Putting paid to Bin Laden-CIA myth

Spurious claims about Osama bin Laden's rise to the forefront of global terror are creeping into the mainstream and must be debunked

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Not bed-fellows: Bin Laden and the CIA
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Raheem Kassam
On 18 May 2011 09:12

The dust in Abbottabad is starting to settle after the raid on bin Laden’s compound. While the Black Hawk helicopters used during the operation kicked up plenty of dirt, there are still some grubby rumours to be quashed about the US relationship with Al-Qaeda and their deceased leader.

Long perpetuated by the ‘anti-war’ left and libertarian groups using such aspersions to incriminate the US government for 9/11 – the fable of the CIA-Bin Laden link is often accepted as an inconvenient truth. I personally cannot count on both hands the number of times, within political and non-political circles, I’ve heard, “Yeah but we made him, right?” Wrong.

The real inconvenience is foisted upon us rationalists in seemingly having to spend half our time listening to crack-pot conspiracy theorists and the other half debunking them. I wouldn’t usually waste my breath but since such spurious allegations have penetrated even the mainstream media – it’s essential that we put paid to these unsubstantiated claims.

The most overt proponent of this view is Michael Moore, the man behind ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ and ‘Capitalism: A Love Story’. He proclaimed on September 12th 2001, “WE created the monster known as Osama bin Laden!” Moore also stated that Bin Laden ‘went to school at the CIA’. In no uncertain terms, this statement is a preposterous, intentional lie.

When the United States provided backing to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency to help stave off the communist threat during the 1980s, the ISI no doubt practiced its long-held principles of incompetence with a dash of complicity. The US government cannot be held to account for funding or training Arab Afghans, especially those emerging from Saudi Arabia with their own huge war chests.

When fighting off the Soviets of course, it wasn’t perceived as a problem for the ISI to be in bed with the Afghan Mujahedeen – a group that bin Laden was certainly not a leader of, as has been claimed. It was Osama bin Laden’s wealth, estimated to be between $100-300m that meant he didn’t need US funding, but used it to curry favour with the Afghan Mujahedeen.

It’s also worth noting that neither the US government nor the ISI had ties to the Afghan-Arab group, but rather support from the ISI went primarily to the native Afghan resistance. Sadly, Britain’s own former foreign secretary Robin Cook once went so far as to state, “Throughout the 80s he [bin Laden] was armed by the CIA and funded by the Saudis to wage jihad against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan.”

Something that al-Qaeda and Western policymakers both agree on is that there was no US-Bin Laden link at this time. He only truly appeared on their radar in the mid 90s, having established Al-Qaeda long after the US was assisting the Pakistani ISI.

So the question emerges – why did this rumour come about?

It’s easy to see how when truncating statements, there could be inadvertent misinterpretations. The explanation that the US and the ISI had a relationship that sought to combat the Soviets in Afghanistan by leveraging the local mujahedeen is easily transformed into the headline: “US supported Taliban”.

But in the case of Michael Moore and his ilk, I believe the intention was more malicious. As these commentators sought to undermine US policy for the sake of their own ideology, especially in the Bush-era (you pick which one), they came up with statements that require little in the way suspension of disbelief.

We’ve all read enough spy novels and watched enough Hollywood films to have fantastical ideas of international affairs. Unfortunately for the scaremongers, these assertions just don’t withstand scrutiny.

Raheem Kassam is the Associate Editor of The Commentator and tweets at @RaheemJKassam

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