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RAPID RESPONSE (Archives)...Daily Commentary on News of the Day
This is a new section.  It will offer fresh, quick reactions by myself to news and events of the day, day by day, in this rapid-fire world of ours.  Of course, as in military campaigns, a rapid response in one direction may occasionally have to be followed by a "strategic withdrawal" in another direction.  Charge that to "the fog of war", and to the necessary flexibility any mental or military campaign must maintain to be effective.  But the mission will always be the same: common sense, based upon facts and "real politick", supported by a visceral sense of Justice and a commitment to be pro-active.  That's all I promise.

Click here to return to the current Rapid Response list

MONDAY through FRIDAY, August 27 through 31, 2007

"Ladies and gentlemen, the news is...there's no news".  With that simple statement, repeated frequently to Londoners during their frequent and fearful stays in bomb shelters during the Blitz in the early days of WW II, the authorities were able to avoid panic. 
Nothing so dramatic here, but the message is the same.  Nothing has changed in China or Russia or Afghanistan or Iran or Iraq...or in this require a change in what I have already offered in recent weeks on those subjects.  That means, of course, that nothing has changed regarding those serious problems: not the poisons coming out of China and landing on our shores; not Vladimir Putin on steroids; not any effective effort to destroy the world's greatest and most vulnerable source of opium; not the Kabuki Dance between Iran and the IAEA (shades of Hussein's Iraq) regarding its nuclear efforts; not regarding Maliki's persistent efforts to force a Shia power structure on all of Iraq; not regarding truth-telling about the future of New Orleans or about the future of immigration.  Only another unfortunate side-show about Washington sex life.  All this is the result of a bunker mentality within the Bush administration, a scorched- earth policy from the Democratic leadership, and a rampant CYA posture among Republicans.  Shades of Nero's Rome.


WEDNESDAY through SUNDAY, August 22 through 26, 2007

ZENIT, The world seen from Rome
News Agency

Intolerable Secularists

Interview With Author of The New Fundamentalists

In this interview with ZENIT, Deacon Brandenburg, who will be ordained a priest of the Legionaries of Christ this December, comments on his book "The New Fundamentalists: Beyond Tolerance," recently published by Circle Press.

Q: In a nutshell, what is the new fundamentalism that you address in your book?

Deacon Brandenburg: When we hear fundamentalism, what normally comes to mind is religious narrow-mindedness, perhaps with an irrational or even fanatical bent, like that displayed by some Muslim followers after Benedict XVI's Regensburg address.

The "new" fundamentalism that I describe in my book often displays the same intolerance, irrationality and extremism. The key difference, however, is that the new fundamentalists profess to be secular followers of no religion. Yet closer examination shows that the relativistic dogma underlying their worldview excites more religious fervor than do many tenets of the great world religions.

John Paul II's experience with Nazism and Communism -- two completely secular ideological systems -- led him to write in "Centesimus annus": "When people think they possess the secret of a perfect social organization which makes evil impossible, they also think that they can use any means, including violence and deceit, in order to bring that organization into being. Politics then becomes a 'secular religion' which operates under the illusion of creating paradise in this world."

I would say that what Nazism and Communism were in the past, relativism is today in our times. The methods are different -- softer and more subtle, working from the inside out -- but the effects on people and social structures and relationships do bear some comparison.

Secular religion did not die with those defunct systems. During an address last June 11, Benedict XVI touched upon the difficulties of passing on the faith "in a society, in a culture, which all too often makes relativism its creed. [I]n such a society the light of truth is missing; indeed, it is considered dangerous and 'authoritarian' to speak of truth."

We face a new fundamentalism -- a new secular religion -- that assumes there is implicit arrogance in any statement of truth, especially if it implies a value judgment about morality or the merits of one religion or worldview in comparison to others. The relativism of our time admits no rivals and is aggressively intolerant.

In the end, when truth is taken away or ignored, might makes right. That applies for any brand of secular religion.

Q: Your book opens with a case study of a college student named Jeff who is virtually blackballed on campus for standing up for his faith, even though he did so in a reasonable and respectful way. What is the urgency of combating secular fundamentalism on college campuses?

Deacon Brandenburg: Jeff's case is one of countless true stories, all of which call us to an essential point: It's not enough to understand the nature and dangers of this new fundamentalism. We also have to equip ourselves and others to oppose it, using the tools of logical argumentation and reasonable dialogue.

