Monday, October 22, 2007

Bin Laden statement taken as a climb-down from the ISI concept (But the full talk, released Tuesday, seems to tell a different story: see next post)

The audio tape of Bin Laden broadcast yesterday on AlJazeera is being widely interpreted as a combination of two new points: (1) confession that some members of the AlQaeda affiliate in Iraq has made "errors" (or commited "wrongdoing": same word) and should be brought to justice, following due process; (2) that among the errors has been a failure to appreciate the urgency of establishing unity among all of the jihadi factions; and in connection with this Bin Laden urges religious, tribal and other creditable authorities to to their utmost to try and bridge differences between factions.

AlJazeera itself, in the summary on its website, notes immediately that the official spokesman for the so-called Political Council for the Iraqi Resistance (the recently-announced union of Islamic Army in Iraq et al, with Hamas Iraq and an affiliate) has said this was a good statement
Noting that some of these errors have been lethal to some resistance factions, and these errors need to be corrrected. He referred in particular to the establishment of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq.
Abdul Wahab al-Qassab, described as an Iraqi political analyst, told AlJazeera this acknowledgement of problems has been a long time coming, noting that a big mistake was the original idea of trying to impose a system that large sectors of Iraqis find unacceptable. He said AlQaeda, having lost its popular base early on, is now trying to hook up with the Iraqi resistance, which has a clear program fighting the occupation and turning away from splintering Iraq, to re-uniting it. And in a similar vein they quote a specialist in Islamist groups, Diya Rashwan, who said Bin Laden has come to understand the crisis of AlQaeda in Iraq and elsewhere, and is trying to turn the program toward flexibility.

Given the fact that the spokesman for IAI and other resistance groups is taking the latest Bin Laden statement as a possible admission that the whole Islamic State in Iraq episode was a bad idea, it is worth taking a closer look at the text of what Bin Laden said. The following is my rendition of transcript excerpts published on the website.
I advise myself and all Muslims and particularly those in AlQaeda everywhere to avoid the clannishness (taassub) of persons or of groups or of the homeland (watan). The truth is what has been said by God and by his messenger...and everything that is derived from that and responds to the messenger [is good]. But O, your understanding of this question has been theoretical only, but you deviate from it in actual practice. You should refer whatever anyone says to the book of God and to the acts of the messenger, and whatever accords with the truth, take it up, and whatever does not, leave it....It is the brotherhood of belief that binds Muslims together, and not the membership in a tribe or in a homeland or in an organization. The good of the group is prior to the good of the individual; and the good of the Muslim state is prior to the good of the group; and the good of the ummah is prior to the good of the state....We repeat these things in order to dispel the proliferation among some of them of the glorification of the group and of its leadership, where they imagine that one of them is necessarily infallible, and they behave, in practical terms, with him as if he were a sacrosanct manifestation, even though they understand [in theory] that only the messenger is holy. They cling (yataassub) to the group and to its leadership, and they are not guided by any of the holy writings or of the sunna. And I advise myself and my brothers to have strength and patience...

And I say to my brothers, beware of your enemies, particularly hypocrites who have penetrated your ranks to spread fitna among the mujahid groups, and if someone repents of this shame refer him to a court, and you should require corroboration, and avoid judgments on mere suspicion.

Building confidence among the people in [our] teaching and our jihad with strength, and not with relationships or organization--this depends on a return to our purpose. Erring is in the nature of human beings, and the messenger of God says: "All children of Adam err, and the best of those who do wrong are those who repent..." And perhaps those with a sickness in their hearts follow the failings and oversights of the mujahideen, and amplify them, and perhaps they attribute them to a worship of jihad under the rubrics of violence and terror. May God deal with them, because the mujahideen are part of this ummah, [and some of them do wrong, and if any are accused let them be brought before a court]. There is no place for fights between Muslims who are genuinely devoted to the cause of God... All matters and all disputes are referable to God almighty and to his messenger, and it is incumbent on clerics, and persons of jihad, and sheikhs of the tribes, that they exert every effort to conciliate between differing factions, and it is incumbent on the factions that they respond to the exhortations for improvement of creditable men of knowlege.

