Friday, October 21, 2005

Al-Qaeda: Pen Pals

Several analysts have called into question the authenticity of a supposed letter by Al Qaeda ideologue Ayman Zawahiri to Al-Qaeda-in-Iraq leader Abu Mussab Al-Zarqawi, suggesting that it is a Shiite forgery passed on to the Americans or a wholesale fabrication by one or another government agency in northern Virginia. The way President Bush tried to exploit it in his recent speech, and the fact that the text was posted by the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, certainly raises suspicions among conspiracy theorists. Here in Paris, scholar Gilles Kepel concedes, half joking, that it could be the work of any of his brighter graduate students, but he thinks that on the whole it seems genuine. (Gilles is the author, most recently, of "Al-Qaida dans le texte," a detailed study of radical Islamist ideology as written by Zawahiri and others, which is a perfect companion to Gilles's earlier books on fundamentalism and jihad that are available in English.) Whatever the provenance of the DNI version, The New Republic has presented its own text, which follows closely, but not quite precisely, the language of the original:

Postcard from the Edge
by T. A. Frank
Another letter from Zawahiri to Zarqawi.

In the name of God, praise be to God, and praise and blessings be upon the Messenger of God, his family, his co-workers, and his broker.

Dear Brother,
God only knows how much I would enjoy visiting you in Iraq. The only thing keeping me from packing my bags, donning a burqa, and slipping into a carrier sack on a westbound mule right now is that I'm tied up with promoting my latest book, Man Behind the Mosque: Faith, Community and Discourse in Post-Bunker-Buster Waziristan (334 pp., Madrassa Press, $28.95 Canadian). Did you happen to see me on "Charlie Rose"? I had you in mind when I sent in my threatening audiotape. ...

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