Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

Home » Archives » November 2004 » More evidence?

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11/10/2004: More evidence?

Evidence of the faith-based methodology of the Bush bAdministration?

Old news, of course, that the Dishonorable John Ashcroft, U.S. Attorney General, has resigned. I'd probably not even bother making note of it here (my time's better spent dancing in joy, drinking myself into a ecstatic stupor, and then, under the influence, sinking into a miserable depression when my paranoid instincts kick in and I get obsessed with the thought that Ashcroft's resigned in order to pave the way for his appointment as Chief Justice once Rehnquist decides to resign, which is looking more likely to be Sooner than Later), but for this interesting little tidbit:

“The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved,” Ashcroft wrote in a five-page handwritten letter to Bush...
Oh really?

Funny, I don't feel safe from crime and terror. Especially terror. Remember an interesting little fact: Osama bin Forgotten's beef with us? The one that inspired him to send a few of his minions to fly a couple of airliners into the WTC and one into the Pentagon?

It was that there were U.S. troops in the "holy land" of Saudi Arabia. And remember when they got there?

In late 1990 (Saddam invaded Kuwait in August of 1990; we built up our military presence in Saudi Arabia, ostensibly to prevent Saddam from invading, in Q3 and Q4, 1990 and then launched Desert Storm in January of 1991).

And those aircraft flew into the Pentagon and WTC when? September of 2001. Roughly 11 years after the initial "provocation" Osama cited as his beef.

Whatever his other faults, it's clear that, unlike Americans, Osama isn't exactly obsessed with instant gratification. Somehow, I doubt that the current Al Qaeda leadership is, either.

11 years between "provocation" and "response", and Ashcroft has the unmitigated gall to declare that the "safety of Americans from ... terror" has been "secured", because we've gone a little over three years since the last attack without any further attacks from Al Qaeda (let's forget all the times the government has been crying "wolf" and playing with those pretty colored terror codes....)?

Forgive me for not buying into that premise, thank you. I live in the reality-based community (it's a nice little area in midtown Memphis, with plenty of amenities within easy walking distance). But for a really compelling reason to believe we're not any safer from terror, just read below the fold...

I find this reasoning by "Pericles", a member of the dKos community, interesting (and more plausible than Ashcroft's blithe assertion that our safety is secured):
Question 3: What is Bin Laden's ultimate goal?

This is an easy one. Bin Laden has been very explicit: He wants a return of the Caliphate. In other words, he wants a re-unified Islamic nation stretching from Indonesia to Morocco, governed by leaders faithful to the Koran.

This goal is quite popular in the Islamic world. The Muslim man-in-the-street knows his history: When the
Dar al-Islam was unified, it was the most feared empire in the world. Baghdad, the home of the Caliph, was the center of civilization, leading the world in learning and artistry as well as power. (Europe may well have lost its classical heritage if Muslim libraries hadn't preserved Greek manuscripts through the Dark Ages. Just about any English word beginning with al refers to an Islamic invention: algebra, algorithm, alchemy, and even alcohol -- which was an Arabian process for distilling perfumes long before the West started using it to make hard liquor). Who wouldn't want that back?

Well, for starters, the current rulers of the two dozen or so nations of the
Dar al-Islam wouldn't want the Caliphate back. They've got a cushy deal and they know it: They run a very profitable gas station for the West. Keep the people in check, keep the price of oil low enough not to wreck the Western economies, don't piss off the United States badly enough to bring the troops in, and they're set.

These leaders are Bin Laden's near enemies. (That list of near enemies included Saddam Hussein when he was in power.) The far enemy is the power that backs them all up: the United States. (You may look askance at the assertion that the US was backing up Saddam's Iraq. But Saddam became our enemy only when he began to unite other nations (i.e., Kuwait) under his rule. In the Reagan years, when Iran was threatening to extend its boundaries at Iraq's expense, Saddam was our friend.)

Question 4: What is Bin Laden's immediate goal?

If you've been paying attention, you should get this one right: His immediate goal is to radicalize the hundreds of millions of Muslims who sympathize with the vision of a restored Caliphate, but have better things to do with their lives than join the
jihad. A particular problem for Bin Laden are all the Muslims who think that they can find an acceptable place for themselves in a world order dominated by the United States.

I won't insult your intelligence by asking you who his best allies are in reaching this goal: President Bush, obviously, and all of the neo-conservatives in the Pentagon who push for the most aggressive response to the terrorist threat. Also the Christian leaders like Franklin (son of Billy) Graham, who regularly denounce Islam in terms that look fabulous on Al Qaeda's equivalent of the locker-room bulletin board. John Ashcroft -- and anyone else who mistreats assimilating Arabs and thereby convinces them that they will never really be welcome in America -- is also an ally.

It doesn't matter how much they hate him or denounce his deeds; anyone who radicalizes Muslims is doing Bin Laden's work for him. President Bush may as well have been reading from an Al Qaeda script when he referred to the War on Terror as a "crusade". Muslims know their history and know exactly what a crusade is: Christians invade and steal your land. People who didn't believe this when they heard it from Bin Laden have now heard it from the Crusader-in-Chief.


Question 7: What is Bin Laden's long-term strategy to defeat the United States?

Some people find it hard to believe that Bin Laden can even imagine that he will defeat the United States, much less that he has a plan to do so. But he believes in miracles, and he began his military career by participating in the defeat of the once-mighty Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

Bin Laden has been very clear about his strategy, which depends on the same principles that won the Soviet/Afghan War. In his taped message of October, 2004 he said (according to an al-Jazeera translation):
All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al-Qaida, in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies.

