WASHINGTON – Seven years after bringing down steel buildings with jet fuel – using planes as missiles – and outwitting the most high-tech air force and the most protected airspace in the world for nearly two hours, the historic al-Qaeda leadership is “celebrating” 9/11 with an hour-and-a-half video special titled “Seven Years of Crusades”.
Washington, meanwhile, is stepping up the revamped “war on terror” deep inside Pakistani territory, with special forces commandos targeting the tribal areas. While US corporate media are absolutely transfixed by Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, a new war in the shadows seems destined to acquire its own irreversible momentum. Investigative military historian Gareth Porter (US warned over raids in Pakistan Asia Times Online, September 10, 2008) has already examined the deep disconnect between the George W Bush administration and the US intelligence community. On top of it, al-Qaeda in 2008 is a vastly different enemy from the al-Qaeda of 2001.
The new video, “hosted” by Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s number two, is a sort of who’s who talk show on the state of jihad around the world – in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Chechnya, Algeria, Palestine.
Qatar-based al-Jazeera got the video, showed only some short takes, and has been unusually quiet about it – as if it didn’t want to shock US sensibilities. Same with Western corporate media. A version with German subtitles simply disappeared from YouTube. It’s as if this whole business – Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri still at large, holed up in their mythical cave (with broadband and video equipment) – was a recurrent bad dream.
The key point in the video is that Zawahiri accuses Iran and the US of being partners in the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Zawahiri also blasts Iraqi Shi’ites for not launching a jihad in Iraq against the “Crusader occupier”. In his recent messages this is a recurrent theme: the “Persians” are the enemy of the Arabs and they’re part of the occupation of Iraq.
The enemy of my enemy is my enemy.
Seven years after 9/11, for all practical purposes, al-Qaeda remains the golden motive that justifies the Bush administration threatening, invading, bombing or occupying Muslim countries. But, in fact, al-Qaeda’s top strategic enemy nowadays, in a battle to seduce Muslim hearts and minds, are Shi’ites – be it Tehran or Hezbollah – and not the US.
Similarities are eerie. Iran is part of Bush’s “axis of evil” as well as al-Qaeda’s “axis of evil”. The US tries very hard to pit Sunnis against Shi’ites all over the Middle East while al-Qaeda also incites a war between Sunnis and Shi’ites.
What Zawahiri is basically saying is that al-Qaeda – fundamentalist Saudi Wahhabis – want a “long war” as much as the Bush administration and its extension, Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain. Al-Qaeda’s birth was midwifed by US intelligence in Peshawar in Pakistan in the early 1980s; by the mid-1980s, president Ronald Reagan was ecstatic with his mujahideen “freedom fighters”. Fundamentalist al-Qaeda is as much against an independent, nationalist, Shi’ite Iranian regime as the fundamentalist Bush administration.
As for the “surge” in Iraq, it has now morphed into the surge in Afghanistan. Bush is withdrawing only 8,000 troops from Iraq by February 2009, while adding more to Afghanistan. So much for the so-called “success” of the Iraq “surge”.
Top US commander in Iraq General David Petraeus told the Washington Post in Baghdad that Iraq remains the “central front” for al-Qaeda. Petraeus is the new head of Central Command starting this month. He will oversee Afghanistan and Pakistan – and also Iran. He believes al-Qaeda’s historical leadership remains, in his words, “somewhere in the western border region of Pakistan”.
Thus the recent attack by US special forces in the Pakistani tribal areas – killing women and children as well as alleged “terrorists”, and alienating the tribals beyond any redemption.
We should expect more of the Petraeus method in Pakistan: high tech counter-insurgency plus widespread bribes in cash. That was his methodology during the “surge” in Iraq. The high-tech special ops – which killed a lot of Sunni guerrilla leaders – revolved around a program called Tagging, Tracking and Locating: in sum, a sophisticated assassination campaign. Robert Parry, writing at consortiumnews.com, was one of the very few in US media to pinpoint it.
That’s essentially what Petraeus is already implementing in Pakistan, against the better judgement of the US intelligence community, with potentially devastating consequences. Westerners never learn: any war against the fierce Pashtun nation is essentially unwinnable.
The national security sweepstakes
Anyway, the Pentagon’s “long War” – the remixed denomination of the “war on terror” – lives on. With a new chapter in Pakistan, the pressing possibility of an attack on Iran, a war for control of Eurasia, and a new cold war with Russia. Not to mention the militarization of American life, and smashing any form of dissent – as seen in the streets of St Paul, Minnesota, during the Republican convention.
Both the Barack Obama-Joe Biden and the McCain-Sarah Palin tickets avidly pose to see who is tougher on terror. Both pay lip-service to national security. Palin has been drafted by McCain with a key destination: to mobilize the rural and suburban so-called “national security moms”, terrified of slimy, dangerous Muslims threatening their way of life.
But what if a Predator drone, under Petraeus orders, incinerated Zawahiri and bin Laden – seven years too late? Absolutely nothing would change. Dozens of new bin Ladens would rise from the ashes. Washington has done nothing to help the desperate Afghan population or suggest an alternative for the neo-Taliban – just as the billions of dollars showered on the Pakistani military have done noting to help dire living conditions in Pakistan.
The only “winners” in this “long war” are, and will continue to be, selected players in the gargantuan US military-industrial complex. That’s the sorry legacy of 9/11, seven years on.