Category Archives: Afghanistan

March of the Uyghurs

Important note: The Uyghurs have managed to create a very old and deep culture. Most of them are good, law abiding citizens of the PRC. Also the great majority of followers of Sunni Islam are peaceful people. This work is addressing terrible problems related to extremism and terrorism, most of them crafted and then fueled by the West and its allies. The goal is to damage China. The victims live in various countries.

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Uyghurs man in Istanbul

They are everywhere, where their Western, Gulf states and Turkish handlers want them to be.

Their combat as well as political cells and units are based in Syria and Indonesia, in Turkey and occasionally in Egypt.

When they are told to kill, they murder with unimaginable brutality; decapitating, or cutting to pieces priests, infants, old women.

They are China’s worst nightmare. They are unleashing religious fundamentalism and foreign-sponsored militant nationalism and separatism. They are potentially the greatest obstacle and danger to President’s Xi Jinping’s marvelous BRI (Belt and Road Initiative).

Both the West and Turkey are glorifying them; the most extremist of Uyghurs. They are financing and arming them. They are labelling them as victims. Uyghurs are now a new ‘secret weapon’, to be used against Beijing’s determined march forward, towards socialism with Chinese characteristics.

The West and its allies are doing all they can to smear China (PRC), to derail its progressive course, and to arrest its increasingly positive and optimistic influence on all the corners of the world. They invent and then support/finance all imaginable and unimaginable adversaries of the Communist Party of China. Religious sects are the favorite ‘weapon’ used against China by both North America and Europe. That is true about the extremists who belong to Tibetan Buddhism, concentrated around an agent and darling of the Western intelligence agencies, the Dalai Lama. Or yet another radical Buddhist/Taoist extremist sect – Falun Gong.

The West does everything in its power to destroy China. It was clearly detectable 30 years ago during the so-called Tiananmen Square Incident (an event supported by the West, and later twisted by Western mass media), as it has been obvious during two recent ‘rebellions’ in Hong Kong, fully sponsored by Western organizations (NGOs) and governments.

The latest chapter of the anti-Chinese attacks, conducted by the West, is perhaps the most dangerous, and the ‘best crafted’ multi-national onslaught against the interests of both China (PRC) and the developing world, particularly the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.

It is the so-called Uyghur issue.

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Muslim girls selling halal food in China

Uyghurs live predominantly in the northwest of China. They were recognized as ‘native’ in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China. They belong to one of the 55 officially recognized ethnic minorities of China, and are predominantly of Muslim faith.

For decades, some Uyghurs fought for independence from China (before the Communist PRC was declared on October 1, 1949, there were at least two Uyghur independent states declared in the region, the one most known – the First East Turkestan Republic – with the help of the Soviet Union).

Since the formation of the PRC, China has offered equal rights and constantly improving standards of living to the Uyghur minority. However, several extremist Muslim factions have kept fighting, brutally, for a Turkic independent state. They have not been representing the majority of Uyghurs, but being against the PRC, have enjoyed moral and financial support from the West, its allies in Gulf states, and from Turkey.

Dr. Gaye Christofferson, wrote in September 2002, in her work “Constituting the Uyghur in U.S.-China Relations: The Geopolitics of Identity Formation in the War on Terrorism” how divisive the actions of the Uyghurs were on the territory of the PRC:

Uyghur separatists and independence movements claim that the region is not a part of China, but that the Second East Turkestan Republic was illegally incorporated by the PRC in 1949 and has since been under Chinese occupation. Uyghur identity remains fragmented, as some support a Pan-Islamic vision, exemplified by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, while others support a Pan-Turkic vision, such as the East Turkestan Liberation Organization. A third group would like a “Uyghurstan” state, such as the East Turkestan independence movement. As a result, “[n]o Uyghur or East Turkestan group speaks for all Uyghurs, although it might claim to”, and Uyghurs in each of these camps have committed violence against other Uyghurs who they think are too assimilated to Chinese or Russian society or are not religious enough.

This was before the big propaganda push from the West; during the years when even Western academia was still relatively free to assess the situation in Xinjiang.

But soon after, the North American and European policy changed and radicalized.

In the West, the Uyghur issue was designated as ‘central’ and ‘essential’ to achieve three main goals:

  • To smear and humiliate China, portraying it as a country that ‘violates human rights’, ‘religious rights’ and the rights of minorities.
  • Uyghurs were literally inserted by NATO countries, including Turkey, into several violent combat zones: in Syria, Afghanistan and Indonesia, to name just a few, with one sole purpose: to train and to harden its fighters, who could be later deployed as de-stabilizing factors in China, Russia and former Soviet Central Asian Republics.
  • To sabotage great infrastructural projects, particularly the BRI. BRI is the brainchild of China’s President Xi Jinping. High-speed rail links, highways and other infrastructural arteries would be going through Xingjian, towards east. If brutal terrorist attacks backed by the West and its Islamist allies, and perpetrated by the Uyghur terrorists, would shake the region, the entire project which has been created in order to help to improve life for the entire humanity, (by wrestling various poor and developing countries from deadly Western neo-colonialist embrace), could be jeopardized, even collapse.

But what is really happening?

For several years, I investigated this ‘issue’; in China and Syria, in Turkey, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Indonesia.

It is because I consider it to be one of the most important and one of the most dangerous issue our planet is now facing.

I was able to trace patterns, and to find roots. What I discovered is disturbing and threatening. For China and for the world.

The “March of Uyghurs” is backed by “useful idiots”, all over the Western world, but also in Turkey, and elsewhere. They want to “defend victims”, but in this case, the ‘victims’ are actually ‘victimizers’ and usurpers.

Here I am putting my findings (and the findings of other colleagues and comrades) on the record. I do it so no one who is searching for truth would be able to say now or in ten years: “I did not know”, or “The information has not been available.”

Before we begin, let me point out how enormous the hypocrisy of the West is: The TIP (Turkistan Islamic Party, which is the militant wing of the Uyghur’s separatist Turkistan Islamic Movement (TIM)), has been designated as a terrorist organization by China. But not by China alone; also, by the European Union. Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Pakistan! The terrorists supported by the West and at least by part of its public, is designated as a terrorist organization by London, Brussels and Washington.

Using Western logic, it is obviously quite acceptable to train terrorists in Syria or Indonesia, for the horrible mass killing of Chinese people, but it is not acceptable to have them operate on the territory of European Union, or the United States.

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Office of Uyghurs in Istanbul

The frontal Western attack against China and its actions in Xingjian began in 2018. Propaganda salvos were fired long before, but the ‘semi-official’ beginning of the ideological combat came in August 2018, when Reuters published a story with the title “UN says it has credible reports that China holds million Uighurs in secret camps.” It went like this:

GENEVA (Reuters) – A United Nations human rights panel said on Friday that it had received many credible reports that 1 million ethnic Uighurs in China are held in what resembles a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy.”

Gay McDougall, a member of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, cited estimates that 2 million Uighurs and Muslim minorities were forced into “political camps for indoctrination” in the western Xinjiang autonomous region. 

“We are deeply concerned at the many numerous and credible reports that we have received that in the name of combating religious extremism and maintaining social stability (China) has changed the Uighur autonomous region into something that resembles a massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy, a sort of ‘no rights zone’,” she told the start of a two-day regular review of China’s record, including Hong Kong and Macao. 

China has said that Xinjiang faces a serious threat from Islamist militants and separatists who plot attacks and stir up tensions between the mostly Muslim Uighur minority who call the region home and the ethnic Han Chinese majority.

William Engdahl lashed at the Reuters report on pages of 21 Century Wire:

In August Reuters published an article under the headline, “UN says it has credible reports that China holds million Uighurs in secret camps.” A closer look at the article reveals no official UN policy statement, but rather a quote from one American member of an independent committee that does not speak for the UN, a member with no background in China. The source of the claim it turns out is a UN independent advisory NGO called Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The sole person making the charge, American committee member Gay McDougall, stated she was “deeply concerned” about “credible reports.” McDougall cited no source for the dramatic charge.

Reuters in their article boosts its claim by citing a murky Washington DC based NGO, the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD). In an excellent background investigation, researchers at the Grayzone Project found that the CHRD gets hundreds of thousands of dollars from unnamed governments. The notorious US government NGO, National Endowment for Democracy, is high on the list of usual suspects. Notably, the CHRD official address is that of the Human Rights Watch which gets funds also from the Soros foundation.

This is how the new chapter of anti-Chinese ideological attacks (and attempts to stop them) began.

And soon, they intensified. The Western propaganda apparatus unleashed dozens of articles, which, while claiming that China has been building several detention centers for Uyghurs in Xingjiang, failed to provide any proof that extreme harsh measures were being applied against the religious and political extremists in Northwest China.

The most amateurish, speculation-based one, was printed on June 1, 2019, by The Telegraph (“China’s Uighur Muslims forced to eat and drink as Ramadan celebrations banned”):

Beijing has long sought to arrest control of this resource-rich region where decades of government-encouraged migration of the Han – China’s ethnic majority – have fuelled resentment among Uighurs. The biggest outburst erupted in 2009 in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, resulting in 200 deaths.

Now, the ruling Communist Party has launched a propaganda campaign about snuffing out “criminal” and “terrorist” activity. All across Xinjiang – meaning “new frontier” – are bright red banners reminding people to fight illegal, “cult” behaviour, listing hotlines to report suspicious activity.

“Love the Party, love the country,” hangs a streamer at one mosque, just above the metal detector. A highway billboard proclaims, “Secretary Xi is linked heart-to-heart with Xinjiang minorities,” referring to Chinese president Xi Jinping.

The government is working to present an image of a happy, peaceful Xinjiang, in efforts to boost tourism and attract investment; this is the linchpin for Mr. Xi’s Belt and Road initiative.”

Many thinkers, however, have been bravely putting this kind of ‘reporting’ into context. My close friend and co-author of our book “China and Ecological Civilization”, a leading U.S. philosopher and progressive theologian, John Cobb Jr., has many years of involvement in China. He wrote for this reportage:

A standard tactic of the U.S. government is to create situations in which another government has little choice but to use violence. Its use of violence is then treated as proof that “regime-change” is needed. Sometimes it even justifies war. The Iranians shooting down an American spy drone, for example, almost led to an overt American attack on Iran. China has been placed in such a situation with regard to one of its Islamic minorities. There is real danger that the Uighurs will use violence against China. China thus far has responded by an effort at massive, compulsory re-education which can be depicted as forcing citizens to spend much of their time in “concentration camps.” That the minority is Islamic is then used in American propaganda to imply that China persecutes religion. Propaganda can also create anti-Chinese feeling among religious people all over the world, and especially among Muslims both in China and elsewhere.  

If we think that anything that weakens those who refuse American domination is good, then we can admire the skill of the CIA. If we care for truth and justice, our task is to bring to light the cruelty and injustice of the subversion and the lies.

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Uyghurs in Turkey

The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, ‘fell in love’ with Uyghurs when he served as the mayor of the country’s largest city – Istanbul. He erected a monument to them, and declared that the Turkish nation had roots in “Turkestan”.

He allowed hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs to migrate to Turkey.

Immigration office in Izmir, Turkey which processes Uyghurs

Being a NATO-member country and at least in the past, one of the closest allies of the United States, Turkey readily helped the West with its colorful anti-Chinese campaign.

But that was not all. Far from it. NATO nations and their ultra-religious allies in the Gulf, decided to overthrow the Arab-socialist government in Damascus, Syria. Turkey readily participated in the ‘project’ from the very beginning, sacrificing its historic ties with the Assad family.

As early as in 2012, I investigated, with the help of the Turkish translator of my books, the so-called refugee camps in the border area of Hatay (with its ancient capital of Antakya). While several camps were truly serving as refugee centers, others like Apaydin, were training Syrian terrorists, as well as foreign jihadi fighters.

Apaydin camp in Hatay Turkey near Syria

In those days, Serkan Koc, a leading Turkish left-wing documentary filmmaker, who has produced several groundbreaking works on the subject of the “Syrian opposition”, explained to me in Istanbul:

Of course, you do realize that those people are not really ‘Syrian opposition.’ They are modern-day legionnaires collected from various Arab countries, including Qatar and Saudi Arabia, paid by Western imperialist powers. Some are members of Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. Most are militant Sunni Muslims. One could describe them as rogue elements hired to fight the Assad government.

With help of the Mr. Koc’s contacts in Hatay, I managed to establish, as early as in 2012 and 2013, that some of the ‘legionnaires’ were actually Uyghurs. I also received confirmation that they were being smuggled from the Hatay area ‘camps’ directly into Syria, fully armed and equipped.

Terrorists were also trained at the NATO air force facility ‘Incerlik’, near the city of Adana. Exactly how many Uyghurs went through that air base, has so far not been established.

On the Syrian war front, the toughest, the most brutal and the most dangerous assassins in the presently terrorist-controlled area of Idlib, are Uyghurs. But this fact will be addressed in the following chapter of this report.

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In Istanbul, I teamed-up with my colleague and comrade, Erkin Oncan, a leading Turkish journalist and thinker, who presently works for Sputnik. For years, he has been reporting on the movement of the Uyghurs.

Together, we visited the Zeitinburnu neighborhood on the outskirts of Istanbul, where we met Erkin’s colleagues, who took us on a ‘tour’ of significant Uyghur ‘landmarks’, including the office where Uyghurs have been recruited, allowed to work semi-legally, and then, many of them, sent to Syria and Iraq.

There are approximately 50,000 Uyghurs living in Turkey (10 million live in China and all over the world). Zeitinburnu, has the greatest concentration of Uyghurs in the country. Here they own businesses, restaurants. Old people enjoy a relaxed life, drinking tea and leading endless conversations in public places.

But this tranquil mood is only a façade. Here is where many Uyghurs arrive. From here, they get injected abroad, where they learn their deadly ‘trade’, how to become hardened and merciless fighters. They go to Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or as far as Indonesia.

As early as on April 9, 2015, BGNNews.com in Istanbul, reported:

The network is based out of Zeytinburnu, a district on Istanbul’s European side which is home to a community of Uighurs who live in Turkey. It is headed by Nurali T, a businessman who has been facilitating the movement of Uighurs from China to Syria and Iraq via Turkey since 2011. He is known by his code name Abbas. An individual who works for him, AG, says that a total of 100,000 fake Turkish passports have been produced, 50,000 of which have been shipped to China to be handed to fighters recruited to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

According to the article Uighurs are joining the fight, traveling from China through Thailand and Cambodia before reaching Malaysia, which has no visa requirements with Turkey. A fee of USD 200 is taken from the recruits.

