Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 12, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

ALGERIA AND AL-QAEDA....Were the twin bombings in Algiers on Wednesday a sign that al-Qaeda has expanded its reach once again? Maybe, but George Joffe argues that in reality it was nothing more than the sporadic continuation of Algeria's long-running civil war of the 1990s:

The group that was responsible for the bombing of the premier's office last Wednesday, the Groupe Salafiste de Predication et du Combat (GSPC), which renamed itself al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb last September, had emerged out of the conflict in 1997 and has continued the fight ever since, with the same goals, in northern Algeria and in the Sahara.

....Even though it now claims the mantle of al-Qaida — something which Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaida's number two, confirmed after the group's second attempt to gain such an endorsement last September (the first was made in 2001) — its real agenda has not changed....its real target is still the government in Algiers.

....And where does al-Qaida fit into the picture? The suggestion that it acts as a transnational organisation directing violence in Algeria according to a centrally-conceived plan is simply untrue. Events there do not fit into the alleged global threat to western states accused of interfering in the Muslim world.

This is part and parcel of the "franchise" theory of al-Qaeda, namely that al-Qaeda has morphed from a centrally controlled transnational terrorist group into a broader, even more dangerous hydra-headed organization with satellites all over the world. But how true is this? If a longstanding nationalist insurgency/terrorist organization simply assumes the al-Qaeda name while continuing with its previous agenda, does this really mean "al-Qaeda" is any more dangerous before? Or are they actually less so?

Relabeling the GSPC may suit the propaganda desires of both al-Qaeda and the Western hawks who revel in the myth of ever-expanding jihad, but that doesn't mean the rest of us have to believe it. The prosaic truth is that al-Qaeda most likely has very little to do with Algeria's serious and longstanding internal problems.

Kevin Drum 12:34 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (58)

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Relabeling the GSPC may suit the propaganda desires of both al-Qaeda and the Western hawks who revel in the myth of ever-expanding jihad

It is provacative that the goals of both the CIA trained bin Laden and the US neo-conservative defense industry dovetail. I appreciate that Mr. Drum notices, too. I wish more Americans would.

Posted by: Brojo on April 12, 2007 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

The prosaic truth is that al-Qaeda most likely has very little to do with Algeria's serious and longstanding internal problems.

We don't need no stinking prosaic truth. Remember when every disgruntled peasant in Latin America was a puppet getting his string pulled in Moscow? Now the strings extend to a cave in Pakistan. It's all one big giant conspiracy.

Posted by: thersites on April 12, 2007 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

A pertinent subject to post, but far overshadowed by the following (attack inside GZ kills many, incl. 2 lawmakers):
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-ex-iraq13apr13,1,6465397.story?coll=la-headlines-world

And see http://www.juancole.com/

Posted by: Neil B. on April 12, 2007 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

enemies of convenience...

Posted by: mudwall jackson on April 12, 2007 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

My impression is that it's a label that different completely independent groups adopt. Part of bin Laden's original program was the overthrow of secular and anti-Islamist regimes in the Arab world, and Algeria's government certainly would qualify. So a local group that has read the al Qaeda propaganda decided to adopt the name.

Posted by: Joe Buck on April 12, 2007 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

Al-Qaeda is a convenient bogeyman for the Bushies to keep the ignorant American masses afraid, so they don't object too much as their civil liberties are slowly taken away from them and their children's future is squandered by overspending on the military and tax cuts for the rich.

More people die every year from falling off ladders than from terrorists. Why don't we declare a War on Ladders????

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on April 12, 2007 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

If a longstanding nationalist insurgency/terrorist organization simply assumes the al-Qaeda name while continuing with its previous agenda, does this really mean "al-Qaeda" is any more dangerous before? Or are they actually less so?

Probably less dangerous for Algerians if they continue their specific mission as GSPC, which unlike Al Qaeda's and its focus on societal terrorism has tried to specifically target the government and avoid civilian casualties wherever possible (giving them more popular support). In fact the GSPC was formed as an alternative to the brutal tactics of targeting civilians used by Algeria's Armed Islamic Group (GIA).

Probably no change on the danger meter for terrorism abroad either, as the GSPC has allegedly already been involved in a few terror plots under their own name and allegedly have already provided suicide bombers to Iraq.

Ultimately it's not clear if the name change is just to gain a little cachet or if it signals a change in goals, and given how these organizations morph and splinter it's probably not clear to them yet either.

Posted by: trex on April 12, 2007 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

It really depends on whether it is just a franchise label or whether the organization still has the ability to funnel money, technology, and support to those franchises.

