The Algerian press reports a state of confusion, disbelief and incomprehension following yesterday's claim by the local Iraqi Al-Qaeda franchise that they had executed Ali Balarousi and Azzedin Belkadi, two Algerian diplomats who had been abducted in Baghdad last week. Many Algerians do not understand why diplomats from their country, which although it cooperates with the US to fight terrorism, has been no great supporter of America's actions in Iraq, have been targeted by an Islamist group in Iraq. It is a reasonable question.
Following the abductions, the group's communique claimed that the fact that Algeria had kept its embassy in Iraq open implied support for the American-led invasion and for the current Iraqi regime. When it announced the murder of the two diplomats, it justified the action by saying that Algeria doesn't apply Sharia Law, provides "support for Christians and Jews in Iraq" , and is responsible for the "shedding of Muslim blood" in Algeria, a reference to the bloody struggle between armed Islamist groups and government troops in the 90s.
None of this is even a half-decent attempt at explaining exactly why these people claiming to be Al-Qaeda considered it necessary to murder the two diplomats. The language of the two last sentences of their communique provides a better insight into their motivations however:
"Praise Allah, those who carried out the abductions snatched the Algerians from the hands of the police in the very centre of Baghdad. They succeeded without a single one of them being caught."
These people are boasting. It's that simple. Why do they abduct innocent people, taunt them, humiliate them, parade them around like caged animals? They do it for the jazz. They're glory hunters. Maybe they really do believe that this furthers God's cause, or that this will liberate Iraq, or some other similar nonsense that they have been told by the people who do the thinking for them.
But the tone and style of this little text and other announcements by like-minded Islamist groups are remarkable in that they are identical to that used by hard-left revolutionary movements. Take, for example, this little paragraph:
"This struggle, under conditions of an overwhelming predominance of Imperialist relationships on the world arena, must inevitably lead to explosions, that is, internally to civil wars and externally to revolutionary wars. Therein lies the permanent character of the Islamic revolution as such... The Islamic revolution begins on the national arena, it unfolds on the international arena, and is completed on the world arena."
Who do you think said that? Abu Musab al-Zarqawi perhaps? Or maybe Ali Benhadj, the former number two of the Front du Salut Islamique who was arrested in Algiers yesterday after appearing on Al-Jazeera to "salute the mujahideen of the Resistance in Iraq". No, actually it's an extract from Leon Trotsky's The Permanent Revolution, in which I replaced the word "capitalist" with "Imperialist" and "Socialist" with "Islamic". This form of high-profile violence has no value at all in terms of an ordinary resistance movement, it will simply degenerate the situation further. But it makes sense in the context of a Trotskyite model of exporting and propagating an Islamist revolution.
From the personal point of view of the author of the communique who calls himself Abu Maissar El Iraqi and claims to speak on behalf of the "Department of Information of the Al-Qaeda Organisation in Mesopotamia" (note the self-agrandising use of the nom de guerre "El Iraqi" and the excessively inflated job title), what is there to gain from this? Probably violent death at some point down the line. One could hope that he really does believe that he'll find himself with 72 virgins in the afterlife, because apart from that, there isn't much to look forward to. But this is the wrong way of thinking about the problem, because the people who carry out these actions in the name of God are, paradoxically, nihilists.
Strictly speaking, Nihilism is an extreme rationalist ideology that rejects religion, but these words could come from an Al-Qaeda textbook:
"Be severe to yourself and severe to others. Suppress the sentiments of relationship, friendship, love, and gratitude. Have only one pleasure, one joy, one reward -- the triumph of the revolution. Night and day, have only one thought, the destruction of everything without pity. Be ready to die and ready to kill any one who opposes the triumph of your revolt."
They are in fact taken from Michael Bakunin's Revolutionary Catechism. So these men do not expect to achieve anything in this world, or even to stay alive. All that counts is that they should destroy as many of the institutions and people that oppose their pseudo-religious ideology as possible.
So much for what drives the footsoldiers of this Islamist revolution, but what of the masterminds, the people who orchestrate the violence, or at least encourage it, who recruit those who dirty their hands? They'd probably tell you that they're fighting God's War, come up with some suitable rant about Djihad, but this is nonsense. What they want is temporal and spiritual power over as many people and as many countries as possible. To this end, they have poisoned the minds of the kind of people who are prepared to carry out atrocities in Madrid, on the London Underground, in Baghdad by infiltrating schools, mosques, governments etc, all this despite having no formal organisation. And their strategy is to take advantage of the chaos and horror in Iraq and Afghanistan for example to position themselves as the de facto only credible source of authority and power. They deliberately aggravate the situation and escalate the violence, and through mediatic coups like these latest murders, they present themselves as leaders of the resistance, they claim to speak for all those without a voice. And if they convince enough people that this is the case, it will become the case.
Abu Maissar El Iraqi and his colleagues will have been dead for a long time, as will countless others that they claim to be fighting for, and if all goes according to their plan, these Nihilist religious Trotskyites will enjoy the sort of power that the Council of Guardians in Iran dream of. That's if it all works out according to their plan. The good news is that it won't, because these people are so wound up in theory and dogma that they can't see the reality of the situation which is that the vast majority of Iraqis and Afghans have no interest in this way of doing things and are in fact rather interested in having a decent earthly life. This will go on for years, countless thousands will die, and then it will dwindle and extinguish itself in a puff of hubris. What an unbelievable waste.