Originally Published 2004-03-19 04:13:25 Published on Mar 19, 2004
On September 17, 2001, six days after the terrorist strikes in the US, I had written an article under the above title which was carried the same day by the South Asia Analysis Group. Many of my observations made then remain as valid today as they were on 9/17.
Use a Cockroach to Catch a Cockroach
On September 17, 2001, six days after the terrorist strikes in the US, I had written an article under the above title which was carried the same day by the South Asia Analysis Group.</font> <font color="#800080" size="2" class="greytext1">(Paper No. 316, September 17, 2001)</font> <font size="2" class="greytext1">Many of my observations made then remain as valid today as they were on 9/17. <br /> <br /> The Madrid blasts of March 11, 2004, prove, if further proof was needed, that the USA's MacCounterterrorism, with its focus exclusively on bin Laden and Al Qaeda and with its misplaced reliance on the USA's military superiority for dealing with jihadi terrorism, has come in the way of effective action against the menace.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> The Cold War saw the mushrooming and flourishing of a large crop of MacAnalysts on international communism, whose thinking and analyses were largely influenced by the US perspective. The Disinformation Divisions of the USA's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the UK's MI-6, its external intelligence agency, skillfully used these MacAnalysts by feeding them often fabricated data to project before the international community an image of international communism as a monolith.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> Analysts in the rest of the world such as this writer, who was dealing with International Communism in the 1960s and who questioned the US perspective and the analyses of these CIA/MI-6 funded MacAnalysts, were derisively dismissed as not being able to understand the problem. This dismissive attitude of the US analysts remained even after the USSR and China fell out and other cracks appeared in the Communist world. The Americans never like to admit their mistakes and they never did.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> One saw a similar attitude with regard to Iraq and its Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). A new crop of MacAnalysts was spawned by the CIA and the MI-6, who lapped up&nbsp;everything fed to them by these agencies---whether relating to Iraq's possession of WMDs, Saddam Hussein's alleged links with Al Qaeda or his alleged suppression of the Shias.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> Independent professionals such as Hans Blix and analysts who questioned their analyses and conclusions were derisively dismissed. bin Laden strongly disliked&nbsp; Saddam and hence there was no question of Saddam's links with Al Qaeda. Saddam suppressed all religious clerics and fundamentalists, whether Shias or Sunnis, and&nbsp;it would be wrong to accuse him of suppressing only the Shias. Some of the very same MacAnalysts, who now project before the world scary stories of how Saddam was suppressing the Shias, had been writing in the 1980s, when Saddam was the USA's blue-eyed boy, as to how generous he was in his treatment of the Shias. The current wave of deaths and destruction in Iraq could be attributed to such wrong analyses and assessments and action based on them.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> Since bin Laden formed his International Islamic Front (IIF) in February 1998, I must have written over 50 articles pointing out that the campaign against terrorism should focus on the various components of the IIF, instead of&nbsp;exclusively on Al Qaeda and bin Laden. Al Qaeda is only one component of the IIF, but there are at least 12 others active in different countries of the world. They operate sometimes independently, sometimes under the over-all direction of the command and control of the IIF leadership. Till last year, the command and control of the IIF was being exercised by bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Since around April last year, it is being exercised by Pakistan's Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT).&nbsp; <br /> <br /> The IIF is not a jihadi monolith. It is a disparate group of jihadi terrorists. They are united only by their shared anger against the USA and Israel and by their pan-Islamic fervour. Otherwise, there are ideological, doctrinal and sectarian differences and even ego clashes arising from their differing cultural and national backgrounds. The international community has not been able to take advantage of these differences and&nbsp;create a split amongst them because it has not attempted to understand and analyse them. The jihadi terrorists know and understand us better than we understand them.They have been able to create a split in our ranks after the Spanish elections&nbsp;while we are unable to create one in their ranks.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> It is important that each terrorist incident is analysed from the perspective of the IIF and not from that of Al Qaeda alone. Al Qaeda dared to stage a terrorist Pearl Harbour in the US. One can understand the US anger against Al Qaeda and bin Laden, but the US has allowed this anger to distort its analysis of the problem of jihadi terrorism faced by the international community today. As a result, they tend to see the hand and the shadow of Al Qaeda and bin Laden everywhere and miss other hands and shadows, which are equally, if not more, active destructively.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> The post-9/11 crop of MacAnalysts of terrorism and counter-terrorism spawned by the CIA and the MI-6, many of them even from Asia, has been uncritically accepting and reflecting/disseminating the distorted American analyses and perceptions. The result: One surprise after another; one tragedy after another.