This is of the highest urgency, since relativism has a corrosive effect on almost every area of human life, from religion to morality to the organization of social and political life. The battle is not limited to college campuses, but extends to all levels of education, the media, politics and social life.

Q: What specific solutions do you propose as an antidote to the influence of relativism?

Deacon Brandenburg: Since this new fundamentalism is both a human and a religious malady, the medicine I prescribe at the end of my book has a human and a religious ingredient.

On the human level, I urge mutual respect, dialogue and honesty. This last point of honesty is vitally important, since it entails a constant attitude of openness to truth.

Sometimes it is uncomfortable to be continually challenged by truth. It might seem easier to dig our heels into what we already know and just settle into a familiar landscape of facts and opinions that we feel we have mastered.

But truth is not something we can possess and put in our pocket. It is something that masters us, possesses us, and constantly challenges us to grow. To avoid that challenge would be to run away from growing into our full stature as human beings ... and as children of God, who is truth.

On the religious level, I believe the remedy is authentic religion: a faith rooted in the personal encounter with a God who transcends and loves us, leading to deep attitudes that build on the best of human virtues and surpass them.

For example, authentic religion builds on the principle of mutual respect and elevates it to the virtue of charity. In a similar way, faith takes dialogue to a higher level of impact by opening man to the fullness of his spiritual nature. And honesty is brought to its full wingspan when man reaches after objective truth with all his strength.

Relativism and agnosticism clip man's wings by discouraging him from inquiring after the great questions and actively seeking the answers to his most profound longings. The liberation of faith is that it brings back that wide horizon of ultimate questions and sets man free to search for the answers.

Q: Your book occasionally cites insights from Alexis de Tocqueville, the early 19th-century Frenchman who wrote "Democracy in America." What do you think De Tocqueville would say if he could see the impact of relativism in America today?

Deacon Brandenburg: I think De Tocqueville saw the potential danger from the beginning. He was one of the first to say that a democracy is worth only as much as its people are, and that the character of a nation is dependent on the moral character of its individual citizens.

One of the points I argue in the body of the book is that the doctrine of tolerance is having a clear and measurable impact on marriage, family and the quality of social relationships as a whole; it is weakening the people who made our nation strong.

Q: What do you think are the key concepts that help us to engage effectively in debate and action?

Deacon Brandenburg: Many people might argue that tolerance is the key to interpersonal relations, but I would venture to say that charity and truth are much more important.

If I really care about a person -- charity -- I will seek the truth for them. A doctor does his ailing patient a disservice to tell him he has nothing wrong, just as a parent destroys his child's future by tolerating self-destructive activity like engaging in premarital sex or taking drugs. We need to go beyond tolerance and pursue truth; hence the subtitle of my book.

We can't be afraid to say that truth exists. The relativistic ethos of our society tends to frown upon statements of objective truth because it assumes that growth in intellectual maturity runs on par with growth in skepticism. For the modern mind, intellectual sophistication seems to require systematic doubt, an ability to see all sides without committing to any one point of view.

Of course, there is no doubt that there is a legitimate complexity to many things in life and answers are not easy to find. Yet this will never legitimate the lack of absolute answers to anything.

Maturity means moving from doubt to renewed conviction about what is good and true. Truth, in this context, is not just a soap box to stand on, or a state of intellectual stagnation to sit in. On the contrary, seeking after truth is dynamic, active, growing, and yes, critical and discerning, because it requires going beyond skepticism to a deepened and perhaps purified grasp of reality in all its dimensions. Again, it's a matter of allowing reality to challenge and change us.

We can respect people and tolerate their right to hold their own ideas while still affirming that some ideas are true, and others are just plain out of touch with reality. Part of dialogue entails this respect for the person and the willingness to engage in debate based on the objective merit of the ideas.

That's what this book is intended to drive forward: to provide the tools and means for committed Catholics -- like Jeff -- to engage in reasoned dialogue with the secular world without losing confidence in the truth they have received.

MONDAY and TUESDAY, August 20 and 21, 2007


My Mom used to cut chicken, chop eggs and spread mayo on the same cutting board with the same knife and no bleach, but we didn't seem to get foodpoisoning.

My Mom used to defrost hamburger on the counter AND I used to eat it raw sometimes, too. Ou r school sandwiches were wrapped in wax paper in a brownpaper bag, not in icepack coolers, but I can't remember getting e.coli

Almost all of us would have rather gone swimming in the lake instead of a pristine pool (talk about boring), no beach closures then.

