Dispatches > The Buzz Sidebar

Walking by sight

Al-Qaeda takes the guesswork out of war

Issue: "Red & blue all over," Sept. 23, 2006

Before the five-year anniversary of 9/11 was the 10-year anniversary of al-Qaeda. On a rocky craig in Afghanistan, summer of 1996, Taliban leader Mullah Omar donned the black cloak of the Prophet and became Emir Omar. So, that year, did Osama bin Laden. No longer transient war heroes on horses but transcendent icons in a sacred order, these were men to be followed at all costs. Bin Laden quickly issued his first declaration of war on America. Omar issued these words to live by: "We want to live a life like the Prophet lived 1,400 years ago." What comes to mind is the rubble of Kabul, Baghdad, and Mogadishu, streets stagnant with sewage and heavy with blackouts. "We can love our enemies," he said, "but only after we have defeated them."

If Islamic terrorists are content to walk by such faith, I am content when it comes to terrorism to walk by sight. To watch what they do and listen to what they say. To leave it to others to argue about how many are in al-Qaeda, whether or not they have access to nuclear weapons, whether or not they have means to deliver them. To let the joint chiefs argue over whether the discovery of 100 beheaded men in Baghdad is the stuff of civil war, ethnic retribution, gangster rule, or outside jihadists.

Here is what they say. Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda No. 2, on Sept. 11, 2006: Emir bin Laden, the Lion of Islam "brings good news"of "new events." U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are "already doomed," but Americans should watch for attacks at home, in Israel, and in the Gulf. And on Sept. 14 Zawahiri announced that Salafist terrorists in Algeria had joined al-Qaeda-a "thorn in the throat" to the "treacherous sons" of France and the West.

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Entering this sixth year of war on terror, Osama bin Laden lives on. And now we shall see what he shall do.


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