Small groups seen as biggest threat

Small squads of disaffected men who radicalize one another are more dangerous, harder to detect than lone-wolf radicals, authorities say.

Such self-radicalizing groups are difficult to spot and often have no overt ties with established extremist groups. This L.A. Times articles focuses on Islamist groups in the US, however such “leaderless resistance” has been a tactic of the far right in the US as well.

I suspect this might be what’s happening in Iraq too. The White House constantly says the threat is al Qaeda, yet it’s obvious there are dozens of insurgent groups, and they morph and change sides frequently. So, the problem for the US in Iraq is hardly just al Qaeda, dangerous as they are (and they did claim responsibility for 9/11.) But given the open source warfare approach being used by the insurgents, al Qaeda in Iraq may be only loosely linked with al Qaeda elsewhere, and indeed, that is what reports suggest.

Bush and the neocons appear solely focused on destroying something that doesn’t exist. There probably is no al Qaeda Central Command, and trying to eradicate them in Iraq is chasing ghosts in the mist.

What unquestionably does exists is lots of small groups, loosely affiliated, joining up to end the occupation – and to no doubt enrich themselves through gun running and drug dealing and to slaughter their enemies at the same time. Hardly a vision for peace.

Could there be sleeper cells of Islamists in the US? Sure. Might they want to do us damage? Absolutely. But if force obviously isn’t the answer, and indeed, just makes things worse, then what is the solution? Well, if the U.S. were to leave Iraq and Palestinians had a place to call home, then in my opinion, most of the quite real threat of Islamist extremism would disappear overnight.

  • Joe Hartley

    From everything I read, it’s pretty clear that the major opposition to US presence in Iraq does not come from Al Qaeda. Indeed, how could it? Only 15% of the country is Arab Sunni, which is the only conceivable place that Al Qaeda could exist. Al Qaeda considers the Shi’a to be worse than Christian crusaders, apostates from the true Islam and therefore deserving of death. Most Americans don’t realize that the forefathers of the Saudi monarchy raided Basra in 1806 to kill and exterminate the Shi’a there.

    The major resistence lies in the Shi’a militia and in the undetected Ba’athist and army elements, which are largely Sunni. Rumsfeld, the fool, allowed 250 million TONS of armaments to disappear by leaving the bunkers unguarded. You can bet that most of it disappeared into the hands of Sunni Arabs connected with the former government, who would have been better organized than the repressed Shi’a. The logistics alone of emptying out 250 millions tons further suggests the organizational skills likely to be available only to former government members.

    Thus, I think it likely that in Iraq, at least, that most opposition is fairly well led. Doubtless there is all sorts of leakage of arms, so it’s not difficult to get arms on the street if you’re an angry young man. But the organization of the Sunnis forces is obvious, and doesn’t suggest a bunch of leaderless lost souls.

    That being said, your point about providing a target for Al Qaeda recruitment is completely valid, and solving the Palestianian question in a way that would satisfy most of the Palestinians would do something toward peace. However, remember that most Arab governments use Palestine as a distraction from their own corruption and incompetence. Solving the Palestinian problem would probably in the short run lead to a LOT more violence as the corrupt regimes get overthrown by their own people.

  • DJ

    You are 100% right that al-Queda needs an enemy in order to recruit. But what you still seem to miss is that the Bush administration also needs an enemy. Where you see incompetence (i.e. Rumsfeld “losing” weapons), I see a coherent strategy to ensure that we continue to have an enemy capable of fighting us.

    Joe is right on the money when he says that “most Arab governments use Palestine as a distraction from their own corruption and incompetence. Solving the Palestinian problem would probably in the short run lead to a LOT more violence as the corrupt regimes get overthrown by their own people.” Thus, though they may use the Palestinian problem as a flag to rally around, they really don’t want it solved. (This should sound quite familiar, as it parallels the Dems’ “opposition” to the war: they oppose it but don’t really want to end it because then they’d lose the political mileage they gain by opposing it.)

    Likewise if we pulled out of Iraq, al-Queda would be forced to attack us in order to keep us engaged, because without an external enemy they cannot thrive.

    But we won’t pull out of Iraq because (almost) every one of our politicians needs the war to justify grabbing more power and shuttling more money to their cronies. If we elect a Dem, he or she will do pretty much the same as Bush. Unless we elect one with a true moral commitment to the good of the country, but there aren’t many like that running.

    As you can see, the problem is not the system, because the problem exists among all the players involved, using several different internal systems. It is a dynamic of power, which can only be reversed by redistributing power within the system– in essence, in this country at least, a return to democratic (with a lowercase “d”) values. And if you think our leaders (in both parties) are dragging their feet pulling out of Iraq, just try suggesting that they give some of their power back to the people!

  • Bush seems incapable of realizing there are multiple groups in Iraq and instead remains monomanically focused on al Qaeda (who didn’t even exist there until the invasion as they and Saddam were enemies.)

    The vanishing guns were probably due to a mixture of stupidity, arrogance, and the belief that arming one faction meant they would be loyal to us. So, I don’t think the Bushies are nearly as cunning or such long-range thinkers as DJ appears to. Rather, they lurch from crisis to crisis with no game plan or even much of a clue.

  • DJ

    For a bunch of supposed incompetents, they sure are using manufactured crises to rake in the dough! I might buy that idiocy was the case, if it didn’t fit the pattern I’ve seen in other countries so exactly.

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