The Astute Recorder



Opinion (UPDATED 1/27/09): The Al-Qaeda Dilemma

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(Jan. 25, 2009)—Just a few days after President Obama announced the U.S. would close Guantanamo’s torture chamber for terrorist suspects, and nearly eight years after George W. Bush promised devastating payback to the group responsible for launching terrorist attacks on U.S. soil in 2001 (by way of starting a war in Iraq), Americans woke this morning to the news that al-Qaeda’s second-in-command is continuing with his post-November-election racial slurs at Obama, with accusations of the new President being a traitor, Muslim hater and an instigator in Israeli attacks in Gaza, not surprisingly thanks to air attacks launched in Pakistan on Friday, which led to the death of 17 people, both intelligence officials and civilians, according to Reuters (although the numbers seem to be different with each report).

In today’s edition of The Washington Post, author Joby Warrick says:

With Obama, al-Qaeda faces an entirely new challenge, experts say: a U.S. president who campaigned to end the Iraq war and to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and who polls show is well liked throughout the Muslim world.

Whether the pro-Obama sentiment will last remains to be seen. On Friday, the new administration signaled that it intends to continue at least one of Bush's controversial counterterrorism policies: allowing CIA missile strikes on alleged terrorist hideouts in Pakistan's autonomous tribal region. But for now, the change in Washington appears to have rattled al-Qaeda's leaders, some of whom are scrambling to convince the faithful that Obama and Bush are essentially the same.

The al-Qaeda problem and the persona non grata that is Osama bin Laden has been an issue since 2001. Common-sense leadership would have it that our newly elected world leader would have to revisit the root of an extreme incident that killed thousands of innocent civilians on American soil, led to the spending of nearly $1 trillion to fund an unrelated war,  not to mention thousands of lives lost overseas, caused the shutdown of commercial airlines, leading to massive job losses and pension cuts, and gave birth to the Patriot Act, which takes advantage of civilian fear to justify questionable investigation tactics.

And with George W. Bush exiting office, making little noise about the status of al-Qaeda or bin Laden, it looks like a corrupt cop found a way to distract the American public from the real issue—the real suspect—while the new guy is turning on the lights and sending the rats running.

While the Bush administration was approving billions of American dollars to fund the war in Iraq—despite the absence of weapons of mass destruction and no relation to the 9-11 attacks in the U.S.—Osama bin Laden remained in hiding and with little to no follow-up in terms of accountability. Just a lot of trash talk by the Bush administration.

Now, the bin Laden problem belongs to Obama. Never mind the harsh rhetoric to kill bin Laden in pre-Iraq-war days by the previous administration, all while Americans sat scared and angry while feeling violated our country had experienced its most devastating threat to our security.

While President Obama has shown, in the most transparent way, what his intentions are when dealing with Pakistan, saying in August 2007, “If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and [former] President Musharraf won't act, we will,” according to Reuters. A spokesman for current president President Asif Ali Zardari says the missile attacks will not help the "war on terror."

In the Sept. 26, 2008 debate in Oxford, Mississippi, Obama said:

"Now six years ago, I stood up and opposed this war at a time when it was politically risky to do so because I said that not only did we not know how much it was going to cost, what our exit strategy might be, how it would affect our relationships around the world, and whether our intelligence was sound, but also because we hadn’t finished the job in Afghanistan.

"We hadn’t caught bin Laden. We hadn’t put al-Qaeda to rest, and as a consequence, I thought that it was going to be a distraction. Now Senator McCain and President Bush had a very different judgment.

"And I wish I had been wrong for the sake of the country and they had been right, but that’s not the case. We’ve spent over $600 billion so far, soon to be $1 trillion. We have lost over 4,000 lives. We have seen 30,000 wounded, and most importantly, from a strategic national security perspective, al-Qaeda is resurgent, stronger now than at any time since 2001.

"We took our eye off the ball. And not to mention that we are still spending $10 billion a month, when they have a $79 billion surplus, at a time when we are in great distress here at home, and we just talked about the fact that our budget is way overstretched and we are borrowing money from overseas to try to finance just some of the basic functions of our government. So I think the lesson to be drawn is that we should never hesitate to use military force, and I will not, as president, in order to keep the American people safe. But we have to use our military wisely. ..."

Now with Ayman al-Zawahiri’s recent remarks, the possibility of diplomacy between the U.S., al-Qaeda and Pakistan sound far-fetched. The sad thing is I believe it’s because the U.S. is finally addressing the issue, while sadly killing others. Obama is showing he’s not afraid to take military action, even with (what I hope will be) an even stronger desire to form more diplomatic relations in the future. Then again, can al-Qaeda meet us half way in those circumstances?

Update (1/26/09):

According to the Jan. 24 edition of Women's eNews, "The Taliban bombed five schools in Pakistan's Swat Valley Jan. 19, four days after ordering the closure of all girls' schools in the region, Agence France-Presse reported Jan. 15."

The online publication,which offers international coverage on women's rights issues, says girls in Pakistan will "no longer be able to attend formerly schools ... and the Taliban had threatened to kill any girls who attempted to attend after Jan. 15 and warned that schools would be bombed. "

The Taliban bombings on the schools happened before the Obama-ordered missile attacks referenced above, which Pakistani leaders claim only complicate their efforts to effectively deal with the Taliban. The Astute Recorder will continue to update this post with relevant information.

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