|Home | Reviews | Blog | Daily | Glossary | Orrin's Stuff | Email|
For now, nothing should distract us from pursuing the War on Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, and looking back to see what went wrong in the past would surely derail our current efforts. If nothing else, the presence of the last president's wife in the Senate, the second to last president's son in the White House, and the senate campaign of the former Attorney General would all seem to guarantee that any hearings on the matter would quickly degenerate into blame shifting and partisan bickering. But when you read this book and realize exactly how much even an independent journalist was able to uncover about Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda network and their ongoing plans to attack the West, you will find yourself first becoming infuriated and then demanding that someone in government, perhaps many people in government, be punished for the monumental lapse in National Security that allowed the 9/11 attack to occur.
In The New Jackals, Simon Reeve tackles a topic that at the time sparked so little interest that the book was published by a university press, the February 26, 1993 truck-bombing of the World Trade Center. Thanks to one great piece of luck, the quick discovery of a piece of the truck which made identification possible, and the incredible stupidity of one of the plotters, who infamously returned to the truck rental place to get back his deposit, authorities were able to determine those responsible for the blast in fairly rapid fashion. But tracking down Ramzi Yousef, the gifted bomb-maker who pulled off the attack and who planned many more in the future, proved much more difficult, as he had already fled back to the Middle East. His trail led throughout the Muslim world, from Kuwait to the Philippines to Pakistan, and it is a testament to the doggedness with which the professionals of the FBI pursued him that he was eventually captured and returned to the States to stand trial.
Mr. Reeve not only provides the details of the investigation and subsequent trial, he also gives a complete biographical sketch of Yousef and off the man who it turns out what behind the scenes, providing guidance and training to Yousef and his cohorts, Osama bin Laden. No one reading this book would ever kid themselves that bin Laden and the determined band of fanatics he had assembled would have let the matter drop after this first failed attempt. In one of the most chilling moments in the book, Mr. Reeve relates the scene as Yousef is helicoptered towards New York City, after his arrest, riding with William Gavin of the FBI :
The chopper took off at 8:55p.m., circled the field
and then headed off towards Manhattan. Bill Gavin, the head of the
FBI in New
As we well know, to our eternal horror, the next time they did indeed have enough explosives.
But the fact that we weren't ready for them raises a number of issues which eventually have to be addressed in the public forum. Can the Clinton administration seriously have believed that lobbing a few cruise missiles around Afghanistan and the Sudan was going to deter future attacks? Mr. Reeve, with none of the resources or intelligence gathering capabilities of the American government at his disposal, makes it perfectly apparent that here was a reasonably well organized, very well funded, tactically adept, and deeply motivated, organization that was waging war on the West in general and on the United States in particular. How is it possible that the Clinton and Bush administrations and the members of Congress responsible for overseeing Defense and Intelligence did not understand this rather basic fact or at least did not treat it with the seriousness which it deserved? It is the sad fact that much of what appears in this book is old hat to us now, because we've been reading it in the papers ever day, but had a president come forward and laid out only the case that Mr. Reeve makes, never mind any classified information, and announced that he was declaring war on Al Qaeda, while there certainly would have been grumbling, one has to think that the American people would have supported him. That this was not done, that we were taken unawares, that Al Qaeda was allowed to carry out attacks on us with relative impunity, entitles us to some answers about why not. In all likelihood, some folks need to lose their jobs, perhaps many people, at the CIA and the State Department and the National Security Council, and maybe at Defense and Justice. We need sworn testimony from the people who bear responsibility for our failure to adequately respond to the threat that Al Qaeda posed and they, whoever they are, of whichever party, need to resign or be fired.
Of course, that's all water over the dam at this point, but there remains one way in which the book can be used prospectively, rather than retrospectively. There are a series of points at which we can discern the dangers of handling incidents like the first World Trade Center bombing through normal court channels. First, Mr. Reeve tells the story of how the Islamic radical who assassinated Meir Kahane in New York City in 1990 escaped the death penalty, after his attorney, William Kuntsler, apparently bewildered the jury. Second, there's a maddening scene where once Ramzi Yousef was turned over to American law enforcement in Pakistan, he had to be flown nonstop to the States, lest a landing in some other country create extradition problems. Finally, there's the wealth of information about U. S. intelligence sources and methods that became public over the course of the trial. All of these factors need to considered as we decide how to handle any terrorists we capture in the future.
