(SZ vom 10.10.2001) - Taschkent, 9. Oktober – Am anderen Ufer, auf einer kleinen Anhöhe, stehen zwei Panzer eines ehrwürdigen sowjetischen Modells. Einer von ihnen ist nicht mehr fahrtüchtig, konstatieren Militärs, die mit dem Fernglas über den Amu Daria nach Afghanistan hinüberblicken. Trotz seines Namens „Onkel des Meeres“ (Amu Daria) führt der Grenzstrom Strom nach einem langen, trockenen Sommer gegenwärtig wenig Wasser. Aber das Flussbett ist 800 Meter breit. Schon Alexander der Große, der den Amu Daria – in der Antike Oxus genannt – vor zweieinhalbtausend Jahren siegreich überschritt, hatte Schwierigkeiten.
Die beiden Panzer sind als Speerspitze einer Strafexpedition der Taliban gegen Usbekistan gedacht. Das Regime in Kabul hat mit Repressalien gedroht, weil der usbekische Präsident Islam Karimow den Amerikanern seinen Luftraum, mindestens einen Flugplatz und ausgewählte Erkenntnisse seiner Geheimdienste für ihre Operationen gegen Afghanistan zur Verfügung stellte.
Hinter den Panzern haben die Taliban 8000 Mann massiert. Aber der harte Kern dieser Streitmacht umfasst höchstens 500 Leute. Alle anderen sind Sympathisanten, mehr zum Fäusteschütteln tauglich als für den Kampf. Sowieso haben die Taliban derzeit andere Sorgen und Usbekistan braucht kaum etwas zu befürchten. Außer der dünnen Stimme eines Muezzins dringt nichts herüber aus Afghanistan. Sein Gebetsruf ist monoton, nicht melodiös. Als Puritaner dulden die Taliban keine Ablenkung vom Glauben durch Wohlklang.
Die 100.000 Einwohner der usbekischen Grenzstadt Termes haben wenig zu tun. Die Baumwollfelder der Umgebung sind abgeerntet. Seit die „Freundschaftsbrücke“ über den Amu Daria geschlossen wurde, nachdem die Taliban vor zwei Jahren die angrenzenden afghanischen Gebiete erobert hatten, ist der Ort aus seiner tiefen Provinz noch weiter an den Rand der Welt gerutscht.
Der Stacheldraht, der soeben längs des Flusses gezogen wird, die Schaufelarbeiten für Gräben und Bollwerke, der kärgliche Sold der rasch herbeigeholten Truppenverstärkungen, bringen keine Prosperität. Nicht siegreich wie der große Alexander, sondern ruhmlos geschlagen und zu Fuß war General Boris Gromow am 15.Februar 1989 als letzter Russe über die Brücke zurück in die Sowjetheimat marschiert. 15000 sowjetische Soldaten waren gefallen, eine Million Afghanen ums Leben gekommen. Mit der Intervention der Roten Armee begann 1979 das jetzige Elend Afghanistans: Die Besetzung brachte den Widerstand der Mudschaheddin hervor, der selbstzerstörerische Bürgerkrieg dieser Mudschaheddin nach ihrem Sieg die Taliban.
Heute ist Gromow Gouverneur der Militärregion Moskau. „Lest Engels!“, rät er den Amerikanern. Er meint dessen Buch „Afghanistan“, das sich mit den britischen Kolonialkriegen des 19.Jahrhunderts in jenem Land beschäftigt. „Ich habe es gelesen, als ich in Kabul war“, berichtet der General der Zeitung Moskowski Komsomoletz. „Wenn die Mitglieder des Politbüros dieses Buch auch gelesen hätten, dann hätten sie wahrscheinlich nicht die Entscheidung getroffen, zu intervenieren.“
Die weltrevolutionäre Stoßrichtung nach Afghanistan und weiter nach Süden hatte den Russen Engels Schüler Lenin vorgezeichnet, indem er sie lehrte: „Der Weg von Moskau nach Berlin führt über Kalkutta.“ Aber das war auch kein Erfolgsrezept. Die Russen kamen nie nach Indien und sie sind nicht mehr in Berlin.
Doch das „Great Game“, das alte Großmachtspiel um die Beherrschung Zentralasiens, geht in eine neue Runde – mit nur teilweise gewechselten Partnern und anderen, manchmal grotesken Mitteln. Auf dem Flugfeld von Kakaidi nördlich von Termes stehen Kampfflugzeuge der usbekischen Luftwaffe vom Typ Mig29. Auf einigen ist die grün-weiß-blaue Kokarde frisch gestrichen. Sie wurden erst kürzlich eingeflogen. Ob die Piloten gleich mitgeliefert wurden, ist nicht bekannt.
Karimow will seine Republik mit ihren 25 Millionen Einwohnern zur stärksten Militärmacht der Region ausbauen. Noch gebietet er freilich über mehr Polizisten als Soldaten. Diese sind zudem mit angestaubtem Material ausgestattet.
Von dem Gedanken, sich um moderne westliche Waffen zu bemühen, kam der Präsident gleichwohl wieder ab. Seine Truppen sind an das einfache, robuste Gerät aus den Zeiten der Sowjetunion gewöhnt. Weil Karimow in Moskau mit dem Zaunpfahl islamistischer Bedrohung winkte und dabei Parallelen zu Tschetschenien nicht einmal zu bemühen brauchte, konnte er günstige Verträge für neue Rüstungshilfe aushandeln. Geld hat Usbekistan nicht. Also wurde Tauschhandel vereinbart: Trockenfrüchte und Mandeln gegene Waffen, Rosinen gegen Kanonen.
Jetzt aber kamen die Amerikaner und übernahmen die Rechnung für den nächsten Wunschzettel der Usbeken. Zwei weitere Migs, drei Hubschrauber, einen Antonow-Transporter, Flugabwehrraketen, Granaten für die Artillerie sowie Kalaschnikow samt Munition bezahlt Uncle Sam. Die „Islamistische Bewegung Usbekistans“ (IMU), Karimows Erzfeind, wurde vom amerikanischen Präsidenten Bush auf die Liste der gefährlichsten terroristischen Organisationen der Welt gesetzt.
Dabei ist das Risiko islamistischer Unterwanderung aus Afghanistan für Usbekistan geringer denn je. In den beiden letzten Jahren waren jeweils im Herbst IMU-Kommandos unter dem Befehl von Dschumaboi Chodschiew, genannt Namangani, über die Berge nach Kirgisien und Usbekistan eingesickert. Es gab Dorfbesetzungen, Geiselnahmen und verlustreiche Kämpfe für die Armeen der beiden Republiken.
Heuer geschah gar nichts. Inzwischen weiß man, warum. Namangani soll sich in jüngerer Zeit immer mehr dem von den Amerikanern gesuchten Osama bin Laden angenähert haben. Seine Truppen, mutmaßlich mehrere tausend Mann, wurden von den Taliban für die Kämpfe gegen die oppositionelle Nordallianz eingespannt. Schon jetzt gehört Karimow zu den Gewinnern des Afghanistan-Krieges.
Der Präsident hatte im August indirekt ein Entwarnungssignal gegeben, als er eine Amnestie für reuige Islamisten in Aussicht stellte. Etwa 8000 von ihnen sitzen im Gefängnis, zu langjährigen Haftstrafen verurteilt, oft wegen des Besitzes eines Flugblattes oder anderer Bagatellen. Einige schrieben seither Bekennerbriefe, wurden im Fernsehen vorgeführt und entlassen. Nur wenige Tage vor den Anschlägen von New York und Washington kritisierte Karimow im Parlament mit scharfen Worten und zur allgemeinen Verblüffung sogar verbreitete „Übelstände in der Justiz“.
„Wenn die Amerikaner einmal hier sind, werden sie für immer bleiben“, prophezeit ein indischer Diplomat. Er findet das langfristige geostrategische Interesse der USA an Mittelasien und seinen Rohstoffen viel wichtiger als den aktuellen Kriegslärm oder als bin Laden, den „Joker im großen Spiel“.
Iran und Irak, zwei Staaten der Region mit bedeutenden Erdöl- und Gasvorräten, haben sich dem amerikanischen Einfluss für unbestimmte Zeit entzogen. Auf den Sand Saudi-Arabiens, des Landes mit den größten Reserven, lassen sich keine politischen Häuser mehr für die Ewigkeit bauen. Die Brennstoffe des Kaspischen Beckens und Zentralasiens werden damit attraktiver.
Ihr Wert wird weiter steigen, wenn sie sich erst frei vermarkten lassen. Kaum ein Tropfen Öl gelangt bislang aus diesem Raum auf den Weltmarkt, ohne dass er mindestens eine Grenze überquert, in aller Regel die russische. Noch rechnen sich die Russen als Folge ihres ruckartig verbesserten Verhältnisses zu den USA und ihrer Aufnahme in den Kreis der honorigen Terrorismusbekämpfer gute Chancen aus, ihr Monopol über die Leitungen für den Export weiter zu festigen. Die Zentralasiaten hingegen sehen für die Ära nach dem afghanischen Konflikt ganz andere Perspektiven.
Ein Projekt der amerikanischen Gesellschaft Unical für Leitungen aus Zentralasien durch Afghanistan zu den pakistanischen Häfen Karatschi und Gwadar war bereits weit gediehen, als es wegen der instabilen Lage wieder zu den Akten gelegt wurde. Leitungen aus Turkmenistan sollten nach diesen Plänen auch Öl aufnehmen, das aus einer schon existierenden Pipeline von Norden aus Usbekistan kommt.
Die Verwirklichung wäre nicht teuer und technisch nicht schwierig gewesen. Die Taliban hatten nichts dagegen. Jedoch standen dem neben der chronischen Unsicherheit auch Erwägungen politischer Korrektheit im Wege. Wie kann man – so wurde gefragt – Öl durch ein Land transportieren, dessen Regime die Frauen unter den Schleier zwingt und Dieben die Hand abhackt?
An Saudi-Arabien schauten jene, die so argumentieren, entschlossen vorbei. Wenn das Hindernis Taliban nicht mehr besteht, können die Zentralasiaten wieder hoffen. Sie schauen auf Vizepräsident Dick Cheney im Weißen Haus und wittern den süßen Duft von Petroleum. Cheney kommt aus der Ölindustrie.
„Wir brauchen keine zweite Türkei in Usbekistan!“ Diese grollende Reaktion nach der Landung amerikanischer Flugzeuge auf usbekischen Pisten ist von einem russischen General übermittelt. „Das fehlt gerade noch, dass unsere Flugplätze, die wir gebaut haben, jetzt auf Nato-Standard umgerüstet werden.“
Was Russlands Präsident Wladimir Putin dafür bekam, dass er das Eindringen der Amerikaner in den südlichen Vorgarten Russlands toleriert, ob es allein freie Hand in Tschetschenien war oder noch mehr, darüber kann nur spekuliert werden. Wie lange die heilige Allianz gegen den Terrorismus die nationalen Interessen der Partner im Zaum hält, ist eine zweite Frage. Die Russen bleiben äußerst misstrauisch.
