The Tsunami of a Change – a common point of view?

On March 29, 2011, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) media wing Al-Malahem released the fifth issue of the English-language jihadist magazine “Inspire.”

Inspire is a magazine published in English and claiming to be the voice of al-Qaeda has just released its latest edition. The magazine is not quite a year old and up to this point has been decidedly anti-American and pro-Islamic terrorism and the establishment of Islamic fundamentalist governments.  Inspire is followed closely by intelligence agencies as one would suspect, but this edition has caught the eye of world’s media also. Inspire appears to offer little “news”  and has stayed close to its mission to “inspire the believers to fight.”  However, its latest edition contains a piece by Anwar al-Awlaki;  in the past, al-Awlaki wrote on discussed human sacrifices, making bombs and Zionist-colonial plots.   This week, he is more philosophical and surprisingly strikes a stance much like most western observes.  Like everyone else watching the events across the Arab/Islamic world the magazine is attempting to make sense of the social disturbances, looking past current events and speculating on the future .  One might expect that al-Qaeda would claim so role in the events and promise more of the same to come – but that is the surprise.

So far, at least in my knowledge, only in Egypt and Tunisia have governments struggling to hold on to power have failed to place at least part of the blame on al-Qaeda.  Okay, Syria’s president Bashar Assad said the outsiders were Israelis or pro-Israelis; and Hezbollah is blaming a rival political party in Lebanon for the demonstrations in Syria.  But excepting Syria, Egypt and Tunisia blaming al-Qaeda has been a common tactic.  I would guess that part of the time the leader making the claim believes it and the other half of the time the leader hopes by blaming al-Qaeda the United States and the European countries will switch sides and support the government. In the beginning I thought Gaddafi was trying to manipulate public opinion, but  now I am not certain that he does not believe his own claims.

Al-Awlaki and Inspire are not helping to settle the debate; but the way the conflicts are being framed indicates al-Qaeda is an observer just like the rest of us.  Al-Awaki does hint that Islamic fighters are taking up arms with their brothers, but not necessarily in control: “The Mujaheddin around the world are going through a moment of elation,” al-Awlaki writes. “I wonder whether the West is aware of the upsurge of mujaheddin activity in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Arabia, Algeria and Morocco?”

That statement is not the surprise – that is what we have expected and might even confirm statements by Gaddafi and others.  But the following statements put Inspire and al-Awlaki in the same boat as the rest of us, hoping for a better world to come: “The outcome doesn’t have to be an Islamic government for us to consider what is occurring to be a step in the right direction,” al-Awlaki writes. “Whatever the outcome is, our mujahidin brothers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and the rest of the Muslim world will get a chance to breathe again after three decades of suffocation.  No matter how pro-Western or oppressive the next government [of Libya] proves to be,” writes al-Awlaki, “we do not see it possible for the world to produce another lunatic of the same caliber of the Colonel.”

Doesn’t that sound like one of us?  We don’t know what kind of government might follow in Libya, Yemen or elsewhere, but won’t anything be better?  Of course it might not be and it may be years before we know the answer to the question in Iraq or Egypt, Libya or Yemen, Syria or Algeria.  But I listened to a lot of people talking about Egypt and the Middle East today on the radio, and the majority certainly thought anyone would be better than Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi.  Some events do make for strange bedfellows – just like that George Bush and al-Qaeda seem to be on the same side, or to continue the metaphor in the same bed.

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