David Cameron and Barack Obama “don’t have a clue” about dealing with the war on terror, a former senior member of the CIA said today.
Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, said western politicians had to accept that the conflict in the Middle East was caused by US foreign policy.
Mr Scheuer said that Osama bin Laden and organisations like al-Qaida were fighting a war against US imperialism rather than a war on western culture.
“American politicians, and I’m afraid listening to Mr Cameron this week, there’s not a clue about what’s going down in the western world,” he said.
“They can’t cope with the fact that it’s nothing to do with the way we live. It doesn’t have anything to do with elections or democracy or liberty.
“We are being attacked in the west and we will continue to be attacked in the west as long as we are in Afghanistan, as long as we support the Israelis, as long as we protect the Saudi police state.
“Yet we hear the President, we hear your Prime Minister, talking about thugs and gangsters. We are still in the starting blocks in this war.
“The main recruitment sergeant for al-Qaida is Barack Obama because his speech on the May 19 was a declaration of cultural war on Islam.”
Mr Scheuer, who was speaking at an event in Wales, is a controversial figure in intelligence and political circles.
He left the bin Laden unit two years before September 11 but was called back as an adviser in the wake of the terrorist attack.
Mr Scheuer described his experiences in his book 'Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terrorism'. It was published anonymously in 2004, but Mr Scheuer was soon outed as the author.
His book drew criticism in the US, but was praised for its insight in a speech by bin Laden himself.
In a round of questions, a member of the audience asked Mr Scheuer what advice he would give Mr Obama.
“I would ask him to tell the truth,” he replied. “He, the first Mr Bush, then Mr Clinton and the second Mr Bush have assiduously lied to the American people for 20 years and as a result have made the relations in the United States between Muslims and other people much more difficult.
“They have identified the motivation of our enemy as a war against liberty, as a war against gender equality.
“There is almost no Muslim out there who is an insane character who is going to blow himself up because my daughters go to university.
“What I try and show in my book is that there is no discussion by bin Laden of this cultural war that is supposed to be waged against us.
“A president who was a statesman and a politician might say something like ’I’m sorry we’ve been kinda lying to you for 30 years and why we are being attacked is until recently we were supporting fascism across the Middle East’.
“In the rhetoric of our enemies there is very little, if anything, about attacking us for how we live or how we think or how we act in our own country.
“It is about intervention, it is about being in the Arab Peninsula and it has nothing to do with these cultural things.
“We are the ones that are arranging the cultural war against them. What we will see as al-Qaida evolves is that the next generation is better educated, combat experienced and probably much crueller.”
Mr Scheuer said the only way to end the war on terror was to withdraw from the Middle East to an extent that is “consistent with our interests”.
He added: “The American relationship with Israel, in my mind, is a useless and unnecessary relationship.
“As long as we are playing a role we are the recruiting sergeant for the people that are going to kill us.”