Al Qaeda Is a Shadow of Its Former Self

This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.

The New York Sun

One wonders what it is the second in command of Al Qaeda, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, is smoking in his cave nowadays.

In a surreal videotape released last week, the Egyptian doctor turned assassin trotted out an American convert to jihad whom he called “Azzam the American.” Azzam came on screen and called upon all Americans and Christians to convert to Islam immediately, or else.

If that is the best Al Qaeda can do, we should take a measure of the group.

Indeed, Mr. Zawahiri’s toothless message — and the videotape Al-Jazeera broadcast yesterday showing Osama bin Laden before September 11, 2001, meeting with some of the terrorist attacks’ planners — was just the latest indication that Al Qaeda’s better days are behind it, as most Arab and American security officials will readily concede.

Five years after it burst onto the scene with the grandiose attacks of September 11, the terror group is a shadow of its former self. Its chief architects, Messrs. bin Laden and Zawahiri, and their so-called consultative council are on the run; its top field commanders are decimated, and its hundreds of foot soldiers are in jail, being hounded or singing like canaries under torture, or bribery.

To be sure, copycats are popping up here and there, but the West can certainly claim it has demolished the infrastructure of the original group. It is time for plan B: moving up the food chain toward those who have funded and fed this hapless mob since the mid-’80s.

Before September 11, Al Qaeda blew up two American embassies in Africa, as well as the USS Cole, and attacked Americans in 1993 at the World Trade Center and again in Saudi Arabia in the late ’90s.

But when they are examined in the harsh light of day, these assaults were more pugnacious than crippling. What Al Qaeda got in return was a world-class war on terror that is gathering momentum daily with all the muscle, talent, and intelligence only the West can muster.

Liberals, appeasers, and peace mongers say the West must try to “understand” the gripes of Muslims worldwide, placate the Palestinian Arabs, and replace Arab and Muslim dictators with so-called Muslim moderates.

But the truth is that the West, and especially America, can do virtually nothing to prevent the inevitable bloodbaths inherent in the skewed Islamic cultures and failed governments that characterize virtually all Muslim societies today, from Indonesia to Saudi Arabia. Nor can any amount of indulgence heal the deep gashes that Muslim dictatorships, corruption, and cultural hypocrisies inflict upon the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims. Their bleeding is a product of what ails profoundly failed nations — compounded, of course, by gravely distorted Islamic precepts and a sea of illiteracy.

Al Qaeda has “grafted” itself onto these malfunctions, projecting a bigger image like a shadow growing onto a distant wall. But a shadow it is, as we are finding out five years later.

In his illuminating account, “The Looming Tower, Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11,” Lawrence Wright of the New Yorker documents in amazing detail how vacuous Mr. bin Laden and his cohorts were. They lost every battle they ever engaged in against the Soviets in Afghanistan, were hugely despised by their fellow Afghan fighters, lied about their mythical achievements, and gathered the largest bunch of losers they could find under their tent.

But Mr. Wright also documents how this bunch of clowns became recklessly dangerous after they were recruited, guided, and manipulated by a variety of competing Arab regimes. They received hundreds of millions of dollars from none other than the Saudi royal family and were granted sanctuary by the genocidal Sudanese government and the profoundly fanatical Pakistani army and intelligence systems, as well as numerous Arab regimes and thousands of freelance preachers in madrassas, mosques, and theocratic institutes peppered across the Muslim landscape.

Still, looking at the British Pakistanis being arrested daily and the other failed terrorists dropping like flies into the police nets of European, Arab and American security networks is enough to put the “danger” in perspective.

True, they only have to succeed once in a while to make their point, whereas the policemen have to be on the dot every single time, but Islamic jihadists should be eradicated more as an affront to Western civilization — or any civilization — rather than as an existential danger to the world.

The New York Sun

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