Al Qaeda Winning Arab ‘Hearts and Minds’
As we remember the horrific events of 9/11 today, it is important to recall Osama bin Laden’s declaration of war against us:
“We – with God’s help – call on every Muslim who believes in God and wishes to be rewarded to comply with God’s order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it. We also call on Muslim ulema, leaders, youths, and soldiers to launch the raid on Satan’s U.S. troops and the devil’s supporters allying with them, and to displace those who are behind them so that they may learn a lesson.”
“The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies – civilians and military – is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate the al-Aqsa Mosque and the holy mosque [Mecca] from their grip, and in order for their armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim.”
With these words in February 1998, Osama bin Laden and his intellectual and religious mentor, Ayman al Zawahiri, launched global jihad against America and Americans.
The obvious immediate question is: Are these the ravings of two madmen out of touch with reality, or do these Fatwas (Islamic religious edicts) command the attention and actions of 1.2 billion Muslims worldwide?
Typical of the prevalent attitude is that expressed by Mahfouz Azzam, a prominent Egyptian lawyer. Azzam describes himself as uncle and godfather to Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s second-in-command. Azzam sidesteps the issue by saying (as quoted in the Christian Science Monitor), “Ayman al Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden have never confessed that they have committed any crime. I challenge the CIA or anyone to prove that they have confessed. They did say that they were pleased with the events of Sept. 11th because they thought maybe it would shock the U.S. into changing its anti-Islamic policies.”
According to Azzam: “Any American civilian who serves against our cause [to liberate Islamic lands] – defends, helps, or pays money against us – should be punished.”
Azzam is well educated, completely familiar with the United States and Western ways, and has a better than average understanding of things not Islam. Despite this, his view of America and the West in general is heavily biased towards the dogma emanating from the al Qaeda propaganda machine.
In an earlier article, “Target Al Jazeera – ‘Information War’ Weapon” (DefenseWatch, May 15, 2002), I discussed al Qaeda’s preferred weapon, the Al Jazeera television network. Al Jazeera’s CNN-like program lineup has been the primary vehicle for feeding Muslims’ desire to know across the world.
In recent months Al Jazeera has been reinventing itself to present a broader programming venue to its viewers. The new programs often completely ignore the underlying Al Jazeera message. These programs, which feature interviews and even humor, are in themselves harmless, and may actually result in some positive benefit for the American point of view. But their real intent is to draw an even larger Muslim audience which will then be exposed to a nearly continuous anti-American, anti-Semitic (Jewish), hate-filled agenda.
The true colors of Al Jazeera were revealed for the world to see on Sept. 10, 2002, when this al Qaeda propaganda machine aired a celebration of the events of Sept. 11, one year ago. It broadcast excerpts from a tape that it said would be aired completely on Sept. 12.
The tape showed four men Al-Jazeera says were among the hijackers during technical training in Afghanistan a few months before the 9/11 attacks. They were looking at detailed maps, including the Washington, D.C. area, and manuals of cockpit gadgetry. Nearby desks contained at least one computer and several books in English, and a hand pointed at the site of the Pentagon on one map. The men wore loose shirts and baggy pants in typical south Asian style. Their faces remained concealed.
Speaking over men singing Muslim hymns, a male voice sounding much like Osama bin Laden spoke in Arabic as the tape showed head shots of the 19 who hijacked the planes: “As we talk about the conquests of Washington and New York we talk about those men who changed the course of history and cleaned the records of the nation of the dirt of the treasonous rulers and their followers.” Later, the voice said the 19 hijackers were “great men who deepened the roots of faith in the hearts of the faithful and reaffirmed allegiance to Allah and torpedoed the schemes of the crusaders and their stooges, the rulers of the region.”
The speaker named four men – Mohammed Atta, Marwan Al-Shehhi, Hani Hajour and Ziad Jarrah – as the leaders of the 9/11 attacks in the United States, prayed for their souls, and praised them.
Fully 80 percent of all Muslims worldwide with access to television regularly watch Al Jazeera, and certainly saw this broadcast. That is over half a billion people who received this dose of hatred. This same half billion are regularly admonished by Al Jazeera guests “to kill the Americans and their allies” in a hundred different ways every single day.
Islamic terror groups now include: al Qaeda (international), Hamas (Palestine), Islamic Jihad (Palestine), Al-Aska Martyrs Brigade (Palestine), Hezbollah (Palestine), Jamaat al-Islammiyya (Egypt), Armed Islamic Group (GIA) (Algeria), Kashmir Militant Extremists (Kashmir), Abu Nidal Organization (Iraq), Chechnya-based Terrorists (Chechnya), Abu Sayyaf Group (Phillipines), and possibly others around the world.
Al Jazeera presents the members of these terrorist organizations either as unabashed heroes, or at least as devout Muslim freedom fighters. America and Israel are the primary designated terrorist organizations in these broadcasts. Al Jazeera commentators offer as proof, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the starvation and medical shortcomings of some of the Iraqi people, and the daily plight of the Palestinians.
Pearl Harbor receives no mention; the oil-for food program in Iraq strongly supported by the United States is ignored; and the continuing efforts of U.S. diplomats to broker a Mideast peace is ridiculed as two-faced and designed to topple Arafat.
The bottom line is that over half a billion Muslims receive a daily dose of twisted propaganda that they firmly believe to be true and accurate. In my DefenseWatch article on Apr. 3, 2002 (“Bid the Little Ones Come Unto Me – Forbid Them Not”), I introduced readers to a 15-year-old Arab youth living in London. I shared my month-long email exchange with this lad, in order to demonstrate the success that al Qaeda and its propaganda unit, Al Jazeera, have experienced during the last year. This lad had no concept of the world as it really is, but was fluent in regurgitating the Al Jazeera lies and distortions.
Across the Muslim world, virtually all Muslims believe America is the Great Satan, and that it must be destroyed, no matter the cost. This is not just an opinion. Anyone with the desire and resources can search the Internet and discover the extent of this “market penetration.”
Before and during World War II, the Nazis never came close to this kind of successful propaganda. Stalin and his follow-on minions could only dream of such effective molding of minds. Even the Roman Catholic Church cannot match this kind of world-wide mind control. When Rome has come up against incontrovertible fact, thinking Catholics have invariably changed the church. In the world of Islam, however, the church changes thinking Muslims – or kills them if they refuse to change, since increasingly disagreement with the prevailing thought pattern is interpreted as an apostate offense, punishable by death.
America’s allies in Europe and elsewhere are backing away from their support of our war on terror. Increasingly, America is being presented as a bully flexing its muscles, instead of as an aggrieved party seeking justice. An increasing number of world leaders is looking to America as the underlying cause of terrorism. We are increasingly seen as immoral in our business and diplomatic dealings, unethical in our support of governments opposed by al Qaeda, duplicitous in our support of Israel, and evil in our desire to depose Saddam Hussein.
America hasn’t a single apologist in the Arab world. Even Jordan and Egypt are sliding towards the prevailing mind-set. We are not losing the propaganda war – we have already lost it.
Were America to shut down Al Jazeera permanently, and to substitute reality for its lies and misrepresentations, we might stem the tide, but there is little chance that we can change what has already happened. The anti-American Jihad is a juggernaut that we cannot avoid. It’s time to remove our collective heads from the sand and see reality as it is.
As we contemplate 9/11 and remember the thousands of American innocents killed around the world by these monsters, let’s acknowledge that we have lost the information war, and make damn sure we don’t lose the ground war as well.
Robert G. Williscroft is DefenseWatch Navy Editor