The term cell phone would have conjured up a phone in a jail cell, and a pagerwas the school PA system.

We all took gym, not PE.. and risked permanent injury with a pair of high top Ked's (only worn in gym) instead of having cross-training athletic shoes with air cushion soles and built in light reflectors. I can't recall any injuries but they must havehappened because they tell us how much safer we are now.

Flunking gym was not an option... even for stupid kids! I guess PE must be much harder than gym.

Speaking of school, we all said prayers and sang the national anthem, and staying in detention after school caught all sorts of negative attention.

We must have had horribly damaged psyches. What an archaic health system we had then. Remember school nurses? Ours wore a hat and everything.

I thought that I was supposed to accomplish something before I was allowed tobe proud of myself.

I just can't recall how bored we were without computers, Play Station,Nintendo, X-box or 270 digital TV cable stations.

Oh yeah.... and where was the Benadryl and sterilization kit when I got that bee sting? I could have been killed!

We played 'king of the hill' on piles of gravel left on vacant construction sites, and when we got hurt, Mom pulled out the 48-cent bottle of Mercurochrome (kids liked it better because it didn't sting like iodine did) and then we gotour butt spanked.

Now it's a trip to the emergency room, followed by a 10-day dose of a $49bottle of antibiotics, and then Mom calls the attorney to sue the contractorfor leaving a horribly vicious pile of gravel where it was such a threat.

We didn't act up at t he neighbor's house either because if we did, we got our butt spanked there and then we got butt spanked again when we got home.

I recall Donny Reynolds from next door coming over and doing his tricks on the front stoop, just before he fell off. Little did his Mom know that she couldhave owned our house. Instead, she picked him up and swatted him for being sucha goof. It was a neighborhood run amuck.

To top it off, not a single person I knew had ever been told that they were from a dysfunctional family. How could we possibly have known that?

We needed to get into group therapy and anger management classes?We were obviously so duped by so many societal ills, that we didn't even noticethat the entire country wasn't taking Prozac! How did we ever survive?

From: Unknown

THURSDAY through SUNDAY, August 16 through 19, 2007

Looking for a common theme in the following offerings?  Fuggedaboudet. 

SUNDAY through WEDNESDAY, August 12 through 15, 2007

More on Fort Trumbull…Just the facts, Ma’am.  GS

FRIDAY and SATURDAY, August 10 and 11, 2007

Four separate stories this week support the following heading:  ON THE DOLE: EVERYBODY WANTS A HANDOUT FROM US CITIZENS.
Folks, I wish I were making this up.  So, when are a few million of us going to get up and say: "I'M MAD AS HELL AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANY MORE".  How about the next election?


THURSDAY, August 9, 2007

Hello out there.  "Is anybody there?  Does anybody care?"  GS

I hope the picture will go through for you - of this Army soldier in Iraq with his tiny 'plot' of grass in front of his tent. It's heartwarming! Here is a soldier stationed in Iraq, stationed in a big sand box. He asked his wife to send him dirt (U.S. soil), fertilizer, and some grass seed so that he can have the sweet aroma, and feel the grass grow beneath his feet. When the men of the squadron have a mission that they are going on, they take turns walking through the grass and the American soil -- to bring them good luck.

If you notice, he is even cutting the grass with a pair of a scissors. Sometimes we are in such a hurry that we don't stop and think about the little things that we take for granted.

Upon receiving this, say a little prayer for our soldiers that give and give (and give up) so unselfishly for us.

WEDNESDAY, August 8, 2007

>      A mother asked President  ...
>       "Why did my son have to die in Iraq?"
>      A mother asked President  ...
>      "Why did my son have to die in Saudi Arabia?"
>      A mother asked President  ...
>      "Why did my son have to die in Kuwait?"
>      Another mother asked President  ...
>       "Why did my son have to die in Vietnam?"
>      Another mother asked President  ...
>      "Why did my son have to die in Korea?"
>      Another mother asked President  ...
>       "Why did my son have to die on Iwo Jima?"
>      Another mother asked President  ...
>       "Why did my son have to die on a battlefield on a field in France?"
>      Yet another mother asked President  ...
>       "Why did my son have to die at Gettysburg?"
>      And yet another mother asked President  ...
>      "Why did my son have to die on a frozen field near Valley Forge?"
>      Then long, long ago, a mother asked...
>      "Heavenly Father ...
>       why did my Son have to die on a cross outside of Jerusalem ?"
>      The answer is the same ....
>      "So that others may have life and dwell
>      in peace, happiness, and freedom."
>      This was emailed to me with no author.
>      I thought the magnitude and the simplicity were awesome.

