The Nuttiness of the War on Terror

The US government has just released a translation of Osama bin Ladin’s latest 9-11 anniversary message to justify his anti-American Jihad. (See below.) Given the expenditure of resources and blood this man has triggered, it deserves careful reading by every taxpaying American. But be warned, it is weird in a familiar sort of way.

Osama’s messages have a history dating back to the 1990s. In 1998, he in effect declared war on the United States, citing three reasons in what he grandiosely named a “fatwa.” Bin Ladin’s fatwa called on Muslims to kill Americans because of

(1) the US’s continued military presence in Saudi Arabia after the conclusion of the 1991 Persian Gulf War;

(2) the US led imposition of sanctions on Iraq, which continued throughout the 1990s well after the conclusion to the Persian Gulf War in 1991, and resulted in the unwarranted deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens, including many women and children; and

(3) the US unconditional support of Israel and therefore its complicity in the suffering of the Palestinians.

At the time of bin Ladin’s declaration of war, many counter-terrorist experts in the Clinton Administration and the press believed that the Palestinian and Iraqi planks in bin Ladin’s so-called Fatwa were opportunistic sops to the Palestinians and Iraqis, intended to garner wider support in the Muslim world, and that his real target was driving the US out of and possibly unseating the government in Saudi Arabia. Whether or not that was indeed the case will never be known, because violent events, like those of 9-11, have a way of triggering evolutionary pathways that often turn out to be quite different from the intentions of the belligerents.

By the late 1990s, Osama was hiding in and working out of Afghanistan. Interestingly, three years after bin Ladin’s fatwa, but almost three months before 9-11, Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, told the American journalist Arnaud de Borchgrave in an interview (Washington Times, June 18, 2001) that bin Ladin “is not a mufti, and therefore any fatwas he may have issued are illegal and null and void.” Omar said bin Ladin did not have the requisite twelve years of Quranic studies to qualify in the position of a mufti and therefore was not authorized to issue fatwas. Omar also told de Borchgrave that he wanted to “resolve or dissolve” the bin Ladin issue, and in return for Omar’s efforts in this regard, Omar wanted the US to establish a dialogue that would lead to a “an easing and then lifting of U.N. sanctions that are strangling and killing the people of the Emirate.” Which begs the question: Was Omar offering to dump bin Ladin?

We will never know the answer to that question either, because although bin Ladin had been a prime target of our so-called counter terrorism policies for years, no one in the Bush administration followed up Mullah Omar’s tantalizing signal. In the summer of 2001, the Bushies were more interested in cutting taxes of the rich and rewarding defense contractors by packing the Pentagon’s budget with outdated high-cost legacies of the Cold War, like missile defense or the F-22, than to be bothered with an opportunity to close down some two-bit terrorist.

And now eight years after he toppled the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, no one knows whether bin Ladin is dead of alive, but someone is still issuing Osama-like pronouncements. In the meantime, the United States destroyed its own civil liberties, wrecked Iraq, and in the process dishonored herself by committing willful violations of Geneva Conventions. The United States is now bogged down in a losing war against Mullah Omar and the Taliban in Afghanistan, even though the new American commander, General Stanley McChrystal recently reported that there is no sign of an Al Qaeda presence in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, President Obama is pondering a decision to escalate the Afghan war, which will increase the possibility of further destabilizing Pakistan and expanding the war even further.

Yet, in a weird parallel to the shifting American logic underpinning the aimlessness of our own endless war global war on terror, Osama’s latest message is also based on a shifting logic that is now entirely dependent on the Palestinian Crisis, something he has never really cared about. Iraq and Saudi Arabia are forgotten, and Afghan war is almost unmentioned. And, this shift is occurring, ironically, when President Obama is at least making rhetorical gestures toward taking a more even handed approach to the Palestinian question.

So, Osama’s message brings the war on terror into focus: It has evolved a life of its own, and each side is concocting reasons to keep it going. This is a game that plays well in the post-information, self-referencing character of contemporary political discourse, dominated as it is by the hyperbolic 24hr news cycle. This all would make for a great Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera, were it not for the mindless death, misery, and destruction accompanying it.

Bin Ladin Says US Should Stop Supporting Israel or Face ‘War of Attrition’
Jihadist Websites — OSC Summary
Monday, September 14, 2009
Document Type: OSC Summary

A translation of the statement follows:

“Praise be to God, Who created people to worship Him, ordered them to be just, and permitted the wronged to mete out fair punishment to the wrongdoer.

“American people: This address to you is a reminder of the causes of 11 (September) and the wars and consequences that followed and the way to settle it once and for all. I mention in particular the families of those who were hurt in these events and who have recently called for opening an investigation to know its causes. This is a first and important step in the right direction among many other steps that have deliberately gone in the wrong direction over eight barren years that you have experienced.

“The entire American people should follow suit, as the delay in knowing those reasons has cost you a lot without any noteworthy benefit.

“If the White House administration, which is one of the two parties to the dispute, has made it clear to you in the past years that war was necessary to maintain your security, then wise persons should be eager to listen to the two parties to the dispute to know the truth, so listen to what I am going to say.

“At the beginning, I say that we have made it clear and stated so many times for over two decades that the cause of the quarrel with you is your support for your Israeli allies, who have occupied our land, Palestine. This position of yours, along with some other grievances, is what prompted us to carry out the 11 September events. Had you known the magnitude of our suffering as a result of the injustice of the Jews against us, with the support of your administrations for them, you would have known that both our nations are victims of the policies of the White House, which is in fact a hostage in the hands of pressure groups, especially major corporations and the Israeli lobby.

