Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank at the New Republic describe The jihadist revolt against bin Laden. It begins, as most of these stories do, with rich men at a lavish party who sit down after dinner to plot how to take over the world. In this case it begins with a millionaire Libyan Jihadi and Osama Bin Laden in Kandahar. A participant describes the scene in 2000, when most of the West was celebrating the End of History and worrying about the Millenium Bug.
Bin Laden was trying to win over other militant groups to the global jihad he had announced against the United States in 1998. Over the next five days, bin Laden and his top aides, including Ayman Al Zawahiri, met with a dozen or so jihadist leaders. They sat on the floor in a circle with large cushions arrayed around them to discuss the future of their movement. "This was a big strategy meeting," Benotman told one of us late last year, in his first account of the meeting to a reporter. "We talked about everything, where are we going, what are the lessons of the past twenty years."
The story ends in the present, with many in the cast of characters blaming Bin Laden for turning the world -- including the Muslim masses -- against the Jihad The scene shifts from the opulent parties of the warrior princes to the morose Muslim enclaves of East London. But as these stories go, even at the outset there were those at Osama's party who had their doubts.
Benotman recalls, "but they laughed when I told them that America would attack the whole region if they launched another attack against it." Benotman says that bin Laden tried to placate him with a promise: "I have one more operation, and after that I will quit"--an apparent reference to September 11. "I can't call this one back because that would demoralize the whole organization," Benotman remembers bin Laden saying.
Bin Laden might have been right and Benotman wrong if only Osama had been more patient. Timing is everything. They should have waited for the people we've been waiting for. As it is, their retrospective regrets, coming on the heels of their battlefield thrashing after attacking America leaves one question unaswered. Would they have been so contrite if they had not been pursued by all the furies of hell? Victory has many fathers, but defeat is an orphan.
Every warrior prince, even Osama should remember the old stage adage: laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry and you cry alone.
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