MONDAY and TUESDAY, August 6 and 7, 2007

The following addresses two opposing points of view between friends.  GS

Jim, this is one area of disagreement between us: not the barbaric nature of torture; not how I, as a physician, get infuriated envisioning what can happen to the body and mind through such practices; and not because of some cavalier attitude I may have regarding the welfare of our fighting men and women.  I won't even say "this is war"...for what we are involved in is barbarism.  9/11 was barbarism.  The tens - if not hundreds - of thousands of innocent Iraqi people intentionally killed by their own people for political gain is barbarism.  And barbarism is not covered by The Geneva Convention.  The Convention has no jurisdiction here.  For self-protection in such a situation, including pre-emptive self-defense, only our self-imposed limits have jurisdiction here. 
One more point.  During the Cold War, under the threat of nuclear holocaust, I always maintained - and travelled - under the assumption that any American anywhere in the world should consider himself a soldier, and be prepared to die for that status.  We're not playing cricket here.  We are not even playing by the "rules of war".  Ever since the American Revolution, we fight in accordance with the practices applied to us by the enemy.  I have no problem with that.    George

From Jim:
The attached is an interesting article about the CIA's prisons. I believe that any military man worth his salt will tell that the Geneva Conventions are the only limited protection that an American fighting has when in combat. I believe that we ignore the application of the Geneva Conventions at the peril of all American fighting men. I just know that during the Vietnam War our commanders would hammer the Geneva Conventions into our skulls. Thus, I find the following paragraph from the attached article to be upsetting!

Since the drafting of the Geneva Conventions, the International Committee of the Red Cross has played a special
role in safeguarding the rights of prisoners of war. For decades, governments have allowed officials from the
organization to report on the treatment of detainees, to insure that standards set by international treaties are being
maintained. The Red Cross, however, was unable to get access to the C.I.A.’s prisoners for five years. Finally, last year,
Red Cross officials were allowed to interview fifteen detainees, after they had been transferred to Guantánamo. One of
the prisoners was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. What the Red Cross learned has been kept from the public.
Confidentiality may be particularly stringent in this case. Congressional and other Washington sources familiar
with the report said that it harshly criticized the C.I.A.’s practices. One of the sources said that the Red Cross described
the agency’s detention and interrogation methods as tantamount to torture, and declared that American officials
responsible for the abusive treatment could have committed serious crimes. The source said the report warned that
these officials may have committed “grave breaches” of the Geneva Conventions, and may have violated the U.S.
Torture Act, which Congress passed in 1994. The conclusions of the Red Cross, which is known for its credibility and
caution, could have potentially devastating legal ramifications.

SATURDAY and SUNDAY, August 4 and 5, 2007

This has been a good week in the news.
  Definition of a "good week": one during which I have not been provoked to respond for a number of days.  But the week is over. 

WEDNESDAY through FRIDAY, August 1 through 3, 2007

Another clear exposition that requires no editorial comment.  GS

Foreign Policy Research Institute
July 31, 2007
Michael  Radu,  Ph.D.,  is  Co-Chair  of  FPRI's  Center  on
Terrorism, Counter-Terrorism,  and Homeland  Security. He is
currently at  work on  a book  on Islamism  in Europe.  This
enote is available on line at

                      by Michael Radu

Al Qaeda  is stronger  now than  at any time since 9/11, say
some; it  is less  strong than it could have become, answers
the administration. Congressional Democrats say that instead
of catching  Bin Laden,  Bush took his eyes off the ball and
got mired  in an  irrelevant war  in Iraq;  the White  House
replies that  if we don't fight the jihadis in Iraq, we will
have to do so in Manhattan.

And so  American politics  argue in  what seems  to remain a
cognitive vacuum,  confusing the  public and producing inane
statements  from   our  elected   leaders.  Had   Al   Qaeda
consciously planned  how to thoroughly confuse the infidels,
this would  have been  the  ideal  result.  It  is  all  the
persistent and  inevitable outcome  of  executive  delusions
(jihadis are  "a small  minority") and  Democratic flippancy
("the war  on terrorism  is a  bumper  sticker,"  Sen.  John
Edwards  has   charged)  against  a  background  of  popular
ignorance and  an oversupply  of lawyers  and  human  rights
activists. The  result is  that six years after 9/11 we (and
the Europeans  are generally worse) are still fighting a war
in a  conceptual fog--and  not getting  any close to winning

In reality,  the nature  and  goals  of  the  enemy,  albeit
complex, should be quite clear, as should the ways to defeat
it. Until  we  understand  a  few  key  realities,  we  will
continue to tread water and remain on the defensive.


