Zbigniew Brzezinski was a well known American-Polish scholar of International Relations and a former American National Security Advisor who served during the Carter administration (1977-1981). He profoundly influenced US policy in dealing with tumultuous world events during the late 1970s, such as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (1979) and the Islamic Revolution in Iran (1979). The US policy along with Brzezinski’s powerful role in it, led to disastrous consequences which severely affected millions of people in the Middle East, Pakistan, Afghanistan and beyond. He recently passed away in the US. Many people in the US and around the world now look back on his life and pay tribute to him. The New York Times describes ‘a man who could be counted on to have strong opinions, and a boundless eagerness to share them.’ Now is also the time to share a frank Pashtun reflection on his life with no less eagerness than Brzezinski’s.
As National Security Advisor, Brzezinski pushed for an aggressive military response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Brzezinski furthermore found a willing partner in former Pakistani dictator, Zia-ul-Haq, who was motivated by the Strategic Depth Policy. Following the invasion he was invited by the military authorities to Kurram to encourage the tribal people to jihad1. Addressing a group of the Pakistan military’s handpicked tribesmen, he said: ‘we know you have firm belief in God. Your struggle will succeed. That land over there (pointing to the Afghan border) is yours. You will go back to it because your fight will prevail, and you will have your homes and mosques again because your cause is right and God is with you.’2
Brzezinski was thrilled to see the strategic location of the ‘parrot beak’ shaped Kurram, projecting itself into three Afghan districts: Khost, Paktia and Nangarhar, and thus an ideal location for hit and run attacks on the Soviets. Under the ISI’s control and with the US and Saudi support, militant commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar established his military camp on the Afghan border inside the Pakistani area called Spena Shaga (White Sand) in Kurram in order to launch deadly attacks on the Soviets all through the Red Army’s stay in Afghanistan. How the war unfolded over the decade is elaborated by the ISI and CIA’s operatives, Muhammad Yousaf and Bruce Riedel, respectively, in their books: Bear Trap and What We Won. Ultimately, in this deadly implication of the so called Afghan Jihad, Brzezinski stands shoulder to shoulder with other butchers of the Pashtuns such as; dictator Zia-ul-Haq, the former ISI chief, Hamid Gul, former Mujahideen commander, Gul Baddin Hikmatyar, politicians, such as Qazi Hussain Ahmad, Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, among many others.
Brzezinski never regretted that the war he helped materialise, led to the proliferation of Islamist terrorism around the world. Responding to a question about this point he said: ‘what is more important in world history? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some agitated Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?’ The fact that the Taliban have slaughtered thousands of people, mostly Pashtun, was irrelevant for Brzezinski. The fact that the Islamist ideology in which he fostered would also lead to ‘agitating some (western) Muslims’ to kill people in broad daylight on the streets of the Western world appeared insignificant to him. With this mindset, it is absolutely futile to hope Brzezinski might have ever felt any shame or regret over his role in generating the prolonged cycle of destruction leading to death and displacement of millions of Pashtuns.
But why should Pashtuns even expect shame or regret from Brzezinski? For centuries, Pashtun lands have stood as vast ‘brothels’ teeming with ‘male prostitutes’ eager to sell themselves as Jihadis to whosoever asks for it-be they Muslim , non-Muslim, state or non-state actors. Brzezinski did not create the brothel. He just recommended the US government to go ‘buy’ some services there to promote US policy interest. He did all he could to ensure the US government took heed of his advice. He was neither the first state actor nor will be the last to do so as long as Pashtun society has not generated the indigenous, fighting collective will to socially stigmatise and reject people among them who become ‘Jihadi prostitutes’ for others and consequently redden their own land with innocent blood. Instead, a large section of the society today supports Jihadi ideologues, leaders and commanders. Qazi Hussain Ahmad, former leader of Jumaat Islami, Pakistan, and Gul Baddin Hikmatyar, both partners of Brzezinski in the so-called Afghan Jihad, are glorified by many Pashtuns. These are just two examples among many others. There is no Pashtun aversion against the madrassas on their land which maintains and promotes ideological conditions supportive of Jihadis as well as the constant production of Jihadi fighters. It is true that state actors using Pashtuns for Jihad are much more powerful than the fragmented Pashtun society could handle. Yet paradoxically, the very resistance to the powerful states must come from this society or it must live as the ‘Jihadi brothel’ for others and a slaughterhouse for its own people. Unfortunately, there is no third option available to Pashtuns. Resistance to the state has not come so far. There certainly are Pashtuns who wish for a permanent end to violent Jihad on their land. But unfortunately, they are too few and moreover, too disorganised. Furthermore, some are too compromised with the Jihad promoting states and thus, mainly stand irrelevant for what is happening in their own land. Ironically, this state of affairs also has the potential to project Brzezinski as a source of inspiration to Pashtuns wanting to close the Jihad brothel for good.
Brzezinski was born in Poland where his family never returned due to the oppressive totalitarian Soviet occupation of the country following World War II. Poland and its people suffered tremendously under the occupation. Brzezinski’s anger against the former Soviet Union was obvious and justified. His adopted land, the US, was given a bloody nose by the former Soviet Union in Vietnam and was looking for appropriate opportunity to take revenge. Brzezinski achieved two grand targets in one attempt-his impressive contribution to US policy that led to the fall of the former Soviet Union. He punished the Soviets for their occupation of Poland and avenged the American disgrace in the Vietnam War. This contribution marks him as a loyal and able son to his ancestral and adopted lands, Poland and the US. This must have been a source of immense satisfaction for him for the rest of his life and he must have met his death as an exhilarated man in his own eyes who fulfilled his responsibility towards both lands. Both Poland and the US should be proud of him and I hope they are.
So now the question is: when are Pashtun people going to display as much commitment to their own land as Brzezinski did? Will the day ever come into being, whereby a critical mass of Pashtuns, who are as much dedicated to their land as Brzezinski was, will lead to the Jihad brothel’s permanent closure? Until that day, the brothel must flourish and the Pashtun must suffer with blood and tears. In the meantime, you, Brzezinski, may you inspire and burn in hell.
Writer: Dr. FarhatTaj
The writer is a Pashtun from Jungle Khel, Kohat, in the northwest of Pakistan. She lives transnationally in Norway and Pakistan since August 2002. Dr. Farhat Taj has PhD degree in Sociology of Law (2013) from the University of Oslo, Norway. She is former NORAD fellow at the Center for Women and Gender Research, University of Bergen, Norway, where she did M.Phil in Gender and Development (2002-2004).
THE PASHTUN TIMES