Co-editors: Seán Mac Mathúna • John Heathcote
Consulting editor: Themistocles Hoetis
Field Correspondent: Allen Hougland


The Book, the Word and the Sword
John Heathcote

George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography

War on Drugs: Counterinsurgency Operations in Colombia

October Surprise

The CIA, Rockefeller, and the Boys in the Club

 Recommended reading on Palestine

Jews and Palestinians Cooperate for Peace

Palestinian Centre for Peace and Democracy

Palestine links page 

Media Monitors Network (MMN)

The New Israel fund


B'Tselem, the Israeli Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories

Taliban's Control Over Afghanistan Boosts Opium Trade

The Balkan, Albanian Kosovo, heroin,Afghan connection


The main Buddha in the Bamiyan valley, 240 kilometers northwest of the Afghan capital Kabul, before total destruction by the Taliban. The 53 meter Buddha was the largest statue in the world. With its strategic location at the intersection of roads to Persia, India, Tarim basin, and China, it developed an art style with a fusion of Iranian, Indian, Gandharan and local style into an independent mode of its own. This style of Buddhist art traveled eastward and was quickly adopted at Kizil, Xinjiang and ultimately Dunhuang. Buddhism reached the height of its power in the 8th and 9th centuries in Afghanistan before it fell to the Arabs.
The Taliban and the CIA
Kosovo and the UCK
South America
Land of the Book - Israel
The Word and the Sword
The Buddha

The world has been shocked into mute incomprehrension at the final, visual proof of the destruction of the great stone Buddhas carved into the mountainside in the Bamiyan Valley in Afghanistan.

The Taliban, known as the most fundamentalist Muslim government in the world, decided that once the U.S. had imposed an even stricter sanction regime than previously, they had nothing left to lose in the face of world opinion. Already known for their strange interpretation of the Koran; they had banned everything they considered alien to an Islamic State; from nail varnish to Western pop music. It was no surprise then, that the Buddhist statues, along with all other "graven images", or statues from Afghanistan's rich history should be destroyed.

The obsession with this particular facet of the Prophet's teachings seems to Muslim and non-Muslim as bizarre as their obsession with the length of a man's beard. The stricture was probably only included originally to prevent either idolatry (the worship of idols, treating the object itself as sacred, a fetish); or the worship of living beings (even more relevant in the era of the mass media with representations of everyone from Hitler to Elvis, the Pope or Ayatollah Khomeini).

The tragedy of the destruction of the Buddhas should also be compared to another, different sort of tragedy taking place which the Taliban seem unable to deal with; the worst drought in over 30 years.

12 million Afghans are said to be affected, and at least three million are actually on the edge of starvation.

Joining the constant stream of political refugees are now up to half a million Afghans fleeing in search of food, many to Pakistan.

However, although it is easy to leap to instant condemnation of the Taliban, it would be wise to consider a few relevant points.

The Taliban and the CIA

The Taliban themselves were largely the creation of the CIA.

During the Cold War, in the immediate post-Vietnam era, the U.S was looking for areas to continue playing the politics of tension.

A moderate Afghan government, perhaps the most democratic regime that impregnable country ever had was promoting, with admittedly a large amount of Soviet aid, a secular,a modernising state with equal rights for women, and the beginnings of land reform.

For the Soviets this would achieve the aim of both tying Afghanistan into the Russian zone of influence; and would also ensure a fairly peaceful, contained state existing in an area bordering theirs, which had always been fiercely independent.

However, as in any country where the upper classes are expected to make some sort of sacrifice for the sake of redistribution; the Government started to find opposition emerging from the tribal chieftains whose families had run areas within Afghanistan as little autocracies.

More importantly, many mullahs would have been the younger sons of the local landowner.

In England, it was common up until the early 20th century for the eldest son of a landowner to inherit the land; whilst the younger son would become the local Anglican Minister; leaving both the temporal and spiritual power in a locality within the ruling family.

Land reform would been perhaps a cause of some discontent; but the benefits of a fairer society would have no doubt swayed the balance of power in favour of the more moderate Mullahs, and Islamic community.

However, as in so many other tragic parts of the world; the interest of the CIA and the US State Department in the affairs of this tiny country, resulted in an unending supply of the most advanced weaponry to carry out a second-hand war against the officially recognised Government of the time (whose successor is still recognised as legitimate).

This in itself can be seen as the egg which hatched the 'Serpent" of international Islamic terrorism, which has challenged the liberal Western powers from Kenya (US Embassy bombing) to Kosovo (training ground for various international Islamic groups.

Sadly, another result was the laying waste of a proud and independent country, rich in history and culture; the flight into exile of a large proportion of it's citizens, any with an education - especially women - and the destruction of any economic or social infrastructures, other than the local version of Islam.

In some ways the West can probably see the benefit in having such a state; it means that there is always the awful apparition of the Taliban to throw up in the face of the liberal intelligentsia, to justify another wave of aggression against Arab countries like Libya or Iraq.

For both Russia and China, it could be said that the Taliban could serve the same purpose; reminding their own large Muslim populations of the benefits of living in modern secular states which guarantee a freedom of belief. But the problems hatched within the turbulent state of Afghanistan, have already started to appear in neighbouring countries.


It means that there is a constant state of anarchy just across Russia's border. Afghanistan has proved useful as a training ground and retreat for the Wahabist Islamic factions waging a civil war in Chechnya. The US, especially under the new Oil Billionaire regime of "President Bush", has a vested interest in hindering any Russian exploitation of it's oilfields in the Caspian Sea area; of which Chechnya is a vital link in the supply route.


It is a well-established fact now that the US intelligence services have been content to impose an international regime of prohibition; despite the awful consequences to be seen across the world.

It is perhaps correct to say that the DEA controls the worldwide supply of at least two of the most potent narcotics, cocaine and heroin.

The involvement of the US Administration in the supply and sale of South American cocaine to the gangs in its own inner city areas, primarily to raise money for secret projects most notably against the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, is well documented.

The White House at the time was nominally headed by the Hollywood actor Ronald Reagan; but under the de facto control of George Bush, father of the present frontman. (His pursuit of Noriega, with the resulting loss of life in Panama City, was an important element in the cleaning up the evidence.)

Before Afghanistan became the world's largest heroin supplier, coincidentally under the US-funded Taliban; most of the supplies that reached the West came from the Golden Triangle, in the far East.

In The Politics of Heroin, the evidence for American intentions in the area surrounding Vietnam, from the time after withdrawal of French control after W.W.II, is overwhelming.

The British writer Norman Lewis detailed how the US made a pact with the Mafia during W.W.II; for an unopposed route through Sicily to the Italian mainland. In return, the Mafia would be left in virtual control of Southern Italy, and all American hardware following the end of the conflict.

Of course, Italy, with it's strong Communist party, and it's mainly left -wing partisans, would be far safer in the hands of gangsters than socialists. At least, Uncle Sam reasons, a gangster's rationale is easy to understand and well-defined, unlike that of pesky social reformers, who might turn out to have some principles.

The same goes for the drug trade; it compromises the whole "underworld"; it allows the US to control the supply through deniable agencies, as well as giving entry into the underworlds of countries it would normally find it hard to penetrate. The profit from the vast amount of money it generates is increased by the fact that the growers of the raw organic base (the poppies, for instance), inevitably live in poverty in the Third World; they have little power to set the price of an "illegal" crop.

It also allows the US State Departments to effect a certain amount of social control on the populations in its own and other countries.

As has been so amply demonstrated in no-go areas of some of the American ghettoes, both North and South, it divides and impoverishes the poorest first; distracting any unified efforts to pursue radical movement for change in social conditions.

Soon enough the drugs spread out into the middle classes; allowing for an even greater income to be funnelled out of an economy into all those offshore bank accounts. It also provides a good excuse for repressive Western Governments to harass their own artists and "intellectuals".

The 'War on Drugs" has also been one of the greatest justifications of restrictions on personal liberty and personal movement across the world.

It was the proximity to the source of such a powerful commodity as opium/ heroin that made Vietnam such an important element in the US global strategy. It funded their own intelligence operations, and their puppet- government in the non-democratic South Vietnam.

