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We have met the enemy, and he is us

A CIA agent claims that the US war on terror is only strengthening bin Laden

(Page 2 of 2)

Citing the current resurgence of fighting there and on the Afghan-Pakistani border, he predicts that the country is perilously close to a return of Taliban-style rule.

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He is equally pessimistic about Iraq, the second holiest Islamic land, claiming the situation there is now even more exploitable than Afghanistan for terrorists. Moreover, America's support of Israel continues to confirm bin Laden's claim that the US is interested only in occupying and exploiting Muslim lands.

There is a small window of hope amid the pessimism at the end of the book. He offers up several guidelines for policymakers to debate and consider:

• Think less about frenetic activity, and more about measurable progress in the battle against terrorist organizations.

• Move away from the nonstop memorializing of the 9/11 defeat and start confirming our resolve to destroy the killers.

• Accept that the US is hated, not merely misunderstood, by radical Muslims because of America's policies and actions.

• Realize that others will not do our dirty work abroad.

• Do not treat Al Qaeda attacks as a job for the intelligence services, but as acts of war that require a melding of all US fighting capabilities - military, intelligence, political, diplomatic, and economic.

• Pursue energy self-sufficiency.

He calls this time a "golden opportunity": "For the first time since the cold war's end - perhaps since 1945 - Americans must make a definitive choice about US relations with the Muslim world. We can either reaffirm current policies, thereby denying their role in creating the hatred bin Laden personifies, or we can examine and debate the reality we face, the threat we must defeat, and then - if deemed necessary - devise policies that better serve US interests."

Because of the author's role in the intelligence community and the politicized atmosphere in which this book is released, his views will get close attention. As they should. He is, after all, the former head of the bin Laden unit in the CIA.

Although the information in this book is from unclassified sources - the CIA vetted the book to make sure of that - he has had access over the years to most, if not all, of the classified information on bin Laden and Al Qaeda. And the fact that the CIA allowed it to be published at all is extremely controversial. (According to officials there, the agency can't prevent an employee from exercising his First Amendment rights, only from releasing its classified material and "sources and methods.")

One can only hope that someday "Anonymous" will be able to tell all the stories that led to his anger and frustration. He provides hints at what lies beneath the surface, such as in the dedication: "For Charlie, Harry, Dave, and Joe, and the unrivaled examples they set of professionalism, integrity, and decency. And for Jack, Jim, John, and the ambassador, who most certainly do not."

Faye Bowers is a Monitor reporter in Washington, D.C.