[News] Should Hamas, Hezbollah Learn from the Taliban?
news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Oct 1 10:48:15 EDT 2021
Should Hamas, Hezbollah Learn from the Taliban?
by Ramzy Baroud <https://www.counterpunch.org/author/ramzy-baroud/> -
October 1, 2021
Sign in Arabic reading “We will not leave” on the walls of the Sheikh
Jarrah neighborhood. Photograph Source: Osama Eid – CC BY-SA 3.0
An urgent task is awaiting us: considering the progression of events, we
must quickly liberate ourselves from the limits and confines placed on
the Afghanistan discourse, which have been imposed by US-centered
Western propaganda for over 20 years, and counting. A first step is that
we must not allow the future political discourse pertaining to this very
subject to remain hostage to American priorities – successes, failures
and geostrategic interests.
For this to happen, the language itself must be confronted. This is
critical if we are to truly glean valuable lessons from Afghanistan and
to avoid a repeat of the previous failure of comprehending the US defeat
<https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/z342mp3/revision/4> in Vietnam
(1955-1975), the way it should have been understood, not the way
Washington wanted Americans – in fact, the whole world – to understand.
Vietnam was not merely an American ‘debacle’, and did not only culminate
in an American ‘defeat’. It was also a Vietnamese victory and the
triumph of the will of the people over the US imperialist war machine.
In US mainstream media and, to a large extent, academia, the Vietnam War
history was almost entirely written
from an American point of view. Even the anti-Vietnam war version of
that history remained American-centric.
Alas, in the case of Afghanistan, many of us, whether in journalism or
academia, whether wittingly or otherwise, remain committed to the
US-based discourse, partly because the primary sources from which our
information is gleaned are either American or pro-American. Al Akhdar
al-Ibrahimi, former United Nations Peace Envoy to Afghanistan, from 1997
to 1999, and again from 2001 to 2004, had recently, in an interview
with French newspaper, Le Monde, reminded us of the importance of using
proper language to describe the unfolding events in Afghanistan.
“Why always speak of an American defeat? First of all, this is a victory
for the Taliban, which must be attributed to their tactical genius,”
al-Ibrahimi stated. (Translated from French)
The answer to al-Ibrahimi’s question can easily be deduced from his own
words because, to speak of a Taliban victory, is to admit to their
‘tactical genius’. The admission of such a truth can have far-reaching
The use of the terms defeat vs. victory is critical because it situates
the conversation within two entirely different intellectual frameworks.
For example, by insisting on the centrality of the question of the
American defeat, whether in Afghanistan or Vietnam, then the focus of
the follow-up questions will remain centered on American priorities:
Where did the US go wrong? What urgent changes must Washington implement
in its foreign policy and military agendas to stave off its Afghanistan
shortcomings? And where should the US go from here?
However, if the focus remains centered on the victory of the Afghan
resistance – and yes, it is Afghan resistance, not merely that of the
Taliban or Pashtun – then the questions that follow would relocate the
conversation somewhere else entirely: How did poorly armed fighters
manage to defeat the world’s combined greatest powers? Where should
Afghanistan go from here? And what lessons can national liberation
movements around the world learn from the Afghan victory?
For the purpose of this article, I am concerned with the Afghan victory,
not the American defeat.
*The Rise and fall of the ‘Terrorists’ Discourse*
of the Soviet Union in 1991 had a massive impact, not only on the
geopolitical map of the world but also on relevant global political
discourses. As the USSR, its Warsaw Pact and global alliances began to
disintegrate, the US quickly moved into action, asserting its dominance
from Panama <https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-50837024>
(1989) to Iraq
(1991) to elsewhere. The American objective was not merely a violent
declaration of its triumph in the Cold War
<https://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/cold-war-history>, but a
message to the rest of the world that the ‘American century’ had begun
and that no form of resistance to US stratagem could be tolerated.
In the Middle East, in particular, the new narrative was in full
display, with clear and repeated distinctions between ‘moderates’ and
‘extremists’, friends and enemies, allies and those marked for ‘regime
change’. And, per this new logic, anti-colonial forces that were
celebrated as liberation movements for decades fell
<https://www.state.gov/foreign-terrorist-organizations/> into the
category of the ‘terrorists’. This definition included Palestinian
resistance groups, Lebanese and others, though these groups sought
liberation from illegal foreign occupation.
Years later, the discourse on terrorism – summed up by George W. Bush’s
September, 2001, “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists”
– became the yardstick in which the world, according to Washington, was
to be divided: freedom-loving nations and terrorists, extremist regimes.
The latter category was eventually expanded to include Iraq, Iran and
Syria. On January 29, 2002, North Korea was also added
to Washington’s so-called ‘axes of evil’.
Afghanistan, of course, topped the American list of terrorist states,
under various pretenses: initially the harboring
of Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda and, later, the mistreatment of women,
and so on. Eventually, the Taliban became a ‘terrorist’ group, leading
an ‘insurgency’ against the ‘democratically-elected’ Afghan government
in Kabul. The last 20 years were spent in the construction of this false
In the absence of any strong voices in the media demanding an American
withdrawal and defending the Afghan people’s right to resist foreign
occupation, there was a near-complete absence of an alternative
political discourse that even attempted to raise the possibility that
the Taliban, despite all of their questionable strategies and practices,
may, in fact, be a national liberation movement.
