FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Secret to Our Nation’s Security

Photo by ShashiBellamkonda | CC BY 2.0

Photo by ShashiBellamkonda | CC BY 2.0

Stoking the flames of Islamophobia to find a culprit for our “security problem” is not only 180º off the mark but inflicts great harm out of sheer ignorance.  If the president wants to “figure out what the hell is going on,”[1] all he needs to do is look at our history in the Middle East, a history that has been kept from most Americans.  Had the United States not made an unholy alliance with and cultivated violent, reactionary religious forces in its quest for empire in the Middle East and beyond, there would be no Islamist “threat” today.

The story includes contemporary actors such as al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, and goes back almost a century to a long line of religious fanatics considered useful to U.S policy goals.

Born out of Great Britain’s imperial Great Game struggle against czarist Russia over control of Central Asia, London was quick to support the revivalist, pan-Islamic alliance proposed in 1885 by Persian-born Jamal Eddine al-Afghani to secure and expand British rule over the millions of Muslims in its colonies along with those who might be culled from a faltering Ottoman Empire. The opportunistic al-Afghani’s scheme would lay the groundwork for the fundamentalist movement that would take hold from Egypt to Afghanistan, to purge the Muslim world of secularist “infidels” and return to the former glory of the 7th century caliphate, when in fact, these concepts run contrary to the majority of Muslims and are a perversion of the Islamic faith.

But it served the British well, as they propped up kings and fought off nationalist, independence movements throughout the Realm.  At about the same time as the al-Afghani pact, Great Britain had begun another alliance: with the marauding desert conquerors, the Al Saud family, devoted to mercilessly slaughtering all who opposed their puritan Wahhabi beliefs, laying waste to cities and holy places across the Arabian peninsula.

By 1915, with the scent of petroleum in the air, London had proclaimed Ibn Saud “ruler” under their protection, who, in turn, pledged his loyalty to the Crown. Lavishly financed, Ibn Saud and his brutal Ikhwan warriors waged scorched-earth battles to conquer Arabia in the 1920s for their patrons.[2]  By 1927, the new Saudi state would become a base for right-wing Islamism, and the United States would soon take over England’s role as benefactor.

The two trends ─al Afghani’s and the Saudi Wahhabis─ would come together in the founding of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna.  A grant from the British Suez Canal Company along with Saudi funding launched the spread of political Islam across the globe. Before long, an intelligence service and paramilitary units were formed, placing thugs at the service of Egypt’s king. In 1942, a secret terrorist unit began carrying out assassinations of government officials and judges, and attacking labor unions and left-wing political groups. While the Muslim Brotherhood’s leadership was aligned with the monarchy, its membership was largely anti-imperialist, a fact lost on US intelligence services.  By the end of World War II, the Muslim Brotherhood’s staunch anti-communism fit right into the Cold War campaign.[3]  Enter the United States.

In exchange for Saudi oil and political support in the region, President Franklin D. Roosevelt cements an oil-for-security agreement with the Saudi King in a secret meeting aboard the USS Quincy in the Suez Canal in February 1945: the US vowed to defend the monarchy against all foes, internal or external. Noting the importance of petroleum to military superiority, FDR had declared two years earlier, “I hereby find that the defense of Saudi Arabia is vital to the defense of the United States.”

Was it vital to the defense of the United States?  What it did was set up a situation where we committed to militarily defend a corrupt, feudal monarchy that practiced public beheadings for such “crimes” as blasphemy and disloyalty to the royal family, in exchange for the assurance of discounted oil to expand our sphere of influence.

Blinded by anti-communism and its own thinly-veiled desire for empire in the Middle East, the U.S. threw itself against independence and nationalist movements. Seeing the Islamists as tools for its political aims, it partnered with Saudi fundamentalism and the Muslim Brotherhood against Egypt’s legendary nationalist, Gamal Nasser,[4] who sought an end to British rule and their Arab monarchies.  Aiming at another “enemy,” U.S. and British intelligence agencies orchestrated the overthrow of Iran’s democratically-elected Prime Minister Mossadegh[5] for wresting Iran’s oil back from the hands of the British. The United States would ally with Islamist “true believer” forces in Pakistan, Algeria and Sudan, and in its most costly historical error, take the fight to Afghanistan.

