The anti-Muslim vitriol emanating from American cultural conservatives and right-wing Christians about the ground zero mosque is quite interesting when compared to the deep-seated love of Islamic jihad these same conservative groups once felt just decades ago.
Elizabeth Gould and Paul Fitzgerald outline the entire history of American conservative and Christian courtship of Islamist extremists in their book Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story. According to Gould and Fitzgerald, the pan-Islamic right emerged under British colonialism during the mid-1800s and was fostered by the U.K. as a tool to counter nationalism, modernism and the secular left after World War I. At the onset of the Cold War this ideological weapon was handed off to the United States who continued to nurture and hone the movement's terrorist wings into anti-communist assets.
It's no huge secret that the C.I.A., via Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), funded and supported violent Islamic jihadist groups called the Mujahideen in the Afghan war against the Soviet Union, yet a number of Christian leaders in the U.S. found more in common with political Islam than the practical matter of defeating communism -- there was a spiritual kinship as well. As Gould and Fitzgerald wrote about William Casey, the Director of the C.I.A. from 1981 to 1987:
Casey's passion for the Afghan jihad has sometimes been described as messianic. An ultra-conservative Catholic, Casey saw little difference in the antimodernist beliefs of the Wahabbist House of Saud and the antimodernist, anti-enlightenment views of the newly installed Polish Pope, John Paul II.
Pope Pius X had branded modernism as heretical in his 1910 "Oath Against Modernism", and although rescinded in 1967, many conservative Catholics still view modernism as diametrically opposed to the "true faith"; Casey being one of them, who maintained ties with the Vatican as a member of the Knights of Malta -- an 11th century order established to guard Christians on their voyages to the Holy Land.
The group donned robes with fancy ribbons and called each other "Prince" and "High Eminence", as Casey designed a holy war against the Soviets that would send Afghanistan back to the Stone Age. Afghanistan hadn't experienced destruction on such a level since the human atomic bomb known as Genghis Khan hit them in the 12th century.
How ironic then was General David Petraeus the other day when asked why the Afghan people should want the ISAF to stay in their country, the General responded: "They [Afghans] don't want to turn the clock back several centuries to the kinds of practices the Taliban inflicted on them." Yet the U.S. attempted to do just that for 40 years while in league with radical Muslims who tried their damndest to destroy any and all modern and pro-democratic movements within Afghanistan.
Reason being is that after World War II the United States had developed a Manichean worldview that infected its foreign policy. Primarily driven by Red paranoia, it forced them to see the world in terms of black and white -- as in things were either good or they were communist -- which applied to both Democratic and Republican regimes.
U.S. foreign policymakers perceived movements such as secularism, socialism, nationalism and even progressive democratic reform as more akin to communism than America's good old fashioned brand of imperial democracy.
What is somewhat shocking is how the U.S. fetish for Islamic radical thought was spawned decades before the emergence of the Mujahideen. During the 1950s the C.I.A. covertly recruited a core of pan-Islamic extremists to undermine Soviet and secular influence and retard the modernization of Afghan society, funding their activities through a front group called the Asia Foundation which focused on grooming radical Muslims amongst students at Kabul University.
Thus, moving forward on a course set by the British a century prior, the U.S. resisted Afghanistan's advances towards a Western-style government and helped hinder democratic reforms including women's rights and separation of church and state.
In the mid-1950s, the C.I.A. and the British MI6 had developed a close relationship with an Islamic extremist group called the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and forged a partnership with Saudi Arabia to defeat the secular and nationalist policies of Egyptian President Gamal Abddul Nasser. The C.I.A. enabled the Muslim Brotherhood to return from banishment and infect Afghan society with a radical version of Islam that began to supplant the traditional and more moderate indigenous form. According to Gould and Fitzgerald:
The radical Islam of the Muslim Brothers returning to Afghanistan from exile in the late 1960s and early 1970s shared none of the "celebratory, personalized and ecstatic" traits of Afghan Islam -- nor did it offer itself as a political or economic reform movement. Instead, what reentered Afghanistan following its exile was a violent, antimodernist hybrid (described by French expert Olivier Roy as more akin to the extremist Catholic sect Opus Dei than anything native in Afghanistan) which at first challenged the weakened boundaries of the old patriarchy, then in triumph broke free from traditional limits on violence and clan rivalries.
While Afghanistan's progressive King, Zahir Shah, tried to institute modern reform, how mind-boggling is it that the U.S. backed antimodernist fundamentalist Muslims whose goal was to overthrow the constitutional monarchy and establish an Islamic Caliphate?
Fast forward to the late 1970s when a Pentecostal inhabited the White House while neoconservatives, led by hawkish National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, preyed on Carter's ingrained end times theology. Brzezinski pushed forward the agenda of what became known as "Team B" -- a cabal of neocons such as Paul Wolfowitz, Paul Nitze, Seymour Weiss, Richard Pipes, Richard Perle, Daniel O. Graham and Leo Cherne, who exaggerated Soviet nuclear and military capabilities to force U.S. leaders to take a hard line against communism.
Well, Carter sided with the hardliners and moved the U.S. from a Nixonian détente to a more confrontational stance against the godless Russians and approved Brzezinski's plan to goad the Soviets into invading Afghanistan so that, as Brzezinski admittedly put it years later: "...we could give them their Vietnam".
In 1980, Brzezinski secured an agreement from King Khalid of Saudi Arabia to match U.S. contributions to the Afghan effort dollar for dollar. American imperialists and Christian zealots partnered with the Saudis to directly and indirectly fund the spread of extremist Deobandi and Wahhabist teachings throughout Pakistan and Afghanistan to combat communist ideology. Then came the Reagan era when the Soviets became the Evil Empire and the funding of the Freedom Fighter development project was expanded under Bill Casey.
Mr. Casey soon ran the biggest covert operation in U.S. history as Washington poured in over $3 billion dollars to train some of the most brutal religious fanatics on earth. The U.S. program made heroes of the likes of Islamic fundamentalist and cold-blooded murderer Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whose group -- Hezb-e Islami -- is now a Taliban affiliate. More than 100,000 Islamic militants were trained in Pakistan overseen by the CIA and Britain's MI6, including future Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters.
Gould and Fitzgerald point out that the Team-B neocons and the Casey Christians had led an effort to create a "bogeyman" by building up the myth of Soviet nuclear superiority. But, ironically, their holy war means to that end produced one of another type:
"... instead of it being a nuclear missile stored in some deep silo in the heart of the Urals, the bogeyman would emerge in human form in the mountains of Afghanistan and the nearby tribal areas of Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province."