[vorbis] Our Sympathies

Randolph Carter mythos at zxmail.com
Fri Sep 14 23:20:13 PDT 2001

                                              War Against the Planet 
                                                      Vijay Prashad
       President George W. Bush of the United States appeared on
television sets across the world on the 11th of
       September and declared war against the planet. Not only will
those who committed the dreadful crimes of the
       morning be brought to justice, he declared, but so too will those
who once harbored and now continue to harbor
       Supply ships have started their way to Diego Garcia in the Indian
Ocean, and toward Spain. A large part of the
       $40 billion designated by the US Congress will go toward the
preparations that have already begun within the US
       military establishment, in close contact with its allies.
       The Taliban, in Afghanistan, quickly pleaded that the suffering
of its poor should not be increased with the
       wrath of the cruise missiles. So did Libya's Gaddafi.
       Others, such as Pakistan, hastily declared their fealty to the US
strike back, and pledged to allow planes to
       fly over its territory. India was not far behind, eager to allow
its land for what may be the largest assault
       since the bombardment of Cambodia and Iraq.
       One commentator on the US television networks lamented that the
US lost its virginity at 845am on 9/11 when the
       first plane struck the World Trade Center.
       But the war did not begin at that time. This was not Pearl
Harbor. The war has been ongoing for quite some time
       now, at least for five decades.
       Indeed, five decades ago the United States assumed charge of that
band of nations that stretches from Libya to
       Afghanistan, most of whom are oil rich and therefore immensely
important for global capitalism. The
       civilizational mandate held by France and Britain came to a close
when World War II devastated Europe, and it
       fell to the US to adopt the white man's burden. It did so with
glee, indeed on behalf, for the most part, of the
       Seven Sisters, the largest oil conglomerates in the world (most
of them US-based transnational corporations).
       Alliances forged with right-wing forces in these regions found
fellowship from the US, just as the Left
       fashioned relations with the USSR. The United States participated
in the decimation of the Left in north Africa
       and west Asia, from the destruction of the Egyptian Communist
Party, the largest in the region, to the rise of
       people like Saddam Hussein to take out the vibrant Iraqi
Communist Party, and of the Saudi financier Osama bin
       Laden to take down the Communist Afghan regime.
       We hear that 9/11 was the "worst terrorist attack in history,"
but this ignores the vast history of bombardment,
       in general, tracked by Sven Lindquist in his new book (for the
New Press), and it certainly ignores the many
       terrorist massacres conducted in the name of the United States,
for instance, such as at Hallabja in Iraq or
       else in South America by Operation Condor. These are just a few
examples. But what is that history before 845am
       on 9/11, and will it show us that "retaliation" misses out the
fact that the US has been at war for many decades
       I. The Afghan Concession.
       In 1930, a US State Department "expert" on Afghanistan offered an
assessment which forms the backbone of US
       social attitudes and state policy towards the region:
"Afghanistan is doubtless the most fanatic hostile country
       in the world today." Given this, the US saw Afghanistan simply as
a tool in foreign policy terms and as a mine
       in economic terms. When the Taliban (lit. "religious students")
entered Kabul on 27 September 1996, the US state
       welcomed the development with the hope that the new rulers might
bring stability to the region despite the fact
       that they are notoriously illiberal in social terms. The US media
offered a muted and clichéd sense of horror at
       the social decay of the Taliban, but without any sense of the US
hand in the manufacture of such theocratic
       fascists for its own hegemonic ends. In thirty years, Afghanistan
has been reduced to a "concession" in which
       corporations and states vie for control over commodities and
markets without concern for the dignity and destiny
       of the people of the region. Oil, guns, landmines and heroin are
the coordinates for policy-makers, not the
       shadowy bodies that hang from the scaffolds like paper-flags of a
nation without sovereignty.
       Shortly after the Taliban took power in Kabul, the US State
Department offered the following assessment:
       "Taliban leaders have announced that Afghans can return to Kabul
without fear, and that Afghanistan is the
       common home of all Afghans," announced spokesperson Glyn Davies.
