The Rise of the North Star: Osama bin Laden
Storming of the Bastille
Terrorism in the Modern World
Recently the nature of conflict has changed through asymmetric warfare radical groups and weak state governments are using unexpected means to deal stunning blows to more powerful opponents in the west. Terrorism is now a well established feature of world politics and conflict. It is used by single minded small groups, state agents, and broader insurgent movements to seek political and military results judged difficult or impossible to achieve in the usual political forms or on the battlefield against an army.
A surprising fact about the term terrorism is that it originated during the French Revolution (1789-1799). It is difficult to find anything which has had a more profound impact on world events other than terrorism over the last three decades. Terrorism is defined as the deliberate and systematic murder, maiming, and menacing of the innocent to inspire fear for political ends. Terrorism is always political even if it reveals other motives such as religious, economic, or social. By using terrorism and information warfare the west's air power, sea power and land power have become vulnerable to attack from much weaker enemies.
The most devastating example of an asymmetric attack are the events that took place on September 11, 2001, when 19 men hijacked four fuel-laden commercial airliners which were bound for the western coast of the United States. The attackers were Islamic terrorist from Saudi Arabia and several other Arab nations. Reportedly financed by Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist organization, they were allegedly acting in retaliation for America's support of Israel, its involvement in the Persian Gulf War and its continued military presence in the Middle East. Some of the terrorist had lived in the United States for more than a year and had taken flying lessons at American commercial flight schools. The 19 terrorist easily smuggled box-cutters and knives through security at three East Coast airports and boarded four flights bound for California, chosen because the planes were loaded with fuel for the long transcontinental journey. Soon after takeoff, the terrorist commandeered the four planes and took the controls, transforming ordinary commuter jets into guided missiles. This day marked a change in World History, it established the beginning of the end of the American Century. The American people could no longer feel safe from the random acts of terrorist, waves of paranoia would ripple through its cities. The attack on the 11th of September was orchestrated by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, a total of 2,977 people were killed in New York City, Washington D.C., and outside Shanksville Pennsylvania, in the what would be the worst terrorist attack in American history. Perhaps more costly than the immediate consequences of the collapse of the World Trade Center on September 11,2001, a prominent symbol of the United States economic might was the effect it had on the American psyche. If similar September 11 attacks took place for the next twenty years the destruction would still not equal what the Soviet Union endured from the Nazi occupation during the Second World War.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has been linked to nearly every al Qaeda attack between 1993 to 2003, he was known internationally as "KSM", the accused mastermind of the 9/11 attacks has stated al Qaeda is in a war of attrition with America in a statement issued since his capture in 2003 and subsequent torture. On March 15, 2007, KSM admitted responsibility for the 9/11 attacks from A to Z. KSM knew that such an attack would require personnel, money, and logistical support, that only an extensive and well-funded organization like al Qaeda could provide. In 1996 KSM would meet with bin Laden and present a proposal for an operation that would involve training pilots who could crash large commercial airliners into buildings in the United States.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
The Capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
On March 1,2003 Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is captured in a house in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, his ideas included conventional car bombing, political assassination, aircraft bombing, hijacking, reservoir poisoning and ultimately the use of aircraft as missiles guided by suicide operatives. KSM first came to the attention of the FBI and the CIA in January 1995 because of his involvement in a failed plot to blow up as many as a dozen American commercial airliners over the Pacific Ocean. After a fire in a Manila apartment where the planning took place, Manila police would soon discover a computer where KSM's plans were laid out which lead to the arrest of some of the conspirators. He is also linked to a plot to assassinate Pope John Paul II during his visit to Manila in 1995. The Southern District of New York in 1996 charged KSM on seven counts of terror conspiracy for his alleged involvement in a plot to blow up 12 U.S. bound commercial airliners in 48 hours, which is referred to as the "Bojinka Plot". When Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) was captured he was found hiding at the house of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan a prominent microbiologist. The doctor's elderly wife was a local leader of Pakistan's largest Islamic political party, when the police arrived to capture KSM, luckily they were out of town at a wedding in Lahore. Subsequently, the Pakistani authorities arrested Kahn's uncle, Pakistani army major Adil Qudds Kahn. KSM it seemed had good high-ranking contacts inside Pakistan's military and political establishments.
Osama bin Laden Battles Soviet Occupation of Afghanistan
The Death of a Myth
KSM portrays al-Qaeda as a scrappy underdog compelled to assault a vastly more powerful United States and thwart what he sees as the mastermind of global injustice, hypocrisy and godlessness. He characterizes al Qaeda as a small organization whose members are limited in numbers and capabilities battling against a super power with a budget of billions. KSM states that primary operational goal of al Qaeda was to entangle the United States into bloody, futile, and expensive wars which would force it to retreat back from their aggressive stance in the Middle East. On May 2, 2011, was killed by U.S. special forces during an early raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan. He was the son of a Saudi elite whose radical violent campaign to create a seventh-century Muslim empire redefined the threat of terrorism for the 21st century. Osama bin Laden managed to live in Pakistan for nine years before his death by avoiding surveillance, employing disguises, and seeking the help of dependable bodyguard.
