catapult magazine

catapult magazine


Shoring Up Weakness of 9-11 Report


Jul 26 2004
08:53 pm

The independent 9-11 Commission released its report on circumstances surrounding the terrorists attacks and makes recommendations to guard against future attacks. One article from The Heritage Foundation, which researches and analyzes policies, gave its findings a positive review: “…many of the major recommendations in the Commission’s final report fulfill that obligation [to guard against future attacks] well.” It offers a summary: “The Commission’s analysis makes clear that many of the nation’s failures in responding to the rising danger of transnational terrorism stem from long-standing structural flaws in the U.S. government that transcend the policy decisions of any one administration.” See the article at:

One senior intelligence officer’s book, Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror, reveals a major flaw in the Commission’s report. The officer worked in the CIA during Clinton’s term; he was in charge of U.S. intelligence on al-Qaeda and bin Laden. In an interview with Charlie Rose, he accused the intelligence community of moral cowardice. It refused to consider the importance of Islam for terrorism when analyzing intelligence. The only time Islam was considered actually prevented the US from killing bin Laden when it had the chance. The US could have killed bin Laden (whom Clinton identified as America’s number one enemy) with a missile, but decided not to do so because shrapnel from the missile would have hit a Mosque.

The reason this intelligence officer (whose agency asked him to remain anonymous and not to identify the agency he worked for) thinks the West is losing the war on terror is because it fails to understand its enemy. It fails to understand its enemy because it fails to consider the relevance of the world religion Islam. First, they fail to understand the importance of Islam for terrorism in the Middle East. Islam provides a powerful motivation for some radical Muslims to commit acts of terrorism. Yet, the intelligence officer observed that most of his colleagues in the intelligence community were unwilling to consider Islam as relevant to terrorist activities, even though Islam is highly important to terrorists. This debilitated intelligence on terror because analysts intentionally ignored a major piece of the puzzle.

Secondly, they fail to understand bin Laden or his success. For the West, bin Laden is power-hungry and hates freedom. He is supposed to be successful because he capitalizes on hatred in the Middle East of the culture and consummerism of the West and on frustration with the hypocrisy of the West. The anonymous intelligence officer claims these reasons are secondary at best. He says bin Laden is successful because he argues consistently and convincly (to potential recruits) that America is undertaking a war on Islam. Publicly, bin Laden has identified American support of Israel and Saudi Arabia and its occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan as reasons for his actions. These reasons have a lot to do with Islam. Israel and the Arabian peninsula in particular contain holy sites (Jerusalem and Mecca) that are of paramount importance to Muslims. American support prevents Muslims from reclaiming those holy cities. Accordingly, radical Muslims, he asserts, will go to any length to deter American involvement in the Middle East. Islam has everything to do with bin Laden’s success.

The solution according to the anonymous intelligence officer is to open serious discussions here in the US about foreign policy in light of the importance of Islam for terrorism. He argues that until we withdraw our support of Israel and Saudi Arabia and our troops from the Middle East, bin Laden will continue successfully to recruit Muslims to perpetuate terrorism against the US. The question is whether we are willing to withdraw our support of Israel and to find sources of energy other than oil. Both solutioins are fraught with difficulties.

Talking in general terms about the “war over ideas” and the “war on terror” can lead to major blindspots in our intelligence and to failures to understand our enemies, whose basic concerns have much to do with Islam. Islam, in contrast to Christianity, is a triumphalistic religion that believes it will have ultimate victory this side of the grave. Radical Muslims labor to accomplish what all informed Muslims believe, that the entire world will one day be Islamic. Our intelligence agencies ignore Islam to our peril.

Here are a few questions I’m curious about:

-How should US foreign policy react to demands imposed by Islam?

-Supposing we withdraw from the Middle East entirely, will that satiate radical Muslims, or will they remain committed to their vision of “one Islamic world”?

-What are our responsibilities to protect the freedom of religion and the human rights of other nations (especially to the women of those countries; Islam in general is no friend of women’s rights/freedom)?

-Should we as Christians be thinking of the church in the Middle East? Should we as Christians here in America try to promote an environment in the Middle East in which Christians may lead peaceful and quiet lives in godliness and holiness, for God wants people of all nations to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (2 Tim 2:2-3)? In other words, should we support policies that promote creation of governments in the Middle East that protect freedom of religion, which Islamic governments, left to themselves, tend to violate on various levels?