Iraqi Insurgent Media: The War of Images and Idea
Presented primarily in Arabic on an array of websites unknown to most Americans and Europeans, Iraqi insurgent media hover at the margins of mainstream reports in the form of a "claim of responsibility on an insurgent website" or a "video posted to a jihadist forum." Such marginal references fail to convey the scope and significance of an effort that encompasses daily press releases, weekly and monthly magazines, video clips, and even full-length films.
The extent of the insurgent media network is clearly evident in coverage of the events of March 25 and 26, 2007. By the violent standards of today's Iraq, they were unexceptional days. In central Baghdad, a suicide car bombing killed two Iraqis, while a roadside bomb in the capital claimed the life of a police officer. A mortar attack killed one in Al-Iskandariyah, 50 kilometers south of Baghdad. Four U.S. soldiers died in a bombing in Diyala Governorate, and another in an attack in Baghdad. But those events are only half the story - the half told by news agencies, newspapers, television channels, and official statements.
Iraq's Sunni insurgency, the motley collection of armed groups fighting to evict U.S. forces and supplant rival domestic claimants to rule Iraq, had its own story to tell about what took place on March 25 and 26. Posted to sympathetic websites on the Internet, the insurgents sang the praises of their self-proclaimed quest to rid Iraq of foreign "crusaders" and domestic enemies. Much has been written about the war of ideas in the years since September 11, 2001. The 2003 war in Iraq, and the subsequent fate of the U.S.-led effort to remake that country, only sharpened the polemic. The two visions of Iraq presented above - one by the international media establishment, and another by the uncoordinated collective efforts of Iraqi insurgent groups - are a reflection of the daily skirmishes that take place not only on the battlefields of Iraq, but also in the ongoing struggle to direct the flow of information that shapes perceptions in the Arab world.
This report brings Iraqi insurgent media from the margins to center stage so that outsiders without a command of Arabic can glimpse the "other half" of what is happening in Iraq as it is presented by the other side. Section 3 surveys the media products created by Iraqi insurgents and their ideological allies inside and outside of Iraq. Section 4 examines the main producers of insurgent media. Section 5 looks at the delivery platforms of Iraqi insurgent media, from websites to print. Section 6 looks at the target audience, accuracy and coherence, message and ideology, and tendencies and trends in Iraqi insurgent media.