In every military
conflict, it is crucial to study the etiology, the 1st
causes & early stages that developed into the
contemporary clash. The past is the structural girding of
the ever-passing present & future. "War is nothing but
the continuation of politics by other means." Karl von
Clausewitz's profundity, taught in every serious military
academy, must be always in mind, when analyzing terrorism
& the establishments it attacks.
fundamentalism obviously has native roots in Afghanistan.
However, it was dramatic political events in neighboring
Pakistan & Iran, & even further away in Saudi Arabia
& Egypt, that set the stage for the development of
fundamentalism as a modern political & military world
Bangladesh in 1972, the prime fear of the Pakistani military
was that Pashto-dominated Afghanistan would agitate
Pakistan's North-West Frontier province Pashtos on a
nationalist basis & bring down the battered regime.
After his 1977 coup, General Zia ul-Haq grasped that
fundamentalism, in both countries, was the only ideological
alternative to the nationalists & Stalinists. He
provided funds for Pakistani Koran-thumping schools, & a
haven for Afghan fundamentalists, already in conflict with
the semi-modernizing government in Kabul, even before the
native Stalinists & military seized power in 1978. When
Washington pitched intervention into Afghanistan, Zia was in
place to play catcher.
west, the February 1979 downfall of the Shah of Iran, then
America's pivotal native satrap in the Persian Gulf, at the
hands of Shia Islam, opened Muslim minds, everywhere, to the
possibility of doing something
similar in their
own countries, even tho most Muslims, in Afghanistan &
the world, are Sunni, & the 2 groups' theologians see
each other as heretics.
On the East, stood
Maoist China, with relentlessly hostility to the Soviet
Union governing its policy towards Kabul.
This was the
regional matrix in 1979, when Jimmy Carter & Zbigniew
Brzezinski covertly intervened on the side of Afghani Sunni
fundamentalists in rebellion against the native Stalinist
regime, which came to power via a 1978 coup, in alliance
with military elements, without coaching by Moscow.
Washington's policy was driven by global cold war
considerations, without serious concern for the direct
consequences for Afghan society of that strategy.
1988, Ronald Reagan worked a deal whereby Soviet troops
withdrew from the country in 1989, & the US stopped
arming its mujahedeen holy warriors. In 1992, the fanatics,
already armed to the teeth, with stinger rockets that could
bring down planes, brought down Muhammad Najibullah's
Wahabbi intervention, personified in Osama bin Laden, was
the 3rd crucial ingredient for Reagan's success in driving
Moscow out. The guardians of Mecca provided theological
respectability to the struggle vs. the "atheist" modernists
in Kabul. So constituted, according to Reagan's "Afghanistan
Day" proclamation of March 21, 1983, "The resistance of the
Afghan freedom fighters is an example to all the world of
the invincibility of the ideals we in this country hold most
dear, the ideals of freedom and independence." Yes, indeed.
Bin Laden, then
pro-Saudi dynasty, recruited more technologically advanced
youthful ultras from Saudia & elsewhere in the Arab
& Muslim worlds. Utilization of fundamentalism against
secularism, in its nationalist & anti-capitalist forms,
was also the policy of Anwar Sadat's Egyptian state
bureaucracy, threatened by left-populist currents still
strong in that country, with its history of struggles
against British imperialism & then Zionism. In 1980,
Sadat eagerly contributed Kalashnickov assault rifles, given
to Egypt by the USSR, to the gallant "Afghan freedom
fighters," against the Soviets. (To make this blowback epic
complete, Sadat was later assassinated by - you guessed
right - Islamic fundamentalists, tho I could not say, even
with a gun to my head, if they did it with a
© Rob Rogers, (from
the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, USA), Universal
interveners defeated the mighty Soviet army, producing a
triumphalist mentality in bin Laden & cothinkers in the
Islamic world. When the US sent Christian & Jewish
troops into Saudia in 1990-91, to protect the dynasty
against Saddam Hussein, bin Laden saw them as puppets of
infidels, & ideologically took off from Saudi-loyalty to
land ultimately in Afghanistan & theological-political
madness. The sword of Allah, who helped bring down the
mighty Soviet army, confident in his sectarian triumphalism,
turned on the power that provided his Sunni fundamentalists
with the sinews of modern militarism, without which his
medievalism couldn't have come to power.