Viele machen sich Gedanken über die Zukunft, über ein Afghanistan nach den Taliban. Ein hochrangiger Vertreter der oppositionellen Nordallianz breitet im vertraulichen Gespräch Absprachen über eine Machtverteilung aus, die anscheinend weit gediehen sind. Sie sehen die Einberufung einer Loya Dschirga vor, einer großen Versammlung für Afghanistan. Von ihren 120 Mitgliedern soll der im römischen Exil lebende Ex-König Zahir Schah 60 ernennen.
Die andere Hälfte sollen die verschiedenen politischen oder ethnischen Gruppen des Landes stellen, darunter auch die Taliban. Zahir Schah ist Paschtu. Mit 60Prozent der Einwohner sind die Paschtunen Afghanistans größte Volksgruppe. Die Taliban rekrutieren sich überwiegend bei ihnen. Dass die Nordallianz keinen prominenten Paschtu in ihren Reihen hat, ist ihre größte Schwäche. Die Berufung des früheren Königs und seiner Vertrauensleute für ein Übergangs-Regime könnte dieses Manko vielleicht ausbalancieren.
Indessen, die politische und moralische Qualität zum Retter Afghanistans trauen viele der Nordallianz nicht zu. Sie ist ein Bündnis von mehr als einem Dutzend völlig verschiedenartiger Gruppen und teilweise schillernder Persönlichkeiten. Exkommunistische Generäle sind darunter, wie der afghanische Usbeke Raschid Dostum, der mehrere Male die Fronten gewechselt hat. Mohammed Fahim, der Nachfolger des ermordeten Allianz-Führers Schah Massud, war Adjutant des berüchtigten Geheimdienstchefs und letzten kommunistischen Präsidenten Afghanistans, Nadschibullah.
„Afghanitz“, der Wind
Massud Schah selber war zur Zeit des Widerstandes gegen die Russen der bevorzugte Kontakt algerischer Afghanistan-Kämpfer. Als er Verteidigungsminister und stellvertretender Regierungschef in Kabul war, bestand die Hälfte seines 40-köpfigen Stabes aus algerischen Afghanen. Sie waren nicht für Humanismus und Toleranz bekannt. Kabul wurde zum großen Teil erst während der endlosen Kämpfe der heutigen Partner in der Nordallianz zerstört.
Osama bin Laden wurde schon damals in Afghanistan aufgenommen, nicht erst unter den Taliban. Für einen Erfolg des Loya-Dschirga-Projekts ist das Plazet der Amerikaner – und der Pakistani – entscheidend. Ob es bereits vorliegt, ist ungewiss.
An seinem Straßenrestaurant dreht Raschid die Fleischspieße über dem Holzkohlengrill auf die andere Seite. „Aus Flachsen kann man keinen Kebab machen, aus dem Afghanen wird kein Freund“, doziert er. Es ist nicht seine persönliche Weisheit, sondern eine alte Redensart der Usbeken. Nichts Gutes kommt für sie aus Afghanistan, nichts außer Rauschgift und Waffen. Sogar der staubige Wind, der über den Amu Daria weht, heißt bei Usbeken und Russen „Afghanitz“.
America's pipe dream
A pro-western regime in Kabul should give the US an Afghan route for Caspian oil
"Is there any man, is there any woman, let me say any child here," Woodrow Wilson asked a year after the first world war ended, "that does not know that the seed of war in the modern world is industrial and commercial rivalry?" In 1919, as US citizens watched a shredded Europe scraping up its own remains, the answer may well have been no. But the lessons of war never last for long. The invasion of Afghanistan is certainly a campaign against terrorism, but it may also be a late colonial adventure. British ministers have warned MPs that opposing the war is the moral equivalent of appeasing Hitler, but in some respects our moral choices are closer to those of 1956 than those of 1938. Afghanistan is as indispensable to the regional control and transport of oil in central Asia as Egypt was in the Middle East.
Afghanistan has some oil and gas of its own, but not enough to qualify as a major strategic concern. Its northern neighbours, by contrast, contain reserves which could be critical to future global supply. In 1998, Dick Cheney, now US vice-president but then chief executive of a major oil services company, remarked: "I cannot think of a time when we have had a region emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the Caspian." But the oil and gas there is worthless until it is moved. The only route which makes both political and economic sense is through Afghanistan.
Transporting all the Caspian basin's fossil fuel through Russia or Azerbaijan would greatly enhance Russia's political and economic control over the central Asian republics, which is precisely what the west has spent 10 years trying to prevent. Piping it through Iran would enrich a regime which the US has been seeking to isolate. Sending it the long way round through China, quite aside from the strategic considerations, would be prohibitively expensive. But pipelines through Afghanistan would allow the US both to pursue its aim of "diversifying energy supply" and to penetrate the world's most lucrative markets. Growth in European oil consumption is slow and competition is intense. In south Asia, by contrast, demand is booming and competitors are scarce. Pumping oil south and selling it in Pakistan and India, in other words, is far more profitable than pumping it west and selling it in Europe.
As the author Ahmed Rashid has documented, in 1995 the US oil company Unocal started negotiating to build oil and gas pipelines from Turkmenistan, through Afghanistan and into Pakistani ports on the Arabian sea. The company's scheme required a single administration in Afghanistan, which would guarantee safe passage for its goods. Soon after the Taliban took Kabul in September 1996, the Telegraph reported that "oil industry insiders say the dream of securing a pipeline across Afghanistan is the main reason why Pakistan, a close political ally of America's, has been so supportive of the Taliban, and why America has quietly acquiesced in its conquest of Afghanistan". Unocal invited some of the leaders of the Taliban to Houston, where they were royally entertained. The company suggested paying these barbarians 15 cents for every thousand cubic feet of gas it pumped through the land they had conquered.
For the first year of Taliban rule, US policy towards the regime appears to have been determined principally by Unocal's interests. In 1997 a US diplomat told Rashid "the Taliban will probably develop like the Saudis did. There will be Aramco [the former US oil consortium in Saudi Arabia] pipelines, an emir, no parliament and lots of Sharia law. We can live with that." US policy began to change only when feminists and greens started campaigning against both Unocal's plans and the government's covert backing for Kabul.
Even so, as a transcript of a congress hearing now circulating among war resisters shows, Unocal failed to get the message. In February 1998, John Maresca, its head of international relations, told representatives that the growth in demand for energy in Asia and sanctions against Iran determined that Afghanistan remained "the only other possible route" for Caspian oil. The company, once the Afghan government was recognised by foreign diplomats and banks, still hoped to build a 1,000-mile pipeline, which would carry a million barrels a day. Only in December 1998, four months after the embassy bombings in east Africa, did Unocal drop its plans.
But Afghanistan's strategic importance has not changed. In September, a few days before the attack on New York, the US energy information administration reported that "Afghanistan's significance from an energy standpoint stems from its geographical position as a potential transit route for oil and natural gas exports from central Asia to the Arabian sea. This potential includes the possible construction of oil and natural gas export pipelines through Afghanistan". Given that the US government is dominated by former oil industry executives, we would be foolish to suppose that such plans no longer figure in its strategic thinking. As the researcher Keith Fisher has pointed out, the possible economic outcomes of the war in Afghanistan mirror the possible economic outcomes of the war in the Balkans, where the development of "Corridor 8", an economic zone built around a pipeline carrying oil and gas from the Caspian to Europe, is a critical allied concern.
American foreign policy is governed by the doctrine of "full-spectrum dominance", which means that the US should control military, economic and political development worldwide. China has responded by seeking to expand its interests in central Asia. The defence white paper Beijing published last year argued that "China's fundamental interests lie in ... the establishment and maintenance of a new regional security order". In June, China and Russia pulled four central Asian republics into a "Shanghai cooperation organisation". Its purpose, according to Jiang Zemin, is to "foster world multi-polarisation", by which he means contesting US full-spectrum dominance.
If the US succeeds in overthrowing the Taliban and replacing them with a stable and grateful pro-western government and if the US then binds the economies of central Asia to that of its ally Pakistan, it will have crushed not only terrorism, but also the growing ambitions of both Russia and China. Afghanistan, as ever, is the key to the western domination of Asia.
We have argued on these pages about whether terrorism is likely to be deterred or encouraged by the invasion of Afghanistan, or whether the plight of the starving there will be relieved or exacerbated by attempts to destroy the Taliban. But neither of these considerations describes the full scope and purpose of this war. As John Flynn wrote in 1944: "The enemy aggressor is always pursuing a course of larceny, murder, rapine and barbarism. We are always moving forward with high mission, a destiny imposed by the Deity to regenerate our victims while incidentally capturing their markets, to civilise savage and senile and paranoid peoples while blundering accidentally into their oil wells." I believe that the US government is genuine in its attempt to stamp out terrorism by military force in Afghanistan, however misguided that may be. But we would be naïve to believe that this is all it is doing.
God Bless Afghanistan
This is an independent Afghan homepage
Russia anxious over grip on oil as US firms join Great Game
By Ben Aris in Moscow and Ahmed Rashid in Lahore
FOR all the talk of international alliances and the future of Afghanistan, the real concern for Moscow in Central Asia is cementing its control of the oil supply and the successful conclusion of the modern Great Game.
Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, Russia has kept Central Asia's huge oil and gas reserves bottled up by restricting access to export pipelines, all of which run over Russian territory.
America has been pushing alternative pipeline projects out of the region that do not run over Russian soil.
Last week, Condoleeza Rice, the US national security adviser, assured the Kremlin that America had no designs on Central Asia even as a new oil pipeline went online, strengthening Russia's influence in the region.
One of the major reasons that Washington supported the Taliban between 1994 and 1997 was the attempt by the US oil giant Unocal to build a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan, through Taliban-controlled southern Afghanistan, to Pakistan and the Gulf.
At the time America and Unocal hoped that the Taliban would swiftly conquer the country.
As the first tanker at the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossisk was loaded with oil pumped from Kazakhstan through the Caspian Pipeline Consortium pipeline, it looked like the rivalry between Moscow and Washington was over.
But as American interests intensify in the region, Moscow is nervous about giving Washington a toehold.
Ms Rice's statements were designed to allay fears. She said in an article in the Russian daily Izvestia: "I want to stress this: our policy is not aimed against the interests of Russia. We do not harbour any plans aimed at squeezing Russia out of there."
Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan have some of the largest reserves of oil and gas in the world, but Russia cut them off from international markets as all their export pipelines run over Russian territory.
America tried aggressively to break the Kremlin stranglehold over the region, but Ms Rice's comments were the strongest sign yet that Washington is prepared to concede Russia's dominance.
US-Russian relations have been revolutionised since the September 11 attacks on America.
In a brave decision, President Putin thumbed his nose at Russia's generals still labouring under Cold War prejudices and gave the go-ahead for Central Asian states to play host to US forces.
Both Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are allied to Moscow through the Russian-led Commonwealth of Independent States, and have allowed use of airfields.
