Rumsfeld Suggests Fighting Madrassas with “Ideas”

The guerrilla rockets that pierced the fortifications surrounding Baghdad’s landmark al Rashid hotel early Sunday, October 26, missed their presumed target, US deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Nonetheless, the attack makes the thought-provoking memo penned by his boss Donald Rumsfeld ten days earlier look like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The rockets slammed into this major US personnel center, hours after the decision to lift the curfew over Baghdad in view of “the improved security situation.” The day before, a US Black Hawk helicopter was shot down near Tikrit shortly after Wolfowitz left Saddam’s home town.
Both times, Iraqi guerrillas knew where to find the deputy defense secretary and he had a lucky escape.
The memo – described as “leaked” – was addressed to Wolfowitz and Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff. Its two pages contained questions loaded enough to be rhetorical. The points Rumsfeld made include these: The US has no way to measure whether it is winning or losing the global war on terror; we have not made truly “bold moves” to fight terrorists and we are in for “a long, hard slog” in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Pointing to Iraq’s al Qaeda-linked Ansar al Islam, Rumsfeld asked: “Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the clerics are recruiting, training and deploying?”
Later, in a briefing to Washington Times staff, he called for a new agency to help fight “a war of ideas” against international terrorism. He suggested a “21st -century information agency in the government” to help in the international battle of ideas, to limit the teaching of terrorism and extremism and to provide better education.”
However, in his memo, he said private organizations could counter Islamist “radical madrassas.”
Clearly, the defense secretary is convinced that the war on terror cannot be won by military victories alone and wants more emphasis on the struggle for hearts and minds. Fighters and defense officials, says Rumsfeld, must start asking themselves: “Are there things we aren’t doing that we might be doing?”
Two other key points made in the memo: “I think it is pretty clear that current (weapons control) regimes aren’t working.” President Bush is in the early stages of a “new approach” to deal with weapons proliferation that will call for greater international cooperation.
In the other, the defense secretary stressed that US intelligence capabilities have been “compromised through spies and through trading of information among rogue nations and terrorist networks.”
This intelligence contest, the most sensitive aspect of the global war on terror, bears directly on the degree of precision manifested by anti-US Iraqi guerrillas – and ultimately in Sunday’s rocket strike against the Baghdad hotel. The point took years to appreciate. It was not immediately accepted that, without hostile spies planted inside America, information trading among terrorist groups and electronic espionage capabilities, the traumatic 9/11 terrorist assault on America could not have been carried out – any more than Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein could have managed to elude American pursuit for so long. Intelligence capabilities are also the key to Yasser Arafat’s sustained long-running terror campaign against Israel.
Many months before September 11, 2001, debkafile and DEBKA-Net-Weekly pointed to serious penetrations of the American intelligence community by terrorist operatives who are actuated not merely by blind hate but by classified information enabling them to pinpoint their attacks.
The fact that Palestinian terror attacks were confined for nine days to targeting military and security personnel – three US CIA security men and six Israeli troops – was no coincidence. It was the outcome of well-informed, pointed decision-making – in this case by Arafat, Syrian president Bashar Assad and Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah. It is a fact that no civilians died in this period.
Similarly, the disastrous August 19 bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad, in which 22 people were killed and 150 injured, was no random outrage committed by a suicidal bomber looking for a target at the wheel of an explosive-packed truck. Vital inside intelligence enabled the assailant to be sure of murdering Sergio de Mello, the UN secretary’s personal representative in Baghdad and mainstay of US administrator Paul Bremer’s projects for putting Iraq on its feet. Precise information on de Mello’s movements would not have been available in Baghdad’s bazaars – only in Washington, the UN Center in New York, the US command center in Iraq or the targeted official’s own office at UN Headquarters in the Iraqi capital. The terrorists’ successful assassination testifies to this level of inside penetration – and is an example of the sort of “compromised” US intelligence capabilities troubling Rumsfeld.
Were the US defense secretary to assess the main theatres of counter-terror war according to his own yardstick – “Are we capturing etc. more terrorists than the madrassas… are recruiting…?” he would have to admit that enemy resources, recruitment, intelligence and logistical assistance from sponsor-states and cash flow have not diminished. To the contrary, all these resources have expanded.
Afghanistan.
