Al-Qaida Brand Name Ready for Franchise
The Business of Terror
OLIVIER ROY / Le Monde diplomatique (France) 1sep04
[Below: The Origins of Al-Qaida]
Under the pretext of President George Bush’s declared war against terrorism, the West seems ready to enter a global conflict that it avoided during the cold war. Bush and Osama bin Laden both want to persuade us that the world is divided - them and us, believers and non-believers, barbarism and civilisation.
Is al-Qaida really an organisation? Given the number of attacks attributed to the group led by Osama bin Laden since 11 September 2001, the question, which has been seriously considered by writers such as Jason Burke (1), deserves attention. Al-Qaida was supposedly behind the 11 March bombings in Madrid and insurgency operations instigated by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (based, it is claimed, in Fallujah in Iraq, but also believed to be involved in the Madrid events). It is also implicated in the attacks in Bali (October 2002), Casablanca (May 2003), Istanbul (November 2003) and the wave of shootings in Saudi Arabia (May 2004).
To this we should add the arrests last month in Britain and Pakistan of suspected leaders of the al-Qaida network. We may legitimately ask what connection there is between these events.
The careers of people involved in the attacks may indicate al-Qaida’s sphere of influence, given the network’s record. But we should be cautious. Charges against prisoners at Guantánamo Bay designated as al-Qaida combatants, or others now on trial, notably Mounir al-Motassadeq (2), in Germany, have often proved insubstantial and have not stood up to the scrutiny of an ordinary court. Some commentators maintain that we can only see the tip of the iceberg and that al-Qaida is a vast organisation that was established well before 11 September 2001, with a network of sleepers ready to awake into instant action in response to instructions from the high command, hidden in seemingly harmless internet messages. Is this credible? If so, why would al-Qaida wait to act? Unless it is hampered by technical problems - inadequate recruitment, equipment shortages, tighter security - which would suggest that it is weaker than the Bush administration in the United States is prepared to admit.
Al-Qaida does not appear to be working to a schedule based on a clearly defined political strategy; it does not strike at particular moments that might influence the course of events. It seems more opportunistic, like other activist groups. It may strike at any time to maintain a climate of terror and prove that military intervention, from Afghanistan to Iraq, has no effect. The Madrid bombing was no exception to this, as Lawrence Wright (3) explained: it was only by chance that the attacks coincided with the Spanish general election and, if the Aznar government had not grossly mismanaged its reaction to the events, the attacks could have had the opposite effect on public opinion.
We can divide those attackers said to strike for al-Qaida into international and local teams. The first category is made up from people of many nationalities all acting outside their home countries, as in New York and Washington, Madrid, and in thwarted attacks on Los Angeles, Paris and Strasbourg. In the second category, national teams attack "western" targets at home - Casablanca, Istanbul, Bali. Until now most internationalists have been Afghan veterans. Local teams, though, seem to work on a franchise basis. The situation in Iraq is less clear and it is difficult to tell where foreign volunteers fighting in Fallujah come from and to which organisation they belong.
All clues suggest that al-Qaida is in flux, mainly due to a change in its recruiting patterns. Presenting it as a structured organisation will become more implausible. But al-Qaida has a promising future as a brand name because it offers an effective way to maximise the impact of any attack.
From Afghan veterans The original founders of al-Qaida were a band of veterans from the Afghanistan war, or rather wars. Since the occupation of Afghanistan by US forces the members of this group have not changed but their overall numbers have fallen because of arrests and deaths. There are two categories: the first is formed of Bin Laden’s personal followers and operatives, some of whom joined him in the 1980s. Their numbers are limited and they are fairly easy to identify. The inner circle are militants from the Middle East who travelled to Afghanistan in the 1980s and early 1990s to fight the Russian army. They were already politically active and often involved in radical movements at home. They also came from deeply religious backgrounds. They followed Bin Laden to Yemen and Sudan, returning to Afghanistan with him in 1996. Many have been killed or arrested: Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, Wadi al-Hage, Muhammad Sadeek Odeh, Abu Hafs al-Masri (Muhammad Atef), Suliman Abu Ghaith and Abu Zubaidah. They had shared Bin Laden’s lot, lived with their families in the same compounds and had sometimes sealed their friendship with marriage. Bin Laden married his daughter to Atef Ayaman al-Zawahri, an Egyptian, who is almost his only follower to survive.
