Al Qaeda: Friend or Foe? The US Cannot Have It Both Ways

Joachim Hagopian
RINF Alternative News

The US government needs to be confronted with the untenable position of maintaining al Qaeda as America’s enemy while for decades it has been creating, funding and promoting al Qaeda.

What’s it going to be? Friend or foe? Trick or treat? Ally or enemy?

This line of questioning has no greater relevance than the US government’s rather ambiguous relationship to the so called al Qaeda terrorists.

On the one hand, war criminals Bush and Cheney insisted al Qaeda was the identified enemy that changed our world forever on 9/11, when allegedly 19 box cutting al Qaeda Moslem terrorists killed nearly 3000 Americans. Bush and Cheney convinced Americans that al Qaeda was the reason behind the US invading Afghanistan in October 2001 and less than a year and a half later Iraq. Al Qaeda is the reason President Obama is still justifying fighting that same war in Afghanistan thirteen years later. Al Qaeda is the reason why the Department of Homeland Security was suddenly created to make sure those al Qaeda enemies were kept out of the US, dedicated and committed to protecting American citizens from another 9/11.

Al Qaeda is the enemy of America, and that has not changed from the early Bush days right up to the present Obama presidency. You ask any American over the last decade and a half who the enemy is in the global war on terror and virtually every one of them will readily rattle off “al Qaeda.” Repeatedly drilled into our brains, the American public has been forever reminded that it is the al Qaeda terrorists who are America’s longtime sinister nemesis constantly plotting to kill us Americans every chance they get.

This is the commonly accepted explanation given by the US government to promote and justify waging America’s longest lasting wars in its history, fighting and dying on multiple warfronts and allocating unprecedented amounts of US taxpayer dollars bleeding a shaky, faltering economy dry, while financing annual Defense budgets greater than the entire rest of the world combined. That’s how much al Qaeda is our sworn enemy. Giving away our hard earned tax dollars to the detriment of a shrinking middle class and a swelling underclass of disenfranchised poor increasingly unable to make ends meet. The American public has made a very grave self-sacrifice in its post-9/11 lost civil liberties, all for the sake of so called security at home so American Empire can keep us safe from those swarthy mean looking Moslem terrorists who will gladly die for Allah just to kill us.

Yet if the designated al Qaeda enemy is so much against America and wishes to kill the American people, why over the last three years are more of our tax paying dollars going to Al Qaeda fighting America’s proxy war in Syria against Bashar al Assad’s government forces? And why was al Qaeda the first hired guns on the ground to go into Libya right after the US-NATO bombings three years ago? And why to this day after removing the supposed bad guy Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi are al Qaeda still in control in Libya? Why are our taxpaying dollars for years at a time filling our supposed enemy al Qaeda’s pockets in places like Syria and Libya? And why does al Qaeda keep showing up as US’s surrogate troops on the ground in nations around the world, wherever US foreign policy agenda calls for destabilization and regime change? This line of questioning is just as valid and in need of answering as much as the opening paragraph ones. And though I cannot answer the first questions, answers to the latter questions can be formulated based on confirmed fact.

A brief digression seems in order here. Historically US foreign policy is synonymous with American Empire firmly rooted and immersed in US imperialism. By the end of overt European colonialism and independence of scores of developing nations after World War II, the US government’s cold war power grab began opportunistically filling the imperialistic void. And as a result, through countless acts of covert terrorism executed primarily by the CIA, coups and assassinations of even democratically elected leaders became routine around the world. Most notably in 1953 Iran and 1973 Chile, CIA with US military intelligence murdered leaders imposing regime changes in a host of ill fated sovereign independent nations with democratically elected leaders. US imperialism emerged at the forefront of American foreign policy during the cold war years always as a so called counterpoint to the threat of expanding Communism.

Hence, Operation Gladio was born. Gladio was part of the post-World War II campaign designed by CIA and NATO to undermine and neutralize Soviet communist invasions and influence in Italy and Western Europe. But in reality, it was nothing more than a state-sponsored right-wing terrorist network involved in false flag operations and the subversion of democracy. And just as it was then and still is today, covert acts of terrorism and false flag operations have come to characterize US foreign policy even more so today, from the heavy, protracted counterinsurgency war losses in Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan to virtually every Third World nation on the planet.

