Friday Evening Open Thread: Jihad Is Hell, for the Moderate Centrists

For your entertainment, over at NSFWCorp, the War Nerd (Gar Brecher) reports on the trials of being a “jihadi middle manager” in Mali:

There wasn’t anything like a “terror network” operating in Mali, even when the northern half of the country was marked with those diagonal red lines meaning “under Islamist control” a few months ago. Al Qaeda is as dead as bin Laden, and it died—if it ever really existed—years before the Old Man himself was shot up while watching Jeopardy reruns in Abbotabad.

There are plenty of Islamists, from one or another of the hardline traditions—Salafist, Wahhabi, Deobandi—but they don’t report to any central Al Qaeda Board of Directors. It’s always local, much more local than the news services want to tell you. In Mali, there was a simple physics problem, a surplus of energy in the Maghrib, the rim of North Africa. Some of that energy spun back south, across the Sahara, into places like Mali…

Naturally, what happened next was that local agendas started dividing the Jihadis. This always happens, because “Jihad” means whatever a bunch of 20-something local guys want it to mean. To the Tuareg nationalists of the FMLN, it meant a Tuareg homeland. To the Algerian Salafists, it meant a chance to regroup and win, for once, against a much softer opponent than the Algerian Army. To Ansar Dine, a crossover band, it meant a Tuareg homeland that would be quasi-Islamist, soft-Jihadi. To the Mauritanian Maraboutis, who’d been sulking for years about the way AQIM promoted Algerians over West Africans, it was a chance to form their own command, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA). For a few hundred freelance Jihadists who bounce from war to war, it was a great new gig. And for the few—real few—actual Al Qaeda management types trying to keep all these groups in line, it was one more chance to try to establish a genuine “Qaeda,” a real base of operations, without screwing up yet again….

That’s the key here. In fact, Abdelmalik Droukdel had no control over the various militias operating in the name of Jihad. His memo is one long whine about what the Jihadis are doing wrong. But what’s even more interesting is that, as usual, the Jihadis are doing what their holy Book says to do; Droukdel was in a hopelessly weak position not only because he didn’t really control the troops under his nominal command but because the hotheads really were doing what a Jihadi is supposed to do—and his only argument against doing it is that it wasn’t politically wise…

Perhaps this can be some consolation to Doug Galt’s wounded spirit. As Saint Richard of Pryor was wont to say, people are just people, all over the world — and the results can be comic, as long as it’s not your luggage they’re mishandling.
Apart from the universal futility of human ambition, what’s on the agenda for the start of the weekend?

51 replies
  1. 1
    IowaOldLady says:

    Hey, an ad for Jamie Mason’s Three Graves Full on Amazon just popped up below this entry. I know her! I should get credit.

  2. 2
    AA+ Bonds says:

    Whoa, War Nerd on BJ . . . the world must be ending

  3. 3
    AA+ Bonds says:


    Scribol recently showed me a link to a David Harvey talk. What a world.

  4. 4
    IowaOldLady says:

    @AA+ Bonds: Do we all get different ads? Did I get this one because I buy books by the case? Or because I know her?

  5. 5
    Violet says:

    what’s on the agenda for the start of the weekend?

    I’m trying to recover from the hangover and food-over from last night. I made a four course meal and ate and drank too much. For me, drinking too much means more than once glass of wine. I don’t drink much. Hardly slept, still woozy and not getting much done today.

    Will probably fertilize the lawn tomorrow. Storms coming next week and that will water it in.

  6. 6
    Baud says:

    His memo is one long whine about what the Jihadis are doing wrong.

    So aL-Qaeda has taken up blogging…

  7. 7
    AA+ Bonds says:


    I don’t know the first thing about the ad providers here except for those bearing the AdChoices icon, which certainly use cookies for “interest-based” advertising targeted to you.

    Here’s an explanation from the self-regulatory (ha!) body.

  8. 8
    Pooh says:


    Good to see that AQ has firebaggers too

  9. 9
    Violet says:

    @IowaOldLady: Sometimes you get ads based on other sites you visit–like I’ve got one for an airline because I looked for airline tickets recently.

    Other times you get ads based on post content. Awhile ago there was some post about a guy who got his employee to change his catheter. Then a whole bunch of “urology and catheter supplies” ads started showing up.


  10. 10
    lamh35 says:

    On tap this weekend, another family birthday party (we’ve had like 2 a month since January…lol and another coming up in March for my twin aunt and uncle) in NOLA. So looks like I will be spending the weekend there.

