Warped image

Al-Qaida has a pile of problems -- but bad marketing isn't one of them

And all this time we thought the problem with al-Qaida was its mission to spread terrorism throughout the globe and to kill anyone who didn't embrace its twisted interpretation of Islam.

Nope. In the eyes of Osama bin Laden, the problem with al-Qaida was poor marketing.

Since al-Qaida's founder was taken out by a Navy SEAL assault team earlier this year, U.S. officials have been poring over documents recovered at bin Laden's compound in Pakistan to glean more information about his criminal network.

One of the details to emerge is bin Laden's concern -- we are not making this up -- that his crew of international terrorists were victims of rotten PR.

Imagine! Al-Qaida is notorious for killing thousands upon thousands of people at civilian and military targets for more than 20 years -- and for some bizarre reason these guys just keep getting bad press!

That's how it all played out in bin Laden's twisted mind, anyway. The West was winning everyone's hearts and minds, and poor old al-Qaida just couldn't catch a break.

Bin Laden's solution? Rename al-Qaida. He thought that his terrorist group had a branding problem, and needed a new, sunnier, more modern name and image to attract more fans.

Some of his suggested name changes included Taifat al-Tawhed Wal-Jihad, meaning Monotheism and Jihad Group, and Jama'at I'Adat al-Khilafat al-Rashida, meaning Restoration of the Caliphate Group.

That "would not have been a good move," Mark Alison told the Chronicle editorial staff. Mr. Alison is an Augusta PR and marketing pro, and we asked him -- tongue firmly planed in cheek -- to spitball some ideas to soften or brighten al-Qaida's image.

Some of his suggestions for slogans:

- "No infidel left behind."

- "Have jihad enough?"

- "Al-Qaida; It's everywhere you want to flee."

- "Jihad me at hello."

Though we're poking fun at bin Laden's deluded vision to improve al-Qaida's image, the sobering bottom line is that no PR campaign is slick enough to remove the planet-sized stain of innocent blood spilled by bin Laden's warped followers.

Al-Qaida doesn't have a marketing problem. It's the product -- the product of deranged minds.

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