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Drawing the U.S.
into the quicksand
by Walt Contreras Sheasby

On August 25, 1998 Secretary of Defense Cohen exhibited a map and photographs of Osama bin Laden's camps and caves in south- eastern Afhanistan near the Pakistani border. This will be the area where U.S. special operations troops will be deployed in a search and destroy operation supported by air strikes.

Regardless of whether Osama bin Laden directed the attacks, which he has again categorically denied, the intended consequence is less the humiliation of the U.S. security forces than the creation of conflict within the Muslim world. It now seems clear that the purpose of the attacks on NYC and DC was to draw the U.S. and its allies into the same quicksand that destroyed the Soviet Union's forces in 1978-1992.

A ground invasion will incite a pan-Islamic Jihad, which may not inflict a military defeat on the U.S., but which could lead to the destabilization of regimes cooperating with the U.S., such as Iran and Pakistan, and the consolidation of the post-USSR Islamic regimes (Kazakstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgystan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan) into a fundamentalist Islamic confederation.

Ironically, although the coming conflict will undoubtedly strengthen U.S. support for Israel, and lead to Americans blaming the Palestinians, the architects of the pan-Islam strategy are not supporters of Palestinian nationalist aspirations. Their aims are much more ambitious than the Palestine Liberation Organization, and in conflict with attempts to reach a settlement.

Such an analysis was put forward in an ABC News interview on Sept. 15, 2001, by Ambassador Robert B. Oakley, Director of the State Dept. Counter Terrorism Dept. in the first Bush administration. He is a co- author of Conflict Resolution in the Middle East and editor of Policing the New World Disorder: Peace Operations and Public Security.

Somebody raised an excellent point in a recent email, similar to one that I raised less eloquently earlier: “Who speaks for Islam? Who speaks for that matter, for the Taliban”? I fear that in our own participation in some of these maintream distintions between “good” and “bad” Islam, we beg the question of motivation and rather unexaminedly assume that if someone says they bombed the WTC because they are Islamic fundamentalists, then that action somehow represents “Islamic fundamentalism, in some determinate way. And "Islamic fundamentalism" then becomes an easily knowable object, no longer a shadow enemy without boundaries. Does “Islamic fundamentalism” pre-exist the act which is supposed to reflect its aspirations, or does the act itself come to construct “Islamic fundamentalism.”?

The new terrorism seems to be tied to an internationalist Islamic move- ment that links together the Al Qaeda network that includes Osama bin Laden, but also the clerical student base of the Taliban, financed in the past by Saudi Arabia, various mujahidin forces throughout the area, the Egyptian Holy Jihad organization, and other far-flung forces from Chechnya and Macedonia to Indonesia.

In the late 1970's, with U.S. financial and military support, this network brought close to a million guerrilla fighters against the Soviet forces backing the ill-fated succession of regimes in Kabul from 1978-1992. The Soviets lost 15,000 dead and 37,000 wounded, and a million Afghans died and another 5 million became refugees. In 1992 the Soviets pulled out the last 115,000 troops, and on September 27, 1996 the mujahidin came to power in Kabul, hanging the former President Najibullah and his brother.

Osama bin Laden's ragtag army in the mountains far from Kabul and Islamabad may seem easy targets, but the support he has throughout the rural countryside would make it difficult to apprehend his band. His popularity is largely based on his charitable work during the war, providing an array of services to the poor and the wounded and the survivors of martyred guerrillas.

The orphans created by the war against Russia, who have been cared for by bin Laden, will be the first guerrillas facing the U.S. troops that sweep into the hills from Pakistan in a few weeks.

For a map of the camps in Afghanistan see:

Circulate widely-

Walt Contreras Sheasby


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