The Starbucks View of Al-Qaida 152

The United States has set up its first Sahelian drone base, in Niger, in order to carry on the war against “Al-Qaedah in the Islamic Maghreb”. The problem is that there is no such thing as “Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb”. The US seems to confuse Al-Qaeda with Starbucks. Al-Qaeda does not have branches everywhere, a highly organised supply chain, and transfer pricing.

It is true that long standing ethnic militias in the Maghreb have adopted the styles and terminology of radical Islam, and have tenuous and occasional links with other radical islamic leaderships. But their income and supplies come from unrelated activities – chiefly extortion and smuggling – which have been going on since before al-Qaeda existed. These groups are disparate. There is no connection between the group which took western oil workers hostage in Algeria, and the Tuareg based militias who contolled Timbuktu. Indeed the Mali islamists had a close and cooperative relationship with the Algerian security services, and in their desert wanderings before the disintegration of central authority in Mali, were frequently refuelled and resupplied inside Algeria from government depots.

As usual in Africa, the base of these problems is poverty and competition for scarce resources between competing groups, all complicated by the legacy of colonialism. Hatred of the United States has not been a strong motivator in the Maghreb. But now the United States is about to introduce the concept of weekly drone kills and collateral murders, it will be. The USA is going to create the kind of anti-American unity which does not exist at present, and yet it claims to be fighting. Which will, of course, please the politicians’ paymasters in the arms and security industries just fine.

152 thoughts on “The Starbucks View of Al-Qaida

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  • English Knight

    Enough sayanim yiddery for today, there is even one dershowitz who says the Americans have no base in Iraq?!!

  • CE


    Iraq is sovereign nation in control of its own airspace. If you wished to make the point that Iraq may currently lack the means to effectively enforce the control of its airspace, I would probably concede that.

    But to say the US controls Iraqi airspace is both naïve and plain wrong. For a start the Yanks have been none too happy about Iran supplying the Syrian government with arms, through Iraqi airspace, allegedly.

  • Fred

    “Iraq is sovereign nation in control of its own airspace. If you wished to make the point that Iraq may currently lack the means to effectively enforce the control of its airspace, I would probably concede that.

    But to say the US controls Iraqi airspace is both naïve and plain wrong. For a start the Yanks have been none too happy about Iran supplying the Syrian government with arms, through Iraqi airspace, allegedly.”

    Not much either of them can do about it just as there’s not much they can do about Turkey bombing the Kurds.

    But fact is America has two carriers in the Gulf and the Iraqi government doesn’t have a fighter to put in the air so America effectively controls Iraqi air space.

  • CE


    Iran has a whole fleet of planes right next to Iraq. Does this mean they are also effectively in control of Iraqi airspace?

  • Villager

    “He who joyfully marches to music rank and file has already earned my contempt. He as been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.”
    –Albert Einstein

  • Jemand

    CE, 26 Feb 8:12pm – “Deary me Mary, not that I favour either brand of mumbo-jumbo, but on what Planet does asking a question about the safety of Christians in Kenya become ‘anti-Islamist’? I think that’s the sound of the barrel being scraped.”
    . . . . .

    Some meanings given to “Islamist” –

    Is it possible for an atheist to be indifferent to or supportive of a religion where, in many sympathetic interpretations of its holy scriptures, it appears to incite violence against him? Would it seem unreasonable to be “anti-” that religion in the same way one might be against anything that makes clear its hostile predisposition towards you? 

    Some discussion on the subject of violence against non-believers et al. –

    Abrogation replaces peace with violence –

    As an atheist, I reject all religions. But that does not motivate me to advocate hostility and violence against followers. Indeed, I embrace them.

    I remember talking to a friend, an ex-pat Englishman, who was married to an Indonesian lass. Both our wives were Muslims but, unlike me, he converted to Islam. We used to discuss the issues of the day and I asked him about Salman Rushdie and the fatwa that was issued against him for his penning of the book, “The Satanic Verses”. My friend expressed enthusiastic support for the fatwa which called for Rushdie’s execution. I asked him if he had read the offending book and he admitted, without any embarrassment, that he had not (making two of us) and that it made no difference anyway. He was quite adamant that executing Rushdie would be appropriate. Interesting to note who advocated murderous violence as a solution in that matter, wouldn’t everyone agree? But maybe he was in the tiny, tiny, tiny minority of Muslims who did.

  • Cryptonym

    Perhaps it is the other way around Jemand: rather than the religious being violent, it is the intrisically violent who – hoping to moderate their anti-social murderous tendencies – are the more stridently religious. The urge to ‘belong’ essentially signifying the weak and suggestible sub-human monsters amongst us. I’ve not worked this fully out, but anecdotal evidence of a priest/minister/archbish/rabbi etc. giving someone a kicking would support this. Ultra-religious Israeli settlers routinely clubbing elderly Bedouin Palestinians to death is final proof. The others in ‘Do unto others…’, is of course only applied to their co-religionists, thus providing a large group of un-others who in this commonly found religious rationale are fair game as an outlet for barely suppressed malignant urges.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!)