Posted by: PaulB on April 12, 2007 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

Has anyone been treating the Algeria attacks as an expansion of al-Qaeda? Perhaps they have, but I haven't seen it in the press or in either left- or right-wing blogs. Can anyone provide links?

Posted by: Shelby on April 12, 2007 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

What seems to be left out of these discussions of various 'Al-Qaeda' groups is that the word 'qaeda' (qa'da) is simply Arabic for 'foundation'. It's as if someone decided that all foundations in the US were clearly members of a single group. For instance, the Rockefeller FOUNDATION and the Bill and Melinda Gates FOUNDATION, are just local chapters of THE FOUNDATION. Clearly, it's a world-wide conspiracy. Can't people in the media show at least a little more foreign language literacy?

Posted by: Chris L on April 12, 2007 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Oh boy.

The thumbnail sketch can be found in The Power of Nightmares.

Wikipedia, video.

The story is similar to what we are just starting to see within the Iraqi insurgency, that Islamist terrorists eventually fight with and get killed by their own allies. Violent Islamists aren't new in Algeria.

If you haven't done so, you absolutely must see The Power of Nightmares, preferably with a copy of Peter Bergens's review in your hand.

Posted by: Pacific John on April 12, 2007 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

You're right about the origins of the GSPC, but this also needs to be seen in a context of recruitment to a particular ideology that transcends its original mission. This was also the most spectacular Algerian terror attack this year, but the same group has been hitting other targets, including those associated with the United States such as parts of the Halliburton infrastructure.

Posted by: Brian Ulrich on April 12, 2007 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

Not necessarily "franchise" which implies some connection with the parent organizatioin, but it might just be the "al-Qaeda brand name", where some group labels themselves "Al-Qaeda" to gain some cachet.

Posted by: MonkeyBoy on April 12, 2007 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK
This is part and parcel of the "franchise" theory of al-Qaeda, namely that al-Qaeda has morphed from a centrally controlled transnational terrorist group into a broader, even more dangerous hydra-headed organization with satellites all over the world.

The problem with this theory, of course, is that al-Qaeda was always a broad, hydra-headed organization with satellites all over the world; it can hardly morph from something it never was.

The prosaic truth is that al-Qaeda most likely has very little to do with Algeria's serious and longstanding internal problems.

It certainly has little to do with the genesis and past history of those problems, but now it has a major propaganda stake in how they turn out.


Posted by: cmdicely on April 12, 2007 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

But I thought if Bush had only sent more troops to Afghanistan and got bin Laden, the Islamic terrorist threat would have gone away...

Posted by: Hacksaw on April 12, 2007 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

http://www.mg.co.za/articlepage.aspx?area=/breaking_news/breaking_news__international_news/&articleid=304380

It's like a fungus, a broad net of tiny threads, weak and nearly invisible. It can thrive among death and decay and spread into healthy areas. Should you worry if you have aspergillus growing between your toes? Only if you can't eradicate it and you worry about it spreading to your brain. It isn't really common, but it has happened in nearly every hospital in the U.S.

Of course, the body politic is not a literal biological body, and agents of al Qaeda are neither spores nor threads. Wherever al Qaeda is established, it is a threat.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on April 12, 2007 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

PaulB: It really depends on whether it is just a franchise label or whether the organization still has the ability to funnel money, technology, and support to those franchises.

just so. the labelling probably signals the intention to be more than a franchise, whether they have the ability so far or do not.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on April 12, 2007 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

In 19th century Europe countless “terrorist” groups emerged and disappeared under the banner of anarchism. Many of them were anti-monarchists or anti-bourgeoisie, others were involved in workers’ struggles, some came from oppressed minorities, and others were just bohemian dilettantes. What these groups had in common was that they had nothing in common but the fact that they presented a threat to the status quo. If you read the newspapers of the time you get the impression that a many-tentacled revolution was underway and European civilization was being undermined by workers, or peasants, or intellectuals, or democrats, or Eastern Europeans, or Jews.

The War on Terror is just the brand name of a program of imperial intervention wherever the status quo may be threated- particularly in places were the oil is. After all what do the secular Sunni Baathists, the tribal Afgan militias, including the "Taliban", Hezbollah and 'Al-Qaeda' have to do with one another? The War on Terror purposely conflates nationalist guerrilla struggles- which tend to fight invading forces- with those of relatively isolated political organizations- which can be inter- or intra-state. It is false to claim that political terrorist organizations are anything new or that they pose a threat to nation-states. Terrorism is more properly understood as a political tactic about local politics, indeed it is a form of advertising used by the very weak against the very strong. The goal is to expose injustice and to weaken the morale of the enemy. These also happen to be a good way to undermine a superior invading army of a democratic society. Thus many tactics of traditional terrorists have been adopted by anti-imperial resistance groups. Dick Cheney and the hawks know this and this is why they demand autocratic message control.

