Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Al Qaeda's Global Media War Strategy Grows More Nuanced, Sophisticated And Focused On American Political Disunity

A comprehensive, in-depth look at Al Qaeda's latest excursions in their multi-market media war, by Michael Schuer, the man who headed US intelligence's Bin Laden Unit in the 1990s, before it was disbanded by the Bush administration, just before the 9/11 attacks.

The article shows just how effectively Al Qaeda is waging their media war, and how enthusiastically US politicians and media feed off every word of every threat that Al Qaeda issues. While Al Qaeda obviously cannot be ignored, why do American and Australian politicians, in particular, reflect and enhance the threats made by Al Qaeda, when so very few of them turn out to be real or actionable?

That such credibility is given to people like Al Qaeda's deputy chief Ayman al-Zawahiri by everyone from Bush downwards in the US government certainly makes the terrorist organisation stronger. Bush Co. try to sell the threat of Al Qaeda to the American public like they are the new Nazis. By doing so, the Americans give Al Qaeda far too much credibility, and power.

There are relatively few politicians brave enough to try and undermine the Al Qaeda message, by pointing out how little support the group actually has amongst Muslims around the world, and how often its threats of attacks turn out to be nothing more than wishful thinking :
In an hour-plus videotaped interview broadcast last Saturday, al-Qaeda deputy chief Ayman al-Zawahiri answered questions from an unnamed interviewer from al-Qaeda's video arm, Al-Sahab Productions. The topics addressed covered the range of issues usually focused on by al-Qaeda leaders in videos, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and most other ongoing Islamist insurgencies.

Zawahiri also again attacked the perfidy of Hamas and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood for cooperating with, respectively, the Arab-state allies of the United States - calling them US Secretary of State "Condoleezza Rice's boys" - at the recent Riyadh conference on Palestine and Egyptian Hosni Mubarak's regime.

In the video, however, Zawahiri's presentation introduces several new elements that may portend an increasing al-Qaeda effort to make itself part of domestic US politics and to appeal to the religious sentiments and societal and economic dissatisfactions of American Muslims, especially black Muslims.

The new video maintains the high tempo of Zawahiri's media appearances in 2007. Zawahiri's May 5 appearance is his seventh of the year, of which two have been on videotape and five on audio. Overall, Al-Sahab media organization has released 35 videotapes in 2007, which is a rate of one video every 3.6 days.

Zawahiri's May 5 statements, however, were much more specifically targeted than bin Laden's message, and were meant to inflame further the ongoing confrontation between President George W Bush's administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress over the future of the Iraq war.

While accurately reflecting al-Qaeda's goals, Zawahiri's words were likely meant to provide quality fodder for those in US politics who argue that the Iraq war must be won to prevent the rise of a new Islamic caliphate that will be ruled by a doctrine of "Islamofascism" and threaten the United States and Israel.

For US politicians opposed to the war, Zawahiri offered grist of a similar quality. When asked about his view of the US troop surge in Baghdad and those who claim it is beginning to bear fruit, al-Qaeda's No 2 claimed that the surge certainly is "bearing fruit", but only in Bush's "pockets and the pockets of Halliburton".

Zawahiri's May 5 statements greatly expanded previous al-Qaeda efforts to portray the Islamist movement as part of a world liberation campaign that is meant to destroy US imperialism - "the most powerful tyrannical force in the history of mankind" - and assist "all the weak and oppressed in North America and South America, in Africa and Asia, and all over the world".

Al-Qaeda wants all people to know, Zawahiri said, "that when we wage jihad in Allah's path, we aren't waging jihad to lift oppression from Muslims only; we are waging jihad to lift oppression from all mankind, because Allah has ordered us never to accept oppression, wherever it may be". He concluded this part of the interview by inviting "all the world's weak and oppressed ones to Islam, the religion of freedom and rejection of tyranny, the religion which ... produced the 19 martyrs [of September 11, 2001], who demolished the symbol of America's arrogance".

Beyond this expansion, Zawahiri clearly sought to begin a process of sowing political and racial discontent among American Muslims, focusing primarily on blacks, who form the single most numerous group in the US Muslim community.

Zawahiri's May 5 interview is, to date, al-Qaeda's most sophisticated and nuanced attempt to bedevil US domestic politics, and it highlights the long-standing fascination that al-Qaeda and many other Islamist groups have had with the position of black Americans in US society, and the access they could potentially provide thereto.
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