Making the World Safe for “Terrorism”

The September 11, 2001 attack – the first aerial bombings on American soil – compelled the United States government to wage a War on Terrorism. After ten years of this battle, the U.S. has neither won the war nor contained terrorism – just the opposite – terrorism has grown in size, geographical extent and power. One reason for this contradiction is obvious; the U.S. has blended its battle against terrorism with preservation of American global interests. Each blended component contradicts the other and creates confusing missions in U.S. foreign and military policies.

To the United States, terrorism has one principal appearance, the faces of those who committed the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on U.S. soil. From this cataclysmic event, U.S. authorities shaped their definition of terrorists and devised a strategy to combat them. Due to a lack of recognition of the contradictions between an asymmetrical war and a war to achieve global objectives, the War on Terrorism has been converted into conflicts to preserve American corporate interests. The U.S. government has sidetracked its assignment and betrayed its duty to the American public.

Almost immediately, the battle to prevent terrorism evolved into conflagrations in Iraq and Afghanistan; the former having no relation to terrorism and the latter still of undefined meaning. As of March 2011, total U.S. military deaths in the post 9/11 engagements in Iraq (4441), Afghanistan (1401,) together with deceased due to violence in the Gulf States (100), approximately 6000, more than double the 2752 civilian deaths incurred in the 9/11 attack. Add to the casualty list, thousands of wounded, psychologically destroyed, and distraught families from the two wars. Combine economic casualties from the effects of a shift of priorities during an economic decline with the battle casualties, and the War on Terrorism seems to have served the “terrorists.” Consider that Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan have suffered several 9/11’s due to the wars, and we have the War on Terrorism equating to another, “We had to kill them in order to save them.”

Despite the severe negative balance in its War on Terrorism, and the counter-productive effects on its own citizens, the U.S. administration refuses to modify its strategy, hoping that a failing and contradictory strategy will miraculously change and accomplish desired results. One glaring failure in the strategy – an inability to recognize who might serve as principal allies in the battle and who already serve as principal contributors to terrorism. Start from a well known beginning.

U.S. actions motivated a successful formation of Al Qaeda

Although the Soviet Union had significant influence in Afghanistan’s affairs and the Asian nation was only peripheral to the Cold war struggle, the Soviet Union’s intervention in Afghanistan provoked U.S. President Jimmy Carter to exclaim “The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is the greatest threat to peace since the Second World War.” U.S. military assistance to the Mujahideen, funneled through Pakistan, assisted the Afghani insurgents to expel their Soviet occupiers. After the United States exited from the battle, the Pakistan government enabled the Taliban to stabilize a strife-ridden Afghanistan and Osama bin-Laden to find a new home.

Bin-Laden arrived in Pakistan during the mid-’80’s to disburse Saudi funds to the Mujahideen and provide training camps in Pakistan for foreign fighters. His organization, Al Qaeda (the Base), emerged from the Maktab al-Khadamat (MAK), the Afghan Services Bureau, which is believed to have been founded in 1984 with the purpose of raising funds and recruiting foreign fighters for the war against the Soviets. Bin-Laden eventually moved his operations to the Taliban controlled land. The rest is history.

The U.S. government followed its first gigantic error – assisting a Radical Islamic movement in the replacement of the Soviets – with a counterproductive program that promotes terrorism. The U.S. contests nations that contest terrorists and assists nations that spawn terrorists. Reference to nations in the map of the Middle East demonstrates the veracity of this charge.

The Middle East can be conveniently divided between the nations that the U.S. confronts and have been antagonistic to Radical Islam and the nations that the U.S. befriends and whose policies have contributed to terrorist actions against the United States.

The former nations, The Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, occupy the northern area of the Middle East. The latter nations, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Yemen occupy the Middle East’s southern frontier.

Iran, Saddam Hussein’s’ Iraq, Lebanon’s 21st century Hezbollah and Gaza’s Hamas have not contributed any fighters to the international terrorist organizations that are accused of attacking the United States or its interests. A few terrorists have been of Syrian origin. All of these nations have fought counterparts of Al-Qaeda on their soil and have been sworn enemies of bin Laden.