Posted by: bellumregio on April 12, 2007 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

a view from Spain:

http://www.eux.tv/article.aspx?articleId=6283

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on April 12, 2007 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

bellumregio nails it.

Posted by: trex on April 12, 2007 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

To pedantically correct Chris L., qA'da is generally translatable to "foundation," "base," "rule," or "regulation." The general suspicion (though facts are hard to come by on this) is that investigators originally adopted the name because it was used to refer to either a compilation of regulations and rules, or to a database (qA'idat-bayAnAt) of members. "Foundation" in the sense of an organization doesn't map.

Anyway.

The violence in Algeria isn't exactly new, and the various militant organizations that GSPC sprang from predate bin Ladin's little group by quite some time (al-Zawahiri's got some time on the fringe, though). Remember that by any measurement the number of active radicals in Algeria is far less than during the worst days of violence -- the '99 amnesty drained a lot of foot soldiers out of the movement, and GSPC political infighting, plus the apostasy of founder Hassan Hattab, have reduced the numbers further and fragmented the remainder. Political bombings are a terrible thing, but they don't necessarily signify a resurgence.

There's a lot of local politics involved, too -- from what I understand, the Tuareg of northern Mali/southern Algeria have turned against radicali Sunni groups lately (in no small part because FLINTLOCK showed that the USG was willing to interfere with the Tuaregs' profitable smuggling operations if there was a suspected GWOT link), and the GSPC may be less welcome in the Sahara than they used to be. (The Tuareg were trained and equipped by Qadhdhafi in the '80s, then were given a number of mandated slots in the Malian armed forces, so it's not like they couldn't make life very uncomfortable for a small number of militant troublemakers.)

Posted by: tWB on April 12, 2007 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

This political vegetable just doesn't get it, does he.
The fight for the future is not between the armies of leading states, nor are its weapons those of traditional armed forces. Rather, the combatants come from bomb-making terrorist groups like Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda, or drug smuggling cartels like those in Colombia and Mexico. On the positive side are civil-society activists fighting for the environment, democracy and human rights. What all have in common is that they operate in small, dispersed units that can deploy anywhere, anytime to penetrate and disrupt. They all feature network forms of organization, doctrine, strategy, and technology attuned to the information age. And, from the Intifadah to the drug war, they are proving very hard to beat.

The real blowback has only just begun for the last empire.

Posted by: professor rat on April 12, 2007 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

Well, this is my part of the world, perhaps a comment.

First with respect to this comment:
What seems to be left out of these discussions of various 'Al-Qaeda' groups is that the word 'qaeda' (qa'da) is simply Arabic for 'foundation'.

No, it is not. Qa'eda is the word for base, (in a military sense), or foundation in a building sense.

It's usage, in this instance al-Qaeda fil Maghrib al-Islamiya (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) is very clearly and unambiguously tied to the al-Qaeda of Ben Laden usage.

Foundation, by the way, is typically mou'assa (although other words are used as well). And there it is used generically.

It's as if someone decided that all foundations in the US were clearly members of a single group.

No, it is not, and in fact it is extraordinarily stupid to suggest that.

For instance, the Rockefeller FOUNDATION and the Bill and Melinda Gates FOUNDATION, are just local chapters of THE FOUNDATION. Clearly, it's a world-wide conspiracy. Can't people in the media show at least a little more foreign language literacy?

Evidently as much as this commentator.

As to the al-Qaeda versus Algerian jihad/civil war connexion. Well, it strikes me as a false opposition.

In the Maghreb we've been seeing a rapid and significant up-tick in moujahidine recruitment efforts, much of it tied to neo-Salafi movements with an ideological inclination to takfir - declaring people kufar, infidels. The Moroccan authorities recently broke up just such a network, that was sourcing for jihad in Iraq, and without any doubt tied to the neo-al-Qaeda network there.

One organisation? I doubt that. Network of sympathisers and cooperative fellow-ideologues a la the late 19th c. and 20th c. anarchist/socialist terror groups? Absolutely.

I would add that I recall some time back Drum posted something about terrorists not actually being driven by poverty. Well, one only gets to that conclusion if one doesn't look at the poverty ridden profile of the foot soldiers of the neo-Salafi jihad groups coming out of the Maghreb.

Bidonvilles - slums are their source, although indeed the leadership is often middle class (for all that caution should be taken in drawing even a conclusion there, as middle class / middle income in the MENA region has none of the implications of social mobility and stability that Americans seem to reflexively conclude).

