Being a terrorist isn’t easy. You dream of single-handed jihadi glory but you wake up one day and you’re part of the system, more cog than wheel, more -crat than -ist.
The recent publication by the Associated Press of a long accusatory letter from the Governing Council of Al-Qaeda of North Africa to jihadist Mokhtar Belmokhtar reveals one side of this truth.
The other side was left for me to discover, when, once again on emergency assignment for the Agency, I found Belmokhtar’s response, which had sat for weeks, undelivered, in Algiers’ Main Post Office, for want of a two-dinar stamp. Here is what it said:
In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate and Merciful,
My brothers, may Allah be kind to you and may his holy message light your path. I have read your missive with the pain of one who is misunderstood and maligned. It is my duty to set you back on the straight path of righteousness:
1. You say I have failed to respond to your communications. You ask, Why do you only turn on your phone with the Emirate when you need it, while your communication with some media is almost never-ending?
Have you spent even a day in Timbuktu? Do you have a notion how difficult it is to charge your phone when electricity is off most of the time, when sand insidiously penetrates your charger and phone, when, in the few moments your phone actually works, you are bombarded with robo-calls and people trying to sell you mud siding?
As to the accusation of being media-hungry, my numerous calls to and from the New York Times were simply attempts to cancel home delivery so papers would not pile up while I was on a jihadist mission. How many times did I push button after button, wait on hold, get cut off, dial again, only to have my battery die, with no electricity to … I think even you begin to get the picture.
2. You say I mismanaged the kidnapping portfolio, that I bungled the seizure of the Canadians and that I traded them for a mere 700,000 Euros. Have you ever tried to manage a group of Canadians for even one day? You confront them over their complicity with the Great Satan, and what do they say? Sorry. You torture them for information, and what do they say? Sorry. You try to soften them up with small talk about world events, and all they want to know is the hockey scores. Of course I traded them. It was that or go completely nutso (as the Canadians put it).
3. You say I failed to carry out spectacular attacks. I’m holed up in Timbuktu, the very symbol of nowheresville (as the Canadians also say), with nothing but desert, about fourteen trees, and the Niger River in the distance. Should I blow up a sand dune? Machine-gun a tree? Dam the river with a Land Rover?
4. You say I have failed to submit administrative and financial reports. Have you actually looked at these? Submit every jihadist’s driver’s license info, vaccination record, school report card; account for all pay, food purchases, bullet and mortar inventories … the list is endless. Don’t you know these are illiterate bedouins who haven’t seen the inside of a school, a government office, or a store. I don’t pay them and I don’t buy arms. They … we all … live off the loot and fruit of the land. Besides, termites ate all the forms.
5. Finally, you say that I have used vile and insulting language in my communications. Well, by the Prophet’s beard, you’re right. A man can only take so much from rectal orifices like you. I mean … feces!! … what a camel’s carnal congress you make out of the simple job of blasting and killing. It isn’t hijab-penetrating rocket science. If you got your Allah-cursed nether parts off your plush chairs and tried your luck down here, the vultures would have you for intercoursing lunch.
May the crescent moon shine upon our glorious jihad.
Yours in Allah,