Daybreak: Sura 113
In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful;
Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of daybreak
From the evils among His creations;
From the evils of darkness as it falls;
From the evils of the troublemakers;
From the evils of the envious when they envy.
If we are to win the war against terrorism, understanding the very nature of our enemy must become an urgent priority.
International polls demonstrate that the public understands this war is a necessary evil – they also expect the administration to win at the lowest cost to the coalition, the economy and world order.
At the beginning, the military operations in Afghanistan resembled the botched experiments of a public-school chemistry class. There was great damage to the classroom, a rotten smell in the area, the surrounding corridors are overwhelmed by the spread of stench and mess, but little progress for a definite scientific conclusion to eradicating a bacterial scourge on humanity was being made.
Outside criticism of the progress and the winning of the internal debate in favor of the Rumsfeld faction over Colin Powell and the State Department changed all that. The spin, of course, was that initially there were not enough Special Forces on the ground. Everyone knows, however, that they were there en masse. What was not there was the will for a quick kill.
Media skepticism and Taliban reports from the region were already showing that the spokesmen’s spin can only keep the public blind for days, if not hours in this modern age of advanced communications and technology.
Our political leaders, under scrutiny for their competence only weeks before Sept. 11, are now anointed heroes in the wake of the crisis, riding on the coattails of their speechwriters’ talents – not necessarily their ability to understand the art of foreign policy and military tactics in a region that is a hotbed of established distrust and animosity.
If we want to win this war, then the leadership will need to pay more attention to the pieces on the chessboard and the chess masters behind them. The easy part has not yet been accomplished, even with massive superiority in everything except a long-term plan. The more difficult part is yet to come.
To gain a clearer understanding of the movement behind the attacks by Islamic fundamentalists, a reader would do well to read the Koran as a first step to understanding a complicated religious and political global phenomenon.
To win, it is necessary to understand why the followers of bin Laden swell with hate for the U.S. and the U.K.
As children, the fables of Aesop guided us to wisdom against our own foolish wiles. The true stories from the memoirs of the explorer and former diplomatic adviser Mike Sanders about his experience at the birth of the movement that finances and supports bin Laden give the Western mind a first-person insight to the people behind the veil.
We must ask – not for the Islamic fundamentalist to understand our national agenda – but rather, we must learn to understand how they see the world today.
The origins of their hate grow from a perception that the U.S is a large cog in the mechanics of their own societal and national oppression. The titles, or suras, from the Koran serve well as the metaphorical flesh to the origins of the present phenomenon in the Middle East.
The Unjust: Sura 83
In the late ’60s, Sheik Isa, the ruler of Bahrain, used to visit England in the summers, staying at the Dorchester Hotel in London. When he had no official meetings, we would lunch with his girlfriends and guests every day in his suite. Passionate about horse racing, the afternoon hours were filled with thoroughbreds streaking across the set of the hotel television.
Before lunch, the richest of all the Bahrain merchants would stand behind Sheikh Isa’s chair, and one of his “duties” was to clean out the cigarette holder, which collected nicotine.
He completed this menial task without questions and did this after practically every cigarette. The attendant was the largest landlord in Bahrain and worth almost half a billion dollars himself. His dedication to Sheikh Isa’s whim, desire and demand was striking.
This glamorous anecdote is an all-too-familiar story describing an afternoon in the life of a wealthy Arab in Britain, behind the closed, gilt-covered doors of luxury. But looking more closely at this modern picture, a question comes to mind – why would such a wealthy man agree to do the housework of his master?
The son of this merchant and others like him told me the answer was simple. It was impossible to topple the regimes because of their brutality and efficient secret services trained and financed by the U.S. and U.K. According to him, even the richest merchants in the Middle East scraped and groveled to their rulers just to keep what they had. An external influence made it impossible to overthrow them. The U.S. and the U.K. kept rulers like Sheikh Isa in power for their own oil-driven financial and political gain in the Middle East.
It is no coincidence, Osama bin Laden’s family wealth, situation and background are almost identical to the merchant, who served Sheikh Isa. Osama’s father served the king of Saudi Arabia in exactly the same way.
The Prophets: Sura 21
Money, intellect and youth make a powerful combination. Educated at the top universities in Britain and America, a new class of wealthy tradesman from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Dubai and Kuwait emerged. Now intellectually superior to many of their leaders, they refused to be victims of a traditional system of role playing and patronage. An underground movement was born.
With nowhere to voice their frustration in the shackles of a traditional society controlled by the whims of foreigners, the mosque became a stomping ground for their anger. Many of them became extremely religious, vowing to end the regimes.