And of course, I should say that I in large part - noting I am a fluent Arabic speaker across all major dialects - largely agree with bellumregio as much activity is purely nationalist, or regional, and very much aimed at corrupt regimes whose faux secularism is fetishised by the Americans and sadly many Europeans.

The Lounsbury
Aqoul.com

Posted by: The Lounsbury on April 12, 2007 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

Al-Qaeda -- the Starbucks of terrorist brands!

Posted by: Starbuck on April 12, 2007 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

Excellent post, Kevin.

Posted by: The Fool on April 12, 2007 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Further to the comment from Tsomethingorother:

The violence in Algeria isn't exactly new, and the various militant organizations that GSPC sprang from predate bin Ladin's little group by quite some time .... Political bombings are a terrible thing, but they don't necessarily signify a resurgence.

No, however the ability to conduct a series of bombings and rocket attacks over a span of four months and running gun battles besting by some accounts the security forces, despite massively increased security presence in the run up to the 15 May elections does indeed suggest a resurgence.

There's a lot of local politics involved, too -- from what I understand, the Tuareg of northern Mali/southern Algeria have turned against radicali Sunni groups lately (in no small part because FLINTLOCK showed that the USG was willing to interfere with the Tuaregs' profitable smuggling operations if there was a suspected GWOT link), and the GSPC may be less welcome in the Sahara than they used to be.

The Tuareg (who are, it should be noted for the casual reader, southern Saharan nomad Berbers) are basically bandits by profession.

I rather doubt the spin that US Gov. 'interference' -given laughable American connexions in the francophone region- have anything to do with the Taureg being favourable or unfavourable to the neo-Salafi. If the Taureg have decided to kick out supposed GSPC in the Sahara, it is far more likely that the neo-Salafi proved irritating and incompatible with Taureg clans "mode de vivre."

The Americans strike me as knowing fuck-all about who is actually doing what in either the Sahel or the Maghreb. Their childish obsession with bank based money-laundering as a source of financing in this respect a particular example.

(The Tuareg were trained and equipped by Qadhdhafi in the '80s, then were given a number of mandated slots in the Malian armed forces, so it's not like they couldn't make life very uncomfortable for a small number of militant troublemakers.)

Some Taureg, who went to work in Libya, ended up doing some guerilla training with the Libyans, and more than a decade ago these aging 70s era fellows were integrated in part into the Malian armed forces. Having seen the Malian armed forces myself, I am not particularly impressed with this as a data point one way or the other.

However, as professional bandits and knowing the Sahara like nobody else....

Posted by: The Lounsbury on April 12, 2007 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Are the Taureg the source for the 'blue eyed devil' epithet?

Posted by: Brojo on April 12, 2007 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo,

Close -- you're thinking of the "blue men of the desert" nickname, which refers to the unfixed indigo robes they wear, and the blue stain on their skin.

Posted by: tWB on April 12, 2007 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

Al-Qaeda -- the Starbucks of terrorist brands!

So what you're telling me is that even though Al Qaeda appears to be gone now, it'll return in the last minute of the season finale?

Good to know. Thanks for the tip.

Posted by: Al on April 12, 2007 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

Lounsbury,

I certainly don't mean to suggest that USG has any kind of meaningful presence in Mali other than the Peace Corps. (AMB Huddleston was very good, I should point out, but I don't know who's over there now.) But FLINTLOCK was a pretty big political deal, even if its primary result was to give the Maghreb countries more influence in getting arms deals from Western nations. The Tuareg can't live off salt caravans and selling cheap swords to tourists alone, so they certainly don't benefit from increased scrutiny of smuggling routes. My argument is de minimus -- absent some kind of ideological or clan-based affinity with Takfiri radicals, the Tuareg will resent the increased scrutiny they bring. However, I'm no expert on the region, so whether my argument holds water I'll let you argue.

My question to you is this: if AQ/Maghreb is gaining strength -- and I'll happily stipulate that -- where are they getting it from? Are these old fighters disenchanted with the amnesty, or new blood? Is the AQ "brand" particularly important, or are local concerns still the driving issue for those joining? And, given Algeria's rather messy history with elections (e.g., 1991), what are we looking at going into May?

Posted by: twb on April 12, 2007 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

Are we now going to meekly allow our dear leaders and their compliant media cronies to lump together every dissenting nationalist or internecine faction throughout the world as an element of al Qa'eda, and thus a tool of Osama bin Laden?

Bush 41, Baker, Rove, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Kissinger, etc. -- These are many of the same people who only a quarter-century ago were labelling those same disparate groups as integral parts of a Moscow-led international Communist conspiracy.