A decade ago President Reagan’s National Security Council Director Lt. General William Odomsaid:

“Because the United States itself has a long record of supporting terrorists and using terrorist tactics, the slogans of today’s war on terrorism merely makes the United States look hypocritical to the rest of the world. By any measure the US has long used terrorism. In ’78-79 the Senate was trying to pass a law against international terrorism — in every version they produced, the lawyers said the US would be in violation.”

In the rush to answer the Soviet Empire’s expansion into Afghanistan in December 1979, US foreign policymakers bankrolled a young, unknown upstart named Osama bin Laden and the Afghan mujahideen throughout the Soviet’s 1980’s decade long “Vietnam” in Afghanistan. Both Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and then CIA Director and later G.W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense Robert Gates publicly admitted that the US made the decision to both organize and support Osama bin Laden and the mujahideen as the al Qaeda “forefathers” that ultimately defeated the overextended Soviet Empire that in turn led to its crumbling apart in 1991.

Thus from the beginning the United States government maintained only a supportive and positive relationship with Al Qaeda and its original mastermind leader Osama bin Laden. Back in the 1980’s when Russia was fighting in the land called the graveyard of empires, it was the Saudi black sheep of the bin Laden family Osama who was the CIA’s darling deploying his burgeoning brand of terrorism as an “Arab mujahideen” in Afghanistan, proving himself a pesky thorn in the expansionist Soviet Union Empire.

In a July 2004 article entitled “Al Qaeda’s Origins and Links” BBC wrote,

“During the anti-Soviet jihad bin Laden and his fighters received American and Saudi funding. Some analysts believe bin Laden himself had security training from the CIA.”

Meanwhile throughout that 1980’s decade, American university textbooks as part of the series underwritten by a USAID $50 million grant to the University of Nebraska among others, kept churning out books extolling the virtues of jihad and of killing the Communists for Afghan children.

Bin Laden stated the name al Qaeda originated “as a camp to train youth to fight against the oppressive, atheist, and truly terrorist Soviet Union. We called that place al Qaeda — in the sense that it was a training base — and that is where the name came from.” Al Qaeda’s Arabic meaning often refers to base as in military base. The term was first used in 1989 just two years before the Soviet Republic’s breakup during its withdrawal from its own costly, protracted Afghan quagmire (not unlike our own there now).

Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda’s joint mission was to recruit Islamic fundamentalists from the entire Arab world to come together for the common cause of fighting to liberate fellow Moslems from oppression in nations throughout the world. Soon after the Soviet war was won in Afghanistan, Osama sought his next terrorist campaign and soon found it in the Balkans in the 1990’s liberating fellow Moslems in Yugoslavia. As long as al Qaeda’s enemies happen to be US enemies like the Soviet Union, the US government never has a problem providing financial support sponsoring al Qaeda terrorism. Be it during the Republican Reagan years of the 1980’s Afghanistan or the Democratic Clinton years of the 1990’s and beyond in the Balkans, the US government secretly funnels a steady flow of American taxpayer dollars in support of continuous al Qaeda operations.

Without authority from either the UN Security Counsel or any international law, for 78 straight days in the spring of 1999 the US-NATO forces rained tons of outlawed cluster bombs as crimes against humanity down on the people of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo War. Four years after the bombing campaign to “liberate” Kosovo ended, under the auspices of UN Security forces, a December 2003Toronto National Post article chronicled the deteriorating conditions with mounting evidence of ethnic cleansing, drug and human smuggling, and rampant violent crime and vandalism. Ethnic Albanian Moslem militia and Middle Eastern al Qaeda terrorists combined forces to kill and drive out Christian Serbs in a concerted effort to gain independence from Serbia.

At the Hague Tribunal trying him for war crimes and genocide, Yugoslavian dictator Slobodan Milosevic presented a Congressional statement from the FBI dated December 2002 documenting that al Qaeda militants began arriving in 1992. This statement was corroborated by Simon Fraser University Professor Lenard Cohen who stated, “Al Qaeda migrated to Bosnia hoping to assist their Islamic brethren in a struggle against Serbian [and for a time] Croatian forces.” Naturally the Bosnian Moslems welcomed al Qaeda terrorists giving them an edge against their Serbian enemy.

