Watch out, bin Laden, the West is winning : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Watch out, bin Laden, the West is winning By Tom Utley

BY the time this newspaper hits the doormat today, everything that I am about to say may be proved horribly wrong. If so, that will be the least of anybody's worries. But, touch wood, I am right. What I want to say is that the war against terrorism seems to be going astonishingly well for the United States and her allies. These are early days, I know, but I am beginning to believe that the principal aim of the West's counter-offensive has already been achieved.

I am not thinking only, or even mainly, about the military successes of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. In the hours and days after the terrorist attacks on the United States, the question of which group of Afghans should have the upper hand in Kabul was not the one that weighed most heavily on President Bush's mind.

The President's primary objective from the start, and Britain's in supporting him, was to undermine the ability of international terrorists - and particularly Osama bin Laden and his al-Qa'eda network - to inflict further atrocities on the civilised world. This is the objective that I believe he may already have achieved.

By the very act of fighting back, and committing so many billions of dollars and thousands of men to the fight, Mr Bush seems seriously to have put the wind up bin Laden. He has driven him into a foxhole in Afghanistan, where instead of blowing up Western cities, he spends his time making bonkers videos and offering tea, bread and jam to visiting journalists from Pakistan.

Think of all the things that the fainthearts said would happen if Mr Bush lashed out at al-Qa'eda (and I confess that I was very wobbly myself at the beginning). We said that for every al-Qa'eda supporter that the US killed, 100 more would spring up to take his place, itching to commit suicide for the cause. We said that it was folly to wage war on "terrorism", which was no more than an abstract noun.

We said that there was no telling whether or not bin Laden was responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, and that even if he was, it might be impossible to find him. We feared that by sending in the bombers and cruise missiles, Mr Bush might rouse the entire Muslim world to holy war against the West. Above all, we were worried that a "robust response" would make further attacks on our cities more, rather than less likely.

Now look what has actually happened since September 11. As I write, two months on, there have been no further attacks on our cities that are attributable to bin Laden. True, four people have died of anthrax in the United States. But it now seems that they were murdered by a home-grown loony, who had nothing to do with international terrorism.

And even if bin Laden is responsible for the anthrax attacks, those four murders seem a pretty bathetic follow-up to the most bloody and dramatic terrorist atrocity in history. A single, suicidal fanatic could have caused 10 times more destruction in a car on the M1.

Nor has there been any great uprising of the Muslim world against the West. Certainly, there have been riots in Pakistan and Indonesia - but none, so far, that has been very much out of the ordinary for those vastly populous countries, where the rule of law has never been all that stable.

The mistake that the fainthearts made after September 11 - the mistake that I made - was to think that Third World Muslims were wildly different from the rest of us. In fact, the great majority of them seem to have the same ambitions as we do: to live in peace, and to bring up our children to be happy and well fed. They seem to be able to work out as well as any of us that these ambitions are not best served by inciting the world's only superpower to war - and a peace-loving superpower at that.

Meanwhile, bin Laden himself is looking more isolated and impotent with every day that passes. He also seems to have lost his marbles, if ever he had any. Does he honestly believe that the people of the United States will answer his call to rise up against their government? If so, he is simply fantasising - just as he is when he claims that he is a one-man nuclear power.

I was particularly struck by one question that he put last week to his Pakistani interviewer, Hamid Mir. "You journalists, you never ask Bush or Blair why they are killing people," he said. "Why do you ask me?"

Well, I suppose that somebody should explain it to him, and it may as well be me. The reason, Mr bin Laden, is that Mr Bush and Mr Blair are between them the elected leaders of more than 300 million human beings, while you are just a murderer who has spent his daddy's money on arming about 15,000 deluded fanatics. We know why Bush and Blair are killing people. They are killing people because you, Mr bin Laden, murdered many thousands of American and British citizens, and they do not want you to murder any more. Every drop of blood shed in Afghanistan is on your hands. The far more interesting question is why you, Mr bin Laden, killed all those people in America.

I am strongly drawn to the theory, put about in some of the tabloids, that the al-Qa'eda leader turned to international terrorism because he is poorly endowed in the trouser department, and a Chicago girl once laughed at his willy. Against that, it should be recorded that there are many millions of men (I almost wrote "of us") who are similarly afflicted, but who do not feel moved to murder thousands of office workers to make up for it.

Whatever his reasons may have been, his terrorism has not got him very far - and nor will it. If you ask me, he is terrified by the success of his attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon, and of the righteous wrath that he has aroused. In a macabre way, he may even have done the civilised world a favour by waking us all up so dramatically to the danger of terrorism at a time when we can still do something about it. Most of the work is up to our armed forces. But we can help on the home front, too. Let us all go shopping, buy shares, and fly.;$sessionid$FLOOEUQAAF3OLQFIQMGSFGGAVCBQWIV0?

-- Martin Thompson (, November 12, 2001

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