Riaz Muzaffar Waraich Exuding the invincibility of a superpower, and driven by vainglory rather than wisdom, the US spearheaded a monolithic force of the likeminded 'democracies and invaded Afghanistan to punish a people none of whom had either planned or executed the tragic attack of 9/11. The US must have, then, reckoned that its aggression against one of worlds poorest countries, which could not maintain an army or a police force, or even have an effective intelligence organisation, a viable civil administration, a functional university or a decent hospital, could be accomplished by it with the flair of a mighty victor vanquishing a victim of Lilliputian size, in a timeframe of its own choosing. But it was not to be. According to Kissinger: History teaches by analogy, not by maxims. The US seemed to have ignored the historical analogy of an erstwhile superpowers humiliation in Afghanistan. It, perhaps, assessed that the Soviet Unions defeat was due mainly to the financial, logistic, and hardware support provided to the mujahideen by it. This approach was obviously too simplistic and misplaced. Because, a matching financial assistance also flowed from Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, which, according to CIAs Milton Bearden, was over $25 million per month. In addition, Pakistans role far outweighed any other countrys contribution. It helped train the mujahideen and acted as conduit for the smooth flow of vital logistics and arms to the allied forces. And, not the least was the training, funding and leadership provided by the millionaire Osama bin Laden, to the mujahideen. To house his fighters, he built a camp for them in 1988, and named it Al-Qaeda, meaning The Base. The strength of his army, comprising Afghans and foreigners, is estimated to have swelled to about 35,000 at the height of the war against the Soviets. Later, the CIA built a camp for the Al-Qaeda leader and his men at Khost, inside Afghanistan. Fast forward to 1991. Consequent to Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, Osama moved to his native land, Saudi Arabia. However, was expelled for vigorously opposing the stationing of foreign troops in the holy land, after Iraqs occupation of Kuwait. His next odyssey was Sudan. Here too Osama continued his vituperative and incisive criticism of the US, who persistently pressurised Sudan to expel him from the country. The Sudanese timorously succumbed to US demand and, following the dictum, fear the wild and punish the mild, expelled him. Once again, Osama landed in Afghanistan, where Al-Qaeda found a veritable haven under the patronage of the ruling Taliban and really came into its own. It got financial support from the Taliban, former mujahideen and other fighters of the anti-Soviet jihad era. In February 1998, from his camp in Khost, Osama announced before the media the creation of an International Islamic Front for Jihad against the crusaders, especially the Jews. So it carried out massive attacks on American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and later, in 2000, attacked the USS Cole in Yemen killing hundreds of innocent people. And finally, Al-Qaeda committed the mother of all crimes and carried out attacks inside the US on September 11. It was surely an unpardonable act, which killed thousands of innocent people and left in its wake insurmountable sufferings and miseries for the Muslims, the world over. Though rich and educated, why did Osama forsake the comforts of a regal lifestyle, a flourishing family business and a bright future? What prompted him to give up his palatial abode for a life in trenches? Osamas videotaped statement - flashed to the world a month after 9/11 - definitely clarified the foregoing unanswered questions. In his statement, he listed three main reasons for the attacks. Firstly, he maintained, that the decade long sanctions imposed by America against Iraq killed over one million innocent children, who had done no harm to the US. Secondly, he bemoaned the injustice being meted out to the Palestinians by Israel and Americas unqualified support to the latter. Thirdly, he viewed the stationing of the infidel Americans in the holy land as sacrilegious. In the video, Osama did not utter a word either against the values of western civilisation, or against their religion, or tabled any demands. His message was, perhaps, moulded in Sir Peter Ustinovs saying: Terrorism is the war of the poor; war is the terrorism of the rich. After 9/11, most of the people in Muslim countries eulogised Osama as an innovative genius, while certain western journalists and scholars used uncharitable language and hurled uncomplimentary epithets at him. However, Michael Scheuer, a retired senior CIA officer, holds a rather favourable opinion about him in his famous book titled Imperial Hubris: There is no reason to believe Bin Laden is anything other than what he appears: a pious, charismatic, gentle, generous, talented and personally courageous Muslim, who is blessed with sound strategic and tactical judgment, able lieutenant, a reluctant, but indispensable bloody-mindedness and extraordinary patience. After USAs attack on Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda was left with no sanctuary. Its adherents, who were essentially a motley aggregation of diverse nationalities, melted away to unknown destinations. It was now devoid of leadership, bereft of command and control system, it lacked the means to communicate, and was rendered financially luckless like Lazarus. Osama did create Al-Qaeda, but it had since been hounded and completely demolished by the allied forces. Now, its existence and effectiveness is no more than a myth. A myth created, given currency and methodically sustained by the West. Because Al-Qaeda 'dead may not rid the world of terrorism in all its manifestations. But Al-Qaeda 'alive surely gives a convenient, boilerplate ruse to the West to crush any irredentist struggle by the Muslims, anywhere, as 'Al-Qaedas terrorism. For example, the Muslims of Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia, struggling for self-rule against Russia, were always viewed by the West as freedom fighters. However, after 9/11, when the US needed Russias support against Al-Qaeda, all of them were reassessed as Al-Qaeda terrorists. Similarly, when Israelis kill a Palestinian, it is a matter of national security. But when the latter retaliates, it is terrorism. If Christians of East Timor agitate against Indonesia for independence, it is supported as a just demand, but when the Muslim Moros of Philippine struggle for a similar cause, it is terrorism by Al-Qaeda. When the Indian army mercilessly kills Muslim freedom seekers in Held Kashmir not an eyebrow is raised, but when the latter resists, it is terrorism. Al-Qaeda being Osamas raison dtre, its passing out made him inoperative and his very existence purposeless. He is said to be alive, but invisible. It really defies conventional wisdom that the allied forces, which possess sophisticated monitoring techniques, state-of-the-art eavesdropping aids, powerful equipment to intercept wireless communications, instant direction finding capabilities to determine the exact location of such transmissions, computers with exotic speed to analyse data, spy satellites, deadly drones, and to top it all, the intelligence agencies of the US, with an annual budget of $86 billion, cannot locate and kill Osama. The apparent reason is that they do not want to eliminate him. He is being kept alive with their active connivance at some location where even angels dare not tread. Because, if he dies so does the bogey of Al-Qaeda and, with that, the myth of ever-looming terrorists threat to the western civilisation from the jihadis and the fundamentalists of Islam. However, it will be naive on the part of the West to believe that they will ever be able to squelch the revanchist struggles of the Muslim world by blaming them on the phoenix of deceased Al-Qaeda. Because, the persecuted Muslims, consider death at the hands of anti-Islam forces, while fighting for their just cause, as the highest level of martyrdom for them. To quote Benjamin Barber: Terrorists are not states they are martyrs with no address. The writer is a freelance columnist.