Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Inside Al Qaeda, by Rohan Gunaratna

What a cheery book this one is! It'd be almost funny if it wasn't so diabolically serious. Al Qaeda even plotted to assassinate the Pope! This is taking blowback to ridiculous proportions. It's time to get over the Christian crusades - they happened almost a thousand years ago. Imagine the reaction in the Christian world if they had been successful.

Interestingly, for a book that details Al Qaeda and its global terrfiying global network, author Rohan Gunaratna doesn't mention Iraq. In fact, he says we would be better served to keep an eye on Iran. Published in 2002, before the Iraq war, he advises that invading Iraq would be counter-productive:

'If, in order to oust Saddam Hussein, the US unilaterally targets Iraq, where already over a million innocent Iraqis have died, the victor will be Al Qaeda. In addition to dividing and possible splitting the coalition, it will create the conditions for a fresh wave of support for Islamists. Iran, not Iraq, remains the main sponsor of Shia and Sunni terrorism - Including Al Qaeda and several of its associate groups.'

Of course we all know now that the Bush administration were determined to go in, no matter what.

And what of Osama bin Laden? I was amazed to read one long passage where he goes through, in incredible detail, all of the financial costs that the September 11 attacks caused. He seems to relish crunching the numbers like a seasoned economist (he is actually an astute business man). It was like reading a mischievous Marx.

'The daily income of the American nation is 20 billion. The first week they didn't work at all due to the psychological shock of the attack, and even until today some don't work due to the attack. So if you multiply $20 billion by 1 week, it comes out to $140 billion, and it is even bigger than this.' This goes on and on, until bin Laden ecstatically reaches a climax of $1 trillion dollars.

Reading this book I thought that Tariq Ali is right: this is a fight of the fundamentalisms. It is well to remember that Bush's speechwriter is a fellow travelling born again Christian, and purposely writes Bush's speeches with much code language for his Christian base. Osama too cleverly uses religious language, of course more overtly. It also reminded me of what Thorstein Veblam wrote - politics and power are very much about violence.

Anyhoo, what does Gunaratna suggest? We need to smash Al Qaeda militarily, for sure. But there also needs to be a concerted diplomatic effort to cultivate goodwill in the Muslim world. The conflicts in Kashmir and Palestine need to be resolved poste haste.

The statistics Gunaratna marshals to demonstrate how much the Western and Arab worlds misunderstand each other are positively chilling. We are living in entirely different worlds. (Also, remember the Arab world gets different news and info on the war in Iraq - we hear about coalition soldiers dieing, they hear about innocent Iraqi children being blown to piece, with added colour pictures.)

Polls show that huge numbers of Muslims (over 60-70%) simply don't believe that is was muslims who drove those planes into the world trade centre. They think it a western plot. Scary!

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