Edgar Lefkovits, THE JERUSALEM POST Nov. 29, 2004
An al-Qaida attack on the US with non-conventional weapons is virtually “inevitable,” and the organization is likely “tying up the knots” for such an attack, Yossef Bodansky, former director of the US Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
“All of the warnings we have today indicate that a major strike – something more horrible than anything we’ve seen before – is all but inevitable,” he said.
Bodansky, here for the second annual Jerusalem Summit, an international gathering of conservative thinkers, added that “the primary option” for the next al-Qaida attack on US soil would be one that would use weapons of mass destruction.
“I do not have a crystal ball, but this is what all the available evidence tells us, we will have a bang,” Bodansky said.
He said that al-Qaida has not carried out a second major attack on the US until now for internal psychological and ideological reasons, but after the reelection of President George W. Bush, it has gotten “the green light” to do so from leading Islamic religious luminaries, as well as from “the elites of the Arab world.”
According to Bodansky’s reading of Osama bin Laden’s mind-set, after the elaborate attacks of 9/11 there was no need for the “bin Ladens of the world” to carry out a second major attack in the US, both because the target audience of the attacks – the Arab and Islamic world – had gotten the message that America could be penetrated, and because a second attack would necessarily have to be more grandiose.
Following the attacks and the US-led war on terror, a debate started within the operational arm of the organization over the potential use of weapons of mass destruction, Bodansky said.
If, in pre-9/11 days, the theme used by bin Laden was that perpetual confrontation and jihad against the US was the only way to protect Islam, the argument now used is the ability to punish American society, Bodansky said.
“Just as the West was challenging the quintessence of Islam by means of the globalization era, there was a parallel need by Islamic extremists to strike at – and hurt – the core of American society, this time with weapons of mass destruction,” Bodansky said.
A subsequent theological debate emerged within the organization, and its supporters in the Arab world, he said, over whether the mass killing of innocents is permissible.
While bin Laden and his associates argued that by virtue of their participation in US democracy, US citizens were enabling their rulers to fight, other Islamic luminaries contended that this does not permit such massive attacks, Bodansky said. The reelection of Bush in November, he said, was viewed by bin Laden and his cohorts as a decisive answer to this deliberation, with Americans now “choosing” to be the enemies of Islam. In bin Laden’s mind-set, he said, the stage was set for a non-conventional attack.
Bodansky said that while there may still be some vestiges of debate and doubt within Islamic circles, he believes that planing for such an attack is finished. “They got the kosher stamp from the Islamic world to use nuclear weapons,” he said.
Moreover, Bodansky said that America is losing the war against terrorism, noting the number of recruits bin Laden is able to count on, as his call to arms gains widespread support throughout the Muslim world.
In the pre-9/11 world, Bodansky said, jihadists could count on 250,000 individuals trained and willing to die, and 2.5 million-5 million people willing to help them in one way or another. He cited intelligence estimates from this summer that suggest that as many as 500,000-750,000 people are willing and trained to die, 10 million are willing to actively support them, short of killing, while another 50 million are willing to support such a movement financially.