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Part 1

B12624 / Tue, 31 Jan 2006 18:29:11 / "War on Terror"

This text was presented in part as a speech on December 15th, 2005 at the Perdana Global Peace Forum and is re-presented here with permission by the author.

Nafeez Ahmed is the author of The War on Freedom and most recently, The War on Truth

International terrorism has routinely been understood as a phenomenon integrally linked to radical Islamism. After 9/11, this trend of thought, already prevalent in official circles, became the defining discourse of Western international relations, now permanently configured within the paradigm of the “War on Terror”.

So widespread is this notion, that it has penetrated even the discourse of mainstream Islam itself. Thus, the respected moderate American Muslim cleric Hamza Yusuf declared after 9/11 that: “Islam has been hijacked by a discourse of anger and a rhetoric of rage1”.

Consequently, much of the debate on the roots of international terrorism both among Western policymakers and among Muslims themselves, concerns the role of Islam as an exploited ideological facilitating factor in the intensification of terrorist attacks around the world. Prominent Muslim commentators such as Ziauddin Sardar lamented after 9/11 that:

“Muslims everywhere are in a deep state of denial. From Egypt to Malaysia, there is an aversion to seeing terrorism as a Muslim problem and a Muslim responsibility. ... Terrorism is a Muslim problem … Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Algeria, Bangladesh, Lebanon, Iran – there is hardly a Muslim country that is not plagued by terrorism.
... Muslims have stubbornly refused to see terrorism as an internal problem. While the Muslim world has suffered, they have blamed everyone but themselves. It is always ‘the West’, or the CIA, or ‘the Indians’, or ‘the Zionists’ hatching yet another conspiracy. This state of denial means Muslims are ill-equipped to deal with problems of endemic terrorism2”.
A number of salient points can be derived here. Sardar, articulating a narrative very much supportive of Western officialdom’s perspective of international terrorism, sees terrorism as ultimately a question of Muslim responsibility. The consequence of this for Muslims is that they should firstly lend their wholehearted support in principle to the West’s fight against international terrorism, and secondly that they should manifest such support by routing out extremism within their own midst. Moreover Sardar, once again echoing officialdom’s perspective, supports President Bush’s resounding a priori condemnation of “outrageous conspiracy theories concerning the attacks of September the 11th; malicious lies that attempt to shift the blame away from the terrorists, themselves, away from the guilty3”. By implication, the guilty, then, are not merely the terrorists themselves, but Muslims as such for whom terrorism is an “internal problem” regarding which they persist in “denial”.

This paradigm, however, is not based in an objective analysis of international terrorism itself. Indeed, it is devoid entirely of meaningful historical and empirical content. As such, it generally tends to generate two conventional forms of rebuttal, both of which are equally devoid of relevant historical and empirical analysis of the very phenomenon under discussion. The first comes from within Islam itself, and attempts to challenge the idea using Islamic scripture—namely the Qur’an (considered to be the Word of God revealed to the Prophet Muhammed) and Ahadith (historical records of the Prophet’s life, sayings and actions)—that terrorism can be justified on its basis. Thus, it is argued that an authentic understanding of Islam delegitimizes terrorism. The second rebuttal comes from what might be amorphously described as the antiwar movement, and attempts to explore the dynamics of precisely why Muslims have developed the “internal problem” of terrorism. Those dynamics are found to be located precisely in a series of devastating historical conjunctures between the West and the Muslim world, proceeding for several centuries, whereby Western imperialism has subjugated predominantly Muslim regions of the Middle East and Central Asia. Events such as the 2003 Iraq War are considered to be merely extensions of this world-historical process.

The content of these rebuttals, on their own terms, is well-documented and highly persuasive. However, in one simple way, they are exactly similar to the very argument which they attempt to refute, by failing to comprehend the reality of the phenomenon of international terrorism itself. As such, by refusing to confront this phenomenon directly, they inadvertently perpetuate the defactualization of analytical discourse which supports Western officialdom’s bold equation of international terrorism with radical Islamism, and henceforth as a distinctly Muslim problem which needs to be dealt with by finding some sort of Muslim solution, even if that be a peaceful one4.