[Addressing "my brothers the mujahideen of Iraq", Bin Laden says you have lived up to one of the great obligations, and that is to beat back a powerful enemy, but "some of you have been slow" in living up to another equally important obligation, and that is to unify your ranks, and he cites scripture to drive home the importance of this. Then he concludes:] My brothers in the mujahid groups: Muslims are waiting for you to unify under a single banner in order to bring about the right.... How great is the yearning for that. So hurry and fulfill this great obligation, may God be merciful to you. And it is incumbent on those of knowledge and virtue that they exert every effort to unify the ranks of the mujahideen, and to see that they do not deviate from the path that leads to that. And I pray that God strengthen them.
There you have it. As an initial reaction, I think you could say there could be a strong reading and a weak reading of this. The strong reading would be that among those BL is urging to get involved in reconciliation are the likes of Harith Al-Dhari of the Association of Muslim Scholars of Iraq, but for that to be the case, political reconciliation would have to involve major concessions from the traditional AQ position, and at least a tacit admission that whole ISI scheme was a mistake from the beginning. Fans of an even stronger reading might think of the "hypocrites" who have "penetrated the ranks" as including the likes of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, self-appointed head of the ISI. On the other hand, Bin Laden did couch his warning against "taassub" as a warning against not only the clannishness of groups and factions, but of nationalism too. The weak reading assumes Bin Laden was referring only to individual killers in the AQ network, and on the organizational level, only to the inability to deal with other groups, not to any fundamental mistake built into the whole ISI concept.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Totally off topic note ..

Badger, watch your back

7:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

b, they'll never catch this Badger; far too wily.

Badger, thanks for keeping us all up to speed on these developments. Your willingness to really analyze and understand these communiques is of great value and, as with this post, we get such a different view of possible meanings and consequences. where would we be without you. Truly informed comment.

As we're doing our promised fall rollout M and I - and Daniel, our producer - are doing a good many Q&A's after the screenings in both DC and NY. We are obviously learning much about the gaps in knowledge among an intelligent and engaged audience and attempt to address some of these in our half hour to one hour sessions after the show. One of the main issues we address is the old, "It's all al Qaeda" and Sunni and Shia killing each other etc and even though we have much to say to the contrary we still find it tough to attempt to reverse the effects of the megaphone over the last few years.

As a result of this we're going to add something to the FAQ section on our website in which we'll not only point people to the source documents for statistics we use (DoD, and polling data) but I thought it would be a good idea to let people know about Badgers and Aardvarks and such where they can get a much more nuanced understanding of the forces in play in Iraq.

Anyway, based on very good box office over our opening weekend we're being held over for another week in both DC and NY then pressing ahead with our Nov 2 opening in LA. We're also working on getting a few days in some other major US cities and prepping a special edition DVD.

M and I are not quite exhausted yet but we're getting there.



11:04 AM  
Blogger Compulsive Reader said...

Gold star for badger. You are indispensable.

5:32 PM  
Blogger badger said...

thank you all. Steve & Molly, keep up the good work (I would naturally be honored to be on your FAQ roster)if you do that

6:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, I hadn't heard the word badger in ages. Don't remember when I first learned it. Then there was you. Then there was that crazy story about giant badgers in Iraq. And now TB? Will I be seeing badger stories on The Today Show in the future?

BTW, link to Steve and Molly's site?

ps. Yesterday I learned about Balachistan. Something like that. In Pakistan. I guess bin-Laden is doing all that violence too. Since the 70's and before? Complexity's a bitch.

I too thank you for all you do.

9:56 AM  
Blogger badger said...

link to steve and molly's site

12:47 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home