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Thread: Attacking the al Qaeda "Narrative"

  1. #21
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Attacking the al Qaeda "Narrative"

    General James Mattis - Attacking the al Qaeda "Narrative" by Jim Guirard at the SWJ Blog...

    In his June 2007 State Department E-Journal article, New Paradigms For 21st Century Conflicts, Dr. Dave Kilcullen of General David Petraeus' senior staff in Baghdad called for, among other things, a "New Lexicon" for better defining and more effectively defeating enemies which subscribe to the faith-based mantra of "Death to America, the Great Satan".

    In other public statements and in several Small Wars Journal postings, Kilcullen entered very slowly, very prudently into the virtually verboten realm of attacking al Qaeda-style Terrorism in Islamic religious context, rather than in Western secular terms only -- referring to the AQ terrorists as "munafiquun" (hypocrites to authentic, Qur'anic Islam) and pointing out that "they call themselves mujahideen" but are doing barbaric things which are anything but holy.

    To which this word warrior says: Spot on! Two small steps for a good man, two giant steps for truth-in-language and truth-in-Islam in the War on al Qaeda-style Terrorism -- a.k.a., Irhabi Murderdom and the AQ Apostasy, as this essay recommends as its most appropriate new names.

    But even these two measured Kilcullen attacks on the terrorists' religious legitimacy were in conflict with the State Department's basic rule in such matters. As stated on page 25 of the US National Strategy For Public Diplomacy and Strategic Communication, the official advisory is, in part, as follows: Use caution when dealing with faith issues. Government officials should be extremely cautious and, if possible, avoid using religious language, because it can mean different things and can be easily misunderstood...

  2. #22
    Council Member Nat Wilcox's Avatar
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    Default Part of me is drawn to this but...

    It also worries me. I think back to Dubya's frequent use of mufsiduun (well, really the English evildoers) way back when. I remember well the nearly universal postmodern sneering at this sort of talk that ensued around my university, at cocktail parties, in the Western media generally. And I'm sure the same thing would happen all over again if our government or military tried talking that way again as a deliberate matter of policy.

    Maybe it doesn't matter, but maybe it does. I don't know exactly how attuned your average Mahmoud is to the discordant din of public discourse in the West, but I'll bet that whatever edge such an alternative lexicon might potentially have, it would be substantially dulled by our own cacophany over its use. It might even backfire. It would be one thing if Muslims themselves naturally developed this alternative lexicon, but I'm pretty nervous about us trying to adopt it as a deliberate tactic.

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    You know, some if the lingo like "Irhabi" is making its way into the ISF lexicon - when I first got there ISF (who spoke some English) when talking to Americans either said Ali Baba (picked up from U.S. troops during 03/04 or simply the terrorists. On the back side I heard IA patrols calling into their BN TOC reports of Irhabi, and in discourse between IA and IP at their Joint targeting meetings.

    When Al Jazeera and Islamic state officials such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, etc, clerics, sheiks and mullahs, can with confidence and without fear of losing power, use this type of lexicon to describe AQ and like activities - it will have the desired effect. Until then, it may only meet with marginal success.

    As such I think our Strategic Communications and public diplomacy to our Arab & Muslim partners, friends and allies must encourage them to see and understand how we view these activities and to issue public condemnations in the strongest language that challenges the religious beliefs the Irhabi cloaks themselves in.

    On the tactical level, I think using the appropriate terms does resonate. When I say tactical I mean the interactions with local officials, HN Security forces, and everyday people on the street during patrols. Hearing it, even from an American as a vocal expression, or on a hand bill - particularly if they are already thinking it anyway, raises the issue and may lead that person to question where they had placed terrorist activities in the context of their faith and life. It also creates an opportunity for dialogue. Your next tip, or the tip to an ISF may come from somebody vocally raising that doubt about what is good and what is bad. I've had some interesting conversations with both English speaking Arabs and through an interpreter while patrolling about our role in Iraq, the future of Iraq and what is right and wrong.

    I'd also add that our understanding of these words is fundamental to interaction and understanding our common enemy.

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    Council Member Nat Wilcox's Avatar
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    Both points well-taken, Rob: I see how discrete promotion of that lexicon in Riyadh, and its use on the ground in Baghdad, can be quite helpful. You've helped me focus my nervousness: It would be with hearing it come from White House Press Secretary, or from a prominent U.S. senator talking to our media. To everything, there is a time and a place.

