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Washington Is Losing 'war On Terror': Experts

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Washington is losing 'War on Terror': experts

by Michel Moutot


Despite high-profile arrests, security operations and upbeat assessments from the White House, the United States is losing its "global war on terror," experts warn.


Five years after Washington launched its hunt for those responsible for the September 11 attacks, the world has not become a safer place, and a new large-scale strike against America at some point appears likely, they say.


A picture released by the US Army shows a US soldier patrolling the market center in the town of Bayji, north of Iraq. Despite high-profile arrests, security operations and upbeat assessments from the White House, the United States is losing its "global war on terror," experts warn. (AFP/US ARMY-HO/Staff Sgt. Russell Lee Klika)


Even the killing last month of Al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, hailed by the White House as a major blow against the terror network, has not dented its ability to recruit new militants or mount attacks.


In May the influential US magazine Foreign Policy and a Washington-based think-tank questioned 116 leading US experts -- a balanced mix of Republicans and Democrats -- on the progress of the US campaign against terrorism.


Among others, they consulted a former secretary of state, two former directors of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and dozens of the country's top security analysts.


The result? Eighty-four percent believe the United States is losing the "war on terror," 86 percent that the world has become a more dangerous place in the past five years, and 80 percent that a major new attack on their country was likely within the next decade.


"We are losing the 'war on terror' because we are treating the symptoms and not the cause," argued Anne-Marie Slaughter, head of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.


"Our insistence that Islamic fundamentalist ideology has replaced communist ideology as the chief enemy of our time feeds Al-Qaeda's vision of the world," boosting support for the Islamic radical cause, she said.


For Leslie Gelb, president of the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, the unity of views expressed by those questioned reflects a deeply critical attitude towards the administration of President George W. Bush.


"It's clear to nearly all that Bush and his team have had a totally unrealistic view of what they can accomplish with military force and threats of force," he said.


Other experts questioned the very nature of the US campaign.


"It was a doomed enterprise from the very start: a 'war on terror' -- it's as ridiculous as a 'war on anger'. You do not wage a war on terror, you wage a war against people," said Alain Chouet, a former senior officer of France's DGSE foreign intelligence service.


"The Americans have been stuck inside this idea of a 'war on terror' since September 11, they are not asking the right questions."


"You can always slaughter terrorists -- there are endless reserves of them. We should not be attacking the effects of terrorism but its causes: Wahhabite ideology, Saudi Arabia and the Muslim Brotherhood. But no one will touch any of those," Chouet argued.


Instead he said US policy in the Middle East, which had "turned Iraq into a new Afghanistan," was acting as a powerful recruiting agent for a generation of Islamic radicals.


The continued US presence in Iraq and "the atrocities committed by a campaigning army", the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq and the "grotesque" US detention centre at Guantanamo in Cuba all "provide excuses" for violent radicals, he said.


The United States "have fallen into the classic terrorist trap -- they're lashing out at the wrong targets," causing collateral damage that boosts the cause of their opponents, he said.


Michael Scheuer, who headed the CIA's Osama Bin Laden unit from 1996 to 1999, agreed that Washington was acting as its own worst enemy in the fight against Islamic terrorism.


"We're clearly losing. Today, Bin Laden, Al-Qaeda and their allies have only one indispensable ally: the US' foreign policy towards the Islamic world."


"The cumulative impact of several events in the past two years has gone a good way towards increasing Muslim hatred for Americans, simply because they are Americans," he said, citing Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and the East-West row over cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.


"Each of these events is unfortunate but not terribly serious for Western minds. But from the Muslim perspective they are deliberate and vicious attacks against the things that guide their lives and their faith." - AFP

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