The Theatre of Good and Evil
by Eduardo Galeano
Who is Osama bin Laden?
by Michel Chossudovsky
U.S. Policy Toward Political Islam
by Stephen Zunes
excerpted from the book
September 11 and the U.S. War
Beyond the Curtain of Smoke
Edited by Roger Burbach and Ben Clarke
City Lights Books, 2002
The Theatre of Good and Evil by Eduardo Galeano
In the struggle of Good against Evil, it's always the people
who get killed.
The terrorists killed workers of 60 countries in NYC and DC,
in the name of Good against Evil. And in the name of Good against
Evil President Bush has promised vengeance: "We will eliminate
Evil from the world," he announced.
Eliminate Evil? What would Good be without Evil? It's not
just religious fanatics who need enemies to justify their madness.
The arms industry and the gigantic war machine of the U.S. also
needs enemies to justify its existence. Good and evil, evil and
good: the actors change masks, the heroes become monsters and
the monsters heroes, in accord with the demands of the theatre's
This is nothing new. The German scientist Werner von Braun
was evil when he invented the V-2 bombers that Hitler used against
London, but became good when he used his talents in the service
of the United States. Stalin was good during World War Two and
evil afterwards, when he became the leader of the Evil Empire.
In the cold war years John Steinbeck wrote: "Maybe the whole
world needs Russians. I suppose that even in Russia they need
Russians. Maybe Russia's Russians are called Americans."
Even the Russians became good afterwards. Today, Putin can add
his voice to say: "Evil must be punished."
Saddam Hussein was good, and so were the chemical weapons
he used against the Iranians and the Kurds. Afterwards, he became
evil. They were calling him Satan Hussein when the U.S. finished
up their invasion of Panama to invade Iraq because Iraq invaded
Kuwait. This was Father Bush s war against Evil. With the humanitarian
and compassionate spirit that characterizes his family, he killed
more than 100,000 Iraqis, the vast majority of them civilians.
Satan Hussein stayed where he was, but this number one enemy
of humanity had to step aside and accept becoming number two enemy
of humanity. The bane of the world is now called Osama bin Laden.
The CIA taught him everything he knows about terrorism: bin Laden,
loved and armed by the U.S. government, was one of the principal
"freedom fighters" against Communism in Afghanistan.
Father Bush occupied the Vice Presidency when President Reagan
called these heroes 'the moral equivalents of the Founding Fathers.'
Hollywood agreed. They filmed Rambo 3: Afghani Muslims were the
good guys. Now, 13 years later, in the time of Son Bush, they
are the worst bad guys.
Henry Kissinger was one of the first to react to the recent tragedy.
"Those who provide support, financing, and inspiration to
terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves," he
intoned, words that Son Bush would repeat hours later.
If that's how it is, the urgent need right now is to bomb
Kissinger. He is guilty of many more crimes than bin Laden or
any terrorist in the world. And in many more countries. He provided
"support, financing, and inspiration" to state terror
in Indonesia, Cambodia, Iran, South Africa, Bangladesh, and all
the South American countries that suffered the dirty war of Plan
On September 11, 1973, exactly 28 years before Twin Towers
fires, the Presidential Palace in Chile was stormed. Kissinger
had written the epitaph for Allende and Chilean democracy long
before when he commented on the results of the elections: "I
don't see why we have to stand by and watch a country go communist
because of the irresponsibility of its own people."
Who is Osama bin Laden? by Michel Chossudovsky
A few hours after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade
Centre and the Pentagon, the Bush administration concluded, without
supporting evidence, that Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda organization
were prime suspects. CIA Director George Tenet stated that bin
Laden has the capacity to plan "multiple attacks with little
or no warning." Secretary of State Colin Powell called the
attacks "an act of war" and President Bush confirmed
in an evening televised address to the nation that he would "make
no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts
and those who harbor them." Former CIA Director James Woolsey
pointed his finger at "state sponsorship," implying
the complicity of one or more foreign governments. In the words
of former National Security Adviser, Lawrence Eagleburger, "I
think we will show when we get attacked like this, we are terrible
in our strength and in our retribution."
Meanwhile, parroting official statements, the Western media
has approved the launching of "punitive actions" directed
against civilian targets. In the words of William Safire writing
in the New York Times: "When we reasonably determine our
attackers' bases and camps, we must pulverize them-minimizing
but accepting the risk of collateral damage-and act overtly or
covertly to destabilize terror's national hosts."
