Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler
Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Wednesday, October 31.
Osama bin Laden is dead
Barry Rubin in A short guide to the Benghazi issue, writes:
Al-Qaeda, however, is a relatively weak organization, capable of
staging only sporadic terror attacks, with the exception perhaps of
remote Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, and parts of Pakistan. It cannot
take over whole countries. The fact that Egypt, the Gaza Strip, Lebanon,
Turkey, and perhaps soon Syria are governed by Islamists is a far
greater strategic threat.
How did the mainstream media report this?
Then why couldn’t the Obama administration have said that the consulate
was attacked by evil al-Qaeda for no reason other than its lust to
murder Americans, with the perfect symbolism of the attack having been
staged on September 11?
There was a dual problem. First, the group involved was one the U.S.
government had worked with during the Libyan civil war so it could not
admit they were close to al-Qaeda. Second, the official line was that
al-Qaeda had been defeated so it could not still be a threat. Therefore,
an alternative narrative and a cover-up were needed.
The Washington Post reports After Benghazi attacks, Islamist extremists akin to al-Qaeda stir fear in eastern Libya:
Some Libyans say the extremist views are held much more broadly than
just among the Islamist militias themselves, a fact they said the United
States has failed to understand in the wake of the Benghazi attack. Not
all of the extremists in Darna or elsewhere in Libya belong to a group,
they said. But those who share al-Qaeda’s ideology are many, they said,
and that creates ample opportunity for recruitment.
The article is descriptive of the extreme groups operating in Libya.
There's no obvious agenda in the reporting. The same can't be said for a
"news analsis" Al Qaeda-Inspired Groups, Minus Goal of Striking U.S. that recently appeared in the New York Times.
“It’s a way of thinking,” said Saad Belgassim, who used to work as a
bureaucrat in Darna’s now defunct court system. “They kidnap people like
they do in Afghanistan. They delude young people and send them off to
In some ways, the sway that Islamists hold here is not a surprise.
Neglected, conservative and desperately poor under Gaddafi, Darna stood
out for its fierce Islamist resistance to the old regime — and for
sending more jihadists to Iraq during the U.S. occupation than any other
place in Libya.
The candidates offered profoundly different answers during their
final debate last week, with President Obama repeating his triumphant
narrative of drone attacks and dead terrorists, and Mitt Romney warning
darkly about Islamists on the march in an increasingly hostile Middle
The gist of this article is to support President Obama's view that he
has successfully defeated Al Qaeda and made the world safer. Even if the
last paragraph is true, does it mean that the jihadists won't target the United States when they've achieved their more immediate goals.
In a sense, both are true. The organization that planned the Sept. 11
attacks, based in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is in shambles; dozens of
its top leaders have been killed since Mr. Obama assumed office, and
those who remain appear mostly inactive.
But there is an important distinction: most of the newer jihadist groups
have local agendas, and very few aspire to strike directly at the
United States as Osama bin Laden’s core network did. They may interfere
with American interests around the world — as in Syria, where the
presence of militant Islamists among the rebels fighting the government
of Bashar al-Assad has inhibited American efforts to support the
uprising. But that is a far cry from terrorist plots aimed at the United
Later in the article there's this:
Jihadists now control Mali’s vast north, as Mr. Romney mentioned more
than once in the last debate, and have links to an older group
officially affiliated with Al Qaeda that grew out of Algeria’s civil
conflict in the 1990s. Although these groups are well armed and
dangerous, some appear to be more criminal than ideological, focused on
kidnapping and drug smuggling. Jihadists have also gained strength in
Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, just across the border from Israel.
It wasn't enough to support President Obama's claim that he has Al Qaeda
on the run. Here the reporter, Robert Worth, criticizes Mitt Romney's
view, citing a friendly "expert."
At one point during the debate, Mr. Romney appeared to link these varied
threats with the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power in Egypt. To some
terrorism analysts, this kind of talk is counterproductive, because it
blurs crucial distinctions between potential allies who profess to
believe in democracy and civic rights, like the Brotherhood, and more
militant Islamists who view those principles as heresy.
“There is still a tendency to talk about the enemy in grand terms,
linking them all together, because it makes you sound tough,” Mr.
Fishman of the New America Foundation said. “In fact, it does the
opposite, because it obscures differences that should be at the heart of
our counterterrorism efforts.”
Labels: al-Qaeda, Barack Hussein Obama, Benghazigate, Middle East Media Sampler, Osama Bin Laden, Soccer Dad