Afghanistan, the Forgotten Proxy War. The Role of Osama bin Laden and Zbigniew Brzezinski

Part II

Global Research, May 08, 2019

Read Part I from the link below.

Afghanistan, the Forgotten Proxy War

By Janelle Velina, April 30, 2019

Below is the second half and conclusion of “Afghanistan, the Forgotten Proxy War”. While the previous sections examined the economic roots of imperialism, as well as the historical context of the Cold War within which to situate the Mujahideen, the following explores the anatomy of proxy warfare and media disinformation campaigns which were at the heart of destabilizing Afghanistan. These were also a large part of why there was little to no opposition to the Mujahideen from the Western ‘left’, whose continued dysfunctionality cannot be talked about without discussing Zbigniew Brzezinski. We also take a look at what led to the Soviet Union’s demise and how that significantly affected the former Democratic Republic of Afghanistan and many other parts of the world. The United States has been at war in Afghanistan for four decades now, and it will reach its 40th year on July 3, 2019. 

The original “moderate rebel”

One of the key players in the anti-Soviet, U.S.-led regime change project against Afghanistan was Osama bin Laden, a Saudi-born millionaire who came from a wealthy, powerful family that owns a Saudi construction company and has had close ties to the Saudi royal family. Before becoming known as America’s “boogeyman”, Osama bin Laden was put in charge of fundraising for the Mujahideen insurgents, creating numerous charities and foundations in the process and working in coordination with Saudi intelligence (who acted as liaisons between the fighters and the CIA). Journalist Robert Fisk even gave bin Laden a glowing review, calling him a “peace warrior” and a philanthropist in a 1993 report for the Independent. Bin Laden also provided recruitment for the Mujahideen and is believed to have also received security training from the CIA. And in 1989, the same year that Soviet troops withdrew, he founded the terrorist organization Al Qaeda with a number of fighters he had recruited to the Mujahideen. Although the PDPA had already been overthrown, and the Soviet Union was dissolved, he still maintained his relationship with the CIA and NATO, working with them from the mid-to-late 1990s to provide support for the secessionist Bosnian paramilitaries and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in the destruction and dismantling of Yugoslavia.

The United States would eventually turn Bin Laden into a scapegoat after the 2001 terrorist attacks, while still maintaining ties to his family and providing arms, training, and funding to Al Qaeda and its affiliates (rebranded as “moderate rebels” by the Western media) in its more recent regime change project against Syria, which started in 2011. The Mujahideen not only gave birth to Al Qaeda, but it would set a precedent for the United States’ regime-change operations in later years against the anti-imperialist governments of Libya and Syria.

Reagan entertains Mujahideen fighters in the White House.

With the end to the cycle of World Wars (for the time being, at least), it has become increasingly common for the United States to use local paramilitaries, terrorist groups, and/or the armed forces of comprador regimes to fight against nations targeted by U.S. capital interests. Why the use of proxy forces? They are, as Whitney Webb describes, “a politically safe tool for projecting the U.S.’ geopolitical will abroad.”
Using proxy warfare as a kind of power projection tool is, first and foremost, cost-effective, since paid local mercenaries or terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda will bear the burden of combat and casualties rather than American troops in places like Libya and Syria. For example, it costs much less to pay local paramilitaries, gangs, crime syndicates, terrorist groups, and other reactionary forces to perform the same military operations as U.S. troops. Additionally, with the advent of nuclear weapons it became much more perilous for global superpowers to come into direct combat with one another — if the Soviet Union and the United States had done so, there existed the threat of “mutually assured destruction”, the strong possibility of instantaneous and catastrophic damage to the populations and the economic and living standards of both sides, something neither side was willing to risk, even if it was U.S. imperialism’s ultimate goal to destroy the Soviet Union.
And so, the U.S. was willing to use any other means necessary to weaken the Soviet Union and safeguard its profits, which included eliminating the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan even if it had neither the intent nor the means of launching a military offensive on American soil. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union had the means of producing a considerably large supply of modern weapons, including nuclear deterrents, to counter the credible threat posed by the United States. To strike the Soviet Union with nuclear missiles would have been a great challenge for the United States, since it would have resulted in overwhelming retaliation by the Soviet Union. To maneuver this problem, to assure the destruction of the Soviet Union while protecting the U.S. from similar destruction, the CIA relied on more unconventional methods not previously thought of as being part of traditional warfare, such as funding proxy forces while wielding economic and cultural influence over the American domestic sphere and the international scene.

Furthermore, proxy warfare enables control of public opinion, thus allowing the U.S. government to escape public scrutiny and questions about legal authorization for war. With opposition from the general public essentially under control, consent for U.S.-led wars does not need to be obtained, especially when the U.S. military is running them from “behind the scenes” and its involvement looks less obvious. Indeed, the protests against the war on Vietnam in the United States and other Western countries saw mass turnouts.

And while the U.S.-led aggression in Vietnam did involve proxy warfare to a lesser degree, it was still mostly fought with American “boots-on-the-ground”, much like the 2001 renewed U.S.-led aggression against Afghanistan and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In contrast, the U.S. assault on Afghanistan that began in 1979 saw little to no protest. The Mujahideen even garnered support from large portions of the Western left who joined the chorus of voices in the Western mainstream media in demonizing the PDPA — a relentless imperialist propaganda campaign that would be repeated in later years during the U.S. wars on Libya and Syria, with the difference being that social media had not yet gained prominence at the time of the initial assault on Afghanistan. This leads to the next question: why recruit some of the most reactionary social forces abroad, many of whom represent complete backwardness?

In Afghanistan, such forces proved useful in the mission to topple the modernizing government of the PDPA, especially when their anti-modernity aspirations intersected with U.S. foreign policy; these ultra-conservative forces continue to be deployed by the United States today. In fact, the long war on Afghanistan shares many striking similarities with the long war on Syria, with the common theme of U.S. imperialism collaborating with violent Sunni extremists to topple the secular, nationalist and anti-imperialist governments of these two former ‘Soviet bloc’ countries. And much like the PDPA, the current and long-time government of the Ba’ath Arab Socialist Party in Syria has made many strides towards achieving national liberation and economic development, which have included: taking land from aristocratic families (a majority of whom were Sunni Muslims while Shia Muslims, but especially Alawites, traditionally belonged to the lower classes and were treated as second class citizens in pre-Ba’athist Syria) and redistributing and nationalizing it, making use of Syria’s oil and gas reserves to modernize the country and benefit its population, and upholding women’s rights as an important part of the Ba’athist pillars.

Some of these aristocratic landlords, just like their Afghan counterparts, would react violently and join the Muslim Brotherhood who, with CIA-backing, carried out acts of terrorism and other atrocities in Hama as they made a failed attempt to topple the government of Hafez al Assad in 1982.

The connection between the two is further solidified by the fact that it was the Mujahideen from which Al Qaeda emerged; both are inspired by Wahhabist ideology, and one of their chief financiers is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (as well as Israel, a regional imperial power and a key ally of the United States). In either case, these Wahhabi-inspired forces were vehemently opposed to modernization and development, and would much rather keep large sections of the population impoverished, as they sought to replace the PDPA and the Ba’athists with Sunni fundamentalist, anti-Shia, theological autocracies — Saudi-style regimes, in other words.

These reactionary forces are useful tools in the CIA’s anti-communist projects and destabilization campaigns against independent nationalist governments, considering that the groups’ anti-modernity stance is a motivating factor in their efforts to sabotage economic development, which is conducive to ensuring a favourable climate for U.S. capital interests. It also helps that these groups already saw the nationalist governments of the PDPA and the Syrian Ba’ath party as their ‘archenemy’, and would thus fight them to the death and resort to acts of terrorism against the respective civilian populations.

Zbigniew Brzezinski stated in a 1998 interview with Le Nouvel Observateur in response to the following question:

Q: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic fundamentalism, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?

[Brzezinski]: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?

Once again, he makes it clear that the religious extremism of the Mujahideen fighters was not an issue for Washington because the real political value lay in eliminating the PDPA and putting an end to Soviet influence in the Greater Middle East, which would give the U.S. the opportunity to easily access and steal the country’s wealth. And in order to justify the U.S. imperialist intervention in Afghanistan, as well as to obscure the true nature of the Mujahideen fighters, the intervention needed to be accompanied by a rigorous mass media campaign. The Reagan administration — knowing full well that American mainstream media has international influence — continued the war that the Carter administration started and saw it as an opportunity to “step up” its domestic propaganda war, considering that the American general public was still largely critical of the Vietnam War at the time.

As part of the aggressive imperialist propaganda campaign, anyone who dared to publicly criticize the Mujahideen was subjected to character assassination and was pejoratively labelled a “Stalinist” or a “Soviet apologist”, which are akin to labels such as “Russian agent” or “Assadist” being used as insults today against those who speak out against the U.S.-backed terrorism in Syria. There were also careful rebranding strategies made specifically for Osama bin Laden and the Mujahideen mercenaries, who were hailed as “revolutionary freedom fighters” and given a romantic, exoticized “holy warrior” makeover in Western media; hence the title of this section. The Mujahideen mercenaries were even given a dedication title card at the end of the Hollywood movie Rambo III which read, “This film is dedicated to the brave Mujahideen fighters of Afghanistan”; the film itself added to the constructed romantic image as it portrayed the Mujahideen fighters as heroes, while the Soviet Union and the PDPA were portrayed as the cartoonish villains. The Rambo film franchise is well known for its depiction of the Vietnamese as “savages” and as the aggressors in the U.S. war on Vietnam, which is a blatant reversal of the truth.

The Hollywood blockbuster franchise would be used to make the Mujahideen more palatable to Western audiences, as this unabashed, blatantly anti-Soviet propaganda for U.S. imperialism attracted millions of viewers with one of the largest movie marketing campaigns of the time. Although formulaic, the films are easily consumable because they appeal to emotion and, as Michael Parenti states in Dirty Truths, “The entertainment industry does not merely give the people what they want: it is busy shaping those wants,” (p. 111). Rambo III may not have been critically acclaimed, but it was still the second most commercially successful film in the Rambo series, grossing a total of $189,015,611 at the box office. Producing war propaganda films is nothing new and has been a long staple of the Hollywood industry, which serves capitalist and imperialist interests. But, since the blockbuster movie is one of the most widely available and distributed forms of media, repackaging the Mujahideen into a popular film franchise was easily one of the best ways (albeit cynical) to justify the war, maintaining the American constructed narrative and reinforcing the demonization campaign against Soviet Russia and the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. Now, outside of the cinema, CBS News went as far as to air fake battle footage meant to help perpetuate the myth that the Mujahideen mercenaries were “freedom fighters”; American journalists Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould, although decidedly biased against the Soviet Union and its allies, documented this ruse in which the news channel participated. In terms of proxy warfare, these were just some of the ways used to distract from the fact that it was a U.S.-led war.

The dedication title card as it originally appeared at the end of the film Rambo III.

In Afghanistan, proxy forces provided a convenient cover because they drew attention away from the fact that U.S. imperialism was the root cause of the conflict. The insurgents also helped to demonize the targets of U.S. foreign policy, the PDPA and the Soviet Union, all the while doing the majority of the physical combat in place of the American military. In general, drawing attention away from the fact that it has been the United States “pulling the strings” all along, using proxy forces helps Washington to maintain plausible deniability in regard to its relationship with such groups. If any one of these insurgents becomes a liability, as what had happened with the Taliban, they can just as easily be disposed of and replaced by more competent patsies, while U.S. foreign policy goes unquestioned. Criminal gangs and paramilitary forces are thus ideal and convenient tools for U.S. foreign policy. With the rule of warlords and the instability (namely damage to infrastructure, de-industrialization, and societal collapse) that followed after the toppling of the PDPA, Afghanistan’s standard of living dropped rapidly, leading to forced mass migrations and making the country all the more vulnerable to a more direct U.S. military intervention — which eventually did happen in 2001.

Zbigniew Brzezinski: godfather of colour revolutions and proxy wars, architect of the Mujahideen

The late Brzezinski was a key figure in U.S. foreign policy and a highly influential figure in the Council on Foreign Relations. Although the Polish-American diplomat and political scientist was no longer the National Security Advisor under Ronald Reagan’s presidency, he still continued to play a prominent role in enforcing U.S. foreign policy goals in upholding Washington’s global monopoly. The liberal Cold War ideologue’s signature strategy consisted of using the CIA to destabilize and force regime-change onto countries whose governments actively resisted against Washington. Such is the legacy of Brzezinski, whose strategy of funding the most reactionary anti-government forces to foment chaos and instability while promoting them as “freedom fighters” is now a longstanding staple of U.S. imperialism.

