Once you’ve been terrorized – attacked without warning by an unknown attacker for no apparent reason – you’ll want to know what the terrorists hoped to accomplish by terrorizing you.
The 9-11 commission attempted to answer that question by focusing on the evolution of al-Qaida, the organization unquestionably responsible for the terrorist events of Sept. 11, 2001.
Alas, al-Qaida wasn’t unknown, didn’t attack without warning and had a clearly enunciated reason for the attack. Furthermore, there is no question about what al-Qaida hoped to accomplish by terrorizing you.
In the late 1980s, following the defeat of the Soviets in Afghanistan by the “Afghan Arabs,” Osama bin Laden established al-Qaida – The Foundation – of a global Islamic army.
Essentially in exile in Sudan between 1989 and 1996, bin Laden established al-Qaida cells in many other Islamic countries.
During that period, so far as the commission could determine, al-Qaida was not primarily responsible for any acts of terrorism. However, shortly after his return to Afghanistan, bin Laden issued his “Declaration of Holy War on the Americans Occupying the Country of the Two Sacred Places.”
In it, bin Laden called on Muslims worldwide to put aside their differences and join in deadly attacks against U.S. forces to compel their withdrawal from the Arabian Peninsula.
A month after this declaration, the Taliban, an Afghan faction supported by Pakistan, seized control of Kabul, the nation’s capital. Al-Qaida soon formed a close alliance with the ruling Taliban.
Now bin Laden had what he had never had in Sudan – a sanctuary in which to train and indoctrinate recruits, import weapons, forge ties with other jihad groups and leaders, and plan terrorist operations. Al-Qaida fighters could travel freely within the country, enter and exit without visas or any immigration procedures, and enjoy the use of official Afghan Ministry of Defense license plates. Al-Qaida also used the Afghan state-owned Ariana Airlines to courier money into the country.
Then in February 1998, bin Laden and the leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Ayman Zawahiri, published a fatwa – an Islamic religious ruling – titled “Jihad against Jews and Crusaders”.
After chronicling the “crimes and sins” committed by the Americans – including servile support of the “Jew’s petty state” – the fatwa concludes there has been a “clear declaration of war on Allah, his messenger, and Muslims” by the United States.
On that basis, and in compliance with Allah’s order, we issue the following fatwa to all Muslims:
The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies – civilians and military – is an individual duty for every Muslim, who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate the al-Aqsa Mosque and the holy mosque [Mecca] from their grip, and in order for their armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim.
Almighty God said “O ye who believe, give your response to God and His Apostle, when He calleth you to that, which will give you life.”
Did this fatwa by Saudi bin Laden and Egyptian Ayman Zawahiri – essentially telling all Muslims that it is their duty to launch suicide attacks against Americans and their allies in order to change American Middle East and Persian Gulf foreign policy – have any effect?
Well, recall what EgyptAir co-pilot Gamil Al-Batuti did on Oct. 31, 1999.
As soon as Al-Batuti was alone in the cockpit he shut off the autopilot and the engines and put the aircraft into a steep dive, all the while intoning the Islamic prayer “Allah is the Greatest.” The Boeing 767 broke up in midair and crashed into the ocean off Nantucket Island, killing all 217 souls aboard.
Now, from the commission we learn this about the final minutes of United Airlines Flight 93.
The hijackers remained at the controls but must have judged that the passengers were only seconds from overcoming them.
The airplane headed down – the control wheel was turned hard to the right. The airplane rolled onto its back, and one of the hijackers began shouting, “Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest.”
With the sounds of the passenger counter-attack continuing, the aircraft plowed into an empty field in Shanksville, Pa., at 580 miles per hour, about 20 minutes’ flying time from Washington, D.C.
Now – thanks to the commission – you know what the al-Qaida terrorists hoped to accomplish by terrorizing you. Do you feel safer, now that we’ve invaded and occupied Iraq?