Examine these nations more closely.

Iran tried reconciliation and assistance after the 9/11 tragedy

At the Tokyo donors’ conference in January 2002, the Iranians showed willingness to create a new Afghanistan by pledging $560 million worth of assistance, which is a large amount for a not-fully-developed country and about the same amount as the United States pledged at the same conference.

After the Northern Alliance Afghan troops played a significant role in driving the Taliban out of Kabul in November 2001, the alliance demanded 60 percent of the portfolios in an interim government and blocked agreement with other opposition groups. According to the U.S. envoy to Afghanistan, Richard Dobbins, Iran played a “decisive role” in persuading the Northern Alliance delegation to compromise its demands and “insisted on including language in the Bonn agreement on the war on terrorism.”

Dobbins mentioned a March 2002 meeting with an Iranian delegation and a General who had been responsible for military assistance to the Northern Alliance during its engagements with the Taliban. “The general offered to provide training, uniforms, equipment, and barracks for as many as 20,000 new recruits for the nascent Afghan military. All this was to be done under U.S. leadership,” Dobbins recalls, “not as part of a separate program under exclusive Iranian control.”

After briefing Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Secretary of Defense David Rumsfeld of his meeting, Richard Dobbins later claimed: “To my knowledge, there was never a response.”

Iran has arrested Al-Qaeda agents on its territory and has ample reason to combat bin-Laden’s organization. Al-Qaeda has linked the Shiite Muslims, represented by Iran and Hezbollah, with “the Crusaders, Zionists and Jews” as its most bitter enemies. Deceased al-Qaeda in Iraq leader, Al-Zarqawi, in a speech, said: “Days go by, and events follow one after the other. The battles are many, and the names used are varied. But the goal (of the Crusaders) is one: a Crusader-Rafidite war against the Sunnis.” Who are the Rafidites? Sunnis who refuse to accept Shi’a Islam as a valid form of Islam use the word “rafida” to identify the Shi’a.

The U.S. gave al-Qaeda affiliates, who were previously constrained to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, a base to maneuver in Iraq. Except for Ansar al-Islam, a northern radical Islamic group close to the Iran border, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq contained no Al-Qaeda affiliated elements. In 2003, Taliban fugitives, housed in Western Pakistan, became irritated with neighboring and uncontrollable Al-Qaeda members. Due to the friction, the Taliban permitted Pakistan military to operate against Al-Qaeda in South Waziristan and demolish its training camps. After the U.S. invasion of Iraq destroyed the Iraqi armed forces and policing functions, fleeing Al Qaeda members moved into Iraq, the Kurdish Ansar al-Islam terrorist group fortified itself throughout the East of the Kurdish province, and foreign fighters entered the hostile atmosphere and formed a new ally of Al-Qaeda. The latter eventually termed themselves ‘Al-Qaeda in Iraq.’

By invading and occupying Iraq, the U.S. extended the battle against terrorism rather than confining it. The extension of the battlefield weakened available resources required for the battle.

Secular Syria has been fighting Radical Islam in its northern provinces

According to U.S. officials, after Sept.11, 2001, Syrian information was instrumental in catching militant Islamists around the world.

Nicholas Blanford | Special to The Christian Science Monitor, May 14, 2002.

“In July 2005, the Syrian government returned alleged Islamist terrorists to Saudi Arabia and Tunisia. In June 2006, Syria’s state security forces and Islamists fought a gun battle in Damascus. The Syrian government cited the September 27, 2008 car bombing in Damascus, which killed seventeen people, as an indication that Islamist terrorists—in this case it named Fatah al-Islam—had targeted the country for its cooperation with U.S. efforts to strengthen security along its border with Iraq.”

The U.S. characterization of Hezbollah and Hamas as terrorist organizations is dubious

Both organizations have issues with Israel, which is separate from international terrorism. Neither of these organizations has committed verified terrorist acts against the United States.

