Checking In With Osama bin Laden!

You'd think being the most feared terrorist on Earth would be the kind of job where you're guaranteed a good sit until you can retire or you get killed. But in the current issue of Foreign Policy, Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann round up the available information on Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda and conclude that while the group can still kill people, they've lost more popularity since 2001 than Matchbox Twenty:

It's not because the United States is winning -- most Muslims still have extremely negative attitudes toward the United States because of its wars in the Muslim world and history of abuses of detainees. It's because Muslims have largely turned against Osama bin Laden's dark ideology. Favorable ratings of the terrorist leader and the suicide bombings he advocates fell by half in the two most-populous Islamic countries, Indonesia and Pakistan, between 2002 and 2009. In Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's ruthless campaign of sectarian violence obliterated the support al Qaeda had enjoyed there, deeply damaging its brand across the Arab world.

The jihad has also dramatically failed to achieve its central aims. Bin Laden's primary goal has always been regime change in the Middle East, sweeping away the governments from Cairo to Riyadh with Taliban-style rule. He wants Western troops and influence out of the region and thinks that attacking the "far enemy," the United States, will cause U.S.-backed Arab regimes -- the "near enemy" -- to crumble. For all his leadership skills and charisma, however, bin Laden has accomplished the opposite of what he intended. Nearly a decade after the 9/11 attacks, his last remaining safe havens in the Hindu Kush are under attack, and U.S. soldiers patrol the streets of Kandahar and Baghdad.

And here I've been thinking the near enemy was the Los Angeles Times and the far enemy was the New York Times.

Highlights:

* The total number of Qaeda-trained assets is probably fewer than 20,000.

* Some of the slack of training and deploying terrorists has been taken up by Qaeda affiliates in Pakistan. That appears to have been the case with alleged Times Square bombing washout Faisal Shahzad. Although Bergen and Tiedemann don't mention it, that outsourcing seems to bring some quality control issues. Or at least, it's a pretty big comedown from 9/11 to a plot depending on hopelessly faulty explosives, an easily traced vehicle and the possibility of finding good parking in Times Square. (Thanks to Nell Scovell for that last observation.)

* The group's public relations efforts peaked three years ago and have been dwindling since.

* The infamous "Al Qaeda Number Three Man" job continues to offer less job security than the gig as drummer for Spinal Tap.

* Predator drones are the favorite tool of President Barack Obama. He has already ordered more Predator strikes than President George W. Bush did in eight years, and he obscenely joked about Predator strikes last week during his supposedly fall-down funny routine at the White House Correspondents Dinner. Yet judging by actual containment of violence, the Predator campaign doesn't seem to be working.

The gravest evidence of al Qaeda's dwindling Q Rating was an asburd online chat Ayman al-Zawahiri held with jihadists, in which the audience gave a chilly reception to the good doctor. The al Qaeda number two man could have saved himself the trouble by reading this open letter written almost seven years ago by Charles Paul Freund, Reason's own Hakimullah Mehsud:

Osama bin Laden's very first words directed to the West, as the Taliban were being overthrown, evoked lost Islamic Spain. But the glories of Spain's Umayyads were destroyed not by European Inquisitors; they were ruined by armies of North African proto-Islamists who were as angry and as destructive and as crazy as you are. Cordoba and Toledo and Granada achieved their golden ages not through the efforts of people like you, but despite them. In the course of the struggle between an Islam of achievement and grace, and an Islam engulfed by righteous futility, have you never noticed that even Muslims prefer to forget people like you and to remember the other side? Even you and Osama, it seems, attempt to co-opt precisely the Islamic history you are attempting to negate.

Courtesy of the Facebook page of Don Graham, whose flagship magazine I uncharitably made fun of a few hours ago.

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  • ||

    I believe he's either dead or working at the Amish Market in Germantown, Maryland, with his moustache shaved off.

  • ||

    Agree. Wasn't he supposed to be attached to a kidney dialysis machine or something?

    I'm thinking dead.

  • alan||

    Why the fuck nobody tell me Matchbox was no longer cool? I have to learn this from Tim?

  • &||

    Matchbox what?
    Blink who?

  • Blowback||

    Favorable ratings of the terrorist leader and the suicide bombings he advocates fell by half in the two most-populous Islamic countries, Indonesia and Pakistan, between 2002 and 2009.

    Wow! Looks like Bush won the wars after all! What happened to all those radicalized terrorists our foreign policy was creating? Cut in HALF.

  • MatTrue||

    These aren't wars; they're operations. Wars are fought with tanks, ships and bombers. Operations are ambiguous open-ended government programs where the only certainty is that no one (not even our own military) knows what the fuck is going on.

    But I did always get a laugh out of the "we're creating terrorists" argument. Let's see... human gestation is 9 months, plus another 12 years for Koran and IED training, plus a few more years to infiltrate a middle class suburb in Baghdad, London, or Bridgeport. So about 16 years to make one terrorist.

    Vs.

    The time it takes a mass-produced AGM-114 Hellfire missile traveling at mach 1.3 to reach its target.

    GOD how I would love the military if it weren't for the retarded jackasses who ran it!

  • Rabbit Scribe||

    But I did always get a laugh out of the "we're creating terrorists" argument. Let's see... human gestation is 9 months...

    IQ plummeting...

    plus another 12 years for Koran and IED training, plus a few more years to infiltrate a middle class suburb in Baghdad, London, or Bridgeport.

    Brain cells dying...

    So about 16 years to make one terrorist.

    Death approaches... too slowly.

  • ||

    That is why we had to take the war to them Bin Ladin was cool as long as he was just killing Westerners. Once he started killing Muslims, he wasn't so cool anymore. If we had done nothing and let them continue to hit us, he would still be popular.

  • jtuf||

    Agreed.

  • DRM||

    Predator drones are the new cruise missiles, and Obama is the new Clinton.

  • Aspirin Factory||

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Obama||

    Got my NSC guy to get a few techs in here, and set up the controls of a drone (decaled with my own prez seal, of course) through my Wii.

    Jonas boys, I'm watching you! Seriously, that Hummer you are riding around the Strip in right now is just tacky.

  • alan||

    Mehsud's paragraph cited above was very nicely done. Speaking of the Omayyad, my favorite piece of architecture --

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Mosque_of_Córdoba

    When the Omayyad's kicked the Christians to the curb to build it into its current glory, they financed the creation of a Cathedral to make amends. Could you imagine such civilized behavior today in the age of Bruce Ratner?

  • alan||

    Just realized that I wrongfully attributed that paragraph to Mehsud(!?!?!) instead of Freund. Your cryptic style of writing did a Jedi trick on my gin soaked brain, Tim. Wont be so easy next time (I'm almost out of gin, and wont splurge for more until Friday).

  • qwerty||

    Golly, it almost seems like Bush and Cheney knew what they were doing!

  • Aspirin Factory||

    One might come to that conclusion.
    Perhaps the introspective question we should be asking ourselves after 8 years of illegal, immoral wars, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents, is "Why don't they hate us?"

  • MatTrue||

    8 years of illegal, immoral wars, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents

    Citations, please.

  • ||

    Perhaps the introspective question we should be asking ourselves after 8 years of illegal, immoral wars, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents, is "Why don't they hate us?"

    They may hate us, but perhaps they also fear us. I think that is sufficient.

  • Ragin Cajun||

    alleged Times Square bombing washout Faisal Shahzad

    The guy's got an MBA. What did they expect? Skills?

  • alan||

    nice.

    I can think of a few more useless degrees than that, but I recall even in the mid nineties looking through a friend's MBA candidate course schedule it might as well been set up for a degree in education given the touchy feely subject matter.

  • ||

    most Muslims still have extremely negative attitudes toward the United States because of its wars in the Muslim world and history of abuses of detainees

    And what was the cause of the negative attitudes before the wars and abuses? I think it was support for Israel. And before that, maybe it was US associations with the British and French. And before that, the loss of Spain. And before that, the Crusades.... Well, it's always something, right?

    he obscenely joked about Predator strikes

    OK, I know libertarians are supposed to be non-interventionist and all, but that doesn't mean we have to sound like humorless prig pacifists. Lighten up and turn that frown upside down, Mr. C.!

  • ||

    LOL, the dude prolly is hiding out right here in the US, be the last place anyone would look for him.

    Lou
    www.being-anonymous.at.tc

  • Rabbit Scribe||

    Hmmm... and who around here seems most concerned- dare I say obsessed? - with anonymity?

    GIT A ROPE! OR A HAGUE COMMISSION! Or sumpin' ...

  • Abdul||

    * The infamous "Al Qaeda Number Three Man" job continues to offer less job security than the gig as drummer for Spinal Tap.

    Yet judging by actual containment of violence, the Predator campaign doesn't seem to be working.

    Doesn't the latter seem linked to the former? Judging by that, wouldn't you say the Predator strikes are working?

  • Captain Kanuck||

    Dead since 2001, like the brains of most Americans.

  • ||

    Bridgeport was harboring a terrorist...we need to bomb Bridgeport!

  • Invisible Finger||

    Sounds like AQ needs a CEO with turnaround experience.

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