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> As I had pointed out in the past, by the way the US and its crop of MacAnalysts have projected bin Laden and Al Qaeda, they have unwittingly made them appear in the minds of the Muslim&nbsp;community as a new Super Power standing up to the USA and bin Laden as the Napoleon of international terrorism. These projections are coming home to roost. Before 1998, there were many critics of bin Laden in the Muslim communities of the world. Today, there are hardly any outside India, thanks to the USA's unwise handling.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> If we have to make headway in dealing with international jihadi terrorism it is important that each country facing this problem analyses it independently from its own perspective instead of letting itself be influenced by the US perspective. International co-operation is very important. So is the US role. No other country has the kind of resources, capabilities and determination to succeed that the US has. While continuing to co-operate with the US to the extent necessary and desirable, we should take care not to let our judgment be unduly influenced by the US perspective. (18-3-04)&nbsp; <br /> <br /> </font> <font size="2" class="greytext1"> <strong>Use a Cockroach to Catch a Cockroach</strong> <br /> (South Asia Analysis Group Paper No. 317, New Delhi, September 17, 2001) <br /> B.Raman <br /> <br /> It would be a mistake to identify Osama bin Laden as the principal or the only source of threat to the international community.&nbsp; The principal threat is the new kind of International Terrorism as advocated and propagated by the so-called jehadis from the soil of Pakistan and Afghanistan for the last 20 years.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> The advocates of Jehadi Terrorism hold that the jehadis have an extra-territorial right and obligation and a religious duty to wage jehad anywhere in the world against any nation, Muslim or non-Muslim, and against any Government.&nbsp; They also hold that they recognise and respect only the frontiers of the Ummah and not national frontiers.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> These were the most pernicious ideas to have come out of the human mind after the Second World War.&nbsp; Unless these ideas are countered and its advocates in Pakistan and Afghanistan defeated by the international community, more September 11s are likely. Bin Laden is a product of these ideas and a leading terrorist, who seeks to have these ideas enforced, but there are many others who have taken to terrorism for the same purpose, with equal cunning and ferocity.&nbsp; Unless they are neutralised too, the battle would have been vainly fought.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> This is the time to show solidarity with the US and its people and not the time to analyse why September 11 happened and apportion blame.&nbsp; Yet, it needs to be said that September 11 was made possible, not by the failures and negligence of the US intelligence and national security establishments alone, but also by the failure and reluctance of the American political leadership to recognise the force of this new evil and to counter it effectively and in time.&nbsp; The coming war has to be a war against International Jehadi Terrorism and not just against bin Laden and his Al Qaeda.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> One should not overlook the role of Pakistan as the nursery and cradle of this new evil, in one's anxiety to secure its co-operation in waging this battle.&nbsp; Using a criminal to catch a criminal may help in dealing with a single crime, but not in wiping out crime as a menace.&nbsp; Using and rewarding one evil (Pakistan) to end another evil (bin Laden and the Taliban) may help the US in avenging September 11, but will not prevent more September 11s unless evil itself is eliminated wherever it is present (Pakistan, Afghanistan or elsewhere) in whatever form.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> One should not overestimate the capability of the US Armed Forces, with the most powerful weapons in the world, to overcome this evil. The US intelligence and security establishments with financial, human, technical and technological resources the like of which no other country in the world can dream to have for another 50 years were unable to anticipate, smell, sense, detect and neutralise the insinuation of this evil into the vitals of America.&nbsp; This was because they deliberately closed their eyes to the evil for political reasons and failed to analyse and realise its true dimensions.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> This is an unseen, elusive evil, which insinuates itself with stealth and strikes with cunning and ruthless ferocity.&nbsp; The war against this evil has to be equally stealthy, invisible, cunning and ruthless.&nbsp; This is not a war to be fought by uniformed soldiers of the Armed Forces before the TV cameras.&nbsp; This is a war to be fought by the cloak and dagger men of the intelligence services of the world, who must be able to strike ferociously without anyone being able to identify the hand that held the dagger.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> One should not overestimate one's capability to smoke out bin Laden and his followers and arrest them and to dislodge the Taliban from power.&nbsp; Post- Second World War produced two terrorists with a legendary reputation for their cunning, ferocity and stealth---Carlos alias Michel, now in jail in France, and bin Laden.&nbsp; <br /> Carlos headed a small cell with not more than 30 members.&nbsp; All of them came from well-to-do elitist middle or upper middle class families.&nbsp; They thought they were waging their battle of terrorism for the rights of the Palestinians and for the underprivileged and downtrodden people of the world.&nbsp; But, coming from bourgeois families, they felt uncomfortable in the company of the underprivileged and downtrodden.&nbsp; They kept them out of their closely-knit circle.&nbsp; They led a luxurious life-style with a weakness for expensive cars, women and wine.