Eric S. Margolis
Saudi Arabia has been shaken to its core by the gruesome murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Turkish intelligence has leaked that the Saudi journalist, who wrote op-ed pieces for The Washington Post newspaper, was strangled in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, then cut up into pieces for disposal or dissolved in acid. His remains have yet to be found.
Khashoggi's brazen murder has caused a crisis in US-Saudi relations, an angry confrontation with Turkey, and serious questions about the Saudi war in wretched Yemen, which so far had caused 60,000 deaths and left this remote land facing starvation.
Trump and his allies initially supported the Saudi-Emirati war against Yemen, having fallen for the false claim that great Satan Iran was backing the Yemeni Houthi forces. Britain and Israel strongly supported the Saudi war.
In reality, Saudi Arabia's headstrong Crown Prince Mohammed, got his nation embroiled in a no-win war against tough Yemeni tribes who refused to accept a Saudi-imposed figurehead ruler. The United Arab Emirates, a Saudi ally, also got involved to expand its little country-big ambitions around the Red Sea littoral.
But the Saudis lacked a real army to wage war in Yemen. They feared an army might mount a coup against the royal family as happened in Egypt, Iraq and Libya. In the past, the Saudis had rented crack Pakistani troops to protect their palaces and oil. But Pakistan refused Saudi requests to send troops to subdue Yemen.
As Libya's late leader, Colonel Muammar Gadaffi told me, "the Saudis are a small bunch of rich people living behind high walls in terror of their poorer neighbours". The Saudis hated Gadaffi because he kept calling them "traitors to the Arab cause, prostitutes, whore-mongers and crooks".
Instead, the Saudis relied on their US and British-supplied air force to prosecute the war in Yemen by indiscriminate terror bombing and trying to starve the Yemenis into submission.
Villages and schools were flattened, wedding parties rocketed, school buses attacked.
US and British technicians and military experts kept the Saudi warplanes flying and provided bombs and targeting data from satellites. Western mercenaries fly and service the Saudi and Emirati air force.
No one in the West cared about this massacre until the unfortunate Khashoggi was murdered in Istanbul. This crime allowed disgust with Saudi Arabia over its Yemen war, beheadings and crucifixions to finally take precedence over arms sales and tawdry geopolitics.
The US and Britain finally questioned their billions of arms sales to the Saudis who use these mammoth purchases to buy subservience from the western democracies. France and Germany recoiled from major arms sales. Self-righteous Canada prevaricated, trying to get the Saudi cash while ducking opprobrium for arming a cruel, murderous regime.
Washington's most ardent Israel supporters – Security Chief Bolton, and Secretary Pompeo – rushed to support the Saudis. They repeated the ludicrous claim that Khashoggi was a Muslim Brotherhood member and thus worthy of execution. In truth, the Muslim Brotherhood is a venerable, moderate organisation composed of Arab professionals that calls for democracy.
But the most interesting development may have been the flight from London to Riyadh by exiled Saudi Prince Ahmad Abdulaziz. This 70-something younger brother of King Salman was reportedly given security guarantees by the US and Britain that he would not be arrested by Crown Prince Mohammed when he returned to Riyadh from a golden exile in London.
You could almost hear them yelling "bad puppets, bad puppets" at the Saudi royals. Only two weeks earlier, an unusually frank President Trump had even observed that the Saudi 7,000-member royal family would not last "more than a week" without US support.
He was quite right. Since the 1930's, the Saudi dynasty has been defended and supported by first Britain, then the US.
Few questioned the support of the world's leading democracy for a cruel medieval monarchy. There was too much oil money involved. The British government even quashed criminal charges when huge kickbacks to Saudi royals on aircraft orders were revealed. Washington covered up the Saudi role in the 9/11 attacks and financing of anti-US groups.
Back to Prince Ahmad. Has he been chosen by Washington and London to replace the rash, violent Crown Prince Mohammed?
How worried is the US that the Khashoggi murder could set off a rebellion in Saudi Arabia? Or civil war in the royal family? The aged current king, Salman, is reported to have cognitive problems.
The clumsy, ham-handed meddling of Trump in Saudi dynastic affairs propelled the bull-in-a-china-shop Crown Prince into power. The machinations of Trump's son-in- law, Jared Kushner, and his Israeli allies have ignited the current crisis.
Trump and Co have very much to learn about the Mideast. So far, their attempt to play colonial viceroys has been a fiasco.
