Imran Anwar, founder of IMRAN.TV and www.imran.com, is a well-known and respected media personality living in New York, heard weekly on radio and often seen on the world's leading news media channels. As a Pakistan-born Asian-American he has great insight into global affairs from multiple perspectives. In this far reaching interview with Yanjuan Wang and Michael Rice, of Beijing Review, China's only English language weekly news magazine, Mr. Anwar discusses global terrorism, the "war on terror" and what really needs to be done to prevent future terror attacks with him.
What does the recent attack in London mean for the United States and it's war on terrorism?
It clearly shows that the "war on terrorism" became a lost cause. This happened when President Bush and his government attacked Iraq. Now the focus is not on winning any real war on terrorism but how to deflect criticism for the failed Iraq policy.
Osama Bin Laden, who is not Afghani or Iraqi, was and should have been the primary target of the "war on terror" but he is alive and well somewhere. In the meantime Iraq has changed from a stable dictatorship to a dangerously unstable, ready-to-explode, training ground for a whole new breed and type of terrorist. Stray bombings and killing of innocent civilians in Afghanistan now has anti-US sentiment growing rapidly, while the number of US casualties keeps mounting.
Instead of declining, the number of terrorist events, and number of places targeted, has actually grown under President Bush.
After New York and Madrid, London was an obvious target. But, the Blair government was as clueless about the impending attack as George Bush was on September 11. This also shows that continuing to hold and torture people at the Guantanamo Bay has not yielded one bit of useful information to prevent such attacks. If anything, it has fueled anti-American hatred, unfortunately providing more people incentive to become suicide bombers.
Does it represent a failure for the counter-terrorist efforts of the U.S. and its allies?
Absolutely. Even worse. The botched war on terror is creating many more terrorists and this could continue for generations to come.
Who is likely to be the next target?
Quite frankly, everyone is now a target. Karachi to Kabul, Madrid to Manhattan, Bali to Beslan and now Lebanon to London have been just recent targets. As more frustrated, angry people turn into untrained, "unprofessional" terrorists, we will have a dual threat.
While Al-Qaeda type "professional" organizations will continue to focus on large scale dramatic attacks, like September 11, 2001 in New York, much more terror can be carried out by "lone-wolf" type individuals. Unfortunately, bombing buses, trains or public gatherings does not require professional training, a formal organization or even sophisticated equipment. ANY person can do it, and if just a few of these events happen the number of attacks will grow exponentially as many more copy-cats carry out more attacks.
That is, which nations are most vulnerable to attack at this time?
Of course American interests will remain targeted for a long time. But, the anti-US forces will also carry out a flanking strategy, perhaps attacking much more vulnerable allies, or unexpected targets. Their goal will be to globally isolate the US, and undermining the US economy and public confidence. So, any openly pro-US ally, like England or Italy, is open to attack. I would not be surprised if cells were active in Australia because of its policies that are not just pro-America but even anti-Muslim in regional politics.
How can they best avert an attack or prepare for it?
Quite frankly, it is next to impossible to prevent EVERY attack. After all, when "anyone" and "everything" is a target then it is physically impossible to prevent every single attack. They way to solve the issue long term is not to try to hunt an endless supply of terrorists but also to solve the root cause problems. The problem is even bigger because Bush, Blair, Sharon and their puppet allies are trying to ignore the true root causes. They are trying to make it sound like a clash of civilized society versus some cave-dwelling fundamentalist apes.
I read an idiotic statement from a former Israeli Prime Minister claiming they hate us because of "the fact that we breathe in our free society; the fact that women have rights; the fact that children can flip on a TV channel." Then why does Al-Qaeda not attack Sweden or many countries with nude beaches or countries with liberal sex and drug laws or every country with television?
So, if we continue to deliberately ignore the root causes, especially American anti-Muslim and pro-Israeli policies, we will continue to have a source for hatred, and an endless supply of suicide bombers or other kinds of terrorists. The best way to avoid more lung cancer after losing a lung is at least to stop smoking cigarettes. Instead, George Bush and Blair are lighting up cigars!
Is Europe equally as vulnerable to terrorist attacks as the U.S.? More?
Physically, every country is equally vulnerable. You do not need a rocket science degree and $2 million Dollars to go kill innocent people on a bus in New York or London or Beijing or Karachi. Americans are claiming Europe is more vulnerable because of intra-country travel freedoms. But, in the meantime, even here in America it can take years for the FBI to catch known criminals and assassins even with their picture on every post office wall. So, a terrorist intent on doing his work can do it anywhere.
America's hypocritical immigration policies also make it easy for terrorists to crawl across the Mexican border and American politicians are so hungry for the Hispanic vote they do not even want borders to be patrolled and illegal immigrants sent back. Such short term selfish attitudes on their parts will unfortunately cost America a lot in the long run.
Are current counter-terrorist measures enough to keep global terrorist activities in check?
I would say, instead, that current "counter-terrorist" measure are MAKING more people become terrorists.
Can more be done?
The problem can be solved even by doing less, but doing the right thing. Solve the ROOT CAUSE problems.
How do you think the London attacks will impact the Blair administration?
In a recent statement I had condemned the London terror bombers not just for killing innocent civilians but for their stupid, dumb and evil strategy.
After all, if they wanted to punish Blair, why not carry out these attacks before the UK elections, as was done in Spain? If they wanted to punish the British people in the long term or psychologically, why not carry out the attack one day or one week before the London won the right to host the Olympics? If they wanted to get the British to hate Blair, why target the city that had some of the biggest anti-war rallies in the world? I think the attacks were evil AND stupid, because they probably strengthened Blair's standing, made the position of moderate Muslims very difficult in British and European society, and did not solve any Islamic problem, like Kashmir or Palestine or Chechnya.
What effect will the recent attack and the fear of future attacks have on the economy of the U.K. and the world?
That is Billion Dollar question with a built-in answer. THAT is the only thing the terrorists can hope to achieve. They can keep carrying out attacks as each attack costs the target country money, resources, energy and emotion. That is why the September 11, 2001, attack on New York was so "efficient and profitable" for Al-Qaeda. They caused huge financial damage to the US economy. However, the biggest drain on the US economy now and for a few more years will be America's own choice to start wars in Iraq and trying to act as an Empire.
What role do you think China should play in the war on terror?
China has a huge opportunity to enhance its standing in the global community. One, it has to realize that some of Bush' military adventures will threaten China's interests. For example, if Iraq burns, Iran is attacked, Saudi Arabia falls to fundamentalists China's economic growth will be harmed by oil supply problems. If American bases remain and grow in the Central Asian Republics, it gives the world's only "superpower" a foothold at China (and Russia)'s doorstep.
Even if America shoots itself in the foot and destroys its own economy with Bush policies, China would lose one of its largest markets. Lastly, if terrorism is simply ignored as someone else's problem, the menace will come to every country, including China. This is a huge opportunity for China to start raising its voice in global affairs, especially as Russia has taken a back seat to America.
At the same time, the 1.3 Billion Chinese people can and must build bridges with the 1.3 Billion Muslims who also share a history of being colonized. It is essential that China works to improve the condition of its poorer states with Muslim populations before they become breeding grounds for Al-Qaeda.
Remember, Islam and Muslims will be China's best friends but poverty and hopelessness among Chinese Muslim populations will be AlQaeda's biggest attraction.
Are nations in the Far East also susceptible to attacks of this nature?
Yes, not just Al-Qaeda or global terror but domestic terror. The reason I always demand that "domestic" terrorists, like those attacking American SUV dealerships, or medical research labs, should be treated as terrorists - otherwise it is just an invitation for every disgruntled individual upset by any small thing to decide to carry out copy-cat attacks.