Search Results for: jason burke shadow terror -hafez


2006-12-01

Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror / Jason Burke (2003). A short review

by Neil Godfrey

When this is required reading for all “coalition of the willing” political leaders and no-one in power can make a public statement or foreign policy decision without having passed a test on their comprehension of it we will at last begin to see the beginnings of rationality and humanity in our dealings with the Middle East. I bought this after reading a piece by Chomsky in which he said this was probably the best book written on terrorism. Burke knows his subject well and gives a clear ground-eye view of who the terrorists are and how they operate. Burke demonstrates that there is no such thing as a Dr Evil type monster out there, but the real danger is our inability to see how our western leaders have so humiliated and raped and despoiled and oppressed (by proxy or directly) the democratic and human rights aspirations of Arabs and how there are literally as a result thousands of would-be suicide terrorists incognito and freelance the world over. I can just add to Burke’s book the comment that it’s not a problem with Islam — otherwise we would have seen this sort of terrorism non-stop ever since the west has encountered islam. The 9/11 plotters and Bin Laden made their aims and motivations very plain (why do so many in the west still remain ignorant — why do our leaders continue to deny it in public?) and the US conceded on their major demand (withdrawal from Saudi Arabia) after establishing new bases in Iraq. And Australia fully supported and backed the US proxy occupation and oppressoin of Moslem holy lands and peoples — hence Bali. No prizes for guessing the motivations of the new wave of terrorist activities since then.


2007-04-15

Part 6 of “Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror”

by Neil Godfrey

Continuation of notes from Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror by Jason Burke.

3rd element: the idea, the worldview, ideology of ‘al-Qaeda’ and those who subscribe to it.

Bin Laden does not have power to issue orders that are instantly obeyed.

Bin Laden does not kidnap young men and brainwash them. People voluntarily travelled to the Afghan ‘al-Qaeda’ run military and terrorist training camps (1996-2001) and none was kept there against their will.

Bin Laden’s associates spent much of their time selecting which of the myriad requests for assistance they would grant. These requests were for help with bombings, assassinations and murder on large scale. (Burke, p.17)

These people share the same worldview as bin Laden and the ‘al-Qaeda hardcore’. They may or may not belong to any radical group. What unites them is the ‘way of thinking about the world, a way of understanding events, of interpreting and behaving’. (p.17)


2007-02-02

Part 5 of “Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror”

by Neil Godfrey

Continuation of notes from Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror by Jason Burke.

2nd element: “a network of networks” — a wider circle consisting of other militant groups linking with al-Qaeda

What these links are not:

  • They are not a vast international network of groups answerable to bin Laden or the al-Qaeda inner hardcore.

There are in fact scores of militant groups around the world, each separate with local goals and acting independently. They may see bin Laden as an inspirational figure or a symbol of their collective struggle, but reject his or his inner circle’s leadership and goals. (Compare the many groups in the West who demonstrate with pictures of Che Guevera.)

What these links are:

  • Some members of some militant groups who trained in al-Qaeda camps since 1996;
  • Some leaders of some militant groups who have had contact with senior figures in the al-Qaeda hardcore;
  • Or received funds;
  • Or training;
  • Or other help from bin Laden himself or from his associates
  • Such links are not unique with al-Qaeda. All Islamic militant groups have similar links with others.
  • These links are always tenuous and compete with other sources of training, expertise and funding.
  • The groups and individuals involved generally have multiple associations and lines of support.
  • Their interests are often deeply parochial and they will not subordinate their leadership to any outside leader or organisation, including al-Qaeda. — e.g. Lebanese Asbat ul Ansar & Islamic movement of Uzbekistan
  • Many have long been openly hostile to the tactics and goals of al-Qaeda. As many are in rivalry with al-Qaeda as are allied with al-Qaeda.
  • At various times some groups – or some individuals within different groups – will cooperate with bin Laden if they feel it suits their purpose.

Within individual movements different factions can have different relations with ‘al-Qaeda’
One example: The Ansar ul Islam is one movement but with 3 differ relations to ‘al-Qaeda’:

  • Ansar ul Islam group in Kurdish Northern Iraq in northern Iraq emerged autumn 2001 with 3 different factions. 2 of these factions went to Afghanistan to meet senior al-Qaeda leaders spring 2001;
  • the 3rd faction rejected dealing with bin Laden or those around him;
  • By the end of 2001: Arab fighters fleeing US invasion of Afghanistan – some of these had been close to bin Laden.

In addition to the above there is also a 4th relationship. Ansar ul Islam consisted of others not interested in any broader agenda beyond Kurdistan. (1 failed suicide bomber told the author, Jason Burke, that he did not want to go to Afghanistan simply because he was not interested in travel and was focused only in affairs of his own country.) – these people did not care for bin Laden or his vision of an international struggle.

