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Jonathan Power: The Big Hunt for Bin Laden

Last week, Scotland Yard (alas, working without their chief sleuth, the late Sherlock Holmes) uncovered a major bomb plot. Those arrested were all Pakistanis. However, unlike the current U.S. policy, they chose to arrest the suspects, after months of carefully tracking their movements (notwithstanding Bob Quick, Britain’s senior counterterrorism expert, whose comical slip-up required the accelerating of planned raids and resulted in his resignation), not bomb them from 30,000 feet. Likewise, when four years ago bombers blew up trains entering Madrid's central station, the Spanish police laboriously ran them down, eventually cornering a number of the ringleaders in a safehouse. That time, the perpetrators were mainly Algerians and Moroccans. Those arrested, and later convicted and imprisoned, had no formal links with Al Qaeda. In fact, their ties were non existent, a government-appointed commission later found. Doubtless, however, it was the example of Al Qaeda that prompted their horrific attacks. The Spanish, on their manhunt, did not choose to bomb them, or even blast them out of their hideaways. (Seven suspects did, however, blow themselves up when they found themselves surrounded by Spanish authorities.) But the investigation took careful police work, backed by the latest in forensic and technological tools. Couldn't the Americans and NATO have done the same at the onset of their intervention in Afghanistan? Certainly, investigating domestic terrorism isn’t the same as stamping it out in a hostile and foreign land, but allied forces could have found informers and probably help from the rank and file of locals who wanted to have nothing to do with those who blew up New York's World Trade Center. Even many in the ranks of the Taliban may have been privately uneasy by the Al Qaeda attack. Moreover, Osama bin Laden was a distant, shadowy figure for most of them. Instead, we had a blanket armed invasion. The UN has reported that, in 2008, the number of civilian casualties rose by 40 percent. Surely there is a better way of finding bin Laden. Western forces are not there to reform Islam, to liberate women, or to install democracy. Afghan society must choose for itself whether or not it wants to pursue these lofty goals.

THE INDEX — February 19, 2009

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Swadesh M. Rana: Guantánamo's Detainees — Diplomatic Quagmire or Security Risk?

America's European partners in its war on terror are not committing on when or whether to take in any detainees from Guantánamo. "There was nobody very hot about this, that's perfectly true," said Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg on January 26, after a meeting of the European Union. His nation holds the rotating presidency of the 27 member EU which includes 21 of the 26 members of NATO. Austria is against taking any released prisoners. The parliament of Finland is split on the issue. Denmark would need to change its asylum laws to accept any detainees. Sweden sees no political or national security benefit in admitting them. Poland has no experience in dealing with this kind of prisoners. Italy and Spain would consider a U.S. request only if endorsed by the EU. European opposition to this plan is vociferous. "I do not understand why we give the impression that Germany needs to accept prisoners. Guantánamo was established by the U.S. We did not run it. We did not use it," says Wolfgang Bosbach, deputy leader of the Christian Democrats. "Don't forget these inmates are not kittens-it's a risk for us to bring them into Europe." says the Dutch Foreign Minister, Maxime Verhagen. London has already made a "significant contribution," said U.K. Foreign Secretary David Miliband. England has already accepted nine of its citizens and six of its residents formerly imprisoned at Guantánamo. France has found little support for its plan to lead an EU fact-finding mission to Guantánamo to ascertain the background of the current detainees and assess the security risks in accepting at least 60 persons who, while they face no charges in the United States, are likely to be tortured or persecuted if returned to the countries of their origin.

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