The Kremlin is still nervous, however, about giving America the opportunity to increase its influence in Central Asia.
After a decade of grandiose promises by international oil companies for an oil pipeline failed to materialise, Kazakhstan has thrown in its lot with the Russians.
The Caspian Pipeline Consortium line is the first big one to be built since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Led by Chevron, CPC brought together the governments of Kazakhstan, Russia and Oman, as well as several other oil companies, to raise £1.7 billion of financing.
The petrodollar taps are opening for the Central Asian republics which, despite their huge reserves, have been wallowing in economic misery for much of the past decade.
Russia will also do well out of the pipeline. Most of the 1,150-mile route runs across Russian territory. It is expected to earn Russia £28 billion over 30 years.
The war in Afghanistan may have ended America's ambitions in the area as a quid pro quo for Russia's co-operation in the US-led campaign.
But when peace and a stable government eventually comes to Kabul, US oil companies will be looking closely at Afghanistan because it offers the shortest route to the Gulf for Central Asia's vast quantities of untapped oil and gas.
They have invested US$30 billion (£20 billion) in developing oil and gas fields in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan, but exporting to the West involves lengthy and expensive pipelines.
American companies are barred from building pipelines through Iran, and are reluctant to build them through Russia.
Washington is now proposing a US$3 billion pipeline from Azerbaijan, on the Caspian Sea, through Georgia to Turkey's Mediterranean coast - a lengthy and expensive project that will put huge transport costs to every barrel of Central Asian oil that reaches Europe.
US companies could build a similar pipeline from Central Asia through Afghanistan to Karachi at half the cost, if the next Afghan government can guarantee its security.
Russia fears that is exactly what the Americans want and, now that US troops are based in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, they will establish a permanent presence and not leave.
America has pledged to "consult" in the event of a direct threat to the security or territorial integrity of Uzbekistan, wording that has increased suspicions in Moscow that American troops will stay in its Central Asian backyard after the shooting in Afghanistan is over.
ARMES REICHES AFGHANISTAN
Aufstand gegen die Weltmächte
Von Christoph Schult
Jahrzehntelang benutzten die Großmächte die Afghanen für ihre Geopolitik. Dass Osama Bin Laden dabei zur Schlüsselfigur einer islamistischen Terror-Internationale aufstieg, war kein Zufall.
Berlin - Der Tod steckte in der Kamera. Es sollte ein Interview werden, wie es Ahmed Schah Massud schon hundertmal gegeben hatte. Aber die algerischen Journalisten, die den Führer der Rebellen gegen das Taliban-Regime in seinem Versteck im Norden Afghanistans besuchten, waren nicht die Reporter, als die sie sich ausgaben.
In ihrer Fernsehkamera steckte eine Bombe, die Explosion tötete Massud. Die Attentäter wussten, dass sie den Anschlag nicht überleben würden. Einer starb durch die Detonation, der zweite wurde von Massuds Leibwächtern erschossen. Es war Sonntag, der 9. September 2001, und die meisten Kenner der afghanischen Politik hatten sofort einen möglichen Anstifter für das Attentat im Verdacht: Osama Bin Laden.
Zwei Tage später stürzten Selbstmordattentäter drei Flugzeuge auf New York und Washington und wieder nannten Fachleute denselben Hauptverdächtigen: Osama Bin Laden. Wahrscheinlicher Aufenthaltsort: das Kuhestan-Gebirge im Süden Afghanistans.
Dass Bin Laden den Angelpunkt der aktuellen Eskalation darstellt, ist dabei keineswegs Zufall. Der reiche saudische Erbe und skrupellose Fanatiker ist genau jene Schlüsselfigur, die wie keine andere die verhängnisvolle Verstrickung Afghanistans in die Weltpolitik dokumentiert. Der Einfluß Bin Ladens und seiner Anhänger ist nicht zuletzt auch ein Ergebnis der Politk der Supermächte, die während des Kalten Krieges das Volk der Afghanen für ihre Zwecke instrumentalisierten.
Die Saudis schickten das Geld, die CIA die Waffen
Der Kampf um Afghanistan begann in jenem Jahr, als im Nachbarland Iran der Ajatollah Chomeini gegen den Schah putschte und den islamischen Staat ausrief: 1979 marschierten die Sowjets in das Gebirgsland am Hindukusch ein, um eine Ausbreitung islamistischer Mächte am Südrand ihres Imperiums zu verhindern. Sie installierten eine Marionetten-Regierung und provozierten so den Widerstand der islamischen Mudschahidin, die in der gesamten arabischen Welt Unterstützung fanden. Die Saudis schickten das Geld, die CIA die Waffen - da musste fast zwangsläufig eine islamistische Internationale entstehen.
Der Bürgerkrieg hat nahezu alle Häuser dem Erdboden gleichgemacht. Wie Zahnstümpfe ragen die Ruinen in den Himmel. Auf den Straßen patrouillieren die Männer des "Ministeriums zur Vermeidung des Lasters und zur Förderung der Tugend" mit Kalaschnikows. Frauen sind in ihrem Schleier gefangen. Nicht mal ihr Gesicht dürfen sie zeigen. Durch ein Netz aus Maschen spähen sie in eine Welt aus Lumpen und Bettlern.
Gold, Pistazien und Weintrauben
Dabei könnte Afghanistan ein blühendes Land sein. Zwar ist ein Großteil des Gebietes landwirtschaftlich nur schwer nutzbar, trotzdem waren Pistazien und Weintrauben in den siebziger Jahren die Hauptexportartikel. Und im Boden schlummern ungehobene Schätze: Große Mengen Kupfer, Gold, Erdöl und Erdgas könnten die Bevölkerung schnell zu Wohlstand bringen.
Bei manchen seinen Untertanen weckte der liberale König einen so starken Drang nach mehr Demokratie, dass sein Schwager Daud Khan ihn 1973 stürzte und die Republik ausrief. Doch Daud ging es selber mehr um die eigene Macht als um das Prinzip Demokratie. Er sagte der Loya Jirga, der Ältestenversammlung der Stämme, den Kampf an und legte damit Hand an eine kulturelle Wurzel des Landes. Die Zwangsmodernisierung provozierte – ganz ähnlich wie im Iran unter dem westlich orientierten Schah - wütenden Widerstand.
Das Grundmuster des kommenden Konflikts war damit schon gelegt – Traditionalisten, verwurzelt in der Stammeskultur, kämpften gegen Modernisten, denen ihre Gegner Verrat zugunsten äußerer Mächte vorwarfen. Die folgenden Wirren bahnten den sowjetischen Besatzern den Weg, die das Land in den Bürgerkrieg trieben, aus denen die Taliban 1996 als Sieger hervorgingen.
Lesen Sie im zweiten Teil, wie der Rückhalt der Taliban schwindet
|IN SPIEGEL ONLINE|
By Pepe Escobar
Asia Times (Hong Kong)
October 18, 2001
PESHAWAR - Muslim intellectuals are afraid, very afraid: they fear "Islamophobia" - a deadly virus infiltrating parts of the Western psyche in the middle of the most dramatic shift of geopolitical tectonic plates in living memory.
For Ja'afer Sheik Idris, a respected Islamic scholar, the Western fear of Islam is ancestral. He is fond of quoting former French president Charles de Gaulle, who said, "The future belongs to Islam" - and this was not a French witticism. The West may not fear Islam as a religion of peace and submission (to Allah) - but it does fear the many distorted versions of radical Islam. To complicate matters further, Islamic thinkers and activists haven't been able so far to package Islam as an intellectual challenge to the West.
In purely military terms, the American war on Afghanistan may have achieved very little so far - especially when one considers that the most powerful armada in history took at least four days to establish air supremacy over a wretched heap of ruins - and on top of it managed to turn an intolerant medieval theocracy into a nationalist struggle. Even Afghans who hated the Taliban have now rallied behind them to defend their land against a foreign invader. Did Donald "Gung Ho" Rumsfeld and his Pentagon generals ever learn of a subject called the history of Central Asia?
Not only in Peshawar - the Islamic Rome - but in many enlightened corners of the globe, there is a feeling that the first phase of the Afghan War 2001 did not go to the US. A second phase has already started - and then there is the bio-terror that is spreading like a virus throughout the US, and sooner or later Europe and the Middle East. No-one is reassured by the fact that Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda may possess a set of crude chemical weapons - but no high-tech systems to deliver them.
Meanwhile, the "West" keeps equating itself to the "civilized world" and the "free world" - all other "worlds" being, of course, barbaric. Not only did bin Laden bring down the nuclear Soviet empire, but apparently he has also managed to reconfigure the West as a conceptual monolith. At least some voices of reason in Asia, the Middle East and even in Europe are asking what happened to all these lofty Western values during the plunder of Africa, the brutal overthrow of elected governments, such as that of Mohammad Mosadegh in Iran and Salvador Allende in Chile, and the lethal bomb-and-napalm cocktail that decimated 2 million Vietnamese. A lot of enlightened minds in the West are considering that maybe bin Laden is not a product of Islamic civilization's hatred of democracy after all - but a product of the obliteration of democracy in the arrogant, imperial West.
The long-suffering Afghan people are supposed to be the first beneficiaries of the New World Order in the New Great Game. But until Black September, nobody cared about the plight of Afghan women. And nobody cared that millions of Afghans were about to die of hunger. Any United Nations or non-governmental official working in Afghanistan can confirm this. Now the "civilized West" is promising to solve the huge humanitarian crisis that the American bombings have just exacerbated. No wonder in Paris, Berlin and Rome there is widespread talk of "Western fundamentalism" - brilliantly represented in the Indonesian poster of bearded, turbaned Osama bin Bush.
In the dusty backstreets of Peshawar, not far from the immense refugee camps where life is only slightly more livable than inside Afghanistan, sits the Old Wise Man. His perspective is essential to understand the way a moderate Islamic intellectual views the New Great Game. The Old Wise Man is a deluxe adviser: during the jihad against the Soviets in the 1980s he was behind the whole Islamic movement. Nowadays, he has no formal position: he spends his days being wise.
"The whole crisis is not indigenous", he says, "It was provoked by the Russians and then the Americans. The Afghans are fundamentally a peaceful people. Bin Laden is an outsider. He was brought and pumped by America. How can they blame the Afghans for what happened? Both superpowers created this situation artificially."
The Old Wise Man stresses that "because of its strategic importance, any change in Afghanistan changes the scenario in the subcontinent, in the Middle East, everywhere". May no-one be fooled: Afghans, not for nothing living in "the heart of Asia", have "immunity against war". "When Aryans came, they became Vedic Hindus. When the predominant faith was Buddhist, the entire of Asia became Buddhist. When it embraced Islam, it was exported all over within 100 years, up to the south of India. Even the strength of Iran was dependent on the Afghans. The Russians came to this black hole and were strangulated. Everybody who came with a foreign army was crushed. If the communists had succeeded, they would have captured the whole region: the whole free world could have been dictated by Moscow."
