Fulfilling Osama Bin Laden’s 9/11 Goals
The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, succeeded far beyond anything Osama bin Laden could possibly have envisioned. This is not just because they resulted in nearly 3,000 deaths, nor only because they struck at the heart of American financial and military power. Those outcomes were only the bait; it would remain for the United States to spring the trap.
Over the past nine years, the United States has blundered into one overreaction after another. The Bush administration convinced itself that the minds that conspired to turn passenger jets into ballistic missiles might discover the means to arm such “missiles” with chemical, biological or nuclear payloads. This became the existential nightmare that led, in short order, to a progression of unsubstantiated assumptions: that Saddam Hussein had developed weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons; that there was a connection between the Iraqi leader and al-Qaeda.
Bin Laden had nothing to do with fostering these misconceptions. None of this had any real connection to 9/11. There was no group known as “al-Qaeda in Iraq” at that time. But the political climate of the moment overcame whatever flaccid opposition there was to invading Iraq, and the United States marched into a second theater of war, one that would prove far more intractable and painful and draining than its supporters had envisioned.
As for the 100,000 U.S. troops in or headed for Afghanistan, many of them will be there for years to come, too — not because of America’s commitment to a functioning democracy there; even less because of what would happen to Afghan girls and women if the Taliban were to regain control. It has to do with nuclear weapons. Pakistan has an arsenal of 60 to 100 nuclear warheads. Were any of those to fall into the hands of al-Qaeda’s fundamentalist allies in Pakistan, there is no telling what the consequences might be.
Again, this dilemma is partly of our own making. We have raced to Afghanistan and Iraq, and more recently to Yemen and Somalia; we have created a swollen national security apparatus.
If bin Laden did not foresee all this, then he quickly came to understand it. In a 2004 video message, he boasted about leading America on the path to self-destruction. “All we have to do is send two mujaheddin . . . to raise a small piece of cloth on which is written ‘al-Qaeda’ in order to make the generals race there, to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses.”
[Excerpts of an article byTed Koppel, former managing editor of ABC’s “Nightline”]