Saturday 15 September 2012

The One That Got Away

You’re all great fishermen, huh?” Grandpa snorted, lighting up a borrowed cigarette. “Let me tell you, none of you even knows what fishing is.”

All of us sat back to listen. “You must have caught some big ones in your time, Grandpa,” someone murmured. 

“Big ones!” Grandpa squinted through the cigarette smoke. “I’ve been fishing, man and boy, for seventy years. You lot can’t even imagine the size of the fish I’ve caught. If you saw those fish you’d die of fear. Fish!”

“Real whoppers, were they?” another one of us said, with a sudden cough. We all glared at him.

“What was that?” Grandpa asked suspiciously, his toothless mouth twitching. “What did you say?”

“Nothing,” I replied hastily. “It doesn’t matter. Which was the largest fish you’ve ever caught, Grandpa?”

“Oh, I’ve caught a lot, a lot,” Grandpa said, blowing twin jets of smoke through his nostrils. “I’ve caught fish the size of that car you lot came in. But none of them was as large as the one which got away.”

“The one which got away?” We glanced at each other. “You mean a fish actually got away from you?” the wag from earlier asked.

“Yes.” Grandpa quelled him with a stare. “One fish, and only one fish, in my entire career got away from me. Just one.”

“It must have been some fish,” I said reverently, “to get away from a master fisherman like you, Grandpa.”

Everyone glared at me for some reason. “Do you want the story, or don’t you?” Grandpa asked in a dangerous tone of voice.

“Yes, of course,” I replied hurriedly. “Sorry. Grandpa. Have another cigarette.”

“Well, yes,” Grandpa said, mollified. “It was the only fish which ever got away from me.” He paused thoughtfully, the smoke eddying round his wizened face.

“Though, to be frank, I don’t really know if it were I who was hunting him, or the other way round,” he said. “Even the tiger couldn’t help.”

“The tiger?”

“The tiger,” Grandpa repeated, nodding. “Poor fellow, he must have felt cheated. I felt sorry for him.”


It was a long time ago [Grandpa said], when I was a young man, and handsome, and so strong that I could bend iron rods into hoops with my hands. You soft city boys can’t begin to imagine how strong I was.  

Back then I was living in my ancestral village, a long way from here, not far from where the great swamps begin. The river there’s like nothing you ever saw, so wide that when the flood comes you’d think you were standing by the side of the sea.

For all that I was the best looking and strongest young man in the village, I was a bachelor. That was because I was so poor that I didn’t have two coins to rub together, and no immediate prospect of getting any. And it didn’t really matter to me, because none of the village girls took my fancy. They were pretty enough, but not what I wanted.

Then, one day, the chief’s niece came visiting from another village up-country. We’d all heard she was coming, and that she was unmarried and the chief was looking for a groom for her. I was mildly curious, no more. What did the fat chief’s niece matter to me? Nothing.

It was on the second day of her visit that I saw her for the first time. I’d just rowed my boat in from a day’s fishing on the river, and was unloading my nets, when she came.

I had been talking to one of my friends – he’s a big shot now, you’d know the name if I told you – when I saw his jaw drop as though it was on a hinge as he looked at something beyond me. I turned to see what he was looking at, and my heart seemed to stop still in my chest. She was that beautiful.

I watched her come down to the bank, and she saw me looking at her and smiled, and sat down to wash her feet in the water. And when she smiled that way, at once I knew I had to make her mine.

“What are you looking at?” my friend asked.

I turned away from the girl as casually as possible. “Nothing,” I told him. “Just the sunset. It’s such a lovely sunset.”

“It’s the wrong direction for the sunset,” he said. And it was.

But I scarcely heard him. For the first time in my life I began to regret not having money. I would have to make some, and fast. But how? Fishing was my only trade, and the fishing in the river near the village wasn’t enough for anyone to get rich on. There was only one solution – I would have to go where there were more fish, and bigger fish, and there was no competition. I would have to go down to the swamp.

I don’t know if any of you have ever been down to the swamp? It’s a pestilential place, I tell you – full of mud and reeds, and tall mangrove trees with roots like spikes which can go through your foot like a spear if you don’t look sharp where you’re going. There are crocodiles, too, and snakes, and so many insects that you feel as if they’ll suck you dry. At night, you can see strange lights, and hear odd noises, and you could swear they were people singing and dancing, but when you get close there’s nothing at all. It’s a terrible place, that swamp, and nobody goes there if he can help it.