Obsessed with controlling the world’s oil supply and bringing down the Soviet Union, U.S. policymakers could not see the dangerous double-edged sword they were wielding. President Eisenhower and his State Department delighted in the prospect of using Islamic fundamentalists as a weapon against the USSR when they invited Said Ramadan, ideologue and chief international organizer of the Muslim Brotherhood, to the White House. The son-in-law of the organization’s founder, Hassan al-Banna, Ramadan had traveled throughout the Arab world establishing branches of the Brotherhood that already had numerous assassinations of Egyptian officials under its belt, including a prime minister, and had been banned by the time of the 1953 visit. Washington was content to overlook the group’s history of terrorist violence to achieve its geo-political goals.

Before the end of his term, Eisenhower solidified the Saudi Arabia alliance, even while the radical-right Islamists had become an official part of Saudi foreign policy and were sending out missionaries around the world. The Muslim World League and the Islamic Conference were established in the 1960s, followed by the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) in 1972, whose U.S. branch was directed by Abdullah bin Laden in Falls Church, Virginia, and would later come under investigation by the FBI.[6]

As military support increased through the successive presidencies of Johnson, Nixon, and Reagan, so did the dogged insistence that Islamists were the key to winning the Cold War.  It reached a fever pitch when Pres. Carter’s National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, proposed arming radical fundamentalists in Afghanistan to give the Soviet Union “its own Vietnam.”[7] In July 1979, Carter signed a directive for secret aid to arm a small group of Muslims in order to lure the Soviet Union into “the Afghan trap,” an invasion in support of its ally.  And the gamble worked.  In the CIA’s largest covert operation ever, the secret plan was carried out through the Pakistani intelligence service (ISI), ultimately funding, arming and training some 35,000 Islamic extremists between 1979-1989. This army of mujahideen was led by Osama bin Laden, hailed by Ronald Reagan as a “freedom fighter.”  When Brzezinski was asked as late as 1998 (with several al Qaeda attacks on U.S. installations already on record) about the menace represented by these fundamentalists, and the fact that the 10-year “holy war” had ushered in the Taliban, he was adamant that “some stirred-up Moslems” were of little consequence compared to the chance to mire the USSR in its own Vietnam.  “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet Empire? [8]

From Freedom Fighters to Public Enemy #1

In this successful, multi-billion dollar proxy war, fully funded by the subsequent Reagan and Bush administrations and their willing partner, Saudi Arabia, tens of thousands of Islamist extremists thronged to Afghanistan, filled with religious fervor for the holy war to expel the invading Soviet “infidels” from a Muslim land.  Through training camps in Pakistan, the CIA provided the world’s most sophisticated weaponry and support: from satellite reconnaissance data to plastic explosives, anti-aircraft Stinger missiles, and secure communications gear.  The Saudi monarchy appeased growing dissent at home through this “defense of Islam”.  Osama bin Laden became a hero, and the world’s best-trained guerrilla fighter was assured of his ability to bring a superpower to its knees.

As the campaign waned in 1988, Osama developed plans to expand the jihad to Chechnya, Bosnia, Sudan and Eritrea.  Al Qaeda (“the Base”) was formed and a “Golden Chain” of Saudi funding sources was drawn up and tapped for contributions.[9]  The civil war that ensued after the Soviet withdrawal was ultimately decided by the head of Saudi Intelligence: Prince Turki al-Faisal sent massive financial support to one faction: the fundamentalist religious students, the Taliban.[10]

But when Saudi Arabia allowed the U.S. to establish a permanent military presence in the country after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait (1990), Osama bin Laden declared a holy war against the Saudi monarchy and those who sustain it, i.e. the United States, perceiving this to be a foreign military occupation of Islam’s holiest sites. Grievances accumulated over the treatment of Palestinians as well as the attempt to impose a US pipeline through Afghanistan. It would only be a matter of time before a blow would be dealt on our shores.