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    Council Member J Wolfsberger's Avatar
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    It's good news that the terminology is being adopted. But the key term is "munafiquun." About the only thing the Dems and other leftists have gotten right is that there is a civil war. Of course, they don't understand that it is a civil war within all of Islam. When the man on the street begins to describe the Taliban and Al Qaeda as "munafiquun" we'll be a lot better off.
    Last edited by J Wolfsberger; 08-08-2007 at 12:44 PM. Reason: Correct typo.
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    Default Esoteric Nuance

    The problem with using 'the lingo' on the street/tactical level is it comes across as phony and affected and can have an adverse impact. These aren't common terms used every day to begin with and are subject to all kinds of interpretation and meaning by the common person. Infidels and islamic esoteria don't mix well and the same can be said of most cultures, like the wannabes wearing turquoise jewelry and Indian attire believing they will come across as hip and cool and in the know about Indian culture(s) and be more readily accepted. From my Peace Corps days I remember a couple of Black Americans who despite their good language skills and cultural awareness were always spotted as non-Africans when they wore local attire - the kids would hit on them for hand outs as fast as they would on Whites and more than one African told me they could always spot a Black American no matter they were wearing. Good info to have, these terms, but caution is needed in exploiting them.

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi Goesh,

    Quote Originally Posted by goesh View Post
    The problem with using 'the lingo' on the street/tactical level is it comes across as phony and affected and can have an adverse impact. These aren't common terms used every day to begin with and are subject to all kinds of interpretation and meaning by the common person. Infidels and islamic esoteria don't mix well and the same can be said of most cultures,..
    That is a good point and, at the general rule of thumb level i would agree with you. This, however, is one of the situations where that rule of thumb is maladaptive. Case in point, we have already adopted the use of esoteric Islamic language ("jihad", "mujahadeen") and use it in everyday talk - we are just using the wrong terms.
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
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    Council Member J Wolfsberger's Avatar
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    Marc,

    Quote Originally Posted by marct View Post
    ...we have already adopted the use of esoteric Islamic language ("jihad", "mujahadeen") and use it in everyday talk - we are just using the wrong terms.
    The point I was trying to make (poorly) is that the goal of our IO should be to have the Moslem community adopt these concepts, especially "munafiquun."
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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi JW,

    Quote Originally Posted by J Wolfsberger View Post
    The point I was trying to make (poorly) is that the goal of our IO should be to have the Moslem community adopt these concepts, especially "munafiquun."
    Actually, I agree totally with you, althoug I would think it a step forward to just use irhabi in place of jihadist. My response was aimed at Goesh's comment about the adoption of terms.

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
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  10. #30
    Council Member J Wolfsberger's Avatar
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    Hi Marc,

    Quote Originally Posted by marct View Post
    Hi JW,



    Actually, I agree totally with you, althoug I would think it a step forward to just use irhabi in place of jihadist.

    Marc
    Actually, I think that's occurring. I've read a number of anecdotes in various places where, as an example, sheiks and tribesmen in Anbar refer to the "irhabi."
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    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by J Wolfsberger View Post
    Hi Marc,



    Actually, I think that's occurring. I've read a number of anecdotes in various places where, as an example, sheiks and tribesmen in Anbar refer to the "irhabi."
    I'll categorically state that as of 2006 in both Ninewa (Tal Afar/Mosul) and Anbar (Ramadi), "irhabi" is used constantly by the locals to describe AIF/AQIZ.
    "A Sherman can give you a very nice... edge."- Oddball, Kelly's Heroes
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  12. #32
    Council Member redbullets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by J Wolfsberger View Post
    The point I was trying to make (poorly) is that the goal of our IO should be to have the Moslem community adopt these concepts, especially "munafiquun."
    IMO, directing our own IO campaign with the objective of having the Muslim community adopt these concepts will not be effective. At this stage, at best it will be viewed as disingenuous, and at worst counterproductive.

    The focus should be on a truly Muslim IO campaign (if we can convince any of our allies to think, plan and execute such) toward developing/reinforcing these concepts among the mainstream believers, hopefully to eventually trickle down to and influence the fringe, or at least introduce some distance between the two.

    Cheers,
    Joe

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    Berkeley Breathed tried something but 25 newspapers have refused to publish it, including WaPo
    http://www.berkeleybreathed.com/pages/index.asp
    Note to Opus readers: The Opus strips for August 26 and September 2 have been withheld from publication by a large number of client newspapers across the country, including Opus' host paper The Washington Post. The strips may be viewed in a large format on their respective dates at Salon.com.

