Viewpoint: al-Zarqawi: Did we slay a giant or a gnat?

Who was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi? Reactions to the news of his demise have been very interesting. Predictably, the right-wing news outlets, corporate controlled as they are, hailed the killing as the greatest victory in the history of recent warfare.

Others saw it much differently. According to Riverbend, an Internet blog written by a young Iraqi woman, Iraqis were not much impressed. She wrote: “To hell with Zarqawi (or Zayrkawi as Bush calls him). He was an American creation—he came along with them—they don’t need him anymore, apparently. His influence was greatly exaggerated but he was the justification for every single family they killed through military strikes and troops.

“It was WMD at first, then it was Saddam, then it was Zarqawi. Who will it be now? Who will be the new excuse for killing and detaining Iraqis? Or is it that an excuse is no longer needed—they have freedom to do what they want. The slaughter in Haditha months ago proved that. ‘They don’t need him anymore,’ our elderly neighbor waved the news away like he was shooing flies. ‘They have fifty Zarqawis in government.’”

London Times reporter Ned Parker, stationed in Baghdad, quoted by, said al-Zarqawi was “a figurehead, an icon, a totemic figure” who “was absolutely hated by most normal Iraqis on both sides of the sectarian divide. One of the most interesting things about the news of his death is the timing. There have been talks going on since the election last December by U.S. and Iraqi officials to try to bring the homegrown insurgency back into the political process. Certainly, there was tension between the Iraqi insurgency and Zarqawi’s foreign fighters. So it’s possible a deal was finally cut by some branch of the Iraqi insurgency to eliminate al-Zarqawi and rid themselves of his heavy-handed influence.”

The real resistance is eager to debunk the neo-con claim that their movement is made up mostly of “foreign fighters.”

Will al-Zarqawi’s demise have any significant effect on the war in Iraq? Former Pentagon analyst Anthony Cordesman told,: “Most of the insurgency will not be affected, because al-Qaeda is a highly visible and extraordinarily brutal cadre with a much larger group of different insurgent movements. These groups will not be directly affected by Zarqawi’s death and could be strengthened if his death weakens al-Qaeda.”

Stan Goff, who is military and veteran’s affairs editor for From the Wilderness publications, likens this whole performance to pulling a little bitty rabbit from a great big hat.

“It’s hard to say,” Goff wrote, “who was more interested in transforming the Jordanian Bedouin fighter, formerly Ahmad Fadhil Nazzai al-Khalayleh, into a legend–Zarqawi himself or the American military. Now the Bush administration will reap the short-term reward for this dramatis persona…and the long-term grief.”

Goff said this is the latest edition of the Bush parlor trick labeled “turning the corner.” It will give the White House a very slight bump up in the popularity polls and take the public’s attention off the cesspool of corruption that surrounds this administration.

But the shelf life of this maneuver, as Goff aptly pointed out, is very brief. When the euphoria fades, the hangover of reality will set in; the war will go on, people will die, there will be more massacres, and more people will painfully realize that they are being had by the Bush administration, and nothing has changed.

Goff said: “Zarqawi was the ultimate ‘foreign fighter,’ one who willingly adopted the name ‘al-Qaeda in Iraq,’ feeding the mistaken notion that there is actually an organization called al-Qaeda, an official enemy that is global and eternal, and now manifest in this particular part of the oil patch.”

The image of al-Zarqawi was like one of those inflatable dolls, pumped full of Pentagon gas. The Washington Post, this year printed a document showing the Machiavellian plans of the Rumsfeld regime to turn this sorry Jordanian into a terror legend. The Post wrote: “The Zarqawi campaign is discussed in several of the internal military documents. ‘Villainize Zarqawi/leverage xenophobia response,’ one U.S. military briefing from 2004 stated. It listed three methods: ‘Media operations,’ ‘Special Ops (626),’ (a reference to Task Force 626, an elite U.S. military unit assigned primarily to hunt in Iraq for senior officials in Hussein’s government) and ‘PSYOP,’ the U.S. military term for propaganda work.”

The propaganda war, directed at the U.S. public, mattered most to this administration, more than the real war. That is why an earlier chance to slay the mad bomber was lost.

Bush’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are hitting American taxpayers with a $300 million-a-day price tag. These wars are lost. Our own generals have advised the government that we cannot win them militarily. Yet, the Congress is planning on financing this debacle for another year, creating a partial cost of $109.5 billion, a mountain of destroyed equipment, an unknown number of lives to be lost and many more Americans to be maimed and disabled.

All the crowing about al-Zarqawi’s death will have no effect on the outcome in Iraq. The civil war in Baghdad claimed 1,400 lives last month, and the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan has compelled the Bush administration to carry out numerous air strikes—more than 750 last month.

Now we have the three suicides at Guantanamo—just what we needed to shove our international image further into the toilet.

Few Americans have any real idea of what is being done in their name. We are told that one-third of the U.S. population still believes that Iraq was responsible for 9/11 and that Bush found the weapons of mass destruction in that country. Another large group seems to be convinced that Iran is a nuclear threat to this country. Democracy cannot function in an environment of ignorance.

From the June 14-20, 2006, issue

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