Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Everything You Know About Iran Is A Myth

Photo: modified from an original by TIME Inc.

July 11, 2006
Courtesy Of Lawrence Of Cyberia

There are some terms that people in Islamic and Western countries should never say to each other, because they confuse and inflame more than they clarify. The most obvious ones would be “jihad”, “crusade” and “great satan”. All of them are used in somewhat innocuous ways by the people who utter them, but mean something completely different – and much more inflammatory – to foreign ears.

I would like to propose a topical addition to the list of words that should never be used, and that would be “myth”. Specifically when it is used in the context in which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Egyptian Brotherhood leader Mohammed Mehdi Akef have mentioned it in recent months, i.e. to speak of "the myth of the Holocaust" (Egyptian Islamists deny Holocaust; BBC News, 23 Dec 2005) . They know what they mean by the phrase, and I know what they mean, but if they think that most people over here are going to hear it and respond with anything more profound than “Holocaust deniers!” then they are deeply ignorant of how central is the Holocaust in U.S. perceptions of the Middle East, how superficial is the U.S. public discourse on relations with the Muslim world, and how much that discourse is framed by those who are pushing for a “clash of civilizations” and who are currently fixated on finding a justification to bring about regime change in Iran.

Everyone knows what a myth is, right? It’s just a fairytale; an unlikely, invented story featuring toga-clad heroes of the ancient past. So when Ahmadinejad and Akef talk of the “myth of the Holocaust” they are simply – as the BBC suggests in the report I linked to above – saying that the Holocaust never really happened, and can be written off as Holocaust deniers. Except that that’s not what a “myth” is. (And I must be getting old, because I actually remember the days when any reporter employed by the BBC would have known the meaning of the word, and made some effort to render it accurately).

Let me tell you what a “myth” really is.

Humans are complex beings who live in complex societies, and are capable of thoughts, insights and feelings beyond the mere physical needs of everyday life. Some of the intangible things that we feel about ourselves are difficult to articulate, so we express them by telling stories. And that’s what myths are. Myths are stories that groups of people tell to express and justify their most fundamental beliefs about themselves, their origins, their essential nature and their aspirations. The stories themselves can be historical or non-historical, but that is irrelevant to the myth. In the U.S., which for all its religiosity is basically a secular and demythologized society, we tend to think of myths as fairytales because the most common exposure we have to them is via the craptacular Hollywood spectacles of the 1960's like Jason and the Argonauts. But in fact a myth is a myth because it is a story that tells an underlying, existential truth about the people who tell it, and historicity is nothing to do with what makes it a myth.

For example, there are tribes in New Guinea that tell a traditional story about how children are conceived. The story explains that human conception takes place only when an emu passes through the parents’ village by night, and casts its shadow over their hut - all of which was very amusing to the 19th century European anthropologists who first documented the story, and thought it meant that the dumb natives didn’t even know where babies come from. But of course the dumb natives knew perfectly well where babies come from: the story was actually about something else altogether.

In the religious mythology of those New Guinea tribes, the emu was a symbol of divinity, and the story about the emu’s shadow was a creation myth that explained the origins of human beings and expressed what kind of creatures we are. By saying that a human baby can be conceived only when the parents are touched by the presence of the emu (God), the story expresses the conviction that humans are not just physical beings. Although a part of the created order, human beings have “higher” qualities that set them apart from every other created thing; they have the ability to transcend their instincts and passions and to be self-aware, spiritual, creative, empathetic etc, etc. So the conception of a new human being is never just a physical act, but requires an act of divine creation. It needs the mother and father to do their bit, but it doesn’t happen unless the emu makes an appearance too, as the myth puts it. If the people of New Guinea were Jewish, they might express the same fundamental understanding about themselves by telling a story about God breathing the breath of life into a handful of dirt to create the first man, or they might sum it up simply by saying that humanity is made “in the image and likeness of God”.

Another kind of myth: here in the U.S. we have made a myth out of the story of the Mayflower. Very few of us could claim that our families literally arrived here on the Mayflower. A few of us descend from people who were already here when the Pilgrims arrived. Quite a few of us came here on slave ships; an awful lot of us immigrated on steamships in the early 20th century; and some of us came here more recently courtesy of Boeing. But as Americans, we share a common narrative that says we, collectively, came here on the Mayflower. And we do that because we see in the story of the Mayflower a representation in historical form of what we as a nation believe America to be. We take the historical event and make it into a story that describes what we as Americans believe we essentially are: a pioneering people, a city on a hill, a community of faith in search of religious liberty, a free people fleeing tyranny and establishing democracy, etc etc.

That’s a different kind of myth from the emu story: one is a nationalistic myth, based on an historical event; the other is a religious myth, based on a non-historical event (i.e. there isn’t a real flesh and blood emu involved in human conception). But they’re both myths, because they are stories used to tell an underlying, existential truth about the people who tell them, and calling them myths is not in any way a judgement on whether the events in the story are historically true.

So what does it mean when Ahmadinejad and Akef refer to the “myth of the Holocaust”, as they both certainly did:

Speaking to thousands of people in the southeastern city of Zahedan, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said: "Today, they have created a myth in the name of Holocaust and consider it to be above God, religion and the prophets." -- Holocaust a myth, says Iran president
The head of the Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition force in Egypt's parliament, has echoed Iran's president in describing the Holocaust as a myth. "Western democracy has attacked everyone who does not share the vision of the sons of Zion as far as the myth of the Holocaust is concerned," Mohamed Akef said in a statement on Thursday. -- Brotherhood chief: Holocaust a myth
"Some western governments, in particular the US, approve of the sacrilege on the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), while denial of the `Myth of Holocaust', based on which the Zionists have been exerting pressure upon other countries for the past 60 years and kill the innocent Palestinians, is considered as a crime," added the president. -- President: Real holocaust to be sought in Palestine, Iraq

They don't say the Holocaust didn't happen; they are suggesting something more complex than that. That last quote in particular suggests that Ahmadinejad is using the word “myth” in its correct, technical sense. Remember: myths are stories that groups of people tell to express and justify their most fundamental beliefs about themselves, their origins, their essential nature, etc. Ahmadinejad is saying that Zionism tells the story of the Holocaust in exactly this way, i.e. as a vehicle to explain and justify what Zionists believe about themselves. When he “denies” the “myth” of the Holocaust, he is not denying the Holocaust, he’s not even discussing the Holocaust as a historical event at all. He is denying the validity of the use to which the story of the Holocaust is being put. He is saying that instead of being a story that expresses an underlying truth, “the myth of the Holocaust” expresses a “truth” that simply isn’t true, and that denial of that myth is such a big deal in the West because you are not meant to question whether the underlying claim is really true.

So what exactly is the “myth of the Holocaust” that Akef and Ahmadinejad reject? Well, do you remember Wissam Tayem, the Palestinian man forced by Israeli soldiers to play his violin for them at a checkpoint in the Occupied Territories?


The reaction to Wissam Tayem's experience at that checkpoint succinctly summarized what Ahmadinejad means by "the myth of the Holocaust". As Chris McGreal pointed out at the time, the sight of a Palestinian being forced to play the violin for his occupiers caused quite a stir in Israel. But the main reason it made Israelis (specifically Jewish-Israelis) uncomfortable was not because they recognized that it's simply wrong to treat a human being the way Wissam Tayem was treated. Instead, it made them uncomfortable because it challenged their image of the kind of people they are, and the kind of country they have created. In other words, it undermined the Israelis' myth of themselves.

Of all the revelations that have rocked the Israeli army over the past week, perhaps none disturbed the public so much as the video footage of soldiers forcing a Palestinian man to play his violin...

[A]fter the incident was videotaped by Jewish women peace activists, it prompted revulsion among Israelis not normally perturbed about the treatment of Arabs. The rightwing Army Radio commentator Uri Orbach found the incident disturbingly reminiscent of Jewish musicians forced to provide background music to mass murder. "What about Majdanek?" he asked, referring to the Nazi extermination camp.

The critics were not drawing a parallel between an Israeli roadblock and a Nazi camp. Their concern was that Jewish suffering had been diminished by the humiliation of Mr Tayem.

