War Nerd on Al Qaeda

Written By: - Date published: 11:10 am, May 3rd, 2011 - 13 comments
Categories: afghanistan, blogs, iraq, us politics, war - Tags: ,

The best US blog is eXiledonline. They’ve done huge work to expose the Tea Party and its shady backers. Their insight into the class issues underlying economic crisis both raw and diamond-sharp. And one of their writers, Gary Brecher aka the War Nerd, covers conflicts with eyes wide open. Here’s his take on Al Qaeda, coincidentally written last week:

The whole concept of Al Qaeda is wrong. The name means “The Base” in Arabic, and the idea is that it’s a central clearinghouse for dozens of different guerrilla groups, sharing an Islamic ideology but representing different countries and tribes and languages. They get together and share intelligence and personnel and materiel, because they’re all good Muslims working for a common cause. It’s the old kiddie dream of a vast umbrella group of baddies, S.P.E.C.T.R.E from Man from Uncle, KAOS in Get Smart, the ridiculous villain and his volcano HQ in every lame Bond film.

It’s just a terrible idea. The last thing any sane guerrilla group wants to do is to go to an international guerrilla jamboree like the Boy Scouts. Sure, you’ll share ideas and prop up each others’ morale—and in the meantime, the informers—because every decent-sized guerrilla group must assume it’s been penetrated—will be taking careful notes, taking quiet candid pictures, and putting together organizational charts. By the time you go to your home country from the big Jihad Jamboree in Waziristan or Tora Bora, you can be sure that the informers have shared their info with their handlers. And although some intel agencies can be stingy, most of them share info very readily, so every informer has in effect given the breakdown of every local group to every intel agency in the world.

And that’s death to a guerrilla, literally death, and not a quick or easy death either. Sharing info is good for intelligence agencies (most of the time; there are exceptions, like sharing the identity of some agents), but it’s the worst thing in the world for guerrillas.

That’s why guerrilla groups either start out with or switch to cell style organizations. Many times you’ll see a guerrilla group starting out imitating military organization, with big units and uniforms and parades. That’s asking to be wiped out. Sometimes they are wiped out; but if they survive, their second coming always involves switching to four-person cells, where three out of four members don’t know anything except the identity of the other cell members. And even the fourth, the cell leader, only knows the identity of one contact in the larger organization.

By bringing Jihadis from around the world to get Osama’s blessing, Al Qaeda was giving them a short-term boost in morale and finances but pretty much guaranteeing they’d be penetrated and destroyed within a few years. And that’s what happened: a big splash on 9/11, a few aftershocks in East Africa, Bali, Madrid and London, and then nothing but cops breaking down doors all over the world to the soundtrack of Hellfire missiles from Predator drones vaporizing mud houses in Northern Pakistan.

In a separate post, WN contrasts Al Qaeda with the IRA. An organisation that near-as won its guerrilla campaign by making shows of force that were expensive to the UK but designed to minimise civilian causalities (eg. the Canary Wharf bombing and lobbing purposely dud mortar shells on to Heathrow airport to say ‘we could do a lot of damage if we wanted’). Al Qaeda, by contrast, has had few successes. It has no apparent ability to strike at will as the IRA demonstrated it had to win its war. Al Qaeda was/is more like the boogeyman that turns out to be an old guy in a cheap costume.

But maybe Al Qaeda’s objectives were/are different from ordinary guerrilla groups, as WN hints at:

What made Al Qaeda so scary was that they went all out, in an age where the military norm is to use a tiny little fraction of your actual power. To see that style in action, just look at Libya now: NATO has the largest common air force in the world and could make every Qaddafi-held town in Libya a column of black smoke in a few minutes, but what they actually do is hold a classic EU discussion before taking out a single tank.

Al Qaeda made its mark by using everything they had. Every contact in every country. Every dime of finance. Every pound of plastique. Every willing suicide bomber. They literally doubled up on their attacks, trying for at least two big targets every time: the WTC, Pentagon and White House on 9/11, multiple tube stations on 7/7, two Israeli vacation spots and a US Embassy in Kenya. That sort of splurging really shocked bureaucrats who’ve spent their lives hedging their bets. And it worked, short-term; it made Al Qaeda look much bigger and more important than it really was.

And that drove (or gave the excuse for) the US to invade to Muslim countries and spend incredible sums in the name of security. $1,200,000,000,000 (1.2 trillion dollars) down the drain on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars alone. That huge drain on the American economy has probably done more than any other single thing to reduce the US from hyperpower to bankrupt, crumbling empire in record time. And it will be a long, long time before a US President tries to invade another country – look how reluctant they are to even give air support to stop Gaddifi massacring the Libyans.

So, maybe Al Qaeda achieved its goals after all by suckering the US into a fight that has bled it dry and broken its international prestige.

13 comments on “War Nerd on Al Qaeda”

  1. ianmac 1

    A great read Eddie. Though doesn’t the USA huge budget on “Defence” (Offence?) benefit many sections of the economy? Those who make nuts and bolts at $100 each. Those who make cluster bombs and mines? Those who provide advice? Its an ill wind that doesn’t provide fuel for US GNP?

    But of course even we little people passing through airports have much to curse bin Laden for let alone the Governments who made the rules.

    • ropata 1.1

      Yes there is economic activity but it is not doing anything constructive – it is for the purpose of killing. The economic benefits would be far greater if the US spent 1% of its obscene military budget on building hospitals, houses, schools. These things have a multiplier effect, war is a black hole.

      • Colonial Viper 1.1.1

        Indeed, the hundreds of billions spent on the US military machine does create a lot of jobs.

        But far less than any normal industry because of the lack of multiplier effect. Maintaining a nuclear warhead produces jobs, but the work does not have the same economic benefits has spending on jobs maintaining an important bridge or electricity substation.

        Further more think of all the economic and social damage sending young men and women to war causes. These people come back to the US with massive physical and psychological injuries which then incur costs on US society and economy which is large but very hard to measure.

        As well as risking the creation of new generations of enemies determined to hurt the US and cause it harm.

  2. Afewknowthetruth 2

    Al Qaeda keeps the masses distracted while global corporations get on with the real agenda of controlling the global oil supply and looting the planet of the last of resources.

  3. Rich 3

    Word. Couldn’t agree more with that analysis.

  4. You might want to read this as a bit of extra information.

    The Imperial Anatomy of Al-Qaeda. The CIA’s Drug-Running Terrorists and the “Arc” of Crisis

    Part 1 by Andrew Gavin Marshall

  5. twgmbd 5

    Evidence from Wikileaks that the US had a very good idea as to Osama’s whereabouts back in 2008. Which begs the question why the delay?


  6. Colonial Viper 6

    $1,200,000,000,000 (1.2 trillion dollars) down the drain on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars alone. That huge drain on the American economy has probably done more than any other single thing to reduce the US from hyperpower to bankrupt, crumbling empire in record time.

    A large proportion of that money went straight to US corporate interests like Halliburton.

    In other words, the war was an extremely efficient way to shuffle funds from the tax payer to certain private interests.

  7. GorjusGeorge 7

    Ain’t that the truth.

  8. Very Good Eddie, I have had to deal with the United States Children, I mean citizens on a daily sometimes if I’m lucky only weekly basis, the only way I can describe most of them is as brain washed, attention seeking, articulate, four year old children with guns.

    • Vicky32 8.1

      the only way I can describe most of them is as brain washed, attention seeking, articulate, four year old children with guns.

      Awesome, Mr Smith! 🙂

  9. This Twitter person blogged the attack in Abbotabad:


    A computer programmer, startled by a helicopter clattering above his quiet Pakistani town in the early hours of the morning Monday,
    did what any social-media addict would do: he began sending messages to the social networking site Twitter…..His first tweet Monday
    was innocuous: “Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event).”…Athar then said one of the aircraft appeared to have
    been shot down. Two more helicopters rushed in, he reported.

    A few questions would be:

    1. The US government says there were 2 helicopters, no crashes, and no Americans hurt. It appears from the blog and the photos below
    that a helicopter crashed. The US government wouldn’t lie to us would it?

    2. The compound is said to have been ‘heavily fortified’ but no fortifications are evident in the pictures (except the wall, all houses have walls
    in that part of the world). The one helicopter crashed before ‘two more rushed in,’ so there was some time to prepare some sort of defense,
    but there was little apparent resistance and an article at Yahoo says bin Laden was unarmed (“Osama bin Laden was unarmed when U.S.
    special forces shot him dead, the White House said”). He had no defenses in the house, no secret tunnel to escape in, never thought of the
    possibility of helicopters flying over the wall?

    3. How is it possible that the most wanted man in the world is found, killed and disposed of in a few hours, there is no evidence whatsoever, and
    people readily believe the claim? This defies credulity.

    Here are a few pictures from a Yahoo site: http://news.yahoo.com/nphotos/Osama-Bin-Laden-Compound/ss/events/wl/050211osamacomp

    Here’s the wreckage of the helicopter:

    Here’s the compound on fire after the helicopter crashed:

    Here’s the house in the compound appearing completely unscathed the next day:

    This picture has circulated in newspapers all over the world but was immediately
    proven to be manufactured (http://beforeitsnews.com/story/604/232/Dead_Bin_Laden_Photos_Are_Fake.html)
    Why are there fake photos but no real photos?

  10. So you are the so called most wanted man in the world, you are asleep in your bed miles away from any recognized helicopter flightpath, then all of a sudden one crashes into you front fence, what does this man do? Hides under his pillow …. “yeah right”

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