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AL Quaeda - Dangerous or EXTREMELY DANGEROUS

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I just attended a lecture on Terror Networks at RMC (Royal Military College) in Kingston.

The author is Marc Sageman - a Physician, Shrink and ex CIA Officer based in Islamabad Pakistan from 1987 - 1989 concludes there is one way to deal with Alquaeda - and it ain't acceptable to social libertarians.......... as in tap tap in the head.

There are a number of links to this below - just read the first one as it seems to be the main lecture we got yesterday.

Understanding Terror Networks by Marc Sageman November 1, 2004 http://www.fpri.org/enotes/20041101.middleeast.sageman.understandingterrornetworks.html

More data

The Author -   Marc Sageman http://www.citypaper.net/articles/2004-04-22/cover4.shtml

Read this if you have time

Emergent Clique Formation in Terrorist Recruitment http://www.cs.uu.nl/people/virginia/aotp/papers/seldon-aaai-final.pdf

Former CIA Case Officer Provides Terrorist Profiles http://www.parapundit.com/archives/002478.html

Marc Sageman,   a newly   appointed FPRI   Senior fellow, was a CIA case officer in Afghanistan between 1987-89 and is now a forensic psychiatrist.    This   essay is   based on   his   FPRI
BookTalk on   October 6,   2004, which   doubled as   one of (THEIR) regular Situation   Reports on   the War   on   Terrorism,   held every   two    months.       His   book,   "Understanding   Terror
Networks," was   published by   the University of Pennsylvania Press earlier this year. http://www.accessmiddleeast.org/document.aspx?did=ecde8317-879c-4a26-8868-7256e68186cf

Social Network Analysis via Matrix Decompositions: al Qaeda http://www.qucis.queensu.ca/Department/home/skill/alqaeda.pdf

Bin Laden's reach By Joshua Sinai Published May 25, 2004 http://washingtontimes.com/functions/print.php?StoryID=20040524-090323-9462r

Statement of Marc Sageman to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States July 9, 2003 http://www.globalsecurity.org/security/library/congress/9-11_commission/030709-sageman.htm

An Ugly Hypothesis Slain by an Unbeautiful Fact February 03, 2005
http://www.crookedtimber.org/ Posted by Henry

Are leftwing academics really responsible for the events of September 11? My post below on Robert Conquest attracted two outraged responses from 'Armed Liberal' at the popular pro-war blog, Winds of Change suggesting that indeed they are. In his more recent post, AL seems to be retreating rapidly from his forthright factual assertion of yesterday that

The 9/11 hijackers found their ideological center in European universities, and took up a philosophy rooted in Western leftist thought there.

while leaving in his wake a rapidly-expanding ink-cloud of â Å“equally interesting to noteâ ?s, â Å“wonder ifâ ?s, â Å“worthwhile effort to discuss and exploreâ ?s and â Å“may have something to do with itâ ?s. Still, even now, AL is trying to insinuate that anti-Western Nihilist academics in European universities somehow turned Arab students into terrorists, without providing either facts or testable arguments to support his case. Which is probably a good thing for him, as the facts indicate that he's completely wrong. Marc Sageman, who has actually done some real research on this topic, has the goods. In his network analysis of 400 terrorist biographies, he found that:

Al Qaeda's members are not the Palestinian fourteen-year- olds we see on the news, but join the jihad at the average age of 26. Three-quarters were professionals or semi- professionals. They are engineers, architects, and civil engineers, mostly scientists. Very few humanities are represented, and quite surprisingly very few had any background in religion. The natural sciences predominate. Bin Laden himself is a civil engineer, Zawahiri is a physician, Mohammed Atta was, of course, an architect; and a few members are military, such as Mohammed Ibrahim Makawi, who is supposedly the head of the military committee.

This is exactly the opposite of what you would expect to find if exposure to leftists in the humanities and social sciences caused people to become terrorists. Unless AL wants to make the case that those notorious humanist Nihilists at engineering schools, computer science departments and urban planning institutes have been indoctrinating their students with Romantic anti-Western ideas, he's plumb out of luck. Sageman, who unlike AL has some idea of what he's talking about, puts forward a rather more plausible explanation of how Arabs studying in the West drifted into terrorism.

