I was a bit crook yesterday (I feel well now), so I couldn't post this, which commemorates this September 9 event, harbinger of the world we now inhabit. From our Book of Days for September 9:
Death of the Lion of Panjshir
Ahmed Shah Massoud ('the Lion of Panjshir'; born c. 1953), leader of the Northern Alliance, was assassinated in Afghanistan on September 9, 2001.
Massoud, probably the greatest resistance leader of the 20th century, and probably equal to any of all time, was the victim of an Al Qaeda suicide bomber attack at Khvajeh Baha od Din, two days before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in the USA, and as part of that strategy.
It was the event that, in my opinion, ushered in the century and the Age of the New US Imperialism.
The assassination: prelude to 9-11
Two days before 9-11, Ahmad Shah Massoud, warrior-intellectual hero of the resistance to Russian imperialism and Taliban lunocracy, was assassinated by two suicide bombers posing as journalists. It was big news when it happened, and like many I was stunned, but like everyone else except Al Qaeda, I hadn't the slightest idea what big event it was leading up to within 48 hours. In fact, we weren't even sure he was dead because his cadres denied it, saying he was only wounded, as they played for time to regroup and plan. (It is believed that the horribly wounded Massoud died within 15 - 30 minutes, although his death was denied until September 13.)
If the official explanation for the September 11 attack on America is correct, ie, that Al Qaeda was to blame, then it's reasonable to assume that from Osama bin Laden's point of view, it was necessary to eliminate the Lion of Panjshir in order to secure local territory for the expected retaliation from the US when he attacked NYC and the Pentagon. With Massoud gone, so was bin Laden's mortal enemy and a reasonable man who did not despise the West.
Who was Ahmed Shah Massoud?
Massoud was a soccer player and coach, a horse rider, swimmer and karate sportsman, chess player, architect and reader, but he gave it all up for his country and people. "I love Hafiz's poems," he once said, "I always read them. They change and inspire me. Music talks to the innermost feelings of a human being. Poetry and music have influence on every one."
He once told National Geographic journalist Sebastian Junger (author of Fire) he was fighting not only for a free Afghanistan but for a free world. Junger wrote: "There was something about him – the slow nod of his head as he listened to a question, the exhaustion and curiosity engraved on his handsome, haggard face – that made it clear we were in the presence of an extraordinary man. I found it impossible not to listen to Massoud when he spoke, even though I didn't understand a word. I watched everything he did, because I had the sense that somehow – in the way he poured his tea, in the way his hands carved the air as he talked – there was some secret to be learned."
Nine times the Soviet Union tried to defeat the Afghans in the Panjshir Valley, and nine times they were repelled by forces commanded by Massoud. The Soviets killed approximately 1,000 Afghan military personnel and civilians to every one of their own combatants (15,000 Soviets dead compared to 1.5 million Afghans), and forced more than 7 million out of a population of 18 million to flee to squalid refugee camps where millions remain to this day. Despite this overkill, the USSR was forced to give up their war of aggression. Massoud, a brilliant military commander, was largely responsible for the victory of the Afghan people.
For at least two decades, Massoud determinedly resisted first the Soviet invaders, then the Taliban, living in a multitude of wilderness camps in the same rudimentary conditions as the guerrilla fighters under his command.
Robert D Kaplan wrote in his book The Soldiers of God, 1991: "Ahmad Shah Massoud has to be considered one of the greatest leaders of guerrilla movements in the 20th century. He defeated his enemy just like Marshall Tito, Hu Chi Minh and Che Guevara did. Massoud controlled a bigger terrain that was much more difficult to defend militarily and was under constant attack from the enemy. His territory suffered much more attacks from enemy forces than those areas which were under the control of the resistance movements of Tito, Hu Chi Minh, or Guevara."
Massoud was a man of character. In 1980, a young soldier took advantage of the darkness and shot at Massoud's car from only three metres away. Massoud told him: "Friend, your hands are trembling and you are not used to shooting anyone," and let the attacker go. Moscow tried to poison, shoot and blow up Massoud, but was never successful. On one occasion, Dr Najibullah, later President and at that time chief of the puppet Afghan government's intelligence service, sent an agent named Kamran to Panjshir where Massoud gave him the traditional and celebrated Afghan hospitality. Kamran finally came to understand Massoud's reason for resisting the Communists and handed over the muffled firearm he had been given by the Afghan government to carry out the planned assassination. Kamran then took refuge in Germany, asking for political asylum.
Massoud's last plea: "America, help us"
In Massoud's last interview, given to Newsweek two weeks before murder, his plea (couched in diplomatic terms but nonetheless clear), was for the USA to stop aiding the Pakistan/Taliban/bin Laden brutalization of his country and to develop a policy that would support moderate politics in Afghanistan. As we all know now, freedom-loving George W Bush had more important things to do at the country club and had never heard of any of these entities that his government was either supporting or turning a blind eye to.
Nobel Prize for Massoud?
Your almanackist, for one, hopes that Massoud will be awarded a posthumous Nobel Peace Prize for his commitment to freedom and the inspiration he continues to give the world. I believe that there are other ways of national self defence than Stinger missiles and home-made guns forged out of water pipes, as used by the Mujahideen under Massoud's command. However, in the real situation of the defence of a country that has been repeatedly invaded, from Genghiz Khan to the British (three times) the mighty Communist empire to the north, (and of course more recently the 'Coalition of the Willing'), at least Ahmed Shah Massoud was incorruptible, merciful, and almost worshipped by his people. And unlike the generals of the invaders, he fought on the battlefield with his men, resting in dirty caves and tents in boiling hot and sub-freezing temperatures in Afghanistan's parched desert valleys and deep-snow mountains, sleeping in a different bed most nights and eating the meagre rations of the guerrilla fighter.
Shaobakhai, Lion of Panjshir, and tashakoor. Goodnight, and thank you.
More Massoud links at the Wilson's Almanac Book of Days