Crushing Al-Qaida -- But Does it Exist?
With the foiling of the latest London bomb plot, al-Qaida has burst forth again on our media airways. But, for the first time, British and American officials have been slow to brand the potential killing as an al-Qaida crime. Are they at last acknowledging that we are up against something far more than a single international gang that they have hitherto labeled as "al-Qaida"?
Al-Qaida is generally thought to be a worldwide terrorist network. Led by Osama bin Laden, it is said to be intent upon terrorizing and destroying large segments of peace-loving people. In order to destroy or even to neutralize al-Qaida, we must first identify the group.
On of the basic tenets of strategic business policy is to, "identify your industry." (Focus is key to both effective planning and to mass motivation.)
On of the key tenets of war is to, "know your enemy." Have we done that in the Global War On Terror (GWOT), or in identifying the leader as bin Laden? NO!
Is al-Qaida, a worldwide network of thousands of highly motivated Muslim extremist terrorists, led by bin Laden? NO, it is not!
Have you ever heard bin Laden claim, directly, any terrorist act on behalf of al-Qaida? NO, you have not; only through the words of our own media! Indeed, the cross-examination of suspects in the first World Trade Center bombing records the suspects to be dumbfounded by the term, "al-Qaida"!
Furthermore, is bin Laden the great leader of extremist, fanatical Islamic terrorists? NO!
Then how did the term al-Qaida come to be associated with worldwide Islamic terror?
When President Clinton demanded an investigation into Islamic terrorist attacks on American assets in the Middle East, he sent the FBI. Well, the FBI is accustomed to investigating domestic not international crime. Because of their international covert nature, it was very difficult to secure conviction under domestic American law. However, if "association" with a proscribed terrorist organization could be proven, conviction was almost assured. The FBI needed a terrorist organization as a hook upon which to hang the heads of its suspects. And so, al-Qaida was born, not in reality but in the minds of the FBI. Of course, al-Qaida is a far more convenient, sound-bite word than "Fundamental Extremist Islam." So, al-Qaida matured and was eagerly seized upon by the Western media and entered our psyche as the convenient name of a vast international terror gang. Even members of Congress were shown diagrams depicting the "New York organization chart of al-Qaida"! How international Muslim terrorists must have laughed!
In fact, we are threatened not by a single gang led by a single leader, but a worldwide network of loosely linked, ideologically driven, fundamental extremists.
Can one word be so important? You bet -- ask your computer! The problem with getting a key word, such as your terror target, wrong is that it leads to confused perceptions and targeting. This can be very important. For instance, if al-Qaida was a single gang led by bin Laden then killing bin Laden, should do fatal damage. But how could a man, cocooned in a remote mountain cave on the Afghan/Pakistan border, with no radio communication, possibly command a worldwide network of dangerous, covert tourists? He can"t. In recent months bin Laden has been quietly dropped as our priority target. And the reason is obvious.
Most notably on Aug. 10th, top British officials shied away from identifying the latest bomb plot with al-Qaida. At long last, American officials and even the main line media have followed suit and are currently talking in terms of the fingerprints of an al-Qaida type attack.
Osama bin Laden
There is no doubt that bin Laden is a folk hero in the Muslim world and possibly to many others in the dissident societies. However, the fact that he is regarded as a folk hero means little in labeling him as a terrorist leader.
In history other folk heroes who appeared so powerful were often not recognized as the top leaders of their countries.
Horatio Nelson, the greatest of English naval commanders, was the archetypal folk hero. However, even as the most popular Englishman of his age, he never made full admiral and remained only a Viscount, the 4th in the five grades of British peerage. Indeed, he was retired early on half pay, before being recalled to save England from French invasion at the Battle of Trafalgar.
Erwin Rommel was perhaps the most widely known German general in the World War II. He was such a valuable folk hero that, rather than face possible torture and execution, for his prior knowledge of the plot to kill Adolf Hitler, he was pressed by his elite to commit suicide rather than face a political court and, thereby, be humanized.
Douglas McArthur was perhaps the most well known of American generals and certainly a great folk hero. However, he is not remembered as a top American political leader.
History demonstrates that it is quite possible for bin Laden to be a great Islamic folk hero without having a hand on the true levers of Violent Extremist Terrorist power.
In the fight against terrorism, our leaders and intelligence services first have to identify our enemy correctly. Then, terror must be taken to the terrorist by means of infiltration and, exposure or "defoliation." History is likely to record the foiling of the London bomb plot as a key turning point in our continuing fight to live in freedom as it may engender public support for "profiling."
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