The second category is made up of a succession of young recruits from very different backgrounds who reached Afghanistan in the 1990s, especially between 1997 and 2000 (more came after 1996, when the Taliban seized power). Apart from those who came from Saudi Arabia, most of these young internationalists had been radicalised in the West. They had moved to western countries when they were very young or as students; some were born in western countries and many had taken citizenship. They had adopted a western lifestyle, reflected in their studies and their behaviour and marital alliances. Then they underwent a conversion process - rather like born-again Christians - often breaking with their families and becoming politically radical as they regained their faith. In fact, the processes seem interconnected.
This category includes the four pilots respon sible for the 11 September attacks, also Ahmed Ressam (4), the Beghal network (5), Zacarias Moussaoui (6) and Muhammad Amor Sliti (7). Some are converts to Islam - Richard Reid (8) and José Padilla (9). Oddly, few militants came straight from Muslim countries , apart from some of those involved in the November 2003 attack in Istanbul, who were based in Turkey.
Members of the internationalist contingent rarely return to their home countries. None of the Algerians returned to join the Armed Islamic Group (GIA). They did go to take part in peripheral jihad - in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya and even Kashmir - but not to the Middle East or Maghreb. Then they returned to Europe. Jihad and the trip to Afghanistan became rites of passage. Returning veterans enjoyed the prestige of having been mujahideen, however short their stay.
The influx of foreign volunteers often caused tensions with locals. In an attempt to restore order the Taliban gave Bin Laden exclusive control in early 1997 over camps for Arabs and converts, whereas Uzbek and Pakistani combatants kept their own organisations. Any Muslim volunteers from outside Pakistan and Central Asia who travelled to Afghanistan between 1997 and 2001 had to pass through an al-Qaida camp. A few went to camps run by radical Pakistani groups. This does not mean that anyone who stayed in one of these camps is a potential terrorist.
The second generation None of these second-generation Afghan veterans is close to Bin Laden, unlike the old guard. The volunteers were screened. The most promising candidates qualified to return to the West to carry out attacks. Their stay in Afghanistan was an opportunity to train and develop team spirit, a key factor in network strength. Unsuccessful candidates - that is, most of them - joined the foreign brigade that fought alongside the Taliban against Ahmed Shah Massud’s Northern Alliance. This explains why investigators in the US and Europe have had trouble finding charges that will stick to Guantánamo detainees, whose only fault was being taken prisoner with Taliban fighters.
Most operatives responsible for the internationalist attacks belong to the second generation. It is thanks to them that al-Qaida has so far proved a powerful, effective organisation. By definition their networks are international and based on personal ties. They reconcile global reach and the cohesion of a small band of like-minded men. The bonds linking these people, who trained in the same camps and fought the same battles, account for the networks’ flexibility and resilience. As Marc Sageman (10) explains so well, there was bonding at both ends of an initiation process that was dependent on the Afghan jihad. Political awareness emerged among small groups of friends who lived in university residences or neighbourhoods or at a mosque before they decided to leave. Once in Afghanistan, Bosnia or Chechnya, they met other brothers, perhaps from Malaysia or Pakistan, and in some cases went on to join them in those countries.
Network members often behaved contrary to the usual rules governing a conventional undercover operation. They shared flats and bank accounts, acted as best man at a friend’s wedding and witnessed wills. Secrecy depended on group bonds not on tradecraft.
Al-Qaida’s headquarters, operational units, transnational networks and chain of command are all based on personal links forged in Afghanistan at a local level and then transposed to a rootless, transnational dimension - travel, moves to other countries, multiple nationalities. Comradeship plays an important role, often reinforced by marital ties in defiance of tradition. They marry the sister of a friend, not a woman chosen by their parents. Their relations are often those of a modern couple, as we learned from the wife of one of the men who assassinated Massud; she said that her husband had mended his own clothes (11). Such personal bonds constitute the networks’ main strength and also their weakness.
In several cases police have only needed to unravel the story of a single militant to trace his comrades, though in the process they might have implicated innocent people who just shared a flat or attended the same mosque as the accused. French police warned their Spanish counterparts about Jamal Zougam, a leader of the Madrid attacks. He spent time in jail in November 2001 but was released for lack of proof. Although there is not yet a database of all the volunteers who travelled to Afghanistan, many will ultimately be identified on the basis of seized documents, forged passports or arrests.
