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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  • Herbie


    Having Mrs Obomber pronounce Argo winner, is quite a cute trick. It’s called irony.

    There’s a long history of people sneaking stuff past the gatekeepers. Argo is but one such example.

    I suppose this may be easier now that so many people seem totally illterate when it comes to art.

  • Mary

    Herbie I agree about the irony. It would be lost on most Americans however. Most could not place Iran on a map according to an American writer friend.

  • Jemand

    @Herbie, 12:19pm

    Some good observations, tho’ I wouldn’t count on the US transforming itself anytime soon. I don’t expect their exclusionist system of government, restrictive voter registration and discouraging method of voting to change, absent of civil unrest. And when civil unrest looms, out come the National Guard. I think Chomsky described the US as a two faction, one party state. Given the fact that there are so many multi-millionaire congressmen and senators AND a very wealthy black president, it seems almost like there’s a conspiracy to run a military-industrial junta – a fascist state by any other name would smell as bad.

    Re Argo – my daughter, only an hour ago, told me she watched it today. How’s that for a coincidence? She enjoyed it as a movie, not as a faithful historical docu-drama.

  • Uzbek in the UK

    What is more important is that most Americans do not care about anything else but their jobs and mortgages and being able to drive everywhere even to the supermarket. As do not most Europeans. Foreign policy in most of the cases is game for elites.

  • Jemand

    @Uzbek In The UK

    Being properly informed of world events and issues requires an active, not passive attitude. Americans are denied access to information in the MSM and therefore need to be active in sifting through the bullshit and propaganda that litters the ocean of media that presents itself as “news and information”. Educated people are active seekers of quality information, the uneducated are fed propaganda. But the educated are also members, or aspiring members, of the ruling class which has strict codes of conduct that threaten to evict them if they don’t abide by the rules. People care, but they are held hostage by circumstances.

  • Uzbek in the UK


    In general terms the theory that you outlined that it is easier to feed propaganda to uneducated people and therefore control their behaviour is true. But in certain cases it does not stand up to criticism.

    US citizens unlike many of its American neighbours in the south have comparatively good standard of secondary education and have access to the information. I have read some stats that there are more internet users in US than in the rest of American continent. So concerns with issues and with foreign policy in particular do not fall solely into educated/uneducated field. Concerns come with interests and interests come with bother. Thus apathy of Americans with foreign policy issues and with lives of UNamerican people can (to some extend) be explained with their other concerns and with trust in their democratic institutions. Most of Americans trust foreign policy to their government and they are certain that modernising role that US plays in troubled countries is a positive thing. After all government of land of freedom and opportunity could not be wrong when prescribing their modernising medicine to countries like Iraq or Afghanistan. One which was ruled by tyranny and another in almost permanent state of chaos. Go figure.

  • Jemand

    Uzbek In The UK

    Uneducated people might have access to information but that doesn’t mean that they have the knowledge to recognise it’s significance and make sense of it. That’s what makes them uneducated. I can’t imagine too many uneducated, low income Americans spending what little free time they have reading Craig’s blog and similar websites when there is a glut of infotainment and porn websites competing for their attention. The US is awash with information and a whole bunch of establishment commentators ready and available to steer them in the ‘right’ direction. Being poor, depressed and tired is not “apathy”. It’s an unhappy reality of being a member of the bottom 50%.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!)

    Well, I followed Mary’s advice and didn’t watch last night’s Newsnight….and from what I’ve heard from others I’m glad I didn’t. And I agree that a rehabilitation process is underway. Bliar for President of the EU provided that the UK stays in.

    Re. Gus O’Donnell on an efficient bureaucracy – well, perhaps he was just saying it, but of he believed it then the lack of imagination and historical perspective shown by Britain’s former top civil servant is worrying : an efficient bureaucracy is the pre-requisite for a well-functioning state (this is where the direct link is)but that state could be a mature democracy or a vicious dictatorship or anything in between.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!)

    @ Jemand (16h56) : agree! What follows is not cant but Kant :

    “Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s own understanding wuthout the guidance of another. This immaturity is self-incurred if its cause is not lack of understanding, but lack of resolution and courage to use it without the guidance of another. The motto of enlightenment is therefore : Sapere aude! {Dare to be wise! }. Have courage to use your own understanding!

  • adriana

    Mary, re your link to the Chaser, prior to an Australian election they did similar pieces in Australia. With each a stupid answer, the clip was stopped and a big label was slapped across the interviewee’s face ‘This person VOTES’.

  • Fred

    “I discovered a SHOCKING FACT the other day – 50% of people have an IQ less than 100!!”

    That means that half the population are below average intelligence.

  • Jemand

    “That means that half the population are below average intelligence.”

    No, it means half the population are below the median value that is arbitrarily set at 100. It’s not quite the same thing. But you already knew that, being well above the median yourself.

  • Jemand

    I was, of course, being ironic. But more importantly, and more relevant to what I was saying above, is that you can eliminate around half the respondents of a survey aimed at gauging intelligence, and present the remainder as being incredibly stupid to hilarious effect, as Mary ably demonstrated with her link.

