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IUK: Fisk - Who is copying who in war of words?
By Robert Fisk

11/10/2001 2:04 pm Thu

[Capaian media da propaganda Osama lebih terhad tetapi ia jauh lebih berkesan dan tidak perlu membising berpanjangan. Sepatah dua sudah cukup untuk menjawab semua persoalan dengan begitu jauh lagi dalam. Tidak hairanlah ramai yang terpegun sendirian..... Amerika sekali lagi tertikam hanya dengan perkataan.
- Editor

Robert Fisk: Who is copying who in war of words?

11 October 2001

Was Sulemain Abu Gheit's statement a code? No wonder the Americans asked the Arabic Al-Jazeera channel last night to censor the group's statements off the air. Or was it just a strident appeal? Or a declaration of war? Surely, you might say, Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'ida group - the "foundation'' might be a better translation than the "base'' - had said it all before. Weren't the suicide aircraft attacks of 11 September the declaration of war?

Or last Sunday's American attacks - plus British missiles - our declaration of war on Mr bin Laden? But Mr bin Laden's spokesman appeared to want the last word. "America has opened a door that, God willing, will not be closed,'' he said.

It's not difficult to see what Mr bin Laden was intending to do. After his, "tour de force'' last week - the round-up of Middle East grievances, the Koranic quotations, the historical resonance, Muslim versus infidel - it might have been necessary to ensure that Arabs as well as all Muslims had understood the message: there is no turning back now. "The Americans must know that the storm of aircraft will not stop, God willing,'' the turbaned Mr Abu Gheit said. "And there are thousands of young people who are as keen about death as Americans are about life.''

As usual, it wasn't difficult to find the parallels. President Bush also promised - in his way - that the "storm of aircraft'' would not stop. In the past 24 hours, he has told us that his war "against terror'' may last for a week, a year or "a decade'' - this was not to be censored off the air. And this was bin Laden-speak, just as the "with-us-or-against-us'' Bush rhetoric was straight out of the bin Laden lexicon.

Or is Mr bin Laden taking his language from the US President? "I direct this message to the entire Islamic nation,'' Mr Abu Gheit said. "I say to them that all sides today have come together against the nation of Islam and the Muslims.'' But isn't this very like Mr Bush's "us against them'' approach, that democracy is being attacked by the forces of "evil'', that this is war unto the end?

Even Mr Abu Gheit's assertion that "we will fight them with the material and spiritual strength that we have, and our faith in God - we will be victorious'' was a carbon copy of the Bush speech-writer's promise of success. Arabs, who could understand Mr bin Laden's spokesman in his original Arabic, might have been forgiven for thinking that the White House and the cave in which Mr bin Laden is supposedly hiding have had a linguistic hot-line.

Given the demonstrations and burning and curses against America, however, it is more likely that the al-Qa'ida statement was a back-up to the 12-minute monologue delivered by Mr bin Laden when the American bombing of Afghanistan began, a kind of "he-really-meant-what-he-said-about-holy-war'' reminder to encourage further demonstrations in Pakistan, Gaza and elsewhere and - more chillingly - to activate long dormant cells into action.

"The Americans must know that by invading the land of Afghanistan they have opened a new page of enmity and struggle between us and the forces of the unbelievers,'' Mr Abu Gheit said.

Oddly, for such a Wahabi sect, the statement urged Muslim women as well as men to fight the Americans; deprived of education they may be, but Afghan women are expected to die for their faith.

In earlier wars, however, Christians were content to urge women to fight without the right to education or the vote. It is tempting indeed to see a kind of ghastly mirror-image of our own conceit in the arrogance of this message. Did they learn from us or did we learn from them?

Mr bin Laden and Mr Abu Gheit appeared together in the earlier videotape in which the al-Qa'ida leader, speaking below a wall of sullen rock, explained that the day of holy war had arrived, that all Muslims should line up against the infidel, that the death of tens of thousands of Iraqi children, the corrupt Arab regimes and Israeli occupation were the West's responsibility. In a land without television, Mr bin Laden knew how to use it.