Therefore, my approach here will not be to pursue the arguments of conventional rebuttals to the paradigmatic perspective of the underpinnings of international terrorism, but rather to critique this paradigm on its own terms using a historical and empirical analysis.

My argument is not that there are no violent interpretations of Islam within the Muslim world that might be seen to endorse terrorism. Of course there are. And my argument is not that the West’s imperial role in the Muslim world should be ignored. Certainly, it should not. Rather, my argument is that when international terrorism is scrutinized impartially, scientifically, the conventional understanding of its supposed inextricable origination in the dynamics of radical Islamism is fundamentally weakened in surprising ways.

The evidence that 9/11 was the result of a distinctly radical Islamist plan is highly questionable. The nature of “al-Qaeda” as a distinctly radical Islamist organization is also questionable. Finally, compelling evidence that identifiable groups involved in terrorist activity around the world are, in fact, manipulated on behalf of entirely non-Islamist Western geostrategic interests challenges the entire official narrative of the “War on Terror”.

Deconstructing the al-Qaeda 9/11 Mythology9/11 and the Myth of Islamic Suicide Bombers
According to the official narrative, 19 Muslim fundamentalists belonging to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist network, hijacked four civilian planes on the morning of 9/11 and flew them into the World Trade Center and Pentagon. But this narrative, widely accepted by both proponents and critics of US imperial foreign policy, is problematic at its core: the very identities of the alleged hijackers.

It is now known that at least 10 of the 19 alleged hijackers are alive according to multiple, credible news accounts by the BBC, CNN, the Telegraph, the Independent, and other international media. As Jay Kolar observes, “at least ten of those named on the FBI’s second and final list of 19 have turned up and been verified to be alive, with proof positive that at least one other ‘hijacker’, Ziad Jarrah, had his identity doubled, and therefore fabricated”. Reviewing video evidence furnished by the government to support its narrative—including alleged footage of the hijackers at Dulles Airport and the infamous Osama bin Laden confession tape—Kolar finds them to be riddled with impossibilities and anomalies, and concludes that they are utterly unreliable at best, and downright forgeries at worst5.

The abject failure of the Bush administration and its key allies to substantiate its narrative of what happened on 9/11 with regards to the most basic issue of who perpetrated the terrorists attacks, obviously raises fundamental questions about the official narrative as such. Why has such a failure not been rectified, if the evidence exists? There are a number of possible explanations, the simplest of which is that the alleged hijackers were not, in fact, hijackers at all; or rather, that there were no Arab hijackers on board the planes. Another explanation is that there were hijackers, but that disclosing their real identities and the extent of the evidence of their connection to 9/11 might inevitably disclose a large number of related connections that would be deeply embarrassing, to say the least, for the US government. So we will not attempt to answer this question here. Suffice it to say that with the identities of the alleged hijackers not only in dispute, but essentially unknown, the core underpinning of the official narrative is vacuous; it is merely an unknown, a question.

Such questions extend to the very activities of the alleged hijackers as conventionally identified prior to 9/11. A variety of reports based on journalistic investigations and eye-witness testimonials provide a bizarre picture at odds with the conventional portrayal of the alleged hijackers as Islamic fundamentalists. Two of them, Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi, visited the popular Woodland Park Resort Hotel in the Philippines several times between 1998 and 2000 according to numerous local residents and hotel workers who recognized them from news photographs. They reportedly “drank whiskey with Philippine bargirls, dined at a restaurant that specializes in Middle Eastern cuisine and visited at least one of the local flight schools.” Al-Shehhi threw a party with six or seven Arab friends in December 2000 at the Hotel according to former waitress Gina Marcelo. “They rented the open area by the swimming pool for 1,000 pesos,” she recounts. “They drank Johnnie Walker Black Label whiskey and mineral water. They barbecued shrimp and onions. They came in big vehicles, and they had a lot of money. They all had girlfriends.” But one big mistake they made was that unlike most foreign visitors, “[t]hey never tipped. If they did, I would not remember them so well.” Victoria Brocoy, a chambermaid at the Woodland, recalls: “Many times I saw him let a girl go at the gate in the morning. It was always a different girl6.”

