Friday, July 08, 2005


I dug up an ineresting post from last november in Spiked:

"There is a 'rooted public perception of what al-Qaeda is', says Dolnik, who is currently carrying out research on the Terrorism and Political Violence Programme at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies in Singapore; but, he says, such perceptions are far from accurate. Dolnik argues that where many imagine that al-Qaeda is 'a super organisation of thousands of super-trained and super-secret members who can be activated any minute', in fact it is better understood as something like a 'global ideology that has not only attracted many smaller regional groups, but has also facilitated the boom of new organisations that embrace this sort of radical and violent thinking'. Dolnik and others believe that, in many ways, the thing we refer to as 'al-Qaeda' is largely a creation of Western officials.
'Bin Laden never used the term al-Qaeda prior to 9/11', Dolnik tells me. 'Nor am I aware of the name being used by operatives on trial. The closest they came were in statements such as, "Yes, I am a member of what you call al-Qaeda". The only name used by al-Qaeda themselves was the World Islamic Front for the Struggle Against Jews and Crusaders - but I guess that's too long to really stick.'....

...According to British journalist Jason Burke, in his authoritative Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror, 'Al-Qaeda is a messy and rough designation, often applied carelessly in the absence of a more useful term' (3). Burke points out that while many think al-Qaeda is 'a terrorist organisation founded more than a decade ago by a hugely wealthy Saudi Arabian religious fanatic', in fact the term 'al-Qaeda' has only entered political and mainstream discussion fairly recently:
'American intelligence reports in the early 1990s talk about "Middle Eastern extremists…working together to further the cause of radical Islam", but do not use the term "al-Qaeda". After the attempted bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, FBI investigators were aware of bin Laden but only "as one name among thousands". In the summer of 1995, during the trials of Islamic terrorists who had tried to blow up a series of targets in New York two years earlier, "Osam ben Laden" (sic) was mentioned by prosecutors once; "al-Qaeda" was not.'"

So there is much speculation as to whether Al Quaeda is even a real organization. It is perhaps more akin to the "red menace" of the cold war than it is to Nazi Germany or another real organized threat. Of course, there are many people eager to call themselves Al-Quaeda, blow up a few populated areas and strike fear into the hearts of Westerners everywhere in the name of misguided fundamentalism. But the question is which came first: an organized Al-Quaeda, or the perception of one? It almost brings to mind the 1995 John Candy movie "Canadian Bacon"in which The U.S. President, low in the opinion polls, gets talked into raising his popularity by trying to start a cold war against Canada. But Canada realistically would never work. Better to take the actions of a few scary terrorists and make it seem like an organized plot against Westerners everywhere - that's how you really start a cold war. In actuality though, responsibility does not rest entirely on the shoulders of the Western governments. Jeff Jarvis highlights an important point in his blog:

We're dancing around PC wording when we should be directly dealing with the problem here.
But today, Tom Friedman dances closer to the flames. He says that, indeed, this is a Muslim problem... because, if the Muslim world does not deal with it, the actions of the worst among them will affect them all :

Because there is no obvious target to retaliate against, and because there are not enough police to police every opening in an open society, either the Muslim world begins to really restrain, inhibit and denounce its own extremists - if it turns out that they are behind the London bombings - or the West is going to do it for them. And the West will do it in a rough, crude way - by simply shutting them out, denying them visas and making every Muslim in its midst guilty until proven innocent.

And because I think that would be a disaster, it is essential that the Muslim world wake up to the fact that it has a jihadist death cult in its midst. If it does not fight that death cult, that cancer, within its own body politic, it is going to infect Muslim-Western relations everywhere. Only the Muslim world can root out that death cult. It takes a village.
What do I mean? I mean that the greatest restraint on human behavior is never a policeman or a border guard. The greatest restraint on human behavior is what a culture and a religion deem shameful. It is what the village and its religious and political elders say is wrong or not allowed. Many people said Palestinian suicide bombing was the spontaneous reaction of frustrated Palestinian youth. But when Palestinians decided that it was in their interest to have a cease-fire with Israel, those bombings stopped cold. The village said enough was enough.

The Muslim village has been derelict in condemning the madness of jihadist attacks.... "

Call it what you will, I think it is important to dig deeply and wonder what is really going on. We do ourselves and others a disservice if we do not at least ask questions.


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