The best analogy to
the relationship between Washington & bin Laden is that
of Germany's capitalists to Adolf Hitler in 1929-33. They
were looking for an anti-Marxist kickass as Germany entered
the world Depression. They weren't thinking about killing
almost 6 million Jews. But that's what happened when they
looked to a right-wing militarized fanatic for the solution
to their problems.
Carter & Reagan
needed a homicidal holy warrior against the Soviet Union.
While neither was exactly a feminist, domestically, they
weren't motivated by personal anti-feminism in backing
Afghanistan's world class male-chauvinists. But, in arming
those women-haters, they set in train a chain of political
forces that produced one of history's major disasters, for
America, Afghanistan & the world.
Be certain that the
bulk of voters, in 1980-88, never gave a thought to what the
Democrats & Republicans they voted for were doing in
Afghanistan. For decades, polls have shown that only a small
minority of Americans follow US foreign policy, if Americans
aren't being killed. Most Americans, then & up to 9/11,
knew nothing or next to nothing about Afghanistan.
No mincing words, no
evasions, no hypocrisy: The best argument against the
possibility of democracy in Afghanistan, & in the larger
Islamic world, is its utter failure here, & no better
example of that miscarriage could be imagined than the easy
time that the White House had, getting military aid to
Islamic fundamentalism passed by a Congress full of
Christian & Jewish cynics.
No political crisis
in modern times has better illustrated the massive gap
between the informed, regardless of their politics, &
the vast majority of unpolitical Americans, than 9/11. The
quality media, the NY Times & Co., constantly referred
to the previous US involvement with the fundamentalists.
Many commentators saw the situation as a prime example of
"blowback," i.e., the belated consequences of opportunist
CIA involvement with anti-Stalinist criminals, mad-dogs off
the leash. With that in mind, they documented the sordid
history of America's present "white hats," & gave us an
unprecedented low-blow-by-low-blow account of their present
In general, the
informed understand that the US is now confronted with
severe problems in establishing a stable regime in
Afghanistan, to say nothing about & the larger questions
involved in Washington's spiraling entanglement with the
wider Muslim world. On the other hand, the masses alternate
between childlike patriotism & paranoia. We have all
seen street peddlers selling red, white & blue baby
socks. But, at the same time, many of many of their
customers are afraid to go into tall buildings, & air
travel is massively off, even months
What unites the 2
contrasting attitudes is the traumatic quality of the public
reaction. I remember Pearl Harbor, & every war since.
The Japanese attack was a surprise, but the country then
matter of factly went to war. Within days, fear of a direct
air attack on California was replaced with mature concern
for German U-boat attacks on coastal shipping, etc.
Presently, there is a free floating anxiety further
generated by anthrax mail, copycat terrorism, as with the
kid in Florida who crashed his plane into a building, false
bomb threats & the like. The ignorant are looking for a
savior. In some cases literal theological intervention, in
others, they are making heroes out of cops, firemen, even
Rudy Giuliani. But the informed, especially in New York, are
also deeply effected. They can't go back readily to politics
as usual, try as they will. For them, now, its, for example,
in NYC, politics as she has been effected by 9/11 & its
This provides the
crucial avenue for the anti-war movement to reach both the
sophisticated & the great politically unwashed. But only
if it cleans up its act.
Millions of Muslims
around the world believed that "the Zionists did it," that
thousands of Israelis were told to stay away from the WTC on
9/11, etc. But even here in the US we heard such nonsense,
in some Arab political circles, & even, to a lesser
degree, in the general American anti-war movement. Certainly
there was a widespread conviction, at least in the early
days of the crisis, that "Bush hasn't made his case that bin
Laden did it."
reflected the changes in the internal character of the
Middle East anti-war movement over the last 20 years. In
1982, when the Israelis let the Lebanese Phalangists enter
Sabra & Shatilla to slaughter hundreds of Palestinians,
no one doubted that the Phalangists did it. Indeed, even
before that atrocity, the movement here was against
"Zionism, US imperialism & Arab reaction."