But there are lakes and rivers all over, and the fishes grow to sizes so large that it would make your head spin to think of them. A couple of good trips, I decided, and I’d have enough put by to go to the chief and make enquiries for her hand. After all, I was the strongest and handsomest around – all I needed was some money, and why should he refuse?

So, without wasting any time, I took all the food I had, some gourds full of drinking water, and by the time the sun had risen the next morning, I was already on my way. By evening, I was on the margin of the swamp, and tied my boat to a mangrove tree, meaning to start fishing the next morning.

I told you about the lights that glow in the dark in the swamp. All that first night, those lights played the devil around the boat, and I could hear giggling and laughing. Also, frogs croaked incessantly. By “croaked” I mean they made noise louder than the politicians who yell through loudspeakers come election time. And also the clouds of mosquitoes came round. Mosquitoes? They were the size of sparrows. If it hadn’t been for the fact that my skin was too tough for their mouths to penetrate, I wouldn’t have had a drop of blood left in my body.

Finally, though, towards morning, I dozed off.

I was woken by a soft growl. Opening my eyes quickly, I saw a tiger sitting on the boat across from me.

He was a very large tiger, bright orange in colour with broad black stripes. When he saw I was awake, he growled again and got up to bite me.

I wasn’t the strongest man in the village for nothing, of course. A few blows later, the tiger was cowering in the bottom of my boat, wagging the tip of his tail apologetically and licking my hand.

“That won’t be enough, master tiger,” I said sternly. “You live in this swamp, so you’re going to act as my guide and help me to the biggest fish you know. Or else you’ll get this again.” I held up my fist. “Understand?”

The tiger winced, mewed piteously, climbed out of the boat, and waited politely on the bank while I undid my boat from the mangrove. Then he walked off into the swamp, pausing frequently to look back over his shoulder to make sure I was following.

All day, I rowed my boat behind the tiger. As I went, I saw many fish, sometimes very large ones, and I was tempted to cast my net for them. But each time I even thought about it, the tiger would look back over his shoulder and shake his head impatiently, and I knew he was leading me to where the really big fishes were.

By mid-afternoon we had come so far that my arm muscles had begun to tire a little, and I’d begun to think of ordering the tiger to rest for a while. Just then, he suddenly stopped at a point which seemed to me no different from the others – a place where mangroves grew up to the edge of the water and mud and clumps of reeds broke the surface here and there – and plonked himself down, nodding at the water with his head, as if to say, “there you are, go ahead and fish.”

At first I thought he was joking, because I could see not a single fish anywhere. And then I began to get angry, because we had already passed over schools of carp big enough to fill my boat to the gunwales, and he’d not let me fish. But, just as I was about to tell him just what I thought of his little trick, I noticed something strange.

All the while we’d been coming up river, we’d seen life – small frogs hopping among the reeds, the splash of tiny fish, the occasional sight of a terrapin sunning itself on a log of wood. But here, at this spot, I could see nothing. Even the dragonflies skimming the surface seemed to be wary, never hovering as they did elsewhere.

It was very strange, and I couldn’t think why it should be that way.

A moment later, I found out.

A few boats’ lengths from me, something broke the surface. It was a flat black mass, so huge that I thought for a moment it was the back of an elephant, swimming. And then I saw a feeler as thick around as my leg, and an eye half the size of a cart wheel, and I knew I was looking at the head – and only the head – of the biggest catfish I had ever seen.

My hands blurred into action as I bent over the oars, rowing towards where the immense monster had submerged. Reaching the spot, I gathered up my net.

That net of mine was a tremendous one. Someday I must tell you how I came by it. It was so big that it was spread out over a circus tent to dry, and its cords were as thick as the chains used to tether elephants. No other man could even pick it up, let alone with one hand like me. Oh, that net, I miss it still.

As soon as I dropped it over the side, I felt it snag something. And a moment later, the boat was being dragged through the water at a speed I could scarcely believe.

Even the tiger was startled. He gave out a yelp of astonishment, jumped to his paws, and began racing along the bank, his eyes round with astonishment. As for me, I could only grab the boat’s gunwale and hang on.

The catfish dragged me through the water the entire afternoon, and then through the evening. When darkness fell, I imagined that he would tire and want to rest, but no such luck. If anything, he seemed to be going even faster, until I began to worry that he would smash my boat to smithereens against a mangrove. As it turned out, that might have been almost a good thing.

All through that night the catfish dragged me through the swamp, without a pause. Finally I decided that since there wasn’t much I could do about it, I might as well sleep, and I curled up in the bottom of my boat. Whenever I woke up during the night, the catfish was still going strong.

