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Al Qaeda's Hidden Weaknesses

Any organisation or group whose vision is preposterous, must also failure to comprehend its adversaries and make strategic and tactical blunders of a fatal charcter. It must also at some point become racked with internal deivision. Fifgting  cult means accepting and understanding that it is one. Its successes so far have been entirely due to the blunders of Western governments. The future depend on skillfully nurturing and manipilating its weaknness, and not just trying to smash it over the head with a hammer. 

Al qaeda has three esential weaknesses; internal contradcitions, utopian vision, futile stratagy and tactics.

Internal Contradictions

However powerful cults can be, they are, nevertheless, not invincible. At a certain point, they tend to splinter and/or self-destruct. All cults, including Al Qaeda have two essential weaknesses. They are based on a lie, the contradictions of which eventually become untenable and, then, turn into an internal cancer causing its cells to turn upon one another and destroy themselves. Secondly, the larger they grow and the stronger they appear to become, they simultaneously loose their inner cohesion and become open to internal disputes, schisms and external influence and infiltration.

There is also a tendency that, once one group has denounced the established authority in a certain way, be it a Church or political dogma and/or socio-economic system, then they have also opened the field for other groups to emerge internally or externally, which can also claim that they are, in fact, the real “True Path” and “Only Way.” They then acuse the original group of being charlatans an traitors. This then multiplies and cults disintegrate into thousands of competing mini-cults, each more interested in fighting and denouncing the other, than concentrating on the original enemy or cause.

Secondly, and related to this, there is only room for one « Führer », for one living Guru or “Living God.” By virtue of the fact that its leaders are all sociopathic individuals, at some point, internal frictions must always lead to a split in the core leadership. A bloody reckoning follows leaving one faction victorious. In some instances, even more ferocious groups will emerge from factionalism, each vying with one another and aiming to out do the other(s) in their fanaticism as proof of their credentials as pretenders to the mystical throne. But as with all things they cannot live forever. Cults thrive only so long as the right social, political and economic conditions exist for the bacteria to keep breeding. Once external conditions change and they no longer find a host to feed upon, they must turn inwards and eat themselves alive.

Visionary myopia, utopian blindness.

The simultaneous strength and weakness of all cults is their supra-historical vision. It gives mission, which conveys extraordinary power to their members’ motivation, sacrifice and martyrdom. Yet at the same time, that vision is always a totally erroneous and preposterous view of reality. It usually centers around prophesies of doom, with salvation only for the righteous believers and torturous death and retribution for infidels and heretics. Even when these fairy tales have some tenuous basis in real relations and situations, they remain, at best, only a highly warped and deformed view of the way things really are. Living on the edge of or out of reality is not a sound base for any organization, because ultimately it must crash against the contradictions. It leads to unsound evaluations, incorrect decisions and inevitable strategic and tactical mistakes at some stage. From the point of view of Al Qaeda, the classical example was its participation in the hopeless “utopian nightmare” of Afghan Taliban society and, then its attack of 9/11, which combined temporarily to invite an aggression, which severely curtailed and weakened its command structure and nearly led to its demise. Al Qaeda was only saved partly by chance and partly by ineptitude on the part of Washington and US intelligence.

Al Qaeda's vision of vanquishing the Crusaders and Zionists as the conduit of Allah on Earth is an unattainable fairy story. Apart from some political goals such as the removal of all Western military and economic interests in the Middle East its mission is vague and nebulous. Any apparent gains it may score will largely be due to the ineptitude of the US but its Fatwah against the West in general can never succeed. There is no chance as some of its affiliates in the UK proclaim of changing Britain or the US into countries run in Taliban fashion according to Shira law is just delusion. Even where it gets hold of a state like in Afghanistan or potentially a caliphate in Iraq, the possibility of maintaining a regime on this social and economic basis has been shown to be nothing more than the madness of a cult. And it is because of this that its strategies and tactics also become adventurist fantasies. With such theoretical gangrene it is not possible to run the distance.

Futile Strategy and Tactics The “blurred vision” of Al Qaeda results in a tendency to over-evaluate their own potential power and underestimate that of their enemy’s, and in particular the superhuman fortitude and endurance, with which the members of a threatened society can respond. They were undoubtedly taken aback by the way in which New Yorkers and the American people as a whole rallied and overcame the trauma initially inflicted by the terror of 9/11. Indeed, its was the capacity to bounce back which is more important in defeating terrorism than all of the punitive measures of their governement. In fact, unfortunately, many of the measure often only strengthen and aid the terrorists in renewing their power base and threatening the West with attacks. The invasion of Iraq is a case in point, through which Al Qaeda has not just recovered but doubled or tripled its original strength internationally.

Terror is nothing new, only some of its forms change. It is used by animals for hunting and defence and has been used by humans from their inception. It has become more sophisticated, but no less brutal. It takes the forms of individual against individual, group on group, to that practiced by a state or dictator against his own people, and by one nation against another nation. The mention of the “terrorist” Genghis Khan still evokes some mild angst, whereas, at one time, the very mention of his name it spread outright terror. Even the name of the Vikings today recalls a time of rape and plunder. The Ottomans had the same effect on the populations of East and Central Europe. The same was true for the Crusaders in the Middle East or the Conquistadors in South America. The mere mention of the word “Inquisition” once induced pangs of fear through Christendom. In the old Tsarist Russian empire a graphic example of how such terror can still have its consequences today was given by the Russian Commander of the Caucuses, General Alexi Yermolov, who in 1816 declared that “the terror of my name should guard our frontiers more potently than chains or fortresses.” He pursued a scorched earth policy, especially against the Chechens.

