Sep 12, 2007

Adam Gadahn: Al Qaeda's Weakest Link

Adam Yahiye Gadahn aka Azzam the American, is often described as a loner, a Californian who converted to Islam and has now become the first American to be charged with treason since 1952. According to reports, Gadahn moved from California to Pakistan in 1998 and became an associate of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of the 9/11 attacks. In 2004, the FBI named him as one of seven Al Qaeda operatives planning attacks in the US.


Adam Gadahn has in recent years appeared in a succession of jihadi videos, agitprop where he frequently berates western values and calls on Britain and the United States to withdraw troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Among the other "English brothers" working for Al Qaeda, Gadahn is thought by Western intelligence to be the leader of Al Qaeda's "media committee" responsible for cultural interpretation, video production and translation services, and effectively he is. The intended audience however is not the West. The presumption by Western intelligence seems to be that Al-Qaeda's demands, threats and propaganda are directed at the United States but this may actually be a red herring.

Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri have found themselves perfectly capable of releasing videotaped statements directed at Britain and the United States and so the question is -- "Why the need for Adam Gadahn?"

The first reason is that Adam Gadahn as a Western convert to Islam rather than someone who was born as a Muslim, epitomizes a focal point of unity for Muslims thereby transcending the protean beliefs held by Islam's adherents around the globe. Converts like Gadahn who have consciously chosen to embrace Islam are held in high regard by all Muslims worldwide regardless of their denomination or sect. They and considered pure and free of any previous sin and, by the mere fact that they have had to study Islam rather than having inherited it by birth, they are therefore considered to be more knowledgeable of the faith. Posited against Al Qaeda's Arabic-speaking orators, Gadahn serves as a catalyst, designed specifically to help radicalize an increasingly globalized audience of contemporary non-arabic speaking Muslims whom Al Qaeda feels have been corrupted by their prolonged exposure to colonial modernity. Gadahn in this respect is not so much a propagandist as he is a tool.

Secondly, Adam Gadahn an overfed American Muslim convert decked out in his full jihadist regalia turgidly railing on about "Western imperialist aggression" and "cultural decadence" might strike a chord with the non Arabic speaking Muslim world and to the granola munching crowd, but to the majority of Americans he comes across as nothing more than a pathetic jihadi wannabe. If anything Gadahn undermines Al Qaeda's credibility in the United States rather than enforcing it. Gadahn's excitable and passionate "threats" are not only comical, but ludicrous, the only thing this putz could threaten would be a Hostess cupcake. And therein lies Gadahn's greatest weakness.

Armed with his laptop and a satellite internet connection Gadahn epitomizes the hypocrisy of the jihadi anachronism. And yet with one foot in the 6th century and another remaining in the 21st, Gadahn finds himself not only unable to sever his link with with modernity, but incapable of seeing the pharisaical hypocrisy of answering Al Qaeda's austere call to primitive purity with a Miswaak in one hand and a mouse in the other.

In the next segment: Tracking Down Azzam the American


  1. Hey...are you ok? You're in Indonesia, right? I hope you weren't in the way of the earthquake. Praying for you and those around you.... Kate

  2. Lao ~ this is good stuff
    I love your site.

  3. I'm okay - thanks for your concern Kate.


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