Tuesday, September 9, 2008

American Jihad

What the mainstream media say:

"Over the past decade, every major terrorist attack by Islamic militants against Western interests can be traced back to Afghan training camps and Pakistani madrassas." (Editorial, Afghan challenge: The West cannot waiver in its commitment, The Australian, 9/9/08)

And what they don't say:

"How did right-wing Islamism, an ideological tendency with small and scattered numbers before the Afghan War [1979- 1989], come to occupy the global center stage after 9/11? The answer lies in the Afghan jihad [against the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan], which gave it not only the organization, the numbers, the skills, the reach, and the confidence but also a coherent objective. Before the Afghan jihad, the right wing of political Islam was divided into 2 camps: those identified with pro-American regimes, as in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, and those opposed to these same regimes, seeing them as American stooges that had betrayed the Palestinian cause. Unlike Islamists who organized political parties and sought to galvanize ordinary people into political activity, however, the right-wingers had no program outside of isolated acts of urban terror. Until the Afghan jihad, right-wing Islamists out of power had neither the aspiration of drawing strength from popular organization nor the possibility of marshaling strength from any alternative source. The Reagan administration rescued right-wing Islamism from this historical cul-de-sac. The American jihad claimed to create an Islamic infrastructure of liberation but in reality forged an 'infrastructure of terror' that used Islamic symbols to tap into Islamic networks and communities. To understand the deep-seated effects of the decision to ideologize the war as Islamic, it is necessary to look at different aspects of the mobilization that was the American jihad.

"The blueprint for the Afghan jihad was worked out by the CIA, in collaboration with the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan. For the actual conduct of the war, the CIA acquired weapons and specialists in guerilla warfare from different countries and delivered them, along with intelligence and surveillance information on Afghanistan, to the ISI. The ISI was responsible for transport of weapons to the border, supervised the training of Afghan fighters in Pakistan, and coordinated their operations inside Afghanistan. While ISI was the main regional proxy in the operation, the second line included the intelligence services of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, with the intelligence services of Britain, China, the Philippines, and even Israel also involved.

"... Beyond the front-line proxy states and their intelligence agencies, increasingly the intermediaries were private institutions, both religious and secular. The overall effect was progressively to privatize the war on an international basis. From this dynamic emerged the forces that carried out the operation we know as 9/11.

"Had the anti-Soviet crusade been organized in a national framework, the CIA would have looked for mainly Afghani recruits to wage it. But with the war recast as an international jihad, the CIA looked for volunteers from Muslim populations all over the globe. Outside of Pakistan, the Arab countries were the main source of volunteers, who became known as Afghan-Arabs...

"The CIA looked for a Saudi prince to lead this crusade but was unable to find one. It settled for the next best, the son of an illustrious family closely connected to the Saudi royal house... Bin Laden was recruited, with US approval at the highest level, by Prince Turki al-Faisal, then head of Saudi intelligence. According to Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, Osama bin Laden first travelled to Peshawar in 1980 and met mujahideen leaders there, and for the next 2 years he returned frequently with Saudi donations for the cause. In 1982, he decided to settle in Peshawar. In 1986, bin Laden worked as the major contractor to build a large CIA-funded project: the Khost tunnel complex deep under the mountains close to the Pakistani border. The Khost complex housed a major arms depot, a training facility, and a medical center for the mujahideen. It is the Khost complex that President Clinton decided in 1998 to bomb with Tomahawk cruise missiles. It is also in the Khost complex - the famed mountain caves - that the United States later fought al-Qaeda remnants in its own Afghan War.

"Though Osama bin Laden had been a student of Sheikh Abdullah Azzam, the first Afghan-Arab gatekeeper of the jihad in the mid-80s, a break between Azzam and bin Laden came towards the end of the Afghan jihad. The parting of the ways was the result of a disagreement in 1989 over the future of the jihad: bin Laden 'envisioned an all-Arab legion, which eventually could be used to wage jihad in Saudi Arabia and Egypt', whereas Azzam 'strongly opposed making war against fellow-Muslims'. Soon after, Azzam and 2 of his sons were blown up by a car bomb... A meeting was held toward the end of 1989 in the town of Khost to decide on the future of the jihad. One of the 10 at the meeting was a Sudanese fighter named Jamal al-Fadl. He testified in a New York courtroom in one of the trials connected with the 1998 bombings of the American embassies in East Africa that a new organization was created in that meeting to wage jihad beyond the borders of Afghanistan. The organization was al-Qaeda, 'the Base'. Bin laden thus emerged as the organizer and patron of the most prominent privatized arm of the American jihad."(Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror, Mahmood Mamdani, 2004, pp 129-133)

"As the turf war culminated in a seesaw battle for Kabul, the [Afghan] civil war [which followed the 1989 Soviet withdrawal] turned vicious. When it became obvious that [Gulbuddin] Hikmatyar's forces [Hizb-i-Islami] were losing ground, the Pakistani army shifted its backing to the Taliban, a group mainly comprising students it had trained since 1980 in madrassahs in the North-West Frontier Province. The ISI saw the Taliban as amenable to the tight control and thus a preferable substitute for the now discredited Islamic coalition led by Hikmatyar. With the Cold War over, the focus of official America also narrowed to a percuniary dimension: oil. And for American oil interests - particularly Unocal, the giant oil company that hoped to build a trans-Afghan pipeline from Central Asia to the Indian Ocean as an alternative to going through Iran - any group that could offer security in Afghanistan would do. On October 4, 1996, The Los Angeles Times reported that a new rumor was making the rounds of Kabul - 'many are sure that the Clinton administration is supporting the Taliban, the victorious Islamic militia' - and added that the conspiracy theory was 'plausible, given the great mystery that shrouds the Taliban's rise and rapid advance: How did a ragtag force that emerged in late 1994 among Muslim religious students in the southern region of Kandahar and adjacent areas of Pakistan grow so quickly that, two years later, it has become master of three-quarters of Afghanistan? Who paid for its weaponry, ammunition and vehicles? Who organized its training and logistics? Is intelligence or military assistance received from outside one of the reasons the Taliban has enjoyed astonishing, and relatively bloodless, successes over experienced mujahideen who, for nearly a decade, fought occupying Soviet forces?' It cited 'generous support' from Pakistan but still wondered whether the United States was involved. A ranking UN official said: 'The U.S. wants law and order in Afghanistan, and the Taliban now seem like the best bet'. A local director of a foreign charity was equally cynical: 'There are two different things - American state interests and human rights. For the politicians running America, human rights take second place.' And a Kabul university graduate who worked as a translator asked the reporter, 'How can your country want to deal with people who whip women for not conforming to their dress code?' After a State Department meeting with a visiting Taliban delegation on February 3, 1997, a senior U.S. diplomat explained his government's point of view: 'The Taliban will probably develop like Saudi Arabia. There will be Aramco, pipelines, an emir, no parliament and lots of Sharia law. We can live with that.' " (ibid, pp 159-161)

1 comment:

i.m.small said...


When I survey the degradation
Of these my compeers,
I wonder by what incantation
Did they unleash their fears?

It was the magic panacea
Of making war on terror
Subverted them--a good idea
Except it was in error.

Waging of war has never been
Serviceable metaphor
When it is plunging into sin
To wage it, nothing more.

The concept is a replica
Of what some call Jihad,
And so it was America
Strayed from the path of God.