The Old Wise Man has some stunning formulations, "The real India is Pakistan. India is around the Indus. They have the same spirit as Charlemagne's troops centuries ago in the reconquest of Spanish territories lost to Muslims in the Reconquista of Spain. The 'Land of Seven Rivers' is very sacred for Indians. It's inherent in their brain. They think in terms of Greater India. [Mahatma] Gandhi wanted to get rid of Kashmir. But not [India's first premier Jawaharlal] Nehru: that's why Gandhi was killed."
Afghans, according to the Old Wise Man, have nothing to lose. This war - it's all about scrap metal, "To get scrap to sell, they would persuade people to bombard them." This is confirmed by many different reports these days coming from Kabul. For the Old Wise Man, the Northern Alliance forces fighting the Taliban are not capable of sustaining Kabul should they capture it; and for him they are "more affiliated with the Taliban than with former King Zahir Shah".
A chilling scenario, "America can destabilize both Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is part of the American agenda. This is primarily an invasion against Pakistan. If Pakistan is reduced to just the Punjab, its atomic capability becomes ineffective." The Old Wise Man sees ahead of him a scenario of total balkanization: Great Tajikistan, Great Baluchistan, Great Pashtunistan. "And India will also be divided. America wants a permanent base inside Afghanistan. National states will be finished. The sovereignty of the people will be finished. Who will rule Afghanistan is a secondary thing." But the reaction from Islam has already started, "Muslims from Indonesia to Senegal now understand. No American now can walk safely in this area."
So, as many people suspected, "it's not about bin Laden. America creates justifications and rationalizations of its savage behavior." He quotes high-level sources to state that "before September 11 it had already been decided [by the US] to attack Afghanistan in October anyway". Since "a man living in a cave in the Pamirs cannot do it", the only suspect left in the attack against America is the Israeli Mossad. "The Zionists in America feel like the pre-Hitler era in Germany. They feel there may be a second reaction against them. They are now totally dependent on China. All the US technological secrets have gone to China. Hitler was a beneficiary of Israel: its demographic concentration was provided by him. Now the Israelis are playing the same game with America."
The Old Wise Man is now unstoppable, Thirty percent of labor in America is concentrated in war-oriented industries. They create wars. They must have an enemy. It's a Rambo psychology. And the American public is ignorant, and kept alienated. But they cannot create a policy of this magnitude - alienating the Islamic world. Every fifth man is a Muslim. Jewish commentators like Bernard Lewis are saying that one-third of Muslims should be killed: he says if they are not kept under control, "civilization will be found only in a museum". The 'Clash of Civilizations' is now the road map of America'."
By the dominance of capitalism, "Jews have caused the spiritual bankruptcy of the West. They fear that Islam may replace it one day, because Islam is a way of life, giving instruction on everything. Their attitude is of a defensive philosophy."
The Old Wise Man says that facing so many historical forces, President General Pervez Musharraf "had basically two options: to be killed by the Americans, or remain unpopular. He's a prisoner of circumstance. The major reshuffle in the army was practically imposed on him." The Old Wise Man considers that "the Taliban could attack Uzbekistan - and a revolution would engulf all of Central Asia. [President Islam] Karimov is very unpopular. An attack like this could reduce pressure on Chechnya. [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is trying to reach peace in Chechnya. Inside Russia 20 percent of the people are Muslims. As far as America is concerned, this attack is like a shock. America could wake up and think 'We must co-exist. Why should there be a spirit of domination'?"
But America is fighting a ghost. Echoing hordes of starstruck Muslims, but on a different register, the Old Wise Man comments how "there are many Osamas. A Maulana [religious teacher] told me a story that he had met quite a few. And he only knew the truth when one of them said to him. 'I am the real Osama'."
Another house in Peshawar, another man, maybe not so wise, but sharp as an Afghan knife, and as well-dressed as a Pashtun potentate. He raps on the American strategy for the Muslim world, "After the Gulf War, America got a permanent base in the Middle East to police any Muslim misbehavior in the area, and also got direct access to the Middle East oil wealth" - easily deniable to any of the misbehaving lot. America's deluxe allies in this situation were Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
Now, according to the Sharp Dressed Man, comes the American strategy "to prevent the emergence of a solid block of Islamic States" - and the strategy is centered on Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Afghan War is the first part of the strategy. The Taliban should be "smoked out" - and the subsequent "political dispensation" (copyright General Musharraf) can be "manipulated by America": the objective, according to the Sharp Dressed Man, would be an anti-Pakistan government centered around anti-Pakistan Zahir Shah and the Northern Alliance.
This government, says the Sharp Dressed Man, would be "total anarchy" - like the Mujahideen period of 1992-96, out of which emerged the Taliban as a cleansing power. "But as long as Afghanistan is in turmoil, it is impossible for the Central Asian republics to have a direct link with Pakistan, and this prevents the emergence of a powerful Islamic block in the region."
The Sharp Dressed Man is adamant that the US strategy to contain China is centered in India. "The US would like to neutralize Pakistan's nuclear capability, to quell fears of its main strategic long-term ally, India." He insists that America "had plans to target Pakistan before having to deal with Afghanistan, but Musharraf fooled not only [Indian premier Atal Bihari] Vajpayee but [President George W] Bush himself by swiftly changing sides to America instead of supporting the Taliban". But the problem, says the Sharp Dressed Man, is that America fears the Sino-Pak alliance: when the war is over, Pakistan could once again be thrown away - just like after the jihad against the USSR. This feeling is certainly widespread all over Pakistan: the country cannot trust America, and especially as a mediator in the Kashmir issue. According to Pakistanis, India will never cease to try to convince world opinion that Kashmir is not a war of liberation but terrorism pure and simple.
Far away from Peshawar, in Paris, Professor Marwan Bishara stresses the "impressive economic packages" used by America "to co-opt two key allies: Pakistan and Turkey". Bishara identifies a strategic triangle of Turkey, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia - the latter the critical US ally in the Arab world. So America can have the benefit of an alliance of large Islamic countries capable of advancing its Middle Eastern and Central Asian interests - which are not necessarily their own. An immediate consequence of this alliance is the further marginalization of the Middle East: it's important to notice that Egypt is not a part of the package.
Bishara stresses the geostrategic location of the alliance: between Russia and China. What is implied is a long-term projection of American military force and influence in the New Great Game played in Eurasia.
Russia, obviously, could become very suspicious - but this new emerging geopolitical configuration suits Moscow as well. Russia has been in battle with Islam for almost a thousand years. This is what Putin got from the package - discussed on the famous 70-minute long phone call with Bush on September 23: no objections to America establishing a base in Central Asia as long as Russia's southern border is secured against the spread of radical Islam of the hardcore Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) version. The IMU is trained and supported by the Taliban. Its chief, Juma Namangani, is number two on Taliban leader Mullah Omar's love list.
Russia used to consider Turkey and Pakistan as "the Islamic NATO". But now both are supposed to be fighting against radical Islam in the Central Asian republics. Saudi Arabia's ultra-conservative monarchy is expected in the new American strategy to contain hardcore wahhabis inside Russia, mostly Chechnya. And there is a moving target in this big picture: the Hizb-e-Tahrir, a Talibanization movement inside Uzbekistan, Tajkistan and Kyrgyzstan. Russian leaders can hardly believe their luck: their unstable Central Asian republics are going to fight radical Islam with the help of America.
But is this the best of possible worlds? Not really, because Washington, according to professor Bishara, can't help being simple-minded. Washington, for the moment, has only two strategies, according to the professor. To bomb its enemies - allegedly supporters of terrorism - to oblivion, or to co-opt a bunch of other states into being "friends" of circumstance. The Powell doctrine may be dead and buried - but at least Secretary of State Colin Powell is an advocate of co-option. Of course, this does not preclude the fact that America can bomb Iraq whenever it feels like it.
Any Middle Eastern or Central Asian analyst worth his bottle of Johnny Walker is saying that the US is repeating the same mistakes of the Cold War - like the alliance with the Shah of Iran in the 1970s: alliances with hardline or semi-totalitarian governments can only lead to an extremely violent anti-American backlash from their own populations. Bishara argues that "the geography of violence and the politics of geography have changed forever" after September 11.
So the result will be even more turbulence in the Middle East-Central Asia axis. The avalanche of pro-American world opinion will soon vanish - something that is directly proportional to the increasing civilian casualties in Afghanistan. Bishara also pays a lot of attention to the role of China - thunderously silent for the past month, still in shock to find nothing less than American troops not very far from its volatile western border in Xinjiang. China is very much interested in the Central Asian energy bonanza, and also in its markets: they are all part of the New Silk Road. Sooner, rather than later, China will start rumbling against the Turk-Saudi-Pakistani pro-American alliance. India also has motives for being angry - because the alliance bolsters Pakistan and brings the Kashmir problem to a lot of international attention.
In the Arab world, says Bishara, the crux of the matter is there are no Arab leaders with charisma, vision, competence or popular appeal capable of offering a project of development for the region. It is the turmoil and the "social failure" of the Middle East that ultimately led to the desperate route of totalitarian destructive ideology defended by Al-Qaeda. The expression "moderate Arab states" means "coward Arab states" in the eyes of their populations. So, according to Bishara, the periphery of Islam will have access to the center of the Islamic world, and this will lead to a crisis between Arab and non-Arab Islamic states.
This is a powerful case: the new geostrategic alliance will breed more violence, more terrorism, and more anti-American rage. Taking a cue from the Old Wise Man, we may be facing a "clash of civilizations" between hundreds of millions of Islamic victims and dozens of millions of "executioners" - Western but also Islamic. Bishara attributes all these new developments to the "arrogance of power".
It is very tempting and also instructive to compare these views with an Israeli perspective - expressed in the intelligence portal debka.com. The Israelis are enunciating what is already an open secret: this is all about oil - future oil wealth.
In the new value scale, down goes the Arabian peninsula, the Persian Gulf and the Middle East, and up go the Central Asian republics - and in smaller measure Caucasian Azerbaijan and Georgia. This was all cemented and celebrated in that famous long call between Bush and Putin. The most immediate and earth-shattering consequence of all this was the deployment of US military power - including tactical nuclear weapons - in Central Asia, for the very first time.
The Israelis compare it to "the advance of Alexander the Great" more than 2,300 years ago. But when Alexander moved to Central Asia on his way to conquer India, he first thought about bringing down the Persian Empire - thereby covering his rearguard. George W Bush is no Alexander the Great - even if he is now moving in the same direction. But he can count on a very important strategic and logistical reserve for his war: the Turkish and Israeli armies which, according to debka, "have had drills together for five years with discreet American participation".
How long this New Semi-Permanent New Order is going to last depends on how long the Bush-Putin alliance is going to last. There's a feeling in Brussels that Putin may have brushed off Europe because, for him, the future of Eurasia will be decided in Central Asia. But there are conflicting signals - propagated by sources close to Russian intelligence - that a collection of top army generals and ex-KGBs are actively seeking revenge for the fall of the Soviet Empire. The beginning of the end was of course the anti-USSR jihad in Afghanistan in the 1980s. The new strategy would be to trap America in Afghanistan against a fierce Taliban guerrilla movement.
