Thursday, April 03, 2008 

The pompous windbag shows up - again.

It's a hard life having to traipse from one safe-haven to another, all the while knowing that at any moment a predator drone could come along and blow you into a decent number of pieces, but somehow Ayman al-Zawahiri manages it. In fact, not only can he avoid the Crusader-Zionist alliance's laser guided missiles, but he can answer questions from the jihadist forums at the same time, as yesterday saw al-Qaida's media arm, As-Sahab, release the first part of al-Zawahiri's response to over 100 questions posed to him back in December.

That of course doesn't stop him from being a pompous, self-righteous cowardly windbag who likes the sound of his own voice, but you can't expect everything from the second-in-command of a terrorist organisation. Most of the reports have picked up on Zawahiri's denunication of the United Nations, but that's hardly news. Far more interesting is Zawahiri's typical politicians' response to the question of why al-Qaida, or rather its Iraqi linked arm, the Islamic State of Iraq, massacres dozens of their own people in marketplaces, even if they are ostensibly aimed at killing the Shia:

My reply to Mudarris Jughrafiya is that we haven’t killed the innocents, not in Baghdad, nor in Morocco, nor in Algeria, nor anywhere else. And if there is any innocent who was killed in the Mujahideen’s operations, then it was either an unintentional error, or out of necessity as in cases of al-Tatarrus [taking of human shields by the enemy].

My, that sounds remarkably similar to what politicians and armies say in cases of "collateral damage", doesn't it? Zawahiri elaborates slightly:

Were we insane killers of innocents as the questioner claims, it would be possible for us to kill thousands of them in the crowded markets, but we are confronting the enemies of the Muslim Ummah and targeting them, and it may be the case that during this, an innocent might fall unintentionally or unavoidably, and the Mujahideen have warned repeatedly the Muslims in general that they are in a war with the senior criminals – the Americans and Jews and their allies and agents – and that they must keep away from the places where these enemies gather.

Whoops! Did Zawahiri nearly just "misspeak"? The ISI has killed thousands of "them" in crowded markets, and generally "the Americans and Jews and their allies and agents" don't hang around the bazaars. Al-Qaida's message to Iraqis: keep away from the markets, as you don't know when we might decide that some of the people there are part of the Crusader alliance, who we'll be perfectly justified in killing along with dozens of innocents. Still, I suppose they'll be off to al-Firdaws, right, which means they'll be in a better place. Just dead.

All of which makes the following rather amusing. Both Zawahiri and the supposed leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi (widely believed to actually be Abu Ayyub al-Masri, an Egyptian jihadi, posing as an Iraqi native to gain more widespread support) have increasingly denounced Hamas for making concessions, namely signing the temporary agreement reached with Fatah that ended the in-fighting between the two last year with both going into a sort-of coalition government, not imposing Sharia law and generally not resisting Israel as fiercely as the brave jihadis leading al-Qaida would. In response to this question, which incidentally doesn't even mention Hamas, Zawahiri rants:

3/1: The questioner I’laamiyyah [Informational] says, “1 – Does the doctor have assurance that those who were killed in the Algeria operations were unbelievers? And what is it that makes legitimate the spilling of the blood of even one Muslim?

I think I have responded to the sister I’laamiyyah’s first question previously. But in turn, I ask her: and what is HAMAS’s justification for killing those whose killing is not permitted from the children in the Israeli colonies with the blessed Qassam rockets which don’t differentiate between a child and an adult, and moreover, perhaps [don’t differentiate] between the Jews and the Arabs and Muslims working in those colonies or in the streets and markets of Occupied Palestine, even though the Shari’ah forbids their killing. I request the sister I’laamiyyah to refer to the eight and ninth chapter of the second part of The Exoneration.

Strictly speaking, Zawahiri is quite right: the Qassam rockets are completely indiscriminate, a waste of time, and achieve nothing but the deaths of more innocents on all sides. Coming however from a man in charge of an organisation which indiscriminately slaughtered individuals from over 90 different nationalities on September the 11th, which has condoned the vicious sectarian tactics in Iraq which have killed thousands, if not tens of thousands, and which whose main weapon of intimidation when they took control of towns in Iraq was to behead those who opposed them and leave the remains out in the open as a warning for others, this is just ever so slightly rich.

One thing As-Sahab clearly doesn't want for is a decent translator. This is just the first part of the release, and included is a 46-page PDF document with the entire audio recording transcribed in perfect grammatical English, without an apparent mistake anywhere in sight. The great shame is that whomever produced it is wasted on translating such bile, such hypocrisy and such irrelevance from a man who apparently seeks martyrdom but instead sends his footsoldiers to attain it for him. When that Hellfire missile does eventually reach Zawahiri, it'll be hard to stifle anything other than pleasure, even if he takes yet more innocents with him.

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Saturday, September 08, 2007 

Bin Laden fetishism.

Out of all the well-known figures to make reference to your work, one of them you perhaps wouldn't choose to do so would have to be Osama bin Laden. In a previous video he made reference to Robert Fisk, who he said he regarded as impartial, having previously been interviewed by him. This time round he mentions Noam Chomsky, who perhaps won't see the same boost in sales as when Hugo Chavez praised his work, and Michael Scheuer, a former CIA agent and ex-head of the search for bin Laden himself, author of a couple of excellent books on how the current approach to the so-called "war on terror" is failing.

Then again, if there was any sense or justice it wouldn't make any difference. Bin Laden is a complete irrelevance, and has been since the failure to capture him in late 2001 in Afghanistan. His latest lecture to America (PDF), focusing on the evils of capitalism, and urging the world to convert to Islam, isn't exactly going to change minds. The only real significance of the video is that despite all the rumours, he is most certainly still alive (if he was dead he'd have been instantly hailed as a martyr by a group not afraid to admit when its "heroes" are killed), and in tune as always with world politics and international developments, despite supposedly being a fugitive with a massive bounty on his head. Embarrassing as this is to the Bush administration, it makes very little difference either to the international jihadist movement, or indeed to almost anything else.

Bin Laden's only real remaining purpose is as the figurehead and inspiration of that movement. While Ayman al-Zawahiri, the spiritual leader of al-Qaida and also most probably the real leader due to bin Laden's evident failure to get any new messages or video released since January 2006 up until now has released half a dozen videos this year, he lacks the charisma and romance associated with the Saudi-born 50-year-old. While Zawahiri is respected, his moniker of the Doctor says it all: his coldness, rather than his theological background makes him a far lesser potential leader of men.

In any case, the very fact that bin Laden has failed to release a steady stream of messages has meant that his own star has somewhat faded. While most jihadists are focused on the insurgency in Iraq and elsewhere, his distance from that conflict, and indeed, the failure to address it, kept up in this newest message by only stating that the war will continue, has done little to engage those less interested in bombastic propaganda against America and more fascinated by what he has to say to them. In fact, the failure of al-Qaida in Iraq to gain mass support in that country is surely the biggest signifier of his own inability to influence things there. Yesterday saw the establishment of another coalition of jihadist/resistance Sunni groups, the "Front for Jihad and Change", the most notable groups within the front being the 1920 Revolution Brigades and Jaish al-Rashideen. The "Islamic State of Iraq", while responsible for the vast majority of suicide bombings and for some of the most spectacular attacks, relies heavily on foreign fighters, especially as the "martyrs" themselves. It's also now highly rumoured that the supposed Iraqi "emir" of the group, Omar al-Baghdadi, is one and the same as Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the successor to al-Zarqawi as the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, an Egyptian protege of al-Zahawiri, undermining the supposed Iraqi base to the group. With three different coalitions of resistance groups now operating, two of them increasingly opposed to the self-proclaimed "Islamic State", the possibility of an Algerian style conflict between them looms ever larger.

Bin Laden's bloody legacy was assured as soon as that first plane hit the twin towers on the 11th of September. His awakening and spreading of the message of extremist, militant Salafist Islam has probably succeeded beyond his wildest dreams, but even so, it has not the slightest hope of ever achieving its self-proclaimed goals, liberating Jerusalem and eventually establishing a caliphate. If he was to die tomorrow, it would make no difference whatsoever either to the conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia or to the possibility of further attacks here or in America. He's served whatever purpose he had; it's now time to stop treating him as if he has any control whatsoever over anything.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007 

Scum-watch: Continuing to bleat about terror.