The fighters then spend a night in Istanbul in motels, hotels or safe-house apartments before heading to Turkey’s Southeast and East the next day to cross into Syria and Iraq.

The individuals carrying fake passports are often caught at the airport in Istanbul. As to why they have been able to enter Turkey and not get deported, AG says, “Turkey has secret dealings with the Uighurs. The authorities first confiscate the passports but then release the individuals.”

Erkin and his friend talk about the present situation in Turkey. And about what Uyghurs are expected to achieve:

Members of TIP – Turkistan Islamic Party – are repeatedly saying that ‘in Syria we are training for jihad, and we will go back to China, and fight.

The question is, how would Uyghur fighters be moved back to China; from both Turkey, but especially from Syria?

Erkin replied:

My theory is, that China is on high alert, and if the fighters would be sent first from Syria to Turkey, and then to China, it could be done only if the ID’s were changed and falsified. Because China has names, it has lists, and it has information. If Turkey decides to secretly change their ID’s, and sends them to China, it could be possible, but, as you said yourself earlier, the Afghan route is also possible. The IS fighters are also gathering there, the TIP is gathering there, in Afghanistan; some parts of the Western Afghanistan tip, which is not far from the border with China. I think that TIP will try to go directly to China, but most of the attempts will fail. They will attack from Afghanistan. As you know, Russia recently declared that the IS has formed a new caliphate in Afghanistan, which would fortify the jihadi climate in the country. Turkey will try to send a number of Uyghur fighters there, although I don’t know how many.

I also think that Turkey will try to divide Uyghurs into two groups. You know that Uyghurs always travel with their families. Sending them anywhere with the families is very hard. But sending fighters first, and then ‘deporting’ the families, is another thing. Deporting the families could be done under ‘humanitarian cover’. So, I think, the fighters will go first, secretly, and then, families will be deported.

But where would the families be ‘deported’ to? To China?

Yes, because in Izmir and Hatay, Uyghurs are taken care of by the Turkish government. There are always, exclusively, women and children, but no men.

On June 2019, I went back to both Hatay and Izmir, just to confirm what I was told in Zeitinburnu.

Hatay, Turkey

But before that, we traveled to Aksaray in Istanbul; to one of the notorious Uyghur restaurants, owned by an AKP member. Uyghurs are managing the place. It is the place where separatist leaders meet, regularly; every month, or at least every second month. The former boss of this place was arrested on charges of human trafficking. My colleagues explain: “We have no idea what charges, exactly, or what happened to him. If he was still in prison, we would definitely know.”

The Police HQ is very close to this eatery, which I do not want to identify by name, at least not for this report, not yet. Paradoxically, some members of the police force who are supposed to be tracking down human trafficking, regularly gather here. So too, naïve Chinese tourists in search of good spicy Chinese food from the Northwest of their country.

I am told:

According to my source here, police once spotted a human trafficking cell here, but did nothing… Police is actually controlling these cells, even giving new names to those who are supposed to be sent to Syria. Police is in charge, and the government officials actually know who is going to Syria, name by name. Some profits from this, and from other restaurants like this one, are going directly to the Uyghur separatist association.

Actually, there are many restaurants like this, but this one is the HQ for the Istanbul area. It tries to stay humble, not flashy, with hardly any signs in Arabic.”

I am also explained to:

All of our sources confirm the same: ‘Police and the state/government know everything, and they make sure to control the action.

Governing and mainly right-wing nationalist and pro-Western opposition parties in Turkey are all supporting the Uyghurs. The Opposition even more than the ruling AKP, so there is very little chance that the policy will get reversed anytime soon.

Most of the Turkish media outlets echo Western sources, and are openly hostile towards China.

However, the government does not want to antagonize China, openly. It has some cooperation, at least when it comes to the tracking of criminal activities.

One thing has changed, I was told by Abdulkadir Yapcan, who covers legal issues related to Uyghurs:

If China provides IDs and names, Turkey will investigate and press charges. If China fails to provide detailed information, Turkey will do absolutely nothing. This is at least some change, since 2016. Although, so far, there was only one case…

Uyghurs have gone violent, even in Turkey, on several occasions. The most documented ones were an attack against the Thai consulate in Istanbul in 2015, and an attack on a nightclub in Zeitinburnu, in which 39 people lost their lives, mainly Turkish and Saudi citizens.

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Uyghur Fighters in Afghanistan

On the outskirts of Kabul and Jalalabad in Afghanistan, I regularly encounter people who are escaping from the increasing presence of ISIS in various parts of the country. Some are now forced to live in the camps for internally displaced people, like that in Bagrami, just on the outskirts of the capital.

My sources in the country are speaking clearly about the movement of the jihadi cadres (mostly ISIS) from Syria to Afghanistan. Among them are, as expected, Uyghurs.

These individuals arrive after being fully trained. They are battle-ready, indoctrinated and extremely brutal, even by the standards of Afghanistan; a country which has been battered by civil wars and invasions.

The proximity of Afghanistan to China, with which it has a short border in the east, but also to the former Soviet Central Asian Republics (Afghanistan has borders with Turkmenistan Tajikistan and Uzbekistan), is making it an ideal group to be used for subversion against China, Russia and the Central Asian republics.

It is essential to understand, that China’s BRI is designed to connect China with the entire world, using several infrastructural corridors, some of which would be following the old Silk Roads, passing through Central Asia, cutting through Iran, Pakistan but also Afghanistan. The city of Urumqi, and Xingjian Province generally, will be some of the most important hubs. Those in the West who want to disrupt this, perhaps, the most important global project, are strategically using Uyghur separatists, terrorists and religious fanatics, to bring uncertainty, even chaos, to this part of the world.

Several top al-Qaeda members such as Abu Yahya al-Libi, and Mustafa Setmariam Nasar ─ who had met Uyghurs in Afghanistan where they trained as mujahidin ─ have expressed personal support to their cause’. The Uyghurs East Turkestan independence movement was also personally endorsed in the serial “Islamic Spring’s 9th release” by Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the chief of Al-Qaeda.

It is also important to recall that during the Battle of Kunduz in Afghanistan (in 2015), foreign Islamist militants joined both Taliban and ISIS, in an assault on the city. Among them were Uyghur as well as Chechen, Rohingya, Kyrgyz, Tajik, and Uzbek.

TIP is fighting in Syria and elsewhere, but the organization’s leadership is based in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but with most of its members operating illegally on the territory of People’s Republic of China.

Uyghurs are encouraged to murder and they are trained and hardened in Syria

A lady, a mother of three, is sitting on the porch of her temporary home, in the Syrian city of As Suqaylabiyah. She slowly recounts the horrors she had to live through, before escaping from her village in the Idlib area:

The terrorists who committed mass murder in my town, are Uyghurs. My cousins and other relatives, were killed. By Uyghurs; yes, by them. In April, 2014. They were shot. We stood against them, trying to defend ourselves. Then they began killing us, first in the fight, then in revenge. After that, they cut off heads of those they murdered.

“Were they the most brutal of the terrorists,” I asked.

Yes. From north to south, from east to west of Idlib province. They are monstrous. They are under the command, under control of Nusra Front. They kidnap soldiers, and kill them brutally. They kill entire families and kill them in a way I cannot even describe. The easiest death is when they shoot and then behead you. They are like monsters.

She knows. She escaped them by a miracle:

I still remember; I fled with what was left of my family, at 4am. Uyghurs were killing, and so were Indonesians; totally brainwashed, mad. You know, my family consists of teachers; teachers of Arabic language. I have 3 children. They were not going to spare anyone…

I met Ms. Noora Al Khadour and 17 years old daughter, Naia, from the Kafer Nboudah village:

We are terribly scared of Uyghurs; of their crimes. I don’t even want to remember what has happened. Although I know that I have to speak to you; to people like you… in order to stop all that madness. You know, I had to flee with my four children, on a motorbike, like in some crazy movie…

She tries to find words, how to begin:

First: we had to switch off our brains, in order to survive. What was happening was far from ‘normal’. It was horror. It is almost impossible to describe… I am just a simple woman. They entered our town and began beheading. Shooting… Their faces; their expressions – your heart stops thinking about them. I am so lucky that during that night I did not lose any family members, because we escaped almost immediately.

I ask whether Uyghurs and their TIP are using narcotics, when they attack villages. My question triggers a huge discussion.

“Definitely,” Ms. Noora replied. “They could not act like this, if they were in a ‘normal’ state.”

My friend, Anas, who is accompanying me, chips in:

My friend from the SAA (Syrian Arab Army) told me that the pockets of the jackets of the terrorists are always full of drugs. Uyghurs are using captagon.

Soldiers standing by, confirm that whenever a terrorist is captured, his pockets are full of ‘combat drugs’.

I am wondering, in horror, what would a well-trained platoon of TIP terrorists do if it were to overrun a village in China. In the two last decades, Uyghur separatists carried out hundreds of terrorist attacks in China, killing countless people. But they never held an entire village anywhere in the PRC.

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Syria, Idlib front line – Commander Nabel

In As Suqaylabiyah I sit across a table from the commander of NDF (National Defense Force), Nabel Al-Abdallah. We speak Russian. He takes me; drives me, to the frontline, all the way to the edge, where Al Nusra positions are clearly visible. Then he invites me back, to this beautiful part of Syria, when “all this madness is over”.

Back at his command center, he explains:

We are not afraid of Uyghurs, but we are taking their threat very seriously. Look, inside the Idlib area which is controlled by them, terrorism ‘grows’. If, after improving his combat skills here, a fighter returns to China, it would represent a tremendous danger. Uyghurs are the worst fighters; the toughest fighters. And right in front of us – Idlib – is the world capital of terror. It is a laboratory of terrorism. There are terrorists from all over the world. There, Uyghurs are learning the deadliest trades.

He pauses, offers me aromatic Syrian tea. Then continues with his thoughts:

Uyghur terrorists are targeting our people. They are brutalizing them. If we do not have solutions, soon, terrorists will damage the entire world. Our problem is not just Uyghurs and ISIS, not only TIP or Nusra. Our problem is the ideology which they represent. They use Islam, they commit barbarity in the name of Islam, but all this is backed by the United States and the West. The Syrian Army and National Defense Forces are sacrificing their soldiers for the world, not just for this country.

There are conflicting reports, as for how many Uyghurs fighters are still inside Syria. The generally accepted number is around 2,000, but that includes families.

Syrian tank near Idlib facing Uyghurs and other terrorists

Commander Nabel clarified:

400 to 500 fighters are now in Idlib area. And all international terrorists based in Idlib are under Al-Nusra Front command. They are supported by Qatar, United States, Saudis, and Turkey. Officers of the U.S. intelligence are there – inside my country. There are Turkish observation points, Turkish military forces.

Again, I am being driven along the front line. I visited several Syrian positions and towns, including As Suqaylabiyah. It is still war here, around Idlib – real, tough war. Mortars are exploding not far from us, and landmines are being discovered and defused in the vicinity. People are dying; they still are.

Near Muhradah, at the Mahardah Power Station which was recently liberated by the SAA, soldiers discovered several charred bodies. I was told, they were most likely “Asian” terrorists. But were they Indonesians or Uyghurs, nobody could tell.

Turkey-Syria border

The leader of the National Syrian Defense in Muhradah, clarified:

Uyghurs are tough fighters. They are under Al-Nusra front. They are very evasive, operating under different names. They are all there – inside – in Idlib. When Idlib falls, they will fall together with it.

I am shown maps.

Most likely, when all this is over, the Uyghurs will be “moved” elsewhere. Back to Turkey, to Afghanistan, or, if nothing is done to stop them, back to China.

A Syrian analyst who does not want to be identified, wrote for this essay:

Danger of Uyghurs operating in Syria is multi-faceted:

First of all, they can form no part of any integral solution, because they do not belong to Syria. One way or the other, their presence is harmful; dividing the country. The latest information about their deployment here is clearly showing that they are intentionally being used by Turkey, in order to prevent the SAA from regaining control over Idlib. Back in 2016, the SAA tried to infiltrate the territory all the way to Jisr ash-Shugur, in Idlib, from Latakia countryside. But all military actions failed, due to the might of the TIP (Turkistan Islamic Party) which is operating in the area. It is good to mention here that the TIP spearheaded the attacks on all SAA posts in Jisr ash-Shugur and committed massacres there.

The second issue is: a direct threat to the Chinese interests in the region. with intimidations being spread online and posted via the accounts linked to “Malhama Tactical” (The group, founded by a pseudonymous Uzbek jihadist called Abu Rofiq, operating in Syria, supporting anti-government terrorist forces* note of the author). There is also great danger of the Uyghurs returning back to China and recruiting hundreds of youth extremist, separatist fighters, who could then decide to initiate attacks against the PRC.

For the reasons mentioned above, China has to be involved in all the efforts to neutralize such threats. And the world has to understand its defensive actions.

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 Uyghurs in Indonesia and Rest of Southeast Asia

Indonesia, the most populous Muslim-majority country, has been, since the 1965 US and UK backed right-wing military coup, a staunch ally of the West. Communism and atheism are banned there, and the most extreme and grotesque forms of capitalism are practiced all over the archipelago. Racism in Indonesia is fabled; the country has committed three genocides since 1965, including the on-going one in the occupied West Papua.

The Chinese minority was always the target of countless pogroms and discrimination. This began in the era of Dutch colonialism, and continues until now.

On top of it, most of the Indonesian Muslims are practicing the increasingly intolerant, radical Sunni Wahhabi Islam, with roots in Saudi Arabia (Wahhabism was developed with the substantial help of the British imperialists).

Right-wing, religious, pro-business Indonesia has generally seen China (PRC) as an enemy. Right after the 1965 coup, tens of thousands of Chinese people were murdered in cold blood, hundreds of thousands were enslaved, countless women gang-raped, millions forced to change names, abandon their native language, character and culture. Many elements in the Indonesian regime and apparatus have enthusiastically joined the West in its new crusade to destabilize Beijing and its internationalist vision for the world.

The Uyghurs have become the perfect tool for the anti-Beijing combat. According to Pak Wawan from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia (not his real name), some Uyghurs began commuting from China to Turkey and eventually Syria with the fake Turkish passports, as early as one decade ago. This bewildered some Indonesian immigration officers, at the main international airport in Jakarta. But the ‘confusion’ was soon clarified, and the Uyghurs were allowed to proceed; to continue on their deadly march.

