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Let us suppose, for a moment that Osama Bin Laden had something to do with the events of September 11.
Let us suppose, also, that he understood how the United States government would react.
Let us suppose that he, like those who actually implemented the September 11 attacks, were concerned with Saudi Arabia since most of the parties involved were born there. Moreover, Saudi Arabia is important because: a) it has a strategic amount of oil on which the US depends, b) the Saudi royal family is split, one faction supported the Taliban and the other is thoroughly corrupt c) Mecca and Medina–the two sacred places of Islam, happen to be in Saudi Arabia.
So where could Osama bin Laden be today? Afghanistan? Hardly.
Assuming that bin Laden and associates will use their many years of guerrilla war experience, then they should understand the military value of symbolic actions and the use of the global mass media.
Imagine the symbolic value of Osama bin Laden within Mecca.
Let us consider the benefits from Osama bin Laden’s perspective:
The moment it is announced that Osama bin Laden is inside Saudi Arabia and in the most sacred Mosque of Islam, havoc will follow. The U.S. war effort will have to be reassessed. If the war on Afghanistan was unleashed to capture bin Laden, then — will a war be waged against Saudi Arabia as well?
Probably the stock market and the price of oil will not escape such news either. The political stability of Saudi Arabia will be a black box that no one could decipher.
The Saudi government would be compelled to act, yet would be frozen by the political consequences of taking proactive military measures at Mecca or Medina.
The United States government would be tempted to use its military forces within the Arabian peninsula but indecision could be expected, for immediate action could create very serious consequences throughout the Muslim world.
The potential political and economic crises confronting the United States government could unleash a major debate within the ranks of U.S. conservatives on what to do. It is doubtful that the consensus of waging war could be continued.
It would not be surprising if recriminations surfaced within the country as people asked about the capabilities of the “intelligence” community.
The world community could conclude that the policy makers in the United States, including its intelligence agencies, had totally mishandled the aftermath of the September 11 tragedy.
What ensues thereafter would be certainly hard to imagine.
Nelson Valdes is a professor of sociology at the University of New Mexico.