has been more than 100 days since September 11 and Washington's
chattering class is rife with rumor about the next target in the
war on terrorism.
candidates are Iraq, Somalia, and Yemen. There are very good arguments
why all three should be the next target.
all has been developing nuclear and biological weapons in underground
wells and hospitals, according to Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri,
a defector interviewed by the New York Times. One of the
9/11 hijackers, Mohammed Atta, met with Iraqi intelligence officers
in Prague in April. The third Army division moved their headquarters
from the U.S. state of Georgia to Kuwait, the neighbor Iraq attacked
in 1991. The State Department has increased its efforts at forming
a group of exiled Iraqi military figures since November and Saddam
Hussein was the only world leader not express regret, sympathy,
or sorrow for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon
after September 11.
U.S. warplanes earlier this month began over flights above the country
and a military delegation last week met with Somali opposition groups.
This week U.S. diplomat, Glen Warren met with the government officials
in Mogadishu this week to discuss counterterror cooperation. Osama
bin Laden himself brags that he helped planned the militia attacks
against American Marines in 1993 in the country to insure the safe
delivery of food and medical supplies to people suffering from famine.
In Yemen this
past Tuesday, the army launched an unsuccessful raid on the Hassouna
in Maareb district, where al Qaeda members were believed to be hiding
out. Prior to that the U.S. offered the army training for its special
forces when President Ali Abdullah Saleh met with top U.S. officials
in November. Never mind that Secretary of State Colin Powell earlier
this month assured almost all of his European counterparts in a
tour of the continent that there were no plans as of yet to strike
Iraq. And disregard the fact that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
flatly denied a report from high-ranking German official that Somalia
was next on the terrorism list. And don't take seriously that President
Saleh's raid Tuesday yielded no actual al Qaeda terrorists and cost
him 12 of his fighting men.
The war is
not going to stop at Afghanistan. But it's doubtful that there is
a linear progression to this new war, as if one theater of action
would preclude another. The problem with the next-target debate
is that it assumes that the most advanced military in the world
is incapable of focusing on two problems at once. (Remember all
of those Quadrennial Defense Reviews to prepare the Pentagon for
two simultaneous wars in different regions.)
it assumes that the best way to rid a particular country of evil-doers
is with tanks, fighter jets, and Marines as opposed say, well-trained
native assassins on the CIA payroll or cooperative police departments
under FBI supervision.
problem with news stories that purport to have inside information
on the next target assumes that U.S. war planners would tell journalists
where exactly terrorists shouldn't go as they are fleeing the caves
of Tora Bora.
On this last
point, the best commentary I've heard so far came from Robert McCloud,
a drive-time disc jockey on Washington's only jazz station, WPFW.
He interrupted his normal programming and gave this plea to any
listeners who happened to be in the media: "If you are going
to catch somebody, you don't tell them where you are going to be."
In the spirit
of Mr. McCloud, I boldly declare that the next target in the war
on terrorism is the Comoros Islands, nestled off the northern tip
of Madagascar. On Wednesday a group of one hundred mercenaries stormed
local police stations and gendarmes on the island of Moheli armed
with guns and a French statement on Pentagon letterhead claiming
they represented the United States. According to local press reports
the statement read, "Colonel Azali Assoumani is guilty of collaborating
with Osama bin Laden's group. Cooperate with the American soldiers
and you will be thanked."
has denied any knowledge of special operations in Federal Islamic
Republic of Comoros, but don't be fooled, Assoumani's government
will be toppled in a matter of days.
In the meantime,
if any terrorists are reading this, don't worry about seeking refuge
in Baghdad, Mogadishu, or Sanaa. The United States has bigger fish