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Needed: A More Serious Approach - by Amir Taheri

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 27, 2004 10:25 am    Post subject: Needed: A More Serious Approach - by Amir Taheri Reply with quote


by Amir Taheri
Benador Associates
July 26, 2004
Reading the 570-page "The 9/11 Commission Report" is like going through a French nouveau-roman. It starts with the promise of uncovering an ingenious plot but offers nothing but re-heated platitudes served with a pseudo-philosophical garnish.

The reader ends up asking: where is the beef?

The trouble starts with what looks like a misunderstanding of the mission of the commission.

When it was set up many thought that the commission was there to find out who were the people who wish to kill Americans and why; and , once those questions were addressed, to come up with suggestions for neutralizing those people and destroying the environment that breeds them.

The commissioners, however, appear to have embarked upon an altogether different mission.

The commissioners tell us that they had three aims:

To offer "the most complete narrative" of the 9/11 events. But that, in fact, is the task of historians and may not be possible for years, if not decades to come. There is still so much that we do not know. What the report offers is a collage of numerous articles and books that have already covered the "event" side of the 9/11 event. One more narrative adds little that is useful.

To assemble as many personal testimonies as possible of the survivors of the attacks and their families. This, though, a laudable effort, is of little help in identifying the ideology and the machine that produced the killers in the first place.

To offer recommendations about ways and means of preventing similar attacks. Normally, this should have been the "meat" of the report. It is not. It is, in fact, its Achilles heel. The reasons are not hard to imagine.

The commissioners have a politico-technocratic mindset. They are the products of a political culture that assumes that all problems have technical and bureaucratic solutions.

Such solutions are standard: create a new layer of bureaucracy, and spend some more money. This has, of course, failed to solve the social problems that the US itself has faced for decades, and is certainly not going to put the fear of God in Osama bin Laden and his like.

The commission itself was a typical product of such a way of thinking. So it is not surprising that it came up with only two new proposals: one is to create a Cabinet post dealing with intelligence, a twin for the existing Homeland Security tsar.

The other is a suggestion to spend money on improving the lives of disaffected youths in Arab and other Muslim countries. I am not kidding!


Less than 10 per cent of the report, basically its Chapter II, is devoted to the key question: who are these terrorists, where do they come from, and what makes them tick?

The report says: "We learned about an enemy who is sophisticated, patient, disciplined, and lethal. The enemy rallies broad support in the Arab and Muslim world by demanding redress for political grievances, but its hostility towards us and our values is limitless."

Leaving aside the odd syntax,-obviously someone insisted that the last phrase be added- the paragraph quoted above shows how the commission got on the wrong track from the start.

The report assumes that there is a single, readily identifiable enemy. This is the routine way of political thinking, as shaped during the Cold War.
Anyone with knowledge of the Arab countries and the Muslim world in general would know that this is not the case.

The problem with the current war on terror is precisely that the democracies, and those Muslims who aspire after democracy, are faced with a multi-faceted threat that assumes numerous forms, from the burning of books to the cutting of throats.

This is a war that has to be fought in numerous battlefields and against many enemies that, though united in their efforts to destroy the democratic societies, and first among them the United States, use a bewilderingly wide range of weapons and tactics.

The Bush administration has opened the military theatre of this war by liberating Afghanistan and Iraq and seeking to destroy the terrorists in there.

But this is a war that must also be fought in diplomatic, cultural, religious, and, above all, political battlefields. In all those theatres the US would need, and can find, allies, including among a majority of the Muslims who have been the first victims of Islamic fascism and its ideology of terror.

The commission has no suggestions to make about how to engage in those battlefields, who to choose as allies and who to identify as neutrals.
The commission makes an even bigger mistake. By speaking of "political grievances" it tries to explain the Islamists within the parameters of classical logic.

Having accused the administration of lack of imagination, the commission, is itself unable to imagine a conflict that is not political in the normal sense of the term.

The typical politician in a democracy, starting with ancient Athens, is a deal-maker. He practices the art of compromise, not confrontation. He is always ready to understand the other side, to accept part of the blame, and to propose give-and-take.

