"When Osama bin Laden and his lieutenant Ayman al-Zawahiri issued their "Jihad against Jews and Crusaders" statement on February 28 1998, responses to their declaration varied from apathy to amusement. They were an obscure group lost in the faraway emirate of the Taliban, a pathetic remnant of the fight against the USSR during the cold war. Their role looked historically defunct and their discourse archaic.
Things could not be more different now. Al-Qaida has become an intensely complex global network, with a decentralised, flexible structure that enables it to spread in all directions, across the Arab world, Africa, Asia and Europe. Whether pursuing active cells or searching for sleeping ones, the security world is haunted by al-Qaida's ghost. Like bubbles, these cells are autonomous, bound together neither by hierarchy nor by a chain of command. It only takes a few individuals who subscribe to its ideology and terrorist methods for al-Qaida to extend its reach to a new part of the globe.
With the Middle East moving from one crisis to another, this small organisation saw itself miraculously transferred from periphery to centre. In its founding statement, al-Qaida defined its mission as a jihad aimed at cleansing the Arabian peninsula of the American "locusts, eating its riches and wiping out its plantations", and liberating Palestinian land from Zionist occupation. With the invasion of Iraq in 2003, al-Qaida was offered a firm foothold in the Middle East and the unique chance to implement its "resistance against Jews and crusaders" project.
The organisation's penetration of Palestinian politics is the climax of a long, still unfolding process. Rapidly expanding from one location to another, al-Qaida currently boasts branches throughout the Arab region."
Heckuva job, Bush/Cheney.