&nbsp; Consequently, the poor and the downtrodden, though fascinated by Carlos, were not prepared to die for him.&nbsp; He had practically no popular support base.&nbsp; Despite this, it took the world 29 years to neutralise him and his cell.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> Bin Laden, on the other hand, comes from a very rich family of Saudi Arabia with an estimated personal wealth of about US $ 300 million, a large part of which he has either given away to the poor Pathans in Afghanistan and in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan or spent on his cause.&nbsp; Even though he lives in a big house at Kandahar specially constructed for him by the Taliban very near the house of Mulla Mohammad Omar, the Amir of the Taliban, he leads an austere life.&nbsp; He is easily accessible to the poor people and eats with them and his aides from the same plate as is the normal Pathan custom.&nbsp; He has thus a very large following in the Pathan community, particularly amongst the poor people, many of whom are prepared to die for him.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> He lives in Pathan country and would be able to take shelter in no time ---if he has not already done so--- in the FATA, where he is worshipped almost like God.&nbsp; Even the Pakistan Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) don't know the area well. Sending in over-equipped and over-confident Marines and Green Berets to catch bin Laden would be like sending in an army of elephants to catch a cockroach.&nbsp; One must use a cockroach to catch a cockroach.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> When one reads the rhetoric coming out of President Bush and his aides in Washington, one feels uneasy that they don't understand the real nature of the evil confronting the world and the man in bin Laden.&nbsp; No other people in the world understand the machine as well as the Americans do and no other people in the world understand the human being as little as the Americans do.&nbsp;&nbsp; Mr.Bush and his aides seem to be thinking that bin Laden and the jehadi hordes must be shivering in their salwar-kameez because of their sabre-rattling.&nbsp; They would be only laughing up their sleeves.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> Mr. Bush wants the other nations of the world to co-operate with the USA in this war, but the language which he has been using should be anything but reassuring for the potential allies.&nbsp; The agencies have quoted him as saying: " We will not only deal with those who dare attack America, but we will deal with those who harbour them and feed them and house them." The war against them is not because they pose a threat to humanity and the world, but because they dared to attack the US in its territory.&nbsp; His objective is to weed out threats to US nationals and interests and, thereafter, the Marines will go home.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> The fact that these jehadi terrorists have also killed over 15,000 innocent Indians since 1989 and hundreds of others in other countries is of no consequence to Mr.Bush.&nbsp; His apparent aim is not making the world safe from terrorism, but making the US safe from terrorism and to prevent September 11 repeats.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> Bin Laden's operational methods are totally different from those of Carlos.&nbsp; Carlos operated through his small 30-strong cell.&nbsp; He involved himself in each and every terrorist operation---choosing the target of attack and the weapon to be used; repeatedly casing the area; pre-determining lines of escape etc.&nbsp; He did not believe in suicide terrorism.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> Bin Laden, on the other hand, heads a large set-up of about 4,000, of whom only 10 per cent live in Afghanistan.&nbsp; The rest are scattered in about 20 countries---Muslim and non-Muslim.&nbsp; Many of his cadres have never met him or personally seen him.&nbsp; They worship him like one worships a God that one had never seen.&nbsp; They are prepared to die for him and the cause as determined by him.&nbsp; Practically, all his operations were carried out by suicide bombers.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> Bin Laden does not get involved in the nuts and bolts functioning of his supporters.&nbsp; He is not at the head of a pyramidal hierarchical structure, giving orders and getting them obeyed.&nbsp; Instead, he is at the centre of a circle, surrounded by about 12 concentric circles, each representing one of the organisations constituting his International Islamic Front For Jehad Against the US and Israel.&nbsp; He gives them total autonomy of functioning, without interfering in the planning and execution of the operations.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> He and the heads of these organisations based in Kandahar jointly decide their target and which organisation will carry out the task and how.&nbsp; Thereafter, he leaves it to the chosen organisation to plan and implement.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> While, in the long term, the neutralisation of bin Laden and his hard core in Afghanistan might make their organisations wither way, in the short and medium term they could be expected to hit back with ferocity.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> Strengthening of protective measures in the countries joining the USA's counter-offensive should be a priority.&nbsp; Uniting the intelligence agencies of victim-States and letting them loose amongst these cockroaches is another. <br /> <br /> <strong>The writer is Additional Secretary (Retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, and, presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai, and Distinguished Fellow and Convenor, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Chennai Chapter.</strong> <br /> E-mail: [email protected] <br /> <br /> <em>* Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Observer Research Foundation.</em>
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