The US felt that the Taliban's assertion in
       Kabul would allow "an opportunity for a process of reconciliation
to begin." Reconciliation was a distant dream
       as the troops led by the Tajik warlord, Ahmed Shah Masood and the
troops led by General Abdul Rashid Dostum and
       the Hazara-dominated Hezb-e-Wahdat party disturbed the vales of
Afghanistan with warfare. Citizens of the
       advanced industrial states mouthed clichés about "timeless ethnic
warfare" and "tribal blood-feuds" without any
       appreciation of the history of Afghanistan that produced these
political conflicts (in much the same way as the
       media speaks of the Tutsi-Hutu turmoil without a sense of
colonial Belgium's role in the production of these
       politico-ethnic conflicts).
       In 1964, King Zahir Shah responded to popular pressure from his
subjects with a constitution and initiated a
       process known as "New Democracy." Three main forces grew after
this phase: (1) the communists (who split into
       two factions in 1967, Khalq [the masses] and Parcham [the flag]);
(2) the Islamic populists, among whom
       Burhanuddin Rabbani's Jamiat-i-Islami from 1973 was the main
organization (whose youth leader was the
       engineering student, Gulbuddin Hikmatyar); (3) constitutional
reformers (such as Muhammad Daoud, cousin of Zahir
       Shah, whose coup of July 1973 abolished the monarchy). Daoud's
consequent repression against the theocratic
       elements pushed them into exile from where they began, along with
the Pakistani Jamaat-I-Islami and the Saudi
       Rabitat al-Alam al-Islami, to plot against the secular regime in
Afghanistan. In 1975, for instance, the
       theocratic elements, led by Hikmatyar in Paktia, attempted an
uprising with Pakistani assistance, but the
       "Panjsher Valley incident" was promptly squashed. The first split
amongst the theocratic elements occurred in
       the aftermath of this incident. Instability in Afghanistan led to
the communist coup in 1978 and the eventual
       Soviet military presence in the region from 1979. The valiant
attempts to create a democratic state failed as a
       result of the inability of hegemonic states to allow the nation
to come into its own.
       From 1979, Afghanistan became home to violence and heroin
production. Money from the most unlikely sources
       poured into the band of mujahidin forces located in Pakistan: the
US, the Saudis (notably their general
       intelligence service, al-Istakhbara al-'Ama), the Kuwaitis, the
Iraqis, the Libyans and the Iranians paid the
       theocratic elements over $1 billion per year during the 1980s.
The US-Saudi dominance in funding enabled them to
       choose amongst the various exiled forces -- they, along with the
Pakistanis, chose seven parties in 1981 that
       leaned more towards theocratic fascism than toward secular
nationalism. One of the main financiers was the Saudi
       businessman, Osama bin Laden. Five years later, these seven
parties joined the Union of Mujahidin of
       Afghanistan. Its monopoly over access to the US-Saudi link
emboldened it to assassinate Professor Sayd Bahauddin
       Majrooh in Peshawar in 1988 when he reported that 70% of the
Afghan refugees wanted a return to the monarchism
       of Zahir Shah (who waited in a Roman suburb playing chess).
Further, the Interim Islamic Government of
       Afghanistan called a shura (council) in 1989; the seven parties
nominated all the representatives to the body.
       All liberal and left wing elements came under systematic attack
from the shura and its armed representatives.
       The US-Saudi axis anointed the theocratic fascists as the heirs
to Afghanistan.
       With over $1 billion per year, the mujahidin and its Army of
Sacrifice (Lashkar-i Isar) led by Hikmatyar (who
       was considered the main "factor of stability" until 1988) built
up ferocious arsenals. In 1986, they received
       shoulder-fired Stinger missiles that they began to fire
indiscriminately into civilian areas of Afghanistan.
       Asia Watch, in 1991, reported that Hikmatyar paid his commanders
for each rocket fired into Kabul. Claymore
       mines and other US-made anti-personnel directional fragmentation
mines became a staple of the countryside.
