Serge Trifkovic hits the nail on the head in Chronicles. "It is to be feared that in the aftermath of the worst terrorist outrage in history the duopoly in Washington has learnt nothing and forgot nothing. The war against terror needs to be rethought before it is effectively lost. As it is currently conceived it can never be won." (Thanks to Jim.)
The best way to determine the course of a war is to look at the offensive potential of the warring parties. After Stalingrad it was obvious that Germany was doomed: having lost the strategic initiative a year earlier at the gates of Moscow, for the remaining two years of bloodshed the Reich was on a downward slide that ended in the ruins of Berlin. After the debacle at Vienna in 1683 the Ottoman Empire rapidly declined and, for the last century of its existence, depended on the good will of a cynical Great Britain for survival; for three subsequent centuries the West was safe from Islam. After Gettysburg the Confederacy bravely fought on for 20 months but it could no longer hope to take the war to the Union’s heartland.
No such luck with Islamic terrorists. Two and a half years after 9-11 their backbone is far from broken. That they are more numerous, more successful in attracting scores of fresh (and mostly very young) recruits, more widely spread, and generally more dangerous today than in the immediate aftermath of terrorist attacks, cannot be seriously denied. A brief survey of the events of the past four weeks alone reveals a very grim picture.
A GRIM CHRONOLOGY
March 11: Almost 200 commuters were killed and 1,400 others wounded on Madrid’s trains in a simultaneous attack on three separate targets now known to have been the work of Jihadists.
March 14: An unexpected Socialist victory in Spain’s general election provided the first instance of a Jihadist terror attack materially affecting political process in a major Western country.
March 15: The mayor of London, Ken Livingstone said “it would be a miracle” if London escaped terrorist attacks. Sir John Stevens, Metropolitan Police Commissioner and Britain’s most senior police officer, said that a major terrorist attack in the UK is “inevitable.”
March 16: A group calling itself “Servants of Allah, the Powerful and Wise One” threatened to attack targets in France unless its government repealed a law banning the Islamic headscarf in state schools. In a letter to Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin the group declared that it would “sow the seeds of terror in the hearts of the French.” Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said the letter pledged to reverse the victory of Charles Martel over the Muslims at Poitiers in A.D. 732.
March 18: Simon Clegg, the chief executive of the British Olympic Association, raised the possibility of withdrawing the British team from the Olympic Games in Athens this summer because of terrorist threats.
March 19: Security sources in the U.S. express concern that the Olympic village, on the coast outside Athens, could be vulnerable to attack. There is widespread disquiet on both sides of the Atlantic about the readiness of the Greeks to deal with terrorist threat.
March 20: Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf said that a “high value” target was believed trapped near the Afghan border, and senior Pakistani officials indicated it was Osama bin Laden’s first deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
March 24: An audio tape, calling for the overthrow of Musharraf and attributed to al-Zawahiri, is broadcast by Al-Jazeera TV.
March 25: The CIA concluded that the audiotape was probably authentic. The Pakistani army’s offensive is bogged down and suspected terrorists escape to Afghanistan.
March 26: FBI chief Robert Mueller says he is concerned about terrorist attacks this summer on one or even both of the forthcoming political conventions, the Democrats’ in Boston in late July and the Republicans’ in New York a month later. Alluding to the Madrid bombings three days before the Spanish elections, Mueller said terrorists may “wish to influence events.”
March 28-31: Forty-seven people are killed in a spate of suicide bombings and gun-battles between the police and Islamic militants in Uzbekistan. Foreign terrorist groups were said to be involved. In 2001 Uzbekistan became a key ally in Mr. Bush’s “war on terror,” giving U.S. forces the use of a major airbase for the war in neighboring Afghanistan.
March 29: Canadian police arrested Mohammad Momin Khawaja, a 24-year-old Canadian citizen from Ottawa, for allegedly “enhancing the ability of a terrorist group to facilitate or carry out” terrorist attacks. Khawaja was subsequently linked to raids in London a day later that led to the seizure of bomb-making chemicals.
March 30: British police arrested eight young men of Pakistani origin—all of them UK-born British citizens ranging in age from 17 to 32—and seized more than half a ton of fertilizer that is used to make explosives from a self-storage unit near Heathrow Airport. Iqbal Secranie, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Great Britain, said the arrests did not necessarily mean police had uncovered a genuine terrorist plot.