    Also my laptop hard drive is completely shot and have to decide to either put up the money for a replacement hard drive, or just buy a new laptop. I need a new one like yesterday. My plan was to buy an MacBook, but my funds are not such where I can drop $1000 for a laptop (even refurbished MACs seem to start at that price). So any suggestion on low cost laptops. I’m partial to HP, but I do know people with Toshiba, Sony and Dell. So which “economy” laptop gives me the most bang for my buck?

  11. 11
    burnspbesq says:

    Who is this clown? What are his sources? Why should I think he knows what he’s talking about?

  12. 12
    Soonergrunt says:

    We closed on selling our old house today. Apartment living for the next 90 days or so while the new house completes. In the middle of rolling Windows7 at VA. All sorts of fun being had by all sorts of people there. My cousin is in town, so we’re meeting over at my sister’s place and drinking margaritas in the hot tub tonight.
    Not that any of you noticed, but being busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest is why I haven’t been front paging lately, but that should change a little bit over the next couple of weeks.

  13. 13
    Baud says:


    I’ve had luck with HP. I’d stay away from Dell right now. They’ve had some issues.

  14. 14
    burnspbesq says:


    Replace the hard drive and keep saving for a Mac. Or finance the Mac at whatever usurious interest rate GE Capital charges for Apple credit. Instant gratification is the American way.

  15. 15
    lamh35 says:

    @Baud: I’ve only ever had HP computers. I like them overall, but the last 2 I bought broke after a little over 2 years of owning them (just enough time for the warranty to run out of course). Both were from different problems, but based on google search there were common enough problems that there are multiple forums based on them.

    So because of that I’m looking to expand my selection and finally get away from HP.

  16. 16
    Baud says:

    Wasn’t the site redesign supposed to happen today? Any update?

  17. 17
    Violet says:

    @lamh35: Maybe buy whatever the cheapest laptop on offer at Best Buy is and keep saving your money for a MacBook. There are some very inexpensive laptops available. Maybe you get what you pay for, but you might get a year or so out of it.

  18. 18

    Dinner with friends, then home to catch up on TiVo so tomorrow I can devote my full energy to finishing my Inge essay before the deadline. It’s almost done, I swear!

  19. 19
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    His memo is one long whine about what the Jihadis are doing wrong

    So this is basically The Life of Brian with AK-47s and RPGs then, isn’t it?

  20. 20
    lamh35 says:

    BTW, If ya’ll get a chance to watch POTUS speech in Chicago this afternoon, you should def watch it. It may be one of his most personal speeches that he’s given.

    ETA: Also watch the video of the ceremony that POTUS had where medals were given posthumously to families of teachers who died in SandyHook protecting their students.

  21. 21
    Violet says:

    @lamh35: Dell is going through a transition back to a private company–or at least that’s the plan. Not sure how far along they are. What I’ve heard is that they want to focus more on business customers. Not sure where that will leave the general consumer laptops.

  22. 22
    jl says:

    Looks like the McCain gang is bragging about their petty obstructionist nomination game over the airwaves.

    BTW, I hears a commentary on the radio by a guy named Dave Ross that pointed out that when Hagel used the words ‘the worst blunder since the Vietnam War’ he was referring to Bush’s speech in which Bush Jr. included the ideas of broadening the Iraq war to neighboring countries.

    But, I guess that makes no difference, since it was still a high crime and misdemeanor (saying not nice things about GW Bush)

    McCain Says He’s Opposing Hagel Because Hagel Was Mean To Bush
    By Hayes Brown

    McCAIN [on Fox News]: But to be honest with you, Neil, it goes back to there’s a lot of ill will towards Senator Hagel because when he was a Republican, he attacked President Bush mercilessly and say he was the worst President since Herbert Hoover and said the surge was the worst blunder since the Vietnam War, which was nonsense. He was anti-his own party and people — people don’t forget that. You can disagree but if you’re disagreeable, then people don’t forget that.

    via Wonkette

  23. 23
    Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason says:

    @lamh35: My wife and I have had good luck with Toshibas. Mine is 6 years old, no issues other than battery replacements. Still going strong on Windows XP.

    ETA: If I’m going to have to keep typing my name in, I’ve gotta switch to something shorter!

  24. 24
    lamh35 says:

    @Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason:

    ETA: If I’m going to have to keep typing my name in, I’ve gotta switch to something shorter!

    I thought it was just me. I’m using one of my old busted computers. So I just thought it was an issue with my computer.

    Are a lot of people having the same trouble?

  25. 25
    Baud says:


    I’m not anymore. There was a major site meltdown last week, but it’s been fixed (for me). You may have to clear your cookies and cache to get it to work again.

  26. 26
    Ultraviolet Thunder says:

    what’s on the agenda for the start of the weekend?

    Just got back from Kokomo to Detroit. In a small snow storm, of course.