How were the aggressive propaganda campaigns which promoted the Mujahideen mercenaries as “freedom fighters” able to garner support for the aggression against the former Democratic Republic of Afghanistan from so many on the Western left who had previously opposed the war on Vietnam? It was the through the CIA’s use of ‘soft-power’ schemes, because leftist opinion also needed to be controlled and manipulated in the process of carrying out U.S. foreign and public policy. Brzezinski mastered the art of targeting intelligentsia and impressionable young people in order to make them supportive of U.S. foreign policy, misleading a significant number of people into supporting U.S.-led wars.

The CIA invested money into programs that used university campus, anti-Soviet “radical leftist activists” and academics (as well as artists and writers) to help spread imperialist propaganda dressed up in vaguely “leftist”-sounding language and given a more “hip”, “humanitarian”, “social justice”, “free thinker” appeal. Western, but especially American, academia has since continued to teach the post-modernist “oppression theory” or “privilege theory” to students, which is anti-Marxist and anti-scientific at its core. More importantly, this post-modernist infiltration was meant to distract from class struggle, to help divert any form of solidarity away from anti-imperialist struggles, and to foster virulent animosity towards the Soviet Union among students and anyone with ‘leftist’ leanings. Hence the phenomenon of identity politics that continues to plague the Western left today, whose strength was effectively neutered by the 1970s. Not only that, but as Gowans mentions in his book, Patriots, Traitors and Empires: The Story of Korea’s Struggle for Freedom:

“U.S. universities recruit talented individuals from abroad, instill in them the U.S. imperialist ideology and values, and equip them with academic credentials which conduce to their landing important political positions at home. In this way, U.S. imperial goals indirectly structure the political decision-making of other countries.” (pp. 52-53)

And so we have agencies and think-tanks such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) which has scholarly appeal and actively interferes in elections abroad — namely, in countries that are targets of U.S. foreign policy. Founded in 1983 by Reagan and directed by the CIA, the agency also assists in mobilizing coups and paid “dissidents” in U.S.-led regime change projects, such as the 2002 failed attempt against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, as well as helping to create aggressive media campaigns that demonize targeted nations. Another instance of this “soft power” tactic of mobilizing U.S.-backed “dissidents” in targeted nations are the number of Sunni Islamic fundamentalist madrassas (schools) sponsored by the CIA and set up by Wahhabi missionaries from Saudi Arabia in Afghanistan — which started to appear in increasing numbers during the 1980s, reaching over 39,000 during the decade. Afghanistan’s public education institutions were largely secular prior to the fall of Kabul in 1992; these madrassas were the direct, ideological and intellectual antitheses to the existing institutions of education. The madrassas acted as centres for cult-like brainwashing and were essentially CIA covert psychological operations (psy-ops) intended to inspire divisiveness and demobilize younger generations of Afghans in the face of imperial onslaught so that they would not unite with the wider PDPA-led nationalist resistance to imperialism.

The NED’s founding members were comprised of Cold War ideologues which included Brzezinski himself, as well as Trotskyists who provided an endless supply of slurs against the Soviet Union. It was chiefly under this agency, and with direction provided by Brzezinski, that America produced artists, “activists”, academics, and writers who presented themselves as “radical leftists” and slandered the Soviet Union and countries that were aligned with it — which was all part of the process of toppling them and subjugating them to U.S. free market fundamentalism. With Brzezinski having mastered the art of encouraging postmodernism and identity politics among the Western left in order to weaken it, the United States not only had military and economic might on its side but also highly sophisticated ideological instruments to help give it the upper hand in propaganda wars.

These “soft power” schemes are highly effective in masking the brutality of U.S. imperialism, as well as concealing the exploitation of impoverished nations. Marketing the Mujahideen mercenaries as “peace warriors” while demonizing the PDPA and referring to the Soviet assistance as an “invasion” or “aggression” marked the beginning of the regular use of “humanitarian” pretexts for imperialist interventions. The Cold War era onslaught against Afghanistan can thus be seen as the template for the NATO-led regime change projects against Yugoslavia, Libya, and Syria, which not only involved the use of U.S.-backed proxy forces but also “humanitarian” pretexts being presented in the aggressive propaganda campaigns against the targeted countries. It was not until 2002, however, that then-American UN representative Samantha Powers, as well as several U.S.-allied representatives, would push the United Nations to officially adopt the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) doctrine into the Charter — which was in direct contradiction to the law that recognizes the violation of a nation’s sovereignty as a crime. The R2P doctrine was born out of the illegal 78-day NATO air-bombing of Yugoslavia from March 24 to June 10, 1999. And although plans to dismantle Yugoslavia go as far back as 1984, it was not until much of the 1990s that NATO would begin openly intervening — with more naked aggression — starting with the funding and support for secessionist paramilitary forces in Bosnia between 1994-1995. It then sealed the 1999 destruction of Yugoslavia with with the balkanization of the Serbian province of Kosovo. In addition to the use of terrorist and paramilitary groups as proxy forces which received CIA-training and funding, another key feature of this “humanitarian” intervention was the ongoing demonization campaigns against the Serbs, who were at the centre of a vicious Western media propaganda war. Some of the most egregious parts of these demonization campaigns — which were tantamount to slander and libel — were the claims that the Serbs were “committing genocide” against ethnic Albanians. The NATO bombing campaign was illegal since it was given no UN Security Council approval or support.

Once again, Brzezinski was not the National Security Advisor during the U.S.-led campaign against Yugoslavia. However, he still continued to wield influence as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a private organization and Wall Street think tank. The Council on Foreign Relations is intertwined with highly influential NGOs who are essentially propaganda mouthpieces for U.S. foreign policy, such as Human Rights Watch, which has fabricated stories of atrocities allegedly committed by countries targeted by U.S. imperialism. Clearly, unmitigated U.S. imperial aggression did not end with the destruction of the former Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, nor with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The post-Cold War years were a continuation of U.S. imperialism’s scramble for more spheres of influence and global domination; it was also a scramble for what was left of the former ‘Soviet bloc’ and Warsaw Pact. The dismantling of Yugoslavia was, figuratively speaking, the ‘final nail in the coffin’ of whatever ‘Soviet influence’ was left in Eastern Europe.

The demise of the Soviet Union and the “Afghan trap” question

Image on the right: Left to right: former Afghan President Babrak Karmal, and former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Karmal took office at around the same time (December 1979) the PDPA requested that Moscow intervene to assist the besieged Afghanistan.

The sabotage and subsequent dissolution of the Soviet Union meant that only one global hegemon remained, and that was the United States. Up until 1989, the Soviet Union had been the barrier that was keeping the United States from launching a more robust military intervention in Afghanistan, as well as in Central and West Asia. While pulling out did not immediately cause the defeat of Kabul as the PDPA government forces continued to struggle for another three years, Mikhail Gorbachev’s decision to withdraw Soviet troops arguably had a detrimental impact on Afghanistan for many years to come. Although there was no Soviet military assistance in the last three years of Najibullah’s presidency, Afghanistan continued to receive aid from the USSR, and some Soviet military advisers (however limited in their capacity) still remained; despite the extreme difficulties, and combined with the nation’s still-relatively high morale, this did at least help to keep the government from being overthrown immediately. This defied U.S. expectations as the CIA and the George H.W. Bush administration had believed that the government of Najibullah would fall as soon as Soviet troops were withdrawn. But what really hurt the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan’s army was when the Soviet Union was dismantled in 1991; almost as soon as the dissolution happened and Boris Yeltsin (with U.S. backing) took over as Russia’s president, the aid stopped coming and the government forces became unable to hold out for much longer. The U.S. aggression was left unchecked, and to this day Afghanistan has not seen geopolitical stability and has since been a largely impoverished ‘failed state’, serving as a training ground for terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda. It continues to be an anarchic battleground between rival warlords which include the ousted Taliban and the U.S. puppet government that replaced them.

But, as was already mentioned above, the “Afghan trap” did not, in and of itself, cause the dismantling of the Soviet Union. In that same interview with Le Nouvel Observateur, Brzezinski had this to say in response to the question about setting the “trap”:

Q: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into war and looked to provoke it?

[Brzezinski]: It isn’t quite that. We didn’t push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.

Likewise with Cuba and Syria, the USSR had a well-established alliance with the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, one of mutual aid and partnership. Answering Kabul’s explicit request for assistance was a deliberate and conscious choice made by Moscow, and it just so happened that the majority of Afghans welcomed it. For any errors that Leonid Brezhnev, the General Secretary at the time, may have made (which do deserve a fair amount of criticism, but are not the focus of this article), the 1979 decision to intervene on behalf of Afghanistan against U.S. imperialism was not one of them. It is true that both the Soviet and the U.S. interventions were military interventions, but the key difference is that the U.S. was backing reactionary forces for the purposes of establishing colonial domination and was in clear violation of Afghan sovereignty. Consider, too, that Afghanistan had only deposed of its king in 1973, just six years before the conflict began. The country may have moved quickly to industrialize and modernize, but it wasn’t much time to fully develop its military defenses by 1979.

Image below: Mikhail Gorbachev accepts the Nobel Peace Prize from George H.W. Bush on October 15, 1990. Many Russians saw this gesture as a betrayal, while the West celebrated it, because he was being awarded for his capitulation to U.S. imperialism in foreign and economic policy.

Other than that, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the Soviet Union imploded due to an accumulating number of factors: namely, the gradual steps that U.S. foreign policy had taken over the years to cripple the Soviet economy, especially after the deaths of Brezhnev and Yuri Andropov. How Gorbachev responded during the U.S.-led onslaught against Afghanistan certainly helped to exacerbate the conditions that led to the dissolution. After the deaths of Brezhnev and Andropov, the Soviet Union’s economy became disorganized and was being liberalized during much of the 1980s. Not only that, but the Reagan administration escalated the arms race, which intensified after they had scrapped the ‘detente’ that was previously made in the mid-1970s. Even prior to Reagan’s hardline, bombastic rhetoric and escalation against the USSR, the Soviet Union was already beginning to show signs of strain from the arms race during the late-1970s. However, in spite of the economic strains, during the height of the war the organized joint operations between the Soviet army and the Afghan army saw a significant amount of success in pushing back against the Mujahideen with many of the jihadist leaders either being killed or fleeing to Pakistan. Therefore, it is erroneous to say that intervening in Afghanistan on behalf of the Afghan people “did the Soviet Union in.”

In a misguided and ultimately failed attempt to spur economic growth rates, Gorbachev moved to end the Cold War by withdrawing military support from allies and pledging cooperation with the United States who promised “peace”. When he embraced Neoliberalism and allowed for the USSR to be opened to the U.S.-dominated world capitalist economy, the Soviet economy imploded and the effects were felt by its allies. It was a capitulation to U.S. imperialism, in other words; and it led to disastrous results not only in Afghanistan, but in several other countries as well. These include: the destruction of Yugoslavia, both wars on Iraq, and the 2011 NATO invasion of Libya. Also, Warsaw Pact members in Eastern Europe were no longer able to effectively fight back against U.S.-backed colour revolutions; some of them would eventually be absorbed as NATO members, such as Czechoslovakia which was dissolved and divided into two states: the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Without Soviet Russia to keep it in check, the United States was able to launch an unrestrained series of aggressions for nearly two decades. Because of his decision to withdraw from the arms race altogether, in a vain attempt to transform the Soviet Union into a social democracy akin to those of the Nordic countries, Gorbachev had deprived the Russian army of combat effectiveness by making significant cuts to its defense budget, which is partly why they were forced to evacuate. Not only that, but these diplomatic and military concessions with the United States gave them no benefit in return, hence the economic crisis in Russia during the Yeltsin years. Suffice to say, the Gorbachev-Yeltsin years are not remembered fondly in Russia and many regard Gorbachev as a traitor and Western agent who helped to bring the Soviet Union to its collapse. In more recent years, efforts are being made to assess the actions taken by Gorbachev with regards to Afghanistan; this includes going against and revising the resolution put forth by him which suggested that the USSR intervention was “shameful”.

In short, Afghanistan did not cause the Soviet Union’s demise even if it required large military spending. More accurately: it was Gorbachev’s impulsive decision to quickly discard the planned economy in favour of a market economy in order to appease the United States, who made the false promise that NATO would not expand eastward. If there was a real “trap”, it was this and Gorbachev played right into the hands of U.S. imperialism; and so, the Soviet Union received its devastating blow from the United States in the end — not from a small, minor nation such as Afghanistan which continues to suffer the most from the effects of these past events. For many years, but especially since the end of WWII, the United States made ceaseless efforts to undermine the USSR, adding stress upon stress onto its economy, in addition to the psychological warfare waged through the anti-Soviet propaganda and military threats against it and its allies. Despite any advances made in the past, the Soviet Union’s economy was still not as large as that of the United States. And so, in order to keep pace with NATO, the Soviet Union did not have much of a choice but to spend a large percentage of its GDP on its military and on helping to defend its allies, which included national liberation movements in the Third World, because of the very real and significant threat that U.S. imperialism posed. If it had not spent any money militarily, its demise would most likely have happened much sooner. But eventually, these mounting efforts by U.S. imperialism created a circumstance where its leadership under Gorbachev made a lapse in judgment, reacting impulsively and carelessly rather than acting with resilience in spite of the onslaught.