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    Default Satirist turns terrorists into Dad's Army

    From today's Sunday Times.

    http://entertainment.timesonline.co....cle3177654.ece

    CHRIS MORRIS, the satirist whose television act features jokes about paedophilia, drugs, incest and rape, is to make a movie intended to show the funny side of terrorism.

    He says the film will seek to do for Islamic terrorism what Dad’s Army, the classic BBC comedy, did for the Nazis by showing them as “scary but also ridiculous”.

    Morris said: “Most of us would dearly love to laugh in the face of our worst fears. Why aren’t we laughing at terrorists? Because we don’t know how to, until now.”

    Though the film is a work of fiction, Morris has researched it over the past two years by visiting places in Britain associated with terrorist plots, including Leeds, Bradford and Luton.

    “I don’t plan for this film to be offensive, but I do want it to be very funny,” Morris said. “I accept, though, that some may find poking fun at terrorists is offensive.

    “There is this Dad’s Army side of terrorism and that’s what this film is exploring,” said Morris, who once, while hosting a Radio 1 show, made a hoax announcement about the death of Michael Heseltine, the former Conservative deputy prime minister.
    For those not familiar with Mr Morris and his humour, here's an example:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvyX-CwHpAQ

    Should be interesting...
    Last edited by gh_uk; 01-13-2008 at 10:43 AM.

  15. #35
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default AQ gives a clue?

    Found on Friday on the West Point CTC website an article 'Abu Yahya’s Six Easy Steps for Defeating al-Qaeda' By Jarret Brachman.

    Link: http://www.terrorismanalysts.com/pt/...d=18&Itemid=54

    On an initial reading offers some excellent points on counter-propaganda (apologies if article has appeared on SWJ before).

    davidbfpo

  16. #36
    Council Member Van's Avatar
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    Default Dean Ing's "Soft Targets"

    Y'all are discussing one of the major threads in Dean Ing's "Soft Targets". A great read by a brilliant fiction writer. Note that in the book the comedian who has the nerve to initiate the humor campaign against the irhabi becomes a target of violence, and also note that this book was written in the late '70s early '80s.

    My favorite joke from the book was something like (forgive me as I don't have a copy on my desk);
    Achmed: "We must kidnap everyone who thinks we are idiots!"
    Abdul: "But Achmed, where are we going to keep five billion hostages?"

    Also, Jeff Dunham and Achmed the Dead Terrrorist are an excellent example of anti-irhabi humor (though targeted at Western audiences). Gotta love the eyebrows.

    I agree that one of the major unspoken objectives of the AQ criminals is to be taken seriously. They also want legitimacy. If we would try to deny them legitimacy, why not also deny them the serious tone that they crave?

  17. #37
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    I agree that one of the major unspoken objectives of the AQ criminals is to be taken seriously.
    But the most attractive I found was something such as a team of two: "Overladen Bin" playing the sinister boss with his inseparable dumb lieutenant Richard Reid, aka the "Shoe Bomber," who unwillingly and lamentably always sabotages all missions and plots, owing to the repeated blunders he does.
    Isn't a major obstacle to this that regardless of what an aspiring jihadist (be he AQ or of the dispersed, home grown variety) does or does not achieve, in the media (and to an extent in official pronouncements) he (or they) are portrayed in the darkest and most threatening terms, as some sort of super-terrorist?

    I was struck by this during the incidents in Glasgow and London in the UK last summer; whilst not wishing to detract from the potential seriousness of the VBIEDs in London, there must be some comic potential in the fact they failed to put enough money in the parking meter (or parked illegally - whichever) and had one of their VBIEDs towed.

    Also consider the attack on the airport terminal, as shocking as the imagery of the incident was, its hard to imagine how much more coverage they would have got if they had succeeded. Instead one of them managed to set himself on fire and later died, while the other was knocked down by an unassuming baggage handler who has gone to become a minor media personality as a result (see here).

    What I'm trying to say is that it will be very hard to sell a message that counters them being taken seriously when every wannabe, walter mitty or incompetent 'jihadi' is painted in terms of an existential threat to civilisation as we know it. The way in which even their dullards and incompetents (e.g. Reid) are hyped in the public arena bestows more seriousness and legitimacy on them than they could hope for.

    I'm originally from Northern Ireland, where we developed a very black brand of humour due to our 'Troubles'. One recurring theme of that humour was the general incompetence and stupidity of Loyalist paramilitaries, a tradition I'm pleased to say has outlasted the Troubles themselves. For example (not my blog):

    http://loyalistwonders.wordpress.com...one-fat-chops/

    http://loyalistwonders.wordpress.com...-of-the-north/



    Perhaps an example to follow?

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