It was morning by the time the catfish stopped. I’d been in the middle of a dream of flying through the air on a bed of feathers, and when the fish stopped, my bed fell apart in mid air. I woke with a jerk.

The first thing I saw was my old friend the tiger sitting on the bank, with an extremely anxious expression on his face. At first I thought he’d followed me around all night, but looking around I found I was in the same part of the swamp where I’d started. Obviously, the catfish had brought me back to his home.

I thought I was lucky, that he had tired himself out and come back home to die. I was mistaken.

That catfish had brought me home to eat me.

The tiger must have known it. He jumped up and began pacing up and down the bank, whining at me. Once or twice I thought he was about to get in the water to swim to the boat, but each time he obviously thought better of it. I didn’t pay much attention to him, unfortunately – still imagining that the catfish had given up the struggle, and already visualising the money he would fetch at the market, I grabbed the net and gave a hefty pull.

It came up so suddenly that I almost fell over backward. And an instant later, the catfish rammed the boat from below.

Even a boat as sturdy as mine wasn’t proof against that catfish’s charge. Slowly tipping, it rolled over, and I was thrown into the water.

For a moment, I confess, I was a little nonplussed. Being actually in the water with that colossal brute was more than I’d bargained for, especially when I glimpsed a gigantic black shadow swimming by, and felt a pressure wave which hit me like a swinging door. But then I remembered that the catfish was still snared in my net, which was strong enough to hold an elephant, and I felt better.

But that feeling lasted only for a moment. I was swimming for the overturned boat when I felt something brush my hand. It was the net, and the cords were broken. And for the first time, I felt a chill of fear, because the ends of the cord weren’t ripped – they were cut, as neatly as by a knife.

Can you imagine what the fish had done? He’d cut the net with his teeth, and, gathering it up in his mouth, towed the boat around all night, just to work up an appetite.

This realisation, as I said, gave me a chill of fear. Right now, the fish would be somewhere below me, looking up to see me silhouetted against the light at the water surface. When he had seen me, up he would come, mouth open to swallow me like a sweet.

There was only one thing for me to do. Kicking backwards and up, I dived as steeply as I could.

It wasn’t easy, diving into that murk, knowing the monster catfish was somewhere close by, but I didn’t hesitate. Unfortunately, I’d barely managed to gather half a breath before being spilled into the water, which meant I could only stay underwater for an hour or so. If I’d had a chance to get properly ready, I could have stayed submerged all day.

But I had to do what I could. Swimming straight down until I reached the mud at the bottom, I began flowing the river bed, with the thought of finding my way to the far bank and climbing out. Somewhere nearby, I was uneasily conscious, was the giant fish, his jaws full of teeth like iron spikes. It was not a comforting thought.

And then I came across something in the bed of the river.

Today, so many years later, I can still see it, and I marvel at that catfish. It was a trawler, one of the big ones, which were then just appearing. The catfish had grabbed it somewhere, I suppose – a launch that size would never have entered the swamp on its own. He had probably used himself as bait, allowed the trawler to net him, and then dragged it back to the swamp. Once there, he’d sunk it, and eaten the crew as they’d tried to swim for safety. They hadn’t really had a chance. But it would give me shelter for a while.

Feeling my way with my hands, I swam across the broken deck until I found a way in. And though it was as dark as the inside of a coal shed at midnight in there, I found my way around, over broken seats and the remnants of the wheelhouse. And there I found something on the deck.  It was a heavy bag, and when I lifted it, I felt it heavy with the shifting weight of coins.

The trawler’s captain must have got a large amount of money from somewhere – maybe the crew’s payroll, which he hadn’t yet had a chance to share out before the sinking. Well, it wouldn’t be of any use to him, but it would be of use to me.

Slinging the bag around my neck, I kicked away a part of the hull and swam out, heading for the surface. I was so excited at the discovery, you see, that I forgot about the catfish for a moment.

Unfortunately, the catfish hadn’t forgotten about me.

I realised this the moment my head broke the surface. I felt, as if something immense was swimming through the water after me, a wave of water so big that it lifted me up far enough to show me I was only a short distance from the shore. As fast as I could, I began swimming towards it. And, with jaws agape, the catfish swam after me.

Now, if I had dropped the bag of money, I could easily have outstripped that catfish. But I didn’t want to drop the bag – I’d earned it, and my happiness depended on it. So it became a race between the catfish and me, with my life as the prize.

And I might have lost, but for the tiger.

