In 2001, a trial began for the 1998 embassy bombings in East Africa. Prosecutors wanted to try Osama bin Laden along with the four men they had in custody, but in order to do so, they needed to prove he was the head of a criminal organization and charge him under racketeering laws (similar to the head of a mafia). To this end they enlisted the help of Jamal al-Fadl who build a foundation story that bin Laden was a criminal mastermind behind the organization Al-Qaeda. In reality, Bin Laden had a very small group. Some militants came to him for funding, however they were mostly independent and set their own objectives. Propaganda videos bin Laden produced were filmed with hired soldiers who were told to bring their own uniforms and weapons1.
Jamal al-Fadl was offered witness protection for his help with the prosecution. He was on the run from bin Laden for embezzling money from him. There is no evidence bin Laden ever referred to his group as Al-Qaeda until after 2001 when he realized it was a term the western world had given him. The entire concept that a massive Al-Qaeda organization existed with sleeper cells and vast international networks was an entire work of fiction: a fantasy2.
Now let’s turn to Pakistan, a country where the US backed Musharraf assisted in the American war on terror; a leader who is now facing impeachment3. The Swat Valley was an area of Pakistan that was well known for its tourism industry, however the recent fighting between the Taliban and Pakistan’s army has descended on the city. Over 75% of the hotels are now empty and many have closed leaving tens of thousands of people unemployed. What’s more frightening is that many citizens believe that the Pakistan’s security agencies are covertly working with the Taliban to prolong the war. Continuation of the war ensures that the United States continues to give Pakistan hundreds of millions of dollars every month to fight terrorism4.
“It is the most corrupting force, because then the target of the army is not peace. It’s not the elimination of terrorism. Their target is to show to America that we are using our gunships, we are firing mortars and your money is being used…There is only one business: that is war business. All Other business are gone.” —Peace Campaigner in Swat Valley4
Although many in the Swat Valley are convinced of these conspiracy theories, there isn’t any hard evidence to corroborate them. Turning back to Al-Qaeda, prior to the US invasion Al-Qaeda had no presence in Iraq. In recent news, many have been hearing about “Al-Qaeda in Iraq,” a group inspirited by Al-Qaeda although not directly affiliated with them in anyway. President Bush even stated that Al-Qaeda is the smallest of insurgents in Iraq, yet this didn’t stop the US or military commanders in 2004 from referring to anyone and everyone we were fighting in Iraq as “Al-Qaeda5.”
In a recent video by Alive in Baghdad, teenagers in Iraq as young as fifteen are leaving school and taking up arms in order to defend their villages. When asked who they were fighting, many of the young militia men said “Al-Qaeda6.”
Who is this Al-Qaeda in Iraq? Given our country’s leaders consistence in using deception, my theory is that Al-Qaeda in Iraq was either a label given to militants that could not be directly identified, and later a name they took for themselves just like the original Al-Qaeda, or they were started and directly funded by the United States in order to fuel the marketing campaign to the American public to promote justification for the war. In either case, Al-Qaeda in Iraq did not exist before the US invaded, but now they do.
1 The Power of Nightmares. Part 3. Adam Curtis (Film 2004)
2 The Making of the Terror Myth. Beckett. October 15, 2004
3 Vote Leaves Musharraf. Rondeaux. Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, August 16, 2008; Page A08
4 Militancy Spills Over Into Pakistan’s Swat Valley. NPR All Things Considered. August 14, 2008.
5 Everyone we fight in Iraq is now ‘al-Qaida.’ Greenwald. Salon.com June 23, 2007
6 Iraqi Children Fight on All Sides. Alive in Baghdad August 11, 2008