Prime suspect in the New York and Washington terrorists attacks,
branded by the FBI as an "international terrorist" for
his role in the African U.S. embassy bombings, Saudi-born Osama
bin Laden was recruited during the Soviet-Afghan war "ironically
under the auspices of the CIA, to fight Soviet invaders."
In 1979, "the largest covert operation in the history of
the CIA" was launched in response to the Soviet invasion
of Afghanistan in support of the pro-Communist government of Babrak
Kamal. With the active encouragement of the CIA and Pakistan's
Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) who wanted to turn the Afghan
jihad into a global war waged by all Muslim states against the
Soviet Union, some 35,000 Muslim radicals from 40 Islamic countries
joined Afghanistan's fight between 1982 and 1992. Tens of thousands
more came to study in Pakistani madrassahs. Eventually more than
100,000 foreign Muslim radicals were directly influenced by the
The Islamic jihad was supported by the United States and Saudi
Arabia with a significant part of the funding generated from the
Golden Crescent drug trade. In March 1985, President Reagan signed
National Security Decision Directive 166, which authorized stepped-up
covert military aid to the mujahideen, and it made clear that
the secret Afghan war had a new goal: to defeat Soviet troops
in Afghanistan through covert action and encourage a Soviet withdrawal.
The new covert U.S. assistance began with a dramatic increase
in arms supplies-a steady rise to 65,000 tons annually by 1987,
as well as a "ceaseless stream" of CIA and Pentagon
specialists who traveled to the secret headquarters of Pakistan's
ISI on the main road near Rawalpindi, Pakistan. There the CIA
specialists met with Pakistani intelligence officers to help plan
operations for the Afghan rebels.
The CIA, using Pakistan's ISI, played a key role in training
the mujahideen. In turn, the CIA-sponsored guerrilla training
was integrated with the teachings of Islam: Predominant themes
were that Islam was a complete socio-political ideology, that
holy Islam was being violated by the atheistic Soviet troops,
and that the Islamic people of Afghanistan should reassert their
independence by overthrowing the leftist Afghan regime propped
up by Moscow.
Pakistan's Intelligence Apparatus
Pakistan's ISI was used as a go-between. The CIA covert support
to the jihad operated indirectly through the Pakistani ISI-the
CIA did not channel its support directly to the mujahideen. For
these covert operations to be successful, Washington was careful
not to reveal that the ultimate objective of the jihad consisted
of destroying the Soviet Union.
In the words of the CIA's Milton Beardman, "We didn't
train Arabs." Yet according to Abdel Monam Saidali, of the
Al-aram Center for Strategic Studies in Cairo, bin Laden and the
"Afghan Arabs" had been given "very sophisticated
types of training that was allowed to them by the CIA." CIA's
Beardman confirmed, in this regard, that Osama bin Laden was not
aware of the role he was playing on behalf of Washington. In the
words of bin Laden (quoted by Beardman): "Neither I, nor
my brothers saw evidence of American help."
Motivated by nationalism and religious fervor, the Islamic
warriors were unaware that they were fighting the Soviet Army
on behalf of Uncle Sam. While there were contacts at the upper
levels of the intelligence hierarchy, Islamic rebel leaders in
theatre had no contacts with Washington or the CIA. With CIA backing
and the funneling of massive amounts of U.S. military aid, the
Pakistani ISI had developed into a "parallel structure wielding
enormous power over all aspects of government." 6 The ISI
had a staff composed of military and intelligence officers, bureaucrats,
undercover agents and informers, estimated at 150,000.
Meanwhile, CIA operations had also reinforced the Pakistani
military regime led by General Zia ul Haq: "Relations between
the CIA and the ISI [Pakistan's military intelligence] had grown
increasingly warm following [General] Zia's ouster of Bhutto and
the advent of the military regime." During most of the Afghan
war, Pakistan was more aggressively anti-Soviet than even the
United States. Soon after the Soviet military invaded Afghanistan
in 1980, Zia ul Haq sent his ISI chief to destabilize the Soviet
Central Asian states. The CIA only agreed to this plan in October
1984. Both Pakistan and the United States took the line of deception
on Afghanistan with a public posture of negotiating a settlement
while privately agreeing that military escalation was the best
The Golden Crescent Drug Triangle
The history of the drug trade in Central Asia is intimately
related to the CIA's covert operations. Prior to the Soviet-Afghan
war, opium production in Afghanistan and Pakistan was directed
to small regional markets. There was no local production of heroin."