Using money from smuggling heroin from Afghanistan through Turkey to Kosovo in addition to covert US financial aid, al Qaeda mujahideen set up terrorist training camps in Bosnia. An undisclosed Western military source claimed al Qaeda was also financed by wealthy US allied oil nations Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. In the years before the 1999 bombing campaign, al Qaeda moved its well funded operations to the southern Serbian province of Kosovo to fight alongside ethnic Albanians comprising the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) against their common enemy the Serbs.

Clinton, US Congress and NATO commander General Wesley Clarke supported US state sponsored terrorism by al Qaeda, the Bosnian Army and the KLA against the common enemy Milosevic’s Serbian Army. Though the US ensured Milosevic was tried for genocidal war crimes at the Hague and subsequently executed in 2006, the Muslim terrorists were committing the same war crimes of ethnic cleansing toward the Serbs but both the US and UN simply condoned them, hypocritically choosing to look the other way. After all, by that time the US had been consistently investing millions of US tax dollars on al Qaeda terrorists in both the Afghanistan and Balkan Wars for nearly two decades.

Thus, even after the horror of 9/11, after the Neocons declared to the world that the al Qaeda network were the perpetrators, the US continued to secretly support al Qaeda operations in eastern Europe although insider fears of blowback were beginning to grow. So Bush, Cheney and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld simply battened down their hatches doing their powerful best in waging a propaganda disinformation war to conceal their countless treasonous skeletons in their closet.

To this day an international movement is pushing louder than ever to indict these war criminals for their crimes against humanity. In this regard, the Washington blog refers to the United States War Crimes Act of 1996 that stipulates no statue of limitation exists for any military or civilian national who violates the Geneva convention by committing acts of torture (the widely known, widely practiced waterboarding under the Bush-Cheney regime even Obama agrees constitutes torture), inhuman treatment and murder.

Of course Obama has only continued to carry out Neocon policies and, as such, is a repeated violator of the Geneva Convention as well. Despite all the Bush Administration lies, there are still numerous cracks in their stonewalling of the truth. So from one war criminal to the next, last August Obama’s Department of Justice filed a request to grant immunity to George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz for knowingly entering a war under false pretenses.

For decades the bin Laden family has enjoyed close business ties with the Bush family as well as the US government. On the morning of 9/11 while Americans were jumping out of windows in New York City, Bush senior was busily wining and dining the bin Ladens in a meeting at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in DC and later that same day while all planes in the US were grounded, the bin Laden family was quietly escorted out of the country flying safely home to Saudi Arabia.

Further substantiation of this all too cozy a relationship with Osama after al Qaeda fought Russians in Afghanistan came from former FBI translator and whistleblower Sibel Edmonds. She stated in a June 2009 interview that she came across classified material proving that the US government lied in its denial of maintaining “an intimate relationship” with bin Laden, al Qaeda and the Taliban “all the way up to September 11th.”

It appears that the neocons never stopped working with bin Laden and al Qaeda right through 9/11. In a symbiotic relationship, they needed him as much as he needed them. Considering the neocon plan to invade Iraq has been documented to exist long before the alleged 9/11 attack, and the proven utter lack of credibility and corruption of the entire Bush Administration, in the post-cold war era Osama bin Laden gladly became their convenient face of the enemy in America’s sudden new “war on terror.”

A couple weeks after 9/11 that same war criminal then retired General Wesley Clark revealed in 2007 the ambitious neocon plan to take out seven sovereign nations within the next five years in North Africa and the Middle East. Those countries targeted for regime change are Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Syria and Iran. The Neocons no longer viewed the purpose of the US military strictly in terms of national defense but simply to start wars and take out existing governments, replacing them with US controlled, weak and corrupt puppet governments. Of course the first two countries on that infamous list were Afghanistan and Iraq. So the US launched invasions resulting in decade long costly wars ostensibly to track down and defeat the Al Qaeda enemy.

