Missing the greater menace?
October 15, 2001
by Max Singer
This article appear in The Washington Times on
September 30, 2001.
By starting a big campaign against Osama bin Laden and Afghanistan and leaving Saddam Hussein alone, the U.S. is pursuing the less dangerous but more difficult enemy while leaving the more dangerous and more vulnerable enemy free to keep organizing the supporters of terror throughout the Middle East and to build up his nuclear and biological weapons.
Worse than that. Saddam is very likely to be the key decision-maker behind the attacks on Sept. 11, as suggested by former CIA Director James Woolsey and reports from various foreign sources. There is strong evidence that he was behind the first attacks on the World Trade Center in 1993.
He is likely to believe the U.S. government knows about his role in both attacks and to believe that once again we seem to be afraid to recognize who is attacking us. We are not taking any measures against him yet, and the president didn't mention Iraq or any other country supporting terrorists apart from Afghanistan, and the State Department is moving to curtail support for the Iraqi opposition movement.
If Saddam thinks we will ignore evidence of his responsibility he is likely to decide he can attack us again, this time perhaps with biological weapons. Why not? It seems as if all we will do if we are hit again is to redouble our effort against Afghanistan and "loose networks" of terrorists, because our bureaucrats will have a stake in proving they were right to follow the red cape into Afghanistan.
How can Saddam be both more dangerous and more vulnerable? Because he has understood for years that he is vulnerable at home, and his response has been to build up his ability to go on the offense in other countries. This effort to compensate for vulnerability at home includes a massive program to build nuclear, biological and chemical weapons plus the organization of a network of agents in all the neighboring countries as well as the United States. In this way, he plans to make his enemies and potential victims too afraid of him to exploit the fact he has lost the support of his own people and his own army.
The State Department is quoted as claiming the Iraqi people would fight the U.S. because of our sanctions against Iraq. But that assumes that Iraqis can't see what eye-witnesses have reported here, that in the northern part of Iraq where Saddam is not in control there is no hunger or hardship even though the sanctions are applied there. Since Iraqis are only starving in Saddam's part of Iraq the Iraqis can see for themselves that it is Saddam, not sanctions, that is causing their misery. And it is Saddam who is torturing and murdering Iraqis by the tens of thousands. The minute they see the U.S. coming to remove Saddam, Iraqis will rise against him as they did in 1991.
So why have we been led to follow the planted trail against Afghanistan? Because no country likes the Taliban or cares about Afghanistan, so all our terror-supporting "friends" in the Middle East have been telling us they will support us in fighting terror by attacking Afghanistan - especially if we prevent Israel from fighting terror attacks against it. But Afghanistan is not dangerous by itself and can be isolated and dealt with at leisure. Iraq on the other hand, in addition to being the most capable of organizing terror attacks against the U.S., is the country that can prevent the Saudis, the Jordanians, and others from truly joining the war against terrorism because its agents in their security services threaten the lives of their leaders.
Even if we eliminate every single terrorist from Afghanistan, the war against terrorism will produce nothing if it does not stop Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Libya, the Palestine Liberation Organization, Russia and China from directly or indirectly supporting terrorists. With continued support from these countries terrorists can do without Afghanistan.
The Saudis have been allowing money from Saudi Arabia to fund the Taliban and many terror organizations because they are willing to pay anyone to avoid threats to their own vulnerable regime. If we continue to give the Saudis a free pass in the war against terrorism, how can we expect France to give up its profitable business with Iraq?
Why is this happening? How could our government be led into the briar patch of Afghanistan while leaving our dangerous enemies untouched?
The answer is that the professional agencies are unwilling to change the way they have been doing business. They have been turning a relatively blind eye to the anti-Americanism, and to the support for terrorism of Middle Eastern powers for a generation, and they don't want to recognize the anti-Americanism of Russia and China. Our government is willing to spend tens of billions of dollars, and thousands of soldiers lives to fight against terror, but it is not willing to change its comfortable thinking no matter how much our errors have come back to bite us.
So we continue to court our enemies in vain attempts to make them friends, and make our friends pay the price.
Max Singer is a Senior Fellow and Trustee Emeritus at Hudson Institute. He founded Hudson with Herman Kahn in 1961.