We shall no doubt be treated tomorrow to a rant on how evil and insidious the BBC's mistake about the Queen walking out of a photoshoot was, especially considering the Scum splashed on it, but today we've instead got yet another leader on the terror threat:

GORDON Brown promises a new crackdown on terror.

He rightly insists Islamic terror began long before 9/11 and has little to do with Iraq.

But if that’s right, why didn’t we start defending ourselves sooner?

The problem is that it isn't right. While the government has previously claimed that it foiled an al-Qaida plot here around 2000, but has never bothered to release hardly any details, the threat we face now has been greatly exacerbated by the Iraq war. When the so-called "ricin" plot was foiled, it was claimed that it was an al-Qaida plot, with even Colin Powell using it in his presentation on Iraq's elusive weapons of mass destruction to the United Nations. The only problem with this is that there was no ricin, and Bourgass had no links to al-Qaida whatsoever.

It's widely acknowledged that there was something of a truce with the Islamic extremists present here in the late 90s, where MI5 either kept an eye on them, actively collaborated with some of them, with the deal being that as long as they weren't planning to do anything against Britain itself they would be somewhat tolerated. With the introduction of detention without charge in the anti-terror measures rushed through in the aftermath of 9/11, and later the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, the truce ended. Whereas those who previously might have gone to Afghanistan/Pakistan to train would have gone on to Chechnya or elsewhere, we now know that both Mohammad Sidique Khan and likely Muktar Ibrahim were instead either sent back here or decided to come back of their own accord. Around the same time, the Crevice plot was being foiled, which again came to its fruition after the Iraq war. We shouldn't be so naive to believe that Iraq is the only motivating cause: it isn't, there a myriad of them, and in any case, such murderous assaults against civilians can never be justified. To ignore however that the Iraq war, a illegal invasion which has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians hasn't resulted in its own inevitable blowback is to be just as naive. It's also not as though our leaders weren't warned: the joint intelligence committee did just that, as did both MI5 and MI6.

The Sun is also suffering from a major loss of memory. Anti-terror legislation, either tightening the laws or expanding the range of offences has been a mainstay almost every year since 2001. 2001 also saw one of the most draconian pieces of legislation ever introduced: the permanent detention without charge or trial of foreign "terrorist suspects", rightly ruled as a breach of the Human Rights Act in 2004 by the House of Lords. In 2003 we witnessed tanks outside Heathrow airport, which just happened to coincide with the over a million strong anti-war march, itself nearly cancelled by ministers concerned about the state of the grass in Hyde Park. To try to pretend that we haven't tightened things up massively already, and at the expense of our own freedom and civil liberties is to imitate the ostrich and shove our heads into the sand.

Why did we tolerate extremists like Abu Hamza who mesmerised young Muslims, including 21/7 ringleader Muktar Ibrahim.

The Sun does have something of a point here. Hamza has certainly had influence over some of those who have gone on to attempt terrorist attacks, and he certainly should have been shut down much sooner than he was. If anything, as much to blame is the fact that we've tried to tolerate almost anyone, even hot-heads preaching doom, in the long held British tradition of freedom of speech. It's only been recently that we've abandoned such a noble ideal. It's easy to see these things with hindsight, but this is something that has now be dealt with. All the evidence now points to the radicalisation process taking place online, with young men doing research themselves and finding like-minded others, rather than anyone coming under the influence of extremist imams in mosques.

If the threat was known, why didn’t Mr Brown as Chancellor provide funds earlier to boost national security?

Uh, he has. MI5 has expanded rapidly thanks to those funds. In any case, we have still yet to get an explanation to why on the 6th of July 2005 the former head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller told MPs that the terrorist threat was under control. Within a year and six months, from being under control she spoke of there being up to 30 plots, and 200 terrorist groups or networks active in the UK. Had MI5 cocked up, or was there a massive swelling in those plotting, which might well undermine the argument that Iraq has had little to do with the increased threat? We simply haven't been told.