Al Qaeda  ("the base")  is at  the  same  time  an  Islamist
totalitarian terrorist  organization  and  the  particularly
violent part  of a global Muslim revivalist movement. As the
name implies,  it  was  established  as  a  vanguard,  elite
organization,  not   dissimilar,  conceptually,   from   the
previous Marxist  Leninist self-selected  vanguards  of  the
proletariat (Shining  Path in  Peru, Red  Brigades in Italy,
etc.), seeking  to reestablish  Islam's historic (and mostly
mythical) supremacy  and purity throughout the world via the
unification of  the umma,  the Islamic  community,  under  a
single political  and religious  leadership  and  state--the
Caliphate. The  means to  accomplish this is jihad, strictly
defined by the followers of this ideology as warfare.

Al  Qaeda   was  not  originally  intended  to  exist  as  a
territorial  base,   but  the  victory  of  the  Taliban  in
Afghanistan unexpectedly  offered that opportunity. Al Qaeda
took advantage  of that  opportunity, but  controlling those
lands was  neither intended  nor absolutely  necessary.  The
same applies now to the wild areas of Pakistan that Al Qaeda
uses for  refuge and  training--they are  important but  not
vital. That  fact is  still misunderstood  and explains  the
continuous surprise of some that after the Taliban's fall in
2001 and  the heavy losses it incurred at the time, Al Qaeda
did not die.

While it  incessantly claims to be defending an Islamic umma
under  attack   from  all   sides--the  most   theologically
convenient way  to justify  jihad--Al Qaeda's  ideology  and
strategy  are   aggressive   and   revisionist.   Al   Qaeda
aggressively attacks  the home  base of the "Crusaders" (see
9/11 or  the attacks  in the UK) and revisionistically seeks
to reintegrate  into the  umma the  long-lost territories of
Islam, such as Al-Andalus (the Iberian Peninsula).

Al Qaeda's  ideology is  rigorously  anti-nationalist.  That
allows  it   to  attract  alienated  and  poorly  integrated
elements among  Muslim communities  in the West and explains
in  part   the  attraction   it  has   among  Muslim  elites
everywhere. As  Iraq today  suggests, however, it could also
be a  serious threat  to the  organization,  since  it  also
clashes  with  the  interests  of  established  postcolonial
elites and regionalist or separatist groups (Kurds, Berbers,
many Palestinians).

The enemies,  and thus  the targets,  of jihad  are  a)  all
governing regimes  in the Muslim world (the "apostates"); b)
their outside  manipulators, controllers and supporters (the
"Crusaders" led  by the  United  States  but  including  all
Western  states   and  Israel;   c)   all   other   infidels
"oppressing"  Muslims   (India  for   Kashmir,  Russia   for
Chechnya, China  for Turkestan); and d) for the most radical
jihadis (the  takfiris), all  Muslims who  do  not  actively
support the  cause and,  especially, the  Shias. While these
are all  enemies, the  priority given  to  each  depends  on
circumstances, capabilities and opportunity.


This latter  fact is another cause of confusion in the West,
as demonstrated  by the  case of  Iraq. While  an  Al  Qaeda
associate group did have a small presence in Iraqi Kurdistan
prior to  the spring of 2003, at least on a large scale Iraq
is a  target of  opportunity. Al  Qaeda's growth (or present
decline) there  depends on  the  chaos  and  confusion  that
followed the  2003 invasion  and the  vacuum created  by the
fall of  Saddam. The  scale of  and media  attention on  its
presence in  Iraq aside,  Al Qaeda's  role there follows the
same pattern  as in  Afghanistan and  Chechnya in  the  late
1990s, or Somalia more recently - it tries to implant itself
wherever  a   political  vacuum  or  persistent  instability
develop in  the midst  of military  conflict. Lebanon, Gaza,
the Sahel,  southern Thailand and Philippines are, or should
be expected  to become,  such areas  of implantation. In all
such cases  Al Qaeda  interferes in  an  evolving  conflict,
exacerbates it, and tries to channel the outcome towards its
own goals  and translate  local motivations  into a coherent
ideological and global cause.

