Guyana Chronicle
September 21, 2001

As the world watches and waits, with bated breath, for the American-led coalition of military forces to go up against, first, Afghanistan, then against other nations that harbour international terrorists, is it not strange that among the coalition are member states that may, one day, be on the other side of the fence?

How strong or, better put, fragile are these hastily put together coalitions? How easy is it for today's ally to be tomorrow's adversary?

In the early to mid-eighties, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, the United States backed the Mujahadeens (Osama bin Laden was a principal American ally in this) against the invaders, even supplying arms that helped kill some 35,000 Soviets.

So good was this relationship that, until quite recently, Afghanistan
reportedly was receiving up to 170 million US dollars a year in aid from
America - its biggest donor to its depressed economy.

Today, Russia has turned around and said it is prepared to share with America, intelligence gathering on Afghanistan's Talibans. This, after denouncing the terrorists attacks on American soil.

Sudan, which was identified as culpable in the embassy bombing in Africa three years ago, and was on the receiving end of America's military wrath under Bill Clinton, has openly sided with America on the current issue. Even Pakistan which once was at odds with America, particularly because of closer ties to India, is now seen as key to any successful air and ground strikes by America against Afghanistan.

When the Shah of Iran fled to America and the Ayatollah Kohmeni took over the nation, Iraq was America's buffer, until Saddam Hussein pulled a fast one on Kuwait in 1989 and became the new American enemy. Wasn't Libya's Muammar Ghaddafi militarily trained in the West? And was he not a target of Ronald Reagan's bombers for allegedly sponsoring terrorism against America?

Even Saudi Arabia, America's biggest ally in the Arab world, gave America a bit of cold shoulder a few months ago, understandably over continuing support for Israel against the Palestinians. But Saudi Arabia has come around to America's side on the current issue.

What is it with nations that are today a friend and tomorrow a foe? Is there a loyalty of convenience or are men's hearts guided by a weakness of playing along to get along? Perhaps there is sheer wickedness behind their open support.

That Osama bin Laden, who holds no political office but masterminds
terrorist activities from caves and dens in Afghanistan's deserts can look back with scant disregard on his relationship with America against the Soviets and now orchestrate such violence, confirms he is both weak and extremely wicked.

Should Afghanistan be attacked, albeit at the reluctance of the Talibans to hand over bin Laden; this Saudi Arabian will be the primary target, but there is bound to be collateral damage involving innocent Afghan civilians. It is pure wickedness for a foreigner to foist such suffering on a nation that is his host. And it is weak that he constantly retreats to his hideouts instead of acting as the daring warrior he wants the Muslim world to see him.

If the Muslim fanatics and extremists see him as a martyr in the making, the West sees him as a mad man who is wanted, dead or alive, so that he no longer will have another chance to conveniently switch sides and play along to get along.

Shrewd politicians must discern what is meant by coalition or alliance as these may be misused by so-called partners to achieve their own ultimate goals, much to the detriment of the major stakeholder and player, then other innocents in our midst.
Emile Mervin, Brooklyn, New York