Focus on the Arab
right diminished sharply after the Oslo accords. When a
basically new movement evolved, after the obvious failure of
that pact, it rested, primarily, on a new stratum of young
Palestinians, who were born or raised here. The new cadre
had little or no 1st hand experience of life in the larger
Arab world, & not much sustained concern for the
internal politics of that milieu, except in so far as it
touched directly on the Palestine issue. Generic Palestinian
nationalism replaced Arab nationalism as the broad ideology
of the movement here.
Thus there was
virtually no discussion of the gigantic Berber
demonstrations in Algeria, & no discussion of the
chronic civil war in the Sudan. There was a degree of
solidarity work against the ongoing monstrous social carnage
in Iraq, caused by the US stranglehold on its economy, but
no discussion of the internal politics of the country, ruled
by a once secular despot, who, his regime announced, then
gave 50 pints of his own blood as ink for a
Given inattention to
the broader Arab nation, there was no discussion of
fundamentalism, except within the Palestinian movement, re
Hamas & Islamic Jihad, & not much discussion of
them. The focus was on Zionist oppression, & Arafat's
reaction to it, not the internal quality of Palestinian
& Arab politics. Therefore, when the towers & the
Pentagon were hit by suicide bombers, the broad movement
here was as shocked by those profound events, as the general
public, & likewise reacted emotionally.
feared they would be rounded up, as Arabs &/or as
politicals. When TV showed Palestinians cheering the
destruction, many convinced themselves that the photos were
staged. Some may have been, in the age-old way of
photographers everywhere. But, for certain, many did cheer.
But soon we saw emails about Israelis arrested cheering the
destruction in NY, Israelis with boxcutters on the George
Washington Bridge, & Co.
psychological terms for this are simple enough: Denial &
Most American lefts
were not ethnically fearful of retaliation for suicide
bombers, so few, beyond congenital Kennedy conspiracy buffs
like Ralph Schoenman, are into "the Zionists did it." But we
saw a subtle form of "Bush did it." There were demonstration
planning meetings in NY, which began with a minute of
silence for the victims at the WTC, & then the focus of
attention was on stopping Bush's war, not bin Laden's.
In this matrix,
emails flew about, re gas in &/or pipelines through
Afghanistan. There is gas in Afghanistan. But neither the
Soviets nor Carter nor Reagan nor his successors based their
politics on this. There is more accessible gas elsewhere.
And the oil industry knows that the cheapest & quickest
way to get Caspian oil & gas to the world market is with
a pipeline through Iran, not Afghanistan.
expression, but Marxist fundamentalists reduce a complex
event to familiar terms, in this case, imperialism. However
Bush didn't bomb the Pentagon. Bin Laden did. Bush reacted
to that. In so doing, he was America, the political-military
conjurer, trying to get his monster, armed religious
fanaticism, back into the magician's top hat. He wasn't
looking for gas, any more than he is looking to get in the
middle between Pakistan & India.
These & other
substitutes for reality take attention away from studying
the undisputed facts of the situation. But if we look
clinically at the history of US-Afghan politics we
immediately see the primordial flaw built into Washington's
position, post-1979, which must be confronted by everyone,
in our post 9/11 here & now.
© Chip Bok (from the
Akron Beacon Journel, USA), Creators
Two things are
- Arming male
chauvinist religious fanatics against the pro-Soviet, but
also feminist, Kabul regime was criminal. It can't be
defended, as such, today.
- Establishing now
a "reformed" remake of the pre-Taliban male chauvinist
regime, where women are "almost" equal, will also be a
Carter got away with
his war crime because the vast majority of feminist leaders
then looked to the Democratic Party for defense &
extension of female equality here. They weren't peeking very
hard at any aspect of his foreign policy, much less his
Afghan policies. Later, they knew the Democrats defended the
Saudi male-chauvinists, straight through Clinton's affair
with Monica. But we are discussing identity-politicians,
narcissists, essentially, whose politics reflected that
syndrome. For them, the political stage is local &
national, at most, because governmental policies at those
levels effect them. Feminism as an international cause,
refusing to vote for a domestically pro-abortion party,
because it arms male chauvinists abroad, was beyond them.
