The panel discussion "Understanding the Global Insurgency" took place at the 59th annual conference in November, 2005.
Syed Farooq Hasnat, Alberto Fernandez, Michael Scheuer, Robert Pape, Zaki Chehab
Thank you very much. It’s a real honor for me to be here with such a distinguished panel.
First of all, the standard disclaimer, which I think many of you are familiar with: nothing that I say today should be necessarily seen as representing the views of the US Department of State or the US government. Any mistakes I make are my own and not those of the US government.
When I thought of how to start talking about the social roots of the global insurgency, I thought strangely enough of a place that seems very distant from this issue. I thought of a painting that graces my mother’s house in Miami, where I grew up. It’s a typical and rather amateurish landscape of rural Cuba. It’s significant not because of what it is but because of who painted it. It was painted by a man named Luis Posada Carilles and was purchased at a charity auction in Miami to raise money for a man and his cause. Posada is regarded as an inveterate plotter and terrorist, a man who allegedly blew up at one point an airliner, planted bombs in hotels, and engaged in a colorful campaign of mayhem for three decades against the current Cuban government in what one practitioner called “the war in the paths of the world.”
Now, neither my middle-class Cuban family nor my mother is particularly politicized or active in this struggle. If pressed, she would be the first to admit that this man may have done some bad things, may have even been some sort of terrorist. But the fight for dignity, for independence, and for not being forgotten by an uncaring and cynical world — this is a noble and worthy cause. In any case, she would argue and many others would argue that the artisanal nature of the violence of this one allegedly crazed killer pales before the state-organized Red Terror of the Castro regime.
Now, to the insurgency. Having been a student of the Arab world now for decades and having lived in it and loved it, and tried to learn its language and culture as best I could, and continuing to believe in the future and promise of the Arab world, I think the basic lesson that one must take from even the most cursory example of the roots of this takfiri insurgency is its natural and logical progression and its seeming inevitability given the history of the region at this point.
I remember sitting for several hours on the morning of September 11, 2001, in Amman with the editor of the Jordanian Islamist weekly Al-Sabil, discussing just what sort of terrible calamity was coming as a reaction to explosive Arab Muslim anger at the United States. Indeed, we have Ambassador Gnehm here, whose welcoming party we went to that afternoon just as the planes hit on September 11.
President Bush’s oft-quoted acknowledgement of Western responsibility, if not culpability, that for over 50 years we thought we could purchase stability at the price of freedom — whatever we mean by freedom — is rhetoric that rings true. I think as Michael Scheuer noted in his second book, we have used up all our chits with the Muslims. I would add that if not all of them, certainly we’ve used up most of them.
The roots of this bleak struggle are not at all because of economic poverty per se but because of the poverty of politics, because of the deep-seated reality of Muslim frustration, humiliation, oppression, often at the hands of regimes closely allied to us for decades. Yes, this has been abetted by decades-long, pernicious propaganda funded by obscurantist elements in Islam, and yes, there are raging internal crises and controversies within Islam and within the Arab world. But this has been seen — of course it’s been seen as essentially about payback, about revenge, about defense against the concept of an all-powerful superpower that sweeps all before it. I think it’s no surprise that scholars like Olivier Roy talk about the comparison between the insurgency and, for instance, the anti-globalization movement.
I certainly see no contradiction in admitting that this insurgency has been prompted and intensified by the perception of American misdeeds. It seems to me, however, that we’re making progress in this issue. I don’t think much of it is due perhaps to American policy; maybe it’s due to other factors. But it seems to me to be like progress in Iraq today. It’s very real, very painful and very slow, but nevertheless true.
The al Qaeda discourse of American perfidy — from our staunch support of Israel to our acquiescence if not outright complicity in Muslim tyranny — is powerful and widely accepted in the region. Whether it’s cynically motivated or not or honestly held is largely irrelevant. It is largely the mainstream discourse of the region and as such constitutes the strongest link between a violent revolutionary vanguard and a huge and dissatisfied ummah.
Conversely, the fact that this discourse is in the end a long litany of grievances, basically a list of complaints, does limit its impact. One could say that the propaganda effort of al Qaeda’s analysis of the Arab and Muslim dilemma has had its day, and that I think we are beginning to see the very, very faint inklings of the public debate moving beyond mere condemnation of the diabolical West and all its works. Only a few days ago we had the mass demonstrations in Morocco against the latest Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia decision to kill two Moroccan Embassy employees. We see this daily in the discussions in the regional Arab media, where the fact that America is guilty of multiple crimes against the Arabs and the Muslims is a given in their public discourse, but that is not enough.
The way I usually portray it in discussions with colleagues in the Arab media is like this: even if you accept, which I certainly do not of course, that the American role in the region is wholly negative and wholly hostile, the real problem in the end is not America, is not even Israel. The real problem is within the Arabs, among the Arabs, and about them. I generally tend to find pretty wide acceptance by Arab interlocutors about this. I think the fact that the thrust of the al Qaeda argument is about what they are against, who they are fighting and not what they are for, limits them in the end among the greater populace. One sees this clearly in the public debate on Iraq, where fighting and killing Americans has broad acceptance from Rabat to Riyadh but where there has been a definite, definitive, public backlash, first in Iraq and now regionally, to the mass killing of Iraqi civilians, to the head-cuttings and wanton brutality of insurgents in Iraq. So I think there is movement in this worldview in the region.
In a sense, the insurgents’ dialogue of the ills of the age has carried the day but the prescription has already been found wanting. There are very few beyond the true believers who see the Taliban of Afghanistan or the liberated towns of Anbar Province as any sort of model for the Muslim world. They are an effective manifestation of directed anger against the Americans but cannot really answer the question of malaise. The phrase I always hear is adham rida — dissatisfaction — in the region.
There is a lesson here for us. As long as we publicly emphasize that this is a struggle between us and them, we play to the enemy’s strength. The more it is about them, about their vision for the region — if indeed they have one beyond responding to crusader aggression — the weaker and more absurd their arguments seem among the very masses they seek to influence and manipulate. This limitation of what Faisal Devji called the metaphysics of the jihad, I think is an issue worthy of our attention and study. The more we emphasize the war of ideas within Islam and not the war of ideas between us and Islam, the better it is for us and for the common good.
Finally, one point I would make — it may seem a strange thing for someone whose daily work is public diplomacy with the Arab world, but unfortunately in the past we have not been very disciplined in our public statements as a government on these issues. In a way, we say too much and much of what we say seems to drip with righteous arrogance, which at times must be music to our enemies’ ears. Better to do more and say less and stop pouring gasoline on a raging fire.
Thank you very much.
Good afternoon, everyone.
Osama bin Laden considers incitement and instigation as his and al Qaeda’s primary mission — a mission identical, bin Laden says, to that God gave to the best of all humans, the Prophet Muhammad. “I must say,” bin Laden said in early 2002, “that my duty is just to awaken Muslims, to tell them what is good for them and what is not, and to provide our ummah with the inspiration it requires to resist the crusaders.”
