Al-Qaeda-like organizations have been around for 1,500 years. Al-Qaeda takes its inspriation from Hassan Ibn Saba's Hashasheen, an underground society devoted to the demise of the Seljuk Empire through assassination and suicides. Afghanistan served as the modern day redoubt of Alamut where Bin Laden and his followers lived in reclusion and ascetism under Spartan conditions.
Al-Qaeda is influenced by the thought of Ibn Hanbal (VIII century) and Ibn Taymiyyah (XIII century) in which Jihad is of primordial importance. Naturally, the Wahhabis draw upon them as well.
Al-Qaeda has about 5,000 members and they are mostly rich capitalists from the Arabian peninsula. It's a cult of extraordinarily rich gentlemen, who are practitioners of chaos.
Al-Qaeda really doesn't give a shit about the downtrodden. Growing one's investment portfolio and building one's warchest chief enterprise. People like al-Zarkawi are wanna-be's. There is no al-Qaeda in a hellhole like Iraq. What Bush tells the Americans is hokum. And Al-Qaeda doens't care about the outcome of the US elections.