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March 23, 2011

Column #1,543

Islam’s Role in the New Middle East

By Mike McManus

            Will the revolution sweeping Arab states empower a new generation of ayatollahs who extinguish democracy, and repress any dissent with force as they have in Iran?

            Most experts say no, but the primary public backers of the Egyptian constitutional reforms that won 77% of the vote last weekend, were the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi Islamist Movement, which follows the ultra-conservative Islam of Saudi Arabia. 

The reforms were opposed by many of the youth protesters who overthrew Mubarak, by such leaders as Mohammed El Baradei, the winner of a Nobel Peace Prize  who hopes to run for President and by Christian Copts, who fear a Muslim tyranny.

The referendum set up quick Parliamentary elections this summer that only the Brotherhood may have an organizational structure to compete with nationally.

Second question:  will the Libyan War inspire a new generation of young jihadists who will go to war against Israel and America – despite America’s bombing of Libya to help the “freedom fighters” stand up to Col. Qaddafi?  Today those rifle-waving fighters are thanking America for its air cover and for bombing Qaddafi’s tanks. 

            However, remember that the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the 1980s, thanked America for CIA’s arming of them to fight the Russians.  They called themselves “Holy Warriors,” but guess who said this:

            “Throughout the world…its agents, client states and satellites are on the defensive – on the moral defensive, the intellectual defensive, and the political and economic defensive.  Freedom movements arise and assert themselves.  They’re doing so on almost every continent populated by man – in the hills of Afghanistan, in Angola, in Kampuchea, in Central America… (They are) freedom fighters.”

            Is that a call to jihad (holy war) from one of Osama Bin Laden’s fatwas?   

No.  That was President Reagan in 1985, speaking about the “evil empire” of Russia and its client states who were being opposed by Contras in Central America and Mujahedeen in Afghanistan.

            Today we call them the Taliban, or jihadists.  “Our” freedom fighters of a generation ago, or perhaps their offspring, are today’s enemy in Afghanistan!

            And who did the CIA hire to recruit the Mujahedeen from Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, bring them to Afghanistan, build camps to train them, give them American arms, and direct their clandestine warfare against the Soviet Army?

Would you believe it was Osama Bin Laden?

Is that news to you?  It was to me, and I’ve been a reporter for decades.

Osama, one of 20 sons of a billionaire construction magnate in Saudi Arabia, “arrived in Afghanistan to join the jihad in 1980.  An austere religious fanatic and business tycoon, bin Laden specialized in recruiting, financing and training the estimated 35,000 non-Afghan mercenaries who joined the mujahedeen,” wrote Norm Dixon for an Australian paper on September 19, 2001, only 8 days after the 9/l11 attack on the U.S.

A more recent history says bin Laden was “the head CIA man during the Afghan War,” the previous war, that is, against the Russians. In 1988, when that war ended with the defeat of the Russians, bin Laden disassociated himself from the CIA, and build Al Qaeda with the help of Al-Zahawiri of Jihad Islami, now loosely translated as the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt.

They trained Al Qaeda jihadists, a strongly anti-Western network of ex-Mujahedeen - in camps paid for with CIA money!  Only three years later, a handful of those he trained flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Perhaps he used CIA funds to do so!

Remember that history when you think of Libya’s freedom fighters, about whom we know nothing. 

These men are not like the freedom fighters in Poland led by Lech Walesa, who were educated, well trained dock workers who overthrew their Communist government without any help from America in nine months.  They are not like the Czechs who did so in nine weeks, or the East Germans who took only nine days to “tear down that wall,” as Reagan called for.

The Libyans are not even like the young Muslim in Egypt, whose revolt has been partly managed behind the scenes by the Egyptian Army trained and funded by America.  At the appropriate time, the Army turned on Mubarek and got him to step down, without bloodshed.

There is no comparable institution in Libya.  The primary fighters for Qaddafi are mercenaries hired from poor nations in Africa.  Sound familiar?

However, they are not led by Osama bin Laden.  At least, not yet.

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