[News] Should Hamas, Hezbollah Learn from the Taliban?

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<https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/10/01/should-hamas-hezbollah-learn-from-the-taliban/> 



  Should Hamas, Hezbollah Learn from the Taliban?

by Ramzy Baroud <https://www.counterpunch.org/author/ramzy-baroud/> - 
October 1, 2021
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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 
<https://creativecommons.org/licenses/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 
<https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/vietnam-war-reexamined/vietnam-war-in-history/8FB0A214DB45CE266D2390721852B9F1/core-reader> 
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 
<https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2021/08/31/lakhdar-brahimi-la-paix-etait-possible-avec-les-talibans-mais-encore-eut-il-fallu-qu-on-leur-parle_6092908_3210.html> 
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 
consequences.

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*

The collapse 
<https://europe.unc.edu/iron-curtain/history/the-fall-of-the-soviet-union/> 
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 
<https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2016/01/operation-desert-storm-25-years-since-the-first-gulf-war/424191/> 
(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 
statement 
<https://cup.columbia.edu/book/with-us-and-against-us/9780231168113> in 
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 
<https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/bush-describes-iraq-iran-north-korea-as-axis-of-evil> 
to Washington’s so-called ‘axes of evil’.

Afghanistan, of course, topped the American list of terrorist states, 
under various pretenses: initially the harboring 
<https://apnews.com/article/joe-biden-islamic-state-group-afghanistan-europe-middle-east-70451c485d46908ef5c6a83a1de9f0f6> 
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 
<https://ecfr.eu/publication/the-fall-of-the-afghan-government-and-what-it-means-for-europe/> 
in Kabul. The last 20 years were spent in the construction of this false 
paradigm.

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 
<https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/target/etc/modern.html> 
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 
<https://www.wsj.com/articles/bernard-henri-levy-a-france-united-against-radical-islam-1420760414> 
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 
<https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL2103/S00014/engaging-the-world-the-fascinating-story-of-hamass-political-evolution.htm> 
in his just-released volume, ‘Engaging the World 
<https://www.memopublishers.com/publications/item/engaging-the-world-the-making-of-hamas-foreign-policy>: 
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 
<https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20210817-whether-its-afghanistan-or-palestine-occupations-dont-last-forever/>, 
“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 
Palestine.”

Indeed, the lesson of Afghanistan must be studied carefully, especially 
by resistance movements that are undergoing their own wars of national 
liberation.

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 
<https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2020-10-13/no-exit> 
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 
armed struggle 
<https://www.sahistory.org.za/article/1960-1994-armed-struggle-and-popular-resistance> 
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 
occupation.

/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 
Broken/ 
<https://www.amazon.com/These-Chains-Will-Broken-Palestinian/dp/1949762092>/: 
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/ 
<http://www.ramzybaroud.net/>

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