International affairs journalist to speak on bin Laden, Iraq | AspenTimes.com

International affairs journalist to speak on bin Laden, Iraq

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer

You are not likely to leave Arnaud de Borchgrave’s lecture on Tuesday evening at The Aspen Institute cheered up about the prospect of global terrorism against America. But at least you will leave more informed.

A veteran journalist with posts at Newsweek, United Press International and The Washington Times, and a director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, de Borchgrave plans to tell his audience that an attack on Iraq could lead to severe reprisal attacks on America.

And he will point out that Osama bin Laden has been alive in Pakistan since mid-December and that the next al Qaeda attack is likely to target oil industry infrastructure in the Middle East.

In a column in Sunday’s Washington Times, de Borchgrave reports on a recent discussion that Saddam Hussein is said to have had with his inner circle of advisers, which includes two of his sons.

The content of the meeting was leaked to a Kuwaiti newspaper, and de Borchgrave writes that “Saddam made clear to his acolytes he would wait for the U.S. to throw the first punch – and then hit back with everything he’s got, both on the battlefield and ‘all other fronts.’ This presumably means the activation of ‘sleeper’ cells in the U.S.”

And “everything he’s got” includes chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction.

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“No one seems to be asking the question, what is Iraq going to do about it,” de Borchgrave said in an interview on Sunday about the Bush administration’s stated intent to take out Saddam Hussein.

And de Borchgrave’s column quotes one of Saddam’s advisers telling the Iraqi leader, “With a simple sign from you, we can make America’s people sleepless and frightened to go out in the streets. I swear upon your head, sir, that if I do not turn their night into day and their day into a living hell, I will ask you to chop off my head before the brothers present.”

On the subject of al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, de Borchgrave has been told by his longtime sources in Afghanistan and Pakistan that bin Laden and at least 5,000 al Qaeda members have been in Pakistan since mid-December, blending in with the urban crowds, most of whom are young, radical and extremely anti-American.

And de Borchgrave thinks bin Laden’s next move will be an attack this summer or fall on oil infrastructure in the Middle East, such as a supertanker in the Straight of Hormuz or a Saudi Arabian oil-storage facility.

“It would discombobulate markets all over the world,” de Borchgrave said. “And I think Osama understands the slogan, ‘It’s the economy, stupid.’ I wouldn’t be surprised if something happens by September.”

De Borchgrave said Americans need to understand that they are at war with a formidable, and growing, enemy.

“We are not at war with Islam, but we are at war with radical Islam,” he said. “And radical Islam is at war with us.”

He pointed out that in Pakistan, over 80 percent of male adults believe bin Laden is a freedom fighter and not a terrorist, and that the most popular name for a baby boy now around the Muslim world is “Osama.”

And, he said, bin Laden’s long-term goal is to replace the feudal ruling families in Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich countries and create a union of radical Muslim states that have both oil and also have Pakistan’s nuclear capability behind them.

“He hates America with a passion,” de Borchgrave said of bin Laden, who he has been following for years.

And he thinks that America lacks the intelligence it needs about its current enemy.

“During the Cold War, there was a big difference. We nurtured a secret army of experts, and we used to be able to bug [former Soviet President Leonoid] Brezhnev’s car as it moved through Moscow. We knew their history, their habits, their routines and their movements.

“And now we know very little about our enemies. That’s the big difference.”

Now in his mid-70s, de Borchgrave continues to travel to the world’s hot spots and write about what he finds there.

He was appointed UPI’s Brussels bureau chief at the age of 21. Three years later he moved to Newsweek as bureau chief in Paris. At age 27, he became senior editor of Newsweek, a position he held for 25 years. He was named editor in chief of The Washington Times in 1985 and left that post in 1991.

Today, he is an editor-at-large for both the Times and UPI. He is also a senior adviser and director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

The title of his lecture on Tuesday is “Clash of Civilization – or New World Disorder?” The talk is free and open to the public. It begins at 6:30 p.m. at Paepcke Auditorium behind the music tent in Aspen’s West End.