In this regard, Alfred McCoy's study confirms that within two
years of the onslaught of the CIA operation in Afghanistan, "the
Pakistan-Afghanistan borderlands became the world's top heroin
producer, supplying 60 percent of U.S. demand. In Pakistan, the
heroin-addict population went from near zero in 1979. . . to 1.2
million by 1985-a much steeper rise than in any other nation."
CIA assets controlled this heroin trade. As the mujahideen guerrillas
seized territory inside Afghanistan, they ordered peasants to
plant opium as a revolutionary tax. Across the border in Pakistan,
Afghan leaders and local syndicates under the protection of Pakistan
Intelligence operated hundreds of heroin laboratories. During
this decade of wide-open drug dealing, the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Agency in Islamabad failed to instigate major seizures or arrests.
U.S. officials had refused to investigate charges of heroin dealing
by its Afghan allies because U.S. narcotics policy in Afghanistan
has been subordinated to the war against Soviet influence there.
In 1995, the former CIA director of the Afghan operation, Charles
Cogan, admitted the CIA had indeed sacrificed the drug war to
fight the Cold War. "Our main mission was to do as much damage
as possible to the Soviets. We didn't really have the resources
or the time to devote to an investigation of the drug trade....
I don't think that we need to apologize for this. Every situation
has its fallout.... There was fallout in terms of drugs, yes.
But the main objective was accomplished. The Soviets left Afghanistan."
In the Wake of the Cold War
In the wake of the Cold War, the Central Asian region is not
only strategic for its extensive oil reserves, it also produces
three quarters of the World's opium, representing multibillion
dollar revenues to business syndicates, financial institutions,
intelligence agencies and organized crime. The annual proceeds
of the Golden Crescent drug trade (between 100 and 200 billion
dollars) represents approximately one third of the worldwide annual
turnover of narcotics, estimated by the United Nations to be of
the order of $500 billion. With the disintegration of the Soviet
Union, a new surge in opium production has unfolded. (According
to U.N. estimates, the production of opium in Afghanistan in 1998-99-coinciding
with the build-up of armed insurgencies in the former Soviet republics-reached
a record high of 4600 metric tons. Powerful business syndicates
in the former Soviet Union allied with organized crime are competing
for the strategic control over the heroin routes.
The ISI's extensive military-intelligence network was not
dismantled in the wake of the Cold War. The CIA continued to support
the Islamic jihad out of Pakistan. New undercover initiatives
were set in motion in Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Balkans.
Pakistan's military and intelligence apparatus essentially "served
as a catalyst for the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the
emergence of six new Muslim republics in Central Asia".
Meanwhile, Islamic missionaries of the Wahhabi sect from Saudi
Arabia had established themselves in the Muslim republics as well
as within the Russian federation, encroaching upon the institutions
of the secular State. Despite its anti-American ideology, Islamic
fundamentalism was largely serving Washington's strategic interests
in the former Soviet Union. Following the withdrawal of Soviet
troops in 1989, the civil war in Afghanistan continued unabated.
The Taliban were being supported by the Pakistani Deobandis and
their political party the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI). In 1993,
JUI entered the government coalition of Prime Minister Benazir
Bhutto. Ties between JUI, the Army and the ISI were established.
In 1995, with the downfall of the Hezb-I-Islami Hektmatyar government
in Kabul, the Taliban not only instated a hard-line Islamic government,
they also "handed control of training camps in Afghanistan
over to JUI factions."
And the JUI, with the support of the Saudi Wahhabi movements,
played a key role in recruiting volunteers to fight in the Balkans
and the former Soviet Union. Jane's Defense Weekly confirms in
this regard that "half of Taliban manpower and equipment
originate[d] in Pakistan under the ISI." In fact, it would
appear that following the Soviet withdrawal both sides in the
Afghan civil war continued to receive covert support through Pakistan's
In other words, backed by Pakistan's military intelligence
(ISI) which in turn was controlled by the CIA, the Taliban Islamic
State was largely serving American geopolitical interests. The
Golden Crescent drug trade was also being used to finance and
equip the Bosnian Muslim Army (starting in the early 1990s) and
the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). In last few months, there is
evidence that mujahideen mercenaries are fighting in the ranks
of KLA-NLA terrorists in their assaults into Macedonia.
