The office of the U. S. Director of National Intelligence has posted on its website the contents of a letter from al Qaeda's top deputy, Ayman Zawahiri, to the leader of the insurgency in Iraq, Abu Musab al—Zarqawi. In the letter, which was apparently captured in Iraq, Zawahiri complains about the public relations problems created by al—Zarqawi's videotaped beheadings of hostages.
Among the things which the feelings of the Muslim populace who love and support you will never find palatable are the scenes of slaughtering of the hostages. You shouldn't be deceived by the praise of some of the zealous young men and their description of you as the "sheik of the slaughterers", etc. They do not express the general view . . . We are in a battle, and more than half this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media. And we are in a media battle in a race for the hearts and minds. And we can kill the captives by bullet. That would achieve that which is sought after without exposing ourselves to the questions and answering to doubts. We don't need this.
So al Qaeda's logic is: Why go to the trouble of beheading innocent hostages when a simple bullet in the head will do? Apparently al Qaeda leaders want to avoid any negative media coverage of their sadistic brutality. Nobody needs that, indeed. But if Zawahiri believes that al—Qaeda's main battlefield is in the media, he must be comforted whenever he picks up a copy of the New York Times.
Scott Wright 10 12 05