It also ended up being brought back in such quantities by their own, sadly-neglected GI's, that the US inner cities were swept by a heroin epidemic for the first time; which only shifted into the background with the arrival of Iran-Contra cartel crack in the 80's.

In the Far East, Vietnam was left a wasteland; and Cambodia, the collateral victim of the criminal Kissinger's illegal war, was swept back to Year Zero by the US/UK trained stormtroopers of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge - that decade's version of the Taliban.

Kosovo and the UCK

Currently, European troops are being left at the mercy of the UCK in Yugoslavia (Kosovo and Macedonia). Promoted originally by the CIA as a nationalist group who could destabilise the remaining multi-ethnic socialist remains of the Yugoslav Federation; the UCK has used its control of the heroin route between the Middle East and Europe to finance its purchase of arms to enlarge its fiefdom.

Volunteers from the US, Chechnya and Afghanistan have been in both Bosnia and Kosovo.

Maybe the destabilisation of Europe is seen as good for the US economy. . .

South America

It is perhaps in South America, specifically Colombia, that this policy will begin to unravel at an increasing speed.

The policy of Prohibition is already being abandoned in a piece-meal way in the more liberal, intelligent European countries. They have realised that their own citizens are now too well-informed to be fooled, at such a high price, both financially and healthwise.

Columbia, which is at the point of falling to a large, well-organised guerilla army (the FARC) is currently the target for the biggest US Government sanctioned operation since the Vietnam War.

The country was the source of most of the cocaine which funded the secret operations run by Oliver North during the Iran-Contra subversion of the US Constitution. It was procured from the "cartels: who were eradicated with even more extreme prejudice than that shown to Noriega (the middleman).

The US has suddenly realised that the main source for the white powder so beloved of its own population ( a love affair second only to the one it has with fossil fuels) is slipping with increasing speed into the control of a large dedicated revolutionary army. The response of the US has been to swamp Columbia with "military advisers" and begin a massive, toxic defoliant (biological warfare) programme - echoes of Vietnam.

If looked at as a part of a jigsaw, the US is right to be worried.

For a regime led by Cold War warriors, the map of South America is beginning to look frighteningly red.

Venezuela, under Chavez, is leading the poorer OPEC countries in demanding a fair return for their oil being guzzled at an increasing rate by the USA. They have also expressed strong support for Castro's isolated haven of Cuba.

Mexico; the country on the borders of the US itself (which appropriated a number of Mexican States including Texas over the last 150 years), is on the brink of having the new government of Vincente Fox accede to the demands of the guerilla army led by Sub-Commandante Marcos or face total civil war.

For George W Bush, whose foreign visits over the last 10 years have only been as far as Mexico; and where both he and his father made big money in dubious circumstances; this must be a frightening spectre indeed.


The consensus of the Western Alliance seems to be that the new enemy to the progress of mankind is religious fundamentalism.

Specifically, we are told, the fundamentalism of the Islamic world.

In the past week the liberal intelligentsia - for it has not been widely reported in the mass media - has been horrified by the reports emerging from Afghanistan of the destruction of the ancient statues of giant Buddhas carved into the side of the mountain. They stand in a valley which has been the site of recent fierce encounters between the Taliban and the forces representing what is still recognised in the UN as the legitimate Afghan government.

A meeting took place between the Taliban government, and representatives of the UN Heritage Committee; at which assurances were given regarding the safety of the statues, as well as the few remaining pieces of Afghan history still extant in Kabul.

It has been rumoured for a while that up to 6000 pieces of statuary from the Buddhist era, which had been seized and held in the basement of the Information Ministry in Kabul, had already been systematically destroyed.

But the massive statues of the Buddha, over 2000 years old, carved into the mountainside and surrounded by painted caves and chambers which had been lived in by monks, were spared for their "tourist potential" .

An hour afterwards an official communiqué announced the start of the official destruction of the statues, aided it was said, by local volunteers.

This act of tragic destruction of a peoples own history; and their consciousness of who they are, and why they are what they have become; which are the central lessons we draw from history; is based on a prohibition by the Prophet Mohammed against depicting the human face.

