Friday, October 3, 2008

Adam Gadahn reappears on video


32:07 AVI format. As-Sahab opening credit and watermark throughout. Gadahn speaks in English, and two versions of the video were released, one with an Arabic voiceover and one without. Usually, when as-Sahab is working on a video, they announce a few days in advance that it is coming, but this time the video appeared with no preliminary announcement. The filenames (after unpacking) are
Movie_00_(azzam to big india Arabic).avi
Movie_00_(azzam to big india English).avi

Gadahn wears a white shirt and turban with a black vest; the background has been digitally removed. He is seated with his elbows on a desk or table which is just out of view.
A gold-on-black flag is at Gadahn's right. It is the same as the one seen alongside Abu al-Yazid and Abu Yahya in recent as-Sahab pieces, but smaller. No other periphernalia or weapons are visible.

The video contains excerpts of fairly recent but not new audios from UBL and Zawahiri and a video from Mustafa Abu al-Yazid. Arabic in the audios has an English voiceover by someone with an accent. Apart from those excerpts, no one but Gadahn is seen or heard in the video.

The most recent specific events mentioned by Gadahn occurred on 17 September 2008: a meeting between General Ashfaq Parvez Kiyani and Admiral Mike Mullen, and a nearly simultaneous NATO airstrike within Pakistan.


Nothing in this video suggests to me that Gadahn himself has gone operational, or that he has any command over anyone, or that he is privy to any of al-Qa'ida's plans. When Gadahn first became wanted in 2004, he was part of a network of dangerous people including Haroun Fazul and Adnan Shukri Jumah. But judging from this piece, and the preceding one almost nine months earlier, Gadahn today is just one more talking head on the internet.

From the way he talks about Pakistan, I feel that he is still in Pakistan but not in a danger zone like Bajaur or Waziristan. He seems to spend a lot of time reading news on the internet.

The body of the piece is a grossly pretentious and arrogant speech about recent developments, mostly in Pakistan, less so about Afghanistan, a wee bit on Iraq and India, and a passing insult or two against KSA and the UK. In its aims, it is a familiar type of Sunni terrorist propaganda:
-- it tries to incite or feed resentment of AQ's enemies, on this occasion the government and democratic constitution of Pakistan.
-- it accuses the Muslim target (Islamabad) of deceptive, duplicitous, heretical, mercenary etc. etc. collaboration with Jews, Crusaders, etc. etc.
-- it claims that Kufr is mowing down innocent people deliberately and indiscriminately in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
-- it says that the mujahideen are on the verge of an historic victory.

Specifics, and notable omissions

The only big surprise in this video is its existence, proving that Gadahn was still alive at least until 17 September. The contents themselves are quite predictable, but some omissions are notable.

Gadahn makes no mention of the Palestinians. Not long before this video was made, Hamas massacred about 12 of their Salafist rivals in Gaza City (members of Jaish al-Islam and some uninvolved relatives), which infuriated al-Qa'ida, but Gadahn does not mention it.

The anniversary of the destruction of the Lal Masjid was a big deal to the top al-Qa'ida guys. But to Gadahn it seems to be just one more incident in a list he has compiled, to remind his listeners about, in the hope of inciting them against Islamabad. Indeed, Gadahn seems curiously detached from all the various heavy anti-terrorist and anti-Islamist actions in Pakistan during the months he was away.

It opens with parable from the qur'aan and hadith known as, "The believer is not bitten twice from the same hole", meaning he learns from experience what, or who, should be distrusted. Then come congratulations and condolences to the families of the martyrs in Afghanistan and tribal Pakistan.

Gadahn claims that a variety of recent criticism of American and allied interests is insincere: Islamabad is secretly in cahoots with Washington and is not sincere about defending Pakistan from the US or NATO; Karzai is a puppet and doesn't care about dead Afghan noncombatants; Riyadh is insincere in its criticism of the US in Iraq; Brown is feigning concern about US raids inside Pakistan (which is a Commonwealth country and the UK's main source of immigrants).

Then comes a bunch of anti-Islamabad accusations, about cooperation with the Americans. Gadahn seems to be talking about events in Pakistan from a safe distance, unlike Zawahiri. Twice he lists off the sites of various American drone attacks in Pakistan, but he does not name any of the dead, and indeed he seems to know nothing more about it than does anybody who reads about it in the online media.

Gadahn comes down rather specifically on General Kiyani, who became chief of staff when Musharraf took off his uniform. Kiyani's appointment seems to be a satisfactory choice to everybody except some Islamist-friendly army and ISI officers, and, apparently, al-Qa'ida. Zawahiri also singled out Kiyani, and the Gadahn video contains a copy of Zawahiri's condemnation of him. Gadahn imitates Zawahiri on this point, but wants to claim that Kiyani is Washington's man, whereas Zawahiri paints him more as Musharraf's man. This illustrates a general fact about the terrorist mentality: The country that any terrorist really hates is the country that he knows: his own country.

One more notable omission: Gadahn quotes from the qur'aan and other sacred texts relatively little. Citing the qur'aan for quasi-legal justification is a practice universal among Sunni terrorists and aggressors. But Gadahn's approach to rhetoric is the one he acquired before he converted to Islam, and quite Western. The rhetoric itself is far from expert.

Near the end, Gadahn exhorts a list of various classes of people to jihad, and among the list are "emigrants" (muhajiroon in Arabic) followed by "helper mujahideen" (ansar al-mujahideen). Both names, in their Arabic versions, are names of groups of al-Qa'ida sympathizers in Europe.

The video concludes with a grossly arrogant and condescending finale, enjoining all the Muslims in what he calls the region, or rather, ordering them all, to unite against Islamabad and its allies and its democratic constitution. It's an ugly spectacle -- this fugitive American convert talking down to the teeming Muslim masses in these words:

"Muslim brothers in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kashmir, and the region, emigrant and helper mujahideen, olimykuram, brave Muslims of the tribal areas, Afghanistan, Baluchistan, Sarhad, Punjab, Sindh, Kashmir and elsewhere, don't betray Islam, and the martyrs of Islam, by falling into the traps set for you by the devious enemy, or letting the flourishing tree of Islam and jihad your martyrs have watered with their innocent blood sag, wither, or die. It's time for you to put aside tribal, ethnic, and territorial differences, and petty worldly disputes, not just for now, but forever, and unite, to restore the glories of your forefathers (etc. etc.)"