If it was choice that made Saudi Arabian billionaire Osama Bin Laden a terrorist, his ascension to the status of most wanted fugitive was a result of America's vacillating policies. The US, like a self-proclaimed Messiah, has long been perpetuating the values of democracy propagating its ideals beyond their boundaries. In theory, this way-too generous attitude of Uncle Sam sounded perfect. But in an attempt to create the so-called free societies, many of their missions did derail, failing their calculations, often ending up in catastrophes.
Insurgencies and revolts against the ruling power had been there since centuries. But in the past couple of decades, it has spread across the globe at an alarming rate like cancer. The catalytic evolution of Mujahideens - which started as an upheaval against the communist regime of Afghanistan and the occupant Soviet forces to what we see as today's al-Qaeda has surpassed imagination. It has a new face and new mission now. Today it's not something that's confined to any particular territory. India, Indonesia, the States, England, Spain... all have experienced terror in its worst form.
My right might be your wrong, so if I revolt, will you call me a terrorist? The narrow line that demarcates a heroic revolutionary from a terrorist is drawn by perception. The self-appointed guardians like Osama never perceive themselves as villains. They call themselves the upholders of faith who wants to revive a society 'corrupted' by western ideas back to its old fundamentalist form.
Just a mere excuse, we all know; but the US itself used to refer Mujahideens as "freedom fighters" while they trained and funded them during a period ranging from 1979-1989. Remember how they portrayed the Mujahideens as heroes in 'Rambo III'?
The US government's longest and most expensive covert CIA operation ever undertaken was Operation Cyclone - a program that relied heavily on funds distribution, passing of weapons, military training and financial support to Afghan resistance groups Mujahideens, with Pakistan acting as intermediary. It's rumoured that funding came from different countries including Britain, Saudi Arabia, and even the People's Republic of China.
Unlike the war-loving George W Bush, the then US president Jimmy Carter, though concerned about the Soviet advances, wanted to avoid war. He got mixed responses from his own government: the State Department seeking a peaceful settlement, while the National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski in favor of the provision of arms to the rebels, not to mention the deep interest of Pakistan government as well. The Polish-American Brzezinski's deep-rooted hatred for Communism could have stemmed from the ill effects of Communist rule in his native country. He stuck to the idea of encouraging the dissidents and supporting them financially. President Carter eventually had to yield to Brzezinski, and thus the US govt began providing skills and military experience to large numbers Afghani insurgents. This was continued by the Reagan administration for several more years.
The 'trained' Mujahideens succeeded in thwarting the Red Army and the domestic Communist regime. By then, they grew in strength at an alarming pace which made the then Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, tell president George H. W. Bush, "You are creating a Frankenstein's monster"!
Like Doctor Victor Frankenstein who created a monster in his lab, the American government was also creating monsters out of the insurgents, playing with their bruised egos. Osama Bin Laden wouldn't have become so powerful had it not been for the support of America. It was the US that raised an Osama against Soviets and a Saddam Hussein against Iran by using terrorism as a foreign policy against its enemy nations. In the novel, the monster becomes confused and angry once he is abandoned by his creator. Likewise, these pawns like Laden and Saddam became hard to be contained once they got intoxicated by their own power.
The US support for the native Afghans was responsible for the radicalisation of that country. Millions of Afghans lost their lives in that war. The many battles transformed that nation into a disintegrated land which ultimately had fallen into the hands of rebels, who had zero knowledge in running a government. This in turn ruined it furthermore, ultimately leading to the Taliban takeover of the country in 1996.
The Talibanis, though fundamentalists, mostly comprised of young men who witnessed nothing but wars throughout their lives. Their minds were hardened by what they had witnessed, and their mindset differed from the youth of other countries who were blessed to have a home, a family, a stable government as provider and a solid military system to defend their lives. Hence, they were willing to resort to extreme means to achieve their goals. For the ones who have never experienced a 'normal' life, destroying lives was not a big deal. Growing in constant fear made them defensive, and they often resorted to violence as a pre-emptive attack.
This brings to my mind the psychological effects post 9/11 attacks. People were then talking about fear, they were afraid for their lives and the security system of their country. Americans started becoming xenophobic, an equally uncomfortable situation for the non-native Americans, especially Muslims. It was the same fear that made Bush launch an attack on Saddam, forcing them to make the first strike.
Fear often mars a person's perception and it affects his/her behaviour. The people of other countries, including the Americans started experiencing that feeling a decade ago. If a stable country finds it hard to ensure the security of the lives of their citizens, imagine how hard it would be to convince the citizens of a war-torn country. They have been living in that fear for long, and if that have hardened their hearts, they can't be blamed.
For the children of a war-torn nation, even the simple life seems a luxury, a distant dream. While the other kids play, they are denied a carefree life for if they go out to play; it will be at the risk of losing a limb for there are millions of landmines which are leftovers of the many battles they have fought. They live in fear, everyday.
We can hope against hope of things getting better in the comfort of our homes surfing through the television channels in an attempt to get a glimpse of that 'reality'. But for the ones who go through that reality, it's never the same and never will be. The terrorists are exploiting this very pain and fear. That's what Laden did, targeting the vulnerable youths, presenting before them a false apparition of an idealistic society.
Al-Qaeda will never be the same after Laden. It might well have been shattered with the death of their passionate master commander. Ideology alone won't serve the purpose if the integrity is hit and when it fails to lure young minds, the post-Laden era is less likely to thrive on a mere vision unless and until an opportunistic state forges an alliance with terrorists cashing in on extremism as a means to crush their enemy states.
That shouldn't happen, at least not again...