March 31: As preparations for the NATO summit in Istanbul on June 28-29 get under way, U.S. authorities reportedly asked Turkey to pass command of the city’s air, land, and sea traffic to the U.S. during the summit. (It is noteworthy that two weeks before NATO, Istanbul will host the top-level meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference).
April 1: Italian police arrested 161 people related to Islamic extremist groups in a nationwide raid in 12 of Italy’s 20 regions. Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu said that the police received “accurate information” about possible attacks on Rome under the orders from al-Qaeda.
April 2: Spanish police found a 24-pound bomb under a high-speed rail line between Madrid and Seville. A railway maintenance worker spotted the device connected to a detonator by a 500-foot cable. Spain’s super-fast trains that travel at almost 200 miles per hour regularly use the line.
On the same day the United States announced that it would start fingerprinting travelers from a further 27 countries, including the European Union and Australia, who had been allowed to travel within the US without visas for up to 90 days. The new rule is understood to be due to the fact that many potential Islamic terrorists—such as the London Eight—are immigrants from the Muslim world or their European-born descendants who hold EU passports.
Also on April 2 the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning to law enforcement agencies, local governments and the transportation industry that bombs hidden in luggage could be used in a plot to attack buses and railways in major American cities this summer: “Al Qaeda and other groups have demonstrated the intent and capability to attack public transportation with conventional explosives, vehicle-borne bombs and suicide bombers.”
April 3: Four suspected Islamic terrorists and a Spanish policeman die in a raid on an apartment in a Madrid suburb. On the same day British Home Secretary David Blunkett said that a booklet instructing people what to do in a terrorist attack would be sent by the UK government to every household in the country. The decision reflects the heightened risk of an attack on British soil.
April 4: 20 Iraqis and 4 Salvadorean soldiers died as Spanish-led troops in the Iraqi city of Najaf fought the “Mehdi Army,” an Islamic militia loyal to radical Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Sadr’s comment: “Terrorize your enemy, God will reward you well for what pleases him.”
WITH VICTORIES LIKE THESE…
A month from now a similar list will be compiled, with new names, new locations, and new victims. Some plots are uncovered and will continue to be foiled, others are anticipated, and a few will succeed. It is a safe bet that for every Jihadist in custody there are a few more at large, and that we’ll see more Madrids in the months and years to come.
On this form the Western world cannot afford to continue “winning” the war on terror for long. The global reach and operational capability of Islamist terror cells is growing. Jihad is alive and well, it is capable of simultaneous attacks in different countries, and it presents a growing threat to the United States. Al-Qaeda and its loosely linked offshoots are fielding a second generation of terrorists, many of them born to the Muslim diaspora in the Western world. The decentralized pattern of new threats makes counter-terrorist measures exceedingly difficult. There is no command and control system to disrupt: just self-motivated groups of young men (and women) deeply embedded in Western host-societies and ready to die so that the infidel may die.
And yet top Bush Administration officials and the President himself remain upbeat about winning the War on Terror. Administration officials may be right when they claim that most of al Qaeda’s senior operatives have been captured or killed, but the claim is essentially meaningless. Well over one-half Viet Cong’s activist core of 1965 were dead by the end of the war in Vietnam, but fresh recruits from an inexhaustible pool quickly replenished their ranks and ensured eventual victory.
The “War on Terror” is not going well because its fundamentals have not been properly considered. The ongoing proceedings before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States—the “9-11 Commission”—demonstrate much that is wrong with its basic assumptions. The bipartisan ten-member commission has asked all kinds of supposedly hard and probing questions of top officials past and present: Colin Powell and his predecessor Madeleine Albright; Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz; Clinton’s defense secretary William Cohen and national security adviser Samuel Berger; and the former White House counter-terrorism expert Richard Clarke who—two days before his testimony—published a book taking Bush to task for his alleged failure to deal adequately with the terrorist threat. It will soon question Bush’s national security advisor Condoleeza Rice, which the White House had long tried to prevent.
In all those hundreds of hours of testimony the Commission never probed the basis of policy and history that could help explain the problem of terrorism and thus help prevent new tragedies in the future. Three primary and at least five secondary areas of major concern remained unexplored. The primary ones were this country’s immigration policy, the nature of Islam, and the strategy of global dominance. The secondary ones concerned the shortcomings and terrorism-related nuances of U.S. policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in the Balkans, vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, and on the issue of NATO enlargement.
