…and presidential priorities.
Note: Amir Taheri is a contributing editor for FamilySecurityMatters.org and writes for the NY Post and the Wall Street Journal (detect a slight, right-ward slant here?). His latest book is The Persian Night: Iran Under the Khomeinist Revolution. His New York Times article below, declaring the death of Osama bin Laden, was written in 2002. It is typical of the political cover that allowed Bush-Cheney to move on to their real priority, the occupation of Iraq.
– Monsieur d’Nalgar
The Death of bin Ladenism
By Amir Taheri, July 11, 2002
Osama bin Laden is dead. The news first came from sources in Afghanistan and Pakistan almost six months ago: the fugitive died in December and was buried in the mountains of southeast Afghanistan. Pakistan’s president, Pervez Musharraf, echoed the information. The remnants of Osama’s gang, however, have mostly stayed silent, either to keep Osama’s ghost alive or because they have no means of communication.
With an ego the size of Mount Everest, Osama bin Laden would not have, could not have, remained silent for so long if he were still alive. He always liked to take credit even for things he had nothing to do with. Would he remain silent for nine months and not trumpet his own survival?
Even if he is still in the world, bin Ladenism has left for good. Mr. bin Laden was the public face of a brand of politics that committed suicide in New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001, killing thousands of innocent people in the process.
What were the key elements of that politics?
The first was a cynical misinterpretation of Islam that began decades ago with such anti-Western ideologues as Maulana Maudoodi of Pakistan and Sayyid Qutb of Egypt. Although Mr. Maudoodi and Mr. Qutb were not serious thinkers, they could at least offer a coherent ideology based on a narrow reading of Islamic texts. Their ideas about Western barbarism and Muslim revival, distilled down to bin Ladenism, became mere slogans designed to incite zealots to murder.
People like Mr. Maudoodi and Mr. Qutb could catch the ball and run largely because most Muslim intellectuals of their generation (and later) had no interest in continuing the work of Muslim philosophers. Our intellectuals were too busy learning Western ideologies of one kind or another — and they left the newly urbanized Muslim masses to the half-baked ideas of men like Mr. Maudoodi and Mr. Qutb and eventually Mr. bin Laden.
Now, however, many Muslim intellectuals are returning home, so to speak. They are rediscovering the philosophical heritage of Islam and the challenges of Muslim political thought. And Maudoodi-Qutbism is now being seen as a pseudo-Islamic version of Western fascism.
The second element that made Mr. bin Laden possible was easy money, largely from wealthy individuals in the Persian Gulf area who believed that they were buying a place in the hereafter while protecting themselves against political opposition in this world. Some paid because they believed they were helping poor and oppressed Muslims. Others paid so militants would go and spend their energies far away from home.
That easy money is no longer available, at least not in large quantities. Many donors have realized they were financing terrorists. Some have been forced to choose between the West, where they have the bulk of their wealth, and the troglodyte mujahedeen of the Hindu Kush.
The third element that made bin Ladenist terror possible was the encouraging, or at least complacent, attitude of several governments. The Taliban in Afghanistan began by hosting Mr. bin Laden and ended up becoming his life-and-death buddies. The Pakistanis were also supportive because they wanted to dominate Afghanistan and make life hard for the Indians by sending holy warriors to Kashmir. The Sudanese government was sympathetic, if not actually supportive, and offered at least a safe haven. This was also the case in Yemen, where in November 2000 I accidentally ran into a crowd of Qaeda militants who had flown in from Pakistan for a gathering.
We now know that Qaeda cells operated, often quite openly, in Muslim countries from Indonesia and Malaysia to Morocco and Tunisia, without being bothered by anyone. The fall of the Taliban means the gang no longer has a secure base. All the other countries are also closed, and in some cases even hostile.
The fourth element was the mistaken practice of many Western powers that sheltered the terrorists in the name of freedom of expression and dissent. We now know that London was a critical haven for Al Qaeda. The murder of the Afghan resistance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud was planned in London. Qaeda militants operated in Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, Spain and Italy without significant restraint.
The fifth element that made bin Ladenism possible was the West’s, especially America’s, perceived weakness if not actual cowardice. A joke going around militant Islamist circles until last year was that the only thing the Americans would do if attacked was to sue. That perception no longer exists. The Americans, supported by one of the largest coalitions in history, have shown they will use force against their enemies even if that means a long and difficult war.
The sixth element of bin Ladenism was the illusion in most Western nations that they could somehow remain unaffected by the violence unleashed by fanatical terrorists against so many Muslim nations from Indonesia to Algeria.
Mr. bin Laden could survive and prosper only in a world in which these elements existed. That world is gone. Mr. bin Laden’s ghost may linger on — perhaps because Washington and Islamabad will find it useful. President Bush’s party has a crucial election to win and Pervez Musharraf is keen to keep Pakistan in the limelight as long as possible.
But the truth is that Osama bin Laden is dead.