-- With apologies to The Edsels and their 1961 hit, Rama Lama Ding Dong, one of the great nonsensical doo-wop songs of all time.
Nearly thirty months after President Bush declared open season on Osama bin Laden, the much-vaunted U.S. spring offensive along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border is getting ready to roll. According to the Miami Herald, “the Central Intelligence Agency has moved at least two unmanned aerial vehicles, both armed with Hellfire missiles, from Iraq to Afghanistan, and that the military's Central Command is moving an unspecified number of Special Forces soldiers from Iraq to Afghanistan.”
The offensive, which may produce a Spring Shocker, a Summer Stunner or an October Surprise, is clearly aimed at capturing and/or killing al Qaeda’s terrorist leader. But, while bin Laden’s capture or death may give the flagging re-election fortunes of George W. Bush a much needed boost, it will not put an end to terrorism or the war against terrorism. Just as the capture of Saddam Hussein didn’t end the resistance in Iraq, bin Laden’s capture or death will not end terrorism in Afghanistan.
At least that’s what four high-profile terror warriors -- al Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahri, CIA Director George Tenet, Admiral Lowell E. Jacoby, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and FBI Director Robert Mueller -- are saying.
In a tape aired in late February by Al Jazeera television, al-Zawahri said: "Bush, strengthen your defenses and your security measures for the Muslim nation which sent you the legion of New York and Washington has determined to send you legion after legion seeking death and paradise." Al-Zawahri also accused President Bush of lying about the strength of al Qaeda’s forces: "Bush alleged that his troops have spread freedom in the world, that Iraq had achieved democracy thanks to his coalition forces, that his government has crushed more than two-thirds of al Qaeda and that... Afghanistan is secure.
"The leader of the most powerful country on earth is not embarrassed to say these deceptions and lies. It's gotten to the stage that he can ridicule his listeners to this degree," al-Zawahri said.
Meanwhile, back in the U.S., the debacle over intelligence regarding stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that haven’t been found has made it difficult to trust much of anything coming from the CIA Director. In late February, however, Tenet -- using far less colorful language than al-Zawahri -- warned the Senate Select Intelligence Committee that splinter groups taking the cue from bin Laden’s methods, “have become the next wave of the terrorist threat. Dozens of such groups exist.”
“We must overcome a movement, a global movement infected by al Qaeda's radical agenda,” Tenet said.
Adm. Jacoby “bolstered Tenet's warning, saying that support in the Muslim world for the U.S.-led war on terrorism and for the United States itself has plunged even in countries considered friendly, fueling radical Islam and opposition to pro-U.S. regimes,” Knight Ridder’s Jonathan S. Landay reported.
And FBI Director Robert Mueller testified, “there are strong indications that Al Qaeda will revisit missed targets until they succeed, such as they did with the World Trade Center. The list of missed targets now includes the White House and the Capitol."
Mueller also pointed out that al Qaeda "has a cadre of supporters within the US," that are made up of Middle Easterners and other ethnic groups. And their operations aren’t only centered on raising money: "There have been cases of those apparently involved in operational planning," he said.
Recently, longtime conservative activist John Podhoretz appeared on one of the talking-head cable television programs to plug his new book. During the course of the interview, he claimed that George W. Bush has done a terrific job protecting the U.S. from terrorist attacks. Podhoretz’s kudos to the president parroted a GOP-sponsored theme that we will hear a lot of in the coming months: The U.S. is safer and more secure today than it was before 9/11.
Podhoretz’s new book, "Bush Country -- How Dubya Became a Great President While Driving Liberals Insane,“ is a paean to the Bush presidency, and goes to great lengths to tout the president’s accomplishments during his first three years. Along the way, Podhoretz, a longtime partisan Republican, also accuses opponents of the president -- who just can’t stomach his successes -- of being Bush haters.
"Taken together, all of Bush's presidential qualities mark him as a genuine leader and a transformative figure on the American and world stages. Love him or hate him, respect him or revile him, George W. Bush has made extraordinary use of the powers of the presidency and has changed the United States, its government, and the world in ways that have made an indelible mark on the new century," Podhoretz writes.
As the son of pioneer New York City neo-conservatives Norman Podhoretz and Midge Dector, John Podhoretz was born into neo-con royalty. He has involved in Republican Party politics for decades, having written speeches for President Ronald Reagan. He’s also toiled in newsrooms of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon-owned Washington Times newspapers and his weekly Insight magazine, as well as at Rupert Murdoch’s Weekly Standard. He now works for the Murdoch-owned tabloid, the New York Post.
Whose assessment of the Bush Administration’s ability to deal with terrorism should the public believe? Choosing from among John Podhoretz, a profoundly partisan supporter of the president, or Tenet, Jacoby and Mueller, also profoundly partisan supporters of the president appears to be a Hobson’s choice -- meaning no choice at all. (The term “Hobson’s choice” derives from Thomas Hobson, a livery stable owner in Cambridge, England during the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Hobson, according to Dictionary.com, required every customer to take either the horse nearest the stable door or they wouldn’t get any horse at all.)
According to Tenet, the situation in Iraq is problematic. "The insurgency we face in Iraq comprises multiple groups with different motivations but with the same goal: driving the US and our coalition partners from Iraq," Tenet said. "A hard core of former regime elements -- Baath Party officials, military, intelligence, and security officers -- are still organizing and carrying out attacks."
Admiral Jacoby was no less pessimistic, calling Iraq the "latest jihad for Sunni extremists." "Iraq has the potential to serve as a training ground for the next generation of terrorists where novice recruits develop their skills, junior operatives hone their organizational and planning capabilities, and relations mature between individuals and groups as was the case during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and extremist operations in the Balkans," he said. Jacoby added that in Iraq, "the Sunni population has not decided whether to back the coalition or support the opposition."
While I don’t usually cite Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, his recent comments on the U.S. invasion of Iraq is worthy of consideration. "We believed, and I continue to believe, that the military operation was a mistake, and the subsequent events have confirmed it," Putin said at a meeting with students on a trip to Krasnoyarsk in central Siberia. "Casualties keep mounting, and terrorists feel increasingly at home there," Putin said, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency. "This is a very dangerous process," Putin said, adding that Saddam Hussein's regime had prevented terrorists from coming to Iraq.
Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His WorkingForChange.com column Conservative Watch documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the American Right.
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