Death in Kabul
by Eric Margolis: Washington
on the Wrong Side of History Over Palestine
famous saying, often used during the French Revolution, "the
revolution devours its own children." The mythological premier
god Chronos was said to have torn the heads off this children, then
I first witnessed
this bloody process at work during the Algerian struggle for independence
from France, as one after another of its revolutionary leaders was
killed by his rivals. Now, we are seeing it in Afghanistan.
a suicide bomber killed my old friend, Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani,
former president of Afghanistan, shaking his war-scarred nation
to its core.
renowned Islamic scholar from the Tajik minority, was one of the
original leaders of the Afghan resistance to Soviet occupation.
I first met
him in the most unlikely of all places: Toronto, Canada.
It was 1982.
He and four other Afghan resistance leaders – known as mujahidin
- were discreetly trying to raise money from North American Muslim
communities to buy arms and supplies to fight Soviet occupation.
As one of only
a few journalists writing about Afghanistan’s unknown and seeming
hopeless struggle against the world’s greatest land power, I was
invited to meet them on a brisk fall day in a small vocational college
next to Lake Ontario.
The five mujahidin
leaders, dressed in traditional Afghan garb, and turbans or chitral
hats, were cooking up a pot of curry in a student dormitory they
had been loaned.
an imposing man, with dark, gentle eyes and a scholarly manner.
I asked him how he could hope to defeat the mighty Soviet Union
which in those days had 100 armored and mechanized divisions.
will provide. What is important is that our faith is strong."
His faith was to prove far stronger than my doubts.
I met Prof.
Rabbani a number of times during the anti-Soviet Great Jihad, both
in Peshawar, Pakistan’s wild border town, and inside Afghanistan.
Each time he embraced me like a son and assured me victory would
And so it was.
In 1989, the wise, humane new Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev,
ordered his army out of Afghanistan. "Graveyard of Empires."
became Afghan president for four years. At his term’s end, he refused
to leave office. Bitter Pashtun-Tajik rivalries surged.
seven mujahidin groups fell out, then battled one another like wolves.
Afghan Communists battled Islamic forces. The majority Pashtun,
who had done most of the fighting against the Soviets, battled the
minority Tajiks, Uzbek and Hazra, many of whom were allied, overtly
or secretly, with the Soviet occupiers.
party, Jamiat Islami, led the anti-Pashtun Northern Alliance. When
Pashtun Taliban emerged in the early 1990’s, his movement led the
anti-Taliban fight. But Rabbani had by then become a figurehead.
His Northern Alliance was really run by Tajik warlord Ahmed Shah
Massoud, backed by the brutal Communist Uzbek general, Rashid Dostam.
In recent years,
retired Soviet KGB and GRU (military intelligence) officers claimed
Massoud was a Soviet "asset," who actually sabotaged mujahidin
war efforts in hopes that Moscow would make him leader of Afghanistan
– a classic KGB false flag operation. I saw this happen numerous
killed two days before 9/11 by assassins sent by Osama bin Laden,
a bitter foe of the Afghan Communists.
The US then
allied itself to the Northern Alliance and invaded Afghanistan.
Contrary to fables about CIA agents of horseback, Russian generals
and troops conducted most of the ground operations, aided by US
B-52 bombers. The northern Tajiks became the power behind the US-installed
figurehead, Hamid Karzai.
In recent years,
Prof. Rabbani was made head of the Afghan Peace Council. It was
a seemingly hopeless task. Taliban and other Pashtun resistance
groups refused to talk a real peace until all foreign troops occupying
Afghanistan withdrew. They, their children, and their grandchildren
would fight the foreign invaders until driven out.
US hopes Rabbani
might splinter Taliban by getting various sub-units to switch sides
– as happened with the Sunni resistance in Iraq – failed. But Rabbani
was also an Afghan patriot who worked for reconciliation and was
one of a few Tajik leaders acceptable to the Pashtun Taliban.
So who then
murdered my old friend? He had many foes. A splinter group from
Taliban? Tajik Communists sabotaging any peace with Pashtun? A murky
personal vendetta so common in Afghanistan?
friend, the anti-Taliban warlord Hadji Kadir, who became vice president
of Afghanistan, was murdered in Kabul in 2002. His gunmen had protected
me from Communist attempts to kidnap or kill me. Yet another old
comrade in arms from the 1980’s Great Jihad, the impetuous Abdul
Haq, was captured and executed by Taliban after he threw in his
lot with the Americans.
a man in his own home violates Pushtunwali, the sacred Pashtun code
of honor. Use of a suicide bomber strongly suggests remnants of
al-Qaida. But we may never know.
An old Afghan
friend who had taken me to meet Prof. Rabbani in the mid 1980’s,
just wrote me: "if it was not for your support and some other
western writers, the world would not have known, appreciated and
supported their fight for freedom(the mujahidin) He always appreciated
and admired your courage and support (a lot of prayers were said
for your success and safety).
have lost a great mujahid (holy warrior) and Afghanistan lost a
great leader and peacemaker. May Allah bless his soul."
To that I say,
him mail] is the author of War
at the Top of the World and the new book, American
Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the
West and the Muslim World. See his
© 2011 Eric Margolis
Best of Eric Margolis