One can appreciate that in the sixth century the worship of icons could easily be translated into a a worship of idols where the object itself , constructed of base matter is perceived as sacred. And this attitude could be seen as having some rationale in our own day, where the projection of a personality cult, aided by all the wizardry of the mass media, is generally a precursor of tyranny.

However, what the Taliban are doing by destroying these ancient statues; is destroying the heritage not only of the Afghans inside, or in exile from Afghanistan; not just of Buddhists, but of the whole world.

Outside that troubled country, people from all cultures, including the Muslim community, have voiced their horror at what is taking place.

The UN representatives were not allowed to see the other listed statues which now number less than 500 - all that remains of Afghan history as they are swept back to year Zero.


One can understand the emergence of a fundamentalism which is so ascetic, in a world forced, blackmailed or blinded into living by the philosophy of fundamental materialism; where to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, the price of everything has been listed, but the value forgotten.

We are being led blindfolded through the skin-deep culture of soaps and supermarkets, which demean us, define us, degrade, downgrade, downsize, deny us our spirit; the pornography of consumerism.

Even revolt and awareness comes packaged and palatable; sold to us by the sharks who are are devouring us.

No wonder people turn to the bottle, brown powder, the Book and the Sword; become ticking - time bombs.

Some of us have gone with little protest; the ones led blindfolded down the supermarket Malls; because we have been allowed to share some material benefit in the pillage and piracy carried out in our name in the rest of the World.

But now the tide has turned, and the people in the slums, the ghettos, housing projects, favelas and all the stripped jungle clearings and desert velds have started to look for a reckoning, before the Planet herself wreaks her own slow but inevitable righting of the balance.

Even Einstein; a great philosopher - whose thought, sadly, will be probably be best remembered for its ultimate expression of triumphalism materialism, the atomic bomb; was aware that matter and energy are in constant flux, but that the total remains constant.

Also that our Universe - and by extension, the microcosm represented by our world, hang in a fragile balance; with existence balanced on a razor blade,an infinitesimally small margin.

So before we in the West suck the world dry; using the threat of assured total destruction if we do not always get our own way, or pressurise everyone to play the same game as us; those people left to scavenge in the landfills of the opulent West, or of those in the Third World scavenging a living in states run by small elite's maintained in power by the West, imposing the religion of Kapital; are determined to get their share.

Sometimes all that unites the poor will be their religion; if this is a religion of the Book, it might be the only book they have ever been allowed to read; or it may indeed provided them with the gateway to the endless well of the thoughts of mankind preserved through the written word.

Whichever is the case, the Book will assume an immense importance in the culture of the Poor.

The accusation of extremism is more often levelled at the Muslims than either of the two other worldwide Abrahamic religions, Judaism and Christianity.

Yet Judaism is used by the Zionists to justify the appropriation of a land lived in until recently by its original inhabitants, the Palestinians; who are a people both Christian and Moslem, as well as Palestinian Jews and Samaritans.

Geo-political concerns and historical myth have allowed a virtual-reality "country", with indeterminate borders, (called Israel) to be created, based on the alleged gift of a large piece of real-estate, from God to a community of monotheistic Semitic tribes (ancestors of both Jew and Arab, genetically all the "children of Abraham").

Armed to the teeth by the West, and the largest recipient of US foreign Aid, it has a stranglehold over the politics of the Middle East; coincidentally the source of most US and Western oil supplies.

Land of the Book - Israel

The State of Israel has been more responsible than any other factor for the growth of Islamic fundamentalism, much to the dismay of both secular and Christian Arabs or democratic moderate Moslems and Jews.

Ironically, some of the greatest opponents to the Zionist State of Israel in that part of the world are the ultra- Orthodox Jewish sects who believe that the appropriation of Jerusalem and the surrounding areas before the return of the Jewish Messiah, is an ultimate heresy against the Talmudic teachings.

Secular European Jewry, before being wiped out in the Holocaust, were also opposed to the Zionist ideals.

Not only did it encourage the racists in their aim of driving European Jews from their European homelands; it also gave justification for a virulent cultural nationalism based on dubious sources, which , as in Europe would eventually find a victim to assert it's supremacy over.

