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Stirring the Afghan Pot

Muslim Fundamentalism Feeds on Murdered Taliban

By Jim Kinser
30 November 2001

Apart from their disturbing religious medievalism, the deranged hijackers who introduced fear and vulnerability to the contemporary American psyche on September 11, 2001, had one other common characteristic: their young age. The oldest of them, Egyptian-born Mohammed Atta, had celebrated his 33rd birthday ten days prior to his suicide. Almost all of the remaining 18 hijackers, including Saudi pilots Marwan Al Shehhi and Abdulaziz Alomari, were born after 1974.

As any FBI criminal psychologist will confirm, a suspect's age is key to understanding their criminal mentality. In this case, the young age of the hijackers can lead one to useful conclusions regarding their political convictions, which led them to their voluntary deaths.

Think about it: at the age of 14 or 15, when these young men were beginning to comprehend the world around them through the eyes of an adult, Muslim societies were being stunned by the deliberate US-led extermination of the people of Iraq. Instrumental in this extermination -which, due to the continuing embargo, has by now assumed biblical proportions- was the unwillingness of Western military and civilian leaders to distinguish between the megalomaniac dictator Saddam Hussein and the people enslaved under his murderous reign.

The irony of this lack of US strategic insight would have been hilarious, if it wasn't so traumatic for people on the ground: the US nurtured and supported Hussein's Ba'ath party throughout its rule, and even during the conflict with Iran. It was at this time that Iraqi democrats were willing and indeed able to overthrow Hussein and his cronies. Yet the US blatantly ignored them. On top of that, during the 1980s, US-made weapons were used to murder tens of thousands of freethinking Kurds and Iraqis who needed Western assistance more than ever before, or even since. Then, once Hussein's policies turned against US interests in the area, Iraqi citizens -not Saddam Hussein- became indiscriminate targets of 100,000 tons of US bombs. The latter killed nearly 200,000 people and crippled the country's civilian infrastructure.

No side involved in the Gulf War got anything out of it. The Iraqis had their country destroyed; the Israelis saw their sworn enemies in the area multiply; the Iranians were swamped with refugees, while the Saudis and Kuwaitis had to foot the bill for Desert Storm. From a US point of view, the Gulf War was a strategic failure. Saddam Hussein's imperialistic plans for the unification of the Middle East under Iraqi dominance were restrained, but his political might inside Iraq was anything but. In addition, despite asserting, for the first time, its military dominance in the oil-infested Middle East, the US did not solve its long-term energy goals. Had it done so, American men and women would not be dying in the desert mountain steppes of Afghanistan today.

More importantly, the US and UK-sponsored Iraqi genocide served to rejuvenate Islamic fundamentalism primarily in the Middle East and, gradually, in North Africa, the Caucasus and South Asia. This increase was not only in numbers, but also in brainpower: the plight of the Iraqis pushed anti-Western and anti-American ideology into the Saudi, Egyptian and Lebanese Muslim middle classes. In turn, this brought into the movement much-needed young and educated men, who were wealthy enough to contribute significantly to the financial repository of militant organizations and skilled enough to empower the technological armory of armed factions, such as Al Quaida. The 19 men who terrorized the US on September 11 were characteristic examples of this new generation of militants that have brought about the escalation of large scale, indiscriminate attacks against Western targets throughout the 1990s.

The Gulf War was not the first time that US and Western involvement in the Arab and Muslim worlds helped reproduce armies of Mujahedeen -literal translation "holy warriors"- who then targeted Western military personnel and civilians. The pro-Israeli stance of the US during the 1967 Six Day war and later during the 1973 Yom Kippur war nurtured successive generations of Muslim fundamentalists who terrorized the US up until the end of the Reaganite period. In 1988, the USS Vincennes shot down an Iran Air passenger plane over the Persian Gulf, killing all 290 passengers on board. This served as justification for a series of anti-American attacks carried out by Muslim militants in later years.

The ongoing US involvement in Afghanistan shows that we are about to witness the same exact series of events. The unimaginative Cold Warriors in charge of the US Foreign and Defense Departments are faithfully following the Gulf War recipe: (a) risk few, if any, US lives so that voters at home won't lose their cool; (b) carpet-bomb large masses of land killing anything that moves; (c) demoralize the local population in the hope that desperation will somehow get them on our side; and (d) let local mercenaries commit the war crimes and crimes against humanity that our forces are too civilized to carry out.

This tactic is merciless enough to offer limited immediate gains. Yet, in the long term, it will produce another generation of deranged and hate-filled militants who will be terrorizing our communities in the years to come. The merciless US offenses against the civilian populations of Kabul, Kandahar, Jalalabad, Khanabad and many other Afghan towns and cities will not contribute toward the stability and security of the American nation and the American people. The mass extermination of prisoners of war in Quala-i-Jhangi and Mazar-i-Sharif, under the silent agreement of US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and in the presence of US troops, will not help heal the wounds of September 11. The illegal and indiscriminate executions by Northern Alliance militants of hundreds of Pashtuns in Kunduz will not make Muslims and Arabs more sympathetic to US doctrines and policies.

A new generation of fundamentalist militants is in the making. At this very time, stunned teenagers throughout the Muslim world are taking the decision to follow the example of Atta, Alomari and their collaborators in driving a spear through the heart of "the godless sons of Satan". Our immature and thoughtless actions in Afghanistan have made sure that, sooner or later, they will.

© The News Insider 2001 Jim Kinser is a News Insider Assistant Editor.

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