Around 1972, I was living in Abu Dhabi and regularly gave dinner parties. One evening, a high-ranking Egyptian diplomat joined us, accompanied by two of his friends, who were visiting from Cairo. The two young men turned out to be advisers to Yasser Arafat, who at the time was touring the area raising money for the struggle.
Money from the tours was financing Palestinian leaders like Arafat, and the training camps of the movement. Hatred could be taught in one centralized area in these camps, diverting the attention of the masses from criticizing their leaders.
These young intellectuals had studied in Moscow. While the course of choice was engineering, it is assumed during this era of the Cold War, they were assisted by the KGB. They were Palestinian – a term rarely used at the time because they had just recently been expelled from Jordan.
Middle Eastern politics was the topic of many hours of conversation after dinner. The root of evil in the Muslim world, according to my guests, was Britain and America. Stealing oil, repressing their people, training the secret services, creating medical and educational wastelands, and supporting the state of Israel were only a few of the crimes committed by the enemy. The problems of the Middle East were generated by the plotting offices of British and American intelligence overseas, according to the two young men.
The Believers: Sura 23
After many rounds of Black Label Johnny Walker – the rich Gulf Arabs’ forbidden drink of choice – the rounds of bragging began. The men said they had a solution to all the problems of the peoples – a plan was in place to destroy America.
I scoffed at the two young men, saying that the Russians had no chance to defeat the Americans … only in their dreams could they achieve such a feat. But the young men weren’t talking about the Russians at all.
According to my guests, the Russians were as corrupt as the Americans. But their method of infiltration would be a valuable tool in a silent movement against the U.S.
Those That Are Sent Forth: Sura 77
“When we have created generations of Shahid martyrs who are ready to die for the cause, nothing will stop us,” they said. “Why do you think we are sending so many school teachers to the Gulf Countries and to the camps in Lebanon, Kuwait, Syria and Iraq. We will destroy America and build a new Islamic society upon its ashes.”
It was shortly after that dinner party that I began to notice a striking change in some of the young sheiks, princes and merchant princes. Much of their drinking stopped, the studies started. The plan was under way.
The Iraqis, Egyptians and Palestinians in this era would be their intellectual standard bearers. After studying in Moscow, they returned to teach their brethren. Nihilism was melded on to the radical Islamic teachings of the Muslim brotherhood.
The movement needed only one thing to succeed. Martyrs.
Only in Islam is that possible.
That Which Is Coming: Sura 56
That evening now haunts me, 30 years later. The sleepers, like Mohammed Atta who attacked America on Sept. 11, are textbook KGB.
He was not a poor Muslim boy from the streets. He was a well-educated family man – a prototype of hundreds of thousands of others, who had been taught their lessons well as young children in the refugee camps, mosques and madrassas of the Muslim world, from Algeria to Pakistan, from Lebanon to Kuwait. The Jesuit boast of having the mind of the young child to produce the man was diabolically transformed into its Islamic counterpart.
Martyrdom through Islam has become their weapon of choice. The intellectuals morphed their KGB training and Islam into a very dangerous weapon indeed.
Today, they may already be setting our own biblical plagues upon us at home, as we blindly search for Osama bin Laden in the cave complexes of Afghanistan.
Bin Laden’s jihad has come to pass – a political and financial challenge to world order based in the manipulation of the teachings of Mohammed, enabled by angry, impressionable or impoverished Muslim men looking for Heaven. The missions are financed by wealthy men, who are also willing to die for the cause, offering eternal paradise with Allah. Who wouldn’t hope for this gift, in the war-ridden, famine-driven land of Afghanistan and areas of the Middle East? Who wouldn’t hope for heaven anyway?
Clearly, a coalition victory will be a protracted, complicated and challenging enterprise against such a force – a fact the administration is just now coming to terms with, two months too late.
Exploring Sodom & Gomorrah
Dive the Dead Sea in video searching for ancient Bible cities.
Raiders of the Ark of the Covenant
Video examines possible locations of 10 Commandments’ home.
Camilla Webster is a writer and producer at Fox News, and is included in the “International Who’s Who” in Television News 2001 for her supervision of Campaign 2000 Affiliate coverage at Fox, and international news experience at CBS “60 Minutes,” “The World News Roundup” and CBS Newspath International. She contributes to U.S. and British newspaper publications and holds a masters degree in modern history – including Arab Studies – from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland.
Michael S. Sanders is well known as an explorer and biblical scholar. Today, Mike serves regularly as an adviser to Middle East experts and commentators. Sanders’ long-term experience as a resident of the Arabian Gulf – and his friendships and business relationships with leaders and influential businessmen in the region – add to an intimate and fresh perspective on the origins and solutions to the ongoing crisis.