"Before the state was able to stand on its feet and complete its control of the entire country, you started to operate externally ... targeting the head of the snake. You were moved [by young jihadists who were] eager, ready for sacrifice. ... Then came [the 2000 attack on the USS] Cole, and then 9/11, which ended the Taliban (the Islamic Emirate) on which many hopes... rested."
The Palestinian Cause
One of the captured documents bristled at criticism of al-Qaeda for not truly caring about the Palestinians. "Several ill-informed scholars and state men [said] the mujahedeen are not interested in the Palestinian cause, and the blockade of our brothers in Gaza -- rather that their concern is to fight, corrupt and argue with the security men and not with the usurper Jews," the document said.
Dismissing this criticism as "driven by jealousy," the document reaffirmed that a key argument for the jihadist cause was that ...
"There were one and half million Muslims [in Gaza] under siege, and most of them were women and children. They have more than 10,000 prisoners with the Jews, many of whom are sisters and children in tragic circumstances. ...
"This [criticism] is contrary to our reality and our general policy, as it weakens our stance when we say that we are an international organization fighting for the liberation of Palestine and all of the Muslim countries to erect an Islamic caliphate that would rule according to the Shari'ah of Allah."
But al-Qaeda's strategy also remains focused on weakening American "hegemony" in the Middle East, according to the Abbottabad documents. As one document explained...
"The plague that exists in the nations of Muslims has two causes: The first is the presence of American hegemony and the second is the presence of rulers that have abandoned Islamic law and who identify with the hegemony, serving its interests in exchange for securing their own interests. ...
"The way to remove this hegemony is to continue our direct attrition against the American enemy until it is broken and is too weak to interfere in the matters of the Islamic world. ... The focus must be on actions that contribute to the intent of bleeding the American enemy. As for actions that do not contribute to the intent of bleeding the great enemy, many of them dilute our efforts and take from our energy."
Though many of the commentaries are rambling and littered with petty bickering, the over-riding messages are that the United States must remain the organization's top target and that Israeli mistreatment of the Palestinians must remain a key propaganda theme, illustrating what Muslims widely view as a stark example of Western hypocrisy).
However, American officials and the U.S. press continue to tiptoe around the second point, apparently to avoid being accused of criticizing Israel. Neocons are especially quick to denounce anyone who cites the plight of the Palestinians as motivation for Islamic terrorism.
As former CIA analyst Ray McGovern has noted, the U.S. news media behaves as if it has an allergic reaction to any linkage between Palestine and al-Qaeda terrorism. In an article after an al-Qaeda operative tried to blow up a plane over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, McGovern observed that 89-year-old Helen Thomas was the only reporter who pressed the question of motive. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Not Explaining the Why of Terrorism."
At a press briefing about the attack by a young, well-to-do Nigerian named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, Thomas asked White House counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan, "And what is the motivation? We never hear what you find out on why." ...
Brennan: "Al-Qaeda is an organization that is dedicated to murder and wanton slaughter of innocents. ... They attract individuals like Mr. Abdulmutallab and use them for these types of attacks. He was motivated by a sense of religious sort of drive. Unfortunately, al-Qaeda has perverted Islam, and has corrupted the concept of Islam, so that he's (sic) able to attract these individuals. But al-Qaeda has the agenda of destruction and death."
Thomas: "And you're saying it's because of religion?"
Brennan: "I'm saying it's because of an al-Qaeda organization that used the banner of religion in a very perverse and corrupt way."
Brennan: "I think this is a -- long issue, but al-Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland."
Thomas: "But you haven't explained why."