Department spokesman Richard Boucher called the ancient
statues "an important part of the world’s cultural
legacy and the cultural heritage of Afghanistan…. The United
States joins...other governments in urging a halt to the
destruction by the Taliban of a significant aspect of Afghans’
cultural heritage." Following their meeting in Trieste,
Italy, the environment ministers of the G-8 group of industrialized
nations issued this gaseous statement: "Mindful that
the diversity of natural and human systems is at the core
of sustainable development, we express dismay and shock
at reports of the edict of the Taliban leadership."
"Afghanistan’s rich cultural heritage," the statement
went on, "is of vital importance not only to the people
of Afghanistan but also to the world as a whole." The
European Union too got into the act. In a statement issued
in Pakistan by Sweden, the EU condemned the destruction:
"The Presidency of the European Union strongly condemns
this crime against the world’s common heritage and deeply
regrets that it has taken place in the name of one of the
world’s important religions." German Culture Minister
Julian Nida-Ruemelin inevitably compared the
destruction of the statues to the burning of books by the
Nazis. "This is about a piece of global cultural heritage
which the rest of the world cannot be indifferent to"
sent an emissary to Kabul to negotiate a "solution"
with the Taliban. New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art
offered to pay to have the giant Buddhas removed from the
country. There has also been a proposal to build a giant
wall in front of the statues so as to hide them from Islamic
eyes. But Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil
dismissed these ideas. "We have all sorts of possibilities
to maintain them or to keep them out of sight," he
explained, "Our verdict wants their annihilation."
His hands were tied, he explained. Any alternative to the
destruction would fail to satisfy Islamic law: "Our
decree is based on Islamic orders and…we will spare no pre-Islamic
or post-Islamic era statues."
cultural legacy," "global cultural heritage,"
"diversity of natural and human systems," "one
of the world’s important religions" such grandiloquent
phrases roll easily off the tongues of the guardians of
the New World Order. Or at least occasionally they do. For
the destruction of the Buddhist statues is hardly the first
instance in recent times of Islamic intolerance towards
other religions. For at least two years, Albanian Moslems
have waged a systematic campaign to annihilate the "rich
cultural heritage" to use the appropriate phrase
of the Eastern Orthodox Church in Kosovo. This has
taken place while the province has been under military occupation
by NATO and under the nominal jurisdiction of the United
Nations. Yet this destruction has evoked very little protest
and virtually no condemnation. The Met has not offered to
pony up some cash to save precious cultural artifacts. UNESCO
has not rushed an emissary over to Pristina to undertake
urgent negotiations with the KLA. The loss of Europe’s Christian
heritage clearly is a matter of very little importance.
Here is a tiny sample of the devastation wrought by this
reign of Islamic terror (rather nearer to home than Afghanistan):
Monastery of the Holy Trinity, built in the 14th
century, housed a valuable collection of manuscripts from
14th to 18th centuries. It was plundered,
burnt and then leveled to the ground by explosives.
medieval Monastery of St. Mark of Korisa, built in
1467 with a single-nave, a rectangular foundation and a
preserved fragment of the original, ancient fresco, housed
a major book collection. It was robbed and burnt prior to
having been completely destroyed by explosives.
Monastery of St. Archangel Gabriel, built in the
14th century, had a rectangular foundation, a
semi-round apse and a semi-cylindrical vault. A number of
the 14th century liturgical vessels were kept
in the church. The monastery was first looted and then set
on fire. Finally, it was completely destroyed by explosive.
Monastery of St. Uros, with the Church of the Ascension
of The Holy Virgin, built by the Empress Helen at the
end of the 14th century. In 1647-49 Patriarch
Paisios bequeathed the manuscript of the hagiography of
the Emperor Uros to the monastery. The monastery was mined
Monastery and the Church of St. Archangels, in Gornje
Nerodimlje, were built in the 14th century
and renewed in the year 1700. The monastery was burnt and
a comprehensive list, click here.
rampant vandalism came as no surprise to NATO, and particularly
not to the United States. For decades the US Government
has promoted Islamic fundamentalism as a tool to ensure
its global hegemony. The policy long predated the Soviet
invasion of Afghanistan. It was no accident that the US
Government chose to back the most extreme of the Islamic
fundamentalist groups that were fighting the Russians. This
was not because US policymakers were naïve about the
true intentions of their clients. To the contrary, as early
as the 1960s they had realized the usefulness of Islamic
fundamentalism. First, it would act as a bulwark against
Arab radicalism of the kind espoused by Egypt’s Gamal Abdul
Nasser. It was preferable to have Arabs worrying about proper
religious observance and correct dress code, rather than
why a small group of emirs continues to control fabulous
wealth while the rest of the populace lives in abject poverty.
Moreover, Islam came to be seen in Washington as a powerful
weapon in the global struggle with the Soviet Union. The
largely Moslem Central Asian republics were seen as restive.
