By Novar Caine
Now that Osama has been wiped out, Obama has set his sights on the late Al-Qaeda leader’s second-in-command, who has undertaken the brave task of running the scattered militant organisation and is issuing edicts Osama-style.
In his latest audio message, released this week and picked up by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant-themed media, including radical blogs and forums, Ayman al-Zawahiri eulogised his deposed boss and vowed to carry on his work. “The man who terrified America in his life will continue to terrify it after his death,” al-Zawahiri declared.
But that frail individual – videoed by an acolyte as a feeble, blanked-shrouded person rocking back and forth as he relived what he surely believed were his glory days of militancy as relayed on looped television broadcasts – was in the end himself terrified of America, which wound up sending him to a watery grave. Now his deputy, far from cowed, is in Washington’s firing line.
“We will pursue the jihad until we expel the invaders from Muslim lands,” he was quoted as saying, adding: “You will continue to be troubled by his famous vow: You shall not dream of security until we enjoy it and until you depart the Muslims’ lands.”
Sadly for Al-Qaeda and its many variants in the Arab and Southeast Asian worlds, the group’s glory days are waning. Thankfully, for the rest of the (right-thinking) world, ordinary people’s moderate voices count far more than that of fanatics’. In al-Zawahiri’s homeland of Egypt, long decades of dictatorship have fallen to what is hoped will become a strong democracy; and elsewhere in Arab lands change from despotic regimes is underway, as one of the greatest people revolts in the history of civilisation maintains its fervent momentum.
The Western-war debacle that has become Libya has already dragged on for far too long, however, and it is arguable it should never have begun. Western gains in battling terrorism and bringing communities together for understanding are at risk of unravelling as long as the US, Britain and their allies sustain their bombing campaign to oust Moamer Kadhafi. The Libya attack rational could easily be applied to Syria, which is also stamping out a rebellion with almighty force. But the most that’s been formulated in opposing direction is a UN Security Council resolution, an insipid pronouncement of little effect that limply “condemns the violence” that has killed hundreds since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime began in January.
Worryingly, the US’ top commander, Admiral Michael Mullen, could not give an assurance this week as to when the allied strikes on Libya would end.
“It’s the US position that Kadhafi has to leave and it is a challenge for anybody to put a timetable to that,” he said in Cairo.
“From a military perspective, everything I see indicates a continued drum beat to continue to raise the pressure, if you will, to force Kadhafi to depart.”
It’s one tale for one country that has been massacring its people and quite another for a nearby nation that has also been mowing down dissenters. It is a deadly disparity whose origin is transparently obvious to those that seek an unstated reason for going to war against oil-rich countries and those with few natural resources. Broken Iraq, long since having stoked militants’ ire, is only haltingly beginning to pick up the pieces as the US walks out.
As long as the pounding of Tripoli and its surroundings continues, it gives fuel to Al-Qaeda’s dimming fire. In countries like Muslim Indonesia, both a repeat target of the network’s bombs and a breeding ground for suicide bombers, it pits the firepower of Western, Christian countries against an under-siege Muslim country and engenders rage and hate that is sucked up by radical recruiters. “Just look at what they are doing over there. We must rise up!” will scream the clarion calls.
The social-media-assisted Arab Spring carries hope for people not just in whose lands it is happening, but for people everywhere. It promises previously undreamed-of expectations of a time when peace and real prosperity really can settle. Who could have imagined that this time last year Hosni Mubarak’s days were numbered, that Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was on the way out, that the ever-potent Kadhafi would be cowering under waves of NATO bombings?
Al-Qaeda may see great opportunities in the political vacuums of these countries, in infiltrating the ranks of protesters to garner fresh support. Such an assumption is wrong, however. It is not to wage war against perceived Western powers that the majority in Muslim lands desire; it is to live a self-determined life of personal gain and comfort.
The revolutions roll on, and all the while misguided groups like Al-Qaeda are finally being consigned to the dustbin of history.