Tasking the Why

US out of Saudi Arabia

By Greg Moses

On April 20, I started collecting items from Google News that answered to the search term “peace.” On April 21, the daily winner of the peace-word search was the voice of Osama Bin Laden, speaking from the pages of Common Dreams.

Bin Laden as peacemaker of the day? The timing of this result was partly due to a six-day delay, as the text of Bin Laden’s peace offer migrated to Common Dreams from the Middle East Media Research Center.

In the transcript, which was translated from a widely-aired tape–aired widely, that is, everywhere but the US, where “national security” and “decency” prevail over editorial freedom–Bin Laden declares a unilateral cease fire over Europe for three months,
promising to extend the truce only if European soldiers leave the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq.

For Bin Laden, the attacks by Al Qaeda must be viewed as acts of retaliation and self-defense:

“As for those who lie to people and say that we hate freedom and kill for the sake of killing – reality proves that we are the speakers of truth and they lie, because the killing of the Russians took place only after their invasion of Afghanistan and Chechnya; the killing of the Europeans took place only after the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan; the killing of the Americans in the Battle of New York took place only after their support for the Jews in Palestine and their invasion of the Arabian Peninsula; their killing in Somalia happened only after Operation Restore Hope. We restored [i.e. repelled] them without hope, by the grace of Allah.”

The invasion of the Arabian Peninsula is Bin Laden’s most frequently stated, and most frequently ignored, justification for his war-making against the US. The Council on Foreign Relations presents the question at its website, “Has bin Laden called for a U.S. withdrawal from Saudi Arabia?” and then replies tersely: “Yes, repeatedly.”

“US out of Saudi Arabia,” is the grievance that Bin Laden has been pressing all these years, even prior to the gruesome Black Hawk Down catastrophe in Somalia.

As the story is usually told, it was Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney in 1990 who negotiated the setup of US military bases in Saudi Arabia, by promising that the troops would be withdrawn immediately after the First Gulf War. Much like Cheney in 1990, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld today also promises that US troops will leave as soon as possible from Iraq.

In Saudi Arabia, of course, the military bases were not pulled out, and neither do many believe today that US strategists really intend to ever leave Iraq.

These are only a few of the facts that have not scratched the fenders of the 9/11 Commission lately telecasting live from Washington. Commissioners are eager to say that we should have gone to war earlier with Al Qaeda, but who has asked whether the agenda of Bin Laden’s war might have been otherwise addressed?

As far as the official brains of Washington are concerned, all we need to know is that Bin Laden has declared war on us. I have not seen these official voices of war and order ask why.

In all the “tasking” that was done or not done in behalf of “intelligence” prior to 9/11, no one at the Commission seems interested in asking, excuse me, who was tasking the why?

The most chilling defense for failing to task the why question would be that everyone in official Washington already knew very well what Bin Laden was upset by. And because they knew, they deliberately refused to go there.

After all, it is commonly asserted that covert US money helped train Bin Laden as mujahideen liberator, fighting infidels in Afghanistan, back when the infidels were Russians. So if official Washington asks not why Bin Laden is fighting, perhaps it is because he who semlt it, dealt it. The quieter we are about the why question, the less embarrassment we’ll feel.

It is racism–and cool pandering to racism–that analyzes Bin Laden’s army as dark, metaphysical demons of hate. Like any human army, they have their human motivations. And any opposing army’s commander-in-chief would do well to strategically understand his opponent and his opponent’s source of appeal.

US President George Bush panders to racism–and reveals one of his sources of appeal–when he stands on the world stage and casts the forces of darkness against the forces of light.

In the transcript of Bin Laden’s peace tape, a phantom of the Western imagination breathes his own air and stands at the center of his own history. Meanwhile, bodies pile up in Iraq today because the US imagination remains at war with a phantom that Bin Laden did not create.

The contraband Bin Laden peace tape that appears just now in a transcript of our common dreams is one more invitation for America to walk out of its own nightmare onto historical ground. Because it is the task that scares us most, the journey from phantom to history requires the only kind of courage that will get us into lasting peace.

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