February 11, 2005


On Message (Joseph Braude, 02.11.05, New Republic)

The Democrats had their rebuttal to the State of the Union address last week; yesterday Al Qaeda offered its own. Ayman Al Zawahiri, the organization's number two, broadcast a recorded message about five minutes in length on Al Jazeera around noon, eastern standard time. In it, he offered an alternative take on the meanings of "freedom" and "reform." Al Zawahiri's speech represents a departure from the Al Qaeda addresses of recent memory, most of which amounted to direct threats of violence targeting Western and Muslim regimes (including, needless to say, their civilian populations). This statement, by contrast, was not so much threat as political argumentation, and the audience was not Western but rather Arab and Muslim. Implicit in Al Zawahiri's speech was an acknowledgement that the United States is now actively competing in the war for hearts and minds in Muslim countries--leaving Al Qaeda no choice but to engage America at the level of politics and ideas. The irony, however, is that Al Zawahiri seemed in his speech to be entering the realm of politics precisely to make clear what Al Qaeda won't do politically: namely, countenance the entrance of Islamists into the democratic arena.

While the comparison to the Democrats is apt, where does he get the "now" and what's ironic about Zawahari acknowledging exactly what the President has said all along? Reminds you of the similar Martin Walker piece the other day.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 11, 2005 7:57 PM
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