al-Qaeda considers Obama’s ‘new values and respect’ policy in the (no longer called) War on Terror to be a victory for Islam.
How will Barack Obama wage his coming battle with the al-Qaeda organization, while having announced that he would distance himself from George Bush’s slogans and open-ended, unrestrained war on terror?
Indeed, from the very moment the first black man, and a man of Muslim origin, was elected U.S. president, al-Qaeda leaders such as Ayman al-Zawahiri announced that they did not see anything in him that would set him apart, or “intercede in his favor”, from the white presidents who preceded him. Zawahiri even described him as the “White House slave”. Moreover, al-Qaeda leaders still call on “mujahideen all over the world” to launch attacks inside Western countries, among them the United States and Britain, as did one of their leaders, Abu Yahya al-Libi, two days ago.
The aim of such measures as shutting down the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and other detention centers abroad, prohibiting torture during interrogation, and abiding by the texts of the Geneva Convention concerning the treatment of prisoners, as Obama said, is to assert that “there is no contradiction between respecting American values and preserving our national security”. In his opinion, it is wrong for America to give the impression, as Bush did, that it must give up the ideals that characterize it and the respect it should enjoy around the world in order to win the war on terror.
Throughout his electoral campaign, and even after winning the presidency, Obama repeated on more than one occasion that the fight against al-Qaeda would be at the top of his administration’s list of priorities. In fact, in a speech he gave in Washington in August 2007, he stated that if the U.S. were to obtain certified information about the location of al-Qaeda leaders in the mountainous border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan, it should launch an attack against them even without the consent of the government in Islamabad. At the time, both his rivals John McCain and Hillary Clinton criticized such a stance, which embarrasses Pakistan and makes it hesitate to support U.S. measures.
The main stake in the coming battle between Obama and the al-Qaeda organization will lie in his ability to manage such a battle, against an organization not known for respecting values, without resorting to the drastic means adopted by Bush. Through such means, the previous administration obtained confessions and information, and took security measures that helped it control its borders, as well as the borders and security of its allies. In fact, Bush considered that resorting to the methods for which he was criticized, such as the detention of around 250 people in Guantanamo, is what has saved the United States from a greater security threat. Indeed, there are no guarantees of what the consequences would be if they are released or returned to their countries, especially that the ideological stances taken by most of them have not changed despite their arrest. The U.S. Department of Defense admits that more than sixty of the detainees who have been released retuned to join the ranks of al-Qaeda.
Waging the battle against al-Qaeda while abiding by American values and ideals would be a cause for relief rather than concern for the organization. Indeed, its leaders consider that the new rules for this confrontation represent a defeat for the US administration and a victory for them. Similar was Ayman al-Zawahiri’s “analysis” of Obama’s decision to withdraw from the war in Iraq, as he considered such a decision to be an “acknowledgement of America’s defeat there”. al-Qaeda leaders likely consider shutting down Guantanamo and prohibiting torture to also be “American defeats”. The truth of the matter is that it is difficult to wage a battle of values and ideals against organizations and groups that have no respect for such values. In such a battle, committing to morals and principles seems extremely difficult, and may even clear a path for terrorist organizations to breach the security barrier which the United States has surrounded itself with. Indeed, there are fears that the first fissure in this barrier might be the difficult balance between security and the respect of values.
In other words, we might wake up one day and discover that the only thing suitable for al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden would have been a confrontation with the likes of George Bush in the White House!
Kind of like asking the fox to guard the hen house: Obama asks Saudi help to stop weapons smuggling into Gaza Strip.