Pak Wawan told me more, during our encounter in the West Javanese city of Bandung:

There were ‘friendships’ forged between the Uyghurs and local, Indonesian, Islamist radicals. Some Indonesian people even travelled to Urumqi. Connections have been forged, and eventually many travelled to Indonesia, for ideological work, fundraising and combat training. These contacts and links go way back to the times when both sides were based in Mecca, Medina, Riyadh, in Saudi Arabia. The visa regime between the two countries (Indonesia and China) is relatively lax, and so, people from TIP have been able to enter Indonesia hassle free. Once here, most of them became imams, but others went on to join camps and get training as jihadi fighters, particularly in the middle of the Island of Sulawesi.

Pak Wawan continues:

These people have a huge network. They also have networks in Thailand and Malaysia. Recently, they deported them from Pattaya, Thailand. Most of their cadres had studied at various religious universities, mostly in the Saudi Arabia, or at least somewhere in the Middle East.

When they come to Indonesia, they carry with them a book of propaganda, as well as videos, with the aim of boiling mistrust and hate towards China. Among other things, the book says that the Chinese people are: kafir (“ingratitude” (toward God)), and that they are najis (dirty). The book is calling for the banning (again) of all symbols of Chinese culture.

It is a tremendously racist, violent book. Similar texts have been distributed in Indonesia against Shi’a Muslims, with the predictable help of Saudi Arabia.

According to Pak Wawan:

In Indonesia, it is estimated that there are some 200 Uyghur students, with the main purpose, to work as ustads/imams (religious clerics), and to infiltrate the system. Some are simply trapped here. Some of them are involved in subversive activities, together with the members of the Indonesian jihadists. Their goal is to go back to Syria, and eventually to China.

In the restive island of Sulawesi, there are expected to be several Uyghur fighters, still on the loose, although four of them were caught, tried and sentenced to lengthy terms in prison (in 2015), for joining the radical terrorist group Mujahidin Indonesia Timur (MIT or East Indonesia Mujahedeen) with its leader Santoso aka Pakde aka Abu Wardah. The Santoso group has already pledged allegiance to ISIS under the leadership of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

The imprisonment of 4 Uyghurs in Indonesia in 2015, could be interpreted as a change of course by Jokowi’s administration. The same as Turkey, Indonesia has been the victim of deadly terrorist attacks, and begins to see the Wahhabi jihadi cadres as a danger. Also, the attitude towards China is starting to change, as least in the recent years. China is seen as a partner, mainly when it comes to investment into the collapsing Indonesian infrastructure.

But it is still a confusing situation.

Some Uyghurs are arriving, lately via the International airport in Manado, Sulawesi. Others are travelling by boat, from the Muslim part of the Philippines.

What is significant is that the delegations from two major Indonesian Muslim organizations – NU (Nahdlatul Ulama – the largest independent Muslim organization in the world) and Muhammadiyah – were invited to Urumqi in China, shown around, and at the end declared publicly, that there is no oppression of the Muslims in China.

It became clear that those who were continuing to spread anti-Chinese rumors in Indonesia and the rest of Southeast Asia, were financed and supported from abroad.

Rossie Indira, an Indonesian writer and publisher, who has been helping with this report, visited several radical groups in Java, as well as the leading politicians, who flatly refused to smear China on behalf of the West.

Of course, the hardened Islamist organizations never changed their tune. Mr. Atip Latiful Hayat, Chairman of the Expert Council of ANNAS Indonesia (Anti-Shia National Alliance), spoke to Ms. Rossie Indira about ‘human rights’ and the oppression of Muslims by the PRC. ANNAS Indonesia openly declared that “Balikpapan Muslims will support both morally and materially any strive for the liberation of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province of China.”

Mr. Okta, from the program department of ACT, an NGO from West Java, which used to be heavily involved in collecting money and goods for the Uyghurs, declared that the issue is not their priority, anymore.

Poster %22Free Uighur to Practice Islam at ACT West Java office in Bandung

Dina Suleiman, a legendary Indonesian academic and writer, who regularly defends both Syria and Iran, stated for this report:

ACT published its yearly report, but we could not find details on where all the money went. They only published that a certain amount was donated to countries outside Indonesia, but no details. An accountant friend of mine looked into their published reports and said that they (ACT) used all kinds of terminology to validate using the percentage of donations for their own needs. He told me that it could be that up to 60% of the donations were used for their own needs.

A typical case of endemic Indonesian corruption? In this case: good. Better if money gets stolen, than if it was to reach Uyghur extremists!

Mr. Inas N. Zubir, the Chairman of the Hanura Faction in the House of Representatives is part of the faction in the Indonesian political system, that is openly questioning what is behind the smearing of the Chinese government in connection with the Uyghur ‘issue’. He spoke to Ms. Rossie Indira, recently, for this report:

Indonesian people have to be careful when they hear about the problems related to Uyghur Muslims, because the news about the alleged discriminatory treatment by the Chinese government that has been lately circulating, only came from the international media and a number of western NGOs. Meanwhile, a number of western countries were later found to have less harmonious relations with China.

The Central Committee of Muhammadiyah (by its Chairman, Haedar Nasir) met with the Chinese Muslim Association (Vice President of the association: Abdullah Amin Jin Rubin) in September 2018. Abdullah Amin Jin Rubin had denied the above allegations. He stated that Muslims in China as a whole, including Uighurs, had the same freedom and received good treatment from the government. The proof is: in Xinjiang, where the Uighurs are located, there are 28,000 mosques and more than 30,000 imams to lead prayers. Even in Xinjiang, the government participates in supporting the establishment of Islamic College. So, the religious life of Muslims is good.

I suspected that the issue of discriminatory treatment of Uighur Muslims was deliberately raised by certain parties in the country to discredit Joko Widodo’s government. I think the opposition intentionally portrays Joko Widodo’s government as a government that does not care about the suffering of Uighur Muslims.

*****

Several Jihadi cells in the Philippines and Malaysia are also pledging support to the Uyghur extremists.

During the year 2017, the jihadi cadres (mainly ISIS) attacked and overran the city of Marawi, on Mindanao Island, Philippines. What followed was a prolonged battle between the military and the terrorists. I was told by the army commanders that among the dead militants, there were several “foreign fighters”. Some were Indonesians, others came from Malaysia. It was indicated to me that there were ‘others’, particularly from China, although there was no concrete confirmation about the Uyghurs.

March of Uyghurs has to be Stopped

And what is it that the Chinese media, and the Chinese people have to say on the subject? Naturally, it is not easy to find much of non-Western voices, in the propagandist anti-Chinese cacophony carried by outlets such as Yahoo News or Google.

As early as in 2013, China Daily published an article by Li Xiaoshuang named “Western media’s coverage on Xinjiang worthless”. It passionately expressed what the North American and European mass media has been trying to silence, for over a decade:

The Western media has become the propaganda machine for the Uyghur separatists.

As a Xinjiang native, I am outraged by the false reports in Western press about what has happened in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region during the month of Ramadan, a time of fasting for Muslims all over the world…

Citing just a Uyghur activist as the only news source, the reports accuse Chinese authorities of banning Muslims from fasting and praying in mosques, coupled with biased commentary that the Chinese government is suppressing Uyghur ethnic groups and transferring huge numbers of Han Chinese into Xinjiang to dilute the Uyghur culture.

Without first-hand accounts, not mentioning repeated clarifications from the Xinjiang government, how dare these media outlets be so irresponsible? How can the world learn the whole truth?

It reminds me of the riot in the region on June 26, leaving 27 people dead. It was definitely a massacre, but some Western media, as they have done so before, described the attacks as part of an ethnic conflict. They portray terrorists who betray their religion by killing innocent people as “heroes”, seeking religious or political freedom…

On March 20, 2019, Xie Wenting and Bai Yunyi of Global Times reported with much more urgency:

Misleading headlines, groundless accusations, obscure interviewees, double standards are not hard to spot in many articles covering China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in Western media outlets.

Recent months have seen an intensive outburst of such reports which have tainted China’s anti-terrorism efforts in the region by adopting tactics including using words with a negative connotation, providing incomplete information and stirring readers’ emotions.”

It is not often mentioned in the West, but there are some 20 million Muslims living in China. According to the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA), there are more than 21 million Muslims in the country. According to SARA there are approximately 36,000 Islamic places of worship, more than 45,000 imams, and 10 Islamic schools in the country. In China, Islam has some interesting nuances: for instance, there are mosques led by female imams, there. All over China, halal food is available, and actually very popular. Many people show great interest in Muslim culture, at least theoretically.

During my 2018 visit to the Chinese city of Xian, I was impressed by the great effort the Chinese government has been making to support Muslim culture in this historical center of multi-culturalism from which, centuries ago, the legendary Silk Road had been initiating. Islamic civilization, its music, food, centers of worship and architecture are now the greatest magnet, bringing tens of millions of visitors from all over China.

I clearly saw that there was no discrimination in Xiang. My conclusions were the same as those of the emissaries of two Muslim mass movements of Indonesia, who were allowed to visit Xinjiang. We found no brutal treatment of the Muslim and their religion in China.

*****

It often appears to me, and to other experts on China, that the Chinese people and even the Chinese government, do not know how to defend themselves against the vicious and totally unfair attacks against their country; attacks which are coming from abroad.

China “wants peace”. It is offering friendship. But it is insulted, constantly attacked and humiliated in return.

The truth is obvious: The West does not desire peace. It does not care about justice. It never did. It only wants to control. For as long as China is doing well; better than the West; for as long as its political and social system are becoming more and more popular, all over the world, and particularly in developing countries, Washington, Paris, London, Berlin, but also Tokyo, will never stop, attacking and provoking Beijing.

In order to prosper, and even in order to survive, the Chinese Dragon will have to fight. Only a defeated, humiliated and conquered China would be ‘accepted’ by the West. A China which respects itself and helps others will be attacked and brutalized by the West.

The great Chinese poet, Su Shi (1037-1101) once wrote: “The scenery varies when people watch from close or far, or from different sides.” What he meant was that Mount Lushan will not show its true features just because we are right in the mountains.

The same could be written about politics. Just because one lives in China, it does not guarantee that he or she would be able to fully understand the viciousness and determination of the anti-Chinese attacks, which are conducted by the foreign adversaries. Also he or she would not necessarily realize why they are being conducted.

The attacks against China are not only of an economic or military nature. Religions are some of the mightiest weapons of the China’s foes. Be it radical Buddhism, evangelical Protestant Christianity, or, as now, radical Islam.

China has to defend itself, by all means. Extremist Uyghurs are marching. Many of them are brutal, and extremely dangerous. They have already murdered thousands of innocent people, in various countries. Their goal is to break the integrity of China and its great internationalist projects. They are determined, well-funded, and thoroughly selfish. Their desire for ‘independence’ has been ignited and financed by foreign powers.

The plan of the extremist Uyghurs is simple: to perfect terrorist and extremist tactics, and combat skills abroad, then return to China and begin spreading the nightmare at home.

The West is readily “helping” to fuel their deadly march. China’s Ecological Civilization, the end of poverty in the most populous country on earth, and BRI, are seen as a danger to Western supremacy, at least in places such as Washington, London and Brussels.

China has all the right to defend itself. It has a full obligation to do so.

It is the duty of thinkers from all over the world to tell the truth. If they stay silent, or if they sell their dignity for money and privileges, as so many in the West are doing right now, they will be condemned by future generations.

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

Why the Taliban Will Regain Power

Zaeef freed from Guantanamo

We are fed a load of tripe about the Taliban in the western press. They are portrayed as crude, illiterate, opium traffickers and murders. They are quite the opposite. They are, in the first place, a legend, which began in the 1980s when a movement to resist the lawlessness left by the collapse of the secular regime was formed by brave, uncorrupt ‘talibs’ like Abdul Salam Zaeef, one of the founders of the Taliban, coined by the BBC in 1994.

The ‘students’ were the educated branch of the native Afghan mujahideen in the 1980s, though there was never any interest or need for western style formal parties. Good, educated Muslim leaders were respected and consulted by all. Sectarian politics is alien to Muslim society, seen as divisive and even authoritarian, as proven time and again by majority-rule pseudo-democracies, as developed to meet the needs of regulating modern-day imperialism from the 19th century on.

Freedom fighters

Afghan society at a tribal-village level has traditionally operated on sharia law and consensus. When something needed to be done (i.e., a governance issue), people in the village worked out how to accomplish it and got on with it, albeit within limitations of tribal customs.

Technologically-driven capitalism doesn’t recognize this truly ‘democratic’ rule. So, apart from a handful of settler colonies, three centuries of colonialism were a spectacular failure. And the settler colonies? The natives were mostly exterminated, and ‘democracy’ of poor (mostly British) settlers gelled, with generous financial help from the mother country. Culminating in the absurdity, if not outright fascism, of US politics today, a settler colony gone berserk.

As Trump ponders how to extract the last of the troops from (hopefully) the last US colonial adventure, what to do with Reagan’s “freedom fighters” is a dilemma.

Reagan embraced the mujahideen in the heady 1980s, when the Cold War was at its peak, and the Islamic forces briefly were in sync with US imperialist objectives. As Ibrahim Haqqani1 told US journalist Jere Van Dyk, explaining why the once revered Taliban suddenly became the enemy, and have been murdered nonstop for almost two decades, “We haven’t changed, only the US has changed.”

Not strictly true, as Van Dyk points out in The Trade: My Journey into the Labyrinth of Political Kidnapping (2017). ‘You have suicide bombers and kidnappings as a racket.’ To which Haqqani could argue, ‘Yemenis have kidnapped people for centuries and kamikaze fighters are as old as warfare itself. We adopted them as tactics out of necessity.’ When all you have is your life to give, you give it. And kidnapping is certainly better than murder.

In The Trade, Van Dyk looks at the kidnappings by Islamists (including his own) in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. While kidnappings by Iraqi insurgents from 2004 on, and ISIS from 2014, have resulted in dozens of deaths of hostages, only a few dozen foreign hostages have been taken in Afghanistan, resulting in only a handful of deaths. Van Dyk points out that the Haqqani network, kidnapping-central, has not killed any foreign hostages. Kidnapping is called ‘the Trade’, and is to produce revenue and to get the release of Taliban prisoners. The risk is more of botched rescue missions and the pretense of ‘no negotiations with terrorists’.