A more cynical version of this type of politics leads to triangulation, a la Bill Clinton. That kind of politics, however, does not work with the kind of enemy the US now faces. This enemy does not want to give and take, to compromise, or to triangulate. He wants you to obey him in every detail or he will kill you.

Once you assume some guilt on your own part, the whole thing could go something like this: well, you know, our wealth and power is bound to cause jealousy and humiliation among the poor and powerless; we also have a military presence in all but three of the Arab states; and don't we support Israel whose destruction is the dream of every Arab worth its salt?

The aims of the "enemy" in question, however, are not solely political.
He will not be happy even if, in the spirit of liberal generosity, you gave him half of your power and wealth. Nor would he settle for a total American withdrawal from the world. Nor again would he be satisfied if you helped him wipe Israel off the map.

This enemy's conflict with the United States, and alongside it other democracies, not to mention those Muslims who also aspire after democracy, is not political but existential.

He wants to rule you because he thinks he is the holder of a "the highest form of truth". Just as Hitler believed that the Aryan master-race had a natural right to rule the rest of mankind, regarded as sub-humanity, these guys believe that because they are Muslims they have a God-given right to seize control of all aspects of our lives.

Remember that Hitler, too, had grievances: starting with the Versailles Treaty and the Suddeten ethnic Germans.

Once you assume that those who kill Americans do so because of "political grievances", the next logical step is to establish a list of those grievances and find ways of addressing them.

This leads to a role reversal: rather than the Americans being the aggrieved party because they are killed, not to mention the daily burning of their flags- those who cut throats and burn American flags become the victims with "political grievances."

This enemy wants you, the whole world in fact, to convert to Islam because he believes the advent of Islam abrogated all other religions. Anyone who is not a Muslim is not a full human being.

"Our struggle is not about land or water," the late Ayatollah Ruhallah Khomeini said in 1980. "It is about bringing, by force if necessary, the whole of mankind onto the right path."

During the largest pan-Islamist conference ever was held in the Sudanese capital Khartoum in 1993. It ended with a vow to turn the 21st century into "the century of Islam's triumph throughout the globe."
But even if all Americans do convert to Islam that would not satisfy the "enemy" in question.

This enemy would want you to convert to his version of Islam. He wants to seize full control of every aspect of your life and dictate whatever move you make. Its chief theoretician, Abu-Ala Muadoodi, says that God subjected man's body to the iron laws of biology from which he cannot escape. The task of Islam, meaning Maudoodi's Islam, is to impose similar iron laws on man's soul.

This enemy regards the overwhelming majority of Muslims as "lapsed ones" or "hypocrites". This is the enemy that was measuring the beards of Muslims men in the streets of Kabul and punishing those whose facial hair was not up to standard. This is the same enemy that raids shopping malls in Tehran to beat up Muslim women who dare reveal a single strand of hair from under their hijab. This is the same enemy who issues a booklet under the title of "Allowed and Forbidden", in Qatar each year, dictating every imaginable move that anyone might make anywhere and at any given time.
Now, this enemy does not grow on trees. He is the product of a system of education, a culture and a polity. He is citizen of a state, has bases and safe havens not in space but in real countries, and uses all the facilities of the modern global system.

It is astonishing that the 9/11 Commission chose to fly over all that.
It discovered extensive contacts between the Al Qaeda and 24 governments in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Al Qaeda's contacts with Iraq and Iran, not to mention Syria through its domination of Lebanon, stretched over years and are mentioned in the report.

The Commission, however, did not think of asking any of those governments what they were doing talking to Al Qaeda. May be Al Qaeda leaders, including bin Laden, simply dropped in for a social call; and may be all the talk was only about the weather. But it would have been nice to know what the governments involved had to say for themselves.

Lee Hamilton, the Democrat co-chairman of the Commission, has gone out of his way to hammer in the point that they found no evidence of actual cooperation between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, although there was a well established pattern of relationship between them.
Hamilton means this as in indirect way of criticizing President George W Bush's decision to liberate Iraq.

The fact, however, is that if the Commission found no evidence that Saddam worked with Al Qaeda, it also found no evidence that he didn't. In a case like this the "presumption of innocence" cannot be used for obfuscation.

