This photograph taken on May 2, 2013 shows Pakistan man, Abdul Razzaq holding the national identity card of his brother Amanatullah Ali, who has been detained for the last nine years in Bagram jail in Afghanistan, in Faisalabad. Guillaume Lavallee/AFP/Getty Images
Abu Zubaydah and the banality of ‘jihadism’
by Terry McDermott, al-Jazeera,December 19, 2013
The world is full of dangerous goofballs, but we can’t treat them all as threats to civilization
The Abu Zubaydah diaries recently made available to the public by Al Jazeera America might seem interesting only to security officials or 9/11 obsessives. To regard them as such would be a mistake, for they contain the most detailed portrait of the interior life of a dedicated jihadi that we have ever seen, and that we might ever see. They also help substantiate what should by now be clear: The U.S. has made significant, basic errors in its response to 9/11 and the threat of radical Islam.
Zubaydah, born in Palestine and raised in middle-class comfort in Saudi Arabia, rose through the 1990s — by what abilities it is not clear — to a position of some stature within radical Islam. He recorded his rise in hundreds of diary entries addressed to his future self. Written over two decades, the diaries track him from an early adulthood spent studying computer programming at a technical college in India through early 2002. Further diaries, written while he has been in U.S. custody, including at Guantánamo, have yet to be revealed.
Zubaydah was captured in the spring of 2002, the first significant Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist to be caught after 9/11. It turned out the link to Al-Qaeda was more tenuous than the U.S. government had imagined. For years, the U.S. government had viewed him as a major figure within the group, at one point even elevating him to the No. 3 position on what turned out to be a fanciful Al-Qaeda organizational chart. (more…)