The Taliban are more like the North American natives, who were mowed down by racist, greedy settlers. Those Americans like Van Dyk who admire these ‘freedom fighters’, even after his own harrowing two months as a hostage, are also rediscovering the real North American ‘freedom fighters’: not the storybook colonial militiamen fighting the nasty Brits, but the natives who resisted the invaders, those very colonists, and the abolitionist colonials, who fought against slavery.

If we add in the many Muslim immigrants to North America, we have the making of a cultural shift against the whole colonial narrative. No wonder Trump tried to ban all Muslims, and hounds and tortures Muslims at home and abroad. He senses the beginning of the end of the colonial confidence trick, and lashes out blindly.

The real plot line is not ‘we come to Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, wherever, to liberate natives from tyranny,’ but ‘we invade for geopolitical reasons to oppose those who resist US hegemony.’ And the fallout is the hordes of economic refugees trying to get a piece of the pie, now waiting impatiently at the colonial doorway to their stolen wealth.

Westerners who can join the dots will look for ways to help the underdog, the ‘good guys’. Some of these efforts are misguided (joining ISIS), but some, like Van Dyk’s, struggle to make sense of the new narrative, and even accept what the media depicts as ‘terrorism’ as legitimate forms of struggle, given the way the cards are stacked to favour the ‘bad guys’.

So we have John Lindh, who joined up with the Taliban in 2000 and was caught in the invaders’ crosshairs in 2001. His crime? Liking the Taliban, trying to help them build an Islamic society in the face of US hostility. Finally out of prison after 17 years, as pro-Taliban as ever.

Then there’s Bowe Bergdahl, who seems to have joined the army with the unconscious motive of defecting to the Taliban, bringing the invaders’ killing to a halt, and risking his life as a hostage to help give them a helping hand. It worked. He liberated 5 Taliban leaders from Guantanamo, and exposed the madness of the occupation, as documented in his biography, which is a litany of military cruelty, cynicism, infighting between the Pentagon, the CIA and FBI, and incredible waste. His 4 years of captivity kept the army et al busy looking for him, arguably making life under occupation more bearable for Afghans and even for US soldiers, who didn’t have to press the agenda of terror so forcefully.

There are other unsung western heroes of resistance to the US wars in the Muslim world, some of whom convert to Islam, just as some of the colonists in North America ‘went native’, embracing the native way of life, rejecting their appointed role as invader-colonizer.

The fact that the Afghans have continued to resist the invaders, despite the overwhelming military force opposing them, is an inspiration, not only to the other resistance forces in the West and the Muslim world, but to wealthy Gulf Arabs, who continue to finance the Taliban (and who despise their own Saudi overlords). A Taliban official told Van Dyk: Arabs respect us because we gave up everything to protect bin Laden and fight for our country. We have never given in and we are an inspiration to them.

Even as Obama hurriedly spirited the five Taliban officials out of Guantanamo to ensure the safe return of Bergdahl in 2016, he boasted of assassinating (by drone) Mullah Akhtar Mansour, leader of Taliban. Hold on. By initiating direct negotiations with the Taliban and making the prisoner exchange, doesn’t that mean you’re officially recognizing the Taliban and the Afghan Emirate? Is assassinating their leader a good way to instill confidence?

Founding an Islamic state

Abdul Salam Zaeef, who last served as ambassador to Pakistan (i.e., Afghanistan’s public face), lived through the Soviet and US invasions, capture by his Pakistani ‘brothers’, and Guantanamo hell. He came back to Afghanistan in 2006, but chose to live in Kabul in obscurity, insisting he was no longer interested in politics, and politely declining giving any advice to US occupiers or Afghan officials. They wouldn’t leave him in peace, and, fearing for his life, he fled to to the United Arab Emirates in 2012.

But if things move quickly, he and others like him will be able to step in and finally allow Afghanistan to heal. In any case, we can thank Zaeef for his courage both as a ‘good’ Taliban and as a chronicler. We are allowed inside the Taliban experience and can appreciate it for its basic sense of justice, divine justice.

In My Life with the Taliban (2010), Zaeef recounts his adventures as a mujahid. So many seemingly miraculous close-calls with bombs, snipers, ambushes, runaway tractors, duplicitous Pakistani officials … He is a methodical thinker and his story rings true. Taliban history is colourful enough without resorting to exaggeration.

They are the stuff of legend, like the Vietnamese a half century ago. They are the only uncorrupt force Afghanistan has left after 40 years of US meddling. Why don’t we know this? Because the Taliban are not following (and never have) the American agenda. Iran gets the same treatment. You can call yourself an Islamic state — as long as you follow US instructions (Saudi Arabia, Pakistan). In any case, our cynical culture would laugh at the simple ‘straight path’ narrative and worldview of Zaeef.

The last real Afghan leader before the Taliban’s Mullah Omar was Mohammad Najibullah, a sincere communist. He was educated as a doctor in Moscow and knew and respected Soviet (and progressive western) culture. And his lurking mujahideen enemy, waiting to pounce, knew and respected that, grudgingly. He could easily have left along with the Soviet troops in 1989, or later in 1992 when it was clear that without the Soviet Union, he was doomed. But he chose to stay, to die with honour. He was no wallflower.

On the contrary, he took the initiative and negotiated “cash-for-compliance”, self-government to local tribal leaders, financing them to work not against him, but with him. In western political jargon, a coalition government. Essentially, an alliance between the urban intelligentsia and the rural farmers.

No talk of land reforms or anti-niqab/birqa stuff. Just basic, uncorrupt law and order. For a while, it was a success. (Ask almost any Afghan who is old enough what the least-bad time was, and they will say ‘after the Russian troops left when Najibullah was the leader.’) A truce with the insurgent mujahideen remnants. Many fighters were tired of endless war and were happy to get on with life.

The pressure from the US-Pakistan-backed anti-communist crusade finally forced Najibullah to cede power in 1992, and he was eventually assassinated in 1996. Communism was dead, but the collapse of order meant a collapse not only of the economy but of morality, as looting, extortion, sexual license and rape took over. Having successfully destroyed Afghanistan, the American ‘allies’ lost interest.

What happened next reads like a modern day hijrah. Zaeef and friends  Abdul Qudus and Neda Mohammad decided to form a kind of citizens militia to resist the protection racket in their village. They appealed to others, distancing themselves from the decadent, chaotic post-communist nightmare.

Soon they had their own checkpoint and scared the village’s bandits away. Volunteers joined and began to unite with others as Muslims. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) brought about their peaceful return to Mecca (629–630), involving no plunder, and granting amnesty to their enemies.

What happened in 1994-6 was a repeat of that 7th century religious-political moment, redeeming a society out of violence and chaos, no less astounding in its speed of transformation, and resulting — in an instant — in the rule of peace (sharia).

The Taliban had given beauty to the region just as a flower can brighten even the most barren desert. Soon dozens of volunteers came to join us, and only a few days after the movement started it had over four hundred members. Many businessmen and traders began to donate money.

Suddenly thrust into western-style political power, the Taliban had neither the experience nor even the interest in state-building. They forged on, declared Afghanistan to be an emirate and used a literal application of sharia according to the Hanafi school.

After close to two decades of war, millions of lives lost, their public executions, stonings, etc shocked the West. But their successes in bringing peace, disarming the population, ending opium production were ignored. They faced sanctions from outside and opposition from the Dari ethnicity in the north and the Hazara. They struggled to suppress these rebellions. They were never implicated in bin Laden’s terrorism, but their efforts to reach an accommodation with the US were ignored, and the US used 9/11 as a pretext to invade.

Lessons

So the most obvious lesson is that Afghans will continue to look to the Taliban as the only honest force in Afghanistan, promising peace and sharia law. Mirwais Yasini, head of Hezb-i-Islami Khalis, now parliament’s first deputy speaker, told Van Dyk: I am positive they will return. I know the blood of our people. We need to bring civilizations closer together.

Zaeef hints at past mistakes and the actual program of the Taliban today. While the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhist cliff statues was “within the letter of the Islamic law,” he says it was “unnecessary”. As a loyal Taliban, he will not denounce his then-leader and friend, Mullah Omar, but he had no part of this decision.

Zaeef admires Ismail Khan, the Hazara warlord and sworn enemy of the Taliban, as the only warlord who used revenues to help his people. But he insists

In Afghanistan each ethnic group may only prosper if there is unity. No one can protect their national honour with selfishness … Afghans need to unite. Not let themselves and their children serve the Americans, killing other Afghans and being killed themselves.

Lesson two: Pakistan is the ‘gray eminence’ at work in Afghanistan. The Taliban are walking a minefield between Pakistan and the US with its puppet government in Kabul.

Pakistan is obsessed with India. During the 1980s, Pakistan used the jihad groups to wipe out Indian influence in Afghanistan. They were happy with the Taliban and with bin Laden. The stars of the Twin Towers bombings in 1993 and 2001 were  Pakistanis Ramzi Yusef and Ahmed Omar Sheikh, and there are lots of fingerprints, including harbouring bin Laden for a decade after 9/11.

So while Pakistan publicly announced that it was siding with the US-led coalition in Afghanistan, in reality it is keeping the Taliban alive, gambling on the eventual collapse of the Karzai-Ghani government, and its ability to control Afghanistan as their patron.

Their only betrayal was the 2010 capture of Taliban’s top military commander, Mullah Baradar. But many believe Baradar’s removal from the scene suited elements in the Pakistani establishment, as he had been acting outside Pakistan’s control, holding secret peace talks with the Afghan government, and drifting closer to India.

The Taliban are not fools, and in power, will not follow Pakistan’s intrigues. The spectre of Pashtunistan will never go away. And just in case Trump thinks his faux peace talks are paying off, a suicide attack in early May 2019 in Pul-e-Khumri blew up the police station and killed 13 when talks produced nothing. And Kandahar police stations have been under constant attack since April 2019.

How sharia law will be practiced will be debated. In public statements, the Taliban have renounced support for al-Qaeda, and accepted girls’ education. The only way the West can help is through reconstruction under control of the uncorrupt Taliban.

Making peace with the Taliban

The US must give up its insistence on trying to push its own blanket electoral agenda on the Afghans. To not only respect Islam, but welcome it. “The Taliban was now a part of our family,” said Bowe Bergdahl’s mother Jani, as she waited stoically for news of her son. And she was just stating a fact and dealing with it, not rejecting or despising it.

Those embracing or at least admiring Islam in the West have seen through the moral swamp that they are growing up in. Lindh’s parents’ divorce was a turning point, his father announced he was gay, pushing John to look for a moral anchor in Islam. Our PC ‘cultural Marxism’ has produced a flat, dead world. Lindh and Bergdahl’s quests are a tonic, not something to belittle or, worse, punish.

The victory in Afghanistan will be when the US acknowledges its colonial sins, not only in Afghanistan, but around the world, and most importantly, at home, where the remnants of the real Americans, the natives, must be acknowledged, and their wisdom of loving and working in harmony to honour nature integrated into what remains of Turtle Island.

  1. Brother of Jalaluddin Haqqani, the Taliban’s senior military leader in Afghanistan. He approached the NATO forces in 2002 at the behest of Jalaluddin Haqqani and Abdul Jalil with an offer of peace, but was instead arrested and tortured. Upon his release, Ibrahim Haqqani was appointed a governor by Hamid Karzai.

Remnants of War

Intense fighting and hideous attacks battered Afghans throughout their country last week as negotiators in Qatar weighed the benefits and costs of  a peace agreement that might stop the bloodshed.

In Kabul at least 40 people, including one child, were killed in a complex Taliban attack. Dozens of children whose school was partially collapsed by a massive car bomb were injured. Of these, 21 were hospitalized with serious injuries.

New York Times correspondent Mujib Mashal posted (on Twitter) a photo of an elementary school child being carried into the Italian Emergency Surgical Center for Victims of War in Kabul. “Blood on his face,” Mashal writes, describing the child. “Still in shock. Still clutching that pencil.”

The same attack damaged a television station, a government facility and an adjoining private war museum.

Operated by OMAR, (Organization for Mine Clearance and Afghan Rehabilitation), a group dedicated to the never-ending and often dangerous work of mine-clearance and disposal, the war museum houses ordnance and land mines used in Afghanistan during four decades of warfare. In 2012, young Afghan Peace Volunteers took me to see the museum. I recall a small exhibit showing remnants of a United States cluster bomb. The remnants are called bomblets, and each cluster bomb consists of 202 bomblets. They resemble children’s playthings, items that could be stepped on, driven over or picked up by curious children.

The U.S. dropped 1,228 cluster bombs in Afghanistan between October 2001 and March 2002 alone. The Afghan landscape is now littered by anti-personnel and anti-tank mines which OMAR is striving to remove, where permitted, before more Afghan civilians are killed. Research by the Mine Action Program of Afghanistan indicates, in the first three months of the current year, 130 Afghan boys and girls were casualties of “ERW:” “Explosive Remnants of War”.

As negotiations inched forward, two Afghan government airstrikes, possibly using United States assistance, hit civilians, killing 7 members of a family in the Baghlan province and four civilians in a clinic in Maidan Wardak province.

The Taliban, U.S. Government, and every other warring party in Afghanistan must be asked: “How many more civilians, including children, are you willing to kill and maim?”

The second time I visited the OMAR museum was with my friend Martha Hennessy. We were asked not to take photos, but Martha had already snapped a picture of a carpet carefully woven to illustrate several types of land mines Afghans should watch out for. The carpet was hung on a wall, but actual mines lie in the paths to be traversed by innocent Afghans. On the phone with me discussing the recent Kabul attack, Martha mentioned that carpet and reflected on the terrible carpeting of Afghanistan with barbarous ordnance.

Photo by Martha Hennessy

Martha now faces up to 20 years in prison for protesting the most barbarous and inhumane weaponry ever invented.

Martha, a granddaughter of the Catholic Worker Movement’s founder Dorothy Day, is one of seven Catholic activists, the “King’s Bay Plowshares Seven“, whose April 4, 2018 action was in accord with their deeply held beliefs that life is sacred, and must not be taken in war. The U.S. naval base at King’s Bay, Georgia houses nuclear-missile-armed Trident submarines. Entering without permission, they hung banners, displayed crime scene tape and poured their blood on the base grounds. They protested the U.S.’ preparations, far exceeding those of any other nation, to commit “omnicide”, to carpet the world in fire, in fallout, in the snows of a deadly “nuclear winter,” in ash. For the past fifteen months, they’ve awaited trial on charges of conspiracy, destruction of property on a naval station, depredation of government property, and trespass. They feel that U.S. readiness for war must be put on trial now, or potentially never.