The Sun bows to no one in support for our police and intelligence services.

But who can feel reassured by their handling of the 21/7 bomb plot?

Yes, the bombers were caught, charged and each jailed for an exemplary 40 years.

But it was all by accident.

If we're to believe what we've read, then since then they've foiled at least two plots, the so-called liquid bombs from last summer, and the beheading in Birmingham from earlier this year. It's strange that in all of this, the only person who died as a result of 21/7 seems to have been forgotten. Jean Charles de Menezes ought to be the defining image of how it was handled; yet he's disappeared from view. Additionally, it seems that the public themselves are mostly reassured: in a poll conducted by the Scum itself, 62% felt safe, with 29.9% saying they didn't.

Had ringleader Muktar Ibrahim got his sums right, hundreds of victims would have been slaughtered by a man who should have been behind bars.

Where these hundreds are coming from is anyone's guess. The judge said at least 50, which seems a much more likely figure, especially considering how the attacks were not conducted during rush hour like 7/7 was, with tubes and buses being crowded. As for him being behind bars, that's also doubtful. He was charged with a public order offence for distributing extremist literature in Oxford Street, but even if he had turned up for his court appearance or the police had tracked him down, it seems unlikely that the sentence would have been that harsh, or would have necessarily stopped him from going later.

Ibrahim was known as a violent criminal and an associate of an al-Qaeda operative.

Yet he was given a British passport which allowed him to fly to Pakistan for terrorist training.

When a new UK passport is issued every five minutes, who knows how many more like him are at large?

Of more concern than the fact he was given a UK passport is that when he attempt to fly Pakistan he was stopped by Special Branch officers at Heathrow, only to be let board a later flight despite having a large amount of money in cash and suspicious documents in his possession. At the very least they ought to have discovered that he was due up in front of court and so should not have been leaving the country, or indeed that he been photographed at what was considered a "terrorist holiday camp" in the Lake District with his fellow-bombers, but there was no follow-up investigation.

It is worth asking because Britain has stopped cross-checking with Interpol.

Now we are to get a new computer — but it will take four years to build.

We must just hope that al-Qaeda keeps making mistakes.

Yes, because as we know, al-Qaida is definitely behind all these attacks. If anything, the sheer amount of times that al-Zawahiri has treated us with his sermons of late, 3 having been issued by al-Qaida's media organisation, as-Sahab in the last two weeks, shows the desperation that appears to be growing. The real danger now is not from what was al-Qaida in 2001, but rather from its ideology which we have done much to spread through our own counterproductive methods. Groups with their own agendas in different countries, including both Iraq and Algeria have pledged allegiance to bin Laden more than anything so they can join the al-Qaida brand, such as it is. We openly play into this by describing nearly all terrorism linked to extremist Islam as either al-Qaida or al-Qaida-inspired, giving credit where it is most certainly not due. The insurgency in Iraq, made up of dozens of disparate groups, not just limited to Sunni Islamists, but also including Sunni nationalists and even Shia groups which additionally plant IEDs targeting the American forces, each with their own aims and motives, is nearly always referred to as al-Qaida simply because the most dangerous and despicably brutal group happens to have taken that group's name on. Tackling the grievances without giving into them is what will slowly but surely calm the threat.

Until then, the Scum will no doubt be trying its best to scare the average Briton into thinking how desperately we need more than 28 days detention without charge, something that is given a big write-up, despite it being well down the order of priorities set out by Brown in yesterday's announcement prior to the Queen's speech in the autumn. If the extremists are so woefully funded and additionally ignorant or insistent on attempting spectacular attacks they could never realistically pull off and that they believe they can cause mass casualties using containers filled with petrol and garden gas canisters, then that already shows just how pathetic the threat currently really is. I think we can live with those kind of mistakes.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007 

Proving the raving lunatic right.

One thing we know for certain is that Ayman al-Zawahiri is a ranting demagogue, who like all religious extremists distorts and selectively quotes from his favoured text, justifying murder and violence along the way. One thing he isn't regarded as being is a soothsayer.

