While the Bush administration debates military action against Iraq, America's most dangerous enemy, Osama bin Laden, has not only succeeded in staying one step ahead of U.S. forces, but appears to be very much in control of his Al-Qaida terrorist network. That should worry President Bush, who has made the war on global terrorism his top priority.
With the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on America's mainland just weeks away, the administration should set aside the issue of Iraq and concentrate on getting bin Laden "dead or alive," in the words of the president. Videotapes of bin Laden and Al-Qaida aired this week by CNN reveal the depth of the terrorists' hatred for Americans.
The tapes show grisly images of dogs being killed with poisonous gas, Al-Qaida operatives conducting mock ambushes and kidnappings and bin Laden at a 1998 news conference, with select Pakistani journalists and a Chinese writer, declaring war on the West and Israel.
"By God's grace, we have formed with many other Islamic groups and organizations in the Islamic world a front called the International Islamic Front to do jihad against the crusaders and Jews," the mastermind of world terrorism is heard saying through an interpreter.
Bin Laden is the spiritual and military leader of a huge cadre of followers scattered around the world and as such remains America's most dangerous enemy. His terrorist organization was responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C., and western Pennsylvania that claimed almost 3,000 lives, and even though the U.S. and its allies launched a major offensive against Al-Qaida strongholds in Afghanistan, bin Laden and several of his confidantes escaped into neighboring Pakistan.
It is inconceivable that the United States, with its military might and sophisticated intelligence network, has been unable to bring this murderer to justice. It is even more disconcerting that supposed friends of the U.S., such as Pakistan, have been slow in cracking down on Al-Qaida strongholds. There have been credible reports of bin Laden sightings in the region of Pakistan just across the border from Afghanistan and American officials have acknowledged increased Al-Qaida activity in parts of Afghanistan.
As the videotapes show, the terrorists will go to any lengths, including using poisonous gas, to punish their perceived enemies, the U.S. and Israel. Thus, while plans are being made to pay tribute to the thousands who perished last September, the Bush administration would be well advised to step up its search for bin Laden. As long as he is free, another attack on America's mainland remains a very real possibility.