It is  precisely this  Al  Qaeda  piggybacking  on  existing
conflicts that  makes the  often heard  distinctions between
our  fighting   sectarian  conflict  or  Al  Qaeda  in  Iraq
nonsensical. Al  Zarkawi stirred  up the Sunni-Shia conflict
but did  not invent  it, and separating the two in practical
terms is  not a serious proposition, any more than trying to
do so  in Afghanistan  between Taliban,  Pakistani  Islamist
spillover, and  Al Qaeda.    For  Al  Qaeda  such  parasitic
behavior serves to magnify its influence, and it will try to
repeat  it   in  every   possible  circumstance.  This  fits
perfectly in the organization's elite, vanguardist ideology.
It sees itself and behaves as the spearhead of global jihad,
not as its rank and file.

Ultimately, what  seems  to  escape  so  many  commentators,
especially among politicians, is that Al Qaeda is two things
simultaneously: (1)  a violent  Islamist  organization  with
worldwide  tentacles   and  a   small  core   leadership  of
ideologues and  strategists, and  (2) part  and parcel  of a
large and  growing political-religious  movement of Islamist
revival. The organization tries to channel and recruits from
the movement,  and the  latter looks  to  it  for  strategic
direction and, often, tactical purpose.


The Islamic  revivalist movement  that is by now dominant in
most of the Muslim world from Malaysia to Morocco, including
huge segments  of the Muslim communities in the West, shares
some of  Al Qaeda's  basic ideological tenets: that Islam is
in crisis  and under  attack, from  inside  and  outside  by
alien, Western,  mostly American  influence and  domination.
Roughly put,  Islamic countries  and Muslims generically are
victims of  the West.  The only  solution is a return to the
"original" principles of the faith, those that gave it world
importance and  power centuries  ago, and  to umma unity and

These basic  perceptions are shared by a majority of Muslims
and  Islamic   organizations  everywhere,  from  the  Muslim
Brotherhood, the largest, to individuals and smaller groups,
whether in  Muslim-majority countries  or in the West. While
refuge  in   religious     revivalism  as   an   answer   to
civilizational, political  and military  decline is far from
unique to  Islam, its  contemporary manifestation is largely

The interface  between the  general perception  of Islam  as
victim of the West--a perception often encouraged by Western
elites themselves--and  Al Qaeda's (or the Salafi) view that
the victimization  is largely  due to  naked  aggression  is
thin. This is demonstrated by a seldom noticed aspect of the
reaction  of  nonviolent,  even  anti-Al  Qaeda  groups  and
personalities, including  those in  the  West,  to  Islamist
terrorism. Those  groups have  steadfastly opposed  not just
the conflict  in Iraq,  where the arguments used in favor of
the U.S.-led  intervention could always be debated, but also
the 2001  U.S.-led attack  on the  Taliban.  Indeed,  almost
always  in   Islamic  critiques   of  American  and  British
policies, whether  they come  from  London  or  Riyadh,  the
Muslim Brothers  or others,  Afghanistan is mentioned in the
same breath as Baghdad. Since the removal of the Taliban and
its Al  Qaeda proteges was a clear-cut case of self-defense,
Muslim condemnations  of the  Afghan operations  could  only
mean that umma solidarity is more important to them than the
Taliban's crimes.  Precisely the  kind of  attitude Al Qaeda
needs to thrive.

Where most  of  the  Islamic  revivalist  movement  and  its
supporters depart  from Al  Qaeda's ideology  is the  method
whereby Islam  is to  be renewed.  In  that  sense,  Western
leaders'  claim  that  "most  Muslims"  reject  jihadism  is
correct, but far from encouraging. Despite attempts, such as
those sponsored  by Jordan's  Crown prince  Hassan  to  have
respected imams condemn jihadi terrorism (the method not the
ideas leading  to it),  not  only  has  no  important  Sunni
scholar  declared   Bin  Laden   a  non-Muslim   (the   most
influential, Al-Qaradawi,  would rather  let Allah  decide),
but many  large Islamist  organizations,  such  as  Hizb  ut
Tahrir  (an   international  Party  of  Liberation)  or  the
Tablighis (Muslims  missionary movement), could and do claim
to be  seeking the Caliphate by nonviolent means while their
recruits often  "graduate" to jihadism--again, same beliefs,
different  methods,  and  all  unhelpful.  Thus,  even  when
revivalist Islamists  sincerely claim  to  oppose  jihadism,
they are  voluntarily  tying  their  own  hands.  Hence  the
eternal and  annoying "we  condemn terrorism . . . but" that
so confuses Western politicians, media and publics.