I’d just looked over my shoulder, and seen the catfish’s gigantic jaws snapping at my heels, when something fell on me from above. It was the tiger, who had leaped down from a mangrove tree branch. Gripping my shoulder firmly but gently in his jaws, he paddled hard for the shore. Together, we just managed to make it. I felt the catfish’s barbels brush my ankles as it turned away, splashing mud and water all over everything as it went. I looked back in time to see it lift up the hull of my boat in its jaws and chew it to splinters.

After that I came back. It took less time than it might, because the tiger gave me a lift on his back to the edge of the swamp. I think he felt sorry for me. At least he must have been awfully disappointed. I wasn’t, though, not really. After all, I had got the money, and as soon as I got back I’d have the girl.


“And that,” Grandpa said, stubbing out his latest cigarette, “is the story of the fish which got away.”

“But you can’t leave it like that!”  we protested. “What happened when you got back? Did you get the girl?”

“No,” Grandpa sighed. “When I got back, I found my friend, the one who had been with me when I first saw her, had already married her. How, you ask? Nothing simpler – he had given up fishing and started using his boat to bring tourists over to see the sunset. The chief said he had good business sense.” He shook his head. “And to think that he’d never even noticed the sunset until I’d given him the idea!”

We all ruminated on the tragedy for a moment. And then Grandpa perked up. “But, you know what?” he asked.


“I got to ride on a tiger. How many people do you know who have done that?”

None, we admitted, trying not to laugh.

Grandpa cocked his head. “And he still gives me a ride sometimes.” We all heard it then, a low liquid growl from outside the window, a growl to melt the marrow in our bones. “Ah, there he is now. I’ll see you youngsters later...if you stay around.”

Smiling gently, Grandpa picked up the entire carton of cigarettes and walked out into the night.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2012

Thursday 13 September 2012

Blowback Is A Bitch

A year ago, someone I call Killary Klingon giggled happily at the news that Moammar Gaddafi had been murdered. “We came, we saw, he died,” she crowed.

Today, the chickens have come home to roost.

Let me say something before I go any further: I told you so.

Back in the summer of 2011, when NATO bombs began falling on Libya, I had predicted that things would spiral out of control until a military occupation on the ground would have to be instituted. And only two days ago, I said, in my annual anti-American freedom-hating rant,

“Again and again, in Africa and West Asia, we have seen a pattern: a strategically located nation with a client regime threatens to slip out of the Empire’s grasp. In response, Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda-affiliated units spring up like mushrooms after the rain, virtually “forcing” the Empire to intervene militarily, whether directly or via proxies like Ethiopia. Result: the strategically important nation remains firmly in the Empire’s grasp.”

And now the Nobel Peace Prizident is about to send Marines and drones into Libya, effectively starting a military occupation of what remains of that country, the day after the US consulate in Benghazi was attacked and burned down, and the American Ambassador and three others, including another diplomat and two Marines, killed.

As I said, I told you so.

Now, note that this attack took place in Benghazi. This is extremely important because the whole premise on which Libya was bombed and destroyed, its leader murdered, and its people handed over to the tender mercies of racist Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist gangs was that an immediate intervention was necessary “in order to prevent a massacre in Benghazi.” It’s this same Benghazi which has just shown its gratitude to the liberators by burning down their consulate and murdering their diplomats.

Do you miss Gaddafi yet?

Now, of course, this isn’t exactly something one couldn’t predict. As even I, a blogger with no greater armamentarium than a laptop and a modem, could do the research to be able to say,

“Does anyone really believe that he (Islamic terrorist Abdelhakim Belhadj, who is now organising anti-Syrian Al Qaeda militias in Turkey), and the other jihadists who spent the last years fighting the Empire in Iraq and Afghanistan before turning their guns on that secular despot Gaddafi, will suddenly let go of their radical ideology and their anti-Western attitudes and turn into model democrats?... I suspect very strongly that when the civil war between the “freedom-lovers” starts in earnest (not very long now, but the initial shots will be blamed on Gaddafi loyalists until it can no longer be hidden – remember the “Saddam dead-enders” in Iraq?) Belhadj will once again morph into an Evil Enemy.”

Obviously, that moment is – if not already upon us – close at hand.

I’ll note in passing that the attack on the consulate seems to have upset a rather important propaganda applecart, which claimed – in the words of Zionist “peace activist” Uri Avnery, who cheered the bombing of Libya and has been for some time screeching for an invasion of Syria – that Libya was showing “growing signs of stability”. In fact, the entire fictional “democracy exercise” in Libya stands exposed.

