|Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
27 Aug. - 2 Sep. 1998
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
The second edge
The official Egyptian response to the attacks on Afghanistan and Sudan is that terrorism should be fought through international law and the UN. This was implied without mentioning the US. Foreign Minister Amr Moussa simply said that no country could take on the UN's role.
Egypt has been calling for an international conference to combat terrorism for several years in vain. The US, even after the attacks on its embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, and its declaration that it would crack down on terrorism worldwide, has thus far refused the idea of such an international conference. It is unlikely that it will change its position.
This is because the US, now that it is the sole global superpower, no longer believes that its foreign policy should be subject to international controls which could constrain its actions and make its troops and responsibilities abroad subject to an investigation requiring the submission of evidence and the disclosure of secrets. For this reason, the US has always opposed the use of UN troops in international disputes, an idea first mooted by Boutros Ghali when he was UN secretary-general.
The US has always taken a very conservative position on most international negotiations which required joint commitments, under the pretext that Congress would oppose such action and insist that the UN cannot dictate US policy.
On the question of international terrorism, the US has also taken a highly individualistic position because, if it adhered to international controls, it could well find itself condemning the policies of some of its allies, especially Israel, and because some of the covert operations carried out by US agencies could well be described as terrorist.
Just as the US helped Omar Abdel-Rahman escape from Egypt and offered him asylum, it was fully aware of Bin Laden's movements and activities. According to the statement made by the Sudanese minister of Information at a press conference in Khartoum a few days ago, it was the US which advised Sudan to expel Bin Laden in 1995. This seems to imply that, for some time, the US secret service has been following, and perhaps actually participating in, terrorist activities based in Sudan.
In conformity with its refusal to place terrorism under the jurisdiction of international law, the US has rejected the Sudanese request that a UN fact-finding mission ascertain whether the factory that was destroyed was capable of producing nerve gas.
Reports claiming that Clinton insisted on the Khartoum strike despite the lack of evidence that the pharmaceuticals factory was producing chemical weapons seemed perfectly credible; it is clear, in any case, that the US intends to keep "anti-terrorist action" completely secret.
If the Arabs accept US policy, and grant the US the right to judge and carry out punishments outside the framework of international law, and in the absence of international agreements to combat terrorism, further strikes could be launched under the pretext that they constitute "self-defence against terrorism". Libya, Iraq or any other country believed by the US to possess weapons, missiles or factories that can manufacture weapons could be next on the list.
Perhaps the strike against the Sudanese factory is intended as a warning to those Arab countries which are accused of producing chemical weapons or acquiring missiles. These, the US seems to be saying, are the inevitable consequences of such rash behaviour. In the not-so-distant past, Egypt and Syria were accused of similar crimes.
This all goes to show that US policy on combating terrorism is, in a sense, a double-edged sword: that is to say, it combats terrorism directed against its interests, while carrying out terrorist acts designed to promote these same interests.