Rogue Statesman Congressman Dana Rohrabacher’s absolutely crazy, quite possibly illegal back-channel chats with the villains of Sept. 11
September 6, 2002 8:24 PM   Subscribe

But the most intriguing part of it for me is down at the bottom where it states :News of Rohrabacher's Qatar meeting with the Taliban was unreported in the U.S. for 16 months. Then, last month, Gerrie Schipske, Rohrabacher's Democratic challenger in the November elections, issued a press release calling the congressman's unauthorized discussions "not only illegal but dangerous to our country." and then goes on to say: Despite Rohrabacher's own April 2001 overseas admission of his Taliban dalliance, only a few media outlets on the East Coast picked up Schipske's press release. Mainstream news organizations in Orange County including the Los Angeles Times and the Register have so far ignored this tale of international intrigue. Too me there is another example of the dangerous illusion of a free press. It makes you think that you are getting all the information
posted by bas67 at 8:26 PM on September 6, 2002

... um, bas? Did you finish that last sentence?

It is indeed a very curious article. Sounds like Rohrbacher isn't sure which side is more profitable.
posted by SPrintF at 9:21 PM on September 6, 2002

bas67: there is another example of the dangerous illusion of a free press. It makes you think that you are getting all the information.

A free press and a comprehensive press aren't necessarily the same things.

As I.F. Stone pointed out, you have to triangulate to find the truth. Get your news from multiple sources. Read things whose ideologies you don't agree with. Do your own research. Evaluate your sources critically. Et cetera...
posted by Vidiot at 9:21 PM on September 6, 2002

I agree with you Vidiot, but don't you think that in general the public reads one paper or listens to local news and maybe a little national and that's it? If their news source is pandering to a certain politician or view it's dangerous and we now see what happens.
posted by bas67 at 9:26 PM on September 6, 2002

This a real piece of work. The article has so many slants and spins about things I know it is stretching the truth on, that I can't belive it on things I am not so sure on. Though if 1% of the things it claims are true, are, Rohrabacher is a Jackass.

bas67: I find it ironic that you point to bias and illusions of a free press with an article like this.

Just one example:

There, Rohrabacher secretly met with Taliban Foreign Minister Mullah Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, an advisor to Mullah Omar. Diplomatic sources claim Muttawakil sought the congressman's assistance in increasing U.S. aid - already more than $100 million annually - to Afghanistan and indicated that the Taliban would not hand over bin Laden, wanted by the Clinton administration for the fatal bombings of two American embassies in Africa and the USS Cole.

This makes it sound as if Clinton were in hot pursuit of bin Laden, and Rohrabacher wanted to give them money. When in fact Syria offered bin Laden to both the Clinton administration and gov't of Saudi Arabia, and both turned the Syrians down.

Just one spin uncovering another spin.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 9:31 PM on September 6, 2002

I'm not sure how Clinton could have been in hot pursuit since the meeting that the article speaks of took place in April of 2001.

I took that last sentence as a clarification of the significance in early 2001 of Bin Laden. He was wanted by the Clinton Administration in 2000 an presumalby still a wanted man by the Bush Admin. in 2001.
posted by bas67 at 9:40 PM on September 6, 2002

bas67, I'd agree that the pattern of media use you describe generally is indeed the case. News outlets have a duty to tell the truth, to be fair (not necessarily "objective" -- everyone has biases; good reporters know where their biases lie and strive to paint a fuller picture), and to be accurate. News consumers, if they want to be well-informed, owe it to themselves to seek out information from many sources.

Spin isn't always intentional. There's no such thing as unfiltered information -- it's always going through someone's head, whether it's a writer, editor, or whateverf.