It should also be taken into account that WWII had a profound impact on Soviet leadership — from Joseph Stalin to Gorbachev — because even though the Red Army was victorious in defeating the Nazis, the widespread destruction had still placed the Soviet economy under an incredible amount of stress and it needed time to recover. Meanwhile, the convenient geographical location of the United States kept it from suffering the same casualties and infrastructural damage seen across Europe and Asia as a result of the Second World War, which enabled its economy to recover much faster and gave it enough time to eventually develop the U.S. Dollar as the international currency and assert dominance over the world economy. Plus, the U.S. had accumulated two-thirds of the world’s gold reserves by 1944 to help back the Dollar; and even if it lost a large amount of the gold, it would still be able to maintain Dollar supremacy by developing the fiat system to back the currency. Because of the destruction seen during WWII, it is understandable that the Soviet Union wanted to avoid another world war, which is why it also made several attempts at achieving some kind of diplomacy with the United States (before Gorbachev outright capitulated). At the same time, it also understood that maintaining its military defenses was important because of the threat of a nuclear war from the United States, which would be much more catastrophic than the Nazis’ military assaults against the Soviet Union since Hitler did not have a nuclear arsenal. This was part of a feat that U.S. imperialism was able to accomplish that ultimately overshadowed British, French, German, and Japanese imperialism, which Brzezinski reveals in his book, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives: an unparalleled military establishment that, by far, had the most effective global reach which allowed the U.S. to “project forces over long distances”, helping it to assert its global domination and impose its “political will”. And what makes the American Empire distinct from the Japanese Empire, British Empire, and other European empires is that one of the bases for its ideology is the socially constructed international hierarchy of nations, and not races as was the case with the other aforementioned empires. This constructed international hierarchy of nations is more effective because it means not only greater expansionism, but also the greater ability to exercise global primacy and supremacy. More specific to Central Asia and the Middle East, the Wahhabist and Salafist groups propped up by the CIA were always intended to nurture sectarianism and discord in order to counter a mass, broad-based united front of nations against imperialism — an example of divide-and-conquer, which is an age-old tradition of empire, except this time with Neoliberal characteristics.

Therefore, the Mujahideen against Afghanistan should not be thought of simply as “the Afghan trap”, but rather as the U.S. subjugation and plundering of West and Central Asia and an important milestone (albeit a cynical one) in shaping its foreign policy with regards to the region for many years to come. If one thing has remained a constant in U.S. foreign policy towards West and Central Asia, it is its strategic partnership with the oil autocracy of Saudi Arabia, which acts as the United States’ steward in safeguarding the profits of American petroleum corporations and actively assists Western powers in crushing secular Arab and Central Asian nationalist resistance against imperialism. The Saudi monarchy would again be called on by the U.S. government in 2011 in Syria to assist in the repeated formula of funding and arming so-called “moderate rebels” in the efforts to destabilize the country. Once again, the ultimate goal in this more recent imperial venture is to contain Russia.

Cold War 2.0? American Supremacy marches on

The present-day anti-Russia hysteria is reminiscent of the anti-Soviet propaganda of the Cold War era; while anti-communism is not the central theme today, one thing remains the same: the fact that the U.S. Empire is (once again) facing a formidable challenge to its position in the world. After the Yeltsin years were over, and under Vladimir Putin, Russia’s economy eventually recovered and moved towards a more dirigiste economy; and on top of that, it moved away from the NATO fold, which triggered the old antagonistic relationship with the United States. Russia has also decided to follow the global trend of taking the step towards reducing reliance on the U.S. dollar, which is no doubt a source of annoyance to the U.S. capitalist class. It seems that a third world war in the near future is becoming more likely as the U.S. inches closer to a direct military confrontation against Russia and, more recently, China. History does appear to be repeating itself. When the government of Bashar al Assad called on Moscow for assistance in fighting against the NATO-backed terrorists, it certainly was reminiscent of when the PDPA had done the same many years before. Thus far, the Syrian Arab Republic has continued to withstand the destabilization efforts carried out by the Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups and Kurdish militias at the behest of the United States, and has not collapsed as Libya, Yugoslavia, and Afghanistan did.

But what often gets overlooked is the repeated Brzezinskist formula of funding highly reactionary forces and promoting them as “revolutionaries” to Western audiences in order to fight governments that defy the global dictatorship of the United States and refuse to allow the West to exploit their natural resources and labour power. As Karl Marx once said, “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.” Such a phenomenon is no accident or a mere mistake. The geopolitical instability that followed after the overthrow of the PDPA ensures that no sound, united, and formidable opposition against U.S. imperialism will emerge for an indefinite number of years; and it seems that Libya, where the Brzezinskist-style of regime change also saw success and which is now a hotbed for the slave trade, is on the same path as Afghanistan. This is all a part of what Lenin calls moribund capitalism when he discussed the economic essence of imperialism; and by that, he meant that imperialism carries the contradictions of capitalism to the extreme limit. American global monopoly had grown out of U.S. foreign policy, and it should go without saying that the American Empire cannot tolerate losing its Dollar Supremacy, especially when the global rate of profit is falling. And if too many nations reject U.S. efforts to infiltrate their markets and force foreign finance capital exports onto their economies in order to gain a monopoly over the resources, as well as to exploit the labour of their working people, it would surely spell a sharp decline in American Dollar hegemony. The fact that the United States was willing to go as far as to back mercenaries to attack the former Democratic Republic of Afghanistan and fight the Soviet Union, as well as to spend billions of dollars on a highly elaborate but effective propaganda campaign, shows a sign of desperation of the American Empire in maintaining its global hegemony.

Since the end of World War II the United States has been, and is by and large still, the overwhelming world-dominating power. It is true that the American Empire is in decline, in light of increasing trends towards “de-Dollarization,” as well as the rise of China and Russia which pose as challenges to U.S. interests. Naturally, Washington will desperately try to cling on to its number one position in the world by accelerating the growth of its global monopolies — whether it is through placing wholly unnecessary tariffs against competitors such as China, or threatening to completely cut Venezuelan and Iranian oil out of the global market — even if it means an increasing drive towards World War III. The current global economic order which Washington elites have been instrumental in shaping over the past several decades reflects the interests of the global capitalist class to such an extent that the working class is threatened with yet another world war despite the unimaginable carnage witnessed during the first two.

When we look back at these historical events to help make sense of the present, we see how powerful mass media can be and how it is used as a tool of U.S. foreign policy to manipulate and control public opinion. Foreign policy is about the economic relationships between countries. Key to understanding how U.S. imperialism functions is in its foreign policy and how it carries it out — which adds up to plundering from relatively small or poorer nations more than a share of wealth and resources that can be normally produced in common commercial exchanges, forcing them to be indebted; and if any of them resist, then they will almost certainly be subjected to military threats.

With the great wealth that allowed it to build a military that can “project forces over long distances,” the United States is in a unique position in history, to say the least. However, as we have seen above, the now four decade-long war on Afghanistan was not only fought on a military front considering the psy-ops and the propaganda involved. If anything, the Soviet Union lost on the propaganda front in the end.

From Afghanistan we learn not only of the origins of Al Qaeda, to which the boom in the opioid-addiction epidemic has ties, or why today we have the phenomenon of an anti-Russia Western “left” that parrots imperialist propaganda and seems very eager to see that piece of Cold War history repeat itself in Syria. We also learn that we cannot de-link the events of the 2001 direct U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan and what followed from those of 1979; Afghanistan’s colonial-feudal past, its break from that with the 1978 Saur Revolution, and the U.S.-led Mujahideen are all as much of a part of its history (and the Greater Middle East, by extension) as the events of 2001. It cannot be stressed enough that it is those historical conditions, particularly as they relate to U.S. foreign policy, that helped to shape the ongoing conflict today.

Obviously, we cannot undo the past. It is not in the interests of the working class anywhere, in the Global South or in the Global North, to see a third world war happen, as such a war would have catastrophic consequences for everyone — in fact, it could potentially destroy all of humanity. Building a new and revitalized anti-war movement in the imperialist nations is a given, but it also requires a more sophisticated understanding of U.S. foreign policy. Without historical context, Western mass media will continue to go unchallenged, weaning audiences on a steady diet of “moderate rebels” propaganda and effectively silencing the victims of imperialism. It is necessary to unite workers across the whole world according to their shared interests in order to effectively fight and defeat imperialism and to establish a just, egalitarian, and sustainable world under socialism. Teaching the working class everywhere the real history of such conflicts as the one in Afghanistan is an important part of developing the revolutionary consciousness necessary to build a strong global revolutionary movement against imperialism.

*

Note to readers: please click the share buttons below. Forward this article to your email lists. Crosspost on your blog site, internet forums. etc.

Originally published by LLCO.org on March 30, 2019. For the full-length article and bibliography, click here.

Janelle Velina is a Toronto-based political analyst, writer, and an editor and frequent contributor for New-Power.org and LLCO.org. She also has a blog at geopoliticaloutlook.blogspot.com.

All images in this article are from the author; featured image: Brzezinski visits Osama bin Laden and other Mujahideen fighters during training.

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Afghanistan, the Forgotten Proxy War

Part I

July 3, 2019 marks the 40th anniversary of when the United States’ first military assault against Afghanistan with the CIA-backed Mujahideen began. It would be a mistake to treat the present-day conflict as being separate from the U.S. intervention that began in 1979 against the then-government of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan. Afghanistan was not always known as the chaotic, ‘failed state’ overrun by warlords as it is now; this phenomenon is a product of that U.S.-led regime change operation. The article below, originally published on March 30, 2019, summarizes and analyzes the events that transpired during and after the Cold War years as they relate to this often misunderstood, if not overlooked, aspect of the long war against Afghanistan. 

When it comes to war-torn Afghanistan and the role played by the United States and its NATO allies, what comes first to mind for most is the ‘War on Terror’ campaign launched in 2001 by George W. Bush almost immediately after the 9/11 attacks. And understandably so, considering that the United States and its allies established a direct “boots-on-the-ground” military presence in the country that year. Not only that, but during the Bush-Cheney years, there was an aggressive propaganda campaign being played out across U.S. media outlets which used women’s rights as one of the pretexts for the continued occupation. The irony of this, however, is not lost on those who understand that the conflict in Afghanistan has a long history which, much like Syria, stretches as far back as the Cold War era — especially when it was the United States that provided support for the Mujahideen in destabilizing the country and stripping away the modernizing, progressive economic and social gains, including Afghan women’s emancipation, which the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) had fought for. With the overthrow of the independent Soviet-aligned PDPA government, the Taliban emerged as a powerful faction of the Mujahideen; the U.S. would develop a working relationship with the Taliban in 1995. The war was never truly about women’s rights or other humanitarian concerns, as Stephen Gowans explains:

“Further evidence of Washington’s supreme indifference to the rights of women abroad is evidenced by the role it played in undermining a progressive government in Afghanistan that sought to release women from the grip of traditional Islamic anti-women practices. In the 1980s, Kabul was “a cosmopolitan city. Artists and hippies flocked to the capital. Women studied agriculture, engineering and business at the city’s university. Afghan women held government jobs.” There were female members of parliament, and women drove cars, and travelled and went on dates, without needing to ask a male guardian for permission. That this is no longer true is largely due to a secret decision made in the summer of 1979 by then US president Jimmy Carter and his national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski to draw “the Russians into the Afghan trap” and give “to the USSR its Vietnam War” by bankrolling and organizing Islamic fundamentalist terrorists to fight a new government in Kabul led by the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan.

The goal of the PDPA was to liberate Afghanistan from its backwardness. In the 1970s, only 12 percent of adults were literate. Life expectancy was 42 years and infant mortality the highest in the world. Half the population suffered from TB and one-quarter from malaria.”

Moreover, and contrary to the commonly held belief that the conflict in Afghanistan started in 2001, it would be more accurate to say that the war started in 1979. As a matter of fact, the Carter Administration’s 1979 decision to overthrow the PDPA and destabilize Afghanistan is at the root of why the country is in the state that it continues to be in today.

Afghan women during the PDPA era vs. Afghan women today.

The Cold War – a new phase in the age of imperialism

The Democratic Republic of Afghanistan’s military welcome their Soviet counterparts

The 1979 to 1989 period of the Mujahideen onslaught is often referred to as the ‘Soviet-Afghan War’ because of the Soviet army’s heavy involvement. Although it is true that they were heavily involved, it is not an entirely accurate descriptor because it completely ignores the fact that it was a war that was actually crafted, instigated, and led by the United States. In what was also known then as the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, the years from 1978 to 1992 are inextricably linked with Soviet history — but not because it was a Soviet “invasion” of Afghanistan and that the West had to intervene to stop it, as U.S. imperialist propaganda would have us believe. The Carter administration had already begun the planning, recruitment, and training for the Mujahideen in 1978 and had launched the attack on Afghanistan months before the Soviet army militarily intervened near the end of 1979. Also, the “Afghan trap” alone did not cause the dismantling of the Soviet Union; however, it was related. But more on that when we look at the Gorbachev years. Nevertheless, the destruction of Afghanistan was declared as a final blow to the Soviet Union, and the Soviet Union’s 1991 dissolution was celebrated as “the victory of capitalism over communism” by the United States. To begin to understand the conflict in Afghanistan, it is important to examine the context in which it began: the Cold War.

