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


Zarqawi's new video - or: The house Bin Laden built

The Syrian terrorist-leader in Iraq Musab al-Zarqawi has just released a new video. It contains the usual attacks on the Iraqi government, the US as well as some new songs, in the form of Zarqawi urging Sunnis to attack Shias - a theme Zarqawi has harped on before, but not in this direct form.

What is really interesting here, though, is how closely Zarqawi emulates Bin Laden's style. The most obvious thing is the prominently placed submachinegun in the background. It is a rather special type of gun (a AKS-74U, if I'm not mistaken). Normally Bin Laden is reported to have a "AK 47" - that is a generic description that serves its purpose by connotation - AK 47, we know, is the weapon of third world rebels. But actually by branding the smaller AKS-74U there are a number of connotations that are usually overlooked:

* It is a specialist weapon. Shorter and less accurate than the ordinary assault rifle it was developed for vehicle crews. It is thus not the most powerful weapon, and it denotes that its wielder is a thinker first and a fighter secondly. This stands very much in contrast to earlier pictures of Zarqawi, where he brandishes a M249 SAW light machinegun. This shift in emphasis is interesting and it is a question whether Bin Laden has established a "genre" - where the "thinking man's gun" is more appropriate than the more gung-ho machinegun.
* Furthermore it is a gun that must be harder to come by than the ordinary AK-74/AK-47 - this signals class and exclusiveness. This might be Zarqawi's bid for sophistication, not a thing that he has been accused of much.

Another interesting feature is his black headwear. In the traditional moslem iconography black is for martyrs, whereas white is for purity and doctrinal authority. In this way he sets himself apart from Bin Laden and underscores that he is the man of action.

In all circumstances it seems as if there is a "jihadi genre" that is being instituted the way genres are, by following and reinterpretation.


Post a Comment

<< Home