From Mon Oct 1 18:14:32 2001
Date: Sun, 30 Sep 2001 00:11:41 -0500 (CDT)
From: Michael Eisenscher <>
Subject: Insightful Analysis from ANC Leader; Free Speech in War Time
Article: 127214
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From: Date: Sat, 29 Sep 2001 17:46:14 EDT

Fighting terrorism

By Z. Pallo Jordan, ANC Today, Vol. VI, #3, 4 October 2001

The uses and abuses of anti-communism

The terrorist attacks two weeks ago on New York and Washington have caused outrage and shock across the world. Speaking on behalf of the ANC, President Thabo Mbeki said the acts should be condemned without reservation. Addressing Parliament last week, South African foreign affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said that South Africa is opposed to terrorism. She emphasised that during the course of the armed struggle, the ANC had scrupulously avoided terrorism as a tactic. All these are absolutely true.

After the terrorist bomb attacks on New York City and Washington, the government of the USA declared war on terrorism. President Bush sounded extremely earnest in his declaration, but a question arose in my mind: Is the USA in fact opposed to terrorism? Closer examination of the dramatis personae involved in the September 11th outrage sheds a rather different light on US pronouncements past and present.

A United States newspaper reported: Last week [the US govt] pledged another $43 million in assistance to Afghanistan, raising total aid this year to $124 million and making the United States the largest humanitarian donor to the country. (The Washington Post, 25 May 2001)

This was barely four months ago. Digging deeper into the recent archives of the United States press one finds yet other reports.

Among the most interesting we find: The Afghan resistance was backed by the intelligence services of the United States and Saudi Arabia with nearly $6 billion worth of weapons. And the territory targeted last week, a set of six encampments around Khost, where the Saudi exile Osama bin Laden has financed a kind of ‘terrorist university’, in the words of a senior United States intelligence official, is well known to the Central Intelligence Agency.

The CIA's military and financial support for the Afghan rebels indirectly helped build the camps that the United States attacked.

And some of the same warriors who fought the Soviets with the CIA's help are now fighting under Mr Bin Laden's banner. From those same camps, the Afghan rebels, known as mujahedeen, or holy warriors, kept up a decade long siege on the Soviet-supported garrison town of Khost.

Thousands of mujahedeen were dug into the mountains around Khost.

Soviet accounts of the siege of Khost during 1988 referred to the rebel camps as the last word in NATO engineering techniques.

After a decade of fighting during which each side claimed to have killed thousands of the enemy, the Afghan rebels poured out of their encampments and took Khost. ‘This was the most fiercely contested piece of real estate in the 10-year Afghan war,’ said Milt Bearden, who ran the CIA's side of the war from 1986 to 1989.

(New York Times. 23 August 1998)

Dig a little deeper to discover further surprises when Steve Coll, writing in the Washington Post, of 19 July 1992, reveals:

A specially equipped C-141 Starlifter transport carrying William Casey touched down at a military air base south of Islamabad in October 1984 for a secret visit by the CIA director to plan strategy for the war against Soviet forces in Afghanistan.

Helicopters lifted Casey to three secret training camps near the Afghan border, where he watched mujahedeen rebels fire heavy weapons and learn to make bombs with CIA-supplied plastic explosives and detonators.

During the visit, Casey startled his Pakistani hosts by proposing that they take the Afghan war into enemy territory—into the Soviet Union itself.

Casey wanted to ship subversive propaganda through Afghanistan to the Soviet Union's predominantly Muslim southern republics. The Pakistanis agreed, and the CIA soon supplied thousands of Korans, as well as books on Soviet atrocities in Uzbekistan and tracts on historical heroes of Uzbek nationalism, according to Pakistani and Western officials.

We can do a lot of damage to the Soviet Union, Casey said, according to Mohammed Yousaf, a Pakistani general who attended the meeting. Casey's visit was a prelude to a secret Reagan administration decision in March 1985, reflected in National Security Decision Directive 166, to sharply escalate US covert action in Afghanistan, according to Western officials. Abandoning a policy of simple harassment of Soviet occupiers, the Reagan team decided secretly to let loose on the Afghan battlefield an array of US high technology and military expertise in an effort to hit and demoralise Soviet commanders and soldiers. Casey saw it as a prime opportunity to strike at an overextended, potentially vulnerable Soviet empire.

The so-called mujahedeen, led by Osama Bin Laden, now accused of being the chief suspect responsible for the destruction of the World Trade Centre (WTC) and the attack on the Pentagon, it transpires, has been an ally of the United States Intelligence community for well nigh two decades. If the US press is to be believed, he and his network are in large measure a creation of the virulently anti-Communist elements in the US establishment, who not only supported them with funds, but also helped train and equip them to fight the then Soviet Union. During those years the CIA, its helpers in Pakistan and the Saudi rulers taught Bin Laden and his associates a host of skills, including how to move money to fund their operations from country to country.

As one US commentator writes:

The system is no surprise to the US government because Washington and its allies have used it, too.

The Bank of Credit and Commerce International was a British-Pakistani bank that used secret offshore accounts to effect a global money-laundering fraud that cost victims $8 billion. Before it was shut down in 1991, it was used to fund the mujahedeen, then fighting the Soviet-supported government of Afghanistan. The money came from US and Saudi intelligence. Now many of the formerly US-supported mujahedeen are members of bin Laden's network. They know all about how to launder money through the international bank secrecy system.

