intelligence official, most top US officials consider such military raids “an incredible escalation” and fear a large-scale Soviet response if they are carried out. The Reagan administration decides not to give Pakistan detailed satellite photographs of military targets inside the Soviet Union. [Washington Post, 7/19/1992] Mohammad Yousaf, a high-ranking ISI officer, will later claim that the training actually began in 1984. “During this period we were specifically to train and dispatch hundreds of mujaheddin up to 25 kilometers deep inside the Soviet Union. They were probably the most secret and sensitive operations of the war.” He notes that, “By 1985, it became obvious that the United States had got cold feet. Somebody at the top in the American administration was getting frightened.” But, he claims, “the CIA, and others, gave us every encouragement unofficially to take the war into the Soviet Union.” [Dreyfuss, 2005, pp. 286-287] Casey will approve of such attacks and the first attack inside the Soviet Union will take place in 1985 (see 1985-1987).
US President Ronald Reagan issues presidential directive NSDD 139, titled, “Measures to improve US posture and readiness to respond to developments in the Iran-Iraq War.” The directive stresses the importance of ensuring US access to military facilities in the Gulf region and preventing “an Iraqi collapse.” Though the directive says that the US should maintain its policy of “unambiguous” condemnation of chemical warfare—without mentioning Iraq—the document also emphasizes that the US should “place equal stress on the urgent need to dissuade Iran from continuing the ruthless and inhumane tactics which have characterized recent offensives.” The directive does not suggest ending or reducing US support for Iraq. [US Department of State, 3/30/1984 ; Battle, 2/25/2003]
William Casey (left, with glasses) and General Akhtar Abdur Rahman (center) touring Afghan training camps in the 1980s. [Source: Associated Press]CIA Director William Casey makes a secret visit to Pakistan to plan a strategy to defeat Soviet forces in Afghanistan. Casey is flown to secret training camps near the Afghan border where he watches trainees fire weapons and make bombs. According to the Washington Post: “During the visit, Casey startled his Pakistani hosts by proposing that they take the Afghan war into enemy territory—into the Soviet Union itself. Casey wanted to ship subversive propaganda through Afghanistan to the Soviet Union’s predominantly Muslim southern republics.” The Pakistanis agree to the plan and soon the CIA begins sending subversive literature and thousands of Korans to Soviet republics such as Uzbekistan. Mohammad Yousaf, a Pakistani general who attends the meeting, will later say that Casey said, “We can do a lot of damage to the Soviet Union.” [Washington Post, 7/19/1992] This will eventually evolve into CIA and ISI sponsored Afghan attacks inside the Soviet Union (see 1984-March 1985 and 1985-1987).
In 1985, the CIA, MI6 (Britain’s intelligence agency), and the Pakistani ISI agree to launch guerrilla attacks from Afghanistan into then Soviet-controlled Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, attacking military installations, factories, and storage depots within Soviet territory. Some Afghans have been trained for this purpose since 1984 (see 1984-March 1985). The task is given to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, an Afghan warlord closely linked to the ISI. According to an account in the Washington Post, in March 1987, small units cross from bases in northern Afghanistan into Tajikistan and launched their first rocket attacks against villages there. [Washington Post, 7/19/1992; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/23/2001] However, Mohammad Yousaf, a high-ranking ISI officer at the time, will later write a well regarded book about the Soviet-Afghan war and will give a different account. He will claim the attacks in the Soviet Union actually begin in 1985 and are much more numerous. He says, “These cross-border strikes were at their peak in 1986. Scores of attacks were made across the Amu (River)… Sometimes Soviet citizens joined in these operations, or came back into Afghanistan to join the mujaheddin… That we were hitting a sore spot was confirmed by the ferocity of the Soviets’ reaction. Virtually every incursion provoked massive aerial bombing and gunship attacks on all villages south of the river in the vicinity of our strike.” [Dreyfuss, 2005, pp. 286] By all accounts, these secret attacks are strongly backed by CIA Director William Casey and come to an end when he dies later in 1987. [Washington Post, 7/19/1992; Dreyfuss, 2005, pp. 285-286]
Ronald Reagan with Afghan mujaheddin leaders. [Source: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library] (click image to enlarge)President Reagan issues a secret National Security Decision Directive to sharply escalate US covert action in Afghanistan. No longer content to simply help harass Soviet forces in Afghanistan, the directive leads to sharp increase in military and other aid to the mujaheddin to completely defeat the Soviets. The CIA begins supplying mujaheddin rebels with “extensive satellite reconnaissance data of Soviet targets on the Afghan battlefield, plans for military operations based on the satellite intelligence, intercepts of Soviet communications, secret communications networks for the rebels, delayed timing devices for tons of C-4 plastic explosives for urban sabotage and sophisticated guerrilla attacks, long-range sniper rifles, a targeting device for mortars that was linked to a US Navy satellite, wire-guided anti-tank missiles, and other equipment.” CIA Director William Casey also sees the directive as an opportunity to launch attacks inside the Soviet Union itself (see 1984-March 1985 and 1985-1987). [Washington Post, 7/19/1992]
Ali Mohamed, in one of the US military videos he helped create. In the lower picture, he is in the center, chairing a discussion on the Middle East with other US army officers. [Source: US Army via CNN]Ali Mohamed enlists in the US Army and is posted to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. (He had taken part in a special program for foreign officers at Fort Bragg when he was a major in the Egyptian army in 1981 (see 1984)). He works first as a supply sergeant for a Green Beret unit, and then as an instructor at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School. Fort Bragg is no ordinary military base—one newspaper calls it the “US military’s top warfare planning center.” Mohamed will steal numerous top secret documents and pass them to al-Qaeda (see November 5, 1990). [San Francisco Chronicle, 11/4/2001; Raleigh News and Observer, 11/13/2001] Mohamed trains and lectures soldiers being deployed to the Middle East on the region’s culture and politics. He also produces and appears in training videotapes about the Middle East. In one tape, he asserts that devout Muslims are widely misunderstood. “The term of fundamentalism scares people in the West. Everybody when he hears fundamentalist, he thinks about armed struggle. He thinks about radicals. He thinks about groups that are carrying weapons. The word fundamentalism does not mean extremism. It means just that ordinary Muslims accept everything—that this is my way.” One of his supervisors is Col. Norvell De Atkine, who later will say of Mohamed, “I don’t think he was anti-American. He was what I would call a Muslim fundamentalist, which isn’t a bomb thrower. I would not put him in that category.” [New York Times, 10/30/1998] De Atkine is an expert on the Middle East and on the political aspects of military operations. In one of his articles he will praise the propaganda preparation for the Gulf War. [American Diplomacy, 1999] De Atkine will also contribute articles to Middle East Forum, an aggressively neoconservative and pro-Israeli journal edited by Daniel Pipes. One of these, a denunciation of leftist and Arab influences in academia, will be written together with Pipes. [Academic Questions, 1995]
Osama bin Laden and Pakistan’s ISI, helped by the CIA, build the Khost tunnel complex in Afghanistan. This will be a major target of bombing and fighting when the US attacks the Taliban in 2001. [Guardian, 11/13/2000; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/23/2001; Hindu, 9/27/2001] In June 2001, one article mentions that “bin Laden worked closely with Saudi, Pakistani, and US intelligence services to recruit mujaheddin from many Muslim countries.” This information has not often been reported since 9/11. [United Press International, 6/14/2001] It has been claimed that the CIA also funds Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK) (also known as Al-Kifah), bin Laden’s main charity front in the 1980s (see 1984 and After). A CIA spokesperson will later state, “For the record, you should know that the CIA never employed, paid, or maintained any relationship whatsoever with bin Laden.” [Ananova, 10/31/2001]
