30 Sep 2001
The September 2001 spectacular assault on the world trade centre in New York and the Pentagon complex in Washington D.C by suicidal terrorists will go down in the annals of history as one of the most devastating terrorist acts. The planning and execution of these murderous acts bore the sophisticated trade marks of Osama Bin Ladin- a man who had openly sworn to wage a merciless war against America. The Americans wasted no time in naming him a primary suspect at the beginning of their investigations.
But who is Osama Bin Ladin? He is a prince of a wealthy Saudi Arabian family and a fanatical Muslim. His religious extremism was later to be responsible for most of the friction he had and still has with the rulers of his Saudi Arabian homeland.
The invasion of Afghanistan by the then Soviet Union in December 1979 to prevent the rise of a radical Islamic regime on its border gave the Muslim fundamentalist in that country a good reason to launch a jihad against ‘the infidels’. Osama Bin Ladin and his fellow travelers went to Afghanistan to assist their Muslim comrades in their ‘holy war’ against the Soviet backed regime. For him, he was just fulfilling a religious duty by fighting along fellow Muslim fanatics in a foreign land.
It should be recalled that this was during the cold war era when there was extreme rivalry between the Soviet Union and the US over ideology. The US then formed alliances with fundamentalist Islamic groups like Mujahedin, Taliban and others to fight the Soviets. It was during this period that the US government through the CIA cemented its ties with the various Afghan rebel groups including the Talibans and their comrade-in-arms Osama Bin Ladin.
In the 80s the United States government was spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year to finance the war effort of those it often referred to as ‘freedom fighters’. The Americans went to great lengths to back this assistance with elaborate propaganda. It was common to hear the “Voice of America” radio-broadcast dishing out ‘editorials reflecting the views of the US government’ in which the Soviets were branded as atheists and godless people. The rebels were portrayed as holy people struggling to free their country from the hands of an evil power. Hollywood was not left out of this propaganda blitz as the popular actor Sylvester Stallone was used in the film ‘Rambo III’ to justify the cause of the Islamic rebels in the eyes of cinema audience. In essence the Americans either encouraged the growth of the Islamic fundamentalists among rebel ranks or turned a blind eye to their activities. Former president George Bush Sr. most likely had first hand information about the meteoric rise of Osama’s fame in the family of Islamic militants. As former CIA director 1976-77 and U.S. vice president at the peak of the war against the Soviet Union, the senior Bush or his lieutenants must have been familiar with Osama and unknowingly aided him in one way or another to climb the terrorist ladder.
The humiliating withdrawal of the Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1989 was a big military, moral and psychological victory for the Islamic rebels. For fundamentalists adventurers like Osama, this was proof that the will of ‘Allah’ had prevailed over a super power. It is this defeat of the Soviet Union that gave Osama the courage to take on his erstwhile ally-the US.
Osama returned from Afghanistan reinvigorated in his faith and began to oppose his government’s romance with the U.S. According to him, the Americans whom he referred to as ‘infidels’ had no business being in Saudi Arabia the custodian of Islam’s most holy site. He implied that they were desecrating their land and using their stooges (Saudi ruling class) to exploit the kingdom’s vast petroleum resources. He fell out of favour with the ruling class and went into exile first to Sudan and then to Afghanistan. His bitterness against the U.S. and his country’s rulers increased following the outbreak of the first Gulf war. Osama’s followers have participated in conflicts ranging from Somalia to Bosnia and from Algeria to Chechnya. After coming of age he decided that it was time to take on the last remaining ‘arrogant’ super power. He strongly believes that his ‘jihad’ will succeed and that it is glorious to die in the battle against the ‘infidels’. He further referred to the would-be martyrs of the impending conflict as ‘real men’ and ‘elites’.
If the American government makes a soul searching analysis of its past policies, it will be clear that some of these policies are responsible for creating characters that have inflicted untold pain and suffering on humanity. From the Somozas and Pinochets of Latin America through the Mobutus and Savimbis of Africa to the Osamas of the middle east, their trade mark has always been ‘Sorrow Tears and Blood’ ( courtesy of Fela Kuti). It is now that one of them (Osama) has visited the Americans at home in a most vicious way. Bin Ladin is employing unconventional methods in stamping his trade mark not just on America but on the whole world. Today’s world is incapable of estimating the impact and duration of his war against the west and her values. There is every indication that this war will be protracted and messy. We hope the American government will draw usefull lessons from it.
Copyright@2001 by Njei Moses Timah
Njei Moses Timah [e-mail]