Source: New York Time, 24/11/2010
To the Editor:
Re “A False Target in Yemen”
Gregory Johnsen argues that the Obama administration is too concerned with Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born, Yemeni-based cleric associated with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. But by focusing on Mr. Awlaki’s status within the group, Mr. Johnsen misses the cleric’s significance to global Islamist terrorism.
True, Mr. Awlaki is not a seasoned operator or a noted religious thinker. But his caustic, politically oriented, English-language online lectures have driven some Muslims living in the United States and Europe to embrace Al Qaeda’s perverted ideology and to plot murderous acts.
While the overwhelming majority of Muslims reject this construct, we should not underestimate Mr. Awlaki’s larger importance. United States policy must continue to recognize that he is no mere “midlevel religious functionary,” as Mr. Johnsen argues, but rather the latest spokesman for Al Qaeda’s fringe narrative of a war between the West and Islam.
Rick NelsonWashington, Nov. 22, 2010
The writer is director of the Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies