After Zarqawi: "The Enemy" in Iraq

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We are in the beginning of 1983 and Iraq is our Afghanistan and we are the Soviets… We’re bogged down with over 100,000 troops, in an Asian land war which we cannot win, it is draining us of blood and treasure, it’s obviously sapping our morale, we have an enormous budget deficit, we’re the victims of imperial over-stretch, there is no end in sight, we have inadvertently helped to put up the price of petroleum which is also hurting our and other economies… If the Soviets had had the good sense to get out of Afghanistan in 1983, they and Afghanistan would have been much better off. We’re not at the Battle of the Bulge, we’re in a very different kind of struggle, an unconventional struggle in rugged terrain, in impenetrable cities and so far, our one big counter-insurgency success, the killing of Zarqawi, has had no discernible effect whatsoever on the prosecution of this guerilla war in Iraq. In fact that number of deaths after his death are way up, and the amount of bloodshed is much increased. I don’t see good news here.

Juan Cole on Open Source

The insurgent enemy in Iraq has a new face: the formal and turbaned but otherwise strikingly open portrait shot of Abu Ayyub Al-Masri, presented by US military briefers in Baghdad just now as the successor chief of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.

My questions for our eminent Iraq watchers on Monday could begin with these:

Abu Ayyub Al-Masri

The new guy: Abu Ayyub Al-Masri [Photo released by the US Military on June 15, 2006]

What is this new “Most Wanted” poster worth — in the US or the Middle East? What is the process of “casting” the #1 target of the American war? Is it fair to ask: might he have been chosen because he’s catchable?

Do we know much more about Mr. Masri, as the New York Times calls him, than Colin Powell knew about Abu Musab al-Zarqawi when our Secretary of State at the United Nations in 2003 made Zarqawi famous, mistakenly, as the terror link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden?

And, while we’re up, what is the mix of Hollywood culture, political spin, and military strategy in the creation of enemy celebrities? In all the hindsight on Zarqawi’s life and death, how well were we — or the truth — served by the heavily orchestrated attention to one thug in a multifarious battle scene?

Mary Anne Weaver may have fixed the central point in her exquisitely timed detective work on Zarqawi for the new Atlantic. “Zarqawi was not the main force in the insurgency,” a former Jordanian intelligence official told her, on the strength of 10 years’ professional study. Zarqawi’s gruesome assassinations and his bold assault on the UN in Baghdad immediately after the fall of Saddam “gained a lot of support for him—with the tribes, with Saddam’s army and other remnants of his regime. They made Zarqawi the symbol of the resistance in Iraq, but not the leader. And he never has been,??? said the Jordanian informant.

He continued, “The Americans have been patently stupid in all of this. They’ve blown Zarqawi so out of proportion that, of course, his prestige has grown. And as a result, sleeper cells from all over Europe are coming to join him now.??? He paused for a moment, then said, “Your government is creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.???

Mary Anne Weaver, The Short, Violent Life of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in The Atlantic, July-August, 2006

Our guest Lawrence Wright, with a book forthcoming on Al Qaeda, worries in an obituary comment on The Terrorist in the current New Yorker magazine, that Zarqawi, feeding on his notoriety in Western eyes, had become “the herald of a new generation of terrorists whose roots were in street crime, not in Islamic militancy…” and that we are stuck, even after his death, with a monstrosity we helped inflate.

With Zarqawi’s death, at age thirty-nine, bin Laden and Zawahiri may try to return Al Qaeda to its more disciplined and popular incarnation, but it is Zarqawi’s example that will inspire many in the new generation of jihadis. “It’s going to be like Afghanistan all over again,??? Ali Soufan, a former F.B.I. agent who has interrogated dozens of Al Qaeda members, said. “The difference is that these guys are far more radical.???

Lawrence Wright, The Terrorist, in The New Yorker, June 19, 2006.

We will count on the indispensable Juan Cole of the University of Michigan and his daily blog Informed Comment to lead our conversation into the core question of what fires the Iraq insurgency going forward. Cole, too, has tended to discount the Zarqawi dimensions of the fight.

There is no evidence of operational links between [Zarqawi's] Salafi Jihadis in Iraq and the real al-Qaeda; it was just a sort of branding that suited everyone, including the US. Official US spokesmen have all along over-estimated his importance. Leaders are significant and not always easily replaced. But Zarqawi has in my view has been less important than local Iraqi leaders and groups. I don’t expect the guerrilla war to subside any time soon.

