To Betray or To Deceive
Gregory Johnsen, a former Fulbright Fellow in Yemen, is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. Johnsen has written for a variety of publications on Yemen including, among others, Foreign Policy, The American Interest, The Independent, The Boston Globe, and The National. He is the co-founder of Waq al-Waq: Islam and Insurgency in Yemen Blog. In 2009, he was a member of the USAID's conflict assessment team for Yemen.
The new semester began here today and with it a bit of blog fatigue, so I fear postings will be greatly reduced as I come to grips with the new term. Plus we can't give everything away for free on Waq al-waq, right?
But the transcript of Ibrahim al-Rubaysh's audio tape "Why Muhammad bin Nayif," and Qasim al-Raymi's "The Battle of Marib" were posted to the forums today. I didn't have a chance to read the latter, but I did spend some time with the former and in addition to the two things I mentioned that struck me when I listened to it for the first time yesterday morning one other thing stood out, at least to me when I was reading it. And that was the point al-Rubaysh made on the difference between betrayal (ghadr) and deception (khud'a). (This is the last couple of paragraphs on page 4 and the first on page 5 in the PDF - for those following along at home.)
He spends a lot of time and space explaining that the people who believe that this was a betrayal are incorrect, for as he says betrayal demands a "contract" or a document, which didn't exist in this case. Therefore 'Asiri's act was a deception, which is allowed in war, but not a betrayal.
This, I think, is brought home in a slightly different way earlier in the tape in the second section - why Muhammad bin Nayif. (The intro basically says that the reason for the tape is to set the record straight and section one is on the precedents from Islamic history that justify 'Asiri's action. Of course, this only works if one accepts that Nayif is an infidel.) Then when he gets into the real reason for the attack on Muhammad bin Nayif he gives a list of, by my count, 14 people (16 if you count two that are mentioned but not named) that Muhammad bin Nayif is responsible for either killing or arresting. Numbers 3 and 4 in this list are said to have been betrayed (ghadr) by Muhammad bin Nayif. So al-Rubaysh is eager to show that AQAP is innocent of the charge he is accusing Muhammad bin Nayif of committing.
There is much more here, and I see this as yet another attempt to seize the moral high ground by AQAP and demonstrate that while Muhammad bin Nayif's men resort to torture, according to the tape, AQAP is careful to stay within certain parameters. Of course, these parameters are questionable, justified after the fact and self-selected - but that is still the argument being made.