Zawahiri’s Black Day

All the usual suspects have said smart things about the Zawahiri statement (pick through them here), so I won’t summarize his message.  But I do disagree with two things I read.  First is ZS Justus’s statement that too much is being made of Zawahiri’s “house negro” epithet against Obama at the expense of his more significant statements about Afghanistan.  Second is Abu Muqawama’s claim that Zawahiri’s racial epithet won’t be effective.  

Here’s my take: Zawahiri strongly believes that African-American Muslims are disaffected and thus receptive to al-Qaeda propaganda in ways that other American Muslims are not.  (One suspects that Adam Gadahn convinced him of this.)  That is why he spent the better part of an hour-long interview last year talking about Malcolm X and the oppression of blacks in the U.S.  And that is why he is bringing it up again now and using such charged language.  According to a Pew poll last year, this was not a bad communication strategy in 2007.  But given Obama’s election and his overwhelming support among African-Americans, Zawahiri has grossly overreached this time.  Thus, contra Justus, this is the most important part of Zawahiri’s message because, contra AM, it will have a very negative effect on the sole group he had any hope of influencing in the U.S.  It is also bad PR at a time when Zawahiri’s reputation is taking a beating at the hands of his former ally, Sayyid Imam.

One final point: Not all Arab Jihadis like the racially-charged responses to Obama’s election.

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5 Responses

  1. What role does Adam Gadahn play in al-Qaeda propaganda /communication strategies aimed at the U.S.? And how does his warped view of the U.S. affect the effectiveness of this message?

  2. Crude,

    Gadahn’s direct role is well known through his videos. Most of his rhetoric is of the leftist, third worldist sort–U.S. hegemony, oppressed peoples, evil capitalism, sleeping masses. It is a message that resonates well with elements of the left and disaffected minorities in the U.S.

    As for his supporting role, not much is known yet. But if he had anything to do with this “house negro” stuff–and where else would Zawahiri get it?–it was a bad blunder.

    Gadahn is the translator for al-Qaeda in every sense of that word. He not only translates the Arabic of its leaders into English; he translates American culture for al-Qaeda. Gadahn is al-Qaeda’s dragoman. But he’s lost touch with his native culture, which is hurting his job performance.

  3. I have a different take on this:
    This is aimed at convincing those who dearly hope that Obama will change the direction of US foreign policy in the Middle East. By telling Obama that he will fail with his Afgahn policy, by saying that Obama will not be able to redirect the course of US foreign policy because he is in fact a domestic slave and not a Malcom X, Zawahiri is simply establishing a yardstick by which he wants all Muslims around the world to judge Obama in a year or two. Judging the effectiveness of his word now is missing the point. Wait two years and if we are not out of Iraq, if we are more deeply involved in Afghanistan, if nothing is new on the the Israeli-Palestinian front, if Israel continues to strangle Gaza, then Zawahiri will just have to say: “I told you so…”

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