Monday, February 10
Powell doesn't know who he is up against
Jason Burke, Sunday The Observer,February 9, 2003
The US focus on al-Qaeda ignores the many hues of Islamic militants - and underplays the danger of men such as al-Zarqawi
For three days we drove across Afghanistan. Overhead American planes laced the wintry sky with vapour trails. Around us the 'Jihad International' was falling apart. In Jalalabad we watched fighters from the Pakistani Harkat ul Mujahideen group captured. In Gardez we saw Taliban soldiers rounded up. The bombers above us were on their way to pound the northern cities where militants from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan were holding out against American and Afghan soldiers.
To understand who they were, and what they were doing in Afghanistan, is to understand why US Secretary of State Colin Powell's rhetoric last week was rooted in a fundamental misconception of the nature of modern Islamic terrorism. Powell linked Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an experienced and committed Jordanian militant, with both Osama bin Laden and Baghdad. To grasp the truth about al-Zarqawi, and thus the truth about contemporary Muslim militancy, a major revision of the conventional wisdom is needed. Powell, like many strategists, seems to think he is fighting a war against a single enemy or an identifiable group. He is not. He is fighting a war against a political religion. [...]