Spreading the Islamic message to them would help weaken
Moscow’s rule. Through the agencies like Radio Liberty and
Radio Free Europe, the US Government spread a message of
Islamic fundamentalism and ethnic nationalism to Central
CIA and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate
(ISI) created the Taliban. The idea was to encourage a specifically
Sunni radicalism, which would content itself with imposing
the sharia while avoiding grappling with pressing social
and economic concerns. This suited Saudi Arabia perfectly,
partly because it was anxious to strengthen its Islamic
credentials as against the newly-triumphant Shiite rivals
in Iran. In addition, the Saudi rulers, presiding over the
world’s largest oil exporter, were terrified of political
radicalism. Not surprisingly so. A tiny group of people,
along with their large families, retainers and hangers-on
live in luxury and do very little in the way of work all
day. The Saudis’ vast oil wealth is spent on the purchase
of ever-more sophisticated weaponry from the Pentagon, which
its feeble military would almost certainly have no idea
how to use. Meanwhile, the people who do the work have very
little in the way of political rights. What the Saudi rulers
do have is Mecca, Medina and a US guarantee to step in to
bail them out if they are ever threatened.
the United States, along with its Saudi and Pakistani clients,
began to finance, train and arm the mujahedeen of Afghanistan.
Altogether, about $40 billion in cash went to the mujahedeen.
Then, starting in late 1984, thousands of militant Islamic
radicals from the Middle East made their way to Afghanistan.
Their recruitment was organized by the Saudi businessman,
Osama bin Laden. In camps set up in the Afghan tribal areas,
these volunteers underwent military training, political
education and Islamic consciousness-raising. The ISI
effectively the CIA supervised this indoctrination
into the ant-Soviet jihad.
withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan in 1989
did not lead to the closing down of the camps, any more
than it led to the dissolution of NATO. To the contrary,
the camps continued to flourish training recruits for one
jihad after another. The ISI and the CIA, of course, continued
to finance and supervise their protégés. The
jihads were largely directed at perceived foes or rivals
of the United States. Fundamentalist volunteers would be
sent to Xinjiang province in China, with a view to trying
to detach an Islamic republic out of China. Volunteers would
turn up in Chechnya and Daghestan helping to mobilize anti-Russian
feeling there. Or they would make their way to Bosnia, seeking
to establish the first Islamic republic in Europe.
each of these cases, the goals of the Islamic fundamentalists
and of the United States Government were the same. The United
States did not give a damn about the sharia. But they saw
in Moslem Bosnia and Moslem Albania potentially useful clients.
They would join an informal grouping of Moslem countries
stretching from the Persian Gulf into the Balkans. This
would include Turkey, Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
It would be led by the United States and aligned closely
with Israel. Moslem Albania would be groomed to replace
Greece as NATO’s base in the Eastern Mediterranean. This
bloc of Moslem states would act as the staging ground for
US expansion into Moslem Central Asia, there to appropriate
the oil and gas riches of the Caspian Sea.
the case of Bosnia, the United States encouraged the Sarajevo
Government not to limit itself to recruiting the Aghani
crowd, who were mainly Sunni, but to cultivate the Shiite
Iranians as well. In May 1991, almost a year before the
war broke out in Bosnia, President Alija Izetbegovic paid
an official visit to Teheran. He expressed his desire to
expand ties with Iran. The Iranian mullahs were impressed
by Izetbegovic, seeing in him "a Moslem believer whose
party is the strongest political organization in Bosnia-Herzegovina
and [which will rally] Yugoslav Moslems." In May 1991,
Iran dispatched 65 mujahedeen fighters to Bosnia. Iranian-run
training camps for terrorists opened for business in Bosnia
in the summer of 1991. Then the Hizbollah guerrillas showed
up, led by Brigadier General Bakri Hassan Salili, Chief
of Security and Intelligence in the Sudanese Army.
goal of the Islamic fundamentalists is creation of an Islamic
state and the imposition of the sharia. The fundamentalists’
outlook is extremely religious but politically non-threatening.
This is not surprising. The militants are trained in the
private religious schools, known as madrasas, that today
flourish in a number of Moslem countries, thanks in large
part to Saudi funds. These madrasas therefore follow the
basic Saudi agenda: sharia, sharia and yet more sharia.
The creation of a cadre of non-political Islamic rulers
is clearly the goal of both the United States and Saudi
Arabia. Nonpolitical Islamic rulers are more likely to sign
deals with US corporations, play along with NATO’s maneuvers
or follow an IMF-prescribed program than truly nationalist
leaders like Slobodan Milosevic or even Franjo Tudjman.
alleged rift between the United States and the Taliban has
always been a sham. Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the Taliban
work in tandem. According to the Woodrow Wilson Center’s
Selig Harrison, "The Taliban are not just recruits
from ‘madrassas’ but are on the payroll of the [Pakistani]
ISI." Moreover, the old associations between the intelligence
agencies continue: "The CIA still has close links with
the ISI." And the United States is not even pushing
sanctions against the Taliban. Harrison points out that
UN Security Council Resolution 1333 calls for an embargo
on arms to the Taliban because they refuse to hand over
Osama bin Laden. "But it is a Resolution without teeth
because it does not provide sanctions for non-compliance,"
he argues, "The US is not backing the Russians who
want to give more teeth to the Resolution."
us be done then with the pleasing notion that the United
States is in hot pursuit of Osama bin Laden. He is very
useful to Washington just where he is making trouble
for the Chinese, the Indians and, above all, the Russians.
As for the giant Buddhas, we really could not care less
about them. But Buddhism is rather fashionable today, particularly
among the Hollywood crowd. So some vague protests have to
be mounted. The Serbian monasteries did not even get that.
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