Yoram Kaniuk, author of a book about a Jewish violinist forced to play for a concentration camp commander, wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that the soldiers responsible should be put on trial "not for abusing Arabs but for disgracing the Holocaust". "Of all the terrible things done at the roadblocks, this story is one which negates the very possibility of the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. If [the military] does not put these soldiers on trial we will have no moral right to speak of ourselves as a state that rose from the Holocaust," he wrote. "If we allow Jewish soldiers to put an Arab violinist at a roadblock and laugh at him, we have succeeded in arriving at the lowest moral point possible. Our entire existence in this Arab region was justified, and is still justified, by our suffering; by Jewish violinists in the camps." [Emphasis mine]

Israel shocked by image of soldiers forcing violinist to play at roadblock; The Guardian, 29 Nov 2004.

That last line sums up precisely what Ahmadinejad and Akef mean when they say that Zionism has made a “myth of the Holocaust”. They mean that Zionism tells the story of the Holocaust with the purpose of justifying what it has done to Palestine and its inhabitants. The underlying truth that the myth is meant to convey is that Jewish suffering in Europe justified the establishment of a Jewish state in a land whose population was 1. not Jewish, but overwhelmingly Muslim and Christian and 2. not responsible for European anti-Semitism or the Holocaust. Ahmadinejad and Akef are saying that this myth is a fake; that it is not an explanation of an underlying truth, but an appropriation of the Holocaust in order to further a political agenda. When they deny the “myth of the Holocaust”, they are not talking about whether the historical events of the Holocaust really happened, they are denying that Zionism is entitled to do what it does to the Palestinians because of what Nazism and its collaborators did to European Jewry. In short, "the myth of the Holocaust" says that Shoah justifies Nakba, and Ahmadinejad and Akef are saying, “No, it doesn’t”.

This is not some obscure reading of Akef and Ahmadinejad’s “myth” comments: they have both made it clear that their questions about the Holocaust aren’t about the Jewish genocide in Europe per se, but specifically about why the Palestinians should be the ones to pay for it. If you read the context in which Ahmedinejad said “they have made a myth of the Holocaust”, you find that the subject he is discussing is not whether the Holocaust took place, but rather “why the Palestinian nation should pay for the crimes the Europeans have committed” (which – if you think about it - kind of takes for granted already that those crimes really did happen):

"If the Europeans are telling the truth in their claim that they have killed six million Jews in the Holocaust during the World War II - which seems they are right in their claim because they insist on it and arrest and imprison those who oppose it, why the Palestinian nation should pay for the crime [?]…

Stressing that "the same European countries have imposed the illegally-established Zionist regime on the oppressed nation of Palestine", he said, "If you have committed the crimes so give a piece of your land somewhere in Europe or America and Canada or Alaska to them to set up their own state there. Then the Iranian nation will have no objections, will stage no rallies on the Qods Day and will support your decision."

Similarly, Muhammad Akef explicitly denied that his comments were anything to do with Holocaust denial:

The leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has said that when he called the Holocaust a myth this week, he did not mean to say it never happened but wanted to highlight the West's attitude towards democracy...

In a message on Thursday, Akif said: "Western democracy has attacked everyone who does not share the vision of the sons of Zion as far as the myth of the Holocaust is concerned."… But on Saturday, his office said: "Some media gave this a meaning which he [Akif] did not intend [and read it as] a denial that the Holocaust of the Jews by the Nazis during World War Two happened. The fact is that he did not deny that it took place."

And Akef’s Deputy, Dr. Mohamed El-Sayed Habib, made it clear what "myth of the Holocaust Akef was rejecting:

As to the reported statement describing the holocaust as a myth, it was not intended as a denial of the event but only a rejection of exaggerations put forward by Jews. This does not mean that we are not against the holocaust. Anyway, that event should not have led to the loss of the rights of the Palestinian people, the occupation of their land and the violation and assault of their sacred places and sanctities.

So, who really cares what a myth is, and what bearded foreigners half a world away have to say about it? Normally, this might just be an interesting academic discussion, but right now it actually matters that we try to understand what Ahmadinejad is really saying, because the Iranian government is currently the target of a disinformation campaign designed to soften up public opinion for regime change in that country. When we hear an inflammatory claim being pushed by our corporate media about Iran and its president - like for example, “Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust!!!” – we would do well to remember the sad performance of our news media in laying the foundation for war in 2003, and to ask ourselves whether each new revelation is real news, or manufactured “news” designed to mobilize public opinion for a new war.

The same people who brought us the spectacular failure that is the Iraq war, would now like to try their luck in Iran. Paul Wolfowitz explained in May 2003 that, in the absence of a clear and present danger from Saddam Hussein, the Bush Administration had looked around for a justification for invading Iraq and settled on WMDs as the rationale that everyone could agree on. This time around, the U.S. needs a new excuse for invading a country that clearly is not going to invade us, and it’s really not too hard to see that the new excuse is going to focus in large part on the person of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Just look at the thrust of the stories about him that our news media have been feeding us over the last six months.

1. He’s a Holocaust denier! That’s what we are meant to understand from the reporting of his “myth of the Holocaust” statements that I have just been discussing.
2. He wants to wipe Israel off the map! That’s what we were told in our news media’s hysterical reporting of Ahmadinejad's speech to the “World Without Zionism” conference in Tehran on 26 October 2005. Except it turns out that, when correctly translated, he didn’t really say that Israel must be wiped off the map, but that "the occupation regime over Jerusalem should vanish from the page of time", which is not a threat of war or annihilation, but an expression of hope for regime change. Ahmadinejad isn’t a Zionist. He doesn’t believe that the Muslim-majority land of Palestine should be forcibly transformed into a Jewish state, and his speech is an expression of confidence that Zionist rule over Jerusalem will come to an end just as surely as other once-powerful regimes (he cites the examples of the Shah in Iran, the Communists in the Soviet Union, and Saddam’s rule over Iraq) all came to an end. If you look at the Middle East through a Zionist perspective, you might not like to hear that, but it doesn’t give anyone the right to pretend that he’s threatening to launch nukes at Tel Aviv or drive the Jews into the sea, as the “wiped off the map” language would suggest.
3. He's a "psychopath" who "speaks like Hitler"!
4. Iranian Jews are being forced to wear yellow stars! Do you remember that story, peddled first by Canada's National Post and and subsequently reproduced in the New York Post, about the law passed in the Iranian Parliament under which “Jews would be forced to wear yellow cloth strips - like the Star of David that Jews were made to wear in Nazi Germany”? (The National Post has since removed this article from its web site, but screenshots of the original story can be viewed at Lenin’s Tomb, and I have uploaded the text of the original article here). Just look at the photos the National Post used to illustrate that story, to hammer home the point about where laws like this are leading Iran:

National_post_new_hitler Juden_star2_2

Except there is no such Iranian law. This story was a complete hoax (later retracted by the National Post), perpetrated by an Iranian monarchist expatriate journalist named Amir Taheri, who coincidentally happens to be a member of Benador Associates, a public relations firm that lists a large number of leading neo-conservatives, including American Enterprise Institute (AEI) associates Richard Perle, David Frum, Michael Ledeen, Michael Rubin, and Joshua Muravchik, among its clients. Major boosters of the war with Iraq, Benador clients, who also include former Central Intelligence Agency chief James Woolsey and former Israeli minister Natan Sharansky, have also called for the Bush administration to take a hard line against Iran.

The newspapers that so far have run the story are similarly identified with a hard line against Tehran. The National Post, which was bought by CanWest Global Communications from Conrad Black, a close associate of Perle's, is controlled by David and Leonard Asper, who have accused the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation of being anti-Israel, according to Marsha Cohen of Florida International University, who has closely followed the badges story.

Similarly, the Sun has consistently taken positions consistent with the right-wing Likud Party in Israel on Middle East issues, while Murdoch owns the strongly pro-Israel Weekly Standard and Fox News, in addition to the New York Post… (source)

Are you sensing a theme here? Are you getting the message that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the new Hitler and Iran is the Fourth Reich and they’re just days away from nuking us and if we don’t Shock and Awe them into regime change and install a U.S.-friendly regime that will recognise Israel and sell their oil and gas to us instead of to the Chinese then we’re all a bunch of appeasing Neville J’aime-Berlin’s and WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!…? Because that’s what you’re meant to understand. That’s the new meme, to make you scared enough to support a war you wouldn't otherwise support. Once again, our fears are being manipulated by people who want a war but haven't got a justification for starting one. Last time, they brought public opinion on board with scary stories about Iraq’s nonexistent nuclear weapons and Saddam's fictitious links to al Qaeda; this time around, it's Iran's nonexistent nuclear weapons and Ahmadinejad's spurious equivalence to Hitler.

