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Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism Paperback – 1 Oct 2000

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Pluto Press; 2nd Revised edition edition (1 Oct. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745316913
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745316918
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 15.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 736,719 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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'The devil of John Cooley's unsettling book is in the detail ... A persuasive argument against one-night stands in international alliances and makes clear that there will be an intolerable price to pay if Islam replaces communism as the next 'Satanic foe?'. Independent on Sunday 'Focuses on the numerous riots, uprisings, and terrorist acts in the Arabic-speaking parts of the Middle East over the last two decades. Cooley carries such ties even to the World Trade Center and Kenyan and Tanzanian embassy bombings. This provocative book certainly will provide insight into many events in the Middle East for the general reader.- Library Journal 'Read this book and you will see the clash between radical Islam and the West in a new light.' Charles William Maynes, former editor, Foreign Policy 'Cooley is to be commended for undertaking the ambitious task of tracing the repercussions of the Afghan war and for coming up with a great many details of value and interest.- New York Times Book Review 'The book is a wonderful and provocative read, and shall prove most helpful for those of us who seek clarity amidst the propagandistic obscurantism of official government policy.' Professor Hal Himmelstein Chair Department of Television and Radio, Brooklyn College 'Cooley has a done a service for the international working class movement in exposing the clandestine operations for the CIA.' News Line 'No Cooley book can be ignored by anyone interested in the politics of the Arab and Islamic world.' New Worker 'Cooley's important and timely book examines a strange love affair that went disastrously wrong, the alliance between America and some of the most conservative and fanatical followers of Islam.' Los Angeles Times Book Review 'Cooley's argument, amply documented, is that virtually everyone involved in the Afghan affair paid an extortionate price. ... His thesis has been vindicated by recent events.' London Review of Books 'John Cooley's remarkable book is the first systematic and detailed account of how the United States utilised the intelligence services of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to create, train, finance and arm an international network of Islamic militants to fight the Russians in Afghanistan.' Tariq Ali, New Left Review 'Indispensible reading for those interested in international politics and the future of our global society.' India Weekly 'This book provides the behind-the-scenes account of the extraordinary anti-communist alliance that the USA formed with militant Islamic forces in South Asia, and how the CIA planned and ran the 'holy war' in Afghanistan.' Oxfam Review of Journals "This is an important revised edition of a book that became required reading immediately it was first published..." The Morning Star 'The definitive account' The Guardian 'A first rate insight into the US relationship with militan Islam during and since the Cold War... Provides much ammunition for those holding to the line that in supporting the likes of Osama bin Laden during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, teh US was indeed sowing the seeds of a bitter harvest reaped on September 11th 2001.' World Socialism 'Provides a first rate insight into the US relationship with militant Islam during and since the Cold War and provides much ammunition for those holding to the line that, in supporting the likes of Osama bin Laden during the Russian occupation of Afghanistan, the US was indeed sowing the seeds of a bitter harvest reaped on 11 September 2001.' Socialist Standard

From the Back Cover

'The devil of John Cooley's unsettling book is in the detail ... A persuasive argument against one-night stands in international alliances.' Independent on Sunday

'Cooley's argument, amply documented, is that virtually everyone involved in the Afghan affair paid an extortionate price ... His thesis has been vindicated by recent events.' Tariq Ali, London Review of Books

To oppose the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the United States formed an extraordinary anti-communist alliance with militant Islamic forces in South Asia. In this controversial and acclaimed book, John Cooley provides the first behind-the-scenes account of this alliance and of how the CIA planned and ran the 'holy war' in Afghanistan. This new edition brings the subject up to date with the US and Canada since December 1999. Cooley covers the important events that have taken place in Algeria; the impact of Pakistan's military coup of October 1999 on Indo-Pakistani relations; and the political destabilization of the Philippines through the Muslim separatist uprising which began in 1998, especially the orgy of kidnapping for profit by the former Afghan Abu Sayyaf group in 2000.

'Important and timely ... [It] examines a strange love affair that went disastrously wrong, the alliance of America and some of the most conservative and fanatical followers of Islam.' Los Angeles Times Book Review

'Read this book and you will see the clash between radical Islam and the West in a new light.' Charles William Maynes, former editor, Foreign Policy

John K. Cooley is a correspondent for ABC News and has written widely on the Middle East and North Africa. He is the author of five other books on the Middle East, including Payback: America's Long War in the Middle East (1991) and Libyan Sandstorm: Qaddafi's Revolution (1981).