Not that it really matters, because niceties like democracy were never part of the plans for Libya anyway, any more than they are for Syria, Afghanistan, or Bahrain for that matter.

The whole episode of the attack on the consulate is extremely murky and wrapped up in disinformation, so much so that nothing is clear at the time of writing – was it attacked by a “mob”, or an armed group using the mob as cover? Do mobs in Libya carry rocket launchers? If so, just what kind of “liberation” is this?

And just who were these attackers? The Empire says now that they were Al Qaeda – just what was needed for forces to be sent in, as I’d said earlier. Also, did the Libyan guards of the embassy give away the diplomats’ hiding place to their attackers? If that is so, just how deep is the anti-American sentiment in Libya?

Pretty deep, if one goes by the fact that the same kind of “mob” put up Al Qaeda flags above the Benghazi courthouse, among other places.

The provocation for the “mob” protest, as it seems, was a rather ludicrous film mocking the Prophet Muhammad. This film’s trailer, which is likely to be pulled off You Tube soon, is almost incredibly bad. I’ve seen better production from a school play, and I’m not exaggerating. The movie’s also evidently been played with; for example, at one point, an actor says “man plus x equals Islamic terrorism” while writing on a blackboard, “Man + X = BT”. Last I checked, “Islamic” wasn’t spelt with “B”.

The actors claim, too, that the lines they spoke were changed afterwards, and that they weren’t aware that it was an anti-Islamic film. Personally, I’m not too sure about that, because I can’t see how a scene showing a bearded Muslim gang striking down a woman wearing a prominent crucifix can be taken to be anything but anti-Islamic, even to the actors taking part in it. But then whether it was partly or wholly “sexed-up” post-production makes no difference to the film itself.

Even murkier than the film's production are its makers. Initially, it was supposed to be someone called “Sam Bacile”, a Zionist-American, who was responsible, and he claimed to have made it on $5million donated by a hundred Jewish donors. That seemed to be a story rather designed to fit a narrative, and it isn’t too surprising that no person called “Sam Bacile” seems to actually exist. The current thinking, which may change by the time this article is read, is that the film is the work of a fanatically anti-Muslim group of Egyptian Christians based in the US.

The strangest thing about the film, actually, is that it isn’t new. It apparently premiered this summer to an audience of fewer than ten people, and would have sunk without a trace but for the posting of the trailer online. Obviously, again, something posted online doesn’t necessarily go viral – not without a great deal of orchestrated publicity.

Let me repeat something I’ve said over and over in the past: to Muslims, abusing Muhammad is the ultimate insult. You can abuse Allah all you want – and Muslim poets and writers have done it, over and over – but Muhammad is sacrosanct. This is precisely why the Danish cartoonists targeted Muhammad in their anti-Muslim hate crusade back in 2005, and why the cartoons provoked the reaction they did. Whether you think this is a sign of immaturity or reverence or whatever doesn't matter; what matters is that by attacking Muhammad, you are guaranteeing Muslim outrage.

If, knowing this basic fact, someone goes out of their way to insult Muhammad, it can be with only one aim – to provoke a Muslim reaction.

So, this film, which failed to even draw an audience, would have vanished but for the trailer being posted – and publicised – online, right in time for an aggressive Muslim reaction, which began in Libya and Egypt and is only now slowly rippling across the Muslim world. I still haven’t seen or heard of any protests by Muslims in Pakistan, India or Bangladesh, but leave it to mullahs looking for an opportunity to stir up fires, and said reaction will inevitably come.

And who benefits from an aggressive Muslim reaction?

Well, for one thing, Al Qaeda does, because radicalisation of Muslims and anti-Western sentiment brings recruits to the cause, just as drone-bombing weddings and funerals does. And once there’s a Western occupation of Libya, the Al Qaeda gangs there can pose as national resistance heroes, and directly increase and reinforce their own influence.

For another, the Empire benefits. At a time when Islamophobia and fear-mongering had reached the point of diminishing returns, and people had begun asking the rationale for perpetual war, scenes of burning buildings and fanatical bearded men screaming slogans make for great TV propaganda. Clean-cut "Western democratic values" against Islamic obscurantism and savagery; given such a choice, which voter would choose the latter?

The Zionazi pseudostate does, because anti-Islamic sentiment can so easily be warped to anti-Iranian sentiment and cheerleading for the apartheidist occupation of Palestine. Especially at a time when the Iran war plans seem to be coming unstuck, this would be a YHWH-send. Personally, though, I don’t believe the Zionazi pseudostate had anything to do with this particular flick. The pseudostate is evil in ways hardly believable, but where its propaganda is concerned, it’s far too sophisticated for a crude effort like this. Even the most amateurish Hasbara propagandists could do better. But it's undeniable that Islamophobia translates into pro-Zionism, and Binyamin Netanyahu must be a happy man tonight.