“One of the best persons to explain to you the causes of the events of the 11th is one of your citizens, a former veteran CIA agent, whose conscience awoke in his eighth decade and decided to tell the truth despite the threats, and to explain to you the message of the 11th. So he carried out some activities for this purpose in particular, including his book “Apology of a Hired Assassin.”

“As for explaining the suffering of our people in Palestine, Obama has recently acknowledged in his speech from Cairo the suffering of our kinfolk there, who are living under occupation and siege. Things will become clearer if you read what your former president, Carter, wrote about the racism of the Israelis against our kinfolk in Palestine, and also if you listened to his statement weeks ago during his visit to the destroyed and besieged Gaza Strip. He said in that statement that the people of Gaza are treated more as animals than human beings. For us God suffices, and He is the best disposer of affairs.

“We should have a lengthy pause at this point. Any person with an iota of mercy in his heart cannot but sympathize with those oppressed elderly, women, and children living under the deadly siege. Above that, the Zionists pound them with US-made incendiary phosphorous bombs. Life there is tragic beyond limits, to the point that children die b etween the arms of their parents and doctors due to the lack of food and medicine and the power outages. It is indeed a disgrace for world politicians who are content with that, and their loyalists, who are behaving as such with prior knowledge and premeditation, and under the influence of the Israeli lobby in America. The details of that are explained by two of your fellow citizens. They are John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt in their book “The Israel Lobby” in the United States.

“After reading the suggested books, you will know the truth and you will be severely shocked at the magnitude of deception that has been practiced against you. You will also know that those who make statements from inside the White House today and claim that your wars against us are necessary for your security are in fact working along the same line of Cheney and Bush, and propagating the former policies of intimidation to market the interests of the relevant major corporations, at the expense of your blood and economy. Those in fact are the ones who are imposing wars on you, not the mujahidin. We are just defending our right to liberate our land.

“If you thoroughly consider your situation, you will know that the White House is occupied by pressure groups. You should have made efforts to liberate it rather than fight to liberate Iraq, as Bush claimed. The White House leader, under such circumstances, and regardless of who he is, is like a train driver who cannot but travel on the railways designed by these pressure groups. Otherwise, his way would be blocked and he would fear that his destiny would be like that of former President Kennedy and his brother.

“In a nutshell, it is time to free yourselves from fear and intellectual terrorism being practiced against you by the neoconservatives and the Israeli lobby. You should put the file of your alliance with the Israelis on the table of discussion. You should ask yourselves the following question so that you can determine your position: Do you like the Israelis’ security, sons, and economy more than your security, blood, sons, money, jobs, houses, economy, and reputation? If you choose your security and stopping the wars — and this has been shown by opinion polls — then this requires that you act to stop those who are tampering with our security on your end. We are prepared to respond to this option on sound and fair foundations that have been mentioned before.

“Here is an important point that we should pay attention to with regard to war and stopping it. When Bush assumed power and appointed a defense secretary who had made the biggest contribution to killing more than two million persecuted villagers in Vietnam, sane people predicted that Bush was preparing for new massacres in his era. This was what took place in Iraq and Afghanistan. When Obama assumed power and kept the men of Cheney and Bush — namely, the senior officials in the Defense Department, like Gates, Mullen, and Petraeus — sane people knew that Obama is a weak person who will not be able to stop the war as he had promised and that he would procrastinate as much as possible. If he were to decide, then he would hand over command to the generals who oppose this aimless war, like the former commander of troops in Iraq, General Sanchez, and the commander of the Central Command who was forced by Bush to resign shortly before leaving the White House due to his opposition to the war. He appointed instead of him a person who would escalate the war. Under the cover of his readiness to cooperate with the Republicans, Obama made the biggest trick as he kept the most important and most dangerous secretary from Cheney’s men to continue the war. The days will show you that you have changed only faces in the White House. The bitter truth is that the neoconservatives are still a heavy burden on you.

“Once again, if you stop the war, then that is fine. If you choose not to stop the war, then we have no other option but to continue the war of attrition against you on all possible axes, just as we did with the Soviet Union for 10 years until it disintegrated, with the grace of God. Continue the war for as long as you wish. You are fighting a desperate, losing war that is in favor of others. There seems to be no end in sight for this war.

“Russian generals, who learned lessons from the battles in Afghanistan, had anticipated the result of the war before its start, but you do not like those who give you advice. This is a losing war, God willing, as it is funded by money that is borrowed based on exorbitant usury and is fought by soldiers whose morale is down and who commit suicide on a daily basis to escape from this war.

“This war was prescribed to you by two doctors, Cheney and Bush, as a cure for the 11 September events. However, the bitterness and losses caused by this war are worse than the bitterness of the events themselves. The accumulated debts incurred as a result of this war have almost done away with the US economy as a whole. It has been said that disease could be less evil than some medicines.

“Praise be to God, we are carrying our weapon on our shoulders and have been fighting the two poles of evil in the East and the West for 30 years. Throughout this period, we have not seen any cases of suicide among us despite the international pursuit against us. We praise God for this. This proves the soundness of our belief and the justice of our cause. God willing, we will continue our way to liberate our land. Our weapon is patience. We seek victory from God. We will not give up the Al-Aqsa Mosque. We hold on to Palestine more than we hold on to our souls. Continue the war as long as you wish, we will never bargain over it (Palestine).

“Endless war will not tire me
“For I am now fully grown and strong
“For this, my mother begot me (lines of poetry)
“Peace be upon those who follow guidance.”

Franklin “Chuck” Spinney is a former military analyst for the Pentagon. He currently lives on a sailboat in the Mediterranean and can be reached at

Franklin “Chuck” Spinney is a former military analyst for the Pentagon and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. He be reached at