When they became homesick, they did what anyone would and tried to congregate with people like themselves, whom they would find at mosques. So they drifted towards the mosque, not because they were religious, but because they were seeking friends. They moved in together in apartments, in order to share the rent and also to eat together - they were mostly halal, those who observed the Muslim dietary laws, similar in some respects to the kosher laws of Judaism. Some argue that such laws help to bind a group together since observing them is something very difficult and more easily done in a group. A micro-culture develops that strengthens and absorbs the participants as a unit. This is a halal theory of terrorism, if you like.

Anti Terror Research http://ai.bpa.arizona.edu/research/terror/index.htm

Emergent Clique Formation in Terrorist Recruitment http://www.cs.uu.nl/people/virginia/aotp/papers/seldon-aaai-final.pdf


Van Gogh suspect 'the perfect Jihad recruit'
From Expatica, with thanks to the Constantinopolitan Irredentist:

AMSTERDAM â ” Dutch media's attention turned on Friday to profiling the suspected killer of filmmaker Theo van Gogh, with one report claiming Mohammed B. was a "dream candidate" for extremist Jihad recruiters.
Newspaper Trouw said second-generation Moroccan immigrant youths are being targeted by Islamic extremists who hope to recruit them for Jihad, or holy war.

One of the characteristics of the recruiters is that they isolate youths from their family and friends. There was nothing out of the ordinary with Mohammed B. until he allegedly fell into the hands of extremists.

B. reportedly became strongly religious in 2003, and as a fundamentalist Muslim he was a target for jihad recruiters. Extremists look for Muslim youths from second-generation immigrant families who speak Dutch well and are well educated.

The perfect candidate would be going through an identity crisis with little hope in society. They would, for example, have a criminal record. They would also have strong views about the oppression of Muslims....

B. had also carried out volunteer work for some time for the Stichting Eigenwijks, an organisation of co-operative residents in Amsterdam Slotervaart.

But B. started placing increasing demands on his work situation in view of his faith, eventually making it impossible for him to continue working for the foundation, newspaper De Telegraaf reported.

The foundation said B. refused to serve alcoholic drinks, and his opposition to being involved in activities where both men and women were present was eventually considered "incompatible" with his function. The foundation and B. decided to part ways.

Eigenwijks helped a group of youths from Overtoomse Veld in Amsterdam to set up a workgroup in 2001. The group was concerned with the lack of adequate solutions put forward after Moroccan youths sparked riots in the suburb in April 1998.

The workgroup successfully involved youths in a series of activities, and B. was instrumental in the group's work. He was also part of the editorial team of the neighbourhood newspaper Over 't Veld.

Eigenwijks â ” which said it would be closely involved in repairing community damage inflicted by Van Gogh's murder â ” said it had regretted the fact that B. stopped working with the workgroup as he applied himself further to his faith. He "slowly ended all other social activities".

In this month's Atlantic Monthly (by the way, a magazine that if you don't read you definetly should) James Fallows writes a very long article outlining a long-term, multi-pronged strategy for containing terrorism and jihadist movements around the world. There are, quite frankly, far too many good ideas for me to comment on, and I would suggest reading it no matter what your ideological bent, as it doesn't really support one 'side' or the other. One small section of the article especially struck me however, and I thought I would put it up here:

...in much of today's Muslim world "justice" is a more compelling ideal han individual "liberty." "This really is a war of narratives in a battlefield of interpretation," Marc Sageman says. "We need to promote a positive vision to substitute for the vision of violence. And that vision has to be justice. It is no accident that these groups are always calling themselves 'The Party of Justice' and so on. In the time of the Suez Canal the United States stood for 'justice' against the Brits and French, and we were the toast of the Middle East. We need to be pushing a vision of a fair and just world, with us in harmony with the rest of the world, as opposed to at war with the rest of the world."

