A View from the Cave

Just over 29 years ago, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and a number of Muslims decided they’d had enough interference by western nations in the affairs of Islamic nations and launched what they considered holy war against the invaders.

The US, via the CIA helped with money, weapons and training. If you watched “Charlie Wilson’s War,” it all seems like fun with a few caveats thrown in. That movie leaves one with the impression that it was the movement of millions of US tax dollars, plus some nights in Middle Eastern cafes with shady arms dealers that made the difference.

That’s not how Osama bin Laden and his friends see it. Their version of history says God – Allah – strengthened their hand and all that CIA money was just a manifestation of God’s will. The displeasure of Allah with the godless Commies was such that not only were the infidels driven from Afghanistan, but the Soviet Union collapsed soon after.

From where I sit, the collapse of the Soviets wasn’t so simple. It had to do with economics, Soviet political sclerosis, the price of oil and a dozen other factors. To Islamic fundamentalists, however, that was of a class with the CIA money in Afghanistan. Just part of the plan. To them, the Iron Curtain was torn because Insha’Allah: God wills it.

Then, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Kuwait. Osama thought Saddam should be pushed back, but he wanted only Muslims to do the pushing. The Saudi royal family disagreed and threw in with a coalition of western nations. Part of the deal allowed US military personnel to operate from bases in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi is home to the holiest of Muslim shrine at Mecca and Medina and the presence of non-believers on Saudi soil was infuriating to Mr. bin Laden and his followers, even though – in an uncharacteristic burst of cultural sensitivity – the Pentagon bent over backwards to keep from offending Muslims. Non-Muslim religious services were kept to a minimum, women were kept on base, so devout Muslims would not have to look at them, no beer, etc. etc. True, we stepped on the civil rights of our people trying not to offend their people, but we never seem to be able to get that stuff just right.

The point is, Osama thinks he and God got together and destroyed the Soviet Union and since Mr. bin Laden thinks God is an angry god, he probably felt he was speaking for Angry God when he declared that the unfaithful US must be destroyed and so the attacks on the US began and reached a high point (so far) on Sept. 11, 2001.

Since then, Osama has been quoted as saying he and Allah will destroy the US, just as they did the Soviets. From where he sits, it may look like the plan is working. The US is tied up in two wars, neither of which is going very well. In fact, what’s happened to the US military in the past six years looks an awful lot like what happened to the Soviet military in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Of course, what really brought down the Soviets was their economy, because you can’t be a military power and an economic weakling. And now our economy is tanking – and taking much of the global economy with it, but that’s OK with Osama and his pals because… well, they live in caves and the standard of living they’d prescribe for the rest of us wouldn’t look much different.

From our side of the world, we see that America’s current weakness (military and economic) is due to the incompetence of George Bush and the people around him. It’s odd that both Mr. Bush and Mr. bin Laden think Mr. Bush’s actions as president were ordained by God.

Mr. Bush’s time is nearly through and let’s hope Mr. bin Laden’s is too. Maybe, going forward, we can take responsibility for our own actions and dig ourselves out of this mess.

© 2009, Mark Floegel

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