Just watched Frontline’s piece from Tuesday night on the Insurgency. Warning–graphic imagery.
To my mind, it is a must watch. It puts to shame mainstream US media coverage, particularly television media. The video has only further convinced me that the so-called Sunni problem has no clear end in sight. The Sunni insurgency may collaborate with al-Qaeda in Iraq at times, with al-Sadr even the Iranians at times, to expel the Americans. But then they will simply revert to fighting each other.
And as long as the insurgency has local support, reconstruction can not take place, leading to a downward spiral–the Americans then are depicted as the reason for unemployment, humiliation, and destruction of the country.
One of the journalist heroes of the Frontline piece is Michael Ware from Time. He is the only Western journalist to have connections with the insurgency. Read his extended interview with Frontline here.
Perhaps the most interesting of the passages is his take on the new generation of al-Qaeda and how it will be more inspired by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi then Osama bin Laden. Here’s an excerpt:
Certainly the way I see it, and the way it’s been expressed to me by individuals who have become a part of Zarqawi’s organization, Sept. 11 was the end of a form of Al Qaeda. Sept. 11 was the final product of the Afghan generation. … And I’m sure the Al Qaeda strategists knew that after Sept. 11 an attack would come, and the organization would be dispersed, and [they would] have to revert to an underground movement and would be under great stress. And if you look at what bin Laden has said, and if you just analyze the nature of the actions, it was an inspirational event: “You see what we can do? Now you go out and do it. We’ve trained you. We’ve funded you. We’ve shown you the way.” And that’s always been a fundamental Al Qaeda principle.
So very much it was franchised terrorism, and it was, “Think globally, act locally,” with a very local phase to every manifestation. And it didn’t have to be Al Qaeda in every appearance. It was Abu Sharif [leader of Asbat al-Ansar, a Lebanon-based group] here and the Moral Liberation Front there, and something else here and something else here. But in all its permutations, it was a furtherance of a fundamental Al Qaeda-inspired ideology or concept. It’s the idea that is most powerful.
So what we saw after Afghanistan is this movement seeking its new birth, its next platform, and through Zarqawi we see this personified. He had a camp in Herat, [Afghanistan], for his organization, which was not Al Qaeda but was definitely affiliated and working within it. It’s then reported that he went to Kandahar, joined the defense of that, and eventually fled through Iran. Then there [are] various reports about where he went and how long he spent and whatever. But essentially, what he was doing was … shopping around as a terrorist consultant for hire. He was looking for the next place or group or cause on which to graft himself. And ultimately, the U.S. administration gave him Iraq as the next platform upon which to build the new generation. It was the ultimate tool with which to recruit.
If you go back and you see the letter that Zarqawi wrote to Osama bin Laden, which was intercepted, … it constitutes Zarqawi’s business plan. “This is what I intend to do with this platform, seeking the support of Osama bin Laden.” You go back and read that document now, and Zarqawi has followed through with everything that he promised. Every tenet that he outlined, he has, if not fulfilled, he has pursued vigorously. And it was here that Al Qaeda was given a rebirth. This is what we’re now seeing: This Bush administration is the midwife to the next generation of Al Qaeda, and that’s a generation that is principally being shaped or flavored by Zarqawi. …
This view seems to support what I had already mentioned in linking Nir Rosen’s article (A Darker Take on Iraq) on Zarqawi. Bin Laden created a very individualist modernist form of Islam. I have likened him, minus the violence, to Luther in this regard. He opened up a genuinely new form of Islam (like Luther for Christianity) but then was unable to control it as he attempted to then prove his version of individualist (non-traditional) Islam was the most correct. As Luther sought to bring all Protestants to himself. Protestants accepted his attack on the Church (like jihadists accept bin Laden’s attack on the Soviets and West) but not Luther’s theology.
Zarqawi believes the real enemy is the near enemy. As Peter Bergen, expert on al-Qaeda has stated, after the Afghan War against the Soviets, jihadist principles were spread. These men aren’t going to “retire” from Jihad once the Iraq War is concluded–just as they did not after the Soviets left Afghanistan. The jihadis in Afghanistan gained amazing skill and technical expertise after fighting a deficient, disorganized army (the Soviets). The jihadis in Iraq by extension, it is to scary to imagine, will have gained expertise and training by fighting the most well organized, efficient military force in human history.
Whatever happens in Iraq, it is clear that the Middle East will be facing renewed jihadist attacks. Particularly up for grabs will be Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan.
The interplay between that al-Qaeda (2.0) inspired movements and the larger Islamist- nationalist groups using the Bush doctinre of world-wide democracy as a base for Islamic Statehood will be the real force to watch in the coming decades. Especially as they continue their struggle against the dictatorial (current) regimes of the region.