Another of Martha’s co-defendants has been a guest, like us, of the Afghan Peace Volunteers. Our friend Carmen Trotta recalls a visit to the Emergency Surgical Center for Victims of War, an Italy-based hospital that treated many victims of the recent Kabul attacks. In 2014 we had visited the hospital to donate blood, and met Jamshaid and Farshaid, young teens who had survived a suicide bomb attack on the United States military base in Bagram. They had been standing outside their school outside the base when the attack happened. Farshaid’s leg had been amputated. Jamshaid had lost much of his vision. We asked Michaela Paschetto, a young Italian nurse, how they were faring.

“Today was a bad day for them,” she said. “Really, I don’t ask so many questions,” she continued. “It becomes too much.”

“I didn’t know what to say,” Carmen recalls. “I honestly couldn’t think of a word to say.”

Carmen, Martha and each of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 will have their say, however brief, in a Brunswick County federal court on August 7. Oral arguments will be heard including several motions as well as their belief they opposed the U.S. nuclear arsenal in accord with their religious faith. They have consistently opposed weapons and wars and just as steadfastly served, as members of Dorothy Day’s movement, their impoverished neighbors. They understand the wars, the omnicidal weapons awaiting their use at King’s Bay, and the suffering of the U.S. poor as, in some sense, all part of a global war on the poor.

Depending on whether we resist or acquiesce, grieve or complacently ignore, we ourselves risk becoming the tragic, perpetually dangerous remnants of war.

In Afghanistan, We Have Three Dreams

Dear fellow human beings,

Some of us have wondered, “Are people today too disconnected and frantic to calm down, in order to solve global challenges together? Are we so polarized and self-absorbed that we cannot stop judging one another or insisting on our partisan ways?”

In Kabul, our thoughts and feelings are diverse, complicated and flawed, so we center our three dreams on relationships.

We have felt much joy in creating this video-letter. We dedicate it to planet earth and to everyone in the human family.

We hope that each of us can take tiny actions to free ourselves from the ravages of money and power.

With love from Afghanistan,

Dr Hakim Young and the Afghan Peace Volunteers

 

In Afghanistan, We Have Three Dreams Video

We’re the Afghan Peace Volunteers in Kabul, and we have three dreams.

Our three dreams are about reuniting with nature and 7.7 billion other human beings!

Our dreams aren’t prescriptions. They’re music and movements, distilled from today’s nightmares.

What we hope to gain is love, not money or political power, because love will be good for all of us!

We will re-boot the operating systems that have programmed us to chase after fake money and power.

After years of rote exams, we have hardly learned anything about becoming finer human beings. So, we have resolved to educate ourselves to question everything, and to love everyone!

We’re like children whose instinct is to become friends. More than being dreamers, we’re do-ers. So, we’re building three earth GENeration dreams, GEN for Green, Equal and Nonviolent.

We dream of Green earth relationships!

We practise permaculture and use solar energy.

Why? We’re part of nature and can’t survive without her. Our Mother Earth isn’t a “thing” for us to utilize or set on fire, but a “being” for us to embrace.

We dream of Equal earth relationships!

We have started worker cooperatives because the world economy isn’t fair for the planet or for 99% of humanity.

Our community is self-governing. We don’t need a Director. All of us are leaders, but we’re not like today’s cash-elected leaders who are some of the least desirable humans in the world.

We’re growing our web of Borderfree friends, because we’re from the same human family, the same tree of life. We want to be friends with all Afghans, US citizens, Russians, the British, Chinese, Koreans, Pakistanis, Indians, Iranians, Sudanese, Venezuelans and every human being!

Our human genome is 99.9% similar, so we reject racism, exceptionalism, male superiority, moralism and others, because all of these are neither scientific nor kind.

We dream of Nonviolent earth relationships!

We all want peace, but so far, we’ve wanted peace only for our own countries, tribes, political and religious groups. So war has continued, and as a result, I’ve lost my uncle Sakhi, and my close friend Tariq.

We’ve more space in our hearts for love and peace than for war, so we’re training ourselves to be nonviolent mediators. We’ll reason and empathize with our leaders and extremists, and we will reach an agreement without using any physical force!

War starts in our militarized minds, so picture the global war on terror as a smart phone. We think it’s necessary and that it works well. But really?

Some people think that, like a phone, war is necessary, But though war may work, it only works physically for a short while, and only works for a few individuals.

For the rest of us, war costs us everything! It’s time to throw it away!

Killing one another unsettles our human psyche. So, to those who have divided us with trauma, distrust, sorrow and revenge, we say, “We’re breaking free!”

Well, these three dreams are really one dream, because we can’t fix the climate, without fixing inequality or war.

Everyone and everything is related! We just can’t separate ourselves from each other, from the earth, or from you!

Okay, thanks for listening to our dreams. We’ve taken up enough of your screen time. So let’s get off screen, terminate our business as-as-usual, and pursue the authentic relationships all of us long for.

Remember, we make up 64% of the Afghan population below 25. We’re the new Earth GENeration. We’re the music and the movements within you, so we hope to meet you someday!

“Friends… they cherish one another’s hopes. They are kind to one another’s dreams.” Henry David Thoreau

The End of Irony: an Irony Opener

Given all the hysterical saber-rattling over Iran recently, one wonders if old Uncle Sam’s simply having another spastic episode with his Pent’agonal cane?  Mixed into the usual cacophony of paranoid ramblings, one hears ominous mumblings linking Iran, al-Quaeda, and the Nine-One-One…

Never Forget!—to re-package and re-purpose 9/11, as that original franchise continues to spawn spin-offs, recycling moth-balled characters like the angry war muppet John Bolton, and the Grinch-esque Elliot Abrams, to hawk the latest possible installments in the series.  As the most recent “pilot” in Venezuela continues to “bomb”, so to speak, one further wonders if the Iranian saber-rattle is not a kind of death-rattle, instead?  Is Uncle Sam OK?  Did he spring one leak too many, or accidentally “Stuxnet” himself?  Probably not, given the ongoing lethality of his War Machine, and the fiat money press that keeps old Uncle Sam’s cane a tap-tap-tapping.

However, before the “shock and awe” of the 9/11 event, things looked significantly different.  Afghanistan was remote and irrelevant; Iraq had become an occasional blip on a “no-fly zone” radar screen; while Libya and Syria, like Yemen and Somalia, were rarely to be seen.  But 9/11 changed everything.  Suddenly, the Death Star was in business again—and the Empire struck back.  Indeed, all bets were off by the time that Saddam Hussein’s statue fell, and that son-of-a-Skull-and-Bones Bush landed on an aircraft carrier (the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, coincidentally) to show pony an uncertain “Mission Accomplished”.  That “accomplishment” bleeds on into the present day.  By the shores of Tripoli, or Guantanamo Bay, all roads to Kabul, Baghdad, Damascus, and Tehran lead, inexorably, back to the fateful 9/11.

You know what they say:  if you’ve seen the South Tower strike once, then you’ve probably seen it a thousand times.  By day’s end, the “Mission Impossible” that 9/11 certainly was had become a cliche, like the soon-to-be minted “War on Terror” that the new brand image was used to sell.  Most major media opinion-shapers quickly fell in line with the new ad campaign, and its unequivocal claim that “9/11=War on Terror”.

One of the more peculiar fellers-in-line at that time was PBS and Time magazine essayist Roger Rosenblatt.  Fresh off the catastrophe, Herr Rosenblatt penned an essay entitled “The Age of Irony Comes to an End”, published in the September 24, 2001 issue of Time.

In this piece, Rosenblatt radically personalizes 9/11.  According to our credulous essayist, an “oh-so-cool” tribe of “believe-in-nothing” ironists—a tribe that had made Rosenblatt feel like a “slobbering bumpkin” for as long as the Trade Towers had stood—got fed their unfree lunch by the overwhelming “reality” of the 9/11 attacks.  The intellectuals, the hipsters, the “wise guys quoting Marx”:  all of these nefarious ironist-types were finally exposed for the shady frauds that Rosenblatt had always felt them to be.  Indeed, from Mr Rosenblatt’s 9/11-vindicated perch, you would have thought that those jumbo jets had slammed into the Irony—I mean, Ivory—Towers, instead…

However, beyond Roger Rosenblatt’s personal vendetta against irony and ironists, his odd coupling of irony and 9/11 provides an ironic key for opening an uncanny door into the American Psyche and its “War on Terror” thing.  Specifically, take the term “ground zero”, the signature metaphor to arise from the wreck of the World Trade Center Towers.

The first mention of “ground zero” in relation to the 9/11 event occurred at 11:55 a.m. (EST), by a Fox News affiliated correspondent.  The use of this label quickly spread to other major media outlets, and has persisted to this day.  The term itself, “ground zero”, originally refers to the blast points, or hypocenters, of the nuclear bomb detonations over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August, 1945.

Now, taking their cues from today’s cultural obsession with “Terrorism”, future historians will likely view these twin atomic bombings as terrorist attacks of the first—and worst—order of magnitude.  The reason is obvious.  Hiroshima and Nagasaki remain the two “greatest” single event mass murders in the history of the human species.  Moreover, it was entirely well-known to the small cabal of U.S. policymakers who authorized the atomic strikes that the effect would be an indiscriminate massacre of civilians, Japanese and Korean alike.

In the case of Hiroshima, it is also worth noting another telling, mordant irony.  Of the 70 to 80,000 thousand human beings who were more or less vaporized by the initial blast, 12 of those were American POWs holed up at the Chugoku Prison HQ, a little over a stone’s throw from the original Ground Zero.  The United States Government kept this particular fact a secret for over 30 years, not even notifying the families of the POWs of their fates—as if such an admission would have tarnished the image of the first atomic bombing as just, legitimate, or necessary. Perhaps our Leaders then were just a tribe of “believe-in-nothing” ironists?  Maybe they still are?

In a very real sense, the atomic bomb blasts over Hiroshima and Nagasaki initiated a new age of terror.  On the booster side, Uncle Sam emerged as an unparalleled superpower, wielding his loud mushroom cloud, in case there were any doubts.  The Soviet Union, of course, became a viable sidekick for several decades, until History got bored and kicked the “Rooskies” aside.  On the flip side, our use of “The Bomb” created an indelible image of our own potential annihilation, and this image accounts for the resonance of the “ground zero” metaphor in relation to the 9/11 attacks.  It is as if, in the back of the American Psyche, there is this fear that some nefarious “They” could do unto us what we once did unto Them.

Hiroshima remains the American template for the ultimate terrorist attack; 9/11, ironically or not, echoed this template.

In the early run-up to Iraq-Attack-Two, back in September of 2002, Condoleeza Rice, then National Security Adviser, made this point precisely (if unwittingly) when she said, concerning the dubiously re-discovered possibility of Saddam Hussein possessing the dreaded WMD:  “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud”.

Aye, aye, Condi: Indeed we don’t!

Why Shouldn’t the Boston Marathon Bomber Vote? U.S. Politicians Radicalized Him

Last month, 2020 U.S. presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders stirred controversy at a CNN town hall after answering a loaded question about whether his position on extending voting rights to incarcerated felons barred any exceptions such as the Boston Marathon bomber currently on death row. It was impossible for Sanders to respond honestly without being entrapped by the inclusion of Dzhokar Tsarnaev as an example, but the self-professed ‘democratic socialist’ gave a reflective explanation of the complexities of the issue behind his reasoning. The 77-year old Senator from Vermont’s thoughtful answer possibly avoided a campaign fate like that which befell 1988 Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis after he gave a widely perceived clinical reply in the presidential debates to whether he favored the death penalty for a hypothetical rapist and murderer of his own wife. Nevertheless, enough damage was done for a brief media firestorm to ensue following the televised event.

The backlash was entirely predictable across mainstream media, as were the reactions on both sides of the isle exemplifying the all too familiar shallow discourse of U.S. politics. Fox News and Donald Trump did the expected flag-waving, while Democratic Party ‘progressives’ tried to salvage the legitimate issue of voter suppression distorted by the question in what was another coordinated hit by CNN. The network previously exploited its conflicts of interest with the political establishment by colluding with the Democratic National Committee (DNC) against Sanders in 2016 with then-host and party chair Donna Brazile’s slipping of debate questions to his primary opponent, Hillary Clinton. While the Democratic status quo continues to sabotage any remotely progressive candidates in its field, Trump has created a distraction from the GOP’s systematic disenfranchisement campaign that purged ballots of racial minorities and the poor with wild exaggerations of the number of illegal immigrants registered to vote. It is hardly surprising that the world superpower with more than 800 military bases around the globe would also have such a large prison population that enfranchising its inhabitants would swing the outcome of its elections. Meanwhile, the bankrupt Democratic leadership has shown little concern for the voter suppression attacks compared to its ongoing obsession with bogus allegations of Russian meddling.

Sanders’ opponents gave rebuttals including South Bend, Indiana “Mayor Pete” Buttigieg who staunchly opposed such a measure. Buttigieg, who has risen in recent polls, is a former naval intelligence officer and in addition to opposing enfranchising all Americans has even spoken out against former President Barack Obama’s granting of clemency to army intelligence whistleblower Chelsea Manning. Buttigieg is the latest example in what has been an extraordinary amount of ex-military and intelligence operatives from the CIA, Pentagon, National Security Council and U.S. State Department to run for public office as Democratic entrants in the past year, including 11 who were victorious in the 2018 mid-term elections. In fact, the recent inundation of intelligence personnel into positions of government during the Trump era as a whole is without parallel. Buttigieg is joined in the race by Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, a House Armed Services Committee member and affiliate of the Serve America Political Action Committee, an organization which channels corporate donations to political candidates with previous experience in the intelligence community, military branches or D.C. foreign policy blob. This trend illustrates the party’s overall hawkish turn to the right where the military-security complex has taken advantage of the anti-Russia hysteria by implanting a batch of veterans of the U.S. war industry into refashioning the Democratic Party to its liking. Not to say Obama didn’t already expand Bush policies, but the latest ‘blue wave’ has fully congealed the party structure with the intelligence apparatus.