THE FIFTH COLUMN GLOSSED OVER
Testifying before the Commission the widow of one of 9-11 victims criticized the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) for granting visas to 15 of the 19 hijackers who were “single, idle young adults with no specific destination in the United States,” the “classic overstay candidates” whose visa application forms were incomplete and incorrect. Other witnesses have criticized the lack of coordination between the INS and other agencies and suggested certain improvements in operational procedures. Their focus was invariably on the “failures” of the system’s functioning, not on the possible flaws of its ideological tenets.
The existence of a large Muslim diaspora in the United States and elsewhere in the Western world was treated as a given. One testimony specifically addressing this issue came from Dr. Abou El Fadl, a devout Muslim and UCLA professor described as “one of the leading authorities in Islamic law in the United States.” El Fadl asserted that, “as with all of the immigrant groups, many American Muslims bring with them dreams of liberty and justice” and he insisted that the war against terrorism demanded “actively resisting and guarding against the alienation of any part of our citizenry.” His assertions, that the “citizenry” was legitimately Muslim in part, and that it should be drafted into the common effort in defense of the United States against terrorism, were not challenged. The underlying multiculturalist assumptions of the immigration policy that had allowed the establishment and growth of this particular segment of “our citizenry” were not critically scrutinized.
In reality the existence of the multi-million-strong Muslim diaspora in the U.S. and elsewhere in the Western world—from Madrid to Montreal, from Buffalo to Berlin—provides the terrorists with the recruits, the infrastructure, and the relative invisibility without which they would not be able to operate. This is the only immigrant group that harbors a substantial segment of individuals who share the key objectives with the terrorists, even if they do not all approve of their methods. A sizeable minority of them wishes to transform the United States of America into a Caliphate and to replace the Constitution with the Sharia by whatever means. A coherent long-term counter-terrorist strategy, therefore, must entail denying Islam the foothold inside the West. But the notion of cultural and religious criteria in determining the eligibility of prospective immigrants is ideologically unacceptable to the ruling American establishment—to the Commission’s panelists and witnesses alike.
NOT KNOWING THY ENEMY
Closely related was the Commission’s failure to address the phenomenon of Islam, and in particular to examine Islam’s impact on its adherents as a political ideology and a program of action. The notion that terrorism is an aberration of Mohammedanism, and not a predictable consequence of the ideology of Jihad, reflected a firmly-rooted bipartisan consensus. The Commission’s behavior again appeared ideological in nature and dogmatic in application. Were it no so, former President Clinton would have been asked to explain his statement to the U.N. General Assembly, made almost exactly three years before 9-11, that “there is no inherent clash between Islam and America.” Were it not so, President George W. Bush would have been asked to explain his often repeated assertion that Islam is a “religion of peace,” that “we know [sic!] that Islam is fully compatible with liberty and tolerance and progress” and that “terrorists who claim Islam as their inspiration defile one of the world's great faiths.”
There are two possibilities here: either Presidents Clinton and Bush and others knew the truth about Islam but pretended otherwise for political reasons, and the Commission quietly understood their need for diplomatic prudence and made the pragmatic decision not to dwell on the issue; or they meant what they said, and the Commission regarded their statements as unremarkable and therefore unworthy of scrutiny.
The former could have been the case in another era, when Western decision-making elites shared an instinctive understanding of who they were and what they were defending. Had they striven to draw the distinction between the “moderate, mainstream” Communists and the “extreme” subversive fringe in the 1950s the Cold War would have been lost. But such robust sense of the self no longer applies in the bipartisan multiculturalist paradigm, and for that reason neither the present Administration nor its immediate predecessors could develop a coherent conceptual image of the adversary without which there could be no viable anti-terrorist strategy. Clinton’s hope to co-opt Islam into a consumerist post-national global village is indistinguishable from Bush’s hope to domesticate Islam under the aegis of a nondenominational deism. Both attempts will continue to fail, but this failure has not been admitted by the Commission.
