The law of unintended consequences

Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor under Carter, acknowleded in a 1998 interview with Le Nouvel Observateur that the Carter administration began funding the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan six months before the Soviets invaded (a statement corroborated by former CIA director Robert Gates).

Brzezinski: According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.

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Q: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against a secret involvement of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn’t believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don’t regret anything today?

B: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.

Q: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic fundamentalism, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?

B: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?

Q: Some stirred-up Moslems? But it has been said and repeated: Islamic fundamentalism represents a world menace today.

B: Nonsense! It is said that the West had a global policy in regard to Islam. That is stupid. There isn’t a global Islam. Look at Islam in a rational manner and without demagoguery or emotion. It is the leading religion of the world with 1.5 billion followers. But what is there in common among Saudi Arabian fundamentalism, moderate Morocco, Pakistan militarism, Egyptian pro-Western or Central Asian secularism? Nothing more than what unites the Christian countries.

At this point in history, one need hardly elaborate on the short-sightedness of a policy which sought to give the Soviets their own Vietnam at the small cost of a few “stirred up Muslims”. But for the rare, obtuse reader, let’s state it flat out: there’s a direct line leading from this ill-conceived decision to the events of September 11, 2001.

The law of unintended consequences.

One of the post-facto rationales for the Iraq war, popularized by Andrew Sullivan back in his Screaming Eagle days, is the “flypaper theory” — the idea that we’ll all be safer in the United States if the terrorists are kept busy in Iraq. In other words, trust us, we’ve got everything under control! We meant for this to happen!

The law of unintended consequences:

The News: A classified assessment by the Central Intelligence Agency says Iraq may be an even more effective training ground for Islamic extremists than Afghanistan was for Al Qaeda in the days of the struggle against Soviet occupation. Iraq, unlike Afghanistan, is serving as a real-world laboratory for urban combat.

Behind the News: The assessment, as described by several Congressional and intelligence officials, says the urban nature of the war in Iraq is helping combatants learn how to carry out assassinations, kidnappings, car bombings and other kinds of attacks that were never a staple of the fighting in Afghanistan during the anti-Soviet campaigns of the 1980’s.

The report says that, for now, most potential terrorists are expected to focus their energies on attacking American forces in Iraq, but that Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries would soon have to contend with well-trained militants from the conflict.

The history of Western intervention in the Middle East is the history of unintended consequences, and it should have been clear from the start to anyone with basic cognitive functions that the Iraq war was going to come back and bite us in the ass. And make no mistake — it will.

But what the hell. Just a few stirred-up Muslims, right?

With the flypaper theory, the neocons and their cheering section have effectively claimed pre-emptive responsibility for whatever future 9/11’s await us — but I doubt they’ll see it that way. The dark irony of it is, no matter what horror unfolds as a result of this little terrorist training camp they’ve manged to create, they’ll claim it as further proof that they were Right All Along, and of the need to Stay the Course. Even as they deny knowing what flypaper even is, or having ever heard of flies.

Chocolate rations have always been up. Or, as Atrios often says, “Clap louder! Clap louder!”