In the early 1900s, Vladimir Lenin observed that capitalism had entered into its globalist phase and that the age of imperialism had begun; this means that capitalism must expand beyond national borders, and that there is an internal logic to Empire-building and imperialist wars of aggression. Lenin defines imperialism as such:

“the concentration of production and capital has developed to such a high stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life; (2) the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this “finance capital”, of a financial oligarchy; (3) the export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance; (4) the formation of international monopolist capitalist associations which share the world among themselves, and (5) the territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed. Imperialism is capitalism at that stage of development at which the dominance of monopolies and finance capital is established; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun, in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed.”

It should be clear that imperialism is not just merely the imposition of a country’s will on the rest of the world (although that is certainly a part of it). More precisely: it is a result of capital accumulation and is a process of empire-building and maintenance, which comes with holding back development worldwide and keeping the global masses impoverished; it is the international exercise of domination guided by economic interests. Thus, imperialism is less of a cultural phenomenon, and more so an economic one.

Lenin also theorized that imperialism and the cycle of World Wars were the products of competing national capitals between the advanced nations. As he wrote in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, World War I was about the competition between major imperialist powers — such as the competing capitals of Great Britain and Germany — over the control of and the split of plunder from colonies. Thus, finance capital was the driving force behind the exploitation and colonization of the oppressed nations; these antagonisms would eventually lead to a series of world wars as Lenin had predicted. During the First World War, the goals of the two imperial blocs of power were the acquisition, preservation, and expansion of territories considered to be strategic points and of great importance to their national economies. And during the Great Depression, protectionist measures were taken up by Britain, the United States, and France to restrict the emerging industrial nations — Germany, Italy, and Japan, also known as the Axis states — from access to more colonies and territories, thereby restricting them from access to raw materials and markets in the lead up to World War II. In particular, the two advanced capitalist industrialized powers of Germany and Japan, in their efforts to conquer new territory, threatened the economic space of Britain, the U.S., and France and threatened to take their territories, colonies, and semi-colonies by force — with Germany launching a series of aggressions in most of Europe, and Japan in Asia. WWII was, in many ways, a re-ignition of the inter-imperialist rivalry between the Anglo-French bloc and the German bloc, but with modern artillery and the significant use of aerial assaults. It was also a period of the second stage of the crisis of capitalism which saw the rise of Fascism as a reaction to Communism, with the Axis states threatening to establish a world-dominating fascist regime. For the time being, WWII would be the last we would see of world wars.

At the end of WWII, two rival global powers emerged: the United States and the Soviet Union; the Cold War was a manifestation of their ideological conflict. The Cold War era was a new phase for international capital as it saw the advent of nuclear weapons and the beginning stages of proxy warfare. It was a time when the imperialist nations, regardless of which side they were on during WWII, found a common interest in stopping the spread of Communism and seeking the destruction of the Soviet Union. By extension, these anti-communist attacks would be aimed at the Soviet-allied nations as well. This would increase the number of client states with puppet governments acting in accordance with U.S. interests who would join the NATO bloc with the ultimate aim of isolating the Soviet Union. It should also be noted that the end of WWII marked the end of competing national capitals such that now, financial capital exists globally and can move instantaneously, with Washington being the world dominating force that holds a monopoly over the global markets. Those countries who have actively resisted against the U.S. Empire and have not accepted U.S. capital into their countries are threatened with sanctions and military intervention — such as the independent sovereign nations of Syria and North Korea who are, to this day, still challenging U.S. hegemony. Afghanistan under the PDPA was one such country which stood up to U.S. imperialism and thus became a target for regime change.

In addition to implementing land reforms, women’s rights, and egalitarian and collectivist economic policies, the PDPA sought to put an end to opium poppy cultivation. The British Empire planted the first opium poppy fields in Afghanistan during the 1800s when the country was still under the feudal landholding system; up until the king was deposed in 1973, the opium trade was a lucrative business and the Afghan poppy fields produced more than 70 percent of opium needed for the world’s heroin supply. These reforms in 1978 would eventually attract opposition from the United States, which had already embarked on its anti-communist crusade, providing backing to reactionary forces dedicated to fighting against various post-colonial progressive governments, many of which were a part of the ‘Soviet Bloc’ — such as the right-wing Contras in Nicaragua who mounted violent opposition to the Sandinista government. Despite having gained independence on its own merits, Afghanistan under the PDPA — much like other Soviet-allied, postcolonial successes such as Cuba, Nicaragua, Syria, Libya, and North Korea — was seen as a “Soviet satellite” that needed to be brought back under colonial domination, and whose commodities needed to be put under the exclusive control and possession of the United States. Not only that, but it was considered a strategic point of interest that could be used to enclose upon the Soviet Union.

In order to undermine the then-newly formed and popular PDPA government, the Carter administration and the CIA began the imperialist intervention by providing training, financial support, and weapons to Sunni extremists (the Mujahideen) who started committing acts of terrorism against schools and teachers in rural areas. With the assistance of the Saudi and Pakistani militaries, the CIA gathered together ousted feudal landlords, reactionary tribal chiefs, sectarian Sunni clerics, and cartel drug lords to form a coalition to destabilize Afghanistan. On September 1979, Noor Mohammed Taraki — the first PDPA leader and President of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan — was assassinated during the events of the CIA-backed coup, which was quickly stopped by the Afghan army. However, by late 1979, the PDPA was becoming overwhelmed by the large-scale military intervention by U.S. proxy forces — a combination of foreign mercenaries and Afghan Ancien Régime-sympathizers — and so they decided to make a request to the USSR to deploy a contingent of troops for assistance. The Soviet intervention provided some much-needed relief for the PDPA forces — if only for the next ten years, for the U.S. and Saudi Arabia “upped the ante” by pouring about $40 billion into the war and recruiting and arming around 100,000 more foreign mercenaries. In 1989, Mikhail Gorbachev would call on the Soviet troops to be withdrawn, and the PDPA was eventually defeated with the fall of Kabul in April 1992. Chaos ensued as the Mujahideen fell into infighting with the formation of rival factions competing for territorial space and also wreaking havoc across cities, looting, terrorizing civilians, hosting mass executions in football stadiums, ethnically-cleansing non-Pashtun minorities, and committing mass rapes against Afghan women and girls. Soon afterwards in 1995, one of the warring factions, the Taliban, consolidated power with backing from the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. On September 28, 1996 the last PDPA Presidential leader, Mohammad Najibullah, was abducted from his local UN compound (where he had been granted sanctuary), tortured, and brutally murdered by Taliban soldiers; they strung his mutilated body from a light pole for public display.

A renewed opium trade, and the economic roots of Empire-building

U.S. troops guarding an opium poppy field in Afghanistan.

After the fall of Kabul in 1992, but some time before the Taliban came to power, the reactionary tribal chiefs had taken over the Afghan countryside and ordered farmers to begin planting opium poppy, which had been outlawed by the Taraki government. Prior to that, the Pakistani ISI (Pakistan’s intelligence agency) set up hundreds of heroin laboratories at the behest of the CIA so that by 1981, the Pakistani-Afghan border became the largest producer of heroin in the world. Alfred McCoy confirms in his study, “Drug Fallout: the CIA’s Forty Year Complicity in the Narcotics Trade”:

“Once the heroin left these labs in Pakistan’s northwest frontier, the Sicilian Mafia imported the drugs into the U.S., where they soon captured sixty percent of the U.S. heroin market. That is to say, sixty percent of the U.S. heroin supply came indirectly from a CIA operation. During the decade of this operation, the 1980s, the substantial DEA contingent in Islamabad made no arrests and participated in no seizures, allowing the syndicates a de facto free hand to export heroin.”

It is apparent that by putting an end to the cultivation of opium poppy, in addition to using the country’s resources to modernize and uplift its own population, the independent nationalist government of the PDPA was seen as a threat to U.S. interests that needed to be eliminated. A major objective of the U.S.-led Mujahideen — or any kind of U.S. military-led action for that matter — against Afghanistan had always been to restore and secure the opium trade. After all, it was during the 1970s that drug trafficking served as the CIA’s primary source of funding for paramilitary forces against anti-imperialist governments and liberation movements in the Global South, in addition to protecting U.S. assets abroad. Also, the CIA’s international drug trafficking ties go as far back as 1949, which is the year when Washington’s long war on the Korean Peninsula began. The move by the PDPA to eradicate opium-poppy harvesting and put an end to the exploitation brought about by the drug cartels was seen as “going too far” by U.S. imperialists. A significantly large loss in opium production would mean a huge loss in profits for Wall Street and major international banks, which have a vested interest in the drug trade. In fact, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that money-laundering made up 2-5% of the world economy’s GDP and that a large percentage of the annual money-laundering, which was worth 590 billion to 1.5 trillion dollars, had direct links to the drug trade. The profits generated from the drug trade are often placed in American-British-controlled offshore banks.

The rationale behind the PDPA’s campaign to eradicate the opium poppy harvest was based not only on practical health reasons, but also on the role played by narcotics in the history of colonialism in Asia. Historically, cartel drug lords enabled imperialist nations, served bourgeois interests, and used cheap exploited slave labour. Oftentimes, the peasants who toiled in these poppy fields would find themselves becoming addicted to heroin in addition to being, quite literally, worked to death. Cartels are understood to be monopolistic alliances in which partners agree on the conditions of sale and terms of payment and divide the markets amongst themselves by fixing the prices and the quantity of goods to be produced. Now, concerning the role of cartels in ‘late-stage capitalism’, Lenin wrote:

“Monopolist capitalist associations, cartels, syndicates and trusts first divided the home market among themselves and obtained more or less complete possession of the industry of their own country. But under capitalism the home market is inevitably bound up with the foreign market. Capitalism long ago created a world market. As the export of capital increased, and as the foreign and colonial connections and “spheres of influence” of the big monopolist associations expanded in all ways, things “naturally” gravitated towards an international agreement among these associations, and towards the formation of international cartels.

This is a new stage of world concentration of capital and production, incomparably higher than the preceding stages.”

International cartels, especially drug cartels, are symptoms of how capital has expanded globally and has adapted to create a global wealth divide based on the territorial division of the world, the scramble for colonies, and “the struggle for spheres of influence.” More specifically, international cartels serve as stewards for the imperialist nations in the plundering of the oppressed or colonized nations. Hence the mass campaigns to help end addictions and to crack down on drug traffickers which were not only implemented in Afghanistan under the PDPA, but in Revolutionary China in 1949 and by other anti-imperialist movements as well. Of course, the opium traffickers and their organized crime associates in Afghanistan saw the campaign against opium poppy cultivation, among other progressive reforms, as an affront; this made them ideal recruits for the Mujahideen.

But why the “breakdown” in the relationship between the U.S. and the Taliban from the early 2000s and onwards? Keep in mind that, again, the members of the Taliban were amongst the various factions that made up the Mujahideen whose partnership with the United States extends as far back as the late 1970s; and it was clear that the U.S. was aware that it was working with Islamic fundamentalists. The human rights abuses committed by the Taliban while in power were well-documented before their relations with the U.S. soured by the year 2000. What made these relations turn sour was the fact that the Taliban had decided to drastically reduce the opium poppy cultivation. This led to the direct U.S. military intervention of 2001 in Afghanistan and the subsequent overthrow of the Taliban; the U.S. used the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as a pretext even if there was no proof that the Taliban had a hand in them or had been in contact with Osama bin Laden at all during that time. The U.S. would soon replace the Taliban with another faction of the Mujahideen that was more compliant with the rules that the imperialists had set out. In other words, the Taliban were ousted not necessarily because they posed a significant challenge to U.S. hegemony as the PDPA had, or because of their treatment of women — nor were they hiding Osama bin Laden; it was because they had become more of liabilities than assets. It is yet another case of the Empire discarding its puppets when they have outlived their usefulness due to incompetence and being unable to “follow the rules properly” — not unlike the U.S. removal of military dictator Manuel Noriega who was staunchly pro-American and who, in collaboration with fellow CIA asset and notorious cartel drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, previously sold drugs for the CIA to help finance the anti-communist campaign in Central America.

George W. Bush visits Hamid Karzai, who participated in the Mujahideen in the past and led the puppet government that replaced the Taliban.