Juan Cole, Zarqawi Killed in Baquba, Informed Comment, June 8, 2006

Also at our talky table Monday evening: Rita Katz, the Basra-born, fluent-in-Arabic online monitor of terrorist threats, doing private enterprise research that the CIA reads, from a secret office called SITE, for Search for International Terrorist Entities. Read all about her in The New Yorker online, and post your own questions please below.

Update, 6/19/06

Rita Katz will unable to be on the show tonight, but we’re hoping to get her on for a full hour some time next week. Stay tuned.

Juan Cole

Professor, Modern Middle East and South Asian History, University of Michigan

Blogger, Informed Comment

Lawrence Wright

Staff Writer, The New Yorker magazine

Member, Council on Foreign Relations

Author of (forthcoming) The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11

Related Content


  • http://www.billhobler.com Bill Hobler

    The cheers of victory because 1,000 pounds of our explosives finally killed a criminal are a victory for the terrorists. The whole Muslim world’s disaffected rally to this criminal because he was blamed for so much pain imposed on Iraq’s people and ours. And it is our own fault.

    There were no terrorists in Iraq before we invaded, Al Qaeda was shunned by Saddam. When we invaded we were not ready to keep the peace and rebuild. We were the aggressors and we attracted those who would humiliate America. And they have been successful. We are a magnet for terrorists and Iraq is not controllable – it wasn’t when we invaded and is not now. So the death of this one thug is not going to materially change the problem on the ground. Our continued presence in country will only attract more terror.

  • Christopher May

    Bravo! It is more than fair to ask if Al-Masri was chosen because he may be catchable. Certainly the Bush regime needs to place markers along the highway to victory – if victory is even attainable. The average American needs a face and a name to conceptualize the enemy. This seems to be a simple ploy to establish meaningful landmarks on a road leading to nowhere.

  • jdyer

    “What is this new “Most Wantedâ€? poster worth — in the US or the Middle East? What is the process of “castingâ€? the #1 target of the American war? Is it fair to ask: might he have been chosen because he’s catchable?

    Why would anyone ask such a question? Why would al Kaida choose someone as their leader “because” they can be eliminated?

    This is too byzantine a quesitons to be real.

    “We will count on the indispensable Juan Cole of the University of Michigan…”

    Indispensible to whom? Not to Yale!

    Come on Chris your anti-Bush paranoia is getting the best of you.

    btw: I am not a Bush supporter, but I am anti-anti-Bush.

  • jdyer

    Try getting Paul Berman on your program:

    http://www.democratiya.com/interview.asp?issueid=5

    “Interrogating Terror and Liberalism: An Interview with Paul Berman

    Paul Berman is the author of A Tale of Two Utopias: The Political Journey of the Generation of 1968 (1997), Terror and Liberalism (2003) and Power and the Idealists, or, The Passion of Joschka Fischer and its Aftermath (2005). Over the years he has written about politics and literature for The New York Times Magazine and Book Review, The New Republic, The New Yorker, The Village Voice, Mother Jones, and other magazines. He is a contributing editor of the New Republic, a member of the editorial board of Dissent, and a writer in residence at New York University. Ellen Willis has written that ‘The left’s ability to address the issue Berman raises is nothing less than a test of its ability to make sense of the contemporary world’. The interview was conducted on May 24 2006.”

  • DrDan

    It’s my understanding from info disseminated via Air America Radio that the US Government (USG) has recently mounted a concerted (and as usual, privatized and ridiculously expensive) psy-ops (aka propaganda) campaign whose goal was to falsely inflate the apparent importance of “Zarqawi” as “the face of al-Qaeda in Iraq” — so as to further the Administration’s aim to continue conflating Iraq and 9/11. I was also given to understand that the USG openly acknowledged and corroborated the existence and cost of this campaign.

    If this is true, what credence, if any, should we give to (a) reports of “Zarqawi’s” death, and (b) any new info the USG (or its PR contractors) promulgates about “al-Masri” as his designated successor?

    And a corollary question: Why is it considered FAR beyond the moral pale for the insurgents to publish pictures of our casualties, but it is considered perfectly peachy to publish “trophy” pictures of “Zarqawi’s” lifeless head on the front pages of our newspapers, above the fold? (Perhaps we are to take it that it’s OK because “Zarqawi” was only a figment of Photoshop, as is “al-Masri,” and no actual humans were harmed in the making of those pictures?) In which case, why didn’t we go the whole hog and Photoshop in a bloody pike upon which to mount the former’s dead head?

