War/Security

Bin Laden grows a conscience

As you’ve no doubt heard by now, the Director of National Intelligence released a tiny sample of the documents that U.S. Special Operations Forces captured at Osama Bin Laden’s compound to the Combating Terrorist Center (CTC) at West Point  for it to analyze. Still reading Letters from Abbottabad: Bin Ladin Sidelined?, we’ll single out one Focal Point™.

In contrast to Bin Ladin’s public statements that focused on the injustice of those he believed to be the “enemies” (a`da’) of Muslims, namely corrupt “apostate” Muslim rulers and their Western “overseers,” the focus of his private letters is Muslims’ suffering at the hands of his jihadi “brothers” (ikhwa). He was at pains advising [the latter] to abort domestic attacks that cause Muslim civilian casualties and instead focus on the United States, “our desired goal.”

In fact …

… High on his list of concerns was their flexible understanding of tatarrus, which resulted in the unnecessary deaths of Muslim civilians. … Bin Ladin was concerned that regional jihadi groups had expanded the meaning of a classical legal concept meant to be applied in rare circumstances and turned it from an exception into the norm. … Tatarrus refers to special circumstances when it is permissible, from an Islamic law of war perspective, for a military commander to attack enemy territory, even if the attack may result in the deaths of non-combatants, including Muslim women and children [aka] collateral damage.

“Flexible,” “expanded”?  Stretching the definition to the breaking point would be more like it. The CTC report continues:

As a result, the jihadis, he worried, have lost considerable sympathy from the Muslim public; this loss was compounded when “the mistakes of the jihadis were exploited by the enemy, [further] distorting the image of the jihadis in the eyes of the umma’s general public and separating them from their popular bases.”

But, even though

… Bin Ladin largely disapproved of their conduct, he did not consider publicly dissociating … himself and al-Qa`ida from the actions of regional groups, as Adam Gadahn strongly urged the senior leadership to do.

It’s obvious that whatever compassion Bin Laden had come to evince for Muslims — infidels, including civilians, were still fair game — he was more concerned that the Muslim public would sour on the al Qaeda brand, thus imperiling the success of jihad, than he was with their actual suffering at the hands of al Qaeda’s affiliates.

Cross-posted from the Foreign Policy in Focus blog Focal Points.

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