Interesting Jihadist Iconography


So, an atrocious poem entitled in English “The Chechen Massacre” has appeared on the Ansar al-Jihad forum.  It comes with the following artwork:

I find it interesting that the artist–whose anti-American sympathies can be taken for granted, chose to use a version of one of the most famous patriotic American images in existence, the flag-raising at Iwo Jima by the US Marines:

The artist even rendered the figures wearing a reasonable approximatination of Marine uniforms of the time.  Interestingly, there is some echo in reality to this, because the Chechen mujahideen have frequently been photographed wearing American-style camouflage.

The late Emir of the Chechen mujahideen, Abu Walid.


It could be that somehow the “Chechen Massacre” artworks was meant ironically, but aside from some glancing references to Somalia, Bosnia, and Baghdad the United States doesn’t figure in this poem, so I rather think not.  This looks rather more like another of those moments like when the kid wearing the Coca-Cola t-shirt brandishes a photo of Bin Laden for the camera.

Published in: on December 5, 2010 at 11:10 PM  Comments (6)  

Palestinian Deaths More Newsworthy Than Chechen Deaths

The Ansar al-Jihad English language jihadist forum has a very interesting posting that it pulled over from Kavkaz Center that asks why the world hears so much about Palestinians killed by Israelis and so little about Chechens killed by Russians.  The posting gists a piece by Brett Stephens that the Wall Street Journal ran a year ago.

The forum version lays out Stephens’ argument pretty faithfully.  Stephens concludes that taking into account both the number of deaths in each conflict and the amount of media coverage of each conflict, Palestinian deaths get about 28 times more coverage than Chechen deaths.  In a snarky but probably at least partially true comment, Stephens ends: “As for the Chechens, too bad for their cause that no Jew will ever likely become president of Russia.”  At this point Kavkaz Center comments that “ethnic Russians know well he [Russian President Dmitry Medvedev] is a jew.”

[Aside: that’s a story that Medvedev’s nationalist opposition circulated and that nasty people like those at Stormfront have picked up on.]

The Kavkas Center piece goes on to add that it is true that the Israelis and the “Crusaders” do “occupy” the al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam.  Thus, it’s natural that the Palestinian struggle would receive somewhat disproportionate attention from other Muslims.  Still, they say, it hardly seems fair that Palestinians receive international sympathy and support while Chechens do not.  They blame the facts that Russia is a great power and thereby holds other countries in its thrall and also that Hamas has gone democratic and thus seduced the world.

On the Ansar al-Jihad forum there was then a very thoughtful response (essentially seconded by a subsequent response from another forum reader).  The author of this response argued that there were six main reasons for the disproportion in attention and the al-Aqsa Mosque was not among them.

1) Media Blockade:  The Russians have successfully cut the Caucasus off from the world, they have murdered many Russian or Chechen journalists and simply don’t let foreign journalists or activists into the country….

2.) Language barrier: The material that somehow does make it out of the Caucasus is rarely translated into English or other languages, which greatly reduces its impact….

3.) Economic power: While Israel is a tiny nation which doesn’t export much to the world, Russia supplies enormous amounts of natural gas, oil and other resources to countries in Europe, whose governments keep quiet about the Russian record on human rights in return….

4.) Historical political power: The Soviet Union was the second most powerful nation on earth for at least three decades, it was the patron of nearly every Arab country during the 1960’s and 1970’s, and still is relatively powerful (having the veto power that comes with being on the UN Security Council etc…).  This explains why we see disgraceful scenes such as the leaders of HAMAS rushing to Moscow to pay tribute to the Russians, as they still see them as the only real rival to the United States.

5.) Petty Nationalism/Pan-Arabism: I am talking here mainly about the heads of the apostate Arab regimes, who make long, falsely passionate speeches about the suffering of their Arab brethren, but don’t actually lift a finger to help them.

There are several interesting things about this short thread.

First, the spitting contest between Hamas and al-Qaida’s sympathizers is going strong.  This should be a cause for celebration on our part.

Second, the list of reasons I reproduced about is short on religious bombast and features reasons that might readily occur to any dispassionate Western analyst.  This, along with Marc Lynch’s recent find on the Al Qaida assessment of the group’s informational and political failures in Iraq, suggest that at least some of the bad guys are thinking about these important issues in effective sorts of ways.  If that’s true, I’m pretty sure it’s bad news for us.

Third, the list above is also a further example of how our jihadist adversaries are not so different from us.  That’s actually good news.  Sun Tzu enjoins us to know our enemy.  Doing so needn’t be hard.

Anniversary of the Destruction of the 6th Airborne Company

English language jihadist forums have been circulating a piece which originated with Kavkaz Center reminding us of the recent 10th anniversary of the destruction of the Russian 6th Airborne Company at Ulus-Kert, Chechnya by a band of mujahideen.  On 29 February 2000 an isolated company of the Russian 76th Guards Airborne Division was surrounded on Hill 776 in Chechnya by a band of perhaps 70 mujahideen led by the famous Ibn al-Khattab and almost entirely wiped out.  (An account of the battle by American military analysts is here.)  This battle became part of legend for both the mujahideen and the Russians.

For the muj, the event was not only a great victory but engendered yet another story about battlefield miracles.  In the jihadists’ telling, Khattab did indeed lead the band of fighters who reached the top of the hill but they were not the ones who killed the Russians.  Instead, they found the Russians miraculously already killed apparently by angels.  In the present telling of the story:

About 100 Russian corpses were laying in one heap, as if someone specially dragged them into one place. A horror was written on the faces of all the commandos. Their faces had a sulfur-ashy color. Almost all of them had bullet holes in the head and breast just under the throat….Khattab who liked to speak about different episodes of various battles, practically never spoke about the battle of Ulus-Kert. The other fighters also didn’t speak much. When the Mujahideen asked Khattab to tell them about that battle, he usually answered briefly: “This was not our work…”

On the Russian side, the incident and the less-than-glorious larger battle of which it was a part, became another occasion for Russian government bumbling and dissembling on just what had happened.  Eventually, however, the government and to some degree Russian society itself took the destruction of the 6th Company as a chance to build patriotic Russian spirit.  Three different movies (or made-for-tv movies) have been produced on the topic.  There has even been a stage musical!  There are at least four monuments to the 6th Company in Russia.  (For an excellent French-language discussion of all of this, see here.)  For those with Russian–which I do not have to any appreciable extent–there is a Russian blog (Блог) dedicated to the event as well as a variety of other Russian websites.  YouTube also has its share of videos devtoed to the topic.  One for instance, is check out  a contemporary Russian TV news account.  One viewer left a comment suggesting the production of a movie in the spirit of The 300 about the 6th Company.  YouTube also has this simple tribute to the Russian desantniki.

(As an aside, an American has made the battle of Ulus-Kert into a boardgame, too.)

I think this is another interesting example of how “victory” is not an objective term.  Even a horrid defeat can be repurposed and turned into a positive.  In one sense, the jihadists do this all the time when they celebrate the martyrdom of yet another fighter.  (By the way, am I the only one who finds those martyrologies immensely boring??)  Why shouldn’t the Russians do it on a larger scale, celebrating their glorious defeats?