Bush's "War on Terror": No Lack of Imagination

According to one of the main findings of the 9/11 Commission, the U.S. government's failure to anticipate the grave threat from al Qaeda prior to the September 11 attacks was a failure of imagination. Since those attacks, however, the Bush administration's broad "war on terror" has exhibited nothing but imagination.

To begin with, President Bush has the chimerical and dangerously naive notion that al Qaeda attacks America because of its freedoms-that is, the United States is attacked for what it is and not what it does. All evidence is to the contrary. Both Western and Islamic authorities on al Qaeda tell us that the group attacks the United States because of its foreign policy toward the Moslem world. Osama bin Laden believes the U.S. military's presence and actions in Islamic lands, as well as its support for corrupt governments there, are tantamount to a modern day "crusade." President Bush's disastrous use of the c-word to describe U.S. policy merely confirmed the obvious to many Moslems around the world. Repeated polls of the Islamic world demonstrate that intense anti-U.S. hatred is generated by U.S. foreign policy, not by U.S. culture, technology, or political and economic freedoms. In fact, those latter characteristics of U.S. society are often admired in Moslem lands. 

The Bush administration's immediate response to 9/11-invading Afghanistan, removing the Taliban regime, and remaining to remake the country-has been widely praised in the West. But on two separate occasions, instead of risking American casualties by using U.S. Special Forces, the Bush administration imagined that the unreliable Northern Alliance could round up al Qaeda fighters trying to escape from Afghanistan to Pakistan. Osama bin Laden and other dangerous high-level members of al Qaeda escaped and have not been rounded up in almost three years. Moreover, instead of hunting down the terrorists, leaving, and threatening to return if Afghanistan again becomes a haven for al Qaeda, the continuing American nation-building program in that country-as well as U.S. support for an unrepresentative Afghan puppet government-have fueled a resurgence of al Qaeda and the Taliban. Both are conducting a defensive jihad against what they believe is an infidel occupation of Islamic territory.

Instead of fully neutralizing those who attacked us on 9/11, the Bush administration-like Don Quixote-imagined other threats that were nonexistent. The administration took advantage of the September 11 attacks to go after many "terrorist" groups around the globe that do not currently focus their attacks on the United States (for example, Arab groups that attack Israel) and countries that supported them (for example, Iraq). In fact, the administration fantasized that Iraq's involvement in sponsoring terrorism was much greater than it was. Iran and Syria are much greater state sponsors of terrorism than was Iraq. The few groups that Iraq sponsored focused their attacks on Iran and Israel.

The administration also imagined that Iraq had large stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons and an advanced nuclear program. More important, even if all of those weapons had actually existed, the administration still exaggerated the threat to the United States. In the very worst case, if Iraq had had a few working nuclear weapons, the United States could have deterred an Iraqi nuclear attack with the multitude of warheads in the most powerful nuclear arsenal on the globe-just like it did when the radical communist Mao Tse-Tung obtained nuclear weapons in the 1960s. The threat of Iraq giving nuclear, chemical or biological weapons to anti-U.S. terrorists was also grossly inflated by the Bush administration's concocting of an operational link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. In fact, Saddam Hussein would have been unlikely to give such weapons-which are expensive to research and produce-to any radical terrorist groups that could have brought him needless trouble with a superpower. 

Now the administration's post-9/11 "war on terror" is bogged down in the Iraqi quagmire, predictably siphoning official effort, resources, and attention away from the critical fight against al Qaeda. But that's not the worst implication of this Quixotic and unnecessary invasion of a sovereign nation. Invading a second Islamic country has energized Osama bin Laden's zealous global defensive jihad to throw the infidel crusaders off Moslem soil. Bin Laden has been able to recruit many locally-absorbed Islamic radicals to refocus their attacks on the United States-for example, Islamic fighters in Algeria. The frequency of al Qaeda attacks since September 11 has been greater than before that fateful day. Unfortunately, the overflowing anti-U.S. hatred in the Islamic world-which has spawned those attacks and has been generated by the Bush administration's fanciful foreign policy-is not imaginary.

Ivan Eland is the Director of the Center on Peace and Liberty at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California and author of the book, Putting "Defense" Back into U.S. Defense Policy: Rethinking U.S. Security in the Post-Cold War World.

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Older Comments:
The attack on Iraq is an indispensable part of the war on terror. The US chose Iraq as the site for a trap, baiting it with US military in the expectation that terrorists would congregate and become easier targets for classical military action. The porous borders of Iraq have allowed this trap to work.

Mr Iproth what you analyzed is a matter of perception. My perception is different though. I see that Muslims and Islam is attacked on all fronts all over the world. The world must be prepared for a very different kind of war on this so called war on terror. Liberties will be lost and privacy will be a status of the past. The new world order installed under such phlosophies like, war on terror, homeland security, al-Qaeda suspects, illegal combatants and anti-Americanism as well as lack of patriotism will transform the countries in the like of USSR, Israel, Third Reich, Apartheit South Africa, Assad's Syria, Franco's Spain and Mussolini's Italy. When the anti-social demented minds don't find aliens to blame, they will turn on the most unfortunate of their own. It happened before it will happen again. It started with the Natives, then the Blacks followed, the Communists were next, now is the Muslim. Who will be next? Pathetic and sad.
Peace out!

Ok,then if the Islamic world is not against US culture,then would they allow two piece swimming suits on their beaches?

The slaughter of hundreds of children, teachers, and parents in an elementary school in Beslan, Russia and 9/11. And from Muslims the world over, as usual, has come mostly silence.

