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Exploring the Origins of Terror Incorporated ...   

Exploring the
Origins of


Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America, and International Terrorism
John K. Cooley
First published in 1999. Currently available in:
Paperback, Revised 1st
ed., 288pp.
ISBN: 0745316913
Pluto Press 
(October, 2000) $19.95
Hardcover, Revised ed., 288pp.
ISBN: 0745316921
Pluto Press
(May, 2001)


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 victims.

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 international events.

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.


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.


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 "never again!"

(Chris Townsend is UE’s political action director.)

Unholy Wars 
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



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