Paris, Orlando and Turkey: Displacing the Narrative of Western Innocence

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Paris, Orlando and Turkey: Displacing the Narrative of Western Innocence

Members of the Al Nusra Front standing in the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp, south of Damascus, in 2014. (Photo: Rami Al-Sayed/Getty Images)

What is clear is that there is a context – no matter how painful to admit – of U.S. and Western complicity in creating the very forces that now terrorize the imagination of publics in the West. Just a cursory glance of that sordid history reveals the baselessness of the assumption of innocence that makes up the dominate narrative being pushed by the corporate press in the U.S. and inculcated as a part of Western commonsense.   

Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s national security advisor, congratulated himself on his brilliant strategy to create the “Soviet Union’s Vietnam” by bogging it down militarily in Afghanistan with the creation of an international corps of right-wing Islamists ready to fight the godless Soviets.  Like all colonialist calculations, the Pentagon thought that these elements could be weaponized to do the bidding of U.S. and Western imperialism. They mistakenly believed that once the mission was completed that they could conveniently toss them aside like the Hmong in Vietnam, the Gurkhas from Nepal, the black Buffalo soldiers in the West of the U.S. – the list goes on.  With direct logistical support from the Pakistani ISI, the Mujahedeen performed marvelously, destroying a secular nationalist government with Marxist leanings and plunging the nation into the chaos that led to the establishment of the Taliban who created their 8th century version of an Islamic state.

When Brzezinski formulated his plan, critics of this strategy, including some elements of the U.S. and British intelligence agencies, warned that the U.S. was playing a dangerous game by empowering what had always been the lunatic fringe of Islam, but colonial hubris inoculated those decision makers in 1979 and in both the Bush and Obama administrations from those more critical reassessments. They operated instead from a historic perspective in which the use of right-wing Islamists had yielded positive results not only in Afghanistan in the 1980’s but before that during the immediate post world-war years to undercut support for left and left nationalist forces in the so-called Middle-East.  

These kinds of cynical calculations have always been a cornerstone of colonial “divide and rule” politics. However, what Brzezinski and others didn’t understand was the subjective factor that they were dealing with. Unlike the slimy comprador and mercenary types traditionally used to advance Western interests in various parts of the world, the religious fervor and commitment of these Islamic elements could not be turned on and off.

By concentrating these forces in Afghanistan, U.S. policy gave them an opportunity to gain valuable training, fighting experience, and some degree of prestige along with more effective post-conflict networking among themselves. They created a force in which the tail would eventually wag the dog, with the al-Qaeda network was just one of the networks of radical Islamists that emerged from that period.

This was evident when the Bush administration and then the Obama administration decided to re-empower these radical jihadists as part of their strategy to put pressure on the al-Maliki government in Iraq and effect governmental change in Syria. In short, they encouraged a jihadist invasion and then framed it as a “civil war.”  Western governments pretended not to notice and certainly didn’t seem to care in the early days of the war that more and more of their nationals were traveling to Turkey to enter the conflict zone in Syria.

Why this lack of concern?

U.S. propagandists knew that the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) was their public relations myth. Many analysts in the U.S. intelligence agencies concluded early on that if the Assad government was going to be toppled it would come about as result of the Jihadist forces being created internally and pouring into the country from abroad.

Killing the Messenger

In a moment of unusual candor, President Obama revealed that he thought it was a fantasy that the FSA could overthrow the Syrian government and the Baath institutional apparatus. Many critics of Obama’s strategies in Syria thought that this was an insult to the “moderates” and critiqued the Obama administration’s reluctance to provide support to the FSA. But instead of that comment reflecting the bogus narrative of non-support for the forces fighting to overthrow the Syrian government by the U.S.,  it revealed instead what was really in place – a strategy to bolster Islamic jihadist forces working with and through Turkey, the Saudi’s, and the other Gulf monarchs and repressive states in the region, including Israel.  

With the CIA fully involved in training and equipping what was referred to as the “rebel” forces and with the assurances from Saudi Prince Bander that they had the jihadists fully under their control, the Administration didn’t appear to be too concerned when ISIS broke off from al-Qaeda and began to establish its own independent economic base once it captured the oil fields in Syria. It all seemed like part of the plan, especially when it became clear that NATO member Turkey was being used to get the Syrian oil to world markets.   

