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8 September 2003 www.MiddleEast.Org (202) 362-5266 Email: MER@MiddleEast.Org

MER FLASHBACK - Washington - www.MiddleEast.Org - 8 Sept 2003:
Those who were reading MER five years ago were giving a prescient foretaste of what has since come, and why. This MER article was originally published on 25 August 1998. Read it now keeping in mind that what has been happening since was being caused and was foreseeable then; just as what is being done now is creating the still bleaker future now ahead if today's course in Washington is not significantly altered...and soon.


MER - Washington - Mid-East Realities - 8/251998:

Like throwing gasoline on a simmering fire, America's modern-day "gun-boat diplomacy" is having its counter-effect -- one the Israelis have greatly stimulated and are so pleased to have helped bring about.

Throughout the Muslim world Osama bin Laden is now seen as a kind of Arab "Che"...and he may well meet the same fate. Throughout that complex and stirring world anti-American groups will now dig themselves, literally and figuratively, deeper underground. And those representing the Americans, and their allies, will find themselves increasingly nervous, on guard, and more and more separated from the "natives" and the "street" in the very countries they most want continue to dominate and control.

This article from Islamabad published a few days ago in The Observer is but the journalistic tip of the iceberg as East and West collide.


The death of an Italian officer in Kabul may be the first of many Islamic extremist reprisals against the West

By John Sweeney in Islamabad
[The Observer, 8/23/98].

The first instalment of the bill for President Clinton's missile attacks on Afghanistan came through the airport here yesterday wrapped in the sky-blue flag of the United Nations.

Pall bearers carried the coffin of Lieutenant Calo Carmine with as much dignity as they could muster through the chaotic sweatbox of Islamabad airport.

The Italian officer had been shot in the Afghan capital Kabul, and died of his wounds. This was the first reprisal for the US cruise missile attacks on 'terrorist' bases inside Afghanistan. There will be more reprisals, and more homecomings in body bags as key ally to Osama bin Laden, the exiled Saudi multimillionaire and the West's Public Enemy Number One, declared yesterday: "The Americans have started a war that will never end."

What sounded horribly like the opening salvos of a new and pitiless conflict rang out from the messianic figure of the Grand Emir Gullana Fazal-ul Rehman Kahalil. A terrorist leader close to bin Laden. His head swathed in a large turban of the deepest black, the thickly bearded Emir spat hatred at the Americans and their sex-obsessed President throughout a heaving and unruly press conference held, incongruously, underneath the chandeliers of Islamabad's Holiday Inn.

But just so no one misunderstood the Emir's Urdu, he had brought 20 like-minded Islamists, and a bodyguard toting a Kalashnikov, the gun butt decorated with a verse of the Koran.

Speaking through a number of conflicting interpreters, the Emir said that 21 of his men were killed and 40 wounded in the cruise missile attack which "completely destroyed" his camp. He insisted that the camp was not a military facility, but an educational centre. His minder brandished the Kalashnikov at the press to force home the educational point. "Were the bombs in Kenya and Tanzania and outrage or a legitimate act?" asked The Observer.

"The Americans did it themselves to take attention away from Monica Lewinsky," said the Emir.

"What evidence have you that the Americans bomb their own embassies?"

"It's been in the newspapers all over the world," said the Emir. He was invited to name one.

"The Americans should first produce their evidence that the bases in Afghanistan were used for terrorism," he said. "The Americans are well-practised at killing people from small countries."

Then one of the Emir's sympathisers started screaming that a Pakistani journalist present at the press conference worked for the CIA.

A second sympathiser bawled out in English: "The war between America and Islam has started." And the press conference broke up in chaos. Later at the airport a team of UN officials and aid workers from charities like Medecins Sans Frontieres arrived from the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar. One aid worker said: "The atmosphere in Kandahar after the cruise missile attack was extremely tense. "We felt relatively safe because the Taliban security are very much in control of the city, but nevertheless it was very unpleasant being trapped inside the UN compound, not being able to move around."

Pakistan yesterday was swept with a series of feverish rumours that the Americans would launch more strikes. The mood in the northwest frontier of Pakistan, next to the Afghan border, was described as being extremely tense and the British Foreign Office has advised all nationals to leave the area.

Thus far the Pakistani Foreign Minister has voiced moderate criticisms, calling the strikes counter-productive. Reports sourced to Pakistan intelligence officers says that the six targets hit by American cruise missiles belonged to three separate groups: one controlled by bin Laden himself, one controlled by the Emir himself from Pakistan, and a third group also run by Pakistanis but consisting of many different nationals from throughout the Islamic world.

The almost exclusively Arab camp run by bin Laden was at Khost, some 21 kms from the other two camps.

He lost 21 of his men, thought to be all Kashmiri.

The Pentagon has yet to provide any hard evidence that the Emir's group, the Harkat-ul Mujahideen, was responsible for the bomb outrages in Africa.

There is evidence linking bin Laden's faction with the attack through the testimony of Mohammed Saddiq Odeh who is said to be "singing like a canary" to the Kenyan CID and the FBI in Nairobi.

Some reports suggest that the attacks on bin Laden's stronghold did not harm very many fighters because most were on the frontline in north Afghanistan fighting with the Taliban "soldier monks" against the remnants of the former government.

A few weeks ago Pakistan tested its own nuclear device underground, its response to an international crisis started by India. The possibility, still remote but no longer unthinkable, that Pakistan may be so destabilised by the American missile attacks that its government - and its nuclear capability - fall into the hands of Islamic fundamentalists who wish to wage total war against America must count as a new nightmare for the American administration and its loyal friend in Britain Tony Blair.

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