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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

April 08, 2003

100 Bin Ladens on the Way

Not worth taking a bleak view, says Daniel Pipes, more good than bad will finally be the result of the attack upon Iraq
"When it is over, if it is over, this war [in Iraq] will have horrible consequences," lamented Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak the other day. "Terrorism will be aggravated," he predicted. "[Instead of one bin Laden there will be one hundred bin Ladens.] Terrorist organizations will be united. Everything will be insecure."

Many others have echoed this dire prediction.

Mohammed Adwan, Jordan's information minister: "Rising militancy is going to be very hard to contain."
Ghazi Qusaibi, former Saudi ambassador to Britain: "There may be more terrorist attacks and violent displays of anger."
Magnus Ranstorp of St. Andrews University (Scotland): "This war is a major recruiting sergeant garnering foot soldiers for bin Laden."
Nubar Hovsepian of the University of Pennsylvania: "1991 produced one bin Laden, and 2003 will produce many more."
Actually, the precise opposite is more likely to happen: The war in Iraq will lead to a reduction in terrorism.

That's what happened a year and a half ago in Afghanistan.

Osama bin Laden then commanded far wider support among Muslims than does Saddam Hussein now: He was called "the greatest man in the world," his poster was paraded on streets and newborn boys were named after him. Emotions were inflamed by claims of an American grab for oil and talk of Afghans suffering a "crisis of Holocaust proportions."

The government of Pakistan was deemed on the verge of overthrow. Hostilities in Afghanistan were seen as inflaming rage against America. Some even foreshadowed Mubarak's prediction: "They can kill bin Laden," said a Palestinian interviewed in London's Guardian. "But there will be hundreds more bin Ladens." Well, it was not to be.

The Taliban collapsed in just two months and with them these predictions. Afghans expressed joy at being liberated ("We're being reborn in the world"), which caused Muslim anger at Washington to melt away.

The U.S. victory diminished the appeal of militant Islam. "The commitment of fanatics tends to melt away when they see their cause losing," explained Stuart Taylor, Jr. of the National Journal just as this phenomenon was happening.

In the first week after the U.S. airstrikes began, there were nine anti-American demonstrations in Arab countries. The second week saw three; the third week, one; the fourth week, two; then zero. Muslim anger turned against bin Laden, accusing him even of being a Zionist agent sent to discredit Islam. Governments felt emboldened to crack down on militant Islam; Pakistani authorities, for instance, closed hundreds of offices and arrested more than 2,000 people.[more]