Others have rebuffed bin Laden’s advances:

  • Algerian GIA in early 1990’s rejected bin Laden because his agenda was very different from theirs.
  • GSPC (a GIA splinter group) refused to meet bin Laden emissaries summer 2002
  • The leader of the Indonesian Lashkar Jihad group refused to ally with bin Laden because that would significantly impinge on autonomy
  • At least one Palestinian Islamic group has rebuffed his advances concerned about such a link to its image at home and overseas.

Like the anti-globalisation movement – some groups aims and methods coincide, often they do not.


3rd element: to be continued………..


2007-01-28

Part 4 of “Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror”

by Neil Godfrey

continuing my notes from Jason Burke’s “Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror” . . . .

Al-Qaeda’s “mature years”: 1996-2001
Bin Laden provided “a central focus for many . . . disparate elements. This was not a formation of a huge and disciplined group, but a temporary focus of many different strands within modern Islamic militancy on Afghanistan and what, in terms of resources and facilities, bin Laden and his three dozen close associates were able to provide there.” (p.12)

The resources he offered: training, expertise, money, munitions, safe haven. He was providing a safe haven and “department store” array of support for different groups who had been looking for some such “service” since the end of the Afghan war.

The 3 elements of al-Qaeda

The al-Qaeda hardcore (approx 12+100) consisted of:

  • The dozen or so associates who had stayed with him since the 1980’s.
  • Pre-eminent militants who had difficulties operating in their own countries came to join bin Laden for the safe haven and the resources he could offer: recruits, money, ideas, knowledge.
  • Many of these were Afgan war veterans. Many had fought in Bosnia and Chechnya.
  • They totalled about 100.
  • Many had at some stage taken an oath of allegiance to bin Laden.
  • They acted as trainers and administrators in Afghanistan.
  • Occasionally they were sent overseas to seek recruits; more rarely, to carry out a terrorist operation.
  • But they were not a monolithic group: among them are significant divergences of opinioin over methods, tactics, political and religious beliefs.

2nd element: a wider circle consisting of:

(to be contd.)


Part 3 of “Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror”

by Neil Godfrey

continuing my notes from Jason Burke’s “Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror” . . . .

1993 New York World Trade Center bombing
Ahmed Ajaj was detained for this attack and in his bag was a manual titled “Al Qaeda”. American investigators translated this (correctly) as “the basic rules”. It was not a group.

American intelligence reports in the 1990’s do not use the term “al Qaeda” in any of their reports about Middle Eastern extremists. After the 1993 NY bombing FBI investigators knew of bin Laden but only “as one name among thousands”.

During the 1995 trials of the WTC bombers bin Laden was mentioned by prosecutors once, but al-Qaeda was not ever mentioned at all.

1997/8 CIA and State Dept memos
al-Qaeda is mentioned only once and only in passing as “an operational hub, predominantly for like-minded Sunni extemists”.

1996 bin Laden returns to Afghanistan
With 50 to 100 experienced militants bin Laden was able to build his first real terrorist group. But it was far from being “a coherent and structured terrorist organisation with cells everywhere.” (p.11)

1998, FBI “creates” the al Qaeda terrorist organization
In August 1998 bin Laden was implicated in the double bombings of American East African embassies. Clinton retaliated by bombing “the network of radical groups affiliated with and funded by Usama bin Laden, perhaps the pre-eminent organizer and financier of international terrorism in the world today.” (p.11)

FBI sought to prosecute bin Laden, but the relevant laws were designed to deal with tightly organized and structured criminal gangs to which membership was clear cut. Bin Laden was part of a loose network or politico-religious movement where reponsibility for any single act is difficult to pin down. But if bin Laden could be made the member of a structured organization he could be more successfully prosecuted. It is from this time on that FBI documents now speak of a tightly organized al Qaeda organization to which members must swear an oath of allegiance. This completely misrepresented the actual situation but was legally convenient for a prosecution to succeed.


Part 2 of “Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror”

by Neil Godfrey

continuing my notes from Jason Burke’s “Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror” . . . .

Bin Laden enters
Sometime between 1988 and 1989 bin Laden set up a militant group in Peshawar. It consisted of no more than a dozen men. The group was inspired by the teachings of Azzam and were distressed by the disintegration of the international forces who had come to aid the Afghan resistance after the Soviets were expelled. There were scores of such small groups forming at this time in Afghanistan, bouyed with the same hopes after feeling they had defeated the mighty Soviets, had the same concerns and dreams of uniting once again all those who had come together, this time to work together to fight corrupt regimes ruling Moslem peoples elsewhere in the Muslim world and restore an ideal society. Larger groups who formed dedicated themselves to attempting to overthrow their local governments.