With the loss of the Afghan sanctuary, there is nowhere to rebuild the bonds between combatants. Although the authorities in Chechnya, the Sahel, Pakistan’s tribal territories and even Fallujah may turn a blind eye, none of these provide a long-term haven safely sheltered from surveillance and intermittent air strikes. The number of Afghan veterans is dwindling - an operating technique based on suicide attacks contributes to this - and it is proving difficult to find replacements.
To keep the upper hand al-Qaida consequently needs to recruit more widely and make alliances. But it lacks the infrastructure. It is neither a political party with a formal leadership nor a military organisation. It has neither fellow travellers nor sympathisers. It is a network of militants and only exists as long as they attack. It has no way of entering the political arena. It can only form alliances with other groups of combatants, even when they have a political wing, as do the Taliban or the Chechens.
Three options Al-Qaida has three options for establishing new alliances or extending its influence: franchising, partnership and organised crime. It has already started franchising its brand name. The perpetrators of local attacks on home territory come into this category, whether they were in Afghanistan or not. A local group without direct links to al-Qaida headquarters, as in Casablanca (or with indirect links as in Djerba or Istanbul) may act in its name. Or al-Qaida may claim responsibility for a local attack. If public opinion or the authorities attribute an incident to Bin Laden’s organisation, the effect is the same. The targets are large - anything linked to the West, Israel or US interests will do - and help give the impression that there is always something happening somewhere and that al-Qaida is ubiquitous.
Local representatives may be well-organised radical groups such as Jemaah Islamiyah in Indonesia, extremist Pakistani groups, whose members fought alongside al-Qaida in Afghanistan or the al-Zarqawi organisation in Iraq. But they may be no more than an alliance of juvenile rebels with criminals and cultists, all led by a local figure, as in the Casablanca bombings. Educated internet geeks, speaking several languages and inspired by al-Qaida, may also form groups. We may see the rise of al-Qaidaism even if the group has disappeared.
Franchising the brand name is facilitated by a radical undercurrent recruiting and operating along similar lines to the original organisation, but without organic links to it. France suffered attacks by the Kelkal network (12) and the Roubaix gang (13) in 1995 and 1996. It seems likely that members of neo-fundamentalist groups not committed to jihad, such as Tabligh-i-Jamaat (14) or Hizb al-Tahrir (15), may decide to take action on their own initiative, but under al-Qaida’s name. The July attacks on the US and Israeli embassies in Tashkent may be the work of members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, who fought alongside al-Qaida against the US in Afghanistan, or of Hizb al-Tahrir dissidents. The first option seems more likely.
Afghan veterans may also start their own operations, the classic example being al-Zarqawi, however difficult it is to determine what he is actually doing. Foreign volunteers fighting in Fallujah will benefit from the al-Qaida brand name. It is in their interest to suggest that there is a well-organised international command structure, however haphazard it may be in practice.
The Saudi exception Saudi Arabia is more complex. The radical groups responsible for recent attacks there include many Afghan veterans (there have been proportionately more Saudis among the Muslim volunteers involved in fighting on all fronts from Afghanistan to Chechnya and Bosnia). Bin Laden, a member of the Saudi elite, played a key role in bringing his compatriots to Afghanistan in the 1980s, when he still had some influence over the Saudi secret service; his initially superficial break with the regime dates from 1991. It seems likely that he knows many of the leaders of radical groups personally.
Attacks in Saudi Arabia have focused on foreigners, including other Arabs, and on symbols of foreign influence rather than the apparatus of state. In this they resemble attacks by al-Qaida itself. Even though the terrorists want to remove the monarchy, their methods are hardly compatible with a revolutionary strategy. Furthermore there are no foreign volunteers in the Saudi groups. Unlike typical al-Qaida militants, none of the recruits have lived abroad, apart from their time in Afghanistan or Chechnya. And they do not attribute responsibility for attacks to al-Qaida, though they have nothing against the name.
Two contradictory factors explain the omnipresence of the al-Qaida brand name. Regimes from Tashkent to Moscow are quick to see its hand at work in their countries, enabling them to become members of the anti-terror campaign and distract attention from their repressive policies. But militants also gain from the idea that al-Qaida is ubiquitous. If Bin Laden can maintain his image as the mastermind behind a web of terror, local operators are certain to attract attention.
