Update: the WSJ has an opinion article with greater detail of the memo contents than anything else I've seen (reproduced below).
I heard something on the radio today that--in all honesty--nearly made me wreck my car. Having just moved recently, I'm not intimately familiar with the local radio stations, and I didn't catch which major media outlet provides national news bites on the station I was listening to, though I know it's one of the biggies.
This is what they broadcast as their second story at the top of the hour, in alarming tones:
"A widely-distributed letter purported to be from Ayman al Zawahiri to his al Qaeda deputy in Iraq may be a forgery."
My heart was instantly in my throat, and my first thought before I heard the actual story was, "Oh God, don't let some political hack have been that stupid." Of course, upon reflection, the idea that some politician cooked it up is absurd (for myriad reasons that I'll address in the comments if anybody has any questions).
But what, pray tell, were the details that followed this stunning audio headline? Nothing more than the breathless report that a website believed to be associated wtih al Qaeda had posted a statement saying that it was false, that it had been created by the American government for propaganda purposes.
That was the entire story. There was nothing more.
I'm not kidding about nearly wrecking the car. I'm not the type to sit on the sidelines and take potshots at "the media," but this one takes the cake! You might as well report that a website claims Billy Graham is a Satanist! The utter insanity of treating the statements of people who drive IEDs into crowds of children as something to be taken at face value!!! Have journalists completely sold their souls?!!
I'm just speechless. I really don't have the words to describe the moral depravity and intellectual deficiencies of "journalists" who would think that story was anything more than a propaganda gift to al Qaeda. Giving that kind of undeserved weight to their words without even a smidgen of proof is positively treasonous (and no, I'm not throwing that word around lightly)!
What unspeakable moral darkness...
From the WSJ (emphasis added):
What our enemy thinks about Iraq.
Thursday, October 13, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT
Ayman al Zawahiri and George W. Bush don't agree on much. But al Qaeda's No. 2 leader and the U.S. President are in accord on one thing: Iraq is the central battlefield.
This is just one of the many insights into the mind of the terrorist braintrust gleaned from an extraordinary document obtained this summer by U.S. forces in Iraq and released yesterday by the White House. It is a 6,000-word letter from Zawahiri, presumably in hiding in Pakistan, to al Qaeda's commander in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi.
We're glad the Administration made the decision to declassify it. It goes a long way toward letting Americans see what we are up against in Iraq and elsewhere in the world. The letter's full text is up on the Web site of the Director of National Intelligence at www.dni.gov.
Those who want a premature U.S. withdrawal from Iraq will now have to explain why that won't play into the hands--and plans--of the enemy. Zawahiri makes it quite clear that al Qaeda's ambitions extend well beyond the borders of any one country. The goal is a fundamentalist Islamic regime that begins in Iraq, extends into the neighboring secular nations of the region, assaults Israel and moves on from there. And yes, he uses the word "caliphate."
But let Zawahiri speak for himself. The jihadists, he writes, "must not have their mission end with the expulsion of the Americans from Iraq, and then lay down their weapons, and silence the fighting zeal." Plainly said, these boys are in it for the long haul. Just because the U.S. might decide to pull out of Iraq hardly means that al Qaeda will stop trying to kill Americans.
Notwithstanding Zawahiri's chilling language, the good news here is that the tone of the correspondence with his mass murder colleague in Iraq often borders on the desperate. Zawahiri hardly sounds like a commander on the brink of victory. He is clearly worried that the jihadists are losing in Iraq. He devotes a large portion of his letter to a critique of Zarqawi's tactics, counseling him to do more to win "public support" among the Iraqi Shiite majority.
Don't attack mosques, he advises. Don't target ordinary people. "Many of your Muslim admirers amongst common folk are wondering about your attacks on the Shi'a," he writes. Such strikes amount to "action that the masses do not understand or approve."
As for the Sunnis, he urges Zarqawi to cast a wider net--an implicit admission that he's worried about Sunnis who have been showing signs of interest in the democratic political process unfolding there. Afghanistan--and the Islamic democracy emerging in that nation--is his worst nightmare. "We don't want to repeat the mistake of the Taliban, who restricted participation in governance to the students and the people of Kandahar alone," he says. "The result was that the Afghan people disengaged themselves from them. Even devout ones took the stance of the spectator and when the invasion came, the emirate collapsed in days, because the people were either passive or hostile."
Zawahiri's also not feeling too peachy about his personal situation. He recounts the death of his "favorite" wife and a daughter after the collapse of their house during an apparent American bombing. He admits to a "real danger" from the Pakistani army, which is pursuing al Qaeda in tribal areas. He mourns the capture of al Qaeda big shots, and oh by the way, he asks Zarqawi to send him $100,000.
The letter is dated July 9, two days after the London subway bombings, of which there is no mention; this suggests that life in a cave, or whatever redoubt in which he is holed up, doesn't include the basic amenity of daily news access. He asks whether the full text of a speech he had sent to al Jazeera was actually broadcast in June.
Amid these lamentations, however, one area emerges about which the terror commander exudes great confidence: the mediaThe lesson he learned from Vietnam is that "more than half of the battle is taking place on the battlefield of the media." He clearly wants to use the media, in the U.S. and in the Arab world, to induce the U.S. to pull out of Iraq and default a position of strength to al Qaeda. He actually worries about the possibility that Zarqawi will blow victory on the media battlefield: Toward this end, he gently urges Zarqawi to discontinue his habit of beheading hostages, suggesting that perhaps instead he could just shoot them. "We are in a media race for . . . hearts and minds," he writes.
The long Zawahiri letter is a rough roadmap of the strategic vision for al Qaeda's intentions in Iraq and the global jihad. If it has a familiar ring, that's because George Bush has been warning the world about it for several years.