It’s no surprise that Sanders’ center-right rivals with military-intelligence backgrounds would contradict his position on granting political suffrage to all citizens, including the 25-year old Kyrgyzstani-American convicted terrorist of Chechen descent awaiting execution at ADX Florence in Colorado. Completely missing from the subsequent conversation, however, is that the surviving Boston Marathon bomber was radicalized as a result of the military-security complex and its vaguely defined but never-ending ‘War on Terror’ that every candidate, including Sanders himself, supports. More disturbing is that Dzokhar Tsarnaev’s alleged path to extremism under the wing of older brother Tamerlan was not simply in purported retaliation to U.S. wars but was possibly more direct. The Chechen brothers may have become Oswald-like patsies in a FBI and CIA-coordinated sting operation gone wrong as a close look at the evidence surrounding the April 2013 bombings which killed 3 people and injured hundreds of others suggests a high probability the attack was facilitated by the U.S. domestic intelligence services who entrapped the Tsarnaevs for recruitment as assets or informants. They were then likely coaxed into committing a crime they never otherwise would have, if they even committed it at all.

No real understanding of the ‘War on Terror’ can be grasped without first revisiting the history of U.S. foreign policy which precipitated the present crisis the world is in today. A path can be traced from current domestic terrorism back to the catastrophic U.S. foreign policy move during the Carter administration under his National Security Adviser, the vehemently Russophobic Warsaw-native Zbigniew Brzezinski, who directed the Pentagon to provide covert support for the Afghan Mujahedin as part of the CIA’s Operation Cyclone program. This decision was made while the spy agency was still reeling from its discredited reputation after the Church-Pike Committees and Rockefeller Commission exposed its numerous abuses and illicit activities in the decades prior. Thereafter, the use of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) became the CIA’s modus operandi to serve as go-betweens shielding its activities using think factories like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and other innocuously named “soft power” organizations to achieve its foreign objectives.

Support for the mujaheddin proxy army forced the Marxist Afghan government into requesting military assistance from the USSR, which was then framed by the West as a Soviet “invasion.” The U.S. backing of the jihadists was a deliberate effort to siphon Soviet involvement into a Vietnam-esque quagmire at Brzezinski’s own callous admittance. Continuing through the 1980s under the Reagan Doctrine, the CIA followed his blueprint providing arms and funds to the Afghan Islamist insurgency waging a guerrilla campaign against the socialist People’s Democratic Republic of Afghanistan in coordination with the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency and Saudi Arabia. As a consequence, U.S. money and weapons ended up in the hands of militants who would later form the nucleus of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

After the Berlin wall fell, the Anglosphere continued its support of jihadists to facilitate the breakup of the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s where U.S. subsidies went to Al-Qaeda elements in the Bosnian mujaheddin and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in their war against Serbia, the Balkan nation with the closest cultural and economic ties to Moscow. Meanwhile, the former Soviet states and Eastern bloc were granted their ‘independence’ with the stumbling block of IMF lending enslavement. However, one area remained a federal subject within the new Russian Federation to the dissatisfaction of Brzezinski and his elite cohorts who coveted a total dismemberment of Eurasia following the reestablishment of free enterprise in Eastern Europe. The Chechen Republic with Western encouragement sought its independence from Russia resulting in a decade of violence and two wars while its close proximity of less than 70 miles from the oil-rich Caspian Sea made it a target for destabilization.

Brezinski had previously formed the Nationalities Working Group (NWG) which had been devoted to undermining the Soviet Union by whipping up ethnic divisions, particularly the many different non-Russian Muslim groups of the Caucausus. Meanwhile, the wellspring of the puritanical Wahhabist strain of Islam, Saudi Arabia, had spread its ultraconservative ideology from the Middle East to Russia’s predominantly Muslim southern border region. Tasked with fomenting secessionist terrorism and instability in the area once the Iron Curtain dissolved was the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya NGO, founded by the neocon cabal Freedom House, as well as The Jamestown Foundation, a Eurasia-centered think tank established during the Cold War by former CIA director William Casey, a man who once famously stated “We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.”

Those able to see through the war propaganda in Syria today have been horrified by the West’s rebranding of salafist groups in the Levant as ‘moderate rebels.’ Yet, that is exactly how the same media marketed Islamist terrorists in the Chechen Wars who committed countless deadly attacks including the barbaric seizure of hundreds of innocent schoolchildren, hospital patients and theatre goers as hostages throughout Russia. In a 2009 WikiLeaks cable, Deputy Secretary of Russia’s Security Council Vladimir Nazarov confronted the U.S. Director for Russian and Eurasian Affairs on the National Security Council, William Solomon, about the ties between Western NGOs and Chechen “rebels”:

Nazarov complained about U.S. NGOs that ostensibly foster separatist and extremist sentiments in the region and noted that for leaders in the region foreign interference is a sore subject. Nazarov claimed there are documented connections between terrorists in the North Caucasus and groups in Afghanistan and Iraq. Moreover, he claimed Russia has evidence that one of the participants in the 2004 Beslan school massacre met with individuals in London (Nazarov appeared to be pointing to a connection with British special services, but could have also been alluding to Chechen leader in exile Zakayev). Because of this, Nazarov said, the Russian government did not believe the UK government is serious about counter-terrorism cooperation.

In 1977, when Brzezinski was in the Carter White House, the CIA Station Chief in Kabul was an operations officer named Graham Fuller. Under Ronald Reagan, Fuller was promoted to vice-chair of the National Intelligence Council and became infamous for penning the study that influenced the administration’s decision to use a covert route selling arms to Tehran to fund another group of anti-communist “freedom fighters” in Nicaragua which culminated in the Iran-Contra scandal. Pushed into abrupt retirement amid the fallout, Fuller became a political scientist for foreign policy think tanks such as the RAND Corporation in the vein of Brzezinski, Henry Kissinger and Samuel P. Huntington, who even cited Fuller’s work in his highly influential The Clash of Civilizations. Fuller’s orientalist writings mostly focused on geopolitical questions in relation to the Muslim world, and his activities are so extensive he is currently facing an arrest warrant in Turkey for his links to the Islamic cleric Fetullah Gülen whom the Erdogan government believes directed the 2016 coup attempt that has strained relations between Washington and Ankara. In 1999 Fuller wrote of how Islam was useful for Western regime change aspirations:

In the West the words Islamic fundamentalism conjure up images of bearded men with turbans and women covered in black shrouds. And some Islamist movements do indeed contain reactionary and violent elements. But we should not let stereotypes blind us to the fact that there are also powerful modernising forces at work within these movements. Political Islam is about change. In this sense, modern. Islamist movements may be the main vehicle for bringing about change in the Muslim world and the break-up of the old “dinosaur” regimes.

It just so happens that Ruslan Tsarni, one of the uncles of the Tsarnaev brothers, was married to Fuller’s daughter Samantha in the 1990s while he was an employee for the CIA-contracted RAND Corporation. In the aftermath of the bombing in Boston in 2013, interviews with ‘Uncle Ruslan’ by the media were widely circulated where he gave an overdone performance condemning his two nephews while verifying everything in the FBI’s portrayal of them. Are we really supposed to believe this connection is by chance? The media gave virtually no attention to the fact that Tsarni not only worked as a consultant for CIA-fronts like RAND and USAID and as a contractor for Halliburton but even established an entity called the Congress of Chechen International Organizations which supplied Islamic separatist militants in the Caucasus while using his father in-law Fuller’s home address in Maryland as its registered place of residence.

Tsarni’s feigned denunciation of his nephews could not have contrasted more with the wholehearted and impassioned pleas by the mother of the two suspects, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, who insisted that her two sons were set-up by the FBI and alleged that the family had contact with agents long before the bombing took place. The FBI was forced to admit they had indeed investigated Tamerlan Tsarnaev two years prior after being warned by the Federal Security Service (FSB) of Russia that he was a follower of radical Islam, but this didn’t prevent the Islamophobic legacy media from smearing the grieving mother as a crazed anti-American. The yellow press downplayed the significance of the 2011 tip from the FSB likely because it came after the older Chechen brother had attended workshops in Tblisi, Georgia while traveling abroad that were operated by an organization called the Caucasus Fund of Georgia. According to documents obtained by the Moscow-based Isvestia newspaper from Georgian counter-intelligence, the Caucasus Fund was financed by none other than the Jamestown Foundation. Graham Fuller himself has given keynote speeches at Jamestown events and corporate media could only have purposefully avoided piecing together the glaring ‘coincidences’ surrounding the Tsarnaev brothers and their uncle.

The FBI’s previous contact with Tamerlan Tsarnaev and their inability to prevent the April 2013 attack, as has been the case with so many others like it, increases the likelihood that the brothers could very well have been part of a undercover operation gone awry like their mother believes. Leaving aside the extremely suspicious death of Ibragim Todashev, Tamerlan’s friend, at the hands of agents where he had allegedly confessed in an interview to an earlier triple homicide that implicated his deceased companion, FBI records indicate that the domestic security service has proliferated its use of sting operations in recent years as part of its counterterrorism program. Nearly three quarters of all suspects apprehended in foiled plots who professed allegiance to ISIS have been through undercover deception, raising significant ethical questions about the agency’s practices. The New York Times reported in 2016:

The F.B.I. has significantly increased its use of stings in terrorism cases, employing agents and informants to pose as jihadists, bomb makers, gun dealers or online “friends” in hundreds of investigations into Americans suspected of supporting the Islamic State, records and interviews show.

If nearly two out of every three terror plots is being engineered with the ensnaring of vulnerable individuals whom the FBI believes have sympathies toward extremism, how many would not have attempted such acts had the operations not taken place? It is clear that the War on Terror has a business model and in order to meet its quotas, terrorist attacks that would otherwise happen randomly and infrequently are being manufactured on an industrial scale. If ISIS poses such a serious threat to homeland security, why are such orchestrations by the FBI necessary? Like Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the Afghan-born suspect in the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting, Omar Mateen, had been surveilled by the FBI for a full year prior to the 2016 Florida massacre in a sting operation, while his father had been a longtime confidential informant. One can’t help but wonder how many of these tragedies are such cases of entrapment with deadly outcomes or if it would explain the increasingly routine nature of domestic terrorism in the U.S.

Samuel Huntington argued in The Clash of Civilizations that in the post-Soviet sphere, Islam would emerge as the primary foe of Western hegemony. It is worth noting that Huntington did not include the Christian Orthodox nations of Serbia, Russia, Belarus or Armenia as part of the West in his nine “core civilizations” but rather as “torn countries” divided between their civilizational heritage and close ties with Asia. His false paradigm became a conceptual justification for the U.S. empire’s unilateral dominion where an amorphous ‘war on Islamic terrorism’ replaced the absence of another superpower or viable threat after the end of the Cold War. That was until the return to the international stage of a competent Moscow and Beijing in today’s multipolar world where the machinations of Brzezinski and his apprentices like Fuller are still useful on the global chessboard in stoking the flames of religious fundamentalism to undercut the East.

It is significant that Brzezinski never considered himself a neocon and saw the post-9/11 management of empire by the Bush administration in the Middle East as the U.S. falling into the same trap he had laid for the Soviets in Afghanistan, despite the Wolfowitz Doctrine being an obvious inevitable outgrowth of the chain of events he set in motion. As for his colleague Huntington, the recent attacks in Sri Lanka and New Zealand against Christians and Muslims alike show the far reach of consequences from his prophesy of civilizational conflict. Like Brzezinski, the neocons carried out Huntington’s international relations thesis into what the author saw as a mutation of his vision. Indeed, 9/11 has been used to murder and displace millions of Muslims in seven nations, none of which ever attacked the U.S. Nevertheless, both Atlanticist manipulators gave birth to a cycle with blowback like the Boston Marathon bombing that will only be repeated if the lessons of our hidden history remain unlearned.

Notre Dame of Gaza: Our Mosques and Churches are Also Burning

As the 300-foot spire of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris tragically came tumbling down on live television, my thoughts ventured to Nuseirat Refugee Camp, my childhood home in the Gaza Strip.

Then, also on television, I watched as a small bulldozer hopelessly clawed through the rubble of my neighborhood mosque. I grew up around that mosque. I spent many hours there with my grandfather, Mohammed, a refugee from historic Palestine. Before grandpa became a refugee, he was a young Imam in a small mosque in his long-destroyed village of Beit Daras.

Mohammed and many in his generation took solace in erecting their own mosque in the refugee camp as soon as they arrived to the Gaza Strip in late 1948. The new mosque was first made of hardened mud, but was eventually remade with bricks, and later concrete. He spent much of his time there, and when he died, his old, frail body was taken to the same mosque for a final prayer, before being buried in the adjacent Martyrs Graveyard. When I was still a child, he used to hold my hand as we walked together to the mosque during prayer times. When he aged, and could barely walk, I, in turn, held his hand.

But Al-Masjid al-Kabir – the Great Mosque, later renamed Al-Qassam Mosque – was completely pulverized by Israeli missiles during the summer war on Gaza, starting July 8, 2014.

Hundreds of Palestinian houses of worship were targeted by the Israeli military in previous wars, most notably in 2008-9 and 2012. But the 2014 war was the most brutal and most destructive yet. Thousands were killed and more injured. Nothing was immune to Israeli bombs. According to Palestine Liberation Organization records, 63 mosques were completely destroyed and 150 damaged in that war alone, oftentimes with people seeking shelter inside. In the case of my mosque, two bodies were recovered after a long, agonizing search. They had no chance of being rescued. If they survived the deadly explosives, they were crushed by the massive slabs of concrete.

In truth, concrete, cements, bricks and physical structures don’t carry much meaning on their own. We give them meaning. Our collective experiences, our pains, joys, hopes and faith make a house of worship what it is.

Many generations of French Catholics have assigned the Notre Dame Cathedral with its layered meanings and symbolism since the 12th century.

While the fire consumed the oak roof and much of the structure, French citizens and many around the world watched in awe. It is as if the memories, prayers and hopes of a nation that is rooted in time were suddenly revealed, rising, all at once, with the pillars of smoke and fire.

But the very media that covered the news of the Notre Dame fire seemed oblivious to the obliteration of everything we hold sacred in Palestine as, day after day, Israeli war machinery continues to blow up, bulldoze and desecrate.

It is as if our religions are not worthy of respect, despite the fact that Christianity was born in Palestine. It was there that Jesus roamed the hills and valleys of our historic homeland teaching people about peace, love and justice. Palestine is also central to Islam. Haram al-Sharif, where al-Aqsa Mosque and The Dome of the Rock are kept, is the third holiest site for Muslims everywhere. Yet Christian and Muslim holy sites are besieged, often raided and shut down per military diktats. Moreover, the Israeli army-protected messianic Jewish extremists who want to demolish Al-Aqsa and the Israeli government has been digging underneath its foundation for many years.