Nobody also can tell what will happen to the Central Asian states - whose governments unleash a violent repression of any dissidence and at the same time try to fight a radical Islam sometimes supported, financed and trained by the Taliban-Al Qaeda axis. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is a real challenge to Karimov. But in the event that the US loses the military bases in Uzbekistan or Tajikistan, it can always count on Turkey as a backup.
And then there's the role of silent China. America's physical presence in Central Asia is a proposition that gives Beijing the creeps. Especially because Beijing and Moscow until a few weeks ago were involved in a very cosy political and military alliance against "hegemonic" America - an alliance spanning Central Asia, the Balkans and the Middle East. There was always the odd face-off regarding Taiwan, but this was a minor irritant. Now China is facing America on three different fronts: Afghanistan-Pakistan (until recently part of China's sphere of influence); Taiwan; and Central Asia.
Xinjiang is the key. According to sources, the Chinese are now encouraging Uighurs to cross into Afghanistan en masse to fight alongside the Taliban against an American invasion. The Chinese borders with Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan are on high military alert. George "I Wish I Was Alexander" Bush will be meeting Chinese President Jiang Zemin in Shanghai on the weekend for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, and will later visit Beijing. It would do him good to brush up on Sun-Tzu's seminal treatise, The Art of War.
The New Imperialism
By Pepe Escobar
Asia Times (Hong Kong)
November 6, 2001
ISLAMABAD - Joseph Conrad was the first modern writer to fully understand that in extreme situations the distinctions and nuances between civilization and the "heart of darkness" collapse with a bang. Conrad showed how the sublime heights of European civilization could fall into the pit of the most barbarous practices - without any sort of preparation or transition (no wonder that Belgium still has not officially acknowledged the genocide of millions during King Leopold's possession of the Congo).
Now more than ever it is rewarding to re-read Conrad - and as an added bonus to watch Francis Ford Coppola's reading of Conrad in the recently released director's cut of Apocalypse Now. The New Afghan War increasingly runs the risk of being configured as The New Vietnam. Washington has said from the beginning this is not Gulf War II. But now, deeply frustrated because they are unable to break the Taliban - those medieval architects of a pan-Islamic utopia - the Pentagon is contemplating a Desert Storm-style invasion the next Afghan spring. This won't be Gulf War II: this will be Vietnam II.
Most of the Muslim world's uneducated masses suffer from political and social underdevelopment and extremely corrupt elites. Osama bin Laden capitalized on this dysfunction. Osama and the Al-Qaeda, in their warped world-view, would have the Muslim world believe that we are now facing a war between Islam and the West. It may come as a striking revelation that the West also has its hordes of fundamentalists, of the armchair kind - but although they don't resort to jet-turned-to-missile suicide squads, they are just as deadly.
When Samuel Huntington came up with his Clash of Civilizations reductionist classic in 1993, he relied heavily on The Roots of Muslim Rage, a 1990 essay by the Orientalist Bernard Lewis. Professor Edward Said, a most acute critic of Orientalists, has pointed out that neither Huntington nor Lewis were careful enough to examine the fact that "the major contest in most modern cultures concerns the definition or interpretation of each culture". This goes way beyond a simplistic clash of cultures. Huntington's clash became a road map for American foreign policy because it is basically an ideology: a very handy ideology to fill the vacuum created by the end of the ideology-heavy Cold War.
We don't even have to invoke Freud and Nietzsche - as Said does - to realize that "there are closer ties between apparently warring civilizations than most of us would like to believe". Huntington's clash - although a dangerous warring ideology - must be ridiculed for what it is: mere defensive self-pride. As any urban youth in any world city can attest, the name of the game in the 21st century is interdependence: cultures are not monolithic, they interact in an orgy of cross-fertilization.
Bush the elder was wrong - or his formulation was ahead of his time. Not the Gulf War, but the Afghan War, fought by young Bush, is the preamble to a New World Order. The signs are already in print - and they are all offshoots of Huntington's clash.
An otherwise obscure opinion page editor of the Wall Street Journal is in favor of "colonization of wayward nations", including "the application of a dose of US imperialism". Not beating around the bush either, British historian Paul Johnson has also published in the Journal a piece titled "The Answer to Terrorism? Colonialism". The Financial Times, not to be upstaged by American competition, has carried its own "The Need for a New Imperialism". So what are all these self-important paragons of free speech and exchange of ideas basically saying? They're saying that the future, ladies and gentleman, is the past.
The New Imperialism according to the Financial Times is "defensive" - as defensive as Huntington's clash. It is based on the arbitrarily-defined concept of a "failed state". Afghanistan is given as a prime example. The FT cleverly omits to examine how Afghanistan failed because of relentless Russian and American armed interference since the late 1970s.
In The New Imperialism, the "coercive apparatus" must be provided by the West. To disguise the imperialist thrust, the FT suggests that the United Nations should be in charge of these "temporary protectorates". This is exactly what the US has in mind for Afghanistan. Obviously, nobody is listening to the UN special envoy to Afghanistan, Algerian diplomat Lakdar Brahimi, who said in Islamabad last week that the heavily-publicized utopia of a "broad-based government" cannot be forced down the Afghani people's throats: it will take time, it will have to come from within. Otherwise the end result will be, again, chaos.
Paul Johnson theorizes that the war against terrorism will lead to a new form of colonialism - of the benign or "respectable" kind - by "the great civilized powers". He can only mean America and its blind follower Britain - because the last time we checked France, Germany, Italy, Japan and China, to name but a few, are extremely civilized but not exactly keen on turning back the digital clock of history.
What Johnson really wants is to keep again arbitrarily-defined "terrorist states" under "responsible supervision" - meaning "unavoidable" political interference from the West. He even provides a list of eligible countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Iran and Syria. No coincidence: they are all Islamic. But if Johnson abandoned his leather armchair to do a bit of traveling, he could verify that at least three of these have better fish to fry.
Tony Blair bent over backwards on his recent visit to Damascus to engage Syria: Bashar Assad may not be a paragon of democracy, but he is more interested in education and information technology than bombs. Libya - not South Africa - is the new Eldorado for millions of black western and central Africans: Gaddafi, the Great Survivor, prefers to seduce African youth with economic opportunities rather than with bombs. Iran is torn between hardliners and moderates, but the young generation is fully behind Khatami and his "dialogue of civilizations" - a splendidly articulated cultural platform that strikes a chord all over the developing world.
Billions of people in Southeast Asia, China, South Asia, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East , Eastern Europe or even Western Europe were not consulted about the designs of the New Imperialism. But it is no coincidence that the New Imperialism is being proposed exactly at this historical juncture. The current Pentagon production on the word's screens has turned out to be essentially a relentless bombing of innocent, starving civilians as punishment for terrorist attacks. It is widely regarded - not only in the Muslim world - as a very expensive and ultimately apalling exercise in futility. Apart from America, public support around the world is vanishing at an alarming rate.
This war was imposed from above on the Afghan population. They were never consulted about its legitimacy. They are not responsible for it. They are helpless victims. A cartoon in the Pakistani press explained the real meaning of "carpet bombing": American bombs fall on an Afghan carpet while a group of unflappable Taliban pose on the side for an Al Jazeera TV crew.
The proponents of New Imperialism conveniently forget to examine how the Taliban got to the ruined top of "failed" Afghanistan in the first place. The Taliban are eminently an Afghan, Pastun and tribal movement. It is easy to forget they are a direct product of the Saudi-American-financed anti-USSR jihad of the '80s. They took power in Kabul in 1996 with the absolute blessing of the US.
Afghanistan was beyond "failed" as a state in 1996. But at the time the Taliban were regarded as a convenient tool for the implementation of another classic American business plan: the construction of oil and gas pipelines from the Central Asian republics through Afghanistan, with Karachi as a major destination. The Taliban would theoretically control the whole country, impose law and order, and guarantee a safe trading environment.
The US had high hopes for the Taliban. They would clear Afghanistan of drugs. They would act against Russian and Iranian economic and geopolitical interests. They would get rid of terrorist training camps. They would pave the way for the return of former king Zahir Shah (no joke: this is what Washington thought way back in 1996). And most of all they would open the gates for the mega-pipelines from Central Asia.
So the whole thing was a sub-plot of the New Great Oil Rush: how America would win against the stiff competition of Russia and Iran. The American-Saudi coalition of Unocal and Delta was the main Western player. Then came the fall of Kabul - mostly financed by none other than Osama bin Laden himself. Unocal at the time was madly in love with the Taliban: an official statement praised the Taliban and the prospect of "immediately" doing business with them. In Afghanistan in 1996, as Afghan veterans comment in Peshawar, the perception was that the Taliban were supported or even financed by Washington.
Unocal was actively negotiating with the Taliban the construction of pipelines from Turkmenistan to the Arabian Sea, via Afghanistan and Pakistan. Unocal officials were extensively briefed by CIA agents. The positioning of Unocal in relation to Pakistani sources was equivalent to the positioning of the CIA during the jihad in the '80s. Unocal's main source of information was the disinformation-infested US Embassy in Islamabad.
Apart from all the by-products of their demented version of Islam, the Taliban in the end dealt a major blow to Washington. They did not control all of Afghanistan as expected. They did not bring peace: on the contrary, they installed a police state and engaged in ethnic cleansing (against the Hazaras). Average Afghans stress that the Taliban version of "peace" soon degenerated into an internal jihad against the civilian population.
They did not end poppy cultivation: on the contrary, they made a lot of money out of it. They treated women in the most repulsive way. And - the ultimate reason for their current predicament - they extended a precious red Afghan carpet to Osama bin Laden and his Arab-Afghans.
From courting this irascible lover, America is now bombing it to oblivion. But as millions in the Muslim world keeps on repeating, not a single piece of evidence has been produced in public to suggest that the Taliban are totally, partially, or even marginally responsible for September 11. Not a single piece of a so-called unimpeachable evidence was "independently verified" - as BBC and CNN are so fond of saying (even when they are verifying something during a Taliban-sponsored tour of Kandahar).
Any talk of a future broad-based Afghan government is a smoke screen. As far as American interests are concerned, it has to be a government that no matter what facilitates the American perspective of the Last Great Oil Rush. If push comes to shove, America may even contemplate an occupation of Afghanistan, more or less disguised via the UN. Before that happens, policy makers had better listen to Afghan professor Jamalluddin Naqvi, who says, "History is witness to the fact that Afghanistan is a human and territorial Bermuda Triangle from where no one ever comes out - at any rate in one piece."
Henry Kissinger would grumble that this is just realpolitik. It would certainly be an instance of the New Imperialism in action. The international community should thank the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times for informing us all in advance.