Modern times too is replete with figures using and evoking terror – Hitler, the Nazis, its SS, Gestapo and, of course, the single worst terror ever wrought down on a people, the Holocaust. Stalin, the KGB, the Gulag, and its counterparts in Eastern Europe. Figures abound like Papa Doc, Pol Pot, Pinochet, all renowned for their terrorization of their peoples. In truth, the Al Qaeda cult has yet to equal one minute, micro morsel of the terror experienced and overcome in the West, in its recent history alone.

The regime of the Nazis was like a “super-Taliban,” enforcing their fascist ideology upon internal and external opponents. That, the symbol of the worst terror known - the Holocaust- finally failed to exterminate the Jewish people, bears eternal witness to indestructibility of the human spirit. During the same period, the Russian people, likewise, faced unprecedented terror but ultimately triumphed. During the terror of the siege of Leningrad, which lasted nearly 3 years, the population knew that should they succumb, millions of them would be butchered and raped. The terror was unrelenting and the suffering and sacrifice unbelievable. During the brutal Russian winters without heating or water and no supplies, they were forced to eat rats to survive. Some 800,000 of them died of starvation and cold, but they refused to give in and were finally victorious over the Nazi terror. To imagine the same today, would be like Al Qaeda causing the equivalent of the death of 4 million New Yorkers.

If ultimate terror were about the explosion of unpredictable bombs with unknown damage than the very height of terror would have been that experienced the British and German peoples in the 2nd World War. During the Blitzkrieg, London was bombarded day after day by thousands of terrifying “doodle” bombs, which would whine over the city’s skies and the suddenly fall silent until landing on a street or building which no one could guess. And as soon as they had finished, swarms of German fighter jets would sweep down low along the London streets machine-gunning fleeing pedestrians. In Germany, The eradication of the city of Dresden was something even more awesome and something Al Qaeda could never dream of imitating. In that city, on one night alone, 1,300 British and US aircraft dropped 33,00 bombs on the city, causing a firestorm that lifted ground temperatures to approximately 700 centigrade or 1,800 Fahrenheit. Yet it was rebuilt by the survivors through their determination to go on.The most unspeakably horrendous acts of terror ever, were, of course, the dropping of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which may have caused the surrender of the Japanese Emperor, but psychologically, the people recovered to turn a largely agricultural society into one of the world’s most prosperous, developed nations.

Whole countries or parts of countries do live with and come to endure high levels of terrorist activities for long periods. Northern Ireland is a point in case, as is Sri Lanka. People are simply immensely resilient and adaptable. They don’t just collapse or disintegrate into neurotic jelly. The same holds true for international or “home grown” attacks by Al Qaeda. They will not succeed in terrorizing the population for more than brief periods. Thus, despite the gruesome and spectacular nature of their terror attacks, and even in the case of a biological, chemical or small scale “dirty bomb” or nuclear attack, Al Qaeda and its affiliates still cannot hope to exert the same terror and of a lasting nature than has already been faced and overcome.

The problem with dealing with Al Qaeda and the reason why the Western powers have been so spectacularly unsuccessful and, indeed, counterproductive in their attempts to destroy it, is that they do not understand it for what it is, a cult. Just like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they look for the quick fix by way of the chain-mailed fist. But, generally speaking, cults more often thrive on persecution, than are destroyed by it. Al Qaeda has been flourishing and mutating since the invasion of Iraq.

Like the plague of Egyptian cults that invaded Rome before its collapse, the Empire of the West is becoming riddled with the bacteria of fundamentalism terrorism striking at its roots. Whichever way it turns the West simply invites attack. In reality it has to break with denial and face the truth that its Empire is in irreversible, historical decline. The sun is beginning to set on the West and a new balance of power is emerging, in which its unipolar hegemony will be challenged. It can choose to face the fate of Rome or it conserve its culture for centuries as the Greeks did by forsaking irrelevant, antiquated Imperialist pretensions. It can squander billions of dollars a day on wasted military debacles or it can invest in economic and social stabilization of the Middle East, in regenerating inner city ghettoes and in repairing the world climate and resources. Only with a long term and radical U-turn on policy can it hope to gradually undermine the roots of fundamentalist, Islamic terror cults and help to save, rather than destroy civilization. Only then will these cults loose their power and mystically disappear into thin air, just as « miraculously » as they seemed to evolve into monsters from « nowhere ».

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Stephen J. Morgan is a former member of the British Labour Party Executive Committee, a political writer and accredited Emotional Intelligence Coach. His first book was the "The Mind of a Terrorist Fundamentalist - the Cult of Al Qaeda." He has lived and worked in more than 27 different countries and including crisis situations in Northern Ireland and Yugoslavia. He is a jouranalist and columnist for magazine. He is a political psychologist, researcher into Chaos/Complexity Theory and lives in Brussels (Old Europe) Contact

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