Although none of this is done in secret; international outrage remains muted. In fact, many find Israel’s actions justified. Some have bought into the ridiculous explanation offered by the Israeli military that bombing mosques is a necessary security measure. Others are motivated by dark religious prophecies of their own.

Palestine, though, is only a microcosm of the whole region. Many of us are familiar with the horrific destruction carried out by fringe militant groups against world cultural heritage in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Most memorable among these are the destruction of Palmyra in Syria, Buddhas of Bamyan in Afghanistan and the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul.

Nothing, however, can possibly be compared to what the invading US army has done to Iraq. Not only did the invaders desecrate a sovereign country and brutalize her people, they also devastated her culture that goes back to the start of human civilization. Just the immediate aftermath of the invasion alone resulted in the looting of over 15,000 Iraqi antiquities, including the Lady of Warka, also known as the Mona Lisa of Mesopotamia, a Sumerian artifact whose history goes back to 3100 BC.

I had the privilege of seeing many of these artifacts in a visit to the Iraq Museum only a few years before it was looted by US soldiers. At the time, Iraqi curators had all precious pieces hidden in a fortified basement in anticipation of a US bombing campaign. But nothing could prepare the museum for the savagery unleashed by the ground invasion. Since then, Iraqi culture has largely been reduced to items on the black market of the very western invaders that have torn that country apart. The valiant work of Iraqi cultural warriors and their colleagues around the world has managed to restore some of that stolen dignity, but it will take many years for the cradle of human civilization to redeem its vanquished honor.

Every mosque, every church, every graveyard, every piece of art and every artifact is significant because it is laden with meaning, the meaning bestowed on them by those who have built or sought in them an escape, a moment of solace, hope, faith and peace.

On August 2, 2014 the Israeli army bombed the historic Al-Omari Mosque in northern Gaza. The ancient mosque dates back to the 7th century and has since served as a symbol of resilience and faith for the people of Gaza.

As Notre Dame burned, I thought of Al-Omari too. While the fire at the French cathedral was likely accidental, destroyed Palestinian houses of worship were intentionally targeted. The Israeli culprits are yet to be held accountable.

I also thought of my grandfather, Mohammed, the kindly Imam with the handsome, small white beard. His mosque served as his only escape from a difficult existence, an exile that only ended with his own death.

Assange and the Cowardice of Power

Donald Trump has never heard of WikiLeaks, the publishing organization whose work he repeatedly and unequivocally touted during the 2016 election campaign. “I know nothing about WikiLeaks,” he told reporters after Julian Assange was illegally arrested, after being illegally detained for seven years, in London. “It’s not my thing and I know there is something having to do with Julian Assange.”

Moving past the Trumpian paradox (he knows both “nothing” and “something” about WikiLeaks”), here’s a question for our dear leader: is your own Justice Department “your thing”? Because it was your Justice Department that filed the charges against a man who risked his liberty, and his life, to tell the truth about the most powerful criminal syndicate in the world—the American empire.

Is Trump’s cabinet “his thing”? Was he out golfing when his erstwhile attorney general, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, told the press that arresting Assange was “a priority”? How about when his secretary of state called WikiLeaks “a non-state hostile intelligence service”? Trump’s regime appears to have a remarkable level of interest in an organization about which he knows nothing.

“The weakness of the US charge against Assange is shocking.” That was Edward Snowden’s reaction to the Justice Department’s indictment against Assange. He adds that one of the government’s principal allegations—that Assange attempted to help Manning crack a password in the interest of protecting her identity—has been public knowledge for nearly ten years. Also that Obama, no friend to whistle-blowers, refused to act on it, citing dangers to press freedom.

For those who haven’t read the indictment, please do. It won’t take ten minutes, and it will give you an idea of how far the US government is willing to go to punish those brave enough to expose its sins.

The case against Assange (for now) boils down to this: he allegedly took measures to protect the identity of his source and allegedly encouraged his source to find and pass along more information about American criminality in Iraq and Afghanistan. This, as various journalists have pointed out, is standard journalistic practice. Would Nixon have been nailed by Watergate if Woodward and Bernstein hadn’t repeatedly gone back to their source for further evidence of the president’s malfeasance?

Speaking of Woodward, Snowden reminds us that he (Woodward) “stated publicly he would have advised me to remain in place and act as a mole.” If only Assange had done that—maybe the indictment would carry a little more drama. But all he allegedly did was say, in response to Manning’s claim that she didn’t have any more documents to share, that “curious eyes never run dry in my experience.” The horror!

The allegation that Assange conspired with Manning to gain unauthorized access to a government computer is equally underwhelming and misleading. Manning had authorized access to the secret documents she leaked: what Assange did was try to help her access them from a different username. If successful (it apparently wasn’t), this effort would not have given Manning access to any additional files—it merely would have ensured, or at least enhanced, her anonymity.

FYI: Manning has been locked up in Alexandria, Virginia for more than a month now, spending most of that time in solitary confinement, for refusing to testify against WikiLeaks and Assange in front of a secret grand jury.

Chiming in from her ivory tower, Hillary Clinton joined Democratic and Republican lawmakers in gloating about Assange’s unlawful arrest: “The bottom line is he has to answer for what he has done, at least as it’s been charged.”

We know what he’s been charged with; now let’s recall what he has actually done. Using time-honored journalistic methods, he shone a hard light on crimes routinely committed by the American empire in the name of the American people—crimes that would otherwise have remained concealed behind an iron curtain of government deception and media complicity.

“On the morning of July 12, 2007, two Apache helicopters using 30mm cannon fire killed about a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad. Two children were also wounded. Although some of the men appear to have been armed, the behavior of nearly everyone was relaxed. The US military initially claimed that all the dead were ‘anti-Iraqi forces’ or ‘insurgents.’”

That’s the preface to Collateral Murder, the notorious video published by WikiLeaks showing American troops firing on a group of people standing around in the street. Two of them were Reuters journalists; both of them were killed. “Ha ha ha, I hit ‘em,” one soldier chuckles after the first round of fire. “Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards,” another says, to which another responds, “Nice. Good shootin’.”

The video, more disturbing to your average person than a sterile civilian casualties report, illustrates why the Military Tribunal at Nuremberg named “military aggression,” not genocide, as the “supreme international crime”: because it establishes a context in which murder becomes not only commonplace, but banal. At the end of that road lies Auschwitz.

Crimes like the one depicted in Collateral Murder are facilitated and rendered acceptable by crimes of a much greater magnitude, like Bush’s invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

What Julian Assange did—what Hillary Clinton says “he has to answer for”—is show people the consequences of their governments’ actions, so that maybe one day individuals like Hillary Clinton will be stripped of their impunity and made to answer for what they have done. That is the quintessence of journalism and, according to the United States, an intolerable crime. Behold the cowardice of power.

As for the UK’s role in this charade, while it has long been clear that London is a faithful servant of the American empire, extraditing Assange to the US—whereupon new and more serious charges will almost certainly be leveled against him—would mark a new depth of national disgrace.

At the time of his arrest Assange was reportedly clutching in his hand a book by Gore Vidal. In a 2009 interview with The Independent, an octogenarian Vidal was asked for his thoughts on modern England. “This isn’t a country,” he said, “it’s an American aircraft carrier.” Indeed.

No To NATO: Time To End Aggressive Militarism

“No to NATO” Protest Washington DC, March 30, 2019 (Photo from UNAC)

This week, the Foreign Ministers of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries met in Washington, DC. NATO was greeted with bi-partisan support from Congress and by protesters who held actions and events from Saturday, March 30 through their meeting at the US Department of State on April 4.

US foreign policy is not the fabled “good cop” bringing peace to the world, but rather a policy of domination using military, economic and political power to accomplish aims for US transnational corporations and US empire. From the Iraq, Libyan, Syrian, Afghanistan and Yemeni wars (in particular) people understand the US uses its power in destructive ways that create chaos, suffering, refugees and death throughout the globe. But, few people understand the role of NATO.

At the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, April 4, 2019 (Photo by Margaret Flowers)

The mythical NATO is an organization that keeps the peace in the world, but, in reality, it has always been an aggressive military force to protect western capitalism and provide cover for illegal interventions. When the US is unable to get the United Nations Security Council to approve military action, NATO provides a multi-national approach to wars as occurred in Serbia and Afghanistan among others. When Congress will not grant authority for US military action, as in Syria, NATO participation becomes the legal cover for massive military attacks by the United States.

While NATO provides a veneer of legality, in reality, it does not have any international legal authority to go to war any more than the United States has. Even NATO military attacks require either (1) UN authorization through the Security Council, or (2) a direct military attack and a self-defense response. The NATO wars are illegal under international law, just as unilateral wars by the United States are illegal.

Yves Engler writes that NATO was created not to stem Soviet aggression, which was the public justification, but to prevent the growing political left from succeeding in taking power after World War II. It was also an alliance to maintain unity among the historic colonial powers in the midst of former colonies gaining their independence from western domination.

At the time NATO was founded in 1949, there was little possibility of aggression by the Soviet Union after a war that killed 25 million Soviets. The Soviet Union and Russia were never a threat to the United States as historian Peter Kuznick explains. We discussed the history of NATO and its current role in global militarism with Engler on our podcast, Clearing the FOG, which airs on April 8, 2019.

This dynamic continues today. Since the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Warsaw Pact, NATO has become “imperialism’s global strike force,” according to Danny Haiphong. Any country that dares to assert its sovereignty and use its resources to meet its people’s needs becomes a NATO target.

Yet, there are liberal politicians who continue to fall for the lies about NATO. Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed the NATO Support Act. All 208 Democrats who voted (26 didn’t), voted for it, including many progressives such as Pramila Jayapal, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar.

Black Alliance for Peace, (left to right) Paul Pumphrey, Ajamu Baraka, YahNé Ndgo and Asantewaa Mawusi Nkrumah-Ture at No 2 NATO in Washington, D.C.

NATO In Washington, DC

NATO foreign ministers came to Washington, DC this week for a series of events culminating with a meeting in commemoration of its 70th-anniversary on April 4, which was also the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968 and the anniversary of his “Beyond Vietnam” speech in 1967 where he connected the triple evils of racism, militarism and the extreme consumerism of capitalism. The primary focus of the week was how NATO can combat Russia.

The protests began on March 30 when hundreds of people met across from the White House to call for an end to NATO as well as opposition to the economic war and threats of military attack against Venezuela. People described the vicious NATO attack on Yugoslavia that included an aerial bombardment from March 24 to June 10, 1999, involving 1,000 aircraft flying 38,000 combat missions, despite the UN Security Council voting against the attack as did the US House of Representatives. The bombing included attacks on civilian infrastructure as well as military targets, destroyed the country, killed thousands and created a mass exodus of 850,000 refugees.

Protesters also described the expansion of NATO from 12 to 29 countries with a particular focus on nations bordering Russia. This occurred despite US promises to the Soviet Union that NATO would not seek to expand after they disintegrated. The collapse of the Warsaw Pact in 1989–1991 removed the de facto main adversary of NATO, which should have led to its dissolution but instead has led to its reorganization and expansion. Now, NATO seeks to expand to Georgia, Macedonia and Ukraine as well as spreading into Latin America with Colombia joining as a partner and Brazil considering participation (not coincidentally, these two nations border Venezuela).

On Wednesday, when seven NATO foreign ministers, a US senator and a member of Congress, among others spoke at the Center for European Policy Analysis’ “NATO at 70” conference, they were confronted by multiple protesters who were able to get into the highly-restricted conference. Dozens more demonstrated outside. Protesters described NATO as a war-making alliance that should be abolished.

During the week, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had a friendly meeting with President Donald Trump where they talked about expanding NATO and having NATO members spend more money on militarism.  When Stoltenberg spoke before a joint session of Congress, he was given repeated bi-partisan standing ovations. In his speech, he called for more funding and applauded Trump’s efforts to increase funding for NATO.

The next day when NATO foreign ministers met at the State Department, hundreds of protesters were outside showing opposition to NATO. A coalition of peace groups came together for this protest and events throughout the week calling for disbanding NATO. Breaking from the bi-partisan support for NATO, Howie Hawkins, who announced an exploratory committee for Green Party presidential nomination, joined the protests calling for an end to NATO and dramatic cuts to the military budget.

Following the State Department protest, activists marched through DC to the memorial of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King on the anniversary of him being killed by the government in 1968. People talked about King’s legacy as an opponent of war being denigrated by the NATO meetings. They also echoed King’s call for a ‘Revolution of Values’ that puts the necessities of the people and the planet before the profits of big business interests that are protected by NATO.

Outside the State Dept (Photo by CODEPINK)

Ending NATO and Moving Beyond Militarism

Our task of educating the public about the real purpose of NATO was highlighted by a conversation we had with a Park Police officer at the King Memorial. We were protesting without a permit and he was telling us we had to leave. We explained that King protested without permits and we were echoing King’s message of nonviolence and an end to war. The officer responded, “you are stretching King’s message by protesting NATO.”

His comment crystallized our task. People do not realize what NATO really is. Our first task is to educate the public about the real role of NATO as a military alliance that has waged war around the world. This includes Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Libya, and Syria among others. Once the public understands the true role of NATO, we must make our demands clear — end NATO.

The world needs to move beyond militarism to mature and legal forms of dispute resolution by creating courts that prosecute war crimes and the crimes against humanity of all countries, including members of the UN Security Council, and putting in place agreements that end the threat of nuclear war, the most destructive form of war.

Reluctant Soldier, Confused Peacenik

Bowe Bergdahl captured the American imagination in 2009 when he disappeared from what had become his living hell. His battalion commander, Lt Baker, was not only an obnoxious tyrant (handing out Field-Grade Article 15s, just short of a court martial, supposedly for being out of uniform, but in fact for complaining about the mission to a Guardian photo-journalist in a video broadcast), but he had ordered them to build the OB (observation post) Mest on a cemetery, defiling, even defecating on gravestones near the FOB (forward operating base) Sharana.

He was as much a victim of the latest American COIN (counterintelligence) strategy as a deserter. Taken captive by the enemy (Taliban) under the protection of an ally (Pakistan), embodying the self-enforcing illogic of the entire war.

