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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

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For the week of November 7 - 13, 2001

  Features

Trying to understand Afghanistan

Forum offers insights 
into war on terrorism


By PETER BOLTZ
Express Staff Writer

At first, it seemed a recent forum held at the Community School was misnamed.

People were interested in hearing about Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden, but the forum was called "A World in Conflict, An Evening of Understanding."

By the time it was over, however, it was clear that the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan is not something confined to national borders.

As for understanding, only the future will tell.

The forum, presented on Oct. 29 by the Community School Parentsí Association, was hosted by the schoolís social studies chair, Bob Doyle.

The authorities asked to speak and answer questions were Tony Mabbatt, Ted Bilkey and Ted Curran.

Mabbatt is a retired U.S. Foreign Service public affairs officer who lived in Jordan during Israelís Six-Day War in 1967. He also served in several Muslim countries, including Indonesia.

Bilkey is a retired shipping executive who has lived in Iran, Bahrain and other Muslim countries.

Curran is a former assistant U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, who has served in other Muslim countries such as Yemen.

Bilkey, who said he was in Dubai during the Persian Gulf War of 1991, said that at that time "Americans were heroes. We were thought of as saviors, but weíve totally lost it. What happened?"

He didnít answer this question, but he did have an answer to what he would tell President Bush.

"I think the first recommendation I would make is to take away a serious irritant by telling the Israelis to remove all the West Bank settlements," Bilkey said.

"I feel our government and media are tiptoeing around the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians," he said.

"Our government is not addressing the problem in an vigorous way. If we donít change our unqualified support of Israel, there is no way we can win the war on terrorism," Bilkey said.

Mabbatt stated a similar viewpoint in an Idaho Mountain Express guest editorial on Sept. 19.

"Until there is a just and equitable peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, the extremist on both sides will hold sway," he wrote.

"As an essential element in our attempts to root out terrorism, the United States must become directly involved in the peace process," Mabbatt concluded.

Curran told the audience that there are six areas Americans can watch to see if our policy is working in Afghanistan. He put these into question form.

n Who will end up running Afghanistan?

n Will Pakistan hold together?

n Will the Arab coalition go the course while America maintains Israel?

n What will China and Russia do?

n Will there be a development program in Afghanistan?

n Will the United States stay the course?

As part of the last question, Curran asked, "How will people feel when the body bags start coming back?"

Mabbatt told the audience that Osama bin Ladenís message was to overthrow the Saudi regime and to throw U.S. forces out of Saudi Arabia. Muslims.

This message is part of a larger "Declaration of the World Islamic Front for Jihad against the Jews and the Crusaders," written by bin Laden and published in an Arabic newspaper on Feb. 23, 1998.

"By Godís leave, we call on every Muslim who believes in God and hopes for reward to obey Godís command to kill the Americans and plunder their possessions wherever he finds them and whenever he can," bin Laden wrote.

Mabbatt said he thought the majority of Muslims probably think bin Laden is a megalomaniac, but, he warned, bin Ladenís message "resonates" throughout the Arab world.

"The Arabs have amazing memories," Mabbatt said. "They have a long list of grievances that go back to the Christian attempts to conquer them in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries."

But the Arab and Muslim world is not the enemy, Mabbatt told readers in his guest editorial, just a week after the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

"Our enemy is a small band of well-trained and financed fanatics," he wrote.

Terrorists.

David Fromkin, in a 1975 article on "The Strategy of Terrorism" in Foreign Affairs, wrote that "terrorism wins only if you respond to it in the way that the terrorists want you to; which means that its fate is in your hands and not theirs."

Perhaps Americans should try to understand bin Laden by understanding what it is he and his fellow terrorists want.

 


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.