Eric S. Margolis
Published in: The Sun Daily, Thursday 8 November 2018
Seventeen bloody years, the longest war in US history continues without relent or purpose in Afghanistan.
There, a valiant, fiercely-independent people, the Pashtun (Pathan) mountain tribes, have battled the full might of the US Empire to a stalemate that has so far cost American taxpayers US$4 trillion, and 2,371 dead and 20,320 wounded soldiers. No one knows how many Afghans have died. The number is kept secret.
Pashtun tribesmen in the Taliban alliance and their allies are fighting to oust all foreign troops from Afghanistan and evict the western-imposed and backed puppet regime in Kabul that pretends to be the nation's legitimate government. Withdraw foreign troops and the Kabul regime would last for only days.
The whole thing smells of the Vietnam War. Lessons so painfully learned by America in that conflict have been completely forgotten and the same mistakes repeated. The lies and happy talk from politicians, generals and media continue apace.
This week, Taliban forces occupied the important strategic city of Ghazni on the road from Peshawar to Kabul. It took three days and massive air attacks by US B-1 heavy bombers, Apache helicopter gun ships, A-10 ground attack aircraft, and massed warplanes from US bases in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar and the 5th US Fleet to finally drive back the Taliban assault. Taliban also overran key military targets in Kabul and the countryside, killing hundreds of government troops in a sort of Afghan Tet offensive.
Afghan regime police and army units put up feeble resistance or ran away. Parts of Ghazni were left in ruins. It was a huge embarrassment to the US imperial generals and their Afghan satraps who had claimed "the corner in Afghanistan has finally been turned".
Efforts by the Trump administration to bomb Taliban into submission have clearly failed. US commanders fear using American ground troops in battle lest they suffer serious casualties. Meanwhile, the US is running low on bombs.
Roads are now so dangerous for the occupiers that most movement must be by air. Taliban is estimated to permanently control almost 50% of Afghanistan.
That number would rise to 100% were it not for omnipresent US air power. Taliban rules the night.
Taliban are not and never were "terrorists" as Washington's war propaganda falsely claimed. I was there at the creation of the movement – a group of Afghan religious students armed by Pakistan whose goal was to stop post-civil war banditry, the mass rape of women, and to fight the Afghan Communists.
When Taliban gained power, it eliminated 95% of the rampant Afghanistan opium-heroin trade. After the US invaded, allied to the old Afghan Communists and northern Tajik tribes, opium-heroin production soared to record levels. Today, US-occupied Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of opium, morphine and heroin.
US occupation authorities claim drug production is run by Taliban. This is another big lie. The Afghan warlords who support the regime of President Ashraf Ghani entirely control the production and export of drugs. The army and secret police get a big cut. How else would trucks packed with drugs get across the border into Pakistan and Central Asia?
The US has inadvertently become one of the world's leading drug dealers. This is one of the most shameful legacies of the Afghan War. But just one. Watching the world's greatest power bomb and ravage little Afghanistan, a nation so poor that some of its people can't afford sandals, is a huge dishonour for Americans.
Even so, the Pashtun defeated the invading armies of Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, the Mogul Emperors and the mighty British Raj. The US looks to be next in the Graveyard of Empires.
Nobody in Washington can enunciate a good reason for continuing the colonial war in Afghanistan. One hears talk of minerals, women's rights and democracy as a pretext for keeping US forces in Afghanistan. All nonsense. A possible real reason is to deny influence over Afghanistan, though the Chinese are too smart to grab this poisoned cup. They have more than enough with their rebellious Uighur Muslims.
Interestingly, the so-called "terrorist training camps" supposedly found in Afghanistan in 2001 were actually guerilla training camps run by Pakistani intelligence to train Kashmiri rebels and CIA-run camps for exiled Uighur fighters from China.
The canard that the US had to invade Afghanistan to get at Osama bin Laden, alleged author of the 9/11 attacks, is untrue. The attacks were made by Saudis and mounted from Hamburg and Madrid, not Afghanistan. I'm not even sure bin Laden was behind the attacks.
My late friend and journalist Arnaud de Borchgrave shared my doubts and insisted that the Taliban leader Mullah Omar offered to turn bin Laden over to a court in a Muslim nation to prove his guilt or innocence.
President George Bush, caught sleeping on guard duty and humiliated, had to find an easy target for revenge – and that was Afghanistan.
Eric S. Margolis
Published in: The Sun Daily, Wednesday 22 August 2018