    And a second corollary question: How come it’s OK to plaster pix of “dead” terrorists all over our media, while at the same time it is decreed to be illegal to show pictures of even the flag-draped coffins of our own valiant fallen soldiers, anywhere?

  • Potter

    Dan, two different emotions. We are being manipulated by the USG. With the former emotion we (are supposed to feel) glee that we killed the enemy ( who is bad, no, inhuman). This the enemy we have to fight there so that they do not come here.

    The latter emotions, sorrow and anger, that we feel after seeing the flag-draped coffins make us ask why.

    After all it’s editorials in heavy criticism of the war, it’s disappointing that the New York Times would print a picture four columns wide of a scene that included the picture of the framed dead Zarqawi on an easel with the US flag at the news conference just at the moment that the ‘wanted’ picture was taken away. Was this so to be one step removed from the barbarity? But they could have put that on page 10 and in black and white.

    This good article appeared the same day in the NYT ( here in the IHT)- by Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon

    Zarqawi’s Life After Death

  • scribe5

    “If this is true,…”

    ….and if it isn’t true, DrDan?

  • scribe5

    “Dan, two different emotions. We are being manipulated by the USG.”

    So, we go from “if it is true,” to “we are being manipulated” in the space of two posts.

    Any evidence that “we” are being manipulated?

    I don’t feel manipulated by the “USG.” If anything it’s the people who are chopping heads off and filming their acts who are trying to manipulate me.

    No word about that from either of you. I wonder why.

  • DrDan

    ===== quote =====

    # scribe5 Says:

    June 19th, 2006 at 2:09 pm

    “If this is true, …”

    … and if it isn’t true, DrDan?

    ===== unquote =====

    … and if it is true, scribe5?

    http://tinyurl.com/qpl7z

    … and if IT IS TRUE, scribe5?

  • DrDan

    ===== quote =====

    # scribe5 Says:

    June 19th, 2006 at 2:13 pm

    … Any evidence that “we” are being manipulated?

    I don’t feel manipulated by the “USG.” …

    ===== unquote =====

    … Admittedly, it MUST be quite difficult to feel whether you are being manipulated, when your body is so tightly contorted as yours seems to me to be.

    … OBTW, how DID you get your head so far up in there, scribe5? … and umm … how’s the view? :->

    ===== quote =====

    “If you’re not outraged, you haven’t been paying attention.”

    – Progressive bumper sticker

    “My country invaded Iraq and all I got were these ridiculous gas prices!”

    – seen on a bumper sticker near the gas-cap

    ===== unquote =====

  • loki

    When Pat Garret (in the movie ” Pat Garret and Billy the Kid”) asked a character names Alia potrayed by Bob Dylan “who are you” Alias thought for a moment and answered “that is a good question”

    The heart of the Iraq crises nis not only “who are you”(i.e. the USA but also

    “who are you”(the Iraqi leaders and the resistance.)

    Is Iraq a question of “mistaken identity?”

  • scribe5

    “and if IT IS TRUE, scribe5?”

    If it is true then c’est une autre chose. However, a couple of articles in the WashPost and CNN is no proof that it is true.

  • scribe5

    Dr Dan:

    “… Admittedly, it MUST be quite difficult to feel whether you are being manipulated, when your body is so tightly contorted as yours seems to me to be.”

    Oh that’s quite a counter argument “DOCTOR!”

    What exactly are you a doctor of?

    “… as yours seems to me to be.”

    Your vision must be like that of a superhuman “doctor” if you can see my body through the screen of your computer.

  • DrDan

    ===== quote =====

    # scribe5 Says:

    June 19th, 2006 at 4:08 pm

    “and if IT IS TRUE, scribe5?�

    If it is true then c’est une autre chose. However, a couple of articles in the WashPost and CNN is no proof that it is true.

    ===== unquote =====

    Sooo… are you saying then that if it had appeared on FOX News then THAT would be sufficient proof that it is true? In that case, you’re safe, I should think.

    In which case, Ladies and Gentlemen of the blog-readership, I rest my case.

    =====

    Oh and by the way, anent your

    Q: “What exactly are you a doctor of?”