Ignoring Democratic male chauvinist foreign policy, they
were in no great haste to go after it under Republicans.
Now, after 9/11,
Afghanistan & Saudi Arabia will be the news for a long
time to come. They can't be ignored. Gloria Steinem, an
ex-CIA collaborator, then a mindless celebrity member of
Democratic Socialists of America, a Democratic Party
outrider, has been on TV, talking about Afghan women's
rights. How far will she go in the struggle for those
rights? Given her morbid history, we have to wait & see.
But, if we make international women's rights a litmus test
issue for the public, we expose both parties in the
"bipartisan" system in front of millions of young women
here, who don't come with her baggage.
Now, after the
traumatic effect of 9/11, they can't ever go back to the
parochial narcissism of their older sisters. Military women
are stationed in Saudia & the Middle East. Every woman's
tax money will go to building a new Afghan state. If they
say no money to any regime that denies basic American style
rights to women, you wouldn't want to get in their way if
you were running for election.
If we step on that
pedal, equality for women is the issue that will force the
informed to think through their politics to a profoundly
anti-establishment position. At the same time, it is the
road to the ignorant, those who knew nothing about
Afghanistan before hand, & who have little understanding
of it now, but who now at least know that it is important
that they should.
present patriotism, they are practical feminists. In their
language, "let's go guys, we're eating out tonight," or
whatever, means all the boys & girls in their family.
Its our duty & pleasure to show them that the US dumped
on that great truth in the past in Afghanistan, & is
doing it again.
To be sure, there
are many other facets to the Afghan situation. But the issue
of women's rights is singularly central to its past, present
& future. Now, after 9/11, Afghan women's rights, &
Saudi women's rights, indeed women's rights everywhere, will
become distinctly crucial in America's present &, be
sure, its future.
varying relationships with the host of "Islamic"
governments, more properly, states whose populations are
majority Muslim, from the Saudi guardians of Mecca, Shia
Iran, through to rigidly separatist Turkey, & Malaysia,
where ethnicity, not religion, are the basis for statehood,
& their relationship to the outside world. There is even
Surinam in South America, with its immigrant Muslim history.
Therefore, any generality about America's future
relationship with all of them is bound to be wrong. All but
one: Neither official Washington nor official Islam will
come out of their present relationships well.
The proverb has it
that fools outnumber the wise in every country in the world.
As I write, that world's attention is focused on Islamic
fanaticism, & correctly so. But there are 284 million
Americans, 207 million adults, 18+, with the right to vote.
Our natural history museums are complete with dinosaurs
bones, scientifically certified to be millions of years old.
Yet 46% of Americans, mostly Christians, believe that God
created the world about ten thousand years ago.
In 1969, Billy
Graham, the most famous Protestant preacher of his time,
told 20,000 people in Madison Square Garden that he believed
that, after you die, if you are a Christian, God sends you,
via extra-sensory perception, to other planets in the
universe, to convert their heathen populations. When me
& my ace photographer buddy asked each other if we were
hearing right, our neighbors shushed us. We were in top row,
side seats for the view of the audience. Trust me: We were
the only skeptics in the crowd.
Those folks were
black & white. They voted for Hubert Humphrey, Vice
President during the Vietnam war, or Nixon, later impeached
for burglarizing the Democrats. In 2000, their contemporary
Christian cothinkers, black & white, voted for Al Bore
or George W. Mush, who recently told the world, including
its 19.1% Muslims, that he was in a "crusade" against
terrorism, i.e., their terrorism. Smart he ain't & smart
isn't a word easily applied to American voters.
We have entered a
harrowing epoch, full of fanatic terrorists fighting wannabe
Machiavellis, in front of political children of all ages. No
one needs a prophet to know that many innocent names shall
be stricken from the book of life before the world crisis is
resolved. But those all too real facts can be humanity's
political salvation. The knowledgeable, & those now open
to knowledge, now have no choice but to confront those
grotesque facts, dead on, as it were, and can rise to the
occasion, and defeat both the holy warriors & the