This is similar to a conventional business franchising policy: a company defines a concept and loans the use of its brand name to franchisees. It works well because al-Qaida has never been a Leninist organisation, demanding close control over its members. It enjoys considerable autonomy and the central organisation is quick to delegate decisions to younger field operatives and even converts, which is a new development for a radical Islamic group.
Any alliance comes at a cost in ideological purity. But al-Qaida has little option if it is to avoid being sidelined. Its militants have often formed alliances with Muslim groups committed to the concept of jihad but pursuing exclusively local objectives, such as the Taliban, Chechen radicals and Iraqi Sunni.
Such alliances could spread three ways. Al-Qaida is or has been involved in alliances with nationalist or ethnic movements, as in Bosnia, Chechnya and apparently Iraq. But in all three cases the internationalists have not developed their own strategy. They have merely formed the military avant-garde in a context in which any action is restricted to national territory. They provide a foreign legion that can be dismissed when the war is over, as in Bosnia and perhaps one day in Iraq.
It is possible that militants on the radical fringe of nationalist movements may decide in desperation to add an international dimension to their struggle, following the example of the Palestinians in the 1970s. At present national liberation movements, regardless of the importance they attach to Islam (Hamas in Palestine, Shamil Basayev’s followers in Chechnya), restrict action to their home ground and the territory of what is seen as the occupying power. Al-Qaida recruits have not been involved in attacks in Israel or Palestine. Nor have Palestinians living in Gaza or the Occupied Territories taken part in al-Qaida operations. But with growing repression and international isolation some groups may decide to broaden the scope of their struggle by forming an alliance with al-Qaida internationalists.
There is further scope for alliances with polit ical activists from the extreme right to the radical violent far-left, descendants of the Baader-Meinhof gang, Action Directe or the Red Brigades. They have a common enemy: a world order exemplified by US imperialism. Al-Qaida fascinates people looking for ways of breaking with the established order. And it benefits from the almost complete disappearance of the radical Marxist far-left. Former sympathisers have shifted their attention to building an alternative global market and tend to disregard the worst cases of social deprivation. Until now prospective al-Qaida recruits had to convert to Islam but that condition may be waived. None of the organisation’s objectives are religious. Its anti-semitism is much closer to the classic European model than the Muslim version (16).
Converts are undoubtedly a good indication of future trends. The bridge they form between young westerners and radical Islamists might work in the opposite direction. We may see young converts returning to their roots to form new alliances, branching into organised crime or politics. Ilich Ramírez Sanchez, better known as Carlos the Jackal, converted to Islam in prison and praised the work of Bin Laden in his last book, L’Islam révolutionnaire (17). When Italian police arrested Nadia Desdemona Lioce, a member of a Red Brigade cell, in March 2003, she said she supported the struggle of all Muslims. In Europe’s underprivileged neighbourhoods many conversions to Islam seem to have more to do with militant commitment than religion. The prime motivation is almost certainly protest.
To sell its services? The third way al-Qaida may form new alliances is by selling its services or joining organised crime. If counter-terrorist forces finally neutralise the core of al-Qaida, some Afghan wars veterans and potential recruits will put their skills, networks and brand image on the market. They might join forces with a criminal organisation or start one themselves. They could also act as mercenaries for secret services, as Abu Nidal or Carlos once did.
No states have so far dared to explore such an eventuality for fear of the US reaction. But the situation may change if deadlock persists in Iraq revealing the weakness of the US position. With further disintegration of al-Qaida networks and growing confusion about the anti-terrorist war’s ends and means, the identity of players may be obscured by grey areas. Such changes are more likely as channels used by internationalist militants depend on support from drug trafficking networks and accomplices in positions of authority, for example in the tribal territories of Pakistan.
Al-Qaida and its many incarnations is a transnational organisation with only circumstantial links in the Middle East. Its ability to recruit and act is only indirectly related to conflicts there, primarily driven by national interests. We tend to over-emphasise the Islamic side of al-Qaida and disregard its global, anti-imperialist dimension and third world agenda. Al-Qaida undoubtedly stands a better chance of survival if it devotes less energy to defending Islam and concentrates on joining the vanguard of movements contesting established order and US domination.