Why, in  this context,  anyone in the West would expect such
Muslims, as  a whole  or organized ones, to condemn anything
other than acts of terrorism is a mystery.


The relationships  between the  different Al  Qaeda parts of
the movement  are dynamic,  both centripetal and centrifugal
at the same time.

Centripetal.  The  centripetal  expansion  of  the  movement
follows general,  indeed  universal  terrorist  patterns  of
recruitment and  indoctrination. In  the specific case of Al
Qaeda this means two distinct, but related methods.

The first  is centered  on the  thousands  of  trainees  who
graduated from  the Afghan  camps prior  to the end of 2001,
who returned  to their  countries of  origin--Saudi  Arabia,
Egypt,  and   countries  in   North  Africa,  Central  Asia,
Southeast  Asia,   and  Europe.   Once  back,   they  either
established  cells   or  founded   or  radicalized  existing
organizations (the  cases  of  Morocco,  Algeria,  Lebanon).

These people  know and  share Al  Qaeda core's  ideology and
many retain  ties, including personal ones, with it and with
each other.

A typical  case is that of Saad Houssaini, a.k.a. Moustapha,
one of  Al Qaeda's  most prominent cadres in Spain and North
Africa. Born  in Meknes, Morocco, from a middle-class family
(his father  was a  professor)--an almost  universal pattern
among Al  Qaeda  cadres,  Houssaini  obtained  a  government
scholarship to study chemistry and physics at the University
of Valencia in Spain. It was there that he was attracted, or
recruited, to  Islamism under the influence of Sheikh Rachid
Ghannouchi, the  London-based ideologue  and leader  of  Al-
Nahda (the  Revival), Tunisia's major Islamist organization.
Already under  Spanish surveillance,  in  1997  he  fled  to
Taliban's Afghanistan where he underwent further training in
explosives in  Al Qaeda  camps,  met  other  Moroccans,  Bin
Laden, Al  Zarkawi and Al Zawahiri--the latter was a witness
at his  marriage. Following  the U.S.  attack in the fall of
2001, he returned to Morocco in April 2002, became a founder
of GICM  (Moroccan Islamic  Combatant Group, now part of the
Al Qaeda  in the  Islamic Maghreb--AQIM)  and trainer of its
bomb makers.  By September  2006 he was running a network of
Moroccan volunteers  to Iraq,  until  his  arrest  in  March
2007.[1] It  was under  the influence  of one  of  the  many
"nonviolent"  Islamist   ideologues  in  Spain  harbored  by
"Londonistan" that  he was radicalized, shifted to jihadism,
established personal  ties to  the Al  Qaeda core, and later
served as  a force multiplier for the organization thousands
of miles away.

Second, Al  Qaeda's central  core (Bin  Laden,  al-Zawahiri,
Khaled Sheikh  Mohammed, etc.)  have sometimes  accepted and
given  their   "brand  copyright"  to  organizations  formed
independently, such  as the Algerian Salafi Group for Combat
and  Preaching,   which  last   year  became  the  AQIM,  or
autonomously, like  Al Zarkawi's  group,  now  Al  Qaeda  in

Like metastasized  cancerous tumors, members and trainees of
these formal  Al Qaeda  franchises, and  some informal ones,
like Southeast  Asia's Jemaah  Islamiah, spread the ideology
and expand the committed membership of the movement.

Centrifugal. There  is, however,  another dynamic within the
movement, a  centrifugal one.  This consists of thousands of
individual Muslims,  many from  the  West  and  including  a
disproportionate number  of converts  to Islam,  who have no
personal ties  to the  Al Qaeda core or its main franchises,
but feel  attracted to its ideology and the methods it uses.
With each  spectacular  jihadi  attack  or  campaign,  their
numbers grow  and they  flock to  the latest battlefield, as
defined by  Al Zawahiri  in his  Al Jazeera statements or by
the innumerable  jihadi  Internet  sites  and  their  do-it-
yourself jihad recipes.

There is  not always  a clearly defined line between the two
dynamics--Al Qaeda  recruiting for  its cause  and would be,
self-recruited jihadis  seeking a  battle under its flag, or
at least its cause.

