The US-Russian Crusade Against Osama Bin Laden

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NEW
YORK – The United States and Russia may soon launch a joint military
assault against Islamic militant, Osama Bin Laden, and against the
leadership of Taliban, Afghanistan's de facto ruling movement.

Such
an attack would probably include US Delta Force and Navy Seals,
who would join up with Russia's elite Spetsnaz and Alpha commandos
in Tajikistan, the Central Asian state where Russian has military
bases and 25,000 troops. The combined forces would be lifted by
helicopters, and backed by air support, deep into neighboring Afghanistan
to attack Bin Laden's fortified base in the Hindu Kush mountains.

How
well such an raid would succeed remains in question: US special
forces have had a dismal record of fiascos over the past quarter
century.

Russia's
special forces, though more capable than similar American units,
experienced some success but also many failure in the Afghan War.

Assassinating
irksome Third Worlders is the specialty of Britain's very able and
very deadly SAS (Special Air Service) commandos.

In
such an attack, the US would also launch cruise missile attacks,
and Russia air strikes, would pound Afghan government installations
and communications to punish Taliban.

The
United States blames Bin Laden for the 1998 bombing of US embassies
in East Africa, and the October bombing of destroyer u2018USS Cole'
in Yemen. Washington accuses the shadowy Saudi, who fought the Soviets
in Afghanistan, of masterminding world anti-American terrorism.
Bin Laden tops the FBI's u2018Ten Most Wanted' list with a US $5 million
price on his head.

Russia
accuses Bin Laden and Taliban of aiding resistance forces in Chechnya,
whose forgotten people continue to battle Russian colonial rule.
Moscow also fears Taliban threatens the Russian – backed communist
dictators – or u2018Red Sultans' – of Central Asia. Russia is determined
to avenge its defeat in Afghanistan, and regain control of this
vast, resource-rich region.

Washington
recently joined the u2018Shanghai Five,' an unofficial pact between
Russia, China, and three Central Asian states to combat u2018Islamic
terrorism' – meaning the region's anti-communist Islamic independence
movements. The US agreed to share intelligence with them and provide
some funding for the crusade against Islamic insurgents.

The
Clinton Administration's anti-Muslim alliance with Russia is strategically
wrong and morally disgraceful. Leading human rights groups are condemning
Russia for war crimes and mass murder in Chechnya, widespread torture,
rape, looting, collective punishment, and operating concentration
camps. Russia has killed some 140,000 Chechen civilians to date
and covered that nations with millions of anti-personnel mines.

America
has no business colluding with the perpetrator of these crimes,
nor with China's brutal repression of Sinkiang Muslims, nor aiding
pro-Moscow police states in Central Asia. All of Washington's new
u2018friends' in the anti-Islamic crusade are major violators of human
rights.

America
has a better case against Bin Laden, who proclaimed jihad, or holy
struggle, to u2018liberate Arabia and Palestine from American rule.'
He may have been behind the terrorist bombings in East Africa; perhaps,
too, of the u2018USS Cole.' But Washington has to date shown no real
proof, only leaks and claims by dubious u2018anti-terrorism experts.'

Old
comrades from the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan who know
Bin Laden, tell me the US has blown him out of all proportion into
a mythical caricature, the latest of long list of Muslim boogemen
beginning with the 19th-Cerntury u2018Mad Mullah.' Bin Laden's
alleged attacks may have actually been done by other Saudi extremists
of the Wahabi sect.

Afghanistan's
Taliban refuses Washington's demands to hand Bin Laden, a hero to
many Muslims, until the US shows proof of his crimes , which it
has not. When Bin Laden and other mujihadin battled heroically against
the Russians in Afghanistan, the US hailed them as u2018freedom fighters.'
But when these u2018jihadis' called for liberation of Saudi Arabia and
the Gulf from US domination, they were branded u2018Islamic terrorists.'
In 1998, the Clinton Administration showered cruise missiles on
guerilla camps in Afghanistan and an innocuous drug plant in Sudan,
killing over 100 civilians and fighters.

The
US engineered a punishing Iraq-style embargo of war-ravaged Afghanistan
at a time when many of its 18 million people are starving and homeless.

Though
Taliban controls 95% of the country, the US refuses to recognize
or aid the Islamic regime. Washington and the US media have launched
a fierce propaganda campaign against Taliban, accusing it of encouraging
the opium trade, harboring u2018terrorists,' and abusing women. The
woman's issue has resonated loudly in the west, particularly on
college campuses.

All
the women's groups now shrilly lamenting that Afghan women must
go veiled were silent when the Soviets slaughtered close to 2 million
Afghans – half womenu2014from 1979-1989; silent about 500,000 Afghans
maimed by Soviet mines since then; silent about thousands of women
raped during the post-war anarchy before Taliban restored internal
order.

Taliban
is battling the opposition Northern Alliance in the northeast corner
of Afghanistan bordering Tajikistan. The Alliance commander, Ahmad
Massoud, is a long-time collaborator with the Russians. His cornered
forces are being increasingly aided by Russian arms, pilots, artillery,
air support, as well as covert help from Iran, India and, likely,
the US – all of them fueling the decade-old Afghan civil war.

The
Clinton Administration, which shamefully financed Russia's massacre
of the Muslim Chechen, is now actually helping Russia re-enter Afghanistan,
an act of dazzling geopolitical folly that will endanger Pakistan
and further convince the Muslim world that the United States is
its sworn enemy.

American
money now pays for the killing of Palestinians in the Mideast, the
slaughter of the Chechen, the death of 500,000 Iraqi children (UN
figures, not mine), and now the punishment of ravaged Afghanistan
– all this under the banner of a war against terrorism.

Instead
of trying to overthrow Taliban, which will surely pave the way for
a second Russian occupation of Afghanistan, the US and its allies
should recognize Taliban as the legitimate Afghan government, and
work with Kabul to curtail the opium trade, which is currently beyond
anyone's control in a nation that is starving and desperate.

The
west may not like the fierce Taliban, but it is the legitimate government
of Afghanistan and the only power holding that nation together.

Taliban
is also only force blocking Russia's plans to restore its former
rule in Central Asia, and to reoccupy strategic Afghanistan.

December
6, 2000

Eric
Margolis is foreign correspondent for the Toronto Sun.

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