Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Global Terrorism: Refresher Part 5

The world has changed so drastically in the past generation, yet many people have failed to grasp the meaning of these changes.

The Soviet Union not only no longer controls approximately half the world’s nations, but itself has been dissolved and the Kremlin’s method of governance decried by the very men who now rule Russia.

In 1973, the United States and the Soviet Union came close to using nuclear weapons over Israel. In 1984, an accident in the Soviet Union almost provoked a nuclear launch. Since then, there has not been an incident, even September 11th, which has brought the United States to the threshold of nuclear war.

In 1991, Coalition ground forces, led and commanded by American tank and officers, retook Kuwait in only 3 days of ground operations. In a Politburo meeting in March, a shaken Defense Minister Yazov warned the Kremlin that the Soviet Union had nothing that could possibly match the rebuilt American military.

In the 1994 mid-term elections, Democrats lost 56 House and 8 Senate seats to the Republicans, effectively losing control of Congress for the first time since the Eisenhower Administration, and in the context of the next five elections the GOP continued to gain control in U.S. Government to a point not held since before the 1929 Stock Market Crash.

With the explosion of home computer and internet access has come the rise of blogs, along with Talk Radio and Cable News, collectively known as New Media, and generally acknowledged to be a legitimate political force, sufficient to counter the extant political influence of the Old or Mainstream Media of network television and print news conglomerates.

And in the Middle East, it had slowly begun to dawn on Muslims in general, that A)Israel was not going to be pushed into the Mediterranean Sea anytime soon, and B)No-one was seriously protecting the rights of Palestinians, but rather using their suffering as a pretext for whatever they felt like pursuing.

Not a happy time to be a terrorist, the early Nineties, with all this change in the air, and the terrorist groups of note either fading into a fat retirement like the PLO, or flaming out gloriously like the Islamic Jihad. Fortunately for Global Terrorism, and badly for the world, there came three significant forces into play, symbolized by their figureheads: Bill Clinton, Kofi Annan, and Osama bin Laden.

None of these three men was at all the powerful leader he represented himself to be, but in each case the system was already in place for him to play to his advantage. In respect to Terrorism, Bill Clinton treated it as no more than a nuisance, not even bothering to visit the site of the 1993 World Trade Center attack, and although Clinton deployed the military dozens of times during his two terms, none of them resulted in regime change of a nation or leader hostile to American ideals, or removed a single terrorist group from operation. Kofi Annan was the architect of the now-infamous U.N. Oil-for-Food scandal, which paid bribes to hundreds of United Nations and European officials, while allowing Saddam Hussein access to billions of dollars to use as he pleased, and in its course starving tens of thousands of needy Iraqis, for which Hussein and Annan cruelly and falsely blamed the U.S. Embargo on Iraq. As for bin Laden, his early career in Afghanistan was essentially as a supply source for the mujahadeen, which made him respected but not revered. Needing to feed his ego, bin Laden (rather like Hussein) used Islam for his own purpose, building a group around Taliban and ex-mujahadeen who wanted a new fight once the Russians left. Some went to Chechnya, but bin Laden took others with him back to Saudi Arabia, where they looked to the next natural target: America. Bin Laden didn’t want Israel, because too many other groups were already attacking Israel, and in any case the Israelis were clearly tough and ready. Al Qaeda made its name on soft targets, kidnapping businessmen and bombing movie theaters if Arabs dared to go to the cinema instead of a mosque on Friday. Al Qaeda was suceesful also, because it had learned tactical tricks from other groups. The PLO, for example, had become an umbrella for a number of groups, allowing the organization’s leaders to claim or deny knowledge of actions with complete veracity. Al Qaeda was not one firm organization, but a collective name taken at convenience for actions, and sometimes acting with no claim at all, to practice technique and instill a general unease in a population. Further, as terrorists continued to be treated as criminals, they needed only to provide legal cover to avoid serious repercussions for their actions. When the Khobar barracks blew, as well as the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, bin Laden was sending a test message to the United States. The silence from the White House told him his enemy in Washington was going to be just like his enemy in Moscow had been (bin Laden giving himself an inordinate amount of credit for the Soviet retreat from Afghanistan). Even before the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, then, bin Laden planned to make a name for his umbrella organization, and (he hoped) explode the Western World into chaos and a true Jihad.

(to be concluded in the next article)

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