Now, let's be clear: I’m not saying, or even implying, that the Empire orchestrated the events that have just taken place; but they did play into the hands of those who benefit, on either side, and it's only natural to wonder how the timing could be so convenient for everyone.

I need hardly mention the racism that is implicit in condemning the attack on the consulate while ignoring the devastation the Empire and its NATO vassals inflicted on Libyans in the past year. Believe it or not, if you bomb a nation, murder its leader, forcibly privatise its economy, and hand it over to terrorist gangs, people are apt to be resentful. It may be difficult to believe, but it's so.

So, this ought to be a wake-up call for those people who continue to meddle in the affairs of other countries without knowing or caring about the long-term side-effects. In Syria, they are arming, training, and financing Al Qaeda, in the full knowledge that this is what they are doing. But they will not rethink on that, and sooner rather than later the chickens will come home to roost...again.

Blowback is a bitch.

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Satan's Little Helpers: Al Qaeda and the Empire

Subtitled: My Annual Hate-Filled Anti-American Rant (as certified repeatedly, over the years, by many nice patriotic Americans and admirers of the USA).

OK, eleventh anniversary of 11/9, and what hate-filled filth do I have to spew this time round?


Anti-American Hatebag. Kind of.

One of the recurrent things one comes across in trawling the current affairs sites on the net is a sense of bafflement among so-called anti-war commentators: how is it that the United States is backing Al Qaeda terror groups in Syria? Isn’t it strange that they should be doing this?

Answer: No, it is not strange.

The simple fact, to anyone with any sense of discernment at all, is that Al Qaeda has never been anything but a tool of the Empire. Their mutual antagonism has been nothing but a bit of fairly transparent eyewash. As I’ve said elsewhere:

Old time Marxists had a term worth remembering: objective allies. It referred to forces, which while apparently at loggerheads, were united, secretly or otherwise, against a common foe. Anyone who has a fair knowledge of current affairs and a mind capable of even basic analysis can hardly come to any other conclusion but that the Empire and Al Qaeda are objective allies.

Look at the actual evidence. With the single exception of Afghanistan in 2001, the regimes overthrown (directly or indirectly) by the Empire in Muslim countries have followed a pattern. They have been secular dictatorships with a strongly socialist economy, where resources were nationalised and religious fundamentalism ruthlessly crushed. Such was the pattern in Iran with the CIA-run coup which overthrew Mohammad Mossadegh. That was the pattern in Afghanistan, where the Empire conspired with Muslim religious fundamentalists to destroy the socialist government of Najibullah. So too it went in Iraq – Saddam, for those readers who have chosen to forget, was a secular dictator under whom Christians and other religious minorities were perfectly safe...

Such was also the case in Libya, where Gaddafi had destroyed an Al Qaeda rebellion earlier. Such was the case even in Chechnya, where the West provided full backing for the Al Qaeda affiliated Islamic terrorists who fought the Russians – to this day, surviving Chechen warlords are hosted in London. Even Afghanistan, which I mentioned earlier, is fast slipping back into religious intolerance under the Western-anointed puppet government. In Pakistan, the broadly modern and secular society is under a double threat, from the Empire and the fundamentalists, who seem to work to reinforce each other.

Consider: in every one of these cases, the Empire and Al Qaeda are on the same side. Despite all the “they hate our freedoms” rhetoric, the actual target of Al Qaeda isn’t the Empire – it’s the secular Muslim governments on the one hand, more so if they dare follow socialist policies; and the corrupt and despotic Saudi monarchy on the other. The Saudi monarchy is too vital to the Empire to sacrifice. Therefore, diverting Al Qaeda’s attention to the socialist and secular Arab regimes had a twofold advantage for the Empire: it protected the Saudi royals, and at the same time it furthered the Empire’s double agenda of controlling the world’s oil deposits and strengthening the hand of the Zionazi pseudostate. The elimination of an irrelevant liability named Osama bin Laden, quite likely orchestrated by Al Qaeda itself, is neither here nor there.

What, ultimately, was the effect of the 11/9 attacks on the World Trade Centres? Wasn’t it the opening up of Iraq to Al Qaeda activity, and the energising of Sunni fundamentalist terrorism around the globe? Isn’t “stopping Al Qaeda” the excuse behind virtually every single occupation or intervention the West is running in a Muslim nation today, from Yemen to Somalia, from northern Nigeria to Afghanistan, even where there is no evidence that Al Qaeda even exists?