That kind of mindless, jingoistic and sloppy political analysis -- the cookie-cutter variety that's always obsessed with an all-controlling, ubiquitous anti-American bogeyman bent on the destruction of our way of life -- is exactly the same sort of simplistic nonsense what brought us the grief known as America's Vietnam experience.

Really, can't we get it through our thick skulls that we as a nation cleary deserve better performance than that -- from both ourselves as voters, as well as from our elected leaders?

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on April 12, 2007 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

'Why don't we declare a War on Ladders????'

Osama bin Ladder?

Posted by: Neil B. on April 12, 2007 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

Are we now going to meekly allow our dear leaders and their compliant media cronies to lump together every dissenting nationalist or internecine faction throughout the world as an element of al Qa'eda, and thus a tool of Osama bin Laden?

It's only a matter of time until the increasingly on-the-ropes GWB admin starts making claims that domestic leftie organizations are tied to AQ. In fact, I'm shocked that they have yet to do so.

These are many of the same people who only a quarter-century ago were labelling those same disparate groups as integral parts of a Moscow-led international Communist conspiracy.

Or integral parts of the intl anti-commie movement, as the case may be.

Posted by: Disputo on April 12, 2007 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

First, TWB, as I do business across the region, I don't have a sensation that folks like the Taureg give a flying fuck what Americans are doing.

It's like Americans caring if Boutfliqa is mad about Ben Ali's latest screwing over. You're deluded if you think they even fucking care. Now, if Americans started trooping about, well, that's another matter.

If the Taureq clans are in fact kicking out the Ikhouan, well, it is because they've attracted too much Algerian attention and more likely they've gotten too obnoxious, interfering with the Taureg free-wheeling lifestyle.

If.....

As to your question:
My question to you is this: if AQ/Maghreb is gaining strength -- and I'll happily stipulate that -- where are they getting it from?

Htistes. "The Wall Kids"

Young guys, no or shitty employment prospects, no perspective on the future. Watching cool Rambo like Jihadi TV clips, radicalised by the plausible if repulsive jihadi propaganda and the utterly cretinous FP of the Americans that is generally radicalising the region (at least towards the Americans, but also in general).

The chaos and nastiness of Iraq, with the American presence is a 24/7 source of irritation. Even the moderate get annoyed and outraged at the grotesque behaviour of the US, the young and radical... even worse.

Is the AQ "brand" particularly important, or are local concerns still the driving issue for those joining?

Why the either/or?

Al Qaeda is like Rambo to the young semi-literate semi-employed (or even the literate but also frusrated and young radical). And of course with poor economic growth, no jobs, and little prospects, indeed local drivers hook up with the al-Qaeda view.

And, given Algeria's rather messy history with elections (e.g., 1991), what are we looking at going into May

We're looking at a fucking mess.

I certainly have advised my firm that I am not travelling again to Algiers before elections, deals are off, and this bombing followed a months long escalation where the authorities had plenty of time to build up and prepare. And they still pulled it off, inside the bloody security perimeter. Downtown Algiers, mate, ain't no normal city - it's a fucking police state worthy of E. Berlin in the old days (except without the Cuban bars...), and the "Al Qaeda in Maghreb" still pulled it off, at the very seat of the Pouvoir.

That's no joke.

Posted by: The Lounsbury on April 12, 2007 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

I hear that ETA is re-branding itself Al-Qaeda in Iberia. Next it'll be the IRA changing to Al-Qaeda in Ulster.

Posted by: Lucinda on April 12, 2007 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

There is no GWOT just many local struggles over land and political control. It manifests religiously, because irrational religious types are the only ones who can stick out a long tedious struggle.

Posted by: Tom Perry on April 12, 2007 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

You must be a dupe of the zionists. Isn't it perfectly clear that the Algeria bombing is the fault of AIPAC? If Bush only pushed the Israelis to make peace with the long-suffering, innocent Palestinians, this never would have happened.

Posted by: DBL on April 12, 2007 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

And, mhr, you keep hatching those nightmares to scare the ignorant. Al-Qaeda has as much chance of taking over Spain as Al Sharpton has of becoming the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

And by the way, what is your solution? To kill all 1.2 billion Muslims? Jesus said, "..he who takes up the sword, will perish by the sword".

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on April 12, 2007 at 6:18 PM | PERMALINK

Whilst the Groupe Salafiste de Predication et du Combat (GSPC) certainly renamed itself 'al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb' to big note itself and lead scared folks to the misconception that al-Qaeda is this international hydra with superhuman powers, the truth is the GSPC was formed from the hardcore militants of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) who slaughtered tens of thousands in the 1990s.