Some activists in Peshawar at the time say they knew of a group attached to bin Laden around 1990 known as “al-Qaeda” — but others say they never heard of the term. The 11 volume “Encyclopedia of the Jihad” compiled in Pakistan between 1991 and 1993 never mentions al-Qaeda although it does thank Azzam’s group, Maktab al-Khidamat (offices of services).

and departs
1989 bin Laden left Pakistan for Saudi-Arabia (his homeland)

1990 bin Laden and other Afghan vets offered to form an army to help protect Saudi Arabia in response to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait

bin Laden’s offer was rejected so he spent his time attempting to reform Saudi Arabia

1991 bin Laden fled Saudi Arabia, via Pakistan, to Sudan — until 1996.

In Sudan he was just as interested in arboriculture and road construction as in creating an international army of Islamic militants. His own group was still no more than approx a dozen. He was still reliant on larger militias for resources and know-how. He was not connected with any of the attacks that occurred during this period, 1991-1996.


2007-01-26

Part 1 of “Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror”

by Neil Godfrey

Not having time to do all the reviews I would like I have decided to do chapter reviews from selected books instead. Opting to start on Jason Burke’s Al-Qaeda chapter 1 because I was not happy with my superficial review of the whole book earlier. There is simply too much information of value in this that people ought to know and then challenge their political leaders over for the sake of some hope for sanity in the future….

Chapter 1 is titled, surprise surprise: What is Al-Qaeda?

Definition
Al-Qaeda comes from the Arabic root qaf-ayn-dal meaning a base (as in a camp or home), or a foundation (as in what is under a house), a pedestal supporting a column, a precept, a rule, a principle, a formula, a method, a pattern, a method. (p.7)

Islamic, British and American Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan
The word was used by the mid 1980’s by Islamic radicals who flocked from all over the Muslim world to Afghanistan to help the local resistance fight the Soviets. It was a common Arabic word that was used to refer simply to the respective bases from which the military units operated.

In 2002 Arabic language newspapers referred to the British and American base at Bagram (from which they were hunting the Taliban) as “al-Qaeda Bagram”.

The radical association
Abdullah Azzam, mentor of bin Laden, wrote in 1987 of the need for a radical Islamic vanguard (similar to Lenin’s revolutionary vanguard concept) to carry the heavy work and sacrifices required for ultimate victory of achieving a new society:

This vanguard constitutes the strong foundation (al qaeda al-sulbah) for the expected society. (p.8 )

Azzam’s words were similar to many other references to vanguards in other radical Islamic literature and they are all clearly talking about a tactic, a way of operating, not an organization.


2007-04-15

Why the misconceptions about Al-Qaeda?

by Neil Godfrey

Continuation of notes from Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror by Jason Burke.

Why do the misconceptions about Al-Qaeda persist?

Reason 1: It is convenient and reassuring to think of al-Qaeda as a traditional terrorist group. It promises an sure victory once the organization is defeated.

Reason 2: Repressive governments can avoid international criticism by labelling their opponents as having links with al-Qaeda. Jason Burke notes that in the autumn of 2001 previously undetected al-Qaeda cells were “discovered” in scores of countries:

  • Uzbekistan (Tashenk suddenly branded U’s local Islamic Movement as ‘al-Qaeda’)
  • China (the longstanding independence movement among the Uighar Moslems was branded an ‘al-Qaeda’ branch)
  • Thailand (bomb blasts in the south of Thailand by groups for many years in turf war between police and military over smuggling and racketing, and in which local Islamic gropus were sometimes involved, were now blamed on ‘al-Qaeda’)
  • Macedonia (8 illegal economic immigrants shot dead at a border were accused of being ‘al-Qaeda’)
  • Tunisia (left-wing opponents of the Tunisian government were re-labelled as ‘al-Qaeda’)
  • Philippines (The Abu Sayyaf group, a local independence movement many decades old, that has largely abandoned militant Islam in preference for crime, especially kidnapping western tourists, has been branded ‘al-Qaeda’)
  • Kashmir (As tensions mount between Pakistan and India over Kashmir claims of bin-Laden hiding there always arise.)

Reason 3: “Intelligence services lie, cheat and deceive. Propaganda is one of their primary functions.” (p.19) — e.g. the British intelligence dossier of 4 October 2001 claimed substantial bin-Laden links with the drug trade. Fact: everyone involved in the drug trade from Pakistan and Afghanistan and elsewhere, including UN experts monitoring drugs production, deny bin-Laden’s involvement. The lie was akin to propaganda about German atrocities in World War 1. Similar false stories circulated about Saddam’s links with al-Qaeda.

Reason 4: The media knows what sells. Ironically information from security services is widely seen as having greater veracity and is exempt from normal journalistic scrutiny. A story containing bin-Laden will sell easily.

Reason 5: Bin Laden is happy to encourage myths about his power. He rarely confirms or denies his involement in any operation.

“Myth breeds more myth” (p.21)

I would add another here — that a few groups may well want to proclaim a link with al-Qaeda to provoke more fear than their real clout warrants. Such may be the case of the group claiming responsibility for recent bombing in Algeria (if indeed they did claim this and that news was not concocted by the Algerian government).