The FOB’s OP (army talk is littered with acronyms and abbreviations, quickly reducing any text or conversation to gobbledygook) would transfer authority to Afghan troops operate under US troops, the idea being to eventually leave the Afghans in sole charge. They would establish security, identify the Taliban, separate them from the local population, show the villagers they were better off with Karzai and the Americans in charge. Abracadabra. The Taliban would just disappear, as they very well ought to.

But it’s not the Taliban who have disappeared. Between 2006 and 2014, 20,000 soldiers have deserted from Iraq and Afghanistan. Since 2001 the army pressed charges against less than 2,000, half pleaded guilty, 78 were tried and convicted. That pales in comparison to more than half a million Vietnam draft resisters/ deserters from 1966 to 1973. Desertion is as American as apple pie.

Bergdahl’s 4 weeks of hell sent him over the edge. He forgot the most important rule about the army. Don’t think. Just obey orders. Your superior is always right. It’s not clear what exactly B decided he was going to do, but he snuck away in the night, careful not to be noticed and headed for … hmmm. I guess he hadn’t really decided anything other than giving himself over to the Taliban, which was pretty easy. Hours after dawn, the word got out and Taliban equivalent of UPS picked up their load and whisked him across the border into FATA (federal administrative tribal areas) in Pakistan, just out of reach of the US army.1

Domino or butterfly effect?

His desertion (he eventually ignored his defence lawyer and pleaded guilty) set in motion a domino effect on a massive scale, but not the one the prosecution tried to pin on him: that B’s desertion led to soldiers’ deaths. The early angry accusations soon melted under examination, leaving B’s actions as a butterfly effect in a chaotic world.

Even his hated superior Baker later admitted that DUSTWUN (missing soldier alert), while difficult, had also produced some of the greatest disruptions of Taliban networks that he had seen at any point during the war. Commanders in the field used the search for Bergdahl as a justification for more aggressive tactics to achieve stability in the area.

It was a great way to motivate troops — rescuing a soldier was more ‘fun’ that just terrorizing hostile Afghans. It was a real mission, not the phony one they would be doing otherwise. “Everyone knew it was going on.”

Baker sounds like a real SOB (making all the troops shave 6 times in a row because one missed a stray hair, screaming two inches from their faces). Insisting the OB be built on a cemetery and desecrating graves set off an alarm in B’s mind. Afghan soldiers were known to turn their guns on their American comrades for less. But, what the hell, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,2 Afghanistan is FUBAR.3

In American Cipher: Bowe Bergdahl and the US Tragedy in Afghanistan, Farwell and Ames don’t need any purple prose. Hard facts do the trick. For instance, in 2007 a soldier in B’s 2nd Platoon, Blackfoot Company, 1/501, Evan Vela, killed an unarmed captive Iraqi on orders from his superior, staff sergeant Hensley. He was court-martialed and sentenced to 10 years. Rather than murder, Henley was acquitted, charged only with a minor infraction.

It would be hard to beat Sergeant Robert Bales who slipped off base in Kandahar twice in one night in 2012 and shot 16 civilians in their homes in front of their families. At least he got life. It’s a miracle that B’s handlers didn’t string him up in response when they heard of this.

B enlists in 2008  and he is deployed in May 2009. At the end of training (Fort Richardson, Alaska), Command Sergeant Major Wolfe told them: I know you all joined because you want to rape, pillage and kill. That’s why I joined. But you need to think about COIN, winning over local farmers, merchants, drivers.

The training screams of cognitive dissonance. During training, they would chant ‘trained to kill, kill we will.’ Sex assaults and rapes were rampant at Fort Richardson.

FOB Sharana was built on a Soviet base. A/C barracks, dvd players, internet, lots of video games, hot showers, porcelain toilets, a basketball court, coffee shops, as much food as they wanted any time. But a strict dress code and shaving regime. Logistics brought in steak and lobster dinners for officers.

B’s one mission was in an MRAP (mine-resistant ambush-protected) armored vehicle, sent to retrieve an EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) team’s truck but the mountain road was too narrow, they hit an IED (improvised explosive device), another vehicle was disabled, they came under Taliban fire, and were saved by air support.

What should have been a few hours to retrieve a damaged truck had become a week-long ordeal. And to top it off, Baker glared at them when they returned. “What, you couldn’t shave?”

B’s instincts were right.  He and his only real friend, Joseph Coe ate dinner with the Afghan soldiers up the hill most evenings. Coe grew up in a missionary family in the highlands of Venezuela, and refused to be party to Bergdahl’s later vilification by his fellow soldiers. B and Coe realized befriending the Afghans was the right thing to do, and a commonsense precaution against ‘green on blue’ (Afghan soldier/ police killing Americans). The Afghan soldiers were friendly and welcomed them. The soldiers never learned their names, nicknaming them ‘ice cream’, ‘crazy eyes’. They called their translators John or Jack.

Bergdahl respected the Afghans, realized the occupiers had to respect their culture, i.e., the cemetery. Eating with the Afghans was like having a meal with his neighbours on the prairies in Idaho, Peruvian Quechua shepherds. He didn’t want to die fighting them, when he knew they were in the right. “These people need help, yet what they get is the most conceited country in the world telling them that they are nothing and that they are stupid, that they have no idea how to live.”

What he was supposed to do for the next two years had nothing to do with helping them. So he put his fate in their hands. He knew he would survive. His rash, quixotic decision became an important symbolic gesture pointing to the way out of this latest imperial deadend.

Behind the scenes, there are human terrain teams (anthropologists), provincial reconstruction teams (a hydra of military, state department and USAID NGOs), tactical human intelligence teams (liquor and porn as bribes). The disconnect with the ‘kill we will’ foot soldiers, the face of the occupiers to most Afghan, makes their existence meaningless.

B lasted a month before he wrote a scathing email to his folks:

We don’t even care when we hear each other talk about running their children down in the dirt streets with our armored trucks… We make fun of them in front of their faces, and laugh at them for not understanding we are insulting them […] I am sorry for everything. The horror that is America is disgusting.

Then left his weapon and night vision goggles on his neatly made cot, and fled to the arms of the Taliban.

Peace on Earth

B’s captors immediately offered a deal: 25 Taliban prisoners and $9m. The offer was rejected without any attempt to negotiate. The Taliban continued to offer a deal but the mantra from Bush and Obama was ‘we don’t negotiate with terrorists.’

There were over 100 kidnappings from 2001–11, mostly journalists and missionaries. All were released with a quiet negotiations and a ransom. B was a test case for both sides, as a prisoner exchange would give the Taliban de facto recognition. It wasn’t the puppet Karzai/ Ghani but the US president negotiating with the Taliban.

The authors dismiss the possibility that Bergdahl might have converted to Islam, that his anti-imperialist lecture, delivered on Christmas day 2009  courtesy of his captors and social media, was surely just a forced confession, though it was quite articulate, not “absurd”, as Farwell and Ames state.  He mentions the indignities suffered by Muslim prisoners in Bagram, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and other secret prisons around the world, “but the Taliban treated me as human being with dignity. Aren’t our leaders simply the puppets of the lobbies that pay for their election campaigns?”

He (or rather his Taliban minders) refer to Veterans for Peace activist and ex-Marine Matthew Hoh, who resigned from his  foreign service posting in Kabul interview, and in an interview with CNN‘s Wolf Blitzer in November 2009 read from his resignation letter: American combat troops are not defeating al-qaeda by their presence in Afghanistan. All they are doing is just fighting people who are fighting us because we’re occupying them.

B’s testimony “grows more dogmatic–and more absurd.” Come on! Give the Taliban at least an A for crafting a coherent agitprop video showing MRAPs, dead ISAF soldiers, a video of an improvised IED. Ok, “We have forced them to strap large amounts of explosives to their precious bodies, to leave their homes and children to kill us.” — is a bit over the top. But it’s a lot closer to the truth than the US version of events.

A few days after B’s bombshell, CIA agent Hamam al-Balawi blew himself and his US minders up at the CIA base in nearby Khost, leaving behind his martyr video. Both Bs were under the direction of the Haqqani network,4 with the knowledge (and help) of Pakistan’s ISI (Inter-services Intelligence). For newly arrived Major General Michael Flynn, director of intelligence for NATO’s ISAF coalition, not a Christmas to remember.

B became a lightning rod for the increasing frustration over this unending war. Fox news interviewed spy novelist and  retired lt col Ralph Peters:

This private is a liar. We’re not sure if he’s a deserter. Collaborating with the enemy. The Taliban can save us a lot of legal hassles and legal bills.

Whew! Carte blanche to slice B’s head off. The interview was censored, but only for fear it served the Taliban. Flynn called him a jihadi. 23 veteran Congressmen published an open letter reminding McCain and others that they made statements contrary to their beliefs to stay alive.

B’s mother: the Taliban was now a part of our family

After years of stonewalling, B’s father Bob realized the government was incapable of diplomacy and he decided to go to Pakistan to give himself in exchange for his son. He used twitter, quoting from the Koran, with a message of radical peace. He travelled to visit a mosque in Washington, where the imam taught him to pray. He wore a kufi and grew his beard, knowing that the Taliban would see him on social media, trying to appeal to the Pashtun values and customs. B’s mother Jani told him, “the Taliban was now a part of our family.”

He talked with his pastor about overlaps between Calvinism and Islam. He realized peace would only come by understanding the men who held his son. Without peace, his son would never come home. The Bergdahls respected, embraced the enemy. The Christological overtones are everywhere. B’s 40 days in the wilderness, suffering for our sins, resurrection from the dead, love thine enemy …

For Bob and Jani, their prayers were answered. Obama had to wrap this up, and though he should have got Congressional approval, he just quietly released ‘the Taliban 5’ to Qatar and sent a SEAL rescue team to scoop up B, filmed by his captors for the world to see. Obama “broke the law by not informing Congress,” fumed Republican House Armed Services Committee Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon.

Obama was getting his own back. He had vowed in 2009 that he would close Guantanamo and had been shafted. Convincing him was Holbrooke’s adviser Barney Rubin who reminded Obama that of the 5 Taliban, 3 had surrendered, 2 were detained after they showed up for appointments saying they wanted to help us.

Vietnam

No doubt others who were traumatized by the war in Afghanistan will find healing as have the Bergdahls, by acknowledging the guilt of being part of this invasion and destruction of a country and its people. This happened — is still happening — after the liberation of Vietnam.

One of many Vietnam vets who have returned to Vietnam looking for closure, Chuck Searcy moved to Vietnam in 1995 as representative of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, and helped launch Project RENEW in Quang Tri Province, to clean up UXO (unexploded ordnance) and provide medical assistance, rehabilitation, and income generation for UXO victims. Like Hoh, Searcy is active in Veterans For Peace, based in Vietnam. In 2003 Searcy was awarded Vietnam’s National Friendship Medal.

Bergdahl hoped to cause an emergency, a Goliath moment which would give him the chance to bring his commanding officer Baker’s leadership failures to light, to steer the US intervention towards the truth. A DUSTWUN was the most powerful weapon B had.

The day after he shipped his things home, he sent an email from Sharana to a group of friends in Idaho quoting Atlas Shrugged‘s John Galt:

It is not the being of value who fails the system. It is the system that has failed the man. The system should be remade to fit the man who holds value as worth.

B aimed to bring the gears of system to a halt, his own personal (nonviolent) 9/11, and remake it.

It worked, sort of. When the dust finally settled, Bowe was handed a dishonorable discharge (instead of life), and a few pay deductions, but awarded two good conduct medals for service in captivity. Even Trump had stopped calling for his execution, and started negotiating with the Taliban, which is exactly what Bergdahl’s very brave, but also very risky, act was all about.

In a March 1, 2019 interview on C-Span, ex-Marine and foreign service official Matthew Hoh makes the point that the war actually began in 1973 with the overthrow of the king. He doesn’t make the point that the logical secular trajectory led to socialism, nor does he point to the US arming and supporting the Islamists as the real crime.

But Bergdahl’s trajectory is the logical one today — looking to the enemy for an answer. Whether or not Bowe took the shuhada and became a Muslim, his reaching out to the Taliban and his father and mother’s realization that “the Taliban are part of our family,” says it all.

An earlier version of B’s monkey-wrench-into-the-killer-machine, during the Vietnam war, is Christopher Boyce,  who worked for the National Reconnaissance Office in the 1970s, and discovered the CIA were deposing Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in Australia for wanting to close US military bases and withdraw Australian troops from Vietnam. Boyce saw that the CIA was undermining not just Australia but other democratic, industrialized allies. Boyce figured the press was useless. The media’s earlier disclosure of CIA involvement in the 1973 Chilean coup d’état had not changed anything for the better.

If he was going to make a splash, he’d have to turn to the ‘enemy’. Then, it was the Soviet Union. Despite his solidly conservative upbringing, he, like B, came to realize that the ‘enemy’ was almost by definition the ‘good guy’. His crossing the line and spying for the Soviet Union was much like B’s — very risky, harrowing, to say the least, life-changing.

He spent 25 years in prison as penance, and now lives quietly in Oregon, not so far from the Bergdahls. Another gripping story of defying the empire and living to tell the tale.

Now if only Boyce’s wildly idealistic expose had saved Whitlam and brought down US imperialism back in the 1970s. Or at least if we could rewind our tape to 1979, and see the Soviet Union and its attempt to shore up the faltering secular socialist government in Afghanistan, as “part of our family”, to be embraced, not vilified and destroyed. If only our present was the counterfactual history, not the peaceful, secular Afghanistan of yore.

Boyce and Bergdahl sensed who the real enemy is. They aimed for Goliath’s eye with their stone and hit it, but to no avail. Boyce’s logic pointed to socialism. Bergdahl’s saga points to Islam. The best thing in the 1970s was to make peace with the Soviet Union, not to destroy it. Now, it is for the US to embrace Islam’s message of peace. There Is No Alternative.

  1. There are at least four spying agencies all at cross-purposes. The oldest the army’s, which was supposed to close when the CIA was created but secretly kept working. Under the army was also a special unofficial service which carried out very secret things like Iran-contra. Then there’s the FBI, responsible for any American in a non-combat country. Also the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). All had their claim to Bergdahl. The search for Bergdahl was as much a war between the CIA (secretly allowed to do things in Pakistan) against the army’s spymasters, the FBI and the DEA. The army ‘won’. Sort of.
  2. Army jargon for WTF (what the f&#k)
  3. ‘Fucked Up Beyond All Repair.’
  4. Jalaluddin Haqqani, who visited the Reagan White House and was once described by Texas politician Charlie Wilson as “goodness personified.”