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By RM on 22 Feb. 2004
Format: Paperback
Cooley has written an excellent book on how the Al Qaeda network was formed, analysing all regions of the world that have terrorist networks. From the Soviet-Afghan war to the Taliban, everything is covered in this marvellous book. It also shows how the CIA and the ISI (Pakistani Intelligence Agency) aided the mujahideen during their guerilla war against the Russians, only to abandon the Afghan people to the whims of greedy Afghan warlords in 1989 once they had outlived their usefulness and as the USSR began to collapse.
Ironically, bin Laden, the same man who was supplied with Stinger missiles in the 1980's and was considered an ally of the U.S. turned against America, whom he believed was insulting the holy cities of Islam, Mecca and Medina, by stationing thousands of U.S. troops (occupiers, as he believes) in Saudi Arabia.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Paul Urphy on 4 May 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For anyone who wants to understand the deep background to political Islam, the attrocities of 9/11 and beyond, along with the current tensions in Pakistan and the ongoing war in Afghanistan - this book is compelling. As other reviewers have stated, John Cooley goes into great and convincing detail to explain America's role in creating and sustaining an anti-Soviet resistance in Afghanistan back in the 1980s (the moujahidin)which later morphed into the al-Qaeda and Taliban networks that the USA and Britain now regard as Public Enemy number 1. This book was actually published a year before 9/11 and is both convincingly detailed and astonishingly precient; it contains 2 helpful maps and an introduction that warns against the dangers of replacing soviet communism with Islam as the "Satanic foe" that the west feels it must defeat. Excellent.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 1 Aug. 2005
Format: Paperback
I found this book really hard going as there is alot of information jammed into quite a small book. The long names or people and organisations that I had no idea how to pronounce added to that difficulty.
However, it was well worth the perseverence. It was a very informative and almost quite shocking read. Informative because it explains how the USA recruited and trained Muslims from all over the globe to fight the Soviet army in Afghanistan. Shocking because it is sometimes difficult to believe the tactics used by the US and UK governments.
The book goes on to cover the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the lack of interest from the US government once the Soviet Union started to break up. It looks at the rise of terrorism around the world and the role of Osama Bin Laden and the al-Qaida terrorist organisation.
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26 of 32 people found the following review helpful By William Podmore on 24 July 2001
Format: Paperback
John Cooley describes the US intervention in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and its aftereffects. The US state, assisted by Thatcher, trained and armed almost a quarter of a million Islamic mercenaries drawn from around the world to fight against Afghani national liberation. It was not supporting a 'jihad' but manipulating dupes, just as it has used other groups to fight proxy wars in Africa and Asia, colonial wars it labelled wars against communism.
The US state intervened first in Afghanistan. On 3 July 1979, President Carter signed a secret directive authorising covert aid to the mujehadin. The CIA promoted drug traffic in the Golden Crescent to raise funds for them. The Egyptian, Saudi, British, French and Israeli Governments all sold them arms. The CIA supported their sabotage and guerrilla operations inside the Soviet Union. Only in December 1979, five months after the US intervention, did Soviet troops enter Afghanistan.
The war's effects on Afghanistan have been terrible: four million refugees, the land in ruins, continued strife even after the Soviet Union withdrew its troops, the Taliban dominating vast areas of the country. Further afield, the US-created mercenaries have destabilised Algeria, Chechenya, and the former Central Asian Republics of the Soviet Union, among others. Some of them tried to create a separatist 'Eastern Turkestan' in China's Western region of Xinjiang. However, China has defeated these efforts, and the Algerian Government succeeded in quelling the reactionary forces trying to overthrow it.
In this book, Cooley portrays the US state as a good sorcerer, who mistakenly released shadowy yet invincible forces, which it is now trying to crush. He pretends that the mercenaries are now separate from and opposed to the US state.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 20 reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Dry But Informative 25 April 2002
By John G. Hilliard - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This author can say more in 5 words then I could say in 50. To say this book is dense and jammed packed with detail may be an understatement. This book is the authors attempt to detail the creation and support of the Afghanistan freedom fighters in the 1980's and how these fighters then went out in the 90's to form the base of the Al - Qaeda terrorist group. The author takes us through the different countries and ways that the Afghani fighters were funded and supported. It then covers the terrorist acts these same fighters have been committing over the last ten years.
We get a very good look at the other nations involved in this issue and how the internal politics of one nation may effect the world. For example the help that China provided the Afghani fighters to keep the Russians busy then turned into an issue for China when those same fighters started working with separatist organizations in Western China. The books main point is that if you use mercenaries to fight a war for you it tends to have far reaching repercussions.
