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Sunday, 11 September 2011

Who is America’s new enemy?

America’s new enemy?


Chris Riddell 11 Sept 2011

 It used to be the Nazis, the Soviet Union and then Osama and al-Qaeda. Now that he is dead, who will become the new enemy America focuses its energies on?

 SO what now? With Osama bin Laden dead, will his successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, continue a new wave of terrorism against the West?

Yet a report in British newspaper The Guardian in late July indicates that most Syrian activists reject the new al-Qaeda leader. Mohammad Al-Abdallah, the spokesman of local coordination committees in Syria, said: “Zawahiri is trying to convince the world that he has supporters in Syria, which will provoke international public opinion against us and give the regime the right to commit crimes against our people.”

For Tom Engelhardt, academic, author and editor of, al-Qaeda was a ragtag crew that engaged in some dramatic terror acts over the past 10 years but, in reality, it had limited operational capabilities, while the movements it spawned from Yemen to North Africa have proven “remarkably unimportant”. While Osama sat isolated in a Pakistan mansion, ironically, it was the Americans who did the work of creating war and chaos (and increasing people’s resentment of the United States) for Osama!

“Think of him as practising the Tao of Terrorism,” writes Engelhardt, comparing Osama to the way a tai chi master fights – not with his own minimal strength, but leveraging on his opponent’s strength, in this case, America’s massive fire power.

China rising: Will the United States next turn its attention to China?

And what can we hope for 10 years after 9/11?

Journalist Robert Fisk, writing in British newspaper The Independent, said, “Bin Laden told the world that he wanted to destroy the pro-Western regimes in the Arab world, the dictatorships of the Mubaraks and the Ben Alis. He wanted to create a new Islamic Caliphate. But these past few months, millions of Arab Muslims rose up and were prepared for their own martyrdom – not for Islam but for freedom and liberty and democracy. Bin Laden didn’t get rid of the tyrants. The people did. And they didn’t want a caliph.”

Jason Burke, author of The 9/11 Wars, notes that back in 2004, American intelligence agencies had foreseen “continued dominance” for many years to come. But in 2008, they judged that within a few decades the US would no longer be able to “call the shots”.

“If the years from 2004 to 2008 brought victory, then America and the West cannot afford many more victories like it,” he adds.

But in this second decade of the 21st century, will America learn the lessons of history?

Two years ago, when President Barack Obama intoned general platitudes about human rights for the Middle East in his landmark Cairo speech, his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, had this to say about the Egyptian dictator: “I consider President and Mrs Mubarak to be friends of my family.”

As the comedian and talk show host Jay Leno once joked, the invasion of Iraq was initially supposed to be called Operation Iraqi Liberation, until they realised that it spelt O.I.L. – and the name was then changed to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Haroon Siddiqui, a columnist at the Toronto Star, believes that Obama has reverted to Washington’s old double standard of one law for allies, another for adversaries. And so dissidents in Iran and Syria will be cheered on and materially backed to overthrow their regimes but not the people rising up in Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria, Jordan, Oman, Morocco and Saudi Arabia.

Uri Avnery, a former Israeli Member of Parliament and author of several books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, reflects that the American empire always needs an antagonist, an “evil, worldwide enemy” to focus its energies on, be it the Nazis or the Soviet Union.

“The disappearance of the communist threat left a gaping void in the American psyche, which cried out to be filled. Osama bin Laden kindly offered his services as a new global enemy.

“Overnight, medieval anti-Islamic prejudices are dusted-off for display. Islam the murderous, the fanatical, the anti-freedom, anti-all-our-values. Suicide bombers, 72 virgins, jihad,” he writes in the online “political newsletter”, Counterpunch. Avnery adds that the present Islamophobia hysteria is similar to how Europeans used to demonise Jews in the past.

American civil rights lawyer, columnist and author Glenn Greenwald predicts in online news and culture website that even though US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta has acknowledged that al-Qaeda has a grand total of “fewer than two dozen key operatives” on the entire planet, the War on Terror will be continued by trotting out more “fear-mongering propaganda” against a new alliance of villains from Somalia and Yemen – the “scariest since Marvel Comic’s Masters of Evil”.

As the future unfolds, will other villains be found to replace Osama? How about China?

John Feffer, the co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus (a project of the Washington DC-based Institute for Policy Studies), notes that perhaps the only country in the world that has benefited from the War on Terror is China.

“Beijing has watched the United States spend more than US$3tril (RM9tril) on the war on terrorism, devote its military resources to the Middle East, and neglect pretty much every other part of the globe. The United States is now mired in debt, stuck in a recession, and paralysed by partisan politics. Over that same period, meanwhile, China has quickly become the second largest economy in the world.”

What a difference a decade makes. When US President George W. Bush came into office over 10 years ago, he called Beijing a “strategic competitor” rather than a strategic partner. When a US spy plane flying off Hainan Island was involved in an accident with a Chinese plane, the Americans refused to apologise.

Ten years later, after US government debt was downgraded, we see China’s official Xinhua news agency lecturing the Americans – in English, mind you – that “the days when debt-ridden Uncle Sam could leisurely squander unlimited overseas borrowing appear to be numbered.”

In a Time magazine article in April, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned that “the single biggest threat to our national security is our debt”.

While America is still building aircraft carriers at US$15bil (RM45bil) a pop, China is developing missiles expressly designed to sink them – at a cost of US$10mil (RM30mil) each. Talk about being cost efficient. Economix, a unit of the New York Times, reveals that the US accounts for 43% of all the military spending on Earth – six times as much as China, which accounts for 7.3% of world military spending: “We’ve waged war nonstop for nearly a decade in Afghanistan against a foe with no army, no navy and no air force. We send US$1bil (RM3.02bil) destroyers to handle five Somali pirates in a fibreglass skiff.”

Yet the irony is: “(The US is) borrowing cash from China to pay for weapons that we would presumably use against it. If the Chinese want to slay us, they don’t need to attack us with their missiles. They just have to call in their loans.”

If Time’s scenario ever comes to pass, then the war on terror would be ended by Chinese financial tai chi.