Nevertheless, I do dispute that comment about the "illusion of a free press." Our press is free -- it certainly isn't government-controlled. (Controlled by big business, perhaps, but that's another thread.)
posted by Vidiot at 9:57 PM on September 6, 2002

Ah, I was happy to hear about this a few weeks back, and see the old photo unearthed. When I started college, my political science professor was Dana's opponent for the Orange County congressional seat that Dana ended up winning. He ran on a platform of pretty hard right wing issues (pro-life, pro-religion, etc), and once in office kept on skewing right. I'm sure somewhere my poli sci prof has a smile a mile wide, he really hated losing to Dana.
posted by mathowie at 10:21 PM on September 6, 2002

Vidiot - I couldn't agree more with your sentiment about triangulation. For a deep example, try this 1998 transcript of Rohrabacher questioning a UNOCAL exec about the pipeline prospects in Central Asia. (Scroll down for Rohrabacher's part.) This puts him in a rather different light, and also illuminates the theory that US policy in the region is (A.) oil-driven and (B.) corporate-dominated.
posted by Nicolae Carpathia at 10:33 PM on September 6, 2002

As time goes by, it becomes clear that President Reagan was not only a great president but also one of our greatest, right up there with FDR, Lincoln and maybe George Washington.—Dana Rohrabacher, Feb. 7, 2001
Welcome to OC, home of right wing nutjob congressmen:
Nixon was from here. You all know his story as the most corrupt president ever, who almost brought the Constitution to its knees. And John Schmitz, who was too extreme for the John Birch Society(they kicked him out) but not for OC. he famously called feminist lawyer Gloria Allred a "bull-dyke butch-ass lawyer bitch" on the record. Does anyone still remember William Dannemeyer and his concept of "AIDS spores" emitted by gays, necessitating their quarantine (far away from Dannemeyer's district). B-1 Bob Dornan, who continued to brag about his military service even after it was all exposed as puffery, who earned his nickname by insisting on more B1 bombers after the Air Force said they didn't want 'em. Who am I forgetting...?
posted by planetkyoto at 7:31 AM on September 7, 2002

Just one spin uncovering another spin.

That 1799 law against unofficial diplomacy counts as pretty deep spin.
posted by riviera at 7:49 AM on September 7, 2002

riviera: Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

Cool! Let's throw Jimmy Carter and Jesse Jackson in jail for three years! Did Jane Fonda ever serve her jail time? My gosh, we can throw all kinds of people into jail! What fun!
posted by Slithy_Tove at 8:14 AM on September 7, 2002

Nixon was from here. You all know his story as the most corrupt president ever, who almost brought the Constitution to its knees

sorry, that goes to Harding, then Grant, then hopefully Clinton.
posted by clavdivs at 9:01 AM on September 7, 2002

So another repub has a cordial, "behind-the-scenes relationship with Osama bin Laden’s associates".Who's suprised?

sorry, that goes to Harding, then Grant, then hopefully Clinton.

Clinton was corrupt?

Total Reagan era convictions: 32
Total Clinton era convictions: 0

If terrorists believe they could shut down the U.S. government and paralyze the American people, they were simply mistaken.

Correct, because conservatives already take care of that.
posted by BarneyFifesBullet at 12:13 PM on September 7, 2002

riviera: Though the Logan Act is often invoked (surprise! frequently in campaigns), it is hardly ever prosecuted -- indeed, I believe there hasn't ever been one charge officially brought under it. Some sources say no convictions, others no prosecutions, others still just none in the 20th century.

Steve: Osama bin Laden wasn't just "offered up" to the US -- he was offered up at a price. Given these offers took place, IIRC, before even the embassy and Cole bombings, and certainly prior to September 11, one can imagine that it was a price we were, at the time, unwilling to pay.

Let's go back to the heady days of 1996, before bombings and interns. Our interests would then have coincided with the Taliban in the following ways:

* pet project of our 50-year ally, Pakistan
* success would shore up failed state in critical region
* NOT harboring al Qaeda (who were in Sudan)
* Sunni Islamic republic would counter influence of Shi'ite Islamic Republic next door (Iran)
* proselytizing seen to weaken atheistic-secular XSSR govts to north
* support for Chechens helped our interests in Caucasus and engaged resources of rival Russia
* support for Bosnian Muslims helped our chosen interests in Balkans and engaged resources of chosen rivals
* pipeline routes to the South, however lucrative to corporate pals, frustrate strategic ambitions of Russia in Central Asia, and support all the aims above

Whether you agree or disagree with these policy aims, it's hard to deny that they exist, and that the Taliban potentially could fit neatly inside.