    A. “Metaphor-ology.” :) You could look up the first word.

    Try this: http://tinyurl.com/l9mpk

    ===== quote =====

    # loki Says:

    June 19th, 2006 at 3:40 pm

    … Is Iraq a question of “mistaken identity?”

    ===== unquote =====

    IMHO not, loki. In my opinion it is a case of DELIBERATELY MISREPRESENTED identity, under color of which the USG (ultimately meaning the corporatist neocon cabal now controlling the Executive Branch) conceived and began a war of indeterminate length.

    The goal of that war was (_sub rosa_ and ostensibly) ”to secure a beach-head in the Middle East oil patch and to “assist Israel” by “rolling out the March Of Democracy.”” The ruling cabal ensured the chaos that was to fuel the war’s indefinite length by deliberately poor strategic and tactical planning, by leaving unguarded huge stockpiles of explosives that could be converted into IEDs, and by a thousand other acts of corruption, omission and comission that add up into a justification for never leaving and “staying the course.”

    And now after 2500 American deaths and countless casualties on both sides, the Administration has the gall to attempt to shame more American families into losing their loved ones because “to cut and run now would mean that those who died BEFORE would have died in vain.” (Does this remind anyone else of John Kerry’s famous question, “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”)

    This “stay the course” tactic and many other craven actions (“signing statements” etc.) demonstrate conclusively that the cabal (abetted by a supine, bought-and-paid-for media and a Republican party absolutely cowed by divisive, cheap, clever Rovian “Talking Points”) is also diligently working towards the dissolution of American Democracy with the aim of replacing it with home-grown theocratic Fascism.

    Check out Sinclair Lewis’s “It Can’t Happen Here” — you’ll be amazed by its prescience.

    http://tinyurl.com/sx4t4 .

    This bumpersticker nets out the book with what I like to call a “high pith-to-byte ratio”:

    http://www.stickergiant.com/Merchant2/imgs/250/b7038.gif

  • http://civilities.net/people/JonGarfunkel Jon Garfunkel

    I’m going to pass on commenting on the little catfight above.

    Reading Wright’s New Yorker Comment, it struck me that might be facing the same sort of downward arc that other organized crime syndicates have faced over the course of the 20th century (cf. “Goodfellas”). The group first relies on some sort of “code” for many years (e.g., not dealing in hard drugs, bribing the right police, etc.). They do this out of self-preservation more than any real moral gravity. Over time, more radical competitors begin undercutting the old families, and society as whole begins to demand that crime syndicaates be destroyed.

    Many of us (especially on the left) automatically see government psyops (propaganda, if you will) as bad. But, in the case of Zarqawi, it was certainly in our interests to prop up his image and to make radical Islam be seen as intolerable by Islamic societies.

    So, question for your guests: does the crime-syndicate parallel help?

  • scribe5

    More ad hominem nonsense from so called “DOCTOR� dan.

    “Sooo… are you saying then that if it had appeared on FOX News then THAT would be sufficient proof that it is true? In that case, you’re safe, I should think.â€?

    Just because you watch CNN doesn’t mean that I watch FOX news. (Don’t have cable in, in any case. I’d rather read books.)

    “In which case, Ladies and Gentlemen of the blog-readership, I rest my case.”

    Pretentious, aren’t we, DOCTOR? (He thinks he is in front of some jury.)

    Take your medicine, DOCTOR; the medicine given to you by a real physician and not by some spurious medicine man like yourself.

    Btw:

    “Oh and by the way, anent your

    Q: “What exactly are you a doctor of?�

    A. “Metaphor-ology.� You could look up the first word.�

    I haven’t seen any metaphors in you ad hominem screed nor any similes.

    The closest thin to an image in your contorted prose is the following:

    “… Admittedly, it MUST be quite difficult to feel whether you are being manipulated, when your body is so tightly contorted as yours seems to me to be.�

    This isn’t exactly prize winning writing. Is it, now?

  • scribe5

    “Many of us (especially on the left) automatically see government psyops (propaganda, if you will) as bad. But, in the case of Zarqawi, it was certainly in our interests to prop up his image and to make radical Islam be seen as intolerable by Islamic societies.”

    I agree, Jon, but Zarqawi surely helped in our so called “propaganda” effort.

    Cutting people’s heads off and murdering Muslims at a wedding in Jordan isn’t exaclty good for al Kaida’s image.

