feel honour-bound to state that our sincere condolences and
sympathy here at Ibiza History Culture goes out to all those unfortunate
victims and their grieving relatives and friends of the innocent
people who lost their lives when they perished in the tragic
disasters recently in North America.
I would expect that every single person
on this planet will have heard, read or seen on television
these ghastly disaster sites of the twin towers of the World
Trade Center at Manhattan in New York, the Pentagon in Washington
and the woods and fields of Pennsylvania.
However, I'm wondering whether folk out
there will have had time or the opportunity to read or have
heard of certain news stories and features of interest that
may have got lost amongst the small print in the middle pages
of a better quality broadsheet newspaper.
It is horrendous, a terrible palaver and
in self-defence I don't want to draw a vail over these psyche-babblings
that are tentatively expressed in issues of this week's publications
of The Daily Telegraph.
I'm convinced it will not be a complete
waste of time to include several of these piquant articles
in my column of this week, purely for the benefit of those
who might want to try and make sense of the deaths and explain
to our fellow human beings the "fin-de-siècle"
sensation of a would-be Messiah.
A scene of military disasters
By Will Bennett
THE British Army has never forgotten its
incursions into Afghanistan, which led to some of the worst
military disasters in the nation's imperial history.
The Battle of Maiwand is still commemorated
annually by the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire
In 1880, a British force of more than 2,500
men was attacked by a much larger Afghan army and lost almost
1,000 men killed.
Of these 288 came from the 66th Foot, later
the 2nd Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment, which fought with
stubborn courage against overwhelming odds. Many of the British
troops were cut off from their line of retreat and finally
11 soldiers were left alive. They fought to the last man.
Britain's Afghanistan involvement was born
out of fear that the Russians might cross the country and
invade British-ruled India through the Khyber Pass.
When the Shah of Persia, supported by the
Russians, invaded Afghanistan in 1837, the British decided
to install a former king of Afghanistan as a puppet on the
throne in Kabul.
A British army invaded Afghanistan and made
him king. Rebellions broke out and the invaders found their
Eventually the British signed a deal by
which they would leave Kabul if the Afghans spared their lives.
On Jan 6, 1842, 4,500 British and Indian troops and 12,000
camp followers marched out of the capital.
The Afghans had no intention of honouring
the agreement and swarmed around the column. After days of
slaughter one man, an army surgeon, Dr William Brydon, made
it to safety, his escape etched on the Victorian imagination
by Lady Butler's painting The Remnants of an Army.
Russia warns of unwinnable conflict
By Carey Schofield
WHEN the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan
in Christmas 1979, its army questioned the wisdom of the move.
The politicians foresaw no great difficulty.
By the end of December, an entire airborne
regiment was installed at Bagram, north of the capital Kabul,
with GRU military intelligence and KGB specialists, many in
civilian clothes, swarming all over the country.
The 80,000 Soviet troops who poured across
the border from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan in the first few
days after the takeover believed that the operation would
be over in weeks.
But the war lasted 10 years and cost the
Soviet Union the lives of 14,000 soldiers. In that time the
Soviet-backed Kabul government was never able to subdue more
than one fifth of the country.
The limited success the army enjoyed owed
more to exploiting Afghan internecine rivalries than to the
exercise of military power. The army's greatest asset was
the inability of the mujahideen to put aside personal differences
for the common good.
The war in Afghanistan was punctuated by
a rolling series of local ceasefires, brokered by Russian
officers who commanded the respect of warlords.
These deals were fragile and they were perilous:
an officer who drove into the mountains to meet a rebel chieftain
was more likely to end up dead than wearing the Gold Star
of the Hero of the Soviet Union.
But this was the only way to secure any
agreement in a country where the stab in the back is a way
of life. Russian commanders knew that the mujahideen used
these ceasefires to regroup and re-arm.
But, unlike the old men in Moscow, they
realised early on that war in Afghanistan was unwinnable and
that they should simply aim to get their own men back home
in one piece.
Russian officers commented at the time that
the war they found themselves fighting reminded them more
of Tolstoy stories of 19th century campaigns in the Caucasus
than of anything they had learnt at military college.
The Afghan rebels' greatest assets were
their suicidal bravery and their endurance. "Their assessment
of the cost of an operation, in time, manpower and blood was
beyond our comprehension," a Russian officer said after
"There is an old Pashtun saying to
the effect that an Afghan might wait 100 years for vengeance
and curse himself for his impatience."
When eventually the Soviet army had to withdraw
from Afghanistan the parallels with the experience of the
British empire, in its Afghan wars, were unmissable. Again
a superpower had been humiliated by bands of supposedly primitive
Experienced Russians caution the United
States against any attempt to subdue Afghanistan.
A battle-scarred Spetsnaz colonel told The
Telegraph yesterday that despite current widespread sympathy
for the US, an invasion would unleash unprecedented ferocity.
He said: "There is no doubt that the
military could do the job. But would the politicians be prepared
to allow them to do it?