Lessons to be Learned

As in the tale of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, the brooms started spinning out of control.  The forces we thought could be used and discarded, never to be seen again, took on a life of their own.   The myopic, self-serving policies pursued by the likes of Zbigniew Brzezenski and George H. W. Bush have not been justified by history but rather proven to be colossal, fatal misdeeds that are the very cause of our current insecurity.  Was it worth breaking the Soviet Union at the cost of a worldwide al Qaeda network?  The September 11 attack has its roots in our cultivation of a virulent strain of religious fanatics about whom we only had a superficial knowledge, in the name of money and power.  The US invasion of Iraq not only reduced the country to ashes but brought al Qaeda to a nation where it had never existed before.  These forces then morphed into the seemingly invincible Islamic State, ISIS.  Where is the enlightened vision expected of our leaders?

If you do unto others what you wouldn’t want done to you, you forfeit the right to cry foul.

And the worst sin – which we must correct post haste – is to vilify and blame an entire religion for the actions of a deviant offshoot, one that we helped create, no less.  To paint all Muslims or Islam as the enemy is a most despicable act of cowardice and dangerous political opportunism.  It is immoral on its face.  And today’s Muslim Brotherhood is nothing like its 20th century version. If the president can now distinguish between “radical Islamic terrorism”[11] and the other 1.6 billion adherents of Islam, the world’s second largest religion, then he should take the lead in recognizing our responsibility as a nation for the immense harm done. That would be a necessary first step towards dismantling the security threat.  We urgently need to proclaim and acknowledge the truth before we are swept beyond the point of no return.

Essential Reading 

Robert Baer, “The Fall of the House of Saud,” The Atlantic, May 2003,

Robert Dreyfuss, Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam, Metropolitan Books, New York

Craig Unger, House of Bush, House of Saud, Scribner, New York, 2004

Notes.

[1] Donald J. Trump Statement on Preventing Muslim Immigration, https://www.donaldjtrump.com/press-            releases/donald-j.-trump-statement-on-preventing-muslim-   immigration and rally, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, Dec. 7, 2015, “Trump calls for ‘total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,’” by Jenna Johnson December 7, 2015, The Washington Post

[2] Robert Dreyfuss, Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam, MetropolitanBooks, New York, 205, pp, 39-43.

[3] Ibid, pp. 47-56

[4] Nasser’s pro-US successor, Anwar Sadat, would be assassinated by members of the Al Jihad movement, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.  Among the suspects were the “Blind Sheik,” Omar Abdel Rahman, convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and Ayman al-Zawahiri, who would later become Osama bin Laden’s top lieutenant. See Craig Unger, House of Bush, House of Saud, Scribner, New York, 2004, pp. 57, 147.

[5] The CIA funded a group of fanatical ayatollahs including Khomeini, source of a major US headache as leader of

the 1979 US Embassy hostage crisis in Teheran.  Dreyfuss, pp. 94-95. See also the Iran-Contra scandal, Unger, pp. 62-65, and the “October Surprise,” pp.292-93.

[6] Nephew of Osama bin Laden, WAMY office was just a few blocks from where four of the 9/11 hijackers lived. Court documents alleged that WAMY espoused hatred of Jews and celebrated people who murdered Israelis as heroes. The FBI investigation was stymied- told to “see no evil.”  Sources: Greg Palast, BBC Newsnight, “Has someone been sitting on the FBI?” 6/11/01, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/events/newsnight/1645527.stm;

Jerry Markon, “U.S. Raids N. Va. Office Of Saudi-Based Charity,” Washington Post, June 2, 2004, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A7918-2004Jun1.html

[7] Dreyfuss, p. 265.

[8] “Zbigniew Brzezinski: How Jimmy Carter and I Started the Mujahideen”, Le Nouvel Observateur, France, Jan.15-

21, 1998; also cited in Craig Unger, House of Bush, House of Saud, Scribner, New York, 2004, p. 110

[9] Internal documents found by Bosnian police in a March 2002 raid on Benevolence International Foundation in Sarajevo.

[10] Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquié, Forbidden Truth, Thunder’s Mouth Press/Nation Books, New York, 2002, p. 18.

