The Guardian September 25, 2001

Why Washington wants Afghanistan

by Jared Israel, Rick Rozoff and Nico Varkevisser*

"Does my country really understand that this is World War III? And if this 
attack was the Pearl Harbour of World War III, it means there is a long, 
long war ahead." (Thomas Friedman, New York Times, (13/9/01)

Key US government representatives and media figures have used the bombing 
of the World Trade Centre (WTC) and Pentagon to create an international 
state of fear.

This has swept Washington's closest allies (notably Germany and England, 
though not Italy) into agreeing carte blanche to participate in US 

It has also served to obscure a most important question: does Washington 
have a hidden agenda here, a strategy other than hurling bombs? If so, what 
is it, and what does it mean for the world? 

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Amid the increasingly implausible and frequently contradictory explanations offered by US government officials for their inability or unwillingness to intervene effectively before and during this past Tuesday's aerial attacks and as the cries for war drown out the voices of reason a deadly scenario is unfolding. Columns in major mainstream newspapers have borne such titles as: "World War III" (New York Times,13/9/01) "Give War A Chance" (Philadelphia Inquirer,13/9/01) "Time To Use The Nuclear Option" (Washington Times 14/9/01) Deputy Secretary of Defence, Paul Wolfowitz calls for "exterminating" previously unseen assailants by "ending states who sponsor terrorism". Henry Kissinger argues (Los Angeles Times 14/9/01) that alleged terrorist networks must be uprooted wherever they exist. Former Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu writes an article entitled "Dismantle Terrorist Supporting Regimes" (Jerusalem Post 14/9/01). And to raise the level of international intimidation a notch, we have RW Apple, Jr. in the Washington Post (14/9/01) "In this new kind [of] war...there are no neutral states or geographical confines. Us or them. You are either with us or against us." Initially, a mix of countries was threatened as so-called "states supporting terrorism", who are not with us and therefore must be against us Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria. Although differing in most respects, especially political ideology, they are indeed alike in three ways they all bear decades of US government hostility; they all have secular governments; they all have no connection to Osama bin Laden. In, "Give War A Chance" (Philadelphia Inquirer) David Perlmutter warns that if these states do not do Washington's bidding, they must: "Prepare for the systematic destruction of every power plant, every oil refinery, every pipeline, every military base, every government office in the entire country ... the complete collapse of their economy and government for a generation." Meanwhile, the countries which collaborated to create the Taliban, training and financing the forces of Osama bin Laden, and which have never stopped pouring money into the Taliban namely Pakistan, close US allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and the United States itself have not been placed on the "we've got to get them" list. Instead these states are touted as core allies in the New World War against terrorism. Raising the pitch Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the US would engage in a "multi- headed effort" to target terrorist organisations and up to 60 countries believed to be supporting them. The US had "no choice other than to pursue terrorists and countries giving them refuge", said Donald Rumsfeld on American TV. The threats to bomb up to a third of the world's countries have scared many people, world-wide. This, we think, is the intention. It serves two functions. First, it means that if Washington limits its aggressive action mainly to attacking Afghanistan, the world will breathe a sigh of relief. And we think Washington will mainly attack Afghanistan at first. Other immediate violations of sovereignty, such as the forced use of Pakistan, will be backup action to support the attack on Afghanistan. There may also be some state terror, such as increased, unprovoked bombing of Iraq, as a diversion. But the main immediate focus will, we think, be Afghanistan. Second, this scare tactic is also meant to divert attention from Washington's real strategy, far more dangerous than the threat to bomb many states. Washington wants to take over Afghanistan in order to speed up the fulfilment of its strategy of pulverising the former Soviet Republics in the same way Washington has been pulverising the former Yugoslavia. This poses the gravest risks to mankind. What does Washington want with impoverished Afghanistan? To answer this question, look at any map of Europe and Asia. Consider the immense spread of the former Soviet Union, particularly Russia. European Russia is 1,747,112 square miles. That's between a third and half the landmass of all Europe. Add the Asian part of Russia and you get 6,592,800 sq. mi. That's equal to most of the US and China combined. More than half of Africa. Russia borders Finland in the far West. It borders Turkey and the Balkans in the south. It extends to the edge of Asia in the Far East. It is the rooftop of Mongolia and China. Not only is Russia spectacularly large, with incalculable wealth, mostly untapped, but it is the only world-class nuclear power besides the US. Contrary to popular opinion, Russia's military might has not been destroyed, indeed, it is arguably stronger, in relation to the US, than during the early period of the Cold War. It has the most sophisticated