Does Al Qaeda Really Exist? – Revisiting Adam Curtis’s Power of Nightmares

Al Qaeda related news has been the number one media scare story for more than a decade. In the face of much more tangible threats in the past – like the IRA, the Soviet Union and even Nazi Germany – British governments did not encourage the people to behave like hedgehogs.

So why roll up into a ball now in the face of what is a serious but in no way an overwhelming threat to our nation and our freedoms?

The Akh has been revisiting the brilliant documentary series by Adam Curtis, titled “The Power of Nightmares”, from which the most telling clip above is taken from. What that documentary stated was not that there was no threat, but rather the nightmare vision of a uniquely powerful hidden organisation waiting to strike our societies is an illusion, in effect, a way of creating the terror threat.

The question the series tried to answer was why contemporary politicians and other elites, like the media, want you to feel frightened – to behave and feel like a hedgehog trapped on a motorway – when the reality and the scale of the threat is actually very different.

In December 2004, Lord Hoffman, standing in the House of Lords made the following speech:

“The real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these”

This can be found on hansard’s records in paragraphs 94-97

Like Lord Hoffman I am optimistic, I’m sure we will survive not only “al Qaeda” but also the politics of fear.

Of course when the fear goes and people see just how much the threats have been exaggerated then there will be a further loss of trust in politicians and their authority.

Yet there are those who say the Al Qaeda group doesn’t exist at all, that they’re an invention of the Government designed to keep the population frightened, and to ensure that the pliant masses accept higher military spending.

But where’s the evidence to support their claims?

Shortly before his untimely death, former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told the House of Commons that “Al Qaeda” is not really a terrorist group but a database of international mujaheddin and arms smugglers used by the CIA and Saudis to funnel guerrillas, arms, and money into Soviet-occupied Afghanistan.

Terror Expert Jason Burke, author of Al Qaeda, one of the most quoted books on the subject, is also in the video excerpt above (1.08 in) he states;

“The terrorist group al-Qaeda in fact does not exist. It was made up in January of 2001 in order to prosecute Osama bin Laden in his absence. In order to prosecute bin Laden there had to be an organization like the Mafia for which he was a part of. Under the law if such an organization exists then the head of the organization can be prosecuted under the law. So in order to bring the prosecution they made up the organization and called it al-Qaeda. But the organization is fiction. It doesn’t exist. It’s all a huge fraud.”

and then adds;

“The idea which is critical to the FBI¹s prosecution that bin Laden ran a coherent organisation with operatives and cells all around the world of which you could be a member is a myth. There is no Al Qaeda organisation. There is no international network with a leader, with cadres who will unquestioningly obey orders, with tentacles that stretch out to sleeper cells in America, in Africa, in Europe. That idea of a coherent, structured terrorist network with an organised capability simply does not exist.”

Marion E. (Spike) Bowman was serving as the Deputy General Counsel at the FBI and he to said something very similar to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on July 31, 2002:

“…al Qaeda is far less a large organization than a facilitator, sometimes orchestrator, of Islamic militants around the globe. These militants are linked by ideas and goals, not by organizational structure. The intent is establishment of a state, or states ruled by Islamic law and free of western influence. Bin Laden’s contribution to the Islamic jihad is a creature of the modern world. He has spawned a global network of individuals with common, radical ideas, kept alive through modern communications and sustained through forged documents and money laundering activities on a global scale.”

Then serving as the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Ian Blair stated:

“Al Qaeda is not an organization. Al Qaeda is a way of working … but this has the hallmark of that approach. Al Qaeda clearly has the ability to provide training … to provide expertise … and I think that is what has occurred here”

At the very same time, the Neo Conservative ideology spoused by Leo Strauss was spreading their ideas and their myth of America as a revolutionary force that can spread democracy and freedom around the world, but infact were a convenient disguise for a much more ruthless and anti-democratic exploitation of the world.

“We are not hostile to the United States. We are against the system, which makes other nations slaves of the United States, or forces them to mortgage their political and economic freedom. They needed an enemy. So, they first started propaganda against Usamah and Taleban and then this incident happened. You see, the Bush administration approved a budget of 40bn dollars. Where will this huge amount go? It will be provided to the same agencies, which need huge funds and want to exert their importance.”

Osama bin Laden’s interview with Ummat, a Pakistani daily, published in Karachi on September 28, 2001. It was translated into English by the BBC World Monitoring Service and made public on September 29, 2001.

Many of us believe that business and corporate interests shape the world and that all ideas and political ideology are just froth on the surface that disguise the real, hidden forces underneath.

The neoconservatives and the Islamists believe the complete opposite – that ideas can fundamentally change the world. In the neoconservatives’ own words: “Ideas do have consequences.”

I don’t believe either of these positions. I think the reality is far more complex – that ideas do have widespread effects but not in the way those who developed them necessarily intended. They are taken up, used and distorted by many other forces which include business and corporate interests.

There is a synergy, a fit, between the neoconservatives’ particular individualistic version of democracy and the neo-liberal economic policies that suit American business interests, that is at the detriment to the rest of the Muslim world.



Filed under 4GW, Afghanistan, Creating The Terror Threat, Documentary, Foreign Policy, Media Highlight of the Week, Military Industrial Complex, Terrorism

4 responses to “Does Al Qaeda Really Exist? – Revisiting Adam Curtis’s Power of Nightmares

  1. Akh The Angry Academic Activist

    Unlike the mass media, The Akh will always give a right to reply.

    In favour of balanced reporting, The Akh asked terror expert, Jason Burke, who has been quoted in this piece what his thoughts on Al Qaeda are:

    There you go, The Akh is more balanced in his reporting then most mass media ever is.

    Will I read his book?

    I already have.

    You see hindsight is a wonderful thing, if at the time of an event you make a statement, only to be proven otherwise down the line, then you can always change your angle.

    At the time the US, UK and the rest of the coalition of the willing were on a wild goose hunt, against a phantom enemy that only existed in their own minds – but was presented to the rest of the world as a clear and present danger to us all.

    It is this precise politics of fear that has been played out via the media to keep the masses pliant and non questioning.

    Just as Adam Curtis’s documentary stated, they have been and are constantly chasing shadows, in the never ending hunt for Al Qaeda or anyone they can affiliate as such.

  2. Pingback: CIA sent 1500 Al Qaeda fighters from Afghanistan to Libya & why regime change was needed – OIL! |

  3. i only faved hotter than curry to watch islamic opinion in the interests of balance. i have to say i am pleased your articles are clear and reasonable. i was expecting a load of insane islamic shit. so far so good ”the akh” …

  4. Reblogged this on silbershark110neverdie und kommentierte:
    Al C.I.da

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