Whose side is the U.S. on?
These days Osama bin Laden must fear that Muslims will begin to believe the United States is his sponsor, and that Washington is doing all it can to ensure al Qaeda’s victory. The foreign-policy performance of the Bush administration since bin Laden’s Jan. 19 statement has been a godsend for al Qaeda. So bad for U.S. interests has been Washington’s diplomacy that a summary of it falls into what radio host Don Imus calls the “you-couldn’t-make-this-up category.”
First, even before all votes were counted in Palestine, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, the president, the neoconservative pundits, and sundry members of both parties in Congress — some of whom clearly aspire to be Knesset members — rejected dealing with the democratically elected Hamas government unless it abandons its pledge to defend Palestine against Israel, presumably a chief reason Palestinians voted for it.
Almost before this dictum was fully announced, Washington and Tel Aviv jointly announced they intend to financially strangle the Hamas regime, cleverly creating a situation where Hamas will seek funding from Shi’ite Iran and thereby force America’s Sunni “allies” in the Persian Gulf to make up Western funding or be disgraced by Shi’ite Iran assisting Sunni Hamas.
As the smoke clears from this U.S.-foreign-policy train wreck, the dominating image must be that of Osama bin Laden’s shy and wry smile. America, once again, has validated the al Qaeda chief’s decade-long and ongoing lesson for Muslims: America supports democracy only if its agents are elected; America will destroy any regime that threatens Israel; America will not allow a country to be ruled by Islamic law unless it has vast oil resources; and, for America, Muslim blood is cheap, it has no qualms about cutting funds used to feed Muslim children.
Second, the Bush administration, the Democratic Party and its Hollywood masters, and their Western European associates have confused — assuming they ever knew — the difference between liberty and license, and have made the controversy over the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad into a battle between the pure defenders of free speech and the evil Muslims of medieval mindset. America’s founders and the early Supreme Court, of course, never equated free speech with blasphemy, and did not judge the latter to fall within the purview of protected speech. It is only the enlightened minds of contemporary America — especially the Democratic Party’s Harvard-bred, libertine legal acolytes — that have raised blasphemy to the rank of fine art, minds so nimble that they seem able to conjure the image of Patrick Henry passionately telling the Virginia’s House of Burgesses: “As for me, gentlemen, give me the liberty to submerge a statue of the Virgin Mary in a vat of urine or give me death.”
America, bin Laden has argued these 10 years past, is out to destroy Muslims and Islam via its foreign policy. He has wisely refrained from justifying jihad because of the way Americans live, think and vote — Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini took that route to jihad and hit a dead end. Now, bin Laden finds America and its allies stepping in to teach Muslims to hate more than just U.S. foreign policy. The treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and Pol-i-Charki; the destruction of the Koran; the burning of dead Taliban soldiers; and now the defense of the Muhammad caricatures are doing what no Muslim leader has done: They are persuading Muslims to hate Americans for being Americans.
Third, Mr. Bush’s just-completed trip to South Asia is a triumph for bin Laden and his allies. Pakistan is the absolute key to the U.S. war against al Qaeda; it is growing more important as U.S. bases in Central Asia become problematic; and its president, Pervez Musharraf, is risking his life to help America by doing things that harm Pakistan’s national interests and stability — such as sending the Pakistani army into the country’s border provinces after al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Faced with this reality what do the geniuses around the president do? They send him first to visit Afghan President Hamid Karzai, America’s follower-less, anti-Pakistan satrap in Kabul; second, they send him to India — Pakistan’s eternal and mortal enemy — where America’s promises to support India’s nuclear capability and make it a “strategic ally”; and third they sneak the president into Pakistan, where he stays just long enough to lecture Gen. Musharraf on how he must do more against al Qaeda, and then departs, refusing to assist Pakistan’s nuclear program and leaving Gen. Musharraf to face a coup-minded general staff seething over the net U.S. payment for Pakistan’s aid: domestic instability and a greatly strengthened India.
For the past two months of U.S, foreign policy, Osama bin Laden can only be reciting “Allahu Akhbar” — “God is great.” For Americans the question must be “Whose side are these guys on?”
Michael Scheuer, a 22-year veteran with the CIA, created and served as the chief of the agency’s Osama bin Laden unit at the Counterterrorist Center. He is also the author of “Imperial Hubris.”