Sunday, February 18, 2007

Bin Laden Returns to the Rhetoric of the Misdirected War on Terror

Just when the trail for Osama Bin Laden had been described as cold,(General Eikenberry, said that the trail for Osama bin Laden has gone cold. - see Notes from Media Roundtable With Secretary Of Defense Robert Gates) the news media resurrects the phantom leader to put fear in the hearts of all those who would cut and run from the war on terror.

The scooter Libby trial was an education into the manipulation of the media by the administration (see the Boston Globes Libby case witness details art of media manipulation.)

The media outlets want news, and the Administration wants talking points for their costly program to bring democracy to the middle east.

Case and point: The New York times reports today :

WASHINGTON, Feb. 18 — Senior leaders of Al Qaeda operating from Pakistan have re-established significant control over their once battered worldwide terror network and over the past year have set up a band of training camps in the tribal regions near the Afghan border, according to American intelligence and counterterrorism officials.

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.

If there is one lesson we have learned from the Iraq invasion is that the administration "manipulates" so called iintelligence to fit their agenda. see
Wolfowitz Emerges as Key Figure in Intel Manipulation /describing Wolfowitz and his "hands-on role in knowingly providing the White House with the sort of dubious intelligence")

If this seems a little biased toward unbelieving, I would suggest that one reflects on the fact that almost the same story ran last June

"WASHINGTON - The flurry of messages from Osama Bin Laden and his deputy this year suggests the pair is regaining control over Al Qaeda operations for the first time since the U.S. toppled the Taliban, two top experts told the Daily News.

"It means their command and control over Al Qaeda is probably stronger than we thought it was," said Michael Scheuer, who ran the CIA's Osama Bin Laden unit and is the author of "Imperial Hubris." (JAMES GORDON MEEK

Overblown threat

Professor John Mueller, chairman of National Security Studies at Ohio State University, says in a new book that politicians and security officials overreacted to the threat and exaggerated what was really a small risk.

The threat from Al Qaeda to the United States since the Sept. 11 2001 attacks has been “overblown” by officials, with the chances of becoming a victim the same as being killed by a comet, a he contends.

In his book “Overblown: How Politicians and the Terrorism Industry Inflate National Security Threats, and Why We Believe Them”, Mueller analysed public statements from senior politicians and security officials since Sept .11.

He questioned why Al Qaeda had failed to attack the United States again since then, despite numerous grim warnings that had suggested that Osama bin Laden’s group was active and on the verge of attacks.

Mueller said the Department for Homeland Security had identified 80,000 potential targets from shopping malls to the Weeki Wachee Springs water park in Florida.

But the chances of being killed by an act of terrorism are 80,000 to 1, he contends, the same as being killed by a comet or an asteroid.

According to his calculations, about 200 people worldwide have died in non-combat areas as a result of Al Qaeda

“That’s 200 too many but not a threat to an international system or any modern state,” he reasoned. “Two to three hundred die every year in the United States alone from drowning in a bath tub.”

Mueller stressed that there was a threat from a small group of extremists but he argued they were not as sophisticated, and so not as much of a risk, as the authorities made out.

“More and more when you look at these cases you do find they are not the sharpest knives in the drawer,” said Mueller.

“Many of them seem to clearly be nut cases, probably more dangerous to themselves.
action since Sept. 11.

Who belongs to Al Queda?

Of the 664 people arrested under the Terrorism Act since September the 11th, none of them have been convicted of belonging to Al Qaeda. Only 3 people have so far been convicted of having any association with any IslamistIslamist literature. The majority of people convicted under the Terrorism Act since September the 11thUVF or the Real IRA. And many of the arrests that were dramatically announced as being part of a hidden Al Qaeda network were, in reality, as absurd as the cases in America. For example, the London police swooped on a Mr Zain ul-Abedin who they said was running an international network for terrorist training. It turned out to be a self-defence course for bodyguards. He called it ''Ultimate Jihad Challenge.'' His only client was a security guard from a supermarket, who wanted to learn how to defend himself against shoplifters. Mr Zain ul-Abedin was cleared of all charges. Then there was the Hogmanay groups, and none of those convictions were for being involved in a terror plot; they were for fund raising, or possessing have actually been members of Irish terrorist groups like the terror cell who, it was alleged, were planning to attack Edinburgh. All charges against them were quietly dropped when it was revealed that a key part of the evidence, a map that showed the targets they were going to attack, turned out to have been left in their flat by an Australian backpacker who had ringed the tourist sites he wanted to see. And even the most frightening and high profile of the plots uncovered turned out to be without foundation. No one was ever arrested for planning gas attacks on the London tubes; it was a fantasy that swept through the media. Just as in America, there is no evidence yet of the terrifying and sinister network lurking under the surface of our society which both government and the media continually tell us is there.

