Another note on Awlaki

I have to admit, part of the reason I spent a few hours today coming up with my earlier post is that the Times’ account of Anwar al-Awlaki is one of the most frightening GWOT stories to date. The idea that there is this guy out there who fully understands American culture, and may have been at a sort of double agent for Al Qaeda for years, all the time fulfilling the role of reasonable, patriotic Muslim, is very disturbing.

That’s if you believe he’s helping to steer a huge conspiracy that’s responsible for the attempted attacks in the last few months. I don’t buy that. I think he — and his supposed disciples — are symptoms of other factors and forces (as I describe). But the other explanation is less complicated, and possesses that strange magnetism of dread. Interestingly, I think the cause of the crazies benefits from our GWOT-narrative interpretation of events — it gives them power.

Also, just to clarify: I think violence that these so-called mujahideen (strugglers) promote is awful, stupid and reprehensible. I hope my enumeration of things that people are angry about is not misread as an apology for the likes of Shahzad or Stack.

Finally, can you spot the Arabic errors in the Times article? First, there’s the persistent issue of why “Allah” is not translated to “God,” as makes sense. Then there’s the part that uses kuffar as a singular word when it’s actually plural. “Never, ever trust a kuffar,” Awlaki supposedly once said, meaning “unbeliever.” It’s more likely he said, “never, ever trust a kafir,” which is the singular form. A tiny thing, but one you’d think the Times would see, and makes you wonder about their language depth.

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