At other points in the article, it is pointed out again that U.S. support of what most centrist Muslims see as tyrrannical regimes (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Jordan etc.) engenders as much opposition as do the situation in Iraq and our support of Israel. When we have a new president (this one's too far into his own mess to deviate in any serious way by this point), he or she should do something that the United States seldom does: admit that we were wrong. Just as Bill Clinton apoligized to Latin America for past U.S. support of brutal regimes there, the United States should very publicly come out and say 'we were shortsighted and selfish in our support of regimes x, y and z, and we will not continue in that support.' Then, and here's the hard part, we should make good on our promises and cut military aid to these governments.

Now I can already hear the shouts of protest. "But Matt, that's foolish, it would be embarassing, destabilizing to the region, make the place a hotbed for al Qaeda recruitment, not to mention spike the price of oil and send our economy into a tailspin." That all may be true to an extent, but in the long term it is worth it. There is very little right now that the United States can do to convince the Muslim world that it has been doing the right thing lately, so the best we can do is to convince it that we will be doing the right thing in the future. Were we to couple this with real pressure on both Palestine and Israel to come to some kind of land for peace agreement, we could significantly rehabilitate our status in the minds of many of the world's Muslims, and this in turn would reduce support of jihadist movements.

As far as stability goes, while I am a general supporter of the idea, I think things in the Middle East have reached the point where the devil we don't know must be better than the one we do. Corrupt and repressive governments that make a show of cracking down on Islamic militants while tacitly allowing them to train and move with relative impunity cannot be our long-term strategic allies in the fight against radical islamism. A withdrawal of U.S. support from places like Saudi Arabia pending real reform in areas of democracy, human rights, legal codes etc. might indeed topple these regimes (though the resilience of oil-driven rentier governments should not be underestimated) and create instability, but if the United States is percieved as the 'good guy' or at least the 'not-quite-as-bad-as-we-thought guy,' then the regimes that replace them probably won't be chanting about the "great satan" of America.

What makes this all less palpable, however, is our crippling dependency on oil. As we got a taste of during the 1970's, cutting the supply of oil to the U.S. economy is something akin to cutting the supply of heroin to an addict. Just because we need oil to function, however, doesn't mean it's good for us. In an era of globalization, it would be difficult for the Saudis to actually stop their oil from getting to our shores (we'd need to employ European or Chinese middlemen), but it would of course be more expensive. This, to be frank, is exactly the kind of shock-therapy the U.S. needs in order to force a transition to alternative energy sources. In order to really facilitate such a transition, the government could offer gasoline subsidies to anybody driving a highly efficient automobile (watch the sales of the Toyota Prius and the Escape Hybrid skyrocket) while letting the gas guzzlers pay through the nose. As an added bonus, we wouldn't have to see those "support the troops" ribbons pasted obnoxiously on the bumpers of Ford Expeditions (the sale of which should, in my opinion, require an extra fee for the families of the U.S. soldiers that it will indirectly kill) for much longer. In short, though the medicine would taste bad for a time, it would save us a lot of grief in the long run.

As painful as it will be, the only way for the United States to reingratiate itself with the Muslim world and stem the tide of angry twnety-four-year-olds willing to blow themselves up will be to excersize the kind of humility espoused by pre-9/11 president Bush, and now by some of his detractors. Anybody know a good recipie for crow?

More Stuff - hair gone back from standing on your head yet?




Extract from http://www.nixoncenter.org/publications/Program%20Briefs/PBrief%202003/Vol%209%20no%2031%20Gunaratna-Sageman.htm

Dr. Sageman offered an empirical perspective based on study of 170 Salafist terrorists, focusing on al Qaeda.   Terrorism is only a small part of a larger social revivalist movement.   Individuals who would never think of committing a suicide bombing would send money or provide logistical support to the organizations.   Sageman's 170 subjects were concentrated in four clusters, Southeast Asian, Maghreb, Core Arab, and Central Staff.  

The subjects refuted conventional wisdom about terrorism.   Most are not poor, undereducated, or aggressive.   2/3 of the sample is from the middle class with intact families and secular educations.   There was no record of psychological problems and only a small number were involved in petty crime before they joined.  

