Ray Ibrahim has painstakingly translated hundreds of previously unreleased al-Qaeda documents that he found in a search of the Library of Congress. His efforts led to the publication of The Al Qaeda Reader, published in August. He told a recent George Washington University audience that these documents address jihadis directly and have a much different message than the propaganda AQ aims at the West (via Newsbeat1):
The documents address many ideas supported by Al Qaeda, such as suicide bombings and violence against the west. Bin Laden and his allies use Muslim beliefs and laws to show that these actions are acceptable in certain cases, Ibrahim said.
He said the documents offer three options for non-Muslims - submit to Islam, live under Islam or die.
"The bottom line is the West is damned if they do and damned if they don't unless they accept the three choices," Ibrahim said. ...
In the documents, Bin Laden proclaims that the root of terrorism rested in Israel. However, Ibrahim said support for Al Qaeda would not dissipate even if the western world ceased supporting Israel.
"Once they do have the power, the next step will go back to waging a powerful jihad," he said.
The hand wringing over American friendship with Israel, and the supposedly central place this has in the war on terror, seems a little overblown. Undoubtedly, Muslims in the region oppose Israel and the Palestinian standoff makes the region less stable, which amplifies the impulse for radicalism. However, Osama bin Laden treats Israel as an appetizer for a much larger banquet, according to the theological arguments he makes to his followers. Israel's destruction will only begin al-Qaeda's real mission, not end it.
What does Osama want? He wants a world that bends its knee to Islam, one way or the other. He has actually made this plain in his propaganda, too, although Western analysts dismiss it as meaningless rhetoric. Osama doesn't see it that way at all. He offers the West the peace of submission -- to Islam, to Osama's authority, and to the Muslim world as our new benevolent despots.
As we have repeatedly seen over the last 14 years, these are not idle threats. Anyone who doesn't want to submit will die. Those who believe that we can buy them off with trade will die. Those who want to surrender Israel will still die. Even pulling back from the Middle East entirely will not save us from their intent to kill those who will not submit to Islam.
They are lunatics, put simply, with lots of money and lots of company. They may play on regional friction points, but al-Qaeda is not interested in scoring a few policy victories and capturing Jerusalem. They want it all -- and they want it now.
UPDATE: The British say that AQ has started recruiting teenagers:
Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'eda terror group is recruiting British children as young as 15 to wage a campaign of carnage against their own country, the new head of MI5 has said.
In his first public speech since taking over the security service in the summer, Jonathan Evans said Islamists were "radicalising, indoctrinating and grooming young, vulnerable people to carry out acts of terrorism".
Mr Evans said the threat posed by al-Qa'eda had yet to reach its peak despite one successful bomb attack and several thwarted atrocities.
He also revealed in a speech in Manchester that al-Qa'eda was using the chaos in Iraq as cover for its overseas forays.
While Pakistan remained the base for the "core" leadership which controls its activities, "there is no doubt now that al-Qa'eda in Iraq aspires to promote terrorist attacks outside Iraq," he said.
He warns that Britain still thinks tactically, while AQ thinks strategically -- a situation that has to change if AQ is to be defeated.