Al Qaeda

Following in line with radical Muslim clerics who thought the United States and the West were the source of all evil was a young Saudi Arabian, Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden formed an organization called al Qaeda to advance the causes of radical Islam, the establishment of an Islamic state through Jihad or “holy war” and the elimination of western presence in all Muslim territories.

The roots of bin Laden’s al Qaeda network stem from the decade-long conflict that plagued Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989. After Afghanistan was invaded by the Soviet Union, the Afghan Islamist extremists found a rallying call for their cause, as young Muslims from around the world came to Afghanistan to volunteer in the Jihad against the invading Soviets. One of these young Muslims was Osama bin Laden, the son of a wealthy Saudi Arabian construction magnate, who used the family fortune to fund the organization’s activities.

Al-Qaeda, meaning “the base” for training jihadists, began as a logistical network to support Muslims fighting against the Soviet Union during the Afghan War. Members were recruited throughout the Islamic world. When the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, the organization dispersed but continued to oppose what its leaders considered corrupt Islamic regimes and foreign (i.e., U.S.) presence in Islamic lands.

Based in Sudan for a period in the early 1990s, the group eventually reestablished its headquarters in Afghanistan under the patronage of the Taliban militia. Besides bin Laden, al Qaeda’s leadership group included Ayman al-Zawahri, who would become number two in command to bin Laden, and Dr. Fadl from Peshawar, Pakistan.

Bin Laden and al Qaeda violently opposed the United States for several reasons:

First, the United States was regarded as an “infidel” because it was not governed in a manner consistent with the group’s extremist interpretation of Islam.

Second, the United States was viewed as providing essential support for other “infidel” governments and institutions, particularly the governments of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the nation of Israel, and the United Nations organization, which were regarded as enemies of the group.

Third, al Qaeda opposed the involvement of the United States armed forces in the Gulf War in 1991 and in Operation Restore Hope in Somalia in 1992 and 1993. In particular, al Qaeda opposed the continued presence of American military forces in Saudi Arabia (and elsewhere on the Saudi Arabian peninsula) following the Gulf War.

Fourth, al Qaeda opposed the United States Government because of the arrest, conviction and imprisonment of persons belonging to al Qaeda or its affiliated terrorist groups or those with whom it worked.

For these and other reasons, Osama bin Laden declared a jihad, or holy war, against the United States, which he sought to carry out through al Qaeda and its affiliated organizations. (This information was taken from excerpts from the U.S. indictment of Zacarias Moussaoui, filed in December 2001.)

As part of its Jihad, al Qaeda was responsible for numerous military style attacks against U.S. related facilities during the 1990s:

  • In 1993, it organized and carried out an attack on the World Trade Center in New York when a 500kg bomb was detonated in a parking garage and resulted in six people killed and 1,000 injured
  • In 1995, al Qaeda associates were responsible for a car bomb that exploded outside a Saudi-U.S. joint facility in Saudi Arabia that was used to train the Saudi National Guard
  • In February 1998, al Qaeda conducted the U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed 224 people
  • Al Qaeda was also responsible for the 2,000 strike against the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen, which left 17 American sailors dead

Al Qaeda planned and carried out the September 11, 2001 attacks of the World Trade Center towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. The events of that day shaped U.S. foreign policy for the next 15 years. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cost the United States many thousands of troops and many billions, if not trillions, of dollars.

Although occurring after the start of the 21st century (not within the scope of this book), al Qaeda’s legacy, ideology and tactics continued and spread to different groups and areas of the Muslim world (such as Yemen, Indonesia, Nigeria, Somalia). Thus, it could reasonably be said that it was one of the main influences on world affairs in the first decades of the new millennium.

I was unable to find any appropriate songs that related to Osama bin Laden or Al Qaeda. Although there are many songs that relate to both, they translated from English to English

do not add to a substantive discussion of the historical significance of the issues related to them. Rather, the songs are polemical diatribes; so, they have not been included.