Book Reviews

Unholy Wars – Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism,
299 pages, John K. Cooley, Pluto Press


This new edition of a book first published in 1999 provides a first rate insight into the US relationship with militant Islam during and since the Cold War and provides much ammunition for those holding to the line that in supporting the likes of Osama bin Laden during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the US was indeed sowing the seeds of a bitter harvest reaped on September 11th 2001.

The USA did not only support those opposing the Soviet forces in the Afghan War, forming a deadly and unholy alliance with militant Islam in the process, it very much instigated the war. When President Carter signed a directive for covert support for the enemies of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul in July, 1979, he was informed that do so would lead to Soviet intervention. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter’s National Security Adviser, would comment: “We didn’t push the Russians to intervene, but we consciously increased the probability that they would do so…This secret operation was an excellent idea. Its effect was to draw the Russians into the Afghan trap.” He later wrote to Carter: “Now we can give the USSR its own Vietnam War.” (p. 19)

The US support for the mujahedin and other groups would turn out to be phenomenal. Billions of dollars were pumped into the Afghan cause and thousands of Islamic zealots were given specialist training in the US and Britain.
As Cooley observes: “In the United States they experienced tough courses in endurance, weapons use, sabotage, and killing techniques, communications and other skills. They were required to impart these skills to the scores of thousands of fighters who formed the centre and the base of the pyramid of holy war.” (p. 81)

The training of the warriors of jihad not enough, the CIA also promoted drug trafficking in Afghanistan, one result being that the trade found easy access into the Soviet Union and helped destabilise civil society there. Moreover, “Nowhere did the growing addiction to locally-produced drugs, encouraged by those in the CIA…wreak greater havoc than in the Red Army…on an even larger scale than the addiction of American GIs during the Southeast Asian wars.” (p.5)

And of course there was the oil. One reason why the US nurtured the Taliban was that American oil companies wanted to build an oil pipe-line from Central Asia, through Afghanistan, to the Indian Ocean. It was hoped, states Cooley,, “…that the Taliban, once in control, would be a security blanket. It would be able they conjectured, to secure the truck highways and eventually routes for oil and natural gas pipe-lines.” (p. 147)

In this updated edition of the 1999 publication, Cooley brings his topic up to date with an insight into the Bin-Laden-linked international terrorist network, as well as providing information on the post 1999 Pakistani coup.

For the socialist there is much in Unholy Wars we can use in the battle of ideas, revealing the lengths the US will go to, and the stinking depths it will plummet to secure its own ends, regardless of the cost of life. Where there is profit to be made, where US interests are challenged, nothing is sacred. People, no, whole nations are there to be manipulated.

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