(1) Al-Qaida, Casting a Shadow of Terror, I B Tauris, London, 2004.
(2) He is accused of being back-up for the 11 September attackers.
(3) Lawrence Wright "The Terror Web: were the Madrid bombings part of a new, far-reaching jihad being plotted on the internet?" The New Yorker, 2 August 2004.
(4) He was arrested at the US border with Canada in December 1999 carrying explosives. He has since "assisted" US investigators.
(5) Arrested in France in 2001 on suspicion of planning an attack on the US embassy in Paris.
(6) A French national arrested in the US and accused of taking part in preparing the 11 September attacks.
(7) Also known as Abu Omar, he has been accused by Belgian investigators of sheltering and assisting the two Tunisian suicide-bombers who killed Ahmed Shah Massud, leader of the Afghan Northern Alliance, on 9 September 2001.
(8) Convicted by a US court of attempting to detonate an explosive device concealed in his shoe on a flight from Paris to Miami on 22 December 2001.
(9) Arrested at Chicago airport in May 2002. He is accused of providing al-Qaida with details of how to build a radioactive dirty bomb. See Augusta Conchiglia, "United States: the black hole of Guantanamo", Le Monde diplomatique, English language edition, January 2004.
(10) Marc Sageman, Understanding Terror Networks, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004. See also
(11) Malika el Aroud, Les soldats de lumière, ASBL Les Ailes de la Miséricorde, Brussels, 2003.
(12) Network led by Khaled Kelkal, killed by French police and suspected of having masterminded attacks, including the bombing of the Saint Michel metro station in July 1995.
(13) This gang committed several hold-ups and shootings in the north of France in 1996.
(14) The Society for the Propagation of Islam, which is active in Saudi Arabia, Morocco and countries around the Indian Ocean.
(15) The London-based Islamic Liberation Party. See "Search for a perfect world of Islam", Le Monde diplomatique, English language edition, April 2002.
(16) After he joined the far right, the Baader-Meinhof gang’s former lawyer, Horst Mahler, was spotted at a meeting of the virulently anti-semitic Hizb al-Tahrir organisation in Hamburg in October 2002.
(17) Editions du Rocher, Paris, 2003.
THE ORIGINS OF AL-QAIDA
Al-Qaida, according to many intelligence specialists, is not an organised terrorist group formed to fight the US, as the Bush administration has repeatedly alleged. An investigation into its past yields clues about its real nature.
I first heard about Al-Qaida while I was attending the Command and Staff course in Jordan. I was a French officer at that time and the French Armed Forces had close contacts and cooperation with Jordan.
It was in the mid 1980s and I knew almost nothing about general purpose computers. My expertise in computers was only about computer- assisted fire data processing for artillery. Two of my Jordanian colleagues were experts in computers. They were air defence officers. Using computer science slang, they introduced a series of jokes about students’ punishment.
For example, when one of us was late at the bus stop to leave the Staff College, the two officers used to tell us: “You’ll be noted in Qâeidat ilMaaloomaat” which meant “You’ll be logged in the information database.” Meaning “You will receive a warning ...” If the case was more severe, they used to talk about Qâeidat iTTaaleemaat. Meaning “the decision database”. It meant “You will be punished...”. For the worst cases they used to speak of logging in “Al-Qaida”.
As I was not very fluent in Arabic, I asked a Pakistani student, a good friend of mine, the meaning of these jokes. Both officers were using Arabic words, which was very unusual in military language. Since the Arab students very frequently use English or French words and expressions in technical linguistics even while speaking Arabic, the Pakistani’s explanation was rather amazing.
Our Pakistani fellow was very proud of his country
being the first
Islamic republic in history. The Islamic Conference generally held its yearly general assembly in Islamabad.
During the first decade of its activity the Conference met with a lot of difficulties in preparing its sessions. The agendas, the preparatory works and the drafting of official decision sheets led the member-countries of the Conference to send a lot of mail by fax or post and despatch contact teams to Jeddah and Islamabad. The procedure was very lengthy and not very effective.
In the early 1980s the Islamic Bank for Development, which is located in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, like the permanent secretariat of the Islamic Conference Organisation, bought a new computerised system to cope with its accounting and communication requirements. At that time the system was more sophisticated than necessary for their actual needs.
