[FoRK] Why We Are Losing The War on Terrorism

Gregory Alan Bolcer gbolcer at endeavors.com
Mon May 3 18:21:19 PDT 2004

Russell Turpin wrote:
> In case no one has noticed, Islamism is healthy and
> growing. Its adherents are increasing both in the
> mideast and in Europe, in reaction to Bush's policies,
> which feeds into the notion that this is a war of
> Christianity against Islam, that democracy doesn't
> "fit" the Arab world, etc. I worry that the Islamists
> (a) will figure out that Bush is good for their
> movement, and (b) that nothing would more
> guarantee Bush's reelection than a terrorist attack
> on the mainland immediately prior.

There was a great article from the BBC last week.  There
is a model country that is both fundamentally Islamic and
fundementally democratic.  It's called Algeria.   They've
been a willing participant in the war on terror and the
populace believe they've won.  Essentially "what happend
in Madrid and what happened on the 11 September is
wha happened in Algeria". Essentially islamic
extremisms claimed close to 150,000 lives.   Now, they
believe there's less than a few hundred terrorists hiding
in the mountains.  Algeria has actually been pushing
the US administrations to recognize them as this
model, but the lack of personal property rights, human
rights, government doubts, and lack of an economic engine
adds to it.


Algeria winning from the war on terror

By Tamsin Smith
BBC, Algeria
"Don't you think it looks just like Marseille?" said our driver proudly 
as we drove into the centre of Algiers.

He made a sort of circular gesture which encompassed the tall white 
townhouses, with their royal blue shutters, and the fancy wrought iron 

Satellite dishes cling to the outside of every building, like thousands 
of eyes all turned in the same direction towards French satellite TV.

The Algerians fought a bloody war to gain independence from the French 
in 1962.

But today their attraction to the West, especially in the capital, is 

'Algerian terrorists'

A little further down the road we passed a cafe which had been rather 
inventively mocked up as a McDonalds.

A large M scrawled on a table top hangs above the door.

If people here feel closer to the West its also because they feel 
distant from their Arab neighbours.

"Put it this way, if there's a football match between any European team 
and an Arab team.. we'll shout for the Europeans until we go hoarse," 
says one young man, using the hand not holding a dripping kebab to point 
at his Juventus shirt

"The other Arabs treat us all as terrorists. The Europeans, Americans 
and Canadians treat us much better," explains his friend wearing an 
England shirt.

Mercenary existence

Of course the West is interested in Algeria too, not quite for the same 

"Algeria is an important ally for us in the war on terror. They have 
provided really valuable cooperation since 11 September. There are 
Algerian groups listed on the UN Security Council list, meaning they 
have links to the Taleban and al-Qaeda," explains the American 
ambassador in Algiers, Richard Erdman

I am so happy our president is back in power, he is wonderful
Old Algerian woman
But experts estimate that Islamic terrorists left in Algeria now only 
total a couple of hundred.

These groups are said to live a mercenary existence in the countryside 
and mountains.

Western praise

Some 12 years ago, when bloody violence between Islamic extremists and 
the security services claimed 150 000 lives, the presence of the West 
was less obvious.

I went to meet Khaled Nazzar, a former army general and defence 
minister, and reputedly one of those who ordered the army to cancel the 
1992 elections that Islamist extremists looked set to win.

I asked him what he thought about western praise for Algeria's support 
in the war on terror.

"What happened in Madrid and what happened on the 11 September is what 
happened in Algeria. Today the West has woken up, but why didn't it 
defend the Algerians .. why did it close its eyes ?.. we defended 
Algeria by ourselves," he said angrily.

Economic interests

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika who has just been re-elected by what can 
only be described as a landslide, has done rather well out of the war on 

But some human rights lawyers claim the zealous pursuit of terrorists to 
please the West has meant a less than scrupulous approach from security 

Western countries have economic interests in Algeria. There is lots of 
oil and gas here
Mostefa Bouchachi, Human rights lawyer

"People are tortured systematically here. 80% of my clients tell me when 
I visit them in prison that they have been tortured by police," human 
rights lawyer Mostefa Bouchachi points to a stack of brown files on his 

Mr Bouchachi says people arrested recently, many on suspicion of being 
terrorists, and even those arrested for theft are still tortured.

Other human rights issues like the question of what happened to 7,000 
people who disappeared in the 1990s allegedly at the hands of the 
security forces are still outstanding.

Mr Bouchachi doesn't expect the West to press for answers.

"The western countries have economic interests in Algeria. There is lots 
of oil and gas here so I don't expect they will push the government to 
change tactics used by the security forces," he explains.

Massive wealth

Stand on the dockside overlooking the port of Algiers and you see a 
crucial reason that the West wants stability in Algeria.

A long line of rusty oil tankers crawls out of the port, destined for 
Spain and France

"Not many people know this, but oil from Algeria heats all the homes in 
New England too," says the US ambassador.

This is perhaps not so amazing for the Algerian people. They may be 
sitting on a wealth of oil, but many seemed more bothered about a 
constant supply of clean water and lack of jobs.

"Let's not forget that Algeria is a very rich country. It exports 
billions of dollars a year in oil," says Professor Mohamed Khodja from 
the University of Algeria.

Prof Khodja thinks western influence can bring some stability in Algeria 
but it won't prompt the democratic change needed to transfer Algeria's 
massive wealth from the state to the people.

"The problem is how to use this money rationally, we don't have the 
mechanisms in place yet to do this and this has to come from the 
people," he says.

Prof Khodja says Algerians can't believe that with all these riches, 
they still are poor and they can't build houses, or start businesses.

Good image

''I am so happy our president is back in power, he is wonderful," an old 
lady at a bus stop beamed as she took a photo of him out of her shopping 
bag and showed it to me.

"He has beaten the terrorists so we all feel safe now," she said.

I asked her if she thought he would now improve quality of life, bring 
more jobs and improve basic infrastructure.

She shook her head. "No, but he's really improved Algeria's image in the 

For now, it seems this is more important.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/04/26 15:26:08 GMT


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