Another imperialist with impeccable credentials, globalization's puppy dog Thomas Friedman, wrote in the New York Times that "the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies to flourish is called the US Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps". Globalization does not work without the New Imperialism. But another reading of history is always possible. In their seminal book Empire, Tony Negri and Michael Hardt argue that the process of globalization has generated a universal and oppressive New Imperialism - but stress that a real humanist alternative to imperialism and war is more than possible.
Ibn Khaldun, a Muslim historian of the 14th century, would agree. He was not deterministic like Huntington, Fukuyuma and assorted cohorts. He said that civilizations follow a process - they go through different stages. Centuries before Adam Smith, Ibn Khaldun came up with an extremely sophisticated analysis of free trade, the role of the market, and the rule of law. The Muqaddimah - the introduction to his immense Universal History, is a prodigy of humanism: nothing remotely similar to the intolerant Islam of the Taliban or the confrontational Islam of Al-Qaeda.
If Ibn Khaldun were alive today, he would tell us that American civilization - like the Caliphates, or the Umayyad dynasty of his time - has expanded to almost limitless power. And when you reach Absolute Power, the only way is down. Not only the eminent Muslim reached this conclusion, but also Western icons like Gibbon - talking about the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire - and more recently Professor Paul Kennedy, who excelled in his examination of the concept of overextension of great powers.
In a fruitful "dialogue among civilizations" - an Iranian idea - Ibn Khaldun and Professor Kennedy would probably agree that America is now overextended. And they would certainly agree that civilizations do decline. America still is by all means a civilization of boundless, fascinating energy and dynamism. But it must beware of hubris - the essential element in Greek tragedy, the cultural foundation of Western civilization. Unfortunately, some dreamers of New Imperialism and assorted Pentagon generals have never heard of Sophocles. They'd better get their act together before they plunge America into another heart of darkness.
Congressman Ron Paul (Texas) said in a hearing that this war was about money, oil, and a pipeline not about 'getting terrorists' and he quoted foreign papers. Here is the link
Congressman Ron Paul, House of Representatives,
November 29, 2001
Keep Your Eye on the Target
We have been told on numerous occasions to expect a long and protracted war. This is not necessary if one can identify the target- the enemy- and then stay focused on that target. It's impossible to keep one's eye on a target and hit it if one does not precisely understand it and identify it. In pursuing any military undertaking, it's the responsibility of Congress to know exactly why it appropriates the funding. Today, unlike any time in our history, the enemy and its location remain vague and pervasive. In the undeclared wars of Vietnam and Korea, the enemy was known and clearly defined, even though our policies were confused and contradictory. Today our policies relating to the growth of terrorism are also confused and contradictory; however, the precise enemy and its location are not known by anyone. Until the enemy is defined and understood, it cannot be accurately targeted or vanquished.
The terrorist enemy is no more an entity than the "mob"or some international criminal gang. It certainly is not a country, nor is it the Afghan people. The Taliban is obviously a strong sympathizer with bin Laden and his henchmen, but how much more so than the government of Saudi Arabia or even Pakistan? Probably not much.
Ulterior motives have always played a part in the foreign policy of almost every nation throughout history. Economic gain and geographic expansion, or even just the desires for more political power, too often drive the militarism of all nations. Unfortunately, in recent years, we have not been exempt. If expansionism, economic interests, desire for hegemony, and influential allies affect our policies and they, in turn, incite mob attacks against us, they obviously cannot be ignored. The target will be illusive and ever enlarging, rather than vanquished.
We do know a lot about the terrorists who spilled the blood of nearly 4,000 innocent civilians. There were 19 of them, 15 from Saudi Arabia, and they have paid a high price. They're all dead. So those most responsible for the attack have been permanently taken care of. If one encounters a single suicide bomber who takes his own life along with others without the help of anyone else, no further punishment is possible. The only question that can be raised under that circumstance is why did it happen and how can we change the conditions that drove an individual to perform such a heinous act.
The terrorist attacks on New York and Washington are not quite so simple, but they are similar. These attacks required funding, planning and inspiration from others. But the total number of people directly involved had to be relatively small in order to have kept the plans thoroughly concealed. Twenty accomplices, or even a hundred could have done it. But there's no way thousands of people knew and participated in the planning and carrying out of this attack. Moral support expressed by those who find our policies offensive is a different matter and difficult to discover. Those who enjoyed seeing the U.S. hit are too numerous to count and impossible to identify. To target and wage war against all of them is like declaring war against an idea or sin.
The predominant nationality of the terrorists was Saudi Arabian. Yet for political and economic reasons, even with the lack of cooperation from the Saudi government, we have ignored that country in placing blame. The Afghan people did nothing to deserve another war. The Taliban, of course, is closely tied to bin Laden and al-Qaeda, but so are the Pakistanis and the Saudis. Even the United States was a supporter of the Taliban's rise to power, and as recently as August of 2001, we talked oil pipeline politics with them.
The recent French publication of bin Laden, The Forbidden Truth revealed our most recent effort to secure control over Caspian Sea oil in collaboration with the Taliban. According to the two authors, the economic conditions demanded by the U.S. were turned down and led to U.S. military threats against the Taliban.
It has been known for years that Unocal, a U.S. company, has been anxious to build a pipeline through northern Afghanistan, but it has not been possible due to the weak Afghan central government. We should not be surprised now that many contend that the plan for the UN to "nation build" in Afghanistan is a logical and important consequence of this desire. The crisis has merely given those interested in this project an excuse to replace the government of Afghanistan. Since we don't even know if bin Laden is in Afghanistan, and since other countries are equally supportive of him, our concentration on this Taliban "target" remains suspect by many.
Former FBI Deputy Director John O'Neill resigned in July over duplicitous dealings with the Taliban and our oil interests. O'Neill then took a job as head of the World Trade Center security and ironically was killed in the 9-11 attack. The charges made by these authors in their recent publication deserve close scrutiny and congressional oversight investigation- and not just for the historical record.
To understand world sentiment on this subject, one might note a comment in The Hindu, India's national newspaper- not necessarily to agree with the paper's sentiment, but to help us better understand what is being thought about us around the world in contrast to the spin put on the war by our five major TV news networks.
This quote comes from an article written by Sitaram Yechury on October 13, 2001:
The world today is being asked to side with the U.S. in a fight against global terrorism. This is only a cover. The world is being asked today, in reality, to side with the U.S. as it seeks to strengthen its economic hegemony. This is neither acceptable nor will it be allowed. We must forge together to state that we are neither with the terrorists nor with the United States.
The need to define our target is ever so necessary if we're going to avoid letting this war get out of control.
It's important to note that in the same article, the author quoted Michael Klare, an expert on Caspian Sea oil reserves, from an interview on Radio Free Europe: "We (the U.S.) view oil as a security consideration and we have to protect it by any means necessary, regardless of other considerations, other values." This, of course, was a clearly stated position of our administration in 1990 as our country was being prepared to fight the Persian Gulf War. Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction only became the issue later on.
For various reasons, the enemy with whom we're now at war remains vague and illusive. Those who commit violent terrorist acts should be targeted with a rifle or hemlock- not with vague declarations, with some claiming we must root out terrorism in as many as 60 countries. If we're not precise in identifying our enemy, it's sure going to be hard to keep our eye on the target. Without this identification, the war will spread and be needlessly prolonged.
Why is this definition so crucial? Because without it, the special interests and the ill-advised will clamor for all kinds of expansive militarism. Planning to expand and fight a never-ending war in 60 countries against worldwide terrorist conflicts with the notion that, at most, only a few hundred ever knew of the plans to attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The pervasive and indefinable enemy- terrorism- cannot be conquered with weapons and UN nation building- only a more sensible pro-American foreign policy will accomplish this. This must occur if we are to avoid a cataclysmic expansion of the current hostilities.
It was said that our efforts were to be directed toward the terrorists responsible for the attacks, and overthrowing and instituting new governments were not to be part of the agenda. Already we have clearly taken our eyes off that target and diverted it toward building a pro-Western, UN-sanctioned government in Afghanistan. But if bin Laden can hit us in New York and DC, what should one expect to happen once the US/UN establishes a new government in Afghanistan with occupying troops. It seems that would be an easy target for the likes of al Qaeda.
Since we don't know in which cave or even in which country bin Laden is hiding, we hear the clamor of many for us to overthrow our next villain- Saddam Hussein- guilty or not. On the short list of countries to be attacked are North Korea, Libya, Syria, Iran, and the Sudan, just for starters. But this jingoistic talk is foolhardy and dangerous. The war against terrorism cannot be won in this manner.
The drumbeat for attacking Baghdad grows louder every day, with Paul Wolfowitz, Bill Kristol, Richard Perle, and Bill Bennett leading the charge. In a recent interview, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, made it clear: "We are going to continue pursuing the entire al Qaeda network which is in 60 countries, not just Afghanistan." Fortunately, President Bush and Colin Powell so far have resisted the pressure to expand the war into other countries. Let us hope and pray that they do not yield to the clamor of the special interests that want us to take on Iraq.
The argument that we need to do so because Hussein is producing weapons of mass destruction is the reddest of all herrings. I sincerely doubt that he has developed significant weapons of mass destruction. However, if that is the argument, we should plan to attack all those countries that have similar weapons or plans to build them- countries like China, North Korea, Israel, Pakistan, and India. Iraq has been uncooperative with the UN World Order and remains independent of western control of its oil reserves, unlike Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. This is why she has been bombed steadily for 11 years by the U.S. and Britain. My guess is that in the not-too-distant future, so-called proof will be provided that Saddam Hussein was somehow partially responsible for the attack in the United States, and it will be irresistible then for the U.S. to retaliate against him. This will greatly and dangerously expand the war and provoke even greater hatred toward the United States, and it's all so unnecessary.
It's just so hard for many Americans to understand how we inadvertently provoke the Arab/Muslim people, and I'm not talking about the likes of bin Laden and his al Qaeda gang. I'm talking about the Arab/Muslim masses.
In 1996, after five years of sanctions against Iraq and persistent bombings, CBS reporter Lesley Stahl asked our Ambassador to the United Nations, Madeline Albright, a simple question: "We have heard that a half million children have died (as a consequence of our policy against Iraq). Is the price worth it?" Albright's response was "We think the price is worth it." Although this interview won an Emmy award, it was rarely shown in the U.S. but widely circulated in the Middle East. Some still wonder why America is despised in this region of the world!
Former President George W. Bush has been criticized for not marching on to Baghdad at the end of the Persian Gulf War. He gave then, and stands by his explanation today, a superb answer of why it was ill-advised to attempt to remove Saddam Hussein from power- there were strategic and tactical, as well as humanitarian, arguments against it. But the important and clinching argument against annihilating Baghdad was political. The coalition, in no uncertain terms, let it be known they wanted no part of it. Besides, the UN only authorized the removal of Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. The UN has never sanctioned the continued U.S. and British bombing of Iraq- a source of much hatred directed toward the United States.