    Need to pack, as I’m leaving tomorrow for a week in Germany. Totally not ready for that.
    Clean aquarium, water plants, and… there was something else…

    ETA: drag together photos for a magazine profile. Crap. That will take an hour. And I have no head shot.

  27. 27
    Violet says:

    @lamh35: I have to enter my name on every page, but once I’ve commented on a thread, I don’t have to enter it again on that page. Probably should clear my cookies and cache, but haven’t done that yet.

  28. 28
    Bubblegum Tate says:

    May as well repost in an open thread where it belongs:

    So I recently discovered the (quite funny) site A Bad Case of the Dates, on which people tell stories about their horrible/weird/ridiculous dates. And I just read this one in which a Romney supporter gets upbraided by her date, a Gingrich supporter:

    “”Newt is the anointed one. The guy’s practically a saint.”

    I asked, “Isn’t he kind of morally bankrupt?”

    Liam laughed long and hard, then said, “Dirtbag propaganda. Newt has powers beyond comprehension. He gave us a house majority and forced Clinton’s hand on everything. He’s the most well-read out of any candidate ever, and he’s a master at accomplishing the impossible. He’s touched. I can’t think of a better role model for Americans. Can you?”

    Liam sounds like one of my wingnut barometers.

  29. 29
    MikeJ says:

    @Ultraviolet Thunder: What part of Germany?

  30. 30
    lamh35 says:

    @Baud: oh ok

  31. 31
    Barney says:

    Something tells me that Boehner would sympathise heavily with Droukdel. “Look, we stand a chance of controlling this place, and fooling the people into accepting our rules, if you guys would just leave off the rampant misogyny for a bit. You can’t go full wingnut all in one go.”

  32. 32
    Studly Pantload, the emotionally unavailable unicorn says:

    @lamh35: My Sony Vaio is creaking along after three years (which is about 120 human years). The lid, where the screen resides, is cracked, so I don’t raise or lower it any more, but the screen performs fine. I also have to restart it after a couple hours Photoshopping anymore, as it slows to an infuriating creep, but that’s probably my fault more than the computer’s. I would replace it with another without a second thought. Mrs. Pantload’s Dell, however, is utter crap so far as the keyboard goes. Like the very first day after the warranty ran out, keys stopped working, and others have cracked and come off. That is and will be our first and last Dell.

  33. 33
    Ultraviolet Thunder says:


    What part of Germany?

    Schramberg, in the Black Forest. I hear it’s wonderful in the summer. Unfortunately it’s basically like Detroit in the winter. But with worse driving.

  34. 34
    Ultraviolet Thunder says:


    Do some laundry?

    YES! Thank you! I need to get some stuff in the washer right away.
    What would I do without you people?

  35. 35
    Baud says:


    Something tells me that Boehner would sympathise drink heavily with Droukdel.


  36. 36
    lamh35 says:

    @burnspbesq: I would love to be able to finance but thanks to being a complete idiot when it came to my credit when I was younger, my current credit rating and history is such where I couldn’t borrow enough money to buy a bottle of water.

  37. 37
    Ultraviolet Thunder says:


    I am struck by how much amateur video has come out of Russia

    Automobile and truck dashcams. Vehicle collisions are so common that many people run a camera on the dash continuously to use as evidence in court. Videos from Russian dashcams are infamous for producing hair raising moments. I have seen a lot of them and I would never, ever drive in Russia for any money.

  38. 38
    jheartney says:

    @lamh35: If you’re just running Office-style apps, you could look at a Chromebook. Very cheap, none of the Windows baggage, and boots in seconds.

  39. 39
    lamh35 says:

    @jheartney: right now I use my computer to surf the net, download pics, post to blogs, watch online streaming video and occasionally hooking up my IPhone/Pad. I rarely use my Office suite anymore.

  40. 40
    I am not a kook says:

    @efgoldman: You may have missed it but most people over 10 years old have these things called cell phones nowadays, with cameras.

    See for example.

    Bangladesh has 68%, Canada 72% according to Wikipedia.

    Also, in Russia, people have dashcams in their cars because insurance fraud is rampant.

  41. 41
    jheartney says:

    @lamh35: Aside from hooking up to the iOS device, you could do all those things on a Chromebook. It’s essentially a Chrome browser in laptop form. You can also do word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings and much else through Google Docs.

    I’ve been looking at them for a while; may get one to see if the kids like it.

  42. 42
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @efgoldman: They are. But anyone with enough money to buy a car buys a dash-mounted video camera. Most people actually have forward-facing and rear-facing cameras.

  43. 43
    Gin & Tonic says:

    Wow, I’m slow. And I should read all the way before posting.

  44. 44
    NobodySpecial says:

    @burnspbesq: This is priceless coming from someone who uses a pseudonym on the intertubes, but since I’m nice today, you can read his takedown of GG and get all fappy.