The third key problem that remained unexamined concerned the link between terrorism and the commitment of the United States to the unrestrained projection of her power everywhere in the world. That commitment, asserted with Bill Clinton’s Kosovo war in 1999, was made official in the National Security Strategy unveiled in September 2002. In a forum supposedly devoted to asking hard questions and “grilling” the respondents it was at least worth asking Mr. Rumsfeld’s or Dr. Wolfowitz’s opinion whether the terrorist threat to America is in any way correlated to the policy of global hegemony implicit in that Strategy, which is largely their brainchild. But on this important issue the Commission was blinkered by the ideology of American exceptionalism—an eminently bipartisan delusion, both in its Clintonian form of “humanitarian interventionism” and in its neoconservative form of global hegemonism. Having internalized such assumptions the Commission was as likely to offer useful insights on the war against terror as Ptolemaic astronomy was able to explain the motions of planetary bodies.
THE INVISIBLE ELEPHANTS IN THE ROOM
When it came to the secondary issues of specific policies, the most important of all—Israel—was strangely absent from the Commission’s deliberations. Different aspects of the U.S. policy in the Middle East were mentioned in various testimonies, but nobody asked the one question that is the mother of all others: is America’s “special relationship” with Israel in any way connected to the terrorist threat? The bipartisan assumption was unstated but clear: the United States should continue to provide open-ended and near-unconditional support to Israel because our unsinkable aircraft carrier is at war with the same terrorists as us.
This may well be true, but an open-minded Commission should not assume a priori that it is true. It should look, without prejudice, into the possibility that a different, less passionate relationship would be beneficial to a long-term anti-terrorist strategy, by reducing the perception of a permanent American bias in Middle Eastern affairs that breeds rage that fuels terrorism. But just as it had failed to look into the option of denying Islamic fifth columnists a foothold at home, the Commission did not explore the ways to stop alienating over one billion Muslims abroad. The possibility that U.S. foreign policy should be reassessed in order to avoid creating conditions for specifically anti-American Islamic hostility was left untouched.
It is perhaps less significant but equally noteworthy that the entire Clinton team was allowed to go through hours of testimony without a single question being asked about the assumptions and objectives of the administration’s policy in the Balkans in 1993-2001. The policy of single-minded support for Bosnian and Albanian Muslims had turned the Balkans from a protectorate of the New World Order into an Islamic threat to Western interests; the evidence is overwhelming and familiar to the readers of Chronicles. Clinton’s intervention in the Balkans resulted in the strengthening of an already aggressive Islamic base in the heart of Europe that is by now all but permanent. He was still in the White House back in 2000 when a highly classified State Department report—released in the aftermath of 9-11—warned that the Muslim-controlled areas of Bosnia had become a safe haven for Islamic terrorists who threaten Europe and the U.S., and who were protected by the Muslim government in Sarajevo. Not a single major terrorist outrage of recent years, most recently in Madrid, was devoid of a Bosnian connection.
The culpability is not only Clinton’s: the problem of collusion between U.S. administrations and Islamic radicals harks back to the support Bin Laden and other fundamentalist Muslims received from Washington following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979. Admittedly, at the height of the Cold War, Carter’s and Reagan’s advisors could argue that the “blowback” was a risk at least arguably worth taking. A quarter of a century later, however, it is essential to spell out and to rectify more recent blunders of a similar nature. If the War Against Terror is to have any meaning at all, the 9-11 Commission should have investigated the fact that throughout the 1990’s, the U.S. government aided and abetted al-Qa’eda operations in the Balkans, long after it was recognized as a major security threat to the United States. That this did not happen is largely due to both parties having been guilty of providing effective support for Islamic ambitions in pursuit of short-term political or military objectives.
STOP APPEASING COVERT ROGUES
The moving spirit behind the spread of militant Islam throughout the Western world is in Muhammad’s homeland, Saudi Arabia, the home to the Muslim World League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Both organizations, and a myriad of ostensibly private charities devoted to Islamic proselytism, are richly endowed by petrodollars from Saudi Arabia’s narrow, ultra-rich ruling kleptocracy.
American politicians have lied about Saudi Arabia for too long. Even Mr. Rumsfeld, normally not a mealy-mouthed man, on a visit to Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of 9-11 appeared strangely evasive on the issue of Saudi funds for Islamic terror. And yet as far back as 1996 a CIA report found that a third of the 50 Saudi-backed charities it studied were tied to terrorist groups. Two years later, according to a feature in U.S. News & World Report (December 15, 2003), the National Security Council pointed at the Saudi government as “the epicenter” of terrorist financing, becoming “the single greatest force in spreading Islamic fundamentalism” and “funneling hundreds of millions of dollars to jihad groups and al Qaeda cells around the world.”
