|Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America, and International Terrorism
published in 1999. Currently available in:
(October, 2000) $19.95
Revised ed., 288pp.
The images of the Sept. 11 terror attacks are unforgettable:
two jet airliners slamming into the World Trade Center towers, the
eventual collapse of the entire building complex, the raging fires at
the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the crash of a fourth hijacked
plane in a western Pennsylvania pasture. The loss of life was
staggering, as was the grief of the families and co-workers of the
Then the unleashing of anthrax germ warfare worsened an already
horrific scenario, claiming additional victims and disrupting the work
of the U.S. Congress and our national postal system.
Yes, it really happened. This was not a movie.
The fallout from these attacks has been far-reaching. Our economic
recession has been measurably worsened by the events, the air travel
system nearly collapsed, and our entire country has plunged into a
security mania that often makes no sense, but is hard to criticize
given the magnitude of September’s terrorism. Hundreds of terrorist
suspects have been detained, and Congress has already granted
extraordinary new and sweeping powers to law enforcement agencies.
Our nation has been attacked, in a big way. And in response, U.S.
might has crushed and replaced the government of Afghanistan and
threatened additional attacks and retaliation against terrorists
around the world. Tens of thousands of U.S. troops are on the move all
over the globe, in a war that President Bush has warned "may take
years to win."
Those who are charged with criminal acts related to Sept. 11 should
be put on trial, and if convicted sentenced to long jail terms.
Across the country, U.S. flags are proudly displayed in front
yards, in windows, on cars. Many wear U.S. flag lapel pins. It has
been a long, long time since Americans have been this unified. It’s
a strange time, forced on us by the tragic and still
hard-to-comprehend events of September.
It’s also an occasion for raising questions about the terror attacks.
How was such a massive operation pulled-off so suddenly? Where did the
terrorists come from? Why was our country so ill-prepared for this kind of
attack? Are additional, or even worse, attacks yet to come? What can we do
to get at the root of the worldwide terror problem? Why would 19 men be so
filled with rage that they would commit mass murder and suicide through
such insane and criminal acts? How was network television able to
broadcast photos of the hijackers barely 48 hours after the attacks?
We need the facts because if we don’t discover the real causes of
what happened it will not just be a disservice to the victims — our
nation will be doomed to repeat the ghastly experience. But uncovering the
facts about Sept. 11 is not easy, as unraveling the whole story involves
revealing seamy details of U.S. foreign policy from the past 25 years.
If you wander into a local bookstore, like I did, you’ll find that
the shelves filled quickly with a flood of books on the subject. Given the
haste, one would think the writers started writing about the tragic events
on the day they happened! Some authors are dubious, self-appointed
"experts" and think-tank gurus promoting their own versions of
what happened. It’s not an easy shopping trip.
After glancing through at least two dozen books I found one worth
buying: Unholy Wars by veteran independent journalist John Cooley.
I liked this book because it was written two full years before the
September catastrophe by an author with a real track record of covering
Unholy Wars is hard to put down, even though parts of it are very
complex. Author Cooley does an excellent job of tracing the construction
and financing of the Afghan-based terror network, including the career of
Saudi-born ringleader, Osama bin Laden. Cooley lays out in detail how the
U.S. government played a leading role in the creation of the international
network of terrorist maniacs that pulled off the Sept. 11 events! (Read
that last line again; I’m not kidding.)
In the wake of the overthrow of the corrupt and murderous Shah of Iran
in 1979, President Jimmy Carter was looking for a means to counter the
growing influence of the Soviet Union in that oil-rich region. And Carter
found willing recruits for his fledgling scheme. The medieval regime in
Saudi Arabia — which continues in power today — was nervous that the
Iranian revolution might spill over and topple its despotic rule. At the
same time Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was eager to join the U.S.
"team," especially with billion-dollar-a-year cash subsidies for
his desperately poor country.
SCHEMING FOR WAR
The Carter scheme took final shape when the now-evaporated Soviet Union
invaded Afghanistan in late December 1979 in order to restore a friendly
regime that had earlier that year been overthrown by Afghan forces that,
like Egypt’s Sadat, were determined to join the U.S. "team."
Cooley reveals how the U.S. actually worked to encourage a Soviet invasion
of Afghanistan. And Carter’s National Security Advisor Zbigniew
Brzezinski, an anticommunist fanatic, admitted in 1998 that the
"secret reality is that on July 3, 1979, President Carter signed the
first directive for clandestine aid to the enemies of the pro-Soviet
regime in Kabul." Brzezinski admitted further that, "On that
day, I wrote a note to the President in which I explained... this aid
would result in military intervention by the Soviets . . . We didn’t
push the Soviets to start the war, but we consciously increased the
probability that they would do so."
Once the Soviets invaded, the "Afghan trap" was sprung. The
Carter Administration immediately initiated the recruitment, training, and
supply of an Islamic fundamentalist army to harass the Soviets in
Afghanistan. In addition to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Carter operatives and
the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) recruited support from Pakistan,
China, and Great Britain. The election of President Ronald Reagan in 1980
intensified U.S. support for the "freedom fighters" in
Afghanistan. Islamic fanatics were recruited from all over the world to
come to Afghanistan to fight the jihad, or "holy war,"
against the Soviet Union.
ENTER BIN LADEN
One of those "freedom fighters" who made the trip to
Afghanistan was none other than Osama bin Laden, now reviled as the
acknowledged mastermind and financier of the Sept. 11 attacks. A
multimillionaire member of an influential Saudi business family, bin Laden
established his own private army in Afghanistan in the early 1980s.
"He seemed to both Saudi intelligence and the CIA an ideal choice for
the leading role he began to play," says Cooley. The bin Laden
private army was but one of eight different private armies financed and
supported by the CIA to attack the Soviets in Afghanistan.
Unholy Wars traces in detail the development of the forces that
eventually drove Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1989, and how these
same private armies then plunged the country into bloody civil war as
warlords and religious zealots vied for power. Once the Soviets withdrew,
then-President George Bush conveniently overlooked these bloodthirsty
elements’ involvement in international terrorism, drug dealing,
counterfeiting, and numerous other crimes.
The book also explains how their Western backers cast off the Islamic
fanatics once the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan, setting the
stage for bin Laden’s influence over the Taliban forces that eventually
came to control most of the ruined country in the mid-1990s. The spread of
bin Laden’s network to the United States, Europe, and Asia are all
exposed in chilling detail, almost as a prediction of the events on Sept.
11. Bin Laden’s growing hatred for the U.S. is carefully explained,
setting the stage for the tragic events to come.
I wholeheartedly recommend John Cooley’s Unholy Wars. This is
a hard book to read because at regular intervals one is reminded that
Sept. 11 need never have happened. One is also reminded that criminals
like bin Laden are not random, out-of-the-blue evil characters but rather
part of a disgraceful chapter of U.S. foreign policy. Instead of launching
a crusade against the civil rights of U.S. citizens and immigrants alike,
Congress should fully explore the background and ask: "Should our
government create and finance private, murderous armies as a means of
conducting our foreign policy?"
I dare you to read this book and support any other conclusion than
(Chris Townsend is UE’s political action director.)
By John Cooley
Published in 1999 by Pluto Press. Currently available in revised
editions at national bookstores in paperback and hardback, or direct from the publisher at