The consequences for Europe of the loss of it's Jewish population were in cultural terms disastrous.

The development of European thought and aesthetics has been so swift largely because of the intellectuals and artists who networked from East to Western Europe over the last 250 years; so many of whom were cosmopolitan Jews.

Banned from the professions, exempted from the European aristocracies; they helped create the common man's own aristocracies of the mind, of reasoning.

It was this that the Nazis feared more than anything else about the Jews of Europe; and it was the socialist Jewish Bund that were seen as greater enemies by the Nazis than the religious or Zionist Jews; along with non-Jews who had staked their lives on the principle of the Freedom of thought.

The Word and the Sword: Fundamental Christian Materialism

Fundamentalist Christianity has been pursuing its own Armageddon agenda. Foiled in their attempt to foist the idiot Quayle onto the American public (he was originally hired as Pres Bush I's best insurance policy against sudden death in office); the Christian Right in the US have finally got their patsy in the White House.

From being a no-hoper tainted by allegations of draft-dodging, drug-taking, alcoholism and arrest; to serious questions concerning his financial ethics, and qualifications for a job running the world's dominant superpower (main qualification being intelligence), George W. Bush was effectively propelled into the White House by an unholy triumvirate of the Christian Right, the Supreme Court and his Daddy's old contacts (the CIA/ Corporate Masters).

Being born-again means never having to explain who you were before you "found God".

Well, I believe in forgiveness, but when someone wants you to place your life in their hands, you have the right to ask a few questions.

His first act in office was to ban any US funding which might be used in health programmes in the Third World for contraception or abortion.

Forget Aids and overpopulation, and that great American slogan of Freedom and Choice.

His education policy is set on a course where the teaching of Creationism is given equal status to that of Evolution; the rejection of rationalism is obviously not the sole preserve of the Taliban. Both of course have the same objective - the ignorance of the masses is the best guarantee of easy rule by an autocratic minority.

The belief in - and implicit wish - in the arrival of Armageddon; a Last Judgment, in which the righteous (for which read the born-again bright-eyed bourgeoisie) will inherit the Earth, the whole Earth from the rest of us; is not a good sign that there will be much left for the children, let alone the children's children.

This belief can be the only basis for the Bush regime abandoning all its pre-election promises concerning fuel emissions. Who cares about the ecology of this old world, when God is going to give us a bright new shiny one?

The Christian Right's interpretation of Christ's original message of love, forgiveness and social inclusiveness are about as far from the original as the Taliban's interpretation of the Koran.

The Buddha

Tradition records that the Tantric Buddha Padmasambhava came from a land called Ögyen, which is thought to be somewhere in the wild remoteness of the Karakoram mountains, where India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia and Tibet all meet. Buddhism reached the height of its power in the 8th and 9th centuries in Afghanistan before it fell to the Arabs. Most of Afghanistan's Buddhist heritage survived intact until quite recently - although the site was destroyed by Genghis Khan in 1222, the statues remained.

From a Buddhist perspective, one cannot see how a Book, any book or all the Books ever written could express the inexpressible, or even provide a summary of the infinite.

If the Universe is the creation of the Godhead, then surely that in its ever-changing form, is the only document that could ever contain the whole unutterable description of the God; to claim that any book could ever do so seems more than a little presumptive or reductive.

However, if any religion could make sense of such a tragic loss of its material history; then it is probably the Buddhists.

Unlike the religions of the book; with their fetishism of holy places; buildings constructed by the hands of men,such as the Wailing Wall, the Dome of the Rock, the Vatican; the philosophy of Buddhism is transcendental enough to appreciate the absence of the Buddhas in the mountainside.

Not being there, they probably say more about this world than ever before.

It is just to be hoped that the people of the world do not start to become immunised to the shock of seeing their history destroyed in front of them; especially those parts constructed out of love and a feeling for the sacredness of Creation.

But it is possible that they are just the tiny tremors felt before an earthquake, which the survivors only remember in retrospect, as the end of their previous, secure lives, and the beginning of a harsher world.