And that’s why unravelling the meaning of Ahmadinejad’s "myth of the Holocaust" is not just an obscure academic exercise. Knowing that a propaganda offensive is underway to demonize Iran's president as the new Hitler so that we can justify an attack on his country, we need to think critically every time our mass media draws these parallels between Nazi Germany and present-day Iran and consider whether this is a legitimate equivalence or more manipulative scare-mongering to lay the foundation for a new war. Despite what Richard Perle and Michael Ledeen et al sound like when they dispassionately discuss rearranging the Middle East, war is not really like a game of Risk or a role-playing exercise in an undergraduate PolSci seminar. It is much more like young soldiers getting their limbs blown off by roadside bombs, or entire families wiped out "collaterally" by our missiles. Knowing that this is what is really at stake, we should at least make the effort to determine whether the “Holocaust denier!” and other hitlerish epithets currently being hurled at Iran are based in fact, or are just the latest work of the same misinformers who – from the safety of their Washington thinktanks - repeatedly pimp for war in the Middle East, safe in the knowledge that it will never be their friends and relatives on the receiving end of the IEDs or the so-called smart bombs.

After more than three years in Iraq, when more than 2500 of our own troops and unknown thousands of Iraqis have been killed, Americans have finally become skeptical about why we invaded Iraq in the first place, and are wondering what exactly we are fighting for there. When it comes to the threatened attack on Iran, maybe this time we could do the critical thinking before we invade and sentence to death tens of thousands of our fellow human beings whose lives are as valuable in every respect as our own. In the immortal words of the President himself: "There's an old saying in Tennessee -- I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee -- that says, fool me once, shame on -- shame on you. Fool me -- you can't get fooled again."

Related Links:

Ahmadinejad: Lost in translation; Little Red Email, via Information Clearing House, 5 April 2006.
Does Iran's President Want Israel Wiped Off The Map - Does He Deny The Holocaust? ; Information Clearing House, 14 April 2006.
Iran; The Early Days of a Better Nation, 1 May 2006.
Latest Hitler: How Lies Becomes News; Lenin's Tomb, 20 May 2006.
Another Fraud on Iran: No Legislation on Dress of Religious Minorities; Informed Comment, 20 May 2006.
Yellow stars for Iranian Jews? The disinfo campaign; Just World News, 20 May 2006.
Harper says Iran 'capable' of introducing Nazi-like clothing labels; The Canadian Press, 21 May 2006.
Taheri-ng It Up; Unqualified Offerings, 22 May 2006.
Iran Target of Apparent Disinformation Ploy; Jim Lobe, 22 May 2006.
Fake But Accurate;, 24 May 2006.
Too Stupid for Citizenship: Will Americans fall for Bush's lies again? ;, 1 June 2006.

Don't Israel's Nuclear Weapons Count?

Netanyahu Has What He Wants To Keep Up The Idea Of His Plucky, Vulnerable Little State

By Yasmin Alibhai-Brown
Monday, 28 September 2009

Courtesy Of
The Independent

Influential Europeans – including many Muslims – recently debated freedom of expression with the Danish editor who commissioned the cartoons of Prophet Mohammed which led to riots. Held in Berlin, it was a good, at times blazing, debate.

Freedom of expression, we were given to understand, is one of the valves in Europe's heart that must remain open to keep our continent alive and healthy. In good faith I exercise that freedom in this column. Let us see if readers and interest groups will support my right to write what follows even if they violently disagree with my observations.

From past experience I bet many will find that impossibly hard. They will denounce me as an enemy within, a rule-breaker of unspoken rules, bringing up stuff that must be left buried in the name of peace and justice. I see no reason to comply. This week shows us how such doublethink and doublespeak pulls the world towards Armageddon.

Leaders of the rich nations have turned their fire on Iran, quite rightly. On Friday came news that the Islamic Republic had been building a secret uranium enrichment plant near Qom. Then the junta fired test missiles, to prove that the bearded ones have really big willies. Unlike Iraq under Saddam, there are, in Iran, nuclear developments that could lead to weapons of mass destruction. It is not an immediate but a future danger, say credible intelligence experts and indeed Barack Obama himself.

Suddenly the president has got uncharacteristically belligerent, instructing Iran to open up all its nuclear facilities for inspection if it wants to avoid "a path that is going to lead us to confrontation". In May, Obama stood in Washington with the hawkish Benjamin Netanyahu, who we were told was there to seek assurances that there would be no shift from the conventional US position of total and unconditional support for Israel's policies right or wrong, known and clandestine.

On Thursday the US, China, Britain, France, Russia and Germany meet in Geneva and, by that time, Iran will be expected to submit to international scrutiny. As a supporter of the now crushed and broken reformers in Iran, I back the ultimatum to the fanatic and bellicose Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But what about that camel in the room? The one we all see but can't point out? What about the only power in the Middle East, also fanatic and aggressive, which has a vast stockpile of weapons enough to obliterate the region? Listen people, we need to talk about Israel. And soon. Like now.

I have been in contact with a young Iranian woman who wore a green scarf and lipstick on the streets of Tehran, whose uncle is currently being tortured in prison there for demonstrating against the results of the election. Somehow she escaped from the country and is in Britain briefly before going on to the US to make a new life. Let us call her M.

Nobody could hate Ahmadinejad more than M; she hates the whole regime, the treacherous leaders who betrayed the people. When she speaks she often gets asthmatic. But yet, but yet, she finds her passions rising for her country this week because of fears of military strikes by Israel and the manifestly unfair way that Israel is indulged. "I will go back if they attack my country, even if they put me to jail," M says. "That is my duty. Israel is the enemy of peace and America gives them money to get more arms. I don't want Iran to have these terrible weapons, but Israel must also be stopped."

The big powers are moving tentatively towards global de-nuclearisation, taking small but significant steps to show they do want everyone to pitch in. Obama's decision to shelve the European defence missile programme shows serious intent, so too Gordon Brown's announcement that Britain would cut down from four to three its Trident missile-carrying submarines. There was a moment this spring, albeit fleeting, when Rose Gottemoeller, an assistant secretary of state and Washington's chief nuclear arms negotiator, asked Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, thus breaking the 40-year-old silence and US complicity in its accumulated, un-inspected arsenal. Her reasonable appeal provoked apoplexy in a nation that assumes special, indeed exceptional, treatment.

In the 1960s, Israel successfully hid its weapons from US inspectors. In 1986, Israeli nuclear technical assistant Mordechai Vanunu revealed information about the concealed stockpiles and has been punished ever since. Hubristic Israel no longer cares to deny that it has hundreds of atom and hydrogen bombs and devastating biological "tools". Netanyahu has been warning he will destroy the Iranian sites if his country feels the danger is real. Now he has just what he wanted – another crisis in the Middle East, to keep up the idea of plucky, vulnerable, endangered little Israel.

Alarmingly, even the liberal Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz is on side. History has made too many Israelis fear all humanity in perpetuity and that fear brings out the worst in that nation. It has predictably rejected the long, sober, unbiased UN report on the last assault on Gaza chaired by Richard Goldstone. He accused Hamas of crimes against Jewish civilians and charged Israel with grave crimes, the breaking of the Geneva convention, punishing and terrorising unarmed civilians.

I have some images of these victims sent to me by a Jewish pro-Palestinian activist. Children turned to ash, blistered mothers weeping, and on and on. There still is no respite for the hungry and dying in Gaza. If Israel can mete out such treatment and not be called to account, just think what the state feels entitled to do to Iran.

The Israeli human rights activist Gideon Spiro bravely asks that his country be subject to the same rules as Iran and all others in the Middle East: "Rein in Israel, compel it to accept a regime of nuclear disarmament and oblige it to open all nuclear, biological and chemical facilities and missile sites to international inspection." The US has leverage because it maintains and funds Israel. If Obama shies away from this, there can be no moral justification to go for Iran or North Korea or any other rogue state. And the leader whose election and dreams gave hope to millions thereby hastens the end of the world.