    Completely O/T but never mind!

    Chris Jansen of Centrica (aka British Gas), speaking on the back of an 11% rise in profits, is reported as saying “Prices might be going up but bills don’t need to if we control our energy use”.

    Translation : get colder.

    Footnote – in Belgium, energy prices were frozen by the government for the last 9 months of 2012 and the country’s main supplier Electrabel has announced price reductions of anything up to €400 on average fuel bills for this year.


    La vita è bella! (et fredda)

  • Fred

    “Iran has a whole fleet of planes right next to Iraq. Does this mean they are also effectively in control of Iraqi airspace?”

    You said yourself their planes keep getting to Syria.

    But they don’t have the 104 acre “embassy” in Baghdad as well.

  • Mary

    Laughing in our faces, again.

    1. Centrica says profits from British Gas’ residential energy supply rose 11% to £606m last year

    Sam Laidlaw CEO and the other Centrica directors, will take home massive bonuses, paid beyond Osborne’s April 1st tax giveaway of course, in addition to their vast salaries. The shareholders will be given a share of £500m from a share buyback.

    2. The BBC’s rehabilitation of Bliar continues, and I assume he is being paid to participate, in a Radio 4 programme next Tuesday when he speaks with Gus O’Donnell.
    Note Jonathan Evans too. It was trailed on Radio 4 primetime this morning.

    In Defence Of Bureaucracy

    In the first of a two-part series, the former Cabinet Secretary Lord Gus O’Donnell makes a provocative and passionate plea in defence of bureaucracy, in which he argues that an efficient bureaucracy isn’t just a symptom of a mature democracy – it’s a fundamental prerequisite.

    At a time when the relationship between government ministers and bureaucrats in the Civil Service has been characterized as ‘Whitehall at War’, Lord O’Donnell talks to, among others, former Deputy Prime Minister Michael Heseltine, the head of M15 Jonathan Evans and Sir Antony Jay, one of the co-authors of the iconic comedy series Yes, Prime Minister.

    Presenter/Lord Gus O’Donnell, Producer/Will Yates for Juniper Productions
    Ep 1/2

    Tuesday 5 March 9.00-9.30am


    I see that Juniper produce the daily swill of Andrew Neil’s daily, inc Sundays, output.

  • Mary

    This is an excellent move to have Alastair Campbell removed as ‘celebrity ambassador’ of MIND, the mental health charity. Its president is Stephen Fry and the trustees are listed here. to remove Alastair Campbell as Mind ambassador

    I work in mental health and it has long irked me that the major mental health charities line up to fete Alastair Campbell. He is a Mind “ambassador” and their former “Champion of the Year”; Vice Patron of Sane; a “supporter” of Rethink; and an ambassador (again) for Time to Change, a joint Mind/Rethink campaign (see links below).

    The irony of mental health organisations having as a figurehead someone deeply complicit in shattering the mental health of generations of Iraqis seems bleak. I recently made a formal complaint to Mind and their response is below, along with an appeal I have just submitted.

    If anyone felt like taking this up also, some key contacts are:

    Chief Executive [email protected]
    Chair of Trustees Ryan Campbell – [email protected]

    Chief Exec Marjorie Wallace – [email protected]
    PA to Marjorie Wallace – [email protected]

    Online complaints form:

    As ‘Rippon’ says

    At last! – someone other than Blair being put under the spotlight. Blair was just one of the many in that war-criminal cabinet.

    Simple logic dictates that Jack Straw, Alistair Campbell and many others should also be hounded as much as Blair.

  • Jemand

    @Cryptonym, 8:18am. 

    “Perhaps it is the other way around Jemand ..”

    Yes, you are probably right. I’ve got it all upside down. Here I was, quite wrongly as you explained, thinking that an idea developed by an intelligent philosopher was being used to inspire a gullible minority, managed by an even smaller violent group, to coerce a peaceful majority into political, social and intellectual subjugation. That, of course, could never happen without everyone seeing what’s going on and stopping it before tens of millions of people were to die. Unthinkable.

    And my friend, the outwardly peace-loving, anti-war leftie who used to rail against human rights abuses, was probably just a violent man on the inside looking for an outlet for his internal rage and aggression. He had no clue as to the peace and love that his faith actually teaches. Must have had one of those cheap, poorly translated copies of the Quran I heard were in wide circulation. I tell you what – all this learning stuff is dangerously misleading.


