Asking Why: Americans confront their foreign policy objectives
by IMC Print Team
The American public, shocked and horrified by the vicious September 11 terrorist attacks which appear to have killed thousands of ordinary people, is starting to ask why this happened. There are places to begin looking.
Some recent anti-US sentiment, even among allies, is observable. Most recently, the US was widely denounced for its withdrawal from the Kyoto Treaty, and for its attempts to control the agenda of the World Conference Against Racism, as well as its subsequent refusal to participate in the
talks when it didn't get its way.
"Unconstrained by any superpower rival or system of global governance, the US giant has rewritten the global financial and trading system in its own interest; ripped up a string of treaties it finds inconvenient; sent troops to every corner of the globe; bombed Afghanistan, Sudan, Yugoslavia and Iraq without troubling the United Nations; maintained a string of murderous embargoes against recalcitrant regimes; and recklessly thrown its weight behind Israel's 34-year illegal military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza as the Palestinian intifada rages," wrote Seumas Milne in The Guardian(London).
Such behavior has contributed to a chronic global view of the United States as world bully. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. described the US government as "the world's leading purveyor of violence." Mahatma Ghandi, when asked what he thought of western civilization, replied: "It would be a good idea."
No such behavior, however, can justify the terrible atrocity committed on September 11th. With a few marginal exceptions, the outrage expressed over these attacks has been globally unanimous. The United States' former adversary Russia has been very supportive of US plans for a military
retaliation within Afghanistan, to the point of possibly assisting militarily.
Russians have a unique understanding of the present situation in Afghanistan. In 1979 the then Soviet Union, backing a recently installed communist government (and also seeking to control potential Islamic rebellions within adjacent central Asian Soviet republics), fought the largest war in its history there with the obvious exception of the Second World War.
The Soviets were opposed by the mujahideen, a group of factions composed of Islamic fundamentalists, tribal leaders, and others who had opposed the Afghan communists. The Soviets were well experienced in this kind of warfare, but the thing that made this war different for them was very
simple: the mujahideen we armed and supplied by the other superpower.
As the war progressed and became more horrible in terms of displaced and slaughtered civilians, the ranks of the mujahideen were swelled by Muslims from across the Arab world. Here is where we meet Osama bin Laden for the
first time: the wealthy Saudi heir brought thousands of highly trained fighters from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and other Arab nations. They were referred to as the 'Arab Afghans', and this core group has formed the backbone of bin Laden's operations subsequently.
Bin Laden and his Afghan war organization were armed and trained by the CIA to fight the Soviet army, beginning in the early 1980's. It was the US government which supported Pakistani intelligence efforts against the Soviets, which in turn created the earliest organizations that would later
emerge as the Taliban regime. Without this support, the successful guerilla campaign waged by the mujahideen against the Soviets would not have been possible: and it is the judgment of many historians that the Soviet army's
humiliating defeat in Afghanistan contributed significantly to the subsequent breakup of the Soviet Union. With 50,000 Soviet dead during the nearly decade-long war, it can correctly be referred to as the 'Soviet Vietnam.'
With the end of the Soviet war, American support to bin Laden also ended. But he and the 'Arab Afghans' had little time to rest before finding a new call to arms - the American 'occupation' of Saudi Arabia during the Gulf
War, which has subsequently become permanent. This, added to the obvious issues regarding Palestine, has provided bin Laden with the political backing within the Arab world to expand his network and activities greatly- with the US increasingly the single target of his terror attacks- in the
last few years. And so this man who was once a fast ally of the United States against the mutually adversarial Soviet Union is now our determined enemy.
Evergreen State College professor of political economy Larry Mosqueda adds,"The same is true of Saddam Hussein of Iraq, who was a CIA asset in Iraq during the 1980s. Hussein could gas his own people, repress the population, and invade his neighbor (Iran) as long as he did it with US approval. The
same was true of Manuel Noriega of Panama, who was a contemporary and CIA partner of George H. Bush in the 1980s."
As Americans seek answers to their questions about this terrible atrocity which has been committed against them, some of their inquiry will need to focus on the nature of allies they have chosen (and in some cases created)
for their own foreign policy objectives.