Terrorism is a global problem that most Americans only vaguely recognized prior to September 11th. We had been aware of the occasional international flight hijacking or a bombing at an embassy far removed from our everyday lives. It also fell low on the Bush administration priority list during the president’s first year in office, as Attorney General John Ashcroft favored an agenda far more active in the war on drugs and domestic criminal prosecution than threats of fundamentalist violence. However, when the World Trade Center came tumbling down, the fact that America has enemies became inescapable. Moreover, these enemies were not the bumbling camel jockeys we had been persuaded to dismiss. Rather, they were units of a network both diabolical and sophisticated enough to orchestrate an attack that simultaneously froze the world in shock, shattered the American economy, devastated a cocky culture and did so all in the space of one morning news program. It was evidence to an American public that had not yet seen anything this compelling that indeed there is a significant following for the ideology espoused in those 3000 murders. It was proof that there is real hate, real self-empowerment and, most undeniably, real money behind this.
After the attacks, Al Qaeda immediately became the most visible of terrorist groups. They received full credit for the attacks, and most specifically, America’s attention turned to Al Qaeda terrorist network leader Osama bin Laden, an immensely wealthy, Moslem extremist and longtime American intelligence enemy number one. After his expulsion from Saudi Arabia in the early 1980’s, bin Laden found a bastion for his views in the arms of the Taliban, hardcore Islamic governing body of Afghanistan. Bin Laden contributed largely to an Afghani resistance of Soviet incursion both from his own inheritance, an amount disputed to be anywhere between thirty and three hundred million, and with Reagan administration assistance, both in terms of finance and arms. Since that time, Al Qaeda has steadily grown in influence and economic strength. A rising Third-World disenfranchisement from and distaste for imperialist Western foreign policies has incited a healthy dose of international animosity, which in many ways is centered in the oft slighted Moslem populations of the world. This rising hostility has manifested a widening interest abroad in funding Al Qaeda cells. One of the most hotly advertised initiatives of the War on Terror was President Bush intent to freeze terrorist funding by expunging and prosecute money sources. Thus far, this has proven to be quite a lofty and elusive task. American intelligence is finding out just how muddy the pool is.
Operation Enduring Freedom dismantled the Al Qaeda center of operations in Afghani capital city Kabul by expelling the Taliban and taking Qaeda combatants into custody. However, Al Qaeda’s international pervasiveness and consistent access to funds provided the opportunity of involvement in a wave of recent attacks, some apparent pre-emptive responses to the United States approach to the situation in Iraq. Two recent attempted attacks in Kenya, wherein individuals used stolen rockets to simultaneously besiege a shopping district and a departing El Al flight to Israel. Both attacks were unsuccessful. But a series of recent shooting attacks on American troops stationed in Kuwait have claimed a number of lives, and with the intelligence world buzz always rising in the face of the coming war, there is great concern that an Al-Qaeda strike is close on the horizon.
And the United States has found it quite a vexing task to prevent the strikes due to their unpredictable nature and, most importantly, their inability to persuade an international freeze on funding. As American foreign policy increases its capacity to draw venom from the international community, Al Qaeda is finding itself ever more capable of conceiving news attacks. It’s sources have been so widely varied, from bin Laden’s fortune to those of wealthy, private citizens. Moslem business men with a vested interest, either economically or spiritually, in the destruction of western influence, as well as public officials in hostile governing bodies such as the rightist Pakistani parties that are constantly increasing in power. The heroin trafficking that has thrived in Afghanistan since the legal proliferation of the Taliban’s expulsion has also provided a great deal of finance to groups like the Al Qaeda. And such underworld ties are quite common in the field given the many shared goals of resistance to American policy that terrorist groups, organized crime families and drug cartels.
Another factor that has made terrorist groups difficult to dismantle is the networking coordination. The massacre of two-hundred young night-clubbers on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, a bombing primarily attributed to the Jemaah Islamiyah group. This clandestine organization, alleged heavily to be involved with Al Qaeda and bin Laden, illustrates the incestuous nature of the Islamic fundamentalist world. Al Qaeda’s larger mission of a Moslem planet provides it with an interest in the many smaller Islamic front movements around the world. Jemaah Islamiyah’s mission is centered around the creation of a sovereign Islamic southern Asia, comprised of Indonesia, the Phillipines Thailand and Malaysia. As such, Qaeda will often help to bankroll some of its activities, as it is alleged to have done in Bali just a few months ago.
Islamiyah’s profile has risen substantially since that attack.
But perhaps more alarming the inevitable emergence of yet another dangerous group is the implication that the war on terror may be too big to fight in the fashion with which we have thus far pursued it. Islamiyah’s founders, like those of most other Islamic fundamentalist groups, are clerics with many well-financed contacts in the religious charity business. Of course, the most troubling trend has been that of open governmental support for terrorist activities such as that supposed to be coming from the Iranian authority presently.
As a reaction to Israeli Palestinian policy, which has been decidedly more aggressive toward West Bank and Gaza settlements than during administrations passed, the Iranian government further ingratiated itself to Hezbollah, the pioneering suicide bomber group. Their viciously anti-Zionist perspective has inclined them to commit shopping district and public transportation attacks quite regularly as the current strife in Israel will attest to. And as America continues to pursue its commitment to eliminating terrorism, it runs the continual risk of spreading itself thin militarily and intelligence-wise. With assets to freeze, private charities and business to pursue, post-war containment and occupation in Afghanistan, pre-war preparation in Iraq and a heavy-handed involvement in Israeli-Palestinian affairs, there may not be any time to consider a response to Iran’s declared intention of hostility. And even were it to do so, Hezbollah’s existence of over thirty years makes it one of the oldest, most unabatedly active and dangerously pervasive groups around. So it’s operations, which are constant from both Lebanon and Syria, have enough support to provide them at least with asylum from American policy.
So today, as the American media continues to report a White House premonition about the promise of attacks to come, one must wonder if, given the complex and many-tentacled matrix of terrorist support systems, this approach to the War on Terror can possibly succeed.
1. Council On Foreign Relations. “The Money: Drying Up the Funds for Terror.” 2002.
2. Dougherty, Jon. “TROUBLE IN THE HOLY LAND Iran to hike funding for suicide bombers” WorldNetDaily.com. jun. 11, 2002.
3. Gasgonia, Dennis and Pulta, Benjamin B. “Terror suspect admits funding 1999 Rizal Day Metro bombings.” The Associated Press. Feb. 9, 2002.
4. Goodenough, Patrick.
Philippine Group Believed to Be Funding Al- Qaeda” CNSNews.com. Apr. 2, 2002.
5. Oscapella, Eugene. “The Links Between Drug Prohibition and Terrorism” Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy. Oct. 29, 2001.
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