Keen to score a partisan point of his own, Tom Kean, the Commission's Republican Chairman, has come up with his own gem of a phrase to give credit to the Bush administration's efforts since 9/11.
"Although we are safer today, we are not safe," he says.

Well, how can you be safer if you are not safe in the first place?

What he means is that we are less unsafe now than we were on the eve of 9/11.

Both men ask why is it that the terrorists specially hate America?
Neither provides an answer.

The answer can be found in hundreds of books, articles and sermons that make the round in the Arab world.
The US is an "evil animal" because it can bite back when bitten. It is not Spain that would rush to change its governments after a few bomb kills 200 people on suburban trains. Nor is it The Philippines to change its foreign policy as soon as one of its citizens is seized as hostage in Iraq.

Nor yet can the US be compared to some of the European Union members who spend more intellectual and diplomatic energy fighting George W Bush than they do in combating Islamist fascism.

"The American Great Satan is the centre of global perfidy," says Ayatollah Emami Kashani, one of Iran's ruling mullahs. "Hit the centre and the edifice collapses."

According to bin Laden a single hour fighting America is better than 10,000 pilgrimages to Mecca.

There is no space here to review the 9/11 report in detail.

There are also too many grammatical, spelling, and factual errors to be catalogued in a newspaper article. But the chief failure of the commission was in its assumption that the mindset that suits the study of isolated, though dramatic, events, could also accommodate a probe into the undercurrents of history of which the 9/11 tragedy was but a manifestation.

All that one can say is that, although it took 19 moths to complete, the Commission's report is a bland document whose chief purpose is not to ruffle any feathers.

It says: "It is not our purpose to assess blame." Really? On the contrary, the commission was set up to assess blame and to expose those responsible.

Sadly, the 9/11 Commission has failed in its mission. The American people, indeed the whole world deserve a more serious approach to this life and death issue of our times.

Amir Taheri is an Iranian author of ten books on the Middle East and Islam. He's reachable through http://www.benadorassociates.com/.
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 27, 2004 1:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Nature of the Enemy

Win first. Hearts and minds will come.

National Review Online

All of a sudden everybody's asking, "Who are we fighting anyway?" It's an interesting question David Brooks has cooed over this, but it's not nearly as important as many of the debaters believe. The 9/11 Commission tells us we're fighting Islamists, or Islamist terrorists, and , because he likes the notion that we're fighting an ideology. The White House has devoted lots of man-hours to this matter, trying to figure out how we win "the battle of ideas," and the Internet is full of people who argue, variously, that we're fighting "radical Islam," "Saddam's die-hards," "foreign fighters," or even "Islam itself." All of these "Islamic" definitions guide us back to Samuel Huntington's thesis that there is a war or at least a clash of civilizations underway. Most share the conviction that we're fighting something that is unusually dangerous because not a traditional enemy, that is to say, a state. It's much more than that, or so they believe.

I wonder. An awful lot of our enemies' ideology comes from us, as several scholars Bernard Lewis and Amir Taheri, for starters have stressed. The virulent anti-Semitism at the core of the (Sunni and Shiite) jihadists is right out of the Fuhrer's old playbook, which helps understand why jihad and the revival of anti-Semitism in Europe are running along in tandem. Sure, there's ample xenophobia in Islam, Bat Yeor's fine work on dhimmitude andabundantly documents the Muslim drive to dominate the infidel. But the kind of anti-Semitism hardly distinguishable from anti-Americanism nowadays that we find in Middle Eastern gutters has a Western trademark. It started in France in the 19th century, got a pseudoscientific gloss from the Austrians and Germans a generation later, and spread like topsy.

Notice, please, that many scholars at the time insisted that Nazism was first and foremost an ideology, not a state. Indeed, Hitler was at pains to proclaim that he was fighting for an Aryan reich, not a German state. And if you read some of the literature on Nazism or for that matter the broader work on totalitarianism produced by the "greatest generation," you'll find a profound preoccupation with "winning the war of ideas" against fascism. Indeed, a good deal of money and energy was expended by our armed forces, during and after the war, to de-Nazify and de-fascify the Old World.

But the important thing is that when we smashed Hitler, Nazi ideology died along with him, and fell into the same bunker.

