When Adolf Hitler asked Heinrich Himmler in 1929 to take over the Schutzstaffel (?Protection Squadron?), otherwise known as the SS, he commanded 280 goons. By the time the Nazi Party came to power four years later, SS storm troopers had grown to 52,000. Two more short years and Himmler was Gestapo chief, too. And in 1939, at the outbreak of World War II, Himmler also took command of 150,000 Waffen SS who built the concentration death camps, rounded up Jews, and supervised the genocide that became the Holocaust. If Himmler had been taken down by Allied agents before World War II, or killed by Allied bombers during the war, instead of popping a cyanide pill when captured by British forces after the war, could it have prevented or shortened the second global war.? No more than Hermann Goering’s assassination could have prevented the fire-bombing of London. Alas, there is never a shortage of ideologically motivated fanatics.
Victory in the almost half-century-long ideological war against the evil empire and its surrogates could not have been achieved by “terminating with maximum prejudice,” as the old CIA line goes, any of the five Soviet leaders who succeeded Josef Stalin. Mikhail Gorbachev finally conceded they had lost the war when he launched glasnost and perestroika in 1985.
Similarly, al Qaeda today is a global ideological movement waging a global war against Western democracies, including Israel. Finding and killing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi with one laser-guided and one satellite-guided 500-pound bomb was a brilliant intelligence coup, but it doesn’t hurt al Qaeda globally. His successor, Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, is unknown by Western intelligence sources, who believe the name is a pseudonym.
Pro-al Qaeda Islamists, the same week, dislodged CIA-funded warlords who held sway for 15 years and took over Mogadishu, capital of a failed nation-state devoid even of rudimentary government since 1992. U.S. Special Forces and covert agents had been assisting anti-al Qaeda warlords from a U.S. base in Djibouti at the tip of the Horn of Africa. It was the second victory for Islamist anarchists in Somalia. Even Osama Bin Laden himself has been quoted as saying that America’s failed 1993 mission in Somalia was an important example of how al Qaeda could defeat the United States. In an Oct. 21, 2001, statement broadcast by the Arabic-language Al Jazeera network and shown on CNN, bin Laden said three weeks before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, “Our brothers with Somali mujahideen and God’s power fought the Americans. God granted them victory. America exited dragging its tail in failure, defeat and ruin.” President Clinton, badly shaken by “Blackhawk Down” in 1993, ordered total withdrawal.
There was no question in bin Laden’s mind (circulated in a fatwa) of the effect street battles in the Somali capital had on his global war of terrorism. Speaking about America, his fatwa said, “But your most disgraceful performance was in Somalia where — after vigorous propaganda about the power of the U.S.A. and its post-Cold War leadership of the New World Order — you moved tens of thousands of an international force, including 28,000 American soldiers, into Somalia. (U.S. force consisted of 19 aircraft, 12 vehicles and 160 men; 18 were killed, two U.S. gunships were shot down, three damaged.) However, when tens of your soldiers were killed in minor battles and one American pilot was dragged in the streets of Mogadishu, you left the area carrying disappointment, humiliation, defeat and your dead with you. Clinton appeared in front of the whole world threatening and promising revenge, but these threats were merely a cover for withdrawal. … The extent of your impotence and weaknesses became very clear. It was a pleasure for the ‘heart’ of every Muslim and a remedy to the ‘chests’ of believing nations to see you defeated [in Mogadishu and Beirut].”
Radical Islam is in the ascendancy all over Muslim Africa. It’s a safe assumption bin Laden sees the recent street battles in Mogadishu and the victory of Islamist forces as far more important than the death of Zarqawi who had embarrassed him with the video decapitations of hostages. Zarqawi now continues to serve as a powerful martyr symbol and recruitment poster a la Che Guevara.
Jihadis live to die martyrs. Out of 20 million Muslims in Europe, an estimated 1 percent are prone to violent action. That’s 200,000 youths. After the bus and subway attacks in London last July 7, a British media survey of showed 100,000 Muslims (out of 2 million) approved what the suicide bombers had done.
Bin Laden also sees a Taliban now resurgent in six Afghan provinces and NATO forces gradually replacing some 20,000 U.S. soldiers. The incoming Dutch and Canadian contingents are particularly vulnerable in the light of strong domestic opposition in the Netherlands and Canada. President Hamid Karzai’s anecdotal ratings are at their lowest, according to a political friend of his recently in Washington.
Bin Laden hears about the “Virginia Jihad” case that has produced more guilty verdicts than any domestic terrorism case since September 11, according U.S. government officials. Admittedly a gross exaggeration, it is more a case of “pre-event interdiction” than “post-event reaction.” There are folks willing to take up arms against U.S. interests here and abroad, including against our allies, who are also terrorists,” said Chuck Rosenberg, the chief federal prosecutor in Alexandria.
Headlines about the arrest of 17 Muslims and the breakup of a major terrorist plot in Canada and its Internet links to more arrests in Britain convinces bin Laden & Co. the global crusade is not receding. Western counterterrorism agencies confirm a “virtual caliphate” now exists in cyberspace. It has displaced militant mosques as a safe meeting place for jihadis to share lessons, tactics and recipes for explosives. This was good news to Osama Bin Laden. As was the aim of the U.S. F-16 that finally dispatched his potential rival Zarqawi to meet a Muslim jihadi’s Koran-promised reward: 72 virgins.
Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.