"At the moment global sympathy is with
New Yorkers. But this would change as soon as the Americans
start killing Afghan women and children.
"If the Army then back off, the terrorists
will have won. If the US continues its operation it will spawn
an entirely new wave of fundamentalist terrorism that will
threaten us all."
Action against bin Laden 'will start
Muslims will have a duty to fight if
America attacks the Taliban, Alex Spillius is told in Peshawar
AS Maulawi Gul Rahman prepared for lunchtime
prayers yesterday, he donned his ragged scholar's robe, stroked
his tangled beard and pondered the question of what the affects
of American military retaliation against Osama bin Laden would
The maulawi, a senior priest, who considers
himself a moderate by the region's standards, said: "Muslims
around the world, from north, south, east and west, would
wage war against the United States. It would be holy war,
They were not empty words. Anyone in any
doubt that reprisals against the Saudi exile and his Taliban
hosts would do anything other than bolster anti-Western Islamic
militancy need spend no more than a few minutes in the sinuous
bazaars and dusty religious schools of Peshawar.
To many here, bin Laden is an icon. He is
seen as a pious man defending Islam against combined Israeli
and American aggression. As a just and holy warrior he could
not have killed so many innocent people in New York and Washington.
The attack is blamed on a conspiracy to
defame Islam or vague notions of natural justice for previous
The name Osama has become a popular choice
for parents wishing to bestow Islamic virtues upon the newly-born,
as was Saddam in the wake of the Gulf War. A man selling posters
bearing bin Laden's image on a pavement said he had sold all
his stock since Tuesday. "It's my number one seller,"
The capital of Pakistan's North West Frontier
Province is the gateway to the formidable Khyber Pass leading
to Afghanistan. The majority of Peshawar's population is drawn
from the same Pashtun tribe that dominates southern Afghanistan
and makes up the Taliban leadership.
A few miles outside Peshawar there are thriving
markets in guns and contraband household goods.
Foreigners must negotiate the Khyber Pass
in the company of a Pakistani soldier and not stray from the
main road into the lawless hills that were the graveyard of
thousands of Britons during three Afghan colonial adventures.
The government of Pakistan, like the Moghul
emperors before them, knows better than to interfere with
the ferociously-proud Pashtuns. The tradition of melmastia,
or hospitality, allied to Islamic comradeship, lies behind
their passionate approval of the Taliban's refusal to consider
handing over bin Laden.
"To sacrifice him would bring us shame,
would go against all our principles," said Gul Yusuf,
25, a student at Maulawi Rahman's White Mosque. "Osama
is our guest and in our history we have never given up a guest."
Temur Shah, one of the million or so Afghan
refugees who have settled in Pakistan since the 1979 Soviet
invasion and ensuing conflicts, said that if the Americans
produced evidence of bin Laden's guilt, then he should be
tried by a Pashtun jirga, or elders' council, which adjudicate
everything from petty theft to murder cases.
"But they have no evidence, and if
they attack it will be an act of terrorism, and once again
Afghans will suffer," he said to the fervent approval
of a crowd outside the mud and brick Kamwal mosque at an Afghan
They are keen to remind a Western journalist
that American cruise missiles aimed at bin Laden's hideouts
across the border in August 1998, in revenge for the bombings
of two US embassies in Africa, missed their target and killed
"We think what happened in New York
is wrong, but if the Americans attack we will defeat them
like we defeated the Russians," said Mohammed Al Jamal
who was only 14 when the Soviet invasion ended in 1989, unable
to break down the Islamic guerrillas.
That resistance was backed by a Cold War
America keen to thwart Soviet expansion. It is widely held
that among their military trainees in camps in Pakistan was
a young Osama bin Laden.
"He is a man of America, they pampered
him and now he is against them but he is their creation, their
problem," said Maulawi Israr, the camp's religious leader.
"America supported us against Russia
and now they have abandoned us. Afghanistan has always been
a game to the big countries, including you British. Everybody
is drawn by the beauty of our country, and then they bomb
Bin Laden's hideout will prove hard to
By Michael Smith, Defence Correspondent
AFGHANISTAN is a country rich with targets
for aerial attack by American bombers and cruise missiles.
Western intelligence knows the locations of Osama bin Laden's
many training bases and hideouts around the country.
The problem it faces is discovering where
bin Laden is hiding. He is unlikely to have remained in his
known hideouts in Afghanistan with the threat of United States
Taliban claims that they are holding him
"incommunicado" have been dismissed as unlikely
and he may already have disappeared into the lawless border
areas around the former Soviet central Asian republics.
With only sketchy ideas of where he might
be, attacks aimed at killing him would inevitably be regarded
as failures and risk killing innocent civilians, leaving America
looking at best impotent and at worst no better than the terrorists.
A more realistic approach would be to assist
the forces aligned against the Taliban in their attempt to
regain control of the country for the former government.