More from Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

The Pathology Of Evil

Netanyahu’s UN Speech

By Gilad Atzmon
September 29, 2009
Courtesy Of "Information Clearing House"

Israeli PM Netanyahu’s speech at the UN is a major insight into the Israeli’s mentality, psyche and logic. In his speech Netanyahu, a prolific and charismatic speaker, gives air to his genocidal inclinations, he brings to light the Israeli supremacy but he also allows us to detect some shaky and vulnerable spots at the heart of the Jewish national narrative. Reading Netanyahu’s speech makes it very clear that both the Zionist Shoa and the ‘promised land’ narratives are on the verge of collapse. It seems as if the ‘discredited’ Iranian president Ahmadinejad has managed to succeed after all.
Don’t You Mess With Our Shoa

Israelis love their Shoa, for the Shoa is no doubt their best selling Hasbara (propaganda) product. It somehow allows them to kill en masse and to do it indistinguishably while insisting that it is they who happen to be the victims.

“I went to a villa in a suburb of Berlin called Wannsee.” Said Netanyahu. “There, on January 20,1942, after a hearty meal, senior Nazi officials met and decided how to exterminate the Jewish people.”
PM Netanyahu, if you are genuinely interested in ‘extermination plans’ you do not have to travel to Wannsee, Berlin. All you have to do is visit your IDF’s headquarters in Tel Aviv. Your chief commanders will guide you through their IDF ‘solutions’ for the Palestinians. At the end of the day, it is your army that surrounds Palestinians with barbed-wire, it is you who keep civilian populations in a siege with inadequate food supplies and medicine. It is your army that poured WMD over the most densely populated neighbourhoods on this planet. While the real meaning of the ‘Nazi Final Solution’ (Die Endlösung) is still discussed by historians who fail to agree between themselves what it really meant, the true reality of the Israeli murderous solution has been seen by us all.
However, it is almost amusing to see PM Netanyahu rushing to defend the Zionist holocaust narrative. Looking at Netanyahu presenting the protocol of the Wannsee conference to the UN assembly gives a clear impression that the Israeli PM believes that the Shoa needs an urgent pump of credibility. For the first time, the Shoa is on the defence.
“Here is a copy of the plans for Auschwitz-Birkenau, where one million Jews were murdered. Is this too a lie?” asks the Israeli PM.
PM Netanyahu, may I suggest to you that not a single humanist cares about the exact numbers: whether it was one or four millions Jews who died in Auschwitz, no one doubts that the camp was a horrible place. Yet, two questions must be answered once and for all: how is it that the Jews, who suffered so much during that war, managed to get themselves involved in a colossal racist crime against the Palestinians (1948 Nakba) just three years after the liberation of Auschwitz? How is it that the Israeli leadership, that happens to be so sensitive to Jewish suffering, manages to neglect the pain they inflict on millions of Palestinians?
Supremacy and Beyond
As a National movement, Zionism fails to respect other national and popular movements. Seemingly Netanyahu fails to respect the Iranian people and their regime. “Wherever they can, they impose a backward regimented society where women, minorities, gays or anyone not deemed to be a true believer is brutally subjugated.” Netanyahu, must know that the Judaic law is not very different from Islam on these matters. He must also remember that it is in his country that gays were murdered in the street just a month ago. It is almost amusing that Netanyahu chooses to equate Iran with Barbarism and the Middle Ages for its treatment of minorities. As far as minorities are concerned, the Jewish state is actually the darkest place on this planet. In Netanyahu’s promised land half of the population cannot participate in the democratic game just for failing to be Jewish.
Israel according to Netanyahu is the embodiment of Western modernity.
“We (the Westerners) will crack the genetic code. We will cure the incurable. We will lengthen our lives. We will find a cheap alternative to fossil fuels and
clean up the planet. I am proud that my country Israel is at the forefront of these advances.” I must admit that I am not at all overwhelmed by Israeli scientific or technological achievements. Nor have I ever seen any evidence of Israeli attempts to save humanity or even the planet. In fact all I see is quite the opposite. However, if Netanyahu welcomes scientific progress, he should be the first to rally for the Iranian nuclear project. As we all know, this doesn’t seem to be the case. He, for some reason, thinks that, at least regionally, nuclear energy and weapons must remain Jew only property.
Netanyahu argues that “if the most primitive fanaticism can acquire the most deadly weapons, the march of history could be reversed for a time.” Netanyahu may well be correct but one should point out to him that the above applies to Israel more than any other country, state or society. For the time being it is the Jewish State that has been caught pouring WMD on its imprisoned civilian population. It is the Jewish State that is dragging us all into an ‘eye for an eye’ primitive Biblical fanaticism. As if this is not enough, it is also America and Britain that launched illegal wars orchestrated by Zionist led Neocons and fundraisers. This war has cost more than one million lives so far.
However, for once I agree with Netanyhau:
“The greatest threat facing the world today”, he says, “is the marriage between religious fanaticism and the weapons of mass destruction.”
In fact, no one could describe the danger posed by the Jewish state and Zionism any better. Israel is indeed a deadly marriage between Old Testament gross genocidal barbarism, Zionist fanaticism and a huge arsenal of WMD, chemical, biological and nuclear that has already been partially put into action.
Sabbath Goyim
Like other Zionist operations around the world, Netanyahu is convinced that the Goyim should fight the Jewish wars. “Above all, will the international community stop the terrorist regime of Iran from developing atomic weapons, thereby endangering the peace of the entire world?” I actually would like to stress that PM Netanyahu is all wrong here. If the United Nation is interested in bringing peace to this region and the world, it is of the essence to help Iran to develop its nuclear project and even its military nuclear capacity. This seems to be the only thing that may curb the English Speaking Empire’s lethal expansionist enthusiasm as performed recently in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It will surely stop the Zionists from celebrating their symptoms at the expense of their neighbours.
Following the successful transformation of the American and British armies into an Israeli subservient mission force, Netanyahu seems to expect the UN to follow and to fulfil the very same role. “Hamas”, he says, “fired from Gaza thousands of missiles, mortars and rockets on nearby Israeli cities. Year after year, as these missiles were deliberately hurled at our civilians, not a single UN resolution was passed condemning those criminal attacks.” I guess that someone should remind the Israeli PM that the dispute between Hamas and Israel is not exactly an international quarrel, for Palestine is not a sovereign state and Gaza is nothing less than an Israeli-run concentration camp. In other words, the practicality of the matter is simple. The UN should only deal with war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Israel, its leadership and its army. It is not down to the UN to pass any kind of judgment on the oppressed.
Mass Murder Fantasies
It doesn’t take long before Netanyahu lists his ideological mentors and the core of his lethal inspiration “When the Nazis rocketed British cities during World War II…” Actually the allies levelled German cities, causing hundreds of thousands of victims… By these twisted standards, the UN Human Rights Council would have dragged Roosevelt and Churchill to the dock as war criminals. What a perversion of truth. What a perversion of justice. Delegates of the United Nations, will you accept this farce?”
Netanyahu is almost correct. In his recounting of the 2nd WW he surely admits here that Israel follows Roosevelt’s and Churchill’s mass murder tactics. But he surely fails to realise that if it was indeed down to ethics and Justice (rather than the usual dirty politics) Roosevelt and Churchill would have been charged with war crimes on a most severe scale. Shockingly enough, Netanyahu falls into the most obvious legal trap equating Israeli activity with acts of carpet bombardment on a huge scale. For those who fail to see it all, this is a rapidly blinking red light hazard. In Netanyahu’s perception of reality nuking countries and flattening towns is a justifiable act. Roosevelt and Churchill seem to be his moral entitlement. In fact these statements are enough to make it clear to every reasonable human being that Israel is a genocidal entity that is capable of bringing our civilisation to a devastating end.
This is a wake up call: it is not just the Palestinians or the Iranians. It is actually all of us.
Bibi* the Peace Maker
By now, the Israeli PM is ready to state his Judeo centric peace mantra. “Ladies and Gentlemen, all of Israel wants peace”. Yet as far as statistics are concerned, we have recently learned that 94% of the Israeli Jews also approved the carpet bombardment of their next door neighbours. It is impossible not to see a clear discrepancy between the ‘peace loving’ verbalism and the murderous reality.
“We ask the Palestinians to finally do what they have refused to do for 62 years: Say yes
to a Jewish state.” Once again, I happen to agree with PM Netanyahu. The Palestinian may as well say YES to a Jewish state, but not in Palestine or in the Middle East. If Obama, Brown, Merkel or any other deluded world leader who is still insisting to approve the validity or necessity of a racially orientated ‘Jewish national homeland’, he or she is more than welcome to allocate land to such a project within his or her own territory. Palestinians should say NO to a Jewish state in the Holy Land or in the region. Palestinians should never agree to the existence of a Jewish state on their land. In fact the UN must follow this line and do whatever it can to dismantle this evil apartheid regime.
Khazarian United
To a certain extent, Netanyahu’s UN speech expresses some deep concerns Jews tend to keep to themselves. At the end of the day, the Israelis and Ashkenazi Israelis in particular know pretty well that Palestine is not exactly the land of their ancestors. If the Israeli Ashkenazi Jews, including Netanyahu, do want to find their roots, Khazaria is the place to start. However, Netanyahu tries to defuse these historical facts. “The Jewish people are not foreign conquerors in the Land of Israel. This is the land of our forefathers… We are not strangers to this land. It is our homeland” says Netanyahu with total conviction.
PM Netanyahu, I will make it plain and clear. Not only are you foreign to the land, you are also foreign to almost every possible understanding of the notion of humanity. In fact, the Separation Wall that is going to be left after the inevitable disappearance of your ‘Jew only democracy’ will serve generations to come with an astonishing historical monument of Jewish national identity estranged from ethics, universalism and human brotherhood. The crime against humanity committed by the Jewish state in the name of the Jewish people is not something that will be wiped out from the history text books in a short time. Quite the opposite; it will stand as another mythological chapter in this never-ending saga of supremacist compulsive pathological self-loving.
“We must have security” says Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu as he ends his speech. And I am here to disappoint him. Israel will never be secured. It was born in a sin, and its existence surpasses any notion of ethics or human existence. The Jewish state has passed the ‘no return zone’. It is doomed to vanish. We can only hope that once this happens the process of Jewish assimilation and integration into humanity will re-embark. At the end of the day Jewish Nationalism both left, right and centre was there to keep Jews apart. The history of the 20th century teaches us that this tendency to segregate oneself is bad for humanity and it is also devastating for the Jews.
* Netanyahu’s nickname is Bibi

