It’s not really surprising that the Bush administration is making as much political hay as possible from the recently recovered tape which purportedly features Osama bin Laden noting “convergent interests” among Iraq’s Ba’athists and his own Islamists. What’s surprising is how insecure that same “security state” is willing to let the world become in order to serve its own sometimes unfathomable interests. Drawing the wrong conclusions is one thing intentionally misreading evidence in a case of life or death is inexcusable.
The facts should be plain by now: Al-Qaeda is an international terrorist organization that cannot be combated in the Cold War, Rumsfeldian terms of nation-states. The U.S. carried out widescale bombing and installed a “U.S.-friendly” government in Afghanistan; Al-Qaeda’s major leaders escaped arrest and assassination (despite unsupported claims of capture or death of one-third of those leaders), while their cadre continued to successfully carry out attacks on civilians all over the world. If it wasn’t apparent before that warfare against a given state would not majorly affect Al-Qaeda’s ability to operate, incidents following wholesale destruction of their “base of operations” should have convinced any doubters. The current drive for war with Iraq betrays the government’s lack of will to confront the terrorist threat on multilateral, internationalist terms. It instead suggests some other motivation for constant war that can be measured in false leaps and bounds as various states fall to the U.S. machine. Whether that goal be international oil, control over foreign and domestic security policy with no room for dissent, or something as yet undiscovered by the American people, it is obvious that it is not to stop Al-Qaeda.
More dangerous is the side-effect: the U.S. has now entered into the business of helping to create “convergent interests” between international terrorists and states like Iraq. The newest tape provides no evidence for an Iraq-armed Al-Qaeda; it does weigh greatly, however, towards the idea that a U.S.-born conflict could yet make the strangest and deadliest bedfellows. Figures in opposition must begin to question directly the uselessness of unilateralism in doing anything but exacerbating existing problems.
There is simply no unilateral way to fight international terrorism. The U.S. could establish direct military control over every “rogue state” in the world, and the Al-Qaeda network would still function effectively enough to carry out terrorist attacks against targets all over the world. This is because Al-Qaeda is both too modern to be subject to any state’s control even if it has its support (along the lines of multinational corporations), and too fringe to ever find a “base of operations” in any one state, no matter how Islamist (as the war on Afghanistan has shown). Certainly, attacking secular dictatorships like Iraq, run by the “infidels” deprecated by bin Laden on the same tape, will do little but further the popularity and aims of Islamist revolutionaries in those states’ borders. It almost seems like pure disgust from the White House for carrying forward a difficult, diplomatically complex international war on terrorism when a war on the villain-of-the-week will suffice.
Why is it so shocking, given the new policy of pre-emptive strikes against possible threats to an amorphous U.S. security, that bin Laden is now deciding to express the same sympathy with the Iraqis that he always has claimed with Palestine? We have given him his popular coup: a neverending war between America and the Arab states that will fuel Al-Qaeda’s hit-and-run operations for years to come. Now, we are strengthening his base by providing an ally in Iraq where there once was an enemy making attacks on U.S. troops, instead of civilians, very likely. The administration has responded with its own domestic terror alerts, taking advantage of its policy of violence abroad to stir paranoia in the homeland.
For the first time in months, the administration is actually talking about bin Laden again, but only in terms of the coming inevitable attack on Iraq. Yet, Bush’s warmongering dove, Powell, accuses France, Germany, and Belgium of destablizing NATO by refusing to send military hardware to Turkey, another country known for its brutal repression of its Kurdish minority and misuse of foreign aid for its own designs. One might wonder if by pursuing a useless war against international opinion, one which we now know will promote the “convergence” of current foes like Al-Qaeda and Iraq, we might rationally be seen as more than a bit destructive ourselves?
NICK RING is a freshman at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org