    I am not objecting using propaganda, we did use it during the cold was as did the other side. Propaganda only works if you have the facts on your side. Otherwise you end up, as did the Soviets, and as al Kaida seesm to be doing, convincing yourself that you are always right. Sooner or later reality will catch up to you, don’t you think as it did in the case of the Soviets.

  • Brendan

    Hey guys, help me out here and try to stay away from this stuff:

    No word about that from either of you. I wonder why.

    scribe5, in this comment thread

    … Admittedly, it MUST be quite difficult to feel whether you are being manipulated, when your body is so tightly contorted as yours seems to me to be.

    … OBTW, how DID you get your head so far up in there, scribe5? … and umm … how’s the view? :->

    DrDan, in this comment thread

    Attack arguments and facts, not motives or people. Any questions, check the commenting guidelines.

  • scribe5

    Correction:

    “Many of us (especially on the left) automatically see government psyops (propaganda, if you will) as bad. But, in the case of Zarqawi, it was certainly in our interests to prop up his image and to make radical Islam be seen as intolerable by Islamic societies.�

    I agree, Jon, but Zarqawi surely helped in our so called “propaganda� effort.

    Cutting people’s heads off and murdering Muslims at a wedding in Jordan isn’t exaclty good for Al Kaida’s image. They don’t need us to make them look bad.

    However, I am not objecting using to the use of propaganda. We did use it during the cold war, as did the other side. Propaganda only works, though, if you have the facts on your side. Otherwise you end up, as did the Soviets, and as Al Kaida seems to be doing, convincing yourself that you are always right and sooner or later reality will catch up to you. It did in the Soviet case.

  • http://www.radioopensource.org/user/sidewalker sidewalker

    “the little catfight above”

    But, Jon Garfunkel, you didn’t pass on it, did you?

  • DrDan

    Sorry about that, Brendan… I forgot about the guidelines there.

    Scribe5, I supplied some items I considered facts to back up my reports of propaganda (in the form of lots of news coverage thereof). Can you supply more than simple denials of that coverage?

    As an interesting “side note,” I stayed for several nights in the very same Amman hotel bombed by al-Qaida last November. By blind luck, we had left two evenings before. Hearing about the bombings didn’t change any of my aforementioned political opinions. Had we been injured (or worse and survived), I don’t believe that would have changed my political opinions either.

  • DrDan

    What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander… If we can make “gang analogies” about the rise and fall of “the al Qaeda gang,” why not consider similar analogies between the gang paradigm and the gaggle of imho out-and-out gangsters currently running the U.S. Government? Consider the Cheney/Halliburton faction… the increasingly discredited neocons… the appeasement of the Christo-Fascists… the once (and present?) role of John Negroponte in Central America and now at his present Cabinet level… and on and on?

  • Potter

    Scribe 5-I should have said that I feel strongly that I am being manipulated and I believe that others feel that way as well.

    I believe we have been manipulated similarly in the past.

    And I do not think it is uncommon in history.

  • http://civilities.net/people/JonGarfunkel Jon Garfunkel

    Potter– good point. Somewhere on the web I once made the point that in English the word “we” is hopelessly ambiguous between “we (me and you)” and we (me and other people with me.”

    Dan– I’m not touching that either. We do cover the White House once every few weeks on that show and we’ll circle back to that.

    Thanks to Chris– it sounded like my question you read on-air tonight. I’ve always liked the use of the criminal analogy because it really de-legitimizes the political aims of the al-Queda movement.

  • jazzman

    If Zarqawi were a native Iraqi (instead of a Jordanian) fighting to overthrow an occupying power, there would be little difference from the hypothetical scenario of the British murdering George Washington after being tipped off by a Tory as to his location. If it were Lafayette or Baron von Steuben that were ratted out and killed by the British – no difference. The feel good, glorification of murdering a murderer is Consequentialism, yet another end justifying the means rationalization – supposed good ends are never justified by less than ideal means. (Whose good? Not Zarqawi’s, not mine, maybe yours. It’s the abstract subjective emotional states of they that deem whatever outcomes GOOD)Consequentialism is a canard which may be used to justify any action for any supposed subjective GOOD objective.

  • http://n/a winston_dodson

    It looks like DrDan is the answer that the Omsbudsman of NPR (National People’s Radio) was looking for when he asked the question “does the news need a little edge”?

    Sounds like a new movie “DrDan and the edge of (un)reason”.