Gilad Atzmon was born in Israel and served in the Israeli military. He is the author of two novels: A Guide to the Perplexed and the recently released My One and Only Love. Atzmon is also one of the most accomplished jazz saxophonists in Europe. His recent CD, Exile, was named the year's best jazz CD by the BBC. He now lives in London and can be reached at:

The Taliban In Their Own Words

The story of the Taliban's fall and rise, in their own words.

By Sami Yousafzai and Ron Moreau
Published Sep 26, 2009
From the magazine issue dated Oct 5, 2009
Courtesy Of Newsweek Magazine

During wars and after them, the real voice of the enemy is rarely heard. Propaganda is plentiful, as are prideful boasts—and the Taliban have certainly been quick studies at the modern art of information warfare. But the fears and ambitions of ordinary fighters are too often buried under statistics and theories propounded from thousands of miles away. That's been even more true in Iraq and Afghanistan, where reporters who might accurately convey the other side's perspective are at risk of being kidnapped or killed for their efforts.

After eight long years of war in Afghanistan, however, America and its allies can ill afford not to understand who the enemy is and why they fight. To put together this remarkable oral history, told through the words of the Taliban themselves, NEWSWEEK turned to contributing correspondent Sami Yousafzai, who has been covering the conflict for the magazine since 2001. Over that time he has developed and maintained contact with dozens of Afghan insurgents, including the six whose stories are told here.

Working with NEWSWEEK's Ron Moreau, Yousafzai spent more than a month crisscrossing Afghanistan and Pakistan to meet these sources. He has known them all for some time, and in the past their information has generally proved reliable. Their accounts may sometimes be self-serving—most Afghan civilians recall the Taliban regime far less fondly, for one thing—but the facts are consistent with what Yousafzai knows about the men from earlier reporting. While it's impossible to confirm the credibility of everything they say, their stories offer a rare chance to understand how the insurgents see this war, from the collapse of the Taliban, through their revival and, now, their budding ascendancy.

(Click here to see a map of the area, and click on the names to see bios of the people referenced in this story)

After eight long years of war in Afghanistan, however, America and its allies can ill afford not to understand who the enemy is and why they fight. To put together this remarkable oral history, told through the words of the Taliban themselves, NEWSWEEK turned to contributing correspondent Sami Yousafzai, who has been covering the conflict for the magazine since 2001. Over that time he has developed and maintained contact with dozens of Afghan insurgents, including the six whose stories are told here.

Working with NEWSWEEK's Ron Moreau, Yousafzai spent more than a month crisscrossing Afghanistan and Pakistan to meet these sources. He has known them all for some time, and in the past their information has generally proved reliable. Their accounts may sometimes be self-serving—most Afghan civilians recall the Taliban regime far less fondly, for one thing—but the facts are consistent with what Yousafzai knows about the men from earlier reporting. While it's impossible to confirm the credibility of everything they say, their stories offer a rare chance to understand how the insurgents see this war, from the collapse of the Taliban, through their revival and, now, their budding ascendancy.

(Click here to see a map of the area, and click on the names to see bios of the people referenced in this story)

Chapter One: The Fall

'The bombs cut down our men like a reaper harvesting wheat. it felt like judgment day.'
—Maulvi Abdul Rehman Akhundzada

HAQQANI: Two days before the September 11 attacks on America, we were all celebrating the death of [Northern Alliance commanderAhmed Shah] Masood, [who was assassinated by Qaeda agents posing as television reporters]. His forces were already on the verge of defeat, so his death all but assured us of total victory in Afghanistan. But the September 11 attacks turned our cheer into deep concern. We gave those camels [a derogatory Afghan term for Arabs] free run of our country, and they brought us face to face with disaster. We knew the Americans would attack us in revenge.

Realizing the danger, I immediately sent my wife and children to Pakistan. The entire government started to fall apart. I never thought the Taliban would collapse so quickly and cruelly under U.S. bombs. Everyone began trying to save themselves and their families. When the bombing began, I changed out of my usual white mullah's garb, put on an old brown shalwar kameez, and headed for Pakistan. I crossed the mountains on foot, and at the top I turned around and said: "God bless you, Afghanistan. I'll never come back to you under our Islamic regime."

AKHUNDZADA: When the bombing started, I was commanding some 400 fighters on the front lines near Mazar-e Sharif. The bombs cut down our men like a reaper harvesting wheat. Bodies were dismembered. Dazed fighters were bleeding from the ears and nose from the bombs' concussions. We couldn't bury the dead. Our reinforcements died in their trenches.

I couldn't bring myself to surrender, so I retreated with a few of my men in the confusion. Everything was against us. The highway south to Kabul through the Salang Tunnel was blocked. We walked four days in the deep snow without food or water. Kids started shooting at us from the hilltops, hunting us like wild animals.

By the fifth day I could barely walk. I hid my weapon and walked to a village, saying I was a lost traveler and asking for food. The villagers fed me, but I had lost touch with my comrades. I walked on until a minibus came along; I aimed my gun at the driver and forced him to stop. The van was full of Taliban. They said they had no room for me, but I threatened to shoot out their tires unless they took me. I had to lie on the floor with their feet on my body. It was uncomfortable, but I was warm for the first time in days.

A group of local militiamen captured us the next morning at a checkpoint on the Kabul-Kandahar highway. We were nearly dead. Our mouths were dry and cracked, our lips bleeding. It felt like Judgment Day. I lay in their filthy jail for a month before they let me go free, just after the Eid holidays. With the strength I had left, I made it to Peshawar. Our Islamic Emirate had collapsed with less than 40 days of resistance—I couldn't accept that. Allah would let us rise again, I thought, because of all the blood we had spilled for Islam.

KHAN: After the mujahedin began retreating, Arabs, Chechens, and Taliban raced by our house and mosque in Ghazni in convoys of cars, pickups, and trucks, headed to Pakistan. Almost immediately they started getting bombed. So they abandoned their vehicles and started walking, even the wounded. Some injured Taliban, and Arabs with their families, came to seek shelter at my father's mosque. Other villagers wouldn't help them. Only my father and I brought them food.

YOUNAS: When I was a child, my father was a mujahedin commander in the jihad against the Russians, and he sent our family for safety to an Afghan refugee camp in Wana, South Waziristan. After the Taliban's victory [in 1996], he became an official in a ministry in Kabul. I used to visit him on holidays from Wana. The Islamic Emirate's collapse was like a nightmare.

