Monday, December 21, 2009

Osama the Magician

The mastermind of the 9/11 attack may be the most savvy magician of all times. Or maybe the United States was just the most gullible audience he could find. Our military leaders believed that bin Laden’s greatest act of magician-ship was in evading capture. But hiding out in the mountainous caves of Afghanistan and Pakistan, or wherever he calls home, turned out to be the thinnest trick in his deadly repertoire. Sleight-of-hand and misdirection are this illusionist’s forte.

The 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon were Bin laden’s opening act. Former President George W. Bush may have believed that he came up with the idea to launch the “War on Terrorism” in response to this crime. But using President Bush as a hapless prop, bin Laden was showing himself a true master of ventriloquism as well. The Saudi Arabian militant had made previous attempts in the 1990s, to garner support in the Muslim world for his fledgling anti-American movement. But he had met with little success. Once the U.S. responded to the 9/11 attacks by launching war on Afghanistan and then invading Iraq two years later, bin Laden finally had reason to celebrate victory. When the smoke cleared, the ground lay strewn with the bodies of 800,000 Muslims, mostly civilians. The Islamic world, had, after the 9/11 attacks, shown sympathy for the U.S. and offered to help go after the perpetrators of this heinous crime. But it now shrank back in horror and rage at the senseless carnage visited upon fellow Muslims by America’s military hysterics in the Middle East.

President Obama is a skilled politician and orator. But his decision in early December to send an additional 34,000 troops to Afghanistan revealed that he too is being sucked into bin Laden’s genocidal roadshow.

The U.S. lacks a coherent strategy in the Middle East because first and foremost it misunderstands the fact that terrorism is a tactic of war, not its raison d’etre. Fighting a “War on Terrorism,” is as muddle-headed as fighting a “War on Bugles,” to reduce military casualties, since “Taps” will be played at the funerals. The oratory skills of our President would be best applied in coming up with the fancy wordplay needed to declare victory in Afghanistan and bringing our troops home. There are far more effective ways of defeating al-Qaeda. All too often we confuse the homegrown and highly factionalized Taliban, with the international terrorist network that infiltrated it, that is, al-Qaeda.

In early December, Taliban leaders issued a statement declaring that they were willing to renounce all ties to al-Qaeda in exchange for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. The White House ignored the offer. It was also not covered in the mainstream U.S. media except for December 7 Wall Street Journal article by reporter, Anand Gopal, titled: “Taliban Seek Deal on Foreign Forays.” The Taliban statement emailed to international news agencies, announced that it had “no agenda of meddling in the internal affairs of other countries and is ready to give legal guarantees if foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan.”

Rather than continue to finance the corrupt regime of Afghan President Ahmad Karzai, and send more U.S. troops to die on an empty altar, the U.S. must seize the moment. We can bring down the curtains on Osama bin Laden, by refusing to play the role of gullible audience. But do we have the courage to shred our printed programs and walk out the exit doors?
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