According to US investigators, five of the hijackers including Atta, Al-Shehhi, Nawaq Alhamzi, Ziad Jarrah, and Hani Hanjour visited Las Vegas at least six times between May and August 2001. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that here, they “engaged in some decidedly un-Islamic sampling of prohibited pleasures in America’s reputed capital of moral corrosion,” including drinking alcohol, gambling, and visiting strip-clubs7. As the South Florida Sun Sentinel observed, the hijackers’ frequent debauchery was at odds with the most basic tenets of Islam:

“Three guys cavorting with lap dancers at the Pink Pony Nude Theater. Two others knocking back glasses of Stolichnaya and rum and Coke at a fish joint in Hollywood the weekend before committing suicide and mass murder. That might describe the behavior of several men who are suspects in Tuesday’s terrorist attack, but it is not a picture of devout Muslims, experts say. Let alone that of religious zealots in their final days on Earth”.
For instance, specialist in Islamic and Middle East studies Mahmoud Mustafa Ayoub, Professor of Religion at Temple University in Philadelphia, noted that the prohibition of alcohol, gambling, and sex outside marriage are Islam’s most fundamental precepts: “It is incomprehensible that a person could drink and go to a strip bar one night, then kill themselves the next day in the name of Islam. People who would kill themselves for their faith would come from very strict Islamic ideology. Something here does not add up8.”

Similar reports abound regarding other al-Qaeda terrorists connected to 9/11. Even alleged 9/11 mastermind, al-Qaeda icon Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, reportedly “met associates in karaoke bars and giant go-go clubs filled with mirrors, flashing lights and bikini-clad dancers,” according to evidence collected by Philippine investigators:

“He held meetings at four-star hotels. He took scuba-diving lessons
at a coastal resort. When he wasn’t engaged with the go-go dancers, he
courted a Philippine dentist. Once, to impress her, he rented a helicopter
and flew it over her office, then called her on his cell phone and told her
to look up and wave”.
Mohammad’s al-Qaeda associates engaged in much the same behavior. They had local girlfriends and held a drinking party “to celebrate the anniversary of the 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 explosion over Lockerbie, Scotland9.”

Clearly, this pattern of debauchery is not by any standard commensurate with the strict requirements of al-Qaeda’s brand of Islamic fundamentalism. As Professors Quintan Wiktorowicz and John Kaltner point out, al-Qaeda is “a radical tendency within a broader Islamic movement known as the Salafi movement…

“The term Salafi is derived from the Arabic salaf, which means ‘to precede’ and refers to the companions of the Prophet Muhammed. Because the salaf learned about Islam directly from the messenger of God, their example is an important illustration of piety and unadulterated religious practice. Salafis argue that centuries of syncretic cultural and popular religious rituals and interpretations distorted the purity of the message of God and that only by returning to the example of the prophet and his companions can Muslims achieve salvation. The label ‘Salafi’ is thus used to connote ‘proper’ religious adherence and moral legitimacy, implying that alternative understandings are corrupt deviations from the straight path of Islam”.
Thus, although there are various schools of thought within Salafism—including al-Qaeda’s violent jihadist interpretation—they all emphasize and indeed attempt to derive their legitimacy from the Salafist goal of “piety and unadulterated religious practice” based directly on the piety and practice of the Prophet10. In this context, the depraved conduct of the alleged 9/11 hijackers in terms of their routine violation of the most basic Islamic precepts contradicts al-Qaeda’s strictly puritan Salafist philosophy.