In a well-planned gambit, al Qaeda removed itself and its central command from Afghanistan leaving the war terrain to its ally the Taliban under the command of Mulla Omar. After spending a year in the Pakistan-Afghan border districts rebuilding its military strength and regrouping, the Taliban has begun retaking lost terrain. A UN report describes the Taliban as having established de facto control over border districts near Kandahar and Paktika. Some of its units are within 75 miles of Kabul, others in the process of seizing main highways in the country. Coalition control is limited mainly to Kabul some key cities where too the Taliban have planted subversive cells.
Pakistan.
Banned fundamentalist Islamic terror groups, including the Taliban and al Qaeda, are back in action. They have re-established their old operational and intelligence ties with Pakistan’s Inter-service intelligence agency, the SIS, which they maintained before America’s October 2001 campaign in Afghanistan.
India – Kashmir.
The Vajpayee government in New Delhi is alone in calling a spade a spade, declaring India is fighting Islamic extremists. Spurning well-intentioned advice on how to go about their war, the Indians say terrorism must be fought unrelentingly and blame their partial victory on restraints from Washington preventing their taking the war into terrorist strongholds in Pakistan.
Saudi Arabia.
Domestic social and political unrest hampers Riyadh’s belated crackdown on al Qaeda and its supporters. Despite massive security operations launched after the oil kingdom was shocked by the May 12 suicide bomb attacks against Western compounds in Riyadh, the Saudis are fighting a losing battle. More and more terrorist networks and covert cells are being planted in their cities and tribal regions. The authorities have failed in their quiet efforts to encourage Saudi al Qaeda members to head out of the kingdom to other Middle East countries, including Iraq. Bin Laden and his aides have decided that the overthrow of Saudi throne in Riyadh is just as important as fighting Americans in Iraq.
Syria.
Bashar Asad has made his capital the largest command center in the world for assorted terrorist organizations, which he terms “freedom movements” – notably the Palestinian Hamas and Jihad Islami. Damascus, whose suburbs house the most important chain of madrassas in the Middle East, also serves as mainline transit route for Muslim terrorists destined for arenas of confrontation with the West such as Iraq, Chechnya and the Balkans, as well those making for Palestinian-controlled areas.
Lebanon.
This country remains the territorial base of the violent Hizballah which runs a uniquely efficient intelligence organ in the service of international terrorism. The Shiite group’s partners-in-terror are contingents of Iranian Revolutionary Guard which serve alongside them, as well as al Qaeda units in the south.
Last week marked the 20th anniversary of the suicide bombing attack on the US Marines barracks in Beirut that killed more than 240 Americans and led to the United States decision to depart Lebanon. The attack was masterminded by Imad Mughniyeh, the terrorist ace who was never captured though long on America’s wanted list. He is still in Lebanon under Hizballah protection.
In an article run in the Washington Post on October 26, Rumsfeld stresses: “if the world does not deal with the emerging nexus between terrorist networks, terrorist states and weapons of mass murder, terrorism could one day kill not more than 240 people… but tens of thousands – or more.”
Iran.
At the instigation of extremist factions of the Revolutionary Guards, the Islamic Republic has grown into a primary logistic and rear base center for al Qaeda and its affiliates, including the Iraqi Ansar al-Islam.
Chechnya.
The rebels fighting the Russian army continue to be fortified with a flow of manpower, weapons and money from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria. Fighters also come in from Central Asia.
The Balkans.
Al Qaeda continues to mass terrorist cells in Bosnia, Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania – both for action in the Balkans and as convenient jumping off bases against central and West Europe.
Al Qaeda and its subsidiaries have also established a solid presence in Africa, the Far East and the republics of Central Asia.
Palestinian Authority.
Notwithstanding three and-a-half years of Israeli military action against Palestinian terrorists – neither can claim victory. Most of Arafat’s terror cells remain operational and quick to execute increasingly violent suicide and shooting attacks at his command.
The Palestinian terror machine led by Arafat defies Rumsfeld’s attempt to put radical Muslim terrorism into neat boxes. Arafat’s Fatah and its offshoots are not essentially religious movements although in the last two years he has endeavored to harness Islamic radical sentiment to the Palestinian cause. He has been able to build up his army of suicides without religious madrassas; his Fatah schools impart a different, more racially-oriented form of indoctrination. Saddam Hussein’s Baath movement dissociated itself from al Qaeda fundamentalists – until the organization’s recruitment to the pro-Saddam guerrilla war proved otherwise. Bashar Assad has demonstrated like Arafat that terrorism is an effective binder between secular ruling bodies and Islamic regimes – especially in the Arab world.
This might be a useful place for Rumsfeld to launch his daunting quest for definitions to clothe fresh tactics in the global war on terror.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Font Resize
Contrast