No doubt, this explains why Washington had closed its eyes
on the reign of terror imposed by the Taliban, including the blatant
derogation of women's rights, the closing down of schools for
girls, the dismissal of women employees from government offices
and the enforcement of "the Sharia laws of punishment."
The War in Chechnya
With regard to Chechnya, the main rebel leaders Shamil Basayev
and Al Khattab were trained and indoctrinated in CIA-sponsored
camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to Yossef Bodansky,
director of the U.S. Congress's Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional
Warfare, the war in Chechnya had been planned during a secret
summit of Hezbollah International held in 1996 in Mogadishu, Somalia.
The summit was attended by Osama bin Laden and high-ranking Iranian
and Pakistani intelligence officers. In this regard, the involvement
of Pakistan's ISI in Chechnya "goes far beyond supplying
the Chechens with weapons and expertise: the ISI and its radical
Islamic proxies are actually calling the shots in this war."
Russia's main pipeline route transits through Chechnya and
Dagestan. Despite Washington's perfunctory condemnation of Islamic
terrorism, the indirect beneficiaries of the Chechen war are the
Anglo-American oil conglomerates which are vying for control over
oil resources and pipeline corridors out of the Caspian Sea basin.
The two main Chechen rebel armies (respectively led by Commander
Shamil Basayev and Emir Khattab) estimated at 35,000 strong were
supported by Pakistan's ISI, which played a key role in organizing
and training the Chechen rebel army: In 1994, the ISI arranged
for Basayev and his trusted lieutenants to undergo intensive Islamic
indoctrination and training in guerrilla warfare in the Khost
province of Afghanistan at Amir Muawla camp, set up in the early
1980s by the CIA and ISI and run by famous Afghani warlord Gulbuddin
Hekmatyar. In July 1994, upon graduating from Amir Muawia, Basayev
was transferred to Markaz-i-Dawar camp in Pakistan to undergo
training in advanced guerrilla tactics. In Pakistan, Basayev met
the highest ranking Pakistani military and intelligence officers:
Minister of Defense General Aftab Shahban Mirani, Minister of
Interior General Naserullah Babar, and the head of the ISI branch
in charge of supporting Islamic causes, General Javed Ashraf (all
now retired). High-level connections soon proved very useful to
Following his training and indoctrination stint, Basayev was
assigned to lead the assault against Russian federal troops in
the first Chechen war in 1995. His organization had also developed
extensive links to criminal syndicates in Moscow as well as ties
to Albanian organized crime and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).
In 1997-98, according to Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB)
"Chechen warlords started buying up real estate in Kosovo
. . . through several real estate firms registered as a cover
Basayev's organization has also been involved in a number
of rackets including narcotics, illegal tapping and sabotage of
Russia's oil pipelines, kidnapping, prostitution, trade in counterfeit
dollars and the smuggling of nuclear materials (See "Mafia
linked to Albania's collapsed pyramids.") Alongside the extensive
laundering of drug money, the proceeds of various illicit activities
have been funneled towards the recruitment of mercenaries and
the purchase of weapons.
During his training in Afghanistan, Shamil Basayev linked
up with Saudi born veteran mujahideen commander "Al Khattab"
who had fought as a volunteer in Afghanistan. Barely a few months
after Basayev's return to Grozny, Khattab was invited (early 1995)
to set up an army base in Chechnya for the training of mujahideen
fighters. According to the BBC, Khattab's posting to Chechnya
had been "arranged through the Saudi Arabian based [International]
Islamic Relief Organization, a militant religious organization,
funded by mosques and rich individuals which channeled funds into
Since the Cold War era, Washington has consciously supported
Osama bin Laden, while at same time placing him on the FBI's "most
wanted list" as the world's foremost terrorist. While the
mujahideen are busy fighting America's war in the Balkans and
the former Soviet Union, the FBI, operating as a U.S.- based police
force-is waging a domestic war against terrorism, operating in
some respects independently of the CIA which has since the Soviet-Afghan
war supported international terrorism through its covert operations.
In a cruel irony, while the Islamic jihad featured by the
Bush Administration as "a threat to America" is blamed
for the terrorist assaults on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon,
these same Islamic organizations constitute a key instrument of
U.S. military-intelligence operations in the Balkans and the former
In the wake of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington,
the truth must prevail to prevent the Bush Administration together
with its NATO partners from embarking upon a military adventure
which threatens the future of humanity.
