L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 142, October 8, 2001
More Harm Than Good?
We Have a Volunteer
by Vin Suprynowicz
Special to TLE
It's only a footnote in history today, but on Dec. 11, 1941 Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini made one of the most serious errors of their highly quixotic and volatile careers, and it didn't involve the failure to correctly equip and prepare their forces for the Russian winter.
While Franklin Roosevelt faced little resistance in Congress or among the American people to his call for a declaration of war against the Empire of Japan following the undeclared attack on Pearl Harbor, it was less clear that the American public was as unanimous in its wish to take on Germany and Italy in a "purely European conflict" at the same time.
Sympathy for England was widespread, and the Roosevelt administration had been lending as much logistic support to Mr. Churchill's government as it could while maintaining even a shred of the fig leaf of "neutrality," but neither Germany nor Italy had joined in the Dec. 7 attack, after all.
Although Mr. Churchill later admitted he slept his first sound night's sleep in months after receiving word of the Pacific attack which he knew would bring the U.S. into the war, both he and Mr. Roosevelt still had to calculate how much resistance the American public -- and a traditionally isolationist U.S. Congress -- would offer to what the two leaders saw as the strategic necessity of concentrating the main war effort in Europe, while waiting for more resources before assuming the offensive in the Pacific.
Then -- in an apparent gesture of solidarity with their Axis ally so ill-considered as to leave historians dumbfounded, the usually cunning Hitler (not previously known for his insistence on honoring any agreement not in his current best interest) promptly arranged for Germany and Italy to declare war on the United States.
This did not work out well for the dictators, in the end.
On Sunday, Sept. 30, in a step which -- at least from this vantage point in time -- would appear equally suicidal, the sole remaining ambassador to the outside world from Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia reversed Kabul's previous stance on the top suspect in the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States -- Osama bin Laden.
Previously, the Taliban had insisted bin Laden could not have played a role in the hijacked-plane bombings, insisting that the United States bring forth evidence of his involvement (though indicating he wouldn't be extradited in any case) ... while simultaneously declaring they had no idea where the multi--millionaire Saudi construction heir and financier of world terrorism was, anyway.
Then, Sunday, in an interview with a small group of foreign reporters, Taliban ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef -- the increasingly isolated regime's sole remaining official spokesman in the outside world -- proceeded to admit everything.
"He has been in the control of our forces," Zaeef said through an interpreter. Bin Laden has been "under the security" of the Taliban and "any action that he makes has to go through the knowledge of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan."
The relationship between bin Laden and the Taliban government "has been like this for more than two years now," Zaeef declared, denying rumors that bin Laden has disappeared in recent weeks.
Zaeef said a previous Taliban statement that bin Laden had "gone missing" had been "misconstrued" and that Taliban officials have always known bin Laden's location. "It doesn't mean all the Taliban know exactly where he is," Zaeef made clear. "There are very special people who know his location."
It's unlikely the Bush administration would have been drawn into any foolish dog-and-pony show, debating the strength of its evidence with some Taliban proxy before a supercilious, foot-dragging panel in Geneva or The Hague, anyway. Nonetheless, the Taliban itself has now eliminated the worry that any home-front foot-draggers might hold out for such legalistic delaying tactics.
Since President Bush has warned that if the Taliban does not surrender bin Laden and other terror suspects it will "share his fate" -- and now that the Taliban has dropped its increasingly absurd insistence that it has no idea where the chief suspect is -- even this fig leaf of a "legal defense" has vanished.
Is there some grand strategy of national suicide at work here? Does the Taliban hope that by bravely standing up and taking its medicine -- allowing itself to be immolated by the Yankee war machine -- it can stir a more generalized uprising against capitalism and western culture among 100 million radical Islamics from Indonesia to Morocco?
If so, it's time to call their bluff. There are plenty of accounts for America to settle in the months to come, but there's no reason not to start with those who volunteer to step to the front of the line. The rest will have their turn.