            To illustrate his data Dr. Sageman used the case of Ahmed Ressam, the â Å“Millennium Bomber.â ?   The cell that planned the bombing was composed of Algerians in Canada through fraudulent asylum claims.   The men drifted towards the mosque where they fenced stolen goods to an al Qaeda operative.   Through the social bonds developed and extended at the mosque Ressam found his way to Afghanistan and to al Qaeda.  

            Dr. Sageman also spoke about the â Å“Hamburg Cell.â ?   The members were all upper class, educated men.   They congregated and formed friendships at the mosque, and then went to Afghanistan for training.

            The financial war on al Qaeda is not successful.   Al Qaeda receives much of its financing from individuals.   Financing, like recruitment, was from the bottom up. Individuals financed their operations through petty theft and credit card fraud.  

            Dr. Sageman closed by outlining his general findings.   Men joined the jihad through preexisting social bonds.   Homesick young men drifted to the mosque, which they knew as a cultural and religious anchor.   To the extent there was a â Å“recruitmentâ ? process, most joined through â Å“passive bridges to jihadâ ? rather than an individual who actively scouted them out.   Al Qaeda was a thoroughly bottom-up operation.   Volunteers joined spontaneously.   Individuals drift to the jihad through passive bridges and existing social bonds.   Because of this, al Qaeda is a self generating and replicating organization.   Social hubs hold the network together. ¸

From http://www.command-post.org/oped/2_archives/cat_terrorism.html

July 06, 2004
Profiles In Terrorism
I picked up an interesting article in the Washington Times, from Hannah K. Strange of UPI. She interviews Marc Sageman, who wrote â Å“Understanding Terror Networks,â ? and teaches at the University of Pennsylvania. He's also a counterterrorism adviser to the U.S. government.

In the interview, Sageman tells us that it's a myth to believe that terrorists are poor, fanatically religious and would carry a huge chip on their shoulders. He bases his findings on research which involved studying 400 members of terrorist networks from North Africa, the Middle East, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Of this sample, he said, 75 percent come from upper- or middle-class backgrounds, and most also from â Å“caring, intactâ ? families. Sixty percent were college educated and 75 percent could be considered professional or semi-professional. Seventy percent were married, and most had children. Only half came from a religious background, and a large group raised in North Africa or France grew up in entirely secular communities, which, Dr. Sageman said, â Å“refutes the notion of culture,â ? often cited as a factor encouraging terrorism. He rejected the idea of terrorists as â Å“inherently evil.â ? â Å“None of these guys, really, are evil â ” though their acts definitely were.â ? Neither are they mentally ill, he said. Of those studied, he said, only 1 percent had hints of psychological disorders â ” the same as the world base rate. â Å“Most of [them] were the elite of the country,â ? he said. Many were sent abroad to study, became lonely and isolated from their communities and cultures, and sought friends among people like themselves. They often found them in groups based around mosques, even if they had little previous interest in religion, Dr. Sageman added. Seventy percent joined a jihad â ” â Å“holy warâ ? â ” group while away from their country of origin, he said, and a further 20 percent were second-generation immigrants. Sixty-eight percent had friends in the jihad, or joined as groups. An additional 20 percent had close relatives who were already members.

His remarks on Salafism are interesting, Northern Africa is home to many followers. Overlooked by many is the notion that Salafists are in fact followers of Wahhabism, since Wahhabists detest to be called as such. Explains Khaled Abou El Fadl, Distinguished Fellow in Islamic Law at the UCLA School of Law: (quoted from a different article)

But Wahhabism did not spread in the modern Muslim world under its own banner. Even the term â Å“Wahhabismâ ? is considered derogatory by its adherents, since Wahhabis prefer to see themselves as the representatives of Islamic orthodoxy. To them, Wahhabism is not a school of thought within Islam, but is Islam. The fact that Wahhabism rejected a label gave it a diffuse quality, making many of its doctrines and methodologies eminently transferable. Wahhabi thought exercised its greatest influence not under its own label, but under the rubric of Salafism. In their literature, Wahhabi clerics have consistently described themselves as Salafis, and not Wahhabis. Sagem seems to disagree, from reading his interpretation of Salafism:

