December 3, 2001
The Toronto Sun

Onward Christian Soldiers

by Eric Margolis

Did the US go to war with Afghanistan for Central Asian oil and gas? That's what many readers keep asking me. They clearly distrust the White House's jingoistic bombast about defending freedom and western values from evil Islamics.

Crusades are messy, bloody affairs, and it's often hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys. Exhibit A: Afghanistan, where the United States just suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the wily Russians. Happily for the White House, neither the US media or the public understand what just happened. They continue to cheer on the president, who is mighty thankful he is leading a jolly little war against evil Muslims instead of having to explain to voters why the economy is nose-diving and hundreds of thousands are losing their jobs.

  • The Northern Alliance is not, as believed, a merry band of pro-American freedom fighters battling the wicked Taliban, but a Russian-front organization run by leaders of the revived Afghan communist party. It has also re-opened the heroin trade that Taliban had shut down. The Alliance proclaimed itself Afghanistan's legitimate government last week. Moscow recognized the Alliance, and rushed `advisors' into Afghanistan.

    On 11 September, Alliance forces amounted to a mere 10,000 men. A month later, it fielded 30,000 men with an array of Russian armor and artillery. It's likely, though the media has not yet noticed, that regular troops from neighboring Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan - all Russian satellite states - were sent into Afghanistan.

  • Russia now dominates Afghanistan, thus reversing its historic defeat of the 1980's, shutting the US and Pakistan out of Central Asia, and ensuring future Russian control of the Caspian Basin's oil and gas resources. Texas Ranger George Bush was too busy trying to `smoke out' outlaws Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar to notice his new best friends the Russians had ambushed him and grabbed the lion's share of Afghanistan.

  • The much ballyhooed Afghan unity conference in Germany last week, hailed as a `breakthrough' and beginning of a viable `democratic' government in Afghanistan by the US and UN was a farce staged for the credulous media. The US, UN, and Europe are waiting to shower tens of millions in aid on a `new,' non-Islamic Afghanistan. The Northern Alliance, no dopes, realize they need a window-dressing of a few toothless royalists and women to create the illusion of multi-party government in order to cash in on western aid. Armed, supplied and `guided' by the Russian Army and KGB, the Alliance remains the real power in Afghanistan.

  • Last week, hundreds of Taliban prisoners of war were massacred in the Mazar-I-Sharif fort by soldiers of communist warlord, Rashid Dostam, assisted by US and British special forces, and air strikes by the US warplanes. The US says the prisoners tried to break out and had to die. But some neutral observers claim the prisoners were murdered en masse. Amnesty International is calling for an investigation. US troops also watched while a 140 Taliban prisoners were executed in southern Afghanistan. The US has been using fuel air munitions - almost mini-A bombs - that rights organizations claim are inhumane weapons that should be banned. American soldiers could end up being charged with complicity in war crimes.

  • Last week, bin Laden's holy war syndrome seemed to infect the White House. Bush proclaimed a new jihad against Saddam Hussein, warning Iraq was next on his Lord High Executioner's list. Saddam was moved into the terrorist column by Bush for `planning' to develop biowarfare weapons that threatened his neighbors. The president somehow forgot to mention Israel and India, who have repeatedly threatened their neighbors with nuclear attack.

While Bush was preaching a new crusade against Iraq, other high administration officials were warning that Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Lebanon and even Pakistan might be added to the president's jihad list. A decade go, such ravings would have been called warmongering, or rightwing craziness. Now, the frightful 11 September attacks on the US are being used to justify all sorts of irrational adventures abroad, and the curtailment or abuse of civil rights and free speech at home.

The Bush Administration's anti-Muslim crusading policy is being advocated by a cabal of hard-line Israeli-Americans called `neo-conservatives' - the Washington chapter of Gen. Ariel Sharon's far-right Likud Party. These later-day Dr. Strangeloves want to use America to destroy all of Israel's enemies, block peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and eradicate Muslims who are not docile and obedient. After last weekend's bombings in Israel, the Bush Administration, trapped by its own false logic in the crusade against terrorism in Afghanistan, was forced to give a green light to Sharon and his fellow hawks to kill `terrorist' Palestinians.

Fortunately, the Administration's sharpest mind, Secretary of State Colin Powell, has been trying to restrain the Sharonistas, who seem dangerously close to convincing Bush to launch a crusade against much of the 1.2 billion-person Islamic world. They failed with clever Bill Clinton, but are succeeding with the unwordly, unread Bush.

America's European, Asian, and Muslim allies are extremely nervous over the dire threats emanating from Washington but, so far, no one dares publicly break ranks and tell the wild west president to holster his sixguns, simmer down, and have a good think.

American is not refighting World War II. In fact, it is not even at war, since none has been declared by Congress. It is fighting a handful of small but deadly international criminal organizations. This is not D-Day, nor the Alamo, and certainly no reason to launch America on the 21st Century's First World War.

Eric Margolis is a syndicated foreign affairs columnist and broadcaster, and author of the just released War at the Top of the World - The Struggle for Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Tibet which was reviewed in The Economist, May 13, 2000]

Eric Margolis, "Onward Christian Soldiers," The Wisdom Fund, December 2, 1996

Ewen MacAskill, "George Bush: 'God told me to end the tyranny in Iraq',", October 7, 2005

Jon Basil Utley, "Evangelicals, Ron Paul and War,", January 20, 2012 back button