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Mistake to minimize Bin Laden for political purposes
By Ray Hanania — The fact that Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that brought down the World Trade Center Towers, is living in, presumably a cave, shouldn’t be anything to cheer about. But apparently, that is all that many American officials can do as America’s Number One Most Wanted Terrorist continues to thumb his nose, and newly dyed beard, in video and audio tapes, and through Internet emissaries.President Bush’s Homeland Security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend recently described Bin Laden as “a man on a run, from a cave, who’s virtually impotent other than these tapes.”
Make no mistake about it, Bin Laden remains a very potent threat. What is most surprising is that despite his terrorist achievements over the past decade, we continue to do today what we did 10 years ago, take Bin Laden for granted.
Bin Laden was not on one of the planes that achieved what every thought was unachievable, bringing down two of the tallest buildings in the world and the symbols of America’s economic and Democratic might.
One plane struck the Pentagon and a fourth, only because of a late departure, was brought down by a passenger revolt when they learned from family and friends about the horrendous achievements of the other three hijacked commercial planes.
Bin Laden operated as a powerful symbol who motivated the 19 hijackers to commit the attacks.
Vice President Dick Cheney adds to Townsend’s view, arguing that Bush’s foreign policies have resulted in stopping Bin Laden from repeating his terrorist achievement of Sept. 11, 2001.
That is another mistake, to believe that Bin Laden is operating on “American People Time.”
Bin Laden’s first attempt to destroy the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers took place in 1993. The second attempt took eight years more to complete.
In the meantime, operatives of al-Qaeda, the organization that Bin Laden founded, has accomplished several terrorist strikes, and has helped turn the failed American war in Iraq and the confusion it has created into an al-Qaeda front and training ground.
Bin Laden does not need to be where he has never been, at the forefront of face-to-face meetings with the disciples who champion his cause of distorted, bastardized interpretations of Islam, a religion of peace turned into a calling card of destruction and extremist hate.
He best operates from behind-the-scenes, and a cave that apparently no American soldier can identify is as apropo a headquarters for the figurehead of al-Qaeda as is any other location.
The next Mohammed Atta need not meet Bin laden face-to-face. The next killer can organize a strike using a computer and slipping through what still remains an inability to arrest the real terrorists.
The fact that Bin Laden destroyed the World Trade Center and remains alive and well is motivation enough for any future Atta. Bin Laden has thousands of followers who view a future world from the perspective of distorted interpretations of Islam with visions of justified brutality who are willing to sacrifice their lives to fight for their religious cause.
In contrast, six years after the worst terrorist attack and more than a decade after the first Bin Laden strikes began, Americans remain divided and confused.
We have not learned the real lesson of Bin Laden or Islamic extremism, focusing our anger on knee-jerk responses like ethnic profiling and Islamophobia, rather than on solid investigative police work.
We remain uneducated to this day about Islam, and the Arabs, often confusing the two terms and using them interchangably, and speaking about Sunnis and Shi’ites as a common enemy and a monolithic group.
We have confused the Arab-Israeli conflict with the conflict with Bin Laden, prosecuted supporters of Hamas as if they were supporters of al-Qaeda and played right into Bin Laden’s own hands by attacking Iraq.
Rather than argue about Bin Laden, the national debate has been turned on its head and we are astonishingly still debating Iraq, which had nothing to do with Bin Laden, al-Qaeda or Islamic extremism.
If there is a tragic lesson in the past six years it is the realization we refuse to acknowledge because it is too embarrassing and says we just are not as smart as we claim, as Americans, to be.
The real tragedy is that as much as Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator in Iraq, he was also probably the only effective bulwark against Islamic extremism, Bin Laden and al-Qaeda.
Now that Saddam Hussein is out of the way, instead of bringing down al-Qaeda and Bin Laden, it has only given them strength, and a power we know the terrorist mastermind is very capable of exploiting.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and author. Copyright Arab Writers Group Syndicate. Reach him at www.ArabWritersGroup.com.)
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Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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