Salafi, â Å“the re-creation of the practices of the devout ancestors,â ? as Dr. Sageman last year told the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, is inherently a peaceful social movement, with about 30 million followers worldwide. Dr. Sageman pointed out that more than half of the terrorists in his sample worshipped at only 10 mosques worldwide. Salafis generally advocate the formation of a model Islamic society â Å“based on fairness and justiceâ ? by nonviolent means. But there is a violent strand, he said. This violent group develops what he called â Å“in-group love and out-group hate.â ? It sees those standing in the way of the true Islamic community as â Å“infidels,â ? who, according to distorted interpretations of the Koran, can justifiably be killed. Targets include Arab leaders viewed as oppressive or corrupt, such as the Saudi royal family, and, particularly in the case of networks such as al Qaeda, the â Å“far enemy,â ? Dr. Sageman said, meaning those Western countries seen to be aiding such leaders, chiefly the United States.
The considerably mild tone in Sagem's description of Salafism can be related to his final verdict on the War on Terror. According to him, we will never to win with weapons and intelligence, but we more or less brought it on ourselves, so we need to engage in a war of ideas.

Therefore, Dr. Sageman said, it is â Å“almost trivial to arrest terrorists acting right now, against preventing the next generation.â ? Though we must, he said, â Å“eliminate the immediate and present threat to the U.S. and the West, much of our focus needs to be on the war of ideas. â Å“Our military options have run out,â ? he said. â Å“We have to stop shooting ourselves in the foot,â ? Dr. Sageman said. â Å“Much of the [present] anger is because of the run-up to Iraq, the occupation of Iraq. ... The way we've handled the Israel-Palestine issue has not played well in the Muslim world. We need to appear much fairer and just in our dealings with both sides than we have been in the last few years.â ? So, in the end, it's the 'Root Causes' caravan again. Rather than to seek blame with us, it is Islam that needs to reform itself, and weed out the sects that preach a return to 11th century beliefs, and seek the spread of their religion by killing its opponents. We can and will help in this process where possible, but in the end it's up to muslims everywhere to challenge these clerics, and to ensure that others don't fall prey to them by looking at the early warning signals Sagem writes about.


The Internet provides confused young Muslims in Europe with a virtual community. Those who cannot adapt to their new homes discover on the Internet a responsive and compassionate forum. "The Internet stands in for the idea of the ummah, the mythologized Muslim community," Marc Sageman, the psychiatrist and former C.I.A. officer, said. "The Internet makes this ideal community concrete, because one can interact with it." He compares this virtual ummah to romantic conceptions of nationhood, which inspire people not only to love their country but to die for it.

Al-Qaeda, a Social Movement, but not a Hierarchical Group http://www.envirosagainstwar.org/edit/index.php?op=view&itemid=1776

Sageman ... http://www.ladlass.com/intel/archives/cat_al_qaeda.html


54/102 CEF

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A few more links

CBC - SALAFIST MOVEMENT http://www.cbc.ca/fifth/warwithoutborders/index.html

The mere mention of al Qaeda conjures images of an efficient terrorist network guided by a powerful criminal mastermind. Yet al Qaeda is more lethal as an ideology than as an organization. â Å“Al Qaedaismâ ? will continue to attract supporters in the years to comeâ ”whether Osama bin Laden is around to lead them or not.

The Islamist
movements have been unable to persuade enough Arabs to join them in
overthrowing the existing secular Arab governments -- the 'ignorant
governments', as he calls them -- despite twenty years of terrorism in the
Arab countries, so al-Qaeda was created to enlist the unwitting support of
the 'far enemy' (the West) in the struggle.   If the United States could be
tricked into committing mayhem in the Arab world, that might finally drive
enough Arabs into the Islamist camp to get their long-stalled revolutions
off the ground.

Summary: Despite the setbacks al Qaeda has suffered over the last two years, it is far from finished, as its recent bomb attacks testify. How has the group managed to survive an unprecedented American onslaught? By shifting shape and forging new, sometimes improbable, alliances. These tactics have made al Qaeda more dangerous than ever, and Western governments must show similar flexibility in fighting the group.

In order to really sustain your motivation to do terrorism, you need the reinforcement of group dynamics. You need reinforcement from your family, your friends. This social movement was dependent on volunteers, and there are huge gaps worldwide on those volunteers. One of the gaps is the United States. This is one of two reasons we have not had a major terrorist operation in the United States since 9/11. The other is that we are far more vigilant. We have actually made coming to the U.S. far more difficult for potential terrorists since 2001.

2004 December 05 Sunday
Joe Guzzardi Sees Three Choices On Iraq
Joe Guzzardi sees three choices on Iraq that are identical to the choices the US faced in Vietnam.

The Bush administration is at a crucial juncture. Bush faces the same choices as Johnson did nearly four decades ago:

Escalate the war to salvage his mission
Wind it down, declaring victory and going home
Maintain the status quo
To escalate presents serious problems.

Bush would have to realistically assess the troop needs in Iraq, something he seems unable to do. The consensus is that to stabilize Iraq about 400,000 additional troops are required.

Where will they come from? The Bush administration insists there will be no draft. But the Reserve and National Guard are close to fully mobilized. About 40% of the soldiers in Iraq are made up of Reservists or the National Guard.

Escalation would cost a huge amount of money, take years to implement, and would require Bush to admit to mistakes that would be totally out of character for him to admit to. So I do not see escalation as in the cards. Still, only escalation would give the US the chance of killing and capturing insurgents faster than new people enter the ranks of insurgents. Imagine 1 million US soldiers in Iraq operating at 7 or 8 times the rate of killing insurgents than is currently the case. The insurgency couldn't keep up. But that isn't going to happen. The Bushies are never going to admit that the problem is that big.

How long will events in Iraq play out until the optimists admit that things are not going to improve by much? Killing or capturing Hussein, his sons, and his top lieutenants was supposedly going to end the insurgency. Well, it didn't and the insurgency has since greatly escalated. The turn-over of semi-sovereignty was supposed to help and it didn't. The staffing up of Iraqi National Guard and police was supposed to be the key. Not so far. Iraqis continue to be more enthused about fighting against Americans than fighting alongside them. Then the elections are coming up in January. This is the next supposed solution. The elections won't induce the Sunni insurgents to hang up their guns and give up planting bombs.

As I see it events in Iraq have to run their course perhaps for another year until yet more supposed solutions fail to make things better. The pessimists have to wait for the events to sink through to more of the optimists. Eventually support for the war will decline because George W. Bush will continue down the same path as Lyndon Baines Johnson travelled in the 1960s. The difference between Iraq and Vietnam is that the size of the US effort in Vietnam came closer to what was necessary to succeed than is the case with the US effort in Iraq. We had a draft then and better national finances. We could afford to send a half million soldiers when perhaps a million were what were required (as predicted by Bernard Fall if memory serves). Whereas in Iraq we are understaffed at about a quarter of what is required to put down the insurgency. Even with sufficient staffing we'd only be able to put down the insurgency until we leave.

Lots of Americans are dying pointlessly. Though if the US military was large enough to put down the Sunni rebellion I'm still not clear how we'd benefit from the result. My guess is that the main benefit would be that we'd convince the Arabs of our will and our prowess. Making the Jihadists and would-be Jihadists think they can defeat us is a bad idea and putting ourselves in a situation where we will eventually leave them with that impression may be the biggest harm (though not the only one) that will result from Bush sending US forces into Iraq in the first place. Or perhaps the bigger harm was handing the Jihadists a US intervention that they can point to as evidence that the US is engaged in a war to destroy Islam.

One final note: We might have a fourth choice as a way out: partition Iraq. One argument for that way out is that in Iraq there are multiple insurgencies fighting for conflicting goals. Divide Iraq up and let one of the insurgencies have the Sunni triangle. Then let the Shias have the south and the Kurds their zone. Then the US can leave claiming some form of victory. It might work.

By Randall Parker at 2004 December 05 05:53 PM   Iraq | TrackBack