Tuesday, February 20, 2007

al Qaeda on the rise

On March 13, 2002 George W. Bush was asked, roughly, "Where is Osama bin Laden?" This was his answer:
Deep in my heart I know the man is on the run, if he's alive at all. Who knows if he's hiding in some cave or not; we haven't heard from him in a long time. And the idea of focusing on one person is -- really indicates to me people don't understand the scope of the mission.

Terror is bigger than one person. And he's just -- he's a person who's now been marginalized. His network, his host government has been destroyed. He's the ultimate parasite who found weakness, exploited it, and met his match. He is -- as I mentioned in my speech, I do mention the fact that this is a fellow who is willing to commit youngsters to their death and he, himself, tries to hide -- if, in fact, he's hiding at all.

So I don't know where he is. You know, I just don't spend that much time on him


Well, as I say, we haven't heard much from him. And I wouldn't necessarily say he's at the center of any command structure. And, again, I don't know where he is. I -- I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him.
Just six months earlier Osama bin Laden was cearly identified as the leader of an organization which had perpetrated an act of unprecedented horror upon the United States killing 2,973 people in a matter of a few minutes. Osama bin Laden was definitely worth any effort to bring into custody and face an angry world.

Yet, in six months Osama bin Laden had fallen out of the sights of George Bush. The attention span of the President of the United States was so short that his concern for a mass murderer had waned. Instead, Bush started to march his country to new war, based on manufactured evidence, with Iraq. And, as his attention to the individual responsible for the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks evaporated, so too did his attention to Afghanistan and the place Osama was able to train his followers and from which to coordinate attacks. Bush declared a place and a leader which had not been involved in September 11th as the main enemy and the central front of his so-called War On Terror. His focus shifted to Iraq and he literally forgot about Osama bin Laden.

Now, almost predictably, al Qaeda is back. Far from the fractured, marginalized network of George Bush's imagination, al Qaeda is regaining strength and engaged in renewed training.
American officials said there was mounting evidence that Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, had been steadily building an operations hub in the mountainous Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan. Until recently, the Bush administration had described Mr. bin Laden and Mr. Zawahri as detached from their followers and cut off from operational control of Al Qaeda.

The United States has also identified several new Qaeda compounds in North Waziristan, including one that officials said might be training operatives for strikes against targets beyond Afghanistan.

The former head of the bin Laden unit at the CIA, Michael Scheuer provided an analysis that seems to verify what the anonymous intelligence types provided the New York Times on MSNBC's Countdown. For an excerpted transcript, Jill has the highlights and a strong comment:

I hope Americans will think back on how George W. Bush almost completely abandoned the effort to fight al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, because instead of going to counseling for his father issues like normal people, he had to invade a country that was no threat to us, had nothing to do with September 11, and certainly had nothing to do with al-Qaeda.

And you can bet that the next bit of sewage to rise out of the ranks of the right-wing noise machine will be something along the lines of the Republicans are the only US party with the cajones to deal with this rising threat.

If that were true, however, al Qaeda would be a defunct body.

Al Qaeda survives because Bush let it survive. It grew stronger because his rubber-stamp congress endorsed every thoughless move Bush made. It may well be within reach of formulating another devastating attack because Bush and his cargo culture found al Qaeda an inconvenient barrier to an agenda from which they would not vary. They wanted to go into Iraq, they were going to go into Iraq and Iraq is where they ended up. The Republicans are not the capable military crew they purport to be. They talk a good story but when the truth of their accomplishments are analyzed they emerge as completely incompetent. In terms of foreign policy and global strategy, nobody has produced worse results than Bush and flock of war-bangers who supported him. They're good at beating people up, but they don't have the smarts to actually win a fight.

Osama, and the members of his power structure, must have praised Allah a thousand times for their good luck. He got two hits with one swing. Not only was Bush unable to remain focused on his real enemy, he got his military machine bogged down in a country which was once hostile to him. They had but to feed the fires of resistance to keep the US tied down and occupied. In Afghanistan, it was a simple matter of sending sporadic waves of attacks in from the safe haven of North Waziristan to keep NATO and US troops engaged.

What does this mean for NATO troops in Afghanistan? More of the same. As many as NATO think they can eliminate, al Qaeda, and their client, the Taliban, will just send more. They will make an extra effort to keep western forces confused and constantly on the alert. By doing so it causes the governments who sent those troops to look in the wrong direction.

If al Qaeda is successful, if they manage to mount an attack of some significance in North America, it will be because they were allowed to get away with it. It will be because, unable to persevere and deal with each problem to its conclusion, the Bush administration allowed itself, lacking intelligence and discipline, to become distracted. It's happening again as Bush increases his rhetoric and attempts to generate a casus belli for attacking Iran. Osama must be his most fervent cheerleader.

If al Qaeda manages to attack North America again there will be only one group to blame. The neo-cons and the warped ideology that oozes from the dungeons of their imperial citadels.

If it happens again, it will be Bush's fault.

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