Though looked upon skeptically by most mainstream analysts, the Bush administration continues to try to tie al-Qaeda to Iraq. (Just to be clear, that's a metaphor. There's no actual rope.)
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld recently touted to the press that he had "bulletproof" evidence that senior al-Qaedudes were in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. Citing the classified nature of the intelligence, he would not elaborate. The statement comes off to many as an effort to justify a war against Iraq to the country and the rest of the world by linking it to the 9-11 attacks. Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein aren't natural allies. Saddam is a secular thug who kills because of his cruelty and lust for power. Al-Qaeda are fanatical religious thugs who kill because they think they're doing it for God. To use a White House term, al-Qaeda would love to inflict a little "regime change" on Baghdad.
That's not to say that they might not confer at some point to try to act against us, their mutual enemy, but the White House hasn't offered convincing proof of such an alliance. The only thing Rumsfeld said is that there are al-Qaeda agents in Baghdad. Simply having them present doesn't mean that the country should be bombed. Hell, we know of al-Qaeda agents in Germany, France, Indonesia, and Lackawanna, N.Y. Does that justify bombing upstate New York or Hamburg? Do the discussions about a pipeline through Afghanistan that took place in the summer of 2001 between U.S. and Taliban mean that we're terrorists?
Meanwhile, al-Qaeda is still more obviously active in other parts of the world. On Oct. 2, a bomb blast in front of a karaoke bar in the Southern Philippines city of Zamboanga killed three people, including a U.S. soldier. The bombing is thought to be the work of Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim separatist terrorist group trained by al-Qaeda.
The bombing coincides with recent reports that al-Qaeda is attempting to regroup in Southeast Asia. After uncovering credible threats of planned bomb attacks to coincide with the first anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, the U.S. temporarily closed its embassies in Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia, among others. U.S. officials now believe that Southeast Asia is home to the largest concentration of al-Qaedudes outside of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Al-Qaeda is attracted to Southeast Asia because of its Muslim populace, lax law enforcement, delicious food and bitchin' waves.
And finally, no update on al-Qaeda would be complete without a word or two about Osama bin Laden. You remember him, right? Tall guy, beard, hates us. That's the one.
Well, we supposedly haven't heard a peep from him since we think we heard him throw out a "10-4, good buddy" to his troops via walkie-talkie in Afghanistan late last year. His general sickliness (he has bad kidneys) and the fact that he hasn't released any new videos since then have lots of people (including me) thinking he's dead. Just to satisfy his fans though, al-Qaeda is re-releasing all of bin Laden's old videos on DVD. They're said to include hilarious bloopers, such as that one time bin Laden bumped his head on the top of the cave and his turban came off. They should be out in time for Ramadan.