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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
It is a pity that Barnaby Joyce, a man of tact, diplomacy, nuance and subtlety, isn’t going to Indonesia to fix things up. I know I am disappointed that Barnaby is missing out on this great opportunity, and I am sure the Indonesians feel the same way. [Sarcasm alert.] (0)



How the US created Osama bin Laden

On July 3 1979, US President Jimmy Carter, under advice from National Security Adviser Zbignew Brzezinski, signed the first directive allowing secret aid to be given to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime that had recently come to power in Afghanistan.

It marked the beginning of a now infamous convergence of interests, which saw the CIA, the Saudi Arabian regime and the Pakistani Interservices Intelligence Directorate (ISI) equip and train the Islamist mujahideen resistance to the Soviet Union.

For the US, this was an immense opportunity. In the preceding 5 years, they had been booted out of both Vietnam and Iran. It had been “the most humiliating half decade in American history”. 

Now they sought to hand the Soviet Union their own Vietnam by luring them into an intractable guerilla war in Central Asia.

Over more than a decade up to 35,000 fighters from the Muslim world were recruited, US$10 billion worth of aid channeled (including, by 1987, 65,000 tons of arms), and a “ceaseless stream” of CIA and Pentagon officials helped to plan mujahideen operations.

According to Stephen Coll, writing in The Washington Post, “at any one time during the Afghan fighting season, as many as 11 ISI teams trained and supplied by the CIA accompanied mujahideen across the border to supervise attacks… CIA operations officers helped Pakistani trainers establish schools for the mujahideen in secure communications, guerrilla warfare, urban sabotage and heavy weapons.”

But not only this. They gave support to the most retrograde elements like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. His followers, according to journalist Tim Weiner, “first gained attention by throwing acid in the faces of women who refused to wear the veil”.

The reasoning of the CIA was simple: The more fanatical the fighters were, the more brutal they were, the better they would fight so the more support they should get. Ronald Reagan – the same man who denounced the African National Congress and the Palestine Liberation Organization for not renouncing violence – described the mujahadeen as “freedom fighters.”

Reagan, now president, met in Washington with rebel leaders like Abdul Haq, who openly admitted his responsibility for terrorist attacks, such as a 1984 bomb blast at Kabul’s airport that killed at least 28 people.

Meanwhile, with CIA assistance, the mujahadeen greatly expanded opium production in areas under their control – turning Afghanistan into what one US official later described as the new Colombia of the drug world.

One of the first non-Afghan volunteers to join the ranks of the mujahideen was Osama bin Laden, hailing from a wealthy construction family in Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden recruited 4,000 volunteers from his own country and developed close relations with the most radical mujahideen leaders.

He also worked closely with the CIA, raising money from private Saudi citizens. By 1984, he was running the Maktab al-Khidamar, an organization set up by the ISI to funnel “money, arms, and fighters from the outside world in the Afghan war.”

According to journalist John Cooley, “the CIA gave Osama free rein in Afghanistan, as did Pakistan’s intelligence generals. They looked with a benign eye on the build up of Sunni sectarian power in South Asia to counter the influence of Iranian Shi’ism of the Khomeiny variety”.

By 1989 the Russians were exhausted. They indeed got their “Vietnam”. News of the Soviet defeat saw champagne corks popping all over Washington.

The cold war was about to become history – the US had triumphed.  But when the USSR finally withdrew, the administration of George Bush Sr. turned its back on Afghanistan -leaving it, in the words of The Economist, “awash with weapons, warlords and extreme religious zealotry.”

As the state funding from the Saudis and the US dried up, private financiers – like bin Laden himself – further stepped up their contributions to “the cause”. The Soviets may have gone, but there were new targets, and they weren’t limited to within Afghanistan’s borders…

Looking back on his role in the conflict Zbignew Brzezinski asked (in 1998), “What is most important to the history of the world… some stirred up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”

In light of the new “war on terror” Brzezinski’s question is tragic. The hypocrisy is there for all to see: the “terrorists” of today were trained, funded and backed by modern imperialism yesterday.

Bin Laden gave Bush just the excuse the US needed to go into Afghanistan again, and to follow it up with the obliteration of Iraq. That “war” shows that while Bin Laden may have been a useful protege, the US is still the master when it comes to terror.

This article, by Ben Hillier, first appeared in the May 2007 edition of Socialist Alternative.


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