But placing of U.S. troops on what is seen as Muslim holy land in Saudi Arabia seems to have done exactly what the former President was trying to avoid- the breakup of the coalition. The coalition has hung together by a thread, but internal dissention among the secular and religious Arab/Muslim nations within individual countries has intensified. Even today, the current crisis threatens the overthrow of every puppet pro-western Arab leader from Egypt to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
Many of the same advisors from the first Bush presidency are now urging the current President to finish off Hussein. However, every reason given 11 years ago for not leveling Baghdad still holds true today- if not more so.
It has been argued that we needed to maintain a presence in Saudi Arabia after the Persian Gulf War to protect the Saudi government from Iraqi attack. Others argued that it was only a cynical excuse to justify keeping troops to protect what our officials declared were "our" oil supplies. Some have even suggested that our expanded presence in Saudi Arabia was prompted by a need to keep King Fahd in power and to thwart any effort by Saudi fundamentalists to overthrow his regime.
Expanding the war by taking on Iraq at this time may well please some allies, but it will lead to unbelievable chaos in the region and throughout the world. It will incite even more anti-American sentiment and expose us to even greater dangers. It could prove to be an unmitigated disaster. Iran and Russia will not be pleased with this move.
It is not our job to remove Saddam Hussein- that is the job of the Iraqi people. It is not our job to remove the Taliban- that is the business of the Afghan people. It is not our job to insist that the next government in Afghanistan include women, no matter how good an idea it is. If this really is an issue, why don't we insist that our friends in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait do the same thing, as well as impose our will on them? Talk about hypocrisy! The mere thought that we fight wars for affirmative action in a country 6,000 miles from home, with no cultural similarities, should insult us all. Of course it does distract us from the issue of an oil pipeline through northern Afghanistan. We need to keep our eye on the target and not be so easily distracted.
Assume for a minute that bin Laden is not in Afghanistan. Would any of our military efforts in that region be justified? Since none of it would be related to American security, it would be difficult to justify.
Assume for a minute that bin Laden is as ill as I believe he is with serious renal disease, would he not do everything conceivable for his cause by provoking us into expanding the war and alienating as many Muslims as possible?
Remember, to bin Laden, martyrdom is a noble calling, and he just may be more powerful in death than he is in life. An American invasion of Iraq would please bin Laden, because it would rally his troops against any moderate Arab leader who appears to be supporting the United States. It would prove his point that America is up to no good, that oil and Arab infidels are the source of all the Muslims' problems.
We have recently been reminded of Admiral Yamamoto's quote after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in expressing his fear that the event "Awakened a sleeping giant." Most everyone agrees with the prophetic wisdom of that comment. But I question the accuracy of drawing an analogy between the Pearl Harbor event and the World Trade Center attack. We are hardly the same nation we were in 1941. Today, we're anything but a sleeping giant. There's no contest for our status as the world's only economic, political and military super power. A "sleeping giant" would not have troops in 141 countries throughout the world and be engaged in every conceivable conflict with 250,000 troops stationed abroad.
The fear I have is that our policies, along with those of Britain, the UN, and NATO since World War II, inspired and have now awakened a long-forgotten sleeping giant- Islamic fundamentalism.
Let's hope for all our sakes that Iraq is not made the target in this complex war.
The President, in the 2000 presidential campaign, argued against nation building, and he was right to do so. He also said, "If we're an arrogant nation, they'll resent us." He wisely argued for humility and a policy that promotes peace. Attacking Baghdad or declaring war against Saddam Hussein, or even continuing the illegal bombing of Iraq, is hardly a policy of humility designed to promote peace.
As we continue our bombing of Afghanistan, plans are made to install a new government sympathetic to the West and under UN control. The persuasive argument as always is money. We were able to gain Pakistan's support, although it continually wavers, in this manner. Appropriations are already being prepared in the Congress to rebuild all that we destroy in Afghanistan, and then some- even before the bombing has stopped.
Rumsfeld's plan, as reported in Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper, lays out the plan for the next Iraqi government. Turkey's support is crucial, so the plan is to give Turkey oil from the northern Iraq Karkuk field. The United States has also promised a pipeline running from Iraq through Turkey. How can the Turks resist such a generous offer? Since we subsidize Turkey and they bomb the Kurds, while we punish the Iraqis for the same, this plan to divvy up wealth in the land of the Kurds is hardly a surprise.
It seems that Washington never learns. Our foolish foreign interventions continually get us into more trouble than we have bargained for- and the spending is endless. I am not optimistic that this Congress will anytime soon come to its senses. I am afraid that we will never treat the taxpayers with respect. National bankruptcy is a more likely scenario than Congress adopting a frugal and wise spending policy.
Mr. Speaker, we must make every effort to precisely define our target in this war and keep our eye on it.
It is safe to assume that the number of people directly involved in the 9-11 attacks is closer to several hundred than the millions we are now talking about targeting with our planned shotgun approach to terrorism.
One commentator pointed out that when the mafia commits violence, no one suggests we bomb Sicily. Today it seems we are, in a symbolic way, not only bombing "Sicily," but are thinking about bombing "Athens" (Iraq).
If a corrupt city or state government does business with a drug cartel or organized crime and violence results, we don't bomb city hall or the state capital- we limit the targets to those directly guilty and punish them. Could we not learn a lesson from these examples?
It is difficult for everyone to put the 9-11 attacks in a proper perspective, because any attempt to do so is construed as diminishing the utter horror of the events of that day. We must remember, though, that the 3,900 deaths incurred in the World Trade Center attacks are just slightly more than the deaths that occur on our nation's highways each month. Could it be that the sense of personal vulnerability we survivors feel motivates us in meting out justice, rather than the concern for the victims of the attacks? Otherwise, the numbers don't add up to the proper response. If we lose sight of the target and unwisely broaden the war, the tragedy of 9-11 may pale in the death and destruction that could lie ahead.
As members of Congress, we have a profound responsibility to mete out justice, provide security for our nation, and protect the liberties of all the people, without senselessly expanding the war at the urging of narrow political and economic special interests. The price is too high, and the danger too great. We must not lose our focus on the real target and inadvertently create new enemies for ourselves.
We have not done any better keeping our eye on the terrorist target on the home front than we have overseas. Not only has Congress come up short in picking the right target, it has directed all its energies in the wrong direction. The target of our efforts has sadly been the liberties all Americans enjoy. With all the new power we have given to the administration, none has truly improved the chances of catching the terrorists who were responsible for the 9-11 attacks. All Americans will soon feel the consequences of this new legislation.
Just as the crisis provided an opportunity for some to promote a special-interest agenda in our foreign policy efforts, many have seen the crisis as a chance to achieve changes in our domestic laws, changes which, up until now, were seen as dangerous and unfair to American citizens.
Granting bailouts is not new for Congress, but current conditions have prompted many takers to line up for handouts. There has always been a large constituency for expanding federal power for whatever reason, and these groups have been energized. The military-industrial complex is out in full force and is optimistic. Union power is pleased with recent events and has not missed the opportunity to increase membership rolls. Federal policing powers, already in a bull market, received a super shot in the arm. The IRS, which detests financial privacy, gloats, while all the big spenders in Washington applaud the tools made available to crack down on tax dodgers. The drug warriors and anti-gun zealots love the new powers that now can be used to watch the every move of our citizens. "Extremists" who talk of the Constitution, promote right-to-life, form citizen militias, or participate in non-mainstream religious practices now can be monitored much more effectively by those who find their views offensive. Laws recently passed by the Congress apply to all Americans- not just terrorists. But we should remember that if the terrorists are known and identified, existing laws would have been quite adequate to deal with them.
Even before the passage of the recent draconian legislation, hundreds had already been arrested under suspicion, and millions of dollars of al Qaeda funds had been frozen. None of these new laws will deal with uncooperative foreign entities like the Saudi government, which chose not to relinquish evidence pertaining to exactly who financed the terrorists' operations. Unfortunately, the laws will affect all innocent Americans, yet will do nothing to thwart terrorism.
The laws recently passed in Congress in response to the terrorist attacks can be compared to the effort by anti-gun fanatics, who jump at every chance to undermine the Second Amendment. When crimes are committed with the use of guns, it's argued that we must remove guns from society, or at least register them and make it difficult to buy them. The counter argument made by Second Amendment supporters correctly explains that this would only undermine the freedom of law-abiding citizens and do nothing to keep guns out of the hands of criminals or to reduce crime.
Now we hear a similar argument that a certain amount of privacy and personal liberty of law-abiding citizens must be sacrificed in order to root out possible terrorists. This will result only in liberties being lost, and will not serve to preempt any terrorist act. The criminals, just as they know how to get guns even when they are illegal, will still be able to circumvent anti-terrorist laws. To believe otherwise is to endorse a Faustian bargain, but that is what I believe the Congress has done.
We know from the ongoing drug war that federal drug police frequently make mistakes, break down the wrong doors and destroy property. Abuses of seizure and forfeiture laws are numerous. Yet the new laws will encourage even more mistakes by federal law-enforcement agencies. It has long been forgotten that law enforcement in the United States was supposed to be a state and local government responsibility, not that of the federal government. The federal government's policing powers have just gotten a giant boost in scope and authority through both new legislation and executive orders.
Before the 9-11 attack, Attorney General Ashcroft let his position be known regarding privacy and government secrecy. Executive Order 13223 made it much more difficult for researchers to gain access to presidential documents from previous administrations, now a "need to know" has to be demonstrated. This was a direct hit at efforts to demand openness in government, even if only for analysis and writing of history. Ashcroft's position is that presidential records ought to remain secret, even after an administration has left office. He argues that government deserves privacy while ignoring the 4th Amendment protections of the people's privacy. He argues his case by absurdly claiming he must "protect"the privacy of the individuals who might be involved- a non-problem that could easily be resolved without closing public records to the public.
It is estimated that approximately 1,200 men have been arrested as a consequence of 9-11, yet their names and the charges are not available, and according to Ashcroft, will not be made available. Once again, he uses the argument that he's protecting the privacy of those charged. Unbelievable! Due process for the detainees has been denied. Secret government is winning out over open government. This is the largest number of people to be locked up under these conditions since FDR's internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Information regarding these arrests is a must, in a constitutional republic. If they're terrorists or accomplices, just let the public know and pursue their prosecution. But secret arrests and silence are not acceptable in a society that professes to be free. Curtailing freedom is not the answer to protecting freedom under adverse circumstances.
The administration has severely curtailed briefings regarding the military operation in Afghanistan for congressional leaders, ignoring a long-time tradition in this country. One person or one branch of government should never control military operations. Our system of government has always required a shared-power arrangement.
The Anti-Terrorism Bill did little to restrain the growth of big government. In the name of patriotism, the Congress did some very unpatriotic things. Instead of concentrating on the persons or groups that committed the attacks on 9-11, our efforts, unfortunately, have undermined the liberties of all Americans.
