As quotes go, it could easily be my favorite of the year.
In a just released video, not yet officially authenticated but appearing to be the real thing, the world’s leading terrorist gasbag, Usama Bin Laden, says the following:
"I advise myself, Muslims in general and brothers in Al Qaeda everywhere to avoid extremism among men and groups."
Now, if you’re like me, you heard that statement and thought, "How about that, he’s seen the light and decided to preach against bloodthirsty violence."
Of course, if you’re like me you probably also thought, "How did the Cleveland Indians tank so badly in the last three games of their series with the Red Sox?" Followed by, "Hmmm, a cold beer would be good right about now." But I’m getting off topic here.
Bin Laden wasn’t referring to extremism as in, uhh, blowing up innocent men, women and children… that, of course, is okeedokee by him and, indeed, the whole point of being a paid-up member of Al Qaeda.
No, he was instead referring to extremism as in an over-zealous allegiance to an individual or group.
Bin Laden, in a deft bit of spin, was cautioning his followers against the danger of forming a cult of personality. In the third tape released by Bin Laden during this year, he goes out of his way to warn insurgents in Iraq from devoting themselves to one local leader, instead advising them to "… work in one united group."
"Don’t be arrogant," Bin Laden says. "Your enemies are trying to break up the jihadi groups." During the course of the tape he urged the insurgents to "… unite your lines into one."
To the surprise of veteran counterterrorism analysts and experts Bin Laden went on to say "…honestly, how many times do I have to go over this same crap? You call yourselves insurgents? Numbers are seriously down for the third quarter… pull it together people or there will be major administrative changes. I am not kidding around. Seriously."
Now, Bin Laden and his trusty sidekick Ayman al Zawahiri have in the past referred to the need for insurgents in Iraq to focus on attacking the United States instead of each other. The theme of Bin Laden’s latest tape isn’t completely new, it’s just delivered with more focus and apparent urgency.
For a variety of reasons, including an increased number of troops, emphasis on putting U.S. and Iraqi personnel out into neighborhoods to work with locals in minimizing violence, Sunni tribal leaders turning against the insurgents and, in particular, against Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI)-- and the general population’s growing weariness with the mindless bloodshed perpetrated by AQI-- Bin Laden decided to issue a new tape in an effort to rally the insurgents against what have been some successes for the U.S. and Iraqi forces during recent months.
Of course, success is a relative term in a place like Iraq. Obviously, no one’s claiming victory and the arrival of peace and stability any time soon. But you take your successes one by one and try to build on them. A decrease in violence, even if temporary, is important to note. A willingness by Sunni tribal elders to turn on the insurgents and AQI is clearly important, and in the long run, absolutely essential to any lasting solution.
This is what appears to have Bin Laden sitting up and taking notice. In this latest tape he bangs on about the need to work together.
"Some of you have been lax in one duty, which is to unite your ranks," he said. Bin Laden the "uniter." How touching. "Beware of division," he adds. "Muslims are waiting for you to gather under a single banner to champion righteousness."
Oh. Of course, it's important to note that words often have more than one meaning. For many of us, righteousness often means being good, kind, decent, considerate of others… that sort of thing. But in Bin Laden’s dictionary, righteousness is all about suicide bombings, the killing of anyone who doesn’t think like you do, anarchy and an added dollop of bloodshed for good measure.
The point being, we should actually be encouraged by this latest missive from Bin Laden. The timing of its release, and its message, isn’t a coincidence. It comes at the same time as we’ve seen a heartening trend… a decrease in violence and an increase in incidents where Iraqis, including Sunni insurgents, are willing to turn and fight against AQI elements.
Will this trend continue? Who knows. Any "expert" who claims to know where this thing is going is simply blowing smoke up your backside. But clearly we’ve made some advances. Unfortunately, I suspect that many will not believe the reports coming out of Iraq, or at least will be skeptical. One of the legacies of this war will be an even more jaded American population, regardless of the administration in place.
Frankly, if you don’t believe the military reports citing a decrease in violence and an increase in cooperation from the Iraqi population, take a listen to Bin Laden’s latest tape. He’s concerned about what’s happening with the insurgency and AQI. Could it be that Bin Laden actually gives the military reports more credibility than many in America do?
Just a thought. Let me know your comments. Send your emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Till next week, stay safe.
Mike Baker served for more than 15 years as a covert field operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency, specializing in counterterrorism, counternarcotics and counterinsurgency operations around the globe. Since leaving government service, he has been a principal in building and running several companies in the private intelligence, security and risk management sector, including most recently Prescience LLC, a global intelligence and strategy firm. He appears frequently in the media as an expert on such issues. Baker is also a partner in Classified Trash, a film and television production company. Baker serves as a script consultant and technical adviser within the entertainment industry, lending his expertise to such programs as the BBC's popular spy series "Spooks" as well as major motion pictures. In addition, Baker is a writer for a BBC drama to begin production in July 2007.