Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror
by Richard A. Clarke
Few political memoirs have made such a dramatic entrance as that by Richard A. Clarke. During the week of the initial publication of Against All Enemies, Clarke was featured on 60 Minutes, testified before the 9/11 commission, and touched off a raging controversy over how the presidential administration handled the threat of terrorism and the post-9/11 geopolitical landscape. Clarke, a veteran Washington insider who had advised presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush, dissects each man's approach to terrorism but levels the harshest criticism at the latter Bush and his advisors who, Clarke asserts, failed to take terrorism and Al-Qaeda seriously.
Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001
by Steve Coll
Steve Coll's Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 offers revealing details of the CIA's involvement in the evolution of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the years before the September 11 attacks. From the beginning, Coll shows how the CIA's on-again, off-again engagement with Afghanistan after the end of the Soviet war left officials at Langley with inadequate resources and intelligence to appreciate the emerging power of the Taliban. He also demonstrates how Afghanistan became a deadly playing field for international politics where Soviet, Pakistani, and U.S. agents armed and trained a succession of warring factions. At the same time, the book, though opinionated, is not solely a critique of the agency. Coll balances accounts of CIA failures with the success stories, like the capture of Mir Amal Kasi. Coll, managing editor for the Washington Post, covered Afghanistan from 1989 to 1992. He demonstrates unprecedented access to records of White House meetings and to formerly classified material, and his command of Saudi, Pakistani, and Afghani politics is impressive.
Inside 9-11: What Really Happened
by Der Spiegel Magazine

The editors of Der Spiegel magazine have put together a comprehensive account of the September 11 terrorist attacks. The book is divided into several sections, including a chronology of the events of September 11 and background on the terrorists especially the years they spent in Hamburg, Germany. This well-researched effort is a chilling yet compelling study of the terrorists, their victims, and the loved ones left behind. The appendixes provide much reference material, including excerpts from the terrorists' manual, a list of the known terrorists, timetables for each of the hijacked planes, Mohamed Atta's will, and a transcript of part of the infamous Osama bin Laden videotape. Even with the large number of contributors, the quality of writing and editing is consistently high throughout.


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The Terrorist's Achilles Heel:
An Alternative Blow to Terrorism

By Sigmund Aas

Its been three years since the gruesome terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D.C., and even more since the attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. Some experts claim Al Qaeda is now stronger than ever - others say it has been weakened by the Afghanistan and Iraq campaign. However, they all agree that Al Qaeda exists and pose serious mortal threat. Taking into consideration that this organisation has been able to withstand a war from a super power and its allies, including their fighting capabilities ranging from military might, economic coercion and considerable diplomatic weight, perhaps it is time to consider a shift in strategy?

The public's demand for the use of brute force against the terrorists behind the September 11th attacks is easy to comprehend. The immediate feelings of shock, infamy, anger and sorrow were soon released by a blossoming wave of patriotism and national solidarity, and perhaps most importantly, the quest for retribution. Americans wanted to hit them as hard as they had been hit, in a full scale open war. However, I do firmly believe it is possible to combine the fight against terrorism using military might with a different kind of campaign: A social war against terrorism. And here is the fine point of it:

In order to win the war against terrorism, one must understand it - its motives, foundations and organisations. One must understand the basis on which Al Qaeda is dependent - the Arab community and the Muslim world. There are over one billion Muslims in the world, in which less than 1% take up arms to attack the west in the name of religion. Most of them are not willing to fight, and probably does not want to fight. It is extremely vital to make the distinction between a radical terrorist and a moderate, average Muslim. One is the enemy - trained, deadly, and a legitimate target of war. The other is a potential friend or foe depending on how you play your cards.

Al Qaeda is highly dependent on the Muslim world to be able to operate. It receives its funding from private donations and businesses in the middle east, new terrorists trainees are recruited from the masses, and Al Qaeda operatives hides among the civilian population. So what drives young Muslims to take the step from being moderate Muslims to be Al Qaeda operatives? What motivates them? Like any other national and ethnic group, Arabs feel a certain unity and shared feeling of identity, despite being spread across several countries and facing severe challenges in co-operation. When an Arab country is invaded however, some might feel that as an attack by the west upon the Arabs, regardless of the west' actual motives. Immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941, and the attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, the US military experienced a wave of eager, patriotic volunteers. The attacks were seen as serious attacks by an outsider on the American community and nation. If patriotism had been a motivation before, it certainly didn't become any less of a motivating force now.

This same effect can be seen in the middle east. For as much as Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted to join world war II, he needed support from his population, - the average man in the street - like Bin Laden needs the support of the moderate Muslims to wage his war on the US. The invasion of Iraq, and the campaign in Afghanistan has infuriated young Muslims to fight against what they see as aggression by the west. Consequently, the war in Iraq may have removed a terrorist ally, but it made recruitment easier for Al Qaeda. For Al Qaeda knows very well how to take advantage of these waves of new volunteers. Much of their recruiting takes place in Pakistan, the neighbouring country to Afghanistan. Religious schools in Pakistan - Madrasses - teaches youth the Quaran by heart from an early age - but also intolerance and hatred towards the west. It is taught that America is the great Satan. After their graduation from these schools, many of the young Muslims cross the border into Afghanistan and go to Al Qaeda or Taliban service.

When America's business in Iraq and Afghanistan almost exclusively included the use of brute military force - it underlined and gave credit to what the madrasses teach - that USA is a brutal and ruthless enemy which targets all Muslims. And here we are at the heart of the theory. Instead of merely battling the extremists, the radicals and the terrorists with military force, why not take away their ability to recruit new members? Why not go into Pakistan and show a good side of America, the personal freedom, tolerance and liberty that America is originally about. Why not build schools there, help the citizens get access to clean water, and spread good-will? That will signal to the area that Americans are not at all quite different from them, and that they are certainly not the Satan the madrasses teach them they are.

This strategy has an nearly infinite number of positive consequences. 1) Al Qaeda will lose its foundation for recruiting new members, 2) Al Qaeda will lose the support of the local population which enables it to hide, along with its funding 3) we will improve the living standard of the Pakistanis and Afghans in the area, 4) we will avoid a lengthy, costly, and bloody war because this strategy will have good long-term effects, and 5) this approach will most likely be cheaper than a lengthy military campaign. This is a long term psychological strategy - it will not make the west safe of terrorism immediately. Thus, it needs to be combined with the security measures already in place.

The long term effects of this strategy would be a population in the Pakistan and Afghanistan area with a much more favourable opinion of the US and the west, -- a population which will turn against the terrorists among them and turn them in. A population which will no longer regard the west as its enemy, but rather as a friend. We would truly strike terrorism at the Achilles heel.

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The Terrorist's Achilles Heel: An Alternative Blow to Terrorism (June 24, 2004)


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