  • Potter

    Hello Jazzman- Jon Garfunkel posted topic at Frappr.com/lydon, (our forum) on Nettiquette and Consequentialism. Your ears must have been burning.

    http://www.frappr.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?p=4978631#4978631

    Jon Garfunkel made a good point about the need to elevate Zarqawi in order to give focus to the intolerable evil of radical Islam. But I wonder if this might be, on the other hand, just a theory.The movement is doing quite well discrediting itself in Iraq.

    It seems we are helping to create the monster, make it bigger, harder to kill- thus the endlessness to this “war”

    Kerry was all to meekly talking about treating this as a criminal matter.

  • DrDan

    ===== quote =====

    # winston_dodson Says:

    June 19th, 2006 at 7:11 pm

    It looks like DrDan is the answer that the Omsbudsman of NPR (National People’s Radio) was looking for when he asked the question “does the news need a little edge?”

    Sounds like a new movie “DrDan and the edge of (un)reason.”

    ===== unquote =====

    I acknowledge receipt of your message.

  • scribe5

    There are two divergent views about Islamicism.

    Many people on the left seem to feel that there is no Islamic threat.

    Some leftists, myself included feel that there is a real threat that Islamicists are not just a bunch of disorganzied fanatics who act like gangsters but share a common vision of trying through different means including the use of terror to convert the world to their totalitarian ideology.

    That Bush was unable to make the threat clear in convincing detail doesn’t mean that it’s not real.

    I listened to the program and took away the impression that the guests were saying that they didn’t believe in an Islamic Fascist like movement.

    The one interesting moment in the program came when one of the guests said that al kaida was trying to disengage form Iraq and go elsewhere because they saw that it was a war between Shiites and Sunnis and that they didn’t think they could win. That seemed accurate to me.

    Somalia is probably one of the places were they will be going next.

  • scribe5

    “Scribe 5-I should have said that I feel strongly that I am being manipulated and I believe that others feel that way as well.”

    Well, ok. I didn’t feel manipulated and I know other people who also didn’t feel manipulated. Some of the people I am thinking of were against the war others like myself were for deposing Saddam though I knew that Bush was going to screw up the whole operation.

    As Berman had argued Rumsfeld and his bizarre war doctrine has much to do with the mess we made in Iraq. Bush though in the final analysis has to take responsibility for the war.

  • http://civilities.net/people/JonGarfunkel Jon Garfunkel

    Potter wrote: “Jon Garfunkel made a good point about the need to elevate Zarqawi in order to give focus to the intolerable evil of radical Islam.”

    Hmm. I’m not sure I made that precise point. Mostly I was leveraging Wright’s argument. Though I was trying to be precise with the word “intolerable”– we did “tolerate” organized crime in this country until the 1960′s when RFK finally engaged the Justice Department to begin to dismantle it.

    And I’m not sure I can even defend it. I was trying to develop the parallels. An ultra-cynical reading of the G.W.O.T is that Bush has enabled ordinary Muslims to feel the pain of terrorism by opening up the wound that is Iraq and letting it fester. At what cost, though.

    btw, scribe5, good to meet you, I think we share common politics. I try to approach these shows with an open mind.

  • babu

    BRITISH DOCUMENTARY DECODES THE WAR ON TERROR

    Adam Curtis, a filmmaker for the BBC, in his riveting film/essay, ” The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear” distills fifty years of parallel history in the Middle East and the U.S. See

    http://www.villagevoice.com/film/0516,curtis,63147,20.html

    He makes the point that disallusionment by vastly separated NeoCons and Muslims with post-WW II liberalism and the rise of individualism and consumerism led each to propose a form of purist retrenchment away from the emerging social freedom. Each group thought their populations had become mesmerized by sin and could not be relied upon to make good political decisions or understand what had happened to themselves. And needed to be manipulated into snapping out of it.

    Soo oo they thought that the only way to get the sheep back in the fold was to manufacture a national crisis or purpose – to lift people out of their torpor of pleasure. The campaign could be fictitious, if necessary. Witness the Cold War, the war on communism, the Iraq war, the war on Clinton, among others.

    Adam Curtis introduces the thinking of Sayyid Kutb and U>S> conservative Leo Krause, each political thinkers who thought permissive consumerism and individualism was bankrupting their respective societies. Kutb launched a form of zealous fundmentalism which tried to set an example of Moslem ideals by shocking people into seeing what they had become. People refused to be shocked but the movement was subverted by many local disruptions where relief from tyrants was, indeed meaningful.