By 2002, and as a result of the 2001 intervention, the lucrative opium poppy production had seen a huge boom once again. In 2014, Afghanistan’s opium poppy production made up 90% of the world’s heroin supply, leading to a decrease in opium prices. And according to a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the opium production in Afghanistan increased by 43% to 4,800 metric tons in 2016.

Although the United States has always been one of the top producers of oil in the world, another reason for establishing a permanent U.S. military presence in Afghanistan was to gain control over its vast untapped oil reserves, which the U.S. had known about prior to 9/11. Oil is yet another lucrative commodity, and ensuring that Afghanistan had a compliant government that would acquiesce to its demands was important for the U.S. in this aspect as well. Naturally, the nationalist government of the PDPA was also seen as a threat to the profit-making interests of U.S. oil companies, and any nation that was an independent oil producer (or merely a potential independent oil producer, in Afghanistan’s case) was seen as an annoying competitor by the United States. However, Afghanistan would not begin its first commercial oil production until 2013, partly because of the ongoing geopolitical instability, but also because opium production continues to dominate the economy. Plus, it is likely that neither the monarchy nor the PDPA realized that there existed such vast untapped oil reserves since there were very limited volumes of oil (compared to the higher volumes of natural gas) being produced from 1957 to 1989, and which stopped as soon as the Soviet troops left. Later, reassessments were made during the 1990s; hence the U.S. ‘discovery’ of the untapped petroleum potential. But, when intensive negotiations between U.S.-based oil company Unocal and the Taliban went unresolved in 1998 due to a dispute over a pipeline deal that the latter wanted to strike with a competing Argentine company, it would lead to growing tensions between the U.S. and the Taliban. The reason for the dispute was that Unocal wanted to have primary control over the pipeline located between Afghanistan and Pakistan that crossed into the Indian Ocean. From this point on, the U.S. was starting to see the Taliban as a liability in its prerogative of establishing political and economic dominance over Central and West Asia.

In either case, oil and other “strategic” raw materials such as opium are essential for the U.S. to maintain its global monopolistic power. It is here that we see a manifestation of the economic roots of empire-building.

*

Note to readers: please click the share buttons below. Forward this article to your email lists. Crosspost on your blog site, internet forums. etc.

Continued in Part 2.

Originally published by LLCO.org on March 30, 2019. For the full-length article and bibliography, click here.

Janelle Velinais a Toronto-based political analyst, writer, and an editor and frequent contributor for New-Power.org andLLCO.org. She also has a blog at geopoliticaloutlook.blogspot.com.

All images in this article are from the author; featured image: Brzezinski visits Osama bin Laden and other Mujahideen fighters during training.

Pepe Escobar: Empire of Chaos in Hybrid War Overdrive

SourcePepe Escobar: Empire of Chaos in Hybrid War Overdrive

March 28, 2019

The Trump administration’s foreign policy may be easily deconstructed as a crossover between The Sopranos and late-night comedy, writes Pepe Escobar.

by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with Consortium News ) by special agreement with the author)

Is this the Age of Anxiety? The Age of Stupidity? The Age of Hybrid War? Or all of the above?

As right populism learns to use algorithms, artificial intelligence (AI) and media convergence, the Empire of Chaos, in parallel, is unleashing all-out hybrid and semiotic war.

Dick Cheney’s Global War on Terror (GWOT) is back, metastasized as a hybrid mongrel.

But GWOT would not be GWOT without a Wild West scarecrow. Enter Hamza bin Laden, son of Osama. On the same day the State Department announced a $1 million bounty on his head, the so- called “UN Security Council IS and Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee” declared Hamza the next al-Qaeda leader.

Since January 2017, Hamza has been a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the State Department – on par with his deceased Dad, back in the early 2000s. The Beltway intel community “believes” Hamza resides “in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.”

Remember these are the same people who “believed” former Taliban leader Mullah Omar resided in Quetta, Baluchistan, when in fact he was safely ensconced only a few miles away from a massive U.S. military base in Zabul, Afghanistan.

Considering that Jabhat al-Nusra, or al-Qaeda in Syria, for all practical purposes, was defined as no more than “moderate rebels” by the Beltway intel community, it’s safe to infer that new scarecrow Hamza is also a “moderate”. And yet he’s more dangerous than vanished fake Caliph Abu Baqr al-Baghdadi. Talk about a masterful example of culture jamming.

Show Me The Big Picture

A hefty case can be made that the Empire of Chaos currently has no allies; it’s essentially surrounded by an assortment of vassals, puppets and comprador 5thcolumnist elites professing varied degrees of – sometimes reluctant – obedience.

The Trump administration’s foreign policy may be easily deconstructed as a crossover between The Sopranos and late-night comedy – as in the whole episode of designating State Department/CIA regime change, lab experiment Random Dude as President of Venezuela. Legendary cultural critic Walter Benjamin would have called it “the aestheticization of politics,” (turning politics into art), as he did about the Nazis, but this time it’s the Looney Tunes version.

To add to the conceptual confusion, despite countless “an offer you can’t refuse” antics unleashed by psychopaths of the John Bolton and Mike Pompeo variety, there’s this startling nugget. Former Iranian diplomat Amir Moussavi has revealed that Trump himself demanded to visit Tehran, and was duly rebuffed. “Two European states, two Arab countries and one Southeast Asian state” were mediating a series of messages relayed by Trump and his son-in-law Jared “of Arabia” Kushner, according to Moussavi.

Is there a method to this madness? An attempt at a Grand Narrative would go something like this: ISIS/Daesh may have been sidelined – for now; they are not useful anymore, so the U.S. must fight the larger “evil”: Tehran. GWOT has been revived, and though Hamza bin Laden has been designated the new Caliph, GWOT has shifted to Iran.

When we mix this with the recent India-Pakistan scuffle, a wider message emerges. There was absolutely no interest by Prime Minister Imran Kahn, the Pakistani Army and the Pakistani intelligence, ISI, to launch an attack on India in Kashmir. Pakistan was about to run out of money and about to be bolstered by the U.S., via Saudi Arabia with $20 billion and an IMF loan.

At the same time, there were two almost simultaneous terrorist attacks launched from Pakistan – against Iran and against India in mid-February. There’s no smoking gun yet, but these attacks may have been manipulated by a foreign intelligence agency. The Cui Bono riddle is which state would profit immensely from a war between Pakistan and Iran and/or a war between Pakistan and India.

The bottom line: hiding in the shadow of plausible deniability – according to which what we understand as reality is nothing but pure perception – the Empire of Chaos will resort to the chaos of no-holds-barred hybrid war to avoid “losing” the Eurasian heartland.

Show Me How Many Hybrid Plans You Got

What applies to the heartland of course also applies to the backyard.

The case of Venezuela shows that the “all options on the table” scenario has been de facto aborted by Russia, outlined in an astonishing briefing by Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry, and then subsequently detailed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Lavrov. (Wikimedia Commons)

Meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj at a crucial RIC (part of BRICS) summit in China,Lavrov said, “Russia keeps a close eye on brazen US attempts to create an artificial pretext for a military intervention in Venezuela… The actual implementation of these threats is pulling in military equipment and training [US] Special Forces.”

Lavrov explained how Washington was engaged in acquiring mortars and portable air defense systems “in an East European country, and mov(ing) them closer to Venezuela by an airline of a regime that is… rather absolutely obedient to Washington in the post-Soviet space.”

The U.S. attempt at regime change in Venezuela has been so far unsuccessful in several ways. Plan A – a classic color revolution -has miserably failed, in part because of a lack of decent local intelligence. Plan B was a soft version of humanitarian imperialism, with a resuscitation of the nefarious, Libya-tested responsibility to protect (R2P); it also failed, especially when the American tale that the Venezuelan government burnt humanitarian aid trucks at the border with Colombia was a lie, exposed by The New York Times, no less.

Plan C was a classic Hybrid War technique: a cyberattack, replete with a revival of Nitro Zeus, which shut down 80 percent of Venezuela’s electricity.

That plan had already been exposed by WikiLeaks, via a 2010 memo by a U.S.-funded, Belgrade-based color revolution scam that helped train self-proclaimed “President” Random Dude, when he was just known as Juan Guaidó. The leaked memo said that attacking the Venezuelan power grid would be a “watershed event” that “would likely have the impact of galvanizing public unrest in a way that no opposition group could ever hope to generate.”

But even that was not enough.

That leaves Plan D – which is essentially to try to starve the Venezuelan population to death via viciously lethal additional sanctions. Sanctioned Syria and sanctioned Iran didn’t collapse. Even boasting myriad comprador elites aggregated in the Lima group, exceptionalists may have to come to grips with the fact that deploying the Monroe doctrine essentially to contain China’s influence in the young 21stcentury is no “cakewalk.”

Plan E—for extreme—would be U.S. military action, which Bolton won’t take off the table.

Show Me the Way to the Next War Game

So where do all these myriad weaponizations of chaos theory leave us? Nowhere, if they don’t follow the money. Local comprador elites must be lavishly rewarded, otherwise you’re stuck in hybrid swamp territory. That was the case in Brazil – and that’s why the most sophisticated hybrid war case history so far has been a success.

In 2013, Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks revealed how the NSA was spying on Brazilian energy giant Petrobras and the Dilma Rousseff government beginning in 2010. Afterwards, a complex, rolling judicial-business-political-financial-media coup ended up reaching its two main objectives; in 2016, with the impeachment of Rousseff, and in 2018, with Lula thrown in jail.

Now comes arguably the juiciest piece of the puzzle. Petrobras was supposed to pay $853 million to the U.S. Department of Justice for not going to trial for crimes it was being accused of in America. But then a dodgy deal was struck according to which the fine will be transferred to a Brazilian fund as long as Petrobras commits to relay confidential information about its businesses to the United States government.

Mattis: Wrote on hybrid war in 2005.

Hybrid war against BRICS member Brazil worked like a charm, but trying it against nuclear superpower Russia is a completely different ball game. U.S. analysts, in another case of culture jamming, even accuse Russia itself of deploying hybrid war – a concept actually invented in the U.S. within a counter-terrorism context; applied during the occupation of Iraq and later metastasized across the color revolution spectrum; and featuring, among others, in an article co-authored by former Pentagon head James “Mad Dog” Mattis in 2005 when he was a mere lieutenant general.

At a recent conference about Russia’s military strategy, Chief of General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov stressed that the Russian armed forces must increase both their “classic” and “asymmetrical” potential. In the U.S. this is interpreted as subversion/propaganda hybrid war techniques as applied in Ukraine and in the largely debunked Russia-gate. Instead, Russian strategists refer to these techniques as “complex approach” and “new generation war”.

Santa Monica’s RAND Corporation still sticks to good ol’ hot war scenarios. They have been holding “Red on Blue” war games simulations since 1952 – modeling how the proverbial “existential threats” could use asymmetric strategies. The latest Red on Blue was not exactly swell. RAND analyst David Ochmanek famously said that with Blue representing the current U.S. military potential and Red representing Russia-China in a conventional war, “Blue gets its ass handed to it.”

None of this will convince Empire of Chaos functionary Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who recently told a Senate Armed Services Committee that the Pentagon will continue to refuse a “no first use” nuclear strategy. Aspiring Dr. Strangeloves actually believe the U.S. can start a nuclear war and get away with it.

Talk about the Age of Hybrid Stupidity going out with a bang.

Pepe Escobar, a veteran Brazilian journalist, is the correspondent-at-large for Hong Kong-based Asia Times. His latest book is “2030.” Follow him on Facebook.

Thanking vets for their “service” – why?

The Saker

November 15, 2018

Thanking vets for their “service” – why?

[This article was written for the Unz Review]

Depending on the context, the small word “why” can be totally innocuous or it can be just about the most subversive and even sacrilegious word one can utter.  This is probably why I love this word so much: it’s ability to unleash tremendous power against all sorts of sacred cows and unchallenged beliefs.  So,today I want to ask everybody why so many people feel the need to thank veterans for their “service”?

But first, let’s debunk a few myths:

First, let’s begin by getting myth #1 out of the way: the notion that US Americans don’t like wars.  That is totally false. US Americans hate losing wars, but if they win them, they absolutely love them.  In other words, the typical US reaction to a war depends on the perceived outcome of that war. If it is a success they love it (even if it is a turkey-shoot like Desert Storm). If it is a deniable defeat (say the US/NATO air operations against Serbian forces in Kosovo or the total clusterbleep in Grenada) they will simply “forget” it. And if it is an undeniable defeat (say Iraq or Afghanistan) then, yes, indeed, most US Americans will be categorically opposed to it.

 

Next is myth #2: the truth is that no US serviceman or woman has fought a war in defense of the USA since at least WWII (and even this one is very debatable considering that the US forced Japan to wage war and since the attack on Pearl Harbor was set-up as a pretext to then attack Japan). Since 1945 there has not been a single situation in which US soldiers defended their land, their towns, their families or their friends from an aggressor. Not one! All the wars fought by the USA since 1945 were wars of aggression, wars of choice and most of them were completely illegal to boot (including numerous subversive and covert operations). At most, one can make the argument that US veterans defended the so-called “American way of life,” but only if one accepts that the said “American way of life” requires and mandates imperialist wars of aggression and the wholesale abandonment of the key concepts of international law.