William Casey. [Source: CIA]Following an agreement between the CIA and Pakistan’s ISI to make more use of Arabs in the Soviet-Afghan War, recruitment of potential fighters increases significantly. The agreement was a result of CIA dissatisfaction at infighting between indigenous Afghan rebels (see 1985-1986). According to Australian journalist John Pilger, in this year: “CIA Director William Casey [gives] his backing to a plan put forward by Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, to recruit people from around the world to join the Afghan jihad. More than 100,000 Islamic militants [are] trained in Pakistan between 1986 and 1992, in camps overseen by the CIA and [the British intelligence agency] MI6, with the [British special forces unit] SAS training future al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters in bomb-making and other black arts. Their leaders [are] trained at a CIA camp in Virginia.” [Guardian, 9/20/2003] Eventually, around 35,000 Muslim radicals from 43 Islamic countries will fight with the Afghan mujaheddin. Tens of thousands more will study in the hundreds of new madrassas (Islamic schools) funded by the ISI and CIA in Pakistan. Their main logistical base is in the Pakistani city of Peshawar. [Washington Post, 7/19/1992; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/23/2001] Ironically, although many are trained, it seems only a small percentage actually take part fight in serious fighting in Afghanistan, so their impact on the war is small. [New Yorker, 9/9/2002] Richard Murphy, assistant secretary of state for Near East and South Asian relations during the Reagan administration, will later say: “We did spawn a monster in Afghanistan. Once the Soviets were gone [the people trained and/or funded by the US] were looking around for other targets, and Osama bin Laden has settled on the United States as the source of all evil. Irony? Irony is all over the place.” [Associated Press, 8/23/1998] In the late 1980s, Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, feeling the mujaheddin network has grown too strong, tells President George H. W. Bush, “You are creating a Frankenstein.” However, the warning goes unheeded. [Newsweek, 10/1/2001] By 1993, President Bhutto tells Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that Peshawar is under de facto control of the mujaheddin, and unsuccessfully asks for military help in reasserting Pakistani control over the city. Thousands of mujaheddin fighters return to their home countries after the war is over and engage in multiple acts of violence. One Western diplomat notes these thousands would never have been trained or united without US help, and says, “The consequences for all of us are astronomical.” [Atlantic Monthly, 5/1996]
Official logo of US Central Command (CENTCOM), one of the nine military commands established under the Defense Reorganization Act. [Source: Public domain]President Reagan signs into law the Goldwater-Nichols Defense Reorganization Act of 1986, originally sponsored by Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) and Representative Bill Nichols (D-AL). Goldwater-Nichols, as it is sometimes called, sparks the largest reorganization of the US military since the National Security Act of 1947. Operational authority is centralized through the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as opposed to the actual service chiefs themselves. The chairman is designated as the primary military adviser to the president, the National Security Council (NSC), and the secretary of defense. The legislation also reorganizes the military command structure into several “commands”:
By geographical region (Northern Command, or NORTHCOM; Central Command, or CENTCOM; European Command, or EUCOM; Pacific Command, or PACOM; and Southern Command, or SOUTHCOM); and
By function (Joint Forces Command, or JFCOM; Special Operations Command, or SOCOM; Strategic Command, or STRATCOM; and Transportation Command, or TRANSCOM). [Statement on Signing the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986, 10/1/1986 ; Lederman, 1999; Wilson, 2004, pp. 212; US Air Force Air University, 11/21/2007; National Defense University Library, 2/10/2008]
Entity Tags: Ronald Reagan, US Transportation Command, Goldwater-Nichols Defense Reorganization Act, Barry Goldwater, US Strategic Command, Bill Nichols, US Special Operations Command, US Pacific Command, US European Command, US Central Command, US Northern Command, US Southern Command, US Joint Forces Command
Timeline Tags: US Military
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin forms Hamas as the military arm of his Islamic Association, which had been licensed by Israel ten years earlier (see 1973-1978). According to Charles Freeman, a former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, “Israel started Hamas. It was a project of Shin Bet, which had a feeling that they could use it to hem in the PLO.” [CounterPunch, 1/18/2003; Dreyfuss, 2005, pp. 191, 208] Anthony Cordesman, a Middle East analyst for the Center for Strategic Studies, states that Israel “aided Hamas directly—the Israelis wanted to use it as a counterbalance to the PLO.” A former senior CIA official speaking to UPI describes Israel’s support for Hamas as “a direct attempt to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO by using a competing religious alternative.” Further, according to an unnamed US government official, “the thinking on the part of some of the right-wing Israeli establishment was that Hamas and the other groups, if they gained control, would refuse to have anything to do with the peace process and would torpedo any agreements put in place.” Larry Johnson, a counterterrorism official at the State Department, states: “The Israelis are their own worst enemies when it comes to fighting terrorism. They are like a guy who sets fire to his hair and then tries to put it out by hitting it with a hammer. They do more to incite and sustain terrorism than curb it.” [United Press International, 2/24/2001 Sources: Larry C. Johnson, Unnamed former CIA official]
USS ‘Stark’ after being struck by Iraqi missile. [Source: US Department of Defense]Two missiles from an Iraqi F-1 Mirage warplane strike the USS Stark, killing 37 of the sailors aboard. The frigate is a member of a US naval task force sent to the Persian Gulf to keep the Gulf open for shipping during the Iran-Iraq War. The Iraqi fighter locks weapons on the Stark three minutes before firing; the commander of the ship refuses to issue the standard “back off” warning to the Iraqi pilot. The first missile bores deep into the ship but fails to explode; the second missile explodes, incinerating the crew’s quarters, the radar room, and the combat information center. The ship burns for two days. [PBS, 2000; Peniston, 2006, pp. 61-63]
Diverting Blame onto Iran - The Pentagon later claims that the Stark indeed warned the fighter pilot not to approach. Iraq quickly apologizes for the attack. The US continues to patrol the Gulf, and continues its program of re-registering Kuwaiti oil tankers under the American flag in order to protect them from Iranian attacks. A diplomat says that given the scale of casualties in the incident, the American public is going to start asking “what the hell is the US doing in the Gulf?” Iran calls the attack on the Stark a “divine blessing.” US officials quickly divert blame for the attack on Iran, accepting an Iraqi explanation that the fighter pilot must have mistaken the US warship for an Iranian vessel. [Guardian, 5/19/1987]
Excusing Iraq, Punishing 'Stark' Commander - “We’ve never considered them hostile at all,” says President Reagan in regards to Iraq’s military. “They’ve never been in any way hostile.… And the villain in the piece is Iran.” Senator John Warner (R-VA), a former secretary of the Navy, denounces Iran as “a belligerent that knows no rules, no morals.” Fellow senator John Glenn (D-OH) calls Iran “the sponsor of terrorism and the hijacker of airliners.” Iraq later determines that the Stark was in its so-called “forbidden zone,” and refuses to produce the pilot for any disciplinary action. The only punishment for the attack is suffered by the captain of the Stark, Glenn Brindel, who is relieved of his command, and his executive officer, who is punished for “dereliction of duty.” [TomDispatch (.com), 5/3/2007]
Lawsuits Dismissed - Two wrongful death lawsuits arising from the attacks will later be dismissed due to the “state secrets” privilege (see June 13, 1991 and September 16, 1992).
