June 7, 2009


Forceful Words and Fateful Realities (ROD NORDLAND, 6/07/09, NY Times)

Jarret Brachman, a former West Point terrorism expert and author of a recent book, “Global Jihadism,” said the speech “was the most important strategic step we’ve taken in this war.”

“That’s why Al Qaeda is so nervous,” he said.

If the medium were the message, the contrasts could not have been more stark. The American president was polished and poised, his speech broadcast from the elegant surroundings of an ancient Arab university, and watched worldwide. Mr. bin Laden’s was on an audiotape, crackling and hard to hear, broadcast on Al Jazeera. “Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri have been reduced to a static voice on the radio, a static voice on TV and a static image and message,” Mr. Gerges says. “The message no longer resonates with Muslims the way it did in the late 90s and after 2001.”

Has the message from Al Qaeda just become fossilized, a missive from a coelacanth that no longer dares venture out of its deep sea cave, where it slakes its predatory appetites in the dark? “We have to put this in a little bit of perspective,” says Shibley Telhami, a University of Maryland professor who runs an annual poll of Arab public opinion. “Bin Laden still has some support, his intense admirers, but the real difference is that the rest of the Muslim world were embracing him out of anger toward America, and now they’re not.” The anger toward America remains, but most people have rejected Al Qaeda as well, Mr. Telhami says.

Mr. Obama’s speech referenced the future, quoted from the three major monotheistic religions, and talked about a new beginning, all delivered with his customary calm. The two voices of Al Qaeda were strident, almost violently so, in their discourse.

“Be aware that the dogs of Afghanistan have found the flesh of your soldiers to be delicious, so send thousands after thousands to them,” Mr. Zawahiri taunted Mr. Obama, according to a transcript of his audio message distributed by SITE, which monitors and translates jihadi Web sites. “America has put on a new face but its heart is full of hate.”

Mr. Gerges accidentally makes the point--the decline began on 9-11. It was W who rendered them fossils in caves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 7, 2009 8:38 AM
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