    Unfortunately, many of these sub-100s are exploited for commercial and nefarious political purposes and this factors into another comment I posted on this thread. With one madman, one hundred henchmen, one thousand thugs and a million followers, you can take over a country. Just wait and see history repeat itself.

  • Fred

    “I was, of course, being ironic. But more importantly, and more relevant to what I was saying above, is that you can eliminate around half the respondents of a survey aimed at gauging intelligence, and present the remainder as being incredibly stupid to hilarious effect, as Mary ably demonstrated with her link.”

    I think in any survey you have to reckon it is the opinion of people too stupid to avoid people with clip boards in shopping centres.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!)

    @ Fred :

    I’m rather surprised to hear you disparage, a contrario, people who reply to people with clipboards making opinion surveys as you are a very prolific commenter here on this board and obviously delight in making people aware of your opinions, be they never so wrong-headed and crass.

    (Feel free to lash out with a few “fucks” and “shits” if it would help)

  • guano

    “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?”

    Many people negotiate their way round cities full of fast-moving vehicles without being overwhelmed by the danger of being mown down. That is because there are designated areas of safety for pedestrians. This is the same as reading the Qur’an. Allah has created a system of nurture both outside our bodies and within them. He has launched planet earth within range of the warmth of the sun and set its course so that even the broke among us like myself can survive the worst extremes of winter with our boilers broken, and with cool nights to balance the roasting days of hot countries.

    He ahs placed in our human capacities the five senses and hearts capable of sophisticated logical assessments that we call intuition, passions that inspire us to empathise with other human beings, and joy in our relationships with other human beings. He has given us a piece of hard-drive that can comprehend His different omniscient, omnipotent nature to our own.

    In the context of those blessings punishments are only prescribed to those who reject or deny even their own selves and the rahm/ mercy of our own existence. When did you last stop to think about breathing? When did you thank God for allowing you to regulate your own bladder without concentrating it full-time? Punishments are prescribed also for those who do injustice to others, such as one country like ours showering another with warfare while maintaining every system of order at home. You cannot put Blair in prison, but he is on the conveyor belt to Hell. Are you not grateful that there is a moderator over us? Have you short-changed your own soul by rejecting the moderator when He has only placed us here for a very short time, solely to be put on trial?

    If you have an objection to the religious authorities, find the evidence against them and speak! You are free to disobey them if they are not serving God in the correct way while they are serving the people as rulers. If they are wrong, in Islam you have a right to question the rulers. I condemn the Saudis for using politics and cash to maintain a false superiority over the rest of the Muslims, for instance by inciting war in other Muslim countries which they do all the time. I speak against the Muslim Brotherhood which makes an alliance with the enemies of Islam and spies on its own people to bring false witness against them. I condemn Sufi and Shi’a and Christian and Sikh for direct violation of the guidance of the Qur’an.

    It is a very poor excuse to find fault with human beings as a justification for not believing in and worshipping your Creator. Since when were you ordained to be so perfect that you are better than your forefather Adam, who was tempted by the fruit of the tree in Jannat? You were given a heart to fight for justice and to have patience with those who oppose that fight.
    Vested interests of the greedy will never leave the people of justice alone. The world is being challenged by a very hungry megalomaniac collaboration of neo-colonial greed, so-called Salafi religious power and Zionist denial of the truth of the Qur’an.

    If you fight that menace of the New World Order, which comprises these three megalomanias combined, Allah will send angels to assist you, inshallah. Look at the Syrians with children in tents, waiting patiently for the USUKIS Saudi funded savages to leave their homes, when everybody knows that the US and Russia are funding Assad to bomb his people, so that the US can put their puppet Muslim Brotherhood in power in Damascus. Look at the patience of these people. When the US tries to put a Syrian Morsi in power, they will never accept him/her because they know that real Islam is not a colonialist version of Islam. Please don’t give up on God because of the deviance of humans.

  • Jemand - God Loves You


    Thank you for your comment. Nicely written, but I disagree. I think you might have even helped me prove some points, but that depends on the reader. 

    I should explain that while I profess to be an atheist, I am in fact deeply committed to God. But my God is not the same God as described in the holy scriptures of the Torah, Bible and Quran. My God is the Universe and my religion is Science. The holy priests of my religion are not all pure of heart. Some do the work of evil and give us false prophecies – “Satanic Verses” you could say. Climate change deniers have been accused of being false prophets but my religion forbids us from killing them. Instead, false prophets are peer reviewed and excoriated, then ridiculed on late-night TV.

    So I regret that our repective faiths will find little common ground. Especially when your faith clearly states that my people must be proselytised or killed in the event of our refusal to submit.

    But I can see from your words that you are a good person, a faithful Muslim and a worthy soldier for your cause. The UK will, quite possibly in your lifetime if you are a young man, join the Muslim world, but not without bloodshed. The process of finding God, or of being sternly taught his message is often fraught with conflict, both internal and external. 

    I wish you safety and peace in your journey.