It’s a strange thing that so few have noted the recurrent pattern: the Empire gets itself in a spot of bother, and Al Qaeda is on hand to help. Let’s consider a few cases:

New York/Afghanistan, 2001: The Empire is looking for a casus belli to launch the takeover of what Americans like to call the “Middle East”, with its oil and pipeline routes.  It requires a “Pearl Harbour Moment”, something so shocking that most people can be dragged along in a wave of “manufactured consent”. Unfortunately, such a moment seems difficult to arrange until...

Until, on the morning of 11 September, alleged Al Qaeda terrorists hijack four airliners and use three of them in kamikaze attacks on the World Trade Centre towers and the Pentagon. Donald Rumsfeld declares that the time has come to “sweep up matters, related or not,” and the Empire invades and occupies Afghanistan, routs the Taliban, and sets up a puppet regime.

One of the most interesting things about this invasion, of course, was the simple fact that (as even Fox News admits), over 90% of the Afghan people have not, to this day, heard of the 11/9 attacks, which, even according to the official account, were planned and executed in Germany and Florida, not in Afghanistan. Even according to the official accounts, Al Qaeda is a decentralised entity comprising franchises strung out across the globe, so invading Afghanistan was hardly ever going to destroy it. But it would damage the Taliban, and possibly destroy it.

Now why should the destruction of the Taliban be something the Empire should desire? Contrary to the general perception, the Taliban are not Al Qaeda. The two organisations are completely distinct, and did not even like each other very much in the years before 2001. The Taliban hated Al Qaeda’s version of puritan Saudi-style Islam and disregard for local customs; the Al Qaeda thought of the Taliban as brutal, uncivilised savages. Taliban leaders were, by the late 1990s, agitating for Osama bin Laden and his men to be kicked out of Afghanistan, and Mullah Omar had responded by virtually placing the latter under open arrest. And after the alleged 11/9 attacks, Mullah Omar had offered to hand over Osama bin Laden for trial if proof of his guilt was given. It certainly wasn’t his fault that the Empire gave no such proof (and has not, to this day).

In fact, had it not been for 11/9, the Taliban would likely have taken over all of Afghanistan in short order (though I do not believe they could have held on to it for long). Just two days earlier, they had finally killed the top opposition commander, Ahmed Shah Masood, and stood poised to drive the Northern Alliance warlords into defeat and exile. And once they did, once they were, at least temporarily, the undisputed masters of Afghanistan, would they require Al Qaeda? Not likely.

So, was the fall of the Taliban bad news for Al Qaeda? Hardly.

Nor was it bad news for the Empire. It had long wanted pipelines from the ‘stans of Central Asia through Afghanistan and Pakistan, pipelines for which it had been negotiating with the Taliban until 1998, but which the accursed group had decided to grant to Argentina’s BRIDAS, not the Empire’s UNOCAL (vide Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: The Story Of The Afghan Warlords). After the fall of the Taliban government in Kabul, a UNOCAL employee, Hamid Karzai, was imported as puppet President, and the BRIDAS agreement tossed in the wastebasket. Also, occupying Afghanistan helped the Empire to surround Iran, and threaten the underbelly of Russia (still its long-term target) and the western frontier of its next opponent, China.

Also, the “strikes” helped fuel Islamophobia in the homeland, which in turn facilitated the introduction of a surveillance state, the kind of thing we used to be told was the hallmark of the Evil Communist Empire, and massively increased expenditure on the military industrial complex; expenditure it might have been impossible to justify otherwise.

Really, the (alleged) 11/9 strike by Al Qaeda was so convenient! How nicely it worked out for everyone, and how conveniently Osama bin Laden was allowed to escape from Tora Bora when surrounded and ready for annihilation. If he was eliminated, after all, how could one justify an occupation?*

One couldn’t.

Another extremely interesting thing about the entire 2001 “World Trade Centre Attack” episode is how Al Qaeda’s response to it. I don’t want to get into a digression on the likelihood of the two WTC towers and Building 7’s collapse here, or of the many discrepancies of the Pentagon attack; but let’s say there are at least reasonable grounds for debate as to what really happened on that occasion. Whether Al Qaeda was or was not responsible for those attacks, though, they did arouse worldwide revulsion, including in Muslim nations, and were the direct excuse the Empire used to invade and destroy Afghanistan and Iraq, while destabilising Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. So, it might be assumed that Al Qaeda would rather play the victim card here, and duck responsibility? It might even so easily pass on blame to the Zionists, for instance; after all, Zionist agents were caught watching and celebrating the strikes. Right?

