March 03, 2004

Vanguard of the Islamoteriat

I noticed something in an article in this morning's Washington Post (the link may require registration -- I'm not entirely sure) that I hadn't noticed when I briefly mentioned the Zarqawi letter a while back. The letter, of course, is an explanation of al Qaeda (or perhaps an independent group aligned with al Qaeda -- that's what the Post story suggests) strategy, tactics and prospects in Iraq. It had been here; here's the google cache of that version; now the full text is here -- a note about that in a moment. The Post story contains this quote from the Zarqawi letter:

As for bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders, Zarqawi said, "We do not see ourselves as fit to challenge you," but instead his group would be "the spearhead, the enabling vanguard and the bridge on which the [Islamic] nation crosses over to the victory that is promised."

I was struck by the language -- compare it to this passage from the introduction of Sayyid Qutb's work Milestones:

But as we have stated before, the beauty of this new system cannot be appreciated unless it takes a concrete form. Hence it is essential that a community arrange its affairs according to it and show it to the world. In order to bring this about, we need to initiate the movement of Islamic revival in some Muslim country. Only such a revivalist movement will eventually attain to the status of world leadership, whether the distance is near or far. How is it possible to start the task of reviving Islam?

It is necessary that there should be a vanguard which sets out with this determination and then keeps walking on the path, marching through the vast ocean of Jahiliyyah which has encompassed the entire world. During its course, it should keep itself somewhat aloof from this all-encompassing Jahiliyyah and should also keep some ties with it. [emphasis added]

Of course, both texts are translations, and it's possible that Zarqawi is using a different word for vanguard than Qutb did, but it's interesting nonetheless. I also find it interesting that vanguards, as a rule, whether they're of the proletariat or of the faithful, invariably represent a minority that tries to impose its will by force, and isn't above slaughtering the very people it claims to represent.

I had missed the vanguard reference when I first linked the Zarqawi letter because that earlier text only contained excerpts, totaling 2,210 words. The complete text is 6,687 words -- more than three times as long -- and the added words don't improve either its political or, for that matter, its literary merits. For example, here's the passage on the Kurds from the excerpts:

Kurds these are a pain and a thorn, and it is not time yet to deal with them. They are last on our list, even though we are trying to get to some of their leaders. God willing.

And here is the passage from the complete text,

These are a lump [in the throat] and a thorn whose time to be clipped has yet to come. They are last on the list, even though we are making efforts to harm some of their symbolic figures, God willing.

It also adds this passage on the Kurds:

In their two Barazani and Talabani halves, these have given the bargain of their hands and the fruit of their hearts to the Americans. They have opened their land to the Jews and become their rear base and a Trojan horse for their plans. They (the Jews) infiltrate through their lands, drape themselves in their banners, and take them as a bridge over which to cross for financial control and economic hegemony, as well as for the espionage base for which they have built a large structure the length and breadth of that land. In general, Islamís voice has died out among them -- the Kurds -- and the glimmer of religion has weakened in their homes. The Iraqi Da`wa has intoxicated them, and the good people among them, few as they are, are oppressed and fear that birds will carry them away.

The lengthier text is notable for several reasons -- the utterly despicable loathing Zarqawi expresses for the Shi'ites and, in a much briefer passage, toward the Sufis, but I found his assessment of the Sunnis most noteworthy, particularly the minority of this minority that Zarqawi believes are the legitimate Muslims:

Jihad here unfortunately [takes the form of] mines planted, rockets launched, and mortars shelling from afar. The Iraqi brothers still prefer safety and returning to the arms of their wives, where nothing frightens them. Sometimes the groups have boasted among themselves that not one of them has been killed or captured. We have told them in our many sessions with them that safety and victory are incompatible, that the tree of triumph and empowerment cannot grow tall and lofty without blood and defiance of death, that the [Islamic] nation cannot live without the aroma of martyrdom and the perfume of fragrant blood spilled on behalf of God, and that people cannot awaken from their stupor unless talk of martyrdom and martyrs fills their days and nights. The matter needs more patience and conviction. [Our] hope in God is great.

To paraphrase Exit Zero, the strategy for success seems to be: A) Get yourself killed; B) ????????? C) Total victory!

Posted by Ideofact at March 3, 2004 09:51 PM

It's a little unnerving, though, to see an echo of the "Tree of Liberty must be watered with the blood of patriots" rhetoric in there...

Posted by: Aziz at March 4, 2004 12:05 PM

Yeah, I thought of that too, although I think that only adds to a point I tried to make earlier: Twisted notions of Jeffersonian Liberalism are to Timothy McVeigh as twisted notions of Islam are to al Qaeda et al...

Posted by: Bill at March 4, 2004 02:49 PM

I encourage those interested in the alleged "Zarqawi letter" to read the posts by Juan Cole and especially the recent one in which he quotes Professor Bernard Haykel about why Professor Haykel believes it is a forgery and is not even consistent with jihadi-salafi ideology for some of the reasons we've discussed here about its language towards the kurds.

Posted by: Abu Noor al-Irlandee at March 5, 2004 04:38 PM

I'm not entirely sure that it is inconsistent with what I've read of jihadi-salafi ideology. I'll see if I can't explain why in some detail later tonight. But on the larger point of the document's authenticity (or lack thereof), a reasonable person could doubt that Zarqawi had written it. At the same time, given what's happened in the past few weeks (attacks on Kurds in the North and now the Karbala attacks on Ashura), it appears that the strategies outlined in the letter are being employed by someone.

Posted by: Bill at March 5, 2004 05:06 PM