.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}
Heavy-Handed Politics

"€œGod willing, with the force of God behind it, we shall soon experience a world
without the United States and Zionism."€ -- Iran President Ahmadi-Nejad

Friday, August 26, 2005

Don’t Blame the Neocons


It has become fashionable to say one of two things about al-Qa’eda (or to say both of them, if you’re really on the cutting edge). The first is to point out, as London Mayor Ken Livingstone did after the 7 July bombings, that al-Qa’eda has its origins in Western intervention in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Then, Reagan and Thatcher pumped billions of dollars into the anti-Soviet mujahedin (including Osama bin Laden’s Office of Services) and trained these erstwhile holy warriors in urban warfare, bomb-making and sabotage — the very skills that some of them use against us today. The other fashionable thing to say is that al-Qa’eda is largely the invention of American neocons. Post-9/11, apparently, Bush and co. transformed a small gang of deluded nihilists — who could no more restore the Islamic Caliphate than they could set up a base of operations on the moon — into The Greatest Threat Facing Humanity, in a desperate bid to continue winning the votes of a fearful and thus docile American electorate.

Of course, the fact that these statements are fashionable doesn’t stop them from being true (-ish). But they only tell half the story. We hear an awful lot about the birth of al-Qa’eda in the 1980s and the exaggeration about al-Qa’eda since 9/11, but very little about what happened to al-Qa’eda in the decade in between. This is peculiar because, as the US journalist Charles Krauthammer pointed out in Time magazine after 7 July, the 1990s were ‘the seminal period of al-Qa’eda recruitment’; indeed, that was ‘the period during which it created its entire worldwide infrastructure’. Or as the Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland argued (in case you would prefer to hear it from someone a little less gung-ho than the war-supporting Krauthammer), ‘the big surge in growth of extremist groups came not after 9/11 or Iraq, but in the mid-1990s.’ The seed for al-Qa’eda may have been sown during the twilight of the Cold War, but something in the Nineties allowed this terror group to metamorphose from being one small part of an Afghan-specific guerrilla army into a global, transnational, nihilistic network. What was that?

In a nutshell, in the 1990s al-Qa’eda became the armed wing of Western liberal opinion. The mujahedin may have been set up, supported and armed to the hilt by the right in the 1980s, but they fought alongside the Left in the early to mid-1990s. This was the period of the mujahedin’s second outing, when hundreds of them moved from Afghanistan following the final withdrawal of Soviet forces in 1992 to Bosnia, to fight alongside the Bosnian Muslims in a holy war against the Serbs. They moved there under the approving eye of the Clinton administration and were armed and trained by Clinton’s allies in the region, the Army of Bosnia Herzegovina (ABiH). Some of the mujahedin, especially those from Europe, including from Britain, were inspired to fight in Bosnia after watching or reading news reports in the Western media — especially the liberal media — which presented the civil war in Bosnia as a simplistic battle between good (the Muslims) and evil (the Serbs). Full story here. Free registration required.


Post a Comment

<< Home