The Takfir Paradigm
How to explain this anomaly? Time Magazine reports that intelligence officials claim many al-Qaeda terrorists are “followers of an extremist Islamic ideology called Takfir wal Hijra (Anathema and Exile). That’s bad news: by blending into host communities, Takfiris attempt to avoid suspicion. A French official says they come across as ‘regular, fun-loving guys—but they’d slit your throat or bomb your building in a second.’” Another French official says that the goal of Takfir “is to blend into corrupt societies in order to plot attacks against them better. Members live together, will drink alcohol, eat during Ramadan, become smart dressers and ladies’ men to show just how integrated they are11.”

However, this depiction of al-Qaeda and Takfir wal Hijra is thoroughly inaccurate. Takfir wal Hijra was the title given to a radical Islamic movement known as the Society of Muslims. The latter was founded in Egypt by Muslim Brotherhood member Shukri Mustafa after his release from prison in 1971. The group disintegrated after Mustafa was arrested and executed by the Egyptian government, but some of its followers went on to join other radical groups such as al-Jihad and/or fled to North Africa. Rather than attempting to integrate into modern society to carry out attacks as intelligence officials now claim, Takfiri ideology advocated the very opposite: “As contemporary society was infidel, he argued, Takfir would set up its own alternative community that would work, study and pray together…. Takfir declared that not only the regime but the society itself was infidel and under excommunication. This entailed… a personal withdrawal from society.” Even Takfir’s rival radical Islamic group in Egypt, Jama’at al-Jihad, known as the Society of Struggle, espoused such a harsh perspective of Islamic practice that it advocated as Islam’s top priority “jihad against unbelievers—including ‘Muslims’ who did not observe the religion’s requirements properly”—let alone endorsing in any manner a violation of those requirements12.

So extreme is Takfir’s ideology, that it sees bin Laden as not sufficiently Islamic in his violent approach. The Sunday Times reported a month after 9/11 that Takfir “regards Osama bin Laden as an infidel who has sold out.” The group’s members “have embarked on killing sprees in mosques against fellow Muslims in the belief that a pure Islamic state can be built only if the corrupt elements of the last one are wiped out.” Takfir’s enmity toward al-Qaeda is based on the perception that Osama bin Laden is “excessively liberal.” In 1995, four Takfir members attempted to assassinate bin Laden at his home in Khartoum. Takfiris continue to be “angered” at bin Laden’s leadership of a “compromised jihad.” According to the Times, “Takfir denounces all but those who copy the behaviour of the prophet Muhammad as infidels and promises to kill them.” One senior Sudanese government source confirmed that Takfir “regard [bin Laden] as a sellout… the Takfir think that everything in contemporary Muslim society is corrupt and should be destroyed13.”

Djamel Beghal and Kamel Daoudi—alleged UK-based terrorists arrested in September 2001 for plotting a series of spectacular terrorist assaults on Europe—were both supposed to be members of Takfir wal Hijra. But according to one Algerian in London who knew Beghal, integrating into Western culture by engaging in various acts of debauchery in violation of Islamic tenets was the last thing this alleged Takfiri would ever do: “Believe me, you do not want these people in your country… they will kill anybody, including their own family, if they are caught smoking or drinking14.”

Thus, the new scenario being proposed by Western intelligence officials to explain the patently un-Islamic behavior of the 9/11 hijackers is largely incoherent. Despite claims to the contrary, Takfir wal Hijra is aggressively opposed to al-Qaeda and its strict ideology is fundamentally incommensurate with the prospect of permitting defiance of Islamic rules under any circumstances. Furthermore, al-Qaeda is in turn staunchly opposed to Takfir. Therefore, the anomaly of the 9/11 hijackers persists: They clearly did not possess the conduct of hardened Islamic fundamentalists connected to al-Qaeda. So, who were they?