The same debate over "whom or what are we fighting" raged during the Cold War, when we endlessly pondered whether we were fighting Communist ideology or Russian imperialism. Some mostly intellectuals, many of them in the CIA saw the Cold War primarily in ideological terms, and thought we would win if and only if we wooed the world's masses from the Communist dream. Others warned that this was an illusion, and that we'd better tend to "containment" else the Red Army would bring us and our allies to our knees.

In the end, when the Soviet Empire fell, the appeal of Communism was mortally wounded, at least for a generation.

You see where I'm going, surely. The debate is a trap, because it diverts our attention and our energies from the main thing, which is winning the war. It's an intellectual amusement, and it gets in our way. As that great Machiavellian Vince Lombardi reminds us, winning is the only thing.

That's why the public figure who has best understood the nature of the war, and has best defined our enemy, is George W. Bush. Of all people! He had it right from the start: We have been attacked by many terrorist groups and many countries that support the terrorists. It makes no sense to distinguish between them, and so we will not. We're going after them all.

Yes, I know he seems to lose his bearings from time to time, especially when the deep thinkers and the sheikhs and the Europeans and Kofi Annan and John Paul II insist we can't win the hearts and minds of the Middle East unless we first solve the Arab-Israeli conflict. But he has repeatedly pulled himself out of that trap very nicely, and he invariably does so in terms that show he has a uniquely deep understanding of our enemies.

He says the way to win the war is to liberate the Middle East from the tyrants who now govern it and sponsor terrorism.

And that's exactly right. There are plenty of terrorists out there who aren't Islamists. (There are even some suicide terrorists who have been forced into it; Coalition commanders are reporting the discovery of hands chained to steering wheels in suicide vehicles.) But all the terror masters are tyrants. Saddam didn't have any religious standing, nor do the Assads, but they are in the front rank of the terror masters. Ergo: Defeat the tyrants, win the war.

And then historians can study the failed ideology.

Machiavelli, Chapter Two: If you are victorious, people will always judge the means you used to have been appropriate.

Corollary from Lyndon Baines Johnson: When you have them by the balls, the hearts and minds generally follow.

Faster, please.
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 27, 2004 1:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Echoing the Cold War Debate

By Michael A. Ledeen
Posted: Monday, July 26, 2004

New York Sun
Publication Date: July 26, 2004

The 9/11 commission labors mightily and brings forth a mouse. I confess to cringing whenever someone suggests governmental reorganization, and unlucky Chapter 13 of the 9/11 Commission's report is frighteningly entitled "How To Do It? A Different Way of Organizing The Government." As expected, most of the recommendations are not helpful, a couple are really great but, like the terrific proposal to shut down CIA's paramilitary operations and give the authority to the Pentagon's excellent Special Forces, have nothing to do with "organizing the government," and several are really bad news.

But first, the most interesting aspect of the report, which thus far I think has only been discussed by David Brooks: The commission decided to define "the threat" for us, which it defines as "Islamist terrorism."

Mr. Brooks loves it, because it identifies the enemy as an ideology, not a state, and not one or several terror groups. The commission is pretty consistent about its pet theme, so when it recommends a new counterterrorist bureaucracy, the report says it's to unify "strategic intelligence and operational planning against Islamist terrorists."

This reminds me of the old Cold War debate. Were we fighting international communism, or Soviet imperialism? The winning answer was "yes." We needed to destroy the Soviet Union, because of its huge military threat, and we needed to discredit communism, because that ideology recruited millions of misguided believers to the ranks of Soviet-sponsored operations against the free world. In practice, the destruction of the Soviet Empire effectively discredited communist doctrine.

In like manner, we are now fighting an array of terrorists, many of whom are recruited to the jihadist ranks by Islamist ideology. Just as our communist enemies got invaluable support from the Evil Empire, so the jihadists get assistance from Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia and had been supported by Saddam's Iraq, Talebanic Afghanistan, and Qadaffi's Libya.

I have no doubt that if we continue to defeat and remove the terror masters, which means, at a minimum, regime change in Tehran and Damascus and a radical change in Riyadh, the Islamist doctrine will be discredited. Nothing is so devastating to a messianic movement as the defeat of its armies, because it is taken to mean that the Almighty did not approve the enterprise.

Moreover, just as some of the terror masters are not Islamist--the Baathists in Iraq and Syria, for example--some of the terrorists are quite secular--Marxist, even, like Abu Abbas, recently deceased in captivity in Iraq. It is foolish to draw a red line around the religious fanatics, and the commission has done just that.

Now to the vision of a newly organized government. The commission's basic concept is to bring everything under a single roof, thereby erasing two traditional dividing lines: the one between analysis and operations, and the one between domestic and foreign responsibilities.

It proposes a new director of national intelligence with a new bureaucracy and new powers. The whole panoply of intelligence agencies, from the CIA to the National Security Agency and the FBI, the military services, the Homeland Security antiterrorist unit--you name it, it's in there--all come under his domain.

Not to put too fine an edge on it, but this is a truly dreadful idea. In one of their lighter moments, the commissioners write that the new behemoth will not make policy, but merely execute it. But this is nonsense, as any serious student of bureaucracy knows full well. Everyone in Washington is busily trying to make policy all the time, and the officials in a super agency will have greater sway over policy than the current ones, who already have far too much.

Moreover, such an enormous concentration of power is an open invitation to corruption--mostly of the political variety--and to penetration by our enemies. Instead of having to find out what several agencies are up to in Washington, the bad guys would only have to get into one place, where the 9/11 Commission will have thoughtfully concentrated all the secrets.

The commission proposes the wrong solution because, just as it misidentifies our enemy, it misunderstands our problems. The intelligence community has been in a shambles for a long time, primarily because Congress has castrated it. The latest legislative thrust came at the hands of Senator Torricelli, President Clinton, and the director of central intelligence, John Deutch, who combined effectively to forbid any contact by CIA case officers with foreigners with bad human rights records.

At the time, this prompted me to ask why we didn't just shut down the whole enterprise, since even the State Department could talk to nice guys. The whole point of FBI and CIA is to deal with evil people, but Congress didn't want that to happen.

On paper, at least, the Patriot Act got rid of many of the old restrictions--one of which, just so we understand the dimensions of the horror, made it illegal for the FBI to clip newspaper articles about outspoken enemies of America, or go into mosques to listen to jihadist sermons--but a culture of timorousness and incompetence cannot be undone in a couple of years.

The intelligence community, like every other part of society, needs good leadership and talented personnel. The commission piously insists that the intelligence community recruit the best possible people, to which we can all say amen, but it will take time, and, above all, does not require hundreds of new bureaucratic managers.

If I were to make a single recommendation to improve intelligence, it would be a massive reduction in personnel, so that individuals could be accountable for their work, instead of the current situation in which assessments and analyses are approved by scores of officials, automatically guaranteeing the least common denominator as the bottom line.

We need competition among various analysts and various agencies, but the commission guarantees the opposite: bigger and bigger units, less room for initiative, less diversity in vision. This would inevitably narrow the vision of our policymakers, give greater opportunities to our enemies, and require, alas, more commissions and longer reports. This is not the way.

Michael A. Ledeen holds the Freedom Chair at AEI.
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 27, 2004 1:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Governmental TV echoes terror policy

SMCCDI (Information Service)
Jul 27, 2004

The Islamic regime's governmental TV has started to echo the official terror policy in order to increase the fear among Iranians on the consequences of opposing the Islamic State. Programs have started to be broadcasted showing footages of public executions, floggings and groups of enchained youth arrested by the security forces and forced to circulate in the streets.

This new repressive propaganda indicates the growing fear of the Mullahcracy of the increasing popular hate and opposition to the Islamic regime while it shows the final choice of the Islamic republic's leaders for a stand off against the absolute majority of Iranians who are looking for Regime Change.

At least, one Iranian is executed each week under false labels, such as, "Drug Trafficker", "Rapist", "Spy", "Bandit", "Hooligan" or "Murderer", while the public flogging of Iranians have re-started again.

It's to note that while most Iranians are well aware that these victims are mostly those who have somehow retaliated to the militiamen's brutalities, the use of such false labels is intending to help the European and Japanese collaborators of the Islamic regime to avoid a protest, by their public opinions, on the continuation of their economic relations with a tyrannical and terrorist regime.
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