Suppose that a jury handed down an "O.J. verdict" and let a terrorist walk, would we allow this? Suppose Osama bin Laden was being flown from afghanistan to the U.S. and bad weather or engine failure made it advisable to land in France, would we risk the lives of the crew and law enforcement officials on board in order to avoid landing, or would we land and allow France to refuse to extradite him to a country with the death penalty? Slobodan Milosevic is on trial now and has said he'll seek to have Bill Clinton testify. How much will we allow terrorists to expose in court, what witnesses are they entitled too? There are a whole host of questions here that those who reflexively oppose military tribunals appear not to have thought through to their logical conclusions.
Better, more comprehensive, books about Osama and Al Qaeda are sure to come, now that we're all paying attention, but, in the meantime, this one's pretty good. Be warned though, you'll be infuriated, particularly when Mr. Reeve closes the book by warning that worse is to come, as it did.
-AUTHOR SITE : SimonReeve.co.uk
-ESSAY : Behind bars but still inspiring terrorism (SIMON REEVE, 15 September 2001, The Age)
-ESSAY : ÝA new breed of terror : By yesterday evening it was far from clear who was responsible for the devastation in America. But for Simon Reeve, an expert on Islamic terrorism, it echoed the ambitions of the terrorist behind the 1993 attack on the World Trade
Centre, Ramzi Yousef. The finger is also being pointed at the man who financed that attack, America's public enemy number one, Osama bin Laden. Giles Foden examines how Bin Laden and his followers twist Islam to their ends (Simon Reeve and Giles Foden, September 12, 2001, The Guardian)
-ESSAY : Olympics still haunted by Munich massacre (Simon Reeve, September 4, 2000, Jerusalem Post)
-ESSAY : Bad Vibrations : Environmentalists believe an underwater sonar system being developed by the US military is destroying the natural sound habitat of whales and wreaking havoc on marine life.
(Simon Reeve, February 2001, Geographical Magazine)
-ESSAY : Heartless Haven : Switzerland's World War II record is further tarnished as Jews tell of ill treatment after fleeing from
Germany (SIMON REEVE, JANUARY 26, 1998, TIME)
-INTERVIEW : Simon Reeve (interviewed by Jennifer Byrne, 22/8/00, Australian Broadcasting Corp)
-AUDIO DISCUSSION : Paul Wilkinson, Simon Reeve and Joseph Fitchett: How to "dismantle" terror? (BBC, September 13, 2001)
-CHAT : Terror at the Olympics: Simon Reeve (USA Today, Nov. 14, 2000)
-PROFILE : British journalist recounts Munich Olympics terrorism from several perspectives (Brandon Brady, November 2000, City Beat)
-REVIEW : of The New Jackals : Ramzi Yousef, Osama Bin Laden, and the Future Of Terrorism By Simon Reeve (Daniel Pipes, The Washington Times)
-REVIEW : of New Jackals (Ahmed Rashid, Far Eastern Economic Review)
-BOOK LIST : Giles Foden chooses books on the Afghanistan crisis #1 : The New Jackals (The Guardian)
-BOOK LIST : What to Read Now (Malcolm Jones, September 29, 2001, NEWSWEEK)
OSAMA BIN LADEN (& Terrorism generally):
SADDAM HUSSEIN :
The point is that it was public information and none of us cared. We were all at fault.
- Apr-10-2004, 12:21
Hmm, this review echoes my feelings on this book. Your military industrial complex hoovers up all available security dollars. If you had spent more money on human intelligence and less on spy satellites you may still have your towers.
Mr Reeve is a very young journalist and his book would make the whole US system look laughable if it wasnt so tragic.
The same kind of thing could happen in the UK but at least we recognise this kind of threat & try to interdict it - our security people often get killed in the process.
Even now we havent seen dramatic resignations or personal suicides that this catastrophic failure of intelligence would have caused in other countries.
Evidently - no one feels responsible for what happened - in the light of the fact that this book was written before 9/11 - this is a truly astonishing indictment of the US system. Everyone has clean hands !
Am I missing something here - someone please tell me !
- Apr-10-2004, 12:17