submarine technology in the world. If the US can break up Russia and the other former Soviet Republics into weak territories, dominated by NATO, Washington would have a free hand to exploit Russia's great wealth and do whatever it wanted elsewhere without fear of Russian power. Despite talk of Russia and the US working together, and despite the great harm that has been done to Russia by the International Monetary Fund, this remains the thrust of US policy. Afghanistan is strategically placed, not only bordering Iran, India, and even, for a small stretch, China (!) but, most important, sharing borders and a common religion with the Central Asian Republics of the former Soviet Union, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. These in turn border Kazakhstan, which borders Russia. Central Asia is strategic not only for its vast deposits of oil, as we are often told, but more important for its strategic position. Were Washington to take control of these Republics, NATO would have military bases in the following key areas: the Baltic region; the Balkans and Turkey; and these Republics. This would constitute a noose around Russia's neck. Add to that Washington's effective domination of the former Soviet Republics of Azerbaijan and Georgia, in the south, and the US would be positioned to launch externally instigated "rebellions" all over Russia. NATO, whose current doctrine allows it to intervene in states bordering NATO members, could then initiate "low intensity wars" including the use of tactical nuclear weapons, also officially endorsed by current NATO doctrine, in "response" to myriad "human rights abuses". It is ironic that Washington claims it must return to Afghanistan to fight Islamist terrorism, because it was precisely in its effort to destroy Russian power that Washington first created the Islamist terrorist apparatus in Afghanistan, during the '80s. Whatever one thinks about the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, it was in fact conceived as a defensive action to preserve, not alter, the world balance of power. It was the United States that took covert action to "encourage" Russian intervention, with the goal of turning the conservative rural Afghan tribesmen into a force to drain the Soviet Union. Zbigniew Brzezinski, the key National Security chief, admited this at the time. Consider the following excerpts from two newspaper reports. First, from the New York Times: "The Afghan resistance was backed by the intelligence services of the United States and Saudi Arabia with nearly $6 billion worth of weapons. And the territory targeted last week [this was published after the August, 1998 US missile attack on Afghanistan], a set of six encampments around Khost, where the Saudi exile Osama bin Laden has financed a kind of 'terrorist university', in the words of a senior United States intelligence official, is well known to the Central Intelligence Agency. "... some of the same warriors who fought the Soviets with the CIA's help are now fighting under Mr bin Laden's banner...."(NY Times 24/8/01) And this from the London Independent: "The Afghan Civil War was under way, and America was in it from the start - -or even before the start, if [former National Security Adviser, and currently top foreign policy strategist] Brzezinski himself is to be believed. '"We didn't push the Russians to intervene", he told an interviewer in 1998, "but we consciously increased the probability that they would do so. This secret operation was an excellent idea. Its effect was to draw the Russians into the Afghan trap. You want me to regret that?' "The long-term effect of the American intervention from cold-warrior Brzezinski's perspective was 10 years later to bring the Soviet Union to its knees. But there were other effects, too. "To keep the war going, the CIA, in cahoots with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan's military intelligence agency ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate), funnelled millions and millions of dollars to the Mujahedeen "It was the remotest and the safest form of warfare: the US (and Saudi Arabia) provided funds, and America also, a very limited amount of training. They also provided the Stinger missiles that ultimately changed the face of the war. "Pakistan's ISI did everything else training, equipping, motivating, and advising. And they did the job with panache: Pakistan's military ruler at the time, General Zia ul Haq, who himself held strong fundamentalist leanings, threw himself into the task with a passion." (London The Independent 17/9/01) Right up to the present, US ally Saudi Arabia has been perhaps the key force in financing the Taliban. But the US itself has provided direct support despite the Taliban's monstrous record of humanitarian abuse: "The Bush administration has not been deterred. Last week it pledged another $43 million in assistance to Afghanistan, raising total aid this year to $124 million and making the United States the largest humanitarian donor to the country." (The Washington Post (25/5/01) Why have the US and its allies continued up to now to fund the Taliban? And why nevertheless, is the US now moving to attack its monstrous creation? It is our conviction, and that of many observers from the region in question, that Washington ordered Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to fund the Taliban so the Taliban could do a job consolidate control over Afghanistan and from there move to destabilise the former Soviet Central Asian Republics on its borders. But the Taliban has failed. It has not defeated the Russian-backed Northern Alliance. Instead of subverting Central Asia in businesslike fashion, it has indulged in blowing up statues of Buddha and terrorising people who deviate from the Taliban's super-repressive interpretation of Islam. At the same time, Russia has also been moving in the "wrong" direction, from Washington's perspective. The completely controllable Yeltsin has been replaced with President Putin, who partially resists the US for example, putting down the CIA-backed take-over of Chechnya by Islamist terrorists linked to Afghanistan. Further, China and Russia have signed a mutual defence pact. And despite immense European/US pressure, Russian President Putin refused to condemn Belarussian President Lukashenko who, like the jailed but unbroken Yugoslav President Milosevic, calls for standing up to NATO. It is this unfavourable series of developments that has caused Washington to increase its reliance on its all-time favourite tactic extreme brinkmanship. An early sign of this brinkmanship appeared two weeks ago, just before the Presidential elections in the former Soviet Republic of Belarus. Belarus is in the Baltic region near Lithuania and Poland. Washington and the European Union loathe Lukashenko because he has refused to turn his small country over to the International Monetary Fund and dismantle all the social guarantees of the Soviet era. Moreover he called for defending Yugoslavia. He even wants Belarus, Ukraine and Russia to reunite. This desire to have former Soviet Republics get back together puts him square in the path of Washington's policy, which is to break these Republics up into even smaller pieces. Thus on the very eve of recent Belarussian Presidential elections the US Ambassador to Belarus, Kozak, wrote to "The Times London" (3/9/01) and advocated a policy which no phrase other than "state terror" can describe. Now Washington has cynically used the mass slaughter at the World Trade Centre and the lesser attack on the Pentagon to rally its NATO forces, invoking Article Five of NATO's charter, under which all members of NATO must respond to an attack on any one. This has the goal of: a) putting together a "peacekeeping force" for Afghanistan, b) launching air and possibly ground attacks; c) eliminating the obstinate and incompetent leadership of the Taliban; and d) taking direct control through the creation of a US-dominated NATO military occupation. Some argue that NATO would be crazy to try to pacify Afghanistan. They say the British failed to do it in the 1800s, and the Russians failed in the 1980s. But Washington does not need or intend to pacify Afghanistan. It needs a military presence sufficient to organise and direct indigenous forces to penetrate the Central Asian republics and instigate armed conflict. Rather than trying to defeat the Taliban, Washington will make the Taliban an offer they cannot refuse fight the US and die, or join it, getting plenty of money and guns plus a free hand to direct the drug trade, just as the US has permitted the KLA to make a fortune from drugs in the Balkans. In this way, Washington hopes to duplicate what it did in Kosovo where NATO took drug-dealing gangsters and violently anti-Serbian secessionists and out of that raw material, fashioned the terrorist Kosovo Liberation Army. In this case the raw material would mainly be members of the Taliban. They would be reorganised and under strict direction, be reborn as Liberation Fighters. They would be directed against the Central Asian Republics of the former Soviet Union. As the Central Asian Republics battle the intruders, NATO could offer them military assistance, thus penetrating the region on both sides by means of a conflict instigated by Washington. This tactic of simultaneously attacking and defending Central Asia has been employed to great effect against Macedonia. The goal is to produce decimated, NATO-dominated territories. No more Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. Then on to Kazakhstan, and then Russia. This strategy cannot be sold to the American people. We repeat: it cannot be sold. It is for that reason that the Bush administration is using the tragic nightmare of murder in New York, which itself occurred under circumstances suggesting the complicity of Washington's covert forces, to create international hysteria sufficient to drag NATO into the strategic occupation of Afghanistan and an intensified assault on the former Soviet Union. Before anyone sighs with relief, thinking, "Thank God this is all that's happening," consider that apart from the violation of national sovereignty and many other very negative aspects of Washington's plans, the attack on Afghanistan brings NATO to Russia's Central Asian doorstep. This is a strategic escalation of conflict, moving us all much closer nobody knows how much closer and nobody knows how fast things will escalate to world-wide nuclear war. Will Washington get away with it? Washington, and the giant capitalists who control it, obviously think Russia will let itself be destroyed. But then, as the Greeks say, "Pride is followed by self-destruction". The Russians are very deceptive. They try to avoid a fight. But as Adolph Hitler discovered, when they are pushed to the wall, they fight with the ferocity of lions. And they have tens of thousands of nuclear weapons. Thus Washington is playing with the possibility of a war which would make the horror that occurred at the World Trade Centre, or even the much larger-scale horror of the US terror-bombing of Yugoslavia, look like previews of hell.
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* (slightly bridged) Acknowledgement to Emperor's Clothes! or

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