I have stated before my view that Islam and Muslims are not the problem but rather that religion is used as a tool by those in power as a way of manipulating ordinary people to act in their interests. My article Thoughts on the Nature of the God Construct expands on this idea in terms of how the image and nature of the god that the elites present to us for our worship reveals something of their agendas and efforts to shape society for their own benefit.
F. William Engdahl’s book, The Lost Hegemon: Whom the Gods Would Destroy goes much further in examining how radical Islam has been deliberately shaped and promoted as a tool by Western elites as a way of establishing and maintaining control over the Middle East and then as a weapon against the USSR. Since the end of the Cold War, this tool has been resurrected and used to break up Yugoslavia, destabilise Chechnya and then deployed against a succession of Arab and African states with the ultimate aim of conquering and harnessing the rising powers of Russia and China.
In the case of China, the machinations Engdahl describes in Chapter 12 of the book, which he terms ‘A “Holy War” Against China’, connects directly to the issues raised in my article China: On the Balance of Evils regarding the propaganda aspects of the much touted so-called mass indoctrination camps in Xinjiang and how the actions of the Chinese government there rather than being an act of capricious genocide may be seen to be a defensive measure against a well-worn geopolitical play being enacted against it using a vulnerable Muslim minority as an attack vector.
The listing for the book at Amazon.com currently has some 81 customer reviews, of which 82% rate it 5 stars and another 7% with 4 stars. The following review from Raymond C. Togtman gives a good feel for the book’s content and reception.
For me, the book provides an important historical framework from which to make sense of the myriad often confusing and conflicting events and agendas that have shaped the West’s involvements in the Middle East since the beginning of the 20th Century. Fundamental to this understanding is how organisations such as the Muslim Brotherhood, the Gülen Movement, Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State came into being and how these relate to Western actions and objectives across a range of nations with resident Islamic communities. More than that, Engdahl’s account reminds us that the Islamic movements are not simply passive tools of Western manoeuvres—they have independent agency and long-term objectives of their own that cause them shift alliances as they see opportunities to advance their political and social goals in the region.
While the book contains a wealth of details and covers quite a wide range of territory, the accounts of two specific organisations stand out for me as illustrative of Engdahl’s assertions, these being the Muslim Brotherhood and the Gülen Movement.
In the case of the Muslim Brotherhood, Engdahl recounts how this movement was started as a counter to British imperial domination of the region and its “perfidy” in betraying the alliances and promises made to Arab leaders during both World Wars. How this movement then reoriented to ally with first Hitler’s Nazi party against the Jews and then after WW2 with the CIA as a Cold War tool against the USSR makes for fascinating reading. The Brotherhood’s links to the CIA and to the Saudi elites provide a window both on how this initially underground movement infiltrated numerous Islamic countries to promote its own long-term agenda to create an Islamic caliphate and then, reading between the lines, how this long term agenda has led it into both temporary alliances of convenience with the likes of the CIA and appearing as a seemingly liberal contender for elections in relatively secular Arab nations, such as Libya, Turkey, Syria and Egypt.
In this light, events of the CIA and Soros inspired Arab Spring revolutions revealed the Brotherhood as a US and UK favoured inheritor of power in the region. However, these events also highlighted fractures within the Arab nations when the Saudi’s supported General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s removal of the Muslim Brotherhood aligned President Mohamed Morsi from office in the 2013 Egyptian coup d’état. These events also seem to have been behind the Saudi split with Qatar, the leaders of which are strong Brotherhood supporters, which saw a number of Al-Jazeera journalists imprisoned in Egypt in the coup’s aftermath. The Qatari links to the Muslim Brotherhood and the aligned “moderate terrorists” funded by the USA and its allies is also to be seen in how Qatari owned Al-Jazeera regularly takes the opposition side when reporting events in Syria (such as here, here, and here). As reported by the Washington Post, the secular government of Syria has faced off against the Brotherhood since at least 1982:
“After three decades of persecution that virtually eradicated its presence, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has resurrected itself to become the dominant group in the fragmented opposition movement pursuing a 14-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. Exiled Brotherhood members and their supporters hold the biggest number of seats in the Syrian National Council, the main opposition umbrella group. They control its relief committee, which distributes aid and money to Syrians participating in the revolt. The Brotherhood is also moving on its own to send funding and weapons to the rebels, who continued to skirmish Saturday with Syrian troops despite a month-old U.N.-brokered cease-fire. The revival marks an extraordinary comeback for an organization that was almost annihilated after the last revolt in Syria, which ended in the killing by government forces of as many as 25,000 people in the city of Hama in 1982. Only those who managed to flee abroad survived the purge.”Source: Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood is gaining influence over anti-Assad revolt by Liz Sly, Washington Post, May 13, 2012
But, as Engdahl recounts, the CIA initially formed linkages with the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950’s when the US elites were busy establishing the Christian evangelical movement in the USA and elsewhere as a counter to atheist communism and, in particular, their new bogyman in the shape of the USSR. In Engdahl’s words:
“The American establishment, at least the faction close to the Rockefeller family, had decided by 1957 that a worldwide “revival” of religion was necessary to “assert the United States’ moral leadership in the Free World.” The revival was, however, to be carefully nurtured and, when necessary, financed, to advance those interests of the powerful US banking and corporate interests.”Source: The Lost Hegemon, F. William Engdahl, page 92
This re-invention of Christianity as a fundamentalist politically charged tool of the capitalist US elites was mirrored in the CIA arranged “marriage” of ultra-conservative Wahhabi Islam and the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood when the CIA arranged for Brotherhood members fleeing President Nasser’s crackdown on the movement in secular Egypt to escape to Saudi Arabia and the protection of the Saudi monarchy.
