In Dollars for Terror, Swiss journalist Richard Labévière lays out a convincing case that the United States, through its proxy, Saudi Arabia, guided the evolution of Islam, cultivating radical strains of Sunni Islamism to combat the modernizing and stabilizing trends of Arab nationalism which threaten US domination of the Middle East.
Written in 2000, Dollars for Terror predates 9/11 and calls into question the premise that Islamic terrorism against the United States is a spontaneous expression of Muslims “hating us for our freedoms.” Labévière instead sets out to demonstrate that radical, political Islam is a calculated tactic used to facilitate Saudi hegemony and American mastery over the oil-rich region stretching from North Africa through the Middle East and across Central Asia.
Dollars for Terror predates the term Al Qaeda – or at least its widespread usage – referring instead simply to Bin Laden’s “Afghans,” which Labévière introduces as a group President Carter’s National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski fostered in Afghanistan in response to the country’s 1978 election of a communist government.
Contrary to the commonly accepted narrative of “Charlie Wilson’s War,” the CIA’s radicalized Islamists provoked the Soviet army to invade Afghanistan in 1979, a reaction that was anticipated when the Carter Administration made the call to help mobilize the mujahideen out of Pakistan. As Labévière quotes Brzezinski: “Which is more important from the perspective of world history? The Taleban, or the fall of the Soviet Empire? A bunch of excited Islamists, or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”
This exposé of the genesis of the Taleban is just one of many fascinating revelations in Dollars for Terror. Another is the telling quote by radical Islam expert and former Kabul, Afghanistan, CIA Chief (and Tsarnaev in-law) Graham Fuller:
The policy of guiding the evolution of Islam and of helping them against our adversaries worked marvelously well in Afghanistan against the Red Army. The same doctrines can still be used to destabilize what remains of Russian power, and especially to counter the Chinese influence in Central Asia.
With this quote, Labévière begins to explore the decades-long history of the United States, together with Saudi Arabia, of cultivating radical, political Islam in the Middle East and North Africa (“MENA”), beginning with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and its challenge to Gamal Nasser in the 1950s.
The author cites Nasser as the first example of an Arab nationalist leader who threatened US domination in the MENA area, but other secular strongmen also spring to mind, including Qaddafi, Hussein and Assad. All of these men and their states not only defy or defied total domination by the west in their own rights, but also were open to and sometimes pursued alliances with America’s competitors on the world stage, most notably the USSR/Russia.
The main theme of Dollars for Terror is that the US, Saudi Arabia, and also Israel, will not feel secure in this region while strong Arab nations thrive, so these states and their leaders must be replaced with a less cohesive and less stable force, namely, political Islam, which is most effectively delivered through disruptive, radical organizations including the networks financed by the Saudi billionaire Osama bin Laden.
Labévière illustrates his point with a quote by Oded Yinon, a former official in the Israeli ministry of Foreign Affairs:
Breaking up Lebanon into five provinces precedes the fate that awaits the entire Arab world, including Egypt, Syria, Iraq and all the Arab peninsula; in Lebanon, it is already an accomplished fact. The disintegration of Syria and Iraq into ethnically or religiously homogenous provinces, like Lebanon, is Israel’s top priority, in the long run, on its eastern front. In the short run, the objective is the military dissolution of these States. Syria will be divided into several States, according to the ethnic communities, so that the coast will become an Alaouite Shiite State; the Alep region, a Sunni State; Damas, another Sunni State hostile to its northern neighbor; the Druses will make up their own State, which will perhaps extend to our Golan, and in any case in Haouran and northern Jordan. This State will guarantee peace and security in the area in the long run: that is an objective that is, now within our reach.
Although the author focuses on Bin Laden, he is not the only radical Islamist who has ties to the CIA according to Labévière. He cites first hand sources who reveal that the Blind Sheikh, Omar Abdel-Rahman, who is currently serving a life sentence for the World Trade Center bombing of 1993, got his visa for that trip to the US directly from the CIA! This is a scary detail given that one of the other planners of that event, the primary witness against Abdel-Rahman and an FBI operative, makes the very serious allegation that the FBI allowed if not arranged for live explosives in that attack. (Click here for more on that shocking story.)
Given that this book was published in 2000 – before 9/11 – there is no sense that the author is trying to shift blame for 9/11 or establish an alternative explanation for it. Osama bin Laden was still alive and powerful as of that writing, as were Qaddafi and Hussein. The author merely points out with interviews, meetings, events and facts that Osama bin Laden and his “Afghans” served as mercenaries, agents provocateurs, drug runners, assassins and more, often with the help or at least blind eyes of the authorities, British and American, who must have known that bin Laden personally passed through London in his course of business as did some of his billions.
I highly recommend Dollars for Terror to anyone with the patience for it. It can be a little difficult to understand, presumably because it is translated from French, so some paragraphs need to be read a few times for full comprehension. The references in the footnotes are often to French sources, so follow up is difficult. Also, there are not enough references, which in part is due to the fact that Mr. Labévière is an investigative journalist and is often recounting information he received first hand from sources in the know, but still, it would be nice to be able to get more details on certain subjects. Also, there is no index so it is very difficult to find specific passages or subjects without making notes. Finally, the book itself was physically messed up! The last six pages were switched with the first six pages so the Table of Contents is at the end of the book and as you open the front cover you are faced with page 392! All the pages are there, though, so you can puzzle through it!
As is often the case, journalists on a mission against “American Imperialism” are Marxists and Labévière’s denouncement of global corporatism smacks of this bent. But whatever my disagreement with Labévière over the cause of cronyism corrupting the world–I say it is rooted in the underlying threat of violence inherent in the modern state, a situation Marxism would exacerbate–I greatly appreciate his work in this field. He has suffered for his integrity as a journalist and that in itself proves how critical it is now more than ever for men like him to get the truth out.