Yes, al Qaeda offers medical benefits and paid vacations. That’s a fact, not a satire — an ironic fact indicative of al Qaeda’s detailed plans for waging a long and vicious war against “the West,” Muslim opponents, Buddhists, Hindus and all other enemies of its heretical version of Islam.
Al Qaeda’s “bylaws” — describing the medical and holiday benefits package — is one of two-dozen recently declassified documents available at West Point’s “Combating Terrorism Center” (www.ctc.usma.edu/aq.asp).
Most of the documents were translated during 2002, which suggests coalition forces acquired them in Afghanistan. I’m certain the Defense Department would not have released the documents if they had any remaining operational utility. Their instructive value, however, is extraordinary. The documents provide detailed — if at times jarring — insight into al Qaeda’s goals, its penchant for meticulous planning, its use of propaganda and its intent to use weapons of mass destruction.
Still, the Defense Department needs to declassify more documents like these. If Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld thinks al Qaeda has an “information warfare” advantage — and he said so last week — one way to erode that advantage is exposing al Qaeda’s vicious ambitions, calculated plans and manipulative intents. These documents do that.
As for the vacation policy, the bylaws specify: “For those who work in Peshawar, they are entitled for Fridays, the two holy feasts and a one month annual leave to be enjoyed at the end of the 11th month of work, as well sick leave not to exceed 15 days annually.” Terrorists “in the frontlines” earn more leave.
If al Qaeda’s mimicry of a multinational corporation draws a deserved snicker, the snicker ends when the bylaws describe the Decision Execution Branch. Its duties include “imprisonment and torture.”
Another document, titled “A Short Report on the Trip from Nairobi,” indicates al Qaeda employs talented, perceptive spies. The report, penned by an al Qaeda operative named Omar al-Sumali, examines Kenya and its border with Somalia. With a diplomat’s finesse, Omar sizes up border tribes for potential recruits. He also spots potential targets, including an Italian communications site in the city of Ngomeni “near the pier, where our boat is … meters away.” Omar scouts the Kenyan vacation island of Lamu and urges his superiors to buy a boat. Kenya is an al Qaeda war zone. Remember that al Qaeda bombed the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi in 1998.
Omar analyzes al Qaeda-led attacks on Belgian and Indian peacekeepers in Somalia:
“On the way to our camp, our brothers heard the engine noise of a Belgium patrol car, stopped the car and shot one of them in the head. The car was surrounded, another was shot in the leg and a third was also shot.” Omar refers to the Indians as “cow worshipers” — a slur directed at Hindus.
Another document, titled “Third Letter to the Africa Corps,” discusses al Qaeda’s interpretation of America’s withdrawal from Somalia. “Africa Corps” refers to al Qaeda cells in Africa.
Translated in June 2002, the letter is actually a collection of letters. One asks, “So how were our amazing Corps and its starving African Muslim allies able to be victorious over the greatest power in the world today?” The answer lies in the power of God, because, “When we are truly fighting in the name and on behalf of God, we have nothing to fear.”
Somalia is judged a “splendid victory” with “profound implications ideologically, politically and psychologically.” Al Qaeda’s writer adds: “The Somali experience confirmed the spurious nature of American power and that it has not recovered from the Vietnam complex. It fears getting bogged down in a real war that would reveal its psychological collapse at the level of personnel and leader.”
His conclusion: “When the enemy abandons the battleground, he must not be allowed to flee. He must be pursued from one position to the next, until rooted out.”
In al Qaeda’s context, the attacks of September 11, 2001, were “pursuit” of its American enemy that fled Somalia.
Austin Bay is a nationally syndicated columnist.