Finally, there is the ugly dirty little secret that everybody knows but, for some reason, very few dare to mention: the decision to join the (all volunteer) US military is one primarily based on financial considerations and absolutely not some kind of generous “service” of the motherland for pure, lofty, ideals.  Yes, yes, I know – there were those who did join the US military after 9/11 thinking that the USA had been attacked and that they needed to help bring the fight to those who attacked the USA.  But even with a very modest degree of intelligence, it should have become pretty darn obvious that whether 9/11 was indeed the work of Bin Laden and al-Qaeda or not (personally I am absolutely certain that this was a controlled demolition) – this atrocity was used by the US government to justify a long list of wars which could not have possibly had anything to do with 9/11. Hey, after all, the US decided to attack Iraq (which self-evidently had nothing to do with 9/11) and not the KSA (even though most of the putative hijackers were Saudis and had official Saudi backing). Besides, even if some folks were not smart enough to see through the lies and even if THEY believed that they joined the US military to defend the USA, why would the rest of us who by 2018 all know that the attack on Iraq was purely and solely based on lies, “thank” veterans for stupidly waging war for interests they cannot even identify? Since when do we thank people for making wrong and, frankly, immoral decisions?!

Veterans of foreign wars? Wait, I was not aware that there were any other types of vets!

Now let’s look at another basic thing: what is military service? The way I see it, military personnel can roughly be split into two categories: those who actually kill people and those who help those who kill people kill people. Right? If you are a machine gunner or a tank driver, then you personally get to kill people. If you are a communications specialist, or a truck driver, or an electrician, you don’t get to kill people yourself, but your work is to make it easier for those who kill people to kill people. So I think that it would be fair to say that joining a military, any military, is to join an organization whose main purpose is to kill people. Of course, that killing can be morally justifiable and, say, in defense of your country and fellow citizens. But that can only be the case if you prepare for a defensive war and, as we all know, the USA has not fought such a war for over 70 years now. Which means that with a few increasingly rare exceptions (WWII veterans) ALL the veterans which get thanked for their service did what exactly? If we put it in plain English, what fundamental, crucial decision did ALL these veterans make?

In simple and plain English, veterans are those who signed up to kill people outside the USA for money.

Sorry, I know that this sounds offensive to many, but this is a fact. The fact that this decision (to join an organization whose primary purpose is to murder people in their own countries, hundreds and thousands of miles away from the USA) could ALSO have been taken for “patriotic” reasons (i.e. by those who believed in what is most likely the most lying propaganda machine in history) or to “see the world” and “become a real man” does not change the fact that if the US military offered NO pay or benefits, NO scholarships, NO healthcare, etc. then the vast majority of those who claim that they joined to “serve” would never have joined in the first place. We all know that, let’s not pretend otherwise! Just look at the arguments recruiters use to convince people to join: they are all about money and benefits! Need more proof? Just look at the kind of social groups who compose the bulk of the US military: uneducated, poor, with minimal career prospects. The simple truth is that financially successful folks very rarely join the military and, when they do, they usually make a career out of it.

As somebody who has lived in the USA for a total of 21 years now, I can attest that folks join the military precisely for the same reasons they enter the police force or become correctional officers: because in all those endeavors there is money to be made and benefits to enjoy. Okay, there must be, by definition, the 1% or less who joined these (all violent) careers for purely lofty and noble ideals. But these would be a small, tiny, minority. The overwhelming majority of cops, correctional officers and soldiers joined primarily for material and/or financial reasons.

By the way, since that is the case, is it not also true that the soldier (just like the cop or the correctional officers) has ALREADY received his/her “gratitude” from the society for their “service” in the form of a check? Why do folks then still feel the need to “thank them for their service”? We don’t thank air traffic controllers or logging workers (also very tough careers) for their service, do we? And that is in spite of the fact that air traffic controllers and logging workers did not choose to join an organization whose primary goal is to kill people in their own homes (whether private homes or national ones) which is what soldiers get paid for.

Let me repeat that truism once again, in an even more direct way:

veterans are killers hired for money.  Period.  The rest is all propaganda.

In a normal sane world, one would think that this is primarily a moral and ethical question. I would even say a spiritual one. Surely major religions would have something relevant and clarifying to say about this? Well, in the past they did.  In fact, with some slight variations, the principles of what is called a “just war” have been known in the West since at least Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas.  According to one source they are:

  • A just war can only be waged as a last resort. All non-violent options must be exhausted before the use of force can be justified.
  • A war is just only if it is waged by a legitimate authority. Even just causes cannot be served by actions taken by individuals or groups who do not constitute an authority sanctioned by whatever the society and outsiders to the society deem legitimate.
  • A just war can only be fought to redress a wrong suffered. For example, self-defense against an armed attack is always considered to be a just cause (although the justice of the cause is not sufficient–see point #4). Further, a just war can only be fought with “right” intentions: the only permissible objective of a just war is to redress the injury.
  • A war can only be just if it is fought with a reasonable chance of success. Deaths and injury incurred in a hopeless cause are not morally justifiable.
  • The ultimate goal of a just war is to re-establish peace. More specifically, the peace established after the war must be preferable to the peace that would have prevailed if the war had not been fought.
  • The violence used in the war must be proportional to the injury suffered. States are prohibited from using force not necessary to attain the limited objective of addressing the injury suffered.
  • The weapons used in war must discriminate between combatants and non-combatants. Civilians are never permissible targets of war, and every effort must be taken to avoid killing civilians. The deaths of civilians are justified only if they are unavoidable victims of a deliberate attack on a military target.

Modern religions for war

(Check out this article for a more thorough discussion of this fascinating topic)

Now Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas are hardly heroes of mine, but they are considered as very authoritative in western philosophical thought. Yet, when checked against this list of criteria, all the wars fought by the USA are clearly and self-evidently totally unjust: all of them fail on several criteria, and most of them (including the attack on Iraq and Afghanistan) fail on all of them!

But there is no need to go far back into the centuries to find authoritative western thinkers who clearly denounce unjust wars.  Did you know that the ultimate crime under international law is not genocide or crimes against humanity?

Robert H Jackson

Nope, the supreme crime under international law is the crime of aggression. In the words of the chief American prosecutor at Nuremberg and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Robert H. Jackson, the crime of aggression is the supreme crime because “it contains within itself the accumulated evil” of all the other war crimes.  He wrote:

To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

So from the 4th century through the 20th century, the people of the West always knew what a just war was, and they fully understood that starting such a war is the supreme evil crime under international law. But this goes beyond just major wars. Under international law, the crime of “aggression” does not only refer to a full-scale military attack. Aggression can be defined as the execution of any one of the following acts:

  • Declaration of war upon another State.
  • Invasion by its armed forces, with or without a declaration of war, of the territory of another State.
  • Attack by its land, naval or air forces, with or without a declaration of war, on the territory, vessels or aircraft of another State.
  • A naval blockade of the coasts or ports of another State.
  • Provision of support to armed bands formed in its territory which have invaded the territory of another State, or refusal, notwithstanding the request of the invaded State, to take, in its own territory, all the measures in its power to deprive those bands of all assistance or protection.

Finally, it is important to note here that by these authoritative legal definitions, every single US President is a war criminal under international law! This, in turn, begs the question of whether all the wars fought by US soldiers since 1945 were indeed waged by a legitimate authority (as mentioned by Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas above)? How can that be when the Commander in Chief himself is a war criminal?

Let’s sum it up so far:

we have folks who agree to become killers (or killer-assistants), who do that primarily for financial reasons, who then only participate in illegal and immoral wars of aggression and whose commander in chief is a war criminal.

And they deserve our gratitude why exactly?!

Maybe because so many veterans have been hurt, maimed, traumatized? Maybe because once they leave the armed forces, they don’t get the social and medical support they need? Perhaps merely because wars are horrible? Or maybe because the veterans were lied to and deceived? Or maybe because some (many?) of them did try to stay human, honorable and decent people in spite of the horrors of war all around them? When we think of the horrendous unemployment, homelessness and even suicide figures amongst veterans, we cannot but feel that these are people who have been lied to, cheated and then discarded like a useless tool. So maybe saying “thank you for your service” is the right thing to say?

Nope! These are all excellent reasons to feel compassion and sympathy for veterans, yes. But not gratitude. There is a huge difference here. Everybody, every human, and I strongly believe every creature deserves compassion and sympathy. But it is one thing to say “I feel compassion for you” and quite another to say “thank you for what you did” because that implies that the deed was a moral, good, ethical deed, and that is entirely false.

Major General Smedley Butler put it best when he wrote:

War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war, a few people make huge fortunes.

If we agree that war is, indeed, a “racket” and that it is conducted “for the benefit of the very few” then it would make sense for these “very few” to express their gratitude to those whom they hired to enrich them.  And, in fact, they do.  Here is the best example of that:

Corporation for war

(well, that at least makes sense!)

Of course, Google is no more dependent on wars of aggression than any other US corporation.  The very nature of the US economy is based on war and has always been based on war.  The so-called “American way of life” but without wars of aggression has never been attempted in the past, and it won’t be attempted for as long as the USA remains the cornerstone of the AngloZionist Empire and the world hegemony it seeks to impose on the rest of mankind.  But until that day arrives the “American way of life” will always imply wars of aggression and the mass murder of innocent people whose only “sin” is to dare to want to live free and not be a slave to the Empire.  If you believe that those who dare to want to live free in a truly sovereign country deserve to be murdered and maimed, then yes, by all means – thank the veterans from the bottom of your heart!

But if you don’t believe this, offer them your compassion, but not your gratitude for their crimes.

The Saker

War Criminals in High Office Commemorate the End of World War I

Global Research, November 12, 2018

In a bitter irony, several of the World’s leaders who were “peacefully” commemorating the end of World War I in Paris including Trump, Netanyahu, Macron and May are the protagonists of war in Afghanistan, Palestine, Syria, Libya, Iraq and Yemen. 

To put it bluntly they are war criminals under international law.

They have blood on their hands.

What on earth are they commemorating?

In the words of Hans Stehling: “As We Honour the 15 Million Dead of 1914-1918, a Demented US President Flies into Paris with Plans to Attack Iran” [with nuclear weapons] (Global Research, November 12, 2018)

Lest we forget: War is the ultimate crime, “The Crime against Peace” as defined under Nuremberg.

 The US and its allies have embarked upon the ultimate war crime, a Worldwide military adventure, “a long war”, which threatens the future of humanity.

The Pentagon’s global military design is one of world conquest. 

The War to End all Wars??? 

One hundred years later: What’s happening NOW in November 2018?

Major military and covert intelligence operations have been launched in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia and the Far East. The U.S. military agenda combines both major theatre operations as well as covert actions geared towards destabilizing sovereign states, not to mention economic warfare.

In the course of the last seventeen years, starting in the immediate wake of 9/11, a series of US-NATO led wars have been launched: Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Yemen, resulting in millions of civilian deaths and countless atrocities. These wars have been led by the US and its NATO allies.

It is all for a good cause:

“Responsibility to Protect”(R2P),

“Going after the bad guys”,

Waging a “Global War on Terrorism”.

It just so happens that “Outside Enemy Number One” Osama bin Laden was recruited by the CIA.

And the Bush and the Bin Laden families are friends.

Image: Osama bin Laden with Carter’s National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski (circa 1979

Confirmed by the Washington Post Osama’s brother Shafiq bin Laden was meeting with George W Bush’s Dad, George H. Walker Bush at a Carlyle business meeting at the Ritz Carleton in New York on September 10, one day before 9/11:

It didn’t help that as the World Trade Center burned on Sept. 11, 2001, the news interrupted a Carlyle business conference at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel here attended by a brother of Osama bin Laden. Former president Bush, a fellow investor, had been with him at the conference the previous day. (WaPo, March 16, 2003)

Now does that not sound like a “conspiracy theory”? While Osama was allegedly coordinating the attack on the WTC,  his brother Shafiq was meeting up with the President’s Dad, according to the Washington Post.

In turn, according to the Wall Street Journal “The bin Laden family has become acquainted with some of the biggest names in the Republican Party…” (WSJ, 27 September 2001)

Here is a rather “believe it or not” concept: if the US were to boost defence spending to go after Osama bin Laden (Enemy Number One), the bin Laden family would benefit so to speak because (in September 2001) they were partners of the Carlyle Group, one the World’s largest asset management companies:

Waging War on The Bad Guys 

Amply documented, the “Bad Guys”, namely Al Qaeda and its various affiliates including ISIS-Daesh are constructs of Western intelligence (aka so-called “intelligence assets”).

In recent developments, the US and Israel are threatening Iran with nuclear weapons. U.S. and NATO ground forces are being deployed in Eastern Europe on Russia’s immediate doorstep. In turn, the U.S. is confronting China under the so-called “Pivot to Asia” which was launched during the Obama presidency.