Of course we all are painfully aware of the lies of the neocon’s false flag operation that got America stuck fighting a winless war in Iraq for a decade. Again without UN Security Council backing and in clear violation of every international law, the Bush doctrine of launching pre-emptive, unilateral wars using the sole global superpower’s exceptionalism and the “might makes right” mentality, with prefabricated, calculated lies contending Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and terrorist 9/11 ties, Iraq was invaded in March 2003 to replace the onetime US ally turned convenient enemy Saddam Hussein.

Back during the eight year bloody war between Iraq and Iran also during Reagan 1980’s, the US poured military hardware and US military intelligence giving Saddam the distinct advantage of knowing where his enemy’s troop movements were. Thus supplying him with the chemical weaponsthe US knew he would eagerly use not only on Iran soldiers but his own people the Kurds in northern Iraq, again without conscience the US government was supporting more state sponsored terrorism and crimes of humanity to the worst degree. Another reason the neocons had to bring Hussein down was his grumblings demanding to be paid no longer in US dollars for his oil but in gold. So another friend turned foe bad guy was extinguished in more cutthroat American imperialism.

And what does America have to show for its three trillion dollar war in Iraq? After the decade long tragedy of US occupation and ongoing war leaving 4,486 American soldiers dead, the US’s parting gift to the Iraqi people is an indefinite sectarian civil war with no end in sight, a completely desecrated nation full of deformed babies at 17 times the prewar rate (worse than the postwar Japanese atom bomb rates at Hiroshima-Nagasaki). Cancer rates over the years with the two US wars in Iraq are surging off the charts from depleted Uranium war rubble and the chemical white phosphorus used in US military assaults on cities like Fallujah and Basra. Iraq’s pre-Gulf War cancer rate in 1991 was just 40 out of 100,000 people. After the Gulf War in 1995 it jumped up to 800 out of 100,000 and by 2005 still early in the latest war, cancer had already stricken twice the earlier rate at 1600 out of 100,000 Iraqis. Obviously the rates are far higher nearly a decade later than that last statistic. Finally the tragic death toll to Iraq’s population at the hands of America’s aggression from 2003 through 2012 is nearly two million fellow human beings. And this is just from the US’s latest war in Iraq. More than 4000 more Iraqis are dying each year since the US left.

A January article written by CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen reads “Al Qaeda controls more territory than ever in Middle East.” This is the unanimous consensus from both English and Arab news sites that include jihadist websites. Covering a 400-mile stretch from northern Syria all the way to central Iraq, the so called enemy occupies and controls more territory now than it has in its entire history. Having retaken Fallujah and Anbar province in Iraq, al Qaeda now controls one third of Iraq territory. Al Qaeda is busily setting up massive bread distribution centers winning the local people’s hearts and minds, something General Petraeus’ Counterinsurgency manual failed to practice what it preached.

Considering that the whole pretext for invading Iraq aside from the phantom WMD’s, was Saddam and Iraq having direct ties to both the 9/11 attack and al Qaeda, then of course the world subsequently learned the hard way that was just another neocon lie. This latest pathetic turn of events only begins making sense when taking the overall bigger picture view that al Qaeda has always been the US government’s friend in as much as it is a self-serving tool to manipulate and sic on our worst enemies. Only to the American people has it been put that al Qaeda is our enemy. So much for how our government feels about us. And that said, so much for America winning its global war on terror. The old expression comes to mind… “with enemies like you, who needs friends?” Or more apropos, “with friends like you, who needs enemies?” After Iraq and Afghanistan, that’s theover four trillion dollar question, never mind Libya, Syria and the rest of the Moslem world where al Qaeda apparently is not only alive and well, but evidently thriving and growing. A revent Harvard study’s conservative estimate is anywhere from over four to seven trillion dollars.

The longest US war in history — the Afghanistan War — is fairing no better. More than a dozen and a half years after the US invasion, like the al Qaeda “enemy,” the Taliban enemy is also expanding itsterritorial control and hold within the country. With the presidential election looming this Saturday, it marks the end of the ex-CIA operator-oil company advisor Hamid Karzai’s reign of corruption playing both sides. He has been busily meeting regularly with the Taliban while refusing to sign the security agreement to retain US troops in the country. Karzai has maintained lucratively warm ties with the Taliban enemy, and may be betting on team Taliban poised and ready to pounce and take over once the US military presence officially departs at the end of December. And since it will no longer be his government to lose, he is choosing to circumvent the US altogether in attempts to reach a peace settlement. Outside the capital particularly in the southern provinces, the Taliban occupies more control than the 200,000 man Afghanistan National Army that the US military is handing over the reigns to. The US government is confident that the newly elected president will sign the agreement to retain of 12-15,000 US security forces in 2015 and longer. Despite the reduced troop size, the war budget is slated to be $79.4 billion. Many American generals and politicians are warning that without US troop support beyond this year, the Taliban will once again rule.

