Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski is dead, but the foreign policy he helped to craft under the Carter administration lives on. The Polish-American diplomat, political scientist and imperialist windbag died on Friday at the age of 89, sadly 89 years too late for the numberless victims of said foreign policy.
Without a doubt the most influential Russophobe of the late 20thcentury, Brzezinski was the chief architect of US neo-liberal imperialism; the godfather of the Taliban and its progeny, al Qaeda and Daesh. His legacy is the unimaginable suffering of millions, from Central and Southeast Asia to Eastern Europe; from South Sudan to Northen Nigeria; from the failed states of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, to the current war in Syria.
It was Brzezinski who came up with the idea of arming the Mujahideen, who were funded by the Saudis to wage jihad against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Travelling to Afghanistan in 1979 he posed for a photo op with Osama bin Laden, telling Mujahideen leaders “We know of their deep belief in God, and we are confident their struggle will succeed. That land over there is yours, you’ll go back to it one day because your fight will prevail, and you’ll have your homes and your mosques back again. Because your cause is right and God is on your side.” Former British Foreign secretary Robin Cook would later describe bin Laden as “a product of a monumental miscalculation by western security agencies.” But while Cook invokes the law of unintended consequences to cover his own arse, the US and Britain continue to arm Islamists to the nines to fight their proxy wars.
Last week, as the Western press focused almost exclusively on the Manchester bombing, ISIS affiliated terror group Abu Sayyaf launched an insurgency in the Philippines city of Marawi on the island of Mindanao, killing up to 80 soldiers of the Philippine Armed Forces. Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte responded swiftly, cutting short his visit with Russian President Vladimir Putin and immediately declaring martial law on the island. Duterte told the press on Wednesday “I do not have a quarrel with the moral people — I am with you — there will be no abuses, none at all. — everything in government functions — but in Mindanao it is different — because they forced my hand into it” [sic]. Already condemned by international humanitarian agencies for his ruthless assault on police corruption and zero tolerance drug policy, Duterte is now certain to face the admonition of the international community and will be demonised by the Western press in the customary manner.
It was writer and analyst Chalmers Johnson who popularised the term “blowback”, first used by the CIA in 1954 to describe the unintended results of US actions abroad. The argument goes something like this: How do you create a terrorist? Murder the innocent child of a man who never did anything to harm you. This argument, championed by liberal apologists keen to defend Islam as a “religion of peace”, misses the point entirely, while pushing an intrinsically false narrative. Wahhabism is a creation of Western imperialism, not a reaction to it.
The story of western collusion with the forces of radical Islam is spelled out in chapter and verse in publicly disclosed official documents for anyone willing to take the time to read. Countless books and scholarly articles have been written on the subject, from TE Lawrence’s daring adventures to the ousting of Mahommad Mossadegh; from the overthrow of the Sukarno government to the murder of Moammar Gaddafi. In each case, the trail of cash, weapons and dead bodies leads directly back to Western intelligence agencies, who work hand in glove with Islamist groups to achieve their political ends. (The timing of the Manchester attack, 17 days out from an election, when Donald Trump has just concluded a $110bn arms deal with the Saudis and when Britain has the opportunity to commence attacks in Syria without the tedium of a parliamentary vote, should at least raise an eyebrow.)
Brzezinski was first and foremost an anti-communist. “What is more important in world history? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some agitated Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?” he said in a 1998 interview with Le Nouvel Observateur. Alas the capitalist restoration of Russia did not herald the end of the cold war, any more than China’s shift toward market socialism would under Deng Xiaoping. Nor did it signal, as neoliberal scholars would have it, the end of history. Russia and China remain in the crosshairs of US foreign policy in its quest for global dominance.
With Russia now flexing its military muscle and China setting out on its $800bn one belt one road (OBOR) initiative, the globalist empire of free trade and finance capital must once again confront the reality of geographic determinism. Eurasia covers 50% of the world’s land mass, contains 70% of its population, 75% of its energy resources, and represents 70% of its GDP. The prospect of regional integration would leave the US and Britain, and potentially half of Europe cut off from these markets, and is not something the West can let slide.
Duterte’s embrace of China and Russia’s multipolar strategy and desire to put aside historic differences with Beijing runs counter to Washington’s strategic objectives in the region as it seeks to contain Chinese influence. It is however crucial to the rapid and sustainable economic recovery he’s promised to deliver. Notably, the cessation of joint patrols with the US Navy in the South China Sea is a direct trade-off for Chinese investment in high-speed rail in the Philippines.
Such industrial integration indicates a shifting balance in the region, as does Duterte’s hard-line stance on terrorism. (For the last two decades the US has covertly sponsored Islamist groups in the southern islands seeking territorial independence from Manila.) The US operates five military bases in the Philippines. The country is of vital strategic importance if it is to maintain its dominance in the Pacific. Duterte’s insubordination will not go unpunished. With regime change in Manila now high on Washington’s wish list, the people of Mindanao, including some 4,838,060 Sunni Muslims, face a perilous future.
“Kill everyone over the age of ten” and make the island “a howling wilderness” were the official orders given last time the US went to war with the Moors of the southern Philippines – words for which General Jacob Hurd Smith would later face court martial. In 1906 American soldiers murdered nine hundred Moro men, women, and children trapped in the crater of an extinct volcano called Bud Dajo. In 1913 when Moros took refuge in another volcanic crater called Bud Bagsak, Americans killed over five hundred of them. President Theodore Roosevelt wrote to commanding officer General Leonard Wood after Bud Dajo: “I congratulate you and the officers and men of your command upon the brilliant feat of arms, wherein you and they so well upheld the honor of the American flag.”