What does this remind you of?
The Hydra was said to be the sibling of the Nemean Lion, and thus seeking revenge for Heracles’ slaying of it. As such, it was said to have been chosen as a task for Heracles so that Heracles would likely die.
Upon reaching the swamp near Lake Lerna, where the Hydra dwelt, Heracles covered his mouth and nose with a cloth to protect himself from the poisonous fumes and fired flaming arrows into its lair to draw it out. He then confronted it, but upon cutting off each of its heads he found that two grew back…
See Asia Times Sep 11, 2004:
The al-Qaeda makeover
Al-Qaeda is more of a multi-headed hydra than ever: the “global” head plus the “local” heads. “Global” al-Qaeda includes groups of multinational operatives striking in the US (as in September 11) or in Western Europe (Madrid’s train blasts). These are above all Arab-Afghans, remnants of the jihad of the 1980s against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. “Local” al-Qaeda on the other hand strike in their native countries against Western targets (for example in Casablanca, Bali and Istanbul): these are all part of the big al-Qaeda franchising.
The “historic” al-Qaeda is itself split in two: bin Laden’s faithfuls, who have followed him since the Peshawar, Pakistan, days for more than two decades; and the new breed who “graduated” in Afghanistan from 1997 to 2001. Many of bin Laden’s faithful have been killed or captured – in essence by Pakistani, not US, forces: they include Mohammed Atef, Abu Zubayda, Suleiman Abu Graith and the alleged mastermind of September 11, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.
For a long time Western intelligence was prone to propagate the myth of al-Qaeda as a pre-September 11 organization with many heads, with sleeping cells occasionally galvanized into action. This is false. Al-Qaeda as a rule waits for no one – unless technical glitches occur, and these usually involve delays in recruitment, research, team-assembling and elaborate counter-security measures. The delays also prove that al-Qaeda is much less of a well-oiled organization than the Bush administration would like the world to believe.
Al-Qaeda subscribes to no political strategy, other than the strategy of total opportunism: as any kind of attack can happen any time, anywhere, it rules by fear – while at the same time demonstrating it is immune to any large-scale US war, from Afghanistan to Iraq…
The avant-garde brigades
The members of al-Qaeda’s new elite were either born in Western Europe – many hold a legitimate European Union passport – or came to the West while still very young and then became radicalized. As Bush is a born-again Christian, they are sort of born-again Islamists. The most important fact is that this “return of the repressed” (Islam) is above all a political radicalization. The new breed’s brand of political Islam is much more “political” than “Islam”.
Very few of these new brigades come directly from Islamic countries. And their exile is one-way: they never come back to where their families come from. The classic itinerary was to sharpen the knives at a peripheral jihad – Afghanistan, Kashmir, Chechnya – to become widely respected mujahideen, and then go back to Western Europe. They never went to fight in the Maghreb or in the Middle East – although the war in Iraq started to change this pattern.
In 1997, bin Laden obtained from his friend and admirer Mullah Omar monopoly control over the Arab-Afghan training camps in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the Pakistanis and the Uzbeks maintained their own training camps. This means that every single jihadi who was not Pakistani or from Central Asia who went to Afghanistan between 1997 and 2001 was trained at an al-Qaeda camp.
Unlike the faithful, none of the new breed of Arab-Afghans is close to bin Laden. But they definitely inherited a legendary al-Qaeda esprit de corps. The best and the brightest were trained to come back to Western Europe, wait and then raise hell. But the majority stayed behind fighting alongside the Taliban: among these were the hundreds captured by the forces of commander Ahmad Shah Masoud, the Lion of the Panjshir, before he was assassinated exactly three years ago, on September 9 – al-Qaeda’s “signal” for September 11.
The best and the brightest of this new al-Qaeda elite form the current backbone of bin Laden’s organization – the people who have masterminded and carried out global attacks for the past two years. They remain a very tight bunch, although now thoroughly globalized; treason – and squealing – is out of the question; and most astonishingly, there’s nothing to it of a secret society. They work as a band of brothers, sharing everything – apartments, bank accounts – even in the open. Al-Qaeda’s joint chiefs, the command and control structure, the base cells and the complex networks, everything works like some family enterprise in northern Italy, based on personal relationships, be they nurtured in Afghanistan or in any other country. But then a complex process of deterritorialization sets in, and the virus spreads…
Brand recognition the name of the game
…Local al-Qaeda alliances now include everybody and his neighbor: Jemaah Islamiya in Indonesia (the Bali bombing) and Southeast Asia; warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyr’s jihadis in southeastern Afghanistan; the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (responsible for the Tashkent bombings in July); and perhaps even the mysterious, one-legged jack-of-all-trades, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, configured by the Bush administration as the new bin Laden in the Iraqi Sunni triangle.
Old-style al-Qaeda might well be pulverized by the Pentagon any time. But “al-Qaeda”, the brand, lives, whatever the Bush administration spin. Zarqawi is the best example: he may not even be directly linked to bin Laden anymore, and he is now the sole boss of his own terrorist cottage industry.
Like a multinational product, “al-Qaeda” suits everybody. For President Vladimir Putin in Russia, Islam Karimov in Uzbekistan, even President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the Philippines, “al-Qaeda” is the ideal excuse for any repressive or inept regime presenting its credentials as a full-fledged member of the “war on terror”. For al-Qaeda’s purposes, bin Laden remaining the supreme evil is an invaluable propaganda coup. And for al-Qaeda franchises – free to pursue their own initiatives – using the brand means guaranteed media impact.
“Al-Qaeda” the brand has now embarked on an inexorable logic of expansion – in flagrant contradiction to Bush’s assertion that the world is safer. Al-Qaeda will keep deepening its alliances with ethnic and nationalist movements – with Shamil Basayev, the emir of the mujahideen in Chechnya and trainer of the Black Widow squadrons of female suicide bombers, or with sectors of the Iraqi resistance in the Sunni triangle. “Global” al-Qaeda in all these cases works and will continue to work as a sort of “Foreign Legion”, as French scholar Olivier Roy puts it, a capable military vanguard that is useful for local purposes for a determined period of time…