Don Williams
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Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, blogger, fiction writer, sometime TV commentator, and is the founder and editor emeritus of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan, a Golden Presscard Award from Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists, a best Commentary Award from SDC, Best Feature Writing from the Associated Press Tennessee Managing Editors, the Malcolm Law Journalism Prize from the Associated Press, Best Non-Deadline Reporting from the United Press International, Best Novel Excerpt from the Knoxville Writers Guild, a Peacemaker Award from the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, five Writer of the Month Awards from the Scripps Howard Newspaper chain, and many others. In 2011 he was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame. His 2005 book of journalism, Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes is under revision for a second printing, and he is at work on a novel and a book of journalism. His columns appear at and have been featured at many other well-known websites. To run his column, gratis, at your website, post this link to a dedicated spot: Need a speaker, panelist, tv commentator or teacher for your group or to lead a writing workshop, in your town? Email

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Bush Defense Secretary Admits 9/11 Was Blowback
(Copyright by Don Williams, All rights reserved   04/16/2008)

You won't find the above headline anywhere else. Believe me, I've tried. Still, it's true. In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 10, 2008, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates made the following jaw-dropping statement:

“We were attacked from Afghanistan in 2001, and we are at war in Afghanistan today, in no small measure because of mistakes this government made--mistakes I among others made in the end game of the anti-Soviet war there some 20 years ago.”

That's an astonishing confession, even if mine was the only jaw that dropped. Gates is the first high official in the Bush administration to acknowledge what war critics have been lambasted for even suggesting. OK, he didn't use the word “blowback,” but by definition, that's what he's talking about. A certain radio commentator once all but called me a traitor for suggesting what Gates openly admits. Many others, including the Rev. Jeremiah Wright most recently, have been denounced all over this country for suggesting 9/11 was caused by failed U.S. policy. Yes, Wright said much else as well. Nevertheless he took a hit for stating the same notion.

So why is Big Media silent about Gates? You tell me. Eventually, this story might show up on Page 5 in your local daily, especially if this column gets around, but it will never be top of Page One, where it counts, just as you never saw the following headlines there when they might've made a difference:

US Looks the Other Way as Pakistan Perfects Nuclear Bombs and Delivery System.

Counting Florida Over-votes Would Put Gore in Whitehouse.

Saudi Oil Profits Linked to Spread of Wahabism.

War Will Cost 100 Times More Than Bush Team Predicts (Oil Will Not Pay For It).

Bush Suppresses Evidence of Global Warming.

No Weapons of Mass Destruction Found in Iraq.

No Aerial Drones. No New Anthrax. No Yellowcake. No New Centrifuges.

No Significant Links Found Between Al-Qaeda and Saddam.

Case for Invading Iraq Included Ravings from a Tortured Man and Lies from a Criminal with Ties to Iran.

Secret Memos Reveal US Told England We'd 'Fix the Evidence' to Support Joint Iraq Attack.

Bush Building Permanent Military Bases in Iraq.

Bush Hands Control of Iraq to Natural Allies of Iran.

Prominent Bush Supporters Believe He's Preparing Way for the Rapture.

Military Sources Say US Let Many in Taliban and al-Qaida Slip the Noose at Tora Bora.

Decision to Torture Originated in White House.

U. S. Soldiers Committing Suicide At Record Levels.

Cost of One Cruise Missile Could Build 80 Secular Schools in Afghan Villages.

No, you seldom saw headlines like these leading the page when they might've made a difference, though columnists were writing about them in the back pages, carefully citing our evidence. One by one, all the things we were pilloried for saying out loud are being confirmed, and I can prove the truth of each of the above headlines to the satisfaction of any reasonable reader. In fact, because all except the headline at the top of this page have long since been proven true—the whole lousy shooting match--let's talk about that one.

Despite denials from Bush and other hawks, the rise of the Taliban and al-Qaida was a direct result of our policy of funding and arming Muslim Jihadists in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as Gates knows all too well. Gates' precise role in their rise is unclear. After all, his career consisted of operating from the shadows, including 26 years in the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Council, and under President George H.W. Bush as Director of Central Intelligence. Still, it's easily provable that he at least cheered on arming and training fundamentalist Muslims who later resurfaced as al-Qaida, the Taliban, and members of the first post-Soviet Afghani government the Taliban overthrew with our tacit approval. All you have to do is click on and ask for Gates' book “From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War” to discover Gates' support for the “end game” in Afghanistan. Turns out this was the opening gambit for Islamic Jihadists and we're now in the middle of an unending "game" which most Americans neither asked for nor desired.

In his book, Gates outlines how America began infiltrating Afghanistan with secret forces in a self-conscious effort to lure the Soviet Union into invading Afghanistan and “give the Soviets their Vietnam.” The process started under President Carter but reached flood tide under Presidents Reagan and Bush 41, when American operatives trained, armed, funded and otherwise empowered radical fundamentalist Muslims who later set their sights on us.

As I documented in a column at the time of Gates' confirmation, he also had a role in the Iran/Contra affair as well as in our policy of providing aerial maps showing Saddam where to bomb Iran while, at the same time, selling Iran anti-aircraft weaponry during the Iran/Iraq War. How cynical was that?

How many innocent people have died as a result of Gates' and others' manipulations? Millions in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan? Tens of thousands in Central America? Thousands more in Kuwait? Let's not forget nearly 3,000 on 9/11.

Gates deserves credit for admitting out loud what many have been slammed for pointing out. The difference between Gates and critics like me however—besides the obvious ones of power and influence—is that Gates sees 9/11 as blowback from a narrow failure to fine-tune the end game in Afghanistan. Thus his straight-faced statement in the Senate hearing that, “If we get the end-game wrong in Iraq, I predict the consequences will be far worse.”

What Gates won't acknowledge is that chess is a game of destiny, in which end-games are often predestined by opening gambits. The philosophy of having an American shadow government arming secret armies and then using American military might or dark machinations to wreck other countries and change regimes is always going to be a gamble, more often than not leading to disaster, because violence begets violence and the Law of Unintended Consequences is not revoked. Just look at the Unintended Consequences of such meddling in Iraq. Ethnic cleansing, torture, loss of rights and privacy here, a trillion dollars squandered, and counting. End game be damned. The consequences already have proven horrendous.

Gates can't bring himself to admit that empowering the leaders of Islamic jihad was a horrible mistake that ruined millions of lives and now endangers world civilization. What puzzles me is why no one else within the reach of his voice dares trumpet this admission that 9/11 represents a failed and cynical policy of violence and manipulation from the shadows. And why none in the major media dare point out that for once, a Bush official has acknowledged blowback.Even if he won't say the word.