x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Forget subprime mortgages, it was bin Laden

Al Qa'eda is taking credit for the global economic crisis, claiming it was caused by drawing the US into costly wars.

American soldiers patrol the site of an explosion in Baghdad's Dora district, on October 15, 2008.
American soldiers patrol the site of an explosion in Baghdad's Dora district, on October 15, 2008.

Al Qa'eda is revelling in the global financial crisis that it proclaims heralds the downfall of the "crusading" American superpower - and Osama bin Laden's terror network is claiming credit for the turmoil. A video from the organisation's prolific as-Shahab media group identified the primary cause of the West's economic woes as "the abortive and unsustainable crusades" that "enemies of Islam" are waging in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. There was, however, no mention of subprime mortgages, credit derivatives or a host of other solely financial mishaps cited by western commentators as reasons for the economic crisis. Jihadi websites, furthermore, did not update their readers with news of rallies on Wall Street and other global financial centres in recent days. Mr bin Laden declared four years ago that his strategy to defeat the United States was to "bleed it to the point of bankruptcy" by seducing it into hugely expensive wars of attrition that the superpower could never win. He boasted he would use "guerrilla" warfare of the type he and other US-funded Islamic militants waged to defeat the Soviet Union - another "tyrannical superpower" - in Afghanistan. It was that unwinnable war of occupation that drained Moscow's coffers and brought the collapse of communism, he proclaimed. The September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York were, Mr bin Laden implied, merely a symbolic foretaste of the pain global capitalism was yet to suffer. The al Qa'eda leader clearly was delighted when George W Bush invoked his "war on terror" to invade Iraq in 2003, a move that Mr bin Laden likened to the Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan. The capitalist US, like Moscow's "godless" communism before it, was waging war against Islam, he asserted. Baghdad was then ruled by Saddam Hussein, a secular tyrant who loathed Mr bin Laden's fundamentalist Islamist organisation, which managed to put down roots in Iraq only after the US-led invasion. Mr bin Laden bragged in Nov 2004 that his organisation has found it "easy for us to provoke and bait this [Bush] administration". He said: "All that we have to do is to send two mujahideen to the furthest point East to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al Qa'eda, in order to make [American] generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving anything of note other than some benefits for their private corporations." Iraq's Sunni insurgents are also revelling in Schadenfreude over the US's economic plight, hailing it as divine intervention to secure the fall of a superpower. "Its [the US's] pillars are shaky and its strings are undone: it is a cursed country that is doomed to destruction," gloated a statement by the Islamic Army in Iraq. A New York Times headline writer yesterday coined the phrase "Jihadenfreude" to describe such ebullience. But Sunni extremists are far from alone in the region in basking in the panic that led western governments to stake huge amounts of taxpayers' money to bail out their financial systems. Commentators in countries such as Saudi Arabia, which are allied to the US and rely on American military muscle for their defence, are also gleeful at the humbling of a superpower. Their countries have not been immune from the economic contagion, but at least there is comfort in having someone to blame: America. "Poetic justice in US meltdown," read a headline in Saudi Arabia's liberal, English-language Arab News. The US's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan "have contributed to the bankruptcy and meltdown of the greatest economic superpower the world has ever seen", the article said. "You shall reap as you sow. What goes around comes around. If this isn't natural justice, what is?" Commentators in Syria, a secular country with a largely centrally-controlled economy that has been targeted by US sanctions and is opposed to Mr bin Laden's Sunni Islamic extremism, have joined in bashing Mr Bush and his war on terror. "His administration has dragged the world into a terrible economic crisis, following military, security, political and moral predicaments, and after it made this world vulnerable to terrorism and increasing tension and instability," said the state-controlled Tishreen daily. Referring to Britain and America's Arab allies in the Gulf, Egypt and Jordan, it said: "Countries - namely the major ones - are to be held responsible too for joining the Bush administration or even encouraging it in its wars and policies. Unfortunately, many Arab countries are among them." Syria's government-owned Al Thawra added hopefully: "It is not merely a temporary financial crisis that the USA is going through; it is, rather, a historical transformation, the final result of which is that the era of US leadership is waning quickly. It [America] is paying the price for the neoconservatives' wars." Unsurprisingly, the Iranian regime, which like Syria has been targeted by US sanctions, is at the forefront of those praying for an economic meltdown in the West. Unemployment now stands at nearly 30 per cent in Iran, but Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, can at least take heart at news from London yesterday that the number of jobless in Britain had reached a 17-year high. Liberal democracy in the West is now collapsing just as Marxism did in Eastern Europe nearly two decades ago, he opined to worshippers last Friday. "Today, the false bubble of money has popped in the western world? and they themselves say that the era of US hegemony has come to an end," he marvelled. "Now the name of Marxism does not exist, and liberal democracy with all its political, economic and military power, has been knocked to the ground." His remarks echo the unsolicited advice Ayatollah Khomeini proffered to a surprised Mikhail Gorbachev in Jan 1989, several months before the collapse of the Berlin Wall. The late father of Iran's Islamic Revolution advised the then Soviet leader that communism belonged to the museum of history and that Mr Gorbachev should embrace Islam rather than fall victim to the siren call of western materialistic capitalism. His successor, Ayatollah Khamenei, declared this week: "The ideology of Islamic thought is gaining adherents by the day." Western liberal democracy, like Marxism, was destined to disintegrate soon like "a spider's web". mtheodoulou@thenational.ae