Zawahiri and bin Laden began implementing a new strategy in August, 1998. Two huge suicide bombs were detonated outside American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing more than 200 people. The bombings had a dramatic effect on the West. For the first time, the name ''bin Laden'' entered the public consciousness as a terrorist mastermind.

The suicide bombers had been recruited by bin Laden from the Islamist training camps in Afghanistan. But his and Zawahiri's operation was very much on the fringes of the Islamist movement. The overwhelming majority of the fighters in these camps had nothing at all to do with bin Laden or international terrorism. They were training to fight régimes in their own countries, such as Uzbekistan, Kashmir, and Chechnia. Their aim was to establish Islamist societies in the Western world, and they had no interest in attacking America. Bin Laden helped fund some of the camps, and in return was allowed to look for volunteers for his operations. But a number of senior IslamistsZawahiri's own group, Islamic Jihad. were against his new strategy, including members of

Even bin Laden's displays of strength to the Western media were faked. The fighters in his video had been hired for the day and told to bring their own weapons. For beyond this small group, bin Laden had no formal organization .

What is Al Qaeda?

In January, 2001, a trial began in a Manhattan courtroom of four men accused of the embassy bombings in east Africa. But the Americans had also decided to prosecute bin Laden in his absence. But to do this under American law, the prosecutors needed evidence of a criminal organisation because, as with the Mafia, that would allow them to prosecute the head of the organisation even if he could not be linked directly to the crime. And the evidence for that organisation was provided for them by an ex-associate of bin Laden's called Jamal al-Fadl.

During the investigation of the 1998 bombings, there is a walk-in source, Jamal al-Fadl, who is a Sudanese militant who was with bin Laden in the early 90s, who has been passed around a whole series of Middle East secret services, none of whom want much to do with him, and who ends up in America and is taken on by -- uh -- the American government, effectively, as a key prosecution witness and is given a huge amount of American taxpayers' money at the same time. And his account is used as raw material to build up a picture of Al Qaeda. The picture that the FBI want to build up is one that will fit the existing laws that they will have to use to prosecute those responsible for the bombing. Now, those laws were drawn up to counteract organised crime: the Mafia, drugs crime, crimes where people being a member of an organisation is extremely important. You have to have an organisation to get a prosecution. And you have al-Fadl and a number of other witness, a number of other sources, who are happy to feed into this. You've got material that, looked at in a certain way, can be seen to show this organisation's existence. You put the two together and you get what is the first bin Laden myth -- the first Al Qaeda myth. And because it's one of the first, it's extremely influential.

The picture al-Fadl drew for the Americans of bin Laden was of an all-powerful figure at the head of a large terrorist network that had an organised network of control. He also said that bin Laden had given this network a name: ''Al Qaeda.'' It was a dramatic and powerful picture of bin Laden, but it bore little relationship to the truth.

The reality was that bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri had become the focus of a loose association of disillusioned Islamist militants who were attracted by the new strategy. But there was no organisation. These were militants who mostly planned their own operations and looked to bin Laden for funding and assistance. He was not their commander. There is also no evidence that bin Laden used the term ''Al Qaeda'' to refer to the name of a group until after September the 11th, when he realized that this was the term the Americans have given it.

Al Qaeda translates into "the base'. And the current administration would have you believe that it means the base of evil, the base of lawlessness, the rejection of common morality.

Back to the basic facts:

Saddam Hessian was not in contact with Bin Laden or his ''Al Qaeda'' group as the Bush administration asserted prior to the US invasion of the sovereign nation of Iraq.

Since the invasion Iraq has become a battleground for multiple terrorist groups. One of the major causes of this was Paul Bremmer's decision to disband the Iraq military. Now the two major religious groups the Sunni's and the

Shiites and Sunni's are battling each other in what has been called a civil war.

The region is less secure now than prior to the invasion.

If the US pulls out of Iraq, the current government most likely would not be strong enough to keep control without help from another nation- most likely Iran would step in to fill our void. This would put the US in a worse position in terms of securing our oil needs. Iran already has hostile feelings towards us, and an abandoned Iraq would probably hold a grudge against us. Plus it would increase the insecurity of our ally Israel, who Iran has promised to wipe off the map.

Meanwhile the US soldiers in Iraq are facing a nameless enemy. The insurgents seem to be coming from all factions (some dressed as the Iraq police and military). Bush needs to bring a focus back to this fiasco. Osama Bin Laden is returning to us now as the leader of all things bad, the dark lord, the one in ultimate control.

He might even be sighted in the near future in Iraq.

Is there a solution to the problem? Possibly yes. A new leader needs to stand up in Iraq, get the Iraq military and police behind him, ban the lawless private armies (even the one's the US is using for security, renegotiate to Iraq's favor all contracts `given' by the Bush administration and set about on an agenda to truly take care of the people.

The italicised material comes from the BBC film "The Power of Nightmares". You can view it here. Transcripts of the film can be found here.

Posted by Paul Grant(follower of Basho)

Books and DVD mentioned in article:

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