       Today, about 10 million mines still litter the vales of
Afghanistan (placed there by the Soviets and by the
       US-Saudi backed mujahidin). In 1993, the US State Department
noted that landmines "may be the most toxic and
       widespread pollution facing mankind." Nevertheless, the US
continues to sell mines at $3/mine (mines cost about
       $300-$1000/mine to detect and dismantle). Motorola manufactures
many of the plastic components inside the mines,
       which makes the device undetectable by metal-detectors.
       The CIA learnt to extend its resources during the Southeast Asian
campaigns in the 1970s by sale of heroin from
       the Golden Triangle. In Afghanistan, the Inter-Service
Intelligence (ISI) [Pakistan's CIA], the Pakistani
       military and civilian authorities (notably Governor Fazle Huq)
and the mujahidin became active cultivators,
       processors and sellers of heroin (a commodity which made its
Southern Asian appearance in large numbers only
       after 1975, and whose devastation can be gleaned in Mohsin
Hamid's wonderful novel, Moth Smoke). The opium
       harvest at the Pakistan-Afghan border doubled between 1982 and
1983 (575 tons), but by the end of the decade it
       would grow to 800 tons. On 18 June 1986, the New York Times
reported that the mujahidin "have been involved in
       narcotics activities as a matter of policy to finance their
operations." The opium warlords worked under cover
       of the US-Saudi-Pakistani axis that funded their arms sales and
aided the conveyance of the drugs into the
       European and North American markets where they account for 50% of
heroin sales.
       Heroin is not the only commodity flogged by the mujahidin. They
are the front-line troops of an ensemble that
       wants "commercial freedom" in Afghanistan so that the Afghan
people and land can be utilized for "peaceful"
       exploitation. The California-based oil company Unocal (76), then
busy killing the Karens and other ethnic groups
       in alliance with the Burmese junta and with the French oil
company Total, had its eyes on a pipeline from
       Central Asia to the Indian Ocean, through Afghanistan. Only with
an end to hostilities, at any cost, will the
       international corporations be able to benefit from the minerals
and cheap labor of the Afghans. So far, the
       corporations have reaped a profit from sales of arms to the
Afghans; now they want to use the arms of the
       Afghans for sweatshops and mines.
       For corporations and for corporatized states (such as the US), an
unprincipled peace allows them to extract
       their needs without the bother of political dissent. The Taliban
briefly offered the possibility of such a
       peace. Formed in 1994 under the tutelage of the ISI and General
Naseerullah Khan (Pakistan's Interior Minister),
       the Taliban comprises southern Pashtun tribes who are united by a
vision of a society under Wahhabism which
       extols a form of Islam (Tariqa Muhammadiya) based on its
interpretation of the Quran without the benefit of the
       centuries of elaboration of the complexities of the Islamic
tradition. In late September 1996, Radio Kabul
       broadcast a statement from Mullah Agha Gulabi: "God says that
those committing adultery should be stoned to
       death. Anybody who drinks and says that that is not against the
Koran, you have to kill him and hang his body
       for three days until people say this is the body of the drinker
who did not obey the Koran and Allah's order."
       The Taliban announced that women must be veiled and that
education would cease to be available for women.
       Najmussahar Bangash, editor of Tole Pashtun, pointed out shortly
thereafter that there are 40, 000 war widows in
       Kabul alone and their children will have a hard time with their
subsistence. Further, she wrote, "if girls are
       not allowed to study, this will affect a whole generation." For
the US-Saudi-Unocal-Pakistan axis, geo-politics
       and economics make the Taliban a worthy regime for Afghanistan.
Drugs, weapons and social brutalities will
       continue, but Washington extended a warm hand towards Mullah
Mohammed Omar and the Taliban. US foreign policy is
       driven by the dual modalities of containment (of rebellion
inspired by egalitarianism) and concession (of goods
       which will bring profit to corporate entities). Constrained by
these parameters, the US government was able to
       state, in 1996, "there's on the face of it nothing objectionable
at this stage."