The case of Shaker Al-Abssi, the leader of Fatah Al-Islam in
the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr Al-Bared, near Tripoli,
Lebanon, lately  under assault  by that  country's army,  is
revealing. A  Palestinian born  in a  camp near Jericho, his
family migrated  to Jordan  after 1967, and he joined Yasser
Arafat's Fatah  as a  teenager. The organization sent him to
study medicine,  but he  dropped out  in favor of becoming a
pilot, receiving  training in  Libya and later serving as an
instructor in  South Yemen. Later he participated in combat,
on the  winning Sandinista  side in  Nicaragua  and  on  the
losing Libyan  side in  that country's  conflict with  Chad.
Disappointed with  Arafat's corruption, he joined dissident,
pro-Syrian  factions   and  moved   to  Damascus,  where  he
discovered religion and became a fervent believer. Afterward
he became  associated with  Al Zarkawi's  group in  Iraq and
Jordan, and  was sentenced to death in absentia for his role
in murdering  an American  diplomat in  Amman in  2002. Why?
Because, says  his  brother  Abdel  Razak,  a  doctor,  "The
Palestinians have  tried Marxism  and Arab  nationalism. All
failed. I  believe that for Shaker Islamism was the ultimate
solution." Now,  claims his  family, "we  wait  for  him  to
become a martyr, hoping that his death will be the fuel that
will set on fire the Palestinian cause."[2]

This, then,  is a  case of  a rebel  in search  of a  global
ideological and  strategic anchor  to articulate and justify
his fight  for a particular cause. Associating with Al Qaeda
satisfied both  needs. The  fact that Fatah Al-Islam is seen
as both an Al Qaeda spin-off and a Syrian tool should not be
confusing, not  in light  of the  organization's pattern  of
tactically piggybacking other causes.

Another good example is a new jihadist group, Ansar al Islam
fi Sahara  al Bilad  al Mulazamin (The followers of Islam in
Sahara, the  land of  those lifting  the veil).  Made up  of
Moroccans, Algerians,  and Mauritanians,  dissident elements
of AQIM,  it first  surfaced in  June 2007. Ansar refuses to
obey direct  orders from  Al Qaeda's  core,  all  the  while
telling the  latter that "You should know that we are in the
same  trench."  Indeed,  it  shares  Al  Qaeda's  well-known
obsession with  the "recovery"  of Al-Andalus and hatred for
all North  African governments  and  France.[3]  This  is  a
perfect example  of what  French analysts call the "Al Qaeda
nebula"--a   multiplying    system    of    jihadi    groups
ideologically, but  not always  hierarchicaly, tied  to  the
core group.  We are once again confronted with the interface
of movement and terrorist group.


German-Turkish author  Nacla Kelek was right when he pointed
out that "Politicians and  religious scholars of all faiths are right
in pointing out that there are many varieties of Islam, that
Islamism and  Islam should not be confused, that there is no
line in  the  Koran  that  would  justify  murder.  But  the
assertion that radical Islamic fundamentalism and Islam have
nothing to  do with  each other is like asserting that there
was no link between Stalinism and Communism."[4]

But just as Stalinism (and Pol Pot or Mao) was made possible
by the  mass of  usually peaceful and naive believers in the
Marxist Utopia,  Al Qaeda  and its  nebula  are  permanently
feeding up  from the growing Islamic revivalist movement. To
separate the  two should  be the  goal of  Muslims and  non-
Muslims alike,  since they  are all  targets of jihadism. To
deny the  intimate link  between the two is to deny reality.
By making  artificial distinctions between the two, one only
postpones and avoids the real struggle..


[1]  For  his  career,  see  "Adil  Boukhima,  Portrait:  Le
Marocain d'Al  Qaida," TelQuel  (Casablanca), May  17, 2007;
Craig Whitlock,  "In Morocco's  'Chemist,' A  Glimpse of Al-
Qaeda Bombmaker Typified Resilient Network, Washington Post,
July 7,  2007; Driss  Bennani, Abdellatif  El Azizi,  Ismail
Bellaouali  and   Lahcen  Aouad,  "Enquete.  Au-dela  de  la
panique," Tel Quel, July 5, 2007.

[2] Cecile  Hennion, "De  la colere  au djihad,  le chef  du
Fatah Al-Islam  raconte par  son frere,"  Le Monde,  June 5,

[3]  Antonio   Baquero  and   Jordi  Corach n  ,  "Actividad
Extremista En El Desierto. Un nuevo grupo terrorista magreb¡
amenaza a Espana," El Periodico (Barcelona), July 12, 2007.

[4] Quoted  by Peter  Schneider, "The  New Berlin Wall," New
York Times, Dec. 4, 2005.

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