[11] Remarks by President Trump in Joint Address to Congress, February 28, 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/02/28/remarks-president-trump-joint-address-congress

More articles by:

Jeanne LaRoux is an NGO consultant working in human rights and social justice.  She   can be reached at: LaRoux4U17@gmail.com

June 20, 2018
Bill Hackwell
Unprecedented Cruelty Against Immigrants and Their Children
Paul Atwood
“What? You Think We’re So Innocent?”
Nicola Perugini
The Palestinian Tipping Point
K.J. Noh
Destiny and Daring: South Korean President Moon Jae-In’s Impossible Journey Towards Peace
Gary Leupp
Jeff Sessions and St. Paul’s Clear and Wise Commands
M. G. Piety
On Speaking Small Truths to Power
Dave Lindorff
Some Straight Talk for Younger People on Social Security (and Medicare too)
George Wuerthner
The Public Value of Forests as Carbon Reserves
CJ Hopkins
Confession of a Putin-Nazi Denialist
David Schultz
Less Than Fundamental:  the Myth of Voting Rights in America
Rohullah Naderi
The West’s Over-Publicized Development Achievements in Afghanistan 
Dan Bacher
California Lacks Real Marine Protection as Offshore Drilling Expands in State Waters
Lori Hanson – Miguel Gomez
The Students of Nicaragua’s April Uprising
Russell Mokhiber
Are Corporations Are Behind Frivolous Lawsuits Against Corporations?
Michael Welton
Infusing Civil Society With Hope for a Better World
June 19, 2018
Ann Robertson - Bill Leumer
We Can Thank Top Union Officials for Trump
Lawrence Davidson
The Republican Party Falls Apart, the Democrats Get Stuck
Sheldon Richman
Trump, North Korea, and Iran
Richard Rubenstein
Trump the (Shakespearean) Fool: a New Look at the Dynamics of Trumpism
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Protect Immigrant Rights; End the Crises That Drive Migration
Gary Leupp
Norway: Just Withdraw From NATO
Kristine Mattis
Nerd Culture, Adultolescence, and the Abdication of Social Priorities
Mike Garrity
The Forest Service Should Not be Above the Law
Colin Todhunter
Pro-GMO Activism And Smears Masquerade As Journalism: From Seralini To Jairam Ramesh, Aruna Rodrigues Puts The Record Straight
Doug Rawlings
Does the Burns/Novick Vietnam Documentary Deserve an Emmy?
Kenneth Surin
2018 Electioneering in Appalachian Virginia
Nino Pagliccia
Chrystia Freeland Fails to See the Emerging Multipolar World
John Forte
Stuart Hall and Us
June 18, 2018
Paul Street
Denuclearize the United States? An Unthinkable Thought
John Pilger
Bring Julian Assange Home
Conn Hallinan
The Spanish Labyrinth
Patrick Cockburn
Attacking Hodeidah is a Deliberate Act of Cruelty by the Trump Administration
Gary Leupp
Trump Gives Bibi Whatever He Wants
Thomas Knapp
Child Abductions: A Conversation It’s Hard to Believe We’re Even Having
Robert Fisk
I Spoke to Palestinians Who Still Hold the Keys to Homes They Fled Decades Ago – Many are Still Determined to Return
Steve Early
Requiem for a Steelworker: Mon Valley Memories of Oil Can Eddie
Jim Scheff
Protect Our National Forests From an Increase in Logging
Adam Parsons
Reclaiming the UN’s Radical Vision of Global Economic Justice
Dean Baker
Manufacturing Production Falls in May and No One Notices
Laura Flanders
Bottom-Up Wins in Virginia’s Primaries
Binoy Kampmark
The Anguish for Lost Buildings: Embers and Death at the Victoria Park Hotel
Weekend Edition
June 15, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Dan Kovalik
The US & Nicaragua: a Case Study in Historical Amnesia & Blindness
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Yellow Journalism and the New Cold War
Charles Pierson
The Day the US Became an Empire
Jonathan Cook
How the Corporate Media Enslave Us to a World of Illusions
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail