Sunday, January 31, 2010

If you think that Obama's open dialogue with House Republicans was remarkable,

check out the dialogue between Leah Farrall, a former a former intelligence analyst for the Australian federal police and current Ph.D. student and blogger on intelligence matters, and Abu Walid al Masri, a legendary jihadist with close ties to the Taliban and at least past intimacy with the top leadership of al Qaeda. 

al Masri's responses to Farrall's questions can be found in the right margin of her blog. Perhaps the most important takeaway is his claim that the Taliban today, to the extent that it regains power, will keep al Qaeda at arm's length (see this post).  Most recently, however, Farrall has posted her responses to al Masri's questions. And this exchange is remarkable too. How often does a westerner engaged in counterterrorism get a chance to respond publicly to the grievances and world view of a skilled mouthpiece of Jihad? (al Masri wrote for Taliban publications when they were in power and writes for their magazine now.) 

al Masri's question-set is a broad indictment of U.S. and western interaction with al Qaeda, the Taliban, Afghanistan, Iraq, and by his constant implication with the Muslim world generally. He asks for Farrall's "personal opinion" regarding a litany of Bush-initiated imprisonment and interrogation practices, some of which have been continued by the Obama Administration -- along with broader charges  that the U.S. and its allies are waging colonial war in Afghanistan and civilizational war against Muslims generally.

Farrall concurs with al Masri's implicit condemnation of torture, rendition to countries that torture, military commissions and other extra-judicial means of treating terrorist suspects-- concessions that highlight the strength of these abuses as jihadist recruiting tools.  But she counters with admirable moral clarity al Masri's whitewash of Taliban crimes and assertions that the U.S. and allies have acted against Muslims generally.

A couple of representative excerpts (with al Masri's questions in italics) below. But read the whole thing.

From the catalog of abuses in the treatment of detainees:
I ask you for your personal opinion –and not official–on the following measures...10. To preserve the future of security in the West they assign security departments in the underdeveloped world to do their dirty work, such as severe torture, which often led to death. They send the detainees there (to complete the investigation with them). They consider that an international assignment, and punish the countries that abstain. And actually you can hardly find many governments who won’t do it because this work is considered work that will allow them to become closer to the west and receive rewards and all kinds of support and benefits. Can this be considered as a noticeable cultural development in Western countries? Or a means to spread its message of Western democracy in the world?

I do not agree with the rendition of detainees to third world countries to be interrogated and tortured. My country to my knowledge has never done this. I think that this practice is a blight on the name of democracy. So in terms of being a noticeable development I can’t say clearly enough that it is a shameful one, which should never be repeated.

To that end I’d like to point out that both candidates in the last US Presidential election were against torture.  One of the very first things Obama did when he came into office was to outlaw torture in an effort to return America to its cores values –which its use of torture completely undermined.

As I mentioned earlier, before he came to office a good number of Americans protested their country’s use of torture because it undermined the core values of the country. And as  I have said earlier my country does not torture people.
Regarding the charges of colonialism in Afghanistan:
And do not say that your armies went there to fight al Qaeda, because you are sure/like us/ that al Qaeda has in Afghanistan only a few people. Also the events of 9/11 had no connection with the Taliban, but on the contrary there were very strict instructions from Mullah Omar to bin Laden not to provoke the United States.

I do not agree with you that events confirm the Afghan people support the Taliban. People are voting. They are not forced to vote. Instead the Taliban tried to intimate them into not voting, going so far as to kill them. But people still voted, even though the system is far from perfect, suffers from corruption and some would say is deeply flawed. They still voted and that vote was a strong statement against the dogmatism of the Taliban....

And yes, al Qaeda in Afghanistan has only a few people in the country now. But it had more before 9/11 and the presence of the organisation in Afghanistan and its actions was why this war started.

And I do agree with you that the organisation is much smaller than is commonly alleged. But this brings me to an important question I want to ask you:  If this was the case why couldn’t (or wouldn’t) Mullah Omar control them, if its numbers were as small as you say? Or even if they were larger? And why didn’t he immediately punish bin Laden after 9/11? Why didn’t he bring him to justice or hand him over to an international court of justice or to America? Why was he allowed to escape justice? If bin Laden did not have that many followers it wouldn’t have been difficult to bring him to justice or hand him over, even forcibly. You have asked me a lot of questions about the issue of justice and how you feel the war on Afghanistan is unjust. So I would like to ask you why bin Laden was not held accountable for killing civilians and bringing war on Afghanistan?
al Masri has posted his responses to Farrall's questions on his blog.  I wonder whether he has or will post Farrall's response to his questions -- and to what extent this exchange will circulate on other Jihadist web sites.

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