Friday 2 April 2004

The War on Terror Sucks

by Trowbridge H. Ford

If, as Washington, London, and Tel Aviv increasingly claim, the war on terror is going well, why is it spreading, and its attacks are becoming more deadly? The reason is that the Coalition of the willing has never had a strategy for dealing with terrorism, just a series of increasingly ad hoc, uncoordinated plots to get rid of individuals and groups as circumstances apparently demanded by leaders whose unfocused attempts just fled the flames, as the following events amply demonstrate:

(1) President Clinton, despite the claims of his former counterterrorist chief Richard Clarke, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, and Secretary of Defense William Cohen, never had a clear strategy for dealing with terrorism, just hit-or-miss plots to assassinate or capture Osama bin Laden after his followers chased the American troops out of Somalia.

Clinton, not willing to deal with Sudan, Saudia Arabia, and Pakistan for evidence to see to Osama's arrest, and prosecution for the bombings of the American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania for fear of getting involved in the genocide in neighbouring Rwanda, just tried to assassinate him, and ruin his assets - especially when he faced the prospect of being removed from office during his impeachment for lying to a grand jury about his sexual misconduct in the White House.

All the attempts accomplished was to turn the Sudan solidly against the war on terrorism, make the Saudis have second thoughts about it, and see to the overthrow of the elected government of Pakistan. Clinton was so wounded, and demoralised by events that he even helped the State and Justice Departments prevent the FBI's chief counterterrorist John O'Neill from taking the measure of bin Laden's agents who blew up the USS Cole in Yemen in October 2000.

(2) President George W. Bush, despite the claims of holdover counterterrorist expert Clarke, did develop a strategy of sorts for dealing with terrorism, once the zealots, headed by Bureau Director Louis Freeh, for attacking Iran as the center of its source had been removed from power, and the fallout out from the spying for the Soviets by the FBI's Robert Hanssen had been cleared up, though the plot was worse than the problem.

The Republican White House decided to top up its plan for getting rid of bin Laden, and his Taliban supporters by isolating them, funding internal opposition in Afghanistan, and bringing in the new military government in Pakistan to help out by capturing all the hijacked airliners on 9/11 with the help of CIA agents in mufti as they were flown to Los Angeles. Instead of the hijackers then being able to demand the plan being scrapped in return for the release of the planes and its passengers, Washington would mount an attack to accelerate the project.

The only problem with the strategy was that the hijackers were suicide bombers whose wrath left it too in ruins, spoiling the birthday plans that Solicitor General Ted Olson had with his wife, Barbara, who coordinated the operation, the champagne breakfast that DCI George Tenet was having with Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence David Boren, and the speech that NSA Condi Rice had drafted without any mention of Al-Qaeda or bin Laden for announcing the strategy's success later in the day - what she would supply extemporaneously while delivering it.

(3) The Israelis then joined in the operations, it seems, Mossad agent US Army Lt. Col. Philip Zack, formerly at Maryland's Fort Detrick, seeing that anthrax-filled letters were sent to many Americans, especially Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, and Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Patrick Leahy, and raising the alarm that Dr. Ayaad Assaad was the culprit. Once several Americans had died, many came down with the disease, and the country was panicked over the prospect of it spreading, Washington was persuaded, after more input from Tel Aviv and London, that Al-Qaeda, with help from Saddam Hussein's Iraq, was behind the attacks, leading to the war to oust the Taliban government in Afghanistan.

Once the bombing commenced, the FBI increasingly lost interest in who was behind the attacks - seeing them as the result of a disgruntled individual rather than a rogue state or a terrorist group - settling for various fallguys, especially Dr. Steven Hatfill.

(4) The bombing campaign of Afghanistan and military thrusts towards Kabal only disbursed the Taliban deeper into the country where it could regroup, and spread its terrorism elsewhere, particularly in the Muslim dictatorships of Central Asia and Pakistan. The war only suited the interests of Israel, ruining the prospects of shipping crude from Central Asia through Afghanistan to Pakistan, while raising all kinds of long-term threats to the suppliers themselves. In the meantime, Israel would continue to benefit from Iraqi oil shipped to Jordan, and guaranteeing that it would always be so.

(5) Calls for assassinating Al-Qaeda leaders, especially Ayma Al-Zawahiri, Mohammed Atef, and Osama himself, just compounded problems, whether successful or not. By killing Atef, the mastermind of the attacks on the embassies in Africa, Washington just shot itself in the foot by denying itself information about the network of cells that he had built up, with the help of Spanish cell leader Abu Dahdah aka Edin Barakat Yarkas, across Europe as far as Indonesia. While Dahdah was imprisoned, awaiting trial for involvement in the 9/11 attacks, he still managed terrorist operations with North Africans around Iberia and Western Europe.

The apparent failure to assassinate Al-Zawahiri and bin Laden just created an impossible situation where Washington is constantly vowing to get them, yet not knowing if they were already victims of the massive bombing campaign in Tora Bora, and special operations along the Pakistani border. If they are already dead, there is no way that Washington will ever know. The search for them could go on indefinitely without any prospect of success though the costs in collateral damage to others are bound to continue. Little wonder that the Americans are periodically announcing sighting them in the hope of keeping the myth about getting them alive.

(6) At this point, London became the most active player in expanding the war on terror, claiming that Saddam's WMD were not only a threat to the region, especially Israel, but also to Western Europe, particularly the United Kingdom. In doing so, the Blair government not only politicized its bureaucracies responsible for monitoring Iraq's weapons programs, but also those of the United States and Nations. This was the 'sexed up' intelligence that Blair had promised Bush after the 9/11 attacks when he threatened to take out Saddam's regime immediately for them. In doing so, Britain had repeated the favor Washington had done for Israel after the anthrax attacks by mobilizing everyone in the West, certainly its governments, behind the needs of the Israelis. With Saddam gone, Tel Aviv would punch a gigantic hole in the ring of potential enemies surrounding it.

This is enough reasons for now - the first half-dozen - but I shall continue the accounting in my next article - what is intended to show that the war on terrorism has become an endless wild goose chase - what is only getting worse by the day.