American Enterprise Online | 8.7.06
By Alan W. Dowd
The enemy has hit Manhattan and Washington, London and Madrid and Beslan, Tel Aviv and Amman, Mumbai and Bali. In response, the U.S. and the rest of NATO are fighting in Afghanistan. The U.S. and a coalition of the willing are fighting in Iraq. Israel is fighting alone on another front, in Lebanon. Yet the enemy’s reach remains long: From Toronto to Miami to Sarajevo, counter-terrorism teams carry out almost-weekly raids, inviting both sighs of relief and gasps of worry.
Not only are we unsure where and how this will end; it’s unclear where it started. Suffice it to say that this jihad against civilization began long ago. Americans felt the sting in Iran in 1979, in Beirut in 1983, and in Manhattan in 1993. Yet few of us appreciated how serious the jihadists were until that awful Tuesday morning in September 2001.
Ten years ago this month—fully five years before 9/11—a Saudi expatriate named Osama bin Laden made his participation in the global jihad official when he released his fatwa against the United States. A fresh look at his grievances and goals may be helpful as we enter yet another decade of war.
From the outset of his religious rant, bin Laden shows himself to be a propagandist on par with Goebbels, blaming the “Zionist-Crusaders alliance” for massacres in Iraq, Tajikistan, Burma, Somalia, Chechnya, Bosnia—and the list goes on. Of course, he never mentions that America’s “crusaders” defended Muslim Saudi Arabia, liberated Muslim Kuwait, rescued Muslim Kurdistan, fed Muslim Somalia, ended the vivisection of Muslim Bosnia, or protected Muslim Kosovo.
He later adds that the goal of the “Zionist-Crusaders alliance” is to divide Saudi Arabia. Why that would be in the interest of the West is never explained. His goal, he counters, is to expel U.S. forces from Saudi Arabia and then forge an Islamic state that would encompass far more than the Arabian Peninsula. Toward that end, he promises to carry his jihad into “every part of the world.” See the abbreviated list above for evidence of his success in this regard.
He lays out “a clear conspiracy” between the U.S. and its allies, working “under the cover of the iniquitous United Nations.” Of course, even in the mid-1990s, most observers argued the very opposite—that the U.S. acts unilaterally and shows contempt for the U.N. Only America could be blamed for the U.N.’s demise and implicated as its accomplice.
“Today,” he declares, “we begin the workÉof correcting what had happened to the Islamic world in general and the land of the two holy places in particular.” The work will include planning and training and rallying the “people of Islam” to expel those he says are controlling the Islamic world—and will also include, of course, lots of killing. He concedes that it won’t be a fair fight: “Due to the imbalance of power between our armed forces and the enemy forces, a suitable means of fighting must be adopted.” Telegraphing the hell he would unleash, he envisions “using fast-moving light forces that work under complete secrecyÉto initiate a guerrilla warfare” against civilians rather than armies.
For those who reject the notion that 9/11 is linked to other fronts in this long war, bin Laden says otherwise, pointing to Beirut and Somalia: “Where was this false courage of yours when the explosion in Beirut took place on 1983?” he yelps, mocking President Reagan’s shortsighted, fateful decision to pull U.S. forces out of Lebanon. “You were turned into scattered pits [sic] and pieces.”
He offers the same mocking critique of President Clinton, recalling how Washington ordered a general retreat “when tens of your solders [sic] were killed in minor battles and one American pilot was dragged in the streets of Mogadishu.” The lesson was not lost on bin Laden. “Clinton appeared in front of the whole world threatening and promising revenge, but these threats were merely a preparation for withdrawal.” In short, the fact that Washington showed an unwillingness to stand and fight in the 1980s and again in the 1990s served as an invitation for further aggression.
The millionaire mass-murderer then concludes with a chilling prediction. “Your problem will be how to convince your troops to fight, while our problem will be how to restrain our youths to wait for their turn in fighting and in operations.”
Thankfully, the former has not happened. But if the Anbar province and Gaza and lower Lebanon are any indication, the latter part of his prediction seems to have been fulfilled.