Crew members monitor radar screens in the combat information center aboard the Vincennes. This photo was taken by a crew member in January 1988. [Source: Public domain]The USS Vincennes, a state-of-the-art Aegis guided missile cruiser patrolling the Strait of Hormuz in an effort to keep oil tankers safe from Iranian and Iraqi depredations, detects an Iranian aircraft apparently closing in on its position. The captain and crew of the Vincennes are aware of previous attacks on US ships and Kuwaiti oil tankers by Iranian gunboats, and know of the attack a year before on the USS Stark by an Iraqi fighter (see May 17, 1987 and After). Just a half-hour before, the Vincennes itself had fired on Iranian gunboats. Captain Will Rogers III has seven minutes to decide what to do about the aircraft, which he and his radar operators believe is most likely an Iranian F-14. Although the first transmission from the Iranian aircraft identifies itself as “commair”—commercial aircraft—the radio operator forgets to reset his receiver, and subsequently receives transmissions from Iranian military aircraft which he mistakenly attributes to the incoming aircraft. When the aircraft is nine miles away, Rogers fires two SM-2 surface-to-air missiles at the aircraft. At least one missile hits the plane, which is not a military fighter, but Iran Air Flight 655, a civilian Boeing 747 carrying 290 passengers. The missile slices the airliner in half; all 290 passengers, including 66 children, die. Though the international community is outraged, the White House and the Pentagon defend the Vincennes’s action. The UN Security Council will not condemn the attack, and President Reagan volunteers to pay compensation to the families. The Navy is embarrassed that in the first real military action from one of its new Aegis cruisers, it had shot down an unarmed civilian aircraft. An investigation proves that the aircraft had been well within a commercially designated flight path, and was not descending in a threatening manner, as was initially claimed by both Vincennes personnel and Pentagon officials. No disciplinary actions against Rogers or any of his crew are ever taken. During the 1988 presidential campaign, Vice President George H. W. Bush will frequently say of the incident: “I will never apologize for the United States of America. I don’t care what the facts are.” [New York Times, 11/9/1988; TomDispatch (.com), 5/3/2007; History (.com), 2008]
Milton Bearden. [Source: Publicity photo]State Department Special Envoy Ed McWilliams, stationed in Islamabad, sends a widely distributed cable to Washington warning that continued support for the Islamist militants will have disastrous consequences. This leads to a long and bitter debate between those who agree with McWilliams, and those, including CIA Station Chief Milton Bearden, who believe that the manipulation of the Islamists has been a huge success that can and should be continued and replicated elsewhere. In response to the warning, the embassy investigates McWilliams, searching for weaknesses such as alcoholism and homosexuality. [Coll, 2004, pp. 184] Additionally, the CIA “raises serious questions about his handling of classified materials.” [Coll, 2004, pp. 176-204]
A convoy of Soviet tanks leaving Afghanistan. [Source: National Geographic]Soviet forces withdraw from Afghanistan, in accordance with an agreement signed the previous year (see April 1988). However, Afghan communists retain control of Kabul, the capital, until April 1992. [Washington Post, 7/19/1992] It is estimated that more than a million Afghans (eight per cent of the country’s population) were killed in the Soviet-Afghan War, and hundreds of thousands had been maimed by an unprecedented number of land mines. Almost half of the survivors of the war are refugees. [New Yorker, 9/9/2002] Richard Clarke, a counterterrorism official during the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations and the counterterrorism “tsar” by 9/11, will later say that the huge amount of US aid provided to Afghanistan drops off drastically as soon as the Soviets withdraw, abandoning the country to civil war and chaos. The new powers in Afghanistan are tribal chiefs, the Pakistani ISI, and the Arab war veterans coalescing into al-Qaeda. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 52-53]
The US Army presents a white paper to President Bush in which it describes Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq as the optimum contender “to replace the Warsaw Pact” and on that basis argues for the continuation of Cold War-level military spending. [Pilger, 1994; Clarke, 1994; Zepezauer, 2003]
After Iraq invades Kuwait (see November 8, 1990), bin Laden, newly returned to Saudi Arabia, offers the Saudi government the use of his thousands of veteran fighters from the Afghan war to defend the country in case Iraq attacks it. The Saudi government turns him down, allowing 300,000 US soldiers on Saudi soil instead. Bin Laden is incensed, and immediately goes from ally to enemy of the Saudis. [Coll, 2004, pp. 221-24, 270-71] After a slow buildup, the US invades Iraq in March 1991 and reestablishes Kuwait. [Posner, 2003, pp. 40-41] Bin Laden soon leaves Saudi Arabia and soon forms al-Qaeda ((see Summer 1991)).
On the homeward journey from their Middle East trip (see August 5, 1990 and After), Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney hands General Colin Powell, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a copy of Powell’s proposal to retire the US Army’s tactical nuclear weapons stockpile. Powell states that the arsenal is expensive, difficult to maintain, inaccurate, and, in light of modern weaponry, virtually irrelevant. The proposal is heavily annotated by Cheney’s aide David Addington. Cheney and Addington adamantly oppose any such move to retire the tactical nuclear arsenal. “[N]ot one of my civilian advisers supports this,” Cheney tells Powell. Powell’s viewpoint will eventually prevail, but not until September 2002. [Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 101]
Christoph von Bezold. [Source: History Channel]In 1997, it will be reported that the German parliament’s Control Commission, which oversees Germany’s intelligence services, is investigating media allegations that the BND German intelligence agency covertly and illegally armed the Bosnian Muslims and Croats during the Bosnian war. The BND allegedly infiltrated the European Union’s monitoring missions that were supposed to help arrange ceasefires and assist with humanitarian aid. The Germans used that cover to smuggle weapons and money to Bosnian Muslims. In one instance, Christoph von Bezold, head of the German EU monitors in Zagreb, Croatia, was allegedly actually a BND agent and on March 27, 1994, he shipped munitions across enemy lines to the Bosnian Muslim controlled pocket of Bihac, Bosnia, in boxes supposedly containing powdered milk. Apparently this was just one of many such shipments using EU monitors as cover. In addition, Germany appears to be Croatia’s largest arms supplier during the war, although this is in violation of German law prohibiting the shipments of arms to an active war zone and a violation of the UN arms embargo on Yugoslavia as well. Most of the Croatia military hardware comes from East German supplies rendered obsolete in Germany after East and West Germany merged. Germany even smuggled former East German MiG-21 fighters to Croatia. [Daily Telegraph, 4/20/1997]
One of the many air strikes launched against Iraqi targets during Operation Desert Storm. [Source: US Air Force]The US launches a massive air assault against Iraq in retaliation for that country’s invasion of Kuwait (see August 2, 1990). The air assault begins the day after a UN deadline for Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait expires (see November 29, 1990). F-117 Stealth bombers hit Baghdad with an array of high-tech bombs and missiles; many of the explosions are televised live, or on briefly delayed feeds, on CNN, which launches virtually 24-hour coverage of the air strikes. In the first 48 hours of the war, 2,107 combat missions drop more than 5,000 tons of bombs on Baghdad alone, nearly twice the amount that incinerated Dresden in World War II.