What I did not like about the book was the bone-dry writing. He managed to take an interesting topic and turn it into a story with all the excitement of an economics lecture. This is good stuff, punch it up a bit and get me excited to move to the next page. I also wanted a bit more background or links to other events - we get a blizzard of facts, dates, places etc, but it is not tied together very well. And if you are a nut on typos (you probably would get mad at my typing) then watch out because it does not look like too much editing was done on the text.
If you want more detail on the Afghanistan freedom fighters / CIA funding process during the 1980's I would suggest the book "The Forth World War", a great book written by the head of the French version of the CIA which is quoted a number of times in this book. For a more in-depth look at what happened to the aid the book "The Bear Trap" is also very interesting. If you just want a nice, easy to read overview of UBL then I would suggest "Holy War Inc".
26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
unholy alliances 20 Oct. 2002
By Chapulina R - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Former President Jimmy Carter was awarded the 2002 Nobel Prize for his Middle East peace efforts. Yet Carter's Central Asian policies were directly responsible for the spawning of international terrorism as we know it now. On Juy 3, 1979, Carter, acting on the recommendation of his National Security Advisor, cold-warrior Zbigniew Brzezinski, began clandestinely supporting Islamic insurgents in Afghanistan. Carter may rue this now. But at the time, he believed Afghani Islamist rebels were simply fellow Believers denied their religious freedom by the "godless" Marxist government in Kabul. Brzezinski knew better. But as he stated in a 1998 interview: "This secret operation was an excellent idea. Its effect was to draw the Russians into the Afghan trap." When the Soviet Army entered Afghanistan in late December 1979, Brzezinski gloated, "Now we can give the USSR its own Vietnam War!" Brzezinski and Carter's CIA Director Adm. Stansfield Turner freely acknowledged that "possible adverse consequences of the anti-communist alliance with Afghan Islamists (and shortly afterward with their radical Muslim allies around the world) -- the growth of a new international terrorist movement and global outreach of Central Asian drug-trafficking -- did not weigh heavily, if at all" in their calculations. Brzezinski, asked later whether he regretted arming and training future terrorists, retorted: "What was more important in world history? The Taliban or the fall of the Soviet empire? A few over-excited Islamists, or the liberation of eastern Europe?" Brzezinski's native Poland was, of course, in eastern Europe... Carter encouraged Islamist incursions into the Central Asian republics of the USSR, ostensibly to foment religious rebellion in those secular Islamic states. As Brzezinski admitted, the US intended to "build bridges to states having a strong Muslim identity." However, the insurgents frequently committed small-scale terrorist acts by planting bombs in crowded markets, bus depots, apartment and government buildings, and through kidnappings and executions. Carter's sincere but misguided religious naivety regarding Islamism was rewarded with the Iranian hostage crisis which ended his chances of a second term.
The Reagan regime continued Carter's Central Asian policy, and began to deploy an army of Muslim zealots from geographically strategic Pakistan and wealthy Saudi Arabia. Jihadists from every corner of the Muslim world were recruited and trained by the CIA and US military Special Forces in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and even at US military bases. Reagan vastly increased funding of mujahedin "holy warriors" who established their own facilities -- later to become terrorist training camps -- in Afghanistan. There, exiled Saudi billionaire Usama bin Laden started his ascent from mujahed commander to international terrorist mastermind. Following the death of Leonid Brezhnev, Mikhail Gorbachev implored the UN to intervene and help negociate an end to the Soviet Afghan quagmire. At this, Reagan responded with his infamous exhortation to the mujahedin "Declare holy jihad and go for the victory!" After the Soviet withdrawal, the government of Afghanistan collapsed. The various mujahedin factions began to fight amongst themselves for political supremacy, territory, and opium. The fundamentalist Wahabist Taliban emerged victorious. The so-called northern alliance was (and still is) a loose coalition of warlords and bandits with the motive of personal power, tribal bigotry, and drug profits for its opposition to the Saudi-sponsored Taliban. Moscow regarded the Northern Alliance as the sole barrier between Wahabist extremism and the vulnerable bordering Central Asian states. Russia committed ongoing support to the northern forces, whose leader was, ironically, one of the most notorious CIA-trained rebel operatives during the Soviet Afghan War.
Normally, I am not impressed by right-of-center interpretations of history, because they so frequently attempt to absolve the US of responsibility for disasterous policy. But Cooley has written an honest, unbiased account of the birth and rise of a world-threatening evil. And "Unholy Wars" does not spare recriminations toward any country whose actions contributed to the empowerment of international terrorism. It is a frighteningly eye-opening and timely book. All I can say is, read it now!
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Amazing 6 Nov. 2002