       Certainly, on 10 October 1996, the State Department revised its
analysis of the Taliban on the basis of
       sustained pressure from Human Rights and women's groups in the
advanced industrial states as well as pressure
       from the conferences held by Iran (at which numerous regional
nations, such as India participated). In conflict
       with its earlier statement, the US declared "we do not see the
Taliban as the savior of Afghanistan. We never
       really welcomed them." The main reason offered for this was the
Taliban's "uniquely discriminatory manner" with
       women. The US state department would have done well to mention
the heroic attempt made by the communist regime
       to tackle the "woman question." In late 1978, the regime of Nur
Mohammad Taraki, President of the Revolutionary
       Council of Afghanistan, promulgated Decree no. 7 which aimed at a
transformation of the marriage institution by
       attacking its monetary basis and which promoted equality between
men and women. Women took leadership positions
       in the regime and fought social conservatives and theological
fascists on various issues. Anahita Ratebzad was a
       major Marxist leader who sat on the Revolutionary Council; other
notable leaders included Sultana Umayd, Suraya,
       Ruhafza Kamyar, Firouza, Dilara Mark, Professor R. S. Siddiqui,
Fawjiyah Shahsawari, Dr. Aziza, Shirin Afzal and
       Alamat Tolqun. Ratebzad wrote the famous Kabul Times editorial
(28 May 1978) which declared that "Privileges
       which women, by right, must have are equal education, job
security, health services, and free time to rear a
       healthy generation for building the future of the
country....Educating and enlightening women is now the subject
       of close government attention." The hope of 1978 is now lost and
the pessimism must not be laid at the feet of
       the Taliban alone, but also of those who funded and supported the
Taliban-like theocratic fascists, states such
       as the US, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
       The real reason for the US frustration with the Taliban was its
recalcitrance toward global capitalism (as an
       example, the Unocal scheme fell apart). The Taliban, created by
many social forces, but funded by the Saudis
       (such as bin Laden) and the CIA, was now in the saddle in the
center of Asia, and it soon became a haven for
       disgruntled and alienated young men who wanted to take out their
wrath on the US rather than fight against the
       contradictions of global capital. Bin Laden, the CIA asset,
became the fulcrum of many of their inchoate fears
       and angers.
       II. Oil, Guns and Saddam.
       During the Gulf War of 1991, a decade ago, the US-Europe
discovered the Kurds for a few years. The Kurds and the
       Kuwaitis provided the war aims for the Alliance, since we kept
hearing how Saddam Hussein's armies had exploited
       both. Oil is not the reason, we were repeatedly told; we are only
concerned for the ordinary people of the
       region oppressed by these madmen, such as Saddam Hussein, Hafez
al-Assad and the Ayatollahs. We heard little
       about the recently closed Iran-Iraq war, about the various
contradictions in the region, indeed about the role
       of the US-Europe for several decades in the fabrication of the
regimes that ruled here. As the cruise missiles
       fell on Iraq, we did not then hear that the first major aerial
bombardment in modern times took place in
       December 1923 when the Royal Air Force pummeled the rebellious
Kurds (they felt the wrath of the guns again in
       March 1924, not being disciplined firmly enough by Headmaster
       In 1932 the British put in place the puppet royal dynasty, the
al-Saud family to rule the Arabian Peninsula as
       Saudi Arabia. This regime was to protect the "interests" of
global capitalism, particularly after oil was
       discovered there in the early 1930s. The British put King Faisal
over the newly created Iraq, a Sunni leader
       over a predominantly Shi'ite land. Workers movements in the
region came under attack from these regimes, many of
       which violently crushed democratic dissent in the name of the
dollar. Henry Kissinger was later to create
       political theory of a policy that had been long in the works:
that the US should lock arms with any political
       leader who will resist the will of socialism, who will ensure
that international capitalism's dictates be
       maintained and who can therefore be a "factor of stability." The
rogue gallery of this policy includes a host of
       CIA assets, such as the Noreiga, Marcos, Pinochet, Suharto, the
Shah of Iran, the various Gulf Sheikhs, and
       latterly such fundamentalist friends as the BJP in India. Even
when some of these leaders flirted with the
       Soviets (Saddam and al-Assad), their usefulness to US policy
prevented a break in their links to the CIA, mainly
       to contain domestic left-wing dissent. The Ayatollah may have
been a natural asset, but his regime was stamped
       by a radical and patriarchially egalitarian Shi'ism that
terrified the Oil Kingdoms, whose tenuous rule was now
       bolstered even further by the armies of the imperial powers and
their proxy state at this time, Iraq. When the
       Iran-Iraq war broke out, people spoke of it as a sectarian war
between Shias and Sunnis, but few pointed out
       that Iraq has a large Shia population and that Iraq fought
primarily with the backing of the US and its alliance
       to "contain" the Iranian revolution and the rule of the Mullahs.