Yet the alliance among Bin Laden, Taliban, the Saudi monarchy and the New Right in the United States establishment is not as odd as it might appear at first sight. There is a remarkable convergence of views among these allies.

In the USA, the New Right's platform includes a very fundamentalist reading of the Christian scriptures, (indeed there are states where pressure from its more extreme supporters has succeeded in having the theory of evolution banned from the school curriculum). New Right opposition to women controlling their own fertility in extreme cases spills over into attacks on doctors and clinics that terminate unwanted pregnancies. Family values is the New Right code for the restoration of patriarchal relations in the family. Its opposition to any reforms that will accord equal rights to all US citizens is as legendary as its xenophobia. The New Right are the most vociferous proponents of a retributive penal system and the death penalty.

In the Muslim world, but specifically in Afghanistan, the coalition of forces represented by Bin Laden and Taliban also insists on a very fundamentalist interpretation of the Q'uran. They are opposed to women exercising any choice regarding their fertility, and they enforce strict patriarchal family relations with violence. Women in the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan of today probably have fewer rights than chattel slaves in the American South before the civil war. It should come as no surprise that among the principal grievances cited by the mujahedeen when they rose in rebellion were attempts by the then Soviet-backed government to extend equal rights to women. Like their New Right allies, Taliban employs the most brutal forms of punishment ranging from public floggings to executions.

The parties to this alliance represent the forces of reaction and extreme backwardness

It might turn out that the US New Right have sown dragon's teeth by arming and inspiring what was essentially an anti-modernist rebellion against a left-wing government. The reality is that Bin Laden, the Taliban and others of their ilk are today striking out at what used to be a doting parent. A parent who not only gave them life but also armed them to wage war on the ‘godless Communists’.

But what could have persuaded these reckless offspring to turn against their parent? On examining the roots of the anti-left rebellion in Afghanistan one gets to understand today's events better. The left-wing party that seized power in Afghanistan during the late 1970s had no intention of introducing socialism to that country. Afghanistan was an impoverished, semi-feudal society, barely touched by the modern world. While Babrak Karmal and his colleagues indeed drew inspiration from and looked to the Soviet Union for assistance, their immediate aim was to bring their country abreast of the rest of Asia. That would have entailed mass literacy by the building of modern schools, the secularisation of the society, and the construction of modern infrastructure such as roads, electrification, and telecommunications.

These would have ended Afghanistan's isolation and narrowed the distance between its people and the modern era. But it would also have curtailed the power of the Muslim clerics. Intellectual emancipation would be one outcome of modernisation.

The standard around which the USA, its helpers in the Pakistan intelligence agencies, the Saudi monarchy and the conservative religious leaders in Afghanistan mobilised opposition to this government was rejection, not of socialism, but modernism itself.

They appropriated the banner of Islam for that purpose and advocated a fundamentalist interpretation of the Q'uran. The CIA, with a purely instrumentalist approach, recognised that religion would be a powerful symbol around which to rally opposition to the Soviet-backed government, but paid little attention to the unplanned-for outcomes that might produce.

The bleeding ulcer of Afghanistan was among the many factors that sapped the strength of the Soviet Union, leading to its collapse.

What US policy-makers did not realise is that to the radically anti-modernist mujahedeen, the USA—the land of the skyscrapers, the home of Hollywood, with hundreds of television channels, millions educated women and with a strong emphasis on the separation of the church and state—represented the epitome of the modernism they had been mobilised to crush. The ideological affinities between the US New Right and Taliban sealed the alliance. But while the former necessarily took elements of modernism for granted, the latter regarded even its most benign expressions as satanic deviance.

Thus the stage was set for the offspring to rise against their parents.

The history of the last century abounds with numerous examples of politicians who have sought to harness anti-Communism, in a very instrumental manner, to their project. In most instances these have been reactionaries and conservatives defending discredited systems of oppression and exploitation.

But there have been numerous instances of liberals, nationalists and ostensibly progressive people being tempted to either play the anti-Communist card with a view to some immediate political advantage or to capitulate to it in the hope of gaining some dubious political advantage. US policy-makers during the liberal Carter administration of early 1980s probably thought they could ride the tiger of anti-Communism with impunity. The conservative Reagan and Bush administrations of the second half of the 1980s and early 1990s , as the US media reports indicate, thought they could take that even further.

Anti-Communism, they are discovering today, is a doubled edged sword. While its keen blade helped sweep away what President Reagan once called the evil empire, on its back-swing it returned as a guillotine to wreak terrible havoc in the very citadels of US power.

There is a lesson there, somewhere!

But the last word should go to two US foreign policy specialists, Tom Barry and Martha Honey : As Americans deliberate an effective response to this tragedy and crime, we must first reject the call for war. The gauntlet goading us to militaristic responses that treat human life as callously as the terrorists treated ours must be categorically rejected. As with any other crime, the perpetrators and their accomplices must be brought to justice-in the courts of law, not according to the fundamentalist ‘eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth’ precepts. In recent years, we have made encouraging progress in establishing and enforcing international norms for human rights and crimes against humanity. This is an opportunity to forge a broader international coalition-bringing disparate nations together in a common determination to fight against such crimes against humanity. A first principle, then, must be that we treat this as an international crime, not an act of war, and that the rule of law should guide international response.