Many of the GIA's leadership received terrorist training in camps in Sudan run by Osama bin Laden (prior to al-Qaeda heading to Afghanistan they had camps in Sudan for years, training many).

So while it is over-reaching to say al-Qaeda has a new group in Algeria - it is too simplistic to wipe these guys off as 'wanna-bes.' Their leaders got their start directly from Osama. They are linked to al-Qaeda in that sense. The GIA hijacked an Air France airbus in 1996 and planned to crash it into Paris - so it is not like these guys act in a vaccuum.

They went to the same school and they keep in touch with their alumni!

Posted by: RoD on April 12, 2007 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

Dontcha think the Algerian bombings might be timed to influence the Frech election? Duh.

Posted by: eCAHNomics on April 12, 2007 at 8:50 PM | PERMALINK

Just reading today's news, we note:

-- an al Qaeda attack in Algiers,
-- a (likely) al Qaeda suicide bombing in the Parliament in Baghdad, and
-- the arrest of an American charged with working with al Qaeda.

Other days, we read of al Qaeda related attacks in other countries. Radical Islamic terroism is a serious and widespread problem.

Kevin's post offers an excuse to ignore what's going on along. In addition he smears those who are paying attention, calling them "hawks" and claiming that they "revel" in the situation.

Not his finest post.

Posted by: ex-liberal on April 12, 2007 at 9:25 PM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal, I think it is infinitely more complicated than either you or Kevin grasp. For what it's worth, I think The Lounsbury has offered the best commentary on this entire thread. As for me? This topic is far too important for me to engage in idle speculation.

We know we have a problem. We also know that the "more of the same" approach is only fanning the flames. An uncomfortable truth is, we are going to have to engage in a self-imposed reckoning as a first step. For that reckoning to be fruitful, we are going to have to step back from our jingoistic bluster and be brutally honest with ourselves. Never a pleasant undertaking.

"So long as our government requires the backing of an aroused and informed public opinion...it is necessary to tell the hard bruising truth."
--Margueritte Higgins

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 12, 2007 at 9:40 PM | PERMALINK

And they still pulled it off, inside the bloody security perimeter. Downtown Algiers...

I am normally a fearless traveler. I'll trundle off to Turkey with three toddlers in tow, for cryin' out loud. And take a different plane than my husband. (It was the 80's and he had to fly in uniform. Nuff said.) I have only been to Algiers once, for about 18 hours. Not sure I actually drew a breath the entire time I was there. (I suspect you might be the only person here who appreciates that, Lounsbury.:)

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 12, 2007 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

Relabeling the GSPC may suit the propaganda desires of both al-Qaeda and the Western hawks who revel in the myth of ever-expanding jihad, but that doesn't mean the rest of us have to believe it. The prosaic truth is that al-Qaeda most likely has very little to do with Algeria's serious and longstanding internal problems.

al-Qaeda will probably have a lot to do with future violence directed at Algeria's long-standing internal problems. al Qaeda has little to do with America's, Britain's, Spain's, or Iraq's long-standing internal problems, but it has taken a violent interest in each of those areas.

Whatever else, it can't be a good sign that al Qaeda is now interested in Algeria.

Posted by: spider on April 12, 2007 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

BGRS nailed it.

With all the unfortunate troll-tennis that goes on in these pages, it's really cool to have comments like those from Lounsbury.

Thanks very much, very interesting and enlightening.

Posted by: Bad Rabbit on April 12, 2007 at 11:55 PM | PERMALINK

Well, with respect to ex-Liberal:
Just reading today's news, we note: [a list of unconnected events]...
Radical Islamic terroism is a serious and widespread problem.
...Kevin's post offers an excuse to ignore what's going on along. In addition he smears those who are paying attention, calling them "hawks" and claiming that they "revel" in the situation.

The dismissal he made was foolish, but what the fuck, he's far away. Then so you are, and there is a real point to the criticism of the pants wetting shrieking on about al-Qaeda, that tends to make it sound like one operational network, and every event directly related to another.

Meanwhile, I sadly expect a rather blundering about response.

And as for the visit, well if it was in the past decade, yes. But then I flew off to talk a deal in Istanbul 2 days after HSBC. Still, have little desire at present to get blown up speculating on privatisations in Algiers.

The Lounsbury
Aqoul.com

Posted by: The Lounsbury on April 13, 2007 at 5:28 AM | PERMALINK

A further thought.

Whatever else, it can't be a good sign that al Qaeda is now interested in Algeria.

You have it precisely backwards.

It is not a good sign that Algeria is interested in al-Qaeda.

Or to put it differently, that local groups previously jealous of independence have decided that the al-Qaeda label is attractive enough to stitch on one's own efforts.