That though may be about to change. Last Friday, an audio-tape from everyone's favourite second-in-command of a terror "organisation" emerged from whichever cave it was recorded in, and he was quite clear on what's happening in Somalia:

While I am addressing you today, the Crusader invading Ethiopian forces are violating the Islamic land of dear Somalia. Moreover, the Security Council is plotting to approve this invasion by issuing its resolution to dispatch international forces to Somalia and by its failure to issue a resolution that calls for the withdrawal of the Ethiopian forces from Somalia. Here, I am urging the Islamic nation in Somalia to be steadfast in this new Crusader battlefield, which America, its allies, and the United Nations are waging against Islam and Muslims.


My Muslim brothers in Somalia: Do not be terrified by America's power as you have defeated it before, thanks to God and His grace.

Today, America is weaker than before as the mujahidin dealt a fatal blow to it in Afghanistan and Iraq. Hence, it sent its slaves to you. Therefore, do not be affected by the first shock, it is just worthless propaganda, arrogance, and haughtiness. The real battle will begin by launching your campaigns against the Ethiopian forces with God's help and might. The faithful groups-- in their pursuit of death for the sake of God-- will devour the Crusader invading Ethiopian Army, which has launched an aggression against the lands of Islam, God willing.

Just to prove that this is entirely an internal matter in Africa, with Ethiopia having first moved its forces into Somalia back in July of last year and the Islamic Court Union formally declaring war on the 21st of December, followed by a hasty retreat which has turned into an apparent rout, the United States on Sunday/Monday ordered air strikes and attacks by AC-130 gunships on Ras Kamboni, a town near the Kenya/Somalia border. The target is said to have been the "big three", three al-Qaida members alleged to have links both with the bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and with the attacks in Mombasa in 2002.

Reports continue to conflict as to whether any of the three were killed, whether the air strikes are on-going, despite an apparent denial by the US military, and what has actually been achieved by deciding to intervene in a conflict which has simmered in the region for decades, but one thing is undisputed: people died in the attacks. At least 27, according to the Guardian report. Other reports, notably one from Reuters, suggest another 22 to 27 died in an attack on Bankajirow, over 150 miles from Ras Kamboni, where the Islamic Courts fighters are reportedly sheltering.

Fazul Abdullah Mohammed may be dead, he may not. "Very senior Islamist court leaders", not the same thing as alleged al-Qaida militants, may have died, they may have not. Four civilians, including a four-year-old boy may have been killed, they may have not.

The deaths will rightly obscure the bigger picture, but it's one that needs to be contemplated. An Islamic court union that had brought apparent security and stability to a nation that had been in a form of chaos for over a decade, which appears to have had at least a decent level of support from the people for doing so, although not so much for its less enlightened strict interpretation of Sharia law, which led to comparisons with the Taliban, has been more or less destroyed in just over two weeks by the army of a bordering nation, one that had been inside Somali territory since last July. With the the courts union cornered, the United States launches air strikes against them, with the support of the Transitional Federal Government, that up until a few days ago had not even stepped foot in the capital of Mogadishu, while Ethiopian air strikes seem to be following up those attacks. How does this do anything other than prove Ayman al-Zawahiri right?

Of course, this isn't actually about him, or al-Qaida in general. This is just another outpost in the war on terror, which the Bush administration appears determined to step up, or rather, in today's less than honest parlance, "surge". That it coincides with tonight's expected announcement that another 20,000 troops are to be sent to Iraq is just one of those things. This is why we're fighting will be the message. Nowhere will be safe, something that unfortunately works both ways. Iraq is just a part of this. Can't you see?

To take realpolitik to its most extreme conclusions, you might also wonder whether this opening up another front in the war on terror, or in al-Qaida's eyes, a front in the war against the crusaders, is some kind of ploy meant to thin out the numbers that are fighting their holy war in Iraq. Which front does the young, idealistic jihadist choose to go for in 2007? Chechnya? Kashmir? Saudi Arabia? Afghanistan? How does the heat of Somalia sound? It's the newest addition to the world tour. That sources are alleging those killed in the strikes had UK passports, forged or not, will of course excite the tabloids. Was the niqab wearing police murderer Mustaf Jama among those slaughtered? Find out in tomorrow's super-soaraway Sun!

