Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Flypaper Update

This 60 Minutes segment on Hassan Butt, a former militant jihadi fund raiser who now speaks out against violent Islamism, is well worth the time. Butt gives a fascinating account of how young British Muslims like himself are being recruited into the network, how the network raises funds, and how he now feels that Islam is being misused.

I think it's obviously in our interest to support those who challenge the Koranic justification of terrorism. There's a lot in the segment to discuss, but I found the following very interesting in regard to the question of whether U.S. involvement in Iraq is helping their work, aiding the promotion of democracy, or bolstering our security in any way. It's not encouraging:

The London bombings changed him. He began asking questions of his handlers, theological questions. He wanted to know whether the bombings could ever be justified in Islam. He waited and waited for answers. Months later, he was summoned by his handlers to a meeting in the Middle East. But he wasn’t given answers, only new orders.

"They were trying to force me into Iraq to fight basically," Butt says.

"So, to summarize, you're asking, basically, why should we be killing innocent people?" Simon asks.

"That's correct," Butt replies.

"And the answer you eventually received is go to Iraq and perhaps carry out a suicide mission?" Simon asks.

"Go to Iraq to basically – the actual word that they used was that I needed 'reprogramming.' And Iraq would give me the opportunity to basically be reprogrammed for what I needed I mean. I was quite shocked at the analogy," Butt says. "To think that will, firstly, I'm neither a computer nor a robot. And I don't know on your say so, I do on God's say so. And if you can't justify to me or prove to me that this is what God wants, then I'm gonna have to go my separate ways."

Despite Bob Simon's suggestion, I find it unlikely that al Qaeda would send one of their top fundraisers, a person in whom they'd already invested considerable training and resources, to Iraq just to kill himself, though I suppose that is possible. More likely, they wanted him to go to Iraq to experience their jihad up close, to get his head straight and recommit himself to the struggle, and his particular role in it, as a result of linking up and forming relationships with comrades in arms. In other words, Iraq has become like a Boy Scout Jamboree, except instead of vague Christianity and Pinewood Derby, it's militant Islamism and IEDs. Come to Iraq, get fired up, go back home to carry on the fight.

To point out the staggeringly obvious, this represents (yet)a(nother) significant failure in the Iraq strategy. Flypaper Theory held that the war in Iraq would serve as a shiny object to distract terrorists intending to attack inside America: They would go to Iraq, and they would never leave. Instead, Iraq has become a terrorist training camp and proving ground, an anvil upon which new militant jihadis are being forged every day. The reverberations of this, as with the similarly galvanizing events which took place in Afghanistan in the 1980s, will be felt for decades, as these highly motivated and trained activists return to their home countries, in the Middle East and beyond.