Though technically the Taliban is different from al Qaeda since its domain of interest is far more localized to Afghanistan and less ambitious than al Qaeda’s, for propaganda purposes both are Islamic extremists sharing the same enemy America in common. And apparently since the Taliban has been steadily resurging in power in recent years, al Qaeda is less needed in Afghanistan than other Middle Eastern hot spots like Syria, Libya and Iraq where its presence is far more pervasive and dominant.

Speaking of Syria, nowhere is it more puzzling and bewildering to reconcile the glaring discrepancy between America’s sworn enemy Al Qaeda terrorists, steadily funded by US tax dollars fighting in Syria, certainly not for our interests but only for the US-Saudi-Israeli axis of power’s implementation of the 1% war profiteering oligarch plan for a New World Order.

Obama’s false flag blaming the chemical weapons attack on Assad’s government last August when it was in fact US backed al Qaeda rebels’ doing, demonstrates the fixated agenda of US foreign policy to vanquish the Syrian government. Gaining a foothold in Syria as the gateway to the final prize of Iran would be the planetary game changer that would effectively cut off Russia and China to full oil-gas pipeline access supplying the rest of the world. The US will use al Qaeda as its paid mercenaries to fight anywhere that will limit the East’s power. The former Soviet outer states of Central Asia so rich in gas and oil reserves is the fertile ground that Special Ops and al Qaeda mercenaries are destined to play an integral part in this global destabilization plan firmly underway. Thus to the US government and transnational corporations, al Qaeda has been a friendly weapon of mass destruction and simply another con job of an enemy to the American people.

Yes, there are angry Islamic fundamentalists that since 9/11 due to US foreign aggression have been given justifiable reason to hate America. Every time Special Operations terrorize and murder families throughout the Third World by raiding homes in the middle of the night, detaining and torturing male family members in prison camps, leaving surviving family members to understandably seek revenge. In this way our brutal foreign policy ensures a fresh supply of so called al Qaeda enemies for its permanent global war on terror.

Of course the other favorite twenty-first century warfare in US Empire’s arsenal is the massive deployment of remote controlled drone strikes that again terrorize and murder more innocent people around the world than so called terrorist bad guys. Losing family members of course also serves the function of recruiting more jihadists committed to avenging the deaths of their relatives by fighting the holy war against America the aggressor. Whether employed as US hired guns by proxy or surviving family victims recruited to fight the war on terror, al Qaeda is serving the self-interest of only the US government, and certainly not us Americans.

Clearly the tiny nation of Syria has never posed any threat to the security of US citizens. Yet just over a month ago a number of Congress members and Homeland Security head went on mainstream media announcing that the greatest threat to America’s security now is Syria. They contend that many Americans and Europeans with legitimate passports are currently traveling in droves to Syria for secret jihadist terrorist training with intentions of returning to America and Europe to commit heinous acts of terrorism.

If what these fear mongers are saying is true, then it is on the US government for creating this “greatest security threat” by financing al Qaeda mercenaries to go in droves to Syria in the first place. For several years now America has been backing many Al Qaeda terrorists in Syria posing as anti-government rebels fighting the US proxy war for regime change. They are fighting to bring Islamic extremism to every nation in the Middle East and beyond and the US government has created this monster by promoting it for years now. The Assad military is gaining the edge in a stalemated war. They are too busy defending their nation against all the al Qaeda mercenaries America keeps sending there. So the terrorist trainers that all these warmongering Chicken Little’s must be talking about are these same US financed al Qaeda militants.

