It’s still 9/11 24/7

01  Bush
(Sorry for the delay updating, I’ve been a bit unwell.) Well, we seem to have made it through 9/11 (that’d be 11/9 for local readers) in all timezones without any terrorist attacks. Which, given Al Qaeda’s fondness for anniversaries, is something of a relief. But that’s not to say we can let our guard down. Oh no. So thank goodness everyone’s least favourite terrorist organisations have come out and promised a whole heap more attacks. Otherwise we might have had a break from all of this whole living-in-constant-fear thing.

Al Qaeda’s new no 2 (who will surely only last a month or two before being captured like all the others – it’s a high-turnover position) served up a metaphor more tortured than anyone stuck in Guantanamo Bay. “The days are pregnant and giving birth to new events, with Allah’s permission and guidance,” Ayman al-Zawahiri said. The video was interpreted as suggesting that the world’s most feared terrorist organisation was planning to expand into the crowded field of terrorism in Israel. Why they’d warn of a place they were actually planning to attack escapes me, but the video certainly will have gotten everyone all nice and scared again.

And, closer to home, a former Jemaah Islamiah leader, Nasir Abas, warns that more terrorist attacks are on the way in the region, headed by Noordin Mohammad Top. Apparently we’re in for one attack a year. Nice to know they’re keeping regular. Does that mean that once we’ve had one, that’s it for the calendar year? That’d be helpful. Or does it mean that, as usual, no-one actually knows anything much about their plans, and is making news on the whiff of an oily rag just to try and scare us all?

Ninemsn ran an article informatively titled “Al Qaeda is everywhere” today, containing the gem of an observation that Qaeda has no head. “You can’t lop the head off, because there is no real head,” says Deakin University’s Assoc Professor Damien Kingsbury. I suspect Osama bin Laden wouldn’t be too happy with Kingsbury right now. He’s invested a lot in building his profile as the world’s leading terrorist. And if lopping off his head wouldn’t help, the CIA’s been wasting a lot of time – and making itself look very silly –  unsuccessfully chasing a guy who apparently doesn’t matter. And “conceptual, not physical conflict?” Tell that to our troops in Afghanistan.

The interesting point Kingsbury makes in the article is that “the more global attention al-Qaeda gets, the more it grows.” Like through articles entitled “Al Qaeda is everywhere”, for example?

As ironic as this may be, we must be willing to ignore the attempts of the Fox New Channels of this world to create a sense of constant siege. This kind of fearmongering is playing into the terrorists’ hands. They release these tapes to create this sense of terror, as a way of exercising power over us. So we must we must remain vigilant, but not forget that very few people in our society are actually killed by terrorists, and that it’s far more dangerous, for example, to drive a car. When we say they we won’t let them change our way of life, part of that should involve not blowing the extent of the threat out of all proportion.

Meanwhile President Bush is still linking Iraq and American security, saying (in a pretty quote box, what’s more) that “the safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad”, because if we don’t get ’em there, they’ll get us here. That is probably now true. An excellent achievement.

But as President Bush finally acknowledged, Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11. He was only ever just “a threat”. And never to America. His involvement in a terror attack on US soil would have led to him being instantly deposed, and it was abundantly clear Bush was looking for a reason to get rid of him – so why on earth would he have provoked his own demise?

President Bush is right that there’s no point leaving Iraq now, because it will descend even further into a lawless breeding-ground for terror, as Afghanistan has, and create more willing recruits for another 9/11. Whereas previously the Iraqis and Al Qaeda had been enemies. But the sooner America and Israel figure out that nothing makes you a terrorist target like unjustified invasions in Iraq and Lebanon, the better. We can’t afford another distraction from dealing with Al Qaeda. The head of which is still very much alive, and still very much in need of being captured and interrogated.

Though Iraq is now probably the biggest front in the war on terror, it didn’t used to be or need to be. We are faced with a much larger conflict than we needed, and our troops – and America’s – are more thinly stretched than they should have been. Afghanistan is a live front again, and we haven’t got the resources to deal with it properly.

We must never forget the nearly 3000 people who were murdered on 9/11. (Nor the symmetrical 3000 more Americans who’ve died so far in Iraq so that “America could be safe”.) But nor must we forget how inappropriate the response to 9/11 was, and how much of the current conflict was the White House’s own creation.