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February 27, 2007

Friends and Enemies
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Tony Blair is a tragic figure. I used to like him. Maybe I still do, sort of. I think there's little doubt that he genuinely believes he (along with his transatlantic friends) is fighting the "global struggle against Islamic extremism" or whatever they're calling it now. Too bad he seems to always get left in the dust by Bush and Cheney. In a recent BBC interview (via Andrew), Blair draws the struggle in Iraq in the usual overwrought way, although he manages to come off sounding sincere (no small feat). We must "support the democrats against the terrorists." Then he says something about the "forces of progress" versus the "forces of reaction" in the Middle East. It is unclear who he is referring to. Well, on the other side of the pond, Cheney and friends seem to have a better idea of who's on our side (Prince Bandar and a sprinkling of Sunni jihadists) and who isn't (Iran and the "Shia crescent"), and the answers, as you might expect, aren't particularly encouraging. Apparently, our past policy of "moral clarity" has been updated to reflect new "realities." Some choice excerpts from Seymour Hersh's latest:

The United States has also given clandestine support to the Siniora government, according to the former senior intelligence official and the U.S. government consultant. “We are in a program to enhance the Sunni capability to resist Shiite influence, and we’re spreading the money around as much as we can,” the former senior intelligence official said. The problem was that such money “always gets in more pockets than you think it will,” he said. “In this process, we’re financing a lot of bad guys with some serious potential unintended consequences. We don’t have the ability to determine and get pay vouchers signed by the people we like and avoid the people we don’t like. It’s a very high-risk venture.”

American, European, and Arab officials I spoke to told me that the Siniora government and its allies had allowed some aid to end up in the hands of emerging Sunni radical groups in northern Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, and around Palestinian refugee camps in the south. These groups, though small, are seen as a buffer to Hezbollah; at the same time, their ideological ties are with Al Qaeda.

...In an interview in Beirut, a senior official in the Siniora government acknowledged that there were Sunni jihadists operating inside Lebanon. “We have a liberal attitude that allows Al Qaeda types to have a presence here,” he said. He related this to concerns that Iran or Syria might decide to turn Lebanon into a “theatre of conflict.”

Does any of this sound familiar? It should, because, um, we kind of tried this before:

Nasr compared the current situation to the period in which Al Qaeda first emerged. In the nineteen-eighties and the early nineties, the Saudi government offered to subsidize the covert American C.I.A. proxy war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Hundreds of young Saudis were sent into the border areas of Pakistan, where they set up religious schools, training bases, and recruiting facilities. Then, as now, many of the operatives who were paid with Saudi money were Salafis. Among them, of course, were Osama bin Laden and his associates, who founded Al Qaeda, in 1988.


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The US sides with the Paks (who support the Taliban occupation resistance in Afghanistan) just as it's in cahoots with the Saudis (who support the Sunni occupation resistance in Iraq). US soldiers are pawns in this game (what's new?) and so are treated like pawns when they return all busted up only to be sent out again if they still have a pulse and four limbs. Let's hear it for 'The War on Terror'! Bush family friend Osama bin Laden sends his thanks from that cave where he's on dialysis. How long can we expect 'Red China' to lend the US money for this farce? As long as China keeps raking in dollars from Wal-Mart and Dell, I guess, and there's so much money to be made in the US. We can certainly count on Congress to continue to 'support the troops'--it's become the mantra of a failing empire. The City on the Hill is sliding inexorably into an abyss of our own making. What a shame. Perhaps a successful attack on Iran will pull us out of it. Hah.

What a shame. Perhaps a successful attack on Iran will pull us out of it. Hah.

Posted by: Don Bacon | February 27, 2007 at 02:45 PM

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