Agents of the US Military?
According to reports in Newsweek, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, US military officials confirmed to the FBI “that five of the alleged hijackers received training in the 1990s at secure US military installations15.” Knight Ridder news cited defense sources confirming that Mohamed Atta had attended International Officers School at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama; Abdulaziz Alomari had attended Aerospace Medical School at Brooks Air Force base in Texas; and Saeed Alghamdi had been to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. ( New York Times, September 16, 2001) The Washington Post revealed that as many as “four of 19 suspected hijackers may have participated during the 1990s” in a “flight training program for foreign military trainees” at Pensacola Naval Air Station. “Two of 19 suspects named by the FBI, Saeed Alghamdi and Ahmed Alghamdi, have the same names as men listed at a housing facility for foreign military trainees at Pensacola. Two others, Hamza Alghamdi and Ahmed Alnami, have names similar to individuals listed in public records as using the same address inside the base16.” Among these, Abdulaziz Alomari, Saeed Alghamdi and Ahmed Alnami are reportedly alive (Kolay), proving that whoever these US military trainees were, they were using fraudulent aliases.

Not long after these embarrassing reports of US military ties to al-Qaeda terrorists, the US Air Force issued an official statement of denial, arguing that “the name matches may not necessarily mean the students were the hijackers because of discrepancies in ages and other personal data.” Although some terrorists “had similar names to foreign alumni of US military courses,” these biographical discrepancies “indicate we are probably not talking about the same people.” But the government has refused to substantiate the denial, by preventing the publication of the relevant biographical data that would actually prove the discrepancies. On September 16, 2001, news reports asserted that: “Officials would not release ages, country of origin or any other specific details of the three individuals”—and have refused to do so to date. ( Washington Post, 22 September 2001)

By October 30, 2001, journalist Daniel Hopsicker—who has been a producer at PBS Wall Street Week, an executive producer of NBC TV’s Global Business, and an investigative reporter for NBC News—queried a major in the US Air Force’s Public Affairs Office who “was familiar with the question.” She explained: “Biographically, they’re not the same people. Some of the ages are 20 years off.” But when questioned to substantiate the specific discrepancy, she was forced to admit that there was no discrepancy. According to Hopsicker: “‘Some’ of the ages? We told her we were only interested in Atta. Was she saying that the age of the Mohamed Atta who attended the Air Force’s International Officer’s School at Maxwell Air Force Base was different from the terrorist Atta’s age as reported? Um, er, no, the major admitted.” Hopsicker asked if he could contact the other alleged “Mohamed Atta” at the International Officer’s School at Maxwell Air Force Base, who was purportedly confused with the chief 9/11 hijacker, so that he could confirm that they were indeed two different individuals. The major declined without explanation, stating that she did not “think you’re going to get that information17.”

In a separate interview, Hopsicker was told by a spokesman for the US Defense Department that some terrorists did attend US military installations, but declined to release any further details:

“Despite earlier denials, terrorists in the Sept. 11 attacks received training at secure US military bases, a Defense Department spokesman admitted.… the Defense Dept spokesman was asked to explain the particulars of fuzzy statements in which officials said … ‘we are probably not talking about the same people.’
“Pressed repeatedly to provide specifics, the spokesperson finally admitted, ‘I do not have the authority to tell you who (which terrorists) attended which schools.’ So it appears certain that at least some of the previous denials have been rendered inoperative, and that a list exists in the Defense Dept which names Sept 11 terrorists who received training at US military facilities, a list the Pentagon is in no hurry to make public18”.
In other words, it can now be confirmed that individuals identified by the FBI as al-Qaeda’s 9-11 terrorists, whether or not those identities were aliases, were connected to US military operations.