    War Nerd vs. Greenwald

  45. 45
    Mnemosyne says:


    I remember reading somewhere that a lot of poorer countries actually have better wireless service than the US because it’s a lot cheaper to put up wireless towers than it is to string a bunch of cables.

  46. 46
  47. 47
    sharl says:

    Hawt dayum, I luvs me some War Nerd. Thanks for that link!

  48. 48
    Anne Laurie says:


    Wasn’t the site redesign supposed to happen today? Any update?

    “This weekend”, unless the Blogmaster or FYWP have changed their minds again.

  49. 49
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @Ultraviolet Thunder:

    Vehicle collisions are so common that many people run a camera on the dash continuously to use as evidence in court.

    As is police corruption: the dashcam gives you a record if you get shaken down by the cops.

  50. 50
    AA+ Bonds says:

    @Ultraviolet Thunder:

    Videos from Russian dashcams are infamous for producing hair raising moments. I have seen a lot of them and I would never, ever drive in Russia for any money.

    Fun fact: if you don’t stop quickly enough for the cops in Moscow, they can and will fire on your vehicle.

  51. 51
    El Cid says:

    @Mnemosyne: Once of the legacies of colonialism and colonialish exploitation is that infrastructure is built from desired resource location (i.e., mines or cropland) directly to the needed transport center (rail center and then usually ports).

    Whether there were already cities and populations between those locations or not and developed as a consequence, the colonial or semi-imperial powers had no interest in spending money helping these natives live a better live and better organize an economic existence beyond fulfilling their role in helping the big money power get its primary products quick & cheap and thus feeding its industries.

    Until the last decade’s road-building initiatives in part based on African regional institution initiatives as well as EU / UN works.

    Mali has only one railway, the Dakar-Niger Railway, which includes 729 kilometers in Mali and runs from the port of Koulikoro via Bamako to the border with Senegal and continues on to Dakar…

    …Mali had a road network totaling about 18,563 kilometers in 2000, including about 4,450 kilometers of paved roads. Mali’s main economic link to the coast is a paved road between Bamako and Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire. The European Development Fund is financing construction of a road linking Bamako and Dakar, Senegal. The African Development Bank is funding the construction of a road linking Bamako and Kankan in Guinea.

    There are also plans for a trans-Saharan road linking Mali with Algeria. In general, road conditions outside of urban areas are hazardous, especially at night.

    Because of isolation, poor road conditions, and the prevalence of banditry, overland travel to the north of Mali is regarded as especially dangerous; flying or traveling by boat is reported to be preferable where possible. Many of Mali’s major thoroughfares in the north are little more than desert tracks with long isolated stretches…

    …Mali has no seaports because it is landlocked, but Koulikoro on the Niger River near Bamako, serves as a principal river port. Traditionally, Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire has been Mali’s main seaport, handling as much as 70 percent of Mali’s trade (except for gold exports). Mali’s export trade suffered when turbulence in Côte d’Ivoire in the early 2000s interrupted that trade route.[1]

    Mali has 1,815 kilometers of inland waterways, principally the Niger River, some portions of which are navigable for medium and large shipping during the rainy season (June/July–November/December) in years of normal rainfall. Parts of the Senegal River also are navigable, providing year-round access to the Atlantic from Kayes to St. Louis in Senegal.[1]

    And why was this like this?

    The Dakar–Niger Railway connects Dakar, (Senegal) to Koulikoro, (Mali). The name refers to the Niger River, not the Republic of Niger. It serves many cities in Senegal (including Thiès) and Mali (including Kayes, Kita, Kati, Bamako). The line covers a course of 1,287 km of which 641 km lies in Mali…

    …Construction work on the Dakar–Niger Railway began at the end of the 19th century under the French general Gallieni, commander of French Sudan.

    The railroad connected the Niger River with the port of Dakar, allowing the transport of raw materials across the globe. The line was completed at the beginning of the 20th century, the Kayes-Koulikoro section being inaugurated in 1904, but the final section of line did not open until 1924.

    Situations like this spawn the sprawling stateless lawlessness, chaotic impoverishment, cellular violence, and suffocating unpredictabilitis which sustain the decades-long small and medium arms fire civil wars which rage across Northern Africa — with of course generous help from whatever nation-state or local potentate in funds and arms to either keep the nastiness going where it is or export it elsewhere.

    So on the one hand it’s a miracle for many in Africa that the cellphone and satellite communication services came when they did, and were embraced and pushed and prodded as they have been, because there’s no other option for most.

    Yeah, bad roads and bad rail spawn jihad and “Al Qa’ida” every bit as much as nasty rhetoric from this or that militarist fundamentalist.

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