The US also threatens to blow up North Korea with what is described in US military parlance as a “bloody nose operation” which consists in deploying “the more usable” low yield B61-11 mini-nukes which are tagged as “harmless to civilians because the explosion is under ground”, according to scientific opinion on contract to the Pentagon.

The B61-11 tactical nuclear weapon has an explosive capacity between one third and twelve times a Hiroshima bomb.

Hiroshima, August 7, 1945

Flashback to August 6, 1945, the first Atomic Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Up to 100, 000 people were killed in the first seven seconds following the explosion.

But it was “collateral damage”: In the words of President Harry Truman:

Truman globalresearch.caThe world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians.

What is at stake is a global criminal undertaking in defiance of international law. In the words of the late Nuremberg Prosecutor William Rockler:

The United States has discarded pretensions to international legality and decency, and embarked on a course of raw imperialism run amok.” (William Rockler, Nuremberg Tribunal prosecutor)

We will recall that the architect of Nuremberg, Supreme Court Justice and Nuremberg Prosecutor Robert Jackson said with some hesitation:

We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well.”

Does this historical statement apply to Donald Trump, Benjamin Netanyahu and Margaret May?
In defiance of Nuremberg, the US and its allies have invoked the conduct of “humanitarian wars” and “counter-terrorism” operations, with a view to installing “democracy” in  targeted countries.
And the Western media applauds. War is now routinely heralded in news reports as a peacemaking undertaking.

War becomes peace. Realities are turned upside down.

These lies and fabrications are part of of war propaganda, which also constitutes a criminal undertaking under Nuremberg.

The US-NATO led war applied Worlwide is a criminal endeavor under the disguise of “responsibility to protect” and counter-terrorism. It violates the Nuremberg Charter, the US constitution and the UN charter. According to former chief Nuremberg prosector Benjamin Ferencz, in relation to the 2003 invasion of Iraq:

“a prima facie case can be made that the United States is guilty of the supreme crime against humanity — that being an illegal war of aggression against a sovereign nation.”

Ferenz was referring to “Crimes against Peace and War” (Nuremberg Principle VI): which states the following:

“The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law:

(a) Crimes against peace:
(i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
(ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).
(b) War crimes:
Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave labor or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory; murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the Seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.
(c) Crimes against humanity:
Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhumane acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial, or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime.”

“(i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;

(ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).”

The original source of this article is Global Research

 

In the Heart of a Dying Empire

shutterstock_1054643846-600x345.jpg

When you think about it, the Earth is a relatively modest-sized planet — about 25,000 miles in circumference at the Equator, with a total surface area of 197 million square miles, almost three-quarters of which is water. It’s not so hard, if you’re in a certain frame of mind (as American officials were after 1991), to imagine that a single truly great nation — a “sole superpower” with a high-tech military, its capabilities unparalleled in history — might in some fashion control it all.

Think back to that year when the other superpower, the lesser one of that era, so unbelievably went down for the count. Try to recall that moment when the Soviet Union, its economy imploding, suddenly was no more, its various imperial parts — from Eastern Europe to Central Asia — having largely spun free. It’s hard now to remember just how those months after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and that final moment in 1991 stunned the Washington establishment. Untold sums of money had been poured into “intelligence” during the almost half-century of what became known as the Cold War (because a hot war between two nuclear-armed superpowers seemed unimaginable — even if it almost happened). Nonetheless, key figures in Washington were remarkably unprepared for it all to end. They were stunned. It simply hadn’t occurred to them that the global standoff between the last two great powers on this planet could or would ever truly be over.

And when you think about it, that wasn’t so illogical. Imperial rivalries had been the name of the game for so many centuries. A world without some version of such rivalries seemed genuinely unimaginable — until, of course, it happened. After the shock began to wear off, what followed was triumphalism of a soaring sort. Think of that moment as the geopolitical equivalent of a drug high.

Imagine! After so many centuries of rivalries between great powers and that final showdown between just two superpowers, it was all over (except for the bragging). Only one power, the — by definition — greatest of all, was left on a planet obviously there for the taking.

Yes, Russia still existed with its nuclear arsenal intact, but it was otherwise a husk of its former imperial self. (Vladimir Putin’s sleight-of-hand brilliance has been to give what remains a rickety petro-state the look of a great power, as in MRGA, or Make Russia Great Again.) In 1991, China had only relatively recently emerged from the chaos of the Maoist era and was beginning its rise as a capitalist powerhouse overseen by a communist party — and, until that moment, who would have believed that either? Its military was modest and its leaders not faintly ready to challenge the U.S. It was far more intent on becoming a cog in the global economic machinery that would produce endless products for American store shelves.

In fact, the only obvious challenges that remained came from a set of states so unimpressive that no one would have thought to call them “great,” no less “super” powers. They had already come to be known instead by the ragtag term “rogue states.” Think theocratic Iran, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and Kim Il-sung’s (soon to be Kim Jong-il’s) North Korea, none then nuclear armed. A disparate crew — the Iraqis and Iranians had been at war for eight years in the 1980s — they looked like a pushover for… well, you know who.

And the early results of American global preeminence couldn’t have been more promising. Its corporate power initially seemed to “level” every playing field in sight, while conquering markets across the planet. Its thoroughly high-tech military crushed the armed forces of one rogue power, Iraq, in a 100-hour storm of a war in 1991. Amid a blizzard of ticker tape and briefly soaring approval ratings for President George H.W. Bush, this was seen by those in the know as a preview of the world that was to be.

So what a perfect time — I’m talking about January 2000 — for some of the greatest geopolitical dreamers of all, a crew that saw an “unprecedented strategic opportunity” in the new century to organize not half the planet, as in the Cold War, but the whole damn thing. They took power by a chad that year, already fearing that the process of creating the kind of military that could truly do their bidding might be a slow one without “some catastrophic and catalyzing event — like a new Pearl Harbor.” On September 11, 2001, thanks to Osama bin Laden’s precision air assaults on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, they got their wish — what screaming newspaper headlines promptly called “a new day of infamy” or “the Pearl Harbor of the twenty-first century.” Like their confreres in 1991, the top officials of George W. Bush’s administration were initially stunned by the event, but soon found themselves swept up in a mood of soaring optimism about the future of both the Republican Party and American power. Their dream, as they launched what they called the Global War on Terror, would be nothing short of creating an eternal Pax Republicana in the U.S. and a similarly never-ending Pax Americana first in the Greater Middle East and then on a potentially planetary scale.

As their 2002 national security strategy put it, the U.S. was to “build and maintain” military power “beyond challenge” so that no country or even bloc of countries could ever again come close to matching it. For them, this was the functional definition of global dominance. It gave the phrase of that moment, “shock and awe,” new meaning.

A Smash-Up on the Horizon?

Of course, you remember this history as well as I do, so it shouldn’t be hard for you to jump into the future with me and land in September 2018, some 17 years later, when all those plans to create a truly American planet had come to fruition and the U.S. was dominant in a way no other country had ever been.

Whoops… my mistake.

It is indeed 17 years later. Remarkably enough, though, the last superpower, the one with the military that was, as President George W. Bush put it, “the greatest force for human liberation the world has ever known,” is still fruitlessly fighting — and still losing ground — in the very first country it took on and supposedly “liberated”: poor Afghanistan. The Taliban is again on the rise there. Elsewhere, al-Qaeda, stronger than ever, has franchised itself, multiplied, and in Iraq given birth to another terror outfit, ISIS, whose own franchises are now multiplying across parts of the planet. In no country in which the U.S. military intervened in this century or in which it simply supported allied forces in a conflict against seemingly weaker, less-well-armed enemies has there been an obvious, lasting victory of the kind that seemed so self-evidently an American right and legacy after 1991 and again 2001.

In fact, there may not be another example of a truly great power, seemingly at the height of its strength and glory, so unable to impose its will, no matter the brutality and destructive force employed. The United States had, of course, been able to do exactly that, often with striking success (at least for a while), from Guatemala to Iran in the Cold War years, but “alone” on the planet, it came up cold. Of those three rogue powers of the 1990s, for instance, Iran and North Korea are now stronger (one of them even nuclear-armed) and neither, despite the desires and plans of so many American officials, has been toppled. Meanwhile, Iraq, after a U.S. invasion and occupation in 2003, has proven a never-ending disaster area.

Not that anyone’s drawing lessons from any of this at the moment, perhaps because there’s that orange-haired guy in the Oval Office taking up so much of our time and attention or because there’s an understandable desire to duck the most obvious conclusion: that Planet Earth, however small, is evidently still too big for one power, however economically overwhelming or militarily dominant, to control. Think of the last 27 years of American history as a demo for that old idiom: biting off more than you can chew.

In 2016, in what came to be known as the “homeland,” American voters responded to that reality in a visceral way. They elected as president a truly strange figure, a man who alone among the country’s politicians was peddling the idea that the U.S. was no longer great but, like Putin’s Russia, would have to be made great again. Donald Trump, as I wrote during that campaign season, was the first presidential candidate to promote the idea that the United States was in decline at a moment when politicians generally felt obliged to affirm that the U.S. was the greatestmost exceptional, most indispensable place on the planet. And, of course, he won.

Admittedly, despite a near collapse a decade earlier, the economy is seemingly soaring, while the stock market remains ebullient. In fact, it couldn’t look sunnier, could it? I mean, put aside the usual Trumpian tweets and the rest of the Washington sideshow, including those Chinese (and Canadian) tariffs and the bluster and bombast of the leakiest administration this side of the Titanic, and, as the president so oftensays, things couldn’t look rosier. The Dow Jones average has left past versions of the same in the dust. The unemployment rate is somewhere near the bottom of the barrel (if you don’t count the actual unemployed). The economy is just booming along.

But tell me the truth: Can’t you just feel it? Honestly, can’t you?

You know as well as I do that there’s something rotten in… well, let’s not blame Denmark… but you know perfectly well that something’s not right here. You know that it’s the wallets and pocketbooks of the 1% that are really booming, expanding, exploding at the moment; that the rich have inherited, if not the Earth, then at least American politics; that the wealth possessed by that 1% is now at levels not seen since the eve of the Great Depression of 1929. And, honestly, can you doubt that the next crash is somewhere just over the horizon?

Meet the Empire Burners

Donald Trump is in the White House exactly because, in these years, so many Americans felt instinctively that something was going off the tracks. (That shouldn’t be a surprise, given the striking lack of investment in, or upkeep of, the infrastructure of the greatest of all powers.) He’s there largely thanks to the crew that’s now proudly referred to — for supposedly keeping him in line — as “the adults in the room.” Let me suggest a small correction to that phrase to better reflect the 16 years in this not-so-new century before he entered the Oval Office. How about “the adolts in the room”?

After all, from National Security Advisor John Bolton (the invasion of Iraq) and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (a longtime regime-change advocate) to CIA Director Gina Haspel (black sites and torture), Secretary of Defense James “Mad Dog” Mattis (former Marine general and CENTCOM commander), and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (former Marine general and a commander in Iraq), those adolts and so many like them remain deeply implicated in the path the country took in those years of geopolitical dreaming. They were especially responsible for the decision to invest in the U.S. military (and little else), as well as in endless wars, in the years before Donald Trump came to power. And worse yet, they seem to have learned absolutely nothing from the process.

Take a recent example we know something about — Afghanistan — thanks to Fear: Trump in the White House, Bob Woodward’s bestselling new book. Only recently, an American sergeant major, an adviser to Afghan troops, was gunned down at a base near the Afghan capital, Kabul, in an “insider” or “green-on-blue” attack, a commonplace of that war. He was killed (and another American adviser wounded) by two allied Afghan police officers in the wake of an American air strike in the same area in which more than a dozen of their compatriots died. Forty-two years old and on the eve of retirement, the sergeant was on his seventh combat tour of duty of this century and, had he had an eighth, he might have served with an American born after the 9/11 attacks.

In his book, Woodward describes a National Security Council meeting in August 2017, in which the adolts in the room saved the president from his worst impulses. He describes how an impatient Donald Trump “exploded, most particularly at his generals. You guys have created this situation. It’s been a disaster. You’re the architects of this mess in Afghanistan… You’re smart guys, but I have to tell you, you’re part of the problem. And you haven’t been able to fix it, and you’re making it worse… I was against this from the beginning. He folded his arms. ‘I want to get out… and you’re telling me the answer is to get deeper in.’”

And indeed almost 16 years later that is exactly what Pompeo, Mattis, former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, and the rest of them were telling him. According to Woodward, Mattis, for instance, argued forcefully “that if they pulled out, they would create another ISIS-style upheaval… What happened in Iraq under Obama with the emergence of ISIS will happen under you, Mattis told Trump, in one of his sharpest declarations.”