To understand the growing worldwide insurgency, Islamic insurgency, I believe we need to recognize three things.
First, the phenomenon we discuss here today would not be as important, startling and widespread without the role model set and the inspiration provided the words and deeds of bin Laden and al Qaeda. This is not to say that al Qaeda has command and control over the dozen or more Islamic insurgencies going on today — far from it. It is to say, however, that bin Laden and al Qaeda have shown a marked and ever-increasing ability to provide assistance of many kinds — military, rhetorical, logistical, financial, training, et cetera — without making any demands for a voice in the command or the goals of the insurgency assisted.
In sum, neither bin Laden nor al Qaeda seems to have much in the way of an ego. This factor, besides being an attractive trait in any person or organization, has made them a welcome force multiplier in most of the world’s Islamic insurgencies.
Second, there would not be as many Islamic insurgencies as we see in the world today if there were not legitimate and tangible grievances against which to rebel and fight. These grievances are clearly not identical for every insurgency and in some instances the grievances fought against clearly have little or nothing to do with the United States.
Just as clearly, however, there is a sameness, if you will, about all of these grievances. The sameness lies in the fact that they have nothing to do with the airy but consoling ephemera the West often ascribes to these insurgents. These fighters are not freedom-haters, psychopaths, criminals, anti-democrats, or gender-equality opposers. Neither are they fighting because of their own illiteracy, unemployment, or the 101 other social problems they encounter on a daily basis — the explanation of their motivation offered to us by the lineal descendants of Rudyard Kipling who are so firmly and broadly planted in America’s bipartisan governing elite.
The Islamic insurgents, rather, oppose specific and, as I said, tangible policies and the actions taken to implement those policies. Whether it is American support for Israel, its presence in Iraq or its support for the Saudi and Egyptian tyrannies; the discriminatory policy of the Catholic ascendancy in Manila toward Mindanao; or the actions of [Thailand’s] Buddhist government in its southern province of Pattani — it is policy and policy implementation that form the bulk of the grievances. Without these specific, substantive and real-world grievances, there would be no insurgencies. There would be only the lethal nuisance of terrorism that we knew in the 1980s and 1990s.
We can disagree and debate about whether these policies are sufficient justification for an insurgency, but we must not doubt that they are indeed the insurgency’s motivation.
One other point about sameness: The grievances against which the Islamists are fighting have everything to do with religion. The policies being fought by each insurgency in one way or another are perceived as assaults on Muslims and their faith. What we see in the totality of these insurgencies is an incipient religious war and, yes, an evolving clash of civilizations.
Third, the insurgency phenomenon would not be what it is today without the nurturing it has received by the insistence — be it naïve or cynical — of the United States and its Western allies that the Muslims involved in these insurgencies are terrorists, that they are representative of no significant segment of the Islamic world’s population, that they have hijacked the Islamic faith, and that they can be defeated by arresting the terrorists one man at a time and bringing them to justice. While we have adhered to this self-defeating worldview and counterproductive modus operandi, Islamic insurgencies are flourishing in Afghanistan, southern Thailand, Iraq, the Philippines and to some extent in Saudi Arabia, while the Taliban-ization of society in Pakistan, Bangladesh and northern Nigeria proceeds apace.
So where does all of this leave America? To be clear, it leaves America precisely where bin Laden and al Qaeda have wanted it to be. Al Qaeda has described how it intends to drive the United States out of the Middle East in two simple phrases. First, lead to bankruptcy. Second, spread out American military and intelligence forces. The growing number of Islamic insurgencies, I would argue, is a solid contribution to al Qaeda’s twin goals, even though most have little to do with al Qaeda’s grievances against the United States.
The substantial drain on US economic and human resources in Iraq and Afghanistan is obvious. Because we currently are losing in both struggles, they will keep costing us more indefinitely.
We are tied by security treaties to the Philippines and Thailand. We are already on the ground and spending in the former and increased support for our Thai allies seems surely to be on the horizon.
We are the main backers of Israel in its fight against the Palestinian insurgency, providing virtually every sinew of war save manpower. At the same time, we pump $3 billion or more into Egypt each year and provide an expensive defense shield to Saudi Arabia, thereby keeping both tyrannies on track and viable. We are strong rhetorical backers of the semi-genocides being conducted by the Russians in Chechnya and the Chinese in Xinjiang.
The future too looks likely to lead America into involvement in one form or another with other Islamic insurgencies. What will our new strategic relationship with India mean regarding the Kashmiri insurgency? What insurgencies will the US military’s Trans-Sahara Initiative lead us into in West Africa? Will the lingering do-gooder impulse finally lead us into counterinsurgency in Darfur?
In closing, let me suggest that what the growing worldwide Islamic insurgency means for the United States is that we are entering a period where we will have to make decisions and be discriminate. It is untenable, I think, to continue to refuse to recognize that the Islamic insurgents we confront are motivated by what they perceive as legitimate grievances and by a belief that their faith is under attack. The belief that the insurgents are criminals and can be beaten one man at a time has seen its day. We must recognize the large and potent force we face.
We must acknowledge too that the global Islamic insurgency is really multiple Islamic insurgencies around the globe. Simultaneously, only a few of those insurgencies pose a direct threat to genuine US national interests.
We must defeat al Qaeda. Bin Laden’s insurgents pose an existential threat to the United States. We must defend the Saudis and other Gulf energy producers, unsavory as they are as regimes, as long as we and our allies depend on them for oil.
For the rest of the insurgencies, the devil can take the hindmost. Up and down the line of insurgencies, from Filipinos versus Moros, Israelis versus Palestinians, Thai Buddhists versus Pattani Muslims, Russians versus Chechens, America has no genuine national interest at stake and, thank God, can opt out of conflicts the cost of which in blood and treasure rightfully belongs to others.
Thank you very much. I’d like to thank the Middle East Institute for inviting me here and for holding this conference. It’s a pleasure to be part of this distinguished panel. I’m going to speak today and I’m also going to refer to a handout that I think many of you have.
Suicide terrorism is rising around the world but there is great confusion about why. Since many attacks, including 9/11, have been perpetrated by Muslim suicide terrorists, many have presumed that Islamic fundamentalism must be the obvious central cause. This presumption has fueled the belief that future 9/11s can be avoided only by wholesale transformation of Muslim societies, which is a core reason for broad public support for America’s recent invasion of Iraq. However, this presumed connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism is misleading and it may be encouraging domestic and foreign policies that are likely to worsen our situation.
Over the last few years, I collected the first complete database of every suicide terrorist attack around the world from 1980 to early 2004. When I say it’s the first — when I completed an initial version of this in the summer of 2003, I was contacted by our Defense Department. Of course we keep ordinary terrorism statistics going back decades. But I found out that Monterrey, which is where we keep our terrorism statistics, didn’t begin to count and track suicide terrorism until the fall of 2000. They were quite eager to get hold of my data, which I gave them. If you look at my book, you’ll see that the Department of Defense is one of the big funders of the expansion of the database I’m about to refer to today.