"Know Your Customer" type banking regulations, resisted by most Americans for years, have now been put in place in an expanded fashion. Not only will the regulations affect banks, thrifts and credit unions, but also all businesses will be required to file suspicious transaction reports if cash is used with the total of the transaction reaching $10,000. Retail stores will be required to spy on all their customers and send reports to the U.S. government. Financial services consultants are convinced that this new regulation will affect literally millions of law-abiding American citizens. The odds that this additional paperwork will catch a terrorist are remote. The sad part is that the regulations have been sought after by federal law-enforcement agencies for years. The 9-11 attacks have served as an opportunity to get them by the Congress and the American people.
Only now are the American people hearing about the onerous portions of the anti-terrorism legislation, and they are not pleased.
It's easy for elected officials in Washington to tell the American people that the government will do whatever it takes to defeat terrorism. Such assurances inevitably are followed by proposals either to restrict the constitutional liberties of the American people or to spend vast sums of money from the federal treasury. The history of the 20th Century shows that the Congress violates our Constitution most often during times of crisis. Accordingly, most of our worst unconstitutional agencies and programs began during the two World Wars and the Depression. Ironically, the Constitution itself was conceived in a time of great crisis. The founders intended its provision to place severe restrictions on the federal government, even in times of great distress. America must guard against current calls for government to sacrifice the Constitution in the name of law enforcement.
The"anti-terrorism" legislation recently passed by Congress demonstrates how well-meaning politicians make shortsighted mistakes in a rush to respond to a crisis. Most of its provisions were never carefully studied by Congress, nor was sufficient time taken to debate the bill despite its importance. No testimony was heard from privacy experts or from others fields outside of law enforcement. Normal congressional committee and hearing processes were suspended. In fact, the final version of the bill was not even made available to Members before the vote! The American public should not tolerate these political games, especially when our precious freedoms are at stake.
Almost all of the new laws focus on American citizens rather than potential foreign terrorists. For example, the definition of "terrorism," for federal criminal purposes, has been greatly expanded A person could now be considered a terrorist by belonging to a pro-constitution group, a citizen militia, or a pro-life organization. Legitimate protests against the government could place tens of thousands of other Americans under federal surveillance. Similarly, internet use can be monitored without a user's knowledge, and internet providers can be forced to hand over user information to law-enforcement officials without a warrant or subpoena.
The bill also greatly expands the use of traditional surveillance tools, including wiretaps, search warrants, and subpoenas. Probable-cause standards for these tools are relaxed, or even eliminated in some circumstances. Warrants become easier to obtain and can be executed without notification. Wiretaps can be placed without a court order. In fact, the FBI and CIA now can tap phones or computers nationwide, without demonstrating that a criminal suspect is using a particular phone or computer.
The biggest problem with these new law-enforcement powers is that they bear little relationship to fighting terrorism. Surveillance powers are greatly expanded, while checks and balances on government are greatly reduced. Most of the provisions have been sought by domestic law-enforcement agencies for years, not to fight terrorism, but rather to increase their police power over the American people. There is no evidence that our previously held civil liberties posed a barrier to the effective tracking or prosecution of terrorists. The federal government has made no showing that it failed to detect or prevent the recent terrorist strikes because of the civil liberties that will be compromised by this new legislation.
In his speech to the joint session of Congress following the September 11th attacks, President Bush reminded all of us that the United States outlasted and defeated Soviet totalitarianism in the last century. The numerous internal problems in the former Soviet Union- its centralized economic planning and lack of free markets, its repression of human liberty and its excessive militarization- all led to its inevitable collapse. We must be vigilant to resist the rush toward ever-increasing state control of our society, so that our own government does not become a greater threat to our freedoms than any foreign terrorist.
The executive order that has gotten the most attention by those who are concerned that our response to 9-11 is overreaching and dangerous to our liberties is the one authorizing military justice, in secret. Nazi war criminals were tried in public, but plans now are laid to carry out the trials and punishment, including possibly the death penalty, outside the eyes and ears of the legislative and judicial branches of government and the American public. Since such a process threatens national security and the Constitution, it cannot be used as a justification for their protection.
Some have claimed this military tribunal has been in the planning stages for five years. If so, what would have been its justification?
The argument that FDR did it and therefore it must be OK is a rather weak justification. Roosevelt was hardly one that went by the rule book- the Constitution. But the situation then was quite different from today. There was a declared war by Congress against a precise enemy, the Germans, who sent eight saboteurs into our country. Convictions were unanimous, not 2/3 of the panel, and appeals were permitted. That's not what's being offered today. Furthermore, the previous military tribunals expired when the war ended. Since this war will go on indefinitely, so too will the courts.
The real outrage is that such a usurpation of power can be accomplished with the stroke of a pen. It may be that we have come to that stage in our history when an executive order is "the law of the land," but it's not "kinda cool," as one member of the previous administration bragged. It's a process that is unacceptable, even in this professed time of crisis.
There are well-documented histories of secret military tribunals. Up until now, the United States has consistently condemned them. The fact that a two-thirds majority can sentence a person to death in secrecy in the United States is scary. With no appeals available, and no defense attorneys of choice being permitted, fairness should compel us to reject such a system outright.
Those who favor these trials claim they are necessary to halt terrorism in its tracks. We are told that only terrorists will be brought before these tribunals. This means that the so-called suspects must be tried and convicted before they are assigned to this type of "trial" without due process. They will be deemed guilty by hearsay, in contrast to the traditional American system of justice where all are innocent until proven guilty. This turns the justice system on its head.
One cannot be reassured by believing these courts will only apply to foreigners who are terrorists. Sloppiness in convicting criminals is a slippery slope. We should not forget that the Davidians at Waco were "convicted" and demonized and slaughtered outside our judicial system, and they were, for the most part, American citizens. Randy Weaver's family fared no better.
It has been said that the best way for us to spread our message of freedom, justice and prosperity throughout the world is through example and persuasion, not through force of arms. We have drifted a long way from that concept. Military courts will be another bad example for the world. We were outraged in 1996 when Lori Berenson, an American citizen, was tried, convicted, and sentenced to life by a Peruvian military court. Instead of setting an example, now we are following the lead of a Peruvian dictator.
The ongoing debate regarding the use of torture in rounding up the criminals involved in the 9-11 attacks is too casual. This can hardly represent progress in the cause of liberty and justice. Once government becomes more secretive, it is more likely this tool will be abused. Hopefully the Congress will not endorse or turn a blind eye to this barbaric proposal. For every proposal made to circumvent the justice system, it's intended that we visualize that these infractions of the law and the Constitution will apply only to terrorists and never involve innocent U.S. citizens. This is impossible, because someone has to determine exactly who to bring before the tribunal, and that involves all of us. That is too much arbitrary power for anyone to be given in a representative government and is more characteristic of a totalitarian government.
Many throughout the world, especially those in Muslim countries, will be convinced by the secretive process that the real reason for military courts is that the U.S. lacks sufficient evidence to convict in an open court. Should we be fighting so strenuously the war against terrorism and carelessly sacrifice our traditions of American justice? If we do, the war will be for naught and we will lose, even if we win.
Congress has a profound responsibility in all of this and should never concede this power to a President or an Attorney General. Congressional oversight powers must be used to their fullest to curtail this unconstitutional assumption of power.
The planned use of military personnel to patrol our streets and airports is another challenge of great importance that should not go uncontested. For years, many in Washington have advocated a national approach to all policing activity. This current crisis has given them a tremendous boost. Believe me, this is no panacea and is a dangerous move. The Constitution never intended that the federal government assume this power. This concept was codified in the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. This act prohibits the military from carrying out law-enforcement duties such as searching or arresting people in the United States, the argument being that the military is only used for this type of purpose in a police state. Interestingly, it was the violation of these principles that prompted the Texas Revolution against Mexico. The military under the Mexican Constitution at that time was prohibited from enforcing civil laws, and when Santa Anna ignored this prohibition, the revolution broke out. We should not so readily concede the principle that has been fought for on more than one occasion in this country.
The threats to liberty seem endless. It seems we have forgotten to target the enemy. Instead we have inadvertently targeted the rights of American citizens. The crisis has offered a good opportunity for those who have argued all along for bigger government.
For instance, the military draft is the ultimate insult to those who love personal liberty. The Pentagon, even with the ongoing crisis, has argued against the reinstatement of the draft. Yet the clamor for its reinstatement grows louder daily by those who wanted a return to the draft all along. I see the draft as the ultimate abuse of liberty. Morally it cannot be distinguished from slavery. All the arguments for drafting 18-year old men and women and sending them off to foreign wars are couched in terms of noble service to the country and benefits to the draftees. The need-for-discipline argument is the most common reason given, after the call for service in an effort to make the world safe for democracy. There can be no worse substitute for the lack of parental guidance of teenagers than the federal government's domineering control, forcing them to fight an enemy they don't even know in a country they can't even identity.
Now it's argued that since the federal government has taken over the entire job of homeland security, all kinds of jobs can be found for the draftees to serve the state, even for those who are conscientious objectors.
The proponents of the draft call it "mandatory service." Slavery, too, was mandatory, but few believed it was a service. They claim that every 18-year old owes at least two years of his life to his country. Let's hope the American people don't fall for this "need to serve" argument. The Congress should refuse to even consider such a proposal. Better yet, what we need to do is abolish the Selective Service altogether.
However, if we get to the point of returning to the draft, I have a proposal. Every news commentator, every Hollywood star, every newspaper editorialist, and every Member of Congress under the age of 65 who has never served in the military and who demands that the draft be reinstated, should be drafted first- the 18-year olds last. Since the Pentagon says they don't need draftees, these new recruits can be the first to march to the orders of the general in charge of homeland security. For those less robust individuals, they can do the hospital and cooking chores for the rest of the newly formed domestic army. After all, someone middle aged owes a lot more to his country than an 18-year old.
I'm certain that this provision would mute the loud demands for the return of the military draft.
I see good reason for American citizens to be concerned- not only about another terrorist attack, but for their own personal freedoms as the Congress deals with the crisis. Personal freedom is the element of the human condition that has made America great and unique and something we all cherish. Even those who are more willing to sacrifice a little freedom for security do it with the firm conviction that they are acting in the best interest of freedom and justice. However, good intentions can never suffice for sound judgment in the defense of liberty.
I do not challenge the dedication and sincerity of those who disagree with the freedom philosophy and confidently promote government solutions for all our ills. I am just absolutely convinced that the best formula for giving us peace and preserving the American way of life is freedom, limited government, and minding our own business overseas.
Henry Grady Weaver, author of a classic book on freedom, The Mainspring of Human Progress, years ago warned us that good intentions in politics are not good enough and actually are dangerous to the cause. Weaver stated:
"Most of the major ills of the world have been caused by well-meaning people who ignored the principle of individual freedom, except as applied to themselves, and who were obsessed with fanatical zeal to improve the lot of mankind-in-the-mass through some pet formula of their own. The harm done by ordinary criminals, murderers, gangsters, and thieves is negligible in comparison with the agony inflicted upon human beings by the professional do-gooders, who attempt to set themselves up as gods on earth and who would ruthlessly force their views on all others- with the abiding assurance that the end justifies the means."
This message is one we should all ponder.