Playing 'Good Jihadi-Bad Jihadi'
Ian Wilkie is an American lawyer and terrorism expert living outside of New York City. Wilkie has lived in Europe, Asia, and Africa and speaks multiple foreign languages. He is a veteran of the U.S. Army (Infantry), completed French Foreign Legion commando training, and graduated from Vassar College and Tulane Law School. Wilkie lived in South Asia post-9/11 where he conducted research and has been a consultant and advisor to two U.S. government agencies. He has also worked for two of the three largest law firms in the world and has served as general counsel to hedge funds. Wilkie possesses a deep knowledge of terrorist strategy and is currently working on a book called “Checkmate: Jihad’s Endgame.” Follow Wilkie on Twitter @Wilkmaster. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of any official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.
Title: Playing "Good Jihadi-Bad Jihadi"
Date Originally Written: December 5, 2017.
Date Originally Published: January 1, 2018.
Summary: U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan aligned the U.S. with jihadists in Afghanistan against Russia and later gave weapons to Salafi-jihadis allied with Osama Bin Laden. Less than 20 years later, Al Qaeda brought down the World Trade Center and attacked the Pentagon. Presently the U.S. is bogged down in Syria and continues to make the foreign policy mistake of playing “Good Jihadi-Bad Jihadi.”
Text: The United States has been fitfully fighting Muslim-majority countries since shortly after the founding of the nation. President Thomas Jefferson saw enough of a piracy and kidnap threat to mobilize the Navy and newly formed Marine Corps and deploy them to Africa. Centuries later, the use of violence against civilians is a hallmark of Islamist extremists. Informed by Islamist interpretations of ample examples in scripture (Qu’ran and Hadith), religious “holy warriors” find it easy to commit atrocities and justify them on perceived religious grounds. Some clerics support this violence, and some have even gone so far as to condone the use of nuclear and biological weapons against “infidels” based their interpretation of sacred texts. The violence of these Islamist actors, whether on 9/11 or in Europe, Africa, or the various countries of the Middle East today, is not in doubt. The history of violence associated with the Islamist jihad (“struggle”) to convert the world to Islam is rife with examples of massacres and forced conversions. Put bluntly, the blood lust of these violent Islamists is not even an open question, yet the U.S. still works with some of the extremists, while trying to kill others.
Afghanistan in the decade from 1979-1989 saw the U.S. advance a strategy of opposing Russia without fighting Russia directly. The U.S., primarily the Congress and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), believed that Russia could be bloodied and beaten if the “right” people were given the right weapons, clandestinely. To this end, close ties were forged between the CIA and jihadists and Salafi-jihadis who believed in pedophilia, polygamy, and the liberal application of violence against civilians, including religious minorities. America knew what Osama bin Laden and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar stood for, yet we still worked with them according to “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” theory of geopolitics. On September 11, 2001, America and the world learned the true dangers of allying with Islamist religious zealots: they may kill U.S. enemies, but they will never be U.S. allies. Islamist religious zealots answer to their God and no one else, regardless of which faith they profess.
The cold, realpolitik calculus that the CIA made in Afghanistan to work with jihadists and Salafi-Jihadis may have hastened the break-up of the Soviet Union, but it also hastened the end of America’s moral leadership in the eyes of the world. When these “good” jihadis the U.S. once armed and trained utilized tactics from World War 2 against American buildings, the American response was telling: the Saudi allies and sponsors of violent jihad were permitted to leave the U.S., no questions asked. The softball investigation of official Saudi ties to Al Qaeda and 9/11 reflected yet another Machiavellian choice by Washington; the oil money and strategic advantage of remaining allied to the bandit Kingdom outweighed any practical considerations of justice for the victims. The Saudi departures and lackluster investigation were a clear case of vested interests and money overwhelming U.S. morality and yet, almost two decades later, the survivors and the almost 3,000 dead still demand justice.
America’s reaction to 9/11 consisted of removing the Afghan Taliban from power, but not eliminating their base of support in Pakistan, their illicit drug networks, or their financial backing across the Sunni Muslim world. The American response largely ignored the fundamentalist horrors of the Afghan Taliban’s behavior towards women, children, and minorities and focused only on which “externally focused” terrorists they were giving refuge to. Rather like its 180° shift on Osama Bin Laden, the U.S. went from bombing the Afghan Taliban to inviting them to peace talks, in effect treating them like normal people and not the barbarians that they are. In 2017, the U.S. is still open to sitting across the table from “men” who rape little boys as a matter of honor and shoot schoolgirls in the face as a point of pride, which is moral capitulation of the very worst kind.
Shifting to Syria, we encounter the most egregious examples of playing “Good Jihadi-Bad Jihadi” that the U.S. has ever engaged in. The fact that the CIA was willing to advance the fiction that foreign fighters from Sunni theocracies were anything but jihadis shows you how gullible and uninformed they believe Americans are. From an ethical point of view, there is no such thing as a “moderate” Sunni foreign insurgent in Syria and there never will be. Syria is another example of the U.S. trying to advance a larger goal (oppose Shia Iran and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad) by making a moral compromise and allying with malign forces. In Syria, the U.S. has sent entire warehouses full of weapons to some of the most suspect killers on the planet. For example, U.S. antitank missiles have been used by “friendly, moderate rebels” to attack medevac missions and even journalists. Jihadis that the U.S. knows, and possibly trained, have used chemical weapons dozens of times in that conflict. That the insurrection in Syria failed is largely due to the fact that Islamist jihadis don’t fight in lanes; they fight everyone and especially each other. The U.S. continues to arm “bad” jihadis, as there is no such thing as a “good” jihadi, and the results speak for themselves.
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