'Thunder and Lightning of Desert Storm' - US Army General Norman Schwarzkopf, chief of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), announces the beginning of hostilities by transmitting the following: “Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines of the United States Central Command, this morning at 0300, we launched Operation Desert Storm, an offensive campaign that will enforce the United Nation’s resolutions that Iraq must cease its rape and pillage of its weaker neighbor and withdraw its forces from Kuwait. My confidence in you is total. Our cause is just! Now you must be the thunder and lightning of Desert Storm. May God be with you, your loved ones at home, and our country.” [US Navy, 9/17/1997]
Initial Attacks Obliterate Iraqi Navy, Much of Air Force, Many Ground Installations - The attack begins with an assault of over 100 Tomahawk land attack missiles (TLAMs) launched from US naval vessels in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea, and attack helicopter strikes on Iraqi radar installations near the Iraq-Saudi Arabian border. The assaults destroy much of Iraq’s air defense and command-and-control capabilities. The missile assault is quickly followed by fighter, bomber, and assault helicopter strikes which continue pounding at Iraqi government buildings, power stations, dams, military sites, radio and television stations, and several of Saddam Hussein’s palaces. The strikes essentially obliterate the Iraqi Navy, and drastically cripple the Iraqi Air Force. (Between 115 and 140 aircraft and crews of the Iraqi Air Force flees to Iran over the course of the war, a move that surprises US commanders, who expected the aircraft and their crews to attempt to flee to Jordan, not Iran. The Iranians will never give Iraq back its aircraft, and will not release Iraqi air crews for years to come.) A US Navy review later calls the combined Navy-Marine air campaign, conducted in concert with US Air Force strikes, “successful beyond the most optimistic expectations.” The Navy later reports that “allied air forces dropped over 88,500 tons of ordnance on the battlefield.” [US Navy, 9/17/1997; NationMaster, 12/23/2007] Iraqi anti-aircraft counterattacks are surprisingly effective, downing around 75 US and British aircraft in the first hours of attacks. The US media does not widely report these downings, nor does it give much attention to the dozens of pilots and air crew captured as POWs. [NationMaster, 12/23/2007]
'The Mother of All Battles' - Five hours after the first attacks, Baghdad state radio broadcasts a voice identified as Saddam Hussein. Hussein tells his people that “The great duel, the mother of all battles has begun. The dawn of victory nears as this great showdown begins.” [NationMaster, 12/23/2007]
US Embassy Helped Locate Targets for Air Strikes - Deputy Chief of Mission Joseph Wilson, the last American to leave Baghdad (see January 12, 1991), and his staff provided critical assistance to the US battle planners in choosing their initial targets. Over the months, Wilson and his staff developed a “hostage tracking system,” monitoring and recording the movements of the American hostages as they were transferred from site to site to be used as human shields in the event of a US strike (see August 4, 1990 and August 8, 1990). Wilson and his staff were able to identify some 55 sites that were being used around the country, presumably some of the most critical military and infrastructure sites in Iraq. Wilson gave that information to the Pentagon. He will later write, “I was gratified when several months later, on the first night of Desert Storm, long after the hostages had been released, many of those sites were ones hit by American bombs.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 141]
Entity Tags: US Department of the Navy, United Nations, US Department of the Marines, US Department of the Air Force, US Department of the Army, CNN, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Norman Schwarzkopf, Joseph C. Wilson, US Department of Defense, US Department of State, Saddam Hussein
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion
One of the US Army Patriot batteries deployed in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia that destroyed Iraqi Scuds. [Source: US Army]Iraqi forces launch seven Scud missiles at targets inside Israel. US forces intercept one of the Scuds over Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, with a Patriot anti-missile battery. The Israeli government agrees to a US request not to retaliate with its own military strike against Iraq. Two days later, the Pentagon redeploys several Patriot batteries from their bases in Europe into the region. [American Forces Press Service, 8/8/2000] This is the first of a number of Scud attacks by Iraq against Israeli targets. Many believe that Iraq’s intention in attacking Israel—announced before the war—is to draw Israel into the conflict and thus draw other Arab countries into the war in support of Iraq, particularly Jordan and/or Syria. Israel, pressured by the US, refuses to retaliate. The Scuds that are fired at Israel have been drastically modified to fly much farther distances than they were originally designed to do, and as a result they are wildly inaccurate. A common joke among US military and civilian personnel is: “How many Iraqis does it take to launch a Scud? Two: one to launch the missile and another to watch CNN to see where it lands.” [NationMaster, 12/23/2007]
Blazing oil wells in Kuwait. [Source: US Department of Defense]Iraqi forces begin igniting an estimated 700 oil wells in northern Kuwait. [PBS Frontline, 1/9/1996; American Forces Press Service, 8/8/2000] Smoke from the burning oil wells can be seen from space. [Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses, 1/20/2008] One US soldier will later recall: “There were… days when the smoke [plumes] ‘hugged’ the ground and turned the sunlit, bright day into a dark of night. [We] traveled the ‘coastal highway,’ from Kuwait City down to Saudi Arabia… and the petroleum-thickened air was so impregnated that we choked on oil while breathing through our doubled-up scarves… We were forced to stop and clear the raw petroleum off vehicle windshields and our goggles constantly. At [times] on the highway the… air was so thick our vehicle headlights could not penetrate the air further than 10-15 feet, and Marine escorts were needed to walk… ahead of the vehicles to keep us on the highway.” It takes nine months of concerted efforts by the US and Kuwait to bring the oil well fires under control. Many military and civilian personnel will report long-term health problems as a likely result of exposure to toxins and particulates released by the fires. [Illnesses, 8/2/2000]
Melissa Rathbun-Nealy at a rally in her home town of Grand Rapids, Michigan. [Source: Grand Rapids Public Library]During the fighting in and around Kharfji (see January 29-30, 1991), Iraqi forces capture the first US female prisoner of war. [American Forces Press Service, 8/8/2000] The POW is later identified as Army Specialist Melissa Rathbun-Nealy, a driver with the 233rd Transportation Company. She and fellow driver Specialist David Lockett became lost and stuck in the sand while driving a heavy flatbed truck near the Iraq-Kuwait border; both are captured. [People, 2/18/1991] Both Rathbun-Nealy and Lockett will be released in March 1991, along with four other POWs. Interestingly, both soldiers are initially listed as “missing in action” instead of “prisoners of war”; the Defense Department will give no explanation for the decision to list them as MIA, though some believe it is to escape potential media embarrassment at having a female soldier captured by the enemy. Both Rathbun-Nealy and Lockett will report that their captivity was largely uneventful, and they were well treated. [POW Network, 11/8/2007]
A US air and missile strike in Baghdad destroys three major bridges, but also kills around 400 civilians in a blockhouse being used as an air-raid shelter. Iraqi officials later confirm that the blockhouse also housed a military communications center, and may have been a military command center as well. [PBS Frontline, 1/9/1996; NationMaster, 12/23/2007]
Iraqi forces launch four Scud missiles at the US/Saudi military base in King Khalid Military City. All four are reportedly destroyed by US Patriot anti-missile batteries. [NationMaster, 2005]
