September 14, 2007

September 14, 2007 | Commentary on Middle East

Osama's crazy makeover

Osama bin Laden commemorated the sixth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attack with a surprising left-leaning rhetorical attack on America and the West, which was distributed to TV channels and on the Internet last Friday.

It was a sad reminder that the mass murderer is still at large. And beyond the plugs for an American New Left philosopher and a former CIA analyst, the chilling message was: convert to Islam, or else. Two attacks which were recently avoided in Denmark and Germany, while dozens were murdered in India and Algeria. Europe and the United States, India and the Middle East. The whole world is the jihadi battlefield.

If those who have been attacked by jihadis won't fight in Afghanistan, al Qaeda will reinstate it base there, from where it can reach the world. And if Iraq goes wrong, al Qaeda will claim victory and expand its operations to Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

It is not just the matter of Western survival to stop the new aggressive Islamist totalitarianism today. Nazism and communism originated in the heart of Europe. Thankfully, radical Islam, of which bin Laden is a leader and a symbol, has not. But it is spreading from Madrid to Manila. The West needs to find common ground to work with other countries and cultures to eradicate this existential threat.

Radical Islam denies rights to at least half of humankind - to women - and imposes a uniform and brutal religious routine, in which Christians, Jews, are reduced to the lower status of the Dhimmi, while Buddhists and Hindus and are forced to convert under the threat of death.

Grotesquely, bin Laden combines the ancient call of conversion by the sword with the post-modern rant against "interest-related debt, insane taxes and real estate mortgages, and global warming." Osama's rant is Muhammad meet Herbert Marcuse, the capitalism-hating U.S. left-wing philosopher. If he hasn't been wanted by every intelligence agency on the globe, Osama would be celebrated on every leftist campus around the globe.

Many in the intelligence community believe credit for the latest Osama message's development and possibly speechwriting and video production belongs to the American Adam Gadahn, the al Qaeda communications chief, wanted in the U.S. for treason. He is busy developing the Osama brand.

Just as Mao and Che T-shirts were the latest fashion cry in 1969, so were Yasser Arafat's head scarves in 1979. Osama could start his own fashion fad - or even clothes and bag line. Henna-died trimmed beard, anyone? What's next - Afghan-style women's cloaks? Burka Barbies? An MTV fashion show?

Jokes aside, the terror's uber-chief may reaching out to the leftist fringe, while the antiwar coalition de facto has already married Islamists with other America-haters. Europe's Trotskyite intellectuals, blinded by their hatred of America and capitalism, are training radical Muslims in the black arts of propaganda. There is a considerable number of alienated men and women both in Europe and the United States who convert to the radical stream of Islam and are willing to die for the cause.

These converts were recently busy at work in Germany's Black Forest, assembling a huge hydrogen peroxide bomb, with which they planned to hit Frankfurt airport and Ramstein U.S. Air Force base. Other cells, which included converts trained in Pakistan's jihadi camps, were busted in Denmark and the United Kingdom.

Just like on September 11, 2001, and two months ago in London and Glasgow, hitting the hubs of commerce and transportation remain an al Qaeda priority. They may still strike again - in the U.S., Europe, Iraq or North Africa.

Fortunately, al Qaeda is failing so far to bring the West down, but not for lack of trying. An attack with weapons of mass destruction - nuclear, chemical or biological, may exacerbate the conflict and cause an economic downturn.

In the past, Osama's followers tried to attack Abuqaiq, and other important hubs of Saudi oil industry. Miraculously, they failed. Western consumers are paying huge terror premiums for oil, which more than doubled since the September 11, 2001, attacks.

When Saudi Arabia plans to train 35,000 guards for its oil and other infrastructure, it is not doing so because the Kingdom is safe. When the desert kingdom spends more than $10 billion to diversify its pipeline network, it is not doing so because oil is not a target. Who pays for all this security? We do.

The West needs to boost the main components in our fight against jihadism: ideas, symbols, people and knowledge. We need to train more intelligence officers and experts who understand the languages, religion, history and geography of radical Islam. As Sun Tsu, ancient China's military master, wrote: "Know your enemy and know yourself. In 100 battles you won't be defeated."

If we study them and are fully committed to their defeat, the jihadis will lose on the battlefields, on the Internet and in the battle of hearts and minds. Their sources of financing need to be shut down, as do their Web sites, religious "schools" and training camps.

The United States and the rest of the world will not accept Osama's crazy ideas of world domination or convert to his brand of totalitarian religion, hair dye and beauty makeover notwithstanding.

Ariel Cohen is a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

Ariel Cohen, Ph.D. Visiting Fellow in Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy Policy in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation
Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy

Related Issues: Middle East

First appeared in the Washington Times