I watched as wounded, disabled, and defeated Taliban fighters straggled into Wana and the surrounding villages, along with Arabs, Chechens, and Uzbeks. Every morning as I went to school I could see them wandering around town, almost like homeless beggars. Little by little, the tribal people started helping them, giving them food. Some people even took them into their houses; at first these once proud jihadis survived, thanks to the people's charity.

The Arabs were disappointed the Taliban hadn't stood and fought. They told me they had wanted to fight to the death. They were clearly not as distressed as the Afghans. That was understandable. The Arabs felt they had lost a battle. But the Afghans were much more devastated—they had lost their country.

MASIHUDDIN: When the Taliban fell, I was a madrassa student in Nuristan. Since all the Taliban officials and militiamen had fled, I decided to continue my studies in Pakistan.

[Then-Pakistani president Pervez] Musharraf imposed new rules on the Pakistani madrassas [in 2002], including a ban on foreign students. So I went to a mosque in an outlying village [near Peshawar] to study and wait for the situation to improve. We were 10 students studying and sleeping in one small room. The people couldn't afford to bring us food, so we often went without dinner. We rarely had electricity. Without a fan it was hard to study, even to sleep. To make matters worse, the Peshawar police were harassing and arresting us. They didn't hold us for long, though—I think they just wanted to frighten us. We began praying for the survival of the Taliban who had fled. There was no reason to pray for victory, since such a return seemed inconceivable.

HAQQANI:My father, brother, and family were at Mansehra [a town in northwestern Pakistan that is home to several Afghan refugee camps]. But I realized it wouldn't be wise to move in with them. Too many people knew who I was, and some had no love for the Taliban. Instead I found a place to stay at a mosque nearby. I had to sneak over at midnight just to see my kids, like a thief. When I was visiting my daughter one night, she asked me about our Kabul home, why we didn't have a car anymore. She complained that it was too hot in the refugee camp, and that she wanted to move back to the cool climate of Kabul. I couldn't answer her. But she could tell from my eyes how sad I was. I was a wreck—nervous, worried, and almost panic-stricken.

AKHUNDZADA: Once proud Taliban mullahs and fighters changed the way they dressed so they wouldn't be recognized. No one wanted to be identified as a Talib. Friends and relatives who had respected me while I was a commander now turned away. I had no money or job. I moved my family to a village in Punjab, far from Afghanistan, to become a day laborer, but I was a failure at it. I couldn't speak the local language, and no one would hire me. So I returned to Peshawar and started selling vegetables from a basket in the market. I began making money. But I couldn't get over the Taliban's collapse, the death of my men. My wife said I was crying in my sleep. I went to a doctor, who gave me some medicine. I was so distracted that when a customer would ask me for potatoes, I'd give him tomatoes.

Chapter Two: The Rebirth

'The end of the Taliban was the start of my Jihadi career.'
—Mullah Aga Mohammad

KHAN: Mullahs like my father became depressed. Under the Taliban they had been very influential, but after the collapse people paid less attention to them. My father was so upset, he had a stroke that left him partially paralyzed. At the end of 2002 the Afghan police raided our mosque. They grabbed my father and hauled him in front of the villagers, accusing him of being with the Taliban. They demanded to know where the Taliban's weapons were stored. They personally insulted him and then threw him in jail. He was 70.

The faithful at our mosque went to the police and complained. People who a few months before seemed to have turned against my father now supported him. They said it was a disgrace for the police to have entered the mosque wearing their shoes, and to have arrested an old, crippled imam. In early 2003 he died.

I was a just a kid, but the police arrested me too, twice—once from my house, once from the mosque. They interrogated me, asking stupid questions like: "Where are the Taliban?" "Where are the weapons hidden?" My family sold our motorbike to raise the money to free me. The police also arrested my brother, who was a schoolteacher. The police even arrested, insulted, and manhandled a 90-year-old mullah in our district. People's attitudes were changing; they were becoming angry at the police and the local officials for the disrespect they were showing toward mosques and mullahs.

YOUNAS: At first I didn't hear the Afghans talking about going back to fight. But the Arabs did, and they encouraged the Afghans and the local tribal people not to give up. Nothing much happened for the first year or so, but then the Arabs started organizing some training camps. The first one I heard about was at Shin Warsak village, near Wana. When I had some time off from school, I decided to visit. I was really impressed. There was more than one camp. One was run by Arabs, and another by Chechens and Uzbeks.

Thanks to my madrassa studies I could speak Arabic; I made friends with Egyptians, Saudis, Libyans, and Yemenis. Nek Mohammad Wazir [a pro-Taliban Pakistani tribal leader who was killed by a June 2004 Predator strike] gave the Arabs places to train and access to weapons and other supplies. They moved openly on the main roads and in the towns and villages, showing no concern about security. I decided to leave my studies and join their resistance.

MOHAMMAD:The end of the Taliban was the start of my jihadi career. My father died in 1994, leaving me to take care of my mother, brothers, and sisters. So I'd had no time to join Mullah Omar's movement. For years I had a very heavy conscience for having missed the jihad. After the collapse of the Taliban in late 2001, many injured and traumatized mujahedin began coming to the mosque in Peshawar where I was the imam. Some of the worshipers asked me outright why I hadn't fought in the jihad like these men.

I needed to make up for not joining the fight. I started asking around if the mujahedin were still active, but no one could give me a real answer. Then one day I heard about a young Afghan named Azizullah who had been in the resistance—he's in jail now in Afghanistan. I went to his house, and told him I wanted to help the resistance against the Americans if it was forming. He lied, saying he was only a poor man and had nothing to do with jihad. Then one day I saw him walking to the mosque. I joined him. He was still hesitant, but finally he said he could help. He gave me directions to a militant camp in Waziristan and a letter of introduction.

HAQQANI: In early 2003 my family and I moved to a rented house near Peshawar. It was the first time I was living in my own house since 2001. I put my white clerical outfit back on. And suddenly the Taliban's defense minister, Mullah Obaidullah, came to see me—the first senior Taliban leader I had seen since our collapse. He was traveling around Pakistan to rally our dispersed forces. Half the Taliban leadership was back in touch with each other, he said, and they were determined to start a resistance movement to expel the Americans. I didn't think it was possible, but he assured me I could help.

He said to meet him again in two weeks, and gave me an address. I was surprised at the number and rank of the people I found at the meeting. There were former senior ministers and military commanders, all sitting together, all eager to resist the Americans. Obaidullah told me: "We don't need you as a deputy minister or bureaucrat. We want you to bring as many fighters as you can into the field."

AKHUNDZADA: One day a man came to buy vegetables—a mullah who had worked with our jihad in northern Afghanistan for years. We recognized each other. He asked me what I wanted to do: keep selling potatoes or go back to the jihad. I was making about 2,000 rupees [$33] a day, which was good, but I wanted to rejoin the struggle. We went to a meeting at night near Peshawar, and I couldn't believe what I saw: my top commander [from the northern front], Mullah Dadullah! He was my ideal; his name meant victory for us. My interest in the vegetable business disappeared. After six or seven months I was called to Miran Shah [in North Waziristan]. Dadullah [who would be killed in May 2007] was there; so were Akhtar Mohammad Osmani [who would be killed in December 2006] and our defense minister, Mullah Obaidullah [who would be captured by Pakistani forces in March 2007]. It was decided that each commander should go find his former soldiers and prepare to return to Afghanistan to fight.

I was sent to Quetta, where survivors from my unit had settled. There had been 400 fighters under my command. In Quetta I found 15 of them. They embraced me and the idea of returning to free our land of the American invaders. In North Waziristan we trained, re-equipped, recruited more men, and got ready to return to Afghanistan.

MOHAMMAD:I left my family in the care of my younger brother and traveled to South Waziristan. I ended up at a mosque in a remote mountain village, where a mullah looked at Azizullah's letter of introduction and led me farther into the rugged countryside to a secret place, well hidden among the hills, rocks, bushes, and trees. There were checkpoints guarded by armed men who would not even let locals pass by. A group of 20 or 30 Arab fighters from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Egypt met me there, with a few Afghans and Chechens. They were very distrustful and questioned me rather roughly.