There have been no public demonstrations by Muslims anxious to make it clear how outraged and sickened they are that anyone could commit such unspeakable deeds as an act of Islamic faith. There has been no anguished outcry by Islam's leading imams and sheiks. Prominent Muslim organizations in the West have not called press conferences to express their disgust and anger. Once again the world has witnessed a savage episode of Islamist terror, and once again it strains to hear a convincing rejection of the terrorists from those who should care most about Islam's reputation.
Not all Muslims are terrorist, in fact most are great people. However, ALL terrorist are Muslims. Where is the out cry from the "good" Muslims??????????? All you hear is how the Muslims are being looked on as "bad" people. Well stand up and condem the terrorist Muslims. If in fact you think they are wrong in killing children!

darren darren darren! would you also kill innoscent people like
the guy you worship (bush) did or steal oil and lie to everyone
just for power and money?????? the real terrorists are bush putin
and sharon. and also just for the record those cowards who did
9/11 are big cowards and no they weren't muslims like the liying
terrorist bush says, it was the Israelis!!!! and also those monsters
who killed innoscent people in the school were of putins
terrorist group. some chechnians may do stupid things but they
aren't blood thirsty like putin and bush terrorists of this world
are. God bless those who are on Gods side. Amiin. and also,

The article forgets nothing Darren. You on the other hand justify american terrorism simply because of 911.
We expect nothing less from a failed nation of perverts, warmongers and rapists...one damned lie after another, have you american no shame ? Never mind, we all know the answer to that one.

The article seems to forget that nearly every credible intelligence service in the world came to the same conclusion that "this administration" came to. They all thought he had them, and they all concluded the same thing: that WMDs in the hands of a madman is not a good mix. Place yourself in the Oval Office, with the deaths of 3000 people in recent history, you've taken an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the United States of America. You know the potential of islamic terrorists, their hatred for everything American, and you wonder what would happen if this madman allowed these blood thirsty devils to have some chemical weapons. What decision would you make with this kind of responsibility on your shoulders? I know what I would do, something not unlike what Bush did. Now look at Russia. Hundreds of innocent kids are murdered at the hands of these monsters. Before the Russians were against what we did. Oh how quickly their minds have changed. Too bad it took the deaths of innocent children for them to come to that conclusion.

I think the writer is quite right. The war on terrorism is badly failed in everything Mr. Bush promised the wars would bring: freedom, security, democracy and human rights. It has actually made the world a more dangerous place for everyone to live in. It hasn't really helped the people to like US,even the nations in Europe are now backing off. Everyone (except the US administration apparently) can understand that war won't make peace.

I also agree in that the US administration should concentrate on it's allies and itself for democracy and human rigths and to liberate themselves before going to other countries (or is it just the oil?). I personally would like to know did Bush promise Turkey a place in EU for backing the invasion or why is he recommending Turkey to get to EU (in Turkey a rape is not a crime if it's done e.g. with a coca-cola bottle -so human rights is still an issue for Turkey mr Bush before EU membership)

I have heard of some muslims actually fleeing from US because of the situation there now, but some wants to move there to get a better life economically, even if they hate what the US is doing in the world.

In middle east I think the people who have something to loose will keep quite because they know they will find themselves in jail and will be tortured, the ones who don't have nything to loose will fight.

In Europe, I think that even though some people now hate the US policies - and would like to see Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitch and Blair from UK in Haag- people feel mostly sorry for the US citizens and are afraid if Europe will become a target too.

I just hope that the US citizens will be a bit smarter in the next election (and the votes will be counted right this time) - I don't think Mr Kerry can do any worse than Mr Bush. Sometimes I wish there would be an international voting for the presidency in US, it's an important position (Kiato agreement, peace in middle east, trade agreements, international law,....

A great analysis. For the most part the evidence speaks for itself, and the U.S. does need to act fairly among all nations. But something had to be done about al Qaeda and Saddam. The Arabic nations stood by and refused to take action against both. The Arabic nation needs to take care of its own problems, first diplomatically, then by force if necessary. This will insure that the U.S. would not occupy any islamic land. The people of both countries are free. Insha Allah, both countries will prosper to make the islamic world proud.

MR. ELAND is blaming the murder victem for being murdered. Also I beleave al Qaeda means what it says. It says the worlds population should be islamic in the taliban tradition or be destroyed. That is the only choice they offer, Islamic peace or the peace of the grave. Try this on for size. Moslems fighting Hindus(india/pakistan), Moslems fighting Christian (Balkins, Africa,Philipines, US...ect), Moslems fighting eastern religions ( Thialand, China, Indoneasia...ect), Moslems fighting eastern right christians (Russia,Ethopia,Christians in the middle east....ect). What do all these have in common? Islam in conflect with all other religions and beliefs around the world. The US is coming late to this fight. It is not the us polices that are in conflect with the world, but racical Islams!

is this thing so called TERRORIST really exist?
Bush's Adminstration calling it "Islamic Terrosit"
and Muslims thing Bush himself is a terrorist. we know what this is all about, so why don't we stop ignoring each other and find a common sence?

I fully agree. That's a good why-why analysis by the writer - "Why USA are hated by Muslim worlds?"

I hope Americans will similarly understand that Muslims are NOT against American people and American values, but we are against unfair and double-standard American foreign policies with ulterior motives only your war-mongering policy makers now- at times even dangerous to USA itself.

And with that understanding, I hope majority of Americans will do something to force their government to be fair to Muslim in its foreign policy.

First thing to do is kick Bush and his neo-con war-mongering idiotic advisers out of office this November.

Good article. Well written.