An Army M-270 rocket system deployed in Saudi Arabia. [Source: US Army]After over a month of aerial and naval assaults against Iraqi forces (see January 16, 1991 and After), the US-led coalition launches a massive ground assault against Iraqi forces in Kuwait. [American Forces Press Service, 8/8/2000] Battalions from the 11th Marine Division lead the assault by clearing Iraqi minefields in southern Kuwait placed to impede ground forces’ progress. [Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses, 1/20/2008] A key component of the US strategy is the so-called “left hook” maneuver, based on General Ulysses S. Grant’s similar strategy in the 1863 Battle of Vicksburg. [PBS Frontline, 1/9/1996] The “left hook” is designed to sidestep a large contingent of heavily fortified Iraqi troops along the Iraq-Kuwait border, prepared to defend Kuwait City from an attack by US and coalition forces. General Norman Schwarzkopf, the US’s chief strategist, uses a small contingent of Marines to keep this larger Iraqi force busy while 250,000 troops land behind the dug-in Iraqi forces; one contingent sweeps north to attack forces around Basra, and the rest surprise the Iraqis along the border by attacking from the north. [Bard, 2002, pp. 280]
Demolished and disabled vehicles litter the ‘Highway of Death’ in the hours after Iraqi forces were slaughtered by US strikes. [Source: Public domain / US Department of Defense]Thousands of Iraqi soldiers retreating on two highways from Kuwait City, Kuwait, towards Basra, Iraq, are slaughtered by US forces on what is later called the “Highway of Death.” [PBS Frontline, 1/9/1996] The so-called “Battle of Rumaylah,” or as some call it, the “Battle of the Junkyard,” is not a battle in the classic sense, as the huge losses of Iraqi soldiers and vehicles are contrasted with the loss of a single American tank, lost when an Iraqi tank explodes too close to it. Only one US soldier is injured. In the two separate but connected US assaults that make up the battle, at least 600 Iraqi tanks, armored vehicles, and trucks are destroyed or disabled; estimates of Iraqi personnel losses vary widely, but the losses are well in the thousands. Iraqi, Kuwaiti, and Palestinian civilians, including children, are caught in the heavy US assault as well as innumerable Iraqi soldiers. (Some believe the Kuwaitis and Palestinians were being taken to Baghdad to be used as hostages.) Most of the bodies are buried within hours, making it impossible to ascertain the number of dead. During the US assault, US tanks, using sophisticated thermal-imaging targeting, have little trouble sighting and destroying Iraqi tanks before the Iraqi units are even aware that they are being fired upon. [Time, 3/18/1991; New Yorker, 5/22/2000; Newsweek, 5/29/2000]
Air Strikes - Initially, a force of retreating Iraqi armored units are bombed front and rear by US aircraft during the night of February 27-28, trapping the convoy between the centers of destruction. The remaining units are targets for later air strikes. Most of the vehicles—military tanks, trucks, and armored personnel carriers, as well as civilian cars and trucks—are destroyed.
Five-Hour Air, Armor Assault - The March 2 attack on the Iraqi Republican Guard “Hammurabi” tank division is ordered by Army General Barry McCaffrey (the general who commanded the already-famous “left hook” maneuver days before—see February 23, 1991 and After), in response to what McCaffrey says is an attack on his forces with rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs). The decision surprises some in the Allied command structure in Saudi Arabia and causes unease among civilian and military leaders in Washington, who worry about the public relations ramifications of an attack that comes days after a cease-fire was implemented (see February 28, 1991). McCaffrey himself later calls the attack “one of the most astounding scenes of destruction I have ever participated in.” The “Hammurabi” division is obliterated in the assault.
Criticism from Fellow Officers - Some senior US officers are not sure that McCaffrey’s unit, the 24th Mechanized Division, was in fact attacked; many senior US officers privately assert that McCaffrey’s five-hour assault was well out of proportion. (McCaffrey, later accused of war crimes by an anonymous but well-informed accuser, will be exonerated by an Army inquiry.) McCaffrey will assert that his troops were indeed attacked—an assertion backed by other field officers on the scene—and that he ordered the retaliation because had he not, his forces would have come under heavy attack by Iraqi armored units. Besides, McCaffrey will later say, the entire war was intended to be a one-sided affair: “We didn’t go up there looking for a fair fight with these people.” The whole war, one British commander said in earlier weeks, was “rather like a grouse shoot.” [New Yorker, 5/22/2000; Newsweek, 5/29/2000]
One critic is the commander of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Unit, Lieutenant General James Johnson, who will later say: “There was no need to be shooting at anybody. [The Iraqis] couldn’t surrender fast enough. The war was over.” Johnson, whose unit is deployed near McCaffrey’s, will add, “I saw no need to continue any further attacks.” Explaining why McCaffrey ordered the assault on his own authority, Johnson will say that McCaffrey—widely perceived as CENTCOM commander General Norman Schwarzkopf’s favorite general—“does what he wants to do.”
Lieutenant General Ronald Griffith, commanding the 1st Armored Division of VII Corps, will later say that many of the tanks destroyed in the assault were being transported on trailer trucks to Baghdad, with their cannons facing away from the US troops, and thus posing no threat. “It was just a bunch of tanks in a train, and he made it a battle,” Griffith will later say of McCaffrey. “He made it a battle when it was never one. That’s the thing that bothered me the most.”
Major James Kump, the senior intelligence officer for the Army’s 124th Military Intelligence Battalion, is monitoring what he believes to be a routine retreat before McCaffrey’s units begin attacking the Iraqi forces. Kump will later recall: “I thought, I can’t believe what I’m hearing! There’s nothing going on. These guys are retreating.” Kump receives a large amount of electronic data indicating that McCaffrey is attacking a retreating force. “I had links to several intelligence systems—more than I can talk about,” he will later say. “And I’d have known if troops were moving toward us.… I knew of no justification for the counterattack. I always felt it was a violation of the ceasefire. From an integrity standpoint, I was very troubled.”
McCaffrey’s orders will be questioned even by one of his own subordinates, Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Lamar, the 24th’s operations officer. Lamar, who is in charge of the assault command post and who relays McCaffrey’s orders to the field units, will later say: “There was no incoming. I know that for a fact.” The battle is “a giant hoax. The Iraqis were doing absolutely nothing. I told McCaffrey I was having trouble confirming the incoming.” But, Lamar will recall, nothing he says matters. McCaffrey wants to attack.
Private First Class Charles Sheehan-Miles, a gun loader in a 1st Brigade tank platoon, will later recall being sent to rescue an American unit under attack by Iraqi armored units. “We went up the road blowing the sh_t out of everything,” he will recall. “It was like going down an American highway—people were all mixed up in cars and trucks. People got out of their cars and ran away. We shot them.” Sheehan-Miles recalls shooting at least one person in civilian clothing. “My orders were to shoot if they were armed or running. The Iraqis were getting massacred.”
Specialist 4 James Manchester, a member of the Scout platoon of the 27th Battalion of the 1st Brigade, will later call the battle nothing more than “f_cking murder.”
Shortly after the attack, an interpreter for the 124th Military Intelligence Battalion interrogates a captured Iraqi tank commander who asks over and over: “Why are you killing us? All we were doing was going home. Why are you killing us?”
After the battle, military analysts will pore over the battle films recorded by the Apache attack helicopters participating in McCaffrey’s assault. One of the analysts will later tell a reporter that the footage was clear: the Iraqi tanks were in full retreat and posed no threat to American forces. “These guys were in an offroad defensive position—deployed in a perimeter,” the analyst will recall. Some of the Iraqi tanks attempted to return fire once McCaffrey began his assault: “We saw T-72s in battle lines, firing away blindly in the air. They didn’t know what was killing them, but they were gamely shooting—knowing they would die.”