Aerial attacks aimed at bolstering the loose
coalition, which was effectively controlled by Ahmed Shah
Massoud, widely believed to have been killed in a bomb attack
orchestrated by bin Laden, would be just as effective and
Even if Massoud is dead, as the Afghan news
agency reported yesterday, his Jamiat-i-Islami movement is
still the strongest force in the opposition to the Taliban
and already has a strong stand-in leader in Gen Muhammad Fahim.
Despite recent advances by the Taliban forces,
which are assisted by Pakistani military advisers, the coalition
is unlikely to be dislodged from its stronghold along the
Panjshir Valley, once a killing field for Soviet troops.
Assisting the opposition against the Taliban
would allow America to build up a strong coalition for action
that would include Iran, China and Russia, all of whom see
the Taliban as a threat.
China and Russia also bitterly oppose bin
Laden. His Al'Qaeda network has spread its influence into
the Chinese province of Xinjiang, where there is a large Muslim
It is also fomenting trouble among the Muslim
populations of the Russian republics of Dagestan and Chechnya
and the central Asian republics of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
If America allied itself with the Afghan
opposition forces it would be able to gain their assistance
in inserting small teams of special forces to provide more
sophisticated weaponry and to gather vital intelligence.
An aerial bombardment of the Taliban positions,
combined with technical assistance to the opposition forces
would provide time and space to allow bin Laden to be tracked
American pressure on Pakistan is likely
to ensure that the Inter-Services Intelligence, which has
more information than any other agency on bin Laden, assists
in that process.
Once his location is known for certain,
a special forces snatch team could go in and remove him together
with his leading henchmen so they can be flown to America
to face trial.
India has given American intelligence detailed
maps and information on terrorist training camps inside Afghanistan,
the television news network Star News said in New Delhi yesterday.
Bin Laden is wanted: dead or alive, says
By Toby Harnden in Washington
PRESIDENT Bush said yesterday that he wanted
Osama bin Laden, the Saudi exile, "dead or alive"
in some of the most bellicose language used by a White House
occupant in recent years.
President Bush: remarks will not win
favour with Arab allies
"I want justice," he said after
a meeting at the Pentagon, where 188 people were killed last
Tuesday when an airliner crashed into the building. "And
there's an old poster out West that says, 'Wanted: Dead or
He then seemed to temper his remarks by
adding: "All I want and America wants is to see them
brought to justice. That's what we want."
The blunt, Texas-style rhetoric, delivered
off the cuff, came a day after Vice-President Dick Cheney
said he would willingly accept bin Laden's "head on a
platter". Some advisers said that although the comments
might be popular in America, they would not be welcomed by
European or Arab allies.
Mr Bush had just received a briefing on
the call-up of military reservists and plans for Operation
Noble Eagle, the name given to the "war on terrorism"
that the president has vowed to prosecute.
Striking a sombre tone, he told Americans
they should expect further casualties. "The United States
military is ready to defend freedom at any cost," he
said. "We will win the war and there will be costs."
Mr Bush indicated that the Taliban regime
in Afghanistan would be punished if it continued to support
"All I can tell you is that Osama bin
Laden is a prime suspect, and the people who house him, encourage
him, provide food, comfort or money are on notice. And the
Taliban must take my statement seriously."
Some 35,500 reservists are being called
up for domestic protection, supporting combat air patrols
over major cities and increasing staff levels at bases across
As he shook hands at a Pentagon cafeteria,
a woman in a civilian dress began singing God Bless America
quietly. Before long, Mr Bush and everyone else there had
Mr Bush also met the pregnant wife of one
of the Pentagon victims, hugging and talking to her before
giving her a kiss.
17 September 2001: Support surges as Bush
becomes the President the people have yearned for
16 September 2001: Hesitant Bush draws strength
from his 'iron triangle'
15 September 2001: Support for Bush rises
as the nation unites
15 September 2001: 'The rest of the world
15 September 2001: Bush leads nation in
prayers for strength and retribution
14 September 2001: Father defends Bush's
flight from danger
13 September 2001: Bush fails to capture
Fears that jets carried another deadly
By Ben Fenton in Washington
AS the dust started to settle after the
destruction of the World Trade Centre's twin towers, the least-recognised
of emergency workers were burrowing in the rubble with test
tubes, not shovels.
Public health officials in New York and
Washington DC had been alerted by the Centres for Disease
Control (CDC) in Atlanta that the hijacked aircraft may have
been carrying a cargo even more deadly than thousands of gallons
of aviation fuel.
They were looking for traces of smallpox,
anthrax or other epidemic-causing diseases, perhaps packed
in the luggage of the hijackers.
For years since the collapse of the Soviet
Union, which with America was the leading developer of nuclear,
biological and chemical weapons, there has been a growing
fear of what terrorists could do with the planet's most terrifying
Urgent action by the Americans, working
alongside British and other intelligence agencies, is believed
to have reduced the chances of a terrorist obtaining the machinery
and material necessary to produce a nuclear weapon, although
the programmes of rogue states such as Iraq and North Korea
remain a significant threat.
