When President Bush announced in a televised speech the week after September 11 that he wanted Osama bin Laden "dead or alive," a grieving nation seeking justice and revenge roared in approval. Two years later, as al Oaeda's associates mounted almost weekly attacks against U.S. interests and bin Laden still roamed the earth as a free man, Americans wondered why. With both the military and the media declaring the war in Afghanistan over and a resounding success, Philip Smucker examines in AI Qaeda's Great Escape what kind of victory we can rightfully claim.
Primarily focusing on the major battles of Tora Bora and Operation Anaconda, Smucker details how bin Laden and scores of highly trained al Oaeda fighters managed to slip unnoticed out of eastern Afghanistan, despite the presence of the overwhelming U.S. military power that had already decimated the Taliban.
To balance his reproach, Smucker turns a critical eye on post-gill developments in his own profession. Smucker charges that Western media outlets, eager to satisfy their audience's thirst for revenge, began losing their grasp on journalistic objectivity while covering the military's pursuit of bin Laden. Blinding patriotism and an unhealthy reliance on the Pentagon's press releases led the media to portray events that did not reflect the reality on the ground in Afghanistan.
Further, Smucker contends that to satisfy the press and the public's need for vengeance, the Bush administration aggressively pushed to achieve some early, highly visible successes, leading to a shortchanging of long-term strategy. Impatience at the top forced a rush into a war aimed primarily at "regime change," but it left the U.S. military largely empty-handed when it came to capturing its al Oaeda prey. Likely the most grievous error of the ongoing campaign in
Afghanistan, allowing members of al Qaeda to escape, has given them the option to regroup, thereby posing a dangerous resurgent threat to U.S. national security.
Author: Philip Smucker