Many officers on the ground will later describe actions by McCaffrey and some of his senior subordinates they believe are designed to provoke a response from the retreating Iraqis and thus provide an excuse to begin a counterattack.
Massacre Factor in Decision to End Hostilities - Reporters are not allowed in the area, so no one is there to report on, or photograph, the actual assault or its immediate aftermath. But the area is heavily photographed in the following days, and the swath of destroyed, burned-out vehicles becomes at once a symbol of US military superiority and of Iraqi defeat. It is later cited as one of the factors in President Bush’s decision to accept Iraq’s surrender and cease hostilities. The decision enables the Iraqi Army to survive the war somewhat intact, and keeps Saddam Hussein in power. Bush will later explain: “If we continued the fighting another day… would we be accused of a slaughter of Iraqis who were simply trying to escape, not fight? In addition, the coalition was agreed on driving the Iraqis from Kuwait, not on carrying the conflict into Iraq or on destroying Iraqi forces.”
Dehumanizing the Iraqis - Manchester will later tell a reporter: “I was as patriotic as they come. I was a gung-ho ass-kicking Commie-hating patriotic son of a b_tch. I hated the Arabs. We all did. I dehumanized them. Did the Iraqis commit war crimes in Kuwait? Did they retreat back into Iraq to commit war crimes against their own people? The answer is yes to both questions. But does that make March 2nd justified? There have to be limits, even in war. Otherwise, the whole system breaks down.” [New Yorker, 5/22/2000]
Entity Tags: US Department of the Air Force, Ronald Griffith, Saddam Hussein, George Herbert Walker Bush, Charles Sheehan-Miles, Barry McCaffrey, US Department of Defense, James Johnson, James Manchester, James Kump, Patrick Lamar, Norman Schwarzkopf, US Department of the Army
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion
US troops in Saudi Arabia in the 1990s. [Source: PBS]As the Gulf War against Iraq ends, the US stations some 15,000-20,000 soldiers in Saudi Arabia permanently. [Nation, 2/15/1999] President George H. W. Bush falsely claims that all US troops have withdrawn. [Guardian, 12/21/2001] The US troop’s presence is not admitted until 1995, and there has never been an official explanation as to why they remained. The Nation postulates that they are stationed there to prevent a coup. Saudi Arabia has an incredible array of high-tech weaponry, but lacks the expertise to use it and it is feared that Saudi soldiers may have conflicting loyalties. In 1998, bin Laden will say in a fatwa: “For more than seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its bases in the peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples” (see February 22, 1998). [Nation, 2/15/1999] US troops will finally leave in 2003, shortly after the start of the Iraq war and the construction of new military bases in other Persian Gulf countries (see April 30-August 26, 2003).
The Defense Department announces the first troop withdrawals from Iraq and Kuwait, with the Army’s 24th Infantry Division, based at Fort Stewart, Georgia, the first to depart. [American Forces Press Service, 8/8/2000]
President George H. W. Bush signs a covert “lethal finding” authorizing the CIA to spend a hundred million dollars to “create the conditions for removal of Saddam Hussein from power.” [New Yorker, 6/7/2004] The CIA forms the Iraqi Opposition Group within its Directorate of Operations to implement this policy. [Ritter, 2005, pp. 128] Awash in cash, the agency hires the Rendon Group to influence global political opinion on matters related to Iraq. According to Francis Brooke, an employee of the company who’s paid $22,000 per month, the Rendon Group’s contract with the CIA provides it with a ten percent “management fee” on top of whatever money it spends. “We tried to burn through $40 million a year,” Brooke will tell the New Yorker. “It was a very nice job.” The work involves planting false stories in the foreign press. The company begins supplying British journalists with misinformation which then shows up in the London press. In some cases, these stories are later picked up by the American press, in violation of laws prohibiting domestic propaganda. “It was amazing how well it worked. It was like magic,” Brooke later recalls. Another one of the company’s tasks is to help the CIA create a viable and unified opposition movement against Saddam Hussein (see June 1992). This brings the Rendon Group and Francis Brooke into contact with Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi (see After May 1991). The CIA will soon help Chalabi and Rendon create the Iraqi National Congress (INC) to further the goal of toppling Hussein. [New Yorker, 6/7/2004] Author and intelligence expert James Bamford will later say, “Chalabi was a creature of American propaganda to a large degree. It was an American company, the Rendon Group, that—working secretly with the CIA—basically created his organization, the Iraqi National Congress. And put Chalabi in charge basically.… From the very beginning Chalabi was paid a lot of money from the US taxpayers. The CIA paid him originally about 350,000 dollars a month, to Chalabi and his organization.” [PBS, 4/25/2007]
Hasan Cengic. [Source: Dani]The SDA, the ruling party of Bosnian Muslim President Alija Izetbegovic, decides in private meetings that war in Bosnia is inevitable. They begin forming their own paramilitary force called the Patriotic League, which answers to Izetbegovic and his party, not the Bosnian government as a whole. Hasan Cengic, a radical militant imam, is given control of the Patriotic League and begins arming it. The Bosnian Muslims have no armed force at all at this time while the Yugoslavian army they face is very large and well supplied. Cengic travels to many countries arranging secret arms deals to supply the new force, planned to be 30,000 soldiers strong. By the end of the year, he arranges deals with Slovenia, Lebanon, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other countries. [Schindler, 2007, pp. 70] Cengic’s efforts will be the start of an illegal arms pipeline into Bosnia of massive proportions (see Mid-1991-1996).
