Al Qaeda: Understanding the Bean-Counter Next Door
(pictured: papyrus scroll)
It was with more than a little relief that I read today's L.A. Times article on Al Queda's internal organizational memoranda -- Penalty for Crossing an Al Qaeda Boss? A Nasty Memo.
They are, after all, not so different from us as people, however far their ideologies radically depart from our own. And if they are not so different from us, we might be able to negotiate -- or at least have a conversation with --them -- rather than, say, torture their members to obtain the information we seek.
Why? Because conversation reveals interests which can then be served, traded, haggled over, bargained for and, for the peace-niks among us, actually understood. (See Negotiating with Terrorists here).
As the Times article reports this morning, Mohammed Atef, who died in the raid on Osama bin Laden's Afghan refuge in 2001, wrote many memos to the militants under his command, including one that accused a member of "misappropriating cash, a car, sick leave, research papers and an air conditioner during 'an austerity situation' for the network [and] demanded a detailed letter of explanation." As Atef wrote:
I obtained 75,000 rupees for you and your family's trip to Egypt. I learned that you did not submit the voucher to the accountant, and that you made reservations for 40,000 rupees and kept the remainder claiming you have a right to do so. . . . Also with respect to the air-conditioning unit, . . . furniture used by brothers in Al Qaeda is not considered private property. . . . I would like to remind you and myself of the punishment for any violation.
The Times reports that a study of the captured documents issued by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point paints a
picture of internal strife that . . . highlights not only Al Qaeda's past failures but also -- and more importantly -- . . . offers insight into its present weaknesses[.] Al Qaeda today is beset by challenges that surfaced in leadership disputes at the beginning of the organization's history.
The documents reveal Al Qaeda as having an "egalitarian veneer" that
coexisted with the bureaucratic mentality of the chiefs, mostly Egyptians with experience in the military and highly structured extremist groups.
"They may have imposed the blindingly obdurate nature of Egyptian bureaucracy," said a senior British anti-terrorism official who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons. "You see that in the retirement packages they offered, the lists of members in Iraq, the insecure attitude about their membership, the rifts among leaders and factions."
For the full Times article click here.