August 06, 2003

Bumbling Bush may have Given Osama an Open Goal

(8/5/03) Meanwhile, terrorists have bombed a hospital in Russia
and a hotel in Indonesia. Al-Qaeda and its allies are
alive and well, in large part due to the _resident's
moral bankruptcy on Isreal/Palestine and his foolish,
unnecessary invasion and occupation of Iraq. Yes, he
took his eye off the ball, yes, and he gutted the
Federal coffers for *two* disasterous tax cuts and an
expensive, no-win war in Iraq while vital Homeland
Security issues have gone underfunded or ignored. Here
is an excellent analysis from America's best
newspaper, the UK Guardian...

Published on Monday, August 4, 2003 by the Guardian/UK

Bumbling Bush may have Given Osama an Open Goal:
The Old-style Tactics used in the 'War on Terror' Won't Work on Al-Qaida

by Simon Tisdall

Fear of attack, rather than the attack itself, is the
terrorist's most potent weapon. And despite all the
declared successes of George Bush's "war on terror",
fear of major new outrages by al-Qaida and its
partners in mayhem is once again on the rise.

The immediate question, as ever, is how to prevent
such attacks before they happen. The larger question
is why, after Afghanistan and Iraq and everything else
that has been said and done by western leaders since
9/11, this threat apparently remains so omnipresent -
and so scary.

The past few days alone have brought fresh warnings
whose non-specific nature only intensifies the vague,
nagging sense of menace. In Washington, the Department
of Homeland Security raised the specter of renewed
suicide hijackings. Another 9/11-style attack "could
be executed by the end of the summer 2003", it said.
"Attack venues may include the United Kingdom ... or
the east coast of the United States."

US opinion polls indicating falling confidence in
Bush's conduct of the "war on terror" found an echo at
the UN. Heraldo Munoz, chairman of the al-Qaida
sanctions committee, said international collaboration
was slipping.

Only 30% of UN members were meeting their obligation
to report al-Qaida movements and financing, he said.
"Individuals or entities associated with al-Qaida"
were still able to acquire weapons and explosives
where and when they needed them, as shown by several
recent attacks.

Inocencio Arias, chief of the UN's counter-terrorism
committee, was hardly more encouraging in a week when
a Congressional inquiry criticized 9/11 intelligence
failures. "After two years, a lot of people are
sleeping again," Arias said. Withholding assistance
would be a less tactful way of putting it.

In London, meanwhile, the Commons foreign affairs
committee warned that Osama bin Laden still has the
capability "to lead and guide the organization towards
further atrocities". The committee also finally
reached a conclusion that opponents of the Iraq
invasion arrived at long ago: that "the war in Iraq
might in fact have impeded the war against al-Qaida",
in part by attracting recruits. In any event, threat
levels had not been significantly reduced.

The reasons why al-Qaida and like-minded groups have
survived the post-9/11 onslaught are discussed by
Harvard's Jessica Stern in the latest issue of Foreign
Affairs. Al-Qaida has shown a surprising ability to
adapt, she argues, by forging new local and regional
alliances, embracing additional objectives, changing
tactics and eschewing formal hierarchies to encourage
"leaderless resistance".

If they are ever to defang and defuse the
"totalitarian Islamist revivalism" that constitutes
al-Qaida's main inspiration and appeal, Stern says,
the US and its allies must exhibit similar
adaptability and innovation and more imaginative
remedies for east-west alienation.

It is at this point that the doubts about Bush's
divisive and frequently crude leadership of the "war
on terror" come more sharply into focus. Bush is
accused of many things - but never of being
imaginative. From the very start, and despite much
spin and waffle about fighting a new kind of conflict
by unconventional means, Bush has opted for the

In Afghanistan, nebulous al-Qaida networks posed a
complex and subtle challenge. Bush's solution? Invade
the country and overthrow its rulers. The Taliban may
have had it coming; but that is hardly the point. This
was the old-style "overwhelming force" approach long
favored by US presidents, Daddy Bush included.

The Iraq campaign was conducted, for whatever reason
(and many were given), on much the same principle:
kick the door down, then charge in - and to hell with
the wider consequences. While such behavior brings
quick, short-term results and may be superficially
gratifying, innovative or imaginative it definitely is

These tactics bear little relation to an effective
defense against terrorism in the round, let alone to
tackling its root causes. Many al-Qaida in Afghanistan
were merely dispersed; now they are returning. As for
Iraq, they were never there in the first place.

Deputy Pentagon chief Paul Wolfowitz still insists
that "Iraq is the central battle in the war on
terror". In reality, he is now trying disingenuously
to redefine all Iraqi opponents of US occupation as
"terrorists" - as somehow one and the same as the
people who blew up Manhattan. It won't wash.

The continuing cost of Iraq in terms of ruptured
alliances, global tension, economic disruption, Muslim
animosity and the daily grief of both occupiers and
occupied surely gives great comfort to America's true
ideological and cultural enemies. How they must gloat.

The UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, tried in his
usual calming way to put some pieces back together
last week. He called for a new sense of common
endeavor among nations repelled by Bush's policies in
order to meet the challenges posed by global
terrorism. Even as he spoke, Bush, discussing
Palestine with Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon by
his side, was busy leading his terror crusade down its
next blind alley.

Sharon has long sought to portray Israel's conflict
with the Palestinians as part and parcel of the US-led
"war on terror". Judging by his latest comments, Bush
has entirely embraced this view. Terrorism was the
issue that overrode all others, he suggested; and
peace was conditional on the prior dismantling of all
terrorist groups - Sharon's position exactly.

The fundamental flaw in this approach is that, unlike
Bush and Sharon, most of the world does not regard
Palestinian resistance to occupation in the same light
as the activities of al-Qaida and allied transnational
groups with their much broader, insurrectionary aims.

Palestinian grievances are specific, easily understood
and well-rehearsed. The likes of Hamas and Islamic
Jihad are utterly wrong to attack Israeli civilians.
But by lumping together Palestinian hardliners with
far more virulent international terrorist gangs, Bush
confuses the two issues to the detriment of solutions
to both.

This blurring of distinctions actually fans extremism
and polarization and the sort of foreign meddling in
Palestine by Iran, Syria and Lebanon's Hizbullah that
the US so regularly decries. Crucially, by such
simplistic analysis, Bush further discredits and
undermines international support for his wider
anti-terror campaign.

Here once again is Bush's unimaginative "for us or
against us" approach, the "good guys v bad guys"
routine. Once again he fails to see how daft - and how
dangerous - this is. Little wonder that US senators
worry that the administration has taken its eye off
the ball. With the bumbling Bush as "war on terror"
team captain, little wonder if the dread Osama
believes he is again staring at an open goal.

Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003

Posted by richard at August 6, 2003 05:46 PM