The Free Associator

The Philadelphia Syndicate is a collection of writers, businesses, artists, musicians, and activists based in Philadelphia, with connections to associates around the world via the internet. This publication is produced by members of the Syndicate's private online discussion forum for the purpose of giving exposure to the organization's thinkers to the public.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Blood Brothers


Ghost Wars, by Steve Coll, is a nearly 600-page narrative exposition on the CIA's decades-long covert war in Afghanistan. The book is organized into three parts: Blood Brothers, The One-Eyed Man Was King, and The Distant Enemy. I will review the first part, Blood Brothers, now. Look back later for reviews of the second two parts.

Coll makes it clear in his prologue that the connection between the CIA's covert support for Islamist radicals before and after the Soviet withdrawal, and the events of 9/11, is undeniable:

The downward spiral following the Cold War's end was no less steep in, say, Congo or Rwanda than it was in Afghanistan. Yet for Americans on the morning of September 11, it was Afghanistan's storm that struck. A war they hardly knew and an enemy they had barely met crossed oceans never traversed by the German Luftwaffe or the Soviet Rocket Forces to claim several thousand civilian lives in two mainland cities. How had this happened?

The answer most commonly given by our current leadership, that they hate our freedom, is given little attention in Coll's book, at least in the first part.

Blood Brothers recounts the turbulence of 1979: the Iranian revolution, the hostage crisis at the American embassy in Tehran, the sacking of the Islamabad embassy in Pakistan, and the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union. Paradoxically, these events lead to the collusion by the CIA with radical Afghan Islamists in an anti-Soviet jihad, then being waged with CIA and Saudi funds and under the oversight of Pakistani Intelligence, ISI. The anti-Americanism coming from Iran and Pakistan itself should have given the CIA pause. But it was a classic case of an enemy of my enemy is my friend.

In Particular, Coll zeroes in on Bill Casey, CIA director from 1981-1987, and his zealous identification with god-fearing Islamists in their crusade against the godless Soviet communists. It was this god-based allegiance that pushed American and Islamist interests together. Hmmmm...

Coll also recounts covert CIA actions directly against Soviet officers of the 40th Army by the ISI supported Mujahedin. Circumstantial enough, at least in my opinion, to dispute the often touted claim by the CIA that they do not engage in assassinations. According to Casey, the "primary battlefield" against Marxism-Leninism is "in the countryside of the Third World." Not much would seem to have changed, except maybe the enemy.

Coll also writes in-depth about the Stinger missile recovery operation in post-Soviet Afghanistan. While it is never mentioned specifically, the mystery surrounding TWA flight 800 comes ever closer to being in focus and potential lies exposed.

The lesson of Afghanistan seems to be completely lost on the current administration. This is no doubt due at least partly to the perception of innate differences between America and Soviet Russia. But the lesson Coll desperately tries to teach in the first part of Ghost Wars is that the alliance of convenience pursued by the CIA in Afghanistan will come back to haunt American policy-makers.

The lesson I have learned from part one is that Iraq is not America's next Vietnam, but our first Afghanistan.


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