I may joke, but the latest developments in what has recently been rebranded as the "long war" highlight how there are two threads to it. From not wanting to be involved in "nation building", the United States has been sucked into two on-going conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, unable to bring peace to either. The other, more successful, but still horribly misjudged thread is the bombarding of "terrorists" with the apparent permission of the nation state in question. Last year's attempt to kill al-Zawahiri which instead blew apart civilians (Wikipedia claims some "terrorists" were also killed) was a previous instance. Sunday/Monday/Tuesday's strikes are of the same standard. While these attacks don't come close to the horror which Iraq suffers on a daily basis, they still have no regard for the nuances of the local populations they target, or the country's politics or make-up as a whole. Somalia has suffered from years of warlords imposing their own brand of terror. With them now likely to return to their previous stomping grounds, having been driven out by the Islamists, the country again descends into anarchy. Add to this that a call has now gone out for fighters to come and take part in the "jihad", even if the remnants of the ICU are eventually wiped out, and the country looks set to continue to bleed for a while yet.

This is without examining the world picture. The United States has again involved itself in a conflict in which it had no business in doing so. The Somalian transitional government and the Ethiopians may bleat that they needed the strikes because the area into which the ICU has retreated is a "no man's land" and "is forest", but it sounds less than compelling when the Ethiopian army has been more than capable of driving back the ICU from its previous strongholds, without major fighting or not. Their own aircraft also seem to be carrying out sorties. The world looks on, and the narrative is already written: US attacks Muslim fighters. Terrorists may be dead. Civilians killed.

Not that this affects one jot thinking back here at home from the usual quarters. If you can depend on one learned journal to always defend the latest foreign policy excursion from America, it's this one:


Freedom fight

THE world may be divided over Iraq, but every civilised nation should applaud America’s air strike against al-Qaeda in Somalia.

This is the failed state where Osama Bin Laden first declared war on the West in the 1990s.

He used it as a base for a sinister network of al-Qaeda dens across South Asia and North Africa.

Err, no it isn't. The Sun is mixing up Somalia with Sudan, where OBL was based for a number of years before going back to Afghanistan. The accusations of al-Qaida involvement in the Black Hawk Down disaster have never been proved. The only substantial link is that the US embassy bombings may have planned from where the US has now carried out air strikes.

Now for the first time since President Bill Clinton was humbled in the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” catastrophe, America has struck back.

Right. The cruise missile strikes in Sudan and Afghanistan after the embassy bombings, which famously destroyed a medicine factory, wasn't striking back. The war on Afghanistan wasn't striking back. Numerous other strikes weren't striking back.

Two US gunships killed dozens of Islamist fighters — including top al-Qaeda leaders.

Not proved, and they were far from "top" al-Qaida leaders even if they were.

But this will not stop the multi-headed monster continuing to threaten Western targets.

Security chiefs say Britain and America are near certain to face attacks in the coming months.

Like those attacks that were going to happen at Christmas? No, this is just the Sun reminding everyone of the threat here at home. Stay scared everyone.

But nobody in the West — even France — can expect to escape extremist outrages.

You don't say? Combating the extremist threat is through removing the genuine grievances, explaining and defusing the perceived injustices, and greater integration, not through killing Islamist fighters in internal conflicts we have no business involving ourselves in.

The bloodshed in Baghdad is shocking. But whether the blame-mongers like it or not, we are at war with fanatics.

Cynicism towards President George Bush must not blind us to the much bigger threat facing the world this century.

This is the Sun signing up entirely to this re-marketed "long war". That the invasion of Iraq has made this threat far worse, has provided somewhere for these "fanatics" to train where there was not one before and has in the process killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, not to mention coalition soldiers, isn't mentioned, and for a good reason. The Sun was the newspaper that provided the most blatant propaganda for the government's case for war, and has continued to ever since. One day it might have to take some responsibility, along with the rest of the Murdoch media, for the bloodshed it helped start. Until then, its editorials and praise for "precision" missile strikes on terrorists should continue to be ridiculed.

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