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Dumb Marketing

I recently made mention of the capture of an Al Qaeda guy named Al-Libbi (also called Abu Farraj or Abu Faraj), and I was confused as to why we would announce that we got hold of his laptop, which seemed to contain a lot of information about contacts within Al Qaeda. Seems to me that information like that you would want to keep close to the vest while you searched out that contact information so that you could bring in as many people as you could before they knew that you knew how to find them. Make sense?

After a couple of comments from people, I decided to dig into the story a little more - to the extent that I can from the news sources available to me. Google News is a good way to generally get a feel for what's being reported on a given story, and so I got a wrap-up from it.

From reading the stories, here's what I've gleaned:

It appears that the US government touted the claim about capturing the laptop with its contact information; it doesn't appear to be a media leak. I couldn't find any instance of a government official decrying the press' announcement of the fact of the laptop. Someone vetted the information and decided that it could be used for marketing, and therefore it was reported.

It seems that the information has helped to gather up 24 more Al Qaeda members/sympathizers.

There's some speculation about Al Libbi's role and whether he was the Number 3 guy in Al Qaeda. Might be me, but in a decentralized organization like Al Qaeda, there is no real vertical chain of command, so declaring anyone as "the Number 3 guy" is dumb. There are lots of "Number 3 guys" in the Al Qaeda org chart, I'm sure.

Some left-leaning publications are taking this speculation to be a case of mistaken identity. That's a misleading headline.

So my take on it all is this...

The Bush administration/Pentagon/Homeland Security/FBI/CIA folks have taken such a bunch of abuse in the press about efforts in addressing homeland security and achieving success in Iraq that they move too quickly to find good PR and therefore make mistakes like this.

News cycles are fast. Too fast. I understand that White House and crew want to get ahead of a story quickly, but they can't afford too many gaffes, and the Bush White House has never been very good with marketing. When Time has a story like this:

Can This Man Help Capture bin Laden?

It makes it more important to remain as accurate as possible.

Bush was right when he said (and unfortunately later recanted) that the war on terror can't be won. Of course it can't - that's like trying to defeat crime. There will always be crime, and sadly, there will be always be nutjobs who want to erase Americans or Isaelis or whomever from the face of the earth. But to the degree that we Americans can best gauge success - an attack on US soil - there hasn't been one in nearly 4 years. Success? Yes.

I think it mischaracterizes what's happening in Iraq to call it any of the labels given to it by those opposed to it. The majority of Iraqis remain thankful that Saddam is gone, thankful that they will rule themselves and enjoy more freedom, and thankful that with each day, life improves for them. Success? Yes.

But all the success in the world won't make up for dumb marketing.

If you watched the president's news conference the other night, there's no way that anyone can construe that the press is unbaised. A hard question is one thing (Tim Russert is very good at this), but sermons in the form of "questions" are something else entirely. And if the press isn't friendly, good marketing is all the more important, but I'm not holding my breath for this administration to fix that problem in the next 3 years.

Tags: politics | terrorism
by Brett Rogers, 5/9/2005 12:59:38 PM


LOL! I love how when the Bush administration does something stupid, it's a "mistake", but when the press reports it, it is likened to treason.

Here's an interesting little list of suspected Al-Qaeda doings since 9/11:

4/11/2002 Explosion at ancient synogogue in Tunisia leaves 17 dead, including 11 German tourists.
5/2002 Car explodes outside hotel in Karachi, Pakistan, killing 14, including 11 French citizens.
6/2002 Bomb explodes outside American Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, killing 12.
10/2002 Nightclub bombings in Bali, Indonesia, kill 202, mostly Australian citizens.

Suicide attack on a hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, kills 16.
5/2003 Suicide bombers kill 34, including 8 Americans, at housing compounds for Westerners in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Four bombs kill 33 people, targeting Jewish, Spanish, and Belgian sites in Casablanca, Morocco.
8/2003 Suicide car bomb kills 12, injures 150, at Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia.
11/2003 Explosions rock a Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, housing compound killing 17.

Suicide car bombers simultaneously attack two synagogues in Istanbul, Turkey, killing 25 and injuring hundreds. The following week a British bank in Istanbul is bombed.
3/2004 Ten terrorists bombs explode almost simultaneously during the morning rush hour in Madrid, Spain, killing 202 and injuring more than 1,400. A Moroccan affiliate of al-Qaeda claims responsibility.
5/2931/2004 Terrorists attack the offices of a Saudi oil company in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, then take foreign oil workers hostage in a nearby residential compound. After a stand-off, three of the four assailants escape, leaving 22 people dead, all but three of them foreigners.
6/1119/2004 Terrorists kidnap and execute Paul Johnson, Jr., an American, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Nearly a week after his capture, photos of his body are posted on an Islamist website. Saudi security forces find and kill four suspected terrorists, including the self-proclaimed military leader of al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, after they are seen dumping a body.
12/6/2004 Militants, believed to be linked to Al-Qaeda, drive up to the U.S. consulate in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, storm the gates, and kill 5 consulate employees, none of whom were American. Saudi security forces subdue the attackers, killing four.

But hey, with the exception of Paul Johnson, no Americans...and he did have the nerve to travel outside of the US. I really hope that American lives and American soil aren't all that we're judging success in fighting terrorism on. The issue isn't "winning" the war on terrorism, as much as doing something on a worldwide basis about it...but that would require cooperation, which George Bush is even worse at than marketing. It would also require paying attention to the real problem (Al-Quaeda and it's cells all over the world) instead of focusing solely on one dictatorship and once ending it, hanging around to incite civil war and refusing to give the country a chance to make it without our "wisdom". The Bush administration can't really be blamed for it's poor marketing--- their product is shoddy and poorly planned.

I have to go read about Otto Dix now... :-)

Posted by Bella, 5/9/2005 2:02:45 PM

Hmm... that treason bit has me scratching my head. Speaking for myself, I called it "Dumb Reporting" when I thought it was a media issue, and then "Dumb Marketing" when I learned that it was a Bush administration issue. Dumb being the shared word. And the fact that the act seemed to me to give sensitive information to the enemy is mentioned/implied in both articles.

Also, our president isn't responsible for protecting Spain, Indonesia, or Saudi Arabia from terrorist attacks - he's responsible for protecting America from terrorist attacks. Which he's done :)

Posted by Brett Rogers (, 5/9/2005 8:07:59 PM

Well, then it's not really his job to protect Iraqis either, if that's the way you choose to look at it.

My point with the treason is that it seems those in your party, and in all fairness, in both parties, are much more eager to blame and overreact to the press than they are their own foibles.

Posted by Bella, 5/10/2005 9:28:37 AM

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