 Wrong. Amazingly (at least it’s amazing if you believe the official story) Al Qaeda is eager to take credit for that episode, and has threatened doubters, including the government of Iran, with “dire consequences” for daring to dispute its authorship of that terrorist crime. Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice said to herself.

And yet another interesting thing was that the FBI was specifically ordered not to investigate terror links, which might have tracked down Al Qaeda networks. One might think their bosses wanted a major terrorist attack.

Without Al Qaeda, in fact, wherefore the Global War Of Terror?

Let’s move on a bit to another interesting episode:

Iraq, 2003-7: In 2003, the Empire – alleging complicity between the hardline secular government of Iraq and the fundamentalist Al Qaeda – invaded Iraq. Though organised Iraqi resistance, weakened by over twelve years of sanctions and undeclared but constant war, quickly collapsed, the soldiers went home with their weapons and within days began an increasingly successful guerrilla war against the occupation. By 2005, in fact, the Empire’s occupation troops were on the ropes.

But what happened? A Jordanian named Abu-Musab Al-Zarqawi set up an Al Qaeda franchise called Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, obtained the approval of bin Laden, and ignited a vicious sectarian civil war. Car bombs and massacres of civilians became the order of the day, and instead of fighting the occupation, the Shia and Sunni of Iraq began fighting each other. By the time Al-Zarqawi was eliminated, he had outlived his usefulness; the civil war was in full swing, and the two sides were making deals with the Empire in order to be left alone to fight each other. In fact, it’s interesting to note that, before his capture, Saddam Hussein himself had released a message warning the people of Iraq of the danger posed by the foreign jihadists. He was not wrong.

By 2007, then, the threat to the occupation had passed. The Empire felt emboldened enough to build an embassy bigger than Vatican City in Baghdad, and planned on a permanent occupation. Occasionally, expendable occupation troops (basically poverty draftees) were still being killed, but by 2007 the Shia and Sunni were too busy fighting each other to care about the Empire, and, in fact, their internecine fighting was cited as a reason for the Empire to maintain its occupation.

It would be four more years before the Empire was forced to withdraw, and then it was because the Iraqi government no longer wished to give the occupation forces immunity from prosecution, not because of the resistance.

Once again, Al Qaeda had come to the defence of Empire.

Yemen, Somalia, et al. Again and again, in Africa and West Asia, we have seen a pattern: a strategically located nation with a client regime threatens to slip out of the Empire’s grasp. In response, Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda-affiliated units spring up like mushrooms after the rain, virtually “forcing” the Empire to intervene militarily, whether directly or via proxies like Ethiopia. Result: the strategically important nation remains firmly in the Empire’s grasp.

We’ve even seen it in Nigeria, where a collection of comical goons called Boko Haram, who declared that it was “un-Islamic” to believe in a round earth or to use weapons more advanced than bows and arrows, was built up into a “potent threat” by the government, its leaders massacred, and the rest of the membership driven into hiding, where they decided that guns and bombs were necessary, un-Islamic or not, and began a genuine terror campaign. At which stage they were declared Al Qaeda affiliates, and therefore northern Nigeria a deserving case for Western attention.

Farcical terror “attacks” in the Empire: I’ve alluded above to the utility of Al Qaeda as an excuse for the Empire to install a police surveillance state at home. It’s aided and abetted by repeated – but incredibly incompetent – Al Qaeda terror attacks, which fizzle pathetically. The same Al Qaeda which can manufacture undetectable intestine bombs is reduced to underwear explosives? Just whom do those idiotic plots benefit?

So, it’s not exactly surprising that in Libya, and now in Syria, Al Qaeda and the Empire should be openly on the same side. In fact, it would have been astonishing if they hadn’t.

And, on the eleventh anniversary of 11/9, the fact that Imperial medics should be treating Al Qaeda casualties in Syria isn’t strange, at all, at all.

Eleven years after 11/9, there are calls to put the Global War Of Terror away. But that won't happen.

It's, after all, just too convenient to everyone.

*Assuming one believes that Osama bin Laden was actually killed as described in May 2011, despite all the holes in that story, even that fits neatly in the narrative. By 2011, the Imperial occupation of Afghanistan had run into serious trouble, the Taliban were resurgent, and the Nobel Peace Prizident desperately needed a boost in his ratings. What better opportunity to sacrifice a figurehead who had grown to be an irrelevant liability?