But much more worrying to many scientists
and defence experts in America is the threat from "bio-terror",
the spreading of lethal diseases through the air or in water
The diseases usually mentioned are anthrax,
which is widely available but very hard to keep alive as a
"useful" biological warfare agent; smallpox, which
is a tougher germ, but hard to obtain; and one or other of
the most virulent forms of plague, which is relatively easy
to cure with antibiotics once detected.
Smallpox is probably top of the list because
of reports that the former Soviet Union had developed techniques
to keep the germ alive in an aerosol form that would resist
destruction by fire or explosion.
Western populations today, unlike previous
generations, are not widely inoculated against the disease
because it is supposed to be extinct, except for those phials
of smallpox that America and Russia kept for "experimental
purposes". American experts believe that Russia cannot
account for all its supplies of smallpox.
"The events in New York and Washington
were tragedies beyond what anyone had previously imagined,
but the potential of biological terrorism is far greater in
terms of loss of life and disruption," said Michael Osterholm,
director of the University of Minnesota's Centre for Infectious
Disease Research and Policy.
Many experts play down the likelihood of
a biological attack, citing the difficulty of cultivating
and keeping alive enough disease germs and distributing them
with the vagaries of wind and weather.
But as a measure of concern in America,
the CDC has contracted two biotech companies to make and stockpile
40 million doses of smallpox vaccine, compared with the seven
million now available. The first batches are not expected
to be ready until 2004.
Old enemies of Saddam point finger at
By David Graves in Kuwait
ABDULAZIZ al Awadi took a long sip of his
black coffee and thought deeply. "You know," he
said, measuring his words carefully. "I can't help but
think that all this will lead back to Baghdad, and it will
mean the end of Saddam Hussein at last."
The Kuwaiti businessman, out for a genial
lunch with friends at a lavish hotel in Kuwait City, spoke
for many in the oil-rich state, invaded by Iraq 11 years ago
and liberated by an international coalition seven months later.
"There is unfinished business to do,
and the world will not be safe until Saddam goes forever,"
he said. His friend, Anwar al Madina, 52, was equally reflective.
"Osama bin Laden and his group may have carried out the
attacks in the United States, but who is behind them?
"I am sure, that when the Western intelligence
services have done their investigations, the trail will lead
back to one place . . . Baghdad."
While the Kuwaiti government has been one
of the most hawkish Arab supporters of the new war against
terrorism, many hope that the military campaign will lead
ultimately to Baghdad and the eventual toppling of Saddam.
A senior diplomat said: "The Kuwaitis
would love for Saddam to put his head above the parapet, so
the US and its allies can blow it off." Significantly,
Saddam has been the only Arab leader to praise the hijackers
who wreaked such devastation in New York and Washington.
The Emir of Kuwait, who relies on US and
British forces stationed in his small, but economically vital,
country to defend it against a renewed invasion by Iraq, was
one of the first Arab leaders to offer unequivocal support
to America and give authorisation for the state to be used
for any military operations in the Middle East.
Kuwait will also supply refined petroleum
products to be used by the American war machine. An oil tanker
has already been chartered by Washington to take 235,000 barrels
of marine diesel fuel from Kuwait to the Diego Garcia air
base in the Indian Ocean.
A personal message of support will be passed
from the Emir to the British Government today when the new
Kuwaiti Defence Minister, Sheikh Jaber al-Mubarak al-Sabah,
meets Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, in London.
They will discuss the crisis and the potential
role of the RAF detachment which operates Tornados from the
Ali al Salem air base in the country. For the Kuwaiti government,
the spectre of Saddam close to the north is a continuing shadow
hanging over the country.
The Kuwaitis would have preferred that the
coalition forces who invaded southern Iraq in 1991 to have
continued to Baghdad and toppled Saddam. Instead, the multi-national
force abided by United Nations resolutions and remained in
Although Kuwait, using its enormous oil
wealth, has been essentially rebuilt since its liberation,
and luxury cars and designer shops are as ubiquitous as they
were before the invasion, there is a strong feeling that the
country will never be entirely at peace until Saddam goes
and is replaced by a more moderate government in Iraq.
A continuing scar of the war is the unknown
fate of more than 600 prisoners captured in Kuwait by the
Iraqis. The Kuwaitis maintain that many are still alive in
Iraqi prisons, 10 years on from the end of the war. Despite
pressure from the UN, no information has been forthcoming
from Baghdad, which claims it has no information on them.
"We have made it quite clear where
we stand, and we stand against terrorism," said a leading
Kuwaiti government official. "If the Americans decide
Saddam was implicated in this vile act and attack him, we
would welcome it."
Although the unequivocal stance by Kuwait
has been welcomed in Washington and London, it will inevitably
set it at odds with extreme Islamists. Sheikh Jaber accepted
that when he said Kuwait and other moderate Arab states were
already "terrorist targets" themselves, because
of bin Laden's crusade to oust US troops from the Gulf.
Ordinary Kuwaitis have also shown their
support for America and its allies by placing a carpet of
flowers and wreaths outside the US embassy. Crown Prince Saad
al-Abdullah al-Sabah, the Prime Minister, visited the embassy
and the Kuwait Red Crescent has donated £360,000 to
the US Red Cross.
Full-page advertisements, expressing condolences,
have been taken out by Kuwaiti companies in leading American
newspapers. As part of its support for America, Kuwait will
also take action against more than 100 "Islamic charity
groups" operating in the country, which collect what
they call zakat, or alms.
Officials said the government had often
"turned a blind eye" to the groups, some of which
are suspected of raising funds for extreme Islamic terror
Redneck America puts its faith in law
of the gun
By Peter Foster
THERE is what passes for a joke doing the
rounds in some of the less broad-minded communities in America.
It goes something like this:
"Did you see the latest weather report
"No, I must have missed it."
"Oh, they're forecasting light winds
from the west this morning, blue skies and temperatures in
the mid-70s . . . this afternoon expect dense mushroom-shaped
clouds, temperatures in excess of 7,000 degrees, winds 1,000mph
in all directions."
At Big Al's Gun and Pawn Shop on the outskirts
of Fort Lauderdale, southern Florida, the owner collars every
new customer with that same line.
Big Al - a great slug of a man swathed in
gold bracelets whose real name is Richard Spizouco - seems
to find it funnier with each repetition.
His customers laugh, too, as they head for
a counter festooned with M16 assault rifles, Kalashnikov copies
and pump-action shotguns.
"Everyone is tooling up," Big
Al says appreciatively. "It's been like a zoo in here
since Wednesday morning. Sales are up 300 per cent.
"We sold more guns in the past five
days than in the whole year to date. It's even bigger than
before Y2K when everybody wanted a gun."
The FBI is reported to be investigating
at least 40 attacks on American Muslims following last week's
atrocities, and to listen to Big Al chat with his customers
they have reason to be scared.
Talk centres on what reprisals America should
take for the terrorist attacks. As gun enthusiasts and supporters
of the constitutional right of American citizens to bear arms,
Big Al and his customers are proud to be Republican voters.
They have a clear idea of what they expect
from President Bush. "Cook 'em. It's as simple as that,"
"You should buy up some pictures of
Kabul because they are gonna be real valuable next week. Iraq
too. The time for pussy-footing around is over."
Big Al's soliloquies, punctuated by bam-bam
sounds of Americans practising their skills on the ranges
overhead, receive frequent nods of approval.
Behind him on the wall is a picture of Osama
bin Laden, his face in the cross hairs, above a sign saying:
"Wanted, dead or alive".
His assistant, a Gulf war veteran with a
pistol in his hip holster, does not want to give his name
"for security" reasons but chips in anyway.
"I'm with you, Al. I just think we
should have done the job properly after Desert Storm.
"Maybe the President will take up from
his daddy and finish the job. He's a cowboy and I like cowboys.
And if he doesn't? He'll never get my vote again."
Another customer comes in, recently returned
from a holiday in Italy. He shares his snaps with Big Al,
showing some of the great frescoes in Venice.
"Look at the grandeur, so bootiful.
This war is about civilisation. The Taliban want to blow all
this stuff up. Remember what they did to those big Buddha
Big Al fingers the ornate gold crucifix
around his neck. "Didn't you hear the President? He said
this was going to be a crusade.
"We will finish the job of the Coeur
de Lion, Richard the Lionheart, one of your English kings,
am I right?
"You tell me, what have the Arabs ever
done for the world? Name me a single famous Arab?
"We should give them no place to go.
Raze the place, that's what I say and there's plenty that'll
agree with me."
Terror strike 'a work of art'
By Toby Helm in Berlin
THE German composer, Karlheinz Stockhausen,
whose electronic music inspired the Beatles, caused uproar
yesterday after describing last week's air attacks on New
York as "the greatest work of art ever".
The 73-year-old leader of the avant garde
studio music movement quickly retracted the comments made
to journalists and asked them not to report them. But last
night, after they were made public, two concerts featuring
his work were cancelled in Hamburg.
Christina Weiss, Hamburg's culture senator
said: "In the current situation the public will not understand
his remarks. They are cynical and amoral."
According to the German press agency, DPA,
the composer was asked about the attacks during a press conference
on Sunday night and replied: "What happened there is
- they all have to rearrange their brains now - is the greatest
work of art ever.
"That characters can bring about in
one act what we in music cannot dream of, that people practise
madly for 10 years, completely fanatically, for a concert
and then die. That is the greatest work of art for the whole
cosmos. Against that, we, composers, are nothing."
The Zeit foundation, which was the main
sponsor of the concerts, issued a statement yesterday saying
that despite his retractions "a performance of Stockhausen
is not acceptable any more".
DJs attack radio 'censorship'
By David Sapsted in New York
DISC jockeys in New York claim that the
nation's largest commercial radio network is trying to stop
them playing some of the world's most popular songs for fear
of upsetting listeners following the World Trade Centre attack.
The songs range from John Lennon's Imagine
to Frank Sinatra's New York, New York and include some considered
in more obvious bad taste, such as Carole King's I Feel the
Earth Move and Peter, Paul and Mary's Leaving on a Jet Plane.