U.S. Policy Toward Political Islam by Stephen Zunes
The perceived growth of radical Islamic movements throughout
the Middle East and beyond has not only caused major political
upheaval in the countries directly affected but has placed political
Islam at the forefront of concerns voiced by U.S. policy makers.
One unfortunate aspect of this newfound attention has been the
way it has strengthened ugly stereotypes of Muslims already prevalent
in the West. This occurs despite the existence of moderate Islamic
segments and secular movements that are at least as influential
as radicals in the political life of Islamic countries.
Even though the vast majority of the world's Muslims oppose
terrorism, religious intolerance and the oppression of women,
these remain the most prevalent images of the Muslim faith throughout
the Western world. Such popular misconceptions about Islam and
Islamic movements-often exacerbated by the media, popular culture
and government officials-have made it particularly difficult to
challenge U.S. policy.
To be able to respond effectively to Islamic militancy, the
U.S. must clearly understand the reasons why a small but dangerous
minority of Muslims have embraced extremist ideologies and violent
tactics. These movements are often rooted in legitimate grievances
voiced by under-represented and oppressed segments of the population,
particularly the poor. And the U.S. is increasingly identified
with the political, social and economic forces that are responsible
for their misery. Many Muslims in the Middle East and elsewhere
are exposed not to the positive aspects of U.S. society-such as
individual liberty, the rule of law and economic prosperity-but
to the worst traits of American culture, including materialism,
militarism and racism.
Although scientific and other advances from the Muslim world
helped Europe emerge from the Dark Ages, the West has generally
viewed Islamic peoples with hostility. From the time of the Crusades
through the European colonial era to the ongoing bombing and sanctions
against Iraq, Western Christians have killed far more Muslims
than the reverse. Given the strong sense of history among Muslims,
Washington's use and threat of military force, its imposition
of punitive sanctions and its support of oppressive governments
result in a popular reaction that often takes the form of religious
When a people have lost their identity-whether it be due to
foreign occupation, war-induced relocation, the collapse of traditional
economies, or other reasons-there is a great pull to embrace something
that can provide the structure, worldview and purpose through
which to rebuild their lives. The mosque is one of the few constants
in Muslim countries undergoing great social disruption. Islam
is a faith that offers a clear sense of social justice, a feeling
of empowerment, and an obligation by individuals to challenge
those who cause the injustice. Although there has been a decidedly
reactionary orientation to some Islamic movements, other currents
within Islam have been clearly progressive.
Washington has used the threat of Islamic fundamentalism as
a justification for keeping a high military, economic and political
profile in the Middle East. Yet it has often supported Muslim
hard-liners when they were perceived to enhance U.S. interests,
as they did in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Often, extremist Islamic movements arise in direct response
to U.S. policies. The 1953 overthrow by the CIA of the moderate
constitutional government of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran, followed
by years of support for the brutal regime of the Shah, led directly
to the rise of the Islamic revolution in that country. U.S. support
for the regime of Jafaar Nimeiry during most of his repressive
16-year rule of Sudan led to the destruction of much of that country's
civil society, resulting in the 1989 coup by hardline Islamist
military officers who overthrew that country's brief democratic
experiment. During the 1970s and 1980s, the destruction of moderate
Muslim-led factions in Lebanon by U.S.-backed invasions and occupations
from Syria and Israel-and later military intervention by the U.S.
itself- led to a vacuum filled by more sectarian groups such as
Hezbollah, even as most of the other militias that once carved
up the rest of the country were disarmed by a revived central
government and its Syrian backers.
The roots of Islamic radicalism stem from economic inequality,
military occupation and authoritarianism. Given that U.S. policy
in the Middle East and elsewhere has often perpetuated such injustices,
responsibility for the rise of radical Islamic movements can often
be traced to the U.S. itself.
Problems with Current U.S. Policy
The U.S. has supported hardline Islamic movements and governments,
such as the Saudi Arabia regime, which have encouraged extremist
movements elsewhere. U.S. support for repressive governments makes
democratic and nonviolent options for the Islamic opposition extremely
difficult. Neoliberal economic development strategies-vigorously
encouraged by the U.S.-have resulted in widespread economic dislocation,
which has in turn encouraged the growth of radical Islamic movements.
Ironically, the U.S. has at times been a supporter of hardline
Islamic movements and governments. For example, Washington armed
extremist Islamic groups in Afghanistan during the 1980s during
the popular uprising against that country's communist regime backed
by Soviet occupation forces. Some of the most notorious Islamic
terrorists today-including many followers of Osama bin Laden-originally
received their training from the CIA during that period.
