Wednesday, September 01, 2004


Winning the War on Terror

There has been lots of talk recently about George W. Bush saying we can't win the war on terror, then saying we can, then everybody making a big deal about it. Honestly, I don't care about what Bush says about the war on terror. What I'd like to point to is how Bush is going about winning the war on terror. Look at the allies that Bush has chosen, and the style of counter-terrorism that he has chosen to emulate and glorify. Two of the US's "allies" in the war on terror have been Russia and Israel. Russia and Israel have both clammored to get on board with the US, mostly to be able to do whatever they want in Chechnya and the West Bank/Gaza respectively. They have made the most of it, acting with impunity and without regard for international opinion, knowing that the US is the only real game in town when it comes to international support. And the past week or so has shown the kind of results that Russia and Israel are getting from their war, the same war that Bush wants the US to fight.

Yesterday, two suicide bombers killed 16 people in the Israeli city of Be'er Sheva. Israel has responded by warning Hezbollah, Syria, and the Palestinian Authority (despite the fact that Hamas was the group that claimed responsibility) that they "will not sleep soundly." Also, Israel has surrounded the city of Hebron, where the suicide bombers were from, not allowing anybody to enter or leave. I fear for the lives of innocents in Hebron, especially given the insights of an in-depth article by Amos Harel and Arnon Regular in Ha'aretz:
While elsewhere in the West Bank the IDF has relatively good intelligence sources, they are more or less groping in the dark when it comes to Hebron.
The article also points out that the leaflet distributed by Hamas after the bombing called the attack a "gift" to the hunger striking prisoners - as I wrote yesterday, this is the kind of "gift" that the hunger strikers could go without - but that "the attack in Be'er Sheva was apparently not coordinated with Hamas in the Strip." This might explain the counterproductive strategic timing of the attack, especially in regards to the hunger striking prisoners.

Recently, Russia has reaped the rewards of its "war on terror" in Chechnya and the wider Caucasus region. First, two planes that took off from Moscow crashed - it was later revealed that they were taken down by terrorists. While the investigation continues, it seems that a Chechen woman on each plane exploded herself, serving to take the planes down, killing all the passengers. Last night, another Chechen woman blew herself up in a Moscow subway station, killing ten others. Today, about 20 armed guerillas stormed a school in North Ossetia, taking hostages.
At one point, Russian news agencies put the number of hostages between 200 and 400 and said some of the attackers wore suicide belts of explosives. Later, authorities revised the figures downward to between 120 and 150 hostages. As evening approached, news services reported the release of 15 hostages.
This comes shortly after the presidential election in Chechnya where the Russian-backed candidate was victorious. So much for installing democracy - obviously that is not the key to winning the war on terror. In fact, the hostage takers "insisted they would negotiate only with the presidents of North Ossetia and Ingushetia" (two of the Caucasian regions that neighbor Chechnya). The response of Russian officials?
President Vladimir Putin blamed the outbreak of violence across Russia on international terrorists linked to al Qaeda in league with separatist Chechens. In comments made as news of the school seizure was breaking, Putin told journalists he would continue his policy of not negotiating with Chechen guerrillas. "We shall fight against them, throw them in prisons and destroy them," he said.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov also vowed to give no quarter to what he called internationally inspired terrorism in the wake of Wednesday's deadly blast outside Moscow's Rizhskaya metro station. "War has been declared on us," he told reporters here, "where the enemy is unseen and there is no front."
Sound familiar to anybody? I write this not to gloat or say "I told you so" or anything of the kind. Rather, it is imperative that we see the disastrous results of the way that the Bush administration has decided to fight the war on terror. This is not winning. These are desperate acts, but that doesn't mean anything - the lifeblood of terrorism is desperation. So whether George W Bush says we are winning or that we can't win or that winning isn't everything, it's the only thing, hardly matters. Talk is cheap; the proof is in the pudding. The Bush-Putin-Sharon war on terror puts more innocent lives at risk, and that's the real issue.

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