Rolling out the Red Carpet

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Founding Fathers of Terrorists

There’s a reason to believe that the past US foreign policies have relevance with the occurrence of terrorism. The terrorists of today are the magnum opus of America’s wrongheaded policies. The American leadership has yet to explore this viewpoint to any depth.

The 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan galvanized Usama bin Laden. He supported the Afghan resistance, which subsequently became a jihad (holy war). Ironically, the US turned out to be a major supporter of the Afghan resistance. It also helped in setting up Islamic schools (madrassas) in Pakistan for Afghan refugees.

By the mid-1980s, Usma bin Laden had moved to Afghanistan, where he established an organization, Maktab al-Khidimat (MAK), to recruit Islamic soldiers (mujahideen) from around the world who later formed the basis of an international network. The MAK maintained recruiting offices in Detroit and Brooklyn in the 1980s.

The Saudi born millionaire, Osama bin Laden, served as a veteran of the 1979-89 Afghan war against the Soviets where he came to understand the conflict in the light of Muslim versus heretics based on the Qur’an. Interestingly, the US government supplied arms to Muslim fighters in Afghanistan, including Osama bin Laden and the Taliban rulers.

The terrorists are now those recruited, trained, organized, and armed by the CIA and its associates in the 1980s, not to help the Afghans, but for reasons of state, power, the usual kinds. In around 1990, they turned against the US for reasons of their own. In 1993, related groups came very close to blowing up the World Trade Center. According to the WTC engineers, if they had a little better planning, they would have killed tens of thousands of people. That’s in 1993, not 2001. Those groups happened to be organized by the West.

You can say the same about plenty of others. Take Israel’s main terrorist enemies — Hezbollah and Hamas. Where did they come from? In part, the origins of Hamas lie in Israeli sponsorship of radical Islamist groups to undermine the secular Palestinian leadership. Hezbollah came out of a US-backed Israeli invasion of Lebanon twenty years ago that killed about 20,000 people, and had no defensive purpose whatsoever — it was barely even pretended. It was an attempt to undermine the secular PLO because its efforts at negotiation were becoming difficult to handle. The end result is that it helped create Hezbollah. Incidentally, terrorist acts are just a gift to the most hard line oppressive elements.

The US began covert sponsorship of Muslim extremists five months before the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. President Carter authorized the covert action. The US foreign policy fomented Muslim extremism as a weapon of policy.

The cornerstone of the program was that the US, through CIA, would provide funds, some weapons and general supervision of support for the mujahideen. The hands-off US role contrasted with CIA operations in Nicaragua and Angola.

In Afghanistan and then in Bosnia, the US sponsored freedom fight was being condemned even officially by the State Department. Because ordinary people would never support such a policy, it was sold to the public as support for freedom fighters (Afghanistan) or as defense of abused Muslims (Bosnia.)

Beginning in 1985, the CIA supplied mujahideen rebels with extensive satellite reconnaissance data of Soviet targets on the Afghan battlefield, plans for military operations based on the satellite intelligence, intercepts of Soviet communications, secret communications networks for the rebels, delayed timing devices for tons of C-4 plastic explosives for urban sabotage and sophisticated guerrilla attacks, long-range sniper rifles, a targeting device for mortars that was linked to a US Navy satellite, wire-guided anti-tank missiles, and other equipment. It was the largest covert action program since World War II.

By the time the Red Army completed its pullout from Afghanistan, in February 1989, the ranks of the Afghan mujahideen groups were swelled with combatants who had been recruited to fight the "Great Atheistic Satan" in Moscow. Out of that operation evolved a mercenary force that shifted its anger from Moscow to the West, and that now comprise the largest labor pool of potential terrorists ever seen.

Fifteen years later, when some of the very Afghan mujahideen who had given Moscow a bloody nose were turned loose as an international terrorist force, carrying out some of their most heinous crimes on the streets of America. When the US first began pouring in billions of dollars in aid to the Afghans, it had never occurred to anyone inside US intelligence that the program would blow back in such a bloody fashion. The hypothesis that the mujahideen would come to the US and commit terrorist actions did not enter into the universe of thinking at the time. It is a significant unplanned consequence.

With the active encouragement of the CIA that wanted to turn the Afghan jihad into a global war waged by all Muslim states against the Soviet Union, some 35,000 Muslim radicals from 40 Islamic countries joined Afghanistan's fight between 1982 and 1992. Tens of thousands more came to study in Pakistani madrasahs. Eventually more than 100,000 foreign Muslim radicals were directly influenced by the Afghan jihad.

In a cruel irony, while the Islamic jihad --featured by the Bush Administration as "a threat to America"-- is blamed for the terrorist assaults on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, these same Islamic organizations constitute a key instrument of US military-intelligence operations in the Balkans and the former Soviet Union.

One must ask: if the US foreign policy used Muslim extremism as a weapon once, how can one argue in principle that they would not use it again? Why this action was justifiable against other country and a hellish terrorist act against the US?

When a hegemonic global power centralizes power, wealth and knowledge in the hands of the minority, when there are few avenues to ensure accountability, the marginalization and alienation among the many can lead to disastrous results. (