Al-Qaeda and the Myth of a Radical Islamist International Terrorist Organization
I will not attempt to answer the preceding question here. It suffices to point out that firstly, the connection of the alleged 9/11 hijackers to the actual events of 9/11 is deeply questionable at best, and secondly, even assuming the validity of such a connection, the notion that the alleged hijackers were Islamist fundamentalists is simply unsustainable.

The problem is not isolated to these individuals believed to be members of bin Laden’s international al-Qaeda terrorist network. The same questions can be addressed to al-Qaeda itself. Given that according to the official narrative, these individuals were members of an elite al-Qaeda cell, what does their un-Islamic conduct reveal about the real character of al-Qaeda? Two alleged hijackers, Mohamed Atta, who was reportedly leader of the cell, and Khalid Almidhar, another elite member, were reportedly members of the Islamic Jihad group led by bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri19. According to intelligence sources, “Atta and several others in the group” responsible for the attacks, “met with senior Al Qaida leaders, most notably Ayman al-Zawahiri” in Afghanistan shortly before 9-1120. Thus, these distinctly un-Islamic characters had very close relationships to the senior leadership of al-Qaeda.

Other prominent members of al-Qaeda also reportedly behave in distinctly un-Islamic ways. The example of Syrian al-Qaeda leader Laui Sakra provides a case in point. Suspected of involvement in the November 2003 bombings of UK and Jewish targets in Istanbul which killed 63 people, Sakra was arrested in Diyarbakir, southeast Turkey21.

Turkish officials said that Sakra is “one of the 5 most important key figures in Al Qaeda”. By his own off-the-record account to police, “he knew Mohamed Atta” and had aided the 9/11 cell, providing money and passports.” He also claimed involvement in the July 7th 2005 London bombings22, confessed to be in frequent contact with bin Laden, and admitted involvement in terrorist activity in the US, Britain, Egypt, Syria and Algeria23.

Citing further official revelations, the Turkish daily Zaman revealed that Sakra, like many of the alleged 9/11 hijackers, did not act in accordance with basic Islamic edicts. When Turkish Security Directorate officials told him that “he might perform his religious practices to have a better dialogue with him and to gain his confidence”, Sakra responded: “I do not pray. I also drink alcohol.” Curiously, his fellow al-Qaeda detainees and underlings, Adnan Ersoz and Harun Ilhan, did “perform their religious practices.” Police officials admitted that “such an attitude at the top-level of al-Qaeda was confusing24.”

Sakra’s story confirms the bizarre mixture of un-Islamic conduct penetrating the elite membership of al-Qaeda and the radical puritan exterior apparent in the use of Islamist language and symbols by its members. It is impossible to explain this within the parameters of the official narrative, which views al-Qaeda as one of the most militant elements of a radical Islamist tendency. In fact, the evidence perused so far fundamentally challenges the idea that al-Qaeda can be properly categorized as a genuinely Islamist entity. Other statements by Sakra further challenge the very idea of al-Qaeda as constituting an international organization in any meaningful sense, and throw further light on what might explain its duality between apparent fundamentalist Islamist and patently un-Islamic conduct. In his own words:

“Al-Qaeda organizes attacks sometimes without even reporting it to
Bin Laden. For al-Qaeda is not structured like a terrorist organization. The
militants have the operational initiative. There are groups organizing
activities in the name of al-Qaeda. The second attack in London was
organized by a group, which took initiative. Even Laden may not know
about it25”.
Sakra’s description of al-Qaeda contradicts entirely the official narrative. But he went even further than that. Zaman reported incredulously the most surprising elements of Sakra’s candid revelations during his four-day interrogation at Istanbul Anti-Terror Department Headquarters: “Amid the smoke from the fortuitous fire emerged the possibility that al-Qaeda may not be, strictly speaking, an organization but an element of an intelligence agency operation.” As a result of Sakra’s statements:

“Turkish intelligence specialists agree that there is no such organization as al-Qaeda. Rather, Al-Qaeda is the name of a secret service operation. The concept ‘fighting terror’ is the background of the ‘lowintensity- warfare’ conducted in the mono-polar world order. The subject of this strategy of tension is named as ‘al-Qaeda’.
... Sakra, the fifth most senior man in Osama bin Ladin’s al-Qaeda… has been sought by the secret services since 2000. The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) interrogated him twice before. Following the interrogation CIA offered him employment. He also received a large sum of money by CIA… in 2000 the CIA passed intelligence about Sakra through a classified notice to Turkey, calling for the Turkish National Security Organization (MIT) to capture him. MIT caught Sakra in Turkey and interrogated him…
Sakra was [later] sought and caught by Syrian al-Mukhabarat as well. Syria too offered him employment. Sakra eventually became a triple agent for the secret services… Turkish security officials, interrogating a senior al- Qaeda figure for the first time, were thoroughly confused about what they discovered about al-Qaeda. The prosecutor too was surprised26.”
According to Sakra then, himself a paid CIA recruit, al-Qaeda is less a coherent centralized organization than a loose association of mujahideen often mobilized under the influence of Western secret services. His own lack of traditional Islamic piety at a senior level within al-Qaeda further discredits the widespread perception of al-Qaeda as a truly Islamist Salafist group.

Two key issues arise here – firstly the question of the manner in which al- Qaeda exists; and secondly, the question of Turkish intelligence’s interpretation of al-Qaeda as integral to a “secret service operation” within a wider “strategy of tension”.

As for the first issue, it is indeed difficult to identify any way in which al-Qaeda genuinely exists as a concrete international terrorist organization—or at all—as conventionally promulgated by Western government and security sources.

Award-winning film maker Adam Curtis in his series of BBC documentaries The Power of Nightmares, went so far as to argue that al-Qaeda does not even have members, a leader, “sleeper cells”, or even an overall strategy. As a concrete international organization “it barely exists at all, except as an idea about cleansing a corrupt world through religious violence.”27 Dr Andrew Sike, a criminologist and forensic psychologist at the University of East London serving on the UN Roster of Terrorism Experts, similarly notes that al-Qaeda lacks “a clear hierarchy, military mindset and centralised command”. At best, it constitutes a loose network of “affiliated groups sharing religious and ideological backgrounds, but which often interact sparingly”. Al-Qaeda is less an organization than “a state of mind”, encompassing “a wide range of members and followers who can differ dramatically from each other28.”

Numerous other experts have thus questioned conventional portrayals of al-Qaeda, concluding that there is no solid evidence that it exists, let alone that it might function as an organized network. Conversely, mainstream studies that have endorsed such a perspective in support of the official narrative are profoundly flawed. Rohan Guranatna’s Inside Al-Qaeda, for instance—widely acclaimed as the most comprehensive, authoritative and well-documented analysis of al-Qaeda available—is consistently unreliable and inconsistent, to the point that the book’s British publishers inserted a disclaimer in its edition cautioning readers to avoid interpreting its content as factual, but rather as “nothing other than a suggestion29”.

This, of course, raises yet another question. If al-Qaeda does not exist in the conventional sense, then how does this fit with Sakra’s description of al-Qaeda as a “secret service operation” operating within the parameters of a “strategy of tension”? The answer to this can be best sought in an examination of precisely what is denoted by what Turkish officials describe as “a strategy of tension”. And to answer this, we must delve deeper into history to discover the roots of international terrorism in the Cold War.
Continued in Part 2


1 BBC News, “Islam ‘hijacked’ by terror”, October 11, 2001

2 Ziauddin Sardar, Islam has become its own enemy, The Observer

3 Remarks by the President to the United Nations General Assembly, “President Bush Speaks to United Nations”

4 Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, 9/11 ‘Conspiracies’ and the Defactualisation of Analysis: How Ideologues on the Left and Right Theorise Vacuously to Support Baseless Supposition’

5 Jay Kolar, “What We Know About the Alleged 9/11 Hijackers”, in Paul Zarembka (ed.) The Hidden History of 9-11-2001, Research in Political Economy, Volume 23, Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2006.

