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One Day the Americans Will Learn … 'Fighting Terror is Not a War'

In this analysis of what the United States and the Western world is now up against, the author discusses what the London bombings show about al-Qaeda's new and desperate strategy, and what it will take to beat them.

By Jacques Amalric

July 14, 2005

Liberation - Original Article (French)    

It has long been suspected, but the attacks on London, after those of Madrid, confirm it: al-Qaeda is not a pyramid-shaped edifice, but a banner under which a fanatical group of ideologues sell their strategy. A strategy whose top priorities are the overthrow of Arab regimes (and, incidentally, Muslim regimes) judged as corrupt, and the establishment of the mythical caliphate. Hence the necessity of putting an end -- by all means -- to the support that the United States and its allies bring to these "apostate" regimes. Let us begin with Iraq, the unhappy American-British intervention of 2003 that was based on a string of lies of State, and which has been welcomed like manna from heaven, we shouldn't doubt, by Osama bin Laden and his followers.

Scene of Carnage After Madrid Attacks, March 11, 2004

This strategy is clearly and cynically exposed in an internal al-Qaeda instructional document, discovered at the end of 2003 by the Norwegian intelligence services. Notably, it reads: "It is necessary to make the best use of the Spanish legislative elections in March 2004. We think that the Spanish authorities will not be able to withstand more than two or three blows, after which they will have to withdraw from Iraq under popular pressure. And if their troops remain in Iraq despite these actions, the victory of the socialist party as well as the withdrawal of Spanish forces would be assured." A mortifying scenario that proceeded exactly as envisaged, admittedly with the assistance of José Maria Aznar who tried, stretching credulity, to blame ETA for the attacks. [ETA are Basque separatists that have been fighting Madrid for decades].

The al-Qaeda text does not discuss arrangements for the attacks against London, but estimates that, "a withdrawal of Spanish or Italian forces from Iraq would exert a pressure on Tony Blair that he could not withstand." This is an analysis which we know to have been incorrect, since the British Prime Minister won himself a third mandate in spite of the unpopularity, among his fellow citizens, of the intervention in Iraq.

We are also aware, today, that the British services foiled several attempted attacks against Great Britain, in particular the explosion of a large hotel in London, an attack against Heathrow airport, and an operation based on murder by poisoning, with the details yet to be specified. This list is undoubtedly not exhaustive, but would tend to indicate that the terrorist initiatives, even if inspired by the same ideology, emanate from different, therefore relatively autonomous groups. Not groups that have infiltrated the country, as was the case in the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, but groups that reside on the spot. No doubt the Brits were of Pakistani origin, in regard to the July 7 attacks. We are also certain that it was [Spanish] residents of Moroccan origin in the case of Madrid.

Blair and Bush

The innovation of the London attacks, if it is confirmed by investigators, would be the entry into action of kamikazes. A paradoxically terrible innovation and at the same time, relatively reassuring; terrible because it is practically unstoppable, in accord with this remark by an antiterrorism expert: "We must prevent every attempt, whereas the terrorists need to succeed only once"; reassuring because suicide assassins certainly show their need to circumvent security measures which have prevented, up to now, massive attacks like September 11.

Before and even after the attacks on Madrid, George W. Bush had the habit of learnedly explaining, to justify the Iraqi operation, that it was better to fight Islamism terrorism “over there than here." One recalls how the Spaniards, outraged by the maneuvering of Aznar, responded to [Bush] indirectly.  One certainly need not fear the same reaction from the British, who are ready to take up the terrorist challenge and to support, no matter what they thought of sending their 10,000 soldiers – still stationed in Iraq, although stationed in the Shiite south, and therefore relatively safe from attack.

—C-SPAN VIDEO: What Motivates Suicide Terrorists? Interview With Robert Pape, Author of, Dying to Win: The Secret Logic of Suicide Terrorism', July 17, 00:59:11

There will, however, come a day when a majority of Americans understand that the fight against terrorism is not a war, and that it will not be won upon some unknown field of battle. It is a long-term affair, mixing police cooperation, a respect for the basic rights of suspects (which have been trodden under foot, in Guantanamo and Baghdad, when certain prisoners, for the purposes of torture, have been passed on to "friendly" dictatorships that Washington trusts) and policy. It implies patience, resolution and courage, because we will live a long time with Islamist terrorists, even those who today think themselves well-protected.

It will not be carried out without sacrifice; social (if one wants to drain the tanks of potential terrorists from all Western countries), territorial (such as the necessity for a Palestinian State, and a solution to the Kashmir problem), but also commercial.

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