It would seem to me rather than being a sign of a spreading of al-Qaeda as an organisation, as such, it is rather a sign of the radicalisation of the neo-Salafiste wing - the "Jihadis" in American op ed usage - of opinion, and a renewed willingness to use violence a la the old anarchists.

It had seemed until perhaps the last two years that they had turned to quietism and preaching. The fiasco of American incompetence and the pitiful display of blundering hypocritical double-talk reminiscent of the old Sovs People's Democracy blithering on.... well that's had a bit of influence it seems to me.

I note I have nothing against the cold pursuit of state interest and a bit of hypocritical double talk. Part of getting deals done. Badly done, however, it's own goaling yourself.

Posted by: The Lounsbury on April 13, 2007 at 5:38 AM | PERMALINK

Hmm, noted I made a mistake supra.

mou'assa is not foundation, mouassassa is.

Trivial, but it irritated me.

Posted by: The Lounsbury on April 13, 2007 at 6:13 AM | PERMALINK

I shouldn't think so, why?

Posted by: The Lounsbury on April 13, 2007 at 8:35 AM | PERMALINK

"fiasco of American incompetence and blundering hypocritical double talk"

At least Paul Wolfowitz is trying to atone by helping Shiites, well, at least his Shiite girl friend over at the World Bank. Sorta lead by example.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on April 13, 2007 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

Relabeling the GSPC may suit the propaganda desires of both al-Qaeda and the Western hawks who revel in the myth of ever-expanding jihad, but that doesn't mean the rest of us have to believe it.

Do you mean to say that no international jihad exists? Or only that it is not expanding?

Col Lounsbury, welcome back. I had missed you during your absence.

It would seem to me rather than being a sign of a spreading of al-Qaeda as an organisation, as such, it is rather a sign of the radicalisation of the neo-Salafiste wing - the "Jihadis" in American op ed usage - of opinion, and a renewed willingness to use violence a la the old anarchists.

Are they necessarily mutually exclusive? It would seem to me that they are mutually reinforcing. One of the nice things about the fungus analogy is that the fungus may be huge, like the "fairy ring" in a forest, with the distant parts operating mostly independently of each other most of the time. You could say the same about the leaves and roots of a tree, but the fungus is nearly invisible, except where it reproduces. A single fungus was the largest organism known to have existed, considerably outweighing the largest known whale, growing in a forest in Spain or France.

All analogies break down. al Qaeda is spreading like the original expansion of Islam, which required about 70 years to spread from the Arabian peninsula to Spain. On its current success, al Qaeda could do the same in about the same time frame, say 1980-2050. The really fearful right-wingers think al Qaeda will require less time than that to conquer England, France, and Belgium.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on April 13, 2007 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

Hela

Are they [al-Qaeda spread vs radicalisation] necessarily mutually exclusive?

I did not say they were, rather I indicated I see it as the later, rather than the former, as an organisation as such.

Franchising without direct guidance in an operational sense.

It would seem to me that they are mutually reinforcing.

They could be, but I do not think that is happening, in a proper organisational sense.

All analogies break down. al Qaeda is spreading like the original expansion of Islam, which required about 70 years to spread from the Arabian peninsula to Spain.

No, it is not.

It is spreading like the Khaouarij, popping up here and there as small dissident communities at odds with the Elites and the Powers that Be, sometimes with very good reason if very bad solutions.

The Khaouarij never conquered, they only annoyed.

On its current success, al Qaeda could do the same in about the same time frame, say 1980-2050. The really fearful right-wingers think al Qaeda will require less time than that to conquer England, France, and Belgium.

And so some illiterate drooling morons of shrieking nativist idiots are afraid of something that will never happen, so the bloody fuck what?

These sorts of drooling Right Bolshevik morons believed Sadaam had a genuine ability to threaten the US and Iraq was some kind of secular heaven, both contra all logic and understanding that the most casual of real acquaintance with something approaching reality would have disabused them of. Their grasp of the world is on par with the Leftist who actually believe in Marxism and the Proletariat. They're both a bunch of drooling whankers.

The Lounsbury
Aqoul.com

Posted by: The Lounsbury on April 13, 2007 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Ahem

At least Paul Wolfowitz is trying to atone by helping Shiites, well, at least his Shiite girl friend over at the World Bank. Sorta lead by example.

As Riza is of Libyan on her fathers side and Saudi heritage on the mother, I very much doubt she is Shi'a. Possible, but highly doubtful.

Posted by: The Lounsbury on April 13, 2007 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK
This is part and parcel of the "franchise" theory of al-Qaeda, namely that al-Qaeda has morphed from a centrally controlled transnational terrorist group into a broader, even more dangerous hydra-headed organization with satellites all over the world. But how true is this?