    Cutis’s point is that both movements, the NeoCons and the Moslem fundamentalists are each using unsubstantiated scare tactics to confuse and galvanize masses of people into action — both sides against

  • babu

    Continued

    both sides against the advance of permissive, consumer-oriented lifestyles and the destruction of ‘moral values’.

    Curtis shows that this so-called movement was failing in the Arab world, that there was/is no real organization, that al Quaida as an organized enemy was a construct of US (secret) politics. Yes there are martyrs who are trying to shock the world into seeing the evil of our ways. On our side, it’s a smoke screen to keep us from noticing the advance of conservative ideals.

    Bush is the perfect patsy clone, except that he can’t give deliver his lines convincingly. It’s a shell game, with two fundamentalist movements historically linked in a curious parallelism and synchonicity.

    To debate the details and personalities is to miss the large print. On both sides a generation is being manipulated into accepting the wholesale destruction of a half-century of social progress.

  • scribe5

    Jon,

    “btw, scribe5, good to meet you, I think we share common politics.”

    Looks like it, Jon.

  • scribe5

    “Adam Curtis introduces the thinking of Sayyid Kutb and U>S> conservative Leo Krause,….”

    That would be Leo Strauss, babu.

    “Adam Curtis, a filmmaker for the BBC, in his riveting film/essay, â€? The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fearâ€? distills fifty years of parallel history in the Middle East and the U.S.”

    The comparison in the article isn’t very convincing. The idea that the neocons and the Islamicists have similar socio political values is laughable.

    Two socio political views can be wrong without being similar to one another.

    Many other thinkers have critiqued consumerist culture, Marcuse, the Frankfurt school, Christopher Lasch, etc, that hardly makes them similar to the Islamicists.

    On the other hand, some hard core leftists have endorsed and allied themselves to the Islamicists,especially in Europe. There you have a real affinity.

  • scribe5

    For a convincing leftist critique of Qutb see Paul Berman’s Liberalism and Terror:

    Here is an interview with the author:

    http://www.democratiya.com/interview.asp?issueid=5

  • Potter

    Babu- thanks.. Yes… and there is the word manipulation. Yours is the broader, historical view of just what I and many others are feeling.

  • DrDan

    ===== quote =====

    # DrDan Says:

    June 19th, 2006 at 5:56 pm

    Sorry about that, Brendan… I forgot about the guidelines there.

    Scribe5, I supplied some items I considered facts to back up my reports of propaganda (in the form of lots of news coverage thereof). Can you supply more than simple denials of that coverage? …

    ===== unquote =====

    I also apologize for my [i]ad hominem[/i] comments, Scribe5. If you read this and still retain any interest in the discussion, it would be good of you to respond to my above-quoted request, if possible. Thanks in advance.

  • babu

    scribe5:

    Very good thoughts related to Adam Curtis’ film. Thanks for the correction and links.

    I agree with you completely; I knew i was condensing wildly (there’s been a campaign of sorts here to encourage keeping posts short) and I did fear I had conflated the two systems without meaning to.

    My points were to

    1) alert people to the film which is making its way around the film festivals and art houses as decent overview for putting some context to the bewildering barrage of press which impedes popular understanding of the geo-politics, and

    2) point out that each side demonizes

    I agree with you completely; I knew i was condensing wildly (there’s been a campaign of sorts here to encourage keeping posts short) and feared I had conflated the two systems without meaning to.

    the other as a major tactic to further its own agenda, while the main event for each has nothing to do with the other.

  • babu

    Sorry, garbled again, My mouse is very twitchy.

    Point 2 should read:

    2) point out that each side demonizes the other as a major tactic to further its own agends, while the main event for each has nothing to do with the other.

  • http://lightfromthenorth.blogspot.com/ Toby in the North

    Being in far off foreign lands I podcast OpenSource so apologies for coming in on this a bit late as I only got time to listen just yesterday. It was a great show that made me cycle into work the long way so I could listen to it all undisturbed. Anyway I just want to point out that Lawrence Wright made a really excellent point in comparing the al-Qaeda tag to the jolly roger. It was almost a throwaway comment but it is actually a brilliant analogy for trying to think about what al-Qaeda now is. I even did a blog entry on it so at least I (and my Mum and two mates who read my blog!) don’t forget it: http://lightfromthenorth.blogspot.com/2006/06/of-pirates-and-terrorists.html

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