Saddam, then, was friend not foe.
       During these years, no one mentioned the Kurds. For decades the
communist movement grew amongst the Kurds, both
       in Turkey and in northern Iraq. But by the early 1970s, the CIA
entered the battlefield to cut down the left and
       bolster the right. Between 1972 and 1975 the CIA paid $16 million
to the eccentric and untrustworthy Mullah
       Mustafa Barzani as a "moral guarantee" of US support for this
activities. In 1959, Barzani had expelled the
       communists from his mainly Iraqi party and he had sent Iranian
Kurds to their death in the camps of the Shah.
       Barzani was an asset that the US cultivated, and is now a close
ally of Saddam Hussein, another US asset. In
       1975, Marxist-Leninists within the Kurdish resistance formed the
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which
       pushed many Kurds to the Left, including those in the Iraqi
Kurdish Front formed in 1988. Saddam Hussein was
       given the green light by Washington to take out the PUK, and he
conducted chemical bombing on them in 1983 (at
       Arbil) and most spectacularly in 1988 (at Halabja, where five
thousand died, and many thousand continue to
       suffer). The outrage of Halabja created a momentary stir in the
Left media, but nothing was done then because
       Saddam was a US ally and asset - it returned to do ideological
work during the Gulf War. As many died at Halabja
       as on 9/11, but their death does not factor in when NPR announces
that 9/11 was the "worst terrorist attack in
       history." When terror is conducted in our name, then it is not
terror but "retaliation."
       III. Revenge or Justice?
       President Bush promises to get those who did the bombings in New
York and Washington, but he also promises that
       those who harbor them will feel the wrath of the US. This is the
most dangerous statement so far. Not only does
       it violate all manner of international laws, it ignores the fact
that the US has harbored these criminals for
       years, mainly at the expense of the global Left. Saddam and bin
Laden are products of the US, even as they, like
       Frankenstein's beast, turn against their master now. The lesson
is not to continue the madness, to go after the
       symptom with $40 billion of firepower. The lesson, for all
democratic minded people, is to undermine the basis
       of our global insecurity.
       First those people who did the horrendous deed on 9/11 must be
found, arrested and brought to trial. The path of
       justice should not be short-circuited by the emotions of the
       Second, our fight in the US continues, as we continue to point
out that US foreign policy engenders these acts
       of barbarism by its own desire to set-up strong-arm "factors of
stability" in those zones of raw materials and
       markets that must be subservient to US corporate interests. Vast
areas of anger, zones of resentment will
       continue to emerge - this is not the way forward. Another
indiscriminate bombardment will bring forth more body
       bags for the innocent.
       History shows us that the US was not innocent on 9/11, even as
thousands of innocent people died. We should not
       confuse these two things: the terrorists made no distinction
between those who conduct political and economic
       terror over their lives, between a regime that they dislike,
corporate interests that they revile and innocent
       people who live in the same spaces. The terror of the frustrated
works alongside the terror of the behemoth to
       undermine the powerful and democratic urges of the people. Both
of those terrors must be condemned. 
       Vijay Prashad Associate Professor and Director, International
Studies Program 214 McCook, Trinity College,
       Hartford, CT. 06106. 860-297-2518.

--- >8 ----
List archives:  http://www.xiph.org/archives/
Ogg project homepage: http://www.xiph.org/ogg/
To unsubscribe from this list, send a message to 'vorbis-request at xiph.org'
containing only the word 'unsubscribe' in the body.  No subject is needed.
Unsubscribe messages sent to the list will be ignored/filtered.

More information about the Vorbis mailing list