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Inside Al Qaeda's Hard Drive

12 Aug 2004 by Jason Fried

An absolutely fascinating look at Al Qaeda by way of seized computers, letters, emails, and other communications. This 17-page Atlantic article reminds us that anytime a few people get together there are going to be disagreements — no matter how unified that front may appear to outsiders — and that these disagreements are universal in their genesis: money, power, and ego. No matter how different we are, we all share one thing: human nature.

As an aside, I found this letter from Bin Laden to Mullah Omar on April 11, 2001 enlightening:

…Among the most important such false gods in our time is the United Nations, which has become a new religion that is worshipped to the exclusion of God. The prophets of this religion are present in the UN General Assembly… The UN imposes all sorts of penalties on all those who contradict its religion. It issues documents and statements that openly contradict Islamic belief, such as the International Declaration for Human Rights, considering all religions are equal, and considering that the destruction of the statues constitutes a crime…

And from a letter from Bin Laden to the American People on October 3, 2001:

Our current battle is against the Jews. Our faith tells us we shall defeat them, God willing. However, Muslims find that the Americans stand as a protective shield and strong supporter, both financially and morally. The desert storm that blew over New York and Washington should, in our view, have blown over Tel Aviv. The American position obliged Muslims to force the Americans out of the arena first to enable them to focus on their Jewish enemy. Why are the Americans fighting a battle on behalf of the Jews? Why do they sacrifice their sons and interests for them?

And from a letter from Bin Laden to Omar, also dated October 3, 2001:

Keep in mind that America is currently facing two contradictory problems:
a) If it refrains from responding to jihad operations, its prestige will collapse, thus forcing it to withdraw its troops abroad and restrict itself to U.S. internal affairs. This will transform it from a major power to a third-rate power, similar to Russia.
b) On the other hand, a campaign against Afghanistan will impose great long-term economic burdens, leading to further economic collapse, which will force America, God willing, to resort to the former Soviet Union’s only option: withdrawal from Afghanistan, disintegration, and contraction.

Print this article out and give it a read when you get a chance. It’s worth whatever time it demands.

11 comments so far (Post a Comment)

12 Aug 2004 | CM Harrington said...

Well, that's pretty par for the course with regard to radical religious fundamentalist beliefs. It occurs with all of them, not just Islam. Look at the Crusades for the Christian version of a similar idea. Normal humans interpret a (supposedly devine) text to further their own beliefs and personal power.

I prefer the "relaxed and groovy*" method, and luckily, most sane people do as well.

*Eddie Izzard reference

12 Aug 2004 | Hagbard Celine said...

Cake and tea with the Vicar...

or DEATH?!?

Um...cake please.

13 Aug 2004 | Ian said...

Wow... its interesting to get such insight into Osamas' rational.

Afghanistan will impose great long-term economic burdens...

What Osama seems to have missed is that a lot of the costs of war go to the arms manufacturers and back into the US economy. Thus I doubt it will be cost that will force the US out of Afghanistan, but rather public opinion of the effectiveness of keeping troops there. In the eventuality that the US does withdraw, it certainly would not be significant enough to cause the effects Osama seems to want to happen. He seems a bit preoccupied with Russia, but the US isn't the same or in the same position as Russia was in the 80s.

13 Aug 2004 | ar said...

After reading this, I am left with the feeling that we are in over our heads. I say that only because with all of our technology and military might, we still face an enemy we truly don't understand. They are crude, resourceful and guided by something different than politics.

13 Aug 2004 | Jonny Roader said...

"What Osama seems to have missed is that a lot of the costs of war go to the arms manufacturers and back into the US economy. Thus I doubt it will be cost that will force the US out of Afghanistan, but rather public opinion of the effectiveness of keeping troops there."

True up to a point, but the costs of a *long* war are very significant - make no mistake about it.

For example, is the US taxpayer really willing to bear the burden of a war with seemingly no end? Some do make profit from war (e.g. Dick Cheney!), and it certainly boosts jobs in the arms sector of the economy, but the net effect is a drain on tax. For a short war, or a winnable war with clear aims, or a longer but 'just' war, this is something that citizens will generally accept. But a war that drags on and on against an enemy that is happy to play for stalemate for as long as it takes? A war where the gains are never convincing ('We are winning the war on terror' - how long do we believe this)? A different matter.

Don't forget, the US happily armed bin Laden and his merry followers in their long battle against the Soviets - 'bleeding the Russian bear white' as it was known. The USSR lost plenty of men in Afghanistan, but it also lost plenty of cash. The US is certainly better placed to absorb those financial losses, but that doesn't mean it will do so forever.

13 Aug 2004 | indi said...

ar - I think we understand them a hell of a lot more now than we did three years ago. Maybe a lot of the public still doesn't, I don't know, but our military and intelligence agents must by now. I think if you try to apply only logic to understanding them you are in trouble. You have to be able to think emotionally, logically and spiritually to begin to understand them.

Oh well, I recently read Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintenance, so I'm still in a Metaphysics of Quality mood.

13 Aug 2004 | Larry said...

Great Info! That's what I was looking for.

13 Aug 2004 | Charbel said...

No matter how we try to spin the facts, reality remains that in the battle between Osama and the US, Osama is winning, at least so far.

I can't believe one person can have such an effect on society. He has managed to have us live in fear day in and day out. It is costing us many dollars to secure every single public event just because of this guy. And above all this, our administration seems to be unwilling to dedicate the right amount of resources to tracking this guy down. I bet if the 100,000 troops we sent to Iraq were in Afghanistan, we would've caught him long ago...

But to the Dick Cheney's in this world, having more troops in Afghanistan has very little ROI...It is not a good investment. There is no money to be made out there...It's ridiculous, sad and unpatriotic...And I feel really bad for the families who lost love ones on 9/11.

13 Aug 2004 | steve said...

Here's an interesting paradox: Bush has vowed to "bring these terrorist killers to justice" umpteen times, but would you care to venture a guess how many times he's publicly mentioned OBL by name since the beginning of 2003? That's right, only ten times.

By comparison, during the same time period, he's mentioned Saddam Hussein on over 300 occasions.

Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post writes the excellent White House Briefing column, and these numbers come from yesterday's report (also, here are the actual presidential OBL-related quotes). Registration required for both links.

If Bush is so committed to finding the guy who orchestrated the murder of 3,000 Americans, why doesn't he ever talk about him specifically?

15 Aug 2004 | Peter said...

"What Osama seems to have missed is that a lot of the costs of war go to the arms manufacturers and back into the US economy."

The most powerful arms companies have declared themselves as multinationals without national bases - BAES for example. The 'B' no longer stands for 'British', but 'Beyond' just like BA, BT and BP.

BAES has a share in several American projects including the US Joint Strike Fighter and for this reason has congress convinced it's actually American. In the UK, however, most everybody's convinced it's a British company.

If a national body goes to war, I agree that it is very lucrative for the arms companies. However, whether the revenue ever filters back to the origin economy is highly questionable and as the primary motive of these companies is to turn a profit, should they really be allowed their current hold over politics?

30 Jan 2005 | compatelius said...

bocigalingus must be something funny.

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