By James R. White - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
At a friend's advice, I read this book. It is so full of amazing history and facts, I highlighted so many passeges, some pages are yellow! This book has information about every Middle East and Central Asia conflict, and the amazing thing is that many of the ones who are our enemy now are the ones we supported with arms and money! I had forgotten that we supported Saddam and Osama, and even the Taliban. All the terrorism you see in the news today: Sept 11, Iraq, Chechnyans, el Quaida, Bali. Do you want to know how how and why it happened, how we contributed, and how we could have prevented it? This is a difficult book to read. Not only because it is packed with facts, but because it can give you nightmares!
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Everything You Wanted to Know About Afghanistan 12 April 2002
By Kenneth R. Kahn - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
After September 11th, the American left was caught off balance.
For the first time, we were facing the prospect of protesting
American military intervention based on an attack on American
The warmongers quickly seized the high ground with all the trappings of phony patriotism. Overnight, the nation was covered with wall-to-wall flags. Dissent died daring not to raise its head.
Yet, like the beginnings of the Vietnam protest, the resurgence
of the left must begin with information. Freely admitting to an
absymal ignorance of the situation in Afghanistan, I inherently
knew from past experience with the U.S. Government that Bush and Company could not be trusted to give a truthful account of events except to engage in spin doctoring.
"Unholy Wars" places September 11th into its proper place in the time and space continuum of American history. Based on the well-founded principle of blowback, as described in Chalmers Johnson's excellent work, the vents of September 11th have brought home the activities of the CIA in the Middle East and how the arming of the Afghan resistance to the Soviet invasion of 1979 has now come home to roost in a permanent and never-ending "war on terrorism."
Certainly, the domestic portion of the ground war at home comes now in the form of a war on the civil liberties of Americans under the guise of a "war on terrorists" (nevermind that these same 'terrorists' were equipped and trained by the CIA).
Under the current thinking, the only view of post September 11th events comes from the corporate media and its sycophants in the entertainment industry, such as "Sir" Paul McCartney. As a musician, I am certain that John lennon must be spinning in his grave watching Sir Paul play the straight he said he was in "How Can You Sleep."
Cooley's book is jam packed with enormous detail presenting the Middle Eastern situation in context and perspective for the reader. Each nation, like the pieces of a puzzle, plays its part reflecting its internal politics and how the U.S. government meddles, interferes and generally screws up in the Middle East. Let's hope well all don't pay the price for their intereference and incompetence.
"Unholy Wars" is the story of a tragi accident happening before our eyes. An accident that we can only stand and watch. An accident caused by the CIA and the intereference of the U.S. Government.
"Unholy Wars" equips the reader with detailed information about the origins of the situation in Afgahnistan. As the corporate media remains focused upon the tragedy of September 11th and catapaults that tragedy into blind patriotism, Americans need more than ever to educate themselves to the realities of the Afghan situation, the Middle East situation and to see beyond the false and phony patriotism of American riding around in their gas guzzling cars (powered by oil from the Middle East)with flags waving. While Bush and Company, like Reagan before him, refuses to develop a national energy policy, refuses conservation, and continues to think that the energy dependence of Americans can be cured by drilling in the Artic, or some other foolishness.
"Unholy Wars" is a tough read, small, detailed and intense print. Yet, it is worth the effort to get beyond the phony, artificial "patriotism" infecting Americans as the American military searches the endless mountains and caves of Afghanistan for Bin Laden, a former CIA operative and veteran of the Afghani wars.
"And when your wounded on Afghan's plain,
and the women come out to cut up what remains,
just roll to your musket and blow out your brains,
and go to your God like a soldier."
Rudyard Kipling
Barrack Ballads
20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Badly Written, Badly Edited 10 Oct. 2001
By Donald R McGregor - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
There's a good book struggling to get out of this mess, but in the end it remained securely chained. It's badly written, badly edited, and riddled with errors that call into question the care and scholarship of the author.
Sentences, paragraphs, and whole chapters start off going one way, then wander off the path and into the forest. The book is riddled with editing errors that place critical dates off by a decade, and enough minor errors exist to call into question whatever fact checking was done. To take a few items at random from one chapter: the Special Operations Command is incorrectly named; a California university is misplaced in Nevada; and critical dates are refered to as 1977 rather than 1987. One would hope that a reporter's book would be more carefully edited, or at least proof-read.
There is some good information there, but I don't know how much to trust it, given the other errors.
The author has an axe to grind with the Reagan administration, which wouldn't be all that bad, if the book had been properly executed. It wasn't.
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