6 Kirk, Don, ‘Filipinos Recall Hijack Suspects Leading a High Life’, International Herald Tribune, 5 October 2001,

7 Fagan, Kevin, ‘Agents of terror leave their mark on Sin City: Las Vegas workers recall the men they can’t forget’, San Francisco Chronicle, 4 October 2001,

8 Benjamin, Jody A., ‘Suspects actions don’t add up’, South Florida Sun Sentinel, 16 September 2001,

9 McDermott, Terry, ‘Early Scheme to Turn Jets into Weapons: Philippines: Police say Khalid Shaikh Mohammed led a cell aiming to blow up planes in ‘95’, Los Angeles Times, 24 June 2002.

10 Wiktorowicz, Quintan and Kaltner, John, ‘Killing in the Name of Islam: Al Qaeda’s Justification for September 11’, Middle East Policy, Vol. X, No. 2, Summer 2000,

11 Elliot, Michael, ‘Hate Club: Al-Qaeda’s Web of Terror’, Time Magazine, 4 November 2001.

12 Zeidan, David, ‘Radical Islam in Egypt: A Comparison of Two Groups’, Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 3, No. 3, September 1999,

13 Hellen, Nicholas, ‘Ultra Zealots: If you think Bin Laden is extreme – some Muslims want to kill him because he’s soft’, Sunday Times, 21 October 2001. Mirrored here.

14 Barnett, Anthony, et. al., ‘London-based terror chief plotted mayhem in Europe’, The Observer, 30 September 2001.

15 Wheeler, Larry, et. al, Pensacola NAS link faces more scrutiny, Pensacola News Journal, September 17, 2001, mirrored here.

16 Gugliotta, Guy and David S. Fallis, ‘2nd Witness Arrested: 25 Held for Questioning,’ Washington Post, September 16, 2001, mirrored here.

17 Hopsicker, Daniel, ‘Did Terrorists Train at US Military Schools?’ Online Journal, October 30, 2001, (pdf – 113kb)

18 Hopsicker, Daniel, ‘Pentagon Lied: Terrorists Trained at US Bases,’ Mad Cow Morning News, October 14, 2001,. [emphasis added]

19 Foden, Giles (2001) ‘The hunt for ‘Public Enemy No 2’: Egyptian may now be running terror operations from Afghanistan,’ The Guardian, September 24,

20 Waller, Douglas (2001) ‘Was Hijack ‘Ringleader’ in Bin Laden Orbit?’, Time Magazine, October 5,

21 Turkey arrests al Qaeda suspects, BBC News, August 10, 2005,

22 A ‘Strange’ Al Qaeda Leader: ‘I Don’t Pray, I Drink Alcohol,’ Journal of Turkish Weekly [contributions from Turkish dailies, Zaman and Hurriyet], August 14, 2005,

23 Gun, Ercun, ‘Sakra: I Dispatched Men to US and UK for Terrorist Activity,’ Zaman, August 15, 2005,

24 Gun, ‘Interesting Confession: I Provided 9/11 Attackers with Passports, Zaman, August 14, 2005,

25 Gun, Ercun, ‘Sakra: I Dispatched Men to US and UK for Terrorist Activity,’ Zaman, August 15, 2005,

26 Gun, ‘Al-Qaeda: A Secret Service Operation?” Zaman, August 14, 2005,

27 Beckett, Andy, ‘The making of the terror myth,’ The Guardian, October 15, 2004,

28 Sike, Andrew, ‘Profiling terror,’ Janes Police Review, August 7, 2003,

29 For further discussion see Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, “Terrorism and Statecraft: Al-Qaeda and Western Covert Operations after the Cold War”, in Paul Zarembka (ed.) The Hidden History of 9-11-2001, Research in Political Economy, Volume 23 (Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2006).

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