Another more senior Arab interviewed me at length. The biggest question he wanted answered was why I hadn't fought in Mullah Omar's jihad. After a few hours I was taken to their leader, Abu Khabab [al-Masri, a senior Qaeda operative and bombmaker who was killed in a July 2008 Predator strike]. He was welcoming, not hostile like the others. He sat by my side on the floor of a mud-brick house and asked me why I wanted to join their struggle and what I thought I could contribute.

Only a few select Arabs and other jihadis were allowed up a mountain near the camp. That's where most of the leadership lived. Some big jihadi stars were there besides Abu Khabab, like Abu Laith al-Libi [a guerrilla-war expert who was killed by a January 2008 Predator strike] and Abu Hamza Rabia [a senior Qaeda planner who was killed by a Predator in late 2005]. Even so, there wasn't much food or money. I thought the mujahedin at the camp seemed disappointed at times because they had little to do. But the Arabs slowly grew friendlier with the locals. Soon local tribesmen were being welcomed into certain sectors of the camp, bringing food, supplies, and money. Some even brought us AK-47s and RPGs.

YOUNAS:In our camp there were about 150 Arabs, along with some Afghans, Chechens, and local tribal militants. The Arab instructors taught us how to fire Kalashnikovs, especially in close-range fighting; how to gather intelligence on the enemy; and how to fire mortars and rockets accurately. It was a friendly place; we all felt a commitment to help and sacrifice for each other. At the start of 2003, the weather became bitterly cold, and the camp closed. But the commander called me back that March. He told me he was working with Nek Mohammad to arrange for one of the first cross-border attacks against American forces in Afghanistan. Even with Nek Mohammad's help, we only had usable weapons for 50 of the roughly 200 mujahedin who had been trained. But 50 of us—a couple dozen Arabs, three or four Afghans like myself, and some Waziri and Mehsud tribals—were armed and ready to go.

MOHAMMAD: The first thing I learned was to shoot, field-strip, and maintain an AK-47. Then we did ambush and guerrilla-war exercises day and night in the hills. The Arabs taught us how to make an IED by mixing nitrate fertilizer and diesel fuel, and how to pack plastic explosives and to connect them to detonators and remote-control devices like mobile phones. We learned how to do this blindfolded so we could safely plant IEDs in the dark.

Discipline was strict. Any trainee who broke the rules could get a severe beating. You had to wake up before dawn every morning for physical exercises and to run in the mountains. Recruits were awakened at all hours of the night so they would learn to be alert in an emergency. I don't see this kind of discipline in camps run by the Afghan Taliban today.

After two months of hard training, we graduated. There were 200 of us: about 160 local tribals, a few Punjabis, and about 40 Afghans like me. We were divided up into 10 groups. Each had two or three Arabs assigned to it as commanders and instructors. We split up: some groups went to Khost and Paktia provinces, and others to Ghazni and Kandahar. Three of our groups were bombed by the Americans crossing the border. It was very dangerous back then. We had to run quickly and stay out of sight. We didn't want villagers to see us. At that time they weren't very supportive, and there were spies looking for us. We wanted to reach the cover of ravines, rocks, and trees before the sun rose.

Chapter Three: The Taliban Surge

'After these first few attacks, God seems to have opened channels of money for us.'
—Qari Younas

YOUNAS: One night in April [2003], we crossed the border in five pickups and one larger truck. Once we were safely across, we sent the vehicles back to wait for us on the Pakistan side. Our target was a U.S. base just across the border at Machda in Paktika province. We attacked at dawn. I think we really surprised them. We shelled them with 122mm rockets and mortars for about 30 minutes. But we didn't get close enough to fire our Kalashnikovs; before we could move in, American helicopters came, raining rockets and bullets on us. Terrified, I crawled and ran to escape death. Amid the noise and explosions, dust and smoke, I remember seeing six of us cut down and killed: two Arabs, three tribals, and an Afghan.

Still, I was strangely exhilarated. We showed our resolve by fighting, by taking a stand. We knew we'd be back. We carried the stiff and bloodied bodies of our martyrs back to Wana. Thousands of locals attended their funerals, saying it was an honor to witness the burial of these martyrs. People brought flowers, ribbons, colored cloth, and flags to decorate their graves. As the news traveled, a lot of former Taliban began returning to Wana to join us.

HAQQANI:Arab and Iraqi mujahedin began visiting us, transferring the latest IED technology and suicide-bomber tactics they had learned in the Iraqi resistance during combat with U.S. forces. The American invasion of Iraq was very positive for us. It distracted the United States from Afghanistan. Until 2004 or so, we were using traditional means of fighting like we used against the Soviets—AK-47s and RPGs. But then our resistance became more lethal, with new weapons and techniques: bigger and better IEDs for roadside bombings, and suicide attacks.

KHAN:By the middle of 2004, we were hearing rumors that the Taliban were operating once again in Ghazni. Friends and relatives in other rural districts were saying that armed men were beginning to show up in villages at night on motorbikes. Within a few months, signs of them began appearing everywhere. At first we saw shabnama ["night letters"] that the Taliban were leaving in shops, mosques, and other public places warning people not to cooperate with [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai and the Americans. By the beginning of 2005 the Taliban began targeted killings of police officers, government officials, spies, and elders who were working with the Americans.

One night around midnight someone knocked on the door of our house. We were terrified, fearing that the police had come back to arrest me or my brother once again. But when we opened the door, it was one of my father's former students. He had a Kalashnikov on his shoulder and was a Taliban subcommander already. The two other Taliban he was with also carried AKs and had several hand grenades attached to their belts. This was my first encounter with the Taliban since the defeat. We invited them to spend the night. Early the next morning I accompanied them to the mosque. My father's former student read out the names of those he accused of having betrayed Islam by following Karzai and the infidels. He warned them to cease all contact and to quit any job they may have had with the government or the Americans. He ended by saying he would return in one week.

MOHAMMAD:Those first groups crossing the border were almost totally sponsored, organized, and led by Arab mujahedin. The Afghan Taliban were weak and disorganized. But slowly the situation began to change. American operations that harassed villagers, bombings that killed civilians, and Karzai's corrupt police and officials were alienating villagers and turning them in our favor. Soon we didn't have to hide so much on our raids. We came openly. When they saw us, villagers started preparing green tea and food for us. The tables were turning. Karzai's police and officials mostly hid in their district compounds like prisoners.

YOUNAS: After these first few attacks, God seems to have opened channels of money for us. I was told money was flowing from the Gulf to the Arabs.

Our real jihad was beginning by the start of 2005. Jalaluddin Haqqani's tribal fighters came actively back to our side because the Americans and the Pakistanis had arrested his brother and other relatives. He appointed his son Sirajuddin to lead the resistance. That was a real turning point. Until then villagers in Paktia, Paktika, and Khost thought the Taliban was defeated and finished. They had started joining the militias formed by the Americans and local warlords, and were informing on us and working against us. But with the support of Haqqani's men we began capturing, judging, and beheading some of those Afghans who worked with the Americans and Karzai. Terrorized, their families and relatives left the villages and moved to the towns, even to Kabul. Our control was slowly being restored.

KHAN: My father's former student returned as promised a week later. I decided to join him. I helped assassinate those people who had continued their contacts with the government and the Americans. I didn't want to kill, but I was determined to bring back our Islamic regime and get rid of the Americans and the traitors allied with them.

By the end of 2005 the Taliban's ranks in Ghazni were increasing. There were new recruits like me and more former Taliban returning home from Pakistan. At the same time, we started receiving shipments of RPGs, rockets, mines, and bombs, most of which were old and rusty. My group only had three RPG launchers and only one mortar tube, and a few rounds for each. We had a few rusty Russian mines that only worked about 30 percent of the time. So we could only carry out very quick and limited attacks on convoys, construction crews, and district compounds. At first we didn't have much success. But we were learning. Just firing a mortar, even if it didn't hit the target, was a big deal: it proved to everyone we were there and were a force to be respected.

The Americans and their Afghan allies made mistakes after mistake, killing and arresting innocent people. There was one village in Dayak district near Ghazni City where the people had communist backgrounds, from the days of the Russians, and had never supported us. But the police raided the village, beat the elders at a mosque and arrested them, accusing them of being Taliban. They were freed after heavy bribes were paid. After that incident the whole village sent us a message asking forgiveness for the abuses of the communist era.

