More Bad News
As America prepares for war, some disturbing facts are coming to light. If there is to be war in Afghanistan, it will not be easy.
For starters, the European nations are not excited about the prospects of war, preferring a more limited operation to seize whoever is responsible for the attacks. And rightly so. The London Telegraph reports that one of the bin Laden associates who planned the bombings of the American embassies in Africa lived in London. His wife still lives there. If the British get too deeply involved, they fear, they may soon see terror attacks at home as well.
In addition, Robert Fisk explains why an Afghan ground war could be a disaster.
Fisk notes that an invasion of Afghanistan could be worse than Vietnam. It was, after all, the Soviet Vietnam. The Washington Post, by the way, interviewed a few Soviet generals. The key word used by those who fought the Afghans before is "bloodbath."
As Fisk also notes, the nation is covered with land mines left by the Soviets, making an infantry advance very time consuming (and costly). Additionally, as should be quite obvious, the announced strategy to "smoke 'em out of their holes" was tried, brutally, by the Soviets. It failed. If the godless Soviet Union could not root out the Afghan freedom fighters, what reason is there to expect that the god-fearing USA will succeed?
Edward Girardet, meanwhile, ruminates on what may have awakened the sleeper agents in the United States.
As Girardet details (and as I had been wondering), the leader of the faction opposing the Taliban in Afghanistan was killed two days before the attacks in New York and Washington. It is possible tha the killing was a signal to the terrorists in the United States to take action. Several papers have noted that, without Masood, the United States has no one in Afghanistan to go after bin Laden.
Masood was killed, furthermore, by Arabs who claimed to be Moroccan. They were posing as journalists.
(As an aside, Girardet, an American journalist who was in Afghanistan for National Geographic, also points out that Afghanis themselves regard suicide attacks as contrary to Islam. Again, Americans must be careful in labeling entire nations of 140 million people as enemies.)
There is, furthermore, another disturbing angle to the terror attacks: Osama bin Laden may be the military commander of the Taliban.
In other words, the attacks may indeed have been state terror, sponsored by the Taliban which rules Afghanistan.
In a related story, the Taliban has declared the conflict with the United States to be a "holy war." As Popham again reports,
According to the state-run Radio Shariat, Mullah Mohammed Hasan Akhund, the deputy Taliban leader, said: "If America attacks our homes, it is necessary for all Muslims, especially for Afghans, to wage a holy war. God is on our side."
Which brings us to the next bit of bad news. The Pakistani leader has sought to explain his support of the United States to his people. In a word, the Pakistanis are not amused that their nation might be a staging ground for an attack on Afghanistan.
Additionally, the pressure on Pakistan highlights their ongoing dispute with India over Kashmir. Yet another powderkeg ready to explode. Note that the account in the Financial Times makes it sound much more as though Pakistan is hoping that aiding the United States will deliver Kashmir to Pakistan.
The actions in preparing, fighting, and ending this war may set the stage for yet another war, perhaps between India and Pakistan.
Which doesn't make Pakistan the ideal place to base an army. If anything, Pakistan sounds as if it would be exactly another Vietnam, where the local worker who cut your hair during the afternoon returned to cut your throat as a Viet Cong at night.
And, of course, it gets worse from here. The London Telegraph reports that a fifth kamikaze plane attack was prevented by the flight being cancelled. The four men with Arab surnames who were on the flight manifest have so far eluded the FBI.
Still worse, the Telegraph story adds the following:
The owner of an Oklahoma flying school disclosed yesterday that FBI agents visited him in August to ask about Habib Zacarias Moussaoui, a French-Algerian, who was arrested on Aug 17 after using a fake passport as identification at another training school.
Dale Davis of the Airman Flight School in Norman, Oklahoma, said the agents knew that the man, whom French intelligence later said had possible links to bin Laden, had been trying to get instruction on piloting large Boeing airliners.
At a Minneapolis training school he aroused suspicion because he wanted to learn how to turn an aircraft, but was not interested in how to take off or land.
In addition to this apparent failure of our intelligence agencies, the Washington Times reports that the terrorists may have been linked to Albanian groups — such as the KLA, which the United States was recently helping.
This makes a great deal of sense. If bin Laden indeed has a global terror organization, the KLA was the place to be for a time, as its terror attacks on Serbian Christians were, in effect, sanctioned by the West.
Yet another account in the Telegraph claims that a "neutral Arab state" is planning a legal challenge with the International Court of Justice, presumably on the grounds that the North Atlantic Treaty, which created NATO, does not allow offensive action. This argument was heard during the NATO invasion of the Balkans, but it was simply ignored. The fact remains, however, that neither the UN Charter nor the NATO Treaty authorized the troops in the Balkans.
Where are we headed from here? Time will tell.
Although the best and the brightest urge us to trust them to wage all out war, to keep us safe, and to plan the future of the world, the track record is not good.
The events of the day are all-too similar to the events leading up to and following the First World War. Entangling alliances brought war where there could have been peace. The war on the ground was horrible, with poison gas and machine guns trained on charging men. Robert Graves' autobiography Goodbye to All That is a great testament to the horrors and futility of war, as is All Quiet on the Western Front.
After the war, the diplomats carved up the map of Europe, and, in the process, set the stage for the Second World War.
Our actions will have consequences, and we must not treat them lightly.
September 21, 2001
Mr. Dieteman [send him mail] is an attorney in Erie, Pennsylvania, and a PhD candidate in philosophy at The Catholic University of America.
© 2001 David Dieteman