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Al Qaeda as ideology

05/20/04 12:00AM By Barrie Dunsmore
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(Host) Commentator Barrie Dunsmore says it's time to start thinking about al Qaeda as an ideology and not just a group of terrorists.

(Dunsmore) In the wake of the 9/11 attacks on this country, President Bush declared War on Terrorism. In retrospect, that declaration may have been one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time -- but it now needs re-evaluation.

As former senator, Bob Kerry has said repeatedly, terorrism is merely a tactic by people who wish the United States ill. To simply respond to their tactics is equivalent to fighting the Cold War against nuclear weapons rather than against Communism.

In other words, instead of being in a war against Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network, the United States is actually in a struggle not so much with terrorists as with a new, radical international ideology.

This is an idea put forward in a recent article by Jason Burke, chief correspondent for the respected British newspaper, The Observer, and author of the book, "Al Qaeda: Casting a Shadow on Terror."

Mr. Burke wrote: "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. Al Qaeda-ism will continue to attract supporters in the years to come, whether Osama bin Laden is around to lead them or not."

Among the major points in his article:

1) The Arabic word "qaeda" -- usually translated "base of operation" -- also means "precept" or "method," and Islamic militants use it in that sense. The structure built in Afghanistan has been destroyed, but the al Qaeda world view, sustained by anti-Western and anti-Zionist rhetoric, grows stronger every day, though it is not linked in any substantial way to bin Laden.

2) Islamic miltants' main objective is to beat back what they perceive as an aggressive Western culture that is supposedly trying to complete the project begun during the Crusades and continued through the colonial periods to this day: that is, to denigrate, divide and humiliate Islam.

3) At the ideological level, al Qaeda's prominent thinkers have borrowed heavily from leftist and anarchist revolutionaries. Their writings often read like an Islamicized Communist Manifesto.

That's a brief summary of the thoughts of one knowledgeable British writer. But such thoughts are shared by a growing number of people in this country who fear that many of the policies of the wear on terror are actually increasing the number of Islamic militants world-wide.

For example, the prsioner abuse scandal in Iraq and America's support for Israel's hard-line approach toward the Palestinians, are seen as directly feeding into the Islamic militants' conviction that American occupation of Iraq and Israeli occupation of Palestine are one and the same.

One does not have to concede that point to believe that a new approach is needed to deal with the new threats to American security. It should start with a recognition that Western ideas and values are once again being challenged in a new ideological battle. And at its core that war is not really about terrorism.

This is Barrie Dunsmore.
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