  • Uzbek in the UK


    When one has access to the information and was educated well (comparatively) one’s ignorance with the foreign affairs should not be treated as excuse of being in the bottom 50%. Compare the worst school in US and the best public (state) school in Uzbekistan and you will get what I am talking about. But at the same time most Uzbeks can name you neighbouring states, their presidents and many could even tell you something about states far away and even speak their language (English for instance). I bid most of Americans could not name even one state that borders Mexico or Canada (including those who live in these states) or tell you names of Mexican President or Canadian Prime Minister.

  • Jemand - Praise the Lord


    You do realise that half the population has an IQ below 100, don’t you? Some people don’t want to face the reality that people are born unequal. In my experience, that makes them incapable of thinking too far beyond the most mundane of issues. It’s not arrogant to be aware that you’re smarter than half the population and to then get frustrated when they cannot understand what you talk about.

    But why should they care about national borders and international affairs anyway? They’re not running the country and barely even managing to run a household sometimes. They probably don’t even vote. How does that pay the rent or feed their kids? Many of these people are destined to flip hamburgers and mop up vomit in toilets for the rest of their lives. 

    The problem here is that Europeans think that Americans are noticably more stupid than anyone else. That’s a pretty bold notion. With more than 300 million people, how can anyone get a valid impression from limited personal experience? When you read the stats, you see winners and losers everywhere and Americans are no different. We should be reserving our irritation for those in power who, despite having been born into a life of privilege and immense wealth, are all too obviously stupid. People like George W. Bush and Dan Quayle spring to mind.

    I should also point out that, for a bunch of retards, Americans are significantly over-represented in Nobel prizes, scientific discoveries, inventions, aerospace, military might.. I’d go on but I think you get the picture. If anyone had said the same of Africans, there would be justifiable howls of protest and a few accusations of racism. Vilifying ordinary Americans as dumb is, however, acceptable for some reason.

  • Uzbek in the UK


    IQ test result is not reflection of intellectual perfection. Is more a reflection of certain skills such as ability to resolve certain logical tasks. It happens that in some cases people who have high IQ results are not perfect thinkers or bright minds at all. It could be a cleaner or, as you put it, vomit mopper.

    Now, as I understand you are trying to link American ignorance with foreign policy issues to their poor education and them being in lower 50%. I am not claiming that everyone must know geography or politics but person with general education (8-11 years at school) should be able to name at least bordering countries or be concerned with global events (at least those where his government and military are involved). I bid that if Uzbekistan was at war with Iraq or Afghanistan or was making claims that Iran is national security threat to Uzbekistan most of Uzbeks would be concerned with what sort of countries are these and where they are located. Even when US/UK started war in Iraq a lot of Uzbeks were concerned with this. You could hear a lot of opinions from different people, taxi drivers, market traders and so on – people far from the establishment. And this is because people were concerned and were bothered.

    You are right to claim that US produced more Nobel Prize winners than all other nations put together and this itself supports my argument that generally Americans are well educated and those who want can develop their knowledge beyond average and even beyond that. And that ignorance or majority comes with their no bother with non-Americans and their preference with more vital (for them) issues such as jobs, mortgages and having cheap gas to be able to drive to the nearest supermarket or drop their kids to a school. Is this a racist thing? I do not know. But this is certainly something to do with the Anglo-Saxon mentality that Americans inherited and further developed.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!)

    @ Fred :

    any comment from you on your own use of a blogging/commenting technique which you have criticised others for using (see above comments)?


    La vita è bella, life is good! (and easy if youy’re inconsistent)

  • Jemand - The Power of Prayer

    Uzbek et al.

    A problem that I have observed here and elsewhere is the conflation of description and advocacy. When you submit a comment that describes a terrible situation, there is often an arrogant expectation and sometimes an obnoxious demand that you explain your personal feelings or political sentiments regarding that which you describe. The demands aren’t always a blunt interrogation, they can be sarcastic or derogatory remarks about your motives for commenting that hint for a reply.

    Some posters will frequently include a declaration of approval or, more usually disapproval, in their comments with an emotional adjective to make clear to readers how they feel. I have done this myself despite an effort to avoid doing so – preferring to focus on analysis. But for regular commentators, it can be about alliances, enmity and the politics that abounds thereof. Some will even slight you for your suspected leanings. It’s a very primitive demonstration of human nature.

    Related to this problem is another one that conflates description with personal preference or wishful thinking. Sometimes, when we discuss topical issues, we mangle what we believe to be true with what we wish to be true. As a result, we tend to overuse use the word “should” to indicate a preferred outcome instead of an expected outcome. Expressing personal preferences is quite different to exploring what is and isn’t true.

    In relation to the subject of general knowledge amongst individual, ordinary Americans, it might be reasonably desired by you and me that they all inform themselves of the truth and participate in healthy social and political activities. However, it is not reasonable of either of us to demand or expect them to do so. Life is complex and we all have our reasons, good and bad, for doing and not doing what we do. I am not advocating for American ignorance. I was describing, somewhat sympathetically, the probable causes for it among those are demonstrably ignorant. You have declared that those causes are “no excuse” as if we have any say in the matter. Unless we know any Americans who might be responsive to our influence, then I suggest that we do not have any say. We are both outsiders looking in and all we can do is sit back and observe, share notes and propose solutions as intellectual exercises.

    I think the following link explains the subject of my comment in further detail –

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