Former CIA Al Qaeda Unit Chief Michael Scheuer's 2004 scenario came that much closer to reality today, in which George Bush's bungled invasion of Iraq gives Al Qaeda just the battleground it needs to attract legions of recruits, the solid propaganda of an evil empire stealing oil money from the mouths of hungry Muslim children, in a war against a former ally who only became bad when he stepped out of line.
In December of 2001, Al Qaeda was a desperate remnant of fighters willing to die alongside bin Laden, and U.S. Special Forces was about to oblige them. Then someone somewhere - the highest order we have now came from Tommy Franks, but did it go higher? - refused the urgent request of the ranking Special Forces commander on the ground to seal the mountain passes out of Tora Bora with a battalion of U.S. Army Rangers.
That commander on the ground, Gary Bernsten, wrote in "Jawbreaker: The Attack on bin Laden and Al Qaeda":
"The biggest and most important failure on the CENTCOM leadership came at Tora Bora when they turned down my request for a battalion of U.S. rangers to block bin Laden's escape."
Tommy Franks insists he didn't know if bin Laden was there, but Bernsten is blunt: ""He was there, and could have been caught."
Bernsten is corroborated by former CIA official Hank Crumpton, who personally briefed Bush and Cheney, as well as Franks, about the need to go after bin Laden in Tora Bora.
With the assassination of Bhutto, Pakistan is closer than ever to civil war. And ultimately, Islamist forces marching into Islamabad in victory, us tied down in Iraq and not able to do a damned thing about it. This is the first of the many dominoes bin Laden had envisioned, including the "apostate" regimes of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and UAE. But most especially on bin Laden's list was Pakistan.
Writes Scheuer, in "Imperial Hubris," of bin Laden dreaming of a gift from Allah like the invasion of Iraq:
"And then, dreamed bin Laden wildly, things would get bad for the Americans. They would stay too long in Iraq, insist on installing a democracy that would subordinate the long dominant Sunnis, vigorously limit Islam's role in government, and act in ways that spotlighted their interest in Iraq's massive oil reserves."
George Bush has much to answer for, for turning the American tragedy of 9/11 into a spoiled rich boy's chance to get the guy who once threatened his daddy. He has subscribed to the Roman conception of power, in which the battles of the prince do not need to conform to the battles of the nation; they BECOME the battles of the nation. As fights among royalty and its enemies play out, so does the history of the nation.
George Bush listened to the senior White House aide quoted famously in Ron Susskind's book, perhaps one of the tweedy, power-mad draft-doger intellectuals with whom Bush surrounds himself, one of "history's actors":
"We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors...and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
The "history's actors" theory of foreign policy may work well enough if the emperor is skillful. But if he is not, then that emperor's tantrums, and reality, turn and bite the nation in the ass.