Pubdate: Mon, 01 Oct 2001
Source: Vancouver Courier (CN BC)
Copyright: 2001 Vancouver Courier
Author: Geoff Olson


Most of us have heard the mainstream media's drill on Osama bin Laden, 
chief suspect as ringleader in the terrorist attacks on Washington and New 
York. The scion of a wealthy Saudi family, finding purpose in 
fundamentalist Islam, becomes a "freedom fighter" in the Afghan-Soviet war, 
and ends up exporting terrorism a decade later.

This tale of faith, double-dealing, and vengeance is as old as Jericho, but 
with a modern twist: boy meets religion, boy gets religion, boy goes nuts 
and blows up assets belonging to the Great Satan.

While the outlines of bin Laden's past have received mention by Ted Koppel 
and co.-sometimes even with passing mention of the CIA's covert support for 
the mujahideen's 1979-1992 war against the Soviets-it might be instructive 
to look a closer at the historical roots of the Islamic fundamentalist 
movement in Afghanistan, and the source of the militant's fanatical hatred 
of the United States.

In 1979 the largest covert operation in the history of the CIA was launched 
in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Working with Pakistan's 
Inter Service Intelligence-an entity midwived by American interests-the 
idea was to turn the Afghan war into a total holy war against the Soviet 
Union by all Muslim States. According to the foreign policy journal Foreign 
Affairs, "some 35,000 Muslim radicals from 40 Islamic countries joined 
Afghanistan's fight between 1982 and 1992. Tens of thousands more came to 
study in Pakistani madrasahs.

Eventually more than 100,000 foreign Muslim radicals were directly 
influenced by the Afghan jihad." Financial support for the resistance was 
supplied by Saudi Arabia. Among the supporters was the rich young financier 
Osama bin Laden, who travelled to Afghanistan to join the anti-Soviet 

Arms supplies rose to 65,000 tons annually by 1987, accompanied by a 
"ceaseless stream' of CIA and Pentagon specialists who travelled to the 
secret headquarters of Pakistani's ISI.

The mujahideen' did not deal directly with American intelligence, but 
through the ISI instead.

Afghanistan's CIA-funded guerrilla camps-ironically, now prime targets for 
an American counterattack-were responsible for the training of the freedom 
fighters, integrating military instruction with the teachings of Islam. 
Using U.S. marine manuals translated into Arabic, and the time-tested 
principles of CIA psychological operations, the ISI worked with peoples' 
beliefs rather than against them. Guerrillas in training were taught that 
Islam was a complete socio-political ideology, that holy Islam was being 
violated by the atheistic Soviet troops, and that the Islamic people of 
Afghanistan should reassert their independence by overthrowing the leftist 
Afghan regime propped up by Moscow.

A lesser known aspect of American involvement in the Afghan-Soviet war were 
the consequences for the global drug trade.

On June 18, 1986, The New York Times reported that the mujahideen "have 
been involved in narcotics activities as a matter of policy to finance 
their operations.The opium warlords worked under cover of the 
U.S./Saudi/Pakistani axis that funded their arms sales and aided the 
conveyance of the drugs into the European and North American markets where 
they account for 50 per cent of heroin sales."

According to University of Wisconsin history professor Alfred McCoy, author 
of The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, CIA assets again controlled 
the heroin trade in the region, as they did in Vietnam and Laos a decade 
earlier. "As the Mujahideen guerrillas seized territory inside Afghanistan, 
they ordered peasants to plant opium as a revolutionary tax. Across the 
border in Pakistan, Afghan leaders and local syndicates under the 
protection of Pakistan Intelligence operated hundreds of heroin 
laboratories." During a full decade of wide open drug dealing, McCoy 
discovered, the American Drug Enforcement Agency in Islamabad failed to 
make one major seizure or arrest.

American intelligence looked the other way, preferring the war on 
drugs-which would have run counter to subsidies for the fighters, after 
all-to be subordinated to the war on the Soviet Union. The fallout: a 
worldwide heroin epidemic beginning in the mid-seventies, traceable in 
retrospect to the Afghan-Soviet war.

More on the "blowback" from American support for the Islamic militants in 
Afghanistan next week.
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MAP posted-by: Beth