It was decided to use a part of the system’s memory to host the Islamic Conference’s database. It was possible for the countries attending to access the database by telephone: an Intranet, in modern language. The governments of the member-countries as well as some of their embassies in the world were connected to that network.
I was given the opportunity to see one of the messages transmitted from Jeddah and received by the Pakistani Embassy in Amman in early 1986, and I saw the sign @ being used for the first time in the Internet context.
According to the Pakistani major’s explanation, the database was divided into two parts, the information file where the participants in the meetings could pick up or send information they needed, and the decision file where the decisions made during the previous sessions were recorded and stored.
In Arabic, the files were called, Qâeidat ilMaeloomaat and Qâeidat iTTaaleemaat. Those two files were kept in one file called in Arabic Qâeidat ilmu’ti’aat which is the exact translation of the English word database. But the Arabs commonly used the short word, Al-Qaida which is the Arabic word for “base”. Any kind of base. The military air base of Riyadh, Saudia, is called qâeidat ‘ riyadh al ‘askariya. Qâeida means “a base” and Al-Qaida mean “the base”.
In the mid-1980s, Al-Qaida as known in an Arabic military school was a database located in a computer and dedicated to the communications of the Islamic Conference’s secretariat.
E-MAIL OF AL-QAIDA
In the early 1990s, I was a military intelligence officer in the Head Quarters of the French rapid action force.
Because of my skills in Arabic my job was also to translate a lot of faxes and letters seized or intercepted by our Intelligence services.
As I was in charge of the Islamic countries, and also of the Islamic armed extremists when and where they opposed our troops, I was cleared to translate these kinds of documents. We very often got intercepted material sent by Islamic networks operating from the UK or from Belgium.
These documents contained directions sent to Islamic armed groups in Algeria or in France. The messages were political references meant to help the terrorists to bring politics into the claims made to justify their crimes.
The messages quoted the sources of the statements to be exploited in the redaction of the tracts or leaflets, or to be introduced in video or audio tapes to be sent to the media.
The most commonly quoted sources were the United Nations, the non-aligned countries, the UNHCR and … Al-Qaida.
As any official translator, I used to explain some words used in Arabic, because they provided clues about the writer’s nationality or personality. And I often had to explain what this Al-Qaida was.
Of course things have changed since 1986. The Internet had developed and the Islamic Conference had its own network to which a lot of Islamic organisations subscribed. And a lot of them are not terrorist groups. And Al-Qaida remained the database of the Islamic Conference. Not all the member countries of the Islamic Conference are “rogue states” and many Islamic groups could pick up information from the databases.
It was but natural for Osama bin Laden to be connected to this network. He is a member of an important family in the banking and business world.
Because of the presence of “rogue states”, it became easy for terrorist groups to use the e-mail of the database. Hence, the e-mail of Al-Qaida was used, with some interface system providing secrecy, for the families of the mujahedeen to keep links with their children undergoing training in Afghanistan, or in Libya or in the Beqaa valley, Lebanon. Or in action anywhere in the battlefields where the extremists sponsored by all the “rogue states” used to fight. And the “rogue states” included Saudi Arabia. When Osama bin Laden was an American agent in Afghanistan, the Al-Qaida Intranet was a good communication system through coded or covert messages.
THE TERRORISTS’ WORLD
Al-Qaida was neither a terrorist group nor Osama bin Laden’s personal property.
Terrorists always act on behalf of local interests where it is very difficult to differentiate between common criminality and political activism. Claiming a major political purpose is only a way to invest crimes with some kind of legitimacy. In short there is no international terrorism, but groups that operate with no national references and that do not care about borders.
Some people however benefit from the public belief in a “unified, common enemy”. Those are not only the terrorist groups but also the powers that be which make money by waging the war against “bin Laden’s army”.
The terrorist actions in Turkey in 2003 were carried out by Turks and the motives were local and not international, unified or joint. These crimes put the Turkish government in a difficult situation vis-à-vis the British and the Israelis. But the attacks certainly intended to “punish” Prime Minister Erdogan for being a “toot tepid” Islamic politician.
What we observe nowadays reminds me of what took place in Europe when the Red Army Fraction in Germany, the Red Brigades in Italy and Direct Action in France operated in the 1970s and early 1980s.