Despite horrific reports from Afghanistan about the Taliban
government's totalitarian theocracy, which has far surpassed the
brutality of the communist regime of the 1980s, the U.S. voiced
little opposition to the regime until it refused to extradite
bin Laden for trial on terrorism charges.
Currently, the U.S. maintains close strategic cooperation-including
massive arms transfers, training and logistics, and a permanent
military presence-with Saudi Arabia, one of the most extreme states
in the Muslim world considering its strict interpretation of Islamic
codes, repression of women and political orientation. The Saudis
have used their vast oil wealth to encourage like-minded movements
throughout the Islamic world. Some of the Islamic-identified governments
and movements the U.S. has found most troubling-the Hamas of Palestine,
the Taliban of Afghanistan, the FIS of Algeria and the military
government of Sudan-all had backing from the Saudis at some point
in their development.
Perhaps the most serious problem with U.S. policy has been
Washington's support for repressive allied governments that suppress
even moderate Islamic opposition groups. This often leads to a
backlash against any U.S. presence by Islamists reacting to American
support of what they perceive as an illegitimate government. The
U.S. has rationalized its support for several regimes engaging
in patterns of gross and systematic human rights violations as
a regrettable but necessary means of suppressing an Islamic opposition
that Washington fears would be even worse if it came to power.
In many respects, this policy closely parallels the decades of
support during the cold war of repressive right-wing governments
in the name of anticommunism. The result is similar: the lack
of open political expression encourages suppressed sectors to
ally with an underground- and often violent and authoritarian-opposition
In some cases-such as in Tajikistan and other former Soviet
republics-the U.S. has even allied with old-line Communist Party
bosses as a means of countering the growth of Islamic movements.
This occurs despite the fact that the Islamic movements in much
of Central Asia are actually quite progressive and moderate (in
part because of the strong Sufi influence) when compared with
some of their Middle Eastern and North African counterparts.
Another factor fueling radical Islamic movements has been
the perceived U.S. culpability in the deaths of Muslim civilians.
From Washington's initial failure to respond to the Serbian slaughter
of Bosnian Muslims to the sanctions against Iraq to the support
of Israeli repression against Palestinian and Lebanese civilians,
U.S. foreign policy has laid itself open to this accusation.
Extremist Islamic political forces have also arisen in areas
where there has been large-scale dislocation due to war. U.S.
support for Israel's ongoing occupation and repression in the
West Bank and Gaza Strip has contributed to the rise of Hamas
and other radical Islamic movements, despite the fact that Palestinians
historically had been more pluralistic and tolerant than many
of their Arab neighbors. Islamic extremists were never much of
a factor in Lebanese politics until after the U.S.-backed 1982
Israeli invasion and Israel's 22-year occupation of southern Lebanon.
Social dislocation can also result from uneven economic development,
as has been encouraged by the U.S. insistence on globalization
according to a neoliberal economic model. Largely unregulated
Western economic penetration in Egypt, Tunisia, the Philippines
and elsewhere has exacerbated gross wealth inequalities and triggered
disruptive internal migration, giving rise to these countries'
It would certainly be simplistic to blame the U.S. exclusively
for the rise of violent and extremist Islamic political movements.
Autocratic and misguided socialist policies in Algeria-which has
had very little U.S. influence-also resulted in an Islamic reaction
similar to movements triggered by autocratic and misguided capitalist
policies elsewhere. And in other countries, the colonial legacies
of the French and British along with certain domestic factors
have spawned extremist Islamic groups. Yet U.S. policies have
unquestionably fueled the development of this dangerous political
Military solutions-apparently preferred by the U.S. and many
of its allies-will not succeed in countering the rise of militant
Islamic movements. Nevertheless, Washington has successfully encouraged
the NATO alliance, in a desperate attempt to justify its existence
at the end of the cold war, to place challenging Islamic movements
among its top strategic priorities. NATO has already begun a dialogue
with some North African regimes regarding mutual security arrangements
against a perceived Islamic threat.
Over the past two decades, the U.S. has bombed Lebanon, Iraq,
Sudan, and Afghanistan in an effort to challenge Islamic movements
and governments viewed as antithetical to U.S. interests. Such
air strikes have not only been contrary to international law but
have also resulted in fueling anti-American hatred, particularly
when they have caused civilian casualties.
Trying to impose military solutions to what are essentially
political, economic, and social problems is doomed to fail.
