At Large

The Real Meaning of Al Qaeda

Clearly it’s beyond the N.Y. Times’ ken.

By 1.20.14

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It is impossible to refer to a more terrifyingly accurate comment on terrorism than that which reportedly was made by a captured Thugee murderer in India in the days of the British Raj: “Let any man taste of that sugar of the sacrifice, and he will be a Thug, though he knows all the trades and has all the wealth in the world.” Osama bin Laden meant for all accepted members of al Qaeda to carry the same spirit as the Thugee of the past, for killing and dying is their modus vivendi. In this sense any group having terror as their principal tool can be considered linked to the Kali-worshiping killers of the Thugee or al Qaeda.

It matters little what a terror cell calls itself; it is what they do and how they do it that establishes the relationship among these murderers. Recognizing this, it is impossible to credit the New York Times with any sincerity, or even accuracy, in their detailed exposition presenting the story that al Qaeda did not have a participating role in the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi. The term al Qaeda means “The Base” in Arabic, but the sense of the term suggests it is — or is to be — the font and guide of all Islamist actions and groups dedicatedly anti-Western.

The ultimate aim of these jihadi elements is to establish a global caliphate. The ambiguity of some groups (e.g. Al Qaeda in Iraq or al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula ) using the al Qaeda name, as opposed to others who don’t (Ansar al Sharia ), is of value in camouflaging the structure and capability of these groups as well as designating a particular regional interest. The nomenclature does not alter the bin Laden jihadi derivation of the original character.

From an analytical standpoint the question must be asked as to why any media outlet would devote so much time and space seeking to disclaim any al Qaeda involvement in the Benghazi action when al Qaeda is no longer and hasn’t been for a considerable period of time — a singular operating entity. It has been accepted in professional intelligence circles that the term “al Qaeda” now reflects an overall theme rather than an operational and command structure. There doesn’t even appear to be a required authorization to follow The Bases’ line. Groups anoint themselves, sanctity follows.

In the specific case of Benghazi and the Cyrenaican region that surrounds it, there always has been an infrastructure of anti-esablishment groupings ever since King Idris, the eastern Libyan province’s favorite son, was deposed by Col. Muammar Qaddafi in 1969. In other words, the environment of this sector of Libya has been a catalyst for dissidence to the point of covert revolution for decades. Candidates for al Qaeda in Afghanistan often came from this part of Libya. The removal of Qaddafi’s governance has allowed the expansion, as well as division, of many local insurgent factions.

Osama bin Laden understood the principal aspects of insurgent warfare both from an academic and practical standpoint. It was clear he followed the same outline of guerilla warfare set forth by Che Guevara, but with Islam rather than international communism as the main element of philosophical cohesion. It’s a theme that is easy to pursue in the Middle East and elsewhere with an active Moslem population.

That fact is that bin Laden saw that it would be relatively easy for any group, large or small, to be characterized as an al Qaeda affiliate as long as they maintained commitment to Islam. Tactics aside, there was one rule required of all AQ fighting and support groups: They had to maintain limited contact with each other unless or until the need arose for a broad scale attack mode.

If this sounds familiar, and it should, all of this harkens back to basic principles evolved in modern times by Ho Chi Minh. He saw the entire concept of insurgency as a natural evolution first as political organization and then paramilitary action. Of course Ho did not invent terrorism as a weapon. In A.D. 66-73, according to Walter Laqueur, the sicarii participating in the Zealot movement specialized in killing people in crowds on holidays in Jerusalem. The Assassins of the 11th century operating in secrecy aimed their activities at killing all levels of higher officials.

Nothing today in the Islamic world goes much beyond what already has existed. This is why it is so odd that the NY Times would seek to give substance to the Obama White House’ characterization that there was no al Qaeda involvement in the tragic incident in Benghazi when the operational and motivational links go back so clearly to bin Laden’s original organization and vastly beyond.

The real issue involved is the witting or unwitting use of a public medium (NYT) to provide political cover for failed White House efforts to absolve themselves from false claims. The so-called “courage” that President Obama had shown in approving the “kill order” on Osama bin Laden becomes a failure if the “executive action” did not produce the publicized destruction of al Qaeda as an operating entity. That is the logic behind the selling of the argument that there was no AQ involvement in the Benghazi attack.

The New York Times was complicit in White House efforts to make al Qaeda appear to have been decimated by Obama’s approval of the ObL hit. In the end it really doesn’t matter, for the spirit of the Thugee continues — as does al Qaeda. The New York Times became a willing and effective tool in the political propaganda program of POTUS to hide the truth from the American citizenry. That is quite different from simple political advocacy and is not the intent of the First Amendment. 

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About the Author
George H. Wittman writes a weekly column on international affairs for The American Spectator online. He was the founding chairman of the National Institute for Public Policy.