Fateh el-Islam, a terrorist group that battled the Lebanese army at the Nahr el-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in Tripoli for over three months in 2007, received no support from Hezbollah. In Gaza, Hamas has fought Jund Ansar Allah, a radical Islamic group that wants to proclaim an Islamic Emirate in Gaza. Weakening Hamas strengthens Jund Ansar Allah and other radical Muslim groups in Gaza.

The positive qualities of the northern Middle East nations, all of which could be beneficial to the U.S in its anti-terrorism activities, are politely neglected. None of these nations have identity with al Qaeda, none of them have supplied terrorists from their ranks who have confronted Americans, and none of them have perpetrated terrorist attacks against U.S. interests.

The Middle East nations in the southern frontier, those of Israel, Egypt, Morocco, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia present an opposite image

Is there any doubt that America’s unqualified support of Israel has provided terrorists with a reason to augment its ranks? Evidently Osama bin Laden believes this to be true and he should know:

(AFP) – Sep 13, 2009, WASHINGTON

“Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin-Laden told Americans in a new message that their support for Israel had prompted him to launch the September 11, 2001 attacks, a US-based terror monitoring group said.”

Regardless of what many Americans believe, the United Nations and most of the world’s peoples characterize Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands as defiance of UN resolutions, its settlements in the West Bank as illegal, and its treatment of the Palestinians as brutal.

Poll explores Arabs’ views on Obama, Israel and Iran by Safaa Abdoun Daily News Egypt, August 6, 2010

“When asked to name two countries that pose the biggest threat to Arabs, Israel came in first with 88 percent followed by US with 77 percent.”

Israel is not struggling against an insurrection in its own lands; it has caused an insurrection by usurping lands owned by Palestinians. It is not fighting to maintain its own territory. It is fighting to gain new territory and, at the same time, is bringing about the total destruction of the Palestinian community. Making it seem that the Palestinian rebellion is part of a larger international plot to destroy western civilization diverts attention from Israel’s own military actions.

Terrorists recruit by intimidation and provocation. Israel helps in the recruitment by reactions to its intimidations, indoctrinations, and teachings.

Shulamit Aloni, former Member of Knesset who served in Labour government Cabinets; Ha’aretz, March 7th, 2003.

“Many of our children are being indoctrinated, in religious schools, that the Arabs are Amalek, and the bible teaches us Amalek must be destroyed. There was already a rabbi (Israel Hess) who wrote in the newspaper of Bar Ilan University that we all must commit genocide, and that is because his research showed that the Palestinians are Amalek. Murder of a population under cover of righteousness.”

No matter how many terrorists the U.S. forces remove from the international terrorism scene, without an agreed solution to the Palestinian/Israeli crisis, the terrorists will continually replace their ranks and terrorist actions will continue.

Mubarrak’s previous Egypt, and President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s Yemen exhibit commonalities and are discussed together

Each of these nations has had cordial relations with the United States, each has contributed many terrorists in actions against the United States and each has rebellious populations demanding democracy. In totality, they have been ineffective in preventing the training of terrorists on their lands, have highlighted the hypocrisy of U.S. promotion of democracy and have aroused severe resentment in their populations due to oppressive policies, which fuel terrorism.

Relations with Saudi Arabia clearly demonstrate how the U.S. has blended its battle against terrorism with preservation of American global interests

The Saudi Arabia kingdom can be the poster child for a characterization of the Middle East as an area that contains despotic governments and deprives its peoples of freedom and basic human rights. Most of the 9/11 conspirators and other al-Qaeda members, including bin-Laden, were of Saudi origin. Saudis have been accused of financing terrorist activities, and the Saudi government’s support of worldwide Islamic charities and schools, which have questionable links to terrorism, has been criticized.

