Monday, October 8, 2001

Remember 9-11-01

East-West Center experts
say coalition will
be tough to hold

By Rosemarie Bernardo

An East-West Center research specialist said Osama bin Laden made a "public relations ploy" in yesterday's televised statement to gain support from the Islamic community against Americans.

"He's trying to link himself to something that has wide support," said Arun Swamy, an East-West Center fellow who specializes in the politics of Southeast Asia.

Bin Laden said in a videotaped statement, released to media after President Bush ordered the attack on Afghanistan: "I swear to God that America will never dream of security or see it before we live it and see it in Palestine, and not before the infidel's armies leave the land of Mohammed, peace be upon him."

Richard Baker, senior adjunct fellow at the East-West Center, said: "He's saying to Americans, 'Until Palestinians can live without fear, I'm going to make sure that you are going to live in fear.'

"It certainly confirms bin Laden's hatred for us and everything we stand for."

Experts on the region emphasized the United States faces the challenge of keeping the support of other countries.

The support may diminish if other countries are attacked, Swamy said. For the time being, the bin Laden network is a problem for other countries because the attack on the World Trade Center was so horrendous, people sympathized with the United States, he said. "It's going to be difficult to hold on to a broad coalition."

Baker agreed. "A campaign to eliminate terrorism is an increasingly difficult undertaking," he said. "This will be a long and very difficult war."

Baker believes bin Laden's comments were pre-taped.

"It is a fair deduction that the tape was made in anticipation of a retaliatory strike," he said. "It would have been tactically foolish for bin Laden to release that tape before there was a counteraction against him.

"It's really a cry intending to launch another wave of action by bin Laden's people and supporters and to rally supporters against the U.S."

Though the United States has started bombing areas of Afghanistan, Baker said it would be difficult to locate bin Laden because of the country's mountainous terrain.

Terrorism is a phenomenon practiced by many groups who live in many countries, he said.

"Victory cannot be declared with the destruction of bin Laden, Taliban regime or the al-Qaida," Baker said.

Toufiq Siddiqi, former senior fellow at the East-West Center, said bin Laden is "trying to justify his actions."

"The vast majority of the Muslim community believes action such as the bombing of the World Trade Center is not justifiable on any basis," said Siddiqi, now president of the GEE-21, a nonprofit group involved in global, environment and energy issues.

Afghanistan has undergone more than 20 years of turmoil, Siddiqi said. He hopes the United States will help rebuild the country once the retaliation against the terrorists is over.

"We hope that help (for Afghanistan) will continue after the immediate objective of eliminating a specific terrorist group is achieved," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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