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Eric Margolis Headshot

Why Osama Is Winning

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Remember when the Bush White House assured us that Osama bin Laden was on the run and no longer of any importance? Now, nine long years after 9/11, President Barack Obama has just told us that America is "at war" with al-Qaida.

Back in 1986, I was covering the anti-Soviet war in then almost unknown Afghanistan. I called on the grandly titled "Afghan Information Center" in Peshawar, Pakistan. Peshawar was and remains a wild, dangerous place. In my book on Afghanistan, War at the Top of the World, I called it, "Dodge City meets the Arabian Nights."

The information center turned out to be a drab little office filled with mimeographed pamphlets and piles of dusty books.

Its director was a short, thin man in a torn sweater named Abdullah Azzam. We spoke at length of the anti-Soviet jihad (struggle) in Afghanistan being waged by Afghan and Arab mujahidin with US, British, Pakistani and Saudi backing.

Then, Azzam told me with a surprisingly fierce look for so mild a man, "when we have driven the Communist imperialists from Afghanistan, we will go on and drive the American imperialists from Arabia and the rest of the Muslim world."

I was absolutely floored. Except for the usual Communist invective against our nation, I had never heard anyone call my beloved America an imperialist power. In those days, the US appeared the acme of good - in large part because its rival, the Soviet Union, looked so wicked.

But after the USSR collapsed, absolute power absolutely corrupted Washington's ruling circles and drove them to seek "full spectrum domination" of the globe and its energy resources rather than a cooperative new world order. Mikhail Gorbachev called this one of the great tragedies of modern history.

Sheik Abdullah Azzam was the teacher and spiritual mentor of a young Saudi named Osama bin Laden. Azzam gave bin Laden the blueprint for his later war against the west.

Azzam was murdered in 1989, likely by a western intelligence service. His pupil, Osama, launched a seemingly quixotic mission to overthrow the western-backed dictatorships and monarchies that misruled the Muslim world, and drive US, British and French power from the region.

Bin Laden proclaimed his grand strategy in the 1990's. He vowed to oust the modern western 'Crusaders' by provoking the US and its allies into a series of small, debilitating, hugely expensive wars to bleed and slowly bankrupt the US economy, which he called America's Achilles' heel.

Bin Laden was dismissed by western intelligence as a crackpot and "enragé."

But both the dim-witted President George W. Bush and the intelligent President Barack Obama fell right into Osama's carefully-laid trap.

Today, as we witness hysteria and chaos engulf America's air travel system, and the war party in Washington demands the US invade Yemen and attack Iran, we should recall Osama's ominous warning, "there will be no peace in America until there is peace in Palestine."

US airport security officials will be even more panicked when they learn a jihadist recently tried to assassinate Saudi Arabia's interior minister, Prince Nayef, by detonating a bomb secreted in his rectum.

The American colossus continues to stumble ever deeper into the Muslim world's violent, tangled affairs at a time when Washington is bankrupt and only runs on Chinese loans. In 2009, the US deficit was US $1.4 trillion. But Washington managed to spend $200 billion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by loading the costs onto the national credit card.

American soldiers are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. US Special Forces, air units and CIA mercenaries are involved in combat operations in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, West Africa, North Africa and the Philippines. A new US base at Djibouti is launching raids into Yemen, Somalia and northern Kenya. US forces aided the failed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in 2006. New US bases are planned in oil-producing West Africa and Colombia. The US now has as many mercenaries in the field as soldiers.

The Red Sea littoral is America's next major headache. Somalia's anti-western Shebab movement controls much of that nation's south and center. Yemen is a hotbed of jihadist activity that increasingly threatens neighboring Saudi Arabia, a vital American ally. Somali pirates could turn from plunder to striking at other western interests.

As soon as the US or its satraps crush one anti-western jihadist group, another springs up somewhere else.

Washington is quietly engineering the breakup of troubled Sudan, Africa's largest nation, in order to dominate South Sudan's important oil resources and undermine the regime in Khartoum which Washington has marked for termination.

Even Egypt is growing shaky. The US-backed Mubarak military dictatorship that has ruled the Arab world's most populous nation with an iron hand since 1981 faces a succession struggle once the 82-year-old pharaoh is gone.

Al-Qaida is no longer the tiny organization founded by Osama bin Laden that never numbered more than 300 hard core members. It has morphed into a worldwide movement of like-minded but independent, revolutionary, anti-American groups that share Osama's militant philosophy. This is precisely the kind of 'asymmetrical warfare' the Pentagon has so long feared.

Ominously, a 2006 World Public Opinion poll showed large majorities in four leading Muslim nations that are key US allies, Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan and Indonesia (a third of the Muslim world's population), believe the US is determined to destroy or undermine Islam. The people of those nations support attacks on American targets. This was an ominous warning for the United States.

But America still refuses to face the hard reality that what drives anti-western violence is not Islam, as neocons claim, but Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.