Their political claim was the struggle for a certain kind of communism. In fact, they were common law criminals and their crimes were not only assassination of VIPs but also attacks on banks, and robbery with violence.
The same thing is occurring with the current Islamic armed extremists. They also smuggle drugs, weapons, stolen cars and so on, “to get finance for their political struggle”.
And these groups are not placed under any unified or joint command and control authority.
A COMMON ENEMY
Certain questions come to one’s mind. For instance, why have people heard about Al-Qaida only after 9/11 and not before? Probably because it is profitable to the White House strategists.
In April 1999, NATO held its summit in Washington, DC to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Alliance.
The original agenda included the enlargement of the
include Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic. However another important item was the definition of the new strategic situation. This last point was finally removed from the agenda for a good reason: the member countries never found an agreement on the definition of the common threat. Neither the British nor the US ever agreed to consider Islamic terrorism as a component of the new threat, the British because they hosted — and they still now host — Islamic extremist “logisticians” wanted by the French government, and the US because they refused to admit that Saudi Arabia also sponsors terrorism.
AN IDENTIFIED ENEMY
Nowadays, things have changed. US failures in Afghanistan and in Iraq have led the strategists to target another enemy.
Saudi Arabia is in the US gunsights. Prince Abdallah, the regent, is not supported by the Bush administration. In August 1990, he was very reluctant to approve of the deployment of the US-led coalition in the kingdom. And his attitude has not changed since. However, attacking Saudi Arabia could put the US in a very difficult international position. For them it is a better plan to continue the offensive towards the oil wells of Central Asia through Iran.
Presenting Islamic terrorism as a unified criminal organisation under bin Laden’s rule gives the official US spokesmen the possibility to conceal the real motives behind their current policies. Meanwhile a deep dissatisfaction has taken root in the Third World towards the international trade organisations and the economic policy elaborated by the WTO. This dissatisfaction is used by the propagandists of the Islamic Revolution to muster popular support for the Armed Islamic Extremists (AIEs).
Targeting American citizens or interests, or allies of the Americans, provides publicity to local terrorist groups and supports a general trend to attack “the capitalistic system”. In a meeting that took place in Villepinte, France, in September 2003, the participants came from various countries and political opinions. Sponsored by Libya, this conference gathered opponents to the Bush administration. Some were Islamic politicians, others were socialist or communist Africans and yet others were people from Central Europe opposing the enlargement of NATO, and US presence in the Balkans.
In the world of today there is an acute confrontation between several economic concepts and opinions. Some of the opponents of Western-led globalisation are able to use military or terrorist actions to support their economic struggle.
The third world feels supported by the so-called “rogue” elements of the Islamic Conference. And these elements are not states but lobbies. Exactly as in the liberal economic system. In the “liberal” countries of the WTO, lobbies control governments and lead them into military actions under defence pretexts, but really only to make money through warfare.
In the third world the general opinion is that the countries using weapons of mass destruction for economic purposes in the service of imperialism are in fact “rogue states”, specially the US and other NATO members.
Some Islamic economic lobbies are conducting a war against “liberal” economic lobbies. They use local terrorist groups claiming to act on behalf of Al-Qaida. On the other hand, national armies invade independent countries under the aegis of the UN Security Council and carry out pre-emptive wars. And the real sponsors of these wars are not governments but the lobbies concealed behind them.
The truth is, there is no Islamic army or terrorist group called Al-Qaida. And any informed intelligence officer knows this. But there is a propaganda campaign to make the public believe in the presence of an identified entity representing the “devil” only in order to drive the “TV watcher” to accept a unified international leadership for a war against terrorism. The country behind this propaganda is the US and the lobbyists for the US war on terrorism are only interested in making money.
Unfortunately, citizens do not care about the businessmen’s securities. They are interested only in the everyday security that their governments are supposed to ensure. The true war against terrorism is always a series of local battles. It can be won by appropriate law enforcement actions and certainly not by conventional troops carrying out conventional warfare under the command and control of the Pentagon.
One of the key steps in such a battle against terrorism is to cut off terrorists from their popular base. To reach this goal we must implement economic policies that do not leave unemployed people out in the cold. When people are without hope, they turn into desperadoes.
source: http://www.worldaffairsjournal.com/article2.html 12sep04