The haul of handwritten notes, letters, computer files and other information collected from bin Laden's house during the SEAL team six raid revealed regular correspondence between bin Laden and numerous militant leaders, whom must have known of bin Laden's whereabouts in Pakistan. The list included Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e Taiba, and Mullah Omar of the Taliban. Saeed and Omar are two of the ISI's (Pakistan's CIA) most loyal militant leaders. Both men are protected by the agency who in turn help restrain their followers from attacking sites in Pakistan, and also help Pakistan achieve its greater strategic plans. Any communication those two men had with bin Laden would have been relayed to their ISI handlers. It took more than three years before the depth of Pakistan's relationship with al Qaeda was thrust in the open when the world learned where bin Laden had been hiding, just a few hundred yards from Pakistan's top military academy. It's evident that Pakistan's ISI knew of bin Laden's whereabouts and that they had arranged to hide bin Laden in Abbottabad. The ISI actually ran a special desk assigned to hand bin Laden. It was operated independently, let by an officer who made his own decisions and didn't report to a superior. He handled only one person, Osama bin Laden. Soon after the Navy SEAL raid on bin Laden's hideout, a Pakistani official revealed that the United States had strong evidence that the ISI chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, knew of bin Laden's presence in Abbottabad. It is assumed that American intelligence intercepted a phone call of Pash's about bin Laden which exposed Pakistan's involvement with the al Qaeda leader.
Osama bin Laden's Hideout
The Rise of the North Star: Osama bin Laden
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith offers a rare glimpse of bin Laden just hours after the 9/11 attacks when he was summoned to a meeting. He recalled a three hour drive into the night from Kandahar, finding the leader of al Qaeda inside a cave amid the mountains in Afghanistan in very rough terrain. Bin Laden told Sulaiman , "we are the ones who did it," Sulaiman had been Afghanistan for several months in 2001, where he was delivering religious lectures in al Qaeda training camps. On the morning of the 9/11 attacks, bin Laden told Sulaiman he wanted to deliver a message to the world. Sulaiman had no idea specifically that the 9/11 attacks would occur, he only learned about them from news reports. In the weeks after the 9/11 attacks, Sulaiman would later become bin Laden's son-in-law, and served as bin Laden's spokesman, in a broad attempt to recruit fighters to wage war on the United States.
In 1979 the Middle East was becoming unsettled, an Islamic revolution in Iran was taking place which overthrew the Shah and made the United States a target. Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty with a little prodding from President Carter of the United States. The year would end with the Soviet Union invading Afghanistan. It was the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan that pushed bin Laden into practicing his radical beliefs. Bin Laden arrived at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border within two weeks of Soviet occupation. He traveled more like a visiting diplomat than a soldier meeting with the leaders of the resistance and observing refugees which flowed in the border town of Peshawar, Pakistan. He would return twice a year for the next two years, in between finishing his degree and lobbying family members to support the Afghan mujahedeen.
Bin Laden began traveling beyond the border into Afghanistan in 1982, bringing with him construction machinery and recruits. To young would be recruits across the Arab world, bin Laden's story was an attractive one, the rich young prince who would become a warrior. His experiences with battle, and how he lost the fear of death and slept under the face of artillery fire, were a portrait of an almost divine figure. Intelligence sources insist that bin Laden actually saw combat only once, in a week long artillery barrage by Soviet troops at Jaji, where Arab Afghans had to dig themselves into caves using bin Laden's construction equipment. Still, Jaji became a kind of a touchstone in the bin Laden myth. Afghanistan, the Jihad, were a terrific photo op for bin Laden who would was described as the "North Star". Stories sent back from the battle to Arab newspapers and photographs of bin Laden in combat gear popularized his image.
President Carter on Hostage Crisis 1979
The Birth of a Terror State
As the Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, visited Washington D.C. in November 1977 with President and his Imperial guests wiping tear gas away from the eyes as Iranians protested outside, President Carter made his now notorious toast, and his greatest foreign policy blunder: "Iran, under the great leadership of the Shah an island of stability in one of the most troubled areas of the world." This, the President added, was a great tribute to the Shah's leadership, and to "the respect, admiration, and love which your people give you." In a little over a year, the radical followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Mousavi Khomeini would bring about a dramatic collapse of the Pahlavi monarchy, and the enormity of the social revolt that had coalesced under Khomeini's leadership left American officials guessing how the United States "lost" Iran.
The Shah of Iran would flee his kingdom on January 17,1979. Within months, Ayatollah Khomeini and his followers would have total control over Iran. On March 31,1979, Khomeini staged a referendum and formally seized power in Iran. A second referendum, in November 1979, made Khomeini "Supreme Guide" of Iran. By November, Khomeini had driven out the lawful parliament, and his partisans controlled many of Iran's key government ministries. A student group allied with Khomeini occupied the U.S. embassy in Tehran in October 1979. Unlike the embassy takeover in March 1979, this occupation was not temporary. Ultimately, fifty-two diplomats were held hostage for over 400 days, while President Carter stood helpless as the Iranians paraded them to the International press. The Iranian hostage crisis cemented Khomeini's total control over Iran's people, as it cost President Carter his presidency. Only a month into the hostage crisis, official Tehran radio reports proclaimed that over 95% of Iranians voted to make Khomeini dictator for life. The birth of the first Islamic terror state, Iran, was now official.
Iranian Revolutionaries Burning the American Flag
Ayatollah Khomeini Part 1
Iran Hostage Crisis 1979
Ayatollah Khomeini Part 2
Ayatollah Khomeini Part 3
The Post 9/11 World
Terrorism has emerged as one of the top security challenges of our age, countries around the world are engaged in unprecedented efforts to counter this threat and to confront the underlying conditions that give rise to it. The United States at the forefront of this campaign, has characterized the struggle as nothing less than a "war." The 2006 National Strategy for Combating Terrorism states that "America is at war with a transnational terrorist movement fueled by a radical ideology of hatred, oppression and murder. The real challenge, however, is containing terrorism while keeping our freedom and civil liberties that make America a country worthy of global admiration.
Ansari Ali M. Confronting Iran : The Failure Of American Foreign Policy And The Next Great Crisis In The Middle East. Perseus Book Group. Basic Books. 387 Park Avenue South New York, NY 10016. 2007