It is among the oldest Gladio tricks in the deception game to use false flags to hype up the fear factor in order to justify more war and greater profits for the military industrial complex. And it is this kind of hype and deception that most often occurs when the opponent is gaining the upper hand, just like last August’s false flag with the chemical attack. The US government has been secretly funding the same al Qaeda for many decades past, first in Afghanistan, then the Balkans, then more recently in Libya, Egypt, and Syria. The high stakes that Obama and his neocon plan for regime change place on this Middle Eastern nation are anything but inconsequential. This latest reality only confirms that Obama and his neocons are only getting more desperate, perhaps creating a new false flag with this latest terrorist training scenario.

This rash of fear mongering occurred in February but apparently it turned out to be just more false flag waving hype. But then last week another false flag event surfaced, this time the guilty party being exposed was US longtime ally Turkey. A leaked tape was released on youtube with the Turkish intelligence chief, a general and a deputy foreign minister discussing a plan to stage a false flag attack on Turkey in order to falsely blame Syrian government forces that would justify a military air strike on Syria. It is unclear when this recorded conversation took place but believed to be either late last year or early this year. Not surprising it received very little mainstream media coverage as this incident comes as yet another embarrassment to the US-NATO alliance (of which Turkey is a member) on the heels of the Ukraine crisis where Russia annexing Crimea was viewed as a defeat. Obama and the West keep reeling from a series of foreign policy blunders going back to the infamous chemical weapons false flag in Syria last August and September.

It appears that in the face of so many recent setbacks, the urgency and desperation to step up the war in Syria is more than likely increasing pressure coming from way up on high, the banking cabal that stands alone to gain from these constant campaigns being waged internationally with agendas to destabilize every nation not already in complete submission to US Empire hegemony. And Syria and Iran remain the final two holdouts on that original pre-9/11 take down list of seven. Only by examining the global geopolitical chessboard does the impatient New World Order emerging become plainer to see.

Another post-regime change nation to look at is Libya. When another onetime ally Muammar Gaddafienvisioned a developing solidarity of African power starting with their own currency off the standard US fiat dollar, he too like Saddam was a dead man walking, but not for long. NATO air bombing pulverized the country into oblivion that set the stage for the US government to send in its first boots on the ground large numbers of rag tag al Qaeda militants and mercenary thugs. They looted and plundered Gaddafi’s gold and silver reserves as well as his arsenal of weapons. Key al Qaeda leaders from all over the Middle East paired up with Libyan al Qaeda affiliates, and rewarded by CIA and US Special Ops, were placed into bullying roles in all major cities. Lawlessness and chaos prevail to this day.

Also participating in the Saudi-Israeli-US war by proxy, under Hillary Clinton’s State Department cover, a massive arms smuggling operation went down shipping guns through Turkey to be used against Syrian government forces. The 9/11/12 murder of Ambassador Christopher Stephens and three other Americans less than two months prior to the November presidential elections became a hidden at all cost liability to Obama, Hillary and then CIA Director Petraeus.

If the real truth had been told right after those four Americans were murdered in Benghazi instead of the Administration lie that an obscure anti-Moslem video caused the attack, it would have been over for all three of the world’s most powerful war criminals. Obama, Clinton and Petraeus refused to come to the aid of the ambassador despite his desperate requests for increased compound security that began months in advance of the Benghazi attack. Why? Because Hillary’s State Department was acting as the main cover for the gun smuggling operation out of Benghazi. Last August CNNreported that the CIA operatives and Special Ops personnel stationed at the Benghazi annex have been threatened harm to both them and their families should any of them reveal the truth of what was really going on. Additionally each one of them must undergo a lie detector test every month to ensure that they all remain silent or else.

So the US government wants America to continue to fear the al Qaeda enemy that still desires to kill Americans yet simultaneously the US government also wants to continue bankrolling the enemy to do its dirty work fighting for regime changes around the world. This presentation points out the fallacy of wanting your cake and eating it too. The US government can no longer play both sides and expect to not be called for it. The relentless hypocrisy, deception and making up its own psychopathic rules while using others for one’s own selfish gains without any consideration for short or long term negative consequences, this malevolent and destructive endgame must stop. It is up to us citizens to set limits for a government that is out of control.

Joachim Hagopian is a West Point graduate and former Army officer. Having written a manuscript based on his military experience, the link is below:

After the military Joachim earned a masters degree in psychology and eventually became a licensed therapist working in the mental health field for more than a quarter century.