The practice of appeasement of the desert kingdom is inexplicably continuing. Last summer, while congressional committees were gathering evidence for a bipartisan report on terrorist attacks in September 2001, the Administration acted rapidly and decisively to classify a section of the report that covered the delicate subject of Saudi Arabia’s links to 9-11. It was reported at the time that secret parts of the congressional report looked into certain Saudi businessmen and members of the royal family who may have aided and abetted al-Qaida or the suicide hijackers. According to a leaked CIA memorandum, there was “incontrovertible evidence that there is support for these terrorists” at the highest places in Riyyadh. Addressing a joint House-Senate intelligence inquiry in a closed hearing in October 2002, FBI Director Robert Mueller acknowledged that he had learned from Congress about new evidence: “some facts came to light here and to me, frankly, that had not come to light before.”
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is not only the most intolerant Islamic regime in the world; it is also the most powerful and explicit anti-Christian nation on the face of the earth. On both counts it must be brought to heel, now, or else its degenerate ruling clique will be swept away by the likes of Bin Laden.
With Pakistan the score is even more alarming. What was the greater threat to this country’s national security, one may legitimately ask: Iraq’s alleged intention to make plans for eventual development of certain illegal weapons, or a long-term pattern of widespread nuclear technology proliferation by Pakistan—a nuclear power in its own right—from which the main beneficiaries have been three nations (North Kore, Iran, and Libya) singled out by President Bush and his team as members of an “axis of evil” and active promoters of terrorism?
President Bush’s long-standing pretense that the government of General Musharraf is an essential ally in the “War on Terror” and a key non-NATO ally is a dangerous self-delusion. In the same spirit of denial, two years ago Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared that the United States was not concerned about the potential for misuse of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. In another context such claims could be acceptable as a political expedient vis-à-vis a major Muslim power, but in view of recent revelations concerning Dr. Khan’s proliferation network it would be dangerous for the U.S. Administration to continue believing its own propaganda.
Mr. Bush’s stated objective of seeing Pakistan develop into a “moderate” Islamic state cannot be advanced if Washington continues to turn a blind eye to the transgressions of the regime in Islamabad. Pakistan’s establishment is steeped in Islamic ideology. The army is commanded by officers whose loyalties are divided at best and inimical to Western interests, as was apparent in the fiasco the army suffered in the tribal areas along the Afghan border in recent weeks. Some cooperation with Pakistan in anti-terrorist campaign is perhaps inevitable, just as various Cold War alliances with nasty Third World regimes were sometimes necessary, but the relationship should not go beyond the pragmatic, give-and-take link based on limited objectives.
The facts surrounding Saudi and Pakistani transgressions continue to be clouded by American denials and the feigned optimism that have characterized Washington’s relations with the Muslim world for decades. As long as those two countries’ Islamic character is explicitly upheld, they cannot develop an efficient economy or build a civilized polity. They will remain to be an unstable burden, not an asset, to the United States.
The Bush administration strategy of using military means and dubious power alliances to fight the widespread hatred against the West has failed, including support for “friendly” Islamic regimes such as those in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Those regimes are unsustainable and their change should be either actively managed now, or observed with powerless chagrin later. Continuing appeasement of royal kleptocrats in Riyyadh and duplicitous Islamists in uniform in Islamabad does nothing to help the Muslim world come out of its state of deep denial about its responsibility for its own condition, the denial as irrational as the culture that breeds it.
LEARNING FROM PAST MISTAKES
The establishment of a national commission to investigate terrorist attacks upon the United States was a good idea. It could have been the forum for thinking the unthinkable and making America safer in the process. The decision to appoint to its panel ten political insiders who belong to different parties but share the same culture, values, and prejudices with the prospective witnesses reflected the determination of the Duopoly to prevent any such boldness. The Commission has avoided key issues, and failed America. Its report is yet to be issued, but its tone can be predicted. It will apportion blame for the details, there will be a lot of partisan haggling and horse-trading in the course of its drafting, the Democrats may even issue a minority report blaming Bush. As for the real questions and meaningful survival strategies, there will be none.
It is to be feared that in the aftermath of the worst terrorist outrage in history the duopoly in Washington has learnt nothing and forgot nothing. The war against terror needs to be rethought before it is effectively lost. As it is currently conceived it can never be won.