In an atmosphere of strained sensitivities,
where comedians and chat show hosts are studiously avoiding
jokes about the attacks, the disc jockeys maintain that the
Texas-based Clear Channel is attempting to impose a "national
no-play list" on their 1,100 American stations.
Though Clear admits that it did send out
the list of 150 songs, the company says it was not an attempt
to ban them, merely to offer guidance to stations on what
might be considered poor taste.
The 'Writers' who let their words get
in the way as tragedy unfolded
By Sam Leith
'THESE aren't hacks," my old colleague
Lucretia used to say of the people she commissioned, with
a wobble of the chin that expressed infinite respect. "These
Alas, it is some of those very Writers -
among them our brightest and best novelists - who have responded
most bathetically and self-importantly to last week's events
Their pieces appeared quickly and were heartily
blurbed. Often short, they abounded with unexpected phrases
and 10-dollar words, were suffused with an awed and angry
sense of occasion, and generally ended with an ostentatious
There were some, of course, who did write
well; and some seemed wiser than others. But few had special
knowledge of the politics of the event; few had first-hand
experience; and none had much time to think. All they brought
to the party was their prose.
The results have, in many cases, provided
a comical example of the dangers of what Tom Paulin, referring
to Hazlitt, called "writing to the moment".
Wisely, perhaps, Philip Roth refused to
write anything about the attacks, and Bret Easton Ellis said
that he was too depressed to start making phrases.
Others have fallen face-first down the open
manhole. Martin Amis, writing for the Guardian, saw the collapse
of the World Trade Centre as "the apotheosis of the postmodern
He also ruminated on "world hum"
and "species consciousness" and, coining a curious
neologism, declared that the glint of the second plane was
"the worldflash of a coming future".
Lest we be underwhelmed by that, Amis portentously
recorded the date as "the eleventh day of the ninth month
of 2001 (the duo-millenial anniversary of Christianity)",
and summed up the damage with flip machismo: "Manhattan
looked as though it had taken ten megatons."
As a "utopian" retaliation, he
suggested that the Afghan people be bombarded with food parcels
marked "Lendlease - USA", oddly echoing a Thai MP
who has been urged to resign after suggesting that Afghanistan
should be carpet-bombed with pork fat.
If Amis sounded self-parodic, consider Jay
McInerney, who laboured beneath a "plume of pearl grey
He seemed pleased that a dust-covered survivor
had recognised him as "the author of Bright Lights, Big
City", but worried because the cover of his latest book
featured the twin towers.
He consoled himself by bringing his friend
Bret (Easton) Ellis a hamburger, and later went on, he informed
us, to drink several bottles of " '85 Lynch Bages".
And then there was Jeanette Winterson, also
in the Guardian: "Touch me. Kiss me. Remind me what I
am. Remind me that this life is one we make together . . .
The immensity of this event can only be mirrored by the immensity
of what we are.
"This tiny blue planet is home to something
special and precious - ourselves. We are all human. We are
all nothing and everything. The best we can do to begin again
is to forgive."
Some common themes emerged. After an afternoon
watching CNN, Ian McEwan was able to report "colossal
explosions, fierce red and black clouds" and dust "engulfing
the streets". Amis saw "vampiric reds and blacks".
Their conclusions? McEwan: "The world
would never be the same." Blake Morrison: "This
is the last week of the world as it was." Amis: "In
that instant, America's youth would turn into age." Paul
Auster: "And so the 21st century finally begins."
It's not the first time that literary heroes
have muddied their feet when writing about current affairs.
A succession of well-regarded Poet Laureates have fallen flat
with occasional poems, commissioned or volunteered (remember
Tennyson's terrible Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington?).
Even the all-rounder Clive James, noted
for his non-fiction, provoked more embarrassment than empathy
with his famous essay on the death of the Princess of Wales.
After the events in Eastern Europe at the
end of the 1980s, George Steiner's attempt to rise to the
occasion led him to pronounce that "the apocalypse of
hope has been started by one man", that "we are
back to the enigmatic pulsebeat of the Messianic" . .
. "What will step into the turbulent vacuum?" he
The best hacks - threadbare though their
prose may be - serve the story. In some of the pieces that
have appeared over the past week, the story is serving the
writer. Rather than reporting on or even responding to events,
they seem to be competing with them.
The impression is of a graceless scramble
to be the first Writer to plant, as it were, a flag atop the
Hardliners stand beside bin Laden
By Ahmed Rashid in Lahore
WHATEVER Osama bin Laden plans over the
next few weeks, leaving Afghanistan is unlikely to be among
Despite yesterday's decision by Taliban
clerics to request his departure, bin Laden is unlikely to
abandon his safe haven of his own volition. The Taliban said
that his removal would take "some time".
Every neighbouring state is now opposed
to the Taliban, has joined up with the US alliance and closed
the borders with Afghanistan.