“Allen Dulles’s CIA secretly persuaded the Saudi monarchy to help rebuild the banned Muslim Brotherhood, thereby creating a fusion with Saudi fundamentalist Wahhabi Islam and vast Saudi oil riches to wield a weapon across the entire Muslim world against feared Soviet incursions. A young man named Osama bin Laden was later to rise out of this marriage in Hell between the Brotherhood and Wahhabite Saudi Islam.”Source : The Lost Hegemon, F. William Engdahl, page 95 citing Robert Dreyfuss, Devils Game, 2005, New York, Metropolitan Books, pp 121-126
This naturally sets the scene for the CIA’s creation and deployment of the radical Islamic Mujahideen organisations in Afghanistan to firstly draw the USSR into that nation and then bog them down in their very own version of the USA’s Vietnam War catastrophe. With the rise of Al-Qaeda under Saudi intelligence asset (and hence CIA asset) Osama bin Laden, the CIA in collaboration with the Pakistani ISI was able to globalise jihad into Chechnya (nullifying a Russian gas pipeline in favour of the US and UK oil company backed Baku–Tblisi–Ceyan pipeline from Azerbaijan to Turkey) through nations like Uzbekistan and then on to Bosnia (to trigger NATO’s destruction and dissolution of Yugoslavia). The CIA then used radical Islamic terrorists to supported “colour revolutions” in countries along Russia’s borders and across North Africa. And, it is not hard to see the parallels between the stated aims of ISIS had to establish an Islamic Caliphate across Iraq and Syria with the Muslim Brotherhood’s long-standing objective of doing the much the same (only on a much larger scale). As pointed out in my post on Xinjiang, and increasingly in the mainstream media, it appears that ISIS has been, if not at first then for quite some time, a proxy in the USA’s regime change program — in effect, a political wing or companion of Al-Qaeda.
Fethullah Gülen and the Gülen Movement (known as Cemaat in Turkey) first came to my attention through the work of FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds whose exposé of how the Turkish mafia had infiltrated the FBI was the subject of her book Classified Woman-The Sibel Edmonds Story: A Memoir (published in 2012). But, Gülen really sprang into the world’s attention when he was linked to the 2015 US supported attempted coup in Turkey which was engineered to replace President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan two days after a major electoral victory for his party. In the wake of this event the Turkish authorities launched a massive purge of Fethullah Gülen supporters with arrests and detentions that affected nearly all branches of the government, including the military, the judiciary, teachers and journalists. As reported by Mintpress News and The Independent, in the first weekend alone, some 2,745 judges from around the country were removed from office.
In Chapter 10 of The Lost Hegemon, Engdahl traces the formation of the Gülen Movement to a CIA initiative in the 1990’s. Evidence of the linkages to the CIA and Gülen’s status as a CIA asset is provided in terms of the support provided to his US Green Card application by significant named CIA operatives and aligned figures, such as George Findas (US Ambassador to Turkey and 31 years with the CIA), Morton Abramowitz (National Endowment for Democracy NED and the International Crisis Group — both associated with the CIA) and Graham E. Fuller (CIA agent and Vice-Chairman of the US National Intelligence Council). According to Engdahl, the Gülen Movement was conceptualised and engineered by Fuller after he was moved to the RAND Corporation following his key involvement in the Iran-Contra Affair:
“RAND was a Pentagon- and CIA-linked neoconservative Washington think tank. Indications are that Fuller’s work at RAND was instrumental in developing the CIA strategy for building the Gülen Movement as a geopolitical force to penetrate former Soviet Central Asia. Among his RAND papers, Fuller wrote studies on Islamic fundamentalism in Turkey, Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Algeria, the “survivability” of Iraq, and the “New Geopolitics of Central Asia” after the fall of the USSR, where Fethullah Gülen’s cadre were sent to establish Gülen schools and Madrassas.”Source: The Lost Hegemon, F. William Engdahl, page 186
Significantly, Fuller is also linked to Chechen born Ruslan Tsarnaev, uncle of the two Boston Bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev due to the fact that he was married to Fuller’s daughter Samantha A. Fuller during the 1990’s.
“Fuller even admitted that “Uncle Ruslan” had lived in Fuller’s home in the suburban Washington area and the Fuller went several times to the Caucasus and Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia just wen the CIA was heating up the Chechen Islamic terror against Moscow, allegedly to ‘visit’ his daughter and son-in-law. Ruslan Tsarnaev, who changed his name to Ruslan Tsarni, had worked in the past for companies tied to Dick Cheney’s Haliburton, as well as working as a “consultant” in Kazakhstan on the Caspian Sea in the 1990s with the State Department’s USAID, which has been widely identified as a CIA front.”Source: The Lost Hegemon, F. William Engdahl, page 188
According to Engdahl, the key to the Gülen Movement’s effectiveness as a tool for the CIA has been the network of Gülen Charter Schools which have served to inculcate the sons of wealthy and influential families across the nations where the schools have found a home. By 2008, these schools were to be found “in more than a dozen countries including the Muslim counties of the former Soviet Union, Russia, France and the United States.” In the US, the organisation has focused on providing charter schools in low income areas and has been accused of being a “visa mill” for bringing in large numbers of Turkish speaking people under the guise of being specialist language teachers. But, in other parts of the world, it is seen as more a CIA front with English language teachers being CIA imports — this claim seems to originate in a Turkish memoir called Witness to Revolution and Near Anarchy, by retired Turkish intelligence official Osman Nuri Gundes. However, this claim has been disputed by Fuller himself, as documented in a leaked Stratfor email dated 6 Jan 2011. The other aspect of the schools is their purported role as indoctrination centres designed to create a body of Gülen ideologically aligned graduates aimed at the local centres of economic and political power. Although not a defined sect of Islam, the Gülen Movement has been accused of being cult-like in that it has promulgated a peculiarly Gülen inspired version of Islam based on Gülen’s own writings.
Following the attempted coup in Turkey, Erdogan issued “a decree closing 1,043 private schools, 1,229 foundations and associations, 35 medical institutions, 19 unions, and 15 universities linked to the Gülen movement.” But, as reported by the BBC in 2016 suspicions about the movement and its schools had already started the closure of the schools elsewhere:
“Accusations have been levelled against schools with Turkish connections in more than a dozen countries, from Germany to Afghanistan, leaving thousands of children facing uncertainty over their education.Source: Turkey’s post-coup crackdown hits ‘Gulen schools’ worldwide, by Jenny Norton and Cagil Kasapoglu, BBC
“In 2000, Uzbekistan shut down all Gulen-associated schools operating there, and similar steps were taken in Russia, where only seven remain of the 50 schools that used to operate until 2008. All are now firmly under Education Ministry supervision in the Turkic-speaking Muslim region of Tatarstan.”
Engdahl goes much further in accusing Gülen and his network of schools as being involved in an shadowy network of CIA, national police and NATO linked heroin labs designed to traffic narcotics out of Afghanistan and into Europe and Central Asia. In doing so, he cites Sibel Edmonds:
“When the known major heroin drug routes out of Afghanistan to the West are mapped and an overlay map of the creation of major NATO or US military airfields was superimposed, along with a map of the major CIA or US-backed Jihadist operations—whether Saudi-backed Al-Qaeda or CIA’s Gülen Movement—from Afghanistan’s Mujahideen to Kyrgyzstan, to Kosovo, to Chechnya, and to Dagestan, a coherent picture emerged that, as seasoned researcher Sibel Edmonds described it, was the heart of a drugs-jihadist-NATO insurgency across Eurasia.”Source: The Lost Hegemon, F. William Engdahl, page 195
Engdahl paints a chilling picture of a mainly US inspired project aimed at using radical Islam as a tool for the projection of hegemonic power across the Middle East and most of Asia. The key targets being China and Russia, which the US sees as strategic competitors to its self-assigned role as global hegemon. This latter aspect is certainly true, as has been admitted in numerous papers, books and pronouncements by a range of US think tanks and politicians.
But the use of these of political Islam as a weapon has had disastrous consequences for local populations and for the world in general. In Engdahl’s words the unintended consequences of some “not very intelligent people — in Washington, Tel Aviv, Riyadh, Damascus, Ankara, Brussels and beyond — had brought the world to the brink of global conflagration by the spring of 2015.” But, while Engdahl posits that the madness of this endeavour meant that “Sane voices around the world were beginning to ask whether there was a better way of creating true democracy…”, having spent a couple of years now living in the Trump and Brexit eras, I am not sure that is true. What is true is that the leaders of a number of other nations (Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, Turkey, Venezuela and Syria included) can now see with some clarity the mechanisms the US has used against a succession of nations and have developed ways to combat these by sharing information and providing mutual support. This can be seen in the formation of new international pacts led by Russia and China, and in the declarations by several leaders that the USA is “not agreement capable”. Likewise, China’s actions to “re-educate” the Uyghur population in Xinjiang — however seemingly authoritarian and Orwellian it may in fact be — can be seen as a logical counter measure to this weapon of mass destruction.
Overall, Engdahl’s book provides a fascinating picture of the US elites’ use of religion to develop and maintain hegemonic global domination.
Note: 16 July 2019 Conclusion edited to remove comments about referencing and expand overall summary.