America's War on Terrorism
September 2001

America's War on Terrorism

Mideast Folcrum

  By Adel Darwish

Tuesday, October 2, 2001; Page A25

Support for President Bush's call to arms against terrorism is falling 
short of that his father received 11 years ago at the start of the Gulf 
War. Then, the majority at an Arab summit joined the U.S. coalition that 
defeated Iraq, another member of the Arab League.

But unlike the clear aims of the Gulf War -- to defeat Saddam Hussein and 
liberate Kuwait -- which were achieved seven months later, the aims of this 
President Bush's undertaking are far from clear, and the enemy has not been 
sharply defined.

"Who will America fight in Afghanistan?" screamed a front-page headline in 
a Cairo newspaper last week. Below the headline was a picture of starving 
Afghan refugees.
A decade ago, Saddam Hussein's brutality, aggression and violation of 
international law were clear to all. Today America is being asked, both 
openly in Arab and European editorials and in diplomatic talks, to provide 
material and forensic evidence linking Osama bin Laden and the Taliban to 
the terror attacks of Sept. 11. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw heard 
that request in Cairo, just as American diplomats have heard it from some 
Muslim leaders. Straw was told that military action should be confined to 
"surgical strikes" that would harm no civilians.

With regard to Arab opinion, the Bush administration's hands-off approach 
to the deteriorating situation between the Palestinians and Israelis and 
the escalating violence between the two sides hasn't helped. Arab regimes 
have nodded approvingly as Arab journalists attacked Israel and the United 
States -- attacks that provide a diversion from their own violations of 
human rights and their undemocratic ways. Anti-American propagandists have 
been given a great opportunity to make their case to the Arab masses that 
Israel and the United States are acting in concert. They neglect, of 
course, to remind those who celebrated the appalling attacks on America 
that U.S. taxpayers have actually been helping to feed and house them.

Even in moderate Middle Eastern nations ruled by pro-American governments, 
such as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, print and television 
journalists refer to suicide bombers -- regardless of their targets -- as 
"martyrs," while speaking highly critically of U.S. policy. The current 
American rhetoric and the use of the word "terrorists" instead of 
"terrorism" is also criticized by many Arab commentators.

One of them, in a Kuwaiti paper, accused America of a double standard for 
accepting Israel's labeling of Lebanese Hezbollah fighters as "terrorists" 
when they "fought against uniformed Israeli soldiers occupying part of 
their country while Israel's helicopter attacks with American-made missiles 
to assassinate a Palestinian activist in a block of flats, which also 
killed a schoolboy, were not called terrorism."

The anti-Americanism, which has increased greatly since the "Palestinian 
Intifada" began a year ago, has been evident in popular Arab media for 
years. Unfortunately for America, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict long ago 
became the fulcrum upon which the political equilibrium of the Middle East 
rests and the lens through which Arab opinion makers view international 

"America had a golden opportunity to improve its image in the Islamic 
world," said an editorial last week in the Cairo daily Al-Guomhoria, which 
supports Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, "but unwisely wasted it by 
siding with Israel against the Palestinians and the rest of the Muslim 

The leaders of Saudi Arabia and Egypt have both suffered from the acts of 
Islamic fundamentalist terror groups, including bin Laden's gang, and would 
-- in private -- welcome an alliance with America as an opportunity to 
destroy organizations that assist terrorists. "But they can't openly take 
part in a coalition that includes Israel, as it would be seen in the region 
as furthering Israeli aims," said a top Egyptian diplomat who has recently 
been in consultation with Saudi Arabians.

Are the Saudis' fears well grounded? Perhaps they are looking at Egypt, 
where the religious establishment seems to be out of the government's 
control. Most of its 1,000 imams ignored requests to hold special services 
in Egyptian mosques for the victims of the terror attacks, even though four 
Egyptians have been confirmed among the dead in the World Trade Center.

First printed in the washington Post 2 October 2001


arabia.jpg (42456 bytes)
Bin Laden's TV Choice
Arab Press on 11 September
East-West Love/Hate affair
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