This database includes detailed information on 462 suicide terrorists who actually completed the mission, actually killing themselves in order to kill others. Over half are secular. The world leader in suicide terrorism during this period is the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, a Marxist group, a secular group, a Hindu group. There are also numerous secular Muslim suicide terrorist groups such as the PKK in Turkey. Instead, what over 95 percent of all suicide terrorist attacks around the world since 1980 have in common is not religion but a specific strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory the terrorists view to be their homeland or prize greatly. From Lebanon to Sri Lanka to Chechnya to Kashmir to the West Bank, every suicide terrorist campaign since 1980 has had as its central objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw combat forces — I don’t mean advisors, I mean tanks, fighter aircraft, APCs — from territory that the terrorists prize.
Al Qaeda fits this pattern. In fact, the London attacks that we’ve just witnessed are part of al Qaeda’s strategic logic to compel the United States and Western forces now on the Arabian Peninsula to leave the Arabian Peninsula. If you look at the first table on the handout, you’ll see that since 2002 al Qaeda has been involved in over 17 suicide and other terrorist attacks, killing — if we count London — over 700 people. That’s more attacks and more victims than all the years before 9/11 combined.
Although many of us would have hoped that our counterterrorism efforts to kill and capture al Qaeda leaders and cadre, which we’ve done, would have weakened the group, by the measure that counts — the ability to carry out attacks that can kill us — al Qaeda is stronger today than before 9/11. Although there are multiple factors, the driving force behind the threat is the presence of American and Western combat forces on the Arabian Peninsula and not merely Islamic fundamentalism or any other evil ideology independent of circumstance.
If you look at the next table, we have long known that a major goal of al Qaeda has been to get the United States out of the Arabian Peninsula, but not how this goal relates to Osama’s ability to recruit suicide terrorists to kill us. My book is the first to collect the complete data set of every al Qaeda suicide attacker from 1995 to early 2004. That is, the 71 individuals who actually killed themselves to carry out attacks for Osama. Of these 71, we have the names and nationality of 67. As the data shows, the largest number — 34 — come from Saudi Arabia and the overwhelming majority — two-thirds — come from the Persian Gulf and Muslim countries where the United States has stationed combat forces since 1990. That’s important to underscore because even expert audiences don’t realize 1990 was a watershed year. Before 1990 we had advisors on the Arabian Peninsula but no combat forces, going all the way back to World War II.
Since we have the complete set of al Qaeda suicide terrorist attackers, we can go further to assess the effect of US military policies. With only one exception, al Qaeda suicide attackers from 1995 to early 2004 were all nationals of various Sunni Muslim countries. Hence, we can compare the rate at which al Qaeda suicide terrorists emerge from a Sunni Muslim country with and without American combat forces. As the data shows, al Qaeda suicide terrorists are over ten times more likely to come from a Sunni Muslim country with American combat forces than a Sunni country without American combat forces.
This means, ladies and gentlemen, and this is somewhat hard to hear and it’s hard to say — and I was someone who supported those forces being there in the 1990s — that American military policy was likely the pivotal factor leading to 9/11. Although Islamic fundamentalism may have mattered somewhat, the stationing of tens of thousands of American combat forces on the Arabian Peninsula during the 1990s probably increased the risk of al Qaeda suicide attacks against Americans, including 9/11, over ten times.
This does not mean we should blame ourselves for 9/11. Suicide terrorism is murder and there’s nothing our combat forces did in being stationed on the Arabian Peninsula that would justify the murder of our civilians. But that should not cause us to overlook that the presence of our combat forces on the Arabian Peninsula is Osama bin Laden’s number-one recruitment tool. That’s what recruits suicide terrorists for him better than everything else.
Moreover, if we look at the one-third of the al Qaeda suicide attackers who are more transnational in nature, we can see that the presence of American and Western combat forces on the Arabian Peninsula is a powerful motivating factor. Let me talk about the London attacks that just occurred in this regard and make four points.
First, the al Qaeda group that claimed responsibility for the London attacks just two hours after the attacks said specifically that the London attacks were to punish Britain for British military operations in Iraq.
Second, Hussain Osman, the would-be July 21st London bomber that we now have in Rome, in his interrogation Osman said, “This was not about religion. This was about Iraq. We watched films of Western military operations in Iraq.”
Third, Mohammed Khan, the ringleader of the July 7 attackers, in his martyr video that al Qaeda just released a month ago said in a Liverpool accent words almost the same as Osman. He said the London attacks were to punish Britain for military operations on Muslim lands.
Finally, the British government itself — in 2004 the British Home Office conducted a four-volume survey of the attitudes of the 1.6 million Muslims in Britain. They found that between 8 and 13 percent of those Muslims believed that more suicide attacks against the United States and the West were warranted. They further found the number one reason for that — Iraq.
If we just look at the last slide, a closer look at the pattern of the attacks helps us to see how al Qaeda’s logic has been evolving. Although the attacks have occurred across a broad geographic range and in many Muslim countries, the main victims across all those 17 attacks have been Western civilians and specifically Western Europeans from countries that have deployed combat forces side by side with the United States. If you track down the list, you’ll see that the attacks are increasingly focused on America’s allies in Iraq.
We know that not only from the pattern of the attacks but because we have an important al Qaeda strategy document. In September 2003 al Qaeda published a 42-page strategy document on radical websites. Norwegian intelligence services found this in December 2003. They gave it to our Defense Department — that’s how I got it. The fact is, we put it aside. We don’t put this document aside so casually today. The document, written in fall 2003, is about al Qaeda strategy for dealing with the United States after we went into Iraq. It says, “al Qaeda should not seek to attack the American homeland in the short term but instead should focus on hitting America’s allies.” Then it went on, at a length of 42 pages, to assess whether they should hit Spain, Britain or Poland. They conclude they should hit Spain in Madrid just before the March 2004 election.
I’d like to read a couple of sentences from this document because it’s so crucial.
“Therefore we say that in order to force the Spanish government to withdraw from Iraq, the resistance should be dealt painful blows. It is necessary to make utmost use of the upcoming general election in Spain in March of next year. We think that the Spanish government could not tolerate more than two, maximum three blows, after which it will have to withdraw as a result of popular pressure. If its troops still remain in Iraq after these blows, then the victory of the Socialist Party is almost secured and withdrawal of Spanish forces will be on its electoral program. Lastly, we are emphasizing the withdrawal of Spanish forces from Iraq would put huge pressure on the British presence in Iraq.”
The London attacks that we’ve just witnessed are simply the next step in al Qaeda executing its strategic logic.
