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Al-Qaeda and the Imagination Behind the Images. - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The latest videotape by Al-Qaeda”s second man, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, in which he blessed what he called &#34the conquest of London and its sisters,&#34 has failed to grab attention and shift our imaginations, as others did in the past. Despite the fact that this recording managed to occupy front pages and headline news on Al-Jazeera for example, this propaganda for Al-Qaeda has now become monotonous and do not gain the emotion that they seek to provoke.

Osama Bin Laden”s appearances no longer have the impact that they once did before and soon after the New York and Washington attacks. One may here consider with much derision as one follows the comments of Al-Zawahiri that perhaps Bin Laden and his clique should meet and determine their next moves concerning their image in the media, one that has retracted to such an extent that it has become pitiful.

Bin Laden”s few appearances on the videotape with his tired features correspond well with reports that have referred to his sickness and poor health. This is the person who sought to appear fighting fit, donning ammunition and weapons, prancing around on his horse, or showing off his shrewdness to a Western journalist by conducting an interview with a map behind him, only to announce years later that the map in that picture bore one of the locations targeted by his organization”s violent attacks.

There is no doubt that Bin Laden had a clear infatuation with his own image to portray to the world and in particular, to the Western world, and such behavior has prompted many to compare Bin Laden to Che Guevara. It seems that the Al-Qaeda leader has decided to substitute his image, which no longer conveys the desired image by repeatedly showing his aide Al-Zawahiri. However, this is nothing more than a distorted repetition of the same old message, only this time it has lost all its power of attraction and influence.

If one lets his imagination run wild then perhaps the image that will come to mind is that of Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi, Al-Qaeda”s new star and inspiration for suicide bombers and other fans. He is the one whose crimes have sent shivers down the spine of the whole world, while those who admire him aspire for themselves and others to be like him. However, despite the narcissism that Bin Laden displays, Al-Zarqawi presents a hatred of his own image (well, this is the feeling we get). The few images of Al-Zarqawi that have been shown have revealed a restless and worried figure, portrayed by the way he looks at the camera and his reluctance to appear before it.

If it is proved that Al-Zarqawi is the one who slaughtered foreigners in Iraq, as extremist websites have bragged, then we would be confronting a different kind of image to that which Al-Zarqawi portrays. Perhaps he believes that his image is forbidden from being shown unless it is for some throat cutting here or there.

Perhaps Al-Zarqawi”s appearances on the videotapes seek to shake the visual monotony of the current scenes from which Al-Qaeda is suffering. All to which I have referred is certainly not praise for such images but rather, it is speculation about its significance.

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled is a prominent and well-respected TV journalist in the Arab world thanks to her phenomenal show Bil Ayn Al-Mojarada (By The Naked Eye), a series of documentaries on controversial areas and topics which airs on Lebanon's leading local and satelite channel, Future Television. Diana also is a veteran war correspondent, having covered both the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan, as well as the Israeli "Grapes of Wrath" massacre in southern Lebanon. Ms. Moukalled has gained worldwide recognition and was named one of the most influential women in a special feature that ran in Time Magazine in 2004.

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