Toward a New Foreign Policy
The U.S. must shift from supporting repressive governments
to encouraging greater democracy and pluralism in the Islamic
world. The U.S. must demand an end to Israel's illegal occupation
of Arab East Jerusalem and other Palestinian territories and promote
a peace agreement that recognizes the city's importance to all
three monotheistic faiths. The U.S. should support sustainable
economic development in the Islamic world, so that the benefits
of foreign investment and globalization can be more fairly distributed
with minimal social disruption.
To effectively challenge the threat from radical Islamic movements,
the U.S. must shift its focus from trying to crush such movements
to pursuing policies that discourage their emergence. Similarly,
the U.S. must recognize that not all Islamic movements are contrary
to the development of political pluralism or good relations with
the United States.
From Afghanistan to Algeria and beyond, radical Islamic movements
have grown to prominence where there has been great social dislocation
in the population, whether it be from war or misguided economic
policies. Policies designed to minimize such traumatic events
will be far more successful than military threats in encouraging
moderation in Islamic countries.
The U.S. must cease its support for autocratic regimes and
encourage greater political pluralism. In countries like Jordan,
Turkey, and Yemen, where Islamic parties have been allowed to
compete in a relatively open political process, they have generally
played a responsible-if somewhat conservative-role in the political
system. The more radical elements observable in many Islamic movements
are usually a reflection of the denial of their right to participate
in political discourse. Many radical Islamic movements, such as
those in Egypt, Palestine, and Algeria, include diverse elements.
Were they no longer under siege and instead allowed to function
in an open democratic system they would likely divide into competing
political parties ranging across the ideological spectrum.
It is noteworthy that the FIS in Algeria competed fairly and
nonviolently during that country's brief political opening in
the early 1990s, only to have its anticipated election victory
stolen in a military coup. In the aftermath, the radical GAM emerged
to launch its campaign of terror against foreigners and broad
segments of Algerian society.
Indeed, no extremist Islamic movements have ever evolved in
democratic societies. Supporting democracy would therefore be
a major step in the direction of moderating political Islam. The
U.S. must stop considering Islam to be the enemy and instead encourage
Islamic movements by working for justice and economic equality.
Washington must support the Palestinians' right to statehood
in the West Bank and Gaza, including a shared Jerusalem that would
serve as the capital of both Israel and Palestine. Both Congress
and the executive branch should rescind resolutions and past statements
that imply support for Israel's unilateral annexation of Arab
East Jerusalem and surrounding Palestinian lands. Washington must
instead recognize the city's importance to all three monotheistic
faiths. Not only would such a policy shift bring the U.S. in line
with international law, U.N. Security Council resolutions and
virtually the entire international community, but it would also
remove a highly emotional and volatile issue from the arsenal
of Islamic extremists, who exploit the widespread anger about
U.S. support for the illegal Israeli occupation of a city that
Muslims also see as holy.
The U.S. should stop pushing for radical economic liberalization
in Islamic countries, since such policies increase inequality
and result in rising materialism and conspicuous consumption for
elites at the expense of basic needs of the poor majority. Instead,
the U.S. must support sustainable economic development, so that
the benefits of foreign investment and globalization can be more
fairly distributed with minimal social disruption. Although some
Islamic traditions have proven to be relatively tolerant of autocratic
governance, the presence of corruption and a lack of concern about
social injustice by a country's leadership are generally seen
by Muslims as a violation of a social contract and must be resisted.
In many respects, political Islam has filled a vacuum that
resulted from the failure of Arab nationalism, Marxism, and other
ideologies to free Islamic countries both from unjust political,
social and economic systems and from Western imperialism. Just
because radical Islamic movements have embraced tactics and ideologies
reprehensible to most Westerners does not mean that the concerns
giving rise to such movements are without merit.
Only by addressing the legitimate grievances of these movements
will there be any hope of stopping their often illegitimate methods
and questionable ideologies. Otherwise, the U.S. may find itself
dealing with a series of conflicts that could eclipse the bloody
surrogate cold war battles that ravaged the third world in previous
Stephen Zunes is an Associate Professor of Politics and chairperson
of the Peace & Justice Studies Program at the University of
San Francisco. Zunes is also a senior analyst and the Middle East
and North Africa editor at Foreign Policy In Focus. This article
was originally published in the June 2001 issue of Foreign Policy
in Focus. www.foreignpolicy-infocus.org
11 and U.S. War