If he tried to fly out of Afghanistan to
Yemen - his country of birth and where he has considerable
support - the plane would be likely to be shot down by the
US. There are already UN sanctions on flights out of Afghanistan
and air traffic controllers would see the plane leaving.
Bin Laden could try to seek shelter among
the extremist groups in Pakistan that support him but that
would be extremely dangerous and place Pakistan's military
regime in an embarrassing position. Anyway, security on Pakistan's
borders with Afghanistan has been tightened even further since
the clerics' decision.
Another option would be to seek shelter
with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which is based
in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif and whose 2,500
guerrillas fight for the Taliban. The IMU has launched guerrilla
attacks against Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan over the past two
years and has declared jihad or holy war against the Central
However, the IMU is the principal target
of Russia and the Central Asian states, who are likely to
offer bases to US forces and are expected to line up with
Washington in its attack on the Taliban. They are keen to
wipe out the IMU and bin Laden's presence would make that
Asked where bin Laden could go, Amir Khan
Muttaqi, the Taliban education minister, said yesterday: "You
know, he has a lot of opponents and he will look and choose
for himself a suitable place. It cannot be done that he goes
on the street and takes a taxi and goes to another roundabout."
Earlier this week many of bin Laden's 3,000
Arab fighters took an oath of loyalty to him, swearing that
they would defend him or die. Bin Laden is unlikely to leave
them in the lurch by trying to seek shelter in a foreign country
and he is likely to stand by his friend, Mullah Mohammed Omar,
the Taliban leader.
All of which indicates that the decision
to recommend bin Laden's departure is designed to forestall
a US attack on Afghanistan. But it is likely to fail. The
US will not be satisfied by a simple request that leaves bin
Laden at large and fails to address both the issue of his
Arab bodyguards and his al-Qa'eda organisation.
The US has spent the past three years trying
to negotiate with the Taliban about bin Laden's extradition
but the talks have always foundered on a long list of Taliban
conditions. Although these conditions have now been removed,
the Taliban appear to have passed the buck to bin Laden.
Over the past few days tough talking by
Pakistani generals to Mullah Omar in Kandahar and to Islamic
scholars in Kabul have shifted the Taliban's position.
Equally significant has been the growing
rift between the hardliners who surround Mullah Omar in Kandahar
and the moderates who form the government in Kabul and have
had to deal with the international community and the growing
humanitarian crisis in the country.
The moderates are fellow travellers with
the Taliban hardcore and do not subscribe to the harsh ideological
edicts issued by Mullah Omar, such as the destruction of the
two giant Buddha statues in Bamiyan earlier this year.
They do not like the increasingly powerful
political role that bin Laden and his Arabs have come to play
within the Taliban decision-making process.
It was not clear yesterday whether Mullah
Omar would support the decision by the scholars, although
a spokesman said he would. Having been given the title of
Amir ul Momineen, or Commander of the Faithful, in 1995 by
the same gathering of Islamic scholars, he has the right of
Ultimately, both bin Laden and Mullah Omar
are confident that they can suck the US into a war it cannot
win if it attacks Afghanistan, just as the Afghan mujahideen
did to the forces of the Soviet Union after it invaded in
So the decision by the scholars also to
call for a jihad if the US attacks Afghanistan is ominous,
because it uses the same language as the religious edicts
against the Soviets.
What the mullahs had to say
The following are extracts from the text
of a verdict by the Grand Council of ulema, or clerics, yesterday
recommending to the ruling Taliban that they persuade Osama
bin Laden to leave Afghanistan:
The nation of Afghanistan has always referred
major issues to honourable ulema for a solution. The honourable
ulema have always endeavoured to find a solution to problems.
The ulema of Afghanistan, in the face of
their heavy responsibility for the solution of the problems
and in the light of Islam's holy religion, endorse the following
decision and verdict:
The ulema voices their sadness over deaths
in America and hopes that America does not attack Afghanistan
but exerts complete patience and accuracy and investigates
the issue in its totality.
The ulema demands of America that the United
Nations and the Organisation of Islamic Conference investigate,
independently and precisely, the recent events to clarify
the reality and prevent harassment of innocent people.
The UN and the OIC deliberate over the utterances
of America's president who has said that this war will be
a crusade. This news has hurt the feelings of Muslims and
has posed a major threat to the world.
In order to avoid the current tumult and
also similar suspicion in the future, the high council of
the honourable ulema recommends to the Islamic Emirate to
persuade Osama bin Laden to leave Afghanistan whenever possible
and chose another place for himself.
If, in the light of the above-mentioned
decisions, America does not agree and attacks Afghanistan
then, in the light of the sacred Shariah (law) the following
verdict is presented:
All books of our religious persuasion say
that, if infidels attack the soil of a Muslim country, jihad
becomes an order for the Muslims of that country.
If infidels invade an Islamic country and
that country does not have the ability to defend itself, jihad
becomes an obligation on all Muslims.
If infidels attack the soil of Muslims they
can, in time of need, ask Islamic and non-Islamic governments
If at the time of America's attack, any
Muslim, whether an Afghan or non-Afghan, co-operates with
infidels, becomes an accomplice or a spy, that person is also
punishable with death like the foreign invaders.