This is in addition to our having experience in using guerrilla warfare and the war of attrition to fight tyrannical superpowers, as we, alongside the mujahidin, bled Russia for 10 years, until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat. All Praise is due to Allah. So we are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy. Allah willing, and nothing is too great for Allah.
In other words, he wants to draw the well paid, lavishly supplied American soldiers into wars on his territory, where he can fight cheaply. The more American troops he can attract, the more expensive the war will be, until even the economy of the United States can no longer support it.

This idea is not new. Abu-Ubayd al-Qurashi wrote in Al-Ansar in December 2002 that Al Qaeda would imitate the Vietnamese strategy of attacking the "center of gravity" of the United States. Then, the center of gravity was American popular opinion, so the real Vietnam War was fought on television. But things have changed:
A conviction has formed among the mujahedin that American public opinion is not the center of gravity in America. ... This time it is clearly apparent that the American economy is the American center of gravity. ... Supporting this penetrating strategic view is that the Disunited States of America are a mixture of nationalities, ethnic groups, and races united only by the "American Dream" or, to put it more correctly, the worship of the dollar, which they openly call "the Almighty Dollar."
Currently, the Iraq and Afghan Wars together are costing the US something like $60-80 billion a year. That's a nasty load and is one reason why our national debt is sky-rocketing, but it is still within the long-term carrying capacity of the American economy. However, this level of effort is not getting the job done in either country. More American troops and American money will ultimately be needed, particularly if Bin Laden can continue to strip away our allies. If he really wants to destroy the American economy, though, Bin Laden must widen the war into additional Middle Eastern countries.

Question 8. Why didn't Al Qaeda attack the United States before the election?

On the evening before the election, I was on a street corner waving a Kerry sign. The next guy over was waving a Bush sign. He put forward the following case: Of course Bin Laden wanted to intimidate us into leaving Iraq, of course he wanted Kerry elected, and of course he would have attacked us prior to the election if he could, but President Bush has so improved our homeland defenses and so wounded al Qaeda that Bin Laden no longer has the ability to launch a major attack inside the United States.

Let's put aside for the moment the thought that Timothy McVeigh was no genius, so you and I could probably launch a major terrorist attack in the US if we were so inclined and sufficiently determined. The sign-waver's logic fails to account for Bin Laden's goals and strategy: While Bin Laden wanted Spain to leave Iraq, he wants us to stay in. He's counting on it. Moreover, President Bush is so hated in the Islamic world that he makes a perfect foil. A Kerry victory would have required a major new propaganda effort -- and maybe another terrorist attack that Kerry would have to respond to.

So President Bush is keeping us safe in the following perverse manner: By following Bin Laden's script so perfectly up to this point, Bush has made another attack unnecessary. Since the purpose of 9/11 was to rile us up, Al Qaeda need not hit us again as long as we stay riled.

Question 9. What can we expect Bin Laden to do next?

As the Iraq War drags on, it is becoming less and less popular. The Afghan War is mostly out of the public view, but to the extent that it also drains American lives and money with no end in sight, it also is losing support among those who are paying attention. The memory of 9/11 is starting to fade, as years without an attack convince more and more Americans that we are safe.

All of these factors threaten Bin Laden's plans. If President Bush is tempted into pulling our troops and TV cameras out of Iraq, Bin Laden loses. He needs the United States to continue playing the Great Satan role, because there are many secular Muslims who still hope to fit into the globalized world economy. He needs an enemy to focus their fear and anger, and only the United States is up to the job.

What's more, if he is going to bankrupt the US economy, he needs a wider war. At this point the US military is stretched thin, so a wider war would require a draft or some other unpopular measure for swelling the ranks. The American public would have to be very, very riled to agree to such a thing.

All of this points in one direction: Another attack on the United States, probably within the next year. Ideally, the trail would lead back to some area where the US doesn't currently have troops, and where there is an attackable enemy. Iran is an obvious choice, if Bin Laden can engineer it. But Syria would work as well, and may be easier to manipulate. Egypt, Pakistan, and/or Saudi Arabia could fill the bill if the attack on the US were coupled with a revolution against the corresponding US-supported government. So, for example, an attack on the US coming from Pakistan could be synchronized with the assassination of President Musharraf to draw American troops into that country.

Where will he attack? The target needs to fulfill two criteria: First, it needs to be justifiable to an Islamic audience. Bin Laden's pre-election message was probably aimed at them rather than us, and was intended to pre-justify the next attack. From an Islamic point of view, Bin Laden has now pleaded with the American electorate to be reasonable, and has been rejected. Any attack that follows will seem all the more justified. Second, the next attack needs to empower Bin Laden's most aggressive enemies in the United States. He wants us to continue striking first and asking questions later.

It is probably hopeless to try to read Bin Laden's mind in enough detail to guess his exact target. (And there is always the worry that we will do his thinking for him or point out something he has overlooked.) Undoubtedly much will depend on the opportunities that most easily present themselves. But one class of targets seems all too obvious: red-state megachurches whose leaders have made virulently anti-Islamic statements. They are relatively undefended. They are the heart of Bush's political power base, and so can be blamed for his policies. They can easily be portrayed as enemies of Islam. And, last but not least, an attack on a church would rile American hawks like nothing else.
Well, I feel a little safer. About the last place you're ever going to find me is in a church.

Len on 11.10.04 @ 09:01 PM CST

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