War in Iraq is over and the White House says our world is safer because of it. But one veteran U.S. intelligence official denies that deposing Saddam has weakened Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terror network.
Instead, the analyst says, the Iraq war has strengthened bin Laden's case against the United States.
U.S. officials fail to recognize this fact because they do not see that the war on terror, in its essence, is a religious war, the analyst believes. But, he warns, bin Laden and his associates do.
Using the name "Anonymous," this unnamed intelligence analyst details key aspects of al Qaeda psychology in a book, Through Our Enemies' Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam and the Future of America.
Over recent months, "Anonymous" also outlined his beliefs — which could be crucial to future U.S. policy — in a series on conversations with Nightline's John Donvan. Excerpts appear below.
JOHN DONVAN: The war benefits bin Laden?
ANONYMOUS: Yes, I think that's right.
JOHN DONVAN: In what way?
ANONYMOUS: In Iraq, we have the unleashing or uncovering of religious passions that had been subdued for a long time. It creates instability. It gives the Americans another area that they have to be concerned about controlling or pacifying.... My effort was to try to see things through Osama's eyes, through bin Laden's eyes. He clearly sees it as a religious war. Whether or not we say it is — we the West, we the United States — bin Laden is drawing power from 1.2 billion Muslims, some number of which, and I would suggest an increasing number, do in fact see our activities as an assault on Islam.
JOHN DONVAN: What evidence do you have that bin Laden is not just on the fringe, or the lunatic fringe, of Islam, but that he actually is much closer — as I think you're saying — to the mainstream? That his appeal is very, very broad globally among Muslims?
ANONYMOUS: The near silence of Muslim intellectuals outside of those who live in the West. [The silence] of Muslim religious leaders in the Middle East, even of Muslim clerics who are in the pay of governments that bin Laden would like to overthrow — whether they are in Egypt or Jordan or Saudi Arabia or Kuwait. There is no resounding religious condemnation of Osama bin Laden....
JOHN DONVAN: Which takes us to the rather radioactive question of whether Islam is at the heart of the problem.
ANONYMOUS: Well, it's hard for me to see how you can explain it without referring to Islam. Not that Islam is somehow a vicious tool. It is more — it is a religion that permeates all aspects of a Muslim's life, whether it's political, whether it's familial, whether it's diplomatic. In my mind, Islam is a very personal religion between the believer and his God. And bin Laden harnesses that belief, supports that belief. To say somehow that this is not a religious war is, I think, hiding from reality.
Bin Laden Is Brilliant; But Understanding Is Not Sympathy
JOHN DONVAN: I can almost hear viewers saying, this guy who works in U.S. intelligence is saying nice things about Osama bin Laden, the guy who we believe is responsible for 3,000 deaths in New York City and the Pentagon. That's how a lot of people are going to hear what you're saying. What's your response?