Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

The rhetoric of the war on Iraq is not supported by the facts of the matter

By Stephen Senise - posted Sunday, 15 September 2002

The veil of diplomacy used by the US and its allies in recent weeks aside, the emotive first anniversary of September 11 has had the effect of acting as a crescendo to a waltz to war with Iraq. The prelude having come from George W. Bush’s "axis of evil" comments, which saw Iraq and September 11 uttered in the same breath.

But is there indeed cause to link the two, as the non-Government parties in Australia have been asking?

As recently as six months ago, CIA director George Tenet announced that Iraq had links with Al-Qa'ida. "Contacts and linkages," had been established, he said. But then Tenet went into particulars, which turned out to be nothing more substantive than the mutual antipathy of Al-Qa'ida and Iraq towards America, which to him suggested that tactical cooperation between them was possible.


Occasionally too there is mention of a possible meeting between hijaker, Mohammad Atta and an Iraqi operative in Prague. Another version has Atta meeting in person with Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. But to date there has been little hard evidence forthcoming. And given the reality of the political and historical landscape of the Middle East it is doubtful whether there will be any.

Because whatever else the secular Iraqi state is guilty of, positive engagement with the Wahabism of the Taliban and Al-Qa'ida is unlikely. Particularly given the latter two’s connections to Saudi Arabia, for a along time an enemy of Iraq’s and a quasi-theocratic one to boot. It is also important to note that Iraq refused to recognise the Taliban regime.

Significant also is the fact that Iraq under the Ba'athist Party has always seen itself as the Arab world’s champion of secularism and modernity. Among other things, the war with Iran in the 1980s was fought to check the spread of Islamic fundamentalism and Shi’ite militancy.

Far from Iraq supporting the Taliban and Al-Qa'ida, as Bush continues to imply, it was regional bulwark US allies, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, who more than any others, can be held responsible for giving the world the Taliban, and by the protection they afforded, Al-Qa'ida.

From Pakistan came the political will, the intelligence and military logistics, as well as the schooling so vital in providing the Taliban with recruits as these were churned out from the madrassahs. From Saudi Arabia flowed much of Al-Qa'ida’s financial support, a good deal of its leadership, and the moral ammunition of the Wahabi ideology, so much a part of the fundamentalism championed by both Al-Qa'ida and the Taliban; a brand it should be noted, actively rejected by Iraq’s fellow "axis of evil" partner, Iran.

It was Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, almost alone among the nations of the world, who gave diplomatic recognition to the Taliban regime in Kabul. Both Iraq, and particularly Iran, had backed the Taliban’s rivals, the Northern Alliance, at a time when many in the West, partially in deference to Pakistan, viewed the Northern Alliance with indifference, suspicion or worse.


Testament to this very real former alignment, is that today the Western media still refer to those elements that made up the forces aligned against the Taliban - the United Front - by the misnomer of Northern Alliance. The term Northern Alliance was coined by Pakistani intelligence to refer to the then-legitimate, UN recognised, former government of Afghanistan and its disparate elements. It was a subtle but effective way of presenting the United Front as geographically cantonised. In effect, it was part of Pakistan’s public relations campaign to marginalise the legitimate government of Afghanistan while championing the Taliban. And so to this day our terminology in the West, by the very usage and ascendancy of the term, Northern Alliance, reflects this ugly past.

The diametrically opposed ideologies of Wahabi fundamentalism and those underpinning Hussein’s Baathist Party make for a huge lacunae which might be more than Bush’s "axis of evil" smokescreen can obscure, however much he would like, and may well need it to.

Using an arbitrary and ephemeral term like "evil" to describe the complexity of international relations and history may well serve a number of domestic imperatives for the American president. It is always possible that he genuinely believes his own rhetoric. But if he is serious about settling down to root out the supporting cast responsible for September 11, he may want to recall that the only axis on which the Taliban were ever able to rest, the one that gave life and sustenance to their regime and in turn cover to Al-Qa'ida, ran not from Baghdad or Tehran, but from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. All

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Stephen Senise is a freelance journalist. His commentary on Australian & international politics has featured in The Age, The Australian, the Australian Financial Review, the Courier Mail, and ABC radio. From 2002-2007 he wrote extensively on the Iraq war, its lead-up and aftermath, for the Brisbane Institute's journal The Brisbane Line.

Related Links
Camden Council
Photo of Stephen Senise
Article Tools
Comment Comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy