by SWJ Editors
Fear and Loathing in Waziristan
Al Qaeda Propaganda
by Major Matthew Orris, Small Wars Journal
The purpose of this paper is to discuss the myth that Al Qaeda is a far more superior practitioner of the war of ideas because it has proven that it knows far less about the "American street" than supposedly the U.S. does about the "Arab street." This is highlighted by Al Qaeda's use of an American convert to be their voice to the U.S. The question that is open to interpretation is of what use is such a person at all to Al Qaeda given that it is doubtful that he is able to gather any significant following amongst Muslims in the Arab world and is considered nothing more than a "bloated buffoon" in the United States?
Al Qaeda's use of Adam Gadahn is little more than an opportunistic publicity stunt designed to garner as much media exposure as possible because the spokesman is an American. So who is this Adam Gadahn? He is not a mystery. He is not an enigma. Rather Adam Yahiye Gadahn is really Adam Pearlman born in Oregon and raised in Orange County, California. Phil Pearlman (Adam's father) was a 1960's radical who suffered an identity crisis (much like Adam) that resulted in the change of the Pearlman surname to "Gadahn".
To understand the message one must understand the messenger and his motivations. The scientific community has yet to create a standard profile of a "typical" terrorist because there is doubt that a single arch-type exists. However, when terrorism is viewed with other serial predatory crimes (murder, rape, sexual assault) the common thread shared by the perpetrators is exhaustive dreaming and planning of executing such an event and those engrossed in such mental exercises are prone in their late teens/early twenties to escalate from fantasy to reality. Adam Gadahn's own history paints a life of failure, wanting to be important while surrounding himself with violent images and messages. Gadahn's own writings described having a "yawning emptiness" and seeking ways "to fill that void" by turning away from Death Metal to studying Islam at the Islamic Society of Orange County where he fell in with a group of young fundamentalists.