Personal and academic blog. Explores the borderlands between rhetoric, politics and intelligence.


Analysis: Bin Laden and Moussaoui

I haven't been so attentive to Bin Laden recently. In fact I missed one or two statements by him and failed to nerd over their content. However now I updated the Bin Laden Speech Archive.

And then on to the latest statement, its main content concerning itself with putting distance to Zacarias Moussaoui who was recently indicted for complicity in terrorism.

A number of sources have speculated that bin Laden tried to position himself with the statement. That is an analysis that resounds very much after every statement made after 2001. At the moment people speculate that there is a competition for power going between bin Laden and Zarqawi. However as the people over at the Counterterrorism Blog notesit is highly unlikely that the statement is part of "Competition" or a "Bid for Status".

But they don't really take their analysis any further. They see it merely as an attack against the US, which it obviously is.

Seen from my perspective the statement is a very important sign that bin Laden is really fighting on the more "discoursive level". Inspired by a lecture on the third Nordic conference on Rhetoric I'd like to suggest that the speech is a sign of bin Laden trying to uphold the mythic features of 9/11 by enforcing the esoteric features of it.

It is tell-tale that bin Laden chooses to break silence over a "trivial" matter like the conviction of a highly guarded inmate in mainland USA. By jeopardizing himself (what must do by communicating to the outside world) he shows that this is a matter of importance to him. I would say that this is due to the fact that a conviction of a terrorist to a prison-sentence is a threat to the narrative power of Al Qaeda. Had Moussaoui been sentenced to death, he would have been a martyr. Now he is just a proof of the "materiality" of terrorism - you can catch them, reveal them for the (frail and dumb) humans they are, and throw them in jail where they will assemble clothes-pins and eat bad fried chicken.

It is important for AQ to upkeep the mythic aura around their fighters, and this is actually bin Ladens' foremost task at the moment as I have argued earlier - his task is to build a strategic image of Al Qaeda. He himself is the most valuable asset in that effort, Moussaoui is a lesser, but seemingly important one.


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