The reported presidential response: “‘You are all telling me that I have to do this,’ Trump said grudgingly, ‘and I guess that’s fine and we’ll do it, but I still think you’re wrong. I don’t know what this is for. It hasn’t gotten us anything. We’ve spent trillions,’ he exaggerated. ‘We’ve lost all these lives.’ Yet, he acknowledged, they probably could not cut and run and leave a vacuum for al-Qaeda, Iran, and other terrorists.”

And so Donald Trump became the latest surge president, authorizing, however grudgingly, the dispatching of yet more American troops and air power to Afghanistan (just as he recently authorized an “indefinite military effort” in Syria in the wake of what we can only imagine was another such exchange). Of Mattis himself, in response to reports that he might be on the way out after the midterm elections, the president recently responded, “He’ll stay… we’re very happy with him, we’re having a lot of victories, we’re having victories that people don’t even know about.”

Perhaps that should be considered definitional for the Trump presidency, which is likely to increasingly find itself in a world of “victories that people don’t even know about.” But don’t for a second think that The Donald was the one who brought us to this state, though someday he will undoubtedly be seen as the personification of it and of the decline that swept him into power. And for all that, for the victories that people won’t know about and the defeats that they will, he’ll have the adolts in the room to thank. They proved to be neither the empire builders of their dreams, nor even empire preservers, but a crew of potential empire burners.

Believe me, folks, it’s going to be anything but pretty. Welcome to that most unpredictable and dangerous of entities, a dying empire. Only 27 years after the bells of triumph tolled across Washington, it looks like those bells are now preparing to toll in mourning for it.

By Tom Engelhardt 
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Insider Attacks. Blow-back From US Policy in the Greater Middle East

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He was shot in the back, the ultimate act of treachery. On September 3rd, a U.S Army sergeant major was killed by two Afghan police officers – the very people his unit, the new Security Force Assistance Brigade, was there to train. It was the second fatal “insider attack,” as such incidents are regularly called, this year and the 102nd since the start of the Afghan War 17 long years ago. Such attacks are sometimes termed “green-on-blue” incidents (in Army lingo, “green” forces are U.S. allies and “blue” forces Americans). For obvious reasons, they are highly destructive to the military mission of training and advising local military and security forces in Afghanistan. Such attacks, not surprisingly, sow distrust and fear, creating distance between Western troops and their supposed Afghan partners.

Reading about this latest tragic victim of Washington’s war in Afghanistan, the seventh American death this year and 2,416th since 2001, I got to thinking about those insider attacks and the bigger story that they embodied. Considered a certain way, U.S. policy across the Greater Middle East has, in fact, produced one insider attack after another.

Short-term thinking, expedience, and a lack of strategic caution (or direction) has led Washington to train, fund, and support group after group that, soon enough, turned its guns on American soldiers and civilians. It’s a long, sordid tale that stretches back decades – and one that, unlike the individual instances of treachery that kill or maim American servicemen, receives next to no attention. It’s worth thinking about, though, because if U.S. policies had been radically different, such green-on-blue incidents might never have occurred. So let’s consider the last decades of American war-making in the context of insider attacks.

The Ground Zero of Insider Attacks: Afghanistan (1979-present)

In 1979, the Washington foreign policy elite saw everything through the prism of a possible existential Cold War clash between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Such a focus tended to erase local context, nuance, and complexity, leading the U.S. to back a range of nefarious actors as long as they were allies in the struggle against communism.

So in December 1979, when the Soviet Union invaded neighboring Afghanistan, Washington knew just what to do. With the help of the Saudis and the Pakistanis, the CIA financed, trained, and armed –eventually with sophisticated anti-aircraft Stinger missiles, among other weapons – a range of anti-Soviet militias. And it worked! Eight years later, having suffered more than 10,000 combat deaths in its own version of Vietnam, the Red Army left Afghanistan in defeat (and, soon after, the Soviet Union itself imploded).

The problem was that many of those anti-Communist Afghans were also fiercely Islamist, often extreme in their views, and ultimately anti-Western as well as anti-Soviet – and among them, as you undoubtedly remember, was a youthful Saudi by the name of Osama bin Laden.

It was, then, an easy-to-overlook reality. After all, the Islamist mujahideen (as they were generally called) were astute enough to fight one enemy at a time and knew where their proverbial bread was being buttered. As long as the money and arms kept flowing in and the more immediate Soviet threat loomed, even the most extreme of them were willing to play nice with Americans. It was a marriage of convenience. Few in Washington bothered to ask what they would do with all those guns once the Soviets left town.

Recent scholarship and newly opened Russian archives suggest that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was driven as much by defensiveness and insecurity as by any notion of triumphal regional conquest. Despite the fears of officials in the administrations of presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, the Soviets never had the capacity or the intent to march through Afghanistan and seize the oil fields of the Persian Gulf. Like so much Cold War-era thinking, this was pure fantasy and the meddling that went with it anything but necessary.

After the Soviet exit, Afghanistan fell into a long period of chaos, as various mujahideen leaders became local warlords, fought with one another, and terrorized average Afghans. Frustrated by their venality, former mujahideen, aided by students radicalized in madrassas in Pakistani refugee camps (schools that had often been financed by America’s stalwart partner, Saudi Arabia), formed the Taliban movement. Many of its leaders and soldiers had once been funded and armed by the CIA. By 1996, it had swept to power in most of the country, implementing a reign of Islamist terror. Still, that movement was broadly popular in its early years for bringing order to chaos and misery.

And let’s not forget one other small but influential mujahideen group that the U.S. had backed: the “Afghan Arabs,” as they were called – fiercely Islamist foreigners who flocked to that country to fight the godless Soviets. The most notable among them was, of course, Osama bin Laden – and the rest, as they say, is history.

Bin Laden and other Afghan War veterans would form al-Qaeda, bomb American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, blow up the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000, and take down the Twin Towers and part of the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. These, though, were only the most well known acts of those anti-Soviet war vets. Thousands of Afghan Arabs left that war zone and returned to their own countries with plenty of zeal and fight still in them. Those veterans would then form local terror organizations that would challenge or help destabilize secular governments in the Middle East and North Africa.

After 9/11, the question on many American minds was simple enough: “Why do they hate us?” Too few had the knowledge or the sense of history that might have led to far more relevant questions: How did the U.S. contribute to what happened and to what extent was it blowback from previous American operations? Unfortunately, few such questions were raised as the Bush administration headed into what would become a 17-year, still-spreading regional war not on a nation or even a set of nations, but on a tactic, “terror.”

Still, it’s worth reflecting on America’s complicity in its own 9/11 devastation. In a strange fashion, given Washington’s history in Afghanistan, 9/11 could be seen as the most devastating insider attack of all.

The Many Iraq Wars (1980-present)

The 2003 invasion of Iraq – Operation Iraqi Freedom as it was optimistically named – may go down as one of the more foolish wars in American history – and many of the attacks on U.S. troops that followed from it over the years might be considered green-on-blue ones. After all, Washington would, in the end, train and back so many diffuse groups that a number of the members of various terror and insurgent outfits were once on the U.S. payroll.

It began, of course, with Saddam Hussein, the brutal Iraqi dictator whom the American people would be assured (in 1990 and again in 2003) was the “next Hitler.” In the 1980s, however, the U.S. government had backed him in his invasion of Iran (then as now considered a mortal enemy) and the eight-year stalemated war that followed. The U.S. even gave his forces crucial targeting intelligence for the use of his chemical weapons against Iranian troop formations, embittering the Iranians for years to come.

The Reagan administration also took Iraq off the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terror and even allowed the sale of components vital to Saddam’s production of those chemical weapons. Nearly a million people died in that grim war and then, just two years after it ended, the U.S. found that, for its efforts, Saddam would send his troops into neighboring Kuwait and threaten to roll over America’s key ally in the region (then as now), Saudi Arabia. That, of course, kicked off another major Iraqi conflagration, again involving Washington: the First Persian Gulf War.

At the end of that “victory,” President George H.W. Bush encouraged Iraq’s oppressed Shia and Kurdish populations to rise up and overthrow Saddam’s largely Sunni regime. And rebel they did until, bereft of the slightest meaningful support from Washington, they were defeated and massacred. More than a decade later, in 2003, when the U.S. again invaded Iraq – this time under the false pretense that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction – Americans were assured that most civilians (especially the embattled Shia majority) would cheer the arrival of Uncle Sam’s military machine.

In reality, it took less then a year for Shia militias to form and begin openly attacking U.S. troops (with a helping hand later from the Iranians, who had their own bitter American legacy to recall). You see, those Shia – unlike most Americans – still remembered how Washington had betrayed them in 1991 and so launched their own versions of insider attacks on U.S. soldiers.

However, from 2003 to 2007 (including the period when I served as part of the U.S. occupation force in Baghdad), the main threat came from Sunni insurgents. They were a diverse lot, including former Saddam loyalists and military officers (whom the U.S. had thrown out onto the street when it disbanded his army), Islamist jihadis, and Iraqi nationalists who simply opposed a foreign occupation of their country. As Iraq fell into chaos — I was there to see it happen — Washington turned to a ‘savior’ general, David Petraeus, armed with a plan to “surge” U.S. troops into key Sunni regions and lower the violence there before Democrats in Congress lost patience and started calling for an end to the American role in that country.

In the years that followed, the statistics seemed to vindicate the Petraeus “miracle.” Using divide-and-conquer tactics, he paid off the tribal leaders, who became known as the “Sunni Awakening” movement, to turn their guns on more Islamist-focused Sunni groups. Many of his new allies had only recently been insurgents with American blood on their hands.

Still, the gamble seemed to work – until it didn’t. In 2011, after the Obama administration withdrew most American troops from the country, the Shia-dominated (and U.S.-backed) government in Baghdad failed to continue to pay the “awakened” Sunnis or integrate them into the official security forces. I’m sure you can guess what happened next. Sunni grievances led to mass protests, which led to a Shia crackdown, which led to the explosion of a new insurgent terror group: the Islamic State, or ISIS, whose origins — talk about “insider” – can be traced back to the inspiration of al-Qaeda and to a group initially known as al-Qaeda in Iraq.

In fact, it was a dirty secret that many of the Awakening veterans either joined or tacitly supported ISIS in 2013 or thereafter, seeing that brutal group as the best bet for protecting Sunni power from Shia chauvinism and American deceit. Soon enough, the U.S. military was back in action (as it still is today) in response to ISIS conquests that included some of Iraq’s major cities. And if all of that doesn’t qualify as a tale of blowback, what does?

Yemen, Syria, and Beyond (2011-forever)

Syria is a humanitarian disaster area and no U.S. administration has demonstrated anything resembling a coherent or consistent strategy when it comes to that country. Torn between Iraq War fatigue and military overstretch, the Obama team waffled on what its policy there should even be and ultimately failed to achieve anything of substance — except to potentially sow the seeds for future insider attacks. Indeed, a paltry (yet startlingly expensive) CIA attempt to arm “moderate” rebels opposed to the regime of Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad turned out to be wholly counterproductive. Some of those arms were ultimately reported to have made their way into the hands of extremist groups like the al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda franchise in Syria. In a situation where truth proved more farcical than fiction, the $500 million effort to train anti-ISIS rebels managed to train “four or five” of them, according to the top U.S. military commander overseeing the Syrian effort.

In Yemen, in a Saudi-led war in which the U.S. has been shamelessly complicit, a brutal bombing campaign waged largely against civilians and a blockade of rebel ports have undoubtedly sown the seeds for future insider attacks. Beyond the staggering humanitarian toll – a minimum of 10,000 civilian deaths, mass starvation, and the outbreak of the world’s worst cholera epidemic in modern memory –there is already strategic blowback that could harm future American security. As the U.S. military provides in-flight refueling of Saudi planes, smart bombs for them to drop, and vital intelligence, it is also undoubtedly helping its future enemies. The chaos, violence, and ungoverned spaces that war has created are, for instance, empowering the al-Qaeda franchise there, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), one of the most active and dangerous jihadist crews around. When, however, AQAP inevitably succeeds in some future strike aimed at Americans or their property, precious few pundits and policymakers will call it by its proper name: an insider attack.

So, as we lament the death of yet another soldier in a green-on-blue strike in Afghanistan, it’s worth thinking about the broader contours of U.S. policy across the Greater Middle East and Africa in these years. Is anything the U.S. doing, anyone it is empowering or arming, likely to make the Middle East or America any safer? If not, wouldn’t a different, less interventionist approach be the essence of sober strategy?

It may, of course, be too late. Washington’s military policies since 9/11 have alienated tens of millions of Muslims across the Greater Middle East and elsewhere. Grievances are gestating, plots unfolding, and new terror outfits gaining recruits due to the very presence of the U.S. military, its air power, and the CIA’s drone force in a “war” that is about to enter its 18th year. Seen in this light, it’s hard not to believe that more anti-U.S. “insider” attacks aren’t on the way.

The question is only where and when, not if.

By Danny SJURSEN
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