Murtaza Hussain / The Intercept & Lt. Gen Michael Flynn interview / Al Jazeera America – 2015-07-18 22:38:10
Retired General: Drones Create More Terrorists Than They Kill, Iraq War Helped Create ISIS
Murtaza Hussain / The Intercept
(July 16 2015) — Retired Army Gen. Mike Flynn, a top intelligence official in the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, says in a forthcoming interview on Al Jazeera English that the drone war is creating more terrorists than it is killing. He also asserts that the US invasion of Iraq helped create the Islamic State and that US soldiers involved in torturing detainees need to be held legally accountable for their actions.
Flynn, who in 2014 was forced out as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, has in recent months become an outspoken critic of the Obama administration’s Middle East strategy, calling for a more hawkish approach to the Islamic State and Iran.
But his enthusiasm for the application of force doesn’t extend to the use of drones. In the interview with Al Jazeera presenter Mehdi Hasan, set to air July 31, the former three star general says: “When you drop a bomb from a drone . . . you are going to cause more damage than you are going to cause good.” Pressed by Hasan as to whether drone strikes are creating more terrorists than they kill, Flynn says, “I don’t disagree with that.” He describes the present approach of drone warfare as “a failed strategy.”
“What we have is this continued investment in conflict,” the retired general says. “The more weapons we give, the more bombs we drop, that just . . . fuels the conflict.”
Prior to serving as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Flynn was director of Intelligence for the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. During his time in Iraq, Flynn is credited with helping to transform JSOC into an intelligence-driven special forces operation, tailored to fight the insurgency in that country.
Flynn was in Iraq during the peak of the conflict there, as intelligence chief to Stanley McChrystal, former general and head of JSOC. When questioned about how many Iraqis JSOC operatives had killed inside the country during his tenure, Flynn would later say, “Thousands, I don’t even know how many.”
In the upcoming interview, Flynn says that the invasion of Iraq was a strategic mistake that directly contributed to the rise of the extremist group the Islamic State. “We definitely put fuel on a fire,” he told Hasan. “Absolutely . . . there’s no doubt, I mean . . . history will not be kind to the decisions that were made certainly in 2003.”
Over his 33 years in the Army, Flynn developed a reputation as an iconoclast. In 2010, he published a controversial report on intelligence operations in Afghanistan, stating in part that the military could not answer “fundamental questions” about the country and its people despite nearly a decade of engagement there.
Earlier this year, Flynn commended the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture, saying that torture had eroded American values and that in time, the US “will look back on it, and it won’t be a pretty picture.”
He echoed these statements in his Al Jazeera appearance. Before his tenure at JSOC, operatives of the force had already become notorious for operating secretive prison facilities in Iraq where the torture of detainees had become routine.
In his interview, Flynn denied any personal role in these abuses, while calling for accountability for US soldiers who had been responsible. “You know I hope that as more and more information comes out that people are held accountable,” Flynn says. “History is not going to look kind on those actions . . . and we will be held, we should be held accountable for many, many years to come.”
‘DRONES CAUSE MORE DAMAGE THAN GOOD’
Al Jazeera English ‘Head to Head’ interview with Lt. Gen Michael Flynn
WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 16, 2015) — President Obama’s former top military intelligence official has launched a scathing attack on the White House’s counter-terrorism strategy, including the administration’s handling of the ISIL threat in Iraq and Syria and the US military’s drone war.
In a forthcoming interview with Al Jazeera English’s ‘Head to Head’, retired US Lt. General Michael Flynn, who quit as head of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in August 2014, said “there should be a different approach, absolutely” on drones.
“When you drop a bomb from a drone . . . you are going to cause more damage than you are going to cause good.”
Flynn was a senior intelligence officer with the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which is responsible for the US military’s secretive and controversial drone program in countries such as Yemen and Somalia.
Asked by Al Jazeera English’s Mehdi Hasan if drone strikes tend to create more terrorists than they kill, Flynn — who has been described by Wired magazine as “the real father of the modern JSOC” — replied: “I don’t disagree with that”, adding: “I think as an overarching strategy, it’s a failed strategy.”
“What we have is this continued investment in conflict,” the retired general said. “The more weapons we give, the more bombs we drop, that just . . . fuels the conflict. Some of that has to be done but I’m looking for the other solutions.”
Commenting on the rise of ISIL in Iraq, Flynn acknowledged the role played by the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. “We definitely put fuel on a fire,” he told Hasan. “Absolutely . . . there’s no doubt, I mean . . . history will not be kind to the decisions that were made certainly in 2003.”
“Going into Iraq, definitely . . . it was a strategic mistake,” said Flynn on ‘Head to Head’.
The former lieutenant general denied any involvement in the litany of abuses carried out by JSOC interrogators at Camp Nama in Iraq, as revealed by the New York Times and Human Rights Watch, but admitted the US prison system in Iraq in the post-war period “absolutely” helped radicalize Iraqis who later joined Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and ISIL.
Flynn also called for greater accountability for US soldiers involved in abuses against Iraqi detainees: “You know I hope that as more and more information comes out that people are held accountable . . . History is not going to look kind on those actions . . . and we will be held, we should be held, accountable for many, many years to come.”
Publicly commenting for the first time on a previously-classified August 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) memo, which had predicted “the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in Eastern Syria ( . . . ) this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want” and confirmed that “the Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood, and [Al Qaeda in Iraq] are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria”, the former DIA chief told ‘Head to Head’ that “the [Obama] Administration” didn’t “listen” to these warnings issued by his agency’s analysts.
“I don’t know if they turned a blind eye,” he said. “I think it was a decision, I think it was a willful decision.”
This special edition of Head to Head was filmed in Al Jazeera’s Washington DC studio. This series of Head of Head also includes interviews with feminist and democracy activist Naomi Wolf and renowned economist Sir Paul Collier at the Oxford Union. In each episode, Hasan goes head to head with a special guest, asking the probing and hard-hitting questions few dare to ask on the big issues such faith, foreign intervention, the Middle East, US foreign policy, and the economic crisis.
Is the US to Blame for ISIL? with Michael Flynn will be broadcast on Friday 31st July at 20.00 GMT and will be repeated on Saturday 1st August at 12.00 GMT, Saturday 2nd August at 01.00 GMT and Monday 3rd August at 06.00 GMT.
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