Zbigniew Brzezinski is a man with a complex legacy. The tenth National Security Advisor to the President of the United States, Brzezinski was born in Poland in 1928 and is was active in politics, teaching and appearing for expert analysis on several news programs until his death in 2017.
His surname also might sound familiar to many, as his daughter Mika Brzezinski co-hosts the news program Morning Joe on MSNBC.
Under Zbigniew Brzezinski’s four-year tenure in the Carter administration, the geopolitical tectonic plates of the world shifted dramatically as the U.S. normalized relations with the People’s Republic of China, hosted the Camp David Accords, and lost the support of Iran when its regime was overthrown.
Amidst his long resume of impressive feats, one of Brzezinski’s lesser known and most ill-advised foreign policy forays turned out to be funding the rebel Mujahideen group in hopes they would drag the Soviet Union into a long, costly quagmire in the Middle East.
With the blessing of President Carter, Brzezinski flew to Pakistan in 1979 prior to the Soviet invasion and began to coordinate a joint response with the intent to “make the Soviets bleed for as much and as long as is possible.”
In addition to arranging coordination between the CIA, ISI (Pakistani secret service), MI6, Saudi Arabia, and other parties that was subsequently used to funnel roughly billions of U.S. dollars to the Mujahideen, Brzezinski gave a brief speech to the group while on his visit, telling them, “your cause is right, and God is on your side. Your fight will prevail.”
As he pointed to Afghanistan, he said “that land over there is yours. You’ll go back to it one day.” For Brzezinski, it’s clear that making the Soviets bleed was personal. He once bragged that he was “the first Pole in 300 years in a position to really stick it to the Russians.”
Although he ultimately may have achieved his goal of baiting the Soviet Union into a drawn out conflict with the Mujahideen, in his short-sighted quest for vengeance Brzezinski also stoked the fire of Islamic fanaticism that would grow out of control in subsequent decades.
The Mujahideen, whose name roughly translates to “one engaged in Jihad”, went on to evolve into al-Qaeda, the group infamous for perpetrating the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon which killed 2,996 people and injured over 6,000.
While the armed extremists were obviously no longer receiving any U.S. funding by the time they had evolved into al-Qaeda, or any of the other Jihadist organizations to follow, the question of whether Osama bin Laden (who fought against the Soviets in the ’80s) would have been able to orchestrate the attacks without our previous support still lingers.
Considering that numerous popular conspiracy theories center around the idea that the 9/11 attacks were actually a false-flag operation staged by the U.S. government, there’s a certain degree of irony inherent in the fact that U.S. officials are culpable — only in a more indirect, unintentional way.
Conspiracy theories are oddly comforting to those who believe them because they generally adhere to a narrative in which powerful interests are pulling strings left and right, manipulating every outcome with ultimate precision.
The reality — that the world is mostly run by a bunch of semi-competent people trying to settle old scores — is far from reassuring.
Given the CIA’s role in funding, arming, and training the Mujahideen, it’s also worth noting the irony of the fact that the very intelligence establishment we task with protecting national security, which was massively expanded in response to 9/11, also played a role in creating the precipitating circumstances that caused 9/11.