Posted by Jeff on October 13, 2005 • Comments (5)Permalink

Sniff, sniff. What's that smell?

The office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) has released its assessment of the letter between al Qaeda leaders Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Al-Zawahiri's letter offers a strategic vision for al Qa'ida's direction for Iraq and beyond, and portrays al Qa'ida's senior leadership's isolation and dependence.
Among the letter's highlights are discussions indicating:

-- The centrality of the war in Iraq for the global jihad.

-- From al Qa'ida's point of view, the war does not end with an American departure.

-- An acknowledgment of the appeal of democracy to the Iraqis.

-- The strategic vision of inevitable conflict, with a tacit recognition of current political dynamics in Iraq; with a call by al-Zawahiri for political action equal to military action.

-- The need to maintain popular support at least until jihadist rule has been established.
Admission that more than half the struggle is taking place "in the battlefield of the media."

Please excuse me for noticing just how closely the DNI's assessment of al Qaeda's strategic vision bolsters the Bush administration's justifications for "staying the course" in Iraq. Iraq is the "central front" in the war on terrorism. American departure from Iraq will not end the war. Iraqis yearn for democracy. The al Qaeda leaders fear the political progress in Iraq. The media is responsible for the success or failure of the war.

A read of the entire text reveals more of the same--what the Bush administration has been telling us about the enemy's plans and the dire consequences of troop withdrawal from Iraq has been right all along.

Does it seem a bit too coincidental that this letter is surfacing as Mister Bush's poll ratings continue to plummet?

Apparently not, according to the DNI:

The United States Government has the highest confidence in the letter's authenticity.

Hey, that's all we need to know, right? Trust them. They'd never lie to us or resort to black propaganda against American citizens, would they?


Diana Farsetta of Center for Media and Democracy posted this on Tuesday:

On September 30, the nonpartisan, investigative arm of the U.S. Congress, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), announced that several aspects of work done for the Department of Education by the public relations firm Ketchum violated federal law. Taxpayer-funded projects carried out by Ketchum or its subcontractors -- including Armstrong Williams and Karen Ryan -- constituted "covert propaganda" or "purely partisan activities," according to the GAO.

Yet, what the GAO has condemned, administration officials seem to consider business as usual…

…The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, the Office of Management and Budget and, more recently, the Department of Education's Inspector General have all rejected the "audience must know" standard. Instead, they argue, hidden government involvement in the news is fine, as long as government messages are "informational" and not "persuasional."


In other words, the executive branch of our government says covert propaganda aimed at U.S. citizens is just fine, as long as the propaganda is presenting us with the information the administration wants us to hear.

At first blush, the notion that this letter between Zawahari and Zarqawi is a manufactured hoax seems like utter conspiracy theory paranoia. But then again, so did the possibility that Cheney, Tenet, Bolton, and others would have cooked the intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq.


This just in from Reuters:

Al Qaeda's wing in Iraq on Thursday rejected as a fake a letter by top group leader Ayman al-Zawahri which was issued by U.S. officials this week, according to an Internet posting.
"We in Al Qaeda Organization announce that there is no truth to these claims, which are only based on the imagination of the politicians of the Black (White) House and their slaves," the group said in a statement posted on an Islamist Web site about the letter.

Who you gonna believe, the Director of National Intelligence or al Qaeda in Iraq?

Tough choice, huh?


Read more of Jeff's commentaries at Pen and Sword


Posted by: terry at October 13, 2005 02:28 PM

I'd like to see the original, for one thing.

For another, even if this is real and supports the administration's line of thought, shouldn't they be embarrassed that these "thugs," unlike the geniuses on our side, are actually concerned with post-war planning?

Posted by: terry at October 13, 2005 04:07 PM

Here's another question: When the hell did it become the job of the Army to justify administration policies? Check out this CentCom site whihc has tidbits like this:

The letter demonstrates that pulling US forces out of Iraq is the wrong approach – that terrorists will not simply lay down their arms when American forces depart Iraq. Al-Qaida and its terrorist brethren will not go away when the Coalition hands over security control to Iraqi forces; rather, they are committed to overthrowing the elected, democratic Iraqi government and ruling the country according to their interpretation of Islamic law.
Why aren't the brass running the show over in CentCom pissed that Bush is turning the military into just another propaganda wing of the Republican party?

Posted by: Lurch at October 13, 2005 06:34 PM

My first thought about all this was: How conveeeenient. Amazing, isn't it? An organization that is supposedly hunted by the best military in the world (heh!) and hiding and dodging from cave to cave takes the time to send a multi page letter from #2 to #3 (or is it from #3 to #2? - I get soooo confused about who's #2 this week.

Somehow this incredibly long letter which immaculately agrees with the Bu$hCo propaganda points is providentially intercepted. Past communications, other than the bin Laden audio and video tapes, have been sparse, terse, and concerned with operational details. But suddenly we get a long document that concerns itself with strategic planning. Just as Commander Codpiece's popularity figures start dropping even lower.

Now, Zawahiri is Egyptian. Zarqawi is Jordanian. Although the two countries are geographically close, the language, accents, nuances, grammar, etc, are undoubtedly different. A skilled Arabist could quite possibly infer quite a bit from the "original" Arabic letter.

Ssadly, we don't have a lot of skilled Arab translators working for the USG, because some of the students who patriotically volunteered for training after 9/11 were - you know - light in the loafers and therefore suspect. Although G_d knows why a person's sexuality has anything whatsoever to do with their patriotism or liguistic skills. When I was stationed in Europe the language tutor who tuned up my German was from Leipzig and was a flaming nance, but he taught me to speak like a proper Ossie, which was what was needed. I guess different times and different ideologies. Poltics and international relations make strange bedfellows.

Ooops. Did I say that?

I wonder what John Cole will have to say about the Arab version of the letter? Anyone want to offer odds on just where this letter was originally written? Or what its original language was?

Posted by: Jeff Huber at October 14, 2005 08:35 AM

Great points, gang. Thanks for posting. Lurch, I suspect we'll never get to the bottom of whether or not the letter is real.

Terry, thanks for the tip to the CENTCOM site.


Posted by: Lurch at October 14, 2005 09:23 AM

Jeff, as I commented yesterday, Professor Cole has quite a bit to say about the letter and it all revolves around language, nuance, and grammar, as I forecast.

He adds that al Q also says it's a forgery, and I'm not surprised since heretofore thay have always been quite happy to take responsibility for their public missives.

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