Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/402/4573
al-Qa'ida: US imperialism's deadly legacy
THE LONDON bombings have drawn attention to the Islamic terrorist training camps operating in the Afghanistan/Pakistan border areas. However, as the book review below (reprinted from The Socialist 21/9/2001) shows, the Taliban and Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'ida network are the deadly legacies of US imperialism's Cold War strategy.
GEORGE W BUSH should reflect that it was his father, George Bush senior, (a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director), who as US vice-president in the 1980s, helped arm, train and finance Bin Laden and his fellow Islamist groups to wage a guerrilla war against the Soviet army, then occupying Afghanistan.
The details of this anti-Soviet alliance and the reactionary Islamist guerrilla groups that were covertly built during the war - principally by the CIA - and who, afterwards, then exported their terror abroad, are amassed in John Cooley's book, Unholy Wars.
During the Cold War a central part of the strategy to protect US and Western imperialism's interests in the Middle East, ie its vital oil and gas supplies and the state of Israel, was to form anti-communist alliances with Islamic groups.
But in 1979 the West's ally, the Shah of Iran, was overthrown and the anti-US, Shi'ite Muslim regime of cleric and dictator Ayatollah Khomeini came to power. This new regional power was also seen as a threat by the Sunni Muslim regime of Saudi Arabia.
According to Cooley:
"Anti-Soviet and simultaneous anti-Shi'ite (read anti-Iranian) policies suited Saudi objectives perfectly. Pakistan, anxious to exclude both Russian and Iranian influence in its region and thus secure trade routes to the vast markets of central Asia for itself, had congruent reasons...
So in the mid-1980s, the marriage of convenience between the United States and militant Sunni Islam became a more complicated, three-way working alliance of Washington with Islamabad and Riyadh."
THE CIA using third countries, principally Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, built a 50,000-strong mercenary army to fight the Russians. Billions of US dollars, matched by donations from rich Saudi tycoons like bin Laden, money from the fraudulent Bank of Credit and Commerce International and the proceeds of drugs money funded this secretive campaign.
The collapsing, Stalinist-run Soviet state couldn't sustain its war in Afghanistan and in 1989 President Gorbachev withdrew the Soviet army.
"Now under the American presidency of George Bush (1989-93), the CIA celebrated its victory with champagne.
Nevertheless the holy alliance of the Americans and the Islamist forces against the Russians had ended in a series of distinctly unholy wars and epidemics of violence, affecting much more than the ex-Soviet Union.
Afghanistan lay in ruins, wasted by the jihad ['holy war'] and the civil warfare that has followed almost constantly since the CIA 'victory'." (Unholy Wars, p3)
After the Afghan war many war veterans returned to their home countries either as members of bin Laden's al-Qaida organisation or home-grown versions, such as Egypt's al-Gihad group. The latter was responsible for the massacre of tourists at Luxor in 1997.
At the 1995 and 1996 trials in the US when the blind cleric Sheikh Omar Rahman and his co-defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Centre and other crimes, all references connecting the defendants to the Afghan war and the CIA did not appear in the public court records. The CIA was covering up its tracks.
So, when Western leaders call for a campaign against "global terrorism" it's worth reminding these 'defenders of civilisation' that they nurtured those terror groups that are now branded as public enemies.
Unholy Wars - Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism, by John K Cooley. £14.99. Pluto Press.
Available from Socialist Books (Add 10% post and packing)
PO Box 24697, London E11 1YD. Tel: 020 8988 8789.
Fax: 020 8988 8787. email: email@example.com
In The Socialist 21 July 2005: