Is there a common thread in Al-Qaeda's more recent attacks?
Paul Cruickshank is a Fellow at the Center on Law and Security at New York University's School of Law. He previously worked as an investigative journalist in London, reporting on al Qaeda and its European affiliates and was part of the CNN reporting team that covered the London July 7, 2005 attacks. He collaborated closely with Peter Bergen in interviewing acquaintances of Osama bin Laden for Bergen's 2006 oral history "The Osama bin Laden I Know" and worked with CNN on a two-hour Emmy-nominated documentary "In the footsteps of bin Laden." Cruickshank has written about al Qaeda and Islamist groups for a number of publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic and Studies in Conflict and Terrorism. He has provided on-air analysis to CNN, BBC, NBC, CBS, BBC, Fox News and Al Jazeera on national security issues. Cruickshank graduated from Cambridge University with a degree in history, and has a Masters degree with Honors in International Relations from the Paul. H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at the Johns Hopkins University. He has also worked in the European Parliament in Brussels and at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C.
Paul Cruickshank: That’s a very good question. The rise in terrorism following the Iraq war has mainly been clustered in the Arab world – the countries surrounding Iraq. You’ve seen a five times increase in failed jihadist attacks in the Arab world. Now that’s countries like Saudi Arabia. That’s countries like Egypt, Morocco, Algeria. You’ve seen a new wave of terrorism there after the Iraq war. You had very little terrorism in those countries in 2001 and 2002. But after March 2003 you really do see a new wave of attacks in those countries. Now that’s partly jihadist groups in those countries taking inspiration from what was going on in Iraq. And that’s also people starting to come out of Iraq who have been trained in Iraq – veterans of that conflict who were spreading their savoir-faire – how to make bombs; how to improvised explosive devices; persuading jihadist groups in these countries that suicide bombings is a tactic which will work. And so we’ve seen a rise in suicide bombing attacks in countries all around the Arab region. Saudi officials are now very, very concerned that there’s gonna be blowback coming from Iraq; that Saudi fighters and almost half of all foreign fighters going to Iraq and Saudi are coming back to Saudi Arabia. They’re veterans. They’re radicalized. They’re angry. And there’s real fear they’re gonna go after the Saudi royal family and the institutions of state in that country. We’ve seen a number of plots in Saudi Arabia in 2007. We’ve seen hundreds of arrests there. We’ve seen plots in Algeria very late on in 2007. There was an attack by the group called Al Qaeda and the Islamic … on the United Nations in Algiers, and many people died in that operation. We’ve seen attacks in Morocco, Tunisia. Elsewhere in Egypt following Iraq, the terrorism rates went up. So the Iraq war was a shot in the arm for Al Qaeda. But that of course is not the end of the story, because the Iraq war has also exposed one of Al Qaeda’s Achilles heels, which is a tendency of the organization to indulge in barbaric acts of violence to act as an oppressor towards the local population. In 2006 Al Qaeda launched a spate of attacks on Shiia targets within Iraq. It’s now turned its sights on Sunnis. These Sunni areas of Iraq, it’s trying to . . . it’s willing to play sponsor to violence essentially, bullying the local population. And there’s been a really big backlash in Iraq against the organization. We’ve seen the emergence of what you would call “awakening councils” within the country, which are Sunni groups, some former insurgents, former allies of Al Qaeda are now turning against Al Qaeda. They’ve been effective in reducing Al Qaeda’s presence in … and elsewhere in Iraq, and you’ve started to see Al Qaeda weakened significantly in Iraq in the last months, even though it’s still a force in the country to be sure. But this . . . This behavior in Iraq from Al Qaeda has also been very, very important in persuading Muslims around the world – some of whom had some sympathy for some of what Al Qaeda was doing – and of course this is a small minority – in turning against Al Qaeda. Because they’ve seen what happens if you let Al Qaeda out on their leash, and they don’t like it. The scenes of bloodshed, of beheadings, of torture, of chaos that they’re seeing in Iraq, they don’t want that to be the future of their country. And so bin Laden is less popular than he was a few years ago because of events in Iraq; because of events elsewhere where Al Qaeda has gone after Muslims in Saudi Arabia and went after the royal family there. Many Muslims have died in attacks. More Muslims have died in attacks launched by Al Qaeda – many more than westerners around the world. Al Qaeda operations in London, in Madrid, in the West have also turned off the Muslim community there in those countries. There was some sympathy for what Al Qaeda was doing around the time of 9/11. That is really kind of all gone now. There’s been a real reaction within the Muslim community and . . . Let me have a glass of water and take the next step.
Paul Cruickshank: The emerging . . . The emerging criticism of Al Qaeda has come not just from mainstream Islam; not just from the Muslim establishment and countries like Saudi Arabia; not just from organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood; but it’s also come now from former associates of bin Laden – from … who fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s; from scholars who bin Laden admired. There’s been a real emerging criticism coming from all sorts of parts and constituencies of the Islamic community around the world. And this is gonna, in the years to come, be a real problem for Al Qaeda, because Al Qaeda are killing Muslims. They’re launching attacks on innocent civilians. They’re torturing victims to death. Muslims don’t like this sort of behavior from whatever constituency they come from. And . . . Because you know fundamentally Islam is a religion of peace, and so this has been very, very counterproductive to Al Qaeda. And when you have key scholars . . . When you have people with the credibility of those who fought in Afghanistan now turning against bin Laden, that is important. Because youngsters really respect these sorts of figures. They’ve been following them for years. And when the scholars that they follow are now telling them if you become a suicide bomber you’re gonna go to hell, that’s certainly being listened to and causing a lot of doubts. And I think in the years to come it’s probably gonna turn off the tap of recruits to Al Qaeda. So we might be at the peak of the problem right now.
Recorded on: Jan 14 2008
Potential recruits for Al Qaeda are increasingly turned off by the kiling, particularly of Muslim victims, says Cruickshank.
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"Nothing but naked people: fat ones, thin ones, old, young…"
"The Yellow Sands", 1888, John Reinhard Weguelin; source: Wikimedia Commons<h3>Naked revolution</h3><p>Yet long before anyone knew about beach fashion, naturism was trendy. Bathing naked in the sea was going on in England as early as 1840. However, during the reign of Queen Victoria, this pleasure was outlawed. But it popped up again among the conservative Germans. In 1898, the first Naturist Club was founded in Essen and in 1900 the Wandering Birds group (<em>Wandervögel</em>) was scouring the country for uninhabited places and naked sunbathing. In the same year, Heinrich Pudor wrote <em>The C</em><em>ult of </em><em>the </em><em>Nud</em><em>e</em>, winning the hearts of contemporary supporters of naturism.</p><p>In the 1920s, on the back of this, members of the Movement for Natural Healing (<em>Naturheilbewegung</em>) organized naked sunbathing for the improvement of health. Persuaded by Pudor's theory of the healing properties of the sun and wind, which could be absorbed through the skin, they launched the naked revolution.</p><p>Pudor's book became the naturists' manifesto and soon after, not far from Hamburg, the Free Body Culture (<em>Freikörperkultur</em>, or FKK) movement was founded. This spread through other German centres and brought together thousands of people. The FKK still operates under the same name today.</p><p>The cult of the naked body even wrote itself into the ideology of fascist Germany, which advocated a pure, Aryan race. But in 1933, Hermann Göring issued an order that defined nudity as "the greatest threat to the German soul" and, with that, criminalized naturist organizations. But this wasn't the end of the movement. The naturists went underground, continuing their activities under the guise of improving physical fitness.</p><p>In 1936, the idea was even floated of having a naturist display to open the Berlin Olympic Games. It was quickly dropped. Despite this, in 1939 the naturists managed to organize their own Games in the Swiss village of Thielle.</p>
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Crows have their own version of the human cerebral cortex.
Action-packed pallia<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ0NzkyMS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNzk1NzM1OH0.Tjb3zulFW2gwhteR124F9HGbmdnCqNqQFOBQouieTJ8/img.png?width=980" id="2bbc9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2907e4035e553565f4446e968ee73d92" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Fun with Ozzie and Glenn<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ0Njk2MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMzY4Njc2MX0.ZgpsPMCK6qOj2o0kErvVPjdua1EnMCIwCuHHGrb3LiY/img.jpg?width=980" id="acbeb" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2e286fecbb228a5ca8aa26fcd19f95a2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="two crows in a tree" />
Ozzie and Glenn not pictured
Credit: narubono/Unsplash<p>The kind of higher intelligence crows exhibited in the new research is similar to the way we solve problems. We catalog relevant knowledge and then explore different combinations of what we know to arrive at an action or solution.</p><p>The researchers, led by neurobiologist <a href="https://homepages.uni-tuebingen.de/andreas.nieder/" target="_blank">Andreas Nieder</a> of the University of Tübingen in Germany, trained two carrion crows (<em>Corvus corone</em>), Ozzie and Glenn.</p><p>The crows were trained to watch for a flash — which didn't always appear — and then peck at a red or blue target to register whether or not a flash of light was seen. Ozzie and Glenn were also taught to understand a changing "rule key" that specified whether red or blue signified the presence of a flash with the other color signifying that no flash occurred.</p><p>In each round of a test, after a flash did or didn't appear, the crows were presented a rule key describing the current meaning of the red and blue targets, after which they pecked their response.</p><p>This sequence prevented the crows from simply rehearsing their response on auto-pilot, so to speak. In each test, they had to take the entire process from the top, seeing a flash or no flash, and then figuring out which target to peck.</p><p>As all this occurred, the researchers monitored their neuronal activity. When Ozzie or Glenn saw a flash, sensory neurons fired and then stopped as the bird worked out which target to peck. When there was no flash, no firing of the sensory neurons was observed before the crow paused to figure out the correct target.</p><p>Nieder's interpretation of this sequence is that Ozzie or Glenn had to see or not see a flash, deliberately note that there had or hadn't been a flash — exhibiting self-awareness of what had just been experienced — and then, in a few moments, connect that recollection to their knowledge of the current rule key before pecking the correct target.</p><p>During those few moments after the sensory neuron activity had died down, Nieder reported activity among a large population of neurons as the crows put the pieces together preparing to report what they'd seen. Among the busy areas in the crows' brains during this phase of the sequence was, not surprisingly, the pallium.</p><p>Overall, the study may eliminate the layered cerebral cortex as a requirement for higher intelligence. As we learn more about the intelligence of crows, we can at least say with some certainty that it would be wise to avoid <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/26/science/26crow.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">angering one</a>.</p>