The Idiom

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

George Kaplan Al Baghdadi

In an interesting development straight out of North by Northwest, American officials have revealed that the leader of the "Islamic State of Iraq," Abu Omar Al Baghdadi, does not, in fact, exist.

The mysterious Abu Omar al-Baghdadi -- the so-called “emir” of the so-called “Islamic State of Iraq” -- apparently avoided capture so elusively through a very clever ruse: He didn’t exist. As Michael Gordon writes in the Times, US forces, announcing the arrest of Khalid al-Mashhadani, have also claimed that al-Baghdadi was a persona created by al-Qa'ida’s leader in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, in order to “establish an Iraqi pedigree” for the al-Qa'ida franchise in Iraq.

AQI is feeling the pinch because their extreme vision of the Islamic Caliphate is not resonating among the Iraqi public. So, in addition to more mundane methods of control like brutal intimidation and threats, they apparently went the full Hitchcock and "invented" an Iraqi front man for purposes of legitimacy (Al Masri is Egyptian.)

While this may seem laughable in hindsight, it's demonstrative of the creative nature of the Enemy's psychological operations. They are better than us at understanding what motivates people in premodern tribally based societies. What's more, they are better than us at understanding what motivates people in postmodern societies - thus the ugly spectacle we witnessed on the Senate floor the other day.

Warfare is not about killing people and breaking stuff. It's about affecting the state of mind in a given population. And in this war between the Enlightenment and its discontents, the discontents are winning.

"Choose your next quip carefully Mr. Baghdadi, it may be your last..."


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