    Islamic Friendship Society –

    Former Scientologist speaks out –

  • Uzbek in the UK

    Looking at the whole anti-Iran and anti-Syrian polemic in a bigger picture contest it is obvious that we are witnessing beginning of the end of unilateral world. US power is waning and new world order is coming to the existence. This is going to lead to the cardinal change in international system in all its aspects. The after WWII order that was tailored to suit unilateral US led order is no longer seem to be adequate.

  • Herbie


    Thank’s for that further info:

    which exposes again quite clearly that western politicians are little more than actors playing to a script written by corporate interests. This game is only possible so long as mainstream media remains dominant, hence the increasing attacks on whistleblowers and those who can master the new forms of communication.

    The key, as ever, is media and communication and whilst it’s important to continually expose the lies in western media more generally, nothing much will change until Americans wake up and reclaim their democracy, in both its representative and discursive forms.

    Anyway, just seen that oscar winning film, Argo. I’d read a lot about it, mostly criticism of its errors etc. and was expecting the usual jingoistic garbage. I was wondering what Clooney, Affleck and Arkin etc were up to – had they “sold out”. No. The film is overwhelmingly low key and passive, in form, and that’s the most important thing about it. It’s kind of boring and mundane, and not at all exiting. That it should win, over Bigelow’s war mongering torture porn effort is worthy of note. I’d imagine many old and young American teenagers will be wondering what the hell is going on.

  • Herbie

    Thanks for the confirmation, Dreoilin

    I’d read so much that was negative about it from people with whom I’d normally agree, but I think they’ve just missed the point.

    It would have been nice to see Cloud Atlas up there too, but it seems to have had major problems at the distribution end of things.

  • Mary

    Fancy paying money to see it! Don’t. Please.

    Argo‘s Oscar Win: Hollywood’s “Coming Out”
    Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich / February 26th, 2013

    The most telling thing was Mrs Obomber announcing the winner.

  • Mary

    I could not bear to watch it. This is a review by one of the participants in last night’s BBC2 programme Iraq: 10 Years On.

    The Cutting Edge
    Nafeez Ahmed – Bestselling Author, International Security Scholar, Investigative Journalist on the Deep Politics of the “War on Terror” in the context of the Crisis of Civilization

    February 26, 2013
    Seven Myths About the Iraq War: How BBC Newsnight failed journalism on the 10 year anniversary of the invasion

  • Herbie


    Juan Cole’s analysis is of history, not art. Argo is itself critical of US films of this type. That’s the point, really. It isn’t an examination of history, or identity. It’s primarily an examination of film.

    It is interesting though that so many people don’t seem to appreciate the difference.

    Despite what its creators have said about it in media, this is definitely one of those which has been snuck in under the radar, and I think in time that will become better understood.

  • Arbed

    Herbie, 12.19pm

    “which exposes again quite clearly that western politicians are little more than actors playing to a script…”

    And prosecutors. And judges. From a report of Bradley Manning’s latest pre-trial hearing (in which the judge decided his trial had actually begun 910 days ago…):

    Morrow [US govt prosecutor] went over some of the portions in the statement that the government specifically objects to being read in court. One of them talks about “staying in contact” with Nathaniel and how Manning thought he was “developing a friendship.” They would talk about not only the publications WikiLeaks was working. He later realized he valued the friendship himself more than Nathaniel. (“Nathaniel Frank,” the name on the account the government has claimed was being used by WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange, though no actual proof of him sending messages to Manning has been presented.)

    The judge asked how this would be prejudicial if he talked about it. Morrow said he couldn’t articulate why.

    First, the US government’s panicked objection to this section being read out by Bradley in the court room, then their refusal to explain why they objected indicates that it severely damages their Grand Jury case against Assange because the username ‘Nathaniel’ indicates that this ‘friendship’ Bradley Manning believed he had with his interlocutor (whoever that was) was entirely a subjective assessment from Bradley’s end of things. Nathaniel Frank, in real life, is a US Army veteran campaigner for Don’t Ask Don’t Tell – it’s therefore not a username that Assange would choose, I think, but rather the kind of username Bradley would assign at his end of the chat window. Names can be overwritten in chat windows (which also – for the conspiracy theory-inclined – means someone other than Bradley could have put that name there, too).

    And the ‘disinterest’ shown by whoever this person Bradley was talking to he called ‘Nathaniel’ indicates much more the way a journalist might engage with an anonymous source. If that becomes apparent from the statement Bradley reads in court on Thursday, or from the as yet undisclosed (and therefore forensically untested) chat logs themselves, the US government’s case of “conspiracy” to commit espionage or of Assange ‘soliciting or encouraging’ Bradley to commit crimes falls apart. They clearly HATE the idea that it might come out that Assange simply treated Manning as a source (and why wouldn’t he if he didn’t know the person he was communicating with from Adam? – Wikileaks deals with anonymous sources).

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