- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 20, 2001

The attacks on the world trade center and the Pentagon have left the world stunned and reeling. More than 5,000 people are still missing and presumed dead in the attacks on the World Trade Center. There are believed to have been 188 deaths at the Pentagon, between the dead and the missing.

U.S. government investigations make it all but certain that the perpetrators were Islamic terrorist Osama bin Laden and his gang of followers worldwide.

There is no possible justification for this heinous slaughter of innocent men, women and children. Still, it is useful to examine the terrorists' objectives, and one of them in particular could have a bearing on the fight against terrorism.

Partly, the rationale of bin Laden and his followers was to strike a blow against world capitalism, and they saw the World Trade Center as capitalism's symbolic heart. In Webster's dictionary, the definition of capitalism is: an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision rather than by state control, and by prices, production and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market. In other words, capitalism is the free enterprise system, the undertaking of economic activity by private persons.

Osama bin Laden's attack on world capitalism makes no sense. Bin Laden is himself a capitalist. According to newspaper reports, he possesses a fortune of at least $250 million, as the son of a Saudi construction magnate.

Also, between 1991 and 1996 while living in the Sudan, bin Laden reportedly set up businesses in construction, trucking, currency exchange and exports of various products. The holding company is Taba Exports. Further, he has U.S. assets, some of which have been frozen by the U.S. government.

I happen to think capitalism is the best system known to man for providing for the material needs of the largest number of people. Capitalism should be celebrated for lifting much of the human race out of poverty. The poorest countries are those which are not capitalist and have the fewest contacts with the industrialized world. But whether one is a supporter or opponent of capitalism is beside the point. The fact is that Osama bin Laden is a far bigger capitalist than anyone he killed at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.

Most likely, no one among the 5,000 missing had a fortune of $250 million, and most of those killed probably earned under $150,000 a year.

Such an attack by bin Laden is the most incredible hypocrisy ever seen.

Moreover, it is difficult to fathom why true anti-capitalists would follow such a man. He is the very thing they hate most. To anti-capitalists such as Marxists and strict followers of Islam, profits earned in the market are anathema.

As an avowed hater of capitalism, Osama bin Laden is what he hates. If bin Laden is so bent on committing violent crimes to fight against capitalism, then he should do the world a favor and turn his gun on himself.

That would put him out of his misery and save the world a lot of suffering.

The U.S. cannot let these horrendous terrorist attacks stand. Backed by most Americans, President Bush has declared war on terrorism. The military strikes will and should hit the terrorists so hard that they will be unable to carry out any further attacks. But at the same time, the war against terrorism is fought in the realm of ideas. It is possible to isolate bin Laden from his followers by making an issue of his status as a prominent capitalist. Osama bin Laden should become an international laughingstock for undertaking a spectacular attack that was ultimately aimed against himself.

This would undercut his power as terrorists want to be feared, not laughed at.

Karen Araujo, president of the Hemispheric Studies Institute, is an economist and terrorism analyst and coauthor of three books with Paul Craig Roberts.

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