The reason we were discouraged from considering such a possibility is
the same reason why US-Western-Israeli propaganda insisted on removing
any distinction between ISIS, Al Qaeda, Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah,
Al-Houthis and many other such groups. On the one hand, discussing the
particularities of each movement requires real knowledge of the history
and formation of these groups separately, and the political
circumstances through which they continue to operate. This kind of
knowledge is simply non-existent in the cliche, soundbite-driven
mainstream media. On the other hand, such understanding is inconvenient,
as it complicates the deception and half-truths necessary for the US,
Israel and others, to depict their military occupations, unlawful
military interventions and repeated wars as fundamental to some imagined
global ‘war on terror’ and, as some European intellectual circles prefer
to dub it, a war on ‘radical Islam’.
However, unlike al-Qaeda and ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollah and the Taliban are
not trans-border militant groups fighting a global agenda, but national
liberation movements which, despite their emphasis on religious
discourses, are political actors with specific political objectives
confined largely within the borders of their own countries – Palestine,
Lebanon and Afghanistan, respectively.
Regarding Hamas, London-based author, Daud Abdullah wrote
in his just-released volume, ‘Engaging the World
The Making of Hamas Foreign Policy’ that “Hamas sees foreign relations
as an integral and important part of its political ideology and
liberation strategy. Soon after the Movement emerged, foreign policies
were developed to help its leaders and members navigate this tension
between idealism and realism. This pragmatism is evident in the fact
that Hamas was able to establish relations with the regimes of Muammar
Gaddhafi in Libya and Bashar al-Assad in Syria, both of whom were
fiercely opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Consequently, it was also Abdullah who became one of the first to draw
the parallels between Palestine and Afghanistan as soon as the Taliban
declared victory in Kabul. In a recent article in the Middle East
Monitor, Abdullah wrote
“Palestine and Afghanistan are salient examples. Throughout history,
their peoples have witnessed numerous invasions and occupations. After
two decades the US has finally run out of stamina. Similarly, they will
eventually realize the futility of supporting the Zionist occupation of
Indeed, the lesson of Afghanistan must be studied carefully, especially
by resistance movements that are undergoing their own wars of national
Now that the US has officially ended its military operations in
Afghanistan, albeit not by choice, the emphasis on the so-called ‘war on
terror’ discourse will certainly begin to fade. But what will come next?
While another interventionist discourse
will certainly fight for prominence in the new American thinking, the
discourse of national liberation, based on legitimate resistance, must
return to the center of the conversation.
This is not an argument for or against armed struggle, as this choice
falls largely, if not entirely, on nations that are struggling for their
own freedom, and should not be subject to the selective, frequently
self-serving, ethics of Western moralists and activists. It is worth
mentioning that international law does not prohibit people from using
whatever means necessary to liberate themselves from the jackboot of
foreign occupations. Indeed, myriad resolutions recognize
<https://www.refworld.org/docid/3b00f0c428.html> the “legitimacy of
(oppressed people’s) struggle by all means at their disposal, including
armed struggle”. (UN Commission of Human Rights Resolution 1982/16)
Nevertheless, armed struggle without popular, grassroots support often
amounts to nil, for a sustainable armed campaign, like that of Hamas,
Hezbollah or the Taliban, requires deep-rooted social and socio-economic
support. This proved as true in Vietnam as it did earlier in Algeria
(1954-1962), Cuba (1953-1959) and even South Africa, which history of
has been largely written out in favor of what is meant to appear as a
‘peaceful’ anti-apartheid struggle.
For nearly 30 years, partly as a consequence of the dismantling of the
Soviet Union and the seemingly uncontested rise of the American empire,
almost any form of armed struggle in national liberation contexts has
been depicted to be a form of terrorism. Moreover, in the post-September
11, 2001 US-dominated world, any attempt at arguing otherwise earned any
daring intellectual the title of ‘terrorist sympathizer’.
Twenty years have elapsed since the American invasion of Afghanistan
culminated in the defeat, not just of the US but also of the US
political discourse on terrorism, resistance and national liberation.
The resulting victory of the Taliban will extend well beyond the borders
of Afghanistan, breaking the limits imposed on the discussion by
western-centric officials, media and academia, namely the urgently
needed clear distinction between terrorism and national liberation.
The American experiment, using firepower to control the world, and
intellectual hegemony to control our understanding of it, has clearly
failed. This failure can and must be exploited as an opportunity to
revisit urgent questions and to resurrect a long-dormant narrative in
favor of anti-colonial, national liberation struggles with the
legitimate right – in fact, responsibility – to use all means necessary,
including armed struggle, to free itself from the yoke of foreign
/Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle.
He is the author of five books. His latest is “//These Chains Will Be
Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons”
(Clarity Press, Atlanta). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research
Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim
University (IZU). His website is //www.ramzybaroud.net/
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