Atelier No.2, article 10

Anthony Sampson :
 © International Herald Tribune All Rights, September 24, 2001

                                   Military Reprisals Play Into bin Laden's Strategy

                                   LONDON What did Osama bin Laden - or whoever was the
                                   master-mind - really hope to achieve by destroying the World
                                   Trade Center? Our sense of outrage must not prevent us realizing
                                   that he must have planned this terrifying act, not as an end in itself,
                                   but as part of a much broader strategy against his enemy.

                                   And we know enough about Mr. bin Laden to know that his first
                                   concern is his own country of Saudi Arabia. It was not Israel
                                   which provoked the ferocity of his fundamentalist crusade: it was
                                   the American military presence in Saudi Arabia in the Gulf War 10
                                   years ago, when Iraq invaded Kuwait and the Saudi King had to
                                   ask the Americans to defend the kingdom.

                                   He saw the Americans as corrupting and defiling the true Islamic
                                   faith of the founder of his country, King Saud, who had been the
                                   hero of the fundamentalists. Mr. bin Laden has been determined
                                   ever since to restore Saudi Arabia to its previous role, as the
                                   guardian of that austere faith and the sacred places of Islam.

                                   It is obvious why he chose the twin towers as the prime target -
                                   for the second time - for they provided the most visible symbol of
                                   American capitalism which he hated; and no spectacle could
                                   achieve more publicity in the world's media than their collapse. But
                                   he must also have known that it would precipitate an angry
                                   response from Americans, and a clamor for reprisals.

                                   Indeed, this was surely his next objective: to provoke a display of
                                   American military might across the world. And so far his plan has
                                   worked well, as the American fleet sails towards the Gulf, while
                                   British warships were long ago scheduled for maneuvers off
                                   Oman. The western fleets will provide just the kind of image which
                                   will inflame the Saudi fundamentalists who felt so humiliated by the
                                   Gulf War. Among all the reports from Pakistan, Afghanistan or the
                                   Middle East, few have emerged from Saudi Arabia. But in that
                                   autocratic country no news can mean bad news. Visitors report a
                                   widening gap between the Saudi elite, well-educated and
                                   English-speaking, and the growing numbers of Saudi unemployed
                                   who feel thoroughly excluded.

                                   And there have been ominous reports of Saudi dissidents
                                   demonstrating against Americans, and of soldiers praising Osama
                                   bin Laden - as opposed to his rich, respectable brothers who have
                                   been close to the Saudi royals.

                                   Nothing could be more worrying to the Saudi royal family than a
                                   new rebellion by militant fundamentalists inside their country. And
                                   if the Saudi fundamentalists were to succeed, nothing could be
                                   more dangerous to western capitalism; for they could cut off huge
                                   oil supplies and deprive industrial countries of their most crucial

                                   It is hardly possible that Osama bin Laden does not have this
                                   eventual prospect in mind. He was brought up in Saudi Arabia
                                   where, as he saw it, the oil billions were undermining the purity of
                                   Islam and corrupting the ruling class including his own family; and
                                   he has since been able to see all the vulnerabilities of the West,
                                   whether through is own expensive education, or through his family
                                   construction business, or through working with the CIA in

                                   The ambition to undermine global capitalism will not be confined to
                                   Saudi militant fundamentalists: it will be shared by millions of
                                   destitute people across the developing world who have felt
                                   humiliated and impoverished by the relentless domination of the
                                   West. They will see the thousands of dead victims in Manhattan as
                                   unimportant compared to the millions who have been killed,
                                   maimed or uprooted in countries devastated by wars for which
                                   they blame Americans.

                                   And for many Arabs, Africans and Asians who have been made to
                                   feel that they are hopeless, incompetent and marginal, the
                                   demolition of the twin towers with such lethal efficiency must
                                   inevitably bring some sense of pride: That they have at last
                                   achieved something that no westerner thought they were capable
                                   of, and which compels the world to take note of them

                                   Westerners have so far been unable to look beyond the immediate
                                   atrocity and provocation, to think more carefully about the root
                                   causes of the terrorism. We in the West may be too busy
                                   portraying the terrorists as cowards and fanatics to realize that we
                                   are up against a religious movement which operates at a deeper
                                   level than hijacks and mass murder; and which is more likely to be
                                   stimulated than intimidated by the arrival of western warships in the
                                   Gulf. Anthony Sampson, author of "The Seven Sisters" and
                                   "The Arms Bazaar," contributed this comment to the
                                   International Herald Tribune.