US prepares for war on the ground
By Toby Harnden in Washington, Alex Spillius
in Peshawar and George Jones in New York
AMERICA was preparing last night for a lengthy
ground war as Tony Blair signalled that he was ready to send
British troops into action.
The Pentagon underlined its intention after
the White House rejected as inadequate a Taliban call for
Osama bin Laden to leave Afghanistan of his own accord.
It insisted that the prime suspect in last
week's terror attacks be surrendered immediately. With American
troops on the move, the Pentagon said it was preparing for
"sustained land combat operations".
Against the backdrop of American mobilisation,
Mr Blair gave the strongest indication yet that he was ready
to send forces into action against bin Laden's network.
While flying to New York for a memorial
service for the British victims of the attacks on the World
Trade Centre and the Pentagon, he spoke of the "heavy
and huge responsibility" he faced in taking such a decision
- possibly within days.
He said he would not "flinch"
from it. Britain was fortunate in having "some of the
finest armed forces in the world". Mr Blair said that
bin Laden must be handed over and that other groups in Afghanistan
had to be crushed.
An edict, or fatwa, issued by a council
of Afghan clerics said that bin Laden should be "persuaded
to leave whenever possible". But pointedly it did not
order his expulsion.
"This does not meet America's requirements,"
said Ari Fleischer, President Bush's spokesman. "This
is about much more than one man being allowed to leave voluntarily,
presumably, from one safe harbour to another one."
He added: "The president has demanded
that key figures of the al-Qa'eda terrorist organisation,
including bin Laden, be turned over to responsible authorities
and that the Taliban close terrorist camps in Afghanistan."
In an address to Congress early today, Mr
Bush told governments around the world that "freedom
and fear are at war". They faced the choice: "Either
you are with us or with the terrorists.
"We will direct every resource at our
command: every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence,
every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence
and every necessary weapon of war to the disruption and defeat
of the global terror network."
The Prime Minister had flown from New York
to Washington for talks with Mr Bush before the president's
Speaking in Paris earlier after meeting
President Chirac, Mr Blair said: "One of the most important
and significant aspects of what has happened in the days following
those terrible attacks in the United States has been the strength
- indeed, I would say the growing strength - of the coalition
right around the world against terrorism."
There was concern among some British diplomats
that Mr Blair's visit to New York was much less full than
that of President Chirac, who on Wednesday became the first
foreign head of state to inspect the devastation.
Mr Blair had only a brief meeting with Rudolph
Giuliani, the city's mayor, and did not visit the trade centre
site. The Muslim clerics' proclamation on bin Laden, whom
Mr Bush has said he wants "dead or alive", came
as a surprise and was seen by American officials as a sign
of some possible movement.
But while their edict may have suggested
willingness to compromise, it also declared that Muslims should
launch a holy war, or jihad, against America and any of its
helpers if they attacked the Taliban's fighters.
A Taliban spokesman said that Mullah Mohammed
Omar, the radical Islamic movement's spiritual leader, who
summoned the clerics, would act on their recommendation.
But he added that the departure of bin Laden,
who has been sheltered by Afghanistan for five years, "would
take some time". About 800 clerics travelled to Kabul
from across the war-ravaged country to attend the council.
Their statement appeared to be a compromise
between hard-liners and those who wanted to rid the country
of the threat of a devastating international military attack
after 21 years of conflict and recent famine.
In a further indication that America was
planning major attacks that would inevitably lead to casualties
on both sides, Thomas White, the army secretary, said: "We
are ready to conduct sustained land combat operations as determined
by the secretary of defence and the president.
"We are ready to deliver it across
the whole array of force structure: heavy, light, airmobile,
airborne, special operations - all of the combat capabilities."
The number of people missing at the World
Trade Centre is now put at 6,333, with 241 confirmed dead.
'Offensive' codename axed
By Toby Harnden in Washington
AMERICA abandoned Operation Infinite Justice
as the codename for its war on global terrorism last night
after concerns that it might deter Muslim nations from joining
the coalition it is leading.
Islamic scholars said that Muslims found
the name deeply offensive because the Koran said that only
Allah could grant infinite justice.
Donald Rumsfeld, the American defence secretary,
was clearly uncomfortable when asked about the codename. He
said: "I do not know that those words have been adopted.
I think they are probably under review.
"Obviously, the United States does
not want to do or say things that create an impression on
the part of the listener that would be a misunderstanding
- and clearly that would be."
The codename for the domestic campaign against
the terrorist threat is Operation Noble Eagle. President Bush
has already offended Muslims by his use of the word "crusade"
in describing his plans to eradicate terrorism.
The White House said that the codename Operation
Infinite Justice had been leaked without authorisation and
would not be used again. It was not known what the new name
Limitation: Learn from yesterday, live for
today, hope for tomorrow that you keep your words soft and
sweet, just in case you have to eat them.
I'm so happy that I live in Ibiza.