I've talked before about the homogeneous quality US policies place on the ideal "Terrorism" and how it's practically shallow and limits the sphere in which we can deal with various states and not-quite-yet-states. In this essence I think our media our citizenry and our leaders have come to regard Al Qaeda as some sort of monolithic organization almost lending it a mythical quality.
Both Munz and Eddie shot me this New Yorker article by Lawrence Wright (who wrote The Looming Tower which I am now reading; It should prove interesting to see how Wright and Peter Bergan's accounts stack up against each other) that details a very serious and very critical ideological divide within Al Qaeda. A lengthy snippet:
Last May, a fax arrived at the London office of the Arabic newspaper Asharq Al Awsat from a shadowy figure in the radical Islamist movement who went by many names. Born Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, he was the former leader of the Egyptian terrorist group Al Jihad, and known to those in the underground mainly as Dr. Fadl. Members of Al Jihad became part of the original core of Al Qaeda; among them was Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s chief lieutenant. Fadl was one of the first members of Al Qaeda’s top council. Twenty years ago, he wrote two of the most important books in modern Islamist discourse; Al Qaeda used them to indoctrinate recruits and justify killing. Now Fadl was announcing a new book, rejecting Al Qaeda’s violence. “We are prohibited from committing aggression, even if the enemies of Islam do that,” Fadl wrote in his fax, which was sent from Tora Prison, in Egypt.
Fadl’s fax confirmed rumors that imprisoned leaders of Al Jihad were part of a trend in which former terrorists renounced violence. His defection posed a terrible threat to the radical Islamists, because he directly challenged their authority. “There is a form of obedience that is greater than the obedience accorded to any leader, namely, obedience to God and His Messenger,” Fadl wrote, claiming that hundreds of Egyptian jihadists from various factions had endorsed his position.
What follows is an AQ primer and a detailed account of how Fadl became disenfranchised with both Ayman al Zawahiri, the methods of AQ and the liberalization of the terror organization (that homogeneity thing again) al Jihad.
Here's my gripe: Not at all with Wright's factual account (though I do wonder if Fadl hasn't "seen the light" via torture...) It jives quite nicely with my decidedly Bergenesque understanding of both bin Laden and AQ. Rather it's the fact that this information hasn't been capitalized on by the current administration nor the current batch of would be POTi (POTUS's sounds ridiculous) in a very basic semblance of media exploitation or, dare I say, Information Operations. Why this very crucial and simply incredible inter-organizational division isn't at the top of any politico's list of talking points baffles me. To wit:
One afternoon in Egypt, I visited Kamal Habib, a key leader of the first generation of Al Jihad, who is now a political scientist and analyst. His writing has gained him an audience of former radicals who, like him, have sought a path back to moderation. We met in the cafeteria of the Journalists’ Syndicate, in downtown Cairo. Habib is an energetic political theorist, unbroken by ten years in prison, despite having been tortured. (His arms are marked with scars from cigarette burns.) “We now have before us two schools of thought,” Habib told me. “The old school, which was expressed by Al Jihad and its spinoff, Al Qaeda, is the one that was led by Ayman al-Zawahiri, Sheikh Maqdisi, Zarqawi. The new school, which Dr. Fadl has given expression to, represents a battle of faith. It’s deeper than just ideology.” He went on, “The general mood of Islamist movements in the seventies was intransigence. Now the general mood is toward harmony and coexistence. The distance between the two is a measure of their experience.”
“Dr. Fadl’s revisions and Zawahiri’s response show that the movement is disintegrating,” Karam Zuhdy, the Islamic Group leader, told me one afternoon, in his modest apartment in Alexandria.
Imagine Lenin shambling into Stalin's room one gloomy night (maybe rattling some chains in a most Dickensian fashion) and denouncing his own -ism (Leninism) and Marx.
You couldn't script this in a better fashion or make it any more accessible to the pen of a speech writer than this. And yet, nothing...
Calling on CIIDG...