In conclusion, let me just say that the war on terrorism is heading south. A key reason why the war on terrorism is heading south is that our strategy has been based on a faulty premise: that suicide terrorism is mainly the product of Islamic fundamentalism. That’s what we mean by the evil ideology. Although there are multiple causes, the fact is the main driver of the threat we face is a sustained presence of American and Western combat forces on the Arabian Peninsula.
This does not mean we should simply cut and run. This is not Vietnam. We have a core interest in access to oil in the Persian Gulf that we can’t simply abandon. Instead, I would say three things to the Bush Administration.
First, al Qaeda must be our top priority. Iran and North Korea are important but it’s al Qaeda that is actively planning to kill us and we have lost sight of that over the last three years.
Over the next year in Iraq, the United States should completely transfer responsibility for the security of Iraq to the Iraqi government, including the responsibility for building the Iraqi army. It should be the government of Iraq that builds the Iraqi army, not the American military.
Finally, over the next three years the United States should shift to a new strategy for securing our interests in oil in the Persian Gulf: offshore balancing. In the 1970s and 1980s, the United States successfully secured our interest in access to Persian Gulf oil without stationing a single combat soldier on the Arabian Peninsula. Instead we formed an alliance with Iraq and Saudi Arabia, which we can do again. We stationed numerous aircraft carriers off the Arabian coast, which we can do again. We maintained bases — without troops, but bases — so we could rapidly deploy combat forces there in a crisis. That strategy worked splendidly against Saddam Hussein in 1990 and offshore balancing is again our best strategy to secure our interests in oil, prevent the rise of a new generation of suicide terrorists coming at us, and it’s a strategy we can sustain for decades not simply a few months.
Since 1995, our enemies have been dying to kill us. But with the right strategy, it’s America that’s poised for victory. Thank you.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. I will try to be as brief as possible so we can give the floor the chance for questions.
I will tell you briefly about my experience in Iraq, how first I came across the insurgency. In fact, I was covering the war from the north and it happened I got into Mosul as maybe one of the first journalists. The next day, after the chaos that Mosul experienced in terms of looting, fighting, clashes, all sorts of things, the American forces entered the city. I was following the convoy, which was quite a large one, to see what they are going to do, especially since there were demonstrations in the front of the main government building, which ended up with 10-15 people killed that day and many wounded.
Anyway, as a journalist, the intention was to film what this convoy was doing. After I had what I have in terms of filming, I decided to go back to see what was still happening in the main city center. I came across a group of armed men. They were shouting, screaming, firing, so at the time I realized I might be in danger. So I asked the driver to stop and reverse back towards them. Got out of the car and tried to see what was the situation. I found out they belonged to different strands — Islamists, some were Fedayeen Saddam, some ex-Ba’athists. So different groups, and their intention at that time is to protect the neighborhood from looting and what they described as pesh merga who were entering the city after the government forces withdrew.
In the course of that, I heard a lot of criticism about no Arab media is discovering what’s happening in terms of looting. They referred to me, as I never said in previous reporting the night before that the Kurdish militia is looting and killing and doing all sorts of things. Anyway, during that conversation with them, I heard someone use the phrase “we’ll repeat the experience of Gaza and West Bank in terms of carrying out suicide bomb attacks, if the Americans did not deliver exactly what they have promised us to deliver after the fall of the regime.” That was the first time I heard of threats that Iraqis will carry out suicide bomb attacks. It was exactly four days after the fall of Baghdad and the regime in Iraq.
Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein, fell a few days later, after Kirkuk and Mosul. I was invited by a friend and opponent of Saddam Hussein, who was the minister of information and later was appointed as Iraq’s envoy to the United Nations, Mr. Salah Hamarali. Salah invited me because he said there was a very large gathering of the main tribal leaders in the Tikrit area and the intention of this gathering is to make a statement, to denounce Saddam Hussein’s activities, to distance themselves as tribes from Tikrit from what the regime has committed over the last three decades or more.
The biggest disappointment for the tribes was they had invited the commander of American forces to attend their meeting, first because they want to build some kind of relationship. The second thing, they asked for security for their meeting, which happened to be in the farm belonging to Salah Hamarali. So this was a little bit of disappointment for the tribes who tried to distance themselves, to say, We as Sunnis living in the Sunni Triangle have suffered as any other part of Iraq.
Weeks later, things start building up. The kind of treatment received and the way the American forces in the region, especially in Tikrit and al-Anbar province, their ignorance about how to deal with the tribes, the traditions there, the customs; the kind of patrols they used to carry, the kind of searches at night. So many things happened and there was no center for locals to go and complain.
I’ll give you an example. Many searches happened, used to happen at night. People there, they don’t have banks to put their savings in the bank. So they used to hide their gold, jewelry, money, whatever, under maybe the bed, somewhere in the houses. Whenever there are searches in their houses, some of the Marines will just take some of the money. People find out the next morning that some money disappeared. If they want to go around to complain or report what has disappeared, definitely because of the large numbers of American forces in Tikrit — we’re talking about between 12,000 and 15,000 — so many units and each one has its own command. So no one will get into a result and try to recover the money.
The kind of treatment for the elders, let’s say a tribal leader who usually is proud of himself, his tribe, maybe consists of 10,000 or 15,000 men. The way when he is stopped at a checkpoint being forced to come out, searched, sometimes have to raise his hands — the kind of dealing, it all has built up some kinds of things, in spite of the attitude. The early days — because I know from the same people who have complained about such behavior how they have worked hard straight before the fall of Tikrit as a city — I’m just giving Tikrit as an example — because these elders — everyone after the fall of Baghdad and Mosul and Kirkuk, everyone was thinking that Saddam Hussein will turn Tikrit into his last battlefield, and all the forces have retreated to that area. That’s what we heard in the news. In fact, when I visited Tikrit, I heard from the elders a different story, that they have established contact with the Kurds, with the American forces, and at the same time with people who supported Saddam Hussein. The intention was to avoid a battlefield in Tikrit, and they managed at last to avoid that by convincing Saddam’s people or loyalists to just disperse and go into their houses and then ask American forces to get into the town. Which happened successfully with no event, not a single fire was shot.
I came across some Saddam loyalists. Definitely these kind of people in Tikrit itself reflects the quality of what kind of people Saddam had. At that time, I was filming in the front of Saddam’s main palace, because he had two palaces in Tikrit. Suddenly two cars filled with young men between 18 and 24, 25, stopped. They came to me asking about my identity as if Saddam is still ruling the country. The fact, he was not there. He was hiding somewhere. So they asked about my ID and they threatened that you journalists, you don’t tell the truth, we are here every day, we attack American forces day and night. If you have the courage to stay overnight, you can see for yourself how many attacks we carry out every night. It goes unreported because there is no media here to report our stories.
It happened that I was invited in Salah’s house that night. By the time it was 8:30, I started hearing mortars coming towards the palace, towards the headquarters of American forces. I tried the next morning to locate some of the people I met the day before, because I really just wanted to check if they are the ones who have carried out such an attack.