Following attacks on two hotels near where US troops stayed (see December 29, 1992), the US announces it will no longer use Yemen as a base to support operations in Somalia. [Bergen, 2001, pp. 176] Although no US troops are killed, the attacks are regarded as a success by militant Islamists. In 1998, Osama bin Laden will say, “The United States wanted to set up a military base for US soldiers in Yemen, so that it could send fresh troops to Somalia… The Arab mujaheddin related to the Afghan jihad carried out two bomb explosions in Yemen to warn the United States, causing damage to some Americans staying in those hotels. The United States received our warning and gave up the idea of setting up its military bases in Yemen. This was the first al-Qaeda victory scored against the Crusaders.” [Scheuer, 2006, pp. 147]
In the early 1990s, future Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is an up-and-coming military general, who is in charge of military operations. He is a pupil of Hamid Gul, director of the ISI in the late 1980s and a long-time and open supporter of Osama bin Laden. Around 1993, he approaches Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto with a special plan to undermine Indian forces in the province of Kashmir, disputed between India and Pakistan. As Bhutto will later recall, “He told me he wanted to ‘unleash the forces of fundamentalism’ to ramp up the war” against India in Kashmir. Bhutto gives Musharraf the go-ahead, as she had lost power once before by opposing the Pakistani military and ISI, and “Second time around I did not want to rock the boat.” Musharraf approaches several Islamic organizations and commits them to supply volunteers who could be trained to fight as guerrillas in Kashmir. One group he works with is Markaz Dawa Al Irshad (MDI), founded several years before by followers of bin Laden. The MDI already has a military wing known as Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). Musharraf is allowed to use LeT’s fighters for his purposes in Kashmir and elsewhere. Other groups effectively created by Musharraf include Harkat ul-Ansar, later known as Harkat ul-Mujahedeen (see Early 1993). In the following months, the level of violence in Kashmir grows as the militias begin sending their fighters there. Around the same time, Musharraf sees early successes of the Taliban (see Spring-Autumn 1994), and along with Interior Minister Nasrullah Babar, begins secretly supporting them and supplying them. The two policies go hand-in-hand, because the militant groups begin training their fighters in parts of Afghanistan controlled by the Taliban. The Pakistani policy of tacitly supporting these militias and the Taliban will continue until Musharraf takes power in a coup in 1999 (see October 12, 1999), and beyond. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 239-243]
Lord David Owen, European Union peace negotiator for the Bosnian conflict, will later write in a book, “Around this time [January 1993] the UN had clear evidence that Muslim forces would from time to time shell the airport to stop the relief flights and refocus world attention on the siege of Sarajevo. As the Deputy Commander in Chief US European Command from 1992 to 1995 [Gen. Charles Boyd] describes it, “The press and some governments, including that of the United States, usually attribute all such fire to the Serbs, but no seasoned observer in Sarajevo doubts for a moment that Muslim forces have found it in their interest to shell friendly targets. In this case, the shelling usually closes the airport for a time, driving up the price of black-market goods that enter the city via routes controlled by Bosnian army commanders and government officials.” [Owen, 1997, pp. 262] In September 1994, it is reported the UN believe the Muslim Bosnians again shelled their own Sarajevo airport on August 18, 1994. UN spokesman Lieutenant- Colonel Pierre Duclos says, “The result of all our investigations show the shell clearly came from [Bosnian] government lines,” he said. Another UN official says, “This was a direct and intentional targeting of the airport.” [Independent, 9/6/1994]
The US fires 23 Tomahawk cruise missiles at intelligence sites in Baghdad, in response to allegations of an Iraqi plot to assassinate former President George H. W. Bush during his visit to Kuwait in April. [Barletta and Jorgensen, 5/1999; Roberts, 2008, pp. 121]
A UN vehicle burning in Mogadishu, Somalia, on October 3, 1993. [Source: CNN]Eighteen US soldiers are killed in Mogadishu, Somalia, in a spontaneous gun battle following an attempt by US Army Rangers and Delta Force to snatch two assistants of a local warlord; the event later becomes the subject of the movie Black Hawk Down. A 1998 US indictment will charge Osama bin Laden and his followers with training the attackers. [PBS Frontline, 10/3/2002]
Rocket Propelled Grenades - While rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) are not usually effective against helicopters, the fuses on the RPGs fired by the Somalis against US helicopters are modified so that they explode in midair. During the Soviet-Afghan War, bin Laden associates had learned from the US and British that, although it is hard to score a direct hit on a helicopter’s weak point—its tail rotor—a grenade on an adjusted fuse exploding in midair can spray a tail rotor with shrapnel, causing a helicopter to crash. [Los Angeles Times, 2/25/2002]
Possibly Trained by Al-Qaeda - For months, many al-Qaeda operatives had been traveling to Somalia and training militants in an effort to oppose the presence of US soldiers there. Even high-ranking al-Qaeda leaders like Mohammed Atef were directly involved (see Late 1992-October 1993).
Comment by Bin Laden - In a March 1997 interview, bin Laden will say of the Somalia attack, “With Allah’s grace, Muslims over there cooperated with some Arab mujaheddin who were in Afghanistan… against the American occupation troops and killed large numbers of them.” [CNN, 4/20/2001]
Some Al-Qaeda Operatives Leave Somalia after Battle - Al-Qaeda operative L’Houssaine Kherchtou, who supports the organization’s operations in Somalia, will later say that he was told this event also led at least some al-Qaeda members to flee Somalia. “They told me that they were in a house in Mogadishu and one of the nights one of the helicopters were shot, they heard some shooting in the next house where they were living, and they were scared, and the next day they left because they were afraid that they will be caught by the Americans.” [Bergen, 2006, pp. 141]
The US begins flying spy planes over Serbia and Bosnia. In March 1994, the CIA begins flying Gnat-750 drone aircraft from Glader, a remote Albanian air force base in north-central Albania. [Associated Press, 5/7/1994] In December 1994, the CIA begins flying more drone aircraft from the Croatian island of Brac. [Associated Press, 2/3/1995] In July 1995, the US begins using the Predator remote spy drone over Bosnia, from the Glader base. [Associated Press, 7/21/1995] Such surveillance information is allegedly shared with Croat and Muslim forces, allowing them to bypass Serb defensive positions in battle. The US officially denies the existence of all these flights since the US is supposed to be neutral in the war. [Observer, 11/5/1995]
The body of a dead US soldier being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. [Source: History Channel]The US withdraws from Somalia six months after the Battle of Mogadishu, during which 18 US soldiers were killed and four Black Hawk helicopters were shot down by local clan fighters (see October 3-4, 1993). The casualties caused the battle to be regarded as a pyrrhic victory in the US, even though the US force had actually captured two lieutenants of a local clan leader and killed hundreds of Somalis. [Bowden, 1999, pp. 448-53] Osama bin Laden, some of whose associates are said to have trained local fighters before the battle, will later claim victory: “The youth [local fighters] were surprised at the low morale of the American soldiers and realized more than before that the American soldier was a paper tiger and [would] after a few blows run in defeat. And America forgot all the hoopla and media propaganda… about being the world leader and the leader of the New World Order, and after a few blows they forgot about this title and left, dragging their corpses and their shameful defeat.” In August 1997 he will comment: “The Americans are cowards and cannot confront me. If they ever think of confronting me, I will teach them a lesson similar to the lesson they were taught a few years ago in Somalia.” [Scheuer, 2006, pp. 149]