AKHUNDZADA: There are famous Taliban poems about how mujahedin come to free villages from occupiers at the point of a bayonet. I began living that poem. My body and mind got stronger and my mental problems disappeared. As word of our success traveled, I was able to organize another group of new, young recruits. They were smarter, more spirited, and better motivated than my former Taliban fighters.

Still, we lacked weapons and money. So I visited Mullah Dadullah. He had gone into Helmand province in early 2006 with 30 people. When he returned months later, he had organized 300 sub-commanders who each had dozens of troops. He had also signed up and was training hundreds of suicide-bomb volunteers. His return was like the arrival of rain after five years of drought.

I gave him a list of our needs. Even before he read the list, he smiled and said: "Whether I am alive or dead, remember this: the resistance will become greater than your greatest expectations. We will return to control Afghanistan." The next day he called me, took a page out of a notebook, wrote something on it, and gave it to me. The note said to go and see this guy and he will help you. Back in Pakistan, I found the man. He kissed Dadullah's letter. After two weeks this man had provided me with all the guns, weapons, and supplies I had requested. Dadullah gave such letters to many people.

MOHAMMAD:Once we sent a shipment for the making of IEDs to our forces in Zabul province. For some reason we forgot to include the remote-control devices. I got an urgent call from the commander asking me to quickly send the missing items. So I hid the remotes among some books and clothes in several travel bags. At Torkham [the Khyber Pass crossing], the police asked me to open the bags. At first I thought I should flee. But where could I run? I started searching for the key to open the bags. There was a long customs queue. The impatient policeman finally said: "You're taking too long. Get out of here."

Another night I was in a hotel in Kabul on a mission to smuggle remote devices and explosives. Afghan police and intelligence were checking all the travelers staying in the hotel. My fellow mujahedin and I hid the bags containing the remotes in the bathroom. The police checked our luggage and pockets. But God blinded their eyes to the bathroom. If they had found the devices I would have ended up in jail for life. All these close calls strengthened my faith and my commitment to the jihad.

HAQQANI: In 2007 I returned to Afghanistan for the first time. I visited the south and spoke to Taliban units, to elders and villagers, and raised new recruits. Mullah Omar has entrusted me with the job of touring towns and villages on both sides of the border to encourage people to support, contribute to, and join the jihad. Between 2006 and 2009 I have personally raised hundreds of new recruits to join the resistance. [In August] I traveled to eight Afghan provinces in 20 days. The unpopularity of the Karzai regime helps us immensely. In 2005 some Afghans thought Karzai would bring positive change. But now most Afghans believe the Taliban are the future. The resistance is getting stronger day by day.

Chapter Four: You Have the Watches, We Have the Time

'We were born here. We will die here. We aren't going anywhere.'
—Mullah Aga Mohammad

MASIHUDDIN: That base on top of the mountain [in Barge Matal] had to go. The Americans there were monitoring our phone calls and walkie-talkies, and they ran intelligence operations with Afghan spies from there. So [last June] we began carefully planning an attack. One of our men said that the mission would be hard even if the Americans only threw stones at us, as we'd be attacking up a steep mountain. Everyone laughed at him, but we knew there was some truth in what he said.

I asked for volunteers, and everyone signed up. As usual we prepared a medical team, including donkeys and stretchers to evacuate our wounded. But as I divided up weapons, ammunition, explosives, and communications gear, it started to rain heavily. The Americans have heavy boots and other mountain equipment that allows them to move up and down the steep rocks. But our men mostly wear leather sandals that don't give us any grip. So we postponed the attack for two weeks.

KHAN: Fighting the Americans is not easy. One night in the summer of 2007, my commander, Mullah Nurla, was killed in an American raid on his house. Other Americans killed 12 of our commanders. All the raids came between midnight and dawn. We found out that the Americans were finding us by tracing our cell-phone calls, and by calls from spies giving away our locations. So we forced the cell companies to stop all transmissions from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. We still worry about helicopters and bombers, but we are suffering fewer American night raids. I think they just don't have the intelligence they used to have. Fewer people are willing to cooperate with them and betray us.

Our men, on the other hand, are watching American bases 24 hours a day. They inform us of American movements. We used to hit the Americans with roadside bombs and then disappear. Now when we explode an IED, we follow that with AK and RPG fire. We now have more destructive IEDs, mostly ammonium-nitrate bombs that we mix with aluminum shards. We get regular deliveries of these fertilizers, explosives, fuses, detonators, and remote controls. One heavy shipment is on its way right now. I think we are better at making IEDs now than the Arabs who first taught us.

HAQQANI: I admit Taliban commanders are being captured and killed, but that hasn't stopped us, and it won't. Our jihad is more solid and deep than individual commanders and fighters—and we are not dependent on foreigners, on the ISI [Pakistan's intelligence agency], or Al Qaeda. Personally I think all this talk about Al Qaeda being strong is U.S. propaganda. As far as I know, Al Qaeda is weak, and they are few in numbers. Now that we control large amounts of territory, we should have a strict code of conduct for any foreigners working with us. We can no longer allow these camels to roam freely without bridles and control.

MASIHUDDIN: Late Friday afternoon, after prayers, we began to move. We slowly sent our people up the mountain as the shadows lengthened. The mujahedin climbed slowly, steadily. We waited quietly on the ridgeline overnight without fires for warmth or to cook food. We've learned that the Americans are always listening for the smallest sound.

I gave the signal to attack just before sunrise. We started with our mortar and rocket teams shelling the base from the surrounding hilltops. By dawn our mujahedin were almost hugging the base's outer walls. We killed a number of Afghan Army soldiers, and one U.S. soldier who may have been hit in a guard tower. As we fought, our video team filmed our advance. Our mortars, rockets, and RPGs destroyed most of one outer defensive wall. We yelled to those inside to come out and surrender. No one came out. So we set fire to one side of the post and moved around to wait on the opposite side. The smoke forced some, if not all, of the soldiers to abandon the post. During the attack we didn't lose any fighters.

Then American helicopters arrived, firing rockets and machine guns. We fought until sunset. We lost 12 Taliban to martyrdom, largely to the helicopter fire that comes down like heavy rain. We cannot compare our military strength to that of the Americans. But we have learned how to stay protected behind rocks and mountains. Even with all their advanced technology, we forced them to withdraw and captured that base. [Coalition forces retook the post three days later and later abandoned it; a U.S. chronology of the battle differs in some details.]

YOUNAS: Not long ago, when one of my younger brothers got married, my mother asked me: "Boy, when will you marry?" I told her that the day I help to bring the Taliban back to Kabul and restore the Islamic Emirate is the day I will marry. That day may be far away, but I know it will come.

KHAN: The Americans talk about getting Taliban to leave the jihad for their dollars. That's ridiculous. I was engaged to be married a year ago, but I don't have the $1,500 bride price to give to the girl's father or the $500 for the wedding. If I had money, I would not delay my marriage. Who would marry me? You'd be surprised. The people here are not worried about giving their daughter or sister to Taliban, who can get killed within one week of the wedding. They are happy to be part of the jihad.

It's not easy being in the Taliban. It's like wearing a jacket of fire. You have to leave your family and live with the knowledge that you can be killed at any time. The Americans can capture you and put you in dog cages in Bagram and Guantánamo. You can't expect any quick medical treatment if you're wounded. You don't have any money. Yet when I tell new recruits what they are facing they still freely put on this jacket of fire. All this builds my confidence that we will never lose this war.

MOHAMMAD: We never worry about time. We will fight until victory no matter how long it takes. The U.S. has the weapons, but we are prepared for a long and tireless jihad. We were born here. We will die here. We aren't going anywhere.

MASIHUDDIN: In the south the mujahedin have adjusted to Obama's new crusade by making some small strategic withdrawals and fighting back mostly with IEDs. But we mujahedin in Kunar and Nuristan are lucky. These mountains and forests are our protectors. Trees and rocks shelter us everywhere. The Americans can't match us here.

Two or three years ago, U.S. soldiers in the region acted as if they were on holiday. They were taking videos and photos of themselves and walking in the mountains for fun. They were playing games in the open. Those days are over. Now they are forced to keep their fingers on their triggers 24 hours a day.

AKHUNDZADA: Sometimes I think what's happened is like a dream. I thought my beard would be white by the time I saw what I am seeing now, but my beard is still black, and we get stronger every day.

© 2009


General McChrystal's Plan for Afghanistan