Al-Qaeda wins no matter who prevails in the NYC mosque debate

The building of a mosque at the site of the 9/11 attack will be a signal victory for al-Qaeda and its cause. Al-Qaeda destroyed the World Trade Center with several goals in mind: to prove the U.S. government cannot defend its citizens; to damage the U.S. economy; to cause large numbers of casualties; and to strike at the heart of what militant Muslims regard as a “Jewish city.” Al-Qaeda accomplished this mission superbly and with lasting positive impact for its cause.

Another of bin Laden’s goals for the attack is not often discussed in the West, and that’s the impact the attack was meant to have on what can only be described as the Muslim world’s endemic defeatism. For several centuries before 9/11, Muslim forces were beaten every time they faced European powers. Just since 1945, for example, Hindu India thrice beat Islamic Pakistan, Israel three times beat multiple Arab armies, and the United States twice defeated Iraq and proved it can rain destruction on Muslim targets from Sudan to Afghanistan at any time. Indeed, so deeply entrenched is Muslim defeatism that Osama bin Laden’s generation is often termed the “generation of defeat.”

Al-Qaeda’s 9/11 raid and its previous anti-U.S. attacks, therefore, were meant not just to begin bleeding the U.S. economy and driving America from the Islamic world, but also to spur the belief among Muslims that they could prevail in a fight against the West. In this effort, Al-Qaeda built on two solid foundations, one theological and the other empirical. First, Allah promised Muslims victory if they patiently fight the infidels in His name. Second, Allah kept his word by allowing the mujahideen to beat the USSR in Afghanistan.

For bin Laden, his colleagues, and their allies the Afghan victory was all the proof needed that God’s word was reliable and that any infidel power attacking Muslims could expect to share the Red Army’s fate. The Islamists, however, found that destroying all the Muslim world’s defeatism a much harder nut to crack. Thus, bin Laden launched al-Qaeda attacks meant both to hurt the United States and to instill in Muslims confidence that they are militarily potent and can defeat an infidel power trying to undermine Islam or invade a Muslim land.

As noted, the al-Qaeda attacks up to 9/11 convinced and encouraged some Muslims; the post-9/11 growth in the number and vitality of Islamist insurgencies around the world has been startling. But while the al-Qaeda attacks are keys in the campaign to reduce defeatism, they have not been sufficient to carry the day. They have, however, set the stage for defeating Muslim defeatism, and success will be complete when the U.S. military leaves Iraq — having lost a war that need never been waged and having created a safe haven for Sunni Islamists — and when the U.S.-NATO-led coalition is driven from Afghanistan by the Afghan nation in arms. Victory in Afghanistan, in particular, will be the most powerful antidote to defeatism because in that Muslim land two infidel superpowers were beaten by mujahideen fighting in Allah’s name.

Against this background, then, the mosque to be built on the site of America’s 9/11 defeat will be seen and celebrated by bin Laden, his allies, and the hundreds of millions of other Muslims who support or sympathize with them. The mosque will be seen as clear and concrete proof that Allah will deliver victory to His faithful if they continue to fight in His name.

This is a hard but I think an irrefutable fact. And when the mosque rises on the ground where America was defeated and humiliated on 9/11, and rises in the heart of a “Jewish City,” hundreds of millions of Muslims in the United States and around the world will be exclaiming — some quietly, others loudly, but all fervently — “Allahu Akbar!” (God is great!). The mosque will be seen — no matter what its builders and their supporters claim to the contrary — as a tangible sign of the reliability of God’s promise of victory for Muslims who fight the infidels who attack Islam. And this sign will be burnished by the coming U.S. defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As the mosque is built, then, it is important to remember that whatever 1st Amendment issues are involved, and however admirable the builders’ desire for intra-faith dialogue may be, the United States is once again — and knowingly, though Bloomberg and Obama feign ignorance — putting its foot into a snare that bin Laden did not lay but one from which he and those he leads and inspires will benefit enormously. The construction of the mosque at the site of America’s 9/11 defeat by Islamist forces will be seen by those forces and their followers as an unquestionably positive augury of victories to come, and perhaps as the much-needed final, fatal stake in the heart of Muslim defeatism.*


* The NYC mosque issue is another example of how many lose-lose situations America faces in the war against the al-Qaeda-led Islamists. To now decide not to build the Mosque would reinforce in Muslim minds the idea that the U.S. policy is always anti-Islamic and that U.S. citizen Israel-Firsters dictate that policy.

Author: Michael F. Scheuer

Michael F. Scheuer worked at the CIA as an intelligence officer for 22 years. He was the first chief of its Osama bin Laden unit, and helped create its rendition program, which he ran for 40 months. He is an American blogger, historian, foreign policy critic, and political analyst.