My friends have been telling me about it for ages, Bahrania has commented about it, and I finally got around to watching it: The BBC's extremely controversial programme called the Power of Nightmares. It's main thesis is that the threat of Al Qaeda has been way over exaggerated, and that it is a powerful idea to make people believe in some evil nightmare that's about to take over the world.
It's in three parts. It's definitely worth watching all three, but if you don't have much time, just watch the third part. That's the part that deals with most recent events, as the first two parts deals with the events of Sayyid Qutb and the Afghan-Soviet war.
Obviously, a band of people bent on striking America at home does exist, but this programme argues that, up until september 11th at least, "Al Qaeda" was a rag-tag association of a couple of hundred at most. It definitely was not this massive well-structured organization with thousands of operatives all over the world. They were a bunch of Arab Mujahedeen left over from the Soviet-Afghan war, each with his own agenda, and the only link was that they'd go to Osama bin Laden to get his money for their causes, since he was a rich Saudi. They ranged from those who wanted to fight in Chechenya to those who wanted to fight in Bosnia. Most crucially, each was doing his own thing. They were a rag-tag alliance whose sole connection was fighting in the Afghan war. They were not all under Bin Laden's command, and they did not definitely all want to attack America on its own soil.
Now obviously all of this is very controversial. I do, however, agree with the main premise: that the extent of Al Qaeda's power has been way blown out of proportion. They are not a structured and massive global organization, and they do not have thousands of troops all under their command all over the world. I mean, if that were so, why aren't we seeing bombings all over the place?
This is one thing I've always wondered about. If Al Qaeda was such a powerful organization, we should be seing much more bombings in every city of the world. After all, to be completely honest, and completely politically incorrect, it is not the hardest thing in the world to find a soft civilian target and cause deaths there. Hell, if I wanted to do it, I can go down tomorrow to my local starbucks and go Jehad on the place, killing a few people. I can make some sort of molotov cocktail and throw it somewhere. It's not nuclear science exactly.
The one image, however, that really threw myself off laughing, was the part where Rumsfeld was outlining Al Qaeda's, "evil sophisticated underground layers":
see above picture
Rumsfeld went on about how they have sleeping headquarters there, thermal detectors, computer labs. Evan a tank would fit through these tunnels. Hundreds of evil Qaeda people were all there, dilligently working off. Basically, it was an evil skeletor hideout.
Come on, that's got to be good comedic value. Obviously, the guy who concucted this stuff up must have had a pretty vivid imagination (my hunch is that he's a comic writer, maybe X-men). He also must've thought his audience is pretty bloody dumb. Unfortunately, such reputable newspapers as USA Today and The Guardian showed this stuff.
Obviously, when they did bomb the mountains, not much of these sophisticated underground labs were found. Let's imagine for a second, however, that they did have massive underground bunkers with thousands of workers. I'm wondering how would life be down there? Would it have the usual work environment? Would it have gags and gaffes a la "The Office?". Would they have the usual Saturday (or if you're in the west, Monday) blues? Do you think they had unions, who would strike over better working conditions, higher pays, time off for prayer, or even shorter working hours? Are there middle and top tier managers? Is there a lot of bureacracy and paperwork? Do you think Osama was more of Fayol-school type scientific manager or more of a dynamic, Richard Branson type? How about their recruitment for managers? Do you think they have psychometric tests and interviews? Lots of Harvard MBAs around?
How about cigarette breaks? If they're hundreds of feets underground, it'll be damn hard for a guy to climb all the way up for a cigarrette.
Obviously, you can see how propestorous the idea gets, but it makes for a damn good play or comedy series. Hence, I've decided to start of a show called "Al Qaeda: the TV show." Here are a couple of the sketches:
(I'm sorry but they're in ArabEnglish (i.e. arabic spelt in English letters). I unfortunately don't have Arabic on my PC) It's hard to follow I know, but try anyway!)
Scene 1: in the (Arabic style) canteen hall, people, sitting on the floor, have gathered to eat.
cast: abo-sameer: the cook. Osama: the big man. Ayman: the brains. Mo and Ahmed: see sketch 3.
Mo: taban, ha na7nu na2kul mandi marrah ukhra.
Ahmed: lakad la3at kabedi, kullu youm mandi! wa kul youm la7m ghanam 3araby!
Mo: wa unthur ella kameyat elzebeeb, hunak zebeeeb akthar min al ruz fel mandi!
Salman: uskutu, antoo ta3lamoon anna alshaikh osama yu7ebu al zebeeb wal mandy.
On the other side, Osama is sitting on the floor, waiting for Ayman Al Zawahiri to show up.
Osama: mashallah ya abo sameer, al mandi raw3a alyoum. laken ya 7abatha an tukather min alzebeeb fel marah al kadema.
Abu-Sameer (grumbling, trying to find some rice between the raisins): grunt.. 7ather.
Ayman shows up. Imagine a loud egyptian similar to those in the movies.
Ayman: Assalamu 3alaikum wa ra7...
la2aa ya 3ami! de mush ma32oola! mandi kaman! aih dah! kul youm mandi! yekhreb baitak!
Osama: ettaki ellah ya ayman wa ujlus, ennahu la mandi 3ajeeb.
Ayman: 3ageeb aih kharabee6 aih! Kul youm mandi! 3endanah meerza min iran beye3mal tahcheen zay el bomb... marwan min syria beye3mel mana2eesh.. khalid al kuwaity beye3mel makboos .. 7eta anah ya 3ami ba3melek fool ou 6a3miya.. bas mandi sub7 ou ghada ou 3asha? khalas ya 3am.. ana sert 3am baroo7 el7amam khams marat fil youm min dah elmandi!
Osama: enna el mandi akl al abaa2 wal ajdaad!
Ayman: la 7awla wala kuwata bellah.. ou aih dah.. dah kullu zebeeb! ou kharoof mara tanya kaman? 6ab laih moo ferakh?
Osama: enna al zebeeb mukawi lel3etham wa al la7mu mughathi lil ajsam.
ayman: ya kharabi! yekhreb bait el zebeeb zay makhrebte baity..
(calms down, talks in a low voice): osama.. ya 7abeebi.. ya rou7 albi.. bos... e7na ma3endanash ella 6ayartain nesta3melhum. wenta kul youm beyrou7ou le iran 3ashan begeebo zebeeb ou ba3dain la yemen 3ashan beygoubou la7am 3arabi. mush ma32oola yabni. da7na bene7tag el 6ayarat 3ashan nefagar shewayat 3emaraat hena wehnak? 6ab ezzay 7anfagar Big Ben etha el6ayarat kul youm ray7aa le san3aa2 3ashan betgeeb shewayat kheraf?
scene 3: osama gets ready to film his next video message. Ayman, the director, is pacing around waiting for him. Osama shows up, this time wearing a thoub and a besht instead of his usual military gear.
ayman: aih dah? fain elzey el3askery.
osama: lakad karrart an athhar bemanthar jadeed. Al agent, bu nezar, kala enna este6la3at al ra2y (viewer polls) tufathel an athhar bemanthar mu7abbab, 7ata nuzeedu sha3beyatena wa jamaheerena. Unthur, hatha althoub min shmagh englizi, wal ne3al carretti, hal a3jabatk?
ayman: yekhreb baitak enta ou abu nezar, 6ab eglis yalla khansawer.
osama: ana offakur fee an albus nathara cartier, model el sab3eenat, wa cigar fee fami, methl castro. sayu36eeny manthar jadeed. matha tathun?
ayman: aih ya 3am?!?? enta betesta3ba6 wallah aih?
osama: matha 3an meswak fel fam?
osama: ethan 3ood throos (toothpick)??
osama: mesba7 ??..
ayman: egles ya 3ami da7na et2akharnah! talata, etneen, wa7ed... action!
osama: kayfa mekyaji?
ayman: eglis ya 3am khalas!
osama (clears his throats and starts reading): besmellah alra7man al ra7eem... ayuha alsha3bu al eslami al 3atheem.. ummuna fee kha6ar...
ayman: aih dah? shou dee cut? anna elly ba2ool cut mush enta! ou laih 2ult cut??
osama: lakad kultu ummuna, wa laisa ommatuna.
ayman: ou 3ashan dee bet2ool cut! yakhi sa7e7 roo7uk ou khalas! enta 3aref elmashakel ahmed miskeen ra7 feeha 3ashan begeeb sheree6 camera wa7ed??? da huwa kan lazem yekhrug weyroo7 yerkuth ela kaboul... wel amreecan 3am beyrukthu warah... kulli dah 7ag sharee6 wa7ed! wenta 3abbalak laih e7na ma 6arashna sheree6 lel jazeera min zaman?
osama: 7asanan... le nabda2 mara ukhra. laken ya akh ayman, lematha anta la takra2 elrasalah?
ayman: ana balbes natharat 6ebeya. shakly mabekhawefsh... enta 2ouly fee a7ad beykhaf min wa7ed 3umroh sab3een beyalbes natharat 6ebbeyya??
scene 3: the IT department
characters: Ahmed: a computer science graduate from UOB, he likes spending time on MSN messenger, playing Ages of Empire, and visiting the montadayat.
Mohammed: a computer science graduate from Carnegie Mellon, he is more into computer programming. He is a Linux lover, and a staunchly anti-Microsoft person.
Ahmed: Al Salamu 3alaykum ya aba Qassim. Kayfa 7aluka.
Mohammed: Wa 3alaykum alsalam wa ra7mattulah. Lastu bekhair ya Ahmed. Lakad ghazaa virus al 7asoob (computer).
Ahmed: Al la3na. Kaifa 7asala hatha? laysa 3endaka Norton Anti Virus?
Mo: Kalla, laken 3endee Mcafee.
Ahmed: Alam akul lak an tasta3mel Norton? Mcafee ta3ban!
Mo: Lakad 7aawalt ya Ahmed, laken dukan al 7asoob lam yakun 3endahu sewa Mcafee 98. 7awalt aydan an unazzel Norton min Kazaa, lakeny lam ajed shay2.
Ahmed: wa matha 3an Morpheus?
Mo: Salman mudeer al IT wa9'a3 block 3ala morpheus. Yakool enahu mukhel bel adab.
Ahmed: Taban... hatha huwa alza3eem kadem.
Osama: Al salamu 3ala man ettaba3a alhuda.
Mo and Ahmed: wa 3alaikum al salam.
Osama: hal al7asoob 3a6el?
Osama: hal esta3malt Norton?
Any agents interested in buying this (crappy) show, please send me an email!