Although claiming to adhere to Koran principles, the desert kingdom allows the United States, a hostile and non-Muslim nation, to construct bases on its territory, accumulates vast wealth for a few extended families, refuses equitable income distribution, and uses oil revenue to support the lifestyle of a group of jet setters. These operations enrage Islamist extremists, who sense the Saudi family is hypocritical and violates religious tradition. Authoritarianism, political persecution and extensive human rights violations fuel a bubbling dissent that is prepared to explode. The vast and barren areas are not easily controlled and terrorists have both internal support and places to hide. It is certainly not deliberate, but Saudi Arabia is fertile ground for producing international terrorists.

During the 1980’s the Saudi Kingdom supported Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran and had friendly relations with the Taliban until the 9/11 terrorist attack. The monarchy, as part of its commitment to Islam, funds Islamic schools and charities, some of whom have been accused of fomenting anti-Western attitudes, contributing to terrorist organizations and developing terrorists. Most damaging is evidence that linked the wife of the Saudi ambassador in Washington to the family of a Saudi man in San Diego who befriended and assisted two of the Sept. 11 hijackers. Princess Haifa al-Faisal, the wife of Ambassador Bandar bin Sultan, provided tens of thousands of dollars in what she believed were charitable gifts for medical care to Osama Bassnan. After learning they had befriended and assisted two of the Saudi hijackers, Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaq Alhazmi, the F.B.I. questioned Mr. Bassnan and a Saudi neighbor, Omar al-Bayoumi.

Although reports of the FBI meetings have been classified, the New York Times, August 2, 2003, claimed the two Saudis might have been Saudi intelligence agents.

James Risen and David Johnston, Washington, Aug. 1, 2002

“The classified part of a Congressional report on the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, says that two Saudi citizens who had at least indirect links with two hijackers were probably Saudi intelligence agents and may have reported to Saudi government officials, according to people who have seen the report.”

Most of the Al-Qaeda operatives in post-Hussein Iraq came from Saudi Arabia and neighboring Yemen. These terrorists, as well as those training and operating on Saudi soil are undoubtedly receiving funds from a close source. Considering the vast and unchecked funds flowing through Saudi banks and institutions, it’s reasonable to assume that some of the oil revenues are unknowingly being siphoned to illicit activities and arrive in terrorist hands. The Saudi Ministry of Interior detained 520 terror suspects, who they claimed had targeted an oil facility. One of them admitted to receiving an equivalent of $133,000 (from whom?) and Saudi security forces seized another equivalent of $40,000 cash, which was hidden in remote desert areas. Although Mauritania, Yemeni and Iraqi nationals, some of who had university degrees and came to the Kingdom on private drivers’ visas, composed the terrorist cell, Saudis composed the majority of those detained.

Associated Press, December 8, 2006

“Private Saudi citizens are giving millions of dollars to Sunni insurgents in Iraq and much of the money is used to buy weapons, including shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles, according to key Iraqi officials and others familiar with the flow of cash. Saudi government officials deny that any money from their country is being sent to Iraqis fighting the government and the U.S.-led coalition. But the U.S. Iraq Study Group report said Saudis are a source of funding for Sunni Arab insurgents. Several truck drivers interviewed by The Associated Press described carrying boxes of cash from Saudi Arabia into Iraq; money they said was headed for insurgents.”

Separate the battle against international terrorism from general foreign policy initiatives and compare the activities of the Northern Arab nations, with whom the U.S. is extremely hostile, with the southern Arab nations and Israel, whom the U.S. supports. Comparison demonstrates the U.S. is confusing the objectives of its War on Terrorism with its global objectives and complicating its War on Terrorism.

The United States government has made the battle against terrorism its highest priority. It owes its citizens constructive policies that do not disable those who impede terrorism and do not enable others to create terrorism. It’s a fine line in foreign policy, but the margin between victory and defeat can be a fine line, or as Somerset Maugham wrote, “as sharp as a razor’s edge.”

Dan Lieberman publishes commentaries on foreign policy, economics, and politics at  He is author of the non-fiction books A Third Party Can Succeed in America, Not until They Were Gone, Think Tanks of DC, The Artistry of a Dog, and a novel: The Victory (under a pen name, David L. McWellan). Read other articles by Dan.