I spent a day mulling this post over, and I have to come back and say it's seriously flawed.

If they say they are AQ - and - they access the jihad sites that transmit the propaganda and ideology - and - they employ the same methods to a degree that indicate shared ops training - and - they have similar declared goals - and - they by definition destabilize world order,

then who are we to disassociate them?

The level of complacent smugness of several commenters in this thread is mind boggling. They seem to fear our government more that they fear AQ. I don't blindly support all of our government's grabs for powers (and there have been some), but I do believe there is a war on and some provisions are justified.

Does AQ have to mass a million people in a frontal attack on a particular region to get respect? They use suicide attacks, but as a group they are quite rational, and patient - they will attempt to wear us down as a pack of wolves harries an elk.

They have succeeded in deterring the progress of modernization/liberalization in several critical areas such as Iraq and Pakistan already. In some areas like Afghanistan and Somalia they may winning.

I should not have to bring up 9-11, but complacent thinking will get you hit by these people. They are quite serious and forthright about what they plan to accomplish. They have a significant track record of doing exactly what they say.

The 'franchise' factions do have cohesion and a common ideology. The ideology may be declared a perversion of Islam, but it draws strength and durability from Islam regardless. This, in my opinion, makes them at least as dangerous a challenge to Western Liberalism as communism was. They have many bases where they can either get sympathetic aid from the general Islamic population or bully them into aid anyway.

We need to take the 'franchise' very seriously and find out how to disrupt its communication over the very Internet we are having this forum on.

Posted by: jdwill on April 13, 2007 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

A few items:

First, I share the reaction that it's bizarre to the point of perverse that the reaction to the Maghrebine al-Qaeda franchising among many focuses in an idiotic fashion on American domestic politics.

Of course, the pimping of fear and panic is equally as bad, viz:

The 'franchise' factions do have cohesion and a common ideology. The ideology may be declared a perversion of Islam, but it draws strength and durability from Islam regardless. This, in my opinion, makes them at least as dangerous a challenge to Western Liberalism as communism was. They have many bases where they can either get sympathetic aid from the general Islamic population or bully them into aid anyway.

Oh bollocks.

As dangerous to Western liberalism as Communism?

Please, that's absurd.

Dangerous, indeed dangerous.

It is dangerous to the development of healthy North-South economic and social ties and future development, like the old anarchists of the late 19th century and early 20th century. Capable of disruption, of provoking strangling backlash.

But overthrow and producing a Soviet type threat, one capable of invading and crushing Europe?

Only in the bizarre paranoid fantasies of confirmed xenophobes and semi-literate dupes.

We need to take the 'franchise' very seriously and find out how to disrupt its communication over the very Internet we are having this forum on.

Seriously yes.

Disrupt communication, don't be a fool.

Your intelligence services lack the basic linguistic skills to even do so, and frankly those communications are an excellent thing to have out on the internet in the open, as it allows tracking. Western attempts to suppress will simply do what the same dumb fucking efforts on banks re money laundering have done, drive it into areas where it is harder to monitor.

What Western agencies need to do is develop better monitoring and penetration networks - of course more intelligent American FP habits in the region and a reduction in the astonishingly stupid bungling would be helpful as well.

Of course, the idiot Left reacting by citing Ladder Deaths versus Terror is doing as bad a job. Bombs have a way of disrupting life on a mass scale that one clumsy fool on a ladder falling typically does not.

That being said, pants wetting over-reaction makes problems worse.

Posted by: The Lounsbury on April 13, 2007 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

The Lounsbury,

And so some illiterate drooling morons of shrieking nativist idiots are afraid of something that will never happen, so the bloody fuck what?

Woohoo.

Are you interested in debate or just ungrammatical name calling? Serious question.

You have some interesting points to make, but it's hard to focus on them with the all references to enuresis.

Posted by: jdwill on April 13, 2007 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

The Lounsbury -- You know a lot more than I do about this topic. I appreciate your posts here.

Posted by: ex-liberal on April 13, 2007 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

Luckily I lack hobbies or the slightest concern as to the grammatical quality of the occasional rant.

Sadly Left & Right are equally cretinously ignorant on the region, and blunder around. Pity really, lots of opportunities to be siezed, and done right, much mutual benefit to be realised.

But one should always keep in mind this aphorism that I took from my investment fund partner some years back: "Just because he speaks English well and wears a suit, doesn't mean you can trust him."

Rather too often Westerners are taken in by precisely this.

Pity really. If it were not so, I would have more capital to play with.

Posted by: The Lounsbury on April 13, 2007 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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