David Rosner, a professor of history and public health at Columbia, thinks the nation will unfortunately find a military solution. "At the beginning of the century, public health officials acted like policemen, incarcerating people like Typhoid Mary on an island for 26 years because they were seen as dangerous," he says. "I'm worried that the lines between public health and military action will be blurred. I'm worried about a lot of quarantining. The power of health fears can inflict real damage."

When George Bush Courted the Taliban
Match Made in Washington

A new book published in Paris last week, Bin Laden, la Verité Interdite ("Bin Laden, the Forbidden Truth"), by French intelligence analysts Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie, claims a top FBI official told them the major obstacles to investigating terrorism are big oil companies and Saudi Arabia. This argument, seldom depicted in the U.S. press, holds that U.S. policy until September 11 was aimed at consolidating—not destroying—the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The idea was for Western interests to exploit Caspian Sea oil, which would be transported across Afghanistan to ports in Pakistan.

The negotiations continued in Washington and Islamabad through August, with the Taliban employing Laili Helms (see "The Accidental Operative," June 19, 2001) to push their cause. Helms is a niece by marriage of Richard Helms, former CIA director. Since the September 11 attacks, she has essentially stopped answering calls from the press about her work representing the fundamentalist regime.

Other major discussions on the future of Afghanistan—tabbed 6 + 2, for the six nations surrounding Afghanistan, with the U.S. and Russia—were carried forward under UN auspices. At one moment during the negotiations, the U.S. representatives told the Taliban, "Either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs," Brisard told the Inter Press news service.

Brisard and Dasquie are big in the French spook world, with Brisard a former member of the secret service and author of a 1997 report on Al Qaeda, and Dasquie a respected journalist and publisher of a Web dope sheet called Intelligence Online.

Additional reporting: Sarah Park, Meritxell Mir, and Curtis Lang

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