But the point is I moved weeks later to Ramadi and Fallujah, Samara. I came across different strands of resistance. Some of them bluntly told me, We hate Saddam Hussein. We are looking forward to the minute he will be arrested, because the claims that his people are carrying out attacks against American forces are not true. We are the ones who are attacking American forces. It’s not Saddam. Maybe his people tried to betray him by telling him they are doing it so they can milk some money out of him.
So we came across different strands of resistance. Some of them were purely Islamist. Some of them were Ba’athists who really didn’t like Saddam because for them the Ba’ath Party was something different.
Foreign fighters. The first month that followed the fall of the regime, I did not come across a single fighter, not in Fallujah, not in Ramadi, not in Tikrit. Maybe the first time we start hearing of their involvement is after the bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad. At that time, many in the Western press start saying this is something surely done by foreign elements who have entered Iraq, that it’s not really in the spirit of Iraqis to carry out suicide bomb attacks. On this one, even I have to correct my colleague here who said suicide-bombing attacks happened in the 1980s. I have to say, it happened in the 1970s. The first suicide bomb attacks happened after the Second World War, was in fact in Israel when these attacks were carried out against settlements in the north of Israel by different Palestinian organizations. To put the record right, the majority of the people who were involved in such attacks carried out by Palestinian organizations were Iraqis. It was carried out by an organization belonging to Ahmad Jibril, which he carried out smaller attacks, and then later on by the PDFLP, which belongs to Hawatmah, Malluh and others. So we have to correct this on that front.
The presence of foreign fighters — it took them so many months to collect because just on the eve of the bombardment starting in Iraq, Ansar al-Islam were defeated in the north. They were forced to disperse and go into Iran, across the border with Iraq. So it took them many months to go through the other side, because as you know Iran has a very long border with Iran, and they took advantage that there’s no checkpoints, no security, and they just managed to get back into the country. Definitely these foreign fighters, they were not in large numbers, as everyone speaks about them. The majority of suicide bomb attacks in Iraq are carried out by Iraqis. If you want to talk about Saudis involved, I can tell you the number is not more than ten. If you want to talk about other foreigners, the same thing — Yemenis or Palestinians or Syrians or Jordanians. The large number of suicide bombers in Iraq are Iraqis.
The latest stories tell about how it’s easy, especially these days, to recruit large numbers of suicide bomb attacks. The fact remains that a large number of these suicide bomb attacks go unreported. I was a few weeks ago just as an observer in Iraq, last October 15. It happened after I visited Baghdad that I went to Kirkuk. The Kurdish pesh merga convinced me and others that we are going to a very safe area in Kirkuk, because of the tension between Kurds, Turkmen and Sunni Arabs in that region. We visited the polling center there and maybe a few minutes after we left to another area, a suicide bomber exploded himself up in the market. Believe me, I wasn’t keen to report that story that day. I thought, I’ll just wait to the next day to see if such an incident will go reported. Unfortunately there was not a single line in any news agency, local or other.
The intention here, what I want to say is there are a large number of attacks taking place every day in Iraq. The fact is, now what’s really most important for us? A lot of victims, Americans, thousands of Iraqis fall every day. How to deal with the insurgency? That’s really the most important question. I believe that the kind of strategies used until today is a failure because from day one we have promises from here and from Iraqi officials that we are about to deter terrorism, we are about to end the insurgency. But the fact remains that insurgency and attacks increase and the number of victims, either Iraqis or Americans or other Coalition forces, also increase. It means that there is a wrong approach. Recently after the first visit by the secretary of state, Ms. Condoleezza Rice, we heard her talking and stressing the importance of involving Sunnis in the political process. All of us who are watching the situation in Iraq, we thought that the American administration starts getting it right.
Unfortunately, in spite of the efforts, in spite of the statement made by the American Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad about the importance of Sunnis involved, unfortunately until today we are seeing the wrong Sunnis getting involved. You have to look, where is the insurgency? Where is the majority of attacks? All these attacks, 90 percent of them, is happening in Sunni areas. To be specific, in the al-Anbar Province, which is a third of Iraq. There is no involvement for very influential tribal leaders in the political process. If there is not their involvement, I can assure that these kinds of attacks will go on the increase and there is no way to stop it. The experience we’ve had over nearly the last three years showed that the American forces have failed in trying to at least hold this area quiet for a couple of days. Why? Because the way that area is divided, each tribe controls a specific area. It’s not like towns where people mix with each other and it’s easy to penetrate and someone can pass information about someone carrying out attacks. Not a member of a tribe will go and betray a relative to him. The kind of behavior, the feeling these leaders of tribes have, what’s really offered them is nothing. What’s been offered to the Sunnis in the tribal area or in the Sunni Triangle is what’s left by the Kurds and the Shia. If we really want to get right to the bottom of the point, we have to make everyone feel involved in the political process. Everyone in Iraq should feel like there is a chance for them to play, a role for them to play in the new Iraq. But to say that Iraq is depending on what the Shia and Kurds have to say, I think it’s wrong.
If we want to talk about majorities and minorities, the clear fact that no census has been carried in Iraq for more than fifty years at least. So I don’t know on what the administration is relying when they say X is majority and X minority. The other point is when we started, there was no plan after the fall of the regime, neither by the administration here or the people who have governed Iraq. When they set up the Governing Council, everybody was clear that the way they disputed it was on ethnic and religious background, saying Shia will take a majority, 13 seats; Kurds, 8 or 10; 5 Sunnis. This was not really the intention. This is not the Iraq we are looking for. This is not the Iraq that we have all promised Iraqis, that it’s going to be something democratic. People who are qualified will take the jobs. It’s not like this. So we end up facing a coalition here very blocked. I’m not sure if the administration was willing to see a regime very pro-Iran in charge. I’m not sure that Americans have sacrificed their lives to end up seeing a leader of Hizb al-Da’wa governing Iraq or someone like Al-Hakim or any of his followers. The intention was to see a moderate Iraqi.
I have come across so many Sunnis in Iraq and I still today am very hopeful that they will take part, they will accept — they don’t mind, the influential Sunnis I came across, they don’t mind whatever Shia governing the country if he’s qualified to do so, or even a Kurd.
So the point is how to get these people involved, because with the environment where foreign fighters are taking advantage of this, Iraq will go on like this forever. So the best process that we can see or we expect to do is how to create a different environment where we can try to isolate these foreign fighters from the locals. I’m sure the majority of Iraqis, they want to settle, they want to see peace and security. They want to feel they are benefiting like others. Most important for us today is how to address the fears of these influential tribal leaders in the Sunni Triangle, because the minute they feel like they have a role to play, they are on the same footing as others, the time they feel their security can bring prosperity for them, the time they feel that they can benefit from the reconstruction.
The other biggest mistake, which unfortunately was made, is de-Ba’athification and dissolving the army. More than 500,000 belonging to the army have just been unemployed. It’s like a recipe for these people, go and join the insurgency, because they were left unemployed. I can’t tell you, I ran across so many figures who had maybe carried out attacks against the Coalition forces just because they want to get $25 or $50 or even $100 at the maximum. So we should really make these people feel that they’ve got a chance, they can benefit from the situation, and they can take part in the political process. That’s really the main point.
Question & Answer:
Question: Since we have identified the reasons for the terrorist attacks or the insurgency, and we also know that there is a certain kind of agenda, is it possible for the US government to engage in some kind of dialogue directly or through some third party?
Robert Pape: You might expect me to say yes, because of some of the other views I’ve taken, but the answer is no. From my perspective, I think an Oslo-type solution is likely to make matters worse. In the summer of 2003, when the second intifada was at its height, when suicide terrorists were just jumping out at Israel, that’s when I published that academic article. I said Israel should really do two things. One, they should unilaterally abandon the territory in Gaza and the West Bank they wish to abandon, and two, they should build a security perimeter. Since then, Israel has done 70 percent of what I suggested and suicide terrorism is down by 90 percent.
One of the key lessons there is that unilateral decisions by Israel, or in this case the United States, is crucial. What territory or where do we really need our combat forces? That’s got to be up to us, not up to some negotiation with Osama bin Laden. The fact is, we should just decide what our future strategy should be and then we should pursue it. I have my view as to what it should be but the truth is if we decide, and the Bush Administration decides we should just stay there with 140,000 combat forces for the next ten years, then we should just be upfront that that’s going to increase the likelihood of the next 9/11.
Alberto Fernandez: It’s a basic tenet of counterinsurgency that you seek to split and fragment your opponent. You seek to separate the Maoist sea from the Maoist fish. It’s a very basic concept and I think there’s some way that needs to be done. There’s a big difference between that and negotiating with people who are sworn to wiping you off the face of the earth, but I think one has to be clever in how one seeks to address the discourse that these people have. I think there’s a difference between talking to them and realizing there are real grievances that somehow need to be addressed or need to be talked about.
I think a clever counterinsurgency strategy is always going to seek to both punish and reward. Separate your opponent, separate those people from those you can live with and those that you have to eliminate.
Zaki Chehab: In just only the last three or four months, one of the stories appeared, I think, in the Washington Post, talking about some kind of engagement with insurgents or some group of resistance. I can assure you that the kind of engagements have been a long time. It happened maybe late July 2003. The one who told me, he was like a mediator, is Sharif Ali Bin al-Hussein. He’s the head of the monarchist movement in Iraq. He personally told me that he met Paul Bremer, the ambassador who was in charge of Iraq, and he met as well the commander of American forces. They both asked him to mediate and try to convince the hard-core resistance that they should get engaged in the political process.
At a later stage, it seemed like Paul Bremer was not keen. He had another two meetings with Ricardo Sanchez and he tried to — and after he contacted some leaders of resistance, as he told me, in Fallujah, Ramadi, Kirkuk, it seems he managed to get nowhere with Ricardo Sanchez and I think he stopped mediating.
But definitely there was intention on the side of Ambassador Bremer and even some who were responsible for the attacks against American forces to get engaged in this political process. But I don’t know what was the cause for failure. Maybe the hot-headed military commanders on the ground were not keen, because as someone put it to me, he was trying to create a much better understanding between the leaders of the tribes in the Sunni Triangle and the commanders who were responsible for this area. He left his job, he resigned by saying that he found out that the American units start behaving at the same level like the way the leaders of a tribe. So it was really impossible at that time to create some kind of engagement.
What’s really needed, I feel, at the moment is to address directly the leaders of the tribe. These kinds of leaders, we don’t expect to see them waiting at the gates of the American Embassy in Baghdad. We have to go to them. The American ambassador in Baghdad has to address them or he has to send his officials, try to engage them in any way, because it’s so important that we should reach them and try to convince them that this violence is leading nowhere. It’s just more victims, either Iraqis or Americans.
So there is a way and I’m sure there is still chances to divert this course. Otherwise all of us will be in trouble because it’s not in the interest of Americans to leave Iraq at this time. I’m sure it will be like a disaster for Iraq, for the region and for the United States. So we have to change the tactics. We have to say, when we want to engage Sunnis, we have to engage the proper Sunnis. I just was wondering why the Administration until today is supporting old men like Adnan Pachachi. Until today they want him to be coming on one of the lists in the next election. Why? People like him, they failed in the last January election in trying to get one single seat in the parliament. It means they are not really popular anymore. So let’s look for popular Sunnis who really have influence.
Michael Scheuer: I don’t think there’s any chance to talk to these people. I think we need to decide — I would echo Professor Pape that we need to decide what parts of this insurgency we need to defeat and largely we have to avoid making this our war. We’re being attacked largely because we’re in the way. We are either supporting the Saudis or the Israelis or we have troops on the Arab Peninsula. There’s a great deal that can be done to protect America simply by disengaging from places we have no real interest in. I think it’s not possible to talk to the enemy, or desirable.
Question: What are the primary factors that motivate some Pakistanis to engage in terrorism against Western targets?
Syed Farooq Hasnat: My reply would be, let’s look at the earthquake and what went there. After the earthquake, the American helicopters are in the most remote part of Pakistan, which is also that kind of area that is very orthodox. The American soldiers have field hospitals there. I have seen pictures in Pakistani newspapers where the nurses are serving the people affected by the earthquake. There has not been a single incidence where somebody even came and protested about why the Americans are serving there.
The question is, it’s not against the United States or against some civilization or some nation. The question goes deep down, as I think all the panelists agreed. There are some local reasons and there are also reasons within the society that frustrates people in a certain direction. What happens is it so happens that in the Middle East region or in the Greater Middle East region especially, the United States has been supporting those regimes which were highly unpopular among the people. So that is a second line of attack where the United States comes in. The first line of attack is the regime by itself. That would be my response.
Question: What are the moderates in Islam doing to counter the radicals? Are they afraid to do that? What is their position?
Alberto Fernandez: Certainly there are moderates in Islam and they are active in the Muslim world. They have been marginalized and emasculated by decades of policies by regimes in the region and by foreign actors for a variety of reasons. So we are all reaping what we sowed as a result of decades and decades of ignoring the moderates and not helping the moderates and basically pouring gasoline on a raging fire. So that’s why. They’re there. They’re brave and speaking out but it’s hard for them.
Zaki Chehab: In fact we have to put responsibility as well on the Western media, because they never really got interested in listening to moderate voices. All the media were after headlines and it’s better for them just to look for very extreme views where they can grab headlines, either in the newspaper or viewers on television.
I’ll just give you an example. I’m living in London, I’m based in London. A moderate like Dr. Zaki Badawi once told me that the BBC contacted him concerning an interview. When they listened, they tried to see what’s his views, the producer told him they were interested in something more extreme they can grab. I mention this thing because I attended at some stage press conferences for, let’s say, Abu Hamza al-Masri, and believe me the number of journalists who attend their press conferences exceeds the number of journalists who attend the press conference for Tony Blair.
So the kind of attention the Western media gives for these extreme elements exceeds with no limits the number of journalists who will listen to someone moderate to say something normal and reasonable.
Michael Scheuer: That may be true but I will just add one point. You can blame the Western media but until very recently the Saudi-controlled Arab media — which is overwhelmingly Saudi-controlled — certainly was not very interested in moderates talking. On the contrary, as a matter of policy they excluded moderates. They very recently have begun to change but for decades moderates did not have access to the media in the Arab world because of government policy.
Robert Pape: I think the whole discussion of moderates versus radicals feeds into the whole idea that it’s Islamic fundamentalists that are really doing the suicide terrorist attacks. We have really good data from the Palestinians on this issue, especially during the second intifada when there were lots of opinion polls conducted. You can complain about the different measures and so forth, but let me just report the findings. Routinely we found that Palestinian support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad never got higher than 21 percent. At the same time, Palestinian support for suicide attacks was 76 percent, sometimes even higher than that. So what’s happening here is that moderates — what we would normally define as moderates, that is, not the Islamic fundamentalist-committed in that society — are supporting the suicide attacks. We see that because many secular individuals are supporting the suicide attacks.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to ask the moderates to help us out here. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do that. But I think it’s important to not let that feed into this perception that what’s happening here is it’s just this handful of Islamic fundamentalists, they’re the only part of the problem. The truth is, there’s much broader support for opposition to the foreign combat forces on this territory than just a handful of individuals.
Michael Scheuer: I would agree with that. What I would say is that we suffer as a society from the belief that a moderate is necessarily pro-democracy, pro-West, pro-anything that we really want. A moderate will be just as anti-Israeli as Osama bin Laden. A moderate will want us off the Peninsula just as much as Osama bin Laden. The genius of Osama bin Laden has been to focus people away from, in the first instance, the tyrannies of their own government and toward the United States. For a moderate to speak up and give America the benefit of the doubt, since bin Laden has focused the issue, is to say, well, I oppose bin Laden and implicitly I say it’s okay for the Americans to do whatever they want to do with the Israelis, it’s okay for the Americans to be in Iraq. It’s a situation in which that moderate voice is not going to come out, if it’s there.
I tend to believe that what we think of as moderates, like most of the Muslim academics who come to the United States and get tenure and who are I think the least accurate predictors of what’s going to happen in the Muslim world, those are the kind of people we think of as moderates. The moderates are really people like Sheikh Hawali and Sheikh Awda in Saudi Arabia, who are viciously anti-United States but less prone to terrorism than Osama bin Laden.
So the whole question of where are the moderates? The moderates are backing the extremists, that’s where they are.
Question: Another question — Al Qaeda is dead, it’s no longer there. So whenever we see insurgent groups, they are actually using the name of al Qaeda but in fact they are different.
Michael Scheuer: You hear that very frequently and it’s kind of a very loud whistle past the graveyard. What we have in our success against al Qaeda — and the success against al Qaeda, let me be partisan for a moment, is almost exclusively by the American clandestine service and its allies overseas. But what we have is a body count. We have no perception, no accurate analysis of the size and capabilities of al Qaeda. We didn’t have it before 2001, we don’t have it now.
That primarily is a function of archaic analysis and archaic analytic modes. We study al Qaeda as a terrorist group when it’s an insurgent organization. So we don’t do an order of battle. We really have no conception of how much damage we’ve done to al Qaeda. We know that al Qaeda is tremendously competent in terms of preparing for losses of leadership. The people that come in to replace Mohammed Atef, to replace Abu Obeida, they’re very talented people. They’ve been the understudies of these folks and come in and pick up. They’re not as good but they learn on the job and they have a head start before they get there.
The other fascinating thing to me, the other part of whistling past the graveyard, is to say al Qaeda is isolated — bin Laden can’t talk to his people, they can’t communicate. I think anybody with some modicum of common sense can see that there must be some ability to communicate if Osama bin Laden or Ayman Zawahiri can dominate the international media whenever they choose to in a very professionally made video.
So the idea that al Qaeda is gone is, I think, analysis by assertion.
Question: What’s the specific reason for the May 16, 2003 attack in Morocco and Casablanca?
Robert Pape: Let’s take the Morocco attack, because that’s an attack that seems at first blush to be completely opposed to what I’m describing. In the Casablanca attack, there were 12 individual Moroccans who did the attack. The attack was supposed to be conducted by 14. The Moroccan government got the two who backed out of the attack. They put them on trial. From those trial transcripts, we at least have a pretty good idea of the motives of those two individuals for doing it.
Two things to point out. One, they were not long-time members of the organization. They were walk-in volunteers who only joined the group a few months before the attack, which is normal for suicide terrorists. They are not sleeper cells that have been lying in wait, waiting to go off like the Manchurian Candidate. They’re typically walk-in volunteers.
Secondly, in this case the surviving operatives said they were doing it because they were hoping this would help produce a revolt against the Moroccan government, much like what Michael Scheuer was saying. There are local grievances. There are local issues that al Qaeda is able to tap into. The Moroccan government, you should realize, that’s one of our number-one US-backed repressive regimes. When bin Laden refers to repressive regimes that we back, the Moroccan government is one of those number-one candidates. That’s an authoritarian government that we’ve given over a billion dollars to in the 1970s and 1980s and early 1990s.
Alberto Fernandez: I’d just like to make one point. I’d like to put a plea in for corrupt dictatorial regimes. What do I mean by that? I mean this panel is rightly focused on the insurgency and that’s certainly very legitimate. This is not in any way a plea for complacency. But the other side of insurgency is counterinsurgency, and the reality is — again, I don’t think there’s any room for complacency — regimes in the Muslim world generally, certainly in the Arab world, which is the part of the Muslim world I know best, have been extraordinarily successful in maintaining power, have been extraordinarily successful in maintaining control. If you look at the savagery of the reality of the insurgency in Algeria, an Islamist insurgency where a corrupt brutal regime was able to weather that successfully, I think we do need to look at that reality.
In other words, if I had a criticism of this panel, it would be a little bit that it’s al Qaeda, the global insurgency, and Uncle Sam. Of course that’s the way Osama bin Laden wants to portray it. But there are other actors involved who are not the most savory bunch of guys but actually are somewhat successful in maintaining power.
Michael Scheuer: What we see is not only does Osama bin Laden want it that way, but apparently the United States wants it that way. We certainly — the savagery of the Algerians is up to them. We have no real interest in associating ourselves with such efforts. We make a mockery of our heritage every day by supporting Mubarak and the Algerians and the Moroccans and the Jordanians and the Saudis. The Saudis we have to because we’ve done nothing in thirty years to solve the energy problem. But the idea that somehow it isn’t al Qaeda versus the United States is the beginning of un-wisdom. You can only say that because our leaders resolutely refuse to read the printed page and see what the enemy has said, fearing somehow that they’ll give them legitimacy. Frankly, I think Mr. Bush and Mr. Clinton before him have utterly failed to see that bin Laden is a legitimate player, whether or not they ever mentioned his name.
Question: What type of Islamic legitimacy do these groups derive when they justify a terrorist attack?
Robert Pape: There are two core arguments bin Laden makes in speech after speech after speech. A good example is the speech he gave in 1996 called “The American Occupation of the Arabian Peninsula.” This is a 40-page speech, single-spaced. This is not just the sound bites on CNN. As Mike was suggesting, this would be an excellent thing for people to go and read, it wouldn’t take you long. What you would see in this speech, and it’s entitled “The American Occupation of the Arabian Peninsula,” is it begins with a detailed description of our combat operations on the Arabian Peninsula.
Then in the middle of the speech, he links this to what he says is our crusader motive. Religion plays a big role. It’s our religion that he likes to call attention to. He says the reason we’re on the Arabian Peninsula is because we have a Christian agenda either to convert Muslims, to damage or weaken Islam, or to help Israel expand so that then Christians and Jews together can help ensure the control of Jerusalem. The fact is, that’s an extremely powerful argument to make when we actually have the combat forces on the Arabian Peninsula, when we’re actually doing things with those combat forces on a daily basis. We can try to shrink the footprint, try to get out of the way some. But the fact is, it’s very difficult to beat that back. Much as if there was a Chinese army of 20,000 or 30,000 sitting in Vermont, we’d have a hard time saying, Oh, that just doesn’t matter somehow. Or if there was a Chinese army of 200,000 in Mexico? Oh, that’s okay, we’re just not going to worry about that threat. This is what is driving his credibility. It’s the presence of those forces that gives the urgency to his argument.
Alberto Fernandez: I think there’s a little bit of an element here — I think it was either Lenin or Bakunin who called it the propaganda of the deed. In other words, when we think of these groups, when we think of Islamic legitimacy, we think of fatwas and imams and mullahs and all of that. That’s not to completely exclude that, but it really is about action. It’s an action-oriented movement and it’s a results-oriented organization, which is something I think DOD likes to use those kinds of words.
Zaki Chehab: Can I give an answer, which I really asked this question to people who were directly involved in killing, some of them 18 years old, 22, 24. Some of them were responsible for killing or cutting into pieces either translators who worked with American forces or Kurdish militias or some Shia. The answer, I asked them, what justifies what they are doing? Definitely after they got arrested by the police or American forces, they will say they’ve just been brainwashed, that kind of thing. But easily for them they justify this as being a traitor they have arrested, or betrayed X or Y or Z. So they have a different kind of justification for whatever they are doing.
So the kind of work for them is justified because they have no idea — nothing justifies, I feel, to send a suicide bomber into a market where tens of workers are waiting for somebody to pick them and earn their living for that day. So I just feel a bit surprised at the way, the easiness they take when they talk about they killed 10 or 15 or 20 and just throw them like throwing a chicken.
Michael Scheuer: I think we whine a lot about what justifies this, what justifies the other thing. I think we’ve kind of not educated our children over the last thirty years to realize that war really never changes. It’s just the way it’s conducted. Crashing an airliner into the building was the best they could do to hurt us the most they can. It’s just a fact of war. We firebombed Tokyo, thank God, and ended that war. I would have dropped the atomic bomb to save one Marine. That’s what we’re in the business for, to protect the United States. You want war to be your last resort, but when you go to war the only moral end of that war is to end it as quickly as you can, and that means annihilation. I think we should stop worrying about and whining about what justifies this, what justifies that. At the end of the day, the glory is in the victory, not in the fighting.
Question: If some kind of national reconciliation government is formed in Iraq and Afghanistan, will the insurgency cease in both countries?
Robert Pape: I think it depends very heavily. I would not count on democracy alone, even a stable democratic government, ending the suicide terrorism in Iraq, so long as significant American combat forces remain there. I think the fact is that’s the core impetus driving the insurgency. I think we have a strong interest in a stable government in Iraq and we have three years in which we can actually manage a transition so that at the end of that three years the government of Iraq has its own army, a strong army that it itself has built, and that we can have as an ally for some time to come.
Alberto Fernandez: I think they’re both different cases. Again, I will risk being pilloried by Mr. Scheuer, but I will say it anyway. Based on my experience in Iraq, I think that in a very slow, painful, difficult reality, I think Iraq is moving in the right direction. I don’t mean that to say that Jeffersonian democracy is about to bloom in Iraq — far from it. But I think what you are seeing is the creation — as the Algerian model that I mentioned — the creation of a state, a state which is a real state and a state which, as all states have, has a certain amount of coercive power. The coercive power of that state, as that state grows, will be able to impose at some point in time in the near future a certain amount of order and control in that country. What that result will look like, whether it will look like Sweden or whether it will look like El Salvador in 1989, I don’t know. But I do think you see enough elements to say that you’re moving in that direction. By the way, that’s a recognition of the resilience and the ability of the Iraqi people more than anything else.
Zaki Chehab: I think I have to agree with Alberto. There was some progress. We don’t have to be gloomy about everything. The January election was a very good experience for the Iraqis after more than three decades of no election at all. The referendum as well, in spite of the comments and the criticism about the way it was run — no international observers — also was a very good exercise. I’m sure that the more the Iraqis go into this process, the more they start getting familiar with what kind of work they are doing. They will be much better at choosing their representatives.
So we really are hopeful. The intention is to see how to solve the main issue, which is security, because without improving the security situation in Iraq, definitely you are talking about a dismantled country, because there is no main road safe between Baghdad and any of the other cities. So that’s why it’s important just to work on security and then I’m sure everything will improve.
Michael Scheuer: I think sometimes we look at Afghanistan and Iraq as if they’re hermetically sealed. I don’t personally think we’re going to have any kind of a democratic government in either one. But more than that — who cares what I think? The reality is that both of those countries are now kind of cockpits for international rivalry. Afghanistan, between Pakistani interests, Indian interests, Iranian interests, Russian, Tajik, Chinese — everybody is going to be playing in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future. So the idea of a stable government there probably is not realistic.
I think we’re going to see the same thing in Iraq. Certainly the Saudis and the Gulf countries have no interest in seeing a Shia-dominated state emerge in Iraq. At the same time, Iran and the rest of the Shia world probably will not tolerate the reemergence of the Sunnis.
So I think sometimes the way our coverage works and the way the news looks at things, we assume that these countries are hermetically sealed and they’re not. Iraq, I think, is much more a cockpit of international rivalry now than it ever was under Saddam. So I think it’s a long road to go.
Syed Farooq Hasnat: A very good session. Thank you very much for your participation.