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Osama, Saddam, Wars, Terrorism, and the US: Who Outwitted Whom?

Time has moved on since 9-11, two years approximately now, and yet in looking back at all that has happened one cannot wonder just who seems to have come out on top in all of this amongst all the sides involved whether it be inadvertently or otherwise
On the plus side from the perspective of the good guys here are the facts that al-Qaida has been dislodged from it's home in Afghanistan with it's capabilities significantly reduced, brutal regimes in the forms of both the Taliban and Saddam Hussein have been removed in Afghanistan and Iraq respectively, and, assuming we can believe what we were told (which seems like an increasingly huge assumption now as time progresses), the world has been made a safer place by ridding it a rogue regime of weapons of mass destruction.

However, at the same time, certain other facets of this picture may well be true too and these are ones that are largely negative in terms of the manner in which they reflect upon the US approach.

They also represent worrying aspects to this whole story, which have perhaps been somewhat overlooked even though they may, once again, display a degree of historically all too prevalent ineffectiveness on the part of US administrations especially in the area of understanding and dealing with international policy around the globe.

Assuming then that Osama bin Laden did not have the intelligence to intentionally plan it that way, it is still an undeniable fact that he has benefited inadvertently from a level of global unpopularity towards the US that has been unprecedented in many years.

That unpopularity was because of the over-simplistic approach to the problem which insisted on casting everyone and everything in almost childish black and white, good versus evil terms by a government determined to view the world in that way, whilst failing to recognize both the degree of political complexity that can be involved in such issues internationally and the level of irony involved in America, above all, choosing on looking at the world this way.

This is a US administration that has refused to recognize history at times and, in doing so, simply does not seem to understand that fact that the past track record of American foreign policy has been far from pure and righteous and by no means always on the side of good against evil. To think therefore, that the world would believe your reasons for engaging in military conflict without considerable skepticism was arrogant, as was the failure to appreciate the historical validity of such concerns and respond meaningfully to them rather then ignoring them, sneeringly at times.

In that context, the attempt to create a link between Osama bin Laden and terrorism and Saddam Hussein and Iraq was a mistake of massive proportions.

And yet, in itself, it may well have been an error that was completely predictable by our foes.

In hating the US as he does, and in believing that America dislikes the entire Muslim world, it would perhaps not have been such a difficult stretch of imagination for a person like bin Laden to strategize that he could easily benefit from an inevitably clumsy counter attack of some sort somewhere down the line on some Muslim nation or government, and, let's face it, that is almost exactly what has happened here.

One of the bitterest ironies of the attacks on 9-11 is that people all over the world are probably spending more time criticizing George Bush right now than Osama bin Laden.

Looked upon in that light, then perhaps that benefit of a new level of US unpopularity internationally was not a benefit gotten so inadvertently at all.

When it comes to Saddam Hussein, in many respects the only difference there is that it would seem from intelligence that has now been gleaned since the fall of Baghdad that we can remove the use of the word "inadvertently" completely.

Documents unearthed since the fall of that country now appear to indicate that a strategy of insurgency and guerrilla warfare post an inevitable US/UK military takeover of Iraq was always his plan right from the outset.

Of course I could be guilty here of giving Saddam too much credit but, again, it was never that much of a stretch to figure it out for himself as a strategy. Clearly he was never going to beat the US/UK forces in a conventional war. We now know that he had cleared out almost a billion dollars in cash before the fall of the country so he had already make sure of taking care of himself for his lifetime. Assuming that he had secured his own safety by means of a good hiding spot inside the country our refuge outside of it, either one of which seems to be holding up so far anyway, then the only thing that could possibly be left to cross his mind and mull over would be if he could ever manage to pull off a return to power someday.

To achieve that unlikely feat he would need to reassemble an army in another friendly country, of which no one would let him do that (and even if there was one who would it would only result in another conventional war which he would lose). Alternatively, his only other real option would be to wage a guerrilla war in the hope of causing such destabilization within the country that, ironically, people might want him back because even he would be better then total chaos via no power, gas, water or jobs.

Indeed that kind of thinking would have been remarkably easy for Saddam to do as he would only have to look not very far away to Afghanistan to see how large sections of the population willingly accepted a Taliban regime after the failure of the Mujahadeen rebels to establish and kind of security or stability in the country post the departure of the Soviet army.

But here is where the depressing aspect of it all pops up; if both of these scenarios are true in terms of what their respective strategies were, then we would have little choice but to ponder if the very people out there whom we have entrusted with out protection were essentially outwitted by their adversaries?

That possibility is scarcely a very reassuring one as we hope that our government is doing everything it can to keep us safe from another terrorist attack.

No sooner does this worry me however than I see a report on CNN about how, unbelievably, a terrorist watch list still cannot be complied in the US homeland of suspects. Twelve different lists exist held by nine different government agencies and yet it appears that, for reasons quite beyond my comprehension, they cannot all be combined onto one that all of the various security organizations can read from.

Could it be then that a secret as yet undiscovered part of the terrorist's plan was to eliminate all reasonably speedy typists in America too?

Contributed to PRAVDA. Ru by John Bourke