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More on Zawahiri and Racism

In the brief period since the release of Ayman al-Zawahiri’s House Negro tape, bloggers have gone crazy celebrating the U.S.’s free-of-charge good fortune.

Jul 31, 2020
In the brief period since the release of Ayman al-Zawahiri’s “House Negro” tape, bloggers have gone crazy celebrating the U.S.’s free-of-charge good fortune. Over at TAPPED, Adam Serwer calls it an Al Qaeda “Epic Fail” — proving himself knowledgeable of all internet traditions — and succinctly remarks:
There’s been a lot of skepticism about an Obama victory shifting the Muslim world’s view of the United States, but judging by this statement at the very least it’s made Al Qaeda’s efforts to develop a compelling rhetorical indictment of America visibly more difficult.
That’s exactly right. It’s easy to forget how much of the world personalizes foreign policy. (Americans, of course, are no exception.) With an American president as loathed as George W. Bush around the world, it’s easy for Al Qaeda to portray the U.S. as venal and stupid and brutish as he’s proven. Obama complicates the narrative significantly: the very color of his skin, precisely what Al Qaeda mocks, symbolizes America’s willingness to change. That’s exactlywhat Al Qaeda fears most.
That’s why I kind of disagree with my friend Eric Martin of Obsidian Wings when he writes, “for no apparent reason, Zawahiri leads al-Qaeda directly into that headwind with a racial insult that serves little ideological purpose.” The racial epithet is a botched way of advancing a deep ideological necessity for Al Qaeda: to keep its narrative going, Zawahiri has to define Obama as not authentically American.
None of this is to say that the election of Barack Obama magically transforms the war on terrorism. Policy is still policy. Right now I’m finishing up a piece about what a new progressive counterterrorism agenda for the Obama administration might look like. The Muslim world, rather understandably, will judge Obama by what he does, not by how he looks. And the honeymoon with Obama, both domestically and globally, will inevitably end.
Still, as Ilan Goldenberg notes at Democracy Arsenal, “Al Qaeda’s narrative is now under siege and it’s clearly uncertain about how to react.” That sort of disruption is precisely what the U.S. needs to rapidly exploit. In both policy and public-diplomacy terms, the clay is still wet. Why haven’t we seen the State Dept.’s bloghit the Zawahiri “House Negro” tape yet?
Camilo Wood

Camilo Wood

Camilo Wood has over two decades of experience as a writer and journalist, specializing in finance and economics. With a degree in Economics and a background in financial research and analysis, Camilo brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to his writing. Throughout his career, Camilo has contributed to numerous publications, covering a wide range of topics such as global economic trends, investment strategies, and market analysis. His articles are recognized for their insightful analysis and clear explanations, making complex financial concepts accessible to readers. Camilo's experience includes working in roles related to financial reporting, analysis, and commentary, allowing him to provide readers with accurate and trustworthy information. His dedication to journalistic integrity and commitment to delivering high-quality content make him a trusted voice in the fields of finance and journalism.
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