I'm extremely doubtful that this is one, unique, single instance of a Congressman meeting with a functionary of a foreign government who would like stronger US support and believes the legislature is the better route. Indeed, this almost certainly happens every time Congress goes on vacation -- there are dozens if not hundreds of 'fact-finding missions'. When it happens with close allies, such as France or Britain, there isn't any sort of a problem. With a group like the Taliban, who aren't even a recognized government, it's a little trickier. But such groups are always looking to discover the answer to a key question: What will they really have to do to get in our good graces? Backdoor diplomacy is also characterized as 'track two' diplomacy, because it permits franker exchanges (as they say) and there is no pressure of making a tangible deal. The US rep can then come back here and tell us what the other side said yes and no to.

Sure, in hindsight, the Taliban are a bunch of creeps -- but in early '01, conventional wisdom in both parties was that they were cool as long as they kept their freakish Islamism at home and that the presence of OBL was a problem that would eventually be worked out as they saw the benefits of seeking and gaining recognition and trade rights. This wasn't some kind of ultra-secret undermining of US foreign policy -- it was US foreign policy. Maybe it shouldn't have been but that's easy to see in hindsight. This article is eager to play up Rohrabacher's apparent hypocrisy and desire to bury embarrassing choices and play down evidence of how close his activities were in consonance with official policy of the day. Yes, fine, a lot of people were wrong, people were wrong about the Austrian painter too -- let's move on.
posted by dhartung at 12:55 PM on September 7, 2002

Man, Rohrbacher is the nuttiest fruitcake in Washington. For proof, just check out his website. Congressman, surfing, "fighting for freedom ... and having fun," 'nuff said. I used to work for a Congressional recording service and I was assigned to his committees all the time; he was easily the most interesting, and funny, congressperson to watch. But Jeez, the stuff that came out of his mouth! They'd be debating something like space station funding or water rights, and somehow he always managed to link it back to Clinton and his supposed drug-dealing empire, or whatever was the ridiculous corruption story at the time.
posted by risenc at 1:26 PM on September 7, 2002

Oops, that link doesn't work. But it's at
posted by risenc at 1:27 PM on September 7, 2002

reagan was prosecuted 32 times?

cool as long as they kept their freakish Islamism at home
i think burning the poppy feilds was thrown into the deal
posted by clavdivs at 3:06 PM on September 7, 2002

First off these offers did not happen after the embassy and Cole bombings. This was after Clinton launched that tomahawk cruise missile in retaliation. (bin Laden's men were also behind the barracks bombing in Saudi Arabia)

he was offered up at a price. ... price we were, at the time, unwilling to pay.

Really, hmm I find that doubtful... How much is unreasonable for the United States? With the Hundreds of millions that we give in foreign aid.... dhartung... tell me, how much is too much?
Clinton didn't want to deal with it.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 4:15 PM on September 7, 2002

errr..... First off these offers did not happen before the embassy and Cole bombings.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 4:18 PM on September 7, 2002

Barbara Burton: Rohrabacher's encounter with the Taleban was reported widely when it happened in '01. If you'd get off your duff and run a lexis search you'd find at least half a dozen hits from AP and AFP on it. So it wasn't secret and it wasn't unreported. It might have been news then, but it isn't now--that's why the big papers don't care.
posted by poundsterling at 8:30 AM on September 9, 2002

I heard Rohrabacher speak at the second International Islamic Unity Conference in Washington DC, back in 1998. I was struck most by his sincere passion for the fate of the Afghan people (no I'm not his press secretary). He was deeply involved in supporting the Afghan resistance against the Soviet Union. He, like Ronald Reagan, credited their resistance with bringing down the Soviet Union, the premier foreign policy objective of the USA for 50 years.

As you can see from the FPP picture, he visited the fighters, saw their courage, knew how much it was helping the world struggle against communism. He spoke at length that day about how Afghanistan was the orphan child of the cold war. He has been involved in the region long enough to know things could have worked out differently, if different decisions had been made. I think he probably still has real, human affection for that people, unlike so many with short memories. I don't know whether what he did was legal or illegal, I just think it is sincere humanitarianism and compassion on his part for a nation that his government abandoned.

When recently I heard Vietnam Vets remembering the Montagnards they left behind, I remembered Rohrabacher's speech.
posted by BinGregory at 10:12 AM on September 9, 2002

« Older "In tribute to the victims of the 9/11 attacks...   |   The Houston KMart mass arrest saga continues. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments