Moazzam Begg and Abu Yahya al-Libi
For example I can say I detest communism. But this doesn’t tell you anything about what I do believe, only that there is a whole array of political persuasions I could potentially be, all excepting one.
To say I oppose the war on terror is much the same. This opposition does not give you any inherent information about what it is I’d prefer to see, or how it is I go about acting upon my opposition.
I might go on long marches every so often in opposition to the war on terror, I may write a blog post, I may wish to proactively fight against the said war.
These are all legitimately reactive acts against the war on terror, and no matter what you think of that war, we can accept that some acts, by people, have some correlation to their feelings on that war.
I however want to challenge the notion that with reacting to the war on terror, anything goes. I want to say that with some acts, or changes to behaviour or points of view, we cannot accept that these have full correlation with one’s opinions on the war on terror, but are outcomes of a further leap in one’s political persuasion.
For example take Abu Yahya al-Libi, the al-Qaeda lackey who is said to have been killed in a drone strike on north-western Pakistan. He is known now, in the words of terrorism expert Jarret Brachman, as being “masterful at justifying savage acts of terrorism with esoteric religious arguments”.
But it is the opinion of some that his connections with, and even high-profile importance within, al-Qaeda owed much importance to his time in the US military airbase at Bagram in Afghanistan, where he stayed from 2002 – 2005, and even the inception of the war on terror.
One man who believes this is Moazzam Begg. In an article he has had published with the left-wing Guardian’s Comment is Free section, he says Abu Yahya was a “creation” of the US-led war on terror.
Two things strike me with this: 1) Whether this is what Begg has intended, it implicitly undermines Abu Yahya al-Libi’s opinions as purely reactive. It doubly undermines him as Begg, who did time in Bagram himself, and who opposes the war on terror, claims not to support al-Qaeda or any other major player of terrorism in the Middle East. If this is so, he knows it is not beyond the realms of the believable to come out the other side and hold “sensible” opinions. Only, he doesn’t believe others to be capable of them.
And 2) he infers that Abu Yahya’s opinions can legitimately be correlative to his opinions re the war on terror. An opposition, as I’ve discussed, which would be inherently defined in the negative. But Abu Yahya was a self-styled theologian who justified violence, theologically, not just politically or oppositionally.
He was also a fellow-traveller of al-Qaeda – which isn’t rainbow coalition of pacifists opposing the war on terror. It is a medieval tyrannical sect of Jihadis and Islamists whose new world order would necessitate the ceasing of personal autonomy, the deification of human control, the fetishisation of a single book, the glorification of violence, the sanctioning of death of whole groups of people, the repression of the sexual instinct and a paranoid anti-Semitism akin to that found in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
The war on terror has created many things, but one is hard pushed to show the correlation between it and the world-view of al-Qaeda. Anyone who does is either an apologist for terror themselves or an ill-considered, patronising blockhead.