Michael Flynn, the frustrated head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) who naively thought that the U.S. was concerned about  “Islamic terrorism,” revealed recently that after the DIA submitted analysis in 2012 that U.S. policies in Syria were enhancing the power of Islamic forces and leading to the establishment of a “Salafist principality” not only was that analysis ignored, it became clear to him that the Obama administration had made a “willful decision to do what they were doing.”

But this Frankensteinian strategy turned farce into disaster when ISIS double-crossed their benefactors by breaking the rules and attacking the “good Kurds” in Iraq. The strategy appeared to be more concerned with holding territory in Iraq and Syria than carrying out their assignment to overthrow the Assad government and completing the dismemberment of the Syrian state – the strategic objective of U.S. and Israeli policy to counter the regional power of the Iranians.  

With the categorical transformation of jihadist forces in Syria into “moderates” and their military enhancement with U.S. supplied anti-tank weapons and better military and political coordination, the stage was set by the summer of 2015 for the last push after a no-fly zone was established.  This move would have allowed coordinated ground operations with air power provided by the U.S., with symbolic participation from France and Britain to give the operation its NATO credentials.  Under this configuration and shift in the balance of forces, ISIS had outlived its utility for U.S. interests and became an obstacle because of its independent agenda.  So it had to be cut down to size – not destroyed – at least not at that point.

But the rhetorical commitment to eliminate ISIS created a political/ideological opening for the Russians to be invited in by the Syrian government to “counter” ISIS.  The result was to completely undermine the no-fly zone plan and the plan to support a final push on to Damascus by the newly concentrated Islamic forces in the form of the Jaish al-Fatah or the “Army of Conquest,” as the new “moderates.”

With the combined attacks by the Russians and U.S., the ISIS caliphate has constricted in size. In particular, some of the combatants from the West have left the battlefield and slowly tricked back to the West. Battled hardened and still committed to the cause, the strategic shift appears to be focused on taking the battle to the West, something that Abu Baka al-Baghdadi, an alleged former CIA asset and subsequent leader of ISIS, warned would happen if they were targeted.

The series of attacks in Paris, Brussels, Turkey, and Orlando reflect what Malcolm called the “chickens coming home to roost.” Innocent human beings are the ones that suffer the consequences of imperial policy. From the tens of thousands of displaced Syrians who found themselves as political pawns in the manufactured “refugee crisis” in Europe to the Puerto Rican patrons of Pulse nightclub in Orlando, it is the people who suffer when these destructive forces unleashed on the world by their Western governments double back on their masters and bring the terror “home.”

This “blowback” theory is controversial especially among some who view all of these attacks as part of some grand design to manipulate public opinion to support the permanent war strategy being operationalized across the planet in the name of fighting terrorism. While the forces of domination can tactically take advantage of these attacks to further that agenda, the position that this is all part of a grand plan gives those forces a ubiquity and level of competence among the people making policy that the evidence of how policy is developed and executed does not support.  

There are already calls being made in some quarters for a more forceful intervention into Syria to crush ISIS in response to the attack in Turkey.  Erdogan, the neo-Ottoman maniac who leads Turkey, declared with a straight face and not a hint of irony that the world must double its effort to defeat international terrorism.

Not supporting terrorism was precisely the demand that many Turkish citizens made to Erdogan before this attack.  And like many of the innocents in the U.S. who have died from 9/11 to Orlando who probably opposed U.S. state terrorism, I am sure that many of the Turkish citizens who were murdered or wounded in that airport probably also opposed the immoral and fundamentally dangerous policies of their government in Syria. Their families and all of the people of Turkey should be outraged.  As should the people of the U.S. whose government is now seen by so many people of the world as the greatest threat to world peace and as Dr. King declared the “greatest purveyor of violence” on the planet.

Ajamu Baraka

Ajamu Baraka

Ajamu Baraka is a veteran activist and organizer. He is currently an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC and an editor and columnist for Black Agenda Report. Baraka was founding executive director of the US Human Rights Network (USHRN) from July 2004 until June 201.1 He has also served on the boards of various national and international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International (USA) and the National Center for Human Rights Education. He is currently on the boards of the Center for Constitutional Rights; Africa Action; Latin American Caribbean Community Center; Diaspora Afrique; and the Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human Rights. His website is www.ajamubaraka.com

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