The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

The best of Al Qaeda

Asia Times Online describes an Al Qaeda compilation CD (why call it state-of-the-art, though?) that is being sold illegally in South Asia and the Middle East. The CD is quite well put together, apparently, reminding me of the high production quality of an Iraqi insurgency video a few months ago. That seemed to have been put together in part by and for British Muslims of Indian and Pakistani origin; this CD, with English and Urdu subtitles, could be targeted to the same people. But of course, nowadays any vaguely techy person could make their own VCD or DVD.

Asia Times Online, meanwhile, has learned of the release in Afghanistan of a state-of-the-art CD comprising selected speeches by Osama bin Laden from 2002 to December 2004. The CD is already available (illegally) in Pakistan and in parts of the Middle East.

Security experts believe that soon it will flood the market as the first step towards a broader al-Qaeda goal; to shed its shadowy image and openly propagate the call for mass jihad against the US and any other foreign occupiers in the Middle East.

The CD's speeches address specific audiences, like the one in 2002 to the Pakistani nation, the 2003 speech to Americans, a speech in 2004 to Europe and the December 2004 address to the people of the Arabian peninsula (Saudi Arabia).

The CD includes horrifying images of war and destruction in Iraq, and pays tribute to the Iraqi resistance.

Unlike in the past, the CD appears to have been made by professionals in a well-equipped studio. The audio and visual effects are clear, with English subtitles for non-Arabic speakers. Additionally, separate formatted files include transcripts in languages such as Urdu, Persian, English and Arabic.
The Asia Times article also includes a lot of interesting material on the US' propaganda war, most notably its contract with the Lincoln Group to plant pro-US articles in the Iraqi media, but rather unconvincingly contrast the CD and the article planting as two parts of a media war. Not really, I would say, since one is covert and narrowly targeted while the other seems part of an effort to gain a higher public profile.

Update: some recent related articles about the article-planting scandal:
  • Comic writer Henry Beard confesses to planting pro-American jokes in Baghdad papers.
  • The LA Times editorial makes "Godfather" analogies.
  • Whirldview, a blog, says that there more US companies involved in psy-ops than the Lincoln Group.
  • From Aqoul: Arab journalists "weak and corrupt," says top Dubai honcho while demanding more positive spin.