President Clinton gives serious consideration to launching massive military strikes against North Korea’s nuclear facility at Yongbyon. The North Koreans are preparing to remove nuclear fuel rods from the internationally monitored storage site at the facility, expel the international weapons inspectors, and withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which they had signed in 1985 (see July 1, 1968 and December 12, 1985). Clinton asks the UN to consider economic sanctions; in response, North Korea says sanctions will trigger a war. The Pentagon presents Clinton with a plan to send 50,000 US troops to South Korea, bolstering the 37,000 already in place, as well as an array of combat jets, naval vessels, combat helicopters, ground assault vehicles, and various missile and rocket systems. Clinton orders an emplacement of 250 soldiers to a logistical headquarters to manage the influx of weaponry. (In 2005, former Clinton administration officials will confirm that Clinton was quite willing to go to war with North Korea if need be.) But Clinton also extends diplomatic offerings to North Korea. He sets up a diplomatic back-channel to that nation in the form of former President Jimmy Carter, who has an informal conference with North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung. (The press portrays the Carter visit as a private venture without Clinton’s approval; later, former Clinton officials will verify that Clinton recruited Carter to go.) Some Clinton cabinet officials, particularly those who had served in the Carter administration, warn Clinton that Carter is a “loose cannon” and may well go beyond the parameters laid down by Clinton in negotiating with Kim. Vice President Gore and other senior officials urge Clinton to send Carter, believing that there is no other way to resolve the crisis. Clinton agrees with Gore. He believes that Kim has, in the words of reporter Fred Kaplan, “painted himself into a corner and needed an escape hatch—a clear path to back away from the brink without losing face, without appearing to buckle under pressure from the US government. Carter might offer that hatch.” Both sides, Kaplan will write, are correct. Carter succeeds in getting Kim to back down, and goes much farther than his instructions allow, negotiating the outline of a treaty and announcing the terms live on CNN, notifying Clinton only minutes before the news broadcast. That outline will become the Agreed Framework between the two nations (see October 21, 1994). [Washington Monthly, 5/2004; Slate, 10/11/2006]
Peter Galbraith. [Source: CBC]US President Bill Clinton and National Security Adviser Anthony Lake decide that they will give the Bosnians a “green light” for the arms supply pipeline from Iran to Croatia. The CIA is not consulted. Lake passes the word on to US ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith by “cleverly” telling him that they have “no instructions” for him with regard to the Iranian arms shipments. [Wiebes, 2003, pp. 167- 168] Two days later, Galbraith passes the “no instructions” message on to Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, making it clear that the US government is giving him a green light for Croatia to conduct arms deals with Iran. [APF Reporter, 1997]
Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs Richard Holbrooke persuades the State Department to license Military Professional Resources Inc. (MPRI), a private military contractor, to provide training to the Croatian army. [Ripley, 1999, pp. 81-82, 90; Scotsman, 3/2/2001] According to MPRI information officer Joseph Allred, the firm exists so that “the US can have influence as part of its national strategy on other nations without employing its own army.” [New American, 5/10/1999; Serbian National Federation, 8/1999]
It is frequently reported that the Pakistani ISI created the Taliban. For instance, in 1996 CNN will report, “The Taliban are widely alleged to be the creation of Pakistan’s military intelligence [the ISI], which, according to experts, explains the Taliban’s swift military successes.” [CNN, 10/5/1996] And counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will later claim that not only did the ISI create the Taliban, but they also facilitated connections between the Taliban and al-Qaeda to help the Taliban achieve victory. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 53] The Wall Street Journal will state in November 2001, “Despite their clean chins and pressed uniforms, the ISI men are as deeply fundamentalist as any bearded fanatic; the ISI created the Taliban as their own instrument and still support it.” [Asia Times, 11/15/2001] Technically, the Taliban appear to have actually started out on the own, but they were soon co-opted by the ISI and effectively became their proxy force (see Spring-Autumn 1994). Benazir Bhutto, prime minister of Pakistan at the time, will later recall how ISI support grew in late 1994 and into early 1995. “I became slowly, slowly sucked into it.… Once I gave the go-ahead that they should get money, I don’t know how much money they were ultimately given.… I know it was a lot. It was just carte blanche.” Bhutto was actually at odds with her own ISI agency and will later claim she eventually discovered the ISI was giving them much more assistance than she authorized, including Pakistani military officers to lead them in fighting. [Coll, 2004, pp. 293-294]
Brigadier Gen. Michael Hayden (left, with glasses), US Marine Corps Gen. David Mize (front and center), and US Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Edward Hanlon Jr. (behind Mize) in Gornji Vakuf, Bosnia, on September 4, 1994. [Source: Paul Harris] (click image to enlarge)US ambassador Charles Thomas; Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Richard Holbrooke, his deputy Robert Frasure, head of intelligence for US European Command Brigadier Gen. Michael Hayden, US Air Force Gen. Charles Boyd, US Marine Corps Gen. David Mize, and US Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Edward Hanlon Jr., meet with the Muslim Bosnian army commander for Central Bosnia, Mehmet Alagic, in the town of Gornji Vakuf. The US group also visits Mostar, which is also controlled by the Bosnian Muslims. The Pentagon claims the US diplomats are there to familiarize themselves with the situation on the ground and the generals “just happened to be along,” but in appears in fact these meetings are part of a US effort to help the Croats and Muslims work together in upcoming offensives. Following this visit, US “logistics advisers” move into key locations throughout Bosnia, including the UN-controlled Tuzla airport. US Special Forces help build a secret airstrip in Visoko, central Bosnia, to land heavy transport aircraft (see Late 1994-Late 1995), and mysterious flights begin arriving at the Tuzla airports a few months later (see February-March 1995). [Observer, 11/20/1994; Scotsman, 12/3/1995] Hayden will later become head of the NSA and then head of the CIA.
The CIA supposedly backs the Taliban around the same time the Pakistani ISI starts strongly backing them (see Spring-Autumn 1994 and 1994-1997). According to a senior Pakistani intelligence source interviewed by British journalist Simon Reeves, the CIA provides Pakistan satellite information giving the secret locations of scores of Soviet trucks that contain vast amounts of arms and ammunition. The trucks were hidden in caves at the end of the Afghan war. Pakistan then gives this information to the Taliban. “The astonishing speed with which the Taliban conquered Afghanistan is explained by the tens of thousands of weapons found in these trucks….” [Reeve, 1999, pp. 191] Journalist Steve Coll will later similarly note that at this time, the Taliban gain access to “an enormous ISI-supplied weapons dump” in caves near the border town of Spin Boldak. It has enough weapons left over from the Soviet-Afghan war to supply tens of thousands of soldiers. [Coll, 2004, pp. 291] Another account will point out that by early 1995, the Taliban was equipped with armored tanks, ten combat airplanes, and other heavy weapons. They are thus able to conquer about a third of the country by February 1995. “According to the files at one European intelligence agency, these military advances can be explained mainly by ‘strong military training, not only by the Pakistani services, but also by American military advisers working under humanitarian cover.’” Later in 1995, a Turkish newsweekly will claim to have learned from a classified report given to the Turkish government that the CIA, ISI, and Saudi Arabia were all collaborating to build up the Taliban so they could quickly unite Afghanistan. [Labeviere, 1999, pp. 262-263]
Apparent footage of one of the mysterious Tuzla flights, from a BBC documentary on the subject. [Source: BBC]UN observers and others report that frequent flights entering Bosnia are supplying weapons to the Bosnian Muslims in violation of the UN arms embargo. The flights clearly have the support of the US. [Wiebes, 2003, pp. 177- 198] A UN official who witnesses the flights is physically threatened by three American officers and warned to keep silent. [Wiebes, 2003, pp. 192] Journalists are also pressured and threatened by the US embassy, which is later said to have been acting on instructions from the State Department. [Wiebes, 2003, pp. 192] A subsequent investigation conducted with the support of the Netherlands government will conclude that the operation was conducted by a third party, probably Turkey, with “the assent of parts of the US government.” [Wiebes, 2003, pp. 195-198] Tim Ripley, who covers the military conflicts in Yugoslavia for Jane’s Intelligence Review, blames the Tuzla flights and similar operations on “‘covert warriors’ of the NSC [National Security Council] and State Department.” [Ripley, 1999, pp. 93] Prof. Cees Wiebes, who conducts the Netherlands investigation, agrees saying that “the State Department and National Security Council (NSC) were involved, but not the CIA or the DIA.” According to a confidential source, “the operation was… paid for from a Pentagon Special Operations budget, with the complete assent of the White House. Probably the most important members of Congress were informed in the deepest of secrecy, and they were therefore ‘in the loop’ concerning the events.” [Wiebes, 2003, pp. 193] Ripley says that US NATO officers were not involved, but points out that NATO Commander Admiral Leighton Smith was careful to only deny “uniformed” US military involvement. Ripley suggests that American “freelance operatives” were brought in by “senior members of the Clinton Administration.” [Ripley, 1999, pp. 62-63] According to Ripley, “Senior US military commanders and CIA officials were just staggered by the ‘duplicity’ and ‘deceit’ at the heart of the Clinton Administration’s policies.” [Ripley, 1999, pp. 91]
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