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December 15, 2009
The only good MuslimsBy Greyhawk
With a nod to an old axiom of uncertain origin, my title invokes what appears to be al Qaeda's philosophy on their fellow travelers in Islam: kill 'em all, let God sort 'em out.
Can convincing enough people of that help win what we used to call the war on terror? Perhaps - but perhaps not in Afghanistan. There's a more important battle to be fought there...
Bill Roggio: "The Combating Terrorism Center won a rare victory in the information war".
Perhaps they did. Bill's point is that al Qaeda has been forced to respond to a damning study released by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point: Deadly Vanguards: A Study of al‐Qa'ida's Violence Against Muslims. The report concludes that "the vast majority of al‐Qa'ida's victims are Muslims: the analysis here shows that only 15% of the fatalities resulting from al‐Qa'ida attacks between 2004 and 2008 were Westerners."
A notable figure, and one with potential impact, hence al Qaeda's response. (Gadahn's video is titled "The Mujahideen Don't Target Muslims".) As for victory, Bill's own Long War Journal acknowledges the difficulty in getting the word out:
The story has already received some limited coverage by a few Arabic news outlets, including Al Quds, the largest Palestinian daily, as well as the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jarida, which printed the story complete with the CTC's headline, "Vanguard of Death." It's a good start, but for this story to have the impact it deserves, it will need to be picked up by many more (and bigger) Arabic-language news outlets, including Al Jazeera.But standing firm between truth and an audience isn't a characteristic unique to Islamic media. CNN offered this headline over their coverage of al Qaeda's response: "Al Qaeda offers 'condolences' for innocent victims". Ann Althouse promptly demonstrated that it doesn't take a milblogger to see through that bit of messaging.
Clearly, he does not regard the peace-loving citizens as innocent. He is explicitly saying they are guilty. They have betrayed the faith and the blood of countless Muslims is on their hands.
"At least the quotes are there to let readers see how embarrassingly stupid it is," she adds.
And here's one of the quotes: "We express our condolences to the families of the Muslim men, women and children killed in these criminal acts," he said in the video. "And we ask Allah to have mercy on those killed and accept them as shohadaa (martyrs)."
CNN offers no quotes from the CTC report that prompted the response - not even a mention of its existence or a hint of its findings. That's an unfortunate omission, as this one (emphasis added) seems essential to the discussion:
Al‐Qa'ida represents itself as the vanguard of the Muslim community, committed to upholding Islamic values and defending Muslim people against Western forces, but its behavior represents a callous attitude toward the lives of those the group claims to protect. Al‐Qa'ida absolves responsibility for the deaths of Muslims by claiming that they are either martyrs or apostates. The definition of apostate, however, varies considerably. Al‐Qa'ida considers any Muslim that impedes their struggle by working with the West or an unfriendly regime as an apostate, and therefore a legitimate target. This includes Muslims serving in the armed forces, serving as police officers, and even those occupying civilian jobs. Al‐Qa'ida makes convenient use of this designation to justify its indiscriminate use of violence.The CTC report opens with a 2007 quote from Ayman al‐Zawahiri: "We haven't killed the innocents; not in Baghdad, nor in Morocco, nor in Algeria, nor anywhere else. And if there is any innocent who was killed in the Mujahideen's operations, then it was either an unintentional error, or out of necessity as in cases of al‐Tatarrus." (CTC: "To justify the killing of innocent Muslims, or martyrs, al‐Qa'ida references a shari'a rule called al‐tatarrus. Al‐tatarrus refers to the use of human shields... Al‐Qa'ida resurrected the term to justify the killing of innocents, arguing that these people were essentially human shields, and if innocent, they died martyrs.") Gadahn's apology continues that theme - and adds a warning for "apostates"...
"Those who have made the foolish decision to stand with America and its allies in their losing war against Islam ... you have not only betrayed Islam and Muslims and left the fold of faith, but you have also caused the destabilization of nations and the displacement ... of thousands of weak and oppressed people," Gadahn said.
"The blood of countless Muslims is on your hands," he continued. The meaning is clear - al Qaeda plans on doing a lot of Muslim killing in the future; their response is not a refutation of the CTC study, it is a reinforcement of its findings.
Footnote from the Department of Deja-vu: If much of the above sounds somehow familiar, think back to the late summer of 2006. Al Qaeda's long-running campaign of ultra-violence in Iraq (from The Management of Savagery: Brutal killings must be explained in a manner that justifies the atrocity; Public opinion must be turned against the enemy soldiers; Al Qaeda should be seen as the solution to the chaos/savagery - even as they foment more such atrocities) was beginning to pay off. In Iraq, violence was causing retaliatory violence; in the United States, the media had designated this a "civil war". In the midst of an election year in which they hoped to gain control of Congress Democrats were calling for American withdrawal based (in part) on the it's not our civil war hypothesis.
But in Anbar Province a movement had begun. Later it would be known as the "Awakening" - but at the time it was just getting underway (in the wake of the death of al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi). Anbar tribal leaders were beginning to push back against the wanton brutality practiced by the "mujahideen" in their midst; American forces were beginning to facilitate that "pushback".
A tipping point had been reached - and the new leader of al Qaeda in Iraq knew it and feared it. He released a message to the sheiks of Anbar - return to the fold or die.
"I say to those traitors in this blessed month, the month of pardon and forgiveness," al-Muhajir wrote, "that we are declaring a general pardon for all of them, forgiving them for our blood that was spilled by your hands and your treachery. We welcome you once again. Return to your religion and homeland before we defeat you, and you will have peace and security. We will not touch you but with kindness. You must first declare your sincere repentance in front of your tribes and families and inform us by whatever means, lest we make a mistake [and kill you]. You should put your hands in the hands of your brothers and sons, the mujahideen, for peace and security to return to our homes and expel the invader from our midst in this blessed month."
The message was clear: "don't bet your future on the Americans" - and in an election year with surging Democrats pledging withdrawal it most definitely had some level of appeal.
The rest, of course, is history - a history that the al Qaeda leadership understands far better than the average CNN viewer. The people of Iraq and Afghanistan don't need CNN to tell them who is more likely to kill them - they know. On the other hand many Americans have bought in to the al Qaeda version of the story; convincing a few of them at this point in time that it's actually a falsehood could be something of a victory.
But a hollow one, indeed - the battle now is to convince the Afghan people that we are not going to leave them to their fates at the hands of those they already know very well - and it's a battle we're losing. "They don't want to trust us because they don't think we're going to be here for the long haul," a young American Marine in southern Afghanistan said recently.
If he can figure out a way to unfuck that, we win.
Posted by Greyhawk / December 15, 2009 3:26 PM | Permalink
Welcome to the Dawn Patrol, our daily roundup of information on the War on Terror and other topics - from the MilBlogs and various sources around the world. If you're a blogger, you can join the conversation. If you link to any of these stories, add a ... Read More
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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