Sunday, February 20, 2005

Learning About al-Qaeda
I have just finished reading al-Qaeda - The True Story of Radical Islam by Jason Burke. It's is a very good read. He was one of the talking heads in the top BBC series, The Power of Nightmares. At the start of the book he gives a good description of the meaning of the phrase 'al-Qaeda' which reminded me of Dune by Frank Herbert - as many have noted! al_Qaeda "..can mean base, as in camp or a home, a foundation, such as what is beneath a house or a pedestal that supports a column" while Dune's central character is named by a desert tribesman as Usul, meaning "The strength at the base of a pillar."

Anyway, I thought I knew the score with what al-Qaeda were about and where they came from, but after reading this, I guess I did not. I would go as far as to say this, in the current climate, is essential reading. In the conclusion he talks about how the so-called war on terror is being fought, "Currently military power is the default, the weapon of choice, in fact the greatest weapon available in the war on terrorism is the courage, decency, humour and integrity of the vast portion of the worlds 1.3 billion Muslims. It is this that is restricting the spread of al-Qaeda and its warped world view, not the activities of counter-terrorist experts or the military strategists." He ends by linking to a foot-note of leaked memo by Donald Rumsfeld, "We are having mixed results with Al Qaeda, although we have put considerable pressure on them - nonetheless, a great many remain at large...Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror. Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?....The cost-benefit ratio is against us! Our cost is billions against the terrorists' costs of millions."

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